Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Banana Cupcakes with Honey Cinnamon Frosting

Bananas seem to be the perfect fruit for baking on top of just being an awesomely nutritious fruit. They keep everything moist, they add natural, healthful sugar and they taste awesome to boot. Did I mention they are inexpensive and most people have them on hand? Baking with them is practically no fail.  My husband is a banana lover and I am constantly searching for sweet treats he can enjoy with his lap-band diet restrictions (low fat, almost no sugar, low sodium).

If you are trying to figure how to use sugar substitutes, baking with bananas will allow you the most forgiveness. I found that substituting Stevia for sugar worked well in this recipe. Stevia tends to be sweeter than sugar, I always use a 1/4 c. less and add in a tablespoon or two of honey or sugar to ensure I still get that chemical reaction (or carmelization) that sugar gives but Stevia does not. The science simply can't be avoided, so I never go completely sugar free in baking, however when you divide 2 tablespoons or less of sugar in your recipe, the amount is almost negligible.

I don't ever replace honey in a recipe as it is a good sugar: It has many medicinal properties. Honey was used by the ancient Egyptians to make a neosporin like salve that would stave off infections and heal wounds. The old wives cure of tea with honey has some merit because honey has natural antiseptic properties, along with soothing a sore throat. I recently learned that helps with gastro-intestinal ailments as well.  Plus, the body processes it much slower than traditional cane sugar. You can read all about the goodness of honey here.

Instead of butter, I used Smart Balance with Olive Oil- it's half butter and half olive oil (which is loaded with fats your body needs). There's also another good product on the market called Best Life Spread. I find its tastes great and does the job butter would do. If you are a traditionalist, use butter.

This recipe came from Everyday Food via Martha Stewart dot com. I am very glad I printed it out because I can no longer find it on their site. My only critique is that it only makes 12 cupcakes. The icing is a perfect complement to the cupcakes, and thankfully, I'm sharing both here.

(I wished I had taken a photo of these cupcakes because they were as pretty as they were delicious, except my cupcake liners had footballs on them for some reason. No one cared because they were too busy peeling them off to get them into their mouths. Photo Fail. I'll make them again soon and post a photo, but I wanted to type this for my friend, Michelle, whose husband did the grocery shopping- You can guess how many bananas she now owns.)

Banana Cupcakes:

1 1/2 c. all purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
3/4 c. sugar
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
1/2 c. unsalted butter (1 stick) melted
1 1/2 c. mashed or pureed bananas (about 4 ripe bananas)
2 large eggs, beaten
1/2 t. vanilla extract (the real stuff, not imitation-yuck!)


Preheat oven the 350 degrees. Line muffin pan with 12 paper cupcake liners. In a medium bowl, whisk dry ingredients.

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. In well, mix together bananas, eggs, and vanilla. Stir to incorporate dry ingredients. Do not over-mix. Spoon batter evenly into cups.

Bake for about 25 to 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center of a cupcake comes out clean. Remove cupcakes from pan and allow to cool completely on a wire rack. Ice with Honey-Cinnamon Frosting.

Honey-Cinnamon Frosting:

1 1/4 c. confectioners sugar
1/2 c. unsalted butter (1 stick) softened
1 T. honey
1/8 t. ground cinnamon


Using an electric mixer, beat ingredients in a bowl until smooth- about 5 minutes. If it doesn't look like icing, keep mixing until it does! Trust me, it will get there.

Now, unfortunately, you can't sub Stevia for confectioners sugar. You may be able to find a confectioners sugar substitute- I think I may have spotted one the last time I was grocery shopping, but don't quote me. I don't think a little bit of sugary icing hurts on a cupcake. You can always use less icing on the cupcake and add a banana slice or two on top to make up for it. As long as you don't eat 6 cupcakes at once, I think you'll be okay.

Now I'm hoping Martha Stewart won't bake me into a hipster-pot-pie for reprinting her lost recipe.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Homemade Ketchup

We ran out of ketchup, or if you prefer, catsup but I planned on making burgers and fries tonight. Well, I figured that since I had tomato paste on hand and some vinegars on hand surely I could create the condiment. I mean, c'mon, Hunts and Hienz came from somewhere. We all know that WWII brought about the preservative revolution meaning less trips to the grocer and less real cooking at home for many Americans. Ketchup wasn't always bottled. People had to actually combine their own ingredients to make it, imagine that!

I have thing for ketchup. I don't drown everything in the stuff, but good ketchup really makes burgers and hot dogs something special. When I visited my oldest sister in LA, I was amazed that her ketchup tasted different that the stuff you got in the DC area, and perhaps the East Coast. I couldn't identify the specific thing that made it different, but I was in love. When I returned home, I had a bottle in my suitcase (and some burritos in a cooler). I haven't found that awesome ketchup flavor anywhere since, so I am always left feeling underwhlemed whenever I have ketchup. I want it to have that certain oomph, but it never does. 

I did some searching on the internet. I basically knew that ketchup involved tomatoes, vinegar and sugar. I have all those things. Many recipes called for apple cider vinegar, but I don't have that on hand; I have white and balsamic. Finally I came across something I can work with at Wicked Good Dinner.

It was simple, I had all the stuff in my pantry - my figurative pantry because I don't have a REAL pantry, just cupboards :( which makes me sad sometimes, but I get over it easily when I make something yummy. Back to the recipe. It was FANTASTIC. So here is the proof that it really was ketchup:

Isn't it cool? What's better is that I figured out the 'oomph' factor. Most bottled ketchup is made with apple cider vinegar, which I imagine is because its cheap. That 'oomph' comes from the balsamic vinegar... This ketchup recipe has me in love. I want to make more... I want to make food now that requires ketchup... I'm in love. I may never go back to the bottle again.

Here's the recipe:

Yields: 1/4 cup (4 servings)
Allergy info: soy-free, dairy-free, gluten-free

3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon turbinado sugar (you can use any kind of sugar, including a sub)
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1/8 teaspoon crushed garlic (about 1/2 small clove)
Water to thin
Salt to taste

In a small bowl, combine the tomato paste, sugar, balsamic vinegar and garlic. Add water, 1/4 teaspoon at a time, until the ketchup is the desired consistency. Adjust seasoning, adding salt to taste, and additional sugar or vinegar. Set aside for 15 minutes and serve. Store covered, in the fridge, for up to 7 days.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The meat about bread

I've found that the three part series on my bread recipe is maybe too cumbersome for even me and maybe a bit unnecessary based on what I've already written. If you really want to delve into the world of bread, I suggest this site: The Fresh Loaf. They give you the lessons on bread making here. Really, you can't beat it because there's everything you've ever wanted to know about bread making on that site AND a discussion forum.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, we are dirt poor at the moment. It's probably why I haven't written anything- I've been just a tad blue. Yet, the one thing that perks me up is having to be really creative with the things I have one hand. Tomorrow, I will be making burgers, rolls, ketchup and possibly french fries (if I can manage the mandolin) from scratch.

The other thing I've done is created my very own cornbread recipe, which soon I will share. I purchased two bags of cornmeal two weeks ago and set off on making a version I enjoy. That's hard because I'm picky and so is my kid; the version I created is one we both approve (and doesn't send me to the hospital). I will be sharing that as soon as I can actually take photo of it. Seems the cornbread doesn't stick around long enough for a photo-op.