Spiced Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

Bananas. Weird fruit with the consistency of wet chalk. Blech.

Bananas only have two purposes: baby food, and banana bread. Little Man likes bananas, which is nice for me since they are a quick and easy snack. And once Little Lady is ready to start real food, I’ll be mashing up some bananas for her quite often (easiest baby food ever). But other than that, the only reason I ever buy bananas is to make banana bread. Because as much as bananas by themselves kinda gross me out, if I bake them into a sweet quick bread and they become one of my favorite foods.

Honestly, I was kinda skeptical about this recipe at first. So many flavors together: chocolate, gingerbread, banana, it just seemed like too much. But I had two bananas on the counter and they were at the “use or lose” stage of ripeness, so I figured I’d just go ahead and try the recipe.  I made a few slight modifications to the original recipe from How Sweet It Is, and overall this bread was really good. It far exceeded my expectations and is definitely on my make-again list. It didn’t really taste like gingerbread to me (maybe because of how I changed the spices), instead the spices were a nice balance to the sweetness of the bananas and chocolate chips. I think with the spice combination I wouldn’t make this recipe in the spring or summer, but for autumn and winter this is a great banana bread recipe. Plus, the loaf gets a nice crisp cinnamon-sugar crust from the way I prep the pan (a trick I learned from my college roommate).

When I was pouring the batter into the loaf pan, it seemed like too much and I didn’t want to clean banana-bread-spillover off my over floor so I filled the loaf pan 3/4 full and used the rest to make muffins.  Good decision. The loaf turned out perfectly and I ended up with 5 bonus muffins. Win-win.

Moral of the story? Bananas on their own: not yummy. Bananas in this bread: very yummy. I hope you make this bread and enjoy a nice autumn-spice twist on the traditional banana bread.

Spiced Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

(Adapted from How Sweet It Is)

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, softened
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup molasses
2 large bananas, very ripe, mashed
2 1/4 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp allspice
1 cup buttermilk*
1 cup mini chocolate chips
Butter and Cinnamon-Sugar for greasing pan**

*In full disclosure, I didn’t have buttermilk, so I used 1 tbs distilled white vinegar mixed with heavy cream and skim milk to make 1 cup

**I always have cinnamon sugar on hand, I make it with 1/4 cup sugar and 1-2 tsp cinnamon. You can use more cinnamon if you prefer.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease the bottom and sides of a loaf pan with butter (I use a pat of butter nested into a paper towel), and dust with cinnamon sugar. You may also want to grease and sugar a muffin tin or line with paper liners (you’ll probably only get half a dozen muffins with the excess batter). In a bowl, combine the flour, spices, salt, and baking soda.

Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar together.  Add in the egg and vanilla and mix on medium speed until smooth and fluffy. Add in molasses and bananas and mix to combine. Mix in half the dry ingredients, then the buttermilk, then the rest of the dry ingredients. Stir in the chocolate chips with the mixer on low speed.

Pour batter into prepared loaf pan, filling no more than 3/4 full.  Use remaining batter to fill prepared muffin cups. Bake muffins for 18-22 minutes or until a toothpick comes our clean. Bake loaf for 45-55 minutes. Cool in pan for 10 minutes before turning out onto a rack to cool completely.

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Pumpkin Nutella Cake

All right, everyone, get ready to be amazed by some awesome homekeeping logic.

Fruits and vegetables are healthy. Pumpkin is a fruit (apparently. I originally wrote this post stating pumpkin was a vegetable. Glad I looked it up so as not to destroy my flawless logic with a silly mistake). Therefore, anything made with pumpkin is healthy.

Calcium and protein are both necessary for a healthy diet. Nutella is made with milk and hazelnuts. Milk has calcium and hazelnuts have protein.  Anything made with Nutella has both calcium and protein and is therefore healthy.

Something that has fruit, calcium, and protein is super healthy. So anything with both pumpkin and Nutella is therefore super healthy.

