July 2009

Black-Bottom Banana Cheesecake Bars

This morning I came across an article that caught my eye as I logged in to check my email…When a Deal Isn’t Really a Deal, which I thought was very appropriate for this post.

I love how Ricky described it in The Sublease episode of I Love Lucy: “They’re trying to make us look at this thin’ through a sweater.” Which Lucy kindly translated: “Oooooh! You mean they’re are trying to pull the wool over our eyes”.

Well, within the article there was also a reference to a study Costco Customers are Irrational.

Now, let me tie this in…

1. In my personal experience I’ve found that Cake Mix sales at the grocery store are usually pretty good deals. I’ve been known to walk out with “massive amounts” of them at a time.

2. Bulk fruit can be a good deal only if you are sure you will be able to consume it all, before it has to be thrown out.

So what do you do when you have massive amounts of cake mix sitting in your pantry, and no one has seemed to pay any attention to all those bananas you bought over the weekend? Easy… you make this yummy, supper easy dessert.

Black-bottom Banana Cheesecake Bars

Black-bottom Banana Cheesecake Bars
adapted from Cake Mix Cookies by Camila V. Saulsbury

1 18.25 ounce package devil’s food cake mix
3 8oz packages cream cheese, softened
3 large eggs
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup mashed ripe banana, about 2 large bananas
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon maple extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (or 325 degrees F for dark-coated metal pan).

Spray the bottom only of a 13 x 9 inch metal baking pan with nonstick cooking spray.

In a large bowl place the cake mix, 4 ounces of the softened cream cheese, 1 egg and the melted butter.

Blend with an electric mixer on low speed for 2 minutes until well blended. Stir in the chocolate chips. Press the mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan, and bake for 15 minutes.

While the crust bakes, in a medium bowl place the remaining cream cheese, mashed banana, 1 cup powdered sugar, the vanilla and maple extracts. Blend for 2 minutes with the electric mixer set on medium speed until blended and smooth. Add the remaining 2 eggs, one at a time being careful not to over mix.

Spread the cream cheese mixture evenly over the chocolate crust.

Bake for 25-28 minutes or until just set. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and cool completely. Refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving, I prefer to keep it in the fridge overnight.

Black-bottom Banana Cheesecake Bars

C’est Magnifique!

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Lemon Meringue Pie cupcakes

Ahhh… the inspiration.

During a recent trip to my local Trader Joe’s, while strolling down the aisles I came across the preserves section and there, on the very bottom shelf I saw a little jar of lemon curd.

I had no idea what I was going to make with it but I just had to buy it. (Yeah, I have that problem… )

Well, after much careful research and analysis I came to the conclusion that the best implementation of said lemon curd would be in the following…

Lemon Meringue Pie CupcakesLemon Meringue Pie CupcakesLemon Meringue Pie Cupcakes

Lemon Meringue Pie Cupcakes
Serves: 12
Lemon Cupcakes
  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon zest (from approx. 2 large lemons)
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup whole milk, room temperature
  • 1 jar lemon curd
Italian Meringue
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • ⅓ cup cool water
  • 6 large egg whites
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 2 cups granulated sugar, divided
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon salt
Lemon Cupcakes
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a 12-cupcake tin with cupcake liners.
  2. Sift together cake flour, all purpose flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl.
  3. In a large bowl, cream butter, sugar and lemon zest until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in egg thoroughly, followed by vanilla. Alternate milk and flour in three additions, ending with flour. Evenly distribute in prepared pan.
  4. Bake for 18-20 minutes, until a tester comes out clean and the cake springs back when lightly pressed. Remove to a wire rack to cool.
  5. Once the cupcakes have cooled, fill a metal-tipped pastry bag with the lemon curd and pipe into cupcakes. Poke the tip of the pasty bag about ½-1 inch into the top of each cupcake and squeeze about 2 tsp lemon curd into it.
Italian Meringue
  1. Add ⅓ cup of water and the cornstarch to a small saucepan, place it over medium heat and stir with a whisk steadily until think and cloudy. Set aside.
  2. In a mixer with whisk attachment, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar until soft peaks form when the beater is lifted. Add in ¼ cup of sugar and continue to beat
  3. In a heavy saucepan, stir together the remaining 1¾ cups of sugar, the corn syrup, and ½ cup of water. Bring to a boil, and rinse down the sides of the pan with water on a pastry brush. Attach a candy thermometer to the saucepan, and continue to boil the syrup until it reaches 248 degrees F (hard-ball stage).
  4. Continue beating the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Ideally, have the whites stiff when the syrup reaches 248 degrees F. Rinse a 2-cup heat proof glass measuring cup with a spout with the hottest tap water and dry well.
  5. When the syrup reaches the hard-ball stage, carefully pour the syrup into the glass cup. Drizzle the hot sugar syrup into the meringue while beating on medium speed.
  6. Try to avoid drizzling the syrup on the beaters or the sides of the bowl. The meringue will swell dramatically and fill the whole bowl.
  7. Beat until the meringue has cooled, about 10 to 13 minutes. Beat in the vanilla and salt, then beat in a bout 3 tablespoons of the reserve cornstarch paste, 1 tablespoon at a time.
  8. Spread the meringue on the cupcakes, and with a fork lightly tap and lift to form peaks.
  9. I browned mine with a blowtorch, but you can also place the cupcakes on a baking sheet under the broiler for about 3 minutes until lightly browned.


