Tag Archives: apple

Banana Bread . . . and Dog Treats?

Dog Treats / Especially Edible

I am a holiday person. I start buying Christmas presents in January. At my last job, I spent more time decorating my cubicle – twinkling lights, heart garlands, shamrocks – than I did actually working. (Which is probably why it was my last job.) So when I miss a holiday, even one of the fake holidays – and I’m talking super-fake here, not just Hallmark fake – I’m pretty bummed out. Did you know, for example, that February 23 was National Banana Bread Day as well as National Dog Biscuit Day? For real. There’s a site called Punchbowl that will send you an e-mail each morning to keep you abreast of such important dates. For equal-opportunity holiday freaks like myself, however, it would be better to get a heads-up the day before so that we know what to celebrate. I had all of February to throw a Lays-and-hash-browns party for National Potato Lover’s Month (which really should have the apostrophe after the S, don’t you think?), but with the glacial speed at which I put a blog post together, one day is just not enough time to write an ode to both banana bread and dog treats.

Grandma's Banana Bread / Especially Edible

The thing was, I almost made the deadline. In my ever-growing file of stuff to post, I have not one but two banana bread recipes, two variations on banana muffins, and some photographs of banana chocolate chip cookies that I took way back when I thought slapping a cookie on a plate under the kitchen lights was the way to make food look delicious. Despite my not owning a dog, the week of the 23rd also happened to mark my first foray into pet treats. But after my Monday night volunteer gig and an hour of wrestling with my iPhone to get my still-marginal pictures onto my computer, I finally admitted that any blog post on banana bread and dog biscuits was not going to happen by midnight. And since it wasn’t going to be time-stamped 2/23 anyway, I decided to shove the entire thing and watch a 2005 rerun of America’s Next Top Model instead.

Grandma's Banana Bread / Especially Edible

Now that you know about my sub-par work ethic, you can probably work out what happened next, and why I’m celebrating banana bread and dog treats (ooh, don’t banana bread dog treats sound promising?) on the 3rd of March instead of the 23rd or 24th of February. Each recipe really deserves a post of its own, especially my grandmother’s banana bread, but the gods at Punchbowl – or more likely the people at the Banana Growers Board and PetSmart/Petco lobby – decided to celebrate a quick bread and a doggie delicacy on the same day. (Unfortunately, the gods at Recipe Ziplist decided that I couldn’t put more than one recipe in a post. So you’ll have to follow the links for the dog treats.)

Dog Treats / Especially Edible

My grandmother’s recipe for banana bread reminds me a lot of her mother’s recipe for fruitcake. Compared to today’s recipes, it’s bare-bones: sugar, flour, bananas, and not a whole lot more. By contrast, the caramelized banana bread I made last month called for all that plus dark brown sugar, buttermilk, and rum. But when the simple, brown-flecked loaf made from my grandmother’s recipe emerged from the oven, I wondered why I’d bothered standing over the stove and sauteeing the bananas for the circa-2012 recipe. (Not that it was bad. In fact, I might even get around to posting it sometime in the next three years.) When did recipes get so complicated? It now seems like a badge of honor to use six different types of flour (all gluten-free, natch), chill dough for an entire day (hello, NYT chocolate chip cookies), and eschew butter or vegetable oil for fancy, faddy ingredients like coconut oil. I personally like complicated recipes. If I can get in and out of the kitchen in under half an hour, I don’t feel like I’ve accomplished much. But that certainly doesn’t mean those recipes taste better. My official testers, my mother and father (who, now that I think about it, really didn’t have a choice but to prefer his mom’s recipe), ate up Grandma Keizer’s banana bread faster than they’ve devoured any other quick bread.

Grandma's Banana Bread / Especially Edible

As for the second half of the celebration, what was someone who’s never owned a dog doing making treats for canines? A friend of my father’s has a beloved, crazily smart dog who’s sick. (This dog is definitely a who, not a that.) The dog’s name is Zoe and she lives in Maine, officially on the opposite side of the country. But that’s why the postal system invented priority mail. That’s also why Amazon carries more types of bone-shaped cookie cutters than there are breeds of dogs.

I don’t know what dogs like. But Beggin’ Strips ads (baconbaconbaconbacon!) and the old-school “Got Milk” campaign have taught me that dogs go crazy for peanut butter and bacon. I found a recipe on the Food Network website – who knew that Giada De Laurentis baked for pets as well? – for peanut butter dog treats to which I could easily add some crumbled bacon. The other recipe, this one from Martha Stewart, whose Chow Chow actually won “best in breed” at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in 2012, had ingredients that were a bit more unusual: cheddar and applesauce. But who doesn’t like cheese?!

