Pecan Dulce de Leche Banana Bread

It felt brisk and chilly when I woke up this morning. While I admit that I have mixed feelings about this since summer is my one true love, there are a few things I appreciate about the new season.

Chief among those is the fact that cooler days are wonderful for baking cozy and decadent desserts like this Pecan Dulce de Leche Banana Bread.

A dense, moist banana bread topped with a shower of chopped pecans and plenty of dulce de leche caramel drizzled and swirled throughout seems like a nice way to start out this new season.

The basic bread is just as simple as any other banana bread: you mash and stir, but then you get a little wild with the toppings.

Chopped pecans--which I recommend actually chopping by hand for the best texture--form a gorgeous crust on the top of the bread. I prefer this to baking them into the batter because then you get that contrast of soft cake and crunchy nuts on top.

And then there is the dulce de leche, which is the best part. You can make it homemade if you prefer, but I actually just used a jarred one I got at the grocery store (it's usually near the condensed milk and other baking supplies). The trick here is to layer it into the cake. You want some mixed into the batter, then some swirled in on top. Then a bit drizzled on with the pecans just before baking, and then...when it comes out of the oven?

That's when you go wild.

Drizzle it on all over. Let it drip and ooze down the sides. Get messy with it!

(You can even add a bit more to each slice as you serve it.)

 This isn't an austere, breakfast-like banana bread. This is rich, gooey, decadent, go-to-town-and-enjoy-it kind of banana bread.

(Which, does NOT mean that you can't have it for breakfast, mind you!)

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Pecan Dulce de Leche Banana Bread
Makes 1 loaf (about 8 servings)

Ingredients
3 ripe bananas, peeled
1/2 cup granulated sugar
4 tablespoons butter, melted
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups dulce de leche (homemade or store-bought)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt + more for garnish
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups pecans, roughly chopped


Directions 
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease or line a 4x8” loaf pan and set aside.

In a mixing bowl or the base of a mixer, beat together the bananas, sugar, melted butter, egg, vanilla, and 1/2 cup of the dulce de leche (don’t use all of it!). Add the flour, baking soda, an salt, and stir just until evenly combined.

Pour into your prepared baking dish, and drizzle in about 1/4 cup of the remaining dulce de leche. Add the pecans and press in slightly with your hands, then drizzle on another 1/4 cup of dulce de leche (again…don’t use it all!)

Bake about 1 hour, or until a tester inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from loaf pan and let cool completely. Drizzle with all the remaining dulce de leche just before serving.

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5 Reasons to Get Excited about Fall

As much as I appreciate the beauty of changing seasons, the chance to start again, crunchy leaves, etc., etc., I'm still always a bit sad to say good-bye to the lush languor of summer.

While it's still sunny and 80 degrees in New York right now, things already feel different. Can you feel it?

That said, I'm thankful for things like crisp apples and mulberry-colored dresses, which at least give me something to look forward to.

 In an effort to get myself excited for Fall, I brainstormed a few of my favorite things about the new season. Check them out below (there's even a video!)

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My New TV Reel

This reel of my TV work is SO overdue. I've been meaning to make a new one for about a year and a half, but kept putting it off...and off...and off. (I have many many friendly follow-up emails from my agent's assistant to prove it!)

Editing video is not my favorite thing (nor is it something I'm particularly good at), but hiring someone else to do it also stressed me out since I would still have to go through all my segments and pick out the clips I wanted, then pay someone to edit them together. I figured that once I'd gone through all the work of finding the right clips and song (basically 80% of the job), I might as well just keep going and finish the job myself.

So I did!

Anyway, here it is!



My hosting and lifestyle expert reel featuring some of my favorite clips for the dozens and dozens of TV segments and other on-camera things I've done over the past couple years. My ultimate goal is a paid TV gig as a co-host or contributor or some other kind of fabulous TV project where I get to do this sort of thing every day!

I love being on camera and sharing ideas and stories that both entertain and inspire. I love interacting with people, laughing, dancing, and riding with the unexpected waves of TV production (it's the mistakes and surprises that are always my favorite!) and look forward to the moment when I get to do it all the time.

Thanks so much for your support over the years. I had no idea when I hit publish on that first post all those years ago, that it would lead to me laughing it up on national TV with legends like Al Roker and Harry Connick Jr., but man oh man am I ever thankful that it has!

