Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Cranberry Bliss Smoothie


I saw these beautiful, fresh cranberries in the grocery store and I knew I had to put them into a smoothie! I was a bit nervous the smoothie would be too tart, but the orange and very ripe banana evened the flavors out and the whole thing was actually quite sweet! Very yummy and a great way to give you body an immunity boost during cold and flu season!

1/3 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
1 medium orange, peeled
1/2 cup frozen blueberries
1 ripe banana
1 cup of your favorite milk, I used an almond/coconut blend
1 Tbl honey (optional)
1 Tbl hemp seeds (optional)
Ice cubes

Place all ingredients into a high power blender. Blend until smooth. Add a couple of ice cubes if desired. Enjoy!

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Peanut Butter Blossoms with Hershey's Kisses


This recipe is definitely an "oldie" but it still reigns as a "goodie, goodie, goodie" in my book.  My boys were asked to bring in cookies for all the middle school teachers this week....I was about to make my go to chocolate chip cookies, but decided to be a little more festive and make these Peanut Butter Blossoms with Hershey's Kisses.  I'm not sure why this cookie is always associated with Christmastime, but it definitely brings up great memories for me as a child during the holidays.

I made the dough a day in advance (I do this often when I have the time and know I will be busy the night before the cookies actually need to be baked). But chilling your cookie dough for at least an hour (and in my case, one whole day) actually gives you a better tasting cookie. The science behind it has to do with the fat in the chilled cookie dough taking longer to melt while it's cooking...this helps the cookies to spread less during baking. Further, the cookies become more golden as they bake and their flavor more pronounced.  Doubts? Google it!

Anyway, I always chill my dough - it really does make the cookies taste better! 

This recipe is old school Betty Crocker- here it is word for word:

Ingredients

1/2  cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 egg 
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Additional granulated sugar
About 36 Hershey's Kisses milk chocolates, unwrapped 
Directions:
Preheat oven to 375F 

In large bowl, beat 1/2 cup granulated sugar, the brown sugar, peanut butter, butter and egg with electric mixer on medium speed, or mix with spoon, until well blended. Stir in flour, baking soda and baking powder until dough forms.
 
Shape dough into 1-inch balls; roll in additional granulated sugar. On ungreased cookie sheets, place about 2 inches apart. 

Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until edges are light golden brown. Immediately press 1 milk chocolate candy in center of each cookie. Remove from cookie sheets to cooling rack. 

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Goat Cheese Polenta with Roasted Veggies


Have you checked out the blog Cookie & Kate yet? It really is an awesome place to find great vegetarian recipes - dinners, desserts, healthy, decadent....she does an awesome job creating a large variety of recipes. I subscribe to her posts and the day I got this one in my inbox I went to the store and made it the next evening. I just knew it would be delicious and it truly was.

I just love polenta so much - and when I saw there was goat cheese IN the polenta, I was sold. The roasted veggies (I used sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts) were amazingly delicious. And I was surprised that I really enjoyed egg as well (I cooked ours "fried over hard"). Two out of three of my kids gave this a big thumbs up (and really, I can't expect more than that since I have one who eats like a typical kid and two that are quite adventurous). This was a scrumptious vegetarian meal that was super filling.

Here is Cookie & Kate's recipe word for word (and make sure to explore her blog when you have a minute):

Ingredients:

Roasted vegetables
  • About 2 pounds mixed vegetables, i.e. small butternut squash, red onion here, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, sweet potato, bell peppers <I used one peeled and cubed sweet potato, and Brussels>
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Fine sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
Goat cheese polenta
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 leek, white parts only, thoroughly cleaned and chopped <this was my addition>
  • ½ teaspoon fine-grain sea salt, to taste
  • 3 to 4 cups water, according to package directions
  • 1 cup corn polenta (also called grits)*
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 to 3 tablespoons mild salsa verde (homemade or store-bought)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 ounces goat cheese, crumbled (about ½ cup crumbled)
Eggs, etc.
  • 4 eggs, cooked as desired <I cooked mine "fried over hard" bc we don't like runny yolk>
  • Finely sliced green onion, for garnish
  • Additional salsa verde and/or hot sauce (I love Cholula)

Instructions

  1. To roast the vegetables: Preheat the oven to 400°F. On a large, rimmed baking sheet, combine the vegetables with 2 tablespoons olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Toss until they are lightly coated in oil, then arrange the vegetables in a single layer across the pan. Bake for 25 to 40 minutes (timing will depend on your choice of vegetables), tossing halfway, until the vegetables are tender and deeply golden on the edges.
  2. To cook the polenta: In a medium saucepan, warm 2 teaspoons olive oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add the chopped bell pepper and ½ teaspoon salt <I added the leek with the peppers>. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the pepper is tender, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the amount of water specified on your package of polenta, crank up the heat and bring the mixture to a boil. Pour in the polenta, whisk to combine, and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook until thickened, which can take as little as 5 minutes depending on your polenta, whisking often to remove any clumps. Remove the pot from the heat, and stir in the butter, salsa verde and freshly ground black pepper, to taste. Add additional salt, if necessary. Gently fold in the crumbled goat cheese, just until combined. Cover and set aside.
  4. Cook your eggs as desired. Divide the grits and eggs into 4 bowls. Divide the vegetables into the bowls and finish them with a light sprinkle of green onion. Serve with additional salsa verde and/or hot sauce on the side.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Holiday Spiced Warm Almond Milk


I have never been a coffee drinker and over the years I have dabbled in tea.....I think I WANT to like tea more than I actually do.....and maybe I just want to also be holding a mug of something warm and toasty while everyone else sips their lattes and coffees. I do like warm chai lattes - but the truth is they are so caloric that I just don't drink them very often. Enter this super easy Holiday Spiced Warm Milk. It is inspired by a similar blend I tried this week at one of my favorite neighborhood organic grocers. It is satisfyingly warm on this brisk December morning, has all the flavors of the Christmas season, and has much less calories than a chai latte from Starbucks. My kids just tried it and they were in love. I probably should have doubled the recipe to make them a cup too.....next time, kids....this mug is for moi!