Making dog treats was definitely a crapshoot. At least with cookies, I can enlist one of my parents for a taste-test before subjecting other people to my recipes. But they weren’t about to try doggie biscuits – though I thought the bacon and peanut butter might tempt my dad. So I swathed them in bubble wrap and sent them on their way to Maine.

Dog Treats / Especially Edible Well, Zoe loved them. Her owner sent along some great clips of Zoe shaking “hands” to earn a treat. If the whole food blog thing doesn’t pan out, it’s comforting to know that I can always hawk my dog biscuits at a card table outside PetSmart.

I may officially be a cat person, but there’s something about a dog’s joie de vivre that’s irresistible. They’re such happy animals, and they wear their emotions on their metaphorical sleeves. Cats are just a bit more aloof. No matter how overjoyed they are at the sound of the can opener, they don’t smile the way dogs seem to. Dogs are so enthusiastic that they leave paw prints on your T-shirt. Cats, on the other hand, like to maintain their dignity. This photo of Zoe sums up everything that makes dog’s a man’s (or a woman’s) best friend.

Zoe Beach Run

So mark your calendars for February 23, 2016. That’s probably the next time you’ll see banana bread and dog biscuits in the same sentence.

Grandma's Banana Bread

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour

Total Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes

Yield: 1 loaf


2 cups flour

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. baking soda

5 Tbs. buttermilk

3 bananas, mashed

1/2 cup butter, softened

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 large eggs


Preheat oven to 325. Mist a 9x5 loaf pan with cooking spray.

Dissolve baking soda in buttermilk and set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat in eggs, then stir in the baking soda-buttermilk mixture.

Add flour and salt and mix until combined. Fold in mashed bananas.

Bake for 1 hour. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.



Apple Pumpkin Muffins

A harvest-time muffin after the harvest.

Apple Pumpkin Muffins | Especially Edible

I bake more than I blog. And that’s a problem. My laptop has folder after folder of recipes ready to be posted. Normally, they’d wait patiently, queued up on my desktop, but the pumpkin-spice-and-everything-nice season is quickly running out. It’s a little like white shoes after Labor Day. There’s just something off about pumpkin, squash, and sweet potato recipes once Christmas has come and gone. Heck, it’s hard enough to justify them now, when I should be making fruitcake and mince pie and panettone.

So I’d better get on with it. Want to know how long ago I made these muffins? Well, the apple was left over from the apple cake I made for the local Democrats before the November election. And if you think that’s bad, you should see the other pumpkin muffin recipe waiting in the wings. That one relies on zucchini, which overwhelms gardens during sun-bathing weather, to give its fall flavor a hint of Indian summer.

Apple Pumpkin Muffins | Especially Edible

But back to my apple-pumpkin muffins. If there’s anything that says fall as much as Jack-o-Lanterns and crunchy leaves, it’s apple cider. Bear with me as I step back in time a few months to enjoy a muffin that would have been perfect for back-to-school lunchboxes. After all, it’s technically still fall until December 21. I tend to delude myself into thinking winter is over by the time Christmas rolls around, but the reality is that it’s just starting . . . a season of icy roads, snowed-in claustrophobia and weather reports that set my teeth on edge. Oh, did I mention I don’t like snow? Let’s celebrate fall for just a little longer.

Apple Pumpkin Muffins | Especially Edible

Apple Pumpkin Muffins

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 24 minutes

Total Time: 39 minutes

Yield: 12 muffins


1/2 cup diced Granny Smith apple

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour

1/2 cup brown sugar, packed

1 1/4 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

3/4 tsp. baking powder

1/2 baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

3/4 cup pumpkin puree

1/2 cup apple sauce

1/2 cup greek yogurt

2 eggs

Chopped pecans for topping


Preheat oven to 350.

In a small bowl, whisk together flour, brown sugar, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix pumpkin puree, apple sauce, yogurt and eggs.

Add dry ingredients to the wet, then fold in diced apples.

Spoon batter into the wells of a muffin tin misted with cooking spray. Sprinkle with pecans.

Bake for 22-24 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool in tin for 5-10 minutes. Then turn out onto wire racks and let cool completely.

Recipe from The Comfort of Cooking via Joyful, Healthy Eats .




Apple Acorn Squash Muffins

 An apple and acorn squash breakfast treat that uses up that last bit of buttermilk.

