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And another award-winner: My Banana Bread (with Chocolate Chips)!

3 Oct

I shared with you the great news of Leandro’s first place win for Oatmeal Walnut Cranberry Chocolate Chip Cookies at the Long Island Fair. Now I will share my more modest triumph…my banana bread took second place in the adult class!

Chocolate chips give it that extra prize-winning appeal....

Chocolate chips give it that extra prize-winning appeal….

My banana bread is very moist and banana-y, because I take any bananas that have gone too ripe for pleasant eating (as in the peel is black and the flesh is mushy and getting brown), peel and freeze them in a resealable bag until I have enough for banana bread. So the sugars are really present and there is quite a bit of juice.

I have been terribly busy — too busy to sit down and write something more substantive — so I’ll keep it short and give you the recipe, which is sure to become a go-to for you!

Slice and freeze for great lunchbox stuffers

Slice and freeze for great lunchbox stuffers

Banana Chocolate Chip Quick Bread

6 overripe bananas

1 Cup sugar (1/2 light brown and ½ white)

2 eggs, beaten

½ Cup vegetable oil

2 Cups flour (1/2 whole wheat, ½ white all purpose)

1 tsp baking soda

¼ tsp salt

1 Cup bittersweet chocolate morsels

Preheat oven to 350°. Mash bananas in mixing bowl. Add sugar, eggs and oil, one at a time, mixing well with each addition. Sift dry ingredients together and add to banana mixture. Fold in chocolate morsels. Pour in four greased mini- loaf pans and bake 55-60 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Second place for me

Second place for me

Cocktail Meatballs (Fry for Now or Bake for Later)

8 Sep

The school year has started for me (for those who don’t know, in my other life I am a college professor of English as a Second Language) and will start for my FIRST-GRADER (!?!) on Monday.

I love a little army of meatballs. I do them in my fancy toaster oven!

I love a little army of meatballs. I do them in my fancy toaster oven!

I like to start the semester with the first two weeks of my lesson plans prepped, photocopies made and ready-to-go, and….my freezer full of home-made dishes that I can pull out in a heartbeat and serve with an easy starch and a steamed vegetable. The older my son gets, the more activities we have outside school, and the harder it gets for me to get to the gym. When dinner’s already ready, I am more relaxed and have fewer excuses to keep me from the treadmill.

Cooked! Meatballs are one of my favorite things...

Cooked! Meatballs are one of my favorite things…

Meatballs are one of our favorites. If you bake them, you can freeze them. Then, you have loads of options, Drop them in tomato sauce to defrost and make delicious pasta gravy. Just heat them up and serve with rice or buttered noodles or pesto. Make a meatball hero. Serve to unexpected guests with toothpicks as an attractive appetizer. Yes, meatballs in the freezer make life much easier. So here they are, simple to make (the little guy helps with the smashing and meatball making) and yet very, very tasty.

Fry-babies

Fry-babies

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Blackberry Muffins: Moist and Tart and Sweet

31 Aug

We finally made it down to the berry fields at Restoration Farm for blackberry season and boy am I glad we did!

No butterflies were harmed in the making of these muffins

No butterflies were harmed in the making of these muffins

The little guy picked and popped the berries directly into his mouth (“Oh Mom, these are so good! Try this one!) and ran up and down the rows and climbed up and down the compost pile, while I picked the juiciest and blackest berries and dropped them into my paper bag, and chatted with Donna “The Chicken Lady/Social Commentarist” in the cooling breeze of the late afternoon. One of my favorite things about going to the farm and volunteering my labor (which I don’t do as much as I should once the summer kicks in) is talking while you work. The folks at the farm are so interesting and warm and funny, and weeding occupies the hands, while it frees the mind to wander and the ears to listen and the mouth to chat.

Allison -- our long-time CSA partner -- picks her berries.

Allison — our long-time CSA partner — picks her berries.

Berry-picking does much the same thing. Once you soften your touch to only take the berries which fall off into your hand with the gentlest of tugs — if you tug at all — you find a rhythm as old as time and the conversation comes easily. So does silence.

Taking with my not-particularly-smart-but-loyal phone. Not such a bad shot, no?

Taking with my not-particularly-smart-but-loyal phone. Not such a bad shot, no?

