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Just Out of the Oven

 I’ve never made popovers before in my life but ever since my friend T showed me this recipe by David Lebovitz, I’ve had popovers on my mind.  And wouldn’t you know it, I even had a brand spanking “new” popover pan in my closet, a gift from a coworker about 7 years ago!  I was amazed at how much these puppies “popped over” the pan when I took them out of the oven.  The opening shot was actually taken about 3 minutes after I took them out so they had a chance to deflate a little.  Brush some melted butter and sugar and what you get is a sweet little treat for dessert and/or  breakfast.

 

 

 

Upon arriving in Chicago, I was met by my friend T in her red convertible (top up, of course).  She welcomed me with a big hug and a bag of her homemade granola bars, guessing that I might be a little hungry from my flight.  She was so right!  I happily munched on these crunchy and slightly chewy bars,  full of almonds, cranberries and coconut flakes , throughout our ride back to her house.  It was hard for me to just eat one bar because these are so good. Luckily, the recipe comes from a cookbook I happen to own so I knew I’d have to make a batch up myself once I got back home.   Since I’m now back in Southern California,  here they are.   This recipe comes from Ina Garten’s Back To Basics cookbook.  I added whole almonds, dried figs, dried prunes, golden raisins and cranberries.  Get as creative as you’d like. Maybe you can even add some mini chocolate chip morsels, or throw in some macadamia nuts or cashews instead of the almonds.  And don’t forget to make a double batch!

Homemade Granola Bars ( adapted from  Ina Garten)

Ingredients:

2 cups old-fashioned oats

1 cup sliced almonds (I used whole almonds)

1 cup shredded coconut, loosely packed (I left this out because I couldn’t find this at the grocery store but I recommend adding it)

1/2 cup toasted wheat germ

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

2/3 cup honey

1/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed

1 and 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 cup dried cranberries

1/2 cup dried, chopped figs

1/2 cup dried, chopped prunes

1/2 cup golden raisins

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees

Butter an 8×12 inch baking dish and line with parchment paper.

Toss the oatmeal, almonds, and coconut (if using) together on a sheet pan and bake for 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned.  Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl and stir in the wheat germ.

Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees.

Place the butter, honey, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat.  Cook and stir for a minute, then pour over the toasted oatmeal mixture.  Add the dried fruits and stir well.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan.  Wet your fingers and lightly press the mixture evenly into the pan.  Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until lightly brown.  Cool for at least 2-3 hours before cutting into squares.  Serve at room temperature. Enjoy and share some with your lucky friends!

When I made these almond bars for the first time, I was a little disappointed.  I was expecting something on the chewy and gooey end of the spectrum,  more like a brownie or a blondie.   Instead, these bars came out a little on the drier, more crumbly side.  My boyfriend  commented that they reminded him of a biscotti.  Interestingly, like biscotti, this recipe is also of Italian origin, and also like the biscotti, these bars are a perfect accompaniment to a big mug of hot coffee or tea.  The lovely almond flavor intensified after a day or two,  and the dense, crumbly texture grew on me .  Yes, I ended up loving these so much that I practically ate them every morning for breakfast, and then made a second batch just a couple days ago.  The best part of this recipe is how easy they are to make.  Take my word for it or give it a try yourself.  You will grow to love these.

Click HERE for recipe

BFP Cake

I woke up early this Saturday morning to bake banana bread.  I based this recipe from one I found in the LA Times a few weeks ago.  In that recipe, the banana bread had dates, poppy seeds, and whole wheat flour, but since I didn’t have any of those I decided to improvise.  I used cake flour instead of the whole wheat, left out the poppy seeds all together, and substituted dried figs for the dates.  I also added a pear to the banana mixture just for the heck of it.   As the banana bread was baking, I did some housecleaning, and by the time the almost 1 hour of baking time went by, I was both starving  and zonked out.  My reward for all my hard work was a luscious, moist slice of what I think is more of a cake than a bread.  It’s actually quite light (thanks to the cake flour), and all the flavors really do work together.   I think I’m going to re-name my creation the Banana-Fig-Pear Cake, aka BFPC!

BFP Cake

Total time: about 1.5 hours

Servings: 2 loaves

ingredients:

3/4 cup (1 and 1/2 sticks) butter, plus extra for greasing the pans

1 and 1/2 cups AP flour

1 and 1/2 cups cake flour

1 and 1/2 tsp baking powder

1 and 1/2 tsp baking soda

3/4 cup sugar

3/8 tsp salt

3 eggs

5 very ripe bananas, plus 1 fresh banana

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 cup yogurt (I used plain Fage yogurt)

3/4 cup coarsely chopped dried figs

2 tablespoons powdered sugar

directions:

1.  Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees F.  Grease 2 loaf pans with butter

2.  Using a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, baking pwdr and baking soda.  Set aside.

3.  In the bowl of a stand mixer, or a large bowl using a hand held mixer, cream together the butter, sugar and salt until light and fluffy (approx. 5 minutes); add the eggs one at a time until incorporated.

4.  In a medium bowl, mash the very ripe bananas, then mash 1 ripe pear into the bananas.  With the mixer running, add the mashed fruit mixture and vanilla to the butter mixture until incorporated.  With the mixer at the lowest speed, add the dry flour ingredients just until incorporated.  Gently fold in the yogurt and figs. 

5.  Divide the batter between the two pans.  Slice the remaining banana and top the batter of each pan with the banana slices.

6.  Bake until a toothpick inserted comes out clean, about 50 minutes.  Check the pans periodically after 20-30 minutes to make sure the loaves do not darken too quickly; if this happens, cover the tops with aluminum foil and cont. to bake.

7.  Cool the pans on a cooling rack, then unmold the loaves.  Sift powdered sugar over the 2 loaves.

 019

 French ToastWhen  I visited Cabo San Lucas , I stayed at a lovely bed and breakfast called The Bungalows.  Each morning, Eric, the inn-keeper , would whip up a scrumptuous meal to help kickstart the day of exploring the beautiful Mexican town.  One of my favorites was the French toast with a cream cheese and pecan filling.  Eric happily shared the recipe with me, and even revealed his secret: “Use a lot of butter.  And when you think you’ve got too much butter in the pan, add a little more.”  So there you have it.  So simple and pure, butter really does make everything taste better!  When I got home from Cabo I made the French toast and followed Eric’s wise words of wisdom.  What resulted was a bit of French toast nirvana in every bite.

 The Bungalows French Toast 

6 slices of white bread, crusts cut off

2 eggs plus 2 egg whites–beat together

butter

1/4 cup sugar plus 1 tablespoon pumpkin spice or cinnamon

3 tablespoons softened cream cheese

1/4 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

1. Heat a frying pan or skillet with 2 tablespoons butter

2.  Dip the bread into the egg batter, coating all sides.  Once coated, place the slices of bread onto the skillet and allow to brown on each side. Place these prepared slices on a large plate and sprinkle the sugar/pumpkin spice or cinnamon mixture on all sides of the french toast.  Place this back onto the skillet with another pat of butter to just brown slightly; continue this until you have used up all the slices of bread.

3.  Combine the cream cheese with the pecans; spread this mixture onto 3 slices of the french toast and top with another slice so that you end up with 3 french toast sandwiches.  Sprinkle again with the sugar mixture, slice in half if you wish and eat with maple syrup.