Caramelized Banana Milkshakes

Caramelized Banana MilkshakesThis post really couldn’t come at a better time: New York weather has officially crossed over into the “totally disgusting” zone. Blazing hot, humid AF—you get the picture. There will be no baking in my Brooklyn kitchen until Monday, at the very least.

I love my apartment—love it!—but its one major drawback is that the kitchen is both windowless and un-air-conditioned. There is no amount or configuration of tiny Costco tower fans that can counteract the all-consuming heat of a 350F oven on a sticky 99F NYC day. Believe me, I’ve tried them all.Caramelized Banana MilkshakesSo, let’s skip the oven this weekend and make milkshakes instead. Caramelized Banana Milkshakes, to be specific.Caramelized Banana MilkshakesCaramelized Banana MilkshakesCaramelized Banana MilkshakesSure, they require five minutes of stove time to caramelize the bananas, but that small amount of cooking will be totally worth it when you’re blitzing up frosty, brown sugar & banana milkshakes.Caramelized Banana MilkshakesWe’re talking pure banana flavor here, unencumbered by cinnamon or anything else. You may, of course, add a pinch of whatever you like, but don’t go too crazy. Simplicity is the name of the game.Caramelized Banana MilkshakesThis recipe is a breeze: three steps, four ingredients (six, if you count the recommended whipped cream and drizzle of caramel or butterscotch). The hardest part is waiting for the bananas to cool so that they don’t melt your ice cream. After that, it’s just a blitz in the blender and deciding which of your dwindling stash of paper straws you’re going to use today.

Oh, and parking yourself directly in front of your air conditioner until the heatwave is over, but you already knew that.Caramelized Banana Milkshakes

Caramelized Banana Milkshakes
makes about 2-3 small milkshakes

3 medium bananas, very ripe
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons light or dark brown sugar, packed
1 pint (2 cups) vanilla ice cream

For Garnish (optional):
caramel or butterscotch sauce
whipped cream

Peel bananas and slice into 1-inch chunks.

Combine butter and brown sugar in a skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally until butter is melted and pan is hot. Carefully add banana slices and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Set aside to cool completely.

Combine bananas and ice cream in a high-powered blender. Blitz until smooth. Pour into glasses and garnish with caramel/butterscotch sauce and/or whipped cream, if desired. Serve immediately.Caramelized Banana MilkshakesCaramelized Banana Milkshakes

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Oreo-Peanut Butter Magic Bars

Oreo-Peanut Butter Magic BarsLet me take this moment to express gratitude for the 1998 remake of The Parent Trap. Did we need a remake of the 1961 classic? Probably not, but it’s enjoyable enough, and it introduced little 13 year-old me to one of the great duos—not Lindsay Lohan & Lindsay Lohan—peanut butter & Oreos!

I was already a big fan of peanut butter & chocolate (duh!), but Oreos were a game-changer. I’ve been finding ways to put them together ever since.Oreo-Peanut Butter Magic BarsBesides the obvious dipping of Oreos directly into peanut butter, I’ve paired the two in homemade peanut butter, cupcakes and blondies, and now Magic Bars!Oreo-Peanut Butter Magic BarsOreo-Peanut Butter Magic BarsOreo-Peanut Butter Magic BarsOreo-Peanut Butter Magic BarsThey have just four ingredients–Oreos, peanut butter, butter & sweetened condensed milk–and come together in less than 45 minutes. Oh, and they’re ridiculously easy and far more delicious than any baked good with four (!) ingredients should be.Oreo-Peanut Butter Magic BarsWe’re talking soft, chewy peanut butter filling and buttery Oreo crust here, people!Oreo-Peanut Butter Magic BarsThose are two of my very favorite things. One of the great duos, if you will.Oreo-Peanut Butter Magic Bars

Oreo-Peanut Butter Magic Bars
makes 1 8- or 9-inch pan, about 12-16 bars

36 chocolate sandwich cookies (like Oreos), divided
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup creamy-style peanut butter (not natural-style)

Preheat oven to 350F. Heavily grease a 9-inch square pan and line with parchment paper, leaving overhang on two sides. Grease again. Set aside.

Place 24 chocolate sandwich cookies the bowl of a food processor and process until pulverized. Add melted butter. Pulse until combined. Transfer mixture to the prepared pan. Press into an even layer. Bake for five minutes, until set. Set crust aside to cool while you prepare the filling.

In a small mixing bowl, whisk together sweetened condensed milk and peanut butter.

Drizzle sweetened condensed milk mixture over crust. Use a silicone spatula or the back of a spoon to carefully spread into an even layer.

Break or chop remaining 12 chocolate sandwich cookies into pieces and scatter over sweetened condensed milk mixture. Bake for 25 minutes, tenting pan with foil at the 15 minute mark. Bars are done when the center jiggles just slightly when the pan is jostled.

Let bars cool completely in the pan on a rack. Use overhang to remove bars from the pan to a cutting board. Peel off foil. Slice with a lightly-greased knife and serve.

