Sweetcakes: Banana Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Muffins


A surplus of overripe bananas is never a bad thing in our house. For one thing, my husband actually eats them. And when he forgets—or when I’ve really bought too many bananas, as I did this week—I make banana bread.

Here’s the thing: I rarely make banana bread the same way twice. Sometimes I feel virtuous and make it with whole wheat flour and flaxseed meal. Other times I’ll brown the butter in a saucepan before mixing the batter, which gives it a nutty flavor. Occasionally I’m inspired to throw in some chopped dark chocolate, or when I really want a treat, I make my banana bread with peanut butter.

Today I decided to modify my approach. My thought process went something like this: I wanna make banana bread, but I can’t keep it in the house because we’ll eat it all. I’ll give it to Paul to take to work. But bringing a bread to work is kind of awkward, the cutting and all. Okay, so! Muffins it is. Let’s add some chocolate chips. I have the end of a jar of peanut butter, so maybe i can scrape away about a quarter cup… now to Google recipes. Nothing for banana peanut butter chocolate chip muffins? Internet, you disappoint me.

I found a recipe for banana chip muffins, took it apart, then put it back together my way. What I’ve created here is a super-easy, incredibly decadent-feeling, flavor-packed breakfast, dessert, or snack.

Here you go, America.



Time: 12 minute to prep / 20 minutes to bake

Serves: 15 (12 muffins, plus a mini-loaf for 3)


2 c. all-purpose flour

2 1/4 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. coarse salt

1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon

3 very ripe bananas, mashed (1 cup)

3/4 c. dark brown sugar (not packed)

1/4 c. butter, melted and cooled slightly (4 tbsp. or a half stick)

1/4 c. creamy peanut butter

1 tbsp. vegetable oil

1 large egg

1 tsp. vanilla

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners. Spray a mini-loaf pan with Pam, or rub some vegetable oil along sides and bottom to coat.

Combine the first four ingredients together in a medium bowl and stir with a whisk. Next, combine the banana and sugar in a larger bowl, mixing quickly with a whisk to break up any lumps in the sugar. Next add the rest of the wet ingredients, the butter through the vanilla, and mix with a wooden spoon until the mixture is uniform.

Fold the flour mixture into the the wet mixture until just combined. Then stir in the chocolate chips until evenly distributed throughout the batter.

Divide batter first among muffin cups, filling each about 2/3 full. Put the remainder of the batter in the loaf pan, and using a spatula try to even out the batter.

Bake for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. The mini-loaf may take a few minutes longer than the muffins. Cool everything in-pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes, then turn out carefully onto a plate and allow to cool completely.

Serving suggestions:

These muffins go equally well with coffee or tea. If you think that’s a really tame suggestion—well, fine. Do it. Get the vanilla ice cream or the fro-yo. Mash it all together in a bowl and have yourself a banana peanut butter chocolate chip muffin sundae. BOOM.







After the Barbecue: What to Do With All Those Leftovers

Yesterday, my husband and I threw a barbecue/potluck/housewarming—a little over a year after we moved into our house in Glen Ridge, New Jersey. Yes, a little late for a housewarming, but this was the first real party we’d hosted at our home, and we had something to celebrate: the completion of our kitchen renovation. Somebody’s got a brand new playroom!

Not the This Old House photo spread I was hoping for, but you get the idea.

Not the This Old House photo spread I was hoping for, but you get the idea.

Oooh... shiny!

Oooh… shiny!

By the end of the night our fridge was full of leftover salads, half-finished condiments, and a ton of food we didn’t even get to eat—like 5 pounds plus of hamburger meat. I froze a lot of stuff, packed up lunches for the week, filled containers full of leftover potato salad, coffee cake, and nuts to bring to the office, and still there was more food left.

Time for some re-inventing.

Leftover item: Crudité

New dish: Roasted Veggies

IMG_0019Ever notice how the veggies left over on the crudité plate are broccoli & cauliflower? There’s a reason for that: they taste better when they’re cooked. The veggies are already washed and cut, so all you have to do is slide them into a roasting dish, toss with some olive oil, salt & pepper, and BOOM: tasty, healthy side dish.

