Banana Streusel Muffins

For more tasty bakes, see my collection of family specialties:

You Can’t Have Dry Coffee: Papa’s Excuse to Have a Nosh And Nana’s Perfect Pastries

I’m not a fan of muffin papers and have good luck spraying the pans with a light coating of oil.

These muffins aren’t too sweet, and the topping adds just the right amount of balance. I usually add some amount of whole wheat flour to muffins because I like the added nutrition and also enjoy biting into something which is more substantial than fluffy white bread. However, if you prefer the muffins either lighter or grainier, you can either use all white flour or all whole wheat pastry flour.

Banana Streusel Muffins

For the batter:

  • 1/3 c. butter
  • 3/4 c. sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 3 very ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1 c. white flour
  • 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. baking powder

For the topping, mix together the dry ingredients and cut in the butter until crumbly:

  • 1/3 c. brown sugar
  • 2 Tbs. flour
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 Tbs. butter

Cream butter and sugar, add egg and then bananas. Mix together the dry ingredients and stir all together. Spoon into greased muffin pan. Sprinkle on the topping. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes.

Molly’s Veggie Omelet

I’m raising some creative cooks. Molly, who is 14, shared her omelet with me this weekend. She put in an unexpected combination of ingredients: mushrooms, fresh tomatoes, and frozen peas. It was delicious! I enjoyed starting my day with a healthy serving of vegetables. Thanks, Mol!

Valentine’s Day: Heart-shaped bread from challah

This is a peanut butter and apple sandwich. Also try a classic cream cheese and jelly, being sure to use a red-colored jam.

This is a terrific trick that will wow your kids. Let them watch as you cut off a slice of your challah, then cut it in half to make a heart. It’s a little bit of slicing magic that little kids love. Don’t worry if your slices don’t result in perfect cookie-cutter hearts; the kids won’t care. If you want you can do a little extra trimming to fine-tune the edges. I like that the top and side crusts are still there.

Use this bread for sandwiches or for a special French toast Valentine’s Day breakfast.

It’s very easy to make a double-braided challah:

Make up a batch of Blue Ribbon Challah.

Divide dough into 4 equal portions. Braid 3 and place on the greased cookie sheet. Divide the remaining portion into 3 equal portions, braid those and place on top of the first braid.

Here's where to slice it. You can do some additional trimming if you like.



Heart-shaped Pancakes for Valentine’s Day

Get out your pretty china—the kids will feel the love—then sprinkle the pancakes with powdered sugar and add a dollop of raspberry jam.

We like to start out holidays by celebrating at breakfast, so on Valentine’s Day I make the kids heart-shaped pancakes. It means getting up a little earlier, but it’s something they look forward to. This year I might just make them the night before, and then microwave them in the morning. I don’t think they’ll suffer too much, and it will mean an extra 30 minutes of sleep for the cook!

Click here for a mini how-to on YouTube.

Tiny Pastas with Cauliflower, Peas and Fancy Cheese

Break the cauliflower into very small florets, and pick out a couple of similarly sized pasta shapes.

Jennie brought this incredible assortment of gourmet-looking cheeses as a starter course for our dinner party. She arranged them on a round wooden board and—this is the best part—she labeled them all! We all had so much fun trying some new cheeses. When I went to make my usual pasta sauce a few days later, I mixed in a left-over chunk of a soft looking cheese, blending it in with the cheddar. The cheese is called “fromager d’Affinois” and is a bit similar to brie, but made with more butter fat. Yum.

This is more-or-less the same recipe as Mixed Pasta Shapes with Vegetables, but without the tomato and substituting in about 3/4 c. of the fromager d’Affinois.

Flaxseed Supper Biscuits

For more tasty bakes, see my collection of family specialties:

You Can’t Have Dry Coffee: Papa’s Excuse to Have a Nosh And Nana’s Perfect Pastries

The turkey soup which we ate tonight, for the third time in five days, was calling out for a fresh bread product. I liked the idea of biscuits but wanted something a bit grittier than usual (I’m still on my winter grain frenzy), so I added some whole wheat flour and flaxseed meal to the usual recipe. The vote is still out on how we feel about this recipe. I might cut back on the flaxseed meal next time. They have a stronger flavor than the usual breakfast biscuits. See what you think.

Flaxseed Supper Biscuits (makes 6 large, 3″ biscuits)

  • 1-1/2 c. whole wheat flour
  • 1 c. flour
  • 1/2 c. flaxseed meal
  • 4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1-1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 c. shortening
  • 2/3 c. milk

Mix together the dry ingredients and cut in the shortening. Stir in the milk, flatten out onto a floured board and cut. Place on a greased cookie sheet and bake at 450 degrees for 15 minutes.

Chicken Breasts with Crusted Parmesan and Parsley

This is a more kid-friendly version of the Party Chicken, and a really easy week-night dinner idea.

