Banana Cake with chocolate cream cheese icing

dsc_0267-large

I built a cake earlier this week. I’m doing really well at blogging about it while the cake is still in existence on the kitchen counter! I’m still playing catch-up with blogging about news from the summer, but I wanted to share this before it died in my drafts folder like so many other recipes. Excuse the bad lighting in the photos, it starts getting dark around 4.30pm these days and I had run out of good daylight hours before I was done with the cake.

At our place we have dessert on days starting with T and S, so dessert days come around pretty frequently. Sometimes it’s a piece of chocolate or candy, sometimes it’s ice cream. Recently we went on a bit of an ice cream streak, especially after discovering Trader Joe’s Pumpkin ice cream. It’s like eggnog and pumpkin pie had a baby that turned into ice cream. So good! Anyway, after a while Ben suggested that maybe we should have some variety in the desserts around here. I had a look at my fruit bowl and saw a bunch of very sad looking bananas — perfect for banana cake/loaf. There really isn’t any difference between the two, one gets icing and the other you slice up and eat with butter) — and I concocted this banana cake with chocolate icing using a mishmash of various recipes online. Poor Ben, it wasn’t quite what he had in mind — he’s not a cake fan! — but it turned out delicious nonetheless, and even he thought it wasn’t too bad.

dsc_0265-large

Cake

(I got this recipe from my sister in law, Elrike, and have tweaked it just a very little bit. The key to getting a moist but light cake is to alternately add the wet banana mixture and the dry ingredients a little bit at a time. Say goodbye to dense or dry banana cakes, this will become your go-to recipe like it has for me!)

½ cup butter
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 brown sugar
2 eggs
1 cup mashed bananas
2 T plain yogurt or sour cream
2 cups flour
1 ½ t. baking powder
¼ t salt
½ t baking soda
1/2 to 1 c chopped walnuts (optional)

Cream shortening and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time and beat thoroughly. Mash bananas; stir in yogurt/sour cream. Sift dry ingredients and add alternately to creamed mixture with banana mixture. Fold in nuts.

Spread in greased 9 ½ x 5 ¼ x 2 ¾ loaf pan or a 9″ cake pan . Bake at 350 degrees F for 45-60 min. Let stand 5 min.; turn onto  rack to cool.

Icing
(This makes enough icing to be able to cut the cake in half horizontally and to put a layer of icing in between the layers of cake as well as ice the outside.)

1 block of cream cheese
4 T butter
1 t vanilla essence
1/2 cup cocoa powder
3 cups icing sugar

Walnut topping

1/2 c walnuts, chopped finely
1 T butter
1 T brown sugar
1 t cinnamon

After icing the cake, cut a circle out of a piece of paper that leaves an edge of about 2 inches of icing exposed. Lightly wet the exposed icing in case it has started to dry out (this helps the nut mixture stick better), then put the nut mixture onto the piece of paper in the middle and spread it outwards until it is all off the paper and in a nice ring on the outside of your cake. Gently press the nut mix onto the cake, and ta-da!

dsc_0263-large

Marica’s 9th birthday

My oldest turned 9 last month. Where did the time go? I know all mothers always say that, but my oh my, they grow up fast. Gone is the little girl who liked her hair braided all pretty, and who would wear whatever her mother put out for her. Now she’s in the short-hair-for-life camp and has some very particular tastes in clothes. But, despite those unavoidable aspects of growing up, she has continued to grow up into a lovely young girl, whose mother I’m proud to be.

This year Marica’s birthday celebrations stretched over 2 days — her actual birthday, and the following Saturday when she had her birthday party.

On her birthday, there were presents from us and her sisters, a playdate, and her own choice of dinner (spaghetti and meatballs).

For her party, she wanted “fire colours”, so I tried decorating with red, orange and yellow for the most part.

Of course we had good old fashioned party games like Pin the Tail, The Sock Game, The Candy Game, The Chocolate Game, Pass the Parcel, and some other ones I forget now.

The cake was probably my best birthday cake attempt yet. I used this recipe (everything from SmittenKitchen is wonderful!), but doubled it to make a layer cake and stuck a whole can of dulce de leche in the middle. Mmmm.

And because I can anticipate questions: Yes, it takes a really long time to separate 4 packets of M’nM’s into different colours. And yes, here in the States you get different sized M’nM’s. You might not get them at every grocery store, but I usually find the mini ones and the mega ones at Target.

And now I have a 9 year old. Her last year in the single digits… forever. I’m sad to see her growing up, but also excited to see her become more of her own person.  Ah, the bittersweetness of parenthood.

