Super moist banana muffin smothered with a sweet and crunchy walnut crumble topping.
Trust me, after you try my banana muffins, you won’t need any other recipe. They’re so moist, you don’t even need a glass of milk to wash it down.
I’ve been using this recipe for decades. Geez. That makes me feel so old when I can use decades as a measuring stick. It came from an old long lost bread book that I used when I was in college, so it’s actually a recipe for banana bread. But, the batter is so fluffy that it makes great muffins, too. And along the way, I’ve made some changes like adding the walnut crumble. You can also nix the crumble and add chopped walnuts to the batter, if you please. So, go ahead and use this recipe either way…sliced bread or yummy muffins.
One thing to remember when you’re making banana muffins or bread. Use really ripe bananas, please! You want them to be speckled with brown spots. That’s when you’ll get the most banana flavor. Do not use them if they’re green on the ends. Be patient and wait for the speckles.
The muffins in the photos are medium sized, so that’s what the recipe is timed for. But I’ve also made really big muffins…the kind you buy at Starbucks or the gas station. So, whether you use a regular cupcake tin, or you make the jumbos, adjust your time accordingly.
Most banana breads or muffins are dark. That’s what happens when you use bananas in baking. But when you bite into these, you’ll notice that they’re light in color. That’s because of the lemon juice in the recipe. It keeps the bananas from turning brown.
Makes 18 to 24
1 cup chopped walnuts
¾ cup flour
1 cup sugar
2 cups mashed, ripe bananas (about 4-6)
2 T lemon juice
¾ cup shortening
1½ cups sugar
¾ cup milk
3½ cups flour
3 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
Combine ingredients for the crumble and set aside.
Mash the bananas with a potato masher until smooth. Add lemon juice. Blend and set aside.
Cream shortening and sugar with electric mixer at medium speed. Add eggs and beat until very light and fluffy, about 4 minutes.
Combine the dry ingredients and add to the mixture alternately with the milk, blending well after each addition. Fold in the bananas by hand.
Fill medium size muffin cups about 2/3 full. Sprinkle with walnut crumble. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick tester comes out clean. For regular cupcake size muffins, reduce bake time.
Note: This will also make 2 8X4-inch loaves of bread. Bake at 350 degrees for 50 to 60 minutes. Test with toothpick. Cool 10 minutes before removing from pan. Best if wrapped and stored overnight before slicing.
Recipe by Pearl
Chilled shrimp wrapped in sweet snow peas and drizzled with a tangy miso dressing.
It’s snowing in my garden! With a bounty of snow peas, that is. I planted a lot of vines this year and our long cool spring blessed me with drifts of sweet snow peas.
Refreshing in salads and a guarantee winner in stir fry…my favorite way to use them along with some shrimp and water chestnuts…sweet snow peas are quite versatile. It’s kind of hot to have ramen for a summer’s night dinner, but lightly blanched and served on top of the noodles, its sweetness pairs well with the saltiness of the broth, too.
But we’re all about bites, so I wanted to do some kind of appetizer with it. Shrimp is such a great partner for snow peas, so I think you’ll like my Pea Wrapped Shrimp with Miso Drizzle. I’ve got a lot of great flavors playing off each other. The sweetness of the snow peas and sweet succulent flavor of the chilled shrimp are nicely balanced with the acidity of some lemon juice in the nutty miso paste. Kind of an Asian fusion dish.
Note: Miso has a strong flavor, but if you want more than a drizzle, you can make a little more and serve it on the side as shown in the picture here.
One thing you might notice in the picture is that my shrimp is straight. Shrimp naturally curls into a round when you cook it. But, you don’t want that because you wouldn’t be able to wrap a snow pea around it. The trick? Use a toothpick inserted into the raw shrimp before boiling it. Then pull the toothpick out while it’s cooling down. Straight shrimp!
In a couple of weeks, I’m going to a friend’s barbecue and she asked me to bring an appie. I might have to take this one, especially because it’s so easy, looks so pretty, and I can make it way ahead of time and fridge it.
So, while snow peas are around in the market, take advantage of this delightful veggie.
18 snow peas
18 toothpicks for cooking
18 toothpicks or fancy picks for serving
2 T white miso
4 tsp. lemon juice
1½ tsp. sugar
2 tsp. mayo
Insert toothpicks into the raw shrimp lengthwise, leaving the ends showing, so you can pull them out later. Bring water to a boil in a saucepan and add shrimp. Cook just until the shrimp turn pink, a couple of minutes. Drain and set aside. When the shrimp is cool enough to handle, remove the toothpicks.