For someone like me, who always has to be getting something done, it is a great relief to be able to have my hands occupied in dignified work, while sharing with friends. I also learn a lot about what to do in my own garden when nothing is going right. And the little man identifies the birds: swallows and mockingbirds and the occasional red-tailed hawk wanting a go at Donna’s chickens. The hawks cause quite a bit of excitement in Mr. Mini-Audubon. And the chickens, of course, who scurry under the coop.

Treat these berries gently and use them immediately!

Treat these berries gently and use them immediately!

So, we collected just under a quart of warm, sweet, soft berries that needed using immediately. Since back-to-school is right around the corner, my fill-the-freezer-frenzy has begun. Mini-muffins make for a perfect lunchbox snack, so that is where I went. Continue reading

Chocolate Mini-Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

16 Jun

I caved. Yes, I did.

Driven by the fear of being “that mom” who rains on every party and won’t let kids enjoy their sugar fix and makes others feel guilty or annoyed by my holier-than-thou eating habits…and because my son asked very nicely to have a special treat…for Leandro’s birthday celebration at school, we made cupcakes. Chocolate Cupcakes. With Buttercream Frosting. Go big, or go home.

Mini-muffin before frosting

Mini-muffin before frosting

In my feeble defense, I also made fruit kebabs (which went over as well as, if not better than, the cupcakes) and we actually went little, making mini-cupcakes so that they were  a tiny treat rather than an exercise in excess, but BE IT KNOWN: I am not immune to peer pressure and I am not a complete whole food Nazi.

Mind you, making it all homemade is also a form of penitence for sins of sugar and spice. I put a lot of time and effort into it and was not always thinking gracious thoughts. Particularly about the moms who just pick up a box of Dunkin’ Munchkins for class celebrations and call it a day and don’t give that much thought to what children consume or what maniacs like myself choose to do with our precious time, but who are not going to waste their precious time making desserts for five-and-six year olds, when kids are just as happy with a Dunkin’ drive-by.

That buttercream frosting is NAUGHTY! and nice....

That buttercream frosting is NAUGHTY! and nice….

It’s that same grim satisfaction some of us get from pointedly and conscientiously using our directional when driving, as if anyone would care to learn from our example, or as if there was some direct HOV lane to heaven for courteous and law-abiding drivers. Underneath it all, I know no one gives a rat’s posterior. But the girl can’t help it. Continue reading

Berry Crisp: Sweet, Crunchy, Charming

13 Jun

It’s just about summer and the strawberries are at their sweet juiciest, and as the season progresses, they are followed by blueberries, raspberries, blackberries…I just can’t get enough of summer fruits, but I do like to play with different ways to serve and enjoy them.

Summer fruit reminds me of piles of precious gems!

Summer fruit reminds me of piles of precious gems!

Last weekend I found a new way to love up ripe berries. We had our Single Mothers By Choice monthly meet-up. These are families I have known and grown with since before Leandro was born, so it is a support structure we really cherish.  On this occasion, in the middle of the kid chaos and seven simultaneous conversations pinballing around the moms, we celebrated several kids’ birthdays all at once. The hostess made cupcakes for the kids, and I made berry crisp for the grown-ups, we sang, blew out candles, and got back to the chaos.

Crunch on the top, syrup underneath

Crunch on the top, syrup underneath

This dessert is perfect for this kind of occasion. It is decidedly unfussy, but combines sweet, tart, syrupy, and crunchy (plus rich and creamy if you top it with whipped cream; it is so easy to make homemade!) which makes it pretty perfect in my book. It is simple to prepare, but looks so enticing! The original recipe is from one of my favorite cookbooks, Food to Live By: The Earthbound Farm Organic Cookbook, by Myra Goodman (shout-out to Sean and P.J. Goralski for giving it to me years ago!) and I tweaked it ever so slightly to add more cinnamon and less clove flavor. Continue reading

Baked Cauliflower Macaroni and Cheese: Is there any pay-off in pandering to a kid?

27 Mar

This was not at all a sneak attack. This was a straightforward “Hey little dude, do you think you would like cauliflower if I made this recipe?”

Oh, yes, yes, I would eat it up, it looks delicious, definitely make it Mommy, make it right away, blah, blah, blah.

Baking bacon!

Baking bacon!

So there is no reason why, after troubling myself to get all the ingredients and getting my unwilling, intermittently vegan dad into the process, and committing myself to joining my son in eating a stodgy, creamy, cheesy, bacon-y mess of a fantastic casserole that in no way advances my desire to look good in a bathing suit by summer…there is absolutely no reason why said five-year-old little dude should be allowed to not eat the damn cauliflower, whether he likes it or not.