This glass of warm spiced milk is also full of health benefits. Protein and calcium from the almond milk, anti-inflammatory properties from the cinnamon, ginger & turmeric, and cardamom helps with digestion.  A little spice goes a long way....but the health (and flavor) benefits are great!

I drank mine with a Gingerbread Muffin (click for recipe).... a delicious mid-morning breakfast (and I think I might have another mug before bed tonight). Enjoy!

Ingredients:

2.5 cups unsweetened almond milk (or regular milk if you have an allergy)
1 heaping Tbl raw honey or pure maple syrup
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp turmeric
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp ginger
Less than 1/8 tsp cardamon (optional) - just the tiniest pinch, as this has a strong flavor

Place all ingredients into a small saucepan. Warm over low heat until desired temperature.

Alternatively, place all ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. Drink cold or warm in the microwave. 

Enjoy!

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Gingerbread Muffins with Chocolate Chips


Hello, December (well, almost!) and Hello, Gingerbread! The two go hand-in-hand in my mind....along with peppermint....they are the flavors of the season. When I saw this recipe on My Whole Food Life blog I knew I had to make them STAT.  They had me at gingerbread (and then the chocolate chips sealed the deal).

These muffins are sweetened with maple syrup (I think you could also use honey), are gluten free and have no butter, just coconut oil. So they are pretty healthy as far as muffins go (but FULL of amazing flavor from all the spices)! The kids LOVED them. They make a super easy, grab-and-go breakfast or snack. 

*I didn't have oat flour so I ground whole oats in the food processor....measure the oat flour AFTER it's been ground down.

Here is the recipe word for word from My Whole  Food Life blog:

Ingredients:
  • 2 1/4 cups gluten free oat flour*
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 2 flax eggs <I used two regular eggs>
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1 - 1 1/2 tsp ginger (depending on how spicy you like it) <I used 3/4 tsp ginger>
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp cloves
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup almond milk <use regular milk if nut allergy>
  • 1/3 cup chocolate chips <I used 1/2 cup>
Directions:
Preheat oven to 350.
Mix all dry ingredients in one bowl .
Mix wet ingredients in another.
Add wet to dry and mix until combined.
Spoon batter into lined or greased muffin pans. <I used a 1/4 cup full measuring cup for each muffin>
Bake for 10-12 minutes. <I baked for 12 minutes>
<This made 14 muffins for me>

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Butter Leaf Salad with Dates, Apples & Pomegranate Seeds


I made this salad the other night while my dad was in town visiting and he said it was the tastiest salad he's had in a very long time....He asked me to blog it STAT so that he can make it for Thanksgiving dinner! So, here it is, Dad!

Hope you all enjoy this recipe as much as my family does - it's a super easy salad that I serve as a side all the time. The flavors are very bright (thanks to the pomegranate seeds), sweet (dates and apples), and salty (the blue cheese). I use Brianna's Poppy Seed Dressing because it is just flat out amazing. You can also use a vinaigrette (3 parts oil, 2 parts vinegar, 1 part honey is a quick whip up dressing from scratch). But if you can find the Brianna's, get it!

Salad Ingredients (I don't really have exact measurements - just use as much or as little as you like):

  • 1 or 2 heads of butter leaf lettuce, washed, dried and torn into bite sized pieces (one head will be enough for two people as a side salad, two heads will be right to serve two full sized dinner portions - my husband and I eat a giant salad for dinner at least once a week.....if you want to add protein try chopped chicken or roasted tofu)
  • pomegranate seeds 
  • walnuts, chopped
  • diced crisp sweet apple (like a honeycrisp, jazz or pink lady)
  • dates, pitted and chopped (do not omit the dates, they honestly are the heart of this salad)
  • blue cheese
  • pepper & salt (easy on the salt as the blue cheese is quite salty)
  • Brianna's Poppy Seed Dressing or vinaigrette of your choice (but try to use Brianna's)

Directions:
Place ingredients in separate serving salad bowls (try to arrange them side by side around the bowl, alternating colors - presentation means so much). Top with salad dressing and serve immediately.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Flourless Pumpkin Blender Muffins


So..... I have been totally obsessed with making blender muffins over the past two weeks - they are just so easy and they are incredibly tasty! Plus, when I have muffins made, my kids have a quick-as-they-can-grab them breakfast.....which makes my mornings so much easier than asking them all what they want and getting three different answers.

After a quick Pinterest search for pumpkin blender muffins I found these (they also happen to be gluten free) on the blog Averie Cooks (btw this blog has SO many yummy looking desserts I cannot wait to explore and try more of her recipes!). I knew after a quick scan of the ingredients they would be amazing (I mean, look at all those spices!!).....and they are!

