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Pumpkin Banana Streusel Muffins November 22, 2009

Posted by sugarandbliss in muffins.
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It’s autumn, and fall flavors and spices are all the rage these days. Pumpkin everything, sweet potato pies, and stuffing recipes are popping up all over the place. A little late in the game, I finally made my first official autumn recipe – these pumpkin banana streusel muffins. And seriously, they’re perfect. So perfectly spiced and moist, bursting with banana, pumpkin, cinnamon, and nutmeg, these little darlings didn’t last even 24 hours.

So make these now. You will not regret it. In your eagerness to get these yummies in your tummy, you might even completely melt the butter instead of just softening it. But that’s okay, the streusel is still awesomely sweet and crumbly like it should be. And be generous. Very generous. Make extra if you’d like, because streusel topping makes the world that much better. And if you’re like me, you’ll even forget to take a decent picture of your muffins before trying one. And another. And another.

Pumpkin Banana Streusel Muffins
Adapted from The Crepes of Wrath

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 cup vegetable or canola oil
1/3 cup + 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
3/4 cup pure pumpkin puree
3/4 cup mashed bananas (about 2 small bananas)
3/4 cup vanilla yogurt
turbinado sugar (optional)

Streusel topping:
1/2 cup all purpose flour
2 tablespoons firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch of salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed and at room temperature

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

To make the streusel, combine the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt in a medium sized bowl. Add butter and, using your hands, combine until small clumps have formed throughout the mixture.

In another bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and allspice. Set aside.

In a large bowl, mash the bananas. Then add in the vegetable oil, sugar, brown sugar, eggs, pumpkin, and yogurt. Mix well, scraping down the sides of your bowl.

Gradually mix the dry mixture to the pumpkin mixture. Do not overmix!

Pour batter into muffin tins prepared with muffin liners or cooking spray. Fill each with about 1/4 cup of batter. (I like to fill until about 3/4 full, but that’s because I prefer my muffins to bake up huge.) Top with a generous sprinkle of streusel topping and then a generous sprinkle of turbinado sugar. Bake for 15-20 minutes, and allow to cool for 10 minutes before removing. (I couldn’t wait more than five.)


Honey Cornbread Muffins November 22, 2009

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I love carbs. Rice, pasta, muffins, cookies, bread… oh the bread. And whoever came up with the idea of mixing cornmeal with flour was an absolute genius. With a touch of honey, these cornbread muffins will always be one of my top favorites. Fresh from the oven, they’re sweet with a lightly crisped top, crumbly like the perfect cornbread should be, and of course, have that characteristic grainy texture of cornmeal.  And the day after, if they can possibly last that long, they’ll have developed that slightly sticky, delicious, honeyed surface. And with a small pat of butter, how can you even resist? As if these muffins can’t get any better, they do. You know why? Because whipping a batch of these babies gets you in and out of the kitchen in under an hour. That is, if you can bring yourself to leave the golden muffins on the kitchen counter to cool.

Honey Cornbread Muffins
Recipe from here

Every time I’ve made a batch of these muffins, I’ve used lowfat or skim milk and they’ve turned out amazing. And as usual, I cut down the sugar just a bit. If you don’t use the muffin liners, like I did this time around, make sure to spray the muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray.

1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup whole milk
2 large eggs
1/2 stick butter, melted
1/4 cup honey

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Into a large bowl, mix the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt. In another bowl, whisk together the whole milk, eggs, butter, and honey. Add the wet to the dry ingredients and stir until just mixed.

Place muffin paper liners in a 12-cup muffin tin. Evenly divide the cornbread mixture into the papers. Bake for 15 minutes, until golden.

Peanut Sesame Noodles September 29, 2009

Posted by sugarandbliss in Chinese, pasta.
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As a student cooking for one, I need meals that are quick and easy to prepare. This dish is super easy to throw together and is absolutely delicious! The sauce can be prepared in advance, and the leftovers saved for more noodles another night, or used as a dipping sauce for whatever you’d like.

Peanut Sesame Noodles
Adapted from Food Mayhem

This recipe is mainly for the sauce. You can garnish with whatever you think is suitable. Traditionally called dan dan mein, it is topped with julienned cucumbers, minced pork, and crushed peanuts. I used lettuce because that’s all I had. You can also add Siracha sauce in place of chili garlic sauce.

whole wheat spaghetti
1/2 cup peanut butter (smooth or crunchy – your choice)
1/3 cup low sodium soy sauce
4 teaspoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons sugar
1/3 – 2/3 cup water
3 cloves garlic, minced (add more or less as desired)
chopped lettuce
1 teaspoon chili garlic sauce (adjust to your own taste)

In a large pot of boiling water, cook the spaghetti until al dente or tender, according to your preference.
In a medium sized bowl, combine peanut butter, soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar,water, and minced garlic. Add water until the sauce reaches desired consistency. Add more for thinner sauce, less for thicker.
Drizzle sauce over cooked noodles then top with chopped lettuce and dollop the chili garlic sauce. Stir just before eating and enjoying!

Homemade granola September 16, 2009

Posted by sugarandbliss in breakfast.
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Have I mentioned that I love oatmeal? And granola? And granola bars? Let’s just say I take well to anything that involves oats. Streusel toppings and crisps included. I find the nutty flavor and chewy texture of oats very appealing and comforting, especially with a dash of cinnamon added.