Mustard seed and rosemary, crushed

Mustard seed and rosemary, crushed

But of course, you know what happened. Continue reading

Blueberry-Strawberry Mini-Muffins

25 Mar

Another Perfect Mom Moment gone astray. I had the blueberries. I had the jam. I had the flour, the sugar, the butter, the cinnamon, the eggs. I had the kindergartener signed on to the project. But oops (oops being a euphemism for the words I actually used when I realized), I did not have the yogurt for our favorite blueberry-lingonberry mini-muffins.

A favorite for tea, lunchbox or thoughtful treat for neighbors, caregivers and friends

Usually we do blueberry-lingonberry muffins with yogurt – light and lifty

.

But, snow falling on the first day of Spring told me that baking had to be. So Iron Mom took over from Perfect Mom (who I don’t like very much anyway) and made from lemons lemonade. Or in this case, a different muffin. As Temple Grandin’s mom used to say, “Different, but not less.”

Sweet and petite blueberry mini-muffins

Sweet and petite blueberry mini-muffins

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Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies (Baking with Kids!)

7 Feb

My intentions were good. But the road I am on took a turn that was paved completely with…Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies.

I was supposed to take Leandro and his buddy, Scott, to the gym with me for their regular weekly play date, where they could scramble in the habitrail (like McDonald’s Play Places without the Happy Meals), watch movies, draw, or just run like the demented maniacs they are after a day cooped up in school. Meanwhile I would do a virtuous hour on the treadmill, go home and make dinner.

It started so innocently...making trail mix!

It started so innocently…making trail mix!

But between one thing and another, we did not go. I attempted to recuperate from said setback by having the boys make their own trail mix for snack. Craisins, walnuts, sunflower seeds and…semi-sweet chocolate chips. Just enough virtue. But mischief was lurking… Continue reading

Basic Baked Meatballs: Simple, Adaptable, Freezeable

26 Jan

Great Super Bowl party buffet idea!

The other day I posted my recipe for fancy-cheesy meatballs. Here now, as promised, the basic meatballs that I did just in case we had a child who wanted something more simple (we did not). Baked and basic, you can add any seasonings or sauces to them to make them suit your mood. (Try Roasted Red Pepper Dipping Sauce)

(You can also try my albóndigas variation which is pretty easy and includes Old Bay, or Pedro’s pan-fried  albóndigas, or Ham & Cheese meatballs in the oven. I do like my meatballs!)

I now have a bunch of basics in the freezer, and will very likely pull them out for Super Bowl…and serve them with toothpicks. If I can find the right passionfruit juice, I will soon post a passionfruit sauce recipe that my friend Mayra used to do in PR. I just found the recipe among some old papers and I am eager to try it.

Otherwise, any BBQ-type thick dipping sauce will do!

Basic Baked Meatballs

Basic Baked Meatballs

Basic Baked Meatballs

1 egg

1 Tbs fresh parsley, chopped (or 2 tsp dry)

1 Tbs grated onion

1 tsp garlic, minced

1 tsp Adobo powder

1 grating black pepper

1 lb. ground beef (can include ¼ lb. ground pork)

Preheat oven to 400°F. Mix all ingredients except meat until combined. Add meat in chunks. Mix lightly until well combined and roll into 1.5” balls. Place on a foil-covered rimmed baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes or until a meat thermometer inserted into one reaches 160°F. Serve as cocktail meatballs with your favorite sauce, add to pasta sauce, or make into sandwiches. They will adapt to just about any flavor palette.

Meatballs for Good Friends (and a full freezer) Part 1 (with cheese)

23 Jan

(Three hundredth post!!!!)

Cooking a nice meal for both parents and kids does not have to involve making two separate dinners.Well, not exactly, anyway.

I confess to getting cold feet halfway through my prep and making myself a safety net, so let’s say this time I made one-and-a-half meals, but in the process, I really stocked the freezer for the new semester.

The juicy, savory, binding

The juicy, savory, binding

I made some “fancy” meatballs and some basic ones (that recipe later in the week) for a Single Mothers By Choice-three-family dinner here at home last weekend…pasta, meatballs and red sauce…can you really go wrong? My friend, Pam, brought the salad fixings, and Kim brought a sinful dessert (which one pretends is for the kids, but is really just as much for the growns) and everything went swimmingly! And everyone liked both fancy and plain.

On their way to the oven

On their way to the oven

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