Banana Blondies with Chocolate Crust from the New York Times

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Oh how I love to turn my oven on in the fall.  My husband cannot understand how I can even think of turning on the oven in the summer months because it is so hot.  I cannot understand how he doesn’t understand my need for baked goods!  I am truly sad to see the exit of summer this year, especially since it was such a great one.  And even more-so because we’re expected to have another frigid, snowy winter this year.  I feel like I barely got to break out my shorts and tank tops!  Although that could be more due to the fact that hardly anything fit me.  Having a baby in April does NOT do any favors for the waistline come bikini season.  Neither does eating these blondies…  But they’re so good.  They’re so good you will eat them anyway and not care one bit about your waistline while you’re washing them down with that big glass of milk.  Just try to make it fat-free milk. :)

Banana Blondies with Chocolate Crust, adapted from The New York Times

Banana Blondies with Chocolate Crust from the New York Times

Ingredients

  • 2 ½ sticks unsalted butter (1 1/4 cups), more for greasing pan
  • 200 grams chocolate wafer cookies (to make about 3 cups crumbs)
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt, plus a pinch
  • 2 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 1/2 cups dark brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons dark rum or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup toasted walnuts, chopped
  • Flaky sea salt, for sprinkling

Instructions

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Line a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with parchment, and grease with butter.

Melt 1 stick of butter in a saucepan over low heat or in microwave. Put the chocolate wafer cookies in the bowl of a food processor and process to make fine crumbs. Add the light brown sugar, melted butter and a pinch of salt. Process until the mixture is the consistency of damp sand. Dump the mixture into the pan and press it into an even layer. Bake for 7 to 10 minutes, or until the surface is firm. Remove the pan and set aside.

Reduce oven heat to 350 degrees.

In a large skillet over medium heat, melt 12 tablespoons butter, then let it cook until the foam subsides and butter turns a deep nut brown, about 5 minutes. Cool.

In a large bowl, whisk together bananas, eggs, dark brown sugar and rum. Whisk in brown butter. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour and fine salt. Fold into batter along with the toasted walnuts. Pour the mixture over the prepared crust and spread evenly. Sprinkle top with flaky salt if using.

Transfer pan to oven and bake until the top is firm and a toothpick inserted in the center emerges with a few crumbs attached (or clean) but not wet, 45 to 55 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack; cut into 24 bars.

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String Bean, Arugula and Pasta Salad

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Back at work after baby has unfortunately led to a decrease in cooking.  When you only get to make something blogworthy about once a week, it is hard to find time to take pictures, edit, and write the post.  With a lot more to juggle now, cooking has taken a turn toward simpler recipes.  Recipes that can be put on the table quickly or prepared ahead of time are key now.  With a teacher husband who has an early lunch period and an almost two year old who wants dinner by 5:30pm, it’s all about fast or they get crabby!

This salad does require a few steps, BUT they can be done in advance.  You could easily cook the pasta an the beans the day before.  The cheese can be grated and shredded ahead of time, and even the dressing could be mixed the day before.  Leaving you only to compose the salad before you’re ready to eat!  This salad is hearty enough for meal in my opinion, but it will pair well with any meat you throw on the grill.

String Bean, Arugula and Pasta Salad, adapted from Martha Stewart

String Bean, Arugula and Pasta Salad

Ingredients

  • 4 ounces green beans, trimmed
  • 4 ounces yellow wax beans, trimmed
  • Coarse salt
  • 1 pound curved, dried pasta, such as conchiglie, orecchiette, or other medium curved shapes
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (from about 2 lemons)
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 ounce pine nuts, toasted and coarsely chopped (1/4 cup)
  • 1 1/2 ounces Parmesan cheese, 1/2 ounce finely grated (1/2 cup), 1 ounce shaved with a vegetable peeler (1/2 cup)
  • about 2 ounces (2 cups) baby arugula

Instructions

Prepare an ice-water bath.

Cook green and wax beans in a large pot of boiling salted water until tender, about 4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer beans to ice-water bath until cool, reserving water in pot. Drain beans, and cut into 2-inch-long pieces.

Add pasta to the reserved boiling water, and cook until al dente. Drain and spread on a rimmed baking sheet. Refrigerate for 10 minutes. Transfer chilled pasta to a large serving dish.

Whisk lemon zest and juice and 3/4 teaspoon salt. Season with pepper. Add oil in a slow, steady stream, whisking until emulsified. Drizzle over pasta, and toss until well coated.

Add beans, pine nuts, and grated Parmesan. Toss until evenly distributed. Just before serving, fold in arugula, and top with shaved Parmesan.

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Double Vanilla Ice Cream

double vanilla ice cream

National Ice Cream month may be coming to an end, but that does not mean that ice cream season is over by any means.  We have a good month (maybe two) left of warm, ice cream-loving weather!  (Unless you’re like me and make ice cream all year long.)

One of my favorite products is Nielsen Massey vanilla bean paste.  It’s all the goodness and look of vanilla beans, but without the work!  For this recipe, I decided to double up on the vanilla using the paste and the Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla extract.  It gave this ice cream a great vanilla kick by combining the two.  I’m a big fan of cream base for ice cream.  This base recipe is my new go-to, and it’s a perfect place to start with any flavor you want to make.  It’s hard to beat a perfect vanilla though!

Double Vanilla Ice Cream, adapted from Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones

Double Vanilla Ice Cream

Ingredients

  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 1 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup 1% or 2% milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon Nielsen Massey vanilla bean paste
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions

In a medium heatproof bowl, whisk the yolks just to break them up, then whisk in the 1/4 cup of the sugar. Set aside.

In a heavy nonreactive saucepan, stir together the cream, milk, other 1/4 cup of sugar, and salt and put the pan over medium-high heat. When the mixture approaches a bare simmer, reduce the heat to medium.

Carefully scoop out about 1/2 cup of the hot cream mixture and, whisking the eggs constantly, add the cream to the bowl with the egg yolks. Repeat, adding another 1/2 cup of the hot cream to the bowl with the yolks. Using a heatproof rubber spatula, stir the cream in the saucepan as you slowly pour the egg-and-cream mixture from the bowl into the pan.

Cook the mixture carefully over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it is thickened, coats the back of a spatula, and holds a clear path when you run your finger across the spatula, 1 to 2 minutes longer.

Strain the base through a fine-mesh strainer into a clean container. Set the container into an ice-water bath, wash your spatula, and use it to stir the base occasionally until it is cool. Remove the container from the ice-water bath, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate the base for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Add the vanilla to the chilled base and stir until blended.

Freeze in your ice cream machine according to the manufacturer's instructions.

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