Sunday, January 29, 2012

Chocolate Banana Pancakes

I make banana bread (click HERE for my yummy recipe) at least once a week for my children. I make it so often I can do it with my eyes closed and one hand tied behind my back. So, when I woke up yesterday and saw the brown bananas on my counter, I decided to try something different! I came up with these banana pancakes- and they were quite good! My husband likes the consistency better when I cube the bananas, but, feel free to mash them if you'd rather! Serve with maple syrup, powdered sugar, sliced bananas on top, walnuts and/or whipped cream! Enjoy!

2 bananas, cut into tiny cubes OR mashed
1 egg
1 cup milk
1 Tbl sugar
2 Tbl canola oil
1 c. flour
2 Tbl wheat germ (optional)
2 Tbl cocoa powder
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 c. choco chips

Heat a non-stick pan or griddle over medium heat. Coat pan with a little butter or cooking spray.

In a large mixing bowl combine bananas, egg, milk, sugar and oil.  Add flour, wheat germ (if using), cocoa powder, baking powder, salt and cinnamon and stir. Fold in chocolate chips. Scoop 1/4 cup batter onto hot griddle. Flip when the pancake when bubbles start to form and edges look dry. Cook on other side until golden brown. Repeat with remaining batter. Enjoy!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Creamy Chicken Enchiladas

I pulled this recipe from one of my beloved Cooking Light magazines. It was my husband's favorite dinner I made this week! He even ate the leftovers (and he hardly ever eats leftovers)...he deemed it "definitely blog-worthy"...and I agree! Serve these tasty enchiladas with a dollop of sour cream and a side of black beans! Delicioso!

4 c. water
2 c. chicken broth
1 Tbl whole black peppercorns
5 garlic cloves
2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
1 celery stalk, coarsely chopped
1 large carrot, coarsely chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, halved
1/2 medium onion, cut into wedges
1 7oz can salsa verde
1/4 c. heavy cream, room temperature
1 c. chopped seeded tomato
1/4 c. fresh cilantro, chopped
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
4 oz cream cheese, softened
6 flour tortillas OR 12 small corn tortillas
1 c. shredded cheddar/jack cheese mix

Combine first 9 ingredients (water thru onion) in a medium saucepan over medium heat; bring to a simmer. Cook 8-10 minutes or until chicken is done. Remove chicken using a slotted spoon; let stand 10 minutes. Shred the chicken and set aside. Drain all the cooking liquid through a strainer over a bowl. Reserve 4 cups of the cooking liquid; discard the solids.

Combine reserved 4 cups cooking liquid and salsa verde in a saucepan; bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook until reduced to 1 1/2 cups - approximately 30 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in room temperature heavy cream. Stir well to combine. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 400 F

Place shredded chicken in a medium bowl. Add chopped tomatoes, cilantro, salt, cumin, cayenne pepper and cream cheese; stir to combine. Dip each tortilla in the broth/salsa/cream mixture for 10 seconds. Fill each tortilla with 1/3 c. chicken mixture if using corn tortillas or 1/2 c. chicken mixture if using flour tortillas; roll up. If using flour tortillas, arrange filled tortillas, seam side down, in an 13X9” glass dish coated with cooking spray (if using corn tortillas use a 11X7” glass dish because they are smaller).

Spoon remaining sauce over tortillas; top evenly with cheese. Bake at 400F for 20 minutes. Serve with black beans. Enjoy!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Hippy Dippy Granola Bars

Crunchy, slightly sweet, satisfying, tasty! These are all words I would use to describe these homemade granola bars.  I was super happy when my husband proclaimed they are "delicious" and my boys asked for seconds! Healthy + Yummy = Mission-Accomplished! Great for a snack or breakfast. Enjoy!

2 c. old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 c. whole raw almonds
1/4 c. wheat germ
1 c. natural peanut butter
1/4 c. honey
1/4 c. real maple syrup
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 c. Rice Krispies
1/3 c. craisins
1/4 c. chocolate chips (optional)
1/2 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 350F

Pour oats, almonds and wheat germ in a single layer onto a large rimmed baking sheet. Toast in a 350F oven for 10 - 12 minutes.

While oats are toasting, heat peanut butter, honey, syrup and vanilla in a saucepan over medium heat until peanut butter is melted. Give a good stir and remove from heat.

