banana oatmeal nutella pancakes

Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of “in the larger scheme of things…” thinking.  Here at astronomy camp, we’ve been talking a lot about big things, like black holes, supernovae, and ominous things like “dark matter” and “dark energy.”

Thinking “in the larger scheme of things” can make me feel small and insignificant.  I am smaller than a dustbunny of a dustbunny of a dustbunny in our solar system, which is one of many in the Milky Way Galaxy, which is one of billions of billions of galaxies in a universe that is constantly expanding.  We are living on the periphery of a very average galaxy, orbiting a very average star… puts my seething rage toward the dude who took my java chip frappuccino at Starbucks yesterday into perspective.

That’s the thing…if I’m so incredibly small, do things really matter?

The universe isn’t going to care if I smiled at you on the Metro.  Space aliens will never find out if I replaced the toilet paper roll.  Mars wouldn’t know if I wrote you a handwritten letter or a sloppy Facebook message.  The black hole at the center of our galaxy definitely doesn’t give a damn whether I washed my hair this morning (thank god).

I guess this is one way of looking at things, “in the larger scheme.” But the other geeky way of looking at our place in the universe is that every action has a reaction.  Every shake and rattle sets off another and another.  In this scenario, the little things do matter.Although the former way of thinking about it is tempting (and gives me an excuse not to wash my hair so often), I’m pretty convinced that the latter is better.

Think about flipping pancakes. The trick to making good pancakes is to wait until you see little bubbles form around the edges of the pancake. These super tiny bubbles signify that the pancake is “flippable.”

These bubbles are smaller than my pinky fingernail.  In the “larger scheme of things” they are  practically invisible. However, that little bubble makes the difference between a big, shriveled, goopy mess of pancake batter and a glorious, fluffy stack of pancakes. The difference between a grouchy, hungry morning spent washing batter off my black yoga pants, or leisurely watching pools of butter melt atop fresh flapjacks while sipping a mug of coffee.
With love,
Erica

 

Banana Oatmeal Nutella Pancakes

Servings 4

Ingredients

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup quick oats
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 banana mashed
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 Tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup Nutella

Instructions

  1. Stir together all of the ingredients except for the Nutella in a large bowl until well combined.  Gently swirl in the Nutella.

  2. Spoon the batter into a hot skillet over medium heat.  Cook each pancake until the batter starts to bubble at the edges, flip and cook until golden brown.  Continue cooking remaining pancakes. 

  3. Enjoy with butter and maple syrup! (and perhaps some more Nutella!)

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fried banana bread bites

At this time of year, bunnies are supposed to popping out of flower beds left and right, and baby chicks are supposed to be hatching from Easter eggs.

So far I’ve seen none of these things happening… I guess they just don’t happen when you live in the city.

Nonetheless, bunnies and baby chicks are all symbols of rebirth and new beginnings. I’ve definitely had some of my own new beginnings this Spring.

For one thing, I can’t sit still.  I feel this intangible energy pulsing through the air, and this fire in my throat that definitely wasn’t there in December. It’s hard to describe, but I feel like life right now is the opening scene of a movie, where there’s just a bunch of dew and morning dust floating around and it’s unclear what the movie is even about.

I am slowly getting the hang of my hostessing job.  No longer am I the girl who looks like a deer in headlights, awkwardly racking my brain for something to say as I guide people to their tables.  Some one even laughed at one of my corny jokes yesterday when they sat them at a table (I know… what?!).

I have come to terms with the mess in my room.  I now accept the fact that there will eternally be dresses and shoes and mismatched socks strewn about the floor, and I’m actually more comfortable that way than in a spick and span room.

I’ve learned how to properly apply self-tanner without looking like I have strange bruises everywhere (hello white shorts).

These are little changes, but I can say with confidence that I feel at peace.

Another new thing is that I have come to terms with deep-frying.  It doesn’t freak me out as much as it used to.  However, I still wear Speedo swimming goggles while deep frying so oil doesn’t spurt into my eyes (super dorky, yes. but would oil make me go blind? probably).  Thank goodness I conquered my fear so that I could bring you all these majestic fried banana bread bites.

With love,
Erica

Fried Banana Bread Bites

A wonderful way to jazz up an old loaf of banana bread... deep fry it!

Keyword appetizer, banana bread, dessert, fried
Servings 8

Ingredients

  • 1 loaf of banana bread
  • oil for deep frying
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon

Instructions

  1. Cut the banana bread into 1 inch cubes.
  2. Preheat the oil in a heavy metal pot to 350 degrees fahrenheit.
  3. While the oil is heating up, stir together the sugar and cinnamon.
  4. Drop small batches of the banana bread cubes into the hot oil, fry for 3 minutes until golden brown.
  5. Immediately roll the fried cubes in the sugar mixture, and place on a paper towel.
  6. Repeat until you've fried all of the banana bread.