Here is the recipe from Averie Cooks word for word with my changes in italics:

**The recipe says these make mini muffins. I actually doubled the recipe and made 12 regular muffins. I baked them at 350F for 19 minutes**.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup old-fashioned whole-rolled oats (not quick cook or instant; use certified gluten-free if necessary or desired)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt or sour cream (lite okay)
  • 2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil <I used liquid-state coconut oil>
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar, packed
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice <I didn't have this so I used 1/4 tsp ground ginger instead>
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1/2 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips, plus more for sprinkling <I used regular sized>

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400F. Prepare mini muffin pans**<see my note above or below about making regular size muffins> by spraying very well with floured cooking spray, or grease and flour the pans; set aside. If keeping gluten-free for health reasons, simply use cooking spray or grease the pan.
  2. To the canister of a high-speed blender, add the oats, and blend on high speed until fine and powdery, about 15 seconds.
  3. Add all remaining ingredients except the chocolate chips and blend on high speed until smooth and incorporated, about 1 minute.
  4. Add chocolate chips and stir in by hand; don’t use the blender because it will pulverize them.
  5. Using a tablespoon or small cookie scoop, turn batter out into the muffin cavities, filling each to a solid 3/4 full.
  6. Evenly sprinkle the top of each with a generous pinch of chocolate chips (about 8 to 10 chips each).
  7. Bake for 8 to 11 minutes, or until the tops are set, domed, springy to the touch, and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, or with a few moist crumbs, but no batter.  Due to their small size and oven variance, make sure to watch your muffins closely, and bake until done. Allow muffins to cool in pans for about 10 minutes, or until they’ve firmed up and are cool enough to handle. Muffins are best fresh, but will keep airtight at room temperature for up to 5 days, or in the freezer for up to 4 months. 
**The recipe says these make mini muffins. I actually doubled the recipe and made 12 regular muffins. I baked them at 350F for 19 minutes**.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Chocolate Black Bean Blender Muffins

 
Last week I made the Flourless Peanut Butter & Banana Muffins that I blogged earlier this year for my kids. They just devoured them for breakfast and snacks. I was really digging how easy it was to put all the ingredients into the blender, press start, and basically be done. So I went onto Pinterest to find more blender muffin recipes and I came across these little protein-packed yummies.  I had a can of black beans in my pantry and just enough oats....so I gave them a try. Results were a super easy muffin to throw together, moist, dense chocolate flavor, and quality, healthful ingredients. I would say that's a win-win-win. 

This recipe comes from the blog Kristin's Kitchen Blog:
 
Ingredients
  • 15 ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 3 eggs
  • ½ cup plain Greek yogurt
  • ½ cup pure maple syrup or honey
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 tsp cinnamon <this was my own addition>
  • ½ cup bittersweet chocolate chips
Directions:
 
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a muffin tin with silicone (or paper) liners.

Place all ingredients, except for the chocolate chips, in a blender. Blend until smooth.

Pour the mixture into the prepared muffin tin, filling each muffin cup almost to the top. Drop 4-5 chocolate chips onto the top of each muffin.

Bake for 18-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes in the pan and then remove to a wire rack to cool completely. (Silicone liners can be removed once muffins are cool.)

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Miss Ann's Fairy Tea


My friend, Ann, shared this recipe with me and my children over the summer. I have been waiting for the weather to turn cold before I blogged it.....and after our high of 32F on Friday, I think the time has come!!

I think it's so funny that my kids like tea because I have only become a tea lover over the last few years. But they ask me for hot tea all the time and they especially ask me for Miss Ann's Fairy Tea! Ann was quick to tell me that there really isn't anything to this (and she's right, it's super simple) but the kids just LOVE it (I mean, it's full of sugar so why wouldn't they?) and it's a fun, hot drink to have when it's cold outside.

Sometimes I put sugar in it, but mostly I use honey.  Ann uses whole milk (which truly tastes better) but I only ever have 1% on hand - it works, too!

Let me know if your kids like this tea as much as mine do! Thank you for sharing with me, Ann!

Ingredients for Fairy Tea:
1 peppermint tea bag of your choice
1 tsp to 1 Tbl sugar or honey (again, your choice on how much sugar you are willing to give your child- haha!)
1 Tbl milk, whole milk is the most decadent, but 1% or 2% works, too

Place tea bag in a mug. Add hot water and let seep for three minutes. Add sugar or honey and milk. Enjoy!

Friday, November 3, 2017

The Ultimate Party Snack Mix


5 Tbl butter, divided
1 Tbl Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbl pure maple syrup
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
3 cups Wheat Chex
3 cups Cheerios
6 cups popcorn (I used my air popper- you can used lightly salted bagged popcorn, but I would not use microwave popcorn as it's got such a distinct fake butter flavor)
1 cup mini pretzels or thin sticks
1 cup cheese crackers (like Cheez-Its)
1 cup dry roasted peanuts or smoked almonds, optional
Salt to taste

Preheat oven to 300F.

In microwave-safe bowl melt 4 Tbl of butter, Worcestershire sauce and maple syrup in the microwave for 40 seconds.  Stir. Add the onion powder and garlic powder. Stir again.  Pour Wheat Chex and Cheerios into a medium sized bowl. Pour butter mixture over the Chex and Cheerios; stir until evenly coated. Pour mixture onto a foil-lined baking sheet and spread evenly with a wooden spoon. Bake in the oven for 40 minutes total - stirring every 15 minutes so that the mixture is evenly baked.  Remove from oven and let cool.

