Banana Pecan Raspberry-Swirl Crumb Cake

Let’s take a moment to discuss our options. Each morning we get up—slip out of our comfy beds and our warm sheets and our loved one’s arms—with big stretches and yawns and growls that mimic those of a lazy lion in the zoo. A quick glance in the mirror only confirms this. Our hair, wild and crazy, going in all sorts of directions. Untamable, however, we proceed unfazed and without a thought in our heads, other than wanting desperately to get back into bed. Half asleep and unwilling to compromise, we find ourselves at a fork in the road. Having to make choices so early in the morning should be illegal. We can grab that boring box of cereal. The one that’s been sitting on top of our fridge for weeks getting good and stale on us, because someone left it partially opened. We can reach into that refrigerator and grab the just about expired milk—regular, soy or almond or maybe even settle for a yogurt—plain or greek infused with fruit. Perhaps we don’t have the luxury of time because we woke up late or decided to spend all our time getting ready (we have our lion selves to thank for that) knowing that our allotted breakfast eating time would suffer and diminish. So because we’re running late we proceed to reach into a box of granola bars. We fool ourselves into believing it’ll be a good enough morning meal. We get a hold of the box, grasping inside, only to come up empty handed. We make a mental note to reprimand the person who took the last bar and left the empty box in the cabinet, reminding us of yet another thing we can’t have. Spontaneity and unpredictability aren’t traits we posses this early in the morning nor do we want to, so what next?

If only we had some sort of morning pastry to cut, grab and go. Something tasty that would fit the breakfast bill. A delicious treat to eat alongside our coffee, tea or juice on our drive to work or school or whatever other activity that doesn’t occur to me at the moment. What we really need is a banana bread kind of a thing. A banana bread meets coffee cake. And if said cake happened to have a raspberry-swirl filling in the middle and a pecan crumb topping, well then, we wouldn’t be angry about that. Who are we to complain about such things? Yes, a hybrid breakfast cake slash dessert meets decadent treat is just what we need in the morning to lift our spirits up, but where do we get such a delight? Where do we come across such a marvel?

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Bourbon Banana Pudding Cheesecake

When it comes to food there are only a few things that my sister really loves. Sure, she’ll eat and try everything I make and enjoy it, always eyeing it with great suspicion and asking “What’s in this?” There are only a handful of dishes and desserts that will make her smile and ask for seconds. I take advantage of those moments and make a mental note to remember what it is that I made. Cooking for 12 years now, I have come to realize what each one of my family members like or dislike. My sister is very picky. I don’t know if I should call her picky—mainly because she’ll read this—but perhaps I should say that she knows what she likes. She is a woman of stern belief and when she makes up her mind, she likes what she likes. There’s no budging her from this. However, I have come to learn the signs when she doesn’t care for something in particular. If she doesn’t like the way something tastes she will eat really slowly and just smile. “You don’t like it do you?” I’ll ask her. She’ll just scrunch up her face and shake her head and as cool, calm and collected as possible she’ll respond with a sly “Noooooo.” Growing up, or even now, if we go to a party or a dinner at a friend’s house she’ll just reserve whatever she doesn’t like, and when no one is looking move it over onto my plate. Lucky for her, I’m a garbage disposal. I’ll eat anything. Hey, what are little brothers for if not to eat the food you don’t like?

So you might be wondering what does my sister like? Well, if you weren’t wondering it pretend that you were. She will go crazy for anything with banana in it. It’s her absolute favorite flavor. Upon learning this I have made it my life’s mission to make countless desserts made with that yellow fruit. I began brainstorming this post with that idea in mind. I realized that I hadn’t made something for my sister in a long time so I wanted to dedicate a post to her. She loves cheesecake and she loves bananas, so I decided to mash the two together. The outcome is this Banana Pudding Cheesecake. Because I wanted to make it a little more sinful and take it over the edge, I decided to slap on Bourbon to the beginning of the title. I may have incorporated copious amounts of that whiskey into this dessert but I can guarantee you that you cannot taste the alcohol. You won’t get drunk from it. I wonder if it is even possible to get drunk from a dish or dessert that has alcohol in it? I’m sure one could, if the dessert was just drenched in it and wasn’t even cooked. You don’t have to worry about that here.

The cheesecake has the perfect amount of banana flavor which garnered me two thumbs up. My sister practically ate the entire thing herself, and even stole a piece I was saving for our friend. I didn’t want to point any fingers, but I’m pointing fingers. Our friend, if you’re reading this she ate it. Stole it right from the fridge and didn’t think twice about it. I even think there was a maniacal laugh involved when I told her it was for you. She just continued to gobble it away. I guess this just goes to show us how good this cheesecake actually is. And because I don’t want to start WWIII with my family, I’ll take this moment to tell my other sister that I will make her something soon. Another dedication post with her name written all over it. What could be better than surrounding yourself with delicious treats and your family close at hand to enjoy it with? Nothing else my friends, I think that pretty much tops the list.