Leftovers will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days, or in the refrigerator for up to a week.Oreo-Peanut Butter Magic BarsOreo-Peanut Butter Magic Bars

Butterscotch Sauce

Butterscotch SauceIt seems like every time I think a recipe is going to be a snap, it’s a total nightmare. Butterscotch Sauce is a classic example of this—I went into testing thinking this would be a one-and-done situation, but instead I made sauces that:

  • separated in seconds.
  • required a candy thermometer.
  • burned.
  • crystallized.
  • hardened immediately upon hitting ice cream.Butterscotch Sauce

Testing was a bummer, to say the least. I mean, all I really wanted was a blog recipe that would also allow me to have ice cream with buttery brown sugar sauce for lunch and call it work. Is that too much to ask?!Butterscotch SauceTurns out it’s not. I “fixed” my first five test batches by slapping a metaphorical culinary bandaid on each one (less butter, less complication, less time, less movement, more liquid), and this all led me back to a method I knew worked: the way I make the caramel for my caramel corn, which is literally the easiest molten sugar recipe of all time. Just put it all in a pot and leave it alone.Butterscotch SauceButterscotch SauceHere’s the gist of my Butterscotch Sauce recipe:

  • put dark brown sugar, butter, salt and heavy cream in a pot and don’t stir it.
  • bring it to a boil and don’t stir it.
  • cook it for five minutes and don’t stir it. Just don’t do it.
  • remove it from the heat, add some vanilla and…okay, stir it now.

That’s it. Wait a few minutes before spooning it over a scoop of ice cream so you don’t burn the roof of your mouth. Safety first.Butterscotch SauceThis sauce is thick and golden and best served piping hot, so that it will set softly on whatever delicious thing over which it’s been poured. It’s rich, buttery and has good hits of salt and vanilla to complement its brown sugar flavor. And it’s easy to make.Butterscotch SauceYou might even say it’s a snap.Butterscotch Sauce

Butterscotch Sauce
makes about 1 1/4 cups

1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Without stirring or jostling, combine dark brown sugar, butter, salt, and heavy cream in a 4-quart pot. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Let boil 5 minutes. Do not stir. Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla.

Let cool 10 minutes before serving hot over ice cream. Leftovers keep well in the refrigerator for at least a week.

The best way to reheat this sauce is by putting it in a pot over medium-low heat and stirring just until heated through. Butterscotch may also be warmed in 30 second intervals in the microwave, stirring between, until hot.

Butterscotch SauceButterscotch Sauce

Ratatouille Tart with Polenta Crust

Ratatouille Tart with Polenta Crust {Gluten-Free, Plant-Based}If you’re searching for a plant-based summer recipe that is as visually striking as it is delicious, look no further. This Ratatouille Tart with Polenta Crust combines two of my favorite things—simply-prepared vegetables and soft corn polenta—and elevates them into one magnificent main. Did I mention that it’s naturally gluten-free and vegetarian?*

*I wrote vegan swaps in the recipe, too.Ratatouille Tart with Polenta Crust {Gluten-Free, Plant-Based}Ratatouille Tart with Polenta Crust {Gluten-Free, Plant-Based}While this recipe takes some time to prepare, none of the steps are difficult and the results are more than worth the effort! You can make things easier for yourself by preparing the polenta and forming the crust a day ahead.Ratatouille Tart with Polenta Crust {Gluten-Free, Plant-Based}Ratatouille Tart with Polenta Crust {Gluten-Free, Plant-Based}When you’re ready to bake, spread on some tomato sauce and slice up a bunch of summer produce. If you’re a little fancier than I am and have a mandoline, this would be a great time to use it.Ratatouille Tart with Polenta Crust {Gluten-Free, Plant-Based}Assemble the tart by arranging the sliced vegetables in concentric circles and finishing them off with olive oil and fresh thyme. Cover the whole thing with a parchment round to ensure that everything cooks evenly. And then…Ratatouille Tart with Polenta Crust {Gluten-Free, Plant-Based}Ratatouille Tart with Polenta Crust {Gluten-Free, Plant-Based}…well, let’s just say I’ll pray for you during the thirty minutes between baking and slicing. I promise it’ll be worth the wait. I mean, when are polenta and ratatouille not worth the wait?!Ratatouille Tart with Polenta Crust {Gluten-Free, Plant-Based}Ratatouille Tart with Polenta Crust {Gluten-Free, Plant-Based}I love this tart when it’s fresh, but you should know that it slices particularly well at room temperature and cold, meaning this is a great make-ahead option. The tart pictured here was made on a Monday and reheated by the slice for lunches all week long.Ratatouille Tart with Polenta Crust {Gluten-Free, Plant-Based}It was exactly as wonderful as it looks.Ratatouille Tart with Polenta Crust {Gluten-Free, Plant-Based}

Ratatouille Tart with Polenta Crust
ratatouille adapted from Deb Perelman
makes 1 9-inch round tart, 4-6 servings