Leftover item: a dozen lime wedges & the very last of a bottle of Hendrick’s gin

Concoction: Gin gimlet

IMG_0022To be fair, I make gimlets throughout the summer, but in this case I had exactly two ounces of gin, and a glass container full of lime wedges I cut yesterday for the Corona drinkers. Squeeze enough lime wedges to yield an ounce of juice, then add an ounce of simple syrup and two ounces of gin. Stir, pour over ice, add a lime wedge, and you’re golden.

Leftover items: ground beef, sliced cheddar cheese, tomatoes, red onion, salsa, sour cream and tortilla chips

New dish: Nachos

IMG_0027I always feel like a rebel when I eat nachos for dinner, probably because if my mother knew that’s what I was eating she’d never let me hear the end of it. But how can you argue with tortilla chips layered with spicy beef, tomatoes, salsa and coated with melted cheddar cheese? #winwin

Leftover item: bread

New dish: Bread Pudding

IMG_0024Paul (that’s the husband) and I make one of two things when we’re faced with an abundance of stale bread: Ribollita, which is a Tuscan soup made with tomatoes, spinach, beans and bread (which I make), and bread pudding (which Paul makes). The thermometer hit 92 today, so there was no way we were making Ribollita.  Bread pudding is great for lots of reasons: it’s delicious, it’s endlessly adaptable (we added dried cherries and chocolate chips), it’s pretty cheap and super easy to whip together.

So there you have it: leftovers reinvented. Happy post-partying!

Sunday Cooking: Get Your Grill on Without Leaving the Comfort of A/C

Forgive me for stating the obvious, but it’s hot. Almost too hot to cook.

I’ve spent the last few weeks eating more salads than I can count, and while the bounty of summer vegetables provides me with crisp, crunchy, and cold salad ingredients, there is also an abundance of veggies I love that demand cooking.

Like our friends from the squash family: zucchini and eggplant. Some people get tired of these vegetables by mid-summer – you can find loads of them at supermarkets and farmers markets, and if you belong to a CSA like my friend Tracie, you’ll be sick of zucchini before the end of July.

But it’s cheap and versatile, and I like that. I like zucchini ribbons, zucchini fritters, zucchini sticks and zucchini bread. But my favorite way to eat zucchini in the summer months? Grilled.  I was too hot (and quite frankly, too lazy) to hoof it up to my roof to use the charcoal grill, so instead I went to the cupboard and pulled out a little number I scored for Christmas.

Le Grille Pan (post-grilling, pre-cleaning).

Armed with 2 large zucchinis and a ripe eggplant, I set about the business of slicing and marinating – olive oil, balsamic (a light touch), salt and pepper. While the veggies marinated, I heated the grill pan (coated with olive oil spray) for 5 minutes at medium high heat.

I cut the eggplant into 1/2-inch thick slices; the zucchini into 1/4-inch slices.  At this width, the eggplant are perfect when cooked 4-5 minutes on each side, and I like to rotate the slices as they cook to get these pretty grill marks.

Since the zucchini are sliced thinner, they only need to cook about 3 minutes on each side. And 2 zucchini yielded enough slices to serve 4 as an appetizer.

I still had another eggplant and 2 more zucchini in my fridge, plus some leftover tomato sauce (thank you, Mommy!). That gave me another idea: sauce—but a sauce that would be delicious hot on pasta, cold as a dip, or room temperature to enjoy with cheese and bread.

This sauce gets its punch from lots of chopped garlic (seven cloves!) and hot pepper flakes. Yum yum yum.