Note: It’s harder to pull out the toothpicks when the shrimp becomes cold.
Bring water to a boil in a saucepan and add the snow peas. Blanch for only a minute. You want them crunchy, not cooked. Drain and immerse the peas in cold water to stop the cooking.
Wrap a snow pea around each shrimp, secure with a toothpick or fancy pick and line them up on your server. Chill in fridge.
Combine the white miso, lemon juice, sugar and mayo. Drizzle over the shrimp when ready to serve. You can garnish with black sesame seeds for some contrast and nutty flavor.
Recipe by Pearl
Baked upside down, the apricot and peach filling gets rich and caramelized,
while the puff pastry crust stays light and crunchy.
Apricots are one of my favorite fruits. I love to eat them fresh, dried, cooked with meats, on the barbecue, in sauces, in jams, and of course in desserts. So, when I saw them on sale for 98 cents a pound, I just had to buy a sack of them because as I told you many posts ago, Kerry chopped down our apricot trees that were dying of old age. I still mourn that loss each season when I look out at our empty field dotted with stumps.
I made some pineapple apricot jam, which turned out really scrummy, so while I was on a roll, making a dessert came next. I was going to make some apricot tarts, but noticed I had some leftover canned peaches in the fridge from the night before when I made a chicken dish that called for it. Not wanting it to go to waste, I thought it would be a good combination with the apricots. So, why not make Apricot Peach Tartlets? As you can see, they turned out pretty good and tasted delish.
I used regular dried apricots, because of its dense flavor and because they don’t turn to mush when you bake or cook with them. By regular, I mean not those whole Turkish dried apricots. There's a big difference in taste and texture. Also, using the canned peaches is the perfect way to rehydrate the apricots and add some rich flavor. Baking the tarts like an upside down cake also helps to keep the puff pastry crispy, and it makes the fruit caramelize and get all gooey and thick.
About 2 cups canned peaches, drained and chopped
4 T honey
1 cup rough chopped dried apricots
¼ tsp. cinnamon
4 T brown sugar
1 T butter
2 sections of one sheet of puff pastry
about 2 T of chopped pecans
Combine everything in a pot and simmer about 10 to 15 minutes until thick. Butter or spray a regular size cupcake tin. Divide the fruit into 10 openings.
Puff pastry comes in a sheet that has 3 sections. You’ll only use 2 sections for this. Roll one section to a length that will give you 5 equal squares. Place each square on top of fruit, tucking the corners under.
Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes or until golden. Cool for 5 minutes, then loosen sides with a butter knife. Invert onto a cookie sheet. Sprinkle with pecans while still hot.
Recipe by Pearl
These perfect appetizers are light and airy one-bite sausage pizzas
made with puff pastry and oozing with six cheeses.
Pizza is a great no fail party food because nobody doesn’t like pizza. Right? But regular slices of pizza can fill you up and then you don’t have room for anything else. That’s not fun.
These little gems are perfect one-bite pizzas that taste just like the real thing, except that they’re light and airy because they’re made with puff pastry. You can have one or two and still have room in your tummy for other goodies, or you can eat a few, which is not hard to do because these Pizza Bites are delish! And the kids will love them too.
That is, unless you have little ones like my two and half year old twin grandkids who were very suspicious of these “pizzas” that didn’t look like pizza. Even when Sunny told them it was a pizza, they didn’t believe her. They had that “you can’t fool me" face as they shook their heads.
I used Italian sausage, but you could use pepperoni, salami, beef, chicken, or whatever you like to have on your regular pizza. You could even go veggie on this one. I also used a 6 cheese blend because I just happened to see that it came shredded and in a package, which always makes life easier. It had mozzarella, provolone, parmesan, romano, asiago, and fontina. Wow! But you could use any cheese of your liking. It's all good on a pizza.
Instead of pizza dough, I decided to use puff pastry because I wanted it to be a light appetizer. They’re puffy and delicate and absolutely sing in your mouth when you pop one in.
1 sheet puff pastry, thawed
4 oz. Italian sausage or about ¾ cup raw
¼ cup pasta sauce
½ cup shredded cheese (I used a packaged 6 cheese blend)
½ cup shredded mozzarella
36 black olive slices
snipped chives for garnish
Cut the thawed puff pastry into three strips. Roll each strip into a length long enough to get six squares. Push each piece into a mini muffin tin, pressing the edges outward. Bake at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes. Remove from oven. Do not turn off the heat.
They will puff up and rise in the center, so use a wooden spoon handle and press the center down, but don’t break through the bottom.