We love you Marica!

Pie Day

Back in mid-November I had a few girls from church over at our house for a pie making day. We worked hard, had lots of fun and got to enjoy some pretty yummy pies.

For those of you who might be interested, here are the recipes of what we made. Some of the pies were just assembled on the day, and even as it was I attempted to do too much! It was still fun, though. :-)

Oh, and here’s a little confession: even though some of these recipes have directions for the pastry, I have yet to make a pastry that rivals store-bought pastry. Maybe I need more practice, but until then it’s store-bought all the way!

Spinach and Cheese Pastries
(makes 16 triangle pastries)
Ingredients
2 packages flaky pastry
1 small onion, chopped finely
1 package frozen chopped spinach (about 1 lb)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 package of cream cheese
1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 tablespoon flour
½ cup of milk
Salt and pepper to taste
1 egg
Method
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Sautée the onion until it starts to brown, then add the garlic and fry for a minute or so before adding the spinach. Cook until heated through, then add cream cheese. When the cream cheese has melted and been incorporated, sprinkle over the flour, and stir it in until well mixed. Fry for a minute or so, then add the milk and cook until thickened. Season with salt and pepper, and take off heat and stir in the cheddar cheese.
While the mixture cools, lay out the sheets of pastry and cut each sheet into 4 squares. Place spinach mixture on a triangle half of the square, making sure to leave about an half inch margin on the edges. Fold the pastry over and seal the edges with your fingers and then press down with a fork. Stab each pastry lightly about 3 times with the fork (this helps the steam escape as it is cooking).
In a small bowl, whisk an egg and use a pastry brush to brush egg over the pastries. Bake for 20 minutes, or until golden brown.

Steak and Cheese Pie
Pastry
Ingredients
2 cups plain flour
1 tsp salt
2 sticks butter, fridge cold
½ cup fridge cold water
Method
Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl. Roughly break the butter in small chunks, add them to the bowl and rub them in loosely. (Or use food processor with blades) You need to see bits of butter.
Make a well in the bowl and pour in about two-thirds of the cold water, mixing until you have a firm rough dough adding extra water if needed. Cover with cling film and leave to rest for 20 mins in the fridge.
Turn out onto a lightly floured board, knead gently and form into a smooth rectangle. Roll the dough in one direction only, until 3 times the width, about 20 x 50cm. Keep edges straight and even. Don’t overwork the butter streaks; you should have a marbled effect.
Fold the top third down to the center, then the bottom third up and over that. Give the dough a quarter turn (to the left or right) and roll out again to three times the length. Fold as before, cover with cling film and chill for at least 20 mins before rolling to use.

Pie filling
Ingredients
1 large onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
½ pound bacon, chopped
2 lbs stew beef (like chuck roast), cut into 1 inch cubes.
Salt and pepper
2 T dried parsley, or 1 T fresh parsley
1 ½ c wine (preferably red, but white works too)
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
2 T corn starch
¼ c cold water
6 oz cheddar cheese, cubed

Method
Preheat oven to 275 °F. In a Dutch oven, fry one large onion with bacon and garlic until browned. Add beef cubes and brown the meat. Add the mushrooms, salt and pepper, parsley and cook for about 5 minutes, then add the wine. Place the Dutch oven into the oven and cook for about 3 hours, until the meat is tender.
Place on the stove on low heat. Mix corn starch with cold water until no lumps remain, then stir into the stew mixture and cook for a few minutes until thickened. Take off the burner and let cool.
Prepare the pastry in the pie dish (you can do a bottom layer as well as a top layer, or only a top – whatever you prefer), spoon in the filling (you might have some left over), and dot with the cheese. Put the pastry lid on and seal. Place the pastry over the top of the pie dish and criss-cross it lightly with a sharp knife. Brush the top with beaten egg, then bake the pie directly on the bottom of the oven for 45 minutes, until the pastry is cooked, puffed and golden.

Shepherd’s Pie

Ingredients
2 pounds potatoes, peeled and quartered
1 t salt
4 Tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
About 1 cup milk
1 t garlic salt
1 T oil
1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
1-2 cups vegetables—diced celery, carrots, corn, peas
1 1/2 lbs ground beef
1 can crushed tomatoes
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Salt, pepper
1 t ground coriander
1 T dried parsley