This dish came together in under a half hour. First, peel and chop some garlic cloves (however many you like). Then cut the eggplant (1) into 1″ cubes. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat and add olive oil to the pan. Give it a minute or two, and then add the garlic. Let the garlic cook for a couple minutes before adding the eggplant, about a teaspoon of kosher salt and 2 tablespoons of water. Stir everything together, reduce heat to medium and cover. Cut the zucchini (2)into 1″ chunks, and add to mixture once eggplant has started to soften and release liquid. Stir and cover again. Cook for another 6-8 minutes. Once the zucchini has begun to soften a little (but still retain its bite), add tomato sauce—I had about 3/4 of a cup—and stir.  Add a pinch each of the following: hot pepper flakes, dried oregano and basil, plus salt and black pepper to your taste. Allow the mixture to cook uncovered at medium heat for another 2-3 minutes, and then that’s it. You’re done.

The last thing I made today was a fruit crumble (You can find my method for how to make one here).  As I’ve said before, fruit crumbles are endlessly adaptable—which I’ve learned from making a new every Sunday for the last month, each time with a different combination of fruits. Today I used a pear, a peach, a pint of blueberries and a half-pound of strawberries. I also added a new element to the crumble topping: chopping candied ginger.  I’ll post a picture of how this baby looks when it’s served properly (a juicy mess in a bowl, topped with ice cream), but here’s what it looked like right out of the oven.

Again, only Smell-O-Vision would do this thing justice.

Happy Summer!

On a whim, I made a fruit crumble…

Apple Berry Pear Crumble

There are few better ways to end a day than spending an hour with a good friend catching up over tacos and beer. When I got home from dinner and started preparing my lunch for tomorrow (Yep, I do that), I noticed some sad-looking pears and an apple in the crisper. I had a feeling they had been there long enough not to be crisp anymore.

But I hate throwing food away, and since the fruit was untarnished by anything green or fuzzy, I peeled off the bruised skins, cut everything into pieces and threw everything in a Pyrex pan with some lemon juice.

Hmm. Then what?

Over my lunch break today I saw this post on The Kitchn about making a fruit crumble—an endlessly adaptable dish that requires very little time and just a few ingredients, all of which I had on hand: fruit, brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, and butter. I like to add oats whenever I make a topping for a crisp or crumble, so I threw some of them in too.

I didn’t have enough apple and pear pieces to fill the baking dish, so I added about a cup of frozen mixed berries, for color, and because they were there.

The topping is made by combining all the dry ingredients in a bowl and then adding some softened butter, then mixing it all with your hands so that big crumbs form. Now, normally, a crumble topping calls for a half-stick to a whole stick of butter, but I’m back on the wagon this week after consuming so much pie over the weekend. So, I used a small amount of butter.

The measurements I’m going to provide are very rough, but as The Kitchn post mentions, this is not a dish that requires hard & fast measurements.


Apple Berry Pear Crumble


  • 1 large apple, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 2 pears, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1 cup frozen berries
  • juice from a quarter lemon, just to keep the apple and pears from browning

For topping:

  • 2 tbsp. flour
  • 1/4 c. brown sugar (packed lightly)
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup oats
  • 2 tbsp. butter, softened


Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Combine fruit in a square glass or ceramic baking dish (or a 9″ pie plate).

Next, combine the dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Sprinkle pieces of the butter over the mixture, then mix with your hands until large crumbs form. Sprinkle the crumb mixture over the fruit in an even layer. Bake for 40-45 minutes until the topping has browned but not burned anywhere. The fruit will be bubbling at the edges.

Mmm…bubbling fruit

Allow to cool for several hours, then scoop some onto a plate and enjoy with ice cream or yogurt.

The Weekend In Food: Culinary Experiments, Momofuku Noodle Bar, and Death by Doughnut Plant

Oh, for the love of doughnuts! Wanna get one of these? Keep reading...

It’s been a busy weekend—working from home, running errands & catching up on some housework. I’m gearing up for an even busier week ahead, so I took a little time yesterday to prep some meals for the week…

It started as black bean soup...

I’ve never made black bean soup the same way twice. Basic semi-pureed black bean soup is a little boring to me, so I usually vary it with different vegetables & spices, leaning on chunky rather than smooth texture.  The only consistency of the mix-ins is that they depend entirely on what I have in the house. Yesterday, it was yellow bell pepper, shallots, chopped tomato, and a late edition of chopped zucchini (which is best added in the last 15 minutes of cooking since it can get mushy if cooked longer). I added unmeasured shakes, sprinkles and dashes of cumin, coriander, garlic powder, black pepper, smoked paprika and chipotle pepper, plus a whole dried chili for more heat.  The result is a smoky, hearty & nutrient packed hot mess of deliciousness.  Plus, it’s Boyfriend-approved.