Squeeze out the sausage from the casings and cook in a heated frying pan, breaking the meat into bits. Remove from heat and mix in the pasta sauce and cheese blend.
Fill each pastry cup with the meat. Top with the mozzarella shreds, 2 pieces of olives, and snipped chives. Bake another 2 to 4 minutes. Serve warm.
Recipe by Pearl
Flaky cups filled with a velvety tart and sweet lemon mousse that’s light, yet oh so rich and creamy.
So my friend gave me bucket of gold. Gold as in beautiful juicy lemons just waiting to be squeezed. What a treat!
They looked so pretty sitting in bowls on my counter that I almost didn’t want to use them. But they were all chanting, “Squeeze me, squeeze me.” So, I made my Glazed Lemon Bread a couple of times, a lemon meringue pie, chicken with caramelized lemon slices, lemon bars, and fresh lemonade, of course.
But then, I wanted to try something I’ve never made before, so Lemon Mousse came to mind. I’ve had lemon mousse, but I didn’t want one that was light and puffy. Nor did I want it to be heavy. Playing around with all of my lemons, I think I came up with something really special.
This is velvety, yet light. Creamy, but not dense. I made it a couple of times before posting it, to make sure it was worthy of sharing. The first time I just put it in little parfait cups with a cloud of whipped cream on top, which of course, you can do for your dessert. But to turn it into Big Bang Bite, the second time I made it, I piped the mousse into mini pie crusts. And yes, I used ready-made pie crust because it’s okay to cheat sometimes.
The little pastry spoons were a gift from Lindsay. She found them at World Market, so I piped some of the mousse into them just for fun. Cute! And that’s my Gracie Lee waiting patiently in hopes she might get a bite.
Anyway, I hope you give these scrummy delights a try. They really sing. And they remind me of summer too, which is right around the corner.
Makes about 8 half cup servings
or about 24 mini tarts
Store bought ready-made pie crust
3-inch flower shaped cookie cutter
¾ cup sugar
3 T cornstarch
¼ tsp. salt
¾ cup water
1 tsp. finely grated lemon peel
1 T butter
½ cup lemon juice
yellow food coloring
1 pint heavy whipping cream
4 T powdered sugar
Unroll the piecrusts. Using a 3-inch cookie cutter, cut out 24 mini crusts. Push into a mini cupcake tin, spreading out the petals. Bake for about 8 minutes at 400 degrees, or until golden brown. Set aside to cool.
Beat egg and set aside.
Combine sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a pot. Gradually add water, stirring with a whisk. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until it thickens and boils.
Remove from heat, add lemon peel and butter. Stir to blend, then add lemon juice and several drops of yellow food coloring. Mix some of the lemon mixture into the egg, then add it back into the pot. Cook 5 minutes.
Cool in fridge with clear wrap on top, so a skin won’t form.
For whipped topping, beat cream until fluffy. Add powdered sugar gradually and beat until peaks form. Reserve about 2 cups for topping. Fold the rest into the cooled lemon mixture.
Spoon mousse into mini tart cups. Or, you can use dessert cups. Pipe the whipped cream on top of lemon mousse. Grate some lemon peel on top for garnish. Serve immediately or store in fridge.
Recipe by Pearl
Simple and quick antipasto skewers threaded with pesto basted shrimp,
fresh mozzarella balls, cherry tomatoes, and black olives.
Kerry and I went wine tasting with some friends and we all decided to bring a snack to have with a glass of wine while we drank in the view. Okay, so we also drank in more than just the view, we also drank a lot of great wines. But that’s what happens when we’re with good friends. And because we have some stunning wineries here in the foothills of northern California. So, we often get together for a day of wine tasting.
I made these antipasto skewers because I could quickly make them in the morning, and I could keep them cold in the cooler for the trip. They were a refreshing change, especially with the fresh mozzarella balls. When one of my friends saw these beautiful appies, she moaned and said, “You brought those fancy things and I brought these,” as she opened a package of salami slices.
But that’s just it. It’s almost as easy as opening a package of salami. I opened a can of olives, a carton of cherry tomatoes, a carton of fresh mozzarella balls, and a jar of pesto. Well, yeah, I had to cook the shrimp, but that took what…two minutes?
That’s what makes these antipasto skewers a star. They are fancy looking, but so easy. And because it's a cold appetizer, you can even make them the night before. For parties, they really steal the show when you poke them into a head of cabbage, instead of laying them on a tray.
Makes about 24
1 can of black olives
1 carton of cherry tomatoes
1 carton of fresh mozzarella balls
pesto from a jar
Boil a pot of water. Add the shrimp and cook them for a couple of minutes, just until pink. Overcooking them will make them tough. Drain and cool them enough so you can handle them.