Can't wait to see what happens next.

xoxo

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Cinnamon Blueberry Pecan Coffee Cake

I bake a lot of cakes, but this Cinnamon Blueberry Pecan Coffee Cake is one of the best things I've ever made. It's ridiculously simple, but there's something about the combination of the fresh summery blueberries, nutty pecans, and warm cinnamon that makes it particularly satisfying during these in-between weeks. It's not quite Fall yet, but you can feel summer drifting away. There are still some crazy hot days ahead, but the attitude has changed.

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Spicy Green Juice (Green Bloody Mary Mix)

My number one issue with most green juice recipes is that they are always too sweet. Most classic green juice recipes call for the addition of apples or pears, which makes the drink much sweeter than anything I'd ever want to drink for breakfast (or really at any time of day!).

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Veggie Stove-top Frittata with Sweet Corn, Tomatoes & Zucchini

There are only a few weeks left of summer, but as the days start to cool and the tans start to fade, we can at least enjoy the lush late-summer produce that's filling the market stalls.

Sweet corn, juicy tomatoes, those oversized zucchini and squash--all ripe, sweet, and bursting with flavor.

This veggie frittata brings all of them together (along with a bit of salty cheese, of course!) for a simple stove-top meal that works at any time of day. I shared this recipe on the TODAY Show this week (along with this spicy green juice that doubles as a fab Bloody Mary alternative!).
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Grilled Apricots with Almond Mascarpone

Late-summer is one of the lushest times of the year. Juicy, ripe stone fruit like apricots are at their peak, and while perfect fresh and eaten right out of hand, they're also really wonderful served grilled.

Grilling apricots takes just a few minutes, but makes that already delicious fruit even sweeter and better by caramelizing the natural sugars and adding just a hint of smokiness to every bite.

0

Curvy Style: A Flattering Flowy Dress for Hot Summer Days

I love a bright dress.

For some reason, there's an idea that New Yorkers are all about black, but that's never been true for me. My closet is a rainbow of bright, bold shades. It's ideal since I work on camera (bright colors are always best on TV), but it's also how I want to dress when I'm not working.

I spotted this flowy mustard yellow off-the-shoulder dress on the sale rack at Anthropologie a few weeks ago, but ended up not buying it.

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Pork Carnitas-Style Fajitas

Today I’m giving you two very easy pork recipes in one—carnitas that you can enjoy as-is out of the oven, and then turn into delicious carnitas-style fajitas for a show-stopping second-day meal!
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Easy Marinated Roast Chicken Breasts

Every time I make this easy marinated roast chicken breast recipe I think that it's the sort of thing I should do at least once a week (and then I forget to do so until the next time...lather, rinse, repeat).

It really is the easiest thing, and so very flavorful. A perfect weeknight recipe!
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6 Amazing Ice Cream Sandwich Ideas You Have to Try

Ice cream sandwiches have come a long way from those plain chocolate cookie and vanilla ice cream treats so many of us enjoyed as kids. Simple cookies have been replaced with everything from salty crackers to baked goods to fresh fruit.

And the ice cream options? Even more incredible!

I'm so excited to have teamed up with Walmart this month to put together this epic ice cream sandwich guide for you featuring six fun ice cream sandwich ideas. From kinda fancy dinner party-ready treats to ones the kids will love, there is something here for everyone.

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The Everything Summer Salad (Watermelon, Corn & Cucumber Salad with Avocado Vinaigrette)


I call this my Everything Summer Salad, because it's a mix of some of my favorites of the season. Juicy watermelon, crisp cucumber and radishes, sweet corn, and ripe avocados. Served with diced cilantro and a handful of fresh cheese, it hits all the perfect summer flavor notes.
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Warm Brussels Sprouts Caesar Salad with Chicken and Crispy Bacon "Croutons"

I was at lunch with an old friend when I spotted the dish that inspired this salad recipe. It was on the appetizer menu and listed as a Warm Brussels Sprouts Caesar Salad. My friend was talking and I was pretending to listen, but in my brain I was just like YES YES YES!
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DIY Puerto Rican Sofrito

Sofrito is a staple in every Puerto Rican household. Essentially a pureed mix of herbs, spices, and aromatics, it serves as the base of most classic Puerto Rican recipes.