Pour the popcorn, mini pretzels, cheese crackers, cooled Chex & Cheerio mix and nuts, if using, into a large bowl. Melt the remaining Tbl of butter in the microwave and drizzle over the snack mix; use your hands to toss. Add salt to your taste and toss again using your hands. Serve within a day or so.

This makes enough to fill about one and a half gallon sized ziplock bags.  Double the recipe if you need more. Enjoy!

Friday, October 27, 2017

Italian Tortellini Pasta Salad with Crunchy Panko Topping

This salad was super yummy - thumbs up from the hubby and kids!! I actually made it the day before to save myself the hassle the night of and was so glad I did!!! The veggies and tortellini marinated all night and had great flavor - and I was also so happy after a day of work to not have to make a big dinner! Win-Win! What was everyone's favorite part of the meal? The crunchy panko topping!!! The kids went wild over the topping - I'm so glad I added it last minute. Also, if you make the salad the day before, do not add the topping until just before serving or it will get soggy.

Hope you all enjoy this as much as my family did!

 Blistered Garlic Cherry Tomatoes:
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbl olive oil
  • 1 tsp dried basil or 3 Tbl fresh basil 
  • 1/4 tsp salt
 Dressing & Tortellini Salad:
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 Tbl red wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp maple syrup or honey
  • 1 Tbl Dijon mustard
  • 16 ounces (2 cups) cheese tortellini
  • 2 bell peppers, chopped (preferably one orange and one red)
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, roughly torn
  • 3/4 cup fresh "pearl" mozzarella balls (the little tiny balls)
  • 3-4 ounces salami, roughly chopped, optional
  • 2 cups of fresh arugula
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
 Crunchy Panko Topping:
  • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1 Tbl olive oil
  • 1 Tbl dried parsely
  • 1/8 tsp salt
Preheat oven to 400F 

Toss the halved cherry tomatoes, minced garlic, olive oil, basil and salt in a medium bowl.  Spread on to a foil lined baking sheet and bake for approximately 20 minutes or until the tomatoes are blistered and bursting. Stir with a spatula and set aside to cool. Don't worry that they fall apart - that will happen. Just make sure you don't lose any of the seeds and juice- all that yummy-ness adds lots of flavor to the salad.

While the tomatoes are roasting boil a large pot of water and cook tortellini to al dente. Drain water, place tortellini back into pot and drizzle with a little bit of olive oil to prevent sticking. Set aside.

To make the dressing combine 1/2 cup olive oil, red wine vinegar, syrup or honey and Dijon mustard. Whisk until smooth.

To make the panko topping, turn the oven down to 350F. In a small bowl add panko bread crumbs, olive oil, parsley and salt. Mix with your fingers. Evenly spread the bread crumb mixture onto a foil lined baking sheet. Bake for only 3 - 4 minutes - don't go anywhere because this cooks quickly and you do not want it to burn. Remove from oven, stir the cooked panko with a spoon and set aside. 

To assemble the salad add the cooked tortellini, chopped bell peppers, blistered tomatoes and their juice, dressing, mozzerella balls, chopped basil and salami (if using) into a large bowl. Toss until everything is nicely coated. Taste for salt and pepper. 

To serve, place a handful of arugula at the bottom of each serving bowl. Spoon on the tortellini salad. Evenly divide the shredded Parmesan and baked panko crumbs to the top of each salad. Enjoy!!

**This is a great salad to make ahead of time! However,  add the arugula and the panko topping JUST before eating or the arugula and panko will get soggy. The rest of the ingredients will marinate together in the fridge overnight! Easy Peasy!

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Three Bean Chocolate Chili


I have been following this blog, Vegetarian Ventures, for awhile now.....this gal makes really delicious meals, often with surprise ingredients (like the cocoa powder in this chili) that really intrigue me as a cook and get me excited about experimenting with new flavors. I treated myself to her cookbook when it came out this year and I have been enjoying her recipes quite a bit!! Her photos (on her blog and in her cookbook) are gorgeous, by the way - they definitely make me hungry!!!

Here is the recipe word for word from Shelly Westerhausen's beautiful cookbook Vegetarian Heartland:

Ingredients:
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, seeded, de-ribbed and chopped
3 large garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbl chili powder
1 Tbl Dutch-process cocoa powder
2 tsp dried oregano
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 - 15oz can black beans, drained
1 - 15oz can kidney beans, drained
1 - 15oz can pinto beans, drained
1 - 14oz can fire roasted diced tomatoes
2 1/2 cups vegetable stock
1 cup frozen corn <I omitted this because I don't care for corn in chili>
1 Tbl maple syrup* <this was my own addition - I think it balanced out the flavors>

sour cream, shredded cheddar cheese or nutritional yeast, chopped fresh cilantro or chopped avocado for serving, all optional

Directions:
In a large saucepan over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the onion, bell pepper, and garlic and saute until the vegetables soften and the garlic is fragrant, about 5 minutes. Add the chili powder, cocoa powder, oregano, cumin, and cayenne, stirring to coat, and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds more. Add the beans, tomatoes with juice, stock, *maple syrup <if using> and corn.