Chicken Breasts with Crusted Parmesan and Parsley

  • 6 pieces boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 3/4 c. Parmesan cheese
  • 1/3 c. chopped, fresh parsley
  • 1-1/2 tsp. oregano
  • 1 large clove garlic, pressed
  • 1/2 tsp. coarsely grated black pepper
  • 1/4 c. butter, melted in a wide, shallow bowl or baking dish

In a large, shallow bowl, mix together the Parmesan cheese, parsley, oregano, garlic and pepper. Dip the chicken breasts in the butter and then dredge in the cheese mixture, being sure to get a good coating of the mixture on all sides of the chicken. Place in a baking dish. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes.

Party chicken with artichokes, capers and pine nuts

If you’re serving chicken at a party, or taking some to a pot luck, you might not want to serve full-sized pieces. Chicken breast tenders, if you can find them, are a perfect portion size when people want to sample a lot of different dishes.

Party Chicken (makes 20-25 modest portions)

  • 3 lbs. chicken tenders
  • 1 c. grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 c. minced, fresh parsley
  • 2 tsp. oregano
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 1 tsp. coarsely ground black pepper
  • 3/4 c. butter, melted in a shallow bowl
  • 3/4 c. bread crumbs
  • 1 can artichoke hearts, chopped
  • 1/2 c. pine nuts
  • 1/2 c. capers

In a large, shallow bowl, mix together the Parmesan, parsley, oregano, garlic and black pepper. Line a large cookie sheet with foil (non-stick is best). Dip the chicken pieces in the melted butter, then place side-by-side in the pan. Sprinkle on the mixture, pressing lightly into the chicken. Evenly sprinkle/arrange the artichokes, pine nuts and capers over the chicken. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes.

For a more kid-friendly version, and to see an idea for a smaller serving which would be ideal for a week-night dinner, see this post: Chicken Breast with Crusted Parmesan and Parsley

Winter nesting with grains: my favorite cooked cereal

If you feel like indulging, make this with whole milk.

There is something about winter that sends me into a nesting frenzy, heading off to the bulk food section of the organic market to stock my shelves and fridge with twist-tied bags of grains and beans and grainy flours. There’s a cereal that I love this time of year, which, unfortunately, takes a good, long while to simmer over a low heat and involves a lot of stirring. It’s not a good cereal for a school day. When you eat it, though—served hot with a splash of cream—you are rewarded with a rich bowl of hearty, flavorful, complex goodness. Unlike a bowl of cold cereal, when you eat this you feel like you’ve actually eaten something. I love this cereal.

Winter Cereal Mix

  • 2 c. bulghur
  • 1 c. rolled oats (not quick oats)
  • 1/2 c. toasted wheat germ
  • 1/2 cup raw wheat germ
  • 1/2 c. soy grits
  • 1/2 c. wheat bran
  • 1 c. polenta
  • milk, raisins, and cream (optional) for cooking and serving

Mix together all of the dry ingredients, and store in a tightly sealed container for up to three months in the pantry. To store for longer periods, keep in the refrigerator so that the grains do not become rancid.

To cook

  • 1 c. dry mix
  • 2 c. water
  • 2 c. 2% milk
  • 1/2 c. raisins (optional)
  • 1 Tbs. cream

Put the mix, water and raisins in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a low simmer, stirring often for 20-25 minutes, gradually adding the milk as the cereal cooks and thickens. Serve with a splash of cream.

Updating Mom’s spinach dip

The tiny sweet bell peppers are a perfect edible garnish for the standard vegies.

My mother made an extraordinary spinach dip. For the most part, Ruth was a “scratch” cook and baker, steering clear of prepackaged products: there was no Hamburger Helper for us, no cake mixes, and no t.v. dinners sitting forlornly on plastic t.v. trays. There were, however, those occasionally recipes, which I can only imagine were torn out of a Life magazine, or peeled from a product’s can, which used some questionable ingredients. The sauce for her famous stuffed cabbage rolls, for example, uses a jar of sweet pickle juice and a handful of ginger snaps, and the spinach dip uses a package of Knorr’s Leek Soup Mix, and a shake of McCormick Salad Supreme. For years when I made the spinach dip I stayed true to the recipe, but these days I try to use whole ingredients when I can, so when I made this for a New Year’s party I did a bit of updating, with no apologies to Mr. McCormick or Mr. Knorr.

Spinach Dip

  • 1 c. sour cream
  • 1 c. mayonnaise
  • 1 package frozen, shopped spinach, thawed, well drained, and squeezed as dry as possible
  • 1/2 c. fresh chopped parsley
  • 1/4 c. finely chopped onion
  • 1/2 tsp. dill weed
  • 1/4 tsp. sesame seed
  • 1/4 tsp. paprika
  • 1 small garlic clove, pressed
  • a pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)

Mix all together at least one hour before serving. Serve with fresh vegetables.