For tips on cooking black beans, check out this post from EmmyCooks.  Check out her other posts, too – it’s a fantastic blog.

Gotta keep 'em separated...

While the soup was cooking, I made a few other things—roasted beets, jasmine rice, and roasted cauliflower.  I am nothing if not a multi-tasker.

For the rice…Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees. Measure out a cup of rice and put it in a casserole dish (ceramic or glass).  Add a tablespoon of oil or butter, plus 2 cups boiling water and a dash of salt.  If your baking dish comes with an oven-safe cover, awesome, but if not, cover the dish with aluminum foil. Place in the oven, set your timer for 45 minutes, and find something to do. When the timer goes off, you have a dish of perfectly cooked rice. Fluff with a fork and serve immediately, or allow it to cool before refrigerating in the same container. Mess-free!

For the cauliflower…If you saw my post on pasta recipes the other day, take another look at the Roasted Cauliflower Pasta recipe.  Cauliflower is one of those veggies that gets much better with company—it’s very friendly with parmesan and panko, a real treat when it’s battered and fried, and it’s really special when paired with something briny, like Spanish olives in this recipe.  First tossed in a hot pan with olive oil, butter and shallots, the cauliflower then roasts for 10 minutes at 450 degrees.  Next, we invite salt, red pepper flakes, crushes garlic cloves and the olives to the party, toss again, and continue roasting for another 8 minutes. The pan comes out of the oven, the cauliflower are browned and tender, and everyone is looking beautiful and shiny in the sizzling pan. This mixture is a great topper or mix-in with rice or pasta. I will definitely make this again.

Here’s a close-up:

Cauliflower and friends

So Saturday was Cooking Day. Today I got a few hours reprieve from work and made my first trip to Momofuku Noodle Bar with friends.  I’m not really caught up in the ramen trend, but I appreciate good noodles and I love pork buns. And I have been told Noodle Bar has some of the best pork buns in the city. Now, while I normally report on my own cooking exclusively, I feel it is my duty to share my experience of this inspiring and incredible meal, and to tell you that if you are a resident of this great city or just visiting for a day, a weekend or longer, YOU MUST EAT AT MOMOFUKU NOODLE BAR. Yes! It’s so important I have to put it in caps. Don’t believe me?  Get a look at some of the great stuff they’re serving…

That is a Spicy Chicken Ramen noodle bowl. And it’s what my boyfriend and our friends Nat and Mike ordered. I tried some, and it was incredible: the chicken is crispy-spicy-smoky-tender-awesome, the egg is perfectly poached, the bok choy is pickled and sweet, and the nori (seaweed) adds a whole other dimension—salty, a touch fishy, a little earthy. The noodles strike a perfect balance between tender and chewy, and the broth brings all the elements together into a cohesive, incredibly flavorful and beautiful soup.

But wait! Here’s what I had…

This is Kimchi Stew.  Under the bubbling red-orange I discovered delicious pulled pork and the most tender rice cakes I’ve ever had the pleasure to try.  No ramen here, but I didn’t miss it. I love kimchi, and were it not for the fact that it’s really stinky and time-consuming to make, I’d have it for dinner every day. And since I don’t, I welcome the opportunity to have the homemade stuff at restaurants whenever I can.

We also ordered pork buns (made with delicious fatty pork belly and a ridiculously amazing hoisin sauce), shrimp buns (equally awesome), and Nat and Mike ordered the winter special, ham buns (flavored with apple cider and cabbage). Unfortunately I don’t have pictures of these because we were too busy inhaling them.