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Banana Cream Pie

Pies are a funny dessert. They bring us so much comfort and joy. They bring excitement to boring days. Music to silence. Color to darkness. Turns frowns upside downrings families together in oohs and aahs, as slices are made and distributed around, all the while everyone is fighting about who got the bigger piece. No one can deny that happy feeling you get inside, whenever there is a slice of pie served in front of us. Our mood is instantly transformed, and a smile takes over our face. Sure our minds are saying, “Eh….maybe I shouldn’t. I have to watch what I eat,” but our mouths and stomachs are saying “Yes please! Can I have another?” Before we even finish the first slice. What is it about pies in general that make us so happy? It’s a combination of multiple things, really. The various different kinds there are out there is what makes them so appealing. From apple to pumpkin, to pecan, to chocolate. Filled with cream, and stuffed with fruit. Drizzled with caramel, and topped with crust and streusel. Who can resist? It brings back happy memories. Moments that were filled with laughter and family. Pies are normally the centerpiece of any holiday, one in particular of course; Thanksgiving. And although Thanksgiving only comes but once a year, thankfully we make pies all year round

Pies are a multi-step process. They aren’t one of those desserts where you can just throw everything in a mixer and plop out mounds onto a baking sheet, bake for a few minutes and then enjoy. No, a pie takes skill. It takes patience and time. You have to nurture a pie and cradle it. It all begins with a crust. You know that, its easy. Every pie has a crust, it’s what defines it as such. It’s what gives it the power to tell the world “Hey world, I have a crust! I’m a pie!” So we established that every pie has a crust, that’s easy. We knew that. What we aren’t sure about, is what kind of crust to make. Do you want a graham cracker crust? And if so, do you want it with chocolate or honey crackers? Maybe you’re not a cracker crust kind of person? Perhaps, you want a flakey buttery crust? Yea that’s it. That’s what you want. So once you’ve decided what kind of crust, all sorts of questions arise. Do you want a fruit pie? A sweet one? A savory one? Do you want some sort of cream filled pie? Your mind works hard, thinking of all the possible solutions. You start to sweat a little and your mouth becomes dry. You need water, or some sort of cool air to help you think. No what you need, is to decide on a pie! Quickly you arrive at an answer. Really, its the best of both worlds. Why didn’t you think of it before?

Banana Cream Pie. Yes, banana cream pie. It’s your best option, not only do you get fruit in your filling, but you also get to have a custard center. And to make it even better, it’s topped with high mountainous peaks of whipped cream. Your eyes widen and your stomach gurgles as you see the finished pie in front of you. A slice is cut out for you, destroying its perfect appearance, and although you know the myth that the first slice always comes out messed up, you don’t mind. Unfazed, you grab a fork and dive head first. Everything you were thinking about climbs out of your mind. You can’t think of anything at the moment, other than the sweet flavor of flaky crust melting into thick custard and perfectly ripe bananas topped with just the right amount of cream. Yes, pie has the power to fix any problem. Forget about the financial economic crisis this country is in, everyone will be much happier if they were paid in pies. Strap a fork to you and keep it at arms reach at all times because pies are the new currency; get used to it.

We start by making the crust.

Which, by the way, is the best part of any pie, if you ask me. Give me a plate full of just crust and I’m a happy camper.

Now, normally we start off with an empty mixer bowl.

This time, I’m changing it up….

Drop in the flour.

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Peanut Butter Banana Chocolate Chip Pancakes

Now that school is back in full swing, and three weeks into it at that, each week seems never ending. Monday drags through Friday at an alarmingly slow pace. Day’s filled with school haunt my every waking hour. Breaks between classes seem like ten hours, when in reality it’s only six, and I’m left to find things to occupy myself with until my next class starts in the evening. The prospect of spending all day in school during the week scares me every morning, as I get ready for the day that lies ahead. I fear Tuesdays and Thursdays. I’ve grown to despise them, knowing that I’ll be stuck in school from eleven to nine, with a gaping six hour gap in the middle and nothing to do in between classes. My first class ends just as the afternoon becomes prevalent, and I’m left to wonder, “Why was the class that I wanted so badly, only offered in the evening?” My afternoons are flooded with laughter from a few friends, comfort from the warmth of the library, random trips to Trader Joe’s, and constant phone vibrations throughout the day that make it easier  to go on once I see that familiar name scroll across the small digital screen. Who would have thought that seven simple letters could make a world of difference, and the unbearable bearable? A friendly comfort and warmth that is unattained by any amount of heat, sweaters, coats or scarves.

