Brown Butter Strawberry Banana Bread

Yesterday, it finally rained.  Not just a soggy drizzle, but all out, thundering, lightning, blow over the plants on the patio RAIN.  I almost ran outside to stand in it until the lightning forks in the near vicinity had me rethinking that urge.

Instead, I made banana bread.

With strawberries.

Two of my favorite things.  With butter!  🙂

Brown the butter (about 5 oz or 1/2 cup) in a saucepan over medium heat.  Yes, this is something that requires attentiveness.

The butter will foam and crackle as it melts, and then brown.  Swirl the pan to keep it from burning.  When the butter begins to brown and smell nutty, pour it out of the pan so that it immediately stops cooking and hopefully prevents burning!  I just poured it into the measuring cup, and popped it into the freezer to cool for a few minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350F, and grease a 9×5 loaf pan.

In a large bowl, whisk together 2 cups flour, 3/4 cup brown sugar, 1 tsp baking soda, and 1 tsp cinnamon.

Awesome action shot.  (Added difficulty of holding the camera in my left hand!)

In a medium bowl, whisk 2 large eggs, 1 tsp vanilla extract, and 1/4 cup buttermilk.

Mash 3 medium sized bananas.

Stir the mashed bananas into the egg mixture.

Check on the butter in the freezer.  It should be cool by now.

Whisk it into the egg and banana mixture.

Add the wet ingredeints to the dry, and fold together, then fold in  3/4 to 1 cup diced strawberries.

Stir until all ingredients are just combined.  Over stirring makes tough bread.  😦

Pour batter into prepared loaf pan, and top with thinly sliced strawberry.  I saved the biggest one from the package for the top.

It’s so pretty, I wanted to get a spoon and just eat it.  But instead, I baked it for about an hour.

I’m glad I waited!  It looked even better when it cam out of the oven!

Cool for 15 minutes in the pan, then finish cooling on a wire rack.  DO make sure that cooling has finished before wrapping it up, as condensation will make the crust soggy.  And nobody likes a soggy crust.  😀

I just had some for breakfast.  The tartness of the strawberries gives a nice contrast to the sweetness of banana.  This would make a great gift, as it is really pretty…but I think I’ll just eat this loaf!

Hubby and rat Boy might have to fight me for it.

Mediterranean Quinoa Salad

We really do live on a bizarre schedule around here.  After 2 weeks of vacation in the middle of September, we are switching from having Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday as Hubby’s days off, back to Friday, Saturday, and Sunday off.  It’s really no wonder that I have trouble remembering what day of the week it is sometimes.

I suppose it’s a good thing that Rat Boy likes homeschooling, because I’d probably send him to school on Thursday through Sunday some weeks, and Monday through Thursday on others.

I actually tried to take him on Saturday one time when he was younger.  He wouldn’t get out of the car.

But I digress.  And probably will again, possibly in the near future.

Quinoa.  Apparently that’s where it’s at for the pot-smokin’ hippie  healthy foods-oriented crowd.  I’ve tested fed it to Hubby and Rat Boy on several occasions.  I usually throw some frozen veggies in with it, as a half-ass, fast attempt at a pilaf.  They were not impressed.

Quinoa, pronounced “Keen-wah”, is a grain that is not a grain.  I totally understand if it has identity issues.  It is referred to as a pseudocereal, because it is not a member of the grass family like wheat, but instead has relatives like beets and spinach.  And it’s amazingly healthy.  And grainy.  Great substitute for rice (and we are a rice-loving family).

And it’s OLD.  Like older than the Roman Empire, or the Greek, or even the Egyptians!  Quinoa originated in the Andean region, where it was domesticated 3000 to 4000 years ago for human consumption.  There is even evidence that shows an association with pastoral herding 5200 to 7000 years ago.  So much for the world civ lesson.

I recently discovered there are red and black varieties, as well as the white.  Mum, over the weekend, asked me to make a couscous salad for her retired teachers meeting, and because I was feeling persnickity a bit avante guarde, I decided to instead do quinoa.

1 cup of quinoa to 2 cups water cooks just like rice.  Bring to a boil, then simmer on low 20 minutes.  Cooking times are longer for the red and black varieties, as are the cooking times for more whole hulled rices.