It's also an amazing shortcut, saving you tons of time in prep and clean-up throughout the week. It only takes about 30 minutes to prep, and then will last you for weeks or months. When you're ready to cook, just toss a few spoonfuls of the mixture in your hot pan and let it sizzle--no need to chop onions, garlic, etc.

Growing up, my family regularly traveled to Puerto Rico to visit relatives. These were the days before strict regulations about what could be packed in your carry-on luggage, and many homesick Puerto Ricans would take advantage of the opportunity to stock up on favorite ingredients and foods.

On one flight home, a man sitting a few rows in front of us yelped and jumped up, his head and shoulders covered in oily liquid. The woman next to him was equally distraught, moaning loudly that the jar of sofrito her grandmother made her must have broken and spilled out of the overhead compartment.

Other passengers seemed to agree that her situation was worse than that of the sauce-covered man; after all, a shower is easily had, but a jar of abuela's homemade sofrito is priceless!

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DIY Puerto Rican Adobo

Just about every type of cuisine has a signature spice blend they can call their own. For Puerto Ricans, it's adobo--a balanced mix of herbs and spices like garlic, oregano, and cumin. While store-bought versions are easily found in many well-stocked markets around the country, they're usually loaded with MSG, excessive amounts of sodium, and other unnecessary additives.

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Skillet Braised Pork Chops with Spicy Chipotle Berry Sauce

This post is part of a sponsored collaboration with Smithfield and DiMe Media. As always, all recipes and opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting brands like Smithfield that make it possible for me to continue to provide you with new recipes and quality content!

Ever since that fabulous all-pork dinner party I attended a couple weeks ago with Chef Jose Garces, I've been eager to start playing around with a few creative pork recipes of my own. I hope you guys love pork as much as I do, because I have several coming up over the coming months featuring the variety of cuts from Smithfield's line of Fresh Pork.

We're starting off with a dinnertime favorite--pork chops!
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Quenepas

I think I was nine the year I went to Puerto Rico with my dad for his friend's son's christening. My mom and brother stayed home for reasons I can't remember, so for a couple weeks it was just the two of us, exploring the island and eating.

Like me, my father likes to snack and feast, and thinks about his next meal midway through the current one. He gladly handed dollar bills out the car window to panhandlers on the highway selling plantain chips and bags of cucas--these hard round cookies about the size of my palm that tasted of ginger and shortening (with a hint of exhaust). They're the kind of cookies you gnaw on instead of chew, and I could gnaw through a bag for the better part of an afternoon while driving across the island.

8

Any Berry Cake

My fridge is perpetually full of berries during the summer months. I can't resist buying them, even when I know I already have a few pounds of them waiting at home.

Hence the need for a simple berry cake like this one. The easy batter, rich with olive oil, cream, and fresh lemon zest, is the perfect base for handfuls of your favorite berries.

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Celebrating Pork with Sabor Smithfield & Chef Jose Garces

Last week, I got the chance to co-host an amazing pork-themed dinner party by Chef Jose Garces at his restaurant Amada here in New York. The dinner was in celebration of the launch of SaborSmithfield.com, a new website featuring an array of pork recipes and ideas for the Latino Spanish-speaking community by the brand Smithfield (which you may already know for their bacon and ham products).

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Grilled Lime Mojitos

Well it's unofficially summer, which means it's time to throw everything on the grill and never go inside!

(Well, on the weekends, at least!)

Summer is also prime cocktail season, and I'm excited to share this smoky twist on one of my forever faves--Grilled Lime Mojitos!

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Rosemary & Fresh Watermelon Margaritas

I used to be obsessed with a cocktail they served at restaurant near my old office (so many many years ago!). That drink was made with a mix of watermelon, rum, and rosemary syrup, and introduced me to the fact that watermelon and rosemary are great friends together. It's surprising, but it works.

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9 Tips for the Ultimate Cinco de Mayo Fiesta!

Some people are all about Memorial Day, but for me, Cinco de Mayo has always felt like the true unofficial start of the summer party season. Bold flavors, fun cocktails, bright colors, and the perfect excuse to bring friends together to feast and enjoy—what’s not to love?!

This year, I teamed up with Tostitos to share a few of my favorite summer fiesta entertaining tips—including a GENIUS hack for a 1-minute sundae that tastes EXACTLY like fried ice cream. The secret? Tostitos’s new limited time only cinnamon and sugar Sopapilla chips.

