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Banana Cranberry Bread (with Bourbon!)

I’ve been secretly drooling over Joy the Baker’s blog ever since the Browned Butter Blueberry Muffins glory.  So many delectable things, so few excuses bake them!  (Also, my baby belly is plenty big without the extra help.)  But finding fresh cranberries on sale at the grocery this week was an excellent reason to peruse her cranberry recipes for yummies.  I want to bake this and this and this, but I decided on the Banana Cranberry Bread.  Brown bananas on my counter? An excuse for Keith to restock the bourbon supply?  Bingo.

Of course I tweaked it.  Just a little.  I promise.  The cranberries make a (very) tart counterpoint with the rest of the loaf, so it’s not for the faint of heart.  For the valiant, though, bravery is rewarded!  The bread is wonderfully spiced and dense without being a brick.  It’s just right with a cup of tea in November.  Enjoy!

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Banana Cranberry Bread (with Bourbon!)
(makes a 4″x8″ loaf; derived from this lovely recipe)

3 overripe bananas, smashed (preferably by your enthusiastic toddler)
6 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
1 C light brown sugar, lightly packed
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp vanilla
1 Tbsp bourbon (plus a little for your loving husband to sip on)
1 tsp baking soda
2 pinches of salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
Pinch of ground cloves
1 1/2 C all-purpose flour
1 C fresh cranberries

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Mix the mashed bananas and melted butter in a large mixing bowl. Incorporate the sugar, egg, vanilla, and bourbon. Sprinkle in the spices, baking soda, and salt, and stir well. Mix in the flour. Add the cranberries, and fold in gently. (No popping the berries!) Pour the batter into a buttered 4″×8″ loaf pan. Bake for 1 hour. Cool on a wire rack before serving.

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Orange Chicken Wraps

I got this recipe out of a library book on street foods from around the world. I don’t remember being very impressed with the book as a whole, but it had a few recipes worth keeping: Satay Chicken, Coriander Potatoes, and Orange Chicken Wraps. This dish is attributed to Nicaragua; I have doubts about its authenticity, since the book felt heavily Americanized, but it certainly provides a break from the norm.

These aren’t very attractive, I’ll give you that, but they are hearty and rather quick to prepare. Plus, I always feel a little mischievous throwing together this wild mix of ingredients. The sweetness from the banana and orange help balance the spice. Though it’s still got a kick, so go easy on the cayenne if that’s not your thing.  The recipe gave no specifics on how to cook the chicken, so I usually just fry it up in the pan first thing.

Somehow, this works. Next time you need a little variety on the menu, give these a shot.

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Orange Chicken Wraps

tortillas
1 onion, chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 lb cooked chicken
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1-2 tbsp tomato sauce
1 banana, sliced
grated peel of 1 orange
1 egg, beaten
vegetable oil
salt & pepper

Heat some oil in a skillet on medium heat and cook the onion until transparent. Add the tomatoes, tomato sauce, cooked chicken, salt, and pepper. Stir well. Add the banana and grated orange peel. Simmer, stirring constantly. Add the egg and cook for another minute or two. Serve in warm tortillas.

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Browned Butter Blueberry Muffins

I am a pathological recipe tweaker.  Maybe I always knew this on some level, but this blog has made me accept it afresh. My name is Courtney, and I can’t resist messing with a recipe.  Please love me anyway.

I try to resist as best I can with baking, though, at least until I’m very familiar with the science behind it.  Chemical leavening, gluten development, etc., can be fickle beasts!  So I hope that you are terribly impressed that I just barely tweaked the recipe I am about to introduce to you.  A little extra butter in the dough, a little less flour in the crumblies… I mean, really, does that even count?  Of course not.  (Thank you for enabling me.)

I have made many blueberry muffin recipes over the past few years; most were lackluster.  Not bad, just boring. So when I ran across a recipe with browned butter instead of yogurt or sour cream, I was intrigued.  Finally, something new! I’d seen it work very well with our chocolate chip cookies.  Maybe it could redeem the muffins.  It totally did.  A lovely, soft crumb! Sweet, but not cloying! The blueberries didn’t sink! I totally recommend it.