Cool…overnight if possible, then add cherry tomatoes, cucumber, kalamata olives, and feta cheese.  Amounts of course will vary, depending on how much you’d like to make.  I started with 4 cups of red quinoa to 8 cups of water.  I made a LOT of quinoa.  WAY more than I’d intended.  But no worries.  It even freezes well!

Isn’t it pretty?

Toss everything together with a drizzle of olive oil…I used a roasted garlic infused variety that I put on everything I possibly can.  Did I mention that I really like garlic? Oh yeah, and juice from about 2/3 of a lemon.  I used Meyer, but can’t always get them, so I’m sure a ‘normal’ lemon would be fine too.

I added some chopped fresh oregano to the first batch, then basil…yes, it’s still going strong out on the porch…to the second.  And some mint.  Because Mediterranean dishes use mint.  Just believe it.

It really is pretty.  Colorful.  Tastes fabulous.  Healthy.  Can you possibly ask for more?

Oh yeah, easy to make also.

Kitchen Kat expressed his approval by nomming on my leg while I was doing the washing up.

I can’t believe how huge his claws look.  😛  And how bad my kitchen rug looks.  I should be totally embarrassed now.  But it’s been a long day.  I’ll work on that tomorrow.

Banana Muffins with White Chocolate

I love bananas.  I love chocolate.  I love cooking with bananas because they make this awesome crusty-golden beauty that tastes as good as it looks.

I also love muffins.  What’s not to love?  Bread with fruit and chocolate.  I can totally get behind that!


Side bonus…muffins are WAY easier to make than cake.  Plus, it’s like having a tiny cake of your own with every muffin!

Preheat the oven to 350F.  Spray the muffin pan with non-stick.

Whisk together 1 3/4 cup flour, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp baking soda, and 1/4 tsp salt.

Mash 3-4 meduim to large bananas, and combine with 1/2 cup melted and cooled butter, 2 large beaten eggs, and 1 tsp vanilla extract.

Fold the wet mixture into the dry, using the well technique, stirring until just combined.

Add 1/2 cup white chocolate chips, and spoon the mixture into the prepared muffin tin.  Bake 20-25 minutes.

I used 4 bananas, and needed to add about 3 tbsp flour to stiffen the batter.  Also, the recipe made about 16 muffins.  My muffin tin has 12 cups.  On the last 4 muffins, I used the center row and filled the empty cups with water, so the muffins would bake evenly.

Cool in the pan about 5 minutes, then complete cooling on a wire rack so the sides and bottoms don’t sog out!  Then eat.  Might need to hide a few…these went FAST!!!

Lemon Blueberry Bread

I’m starting a new policy.  When descending upon friends with my family swarm, I propose to bring baked goods to increase our desirability as couch-surfing guests!  😛

And…I got goodies to bake other nomable stuff with!  My very first Pampered Chef stoneware… a bar pan.  Now I can make even better bar-type baked yummies!  Thanks again Aggie!  🙂  (Especially since Mum wants me to bake her 3 batches of brownies for a party!)

I was hoping that the blueberry bread would be a hit last weekend, and it was.  Go me!!!  Even the kids who won’t eat anything (I am not naming names) ate this and loved it.  It is quick and easy to create, and it looks pretty too. 😀

Could you ask for more???  No cut pics though, since this loaf was a gift.  Yumtastic blueberries throughout the bread, with a lovely hint of lemon.  😛

Preheat the oven to 350F.  Spray with oil, or butter a 9x5x3 loaf pan.

In a medium bowl, whisk together 1 1/2 cups flour, 1 tsp baking powder and 1/4 tsp salt.

Use an electric mixer to beat 6 tbsp butter until softened, then add 3/4 cup granulated sugar and continue beating until light and fluffy.  Add 2 eggs, one at a time, beating in well.  Stir in 1/2 tsp vanilla extract and 1 tbsp lemon zest.  Turn the mixer to low to add the flour mixture and  1/2 cup milk, alternating additions to begin and end with the flour.  Mix only until combined, then gently fold in about 2/3 of the blueberries.  I used a pint of blueberries.

