Friday, April 8, 2011

friday breakfast: round 4

As I've spoken about before, I'm not much of a baker.  Mainly, I dislike baking because I am far too anal-retentive in most other areas of my life, and I don't need to add baking to that list.  If I absolutely must bake, I make Ghiardelli Triple Chocolate brownies (best boxed mix EVER!) or chocolate chip cookies.  Those are made-from-scratch, but hardly original - I use the recipe off the back of a bag of Nestle Tollhouse chocolate chips, and double up on the amount of chocolate.  Sophisticated, I know.  I really don't care for baking, but sometimes the easiest way to people's hearts is through a delicious baked good.

I am currently on a long-term software development project at work in which we are building, from scratch, a new computer program to replace a group of old ones.  My time is now budgeted fifty percent for economic analysis (my "real job"), and fifty percent for program development.  I am so grateful for this project - it is an interesting case, and a wonderful opportunity for me professionally.  I'm honing skills I would not otherwise be developing, and I'm working with some very intelligent people whom I would not otherwise get to interact with.  But, as with all long-term projects like this, there's a complicated web of politics and issues that underlie the direction of the project.  And true to the nature of teamwork, it is a constant challenge to accommodate the varying viewpoints, backgrounds, personalities, and leadership styles of the people working together to produce one final, well-rounded product.

Last week we got into it in one of our meetings.  One gentleman and I had a whole list of problems with a particular document we were reviewing, and we brought our issues up for discussion with the group.  He and I are particularly vested in this project, as we have been working on it since its kick-off six months ago.  It's also worth noting that he and I are very opinionated  active participants in group discussions.  To make a long story short, we had to give a run-down to the folks new to the project.  By the end of the meeting everyone was either confused, irritated, or just tired of hearing us speak.  I knew that in order to get back into the good graces of the group, I'd need to come to the next morning's three-hour workshop bearing gifts.

I believe that a little butter and sugar can make people go goo-goo, but my go-tos of brownies and cookies wouldn't be ideal for a 9am workshop.  So, I turned to smitten kitchen, in my opinion, today's preeminent food blogger and an especially knowledgeable source on all things baked.  I love Deb's outlook on cooking, her tounge-in-cheek writing style, and her passion for good food.  I often look to her blog for inspiration when I'm in a culinary rut, and plus, she just makes me giggle.

Armed with what Deb had dubbed "the best ever" banana bread and "perfect" blueberry muffins, I waltzed into Wednesday's workshop.  I smiled, laid the spoils out on the table, and watched as my teammates took a slice of bread and a muffin.  And came back for seconds.  And asked for people to pass them the leftovers.  Suddenly, everybody loved me again.  Funny the way those things turn out.....

Best-Ever Banana Bread, adapted from smitten kitchen
Makes one loaf

3 to 4 ripe bananas, smashed
1/3 cup melted salted butter
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of salt
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 cup of flour

1.  Preheat the oven to 350°.
2.  With a wooden spoon, mix butter into the mashed bananas in a large mixing bowl. Mix in the sugar, egg, and vanilla.  Then, mix in the spices. 
3. Sprinkle the baking soda and salt over the mixture and mix in. Mix in the flour last.
4.  Pour mixture into a buttered 4×8 inch loaf pan. Bake for 45 minutes to one hour, or until a tester comes out clean.
5.  Cool on a rack. Remove from pan and slice to serve.

Note:  Deb spiked her loaf with bourbon, but considering I was taking this to work and I was trying to win people over and not possibly offend them, I omitted it.  I do love bourbon, though.

Perfect Blueberry Muffins, adapted from smitten kitchen
Makes twelve muffins

5 tablespoons unsalted butter , softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
3/4 cup plain yogurt or sour cream (I used Greek yogurt because I always have it in my fridge)
1/2 teaspoon grated orange zest
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup frozen blueberries

1.  Preheat oven to 375° and line a muffin tin with 12 paper liners.
2.  Beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add egg and beat well, then yogurt and zest.
3.  Mix in flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt just until the flour disappears. 
4.  Gently fold in your blueberries.
5.  Using a spoon or ice cream scoop, spoon your dough into your muffin cups.  The dough will be quite thick. You’re looking for them to be about 3/4 full, nothing more.
6.  Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until tops are golden and a tester inserted into the center of muffins comes out clean.

And because it wouldn't be Friday without some Friday eye-candy, allow me to introduce you all to my new boyfriend. I met him the other day on a run up Massachusetts Avenue....yes, that is a towel, and only a towel, and with slits-up-to-there, around his waist.  (I very rarely run with my iPhone, but my iPod was dead, so I am really happy I had it with me.  Camera FTW!)

Have a wonderful weekend, friends.....hope you're lucky enough to snag a man as sexy as this one!


  1. You really should try pie (it is this year's cupcake!) I would start with something that will blow the socks off the crowd north of Maryland. Strawberry Rhubarb pie! You'll have some who follow your blog say, "What is rhubarb?" Just smile and say, "It is a secret ingredient."
    Keep up the good work. Here is a link to a good strawberry-rhubarb pie recipe.