Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Banana Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Bananas are my favorite fruit. We always have them in house. Which means that on busier weeks, when we aren't around as much, we often have bananas that are just past their eating prime -- and perfect for baking.

I had some cream cheese frosting in the freezer salvaged from the Red Velvet Disaster, so my brain immediately went to banana cupcakes. I found a recipe that had only ingredients I already had in the house (lesson learned from aforementioned disaster) on I feel like Martha's a pretty reliable source for all things baked.

Well, loyal readers, my feelings did me right. These little beauties were delicious! They were tender like a cupcake, but had the rich flavor of a banana muffin.

I added a few of my own twists. Martha's recipe called for honey-cinnamon frosting, but I think the cream cheese was a great match. For the cupcake, I was shy on the 1 1/2 cups of mashed banana, so I filled up the small gap with some unsweetened applesauce. That, and the 1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg I threw in, really added some nice flavor notes.

I can't wait to have another one of these for breakfast tomorrow!

Banana Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
(adapted from
Makes 12 cupcakes

For Cupcake:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted (I only had salted butter, so I omitted the above salt)
1 1/2 cups mashed bananas (about 4 ripe bananas - again I had 3 bananas and supplemented with unsweetened applesauce)
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a standard 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg.

Make a well in center of flour mixture. In well, mix together butter, mashed bananas, eggs, and vanilla. Stir to incorporate flour mixture (do not overmix). Dividing evenly, spoon batter into muffin cups.

Bake until a toothpick inserted in center of a cupcake comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove cupcakes from pan; cool completely on a wire rack, then frost with cream cheese frosting

For Frosting:
8 oz. Philadelphia cream cheese
1/2 stick butter, softened (I added more, and don't remember if I also added some shortening)
1/2 box plus 2 tablespoons confectioner's sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Optional garnish ideas: whole or chopped walnuts or pecans, fresh or dried banana

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Red Velvet Disaster

After a week of staycation, there's nothing like a little post-dinner baking to get you back into a groove. Well, usually. Feeling a little more adventurous, I sought out to tackle red velvet cupcakes. Who doesn't like red velvet???

Apparently, when I make red velvet, no one likes it. I mean, the whole process, from start to finish, was a disaster. I MAY have set myself up for failure when I realized I didn't have 2 critical ingredients: cake flour and buttermilk. But, as any good baking blogger would do, I took to the web to find suitable substitutions.

I  already knew that you can make your own buttermilk by adding 1 tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice to a one-cup measure and finishing it off with regular milk and letting the mixture sit for ten minutes.

I found that you can also make your own cake flour by adding a teaspoon of cornstarch to a one-cup measure and finishing it off with AP flour. Who knew?

Baking battle
So armed with my in-the-know subs, I went to work. Actually, it looked like I went to battle. The batter was as thin and red as blood (partly thanks to the full bottle of red food coloring the recipe told me to throw in). Ew.

Even though I knew I was headed for a loss, I soldiered on and baked 'em up. Again, EW.

I won't even bother to post the recipe. I like you all too much.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Oatmeal Cranberry White Chocolate Chip Cookies

Lots of promise
I am a big fan of white chocolate. Always have been. So, when I started this big adventure, I knew I had to find a recipe that called for white chocolate chips. Way back in the day, I remembered seeing a recipe on the back of a bag of Ocean Spray Craisins, so that was where I went first.

The cookies, Oatmeal Cranberry White Chocolate Chip, just sound like they're amazing. I mean, oatmeal cookies, yay. Cranberries? Yes, please! And white chocolate, well, see above.

Even with all that potential, I was feeling a little brave and threw in some sliced almonds after the first sheetful went into the oven. I know, I know, baby steps away from the written recipe. Sadly, my ingenuity didn't amount to much; neither I nor Jay really tasted a difference. :(

After... little golden nuggets of goodness

Overall, these were tasty cookies. Still, I think the next time I make them, I'll try to jazz up the cookie part (it was a little bland), this time with a little vanilla or other yummy extract.

Oatmeal Cranberry White Chocolate Chip Cookies (from Ocean Spray)


2/3 cup butter or margarine, softened
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 6-ounce package Ocean Spray® Craisins® Original Dried Cranberries
2/3 cup white chocolate chunks or chips
(I added about 1/2 cup sliced almonds to half of batter)
(Recommend: 1 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract)


Preheat oven to 375ºF.

