Spiced Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

Leftover bananas can sneak up on you.  It seems like one day they are firm, yellow and delightful and the next day they are dark brown and overripe.  Thankfully bananas are very versatile.  They are fantastic for baking, making smoothies and drinks and even in savory dishes.  I enjoy making banana bread with my overripe bananas and have posted my favorite version here. This time I wanted to make some muffins that were healthy AND delicious with some chocolate thrown in to make it special.  I used mini chocolate chips because 1/2 cup goes a long way and feels like there is a lot more than there is!  They turned out moist, flavorful and delicious.  This recipe makes one batch of 12 muffins.  If you get up early, you can throw the ingredients together stick it in the oven and go for a 22 minute run and come back to incredible warm muffins for breakfast.  It’ll improve your performance (guaranteed) when you know such deliciousness is waiting for you!

Mix bananas with melted butter, yogurt, egg and milk until well blended
Add dry mixture to liquid mixture and blend until just mixed (do not over mix)
Scoop into muffin pans and bake at 350 for 30 minutes
Let cool and enjoy!
Moist, flavorful and delicious!

Spiced Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup whole wheat flour (I used Atta, or Indian WW flour)

1/3 cup brown sugar

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp ginger

1/4 tsp salt

2 large bananas, mashed

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 cup (half a stick) unsalted butter, melted

1 large egg

1/4 cup 1% milk

1/4 cup non fat greek  yogurt

1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

Pre-heat oven to 350° F. In a large bowl mix the flours, sugars, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger and salt.  In a separate mixing bowl, combine the mashed bananas, baking soda, egg, melted butter, milk and yogurt until well incorporated. Stir the banana mixture into the dry ingredients until just blended (don’t over mix).  Stir in the mini chocolate chips.  Line a muffin pan with paper liners and using an ice cream scooper fill the muffin cups 3/4 full.  Bake the muffins for 30 minutes until golden brown.  Transfer the muffins to rack to cool for 15 minutes.

Great Leftover Challenge #2 Chicken Artichoke Spinach Pepperoni Pizza

I hate things going to waste.  I also hate opening up the fridge and seeing small containers of mismatched leftovers.  It’s annoying.  A few days ago I made Spinach Artichoke dip for people hanging around the house.  It was a huge hit but I had about a cup of it leftover.  I also made some quick rise rolls in my cast iron skillet (I’ve loved making these fast rolls) but since the skillet only holds twelve rolls, I have dough left over.  I also had ONE piece of grilled chicken left over.  It was time to clean out all this stuff and make one dish.  I am also a big fan of Danny’s Kitchen, a great blog.  A few months ago Danny started a contest called The Great Leftover Challenge.  I participated in that first challenge and had a lot of fun.  Danny has thrown down the gauntlet again for The Great Leftover Challenge #2.  So….since I’m throwing stuff together anyway, I thought I’d enter the challenge.  Judging by how quickly the pizza got eaten, I’d say it was a hit.

I did pre-heat my oven to 500 degrees with my pizza stone in it.  This made the surface really hot and I think helped the crust develop really nicely.  I have other great recipes for pizza crust but this “leftover” dough made a pretty darn good showing!

Lay dough on preheated stone and spread spinach artichoke dip on top
Add grilled chicken, pepperoni and cheeses
Bake for 8-10 minutes and serve

Chicken Artichoke Spinach Pepperoni Pizza

Quick Rise Rolls (half recipe)

Any leftover grilled or pre-cooked chicken

1 cup Spinach Artichoke Dip (I’ll post the recipe for this soon)

1/3 cup Parmesan Cheese

1/3 cup cheddar cheese

Pepperoni

Preheat oven to 500°F with Pizza Stone in it (or if you’re using a metal pan, heat that as well).  Roll out the dough and carefully lay it on the preheated pizza stone.  Spread spinach artichoke dip evenly over the dough.  Sprinkle the chicken and pepperoni and finish off with cheese on top.  Place back in oven and turn heat down to 450°F.  Cook for approximately 8-10 minutes until crust is brown and cheese is bubbly.