Apple Acorn Squash Muffins / Especially Edible

Fall is here. Winter is close behind. And I’ve dedicated the season to learning to roast my own squash; not just pumpkin but butternut squash and acorn squash as well. (I also have a recipe in my file for a pie made from something called a kobacha squash.) An acorn squash is quite a cool thing: cut it in half and you have a crimped, flower-shaped bowl that, stuffed and double-baked, would make a great addition to a Thanksgiving table.

Spiced Acorn Squash Muffins / Especially Edible

Roasting squash is probably the warmest, coziest winter activity – even if it’s not technically winter yet – imaginable, with the exception of, say, knitting in front of a fire with a cat on your lap. And that’s a good thing: Like usual, I found something on Pinterest that epitomizes the way I feel about the beginning of November.

Pinterest Says Fall Sucks.

Roasting an acorn squash takes a little bit of that “expectation” and injects it into the cold, wet reality of fall. The oven heats up the kitchen, which fills with a delicious smell that’s not quite savory and not quite sweet. While raw pumpkin smells pretty gross – a lot like the goopy innards scooped out of Jack-o-lanterns from when you were a kid – raw acorn squash has a nutty, buttery smell that is actually tempting. Obviously, it’s even better after it’s cooked. After an hour or so in the oven at 400 degrees, the shiny black-green skin of the acorn squash peels away from the flesh like a wet Band-aid. (Too gross? Maybe not the best metaphor for a food blog.)

Acorn Squash Collage

The process is pretty simple. Cut the squash in half and scoop out the innards using a knife and the edge of a spoon. Oil the halves and place them face-down on a baking sheet, then pour 1 cup of water onto the sheet. (Make sure you’re using a jelly roll type pan that has sides!) Roast for about an hour at 400 or 90 minutes at 350. Depending on how soft the squash has become, either peel away the skin to expose the flesh or scoop out the flesh with a large spoon. Mash with a potato masher or hand mixer. For a smoother consistency, you can puree it in a blender or food processor, but be aware that this releases a lot of moisture. If you go that route, you’ll want to drain it in a strainer over a bowl until a fair amount of liquid accumulates in the bottom.

Spiced Acorn Squash Muffins / Especially Edible

Back to the muffins: Most recipes featuring acorn squash keep the skin on the squash, or take advantage of the pretty, crimped edges of the flesh to turn it into a miniature bowl filled with stuffing. But, like pumpkin and butternut squash, acorn squash also lends itself to baking. These muffins don’t scream squash! – in fact, they taste a lot like plain spiced apple muffins. Still, the acorn squash adds an upscale, smoky note that takes these babies past everyday cinnamon apple and qualifies them  for the Fall/Winter collection of Muffin Couture.

Spiced Acorn Squash Muffin / Especially Edible

Acorn Squash Apple Muffins

Prep Time: 1 hour

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 20 minutes

Yield: 12 muffins


1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1/4 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. salt

1 1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

1/2 cup butter, softened

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar, packed

2 large eggs

1 tsp. vanilla extract

3/4 cup pureed acorn squash

1/4 cup buttermilk

1 apple, peeled and grated

1/2 cup walnuts, for topping


Preheat the oven to 400.

Whisk together the flours, baking soda, salt and pumpkin pie spice. Set aside.

Cream together the sugars and butter. Add the eggs one at a time, then stir in the buttermilk, acorn squash puree and vanilla.

Mix in the dry ingredients. Fold in the grated apple.

Scoop batter into a muffin tin coated with cooking spray. Top each muffin with a few walnuts. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove to a wire rack to cool.

Recipe from Savory Simple


Sweet Potato Apple Turkey Chili

Perfect for a pre-Thanksgiving football game!

Sweet Potato Apple Turkey Chili / Especially Edible

Yams? Sweet potatoes? At first I thought the difference was pretty clear-cut. I thought that sweet potatoes were the orangey, pink-skinned thingies that went into marshmallow-crusted casseroles. And I thought that yams were . . . well, I didn’t really know what yams were. One was a tuber, I thought, and the other was . . . again, I didn’t know what the other one was. After buying both sweet potatoes and yams from my local Whole Foods-type store, I was convinced that what people had for years called sweet potatoes were really yams. Yams red, sweet potatoes white. End of story. I even took a picture of it and vowed to write a blog post rolling my eyes at everyone whose “sweet potato” recipes – this soup, this salad, and this bread – were clearly made from the beautiful orange flesh of yams.

Sweet Potatoes vs Yams

But then I Googled it, and fell down the black hole of Internet research. The pictures Google splashed at the top of my screen seemed to confirm my white/orange hypothesis, but then I clicked on the Huffington Post’s attempt to provide a definitive answer to “What is the difference between a sweet potato and a yam?” and just ended up more confused. (This is often the case with HuffPo articles.)

