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Archive for February, 2008

I know, I know: I posted a recipe for banana bread about two months ago. But I subscribe to the belief that one can never have too many banana bread recipes in one’s arsenal.

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The great thing about banana bread is that all you really need is a bunch of old, mushy bananas. I like mine made with some buttermilk, sour cream or yogurt — but like with most things, I’m not picky. Then all you need are your “staples” and from there, it’s up to you. Toss in spices — cinnamon, cardamom, cloves — or goodies like nuts, chocolate chips or dried fruit. Oats, whole wheat flour, candied ginger — the sky’s the limit.

I’ve found that you can make banana bread moist and deliciously decadent without using a cup of butter or oil. Bananas themselves provide a lot of moisture and sweetness in baked goods, and small amounts of acidic fats like yogurt and sour cream add tenderness without a lot of guilt.

This Plain Jane version of banana bread is nothing fancy — no coconut, no toasted nuts, no hunks of dark chocolate — but it’s delicious. Like many banana bread recipes, it’s the result of a bunch of black and mushy bananas that had to go and some ingredients lingering in my fridge that I needed to use up. In my experience, sour cream makes a mean banana bread, and in this case, you only need a 1/4 cup to create a tender and delicious loaf.

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Feel free to make this banana bread your own — add chopped dark chocolate, or toasted walnuts, or poppy seeds. At the very least, this recipe might inspire you to whip out your own favorite banana bread recipe. You can never have too many.

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Life is full of uncertainties. What will your life look like 20 years from now? Could your day have been drastically different if you woke up 15 minutes earlier? What would Joan Rivers look like if she’d never gone under the knife?

But one thing is certain: If there is an apple crisp or crumble on a dessert menu, Roger and I will order it with a non-negotiable scoop of vanilla ice cream.

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What is it about apple crisps and crumbles that makes us weak? For me, it’s the package deal — warm, gooey apples tucked beneath crunchy, buttery streusel, with a stream of melting ice cream dripping into the crevices. Gooey, crunchy, creamy, sweet — what more do you need??

In the crisp vs. crumble debate, I define them according to Nancy Silverton’s rule: crisps tend to use nuts, whereas crumbles tend to use oats. Call me an equal opportunity employer, but I love them both.

To be honest, it’s pretty hard to mess up a crisp or crumble. But there are certain additions that can give the recipe a kick.

My favorite? Browned butter and a vanilla bean. Browning the butter imparts a nutty flavor and intensifies the caramel flavor of the cooked apples. And browning the butter with a vanilla bean — whose aromatics are fat soluble — adds another caramelly note.

When it comes to these humble desserts, you can dress them up anyway you want, but for me the story is always the same: give me a spoon, get out of my way and get ready for me to beat you to the last bite. I assure you, there’s no uncertainty about that.

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Tag, I’m It…

I’ve been tagged by Chou over at Balance to tell readers 5 random things about myself…  Here goes nothin’…

1. I’m on TV sometimes.

2. In college, I majored in Molecular Biophysics & Biochemistry.  Do I use that background now in my journalist capacity?  Uh…sometimes…kinda…  Not really.  But it ups my nerd quotient by a factor of 100.

3. I don’t put cream cheese on my bagels.  Ever.  In fact, unless it’s in something (cheesecake, cream cheese frosting, dip, etc — all of which I LOVE), I don’t like plain cream cheese at all.  I think it’s the only food I don’t like.

4. I’m small.  As in, 5’2″ (barely) and petite.  For a long time — particularly when I was one of two female coxswains on my college’s men’s heavyweight crew team — people enjoyed scooping me up or patting me on the head.  Apparently this did not strike them as bizarre.  

5. One of my first full phrases when I was a toddler was, “I do myself.”  That pretty much sums up my independent streak.

And now…the 5 others I will tag to keep this meme going…

Emma at Chef and Photographer
Manggy at No Special Effects
Robin at Caviar and Codfish
Michelle at Culinography
Ari at Baking and Books

And I promise…another recipe is coming soon!

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For years, I was the friend who never had a boyfriend. My idea of a “long-term relationship” was the one guy I dated in college for four consecutive weeks. I considered that a Big Deal.

Why the dysfunction? I was picky (like, Seinfeld picky), I got bored, and most of all, I loved a challenge and always went after the one I couldn’t have.

Then, a little more than two years ago, I met Roger. I met him at a party for a mutual friend and was taken with his British charm, his dashing looks and his keen intelligence. But then I discovered we were 15 years apart, subscribed to different political ideologies and held different religious beliefs. Clearly he was undateable.

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I canceled our first date (made up some lame work-related excuse) and gave him the runaround for nearly a month. Not only did we seem to have so may superficial differences, but he was also so available. And who wants that?

But persistence paid off. I finally agreed to go on a date with him — “Just one drink,” I said — but told one of my girlfriends to call me about 45 minutes into the date with an “emergency.” One always needs an “out” in such situations…

Well, she never called. And she didn’t need to. Despite all the qualifications that I felt he didn’t meet on paper, I realized we really did have a lot in common. One drink turned into two drinks…and dinner…and a kiss on the cheek to say goodnight.

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I wasn’t cured of my relationship-related dysfunction overnight. I continued to worry about our age difference and our politics and the problems those things could create down the road. But I slowly came to the conclusion that I would deal with those problems when they became problems. And you know what? They never did.

Truthfully, on some level, my concerns about the age difference and everything else came down to what other people might think (“What will they say?! A man who is 15 years older — imagine the gossip!”). But in the end, it didn’t matter what other people thought. It mattered what I thought, and I loved him.

So here I am, two years later, in love and now — the secret is out — engaged.

As a tribute to the English man who melted this American girl’s heart, here is a recipe for English scones. They are tender and fulfilling, with the perfect amount of sweetness, just like him.

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