I’ve been wanting to make some homemade granola ever since I ran out of the stash I bought from the market a couple weeks ago. What with the constant invasion of ants, however, I’ve been avoiding the kitchen for the past week. So I took advantage of the temporarily spotless countertops and threw this granola together. It was quick, required a minimal amount of bowls, and didn’t involve any steps where I would have been likely to spill flour and sugar everywhere.

The resulting clusters of oats were delicious! Nicely crispy and chewy at the same time, sweet, cinnamon-y and healthy. But that healthy isn’t going to be any good if I continue to eat it the way I have been ever since it came out of the oven. That is, constantly.

Homemade Granola
adapted from Think Inside The Icebox

This goes great with vanilla yogurt and some fruit. One of my favorite combinations is mixing granola with honey nut Cheerios and milk. Feel free to add in your favorite ingredients! I don’t have raisins or cranberries in my granola because I don’t particularly like dried fruits. But that’s the glory of homemade granola – it’s customizable! (and cheap)

3 1/2 cups old fashioned oats
1 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup applesauce
1/3 cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Toast the almonds in a large pan over medium heat, stirring constantly for about five minutes, or until golden and aromatic. In a large bowl, combine oats, sugar, cinnamon, salt, and toasted almonds.

In a small saucepan, combine applesauce and honey. Heat until the mixture is thinned, about two minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in vanilla.

Pour the liquid over the dry mixture, stirring with a spatula until well coated. Spread onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for approximately 30 minutes. (Less time for softer, chewier granola and more for drier, crispier granola)

When cool enough to handle, stir lightly to break into pieces. Store in an airtight container.

Spicy mac n’ cheese September 9, 2009

Posted by sugarandbliss in pasta, savory.
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Working in a retail store, I get to see a wide variety of people. They range from the friendly, courteous-to-the-meticulously-folded-stacks type to the mothers cranky from the heat and annoyed with their rowdy kids to the foreign exchange students and recent immigrants who don’t know how to speak more then ten words of English. Each day, I never know what kind of people I’m going to encounter, but I greet and help each customer with the same cheery smile and happy-to-help-you attitude.

During evening and nighttime hours, the store gets more family-oriented and friendly-customer traffic. People go shopping after eating dinner, charged with the feel-good energy from hearty food and relaxation. Food plus cooler weather with friends, family or a significant other? There couldn’t be a better recipe for a good mood. One Friday night, while I was working the closing shift, I asked one of the guys meandering around the store if he was looking for anything special (aka, what are you shopping for and is there anything I can help you find). Just then, his girlfriend or wife joins him, and he replies, “I already found her.” And smiles. I smiled back, my heart gushing at his sweet statement, thinking “man, that girl is one lucky girl.”

But she’s not the only one with good luck, becuase I think I’ve struck it rich with the special guy in my life. And on some nights, nothing beats cozying up close to him with a big bowl of comfort food and a feel-good movie. So what made it into our dinner bowls on a lazy night in? Well, it’s not hard to guess from that ridiculously yellow hue. Yup, Kraft macaroni and cheese.

Normally, we just steam up some rice and stir fry some veggies and meat, but last night there was no fresh food in his fridge. None. Only because my boyfriend was going back home for a few weeks, though, and used up all the fresh food before it got the chance to go bad. But it’s very unlike me to cook just plain mac n cheese, or just plain anything when I’m in the kitchen, so we mixed in whatever looked good in the pantry: corn, spam, and some chili garlic sauce for heat. Can you say Asian-American fusion? I was looking for something spicy and that happened to be the only thing sitting around, so into the pot it went. And it was great! A whole lot better than we expected, especially with such a random combination of ingredients. The chili garlic sauce gave it a nice, satisfying heat. However, I don’t think garlic and cheese is the greatest of combinations. Next time around, I’m gonna omit the garlic and find something that’s just purely spicy. But that’s what cooking is, right? Trial and error.


Kicked Up Kraft Macaroni and Cheese

This dish is infinitely versatile. You can add in or substitute just about anything – leftover chicken or shrimp for Spam, red pepper flakes for the chili garlic sauce, or anything else you imagine will taste good! Just as we finished cooking, we realized that we did have one fresh ingredient – an onion. Next time, that onion is going to make it into the pot.

1 box Kraft Macaroni and Cheese
6 cups water
3 tsp unsalted butter
1/4 cup milk
1 6 oz can whole kernel sweet corn (frozen will work too)
1/2 can Spam, diced
3 tsp chili garlic sauce (or preferrably something non-garlicky)
1 tbsp vegetable oil

Bring water to a boil in a large pot. Add macaroni and cook about 7 minutes. Meanwhile, heat oil in a pan. Cook the diced Spam until browned, about 4 minutes. Drain the canned corn, and add to the pan. (If using frozen corn, just add it directly, no need to thaw) Season with salt and pepper, then cook until heated through and set aside. When the pasta is cooked, drain, but do not rinse, and return macaroni to the pot. Add butter and stir to melt. Add the milk and the cheese packet, stir. Add the Spam and corn mixture to the macaroni and stir to combine. Add the chili garlic sauce, adding more or less to suite your taste. Serve and enjoy!