Miraculously I make it through each day alive. Unscathed and only somewhat jolted. As I walk out of class at night, zombie-like with only the comfort of my bed in mind, I look back on the things I’ve learned. After all, it is a class that I enjoy, even more so as new friends, and a hilarious well-informed teacher, enter my circle and break through the wall that my introverted self puts up. I reflect on the content of each lecture and demonstration as I leave the campus and head for my car. Strobes, flashes, C-stands, grips, reflectors, grids and umbrellas are the words floating in my mind as I drive home. Memorizing and visually recounting each direction step by step, knowing that eventually I’ll have to work with a fellow student to step it all up correctly. Suddenly I’m delighted with the prospect of having to partner up for our projects relieved that anything I didn’t catch, or quite understand my friend must know. I continue my long trek home, the day’s scenarios replaying back in my head and content that I was able to pair up with someone I actually will enjoy to work with and get to know, as we’re in three classes together. I look forward to whatever the semester has in store for me.

I embrace each weekend with all the joy in my heart, and the happiness I can’t seem to grasp during the week. Cooking and eating become fun again. Holding up a camera to each step of a recipe seems comforting and even relaxing. Shooting, editing photos, and writing each post is now my only form of escape from the things I have to do on a daily basis; aside from spending time with my family of course. The things I don’t have time for during the week are now the most important on the weekend’s to-do list, such as breakfast. A quick bowl of cereal and an extra toasted english muffin, as I rush out the door, running late for school, isn’t a situation I find myself reliving during the weekend. No. Saturday and Sunday I take my time. I prepare a hot breakfast and enjoy it with those I love all around me. Weekend traditions of family meals gathered around the dining table are the memories that I can’t seem to let go. A sister telling jokes, while another reads our Sunday paper horoscopes, a brother-in-law waiting for the food to arrive observing the crazy family he got himself into, a mother enjoying seeing her three children back home, and a son bringing a feast to the table for all to enjoy. Even simple recipes as jazzed up pancakes, are devoured within a matter of minutes, and referred to as the perfect breakfast. Saturday and Sunday fade faster than a Southern California “winter” and I’m left to face another week of school, projects, homework, reading, and shooting. But I look onto it with a smile on my face knowing that a weekend is always at the end of all the hard work and long hours. A weekend filled with pancakes, peanut butter, banana and chocolate chips.

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Moist Banana Chocolate Chip Cookies

Once a month I have the lovely opportunity to visit the incredible people over at Harry L. Dougherty Jr., D.D.S., M.S. For over a year and a half now, I’ve had the pleasure to be treated by this group of friendly individuals, who just make my monthly, sometimes, and especially lately due to my surgery, bi-monthly, visits that much more pleasant and enjoyable. With each visit, I like to bring them something to enjoy as a token of my appreciation. To thank them for everything they’ve done and continue to do for me. This whole jaw surgery has been quite the journey.

As each month draws near, I start to think “What should I make them this time?” I scour my mind, remembering, or at least trying  to remember what I made the month before. I like to keep it fresh, often trying out new recipes for them to sample out. But alas sometimes I end up making some repeat recipes. My memory sucks sometimes. This month, however, I came across a great Chocolate chip recipe online and knew I just had to try it. I made it my own by taking it to the next level, combining Banana Walnut Bread with Chocolate Chip cookies, and lucky for them, they came out great.

Here are the players, in a game I like to call, Where is the Moist Cookie?

The first thing you want to do is chop down the walnuts into smaller pieces. This ingredient is optional, but this cookie is a cross between banana walnut bread and chocolate chip cookies after all, so they’re kind of important.

Chop Chop. Use a knife. It’s easy. Of course if you’d like to dirty another kitchen electric, grab your food processor. But why would you want to wash a multi-pieced piece of equipment?

That’s right, think again…..put it down and just grab a knife. You’ll thank me for it later.

Chop them down into smaller cookie sized pieces. Depending on how chunky you’d like them. Set aside for later.

Mix the dry ingredients. Grab a medium bowl, and add the flour.

Throw in some baking soda and salt. Whisk together and set aside.

Now, grab a large mixing bowl and a wooden spoon…we’re about to do the unthinkable.

Every so often (on easier recipes) I like to pay a little homage to the olden days and mix a batter/dough by hand. **Gasp** I know I know. But its a little exercise I like to do in order to not take my stand mixer for granted. I so easily forget the basics in the kitchen, often because I rely on the ol’ kitchenaid for everything.

So this recipe I made by hand, but please feel free to use a mixer.

To this bowl add a stick of butter. A room temperature stick of butter.

You know what? Let’s be bad and add another stick of butter. Live a little.

Paula Deen would be so proud of us right now.