Turn the heat to medium-high, bring to a boil, and then turn the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until the vegetables and beans are completely soft, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the lid and simmer until the chili thickens and most of the liquid has cooked off, about 5 minutes more. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly. Ladle into bowls or mugs. Serve warm and pass sour cream, cheese, cilantro and/or avocado (if using) around the table. Leftovers will last up to 3 days refrigerated in an airtight container or up to 3 months in the freezer.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

The Very Best Pumpkin Bread Ever


This bread is OUT OF CONTROL AMAZING!!! So so so yummy! Pumpkin, cream cheese, buttermilk and a cinnamon topping?! The answer is YES to all! I have made this bread twice in the past two weeks. Yep, two times! It is so delicious I do not think I will ever make another pumpkin bread....I don't think it can be topped!!

This recipe is from America's Test Kitchen. If you aren't familiar with this blog/cookbook then you should check it out! They try each recipe many many times using different ingredients and cooking methods before they decide on the perfect one - and they always get it right. This one is certainly no different. Hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Here is the recipe verbatim (and follow all the steps including cooking the pumpkin down on the stove top):

Topping:
5 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt

Bread:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1.5 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 (15‑ounce) can unsweetened pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon salt
1.5 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup (7 ounces) granulated sugar
1 cup packed (7 ounces) light brown sugar
1/2  cup vegetable oil
4 ounces cream cheese, cut into 12 pieces
4 large eggs
1/4 cup buttermilk
1 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped fine

1. For the topping: Using fingers, mix all ingredients together in bowl until well combined and mixture resembles wet sand.

2. For the bread: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two
8 1/2 by 4 1/2‑inch loaf pans. Whisk flour, baking powder, and baking soda together in bowl.

3. Cook pumpkin puree, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves in large saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly, until reduced to 1 1/2 cups, 6 to 8 minutes. Off heat, stir in granulated sugar, brown sugar, oil, and cream cheese until combined. Let mixture stand for 5 minutes. Whisk until no visible pieces of cream cheese remain and mixture is homogeneous.

4. Whisk eggs and buttermilk together in separate bowl, then whisk into pumpkin mixture. Gently fold in flour mixture until combined (some small lumps of flour are OK). Fold in walnuts. Scrape batter into prepared pans, smooth tops, and sprinkle evenly with topping. Bake until skewer inserted in center comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes, rotating pans halfway through baking.

5. Let loaves cool in pans for 20 minutes, then turn out onto wire rack and let cool for 1 1/2 hours before serving.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Cinnamon Apple & Banana Bread with Walnuts


Every weekend my husband makes our family pancakes and waffles from scratch - it's his thing. He takes his sweet, sweet time making them and they are always a highlight of our weekend!! This past Saturday he gave us a surprise by also making his cinnamon apples cooked in brown sugar and butter to spoon on top - when he does this, we know we are all getting an extra dose of love. They are so delicious and smell amazing!!!!

My husband's cinnamon apples inspired this banana bread. You all know how much I love to bake banana bread. When I see those spotted black and brown bananas on the counter I just can't wait to mash 'em up!! This time I thought I would take my husband's cinnamon apples and add them.....well, it was a fabulous idea because this bread is just pure yummy-ness! I hope you enjoy!

Apples:
1 Tbl butter
2 Tbl brown sugar
2 crisp apples, cored, and diced (I do not peel my apples, but you can)
½ tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp salt

Bread: 
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour*
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp salt
1 stick of butter, room temperature
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1/3 cup sour cream
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 very ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped, optional

*If you do not have this, you can just use 2 cups of all-purpose flour

To make the apples:
Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the butter and brown sugar and heat until bubbling. Add the apples and cinnamon and sauté about 5 or 6 minutes. Add the 1/8 tsp salt, stir. Set aside.

To make the bread:
Preheat oven to 350F

In a medium bowl combine flours, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, ginger and salt.

In a separate bowl cream the soften butter and sugar together until smooth. Add the eggs, one at a time. Add the sour cream and vanilla. Mix well. Add the mashed bananas and stir until all combined.

Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, stir. Fold in the cinnamon apples. Fold in the walnuts, if using. 

Pour the batter into a greased and floured loaf pan. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Remove from the oven and let cool for about an hour. Turn bread out onto a clean cutting board. Slice and serve. It won't last longer than 3 days, I'll tell you that! But that's about how long you can leave it sitting out on the counter.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Pumpkin Pie Smoothie


It's that time of year again - pumpkin spice everything! I thought I would put a healthy spin on the pumpkin spice trend and whip up a fiber filled smoothie that is great for your skin, gives your immunity a boost and tastes delicious, too!  Enjoy!

This makes enough for one smoothie:

1 apple (I used a honeycrisp because yes, I'm worth it!)
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
1 cup of almond milk or regular low-fat milk
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 small nub of fresh ginger (or 1/4 tsp ground if you don't have fresh)
1/2 tsp to 1 tsp pure maple syrup or honey (optional, but yummy!)
5-6 ice cubes
1 Tbl hemp seed (optional)

Blend all ingredients in a high speed blender until smooth. Drink immediately.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Greek Buddah Bowl


I know this Buddah Bowl has a lot of ingredients and dressings in it.....but I promise you, it isn't a hard salad to put together. Let my ingredient list be your guide.....you don't have to put it all in and you can add any of your favorite veggies that I didn't include here. Just have fun with it!

I made enough for two giant dinner sized salads. I made roasted tofu and baked chicken and my husband wanted the tofu! What can I say, I make the best tofu! Haha! Honestly, though, my husband said this was one of the best salads I have ever made! I agree - it was super yum!!

I didn't do this, but thought of it after - pita bread slices would have been a great addition! Enjoy!