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banana nutella eggrolls

Surprises can be sweet.  I’ve talked a bit about surprises before — about how I’m kind of in the middle, loving to surprise other people but enjoy being “in the know” myself.

I realized that the reason I had this outlook was because I had never really, truly been
surprised before. When I was little, I would always plan my little
birthday parties down to the napkins.  I peeked behind the teacher’s
desk on the last day of 2nd grade, so I knew that she had bought us all
popsicles for the last day of school.  And, as I told you before, I have
a different ringtone for all of my contacts so I know who’s calling me
before I pick up the phone.
 

Well, it’s that time of year again — prom season.  After Spring break, I look forward for my entire school going on hold for all of the brief interruptions that break up the otherwise monotonous day.

For a girl with a limited attention span, having marshmallows, posters, and an ever-growing number of rose petals
littering the floor of the forum is a wonderful thing.  A Cappella groups bursting into song in the middle of a math quiz? Yes.  Boys flying in the air holding prom posters? Double yes.

A lot has changed since my mom was in high school.  Most boys don’t just call a girl up and ask her to prom like they used to.  It has grown into a big production, and as the years go by it gets harder and harder to think of something that hasn’t been done before.  Some boys will even go so far as to wear gold sparkly booty shorts and twerk on their high school crush until she says yes.   For those of you who need a refresher on what “twerking” is, look no further than the link above.

Anyways, I’m somewhat glad that I’m not a boy who has to worry about thinking of something clever, funny, entertaining, and original every year. 

Sometimes, it’s nice to let yourself be surprised.  Which brings me to this recipe.  Banana Nutella Eggrolls.  Deep-fried Asian cuisine on the outside, and sweet, classic crepe fillings on the inside.  You think you’re in for some shredded cabbage, pork, and eggs (classic egg roll fillings), but then BAM, you bite through the crunchy deep-fried crust to discover nothing but caramelized banana covered with oozing, melty Nutella.  Mindblown.  This is what happens when I’m at home alone for too long with leftover wonton wrappers.  Maybe that should happen more often.

With love,
Erica

Ingredients 

1 package refrigerated spring roll/egg roll wrappers
6 bananas, halved
1 cup Nutella
Oil for frying
Slice all of the bananas in half.

Lay out a wonton wrapper like a diamond.  Spread a spoonful of Nutella lengthwise (see image).  Place a banana half on top.  Roll burrito-style.  Seal with water. 

Heat 2″ of oil to 375 degrees and place about 3 egg rolls into
the oil at a time, cooking for about 2 minutes or until they are nice
and golden.
Carefully, use tongs or a slotted spoon to remove the egg rolls from the oil. Drain on a paper towel-lined plate.  Dust with powdered sugar.  Serve warm with ice
cream!

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julia’s banana bread

I just woke up from one of the best dreams I’ve ever had.  At the moment, I am sitting on Amtrak — rolling through miles of factory towns and burnt out buildings on my way to New York City.  As much as I love the city that never sleeps, I seriously needed some sleep. Thank the Lord it’s spring break and I can finally log out of my school e-mail account, hang up my backpack, and get some serious shut eye.  About an hour ago, the bumpiness of the train lulled me to sleep, and I was transported far, far away from the hustle and bustle of the city…

It’s a bit of a pet peeve of mine when people tell me about their dreams.  Not their dreams as in aspirations, but their nonsensical, rambling, nighttime dreams about purple cows and police chases.  Please forgive me, but I need to share this awesome dream with you guys.  It’s nothing crazy or complicated  — just a small tree house, a winding road, and some really good banana bread.

I had my noise cancelling headphones on, listening to Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s soothing voice and soon, I drifted off into the sunny beaches of Hawaii…

My mind wandered to an article about banana bread that I had read about in Bon Appetit a while back.  I dreamed that I was in an old, rickety Jeep, driving on a one-lane road along the shoreline.  I drove for about 20 miles, and although I’m usually pretty impatient, the drive didn’t bother me one bit. With a view like that, I really couldn’t complain.  Finally, I drove up to a treacherous twist in the path, and I saw a quirky, lime-green tree house perched among the shady palm trees.  The weather was warm and beautiful, and the kind, old woman behind the counter’s smile was even warmer and more beautiful.  I walked up to the counter and she handed me a warm slice of banana bread.  The end.

