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I'm a runner with a baking habit.  I'm constantly on the lookout for awesome desserts, freezer friendly recipes to pack in the lunchbox, and quick dinner ideas.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Banana Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Bananas aren't just for banana bread.  They make a fantastic cake, nestled under a blanket of cream cheese frosting and topped with fun sprinkles.



Ingredients
Yield: one 9" layer cake
Recipe from Lauren's Latest

  • For the cake:

    •  cups (approx 3) overripe bananas
    • ½ cup (2 sticks) butter
    • 1¼ cups sugar
    • 2 eggs
    • 2 teaspoons vanilla
    • 2 cups flour
    • 1 teaspoon baking powder
    • 1 teaspoon baking soda
    • ½ teaspoon salt
    • ¾ cup buttermilk (or 3 tablespoons powdered buttermilk and ¾ cup water)
  • For the frosting:
    • 10 oz cream cheese
    • ½ cup (2 sticks) butter
    • 2 teaspoons vanilla
    • 1 lb powdered sugar
    • optional but too fun to pass up: nonpareils for topping

 Ingredients

Back when we made banana bread I talked about my banana management strategy.  I stockpile overripe bananas in the freezer until I get the urge to bake.  We use overripe bananas because they are sweeter than ripe bananas.  Granted, they are ugly, but this is the first step of a journey to a beautiful place.

 Extract 1¼ cups of banana.  I ran these guys through the blender to fully liquefy them.

Combine the dry ingredients and measure out the buttermilk.  I'm using powdered buttermilk, so I added the mix to the flour and have a water chaser on the side.


Start mixing.  First cream the butter and sugar for a few minutes, and then add the eggs and vanilla.  Follow up with the banana.


Stir in half of the flour mixture and follow with half of the buttermilk.

Add the 2nd half of each, stirring until just combined.

Divide the batter between two greased cake pans.

Slide them into a 350° F oven.

Bake for 25 minutes or until they pass the toothpick test.

Let them cook in the pans for about 10 minutes, and then flip the cakes out.


Let the cake cool fully before frosting.  That was the limit of my baking time for the day, so I wrapped the layers and stored them in the fridge until the next day.

For the frosting, beat the butter and cream cheese together to form a base, then add the powdered sugar and mix for a few minutes to fluff. 

Add the vanilla and beat until smooth.

Add a protective framework of waxed paper to the plate.

 Set the bottom layer on the plate and load up with frosting.

Smooth into an even layer.

Top with the 2nd layer.

Spackle the crack and start to build up a thin layer of frosting on the sides.

Continue by adding a thin layer to the top before piling on the rest of the frosting and smoothing.

Time to have some fun...

Slide the waxed paper pieces off the plate.

And eat 'er up.



Sunday, March 27, 2016

Chicken Marsala

My history with Chicken Marsala is similar to my history with Penne alla Vodka: never had it, wasn't sure what it was, but the named sounded cool so I decided to seek it out.  Unlike Penne alla Vodka, I didn't realize that alcohol was involved until I got hold of the recipe.  On the day that I first made it, I headed up to the grocery store on my lunch break.  I went through the wine section but there was no Marsala wine to be had and no one around to ask.  The clock was running out, so I turned to google for help.  No one had a good suggestion for a Marsala substitute, but someone mentioned that in their grocery store Marsala was in the vinegar section.  And so it was in mine.  Since using up that first bottle of "vinegar" Marsala, I've always been able to find it in the wine section.  "Wine" Marsala is less salty than "vinegar Marsala", but both are fantastic.

I tweaked the original recipe in a few ways.  First, I wanted to use skinless chicken breast, pounded thin, which shortened the cooking time.  It was easy to lose a few tablespoons of butter and oil.  And I also changed the number of servings.  The original recipe has 2½ pounds of chicken, which I shied away from because chicken leftovers don't always reheat very well.  The first time I made this, I used two chicken breasts but didn't reduce the amount of mushrooms or Marsala.  It just felt like the right ratio of mushrooms to chicken.  The yield is dinner for two with a leftover portion for lunch, or just dinner for two if everyone has a good appetite. 



Ingredients:
Yield: 2-3 servings
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • olive oil
  • 2½ tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 scallion, chopped fine
  • ¾ pound mushrooms, sliced
  • ½ cup Marsala wine
  • ½ cup chicken broth
  • Optional: fresh parsley for garnish
Method:

 Prepare the chicken by pounding flat and sectioning into 4 pieces.  Spray with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Melt ½ tablespoon of butter and let the skillet get hot.

Brown the chicken on all sides for a few minutes.  Remove from the skillet and set aside.

Add a small amount of olive oil if needed and add the scallion.

Follow up with the 'shrooms.

The mushrooms will give off their juice.  Let them cooking, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has mostly evaporated.

Now add the Marsala.

Let it cook until reduced by about half.

 Bring back the chicken, adding any juice that the chicken has released.  Top with the chicken broth and let it all cook for 5 minutes or so.  Be careful not to overcook the chicken.  Remove it from the pan again.

 

Let the broth reduce for a few more minutes.  Turn off the heat and add the butter. 

 Ready to go.  If you have fresh parsley on hand, add a little at this point.  If you don't, skip it.

Prepare a plate with pasta and top with one or two pieces of chicken, depending on your appetite.

Top with the sauce.


Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Bailey's Cheesecake Brownies

A while back, I stumbled onto a Bailey's cheesecake brownies recipe.  I knew it would be good, I just didn't know how good.  A deeply chocolate cakey brownie hugging a layer of Bailey's infused cheesecake.

Being very smart, I decided to half the original recipe before I even got started.  That led to a few awkward conversions: half of a third of a cup, half an egg...but it's all worth it.

Brownies.  Cheesecake.  Baileys.  As if you needed one reason to make this, I just gave you three.




Ingredients
Yield: 9 generous sized brownies
Recipe from Foxes Love Lemons

  • For the brownies
    • ¾ cup flour
    • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
    • ¼ teaspoon salt
    • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
    • ½ cup sugar
    • 2 tablespoons water
    • ½ cup semisweet chocolate chips
    • ½ cup unsweetened baking chocolate
    • 1 teaspoons vanilla
    • ¾ teaspoons instant espresso powder
    • 2 eggs
  • For the Bailey’s cheesecake
    • 8 oz cream cheese
    • ½ egg (1½ tablespoons)
    • 2 ½ tablespoons plus ½ teaspoon sugar (a.k.a ½ of ⅓ cup)
    • 2 tablespoons Bailey’s
    • ½ teaspoon vanilla

Method
Mix the flour, baking soda, and salt and set aside.  Chop the baking chocolate.

Measure out the baking chocolate and chocolate chips

Melt the butter, sugar, and water together over medium.  Heat to boiling and remove from heat.


Add both kinds of chocolate, the vanilla, and espresso powder and whisk until chocolate is melted.

Whisk in the eggs.

Add the flour mixture in gradually.

Now it's time for cheesecake.

Blend the cream cheese, sugar, Bailey's, egg, and vanilla.


Now let's get serious about making some brownies.  Preheat the oven to 350° F.  Line an 8"x8" pan with parchment paper and spray with cooking spray.  Pour in ½ the brownie mixture.

Spoon on the cheesecake.

Gently smooth the cheese cake into an even layer.

Top with the remaining brownie mixture.  Bake for 45 minutes, until the brownie layer passes the toothpick test.

Set the brownies on a wire rack to cool completely.

Cut and serve.