Ingredients:

romaine lettuce, washed, dried and chopped
cooked brown rice, seasoned with salt & pepper (you could also use quinoa instead)
cucumbers, chopped
cherry tomatoes, halved
hemp seed
roasted chickpeas (recipe below)
avocado, perfectly ripe and sliced
bell pepper (red, yellow or orange) chopped
green or black olives or capers
pita bread slices for serving

Choose one of the following for added protein:
marinated and roasted tofu (which is what is pictured above), cubed
marinated and baked chicken, cut into cubes
falafel (you can get some killer falafels in the frozen food section or make your own)

Sauces (I used a combination of ALL of these in the salad - so glad I did - YUM!)
hummus (store bought)
tzatziki sauce (I made my own, recipe below - but you can use store bought)
tahini sauce (recipe below - this took all of three minutes to put together- don't skimp. In case you don't know, tahini is made from seasame seeds)

Roasted Chickpeas Recipe:

1 can of chickpeas, drained, rinsed and patted dry
1 tsp olive oil
1/2 tsp of any or all of these spices (I used them all! YUM!)
  • cumin
  • cinnamon
  • garlic powder
  • onion powder
  • paprika
  • brown sugar
  • salt
Heat the oven to 400F

Place chickpeas in a bowl, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with spices and spread on a baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes and then stir. Bake for another 10 minutes (until desired softness or crispness) and remove from oven and let cool.

Tzatziki Sauce:

Greek yogurt
lemon juice to taste
small drizzle of maple syrup
salt to taste
dill or parsley, optional
finely chopped cucumber

Mix the first four ingredients together. Fold in the chopped cucumber. Done!

Tahini Dressing:

2 Tbl tahini paste
lemon juice to taste
small drizzle of maple syrup
water - enough to make it smooth

Mix all ingredients together. Add water as needed to make it smooth.

Assemble the Salad:

Put all the ingredients in a large bowl. Make it look pretty by sorting the colors and layering each veggie and protein side by side. Don't forget they say you eat with your eyes first!! Add a dollop of hummus, tzatziki sauce and tahini sauce.  You can serve this salad with some pita bread slices if you like! Enjoy!

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Carrot and Pineapple Cake



I can honestly say this carrot cake is one of the best baked goods I have ever made.  It. Was. THAT. Good!! So moist, super flavorful and the cream cheese icing - AMAZING!  And I knew it would be all those things because it's a Barefoot Contessa recipe - and she has, in my opinion, never put out a recipe that doesn't taste like solid gold. I love love love her recipes and her baked goods are the best of the best!  This cake was slightly involved and on the website is says "intermediate" level - so keep that in mind....it is time consuming....but it is certainly worth the effort. 
Here is the Barefoot Contessa's recipe word for word (and please do follow it carefully):

Ingredients


For the cake:
  •  
  • (approx 3 1/2 cups)
  • <I actually used a can of crushed pineapple, drained>
For the frosting:

For the decoration:


Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F

Butter 2 (8-inch) round cake pans. Line with parchment paper, then butter and flour the pans.

For the cake:
Beat the sugar, oil, and eggs together in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light yellow. Add the vanilla. In another bowl, sift together 2 1/2 cups flour, the cinnamon, baking soda, and salt.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Toss the raisins and walnuts with 1 tablespoon flour.

Fold in the carrots and pineapple. Add to the batter and mix well.

Divide the batter equally between the 2 pans. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes <I baked my cakes for only 52 minutes and they were perfect>, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow the cakes to cool completely in the pans set over a wire rack.

For the frosting:
Mix the cream cheese, butter and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until just combined. Add the sifted confectioners sugar and mix until smooth.

Place 1 layer, flat-side up, on a flat plate or cake pedestal. With a knife or offset spatula, spread the top with frosting. Place the second layer on top, rounded side up, and spread the frosting evenly on the top and sides of the cake. Decorate with diced pineapple.


Monday, September 18, 2017

Mushroom & Hummus Soup with Rice


Oh my goodness, hummus in soup??? YES! And it is SOOOO good!!! When I came across this recipe on the Food Network website I knew I had to make it immediately. The ingredients and steps were simple, it has no cream in it (yet it's creamy), it's full of flavor, and it's filling -  it's a win-win-win! After reading some of the comments on their website, I decided to add cooked rice....definitely add the rice! I also decided to skip the lemon juice and only added lemon zest to the yogurt topping - I think this was a smart move, as well. Finally, I don't care for thyme much, so I did what I always do when a recipe calls for thyme, I used sage instead - it was great! I really loved the yogurt topping, but I think I might sub sour cream next time I make this for an even creamier topping.....just an idea!

I served this yummy soup with my Fennel & Apple Salad and a side of crusty bread. Enjoy!

Here is the recipe (with my changes in italics) from the Food Network:

Soup Ingredients:

  • <I used a combo of baby bellos and button mushrooms>
  • , to taste
  • <I used regular white wine>
  • <I used 6 chopped sage leaves instead of thyme>
  •  
  • 1 1/2 cups of cooked brown rice <my own addition, but highly recommended>
 Yogurt Topping: 

Directions

Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and cook until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms, season with salt and pepper, and cook until the liquid from the mushrooms evaporates, about 15 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute. Add the madeira wine and cook 2 minutes, scraping up any browned bits. Add the broth and thyme; simmer gently, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes.

