Was it Worth it: Is Julia’s banana bread really the best?

Julia's Best Banana Bread

  • The Background: My love for cooking magazines is well-known so it’s no surprise that this recipe is straight from Bon Appetit (March 2013). What might actually surprise you is that my fellow-blogger Liz from Food For Fun/deLizious food communications beat me to making it! Her post/recipe review, found here, is what inspired me to make this banana bread immediately instead of letting the recipe get buried in my pile of things to make “someday.”

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Granola Bars vs White Bean Blondies: Not much of a battle

Homemade Cherry Almond Granola Bars

Homemade Cherry Almond Granola Bars

There’s a definite line between good healthy food and bad healthy food. I’ve been on a kick recently to try to make things healthier (yeah, yeah, New Year’s resolutions) and it’s had some interesting moments. Good things have come of it — I’ve discovered that I really love flax seeds, that baking with whole wheat flour isn’t scary and that coconut oil is possibly the best thing ever.

But bad decisions have also been made.

Have you ever cooked something so singly terrifying that you instantly feel ashamed of yourself? I recently traumatized my co-workers with a batch of (oh god Sean — please don’t judge me for this!) white bean blondies. Yes. I said it, white. bean. blondies. As in I took something that should have been filled with butter, sugar and eggs and used a can of pureed white beans instead.

I even used a well-tested recipe filled with comments like “no one ever guessed there were beans in here” and “these taste better than the real thing.” Those people are liars. They tasted exactly like beans — trust me, they weren’t fooling anyone. And even though I placed a disclaimer by the offering noting that it was both “vegan and gluten-free” (which really should have been enough of a warning), I was still a little worried I was going to get lynched.

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Homemade English Muffins: Rising to the Challenge

Homemade English Muffins

Homemade English Muffins

I have always had a lingering fear of working with yeast. I can’t recall a specific failure that could have caused this reaction, it’s more of a preemptive thing. And so I rarely bother to attempt any baking that calls for kneading or letting things rise. But last weekend, I had a serious craving for English muffins and a few spare hours to kill so I convinced myself to face my phobia.

I got words of encouragement via Facebook from my blogging buddy Liz who told me once I tasted homemade English muffins, I would never go back to buying them again. And so with my lofty dreams and high hopes defeating my fear of disaster, I gave it a shot. I found a few recipes I wanted to try but settled on this one from Brown-Eyed Baker, which is taken from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice. The only adaption I made was switching out some whole wheat flour for part of the regular flour.

It was an easy task from start to finish, but it was a long process — mainly because you have to let the dough rise twice which took about three hours in total. But it was the perfect project for a lazy Saturday evening, as I spent the “rising” time watching Twin Peaks on Netflix. I don’t know how I’ve missed seeing the cult hit until now, but I’m happily making up for lost time — it’s seriously addictive and super bizarre.

Actually speaking of Twin Peaks, I have an embarrassing confession for you: I have seen drinks called “The Laura Palmer” on bar menus for years and always assumed it had something to do with Arnold Palmer (as in, his wife perhaps?). Yeah. So that was eye-opening.

Anyways, on to the muffins!

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Was it Worth it? Citrus Muffins with Poppyseed Streusel

Lemon Poppyseed Muffin

  • The Source: Cooking Light November 2005
  • The Menu: Sour Cream Muffins with Poppyseed Streusel *only adaptation was a lemon instead of an orange for the zest.
  • The Background: I wanted to bake something tasty to bring in to my co-workers. I was debating between a few coffee cake recipes but then I saw this one in my binder and thought it sounded delicious. It was also from Cooking Light so at least it would keep to my “trying to eat healthy” pledge. This pledge is constantly being broken by copious amounts of foie gras, pork belly and beer. I was also very intrigued by the idea of a poppyseed streusel instead of just having the seeds in the muffin.
  • How It Looked Pre-Baked:


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Let Them Eat Cake …for breakfast

Was It Worth It? Trying out magazine recipes so you don’t have to!

  • The Source: Bon Appetit September 2012
  • The Cook: Just me…with the “help” of one fluffy kitty
  • The Menu:  Old-fashioned blueberry coffee cake 
  • The Background: I’ve been on a bit of a baking kick lately. Since we’d had a break from scorching hot weather, it seemed like a great time to turn on the old oven. High off my success with blueberry baked oatmeal, I decided to try out another blueberry recipe and this one sounded too good to pass up.
  • The Beginning:

This should also be called: where I messed it all up.

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I break for (lemon poppyseed) muffins…

Lemon Poppyseed Muffins

I have been crazy busy lately. Partly professionally — my very good friend (and coworker) Ariel just gave birth to a very adorable little boy. Since she’s now on maternity leave, the office has been a bit overwhelmed lately and some days I feel like I’m struggling to stay afloat. She is also part of my sanity at work, so even though it’s only been a week, I have really been missing her.

But I feel just as frazzled in my personal life too, though (at first glance) it’s harder to understand why. I still have my nights off, and spend most of them by myself. Except for my once-a-week TV and dinner date with Oliver. And my usual Saturday cooking shenanigans with DB. And spending Sunday with my husband. And trying to cook, clean, lay in the sun, garden, work out, do laundry, and write this blog. Hm.

So I guess I needed a mental break — hence my rather sporadic writing schedule lately. The good thing, was on this break, I made muffins. Delicious lemon poppyseed muffins.

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