Peanut Butter Banana Bread

All right, fine. Maybe germs are real after all. I don’t even want to talk about it.

And I totally had a second chance to watch grown-up Fantasia (following the unfortunate fire alarm incident from a while back) and ended up leaking from my eyeballs as the conductor flipped out during the grand finale, urging the orchestra to play just a few beats longer. Stravinsky, you have my heart. Use it wisely.

But let’s talk gardens. Because mine is in bloom and I want yours to do the same thing.

Gardening has everything to do with food. In a few months, I’ll be making kale chips up the wazoo. Zucchini quiche like nobody’s business. And herbs will always be fresh.

I know very little about gardening, other than the few tidbits I’ve picked up from blogs, friends and trial-and-error. The best advice I can give you is to love your seedlings. Keep their soil moist. Keep them warm. They love the sun (more than you do). And, most of all, don’t be bummed if you have to let some go. Not all of them will make it through the first few weeks of life. It happens. Plant s’more!

And always, always get excited when they first start to sprout. They need all the encouragement they can get.

In the meantime, keep on baking things with peanut butter.

I’m super obsessed with ramekins. It…might be intervention time.

Yeah, okay, I know, I’ve made a lot of peanut butter things lately. Live with it.

Peanut Butter Banana Bread with Chocolate Chips.

2 ripe bananas, mashed
1/3 cup vanilla yoghurt
1/3 cup peanut butter
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 eggs
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup white flour
1/4 cup ground flax
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup chocolate chips (always)
1/2 cup old fashioned oats

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a 9×13 bread baking pan and set aside.

In a medium bowl, fluff the flour, baking soda, salt, flax and spices with a fork.

In a large bowl, whisk bananas, peanut butter, melted butter and sugars until the peanut butter is fully incorporated. Whisk in the eggs one at a time, making sure that everything is mixed before adding the next.

Fold the wet ingredients into the dry before adding the chocolate chips and oats. Pour batter into the prepared pan and bake for an hour (it may take more time), or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Makes 1 pan of bread, good enough for about a week of sweet, delectable breakfast.

Peanut Butter Blondies with Chocolate Chips

I’m a major creep on the train. I sit in the first cart, every day, at 8:06am and sit like a hunchback while perusing through the day’s news. I’m a train hermit. I don’t look up at the other bozos going to their respective daily grinds.

Unless.

Unless there’s a mini family on the train. Not necessarily strollers and bibs, but toddlers and daycare kids. Moms in suits asking their daughters if they remembered to bring their show-and-tell doll. Dads finding juice boxes. Sons sleeping on laps.

I totally stand near those families. I totally creep.

They’re snippets of happiness. And I’m far too young to even think about families and yadda yadda yadda (don’t worry, Mom), but watching them is more energizing than a fat cup of coffee, more news-worthy than the latest hoopla on the internet.

And as I age yet another year, I’m glad that I’m not in a rush to get anywhere.

Why fast-forward through life, right? Right.

It’s my birthday. Time to make my own snippets.

Scoops of peanut butter in my face.

When chocolate marries peanut butter, they make beautiful babies. And when they experiment with butter, whoa.

Served best with ice cream and board games on the porch.

Peanut Butter Blondies with Chocolate Chips.

1/2 cup peanut butter (creamy, chunky, natural, Skippy, anything)
1 cup flour
5 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a 9×9 baking pan or line with parchment paper.

In a sauce pan, melt the butter and brown sugar until the crystals are gone. Cool to about room temperature (you don’t want the egg to cook!) before adding the egg, vanilla and peanut butter. Swiftly mix until smooth.

Sift the flour, salt and baking powder in a medium bowl. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix until fully incorporated.

Add the chocolate chips and fold until they’re evenly distributed.

Pour into the pan and bake for about 25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean from the center.

Makes 8-12-16 brownies, depending how big you want them.

Coconut Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

Boy, is that a mouthful. They’re worth the tongue-twister. Every syllable counts.

In preparation for the three-day-weekend withdrawals that will surely hit by 8:30am tomorrow, I propose that every Sunday/Monday evening following three days of adventure be capped with (in no particular order) wine, spaghetti, ice cream and cookies.

You might want to eat the cookies before your mom/spouse/roommate/friend/dog does. Because they will. And they won’t regret it.

Absolutely nothing is wrong with this picture.

Don’t grease the pan. These bad boys already have coconut oil and  butter. Innately greased.

I was supposed to paint my nails. But I ate cookies instead.

Long weekends should also be topped off with numerous television episodes. Watched in bed. With pajamas.

Coconut Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies.