Yup! I said SOPAPILLA chips! They are SO GOOD, you guys!

Read on for the tips!

1. Skip the Party Store
Instead, look around your home for items that can be repurposed as decor. Natural fabrics like burlap, linen, patterned blankets or woven mats can be layered to add texture and color to your tablescape.

Small potted cacti and succulents or fresh colorful flowers will also work beautifully (the succulents can double as party favors if you’d like!)

This is also the perfect time to pull out those souvenirs and decorative cutting boards or pottery you bought on past vacations!

Instead of paper plates, I like to use a mix of real dishes and glasses--mixing and matching lends the party a fun and casual feel that your guests will appreciate. 

2. Use Edible Decorations!
Fresh fruit like pineapple, mango, and coconuts are also gorgeous and add height and tropical flavor to your table, without creating any waste.

Use dried black or pinto beans in glasses to hold utensils in place. I also love to use black beans on plates to hold small appetizers steady.

Dried chilies, cactus leaves, fresh herbs, and vegetables also add lots of richness to your table (and can be turned into delicious meals once the party ends!).

3. Remember You Don't Have to Do All the Work Yourself
My number one entertaining tip? Not everything needs to be from scratch! I like to make a few main showstoppers (like my guacamole and these chipotle shrimp tacos), then pair those with some easy store-bought favorites like restaurant-style salsa and tortilla chips.

(FYI these Tostitos Cantina Thin & Crispy tortilla chips are kind of incredible—super light, thin, and perfectly salty. I can’t stop eating them.)

4. Make a 1-Minute Fried Ice Cream Sundae for Dessert
Hot days call for a cool dessert like these easy Fried Ice Cream Sundaes which are perfect for Cinco de Mayo and beyond!

These take less than a minute to make, and taste incredible, not to mention EXACTLY like the one you’d get at a Mexican restaurant. The secret ingredient is a topping made from Tostitos’ new Cantina Sopapilla Cinnamon & Sugar tortilla chips. These delicious sweet and salty dessert chips are great on their own, with sweet dips, or as toppings like in this easy sundae.

To make, simply top scoops of your favorite ice cream (I recommend either a simple vanilla bean or something fun like dulce de leche) with a few spoonfuls of crushed chips. Drizzle generously with honey, and serve immediately with a few extra chips tucked in.

(Heads up that the Sopapilla chips are only available until May 31, 2017, so you’re probably going to want to stock up!)

5. Keep Ice Cream Cold
An easy tip to keep ice cream cold while serving it at a party is to fill a bowl with ice and nestle the carton right in the center. Don’t worry if it gets a little melty—that’s part of what makes it so good on a hot summer day!

This trick also works really well for dairy-based dips or toppings like shredded cheese or sour cream that should be kept cold.

6. Kick Up Guacamole with Fresh Fruit
Add a pop of color and exciting flavor to your favorite guacamole recipe by adding fresh fruit like pomegranate seeds, diced mango, or pineapple! The fruit works so well paired against the traditional spicy creaminess of guacamole--your guests will be asking for the recipe.

Remember that guac is best when served immediately, but you can speed things up by dicing and prepping ingredients like cilantro and onions in advance, then cutting the avocados and mixing everything up right before your guests arrive.

7. Fire Up Your Tortillas
Just say no to cold tortillas! It can be tempting to serve corn or flour tortillas straight out of the package when you’re in a hurry, but taking a few extra minutes to toast them up first will make all the difference in both taste and texture.

If you have a gas stove, fire up the burners and place the tortillas right over the flame (I usually do 3 tortillas at a time per burner). Let them cook for about 15-30 seconds on each side—just enough to give them a good char.

No gas stove? Use a hot dry skillet (cast iron works best, but any kind will do) or spread them out on a baking sheet and toast under the broiler in the oven.

8. Serve it DIY Style
From tacos to drinks, I think DIY is always the best way to go when entertaining a crowd. Put out charred tortillas, fillings, and plenty of toppings, then let people make their own perfect plate.

For cocktails, I like to put out a couple bottles of my favorite spirit, then put out options for personalizing it--like fresh diced fruit and citrus for muddling, herbs to add freshness, and freshly pureed juices.


9. Get Social!
Keep track of all your guests pictures using a fun customized hashtag, or create a DIY photo booth area with props and fun backgrounds.