Combine Rice Krispies, Craisins, chocolate chips (if using) and salt in a large bowl. Pour peanut butter mixture on top and stir to combine. Add oat mixture and stir again. Press mixture into a greased 8X8" pan and let chill in the fridge until firm, 10-15 minutes. Cut into bars. Tastes great with a cold glass of milk!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Chicken Lasagna with Spinach, Mushrooms & Fontina Cheese

This is probably one of the best lasagnas I've ever tasted- and certainly, the best recipe I have tried. I pulled it out of Elle Decor magazine of all places! This recipe is not quick, by any means; there is mucho mucho chopping! But, I think the time you put into it is well worth the end result! One suggestion is to buy as many of the veggies pre-chopped as you can!
A few changes I made to the original recipe- I used chicken breast meat instead of thighs (I don't care for dark meat) and I substituted chicken broth in place of wine. Also, I only bought 1/2 lb of fontina, but I had some shredded mozzarella in the fridge- the two cheeses combined worked great!
This recipe makes quite a bit, so, I made two 8X8 lasagnas instead of one 9X13. We ate one that night and I froze the other! Worked out perfectly!

5 Tbl extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 large onion, finely diced
2 stalks celery, finely diced
1 lb mushrooms (I used button & baby bellas), roughly chopped
9 oz bag of spinach leaves, chopped
4 Tbl butter
2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into small 1/2 inch pieces
1 c. dry white wine
1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. heavy cream
3 c. milk
1/2 bunch Italian parsely leaves, roughly chopped
1/2 tsp nutmeg
16 dried lasagna noodles
1 lb fontina cheese, diced (fontina is so soft, it's doesn't "shred" well)
1 c. grated Parmesan
Salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 350F

In a large pot, heat 3 Tbl of the olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the onion and celery with a sprinkle of salt & pepper and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes.  Increase heat to medium-high and add mushrooms. Cook, stirring, another 3 minutes. Add the chopped spinach and cook until spinach is wilted and mushrooms are tender. Sprinkle again with salt. Remove veggies from pot and set aside.

Add the butter to the same pot, and adjust heat to medium. Season the cut chicken with salt and pepper and add to the melted butter. Cook, stirring, until chicken is almost cooked through but not browned, about 6 minutes. Add the wine and simmer until almost completely reduced. Sprinkle flour over the chicken, and cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes, allowing the flour to coat the chicken and absorb the liquid. Gradually stir in the milk and cream, scraping the pot to release any cooked flour. Simmer for 5 minutes, stirring constantly, allowing the liquid to thicken. With a ladle, reserve 1 cup of the liquid (no chicken) and set aside. Remove the pot from the heat, and add the cooked veggies and mushrooms. Add the chopped parsley, Season with nutmeg and salt & pepper to taste.

To Assemble:
Cook the lasagna noodles for 8 minutes only in a boiling pot of salted water (they should be al dente so that they do not turn into over-cooked mush once in the oven).  Drain the noodles and toss with remaining olive oil to prevent sticking.

Grease a 9X13" pan. Place a layer of 4 noodles on the bottom, overlapping them slightly.  Top with one third of the of the chicken mixture, then one third of the diced fontina. Repeat layering twice, finishing with a layer of noodles. Spread the reserved sauce on the noodles and then sprinkle the Parmesan on top.

Cover with foil and bake at 350 for 30 minutes. Increase oven heat to 400F and remove foil. Bake another 10 to 15 minutes. Once you remove lasagna from oven let sit at least 10 minutes! If you don't, the lasagna will be loose and wiggly and difficult to get on the plate in one nice, square piece! Serve with a crusty bread! Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Focaccia with Spinach Pesto & Veggies

I love this focaccia recipe because it is fairly easy and doesn’t doesn’t require super long rise times. A friend introduced me to SAF yeast a few months ago and it totally changed the way I bake with yeast! This yeast requires no proofing, yet gives all my breads a great rise. (“Proofing” is when yeast dissolves in warm water to activate before incorporating it into the dough.) I bought it on Amazon- and even with the ridiculous amount of bread I make, there is enough to last me a very long time! If you aren’t up for making the bread from scratch, use store bought focaccia. The pesto and veggie toppings on this focaccia are delicious and very healthy! The focaccia recipe comes from and the pesto and toppings recipes comes from Cuisine at Home (great cooking magazine, FYI!). 