Thread the olives, tomatoes, mozzarella and shrimp onto a skewer and baste with the pesto. Keep in the fridge until serving time.
Light and delicately crunchy cashew brittle dotted with buttery toffee bits.
If you just got here, I want to clear up any confusion about this recipe if you’re looking at the large picture above, which doesn’t look like Cashew Brittle with Toffee. The pix above is a basic cashew brittle. The pix below is the same recipe, but with toffee bits added, thus the title, Cashew Brittle with Toffee. Just wanted to let you know because I hate it when I go to a site and the recipe I’m looking for is not there. Anyway, glad you’re here.
There are so many brittle recipes out there in the universe. This I know for sure. Yikes…I’m sounding like Oprah. But it is true. Some are really simple recipes where you just melt sugar, some have you use the candy thermometer to get the sugar base up to a certain temp, and some have you adding tons of baking soda or even cream.
Growing up in the country on Maui, we made brittle by simply melting sugar in a cast iron frying pan. Living out in the “sticks” as some people would say, we often didn’t even have peanuts to throw into the pan, and we lived too far from the grocers to just make a run for it on a moments notice.
Recently, I had to take peanuts off my diet. I’m really sad about that because I love a PBJ sandwich. And I do love peanut brittle. And of course, once you’re told you can’t have something, you automatically crave it. So, I thought I’d make a cashew brittle to soothe my soul. But I like a brittle that’s on the lighter side of the crunch meter, so I had to play around with this recipe. I think I came up with a happy medium as far as balancing the crunch, airiness, and buttery flavor. The only thing I would change is the amount of cashews. I wanted more nuts, so in the recipe below, I’ve increased the nut factor. And to ameliorate the brittle even more, I dotted it with toffee. Oh, yeah…that made thing dance. This will definitely make my holiday list for giveaways.
2 cups sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
½ cup water
½ cup butter
2 or 3 cups salted cashews
1½ tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup toffee bits (or more if you desire)
Butter a large cookie sheet. It should be no smaller than 15x10 inches.
Combine the sugar, corn syrup, and water in a large pot. Note: When you add the baking soda later on, it bubbles and rises, so you need a deep pot. On medium high heat, bring the ingredients to a boil, then add butter. Reduce heat to about medium. Cook until candy thermometer reaches 280 degrees.
Add nuts and stir to combine. Remove from heat. Add baking soda and vanilla. Mixture will bubble up like a science class experiment, but just stir it down. Pour onto the butter cookie sheet. Immediately sprinkle the toffee bits all over. Let cool completely. Break into pieces.
Recipe by Pearl
Bacon strips glazed with caramelized maple syrup and mustard, and
an added kick of black pepper grounds dancing on top for some heat.
Bacon, bacon, bacon! I think the food police needs to give this meat its own food group because bacon is in everything these days. Main dishes, desserts, breads, even candy.
I was recently at my grocers and the sample lady was passing out chocolate covered bacon. Okay, maybe it’s just me, but I don’t think everything tastes good covered in chocolate. Oddly enough though, bacon was on my shopping list that day because I was making chili. But when I got home, I discovered I already had a pound of bacon!
So, I thought I’d play around with that extra pound. You often see bacon strips caramelized with brown sugar and it’s quite sweet. Maple syrup and regular old yellow mustard is a great combo on salmon, chicken, whatever…so why not bacon? I made a batch and it was pretty good. Salty, sweet, a bit tangy. I thought it needed something extra, so for the second batch, I added some heat with coarse ground black pepper from the pepper mill.
Bingo! These are not like candy bacon. They are sticky and spicy with just enough salt and sweetness. In the photo, I left them whole, but for an appie, I would snip them into three inch pieces and pop them into a bowl or paper cone for finger food. Cute! I guess I should have taken a pix of that too. Thought of it after we ate them all…of course.
Makes about 8 slices
8 slices of bacon (look for meaty slices)
6 T maple syrup
4 tsp. regular yellow mustard
coarse ground black pepper (I use a pepper mill)
Combine the maple syrup and mustard and set aside.
Use a cookie sheet with sides. Line with foil for easy clean up. Place a cooling rack on top.
Place bacon on rack and brush the syrup on topside only of each strip. Bake at 375 degrees for about 8 minutes. SEE NOTE BELOW.
Turn over the bacon. Brush the topside with remaining syrup. Sprinkle with coarse black pepper. Bake another 8 minutes until bacon is brown and caramelized.
As soon as it’s done, you can sprinkle on more pepper if you want it spicy. Cool on rack for 5 minutes, then remove and completely cool on a plate.