A healthy breakfast is key to a good day. Pumpkin and Nutella together are super healthy (as proven above), therefore eating both for breakfast is healthy and guarantees a good day.

So the only logical decision is to make this cake and then eat it for breakfast (or any other meal).

This cake is spectacularly good.  I found the recipe over at Two Peas and Their Pod and didn’t adapt it at all. Actually, the first time I made it I cut the recipe in half and after the first bite I was sorry I didn’t make the whole thing. This is one of the few desserts that is good enough for me to make the whole thing for the two and a half of us in the house that eat cake. Yep, two and a half. Little Man is a big fan of this cake (though he probably ate as much of it as I did, so maybe it is more like three people).

So, choose to be healthy.  Make this cake as soon as possible and eat it for breakfast (or any other time of day)

Pumpkin Nutella Cake

2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
1 cup Nutella

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9×13 pan.

In a bowl, whisk together the flour, spices, baking soda, and salt. Using a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugars together. Add in the egg and vanilla and mix until combined. Stir in the pumpkin, then gently mix in the dry ingredients with the mixer on low.

Spread the batter into the pan, and drop spoonfuls of the Nutella evenly over the batter.  Use a knife to gently swirl the Nutella. Bake in preheated oven for 28-35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. If possible, cool completely before cutting and eating.

Then congratulate yourself for being so healthy!

Flexibility

One of the biggest challenges for me in homekeeping has been learning how to be flexible. By nature, I am a very structured, organized, make-a-plan-and-stick-to-it kind of person. In my former job in the technical field, this was a good thing. In homekeeping with little ones, not so much. I’ve needed to soften that rigid structure significantly and while it has been a challenge, I think I’m starting to succeed.

One of my homekeeping goals is to make my home a place of peace, comfort, and escape from the stress of the world. I want my family to enjoy being at home, to know that home is where they are safe and loved. And that doesn’t happen if I spend time and energy stressing out over every little thing that doesn’t go according to plan. With two little ones, there are lots of things that don’t go according to plan. So I am learning when to stick with the rules and when to fudge on them. Learning which things are worth stressing over and which aren’t.

So there are some days there the dishes don’t get done because Little Man needs lots of cuddle time. There are times when I require Little Man to eat what I made for dinner and times when I let dinner be muffins or pancakes. There are days when Big Man and I plan to have an at home dinner and movie date and end up going to sleep early because we are exhausted. And I’m learning to be OK if everything doesn’t go exactly as planned.

I’ll probably never be a “rules are meant to be broken” kind of gal. But hopefully I can be a learn to be a “go with the flow” homekeeper.

Project Pastry Queen: Tuxedo (Cup)Cake(s)

So, as you can probably tell from the title, this week’s PPQ recipe was Tuxedo Cake. This week was hosted by Shawnda and her site has the full recipe (and beautiful pictures) for this stunning dessert. You can also see the other PPQ members’ results here.

When I saw this recipe I had two reactions: 1) Wow, this cake is awesome and beautiful and no doubt delicious, and 2) should I really make a cake that serves 12-14 for just Big Man and myself? Probably not.

And then there was a third reaction: layer cakes are my nemesis. I have never been able to make one successfully. My layer cakes taste good, but look good? Not so much. I can probably blame some of my failures on the high altitude, but I think most of it is just me and layer cakes not getting along.

So, I decided to only make 1/4 of the original recipe and try cupcakes. I got 10 cupcakes that looked OK and tasted awesome. The cupcakes didn’t look nearly as stunning as the full cake, but were easy to make and yummy. Actually, I really want to call these Penguin cupcakes, since they are the shorter, fatter, less fancy version of the Tuxedo Cake. And I like penguins. But anyway. . .

Along with cutting the recipe down to 25%, I used dark cocoa powder (all I had in the pantry), and light corn syrup instead of the Lyle’s golden syrup called for. Here is the recipe as I made it.

