Strength of Stone | Red Wine Sangria

From the Fruit Bowl- Moist Banana Muffins and Red Wine Sangria

Strength of Stone | Moist Banana Muffins and Sangria

More often than not, this bowl is flipped so the base becomes a dish, and there is some dessert calling out my name from under the lid; but every once in a while, I call it a fruit bowl and fill it with “nature’s fast food.”

Which is quickly turned into something decadent when the fruit inevitably goes uneaten. I don’t know why I fight it. . .  So I’m spreading the love and sharing two of my favorite recipes from the fruit bowl, Moist Banana Muffins and Red Wine Sangria.

Quick Tip- The riper your bananas are, the more flavor they give when baking. My bananas weren’t quite ready yet, but I didn’t want to wait another couple days (when you want banana muffins, you want them NOW). I found out that you can bake your bananas to ripen them quickly (thanks Google). The gas from the oven mimics the ethylene gas that ripens bananas. I can’t complain about the results! Just make sure you open the bananas over your mixing bowl, as they will be mushy and juicy from the oven! (This won’t work with the bananas that are still green and have not begun to ripen yet.)

trength of Stone | Quickly Ripen Bananas

This recipe comes from Pamela at Brooklyn Farm Girl (I just added some vanilla extract to the mix). I love how versatile banana muffins are; depending on how I’m feeling, I’ll add chocolate chips, nuts, jam, coconut. . . Pamela adds an amazing looking brown sugar/cinnamon crumble to the top of her muffins that I was very tempted to try, but I couldn’t resist my favorite combination- bananas and Nutella.  I decided to do a Nutella “swirl” (which I now know is near impossible to do on top of a mini muffin), got lazy and switched to a Nutella “plop” (hoping it would sink into the batter- it did not), and finally settled on just adding some dark chocolate chips to the batter.

Strength of Stone | Banana Muffin Add Ins

I will save the “swirl” for banana loaf, and try to make Nutella chips for my next batch. I’ll let you know how that goes…

Moist Banana Muffins
(Yields 48 mini muffins or 12 regular muffins)
1½ cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
4 ripe bananas
¾ cup sugar
5 Tbsp butter
1 egg
2 tsp vanilla extract
(Optional – Chocolate Chips, Nuts, Jam, etc)

-Preheat oven to 350° F. Spray your pan with nonstick spray and set aside (I just use cupcakes holders).
-Mix flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in bowl.
-In separate bowl mix bananas, sugar, butter, egg and vanilla extract until smooth. Add in flour mixture until combined. Fold in any optional ingredients.
-Spoon into pan and cook until the sides begin to turn golden brown. (About 12 minutes for mini-muffins, 25 minutes for regular muffins, and I rarely make a loaf so I can’t give you a good estimate of time for that- I always just watch the sides and use the toothpick test when the sides begin to brown!)

Seriously, delicious. The only thing better than fruit and sugar is fruit and wine, which brings me to my Red Wine Sangria recipe. Like the banana muffins, sangria is incredibly versatile and there are infinite possibilities (just ask Pinterest). I enjoy a “fancy” sangria every now and then (like this Apple Cider Sangria for Thanksgiving, or this beautiful Cranberry & Rosemary White Sangria for Christmas), but for a night with my girls, this basic recipe always hits the spot.

Strength of Stone | Red Wine Sangria

I find myself singing Allman Brothers everytime I make this. . .
“In all his deepest dreams the Gypsy flies
with sweet Sangria. . . MMMmmm. . . “

Red Sangria
(Yields ½ gallon*)
1 Bottle Dry Red Wine
¾ cup Spiced Rum (or your liquor of choice)
½ cup Orange Juice (fresh or bottled)
1 Orange
1 Apple
1 Pear
1 Lemon
2 Tbsp Sugar
1½ cups Sparkling Water

-Cut the fruit into thin slices (or dice them into bite size pieces if you are like me and enjoy slurping up the fruit LOL) and place in pitcher.
-Add the sugar, orange juice wine and rum, stir to combine. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours (or overnight).
-Before serving, add sparkling water. Serve in glasses with ice (or with frozen grapes, if you are again like me and don’t appreciate the ice cube watering down your drink and getting in the way of those precious fruit slices. . .)
*This yields ½ gallon, which is perfect for our girls night (which consists of one wino, one moderate drinker, and one light drinker). For anything else, I at least double the recipe. Know your guests and plan accordingly, there’s nothing worse than running out of Sangria. 😉

(Can you tell who the wino of the group is?!)