Sweet Potato Apple Turkey Chili / Especially Edible

The Kitchn does a better job of explaining it: Basically, what we think of as yams and sweet potatoes are two different varieties of sweet potatoes, despite the USDA’s efforts to label all the orange ones as “yams.” True yams come from Africa, have a sort of hairy-looking skin, and bright white flesh with purple highlights. Firm-fleshed sweet potatoes are white inside with white skin, and soft-fleshed sweet potatoes are orange inside with red skin. You can certainly tell the difference when you puree and mash them for recipes – the former mash up like regular starchy potatoes, waxy and stiff, while the latter become soft and fluffy when pureed. “Yams” are what we typically use when we make that marshmallow casserole, and they’re infinitely prettier and easier to use in baked goods, though I did have some success with what I now consider “real” sweet potatoes (the white kind) in a hummus that got its healthy tan color from tahini paste and cumin.

Sweet Potato Turkey Apple Chili / Especially Edible

Going by the pictures, the chili I made the other night definitely incorporated “yams” despite its name. And really, who wants a sweet potato chili that’s stiff and white? If I wanted a blah-looking soup, I’d puree some cauliflower. The name wasn’t the only thing about this recipe that was a misnomer. Called “easy” by the (wonderful) blog Oh Sweet Basil, I had a hard time referring to anything  as “easy” that required half an hour of dicing and another fifteen minutes of cleaning up my monster of a food processor. Of course, with my knife skills, I am the slowest cook in the world. You can literally double the prep time on any recipe that requires any of its ingredients to be cut up. My father dices onions like a pro, turning his knife one way and then the next. I, on the other hand, stab away at the thing, flinging stray onion pieces onto the floor and, quite memorably, into my hair.

So maybe we’ll call this chili “Intermediate Sweet Potato Apple Turkey Chili.” No matter what you call it, it has the perfect hint of Thanksgiving while still respecting the fact that it’s only November 10.

Sweet Potato Apple Turkey Chili

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 40 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes

Yield: Serves 6 people


2 medium sweet potatoes (yams)

3 cups vegetable broth

1 Tbs. olive oil or butter

1 large carrot, chopped

1 zucchini, chopped

1 red bell pepper, chopped

1 yellow bell pepper, chopped

3/4 pound lean ground turkey

1 cup milk

1/4 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

Salt to taste


Cook sweet potatoes: Either bake in the oven at 400 degrees for 45 minutes, then peel; or peel and cut into chunks, then steam for 20 minutes until tender.

In a food processor or blender, combine cooked sweet potatoes with broth and puree until smooth.

In a large pot over medium heat, melt the tablespoon of butter. Saute the carrots, peppers and zucchini until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the ground turkey and apple and cook until turkey is brown all the way through, about 5-8 more minutes.

Add the pureed mixture and milk to the pot. Sprinkle with pumpkin pie spice and simmer for 30 minutes. Before serving, season to taste with salt.

Recipe adapted from Oh Sweet Basil



Apple Spice Cake

A Rosh Hashanah favorite gets a Martha Stewart twist

2014-09-26 14.20.31-2

This is the cake the senator ate.

If I were Dr. Seuss, that would make a great beginning to this post. But I’m not, so here’s the story: I volunteer twice a week at the Democratic Party of Lane County. That’s a major step back from 2012, when I spent six days a week holed up in my town’s Obama campaign office, managing the data collection for the downtown canvass area. Now I’ve been reduced to stuffing envelopes and putting together walk packets – this is what happens when you don’t stay involved after the election – but, from the reaction of everyone at the office, my primary role is Food Bearer. I’ve made butternut squash muffins, chocolate chip cookies, and gluten-free brownies for one of the few people actually getting paid to make phone calls, a teddy bear of a man named Don.

2014-09-26 14.19.30

But the biggest thing I’ve done was on request: an apple spice cake for Senator Ron Wyden, who mad an appearance at the office after stopping by the City Club of Eugene to talk about privacy issues. I’m admittedly not a huge fan of Wyden – I don’t think he’s sufficiently supportive of the president, for one thing, and his privacy crusade doesn’t do much for someone raised on an Internet driven by personal information made public – but I cant say I’ve ever baked for a U.S. senator before.


Wyden arrived on the last day of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, and the office’s grimy whiteboard welcomed the senator with “Happy New Year, Sen. Wyden!” scrawled above the ever-present tally of days until the election. Apple spice cake is apparently a traditional Rosh Hashana dish, and while my Martha Stewart interpretation was a pretty loose riff on that tradition (the caramel sauce may not have been typical, but it was tasty as well as necessary to hide the missing chunk of cake that had stuck to the Bundt pan when I tried to invert it too soon), it was at least a nice effort.