On giving birth and birthday cakes…

I remember it clearly, even though it was 19 years ago, the immediate cessation of pain at 6:29 a.m.  Suddenly someone else was crying  with some gusto in the room besides me!  I have been blessed to have two amazing kids.  A boy AND a girl!  Onjoli came along on Father’s day morning, June 20th,  looking surprised and a little ticked off.  She still has that look on any given 6:29 a.m.

Raising kids, especially a daughter has been an adventure.  All through Kindergarten, Onjoli insisted on wearing a crown to school…EVERYDAY.  The teacher would not let her bring the matching wand for safety reasons (who knows who could get whacked in the head?).  That pink bejeweled plastic crown will always have a special place in my heart.  After all, if you are a princess you should have the crown to go with it.  Over the years, I’ve made my share of birthday cakes.  The Barbie with the giant skirt cake, Pokemon, a myriad of Disney characters and unusual requests like the giant chocolate chip cookie pizza with candied toppings. Parties have changed from the chaos of a million kids running around to brunches at fancy restaurants.   Each year the tastes and palates of both my kids have developed and become more sophisticated.  This year, Onjoli wanted Carrot Cake cupcakes with “really good frosting”.  I tried to deliver.  After all, I don’t know how many more years I will have the privilege of making birthday cakes.  I will always be a mom even as the quality of our relationship changes and becomes richer and deeper over the years.  Even as I look back with nostalgia on the little girl I once had, I am ever so proud of the young woman I see before me.  I am one blessed woman and mom!

Last summer while visiting India
I think she’s pretty dang gorgeous!
Mix all the ingredients for the cake together except for the nuts
Pour into lined cup cake pan -this way you can do some with nuts and some without
While cupcakes are in the oven peel one carrot into long strips
Boil in syrup and let it air dry to make caramelized candied carrots
Carrot cake with cream and goat cheese frosting and candied carrots
Nom Nom

Carrot Cake Cupcakes with Cream & Goat Cheese Frosting and Candied Carrots

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour

2 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

1 cup oil

1/2 cup Greek yogurt

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp cardamom powder

2 cups shredded carrots

4 eggs

1  3/4 cups sugar

1 cup pecans (optional)

Frosting

8 oz Neufchatel Cheese, room temperature

4 oz fresh Chevre (goat cheese), room temperature

1/2 tsp cinnamon

3 cups powdered sugar

Candied Carrots

1 medium carrot, peeled into strips

3/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup water

Pre-heat oven to 350° F. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or if you’re using a hand held mixer, just use a big bowl) place all the ingredients of the cake except for the nuts and mix at low speed until blended.  Increase speed and mix for 2 minutes until light and airy.  Mix in the nuts by hand.  I usually scoop out 6 cupcakes without nuts (due to some nut allergies in the family) and then add the nuts to the rest of the batter.  Line cup cake pan with liners and fill 3/4 full using an ice cream scooper.  Bake for 25 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.  Cool on wire racks.

To make the candied carrots:

Peel one carrot into long thin strips.  In a small sauce pan heat sugar and water until boiling and add the carrots.  Simmer for about 6-8 minutes.  Take out the strips using a fork or a chopstick and place on some wax paper to cool.  Separate them out as you take it out of the syrup so they will not dry out in a large candied clump.  Set aside

To make the frosting:

Using a hand mixer or stand mixer with a paddle attachment.  Mix all frosting ingredients together until smooth.  Place in a piping bag with a star tip or in a plastic storage bag with the corner cut off and frost the cupcakes.  Top each cupcake with a piece or two of the candied carrots.  Makes 24 cup cakes

Brown Rice and Red Lentils with Raisins and Curry Leaves

I’ve never put together this particular combination together before.  I was adding spices as I went along. The combination of the brown rice and red lentils  go pretty well together because they cook for the same amount of time.  The red lentils almost disappear, adding a richness to the texture of the rice. It had a nutty flavor from the rice and a touch of sweetness from the raisins that goes really well with the cardamom flavors.  A great rice dish that goes with so many proteins like pork chops, gola kabobs (that’s how we ate them) and as a light meal by itself.

Brown rice and red lentils
Saute onion with curry leaves, cardamoms and cumin seeds
Add in raisins

Add rice and lentils

Serve with Gola Kabobs