Tuxedo Cupcakes (adapted from The Pastry Queen)

Cupcakes

1/2 stick (4 tbs) unsalted butter
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup canola oil
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup dark cocoa powder
1 cup flour
1 egg
1/4 cup buttermilk
3/4 tsp baking soda
dash salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
 

Whipped Cream Frosting

1 cup chilled heavy whipping cream
1/3 cup powdered sugar
 

Chocolate Glaze

1 ounce bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/8 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tbs light corn syrup
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
 

Cupcakes: Prepare a muffin tin with paper liners and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine butter, water, and oil in a small saucepan and heat over medium heat until the butter melts. In a bowl, whisk together the sugar, cocoa powder, and flour. Whisk in the butter mixture, then the egg, then the buttermilk. Finally, whisk in the baking soda, salt and vanilla all at once. Transfer to the muffin tin, filling each liner about 3/4 full. Bake 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let the cupcakes sit in the tin for about 10 minutes before removing to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Frosting: Using the whisk attachment of a stand mixer, whip the cream to soft peaks. Add the powdered sugar and whip to stiff peaks. Place the frosting in a piping bag with a large round tip. Poke the tip into the center of each cupcake and fill with frosting. Use the remaining frosting to cover the top of each cupcake, and smooth with a knife. Refrigerate 1 hour until the frosting is set.

Glaze: Put the chocolate in a bowl and heat the cream in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until it is steaming but not boiling. Pour the cream over the chocolate and stir until the chocolate is melted. Add in the corn syrup and vanilla and stir to combine. Let sit for 5 minutes to cool slightly, then spoon over the cupcakes, letting some drip down the sides but leaving some frosting showing. Refrigerate for 1 hour to let glaze set, then enjoy!

Little Moments

I think the small seemingly insignificant moments in life are just as important as the big occasions with all the fanfare. It’s easier to remember the big things, but I really want to remember the special “small” things as well.  That’s part of the reason I started this blog, actually; to document some of the small moments that I would forget otherwise.

Little Man and Little Lady have tons of “moments”: moments of cuteness, moments of sweetness, and moments of grumpiness. I know I will forget a lot, but years down the road I want to have some “snapshots” of the small things along with the memories of the big things. With Little Man, I already have quite a few Big Moments: his birth, his first tooth, his first steps, first few words. But all those big moments are surrounded by thousands of little moments. Big Man and I staring in wonder at a brand new Little Man cuddled on my chest. Little Man smiling proudly after using his only two teeth to smush a slice of peach into pulp. The short phase where Little Man would do “sit-ups” whenever he was put down on his back. The mornings where Little Man would wake up and greet each family member, “Mama, Dada, Meow.” I want to remember Little Man’s happy-for-food giggle, him falling asleep on Big Man’s chest, his sleepy hugs with his head on my shoulder and arms wrapped around me.

We haven’t has as much time with Little Lady yet, but she has her little moments too. When she smiles and wiggles with happiness at Daddy. Her eyes getting drowsier and drowsier as she falls asleep in my arms. Her happy little grunts and noises. Her absolute fascination with Little Man, especially when he comes over to give her kisses.

Maybe my favorite so far happened this weekend.  Little Man and Little Lady discovered they could play and interact with each other. They spent hours lying side by side on the floor, looking at each other and having “conversations” mostly consisting of giggles. Big Man and I sat and watched them, and agreed that their playing together was awesome and almost too cute for words.

I know there are thousands of other moments I have already forgotten, but at least I have these to treasure.  And I know there will be millions more to come, so I’ll try to document them and take more mental snapshots. God has blessed me so tremendously in the big fanfare occasions, but also in the small, quiet, everyday moments. And it’s those little, everyday-moment snapshots that are so important to me. They draw Big Man and me closer as we reminisce. They get me through the hard days. They inspire me to be a better homekeeper. And they remind me that, in more ways than I can count, I am blessed.