Add some brown sugar.

And some granulated sugar. Both?!?!? You’re probably screaming right now. But yes, both. I want both in it.

Its like a waterfall of granulated sugar. These are very healthy cookies.

Mix with the wooden spoon. It helps if you have a sturdy spoon.

I know, I’m tired already and we’ve barely started…but no! No! I will not use any electronic kitchen helper. I am devoting myself to doing it manually.

Continue to exhaust your arms until the butter and sugar are creamy.

2 hours later…..

Okay not really 2 hours. More like 5-10 minutes. Okay okay, 4 minutes.

Add an egg and mix. Again.

Mix until well incorporated and add another egg.

Now add some vanilla extract and mix well.

And now for the secret ingredient. The trick to the moistness of these cookies…..shhhhhh. Come close.

Closer.

Closer.

A small box of Jell-O instant pudding mix. Sounds crazy. But it works. At first I was hesitant too….and then I became a believer.

No one needs to know, its our little secret. I wont tell, if you wont.

Add it to the batter and stir. Now for some fresh bananas. Mashed.

Once it is fully mixed. Its time to add our dry ingredients we set aside earlier.

Add it slowly and a little at a time.

Try not to over mix the batter at this point. Once the dry ingredients are incorporated, its time to add the goodies. The treasure bejewels.

Semi-sweet chocolate chip. Lots and lots of chocolate chips.

Fold the chips into the batter. You can switch over to a spatula for the folding technique.

Speaking of spatulas….

…Please give a warm welcome to the newest member of The Technicolor Kitchen family…

Just about the best rubber spatula out there. He’ll be making weekly appearances now, for sure.

So back to folding the chocolate chips.

Next ingredient is our chopped walnuts, which we so carefully worked on and set aside earlier.

Toss them in and fold as well.

The cookie dough is now complete and ready to be baked off.

We’ll need two things, a small ice cream scoop; to uniformly shape our cookies and ensure they are all the same size. This way they will bake evenly.

And we’ll also need a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. To make sure our precious cookies, that we worked so hard on, wont stick to the pan. Its like those PAM commercials, except the saving ingredient here is parchment paper. You know what I’m talking about? Yes? Yes? No? Okay, okay.

Scoop out six cookie mounds and make sure they are evenly spaced.

Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for about 10-12 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through.

Once golden brown and cooked through, remove from the oven and allow to cool on the baking pan for about 5 minutes.

After five minutes, transfer cookies to a cooling rack and allow to completely cool.

At this point you may store them in an airtight container, or cookie jar. You can put them out on a plate and share with people. (I guess, if you’re feeling friendly, you could share).

Or you can keep them all for yourself, and hide them.  Yea I like this idea better.

You can serve yourself a glass of milk and enjoy one or two or three.

WAIT!! Put the milk away. I have a better idea. You know what will make these cookies even more delicious? Beyond great? Pure amazingness?

Grab two cookies.

Turn them over. “What are you doing Jon? You’re talking like a crazy person.”

Trust me.

This is good.

Run over to the freezer and….

Oh yea….I took it there.

I’m a bad influence, I know. But we only live once.

Top the cookie, you know you want to.

Yup, that’s the best way to enjoy these cookies. Don’t believe me? Try it. I dare you to.

That was easy, quick, and delicious. Make these cookies the next time you are craving a moist chocolate chip cookie. Sandwich them together with some ice cream in the middle, be naughty. You deserve it. Enjoy.

 

Moist Banana Chocolate Chip Cookies

Adapted from Tastykitchen.com. I made them my own by adding the bananas, feel free to change it up as well.

Ingredients:
  • 2 sticks Unsalted Butter, At Room Temperature
  • ¾ cups Brown Sugar
  • ¼ cups White Sugar
  • 3-½ ounces, weight Jello Vanilla Instant Pudding Mix (4-serving Size Box)
  • 2 whole Eggs
  • 2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract
  • 1 cup Mashed Fresh Bananas
  • 2-¼ cups Flour
  • 1 teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 1 pinch Salt
  • 2 cups Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
  • 1 cup Chopped Walnuts (Optional)
Preparation:

Preheat the oven to 350ºF and line your baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.

In the bowl of your mixer, combine the butter and both sugars until light and fluffy.

On medium speed, beat in the pudding mix, eggs, vanilla extract, and mashed bananas.

On low speed, mix in the flour, baking soda, and salt. Be careful to mix only until combined (do not over mix!).

Stir in the chocolate chips and walnuts (if using).

Use a measuring tablespoon to scoop out the cookie dough onto the lined baking sheets. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until the cookies are just turning golden and the centers are just set.

Let cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes, before cooling completely on cooling racks.

Enjoy!

Makes about 3 dozen cookies.