Scrape the batter into the prepared loaf pan, and sprinkle the remaining blueberries evenly across the top of the batter.  Then bake 55 to 65 minutes, until the bread is golden brown.  Cool in the pan about 10-15 minutes, then turn out and finish cooling on a wire rack so that the sides and bottom don’t become soggy.


Caturday Funneh

How to give a cat a pill:

Pick up cat and cradle it in the crook of your elbow as though you were going to give a bottle to a baby. Talk softly to it. Sit on the sofa.
With right hand, position right forefinger and thumb on either side of cat’s mouth and gently apply pressure to cheeks while holding pill in right hand. Be patient.  As cat opens mouth pop pill into mouth. Allow cat to close mouth and swallow.  Let go of cat.
Pick the pill up off the floor and go get the cat from behind sofa.

Cradle cat in left arm and repeat process. Sit on floor in kitchen, wrap arm around cat as before, drop pill in mouth.

Retrieve cat from bedroom, and throw soggy pill away.

Take new pill from foil wrap, cradle cat in left arm holding rear paws tightly with left hand. Force jaws open and push pill to back of mouth with right forefinger. Hold mouth shut for a count of  ten.
Retrieve pill from goldfish bowl and cat from top of closet. Call spouse from backyard. Kneel on floor with cat wedged firmly between knees, hold front and rear paws. Ignore low growls emitted by cat. Get spouse to hold head firmly with one hand while forcing wooden ruler into cat’s mouth. Slide pill down ruler and rub cat’s throat vigorously.
Retrieve cat from curtain rod, get another pill from foil wrap. Make note to buy new ruler and repair curtains. Carefully sweep shattered Doulton figures from hearth and set to one side for gluing later.
Get spouse to lie on cat with head just visible from below armpit. Put pill in end of drinking straw, force mouth open with pencil and blow down drinking straw.
Check label to make sure pill not harmful to humans, drink glass of water to take taste away. Apply Band-Aid to spouse’s forearm and remove blood from carpet.
Retrieve cat from neighbor’s shed. Get another pill. Place cat in cupboard and close door onto neck to leave head showing. Force mouth open with dessert spoon. Flick pill down throat with rubber band.
Fetch screwdriver from garage and put cupboard door back on hinges. Apply cold compress to cheek and check records for date of last tetanus shot. Throw T-shirt away and fetch new one from bedroom.
Call fire department to get cat from neighbor’s tree.  Tie cat’s front paws to rear paws with garden twine and bind tightly to leg of dining table, find heavy duty pruning gloves from shed, force cat’s mouth open with small spanner. Push pill into mouth followed by large piece of fillet steak. Hold head vertically and pour one cup of water down throat to wash pill down.
Get spouse to drive you to the emergency room, sit quietly while doctor stitches fingers and forearm and removes pill remnants from right eye. Call at furniture shop on way home to order new table.
Get last pill from foil packet. Go into bathroom and get a fluffy towel. Stay in the bathroom with the cat, and close the door.

Sit on bathroom floor, wrap towel around kitty, leaving only his head exposed. Cradle kitty in the crook of your arm, and pick up pill off of counter.

Retrieve cat from top of shower door (you didn’t know that cats can jump 5 feet straight up in the air, did you?), and wrap towel around it a little tighter, making sure its paws can’t come out this time. With fingers at either side of its jaw, pry it open and pop pill into mouth. Quickly close mouth (his, not yours).
Sit on floor with cat in your lap, stroking it under the chin and talking gently to it for at least a half hour, while the pill dissolves.
Unwrap towel, open bathroom door. Wash off scratches in warm soapy water, apply antibiotic creme, comb your hair, and go find something to occupy your time for 7-1/2 hours a LARGE glass of wine.

While finishing the bottle, call vet and arrange daily visits for cat medication.


I seem to be baking a lot lately.  Hubby, Rat Boy and myself are all fans of bready goodness, so my intention to become a better baker is being enjoyed by all.  Today, I made one of my favorite types of bread…among other things.  I’m not going to talk about the other things yet, because tomorrow we are going to visit a friend of mine who has been overseas for a while, and I don’t want to spoil the surprise about what I’m taking him and his family!