Serve strips whole, or cut into 3-inch pieces for appetizers.
NOTE: I’ve made these in different ovens and the baking time varies a lot. My oven took 16 minutes. A toaster oven will take less time. My daughter’s oven took a total of 24 minutes. I suggest you watch the bacon carefully the first time you make it.
Recipe by Pearl
Sweet caramel popcorn infused with espresso powder to tantalize every coffee lover.
I know, you’re thinking…another flavored caramel popcorn? Yup, but this one’s coffee!! And I haven’t seen this flavor anywhere, so thought I’d make it for all the coffee lovers out there.
Kerry makes a cup of Joe every morning in a French press…no coffee maker for him. He really takes his time to steep and brew the perfect cup. So, when I made this Coffee Caramel Popcorn, he said, “Mmmmm,” and ate just about the whole bucket himself. I guess that’s quite a compliment, but he could have saved some for me.
I have a cookie recipe that uses coffee grounds in it, but I didn’t want my caramel popcorn to be peppered with crunchy black flecks. So, I used espresso powder. And depending how much coffee flavor you like, you can add more or less. I thought the amount I used gently reminded me that there was coffee in it. Meanwhile, the peanut gallery over here, said they would like a bigger punch to the taste buds…COFFEE. Next time, I’ll add a teaspoon more of espresso.
Sometimes I like things plain and simple as in this snack because I wanted the coffee flavor to stand on its own. But as you know with caramel popcorn, you can go to town and add nuts, chocolate whatever your palate desires.
Makes a hefty bowlful.
4 quarts popcorn
1¼ cups sugar
2/3 cup margarine or butter
2/3 cup dark corn syrup
4-5 tsp. espresso powder
½ tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. vanilla
Spread the popcorn in an 11 x 18 inch pan, or two 9 x 13 inch pans. Butter a rubber spatula and set aside.
In a heavy 2-quart saucepan, combine sugar, margarine, corn syrup, and espresso powder. Cook over medium heat, stirring until it boils. Continue cooking without stirring for another 5 minutes.
Remove from heat. Stir in the baking soda and vanilla. It will rise up and foam. Pour at once over the popcorn. Stir to coat with the buttered spatula.
Bake uncovered at 250 degrees for one hour, tossing occasionally, so all the popcorn will be coated. Remove from oven and allow it to cool in the pan. When completely cool and caramel is brittle, break apart and store tightly in a covered container.
Recipe by Pearl
Crispy wonton cups filled with the classic bacon, lettuce, tomatoes, and mayo sauce.
Who doesn’t love a BLT sandwich? I’m not even a huge bacon fan, but this, I love. I remember when I was a poor college student, it was one of my favorites. In fact, on really broke days, my roommate and I even made it without the bacon! Yes, that would be an LT sandwich.
So, I was thinking about the BLT and decided to down scale it into an appie. Instead of making a sandwich and cutting it into little portions, I thought crispy bite-size BLTs would be fun. I wasn’t sure if we’d miss the bread, but all of my testers said it worked. Of course, they all love bacon and could be somewhat biased, so I sent some over to the neighbors for a second opinion. They all said, “Yup, tastes like a BLT, just crispy.”
If you MUST have bread, you could use the bread cups from Gale’s Mushroom Filled Toast Cups, instead of the wonton. It would be equally charming on your hors d’oeuvre tray.
I like an appetizer like this, where you can make some of it the night before. In this case, you can bake the cups and keep them in a zip lock bag. You can also prep the veggies and sauce. When you’re ready to assemble, just do the bacon. And how you like the bacon is up to you…soft, medium crisp, crispy, or almost cremated like Kerry’s mom would request. Yes, that’s actually how she liked it.
So, have fun with this one and make it your own.
12 wonton wrappers
about 18 really small cherry tomatoes, cut in half (if the cherry tomatoes are large, use less and cut into fourths)
about a cup of shredded lettuce
3 slices of bacon
2 T mayo
½ piece of garlic, grated (optional)
Spray a mini muffin lightly with oil. Press a wonton wrapper into it to form a cup, and spray with a bit more oil. Bake at 325 degrees for 3 to 5 minutes or until golden on edges. Watch them! They brown quickly. Set aside to cool.
Cook bacon according to how crispy you like it. Cut or break into small pieces.
Mix the mayo with a teaspoon of water. Add the optional grated garlic. Put into a zip lock snack bag and cut a small corner off.
Assemble the BLT cups with bacon, lettuce, and tomatoes. Drizzle with the mayo sauce.
Recipe by Pearl