Easy Focaccia Bread

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon white sugar
1 package (2 1/4 tsp) instant dry yeast (please check out Saf yeast- it's fab!)
1 teaspoon garlic powder (I used 1 Tbl minced garlic and it worked great!)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1 pinch ground black pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil (I used canola)
1 cup water

In a standing mixer fitted with the paddle combine flour, salt, sugar, yeast, garlic powder, oregano, thyme, basil and black pepper. Mix in the vegetable oil and water. Mix till dough has pulled together (about 3 minutes). Switch to dough hook and knead for 7 minutes.

Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl, and turn to coat with oil. Cover with a cloth, and let rise in a warm place for one hour.

Oil a lipped baking sheet. Place risen dough in the center of the baking sheet. Press dough, starting from the center and working your way out, to the edges of the sheet. This takes some patience; do not rush, the dough will reach eventually! Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let rise for another hour. After the last rise, lightly press your fingertips into the top of the focaccia dough to give it that classic "dimpled" focaccia look.
While the dough is rising, make the pesto and get the veggies ready.

Spinach Pesto
3 c. spinach leaves (I just used 3 large handfuls)
1 c. parsley leaves (again, I just used one handful)
3 garlic cloves
1/4 c. grated Parmesan
All the zest AND juice from one small lemon
1/3 c. extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

In a blender or food processor, pulse spinach, parsley, garlic, Parmesan, zest and juice until minced. Drizzle in oil and pulse until blended. Season pesto with salt and pepper and set aside.

1 1/2 c. broccoli florets
1 c zucchini, cut into rounds
1/2 c. sliced white onion
4 oz shredded fontina cheese
1 Tbl olive oil (if roasting)

Preheat oven to 425F

To assemble the focaccia.
Spread half to two-thirds of the pesto on top of the focaccia dough (save the rest for dipping once cooked). Layer fontina cheese on pesto and top with veggies. Bake at 425F for 25 minutes. Remove from oven, cut into squares with a pizza cutter. Enjoy!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

York Peppermint Pattie Cookies

I made these cookies in honor of one of my BFFs, Carrie, with whom I share an intense love of all things mint chocolate! My kids seem to share the love, too, because they gobbled these up in no time! I found the recipe on Hershey's website. Here it is verbatim. Enjoy!
  • 2/3 cup butter or margarine, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup HERSHEY'S Cocoa
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 24 to 26 small (1-1/2 inch) YORK Peppermint Patties
  • White decorator's sugar (I didn't have white, but, I did have some red leftover from Xmas!)
Beat butter and sugar in large mixing bowl; add egg, milk and vanilla, blending thoroughly. Stir together flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Add to butter mixture, blending well. Refrigerate dough about 1 hour or until firm enough to handle. (Dough will be a little soft.)

Heat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease cookie sheet or line with parchment paper. Remove wrappers from peppermint patties.

Roll dough into 1-1/4 inch balls. For each cookie flatten ball slightly; press peppermint pattie into dough. Mold dough around pattie so that it is completely covered. Place on prepared cookie sheet. Using knife edge press star design into surface of each cookie; sprinkle with decorator's sugar.

Bake 12 to 14 minutes or until cookie is set; sprinkle with additional sugar, if desired. Cool slightly; remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Cool completely. About 2 dozen cookies.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Hula Chicken Salad

Serve this crunchy, sweet chicken salad on a bed of lettuce, as a sandwich or with crackers! I make this with the white breast meat from a rotisserie chicken - total time saver! Great for a luncheon or as a quick dinner.

2 1/2 c. rotisserie chicken, chopped
1 large carrot, shredded
1/3 c. sliced almonds
2 green onions, finely chopped
1/3 c. of canned crushed pineapple in juice, drained
1/3 c. mayo
1/4 c. Greek yogurt or sour cream (Greek yogurt is MUCH healthier!)
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp garlic salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp ground ginger

In a medium bowl, combine chicken, shredded carrots, almonds, green onions and pineapple.

In another bowl combine mayo, yogurt, Worcestershire sauce, garlic salt, pepper and ginger. Mix well until smooth. Pour over chicken mixture and mix well.  Serve with your choice of bread, crackers or chopped lettuce. Enjoy!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Roasted Broccoli Cheese Soup with Garlic Croutons

Early this week my friend, Kristina (aka Kiki Ganz), emailed me to ask if I could come up with a broccoli cheese soup that didn't use cream and was lighter in calories than your run-of-the-mill broccoli cheese!  So I accepted her challenge and am happy I did! This soup is really quite delicious. I love the flavor roasting the broccoli gives it. I will definitely be making it again.