I didn’t stick around for the Wyden event – no senator-baker selfies or pics of Wyden with a forkful of apple spice cake – but some fellow DPLC’ers confirmed that everyone had “devoured” the cake. Aww, shucks – I’m blushing.

I’m a political junkie, if you hadn’t already gathered that, but caterer to the pols is not a career choice I’d considered. Now . . . well, you never know.

2014-09-26 14.19.49

Apple Spice Cake

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 50 minutes

Yield: Serves 10 people



3 cups flour

1 Tbs. ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg

1/4 tsp. ground cloves

1/4 ground allspice

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. salt

2 cups sugar

1 1/3 cups vegetable oil

3 large eggs

1 tsp. vanilla extract

3-4 Granny Smith apples, cored and diced (3 cups)

Caramel Sauce

1 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup butter

1/4 cup evaporated milk

1 tsp. vanilla

Salt to taste



Preheat oven too 350.

Sift together flour, spices, baking soda and salt into a medium bowl.

In a large bowl, mix sugar, vegetable oil, eggs, and vanilla until bright yellow.

Combine dry ingredients with wet, mixing until just incorporated. Fold in diced apples.

Pour the batter into a 12-cup Bundt pan coated generously with cooking spray. Bake 75-90 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Cool for 20 minutes on a wire rack, then invert onto rack to cool completely.

Caramel Sauce

Combine ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring until sauce thickens. Drizzle over cake and serve.

Apple Spice Cake and Caramel Sauce recipe from Martha Stewart.


Garden Harvest Bread

Summer’s last hurrah in a loaf of bread

garden harvest

Can we pretend for a second that fall isn’t on its way? Can I replace the brown and yellow leaves falling from the trees with healthy green foliage? Can the nights stay warm? Please?

I sense the universe is not listening to my pleas. The air is already cooler, crisper, and the roads are crowded with yellow school buses. If back-to-school sales and the smell of number 2 pencils and Crayola crayons don’t scream fall, nothing does.

But this is a bread for people who like to delude themselves. This is Endless Summer bread, the kind that you might eat as a kid at the start of vacation, when three months of freedom really do seem endless. Fresh from the garden with zucchini, carrot, and apple, it also has the distinction of being disgustingly healthy.

Garden Harvest Bread

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 50 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes

Yield: 1 loaf

Garden Harvest Bread


1 cup flour

2 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. nutmeg

1 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. salt

3/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup canola oil

1/4 cup buttermilk

2 large eggs

1/2 cup grated, peeled Granny Smith apple

1/2 cup grated carrot

1/2 cup grated zucchini


Preheat oven 350.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In a larger bowl, beat together sugar, oil and buttermilk. Beat in eggs one at at a time. Fold in the grated apple, carrot and zucchini.

Beat the flour mixture into the wet ingredients.

Pour into a 8x4 loaf pan coated with cooking spray.

Bake for 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in the pan, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Recipe from Cooking Light


This recipe, from Cooking Light, pushed my lazy baker tendencies to the limit. Cooking Light is one of those magazines that insists on doing everything by the book. The flour measurements are given first by weight (4.5 ounces, if anyone’s interested) and then, for the rest of us peons not inclined to whip out the kitchen scale, by volume (1 cup). The best cookbooks and food bloggers will tell you that weighing dry ingredients is the best way to get a consistent product. And if you’re not going to use a scale, then at least use the “scoop and sweep” method: Scoop the flour into the measuring cup by spoonfuls, then sweep across the top, using a knife as a level. Honestly, how many people actually do that? (Dear reader, perhaps you do. Perhaps I am the lazy outlier. Hmm.) I just dip my measuring cup into the flour container and level the top with whatever’s handy, usually the edge of a spoon. The whole reasoning behind weighing and “scoop and sweep” is that not only does the size of measuring cups vary, but flour packed into the cup will naturally be more than flour that loosely sits in it. The two methods are designed to get a standard amount of flour or sugar into the cup. So yes, I get it. But have I used either method? No, because my baked goods always seem to turn out just fine. I’ve never had a bad loaf of this garden harvest bread, for example. Usually my mistakes are related to my far more serious crimes of laziness – melting the butter in a cookie recipe to make it easier to beat into the sugar instead of creaming it cold. That’s a far greater crime than avoidance of “scoop and sweep.” And yet, I live to bake another day!