Method
Place the peeled and quartered potatoes in medium sized pot. Cover with at least an inch of cold water. Add a teaspoon of salt. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook until tender (about 20 minutes.
While the potatoes are cooking, heat the oil in a large sauté pan on medium heat. Add the chopped onions and cook until tender, about 6 to 10 minutes. If you are including vegetables, add them according to their cooking time. Carrots and celery should be cooked with the onions, because they take as long to cook as the onions do. If you are including peas or corn, add them toward the end of the cooking of the onions, or after the meat starts to cook, as they take very little cooking time.
Add ground beef to the pan with the onions and vegetables. Cook until no longer pink. Season with salt and pepper. Add the Worcestershire sauce and tomatoes. Bring the broth to a simmer and reduce heat to low. Cook uncovered for 10 minutes. When the potatoes are done cooking (a fork can easily pierce), remove them from the pot and place them in a bowl with 4 Tbsp of butter and milk. Mash with a potato masher, and season with garlic salt and pepper to taste.
Preheat oven to 400°F. Spread the beef, onions, and vegetables (if using) in an even layer in a large baking dish (9×13 casserole). Spread the mashed potatoes over the top of the ground beef. Rough up the surface of the mashed potatoes with a fork so there are peaks that will get well browned. You can even use a fork to make creative designs in the mashed potatoes.
Place in a 400°F oven and cook until browned and bubbling, about 30 minutes. If necessary, broil for the last few minutes to help the surface of the mashed potatoes brown.

Apple Pie

Ingredients
Dough:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
14 tablespoons cold butter, diced
1 large egg, lightly beaten with 2 tablespoons cold water
Filling:
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 pounds baking apples like Golden Delicious, Cortland, or Mutsu
2/3 cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling on the pie
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Generous pinch of ground nutmeg
1 large egg, lightly beaten

Method
Make the dough by hand. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt. Using your fingers, work the butter into the dry ingredients until it resembles yellow corn meal mixed with bean sized bits of butter. (If the flour/butter mixture gets warm, refrigerate it for 10 minutes before proceeding.) Add the egg and stir the dough together with a fork or by hand in the bowl. If the dough is dry, sprinkle up to a tablespoon more of cold water over the mixture.
Form the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, at least 1 hour.
Make the filling. Put the lemon juice in a medium bowl. Peel, halve, and core the apples. Cut each half into 4 wedges. Toss the apple with the lemon juice. Add the sugar and toss to combine evenly.
In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the apples, and cook, stirring, until the sugar dissolves and the mixture begins to simmer, about 2 minutes. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook until the apples soften and release most of their juices, about 7 minutes.
Strain the apples in a colander over a medium bowl to catch all the juice. Shake the colander to get as much liquid as possible. Return the juices to the skillet, and simmer over medium heat until thickened and lightly caramelized, about 10 minutes.
In a medium bowl, toss the apples with the reduced juice and spices. Set aside to cool completely. (This filling can be made up to 2 days ahead and refrigerated or frozen for up to 6 months.)
Cut the dough in half. On a lightly floured surface, roll each half of dough into a disc about 11 to 12 inches wide. Layer the dough between pieces of parchment or wax paper on a baking sheet, and refrigerate for at least 10 minutes.
Place a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Line the bottom of a 9-inch pie pan with one of the discs of dough, and trim it so it lays about 1/2 inch beyond the edge of the pan. Put the apple filling in the pan and mound it slightly in the center. Brush the top edges of the dough with the egg. Place the second disc of dough over the top. Fold the top layer of dough under the edge of the bottom layer and press the edges together to form a seal. Flute the edge as desired. Brush the surface of the dough with egg and then sprinkle with sugar. Pierce the top of the dough in several places to allow steam to escape while baking. Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes.
Bake the pie on a baking sheet until the crust is golden, about 50 minutes. Cool on a rack before serving. The pie keeps well at room temperature (covered) for 24 hours, or refrigerated for up to 4 days.
Note: You may freeze the uncooked pie, but don’t brush it with egg or dust it with sugar beforehand. Place the pie in the freezer for 30 minutes, to harden it slightly, and then double wrap it with plastic wrap. Freeze for up to 6 months. When ready to bake, unwrap the pie and brush it with egg and sprinkle with sugar. Bake, from the frozen state, until golden brown, about 1 hour and 10 minutes.

Pumpkin Pie
(Absolutely nothing special here: it’s the Libby’s Recipe!)

Ingredients
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 large eggs
1 can (15 oz.) p puree
1 can (12 fl. oz.) evaporated milk
1 unbaked 9-inch (4-cup volume) deep-dish pie shell
Whipped cream (optional)

Method
Mix sugar, cinnamon, salt, ginger and cloves in small bowl. Beat eggs in large bowl. Stir in pumpkin and sugar-spice mixture. Gradually stir in evaporated milk. Pour into pie shell. Bake in preheated 425° F oven for 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350° F; bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until knife inserted near centre comes out clean. Cool on wire rack for 2 hours. Serve immediately or refrigerate. Top with whipped cream before serving.