3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup coconut oil, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup old fashioned oats
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. In a separate bowl, beat the butter, coconut oil, vanilla extract, brown sugar and egg until fluffy. Add the dry ingredients and mix until creamy. Fold in the oats and chocolate chips.

Distribute batter in spoonfuls on a baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes.

Makes 12 cookies.

Pumpkin Muffins with Chocolate Chips

My kitchen is a cornucopia of fibrous muffins.  I don’t know how it happened, but the counter went from zero muffins to two dozen in the blink of an eye.

The moment December hit, my neighborhood was bombarded with colorful LED lights that flicker “realistically” (because icicles naturally flicker?) in the night.  I even caved and put lights in the window.  I may even get a tree.

And every year, something in those lights trigger my eyeballs which trigger something in my belly that makes me want chocolate and peppermint and eggnog.  All day.  In my sleep.

There is a solid chocolate frog on the kitchen table.  Okay, half of one.

Whatever.  I just did 100 squats.  And these muffins are so hearty and fibrous they may as well be balls of flax and grain.

Except they taste sweet and fluffy.  And not flaxy.  And they aren’t shaped like balls at all.  And they have chocolate chips in them because I couldn’t resist.  It’s December.

I made this pumpkin pureé.  Yeah, yeah, yeah, it’s just another leftover Halloween pumpkin, but it’s so much tastier than canned pureé.  And I’m more likely to cut my finger on a can.

If you want to make your own, just chop up the pumpkin (after scooping out the innards), cut off the skins, and boil until soft.  Whip it up in a food processor and you’re golden.

Muffins dipped in Turkish espresso?  Don’t mind if I do.

Pumpkin Muffins with Chocolate Chips.

1 cup pureéd pumpkin
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup 10-grain hot cereal or millet
1/4 cup milk

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (Optional.  But not really.)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a medium sized bowl, sift together the flour, salt, baking soda and spices.  Add the oats and hot cereal and toss until evenly mixed.

In a large bowl, whisk the brown sugar and pumpkin pureé until smooth.  Add the oil, eggs, and vanilla extract and whisk until the oil no longer separates (about a minute).

Slowly beat in the flour mixture.  Fold in the milk until the batter is fluffy.  Lightly fold in the chocolate chips.

Line or grease 18 muffin tins, filling each cup about 3/4.  Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Makes 18 muffins.

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

I’ve been re-watching Friends.  Last night’s was “The One with the German Laundry Detergent,” where Ross and Rachel go on their first pseudo-date at the laundromat.  He’s teaching her to separate her lights, darks, delicates, and I say, “Huh, I never do that.”

Really?” inquires my roommate.

Um, guys.  I don’t separate my laundry.  It’s not that I don’t know how to.  I just don’t.  I might be lazy.

But there are things that I do separate.  Like shampoo and conditioner.  Two-in-one stuff SUCKS.  Especially that three-in-one stuff.  What is that?

I also separately mix wet and dry ingredients.  Butter just does NOT mix well with flour unless it’s already been mixed with eggs, vanilla, and sugar.  I’m serious.  Don’t even think about throwing all of your cookie ingredients into one bowl.  Yeah, I know, it’ll save on dishes, but your cookie will be junk.

Another word for the wise: NEVER microwave your butter if you’re trying to quickly go from fridge-cold to room temperature.  Your cookie will be a pancake.  This comes from experience.

When it comes to baking, either bread or pastries, mixing properly is the key to success.  Mix too much, pancake central.  Mix too little, dry pockets of flour.  Mix it just right, and Goldilocks has a dozen fluffy chocolate chip oatmeal cookies.

Lick your fingers after rolling these dough balls out.  And eat what’s left in the bowl.

Remember what I said about age and lactose intolerance?  Proceed with caution.

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies.

3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup firmly pack brown sugar
1 egg

1 cup old fashioned oats
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Incorporate the dry ingredients in a medium bowl, just until the cinnamon is nicely dispersed.  IN A SEPARATE LARGE BOWL (I’m watching you), mix the butter, vanilla, brown sugar and egg until creamy (i.e. no butter chunks).

Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet about half a cup at a time, mixing fully before adding more.  The dough should be fluffy.

Add the oats and chocolate chips and mix until just incorporated.

Arrange spoonfuls on a baking sheet about 2 inches apart.

Bake for about 15 minutes, until the center just barely begins to flatten.  This ensures that the cookie will be slightly crispy on the edges and still soft and gooey on the inside.

Let cool on the baking sheet for about 15 minutes.  Transfer to a cooling rack for final firming stage.

Makes a dozen big cookies.