Discard the thyme sprigs (if using the sage like I did, do not discard). Stir the hummus into the soup. Transfer half of the soup to a blender and puree (remove the filler cap to let steam escape), then return to the saucepan and simmer 15 more minutes. Remove from the heat, season with salt and pepper. Mix the lemon zest, parsley, scallions and Greek yogurt in a small bowl. Ladle the soup into bowls and top with the yogurt and lemon-parsley mixture. Serve immediately.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Fennel & Apple Salad with Sugared Walnuts & Dried Cherries


Wonderfully delicious salad I made for dinner tonight! During dinner my husband said, "You're blogging this, right?" So, here it is! Enjoy!

Ingredients:

Mixed salad greens
Fennel bulb, use only the white bulb
Sweet, crisp apple, like a honey crisp or a jazz
Candied pecans or walnuts, or plain nuts if you prefer
Feta cheese
Dried cherries or craisins

Balsamic dressing (I made my own, but you can use a good quality store bought brand like Briannas)
To make a simple balsamic:
3 Tbl olive oil
2 Tbl balsamic vinegar
1 Tbl pure maple syrup or honey
Salt & pepper

Directions:

Cut the fennel first. Cut off the root at the bottom and the green stalks so you are only left with the white bulb. I usually remove the first layer of fennel because it's discolored and looks dirty. Once your bulb has been trimmed, cut it in half so it's easier to work with. Continue cutting into very thin strips. If you need a little help cutting your fennel bulb, click here.

Next cut your apple into thin strips or chop it into little chunks.

Divide salad greens between two large bowls (for two dinner servings) or four salad plates (if serving as a side). Top with sliced fennel, apple slices, candied nuts, feta cheese and dried cherries or craisins. Drizzle with dressing. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Asian Chicken and Coconut Curry Noodle Salad


You all know how much I LOVE the blog Cafe Sucre Farine.....her recipes, her photos, her salad dressings!!! This woman is amazing - everything I have made from her blog, I have LOVED!  This salad is no exception....it was downright delicious! My husband probably said so at least five times while we were eating!  The salad dressing IS TO DIE FOR!!!! Oh mercy me, it is incredible!! I made this salad for just myself and my husband as our main course. There was plenty of dressing to marinate the chicken for my husband, the tofu for myself and then also enough to top a salad for tomorrow night's dinner. Please notice I used dried spices instead of fresh - that was out of pure laziness on my part (sorry guys, it is just a regular Wednesday night after all). Next time I'll grate the ginger and mince the onion and garlic because I know it'll make the dressing even tastier! 

I really really recommend you mosey on over to the Cafe Sucre Farine blog and check out her culinary genius for yourself.

And for now, here is her recipe word for word:

Ingredients:

Ingredients for the coconut curry noodles:
  • ¾ cup light coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon green curry paste
  • 8 ounces angel hair pasta
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt, to taste
Ingredients for the salad:
  • 6 cups Bib or butter lettuce <I used 2 heads of romaine lettuce>
  • diced cooked chicken breast <I used chicken for my husband and roasted marinated tofu for myself>
  • 2 large ripe avocados, peeled, pitted and diced <I only used one>
  • 3 medium nectarines, diced <I only used one>
  • ½ cup salted peanuts, coarsely chopped
  • fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • Asian Honey-Sesame Salad Dressing (see ingredients and recipe below)
Asian Honey-Sesame Salad Dressing:
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, finely minced <I used 1 tsp garlic powder>
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped or grated fresh ginger <I used 1 tsp dried ginger>
  • 1 tablespoons red onion, finely chopped <I used 1 tsp onion powder>
  • ¼ cup rice vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 3 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon Sriracha
  • 2 tablespoon sesame seeds
  • 2 tablespoon poppy seeds
  • ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup canola oil
  • 1 teaspoons sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon finely ground black pepper
**Combine all ingredients in a glass jar and shake well. That’s it!

Directions for Salad:
  1. Combine coconut milk and curry paste in a medium size pot. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to maintain a steady simmer. Cook for 10-15 minutes or until reduced by one half. Set aside.
  2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add 1 teaspoon salt and angel hair pasta. Stirring frequently, cook for 3-4 minutes or until noodles are al dente.
  3. Once noodles are cooked, drain well and drizzle with the olive oil. Toss with 2 forks to coat pasta with oil. Transfer to a medium size bowl and add the coconut milk/curry mixture. Toss again with forks till noodles are coated then cover lightly with plastic wrap and set aside. Allow to sit for 30 minutes before serving for pasta to absorb liquid. Taste and add a pinch of sea salt if needed.
  4. Place lettuce on a large platter or divide between 6 large salad bowls or plates. Arrange nectarines, chicken, avocado and pasta in rows on top of lettuce. Drizzle lightly with the Asian Honey-Sesame Salad Dressing (recipe above) then scatter the chopped peanuts and fresh basil over the top. Pass extra dressing at the table.



Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Grilled Veggie & Cream Cheese Sandwich To Go


This scrumptious sandwich comes from one of my favorite blogs - The Pioneer Woman. Everything I make from her blog is golden....this sandwich was no different. YUM!!!! This recipe makes four sandwiches. I served them with a large fruit/spinach smoothie and chips. My husband ate two sandwiches for dinner. I ate one sandwich and then had one for lunch the next day (which was a delicious alternative to my usual granola bar). 

Check out her blog for helpful step by step pictures (I love how she does this with each of her recipes).

