Archive for January, 2008

What Are Those Little Black Things? (Organic Mini Banana Bran Muffin Recipe)

Tuesday, January 29th, 2008

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From Lisa Barnes

There’s an important food science question circulating at my son’s preschool… what are those black little things in banana bread and muffins? Most just assume it’s something to do with the overripe bananas. But one of my son’s teachers (and a foodie with a cooking background) says she’s never noticed them in her breads. She even brought me a sample. But now that the mystery has gone on, she and I have made various banana breads and muffins with various results — all tasty but some with black things and some without. Recently I was at a cooking class at Restaurant TWO in San Francisco and asked Andrea the pastry chef. She probably thought I was crazy. She said “I don’t know. I’ve never not had them in my bread”. But then I’ve seen pictures in magazines and cookbooks both with and without the little black things.

I’ve consulted the “big book” too. That’s Harold McGee’s On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen. OChef.com takes questions about “life’s vexing cooking questions”, however, they say due to the volume of questions you’re never sure of a timely answer. He has a mention about ingredients such as blueberries and walnuts being folded into batters and turning colors (such as blue and green) and this is because of the solids in the batter and the distribution (or over use) of baking soda. But these little black things are pretty uniform. So I’m not satisfied with that as an explanation for the bananas.

I’m hoping someone who reads this will know what I’m talking about and might even be able to solve the mystery. Anyone?

Organic Mini Banana Apple Bran Muffins
(from The Petit Appetit Cookbook)

These mini muffins have all the flavor of a big muffin, but fit nicely into little hands. Of course you can also make these in a regular full size muffin pan, just remember to increase baking time to 15 to 18 minutes and check for doneness. Be sure you’ve already introduced wheat and eggs before giving these muffins to baby. This also makes a good use for baby’s extra apple puree.

1 cup organic wheat flour
½ cup organic oat bran
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ cup (1 stick) organic unsalted butter
¾ cup organic applesauce or homemade apple puree
3 medium organic bananas, 1 mashed (about ½ cup) and 2 sliced
½ cup organic light brown sugar
2 cage free, organic eggs

Preheat oven to 375°F. Grease 24 mini muffin cups or 12 regular muffin cups.

With a fork, combine flour, bran, salt, and soda in a small mixing bowl. Melt butter in a small saucepan over low heat or in a microwave for 25 seconds on High. In a large bowl combine butter, applesauce, mashed banana, sugar and eggs. Mix together with a rubber spatula. Add flour mixture to applesauce mixture and stir until just blended. Batter will be lumpy and very moist.

Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups, filling two-thirds full. Place banana slice on top of each muffin. Bake for 12 minutes, or until golden brown and set. Cool muffins in pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes before turning out muffins.

Makes 24 mini muffins or 12 regular muffins
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Lisa Barnes is author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook: Easy, Organic Recipes to Nurture Your Baby and Toddler and lives in Sausalito, California.
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A New Sous Chef in Town (with Brussels Leaves Recipe)

Tuesday, January 15th, 2008

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From Lisa Barnes

My son and I have always had a fun relationship in the kitchen. From a very early age (really 3 months) he’s been with me while I recipe test. He used to watch me knead dough from the comfort and safety of his bouncy seat at 5 months old. Later when he was about one year old he would sit in his high chair in the center of the kitchen singing and humming while smelling and (sometimes) tasting ingredients such as lemons, potatoes, and apples. Sometimes he would be at my feet playing with wooden spoons and pots. He was very patient and seemed to enjoy himself and our interactions. I made up lots of songs about vegetables and explained what I was doing with each measurement and task. Kind of a cooking show for babies.

I like to think that my kitchen lessons worked, as my son eats well compared to his friends and likes (or used to) help in the kitchen. Up until recently he would help measure, stir, turn on appliances and wait for taste tests. The recently part changed with the addition of a new sous chef – my daughter Ellery. Up until a month or so ago she wasn’t as interested in being with me in the kitchen. Sure, she’ll play with measuring cups and bang spoons, but not for long. She just always wants to eat and likes to scream at the refrigerator – hoping it will magically open. And when it does, boy she is fast. She’s able to get her little hands in and out grabbing produce, water bottles or anything else within reach. Once she has her prize, then she runs and laughs at me to come chase her. Recently she went running into the living room with tomatoes – popping them in her mouth and squealing with delight as they squished down her shirt and across the carpet. My son just said “yuk”.

While baking for the holidays my daughter seemed to notice how my son helps, and now I think she’s trying to take over his position. Literally as he’s standing on his stool, she climbs and forces her way next to him. He yells “no, no!” and she yells “see, see!” I thought “great”, she’s 18 months old so I’ll pull her high chair in and she can watch us. Nope. In the highchair she just wants to stand up. I find myself holding her to do a task and letting her watch. Then set her down quickly when I need both hands or have something requiring heat or cutting. Let’s just say she is not happy during the set down. It’s amazing how much moms can do with a child on their hip.

However, I found an activity that everyone can do together. You’ll never guess… peeling Brussels sprouts. My son and husband prefer to eat the individual leaves rather than the whole head. They come out kind of crisp and light, as opposed to the heavy texture of the whole sprout. Unfortunately it is labor intensive to peel each sprout leaf by leaf. Here’s how I, surprisingly, enlisted help. My daughter and son were eating a snack at the table. I sat with them and started to peel the spouts. I never said anything. My son asked what I was doing and he immediately volunteered to help. Once my daughter saw my son helping she reached over for a sprout too. I gave her one, thinking she would try to eat it then push it away. But she actually starting peeling it. (At this point everyone was whisked away to the sink for extra hand washing). And she was good at it too. Even copying her brother by saying “cut!” when she couldn’t peel anymore and needed more leaves loosened. We finished the job in about 20 minutes and I dubbed them the Brussels Buddies. I hope my new kitchen “line” will have this much fun the next food prep task.

Organic Brussels Leaves Recipe

1 pound organic Brussels sprouts
¼ cup organic extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon fresh squeezed organic lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper

Preheat oven to 375 °F. Line a jelly roll pan with foil.

Cut bottom stem or core of each sprout. Carefully peel away the leaves until it becomes too hard to peel. Cut off bottom core again and peel more layers. Continue cutting and peeling until it is too difficult to peel apart.

Place leaves in a large mixing bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and lemon and stir until all leaves are coated. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and stir again.

Spread leaves onto prepared baking pan in a single layer. Cook in oven 10 – 12 minutes or until leaves are cooked and start to crisp with golden edges.
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Lisa Barnes is author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook: Easy, Organic Recipes to Nurture Your Baby and Toddler and lives in Sausalito, California.
Image Credit: BBC Good Food
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