Anyhow, back to the ciabatta.  I’m learning that all good bread requires a starter, which must be made in advance…that’s well in advance, like 12 hours is good.  I’m learning why it seemed that, when I read Little House on the Prairie (a LONG time ago), Ma always was making bread.  I’ve learned that I can make awesome bread, but then Hubby and Rat Boy eat it.  I eat some too.  Then I need to make bread again.

We’re all going to weigh 600 pounds by the time I get off this bread kick.  😀

Not really, Rat Boy has 2 hollow legs…he’s at that age.  And Hubby and I have been swimming every morning.  That makes working a night schedule so much more fun, especially when we can nap during the hottest part of the day.  And then there’s yoga, too.

I think North Americans, at least in the South, should adopt the practice of siesta.  With bread.

I didn’t take a gazillion pics of the bread making process.  I’m thinking we all know what starter and dough look like by now, or we’d have stopped reading cooking blogs!  So I’m just going to give the simple directions, and turn the world loose to make awesome bread.

First, you make the starter (of course), which for ciabatta, is called sponge.  They really culd have thought up a more appetizing name, but oh well.  It tastes better than it sounds.  😀

In a small bowl, stir together 1/8 tsp yeast and 2 tbsp warm water (about 110F).  It’s really important that the water not be too hot, or you’ll kill the yeast, so I actually got a thermometer just to be sure until I learn what ‘warm’ feels like.

Let the yeast and water mix stand for about 5 minutes until it looks creamy.  Then add 1/3 cup warm water and 1 cup flour.  I’ve started using bread flour to make bread, and it really makes a difference.  Stir for 4-5 minutes, then cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set it aside for at least 12 hours, up to 1 day.  This is a good thing to do before you go to bed!

To make the bread, stir together 1/2 tsp yeast and 2 tbsp warm milk.  Let it stand about 5 minutes.  Dig out the dough hook for the mixer, and knead together the sponge, milk mixture, 2/3 cup warm water, 1 tbsp olive oil, and 2 cups flour until just moistened.  Add 1 1/2 tsp salt and continue to knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 8 – 10 minutes.

Scrape the dough into an oiled container, cover with plastic wrap, and let it rise until doubled, about 1 – 2 hours. Turn it out onto a well-floured work surface, and cut it in half.  You really want to work with as little extra flour as possible, as the best bread remains sticky until it goes into the oven, for the best texture.

Form each half into an oval about 9 inches long.  I like to do this on parchment paper, as I can just slide it onto the baking sheet, and use less flour to keep it from sticking to everything!  Dimple the loaves with your fingers, and dust them with flour.  Do not cover this with anything damp, as the flour + water = glue, and is NOT attractive!  Just cover with a lint-free cloth, and set somewhere warm for another 1 – 2 hours, until they look doubled in bulk.

Sources say that ‘room temperature’ for rising dough is 75F.  They obviously don’t live in Texas.

After they’ve risen…again…bake at 425F for 20 – 25 minutes.  I’ve started putting an extra baking sheet under anything I put into the oven.  This is partly due to my unpredictable apartment oven, and also because it really seems to help spread out the heat in any traditional oven.  I’ve never baked in a convection oven, so I have no idea what the difference would be.

When the loaves are done, hopefully they will be golden and crisp, with a slightly chewy texture.  I could eat an entire loaf all by myself!  This is the first time I’ve made this bread, and it’s easy.  It was absolutely spot-on the first time!  Go ciabatta!  😛

I love Italian food.  Someday soon, I’m going to figure out how to post the recipe at the end, so it’s printable.  For now, I’m still trying out new techniques, tools, and trying to turn out yum-tastic food (that looks pretty) to share with the world.  So I guess you’ll just have to follow along with the written directions!

And don’t ever forget…Kitchen Kat is watching!

Lemon Raspberry Muffins

I think I’m hooked on this lemon raspberry taste.  It’s just so light and yummy!  🙂  These muffins are SO tender and juicy from the berries, and the lemon is quite subtle.

Plus, I was actually making them in the morning, so I get to have a nice photo with natural light!