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Browned Butter Blueberry Muffins
(makes 12 muffins; adapted from Joy the Baker’s excellent recipe)

8 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/3 cup milk, whole or 2%
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
2 cups fresh blueberries

Crumbly Topping:
3 Tbsp cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
4 Tbsp sugar

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Line your muffin pan with paper cups.

Melt the butter in a small frying pan over medium heat.  Once fully melted, it will start crackling as the water evaporates; keep swirling it constantly to prevent burning. Little brown bits will begin to appear in the pan.  When it smells nutty and moves just past golden brown, remove it from the heat.

Whisk together the milk, egg, yolk ,and vanilla in a small bowl.  Add the brown butter and stir to combine.

Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl  Add the milk and butter mixture to the dry goods all at once and mix until just incorporated.  Fold in the blueberries, but be careful not to smash them along the way. Divide the batter among muffin cups. They should be about 2/3 full.

To make the topping, combine all of the ingredients in a bowl and rub together with your fingertips until crumbly.  Sprinkle over the muffin cups.

Bake until golden, about 18-20 minutes. A toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin should come out clean.  Cool the muffins in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes before removing from the pan.

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Spiced Applesauce Cake

I have an absolutely fantastic cookbook called Canning for a New Generation, by Liana Krissoff.  I highly recommend it; she includes old classics (like raspberry preserves) and newer joys (like rhubarb & orange jam).  The book is broken down into the four seasons, then further divided into vegetables and fruits.  She also includes a ton of recipes that utilize local southern produce (like pickled greens).  Nearly all of the recipes eschew modern shortcuts like powdered pectin in favor of more traditional methods.  They may take longer to make, but they result in intense, bright flavors with wonderful texture.

As a librarian, I would normally be turned off by seasonal organization because it’s too tweaky as a taxonomy.  (Alphabetical may not seem instinctual, but it translates clearly to most users.)  However, it works well in this case.  It allows the user to browse the recipes according to the seasonal freshness, rather than strict indexing.  And if you need that index after all, just flip to the back of the book.  The best of both worlds!

I bring all this up for two — no, wait, three — purposes.  First, it’s the best canning book I’ve run across in a long time and I think you should go by a copy.  Second, we’ve been canning applesauce according to her lovely, unvarnished recipe this autumn and it tastes amazing.  Third, she also includes some fantastic recipes for using your newly canned goods and that’s the source of this latest batch of awesome.

This is a vegan-friendly applesauce cake is mildly sweet and studded with nuts and raisins.  I almost hesitate to call it a cake; I don’t want you to think it’s a sugary evening dessert.  It’s perfect for the afternoon, preferably with a cup of tea and a copy of Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand while the little guy naps. It’s also ridiculously simple to make.  Enjoy!

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Spiced Applesauce Cake
(makes a 9″ square cake)

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup water
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped
1/2 cup  raisins or dried cranberries (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  In a mixing bowl, compile all of the dry ingredients and mix together. Add the remaining ingredients one at a time, and stir until thoroughly incorporated. Use a rubber spatula to scrape the contents of the bowl into a 9″ square cake pan, then smooth the top.  Bake for 30-50 minutes; a toothpick inserted into the middle should come out clean.  Cool on a wire rack before serving.

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Quick Homemade Salsa

Speaking of fantastic recipes from the Pioneer Woman, I stumbled across her recipe for Restaurant-Style Salsa this past spring.  This was one of the very first recipes I ever tried from her site.  I was hooked immediately by the fact that it was quick, with easily accessible ingredients and almost no prep time. Be sure to check out the original recipe for gorgeous photos of the process!

