About Lisa

Mom, wife, retired physician assistant and multi award winning home cook including Food Network CHOPPED CHAMPION

High-Rise Banana Muffins

It’s that time of year that I like to clean out my cupboards, pantry and freezer. I pride myself on keeping my baking and cooking equipment organized, but by the end of 2018 everything seemed to be in a tangle.

Inspired by 3 over-ripe bananas discovered in the depths of my freezer it was time to use them up along with a bunch of random paper cupcake liners and near empty containers of spices and extracts. Baking some warm healthy muffins would help me clean things out. And bonus…we get delicious muffins for breakfast.

Today, I bring you a banana muffin that actually tastes like bananas. Tip: bake with over-ripe bananas for the very best flavor. Most muffins I have had in the past are loaded with spices, so they taste more like ginger or cinnamon or chai rather than fresh bananas. While this recipe has a touch of spice the banana flavor and aroma really comes through due to the addition of some banana extract. I love this McCormick brand because it truly does enhance the banana flavor without any weird artificial taste.

You will notice that this recipe starts at a high oven temperature of 425F. before dropping down to 350F. The initial high heat is what gives these muffins the high-rise. As for mixing…you know the drill. Mix the dry ingredients with the wet just until moistened, so they bake up tender. Please feel free to toss in any other healthy ingredients you like. I’m a freak for chia seeds, but some toasted nuts could be good for a bit of crunch

1 cup King Arthur all-purpose flour

½ cup King Arthur white whole wheat flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

3 over-ripe bananas (frozen and thawed)

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar (or 3/4 cup if you like them sweeter)

6 tablespoons coconut or avocado oil

1 egg

2 teaspoons McCormick banana extract

1 tablespoon chia seeds

Heat oven 425F. Line muffin tin with paper liners. In medium bowl, whisk both flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg; set aside. Peel thawed bananas over a large bowl, catching any excess liquid. With electric mixer on low mash up the bananas. Add brown sugar, coconut or avocado oil, egg, extract and chia seeds; blend well. Add dry ingredients and blend at low speed just until moistened and batter is smooth. Divide batter evenly among muffin cups. Bake for 5 minutes and then turn down oven to 350F. Bake 15 to 17 minutes or until wooden pick comes out clean. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Thank you 2018

Thankful for a year that brought me more peace than ever. The best news is learning the US Navy has recognized sleep deprivation as a rather big cause of military accidents on ships and across the board has put some rules into place to prevent further tragedy related to lack of sleep. It was early on in my blogging when I first wrote about that issue here.

I also enjoyed some really fun food experiences traveling to Oregon compliments of my Saucy Mama friends then to Alabama for the World Food Championships and most recently to New York City for a holiday baking challenge sponsored by Kellogg’s cereal where I got to hang out with these two.

My next big challenge happens in February and I dare say I will truly be out of my comfort zone. Have you heard of TEDx talks? I’ve been invited to give one at Furman University. The talk is titled, “How to Celebrate a Life A Food Blog”. Never in a million did I think this blog would lead me to the big stage. Surely taking the road less travelled and going public with my grief has allowed William’s light to shine brighter. May it never dim.

Happy New Year and thank you for hanging out with me.

A Marathon Not a Sprint

You’ve heard me say it before. When it comes to the holiday season take one day at a time and just put one foot in front of the other. Take your time. Do what you need to do and if you are able to weave your grief into the holiday spirit by all means do so.

If you are a guest among someone who is having a difficult time I encourage you to share some stories about the person who is gone from the table. If they are funny tales then even better. Don’t be afraid that you might make another cry. Those tears are the glue that mend the broken heart. The stories are priceless and allows the grief to be public, to be normal, to not be alone. Your courage to speak out loud is the best gift under the tree. Be the comfort and joy.

linzer tarts with Norm’s Farms elderberry jam

Baking brings me comfort and joy. At this time of year it is absolutely a marathon of cookies. So many recipes on this run to Christmas Eve. Some are traditional family favorites like linzer tarts, thumb prints and pressed spritz cookies, but if you know me I have to have some new creative additions, too.


Spritz cookies are the perfect holiday bite. Sweet, crisp and buttery nothing dresses up a cookie tray like these pressed cookies. With a rainbow of colors and sprinkles the fun and festive designs are endless. If you don’t already own a cookie press I highly recommend the Marcato Biscuits Machine as it is so easy to use and every cookie presses out perfectly. 

If you must know nutty thumb print cookies are my absolute favorite. The very best recipe comes from Sweet Maria’s Italian Cookie Tray book. I never tinker with her recipe because it truly is the perfect cookie. This year I tried Norm’s Farms elderberry jam with roasted and salted pecans in one batch and almonds and mango fruit spread in the other. Fantastic, melt in your mouth sweet sensations with just enough salty crunch.

Sweet Maria’s Italian Cookie Tray Thumb Cookies

 

2 sticks butter, softened

½ cup sugar

2 eggs, separated

2 teaspoons vanilla

½ teaspoon salt

2 cups flour

2 cups chopped nuts

¾ cup jelly

Heat oven 350F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. In an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until light. Add egg yolks and vanilla; blend well. On low speed, gradually add salt and flour; mix just until soft dough forms. Shape into 1-inch balls. In small bowl, beat egg whites until fluffy. Place nuts in another small bowl. Dip dough balls into egg white and then roll in nuts coating well. Place on baking sheets two inches apart. Using your fingers, press tops of cookie balls to flatten. With your finger, make a dent in the center of each cookie. Spoon ½ teaspoon of jelly into the dent. Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until lightly browned. Transfer cookies on parchment paper to a rack to cool. Makes 3 to 4 dozen cookies. Store in an airtight container.

Talk about comfort and joy. Invite a child into your kitchen to bake this year. Don’t worry about the potential mess. That is why God invented vacuum cleaners and other assorted cleaning supplies. Oh, what fun……bake some memories.

Quite a lovely gingerbread house for a 2 1/2 year old