September 27, 2009

Monkey-ing Around

You know the drill.  There is a smell of ripening bananas in the air and every time you pass the fruit basket on the table you think to yourself I must use up those bananas before they go bad’.  That is the situation I was faced with today so I pulled out my recipe for banana bread.  It is a super easy recipe that calls for a boxed cake mix and instant vanilla pudding.  It is one of those no fail recipes.  The original recipe also had a topping included but I usually leave it plain or top it with a lilikoi-flavored cream cheese frosting.  This recipe makes a 9x13 pan but I thought it might be a good idea to make it in mini loaf pans.  I wanted to share some with our neighbor and freeze the rest.  I am not sure that any will actually make it into the freezer because they are going fast.  Not to worry because there always seems to be more bananas that need to be used up.


1 package white cake mix
1 (4oz) package of vanilla instant pudding mix
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups mashed ripe bananas (about 4-5)
1/3 cup vegetable oil

1. Preheat oven to 350F.  Grease a 9x13 inch cake pan
2. In a large mixing bowl combine cake mix, pudding mix, eggs, bananas, and oil.  Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes or until smooth.
3. Spread batter in prepared pan.  Bake for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Let cool for at least 30 minutes in pan before turning out onto a wire rack.
4. Top with a dusting of powdered sugar or cream cheese frosting if desired.

Variation: Try with chocolate, banana, or butterscotch pudding.

September 26, 2009

Pizza for you and pizza for me

It seems like forever but I am finally back to blogging. I have been fighting off a sore throat - it won - and have not been feeling like doing much of anything. In the search for something quick and easy for dinner the decision was made to try our hand at making our own pizzas. We decided on a vegetarian theme with a mixture of bell pepper, onion, pineapple, and lots of cheese (I added mushrooms to mine). I kept it simple by buying the dough from Whole Foods and got an assortment of toppings. On one of the pizzas we caramelized the onions first. It added a great taste and I think next time we will take it a step further and add some balsamic vinegar too. One valuable lesson that we learned is don't forget to put some cornmeal on the pizza stone before placing the dough on them. Our pizzas were good and stuck when we took them out of the oven. It was a little disappointing because they looked and smelled so good but we managed to pry them off and enjoy them anyway. We already have some ideas to try out on our next pizza so this may become a weekly ritual. Of course I would also like to try my hand at making my own dough.

September 03, 2009

Mom...please bring cheesecake brownies

It was my turn to bring "snacks" for my daughter's volleyball game.  I hesitate to even call it a snack because some people go all out and bring a full meal.  I don't know about you but I remember not being very hungry when I finished playing a basketball game, but I guess that was back in the olden days.  Anyway, I decided that I was going to veer away from the normal pizza, hot dogs, etc and bring some bread rolls filled with lots of fresh salad and meat.

Since we were having something somewhat healthy my daughter asked if I could make cheesecake brownies as dessert.  Ever since I made these for a bake sale at the school last year they have become a favorite.  Using a pre-packaged brownie mix makes them super easy to make, but it doesn't take that much longer to make them from scratch.  The cream cheese mixture for the top is also quick and easy with only three ingredients (four if you include my addition of vanilla extract or vanilla paste).

I used a great recipe from Lovin' From the Oven.  I did use a boxed mix for the brownies by Ghirardelli this time and made an addition to the cream cheese mixture.

Cheesecake Brownies


For the brownie
1 cup butter
2 cups sugar (white)
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup all purpose flour
½ cup cocoa
½ teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 8"x8" pan. Melt butter in saucepan over low heat. Once melted remove from heat and add sugar, vanilla, and eggs. Blend together. In separate bowl, mix together flour, cocoa, and salt. Add dry mixture to the wet and mix well. Pour into greased pan.

For the cheesecake swirl
8 oz (1 package) cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup sugar (you can use 1/3 cup if you want it sweeter)
1 egg
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract or 1 teaspoon of vanilla paste

Beat the cream cheese and sugar mixture together. Add the egg and vanilla and continue beating until creamy. Drop rounded teaspoons on top of the brownie batter and then swirl using a knife. Bake for approximately 50-60 minutes, or until done.


A Blast from the Past

I knew exactly what I needed to do to relieve my stress.  I had to bake something.  The only problem was that I was short on time so it needed to be a quick and easy recipe.  I  had a couple of recipes in mind but they all seemed to have too many steps. I was ready to give up but I turned to my old faithful recipe binder and flipped straight to the back of it where the good stuff is filed.  You know the ones I mean.  Old faithfuls.  

Sure enough I came across a recipe that was given to me almost eighteen years ago.  It was one of those recipes that you come across when a group of women get together for coffee and someone brings just the right cake and you just have to have the recipe.  Luckily for me this friend was generous enough to share her recipe.  She seemed almost embarassed because it was such a simple recipe - nothing fancy was what she said.  Sometimes those recipes are the ones that are the best because there are very few steps for a lot of reward.  This is that kind of recipe.

I don't know why I haven't made this recipe in such a long time.  I guess there are so many recipes to try and so little time. I have discovered that new is not always better and that applies to lots of things in life, not just cooking. Maybe it is time to enjoy old familiar favorites again.  Mix the old with the new and enjoy the best of both worlds.

Orange Cake
125g butter
1 1/2 cups self-rising flour
2 tablespoons custard powder
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup orange juice
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon orange zest

Preheat oven to 350F.
Add butter and sugar to a bowl and use a mixer to cream.
Add eggs, orange juice, orange zest, and vanilla and mix to thoroughly combine
Add sifted flour and custard powder.
Pour into a greased 8-inch cake pan and bake for 40-45 minutes.
When cool sift icing sugar over top if desired.