I kicked off my meal with this ginger beer, which I’m determined to find and buy by the case:

You would think after such an incredible meal at Noodle Bar that we’d be done eating, but somehow the four of us managed to walk (very slowly at first) through the East Village and south to the Lower East Side. Destination: Doughnut Plant, a magical place I’ve been reading about for a couple years and purposely avoiding. I am not a Doughnut Person, mostly because the alternative to a warm, fresh doughnut is gross, dry, and thoroughly unsatisfactory. But when faced with high-quality fresh doughnuts, like the kind you can get at The Vanderbilt and Doughnut Plant, I can’t stop myself.

After waiting on a long but quickly-moving line, I ordered not one but two doughnuts: Coconut Creme, and Peanut Butter Jam.  I have no other word to describe these doughnuts than Perfect. Perfect with a capital P!  Perfect texture (crisp and sticky on the outside, light and chewy on the inside, Perfectly balanced (just sweet enough so that all the flavors shine through, and Perfectly fresh.  And because these doughnuts are so amazing and addictive, I am going to actively avoid them as long as humanly possible.

Peanut Butter Jelly Time! Peanut Butter Jelly Time!

Finally, I am full, after eating a pork bun, a shrimp bun, a bowl of kimchi stew, and two ginormous doughnuts. I’m skipping dinner and going back to work.

Have a great week!

Sweet Tooth: Pumpkin Pie Pudding (Yes, in February. Just because.)

Hi. I am delicious. What's your name?

Pumpkin may be in season in the fall, but any time I’ve cooked with pumpkin I used the canned stuff.  This is unusual for me—given the option I almost always go with fresh ingredients.  But cutting, peeling and cooking a fresh pumpkin is a job—and when you’re pressed for time, as most of us are, going with the canned stuff is a great option. You end up with better consistency, and so long as you’re using a canned pumpkin without any additives, it’s easy to feel like you’re eating it fresh.

Another excellent benefit of canned pumpkin? It’s available year round. And with the unseasonably warm weather we’ve been enjoying (and been baffled by), it seemed entirely appropriate to make Pumpkin Pie Pudding for dessert on Saturday.  I was hosting a dinner party and serving an accidentally autumnal menu: pomegranate pork tenderloin, roasted sweet potatoes & apple, and sautéed Tuscan kale.  When I considered dessert options, I remembered a favorite I had originally found in Cooking Light a couple years ago.

The recipe yields 4 perfectly creamy (yet cream-free) puddings that have all the flavor of  pumpkin pie filling but ultimately a much lighter texture.  I like to add a little crunch (and admittedly I missed the pie crust), so I topped each pudding with crumbled gingersnaps.  Spoon on a dollop of whipped cream—flavored with nothing more than a touch of vanilla—and you’ve got an aromatic and fancy-looking dessert.  It’s also ridiculously simple and surprisingly low in fat.

Needless to say, my dinner guests (the boyfriend, my friend Bujan and his fiancé Anne) weren’t really concerned with any of that stuff.  They were too busy eating and smiling.


Pumpkin Pie Pudding

Adapted from Cooking Light (October 2010)



  • 15 minutes active time / 2-3 hours inactive time


  • 6 tbsp. sugar
  • 2 tbsp. cornstarch
  • 1 3/4 cup Skim Plus milk (or 1% milk, but do not use regular skim milk)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup canned pumpkin (unsweetened, 100% pure)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 3/4 tsp. pumpkin pie spice (or use 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, plus a dash each of ground allspice, clove, nutmeg and ginger)
  • 1/8 tsp salt

For topping:

  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 cup gingersnaps, smashed and crumbled


  1. Combine 6 tablespoons sugar and 2 tablespoons cornstarch in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Combine milk and egg, stirring well with a whisk. Gradually add milk mixture to sugar mixture, stirring constantly, and bring to a boil. Cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.
  2. Combine pumpkin, vanilla, spice and salt in a bowl, stirring well. Slowly add pumpkin mixture to milk mixture, whisking constantly. Place pan over low heat, and cook for 3 minutes or until thoroughly heated, stirring constantly (do not boil). Divide pudding evenly among 4 dessert bowls and cover surface of pudding with plastic wrap. (Tip: poke holes in wrap before covering surface to let hot air escape). Chill for at least 2 hours.
  3. Place gingersnap cookies in a zip-top bag, seal, and then smash the cookies into coarse crumbs using a mug or some heavy object you have laying around.  Best to place the bag on a dish towel so you don’t ruin your counter top when smashing.  This is the most fun part of this recipe.
  4. Just before you are ready to serve, place the cream in a glass or stainless steel bowl and beat on high with a mixer until soft peaks form. Add vanilla and continue beating until stiff peaks form. Top each serving with a sprinkle of cookie crumbs, followed by a dollop of whipped cream, and then a second sprinkling of crumbs.  Ta-daa: dessert.

