Little French Fudge Cakes

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I absolutely love (LOVE!) listening to The Splendid Table on NPR. I have been a fan for as long as I can remember and it is a staple in my podcast collection for long plane rides and road trips.  Lynne Rossetto Kasper and Sally Swift developed this recipe for their cookbook The Splendid Table’s How to Eat Supper and I wanted to give it a try in my home kitchen.  Boy, they weren’t kidding when they said, “If you can melt chocolate and stir, you can make these cakes.”  They were so simple – albeit a bit expensive due to the required chocolate – but so worth it!

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Banana Cream Pie

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For the longest time I had been craving a slice of banana cream pie.  I know I could have probably satisfied that craving by heading to the local Village Inn, but why do such a thing when baking my own would much that much more satisfying?  Cream pies are, in my opinion, overlooked in the dessert world.  They’re finicky – what with the custard, and all.  They are time-consuming, as the crust must be pre-baked and totally cooled prior to being filled.  And often, they simply don’t turn out well; they may be too runny, too “stiff”, or the crust might not be hearty enough to stand up to the custard filling.  For whatever reason, I felt like accepting the challenge.  I love bananas and I love pastry cream, so what the heck, right?  Bring it on.

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High-Contrast Cookies

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Yesterday I spent roughly 5 hours babysitting a pot of bolognese slated for dinner that evening.  My friend Pat loves making fresh pasta (as do I) and when I said I was planning to make a bolognese, he offered to provide the pasta.

I’m officially on break from school and loving it.  No papers to write, no projects to complete, no academic reading to do.  Rather, I’m spending my days reading books I want to read (i.e., The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter), writing letters, watching movies, and spending quality time in the kitchen.  That quality time includes laborious dishes like bolognese, but I don’t mind one bit.  Something wonderful happens when a pot of bolognese is allowed to simmer for many hours; deep, silky flavors develop and the entire house benefits from the lazy cooking process.

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Vivan’s Texas Sheet Cake

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I’ve never been a gambler.  Well, at least not a good one.  I rarely win anything, be it a stuffed toy at the county fair, or a pair of tickets via the local radio station.  This fact does not bode well for me since I have a group of friends that likes to meet occasionally for a “friendly” game of Texas Hold ‘Em poker.

We have some really, really good players in the group and I am so bad that I only play when I know I have decent cards – I’m giving away all my secrets here!  In all seriousness, the game is always fun.  I see it as a way to connect to friends on a human level rather than via Facebook, and hey, when we host, I always make some sort of sweet or savory snack!  So, even though my friends walk away with my buy-in (all $10 of it!), at least I can say I provided something good to eat while they do it.

This time, we welcomed two newcomers into the fold.  My friend from Norway, Thomas, was here visiting and he brought his friend, Anders.  To mark the occasion, I felt that something chocolatey would suffice.  I instantly thought about my mother’s Texas Sheet Cake.  It’s quick and simple, and totally divine.

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Peach and Bourbon Bars

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The farmers market is in full force here in Omaha and I absolutely could not pass up the opportunity to bring home a few lovely peaches.  As they sat on my counter, I thought about what I might do with them besides just slice and eat (which is perfectly fine).  I ran across a few inspirations online and decided to sort of mash them all together and add a few of my own ingredients.

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Rhubarb-Strawberry Cobbler (with Fresh Thyme, Orange Zest, and Port!)

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Rhubarb at the farmers market always excites me.  I grew up with a rhubarb patch in our garden, and my mom would always make rhubarb pie for my dad.  There was something about the tartness of the stalks mixed with the sweetness of the sugar that always stuck with me.

Rhubarb is one of those ingredients that can be mixed with almost any fruit and thrown into a cobbler, pie, or crisp and taste delicious.  This time, I chose to go with the classic pairing of rhubarb and strawberry.  But with a couple of my own additions, natch.

Cobblers are so easy that I don’t know why I don’t make one every week.  How could you go wrong with sweet, warm fruit under a buttery biscuit topping??

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All that is required of you is some fresh fruit and a few other ingredients, and wham! you have cobbler.  Listen, go out and pick up some rhubarb and strawberries from the farmers (or other) market and get started.  You’ll be done before you know it and enjoying warm cobbler on your patio while you listen to the summer birds sing your praises!

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Chocolate Banana Bread

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If you’re like me at all, you have a collection of overripe bananas in your freezer, destined for bread.  I have a pretty fool-proof (and delicious) recipe for banana bread given to me by my mother, but I wanted to change things up this time around.  And what better way to do that than with chocolate?

I was reminded of a batch of chocolate-banana ice cream I made for my friend Matthew as a Christmas gift.  I asked he and his wife, Sarah, what their favorite flavors of ice cream were, and that is what I gave to them as gifts.  I much prefer giving edible gifts over anything else for holidays and birthdays.  Matthew said he loved the combination of chocolate and banana, and I totally agree.  Why not turn that into a bread?

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The bananas (minus one) are still a little frozen in this photo, my apologies.

I was hoping for a bread that was more dessert-like in texture, and I think this was a success.  It had the dense consistency of pound cake, and the banana flavor was just subtle enough not to be overpowering.   However, I would probably omit the chocolate chips in my next batch of this bread.  I say this only because (as you might know if you read this blog) I don’t prefer overly-sweet dishes.  The chocolate powder was perfect on its own and needed no extra help from the chips.

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All-purpose flour sifted with cocoa powder, granulated sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

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