Preheat the oven to 400F.  Spray a 12-cup muffin pan with non-stick spray.  I like to use grapeseed oil, as it has a really light flavor, so it won’t change the taste of whatever it is I’m baking!  😛

First, melt 3/4 stick of butter in a small pan.  Combine the zest of 1 or 2 lemons with the melted butter to release the oils in the zest.  Remove from heat as soon as the butter is completely melted, and add 2/3 cup buttermilk.  Stir until combined, and then let cool for a couple of minutes.

While the butter is melting, combine 2 cups flour, 2/3 cup sugar, 2 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp baking soda, and a pinch of salt in a medium sized bowl.  Stir thoroughly to combine, and create a well in the center.

Pour the butter into a medium bowl and add 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract and 2 large eggs.  Whisk until well blended, then pour the butter mixture into the dry ingredient well, and stir with a spatula until just combined.

Add a pint of raspberries, and gently fold into the batter.

These are actually cranberries, as the second time I tried the recipe, I did it with orange zest and cranberries.  If you use dried fruit, be sure to hydrate it before combining with the muffin batter, as the dried fruit will suck up the moisture from the muffins, leaving them very dry.  😦

Use a large scoop and standard sized muffin pan…fill the cups equally as possible.  🙂

Bake at 400F for 18 to 20 minutes.

Let them cool in the pan about 5 minutes, then completely cool on a wire rack so the sides and bottoms don’t get soggy from condensation.

These are really quick to make.  Meaning, you don’t have to get up at 0 dark 30 to have something warm and yum-tastic for breakfast…even on a school day!

Caturday. With Drums.

Last night, Rat Boy and I headed into town for a Taiko drumming performance.    It was an awesome performance and lots of fun hanging together at the outdoor theatre.  Of course, we did have a tiny cool(er) spell, so sans sunlight, it was really quite nice.

Thus, for your viewing pleasure, today I shall feature kitties…avec drums!

You really wouldn’t think that katz and drums go together, but apparently…

And katz DO tend to get into the most unexpected places!

Often, it would seem.

I’m thinking they have musical aspirations far beyond yowling!


Kind of reminds me of Kitchen Kat.  Vaguely.

I’ll finish with the real thing.  Spectacular!!!  The guy on the right is blowing an actual conch shell.  Very cool!  🙂

My Favorite Things…A Sithy Challenge

Have been a bit busy this week.  Conveniently, or rather NOT, Hubby picked up a germ at work and proceeded to share it with me and Rat Boy.  Thus, we have had a round robin of yuck.  😦

Now that we are all up and around again, I can remove my nurse hat and resume making yumtastic things to eat.  Nobody really wanted to eat much this week anyhow…fortunately, since I didn’t feel like cooking.

Aggie, over at Sithy Things, (possibly the most awesomest person I’m lucky enough to know) posted a challenge the other day that still awaits my response.  In the interest of whirled peas, I will endeavor to fill some gaps about my off-center likes!

#1– Favorite candy: Chocolate.  Duh.

#2– Favorite movie: Out of Africa.  (LOTR #1 if I can’t sleep.  Puts me out like a light.)

#3– Favorite drink: Beer.  Preferably Brit or Belgian beer.  With LOTS of alcohol 🙂

#4– Favorite dessert: Tiramisu or Creme Brule.  It’s a toss up.

#5– Favorite city: Amsterdam.

#6– Favorite pasttime: Reading or cooking…and playing World of Warcraft!

#7– Favorite clothing: Pajamas…or yoga pants if I just must leave the house.

#8– Favorite animal: Kats…obviously.

#9– Favorite flower: Iris.

#10 Favorite music: Absolutely anything I can dance to…or if it has hysterically funny lyrics (like Mississippi Squirrel Revival)

Hmmm.  Guess I’m not so off-center after all.  So now you know a little more about me, if you wanted to.  If not, I’ll get back to the food after Caturday.

Caturday is here again!


Saw this video a while back.  It still makes me laugh every time I watch it.




The life of the tech support kat!  😛



This blogging thing takes up a lot of time!



Because we’re all about the food around here…



Meanwhile, Kitchen Kat has found a new perch.



He knows something smells good.  Just can’t quite pin it down.



Wish he’d take out the trash while he’s using the bin for a perch!


Have a great Caturday.  Or I’ll sit on your head!


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