When I made Julia’s famous banana bread for myself, it was like something out of a dream.  I don’t know how to describe it — just trust the thousands of people who swear that it’s the best on the planet.  The recipe is perplexingly simple —  bananas, oil, and flour.  But there’s something very unique about it — a special island touch if you will.  It has significantly more
speckles and freckles than any other banana bread I’ve ever made — just like the freckles we all get at the beach.

One day, my dream will come true and I will actually make the trek up to Julia’s banana bread stand.  But for now, I’ll just cut myself another slice (or three) when I get home.

With love,
Erica

Ingredients

Nonstick vegetable oil spray



1 3/4
cup
all-purpose flour



1 1/2
teaspoons
baking soda



3/4
teaspoon
kosher salt



3

large eggs



1 1/2
cups
sugar



1
cup
mashed ripe bananas (about 2 large)



3/4
cup
vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 350°. Coat a
9x5x3-inch loaf pan with nonstick spray. Whisk flour, baking soda, and
salt in a medium bowl. Whisk eggs, sugar, bananas, and oil in a large
bowl until smooth. Add dry ingredients to banana mixture and stir just
until combined. Scrape batter into prepared pan and smooth top.


Bake until a tester inserted
into the center of bread comes out clean, 60-70 minutes. Transfer to a
wire rack; let bread cool in pan for 15 minutes. Run a knife around
inside of pan to release the bread. Turn out onto rack and let cool
completely.


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recipe showdown: healthy banana bread

This sh!t is bananas, B-A-N-A-N-A-S.  Thank you Gwen Stefani.

Whenever I hear Gwen, I am instantly transported back to 4th grade when I went to a very strict religious school.  I still vividly remember the first day of school — I got dressed in my rumpled white chapel dress, and penny loafers.  When I saw the huge chapel on that cloudy morning, all I could say was “this looks just like Harry Potter.”  While sitting in the pews, I turned to the girl next to me and asked jokingly, “when will we get sorted” in a little British accent.  I don’t think the girl appreciated my humor. 🙁

That was a tough year for me — no nail polish, no boys, and tons of homework.  One of the only things that got me through that year was a jazz dance class that I took on Friday nights.  I got to wear my bedazzled gaucho pants and dance to Gwen Stefani and the Black Eyed Peas.  Afterwards, my mom would take me to Quiznos and I would get a toasted sub with salami and pepperoni — nothing else.  Those Friday nights were the moments of joy that got me through an otherwise difficult year.

Now, whenever I hear Gwen, it takes me back to those happy Friday nights.  It always amazes me how powerful music can be to transport me back to different times. 

Whenever I hear “Ho Hey” by the Lumineers, I am transported to the back seat of the white van that I rode around Santa Fe in this past summer on my community service trip.  When I hear “Everyday” by Buddy Holly, I am sitting in the car seat of my dad’s old green Honda, which I used to call the “pickle car.”  Thanks to these songs and artists, these memories will always be a click away on my iPod.

Now to the banana bread.  I love a super moist, cake-like banana breads as much as the next girl (especially when they’re full of toffee bits ), but at 8 A.M, I don’t want to be too naughty… at least on a weekday ;).  The web is overflowing with healthy banana bread recipes — full of applesauce, whole wheat flour, and even flax and chia seeds!  I was intrigued. Could they be as yummy as my banoffee bread? Sounds like a recipe showdown. 

Just F.Y.I, these are all “normal” healthy banana breads. I.e. you don’t need to run to the heath food store in search of spelt Flour or Agar gel — these are just classic banana breads lightened up. 

The overall favorite was the banana bread from Just Everyday Me
it had the most bananas of the three recipes, which gave it a really
rich banana flavor.  Also, the addition of whole wheat flour adds a nice
dark depth to this loaf.  It would give even the most decadent loaf a run for its money — plus it’s kind of good for you, so you can have an extra slice (or two).

With love,
Erica

Description
This recipe boasts 286 five star ratings on All
Recipes.  It uses applesauce, nonfat
milk, and a tablespoon of vegetable oil instead of butter, and only has 2/3
cup sugar.  There are 178 calories per
slice.
This recipe has received great reviews all over the
internet.  It uses ¼ cup butter and 1/3
cup lowfat yogurt.  There are 187
calories per slice.
This recipe uses ¼ cup butter, ¼ cup apple sauce, and a
few spoonfuls of sour cream. It also incorporates whole wheat flour into the
white flour for added health benefits. 
There are about 190 calories per slice
Tasters’ notes
Good
Banana-y
Too much vanilla!
Gummy
Bland
Sweet
Banana-y
No strange aftertaste

From Just Everyday Me

Ingredients:

1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar (not packed)
4 tablespoons butter, softened
1/4 cup unsweetened apple sauce
1 egg
4 tablespoons reduced-fat sour cream
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat white flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 whole over-ripe bananas, blended so that they’re liquid

Cream togetherthe first 6 ingredients.
Slowly add the flours and then the baking soda and salt. Add the blended bananas.
Put in a greased bread loaf pan and bake at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes.
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banana split cupcakes

Aren’t these cute!?