Lemon Meringue Pie Cupcakes

Che bello!


Lemon Meringue Pie Cupcakes


S'mores Brownies

Graham Crackers

Mmmmm… graham crackers.


We’ll throw in a couple of diced (cut up) marshmallows for good mesure.

S'mores Brownies

Ready for the oven.

S’mores Brownies

inspired from Joy The Baker
adapted from Bon Appetit, October 1991

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
5 large eggs
1 1/4 cups dark brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup graham crackers, roughly crushed
12 large marshmallows, whole (To top brownie)
6 large marshmallows, diced (To add to the batter)

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Butter 9×13-inch baking pan with 2-inch-high sides.

Combine first 3 ingredients in small bowl.

Stir butter and chocolate in a medium sized bowl over a heavy saucepan of simmering water. Stir chocolate and butter in this double boiler until melted and smooth.

Beat eggs, sugar and vanilla in large bowl to blend. Stir in warm chocolate mixture, then dry ingredients. Fold in graham crackers. Pour batter into prepared pan. Dot with 12 large marshmallows. Bake until toothpick inserted into center comes out with moist crumbs attached, about 30- 40 minutes minutes.

Marshmallows will be browned and puffy but will deflate as the brownies cool. Cool for at least 20 minutes than slice with a sharp knife, cleaning the knife with hot water if it gets too messy and sticky.

S'mores Brownies

Best eaten warm, with a BIG scoop of vanilla ice cream

More s’mores… More s’mores!


Vanilla Walnut Scones

Fear not the heat!

Yes, I know this recipe involves turning the oven on… and it’s summer time, and… at least where I live (Southern California) it has been pretty toasty.

However, what better time to bake than early in the morning while it’s still somewhat cool outside?

So, put that bowl of cold cereal down. Instead, pour yourself a cup of coffee or tea, open your windows, let some cool fresh air in, (I know… that’s debatable), and get ready to enjoy some yummy freshly baked vanilla walnut scones, protein packed, and ready in a flash!

Vanilla Walnut Scones

Yummy, crunchy, toasty, protein packed, brain food goodness…

Vanilla Walnut Scones

Aren’t they little troopers…

Vanilla Walnut Scones

Vanilla Walnut Scones

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup unsalted butter, diced
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream + little extra for brushing
1 egg
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon maple extract
1 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

In a bowl whisk together, the flour, baking powder, and salt making sure they are well combined.

Using a pastry blender cut the butter into the dry ingredients until you have you have a fine crumb texture.

Add the remaining ingredients into the bowl and stir until the dough comes together. Roll the dough into the shape of a disc about 8-9 inches in diameter, then slice it into 8 wedges.

Place the wedges onto the lined cookie sheet, lightly brush the scones with the extra heavy cream and sprinkle the tops liberally with sugar. (I used granulated sugar, for this recipe but in retrospect… I think turbinado sugar would have been the way to go, I’ll have to give it next time.)

Bake about 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Serve them warm or let them cool on a wire rack and store.

Vanilla Walnut Scones
Vanilla Walnut Scones

Did I mention they are supper yummy?


Strawberry Gelato

The conditions were just right… a blazing hot day, a craving for a cool treat, and some strawberries in need for attention.

What do you get? Well, strawberry gelato of course!

This was my very first attempt at making gelato. And, as it turns out my impatience got the best of me. I should have let the custard chill a bit longer before adding it to the ice cream maker in order to prevent bigger ice crystals from forming, and yielding a much creamier texture.


Pick me! Pick me! Pick me!

Strawberry Gelato

adapted from Great Chicago Italian Recipes

3 cups whole milk
3/4 cup granulated sugar
6 egg yolks beaten
1 1/2 cups of chopped strawberries
1 teaspoon of lime juice

In a food processor blend the chopped strawberries until smooth while processing add the lime juice and set aside.

Pour 1 1/2 cups of milk, sugar and egg yolks in a large saucepan. Place the saucepan over very low heat stir with a wooden spoon until the mixture thickens being careful not to over cook the eggs.

Remove from heat and whisk in the strawberry puree, then slowly add the remaining 1 1/2 cups of milk. Place the the mixture in a bowl over an ice bath until completely chilled occasionally stiring it.

Once chilled pour it into an ice cream maker following the manufacturer’s instructions. When ready place the gelato in a container and freeze until firm.

Strawberry Gelato

Strawberry base chillin’ in an ice bath…

Strawberry Gelato

So there you have it, a cool summer treat…