Want more social media fun? Hop over to https://www.tostitoscantina.com/ to design a digital lookalike piñata of yourself to share with your friends on social. Even better? You can also enter to win the actual piñata—filled with $1000! One winner will be awarded a day through May 5, so hurry over and give it a shot.

Thanks to Tostitos for sponsoring this fun party post. All recipes and tips are my own (as always!). And thank you to you for supporting great brands like Tostitos who make it possible for me to create great content.






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Giveaway: Win this Beach Cocktails Book!

I'm hosting a fun little giveaway over on my Instagram for a copy of this gorgeous book called "Beach Cocktails" from the folks at Coastal Living Magazine and Time Inc. Books.

It's bright, colorful, and features a ton of fun recipes for beach-ready cocktails and fun snacks you can enjoy all year long.

To enter, click over to my Instagram and tag a friend you'd like to share a cocktail with. That's it!

Details here: https://www.instagram.com/p/BTSExoYjsm2
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Baked Feta with Cherry, Bacon & Almonds

The warmer it gets, the less I cook.

At some point in the summer, all of our meals tend to take on a snacky, party-like feel where normal entrees and appetizers are replaced with elaborate cheese and charcuterie boards, platters of room temperature roasted vegetables, and enormous salads.

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Flourless Orange Cauliflower Cake

I know...I know...this sounds totally insane (and maybe even a little bit gross?), but trust me on this! Everyone who has ever tasted this cake can not believe how good it is. And no, you definitely can not taste the cauliflower in it. I promise that all you'll taste is oranges, almonds, and sweet cake goodness.

This flourless orange cauliflower cake was one of the recipes I featured on a TV cooking segment about cauliflower recipes that I did on PIX11 Morning News here in NYC earlier this month. On the show, I covered everything from Cauliflower Fried Rice and Cauliflower Buffalo Wings, to this sweet cake.

Needless to say, the cake was the hit.

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Curvy Style: Cake and Cocktails with Maggy London

Photos by Edelle Kenny. Dresses by Maggy London.

I love a beautiful dress! From fitted bodycon sheaths in every color to flirty floral sundresses, my closet is filled with them.

(Actually, it’s bursting. I had to setup a second wardrobe in our bedroom to deal with my dress overflow. Not sorry about this.)

If you ever see me in person (or TV! or Instagram!), the odds are high I’ll be wearing one. Hence my excitement when Maggy London, a NY-based fashion brand that I've been wearing for years, reached out to me about participating in their spring dress campaign!

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Low-Carb Cauliflower Fried “Rice”

I was on the WPIX11 morning news today sharing a few cauliflower recipe ideas like this Low-Carb Cauliflower Fried "Rice." One the most popular recipes on this site is my cauliflower dirty rice recipe, but I've been meaning to share another easy twist that uses cauliflower rice.

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Easy Coconut Blueberry Cake

We were originally going to go out for my dad's birthday last night, but he wasn't feeling well so we made it a casual night in instead. We all went over to my parents' house (Hudson, too!), ordered take-out and hung out in the kitchen eating and laughing until well past midnight.

When my mom told me about the change of plans that afternoon, I realized that I at least had the time to bake up a quick cake to bring along. I had to work with what I had, so took a look in the fridge and pantry and pulled together this easy Coconut Blueberry Cake. It's a variation of a cake I've made a lot of times using buttermilk, but with a few easy switches.

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Curvy Style: What to Wear to a Creative Conference

 Photos by Keith Williams. Styling by Sherly Tavarez.

Conferences are a regular thing for those of us who work in creative industries. I attend at least a couple a year, and am currently getting ready to head to one of my favorites--the Hispanicize conference in Miami. This will be my third time attending this huge media conference that brings together Latino creatives and professionals from all around the US and Latin America.

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5 Quick Ways to Get Out of a Funk

 
We all have those days when it feels like nothing is going right. Whether it's tension at work or school, or stress at home, here are five quick ideas to help you shake out the cobwebs and get back to work (or life!) feeling refreshed and inspired.


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How to Make a DIY Doughnut Wall

A few months ago, I shot a super fun DIY Doughnut Wall video for TODAY Food. If you've never seen a doughnut wall before, just know that they're kind of amazing. It's basically a party feature that doubles as both decoration and dessert. It's super easy to make, and you can get most of the supplies at a hardware store like Home Depot.

Watch the video, then scroll down for a few tips!


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