Wednesday, August 14, 2013


I feel like I preface every banana-related post with a disclaimer that I don’t really like bananas, but…I do have 10 (now 11) banana recipes on this site, so perhaps I protest too much. I certainly don’t like them enough to be a particular fan of Chunky Monkey ice cream or the peanut-butter-and-banana combo and its various “fat Elvis” iterations. (I am, however, a fan of both actual monkeys and actual Elvis, so that’s something.) What I do like is peanut butter, and I had been wondering for a while, in the midst of my baked oatmeal mania, if a peanut butter version could work. And I know banana adds a nice tenderness to baked goods, and I love coconut, and I certainly won’t turn down chocolate—even if I don’t normally eat it for breakfast—so when I saw this recipe at Budget Bytes (my go-to source for oatmeal inspiration), I knew I had to at least give it a shot.

I usually avoid overly sweet foods in the morning—no donuts or coffee cake or cinnamon rolls for me—and this was definitely richer and more indulgent-seeming than my usual fare. But it’s not as sweet as I expected, in fact not actually that sweet at all, except that it’s a logical disconnect for me to be enjoying chocolate at 8 a.m. (The occasional chocolate chip studded into each bite doesn’t seem too weird, but when I got to the bottom of the bowl and essentially had chocolate milk, it did feel like I was getting away with something.) It is, of course, delicious, and there’s a reason these are all classic flavor pairings. As an occasional “special treat” breakfast, it will definitely have a place in my regular oatmeal rotation. (I find it’s an especially welcome balm for the soul during my extra-hormonal week of the month.) And unlike a pastry or sugary cereal, it keeps me full and energized until lunchtime.
The first time I made this I was slightly dismayed because I couldn’t really pick up much peanut butter flavor, so the second time I increased the quantity to ⅓ cup and that seemed perfect. Natural PB is best, but if you only have the sweetened stuff, just leave out the brown sugar. Same thing with the coconut—I only had the big unsweetened flakes on hand and didn’t feel like making a special trip to the Whole Foods bulk section for the unsweetened shredded, but Trader Joe’s has a shredded coconut that is way less sweet than the tooth-aching Baker’s kind, and that worked just fine; but if you do find yourself with the Baker’s, just cut out the brown sugar and all should be well.
I keep thinking it would be cool to use cocoa instead of chocolate chips to make the whole thing feel even less desserty, so that the oatmeal itself was chocolate-flavored instead of having pieces of chocolate in it, but I don’t know if I want to mess around with that when this is already so good.

P.S. November 2013: Does this just sound too decadent for your everyday breakfast? I recently tried this as just a PB-banana version and it was excellent. Follow the recipe below, but use a generous 1/3 cup peanut butter and omit the chocolate chips and coconut.
P.P.S. February 2015: If you want a subtler chocolate presence, I have discovered that mini-chips are the perfect solution, scattering the chocolate more evenly throughout the oatmeal instead of in big chunks. 

3-4 medium bananas
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons brown sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼-⅓ cup natural peanut butter (unsweetened; salted OK)
2 cups milk
¼ teaspoon salt
2½ cups old-fashioned rolled oats
⅓ cup semisweet chocolate chips
⅓ cup shredded coconut (unsweetened or lightly sweetened)
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Mash the bananas with a fork until they make a smooth puree (or you can leave it a bit chunky if you prefer that). Start with just three bananas and add another if needed to make 1½ cups. (If you’re short a little banana, make up the difference by using the corresponding amount of extra milk.)
  3. Add the mashed bananas to a large bowl. If your peanut butter is firm, warm it slightly in the microwave so that it is more fluid and can mix in more easily. Add the peanut butter, eggs, brown sugar, vanilla, baking powder, and salt to the bowl. Whisk these ingredients together until smooth. Add the milk and whisk again.
  4. Add the dry oats, chocolate chips, and shredded coconut to the bowl. Stir everything together until evenly combined. Lightly coat the inside of an 8-by-8-inch casserole dish with nonstick spray (I like to use coconut oil spray for this). Pour the oat mixture into the casserole dish and bake for 45 minutes, or until browned and firm.
Serves: 6-8
Time: 1 hour
Leftover potential: Great. Keep in a covered dish, scoop out a serving each morning, and reheat it in the microwave. Break it up a little with a spoon and pour cold milk over the top.

