Banana-Lovers’ Muffins

October 1, 2011

The other day when a friend offered me a whole tub of over-ripened bananas, I knew immediately what to do with them.  For a couple of years, I have been eying this recipe for banana muffins.  We enjoy banana bread fairly often, but I rarely have the 5 ripe bananas this recipe requires to dedicate to baking. This was a perfect opportunity.

These truly are Banana-Lovers’ Muffins.  With a base of five whipped  bananas and only the simplest of ingredients (flour, butter, salt, baking soda), these muffins sing of bananas.  The effect is quite different from the standard banana bread that is more bread than banana.  The bananas also lend an incredibly creamy quality to the texture of the muffin.  Indeed, though creamy is admittedly a strange descriptor for muffins, it is absolutely apt here. These muffins are moist without being dense making it easy to take down more than one with the morning coffee.

Banana-Lovers’ Muffins is adapted from a recipe from the Kona Inn.  The only thing I changed was to reduce the sugar by half.  I am not a fan of super sweet morning food.  To our family they still seemed plenty sweet with the reduced added sugar and the natural sweetness from the bananas.  We will definitely make these again.

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Berry Dutch Baby

August 3, 2011

Breakfast is sometimes tiresome.  We make eggs, pancakes, waffles, granola, but even with all of those choices, we are still sometimes bored.  Recently I remembered about Dutch Babies which my mother used to make for me.  They are essentially large popovers that are sliced and served with lemon and powdered sugar or jams and syrups if you prefer.  As a child I loved these, but I have not be able to completely sell my kids on them for some reason.  The other night however, as I said goodnight, my son requested a Dutch Baby with berries for breakfast.

Making Dutch Babies is simple, you whisk together a batter, preheat a cast iron in the oven, and pour the batter into the hot pan.  The batter then cooks in the oven until it puffs up and browns.  It is dramatic and beautiful, but have your audience near when you take it from the oven, because it soon falls.  Dutch Babies are best eaten very soon after being removed from the oven.

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Mixed Berry Syrup

July 28, 2011

I did not intend to share this recipe.  It seemed too simple, and maybe, just maybe, you are tired of reading about all the flats of berries my family is consuming.  Oh, but then the syrup began to heat and give off the most luscious smell.  By the time I was ready to ladle it in the jar, I was entertaining thoughts of bathing in this gorgeous liquid. That is when I knew I had to spread the word.   The next morning I awoke and made up a batch of the best pancakes ever (my humble opinion) to showcase this delicious syrup.

And so, simple as it may be, here is the recipe for the syrup that you should by all means make.   Sometimes it is the simplest of recipes that create the most delicious products.  It takes a little longer to make syrup than jam.  The sugar needs to heat to 230 degrees which takes time.  Do not be tempted to add the strained berries before the temperature is reached.  You will end up with a runny product.

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Three Berry Jam

July 6, 2011

My family and I just returned from a delightful escape from reality in the Santa Cruz Mountains.  Without the modern distractions of cars, phones, and computers, our days were peacefully filled with banana slug hunts, star gazing,  and swimming until we pruned.  It was a much needed pause in an otherwise busy life, a centering of sorts.  But alas, there are other responsibilities to which we must tend.  Some are grudgingly attended- bill paying, laundry folding, car repairing. Other responsibilities are the important rituals of life that help to make meaning and define some of the rhythms of our family life.  At the top of the list during this time of year is preserving the glorious bounty of summer.

Berry season is short, so we rely on the craft of jam making to preserve these flavors for the dark days.  On our way home, we stopped into Gizdich Ranch and picked up a flat each of raspberries and ollalie berries. I combined these two berries with some strawberries I froze last month to create a mixed berry jam.

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Strawberry Rhubarb Jam

June 16, 2011

Two weeks into my summer vacation, I had a serious itch to make some strawberry jam.  The problem was everywhere I looked the strawberries were either over-sized and under-flavored or ridiculously expensive.  On a tip from a friend, I headed out Highway 12 just outside Sebastopol to Lao’s Strawberry Stand.  It took three tries: first time he sold out, second time simply closed, but the third time is a charm.  It was well worth the trouble.  These strawberries bear very little resemblance to the strawberries sold year-round at the supermarket.  They are super small, bright red all the way through, and absolutely bursting with flavor.  They literally made me swoon.  It is such a pleasure to take the time to put up food when it is the best quality.  I was giddy with the thought that we would be able to enjoy these beautiful strawberries all winter.

The last few years, I have made strawberry rhubarb jam using low-sugar pectin and a standard process of heating the fruit and sugar to a boil, adding the pectin, and canning in sterile jars.  It has always turned out good, but not great.  Two problems I had were the strawberry and rhubarb both cooking down to a mushy pulp and the rhubarb turning a slightly greyish color.  After reading Eugenia Bone’s method of slow roasting the fruit in a low oven, I had to try it.

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