At my track meet on Friday, I couldn’t stop showing everyone the grainy pictures of these banana split cupcakes on my iPhone. 

“Hey, look what I made!”
“You can’t see it in the picture, but they’re filled with banana pudding — pretty fancy, huh?”
“Those are real maraschino cherries… in case you were wondering.”

… sorry to my track team for being so annoying.  But hey, they should put up with my baking bragging, because I provided two trays of my butterscotch blondies at the meet.  Sorry, not sorry. 😉

Anyways, since I’ve already told my track team about them, let me tell you why these cupcakes are awesome.

1) Banana splits are arguably more American than apple pie.  They’re also retro, funky, and remind me of fun, colorful diners and jukeboxes.

2) Sometimes, it’s too cold for ice cream (ahem, it was around 20 degrees yesterday).  These cupcakes are a warmer twist on a classic cold favorite.

3) The recipe is multi-step, hands-on, and slightly fussy.

Reason #3 may surprise some of you, but personally, I love fussy recipes.  The ones that have multiple steps and multiple flavors.

While making these cupcakes, I loved getting lost in the process of coring each cupcake, carefully filling each one with banana pudding and decadently frosting each one with layers of rich buttercream.  I relished meticulously coating each one with a seamless layer of nonpareils and carefully placing a glossy maraschino cherry atop yet another swirl of buttercream.  I get such a rush from putting my heart and soul into a recipe.  I even made a midnight run to the grocery store to buy more nonpareils and maraschino cherries. (Shout out to mom for taking me there at 11:30 on a school night! You rock!).

These would be perfect for a summer potluck or for a cloudy Tuesday in January when I’m missing the carefree flavors of summer.

Do you like fussy recipes?
With love,
Erica

Banana Cupcakes
Adapted from The Food Network 

Ingredients

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
1 stick butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup sour cream
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 large ripe bananas, peeled and mashed

Preheat the oven to 350 F.  Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper cupcake liners.
In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
In a large bowl, beat the butter and granulated sugar.  Add the sour cream and vanilla. Slowly beat in the eggs, one at a time. Incorporate the dry mixture and wet mixture together until thoroughly combined. Add the bananas and mix until just combined.
Using an ice cream scoop, fill each cupcake liner three-quarters of the way full. Bake in the oven until the tops turn golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cupcake comes out clean, 18 to 20 minutes. Remove the cupcakes from the oven and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.

Chocolate Glaze
Adapted from Bakers Royale

Ingredients
2/3 cups dark chocolate
2 tablespoons heavy cream

4 tablespoons powdered sugar, sifted
5-8 tablespoons water, warm
Place chocolate and heavy cream in a bowl over simmering water. Let chocolate and cream sit for 2-3 minutes to melt without stirring. Then slowly stir mixture to combine. Add powdered sugar and mix to combine. Add water one tablespoon at a time, mixing after each addition until pouring consistency is reached. Set aside and let sauce cool to warm.

Vanilla Buttercream

Ingredients
3 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 to 2 tablespoons milk
In a standing mixer fitted with a whisk, mix together sugar and butter. Mix on low speed until well blended and then increase speed to medium and beat for another 3 minutes. Add vanilla and milk and continue to beat on medium speed for 1 minute more, adding more milk if needed for spreading consistency.

To Assemble Cupcakes:

Additional Ingredients
One package Instant Banana Pudding
Nonpareils
maraschino cherries

Prepare pudding according to the directions on the package.  Core each cupcake with either an apple corer or the large end of a cupcake tip.  Fill each cupcake with banana pudding.
Fill a pastry bag fitted with a large round tip with vanilla buttercream and start piping from the outside working in to the center to create one even layer. Freeze cupcakes for 20 minutes (so the frosting won’t melt when dipped in the warm glaze.  Dip each cupcake in warm chocolate glaze. Rim generously with nonpareils.  Return cupcakes to freezer for five minutes so that the glaze can  set. Remove from freezer and finish piping frosting on top and garnish with a Maraschino cherry.

 
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