Here is her recipe word for word:

Ingredients

  • 1 whole Large Zucchini, Cut Lengthwise Into Thin Slices
  • 1 whole Medium Onion, Cut Into 1/2-inch Rings
  • 1 whole Red Bell Pepper, Seeded And Cut Into 4 Slabs
  • 1 whole Yellow Bell Pepper, Seeded And Cut Into 4 Slabs
  • Olive Oil For Brushing
  • Kosher Salt And Black Pepper To Taste
  • 3/4 cups Cream Cheese Mixed With Herbs <I used 2 Tbl. fresh parsley, 2 Tbl fresh basil and 1 tsp dried oregano>
  • 8 slices Good Sandwich Bread <I used a fresh, soft, sourdough sandwich loaf from WF bakery that I cut into thick slices- it was amazing - go ahead and splurge on the bread>

Preparation

Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat and place the veggies on the surface.

Let the first side cook without oil, so it gets great grill marks on the surface. After that, turn them over And brush them with a little bit of olive oil. Grill until they're soft and have black marks. Remove them from the pan and let them cool.



**<I roasted all of the veggies I used in the oven on 425F. I roasted the zucchini and bell peppers for 8 minutes on each side; the onion for 15 minutes, flipped and then another 8 minutes>

Toast the bread. Spread cream cheese on both slices, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Layer the veggies between two slices.


Wrap in plastic wrap and store in the fridge up to 24 hours! Great for grabbing and going!

Friday, September 1, 2017

Tropical Banana Bread


By now you all know how much I LOVE banana bread (I have posted so many banana bread recipes it's almost embarrassing) - I really do make it about once a week....the kids love it and it makes for an easy, grab and go breakfast in the morning when we are rushed (it's also the perfect after school snack). I had some beautiful, fresh pineapple in my fridge and though, ooh, I should try making a banana bread with pineapple!  And so I did, and it's delicious! I just had to share with you right away! Enjoy!
  • 2 ripe banana, well mashed
  • 1/2 cup fresh pineapple or if using canned, well drained
  • 1 stick butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 Tbsp poppy seeds
  • 1/3 cup shredded coconut, optional
  • 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt 
Directions:
Preheat oven to 350F

Mash the bananas and pineapple together using a masher or if you have time, throw them in the blender/food processor and pulse until slightly chunky, but blended (this is what I did).



Cream the butter and the sugar in the bowl; add the mashed bananas and pineapple and stir.  Mix in the eggs, one at a time, and then the vanilla and poppy seeds.  Stir in the coconut, if using.
 
Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. 

Lightly butter and flour a standard loaf pan.

Spread the batter evenly into the pan and tap it against the counter a couple times to release any air bubbles.

Bake for about 55 minutes or until a wooden pick comes out clean. Let cool for an hour in the pan then slice and enjoy.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Quick & Easy Bean Soup with Quinoa & Hummus


I have been making this bean soup again and again the past couple of weeks.  Every time I add different ingredients (all just depending on what I have on hand) but the main elements are store bought bean soup, quinoa, hummus and avocado. I have made this for a quick lunch and also an easy dinner. In the above picture I had some left over cilantro lime dressing from my Fajita Salad I made a few days before - it was a delicious addition!

This makes enough for two bowls of soup:

16 oz of your favorite bean soup
1 cup cooked quinoa
your favorite hummus
avocado, ripe and sliced

Extras (choose any or all of these to add flavor)
sour cream
shredded cheddar cheese
cilantro, chopped
cherry tomatoes, quartered
tortilla chips or corn chips
sliced jalepenos
chopped red onion
carmelized onions
anything else you think would taste yummy!

Heat the soup on the stove, ladle into bowls and add any of the toppings you wish, including the quinoa, hummus and sliced avocado. Eat immediately! Enjoy!

Monday, August 7, 2017

Pear & Strawberry Sandwich with Brie Cheese


As promised, here is the other delicious recipe that was inspired by a meal we had on our Shore vacation this summer.  This copycat recipe comes from one of our favorite restaurants, Yvette's. They serve the most beautiful artisan sandwiches - and so so so many of their offerings are vegetarian which makes me super happy. 

This sandwich is so pretty! The flavors are bright and sunny - it's especially good on a warm summer day. I served it with a side of kettle chips and a big fruit smoothie.

This makes two sandwiches:

2 soft individual-size baguettes, lightly toasted in the oven just before making
1 crunchy pear, sliced thin
2 - 3 ripe, but firm, strawberries, sliced thin
6 oz of soft brie cheese, rind removed and cubed
mixed salad greens
poppy seed dressing (I like Brianna's)

Slice the baguettes and lightly toast in the oven right before you are ready to assemble the sandwiches.

Divide the brie cheese evenly between the toasted two baguettes.  Add mixed salad greens. Now artfully (try! haha!) add the sliced pears and strawberries, alternating pear then strawberry. Finish the sandwich with a drizzle of the poppy seed dressing. Serve with a little side of dressing so you can dip as you eat (the dressing is really yummy!).  Eat immediately! Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Sweet Green Juice


This juice is sweet, yummy, refreshing, a bit tangy (from the ginger) and definitely green!! Drink your greens! Enjoy!

This makes enough for one serving of fresh fruit and veggie juice:

2 kiwis
1 large pear
3 large kale leaves (juice the center stem too)
1 1" knob of ginger
6 mint leaves
A squeeze of lemon

Wash and slice all the fruit and kale (leave the skin on the pear). Put through a juicer. Discard the pulp and drink immediately!