Homemade nutella

I’ve always wanted to try making a version of Nutella at home, so recently I tried it. There are oodles of recipes online, and the one I tried is from here. It calls for coconut sugar, which I think is a bit of a fad food (not to mention its sustainability is questionable), so I used regular sugar and maple syrup. It is rather delicious, but quite different from regular Nutella. Ben reckons he likes it better because it has a slightly coarser texture. I’m sure you could mix it for ages and get it super smooth, but I tend to have a bad habit of trying to make things like this right at the same time as dinner, so I take short cuts.

Here’s how to do it if you want to try it yourself.

Roast 1 1/2 cups of hazelnuts in a 300F oven for 20 minutes or so. Pour them into a tea towel and rub off as much of the skins as you can, then place them in a food processor.

DSC_0116 (Large)

Process the hazelnuts until you’ve made a hazelnut butter. Throw in a pinch of salt, 3 Tablespoons of cocoa powder, 1 Tablespoon melted coconut oil, 1/4 cup sugar, 3 Tablespoons maple syrup and 6 or so Tablespoons of water.

The first time I made this, I thought I could just cut out the sugar and water and use maple syrup instead. It did not work! It really needs the water for it to become glossy.

DSC_0127 (Large)

Whizz it all together until you have the glossiness and texture you want — play around with mixing it more or adding more water, cocoa or sugar to get the consistency and taste you want.

DSC_0130 (Large)

And there you go. A really tasty yummy chocolate spread that took hardly any time to make.

DSC_0131 (Large)

(And yes, a teaspoon might be making its way into that jar more often than a knife…)

Some nice things

I like autumn. It’s not so hot, there are pretty colors everywhere, and the change of season brings all sorts of nice things like warm slippers and hot drinks, nice decorations and good smelling candles, and fun kids’ crafts…

I changed up the decoration on my buffet and put 3 cute little pumpkins on it, and they just make me happy with their cuteness.

DSC_1343 (Large) DSC_1344 (Large)

Earlier this month we made some coconut and orange zest shortbread, which tasted just lovely, and was fun to make with the kids.

DSC_1339 (Large)

DSC_1340 (Large)

 

DSC_1342 (Large)

The shortbread goes quite nicely with a cup of pumpkin spice latte. (Make a cup of strong coffee, blend it with a cup of milk, a couple of tablespoons of pumpkin puree and about half a teaspoon of cinnamon, with a dash of nutmeg.)

DSC_1444 (Large)

Another nice thing around here is that there is only one alien left among us, yours truly. The girls got their US passports in the mail and now officially have dual citizenship.

DSC_1437 (Large)

Recently I realized that with the colder weather Laurelin will need her duvet out, which I then realized I didn’t have a cover for. So I rummaged in my fabric stash and combined 3 fabrics and some ribbon that were all actually intended for other projects in my mind, but combined perfectly to make this cute cover.

DSC_1432 (Large)

DSC_1429 (Large)

 

A Malboro Man sandwich

I’m subsribed to The Pioneer Woman Cooks blog, and with every recipe that comes from there I’m almost drooling. I’ve never had one of her recipes fail, and they’re always a hit. The Malboro Man Sandwich was especially a hit with Ben, and I loved it too.

I add arugula, fresh mozzarella and fat slices of fresh tomato. It’s SO good. It’s not a diet food.

A beautifully messy and totally delightful experience. You should make one for the man in your life, or any man in your life, or just for yourself!

Sorry about the out of focus pictures. And the dead flowers.

Big Fat Bacon Sliders

Bacon is a beautiful thing. Whoever invented it needs a medal. Bacon and eggs, bacon on pizza, bacon in pasta, bacon with pretty much anything is just wonderful. (I’ve even seen bacon chocolate here in New York!) I’d eat it more often if it wasn’t so bad for me! If you like bacon, you should try these little bacon sliders — I made these way back in the summer sometime, and never got around to sharing the recipe. Sliders are basically miniature hamburgers — a good excuse to have two. Or three.

Here’s what the little beauties look like before they’re cooked.

Topped with barbecue sauce.

And you can see pictures here of what they look like cooked from the link above. I often remember to take photos of food while I’m making it, and then promptly forget about photos when it comes to the eating part. Oops!

I served them with tomato and lettuce and pickles, but you could just have them straight on a bun. Delightful!

You can find the full recipe by following the link above to The Pioneer Woman Cooks blog.