Polenta Crust:
2 cups water
1 cup whole milk (or unflavored, unsweetened plant milk)
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1 cup coarse ground cornmeal
2 tablespoons unsalted butter or olive oil
1/2 teaspoon prepared dijon mustard
few grinds freshly ground black pepper

Ratatouille:
1/4 cup tomato sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 shallot, minced
1/2-1 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt (based on your taste), divided
~1/2 small, thin eggplant, 1/8 inch slices
~1/2 medium zucchini, 1/8 inch slices
~1/2 medium yellow squash, 1/8 inch slices
~1/2 long, thin red bell pepper, seeded, 1/8 inch slices
~1 1/2 roma tomatoes, 1/8 inch slices
1 tablespoon olive oil
few grinds freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves

For assembly:
9-inch round piece of parchment paper

For serving (optional):
fresh parsley or other herbs
feta or goat cheese

Grease a 9-inch round springform pan or tart pan with removable bottom. Set aside.

Make polenta. Bring water and milk to a simmer. Keep an eye on it, as milk can boil over dramatically without much notice. Add 1 teaspoon salt. Whisking constantly, add polenta in a thin stream. Reduce heat to medium-low, whisking very frequently for 25-30 minutes, until thick. Remove from heat. Whisk in butter, dijon, and black pepper. Transfer to prepared pan and use a silicone spatula or wooden spoon to spread it to the edges. Let sit for 15 minutes.

Using the back of a wet spoon, press the polenta from the center toward the edges of the pan to create a rustic crust. Set aside. At this point, the crust may be covered and refrigerated for up to 24 hours.

Preheat oven to 375F. Prepare the ratatouille filling. Spread tomato sauce on the bottom of the tart. Scatter minced garlic and shallot over the top, along with 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Starting from the outer edge and working in a concentric circle to the center, arrange sliced eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash, red bell pepper and tomato in an overlapping pattern. Drizzle with olive oil and top with 1/4-1/2 teaspoon salt, black pepper and fresh thyme.

Cut a piece of parchment to fit over the pan, covering all exposed tart. Gently lay it in the pan. Bake tart 45-55 minutes, or until vegetables are tender. Remove and discard parchment. Let tart cool at least 30 minutes before slicing. Serve with fresh herbs or cheese, if desired.

Slices will be neatest at room temperature, but tart may be served at any temperature. Leftovers will keep covered in the refrigerator for up to three days.Ratatouille Tart with Polenta Crust {Gluten-Free, Plant-Based}Ratatouille Tart with Polenta Crust {Gluten-Free, Plant-Based}Ratatouille Tart with Polenta Crust {Gluten-Free, Plant-Based}

Ratatouille Tart with Polenta Crust {Gluten-Free, Plant-Based}

Friday Favorites: Summer Weeknight Meals

Hello! I hope you all had a lovely Fourth of July. Thanks to some rare impulsive behavior, my parents are in town for the long weekend, so I’m spending time going to shows and museums instead of baking. Love a staycation!

Following yesterday’s festivities, I figure you might be set on dessert for a few days, but you still have to eat, right?! If you’re anything like me, you’d prefer to do so in a timely fashion, without heating up your kitchen too much, and with guaranteed delicious results! Summer is too short for boring food, y’all.

Here are some of my favorite summery weeknight meals from the archives!Friday Favorites: Summer Weeknight Meals Steak Fajitas

Tex-Mex is my comfort food of choice and, this time of year, nothing sounds more comforting to me than medium-rare steak fajitas wrapped up in flour tortillas and topped with plenty of salsa and guacamole.Friday Favorites: Summer Weeknight MealsBuffalo Chicken Biscuits

These biscuit sandwiches are perfect for game day, but since weeknight baking is rarely convenient, the quick & easy buffalo chicken filling and homemade blue cheese dressing work equally well on hamburger buns.Friday Favorites: Summer Weeknight MealsShrimp, Corn & Zucchini Sauté

This is easily my favorite summer meal. What’s not to love about a simple meal of corn, summer vegetables and shrimp?! In addition to slapping this together on weeknights, I find that this makes a great dinner party main. Just add a crusty baguette. And maybe a Raspberry Rhubarb Crisp.Friday Favorites: Summer Weeknight Meals15 Minute Stovetop Mac & Cheese

I’ve been making this recipe for more than a decade and I’m still in love with it. Quick, easy and, since it doesn’t involve an oven, ideal for a summer mac & cheese craving.Friday Favorites: Summer Weeknight MealsOlive Oil Marinated Broccoli

Every meal needs to be rounded out with a vegetable, and Olive Oil Marinated Broccoli is one that everyone loves. This easy recipe has only five ingredients, can be served cold or room temp, and gets more and more delicious as time goes on! I highly recommend making extra—you’re going to be excited to eat your vegetables.Friday Favorites: Summer Weeknight Meals
Have you made these or any of my other weeknight meals? Let me know in the comments or on social media!