Monday, August 05, 2013


There are advantages and disadvantages to being so far behind on this blog. Mostly disadvantages. It bothers me all the time, actually. I can’t help but feel oppressed by a long to-do list, and besides, Bookcook is an important record-keeping method for me, so it’s inconvenient when it’s not up to date. Not to mention that there are things I really, really want to tell you about. (“You” being the whole three or four people who are still bearing with me at this point.) And when I do go to write a post, often it’s been so long since I made the recipe that I can barely remember the details.
But on the plus side, the long lag time does provide perspective. For example, it’s been so many months since I first discovered this recipe that I’ve made it three times already. That means it’s been thoroughly tested and even improved upon for you. I can now confidently attest that it is both dead easy and incredibly delicious—in fact, it’s one of my new favorite recipes. I’m even jumping it ahead in the queue because I’m so excited to share it with you. I may actually be a teeny bit obsessed with it; just typing these words has made me start thinking I need to add it to next week’s menu.
You might recall that my first attempt at farro was in a salad, and I did not like it. Luckily, farro was redeemed for me in this beef and mushroom soup. Since I enjoyed that so much, I thought this salad from Food 52 wouldn’t be too much more of a stretch, and I do think there’s something about the earthiness of farro and mushrooms that makes them go extra well together. They also have a similarly addictive chewy texture here—roasting the mushrooms is a great touch. I actually liked them so much I doubled the quantity from the original recipe and feel it’s just the right balance, about half mushroom and half farro. The salad is studded with little cubes of Parmesan, and while I’d never had that cheese in such big pieces before (pretty much only shredded and shaved), it adds these wonderful pops of salty nuttiness. All this umami is lightened by lemon juice and parsley (my favorite herb to go with mushrooms), making this a great salad for any season. It did seem a little dull and oily the first time I made it, so on the next go-round I decreased the olive oil and amped up the citrus (a 3:1 oil-to-acid ratio? I like it half-and-half, please). The result? Perfection, especially as a weekday lunch.
I struggled with what to serve with this at first—it’s satisfying enough to be a meal but I still feel compelled to accompany a mostly brown dish with something green—until I hit upon the idea of kale salad, another fresh-but-earthy concoction. This one, with walnuts, Pecorino, and lemon, echoes the elements of the farro salad without being repetitive. Together they make the ideal little salad sampler.

1 cup uncooked farro
1 pound cremini mushrooms
Olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
3-4 tablespoons lemon juice
¼ cup finely cubed or crumbled Parmesan
¼ cup roughly chopped Italian parsley
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. While the oven heats, in a medium saucepan, combine the farro and enough cold water to cover it by about an inch. Soak for 20 minutes. Drain well and return the farro to the pan, again covering it with cold water. Add a few generous pinches of salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes, until the farro is tender but still has some bite.
  3. While the farro is cooking, wipe and trim the mushrooms and then halve or quarter them, into bite-sized pieces. Arrange them on a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet and drizzle generously with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss gently to distribute everything; spread the mushrooms out evenly and put in the oven for about 20 minutes, stirring halfway through, until crisp around the edges and cooked through.
  4. When the farro is cooked, drain it well and spread it on a clean baking sheet to cool. Do the same with the mushrooms once they are cooked. When the farro and mushrooms are close to room temperature, or just barely warm, combine them in a serving bowl. Add the lemon juice and 4 tablespoons of olive oil, tossing gently to combine. Then add the Parmesan, parsley and a generous grinding of pepper and fold gently. Taste and add more salt and pepper if necessary. Serve at room temperature.
Serves: 4
Time: 1½ hours
Leftover potential: Great.