Wednesday, January 30, 2013

I've Moved........Please Join Me

So after a lot of contemplation and an equal amount of technical frustration this blog has moved.  You can now find me on at  So why the move? 

I love to cook and hope this blog takes on a life that lasts long after we depart from Albania.  As such I decided to rename and move it while it was still in its infancy.  I've transferred the original content to and new recipes will quickly populate the site.  As with any change there are quirks to work out.  Some of the formatting is different and I'm still experimenting with page layout but I decided it was now or never so I jumped right in. 

I hope to see you soon.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Banana Bread

Who doesn't love banana bread? From a cook's perspective it is a quick and easy way to use up all of those too ripe bananas.  From the dining perspective, there is nothing better than a warm slice of banana bread for breakfast or a snack with a cup of tea or coffee.

This recipe from Cambridge, Massachusetts'  Flour Bakery is indeed easy to make and always a crowd-pleaser.  The original recipe calls for the addition of ground cinnamon in the batter.  I also add an equal amount of ground nutmeg and have never heard a complaint. This bread has become my go-to bake sale item and I even get special requests to make extra.  Whenever I have extra bananas that need to be used up I'll make a batch of bread in mini loaf pans and keep them in the freezer until needed.  They freeze beautifully and will fully defrost when left on the counter overnight.

1 1/2 cups  all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons  sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons creme fraiche or sour cream
3 1/2 very ripe bananas, peeled and mashed
3/4 cup walnut halves, toasted and chopped (optional)  

1)  Position rack in the center of the oven, and preheat to 325 F.  Butter a 9 x 5 loaf pan.
2)  In a bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Set aside.
3)  Using a stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment, beat sugar and eggs on medium for 5 minutes,   or until light and fluffy.
4)  On low, slowly drizzle in oil.  Don’t pour it all in at once. You want to pour it in over 1 minute, to keep all the air you just beat into the egg-sugar mixture.  Add the mashed bananas, creme fraiche, and vanilla. Continue to mix on low just until combined.
5)  Using a spatula, fold in dry ingredients and nuts (if using) just until thoroughly combined. No flour streaks should be visible and the nuts evenly distributed.  Pour into the greased loaf pan and smooth top.
 6)  Bake for 1 to 1 1/4 hours, or until golden on top and the center springs back when pressed.  Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes, then pop out of the pan to finish cooling.
The banana bread can be stored tightly wrapped in plastic wrap at room temp up to 3 days.  Or, it can be well wrapped and frozen up to 2 weeks.

Yield: one 9 x 5 loaf or 8 mini loaves

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Nutella Bundt Cake

Nutella, that irresistibly creamy chocolate and hazelnut spread is to Europe what peanut butter is to America.  Just as every American grocery store has shelves filled with peanut butter, the same is true for European markets.  From the largest super store to the smallest corner market, every merchant sells jars of this creamy goodness.  Nutella is great on toast or crackers and I've even been known to eat it by the spoonful straight from the jar.  So imagine my excitement when I came across this recipe for bundt cake on the From Away food blog.

Like most bundt cakes, this one comes together quickly with a minimum of ingredients.  A little powdered sugar or whipped cream and the cake is fancy enough to be served at dinner parties yet simple enough to be eaten as a decadent afternoon snack with a cup of coffee.


2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup Nutella
1 cup whole milk

1)  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour a bundt pan.

2)  In a large bowl, whisk to combine the flour, baking powder, and salt.

3) In the bowl of a stand mixer cream the sugar into the butter until light in color and fluffy in texture.

4)  Add one egg at a time, then the Nutella.  

5)  Pour in half of the dry ingredient mixture, half of the milk, the rest of the dry ingredients, and the
      rest of the milk.  Mix until just combined.

6)  The batter will be thick.  Spread it into the prepared bundt pan and bake for 45-55 minutes.

7)  Top with confectioner's sugar or a dollop of whipped cream.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Boozy Hot Chocolate (Three Ways)

This very adult hot cocoa doesn't even resemble the watery version made with powder and adorned with dehydrated marshmallows that I drank as a child.  This is rich and creamy with a little kick of your choice.  A little goes a long way;  especially if you make it with whole milk.  So sit back, relax, and enjoy your cup on a cold winter afternoon.

You can add whichever liqueur strikes your fancy.  I experimented with Grand Marnier, Frangelico, and a Lilly coffee liqueur.  Each was different but all three were good and we couldn't decided which one we preferred.


Serves 2

2 cups 2 percent milk (or whole if your feeling indulgent)
3 1/2 ounces good quality dark chocolate
4 teaspoons dark brown sugar
3 tablespoons liqueur of your choice 
Whipped cream
Garnishes as desired (orange zest, whole coffee beans, cocoa powder, etc)

1)  Chop the chocolate into small pieces.  Add to a medium sized saucepan with the brown sugar and

2)  Stirring frequently, warm over medium low heat.

3)  Place 1 1/2 tablespoons of the liqueur of your choice in the bottom of each mug.  Ladle in the cocoa
     and stir to combine.

4)  Top with a dollop of whipped cream and garnish, if desired.  I used orange zest for the Grand
      Marnier version, a coffee bean for the coffee version, and a dusting of Dutch processed cocoa for
      the Frangelico version.

Drink and enjoy!