Strength of Stone | Sangria Fruit

As I sprinkle the sugar over the fruit, I think fondly of the snow falling and being home for winter. Then the sugar reaches the fruit, the juice begins to turn it into an ugly slush, and the moment of missing the snow quickly fades as I think about the muddy slush you guys are dealing with now that the temperature is finally rising. Suckers.

Mmmmm. Now stop looking at my horrible photos and go make some of your own! 😉

Strength of Stone Chocolate Chip Cookies

The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies I’ve Ever Made

Okay, I know that’s not saying much, since I rarely make a dessert that involves the oven (ice cream, anyone?). And to be fair, these aren’t the best tasting chocolate chip cookies I’ve ever made (they are easy enough that I can always manage to make them taste good), but the best looking cookies. Normally, my cookies are incredibly flat and boring. Once they even crumbled apart just from picking them up. But feast your eyes on these babies. . .

Strength of Stone - Chocolate Chip Cookies

So not flat and boring!

I’m sure my sister, if she reads this, is rolling her eyes and making fun of me. I realize for those of you who can actually bake, this is normal and no big deal. For me though, it’s a miracle! Especially considering they started out looking like this. . .

Strength of Stone- Cookies

Even I knew there was something wrong with my dough. But what?!

I had no idea what I did wrong. That’s the thing I hate with baking, it’s an exact science- and I didn’t fare well in chemistry.

Did I leave the butter out too long and it softened too much? The dough didn’t taste as good as it normally does, is my baking soda old? I only used a bit though, would that even throw off the consistency? Did I measure something incorrectly? UGH- who knows. At this point, I figured I would toss them in the fridge while I cleaned up the mess, and hopefully my butter theory was correct and they would harden up a bit before I put them in the oven.

So, clean I did. And when I went to put the extra mixing bowl away, I realized what I had done wrong. Because it wasn’t an extra mixing bowl.

In a small bowl, mix the flour and the baking soda together. Set Aside.

Set aside. Set. Aside. Set. . . Aside. . .

Was this a blonde moment, or an Alzheimer moment? Both run in my family.

Either way, it turned into a beautiful thing. I scooped all the cookie piles into the bowl with the flour, and mixed my heart out. I was worried that the texture was too thick, or that the flour wouldn’t mix in completely and the cookies would end up tasting horribly, but they were perfect in regards to both!

I’ll be chilling my dough in the fridge before adding the flour in next time, hopefully they turn out the same and I’ve found a trick for myself!

UPDATE: I chilled the mixture and then added the flour, then folded in the chocolate chips, and they came out of the oven as the flat cookies I hoped I had left behind me! My new theory is that I added the chips before the flour, and that somehow made the difference, so I will try that again next time. That has to be it, right?! I can’t (I won’t) accept that these gorgeous cookies were a fluke.

Strength of Stone - Cookies and Wine

A perfect end to our weekly family dinner!

I’ve been using Martha Stewart’s recipe for soft and chewy chocolate chip cookies, only because I lost Aunt Fay’s recipe in the move. (Talk about the best chocolate chip cookie ever, hers would be it! But, when Aunt Fay makes them. They just aren’t the same when I make them. Don’t even get me started on her cream puffs.)

I truly thought my first story on the blog would be some funny thing David did, but I guess the joke is on me!

What is your favorite cookie recipe? Do you have any tips for making them look as good as they taste?