As usual, I tweaked the recipe to suit my family.  My version below has less of a kick because my toddler still has a low tolerance for spiciness.  (Oh, how I miss cooking spicy food.)  We also enjoy a little extra lime and garlic in ours.  The recipe is very adaptable, so run wild and free with it!

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Quick Homemade Salsa
(makes a lot!)

1 can whole tomatoes, 28-oz. (Muir Glen, if you can find it!)
1 can diced green chiles, 10-oz.
1/4 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1 cup cilantro
juice of 1 lime

Toss all of it in your blender or food processor.  Pulse together until all ingredients are chopped as finely as you would wish and mixed together well.  Enjoy!

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Crack Treats

Around our house, we have more than a few recipes with inappropriate nicknames.  (We keep ourselves amused!)  This dessert is more correctly called Nutella Krispie Treats, if you aren’t the irreverant type.  We call them Crack Treats because of our complete inability to stop eating them.  I kid you not.  I thought it was just me being pregnant and having weird cravings, but even Keith pounds them down.  We have to hide them so our little dude doesn’t know they are here. The addictive quality is insane.

The credit for this recipe goes to the inestimable Ree Drummond, better known as the Pioneer Woman.  Check out her original recipe for extra inspiration!  The recipe below reflects the tweaking I’ve done.  Try it both ways; I don’t think you’ll be able to stop eating either version.

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Crack Treats
(Makes one 9″x13″ pan)

6 Tbsp unsalted butter, plus a little extra for greasing the pan
10.5 oz bag of mini-marshmallows
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup Nutella
6 cups of crispy rice cereal
1 cup finely chopped walnuts or pecans, toasted
5-6 oz. semisweet chocolate chips, melted

Liberally grease a 9″x13″ pan with butter. Set aside.

Melt the 6 tablespoons of butter in a large saucepan over medium-low heat.  Add the marshmallows.  Stir until fully melted.  Add the Nutella, and stir until incorporated.  Pull the saucepan off the heat.  Mix in the crispy rice cereal, taking care to incorporate the marshmallow mixture as thoroughly as possible.  Using a spatula, press the whole sticky mess into the greased pan.

Drizzle half the melted chocolate over the treats.  Sprinkle the nuts liberally over the initial chocolate, then drizzle the remaining chocolate over the nuts.  Put the pan in the fridge for 30-60 minutes, until the chocolate has hardened.  Cut into squares.  Enjoy!

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Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup

I made chicken noodle soup tonight.  It’s been very autumnal around here, with our little man enthusiastically lighting his pumpkin every night and the down comforters out on everyone’s beds.  Soup seemed right.  Quick also seemed right.  Why not some comfort food?

I know that there are much fancier ways to do chicken noodle soup, but this is my way.  It’s homey. I like the way the dill sprigs infuse the broth without overpowering it.  I like the texture of the egg noodle ribbons.  I like the way that it takes me all of an hour (or less) to make.  And best of all: it has the Toddler Stamp of Approval!  Does it get much better than that?

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Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup
(Serves 4-6)

Olive oil
2 medium carrots, peeled and roughly chopped (1/4-inch thick)
2 celery stalks, roughly chopped (1/4-inch thick)
1/2 large yellow onion, roughly diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 bay leaf
3 pints chicken broth
3-4 sprigs of fresh dill
1 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 medium chicken breast, cooked & shredded
3 handfuls of egg noodles, cooked
salt & fresh ground white pepper

Thinly cover the bottom of a large pot with oil, and heat over medium.  Toss the carrot and celery in the pot; cook for 3 minutes.  Add the onion and bay leaf.  Continue to cook for another 5-6 minutes, until the carrot and celery have begun to soften. (Do not brown the vegetables.)  Add the garlic.  Cook for 60 seconds, until fragrant.

Add the chicken broth and dill sprigs to the pot.  Bring to a simmer.  Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer together for 15 minutes. Remove the bay leaf and dill sprigs. Add the parsley, chicken breast, and noodles.  Adjust broth to taste with salt and freshly ground white pepper.  Serve immediately with bread or crackers.