Weight Watchers Points Plus Information:

  • Minus the gingersnap crumbs and whipped cream, each serving has a Points Plus value of 4

A Cookie for the Grown-ups: Sweet-Savory Olive Oil Biscuits

Sweet-Savory Biscuits—perfect with wine.

When was the last time you saw extra virgin olive oil in a dessert recipe?

How about extra virgin olive oil, red wine, black pepper and rosemary in a cookie recipe?

Intrigued? Yes?  Okay, I’ll stop with the questions.

I’m making Sweet-Savory Biscuits for a weekend adventure—the boyfriend and I are going to visit his aunt and uncle, two of my favorite people (and not just because they read this blog).  I chose to make these cookies because their unique flavor & texture make a perfect match for wine & after-dinner drinks, of which the four of us are very big fans.

I have a sneaking suspicion this recipe came from a kitchen experiment.  These cookies are one of Mark Bittman’s variations on his master butter cookies recipe.  Instead of butter, you use olive oil, which requires increasing the flour.  Substitute some of the flour with cornmeal, which lends a wonderful flavor and enhanced texture to the finished cookie.  To make the recipe savory, you decrease the sugar, and add some fresh ground pepper and finely minced fresh rosemary. (You can already start smelling the cookies from the oven, can’t you?)

But we’re not done there! There’s wine!  Instead of using milk as you would for butter cookies, the liquid of choice in this recipe is wine, which adds moisture, flavor, and combines with the green olive oil to make a uniquely colored cookie.  I’ll admit, out of the oven they may not be as pretty as their less savory cousins, but a quick dusting of powdered sugar makes them look as sophisticated as they taste.

Make them this weekend, or make them for Valentine’s Day. These are cookies you share with people you love who love food.


Sweet-Savory Cookies

From Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything (2008)

Time: 30 minutes active time / 60-90 minutes inactive time

Yield: 24 cookies


  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 1 ¾ cups all purpose flour
  • ½ cup cornmeal (medium grind)
  • ½ tsp. baking powder
  • ¼ tsp. freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tsp. finely minced fresh rosemary leaves
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • ¼ cup red wine
  • powdered sugar (optional)


Combine the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, ground pepper, minced rosemary and salt in a bowl. Set aside.

Use an electric mixer to cream together the olive oil and sugar; add the vanilla extract and egg and beat until well blended.

Add about half the dry ingredients to the bowl, beat for a minute, and then add about three-quarters of the wine. Beat for about 10 seconds, then add the remaining dry ingredients, and the remaining wine if needed—the dough should be soft and moist, but not wet.

Refrigerate the dough for at least 30 minutes, or up to 2 hours. Then preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Using an ice cream scoop, spoon off about a tablespoon and a half of dough from the mound. Gently shape it into a fat disc.  Place each shape about 2.5” inches apart in rows and columns on ungreased baking sheets.

Cross-hatch marks are totally optional, but they do add a cute factor.

Bake until the edges are starting to brown, about 10-12 minutes.  Cool cookies on the sheets before transferring them with a spatula onto a wire rack.  Cool completely, and then dust with sifted powder sugar if you like.



These cookies can be stored in an air-tight container for 3 days or so; I’ve found they last up to a week when stored in a cookie tin. Be sure to place a sheet of wax paper between layers.

Weight Watchers Points Plus Information:

  • The recipe makes 24 evenly sized cookies, each with a points plus value of 2 (waaay better than I was expecting).