And let me just say, I feel like I have posted SO many soup recipes lately I am seriously thinking about renaming my blog the Soup Ladle Diaries...okay, not really, but, I have been on a crazy soup kick - it's really cold outside, so cut me some slack! But, fear not all you non-soup-lovers...this will be the last soup recipe I post for at least two weeks...I promise!

Roasted broccoli:
3 heads of fresh broccoli (about 1 1/2 lbs), large stems removed
2 Tbl olive oil
1/2 tsp sugar

2 Tbl butter
2 leeks, sliced (white parts only)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp garlic, minced
1 tsp ground mustard
2 Tbl all purpose flour
4 c. chicken stock
1 c. water
3/4 c. 2% evaporated milk
1 c. shredded cheddar

To roast the broccoli:
Preheat oven to 425F
Line raw broccoli on a foil lined baking sheet. Drizzle with 2 Tbl olive oil. Dust with 1/2 tsp sugar. Roast for 18 minutes. Remove from oven.

While the broccoli is roasting, go ahead and get started on the soup. Place butter in a large soup pot over medium heat. Once butter is melted add the sliced leeks, salt and pepper. Cook for three minutes. Add the garlic and cook for one minute more. Add the ground mustard and flour. Cook for another two minutes, stirring all the while. Add one cup of the chicken broth and stir well until the flour covered leeks are well blended with the broth. Add the rest of the broth and water and bring to a boil. Add the broccoli to the pot and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for 20 to 30 minutes until the broccoli is tender.

Remove the pot from heat. Ladle the soup into a blender - PLEASE make sure you remove the plastic insert from the center of the blender lid (this allows the heat to escape). Place a clean kitchen towel over the opening in the blender lid and puree until the soup is smooth. Return the smooth soup to the pot and add the evaporated milk. Bring to a slight simmer. Add the cheese and cook over low heat, stirring well, until the cheese is melted. Serve soup with garlic croutons sprinkled on top. Serve immediately. Enjoy!

Garlic Croutons
4 c. ciabatta or french bread cut into 1/2 inch cubes
2 Tbl olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp garlic, minced
2 tsp dried parsley

Preheat oven to 400F
In a large bowl, drizzle olive oil and sprinkle salt, minced garlic and dried parsley over the bread cubes. Toss to coat. Spread out on a foil lined baking sheet and bake for 5 minutes. Remove from oven and stir bread. Return to oven and cook for another 5 minutes. That's it- croutons!

These really were the icing on the cake for the soup! I make these croutons all the time for salads, too! Please give them a try!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Two Bite Brownies

Moist, rich, easy-to-pop-in-your-mouth-chocolate-goodness! Yum!

3 eggs
1 3/4 c. sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 c. flour
3/4 c. cocoa powder (not cocoa mix)
1 tsp salt
2 sticks + 2 Tbl of butter, melted
1 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips (the miniature chips work the best)
2 Tbl powdered sugar, for dusting (optional)

Preheat oven to 350F

Grease a 24 cup mini-muffin tin and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine eggs, sugar and vanilla; whisk together. In a separate mixing bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder and salt. Add 1/3 of the dry ingredients and 1/3 melted butter to the egg and sugar mixture. Whisk until incorporated and then repeat with the dry ingredients and the melted butter until all is combined.

Fold in the chocolate chips. Fill each muffin cup only 3/4 full (if filled to the top the brownie will rise while cooking and form a crust - this crust makes it very hard to get the brownie out of the pan**). Bake for 17 minutes or until set but still a bit moist in the center. Let cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Remove brownies and let cool for another 30 minutes. Dust with powdered sugar. Enjoy!

*You will most likely have enough batter to make at least another 6 to 12 brownies.

**I always get a few "ugly" brownies- ones that don't make it out of the pan in one piece! Instead of throwing them away (that would be a sin!) I save all the "uglies" in a plastic container and store in the freezer. When it's ice cream sundae time (and it is a lot around my house!) I have the frozen "ugly" brownie crumbles to add to the sundae! Yum!