Using an electric mixer, beat butter or margarine and sugar together in a medium mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Add eggs, mixing well. Combine oats, flour, baking soda and salt in a separate mixing bowl. Add to butter mixture in several additions, mixing well after each addition. Stir in dried cranberries and white chocolate chunks.

Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on wire rack.

Makes approximately 2 1/2 dozen cookies.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

National Underpants Day!

For those of you who were unaware, today was National Underpants Day!

Jay and I celebrated by meeting my good friend Matt in Northampton, MA, where we found these in a funky store:
Underpants for your hands

Some suggestions for wear...

A few months ago, my brother Brian sent us a link to these, and we thought it was hilarious. So, go check it out and celebrate the day in style!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

A Lady who Lunches

Since I don't start my new job until Monday, I have an entire week of staycation for myself. To steal a term from my Boston bestie, Alex, I'm a "lady who lunches" for 5 lovely days. And, yes, I've had lunch plans lined up all week. I've also slept late, shopped and caught up on some reading. And it's only Wednesday! There's more fun in store, including some much needed salon time, a concert at Tanglewood (courtesy of my husband's BU hook-up) and a day trip out west to hang out with my friend Matt. 

And, of course, I'm baking. I'm trying to keep it to only 2-3 recipes a week so Jay and I don't become diabetic. At first, I think I'm going to focus on things like cookies and bars, mostly because they are easy to store and easy to give away when I fear my resistance is wearing down. I'm trying to scour the web for recipes that are easy and use mostly easy-to-find ingredients, and I've amassed a few. But if you have any you want to share, please send them along!!

In the midst of all this lunching and baking, though, I am trying to gear up for the new job. They've given me lots of reading material to get up to speed on this high school admissions game. There's a lot to learn, for sure, but I think I can handle it all. At least it's keeping be busy (and away from the cookies in the freezer)!

Hooray for staycation!


So now that I actually launched this blog, I'm a little afraid that I didn't think the whole "I've gotta actually post regularly" thing all the way through. You mean I actually have to post to it regularly? That means I have to actually do interesting things so I have SOMETHING to say.

Speaking of things that are half-baked, I attempted my first baking adventure as a blogger earlier this week. I found a recipe for Levain Bakery copycat cookies (NY bakery famous for their amazing huge cookies) on MyBakingAddiction. These were huge cookies, but they totally delivered on taste!

Yummy Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookies

For size reference... they ain't kiddin' when they say this is a big cookie.

I've never made cookies this big before (4 oz. dough balls!), so I trusted the baking time given on the recipe. I like my cookies a little underbaked, but these were completely raw in the middle. Even after we froze them and nuked 'em quickly the next day. So, next time, I'll make sure to let them cook just a minute or two longer. Still, like a said, these were AMAZING cookies. Even Jay (THE cookie connaisseur) loved them. These will definitely make a repeat appearance in our household.

The recipe I used said the walnuts were optional, and I'm sure the cookies would be delish without them, but I thought they added a nice dimension. But for those who don't like anything getting in the way of their chocolate (ahem, my husband), feel free to go nut free.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Finding a little bit of happy

For months, I've been wanting to start a blog. I just couldn't figure out what I would say. What would I contribute to the blogosphere that would be remotely interesting?

And then, life threw me a curveball, and I was looking at the potential of being "between jobs." Unemployment would have been my nightmare come alive. I worried: What I was going to do for the other waking hours of each day? What was I going to do to prevent my ass from permanently attaching to the sofa? What would I do to remind myself that, even when unemployed, there are still plenty of reasons to smile?

And, that's when it hit me: I would bake (because I love to) and I would blog (because I finally had an excuse to).

Baking was the easy solution. It’s one of my favorite things to do, even though I’m far from an expert. Baking’s even in my blood – a skill passed down on my mom’s side for at least 4 generations. Baking is cheap; groceries for a recipe or two a week wouldn't have broken our potentially stretched bank account. And it would keep me up and moving, whether in the kitchen making (and cleaning up) messes, or at the gym burning off all those extra calories.

The blogging wasn’t something I saw coming. I just thought it would be a fun way to record my journey and share the ups, the downs, and the recipes with friends, family and strangers the world over. It would be something to do each day.

Fortunately, luck was on my side, and I landed a tony new job (one I am thrilled about) just in the nick of time. But I had already hooked myself on this baking/blogging idea; I found something that excited me and couldn't let it go. Who says that, even with a job, I can't contribute a little sweetness to the world??

Spoonfuls of Sugar will be a place I can catalog all those good things in life - one spoonful at a time.

I can't promise it'll all be brownies and pies, but I hope you'll find it satisfying!