Friday, September 23, 2011

Pumpkin Pull Apart Bread

I might get ousted from the blog for even posting this, seeing as 1. I haven't even tried it and 2. this recipe is most definitely, certainly not a healthy or even close to healthy recipe.  My only hope is that it is the holidays soon and maybe with all that cheery spirit, I will be forgiven for posting such an unhealthy recipe. I'm sure you can substitute agave for sugar though in the recipe. :)

Now that you've seen the picture, do you understand why I had to share this?!

Pull-Apart Cinnamon Sugar Pumpkin Bread with Buttered Rum Glaze
(Adapted from Willow Bird Baking)

Bread2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 cup milk
2 1/4 teaspoons (1 envelope) active dry yeast
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
1/4 cup white sugar
1 tsp salt
2 1/2 cups bread flour

1 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp fresh ground nutmeg
2 Tbsp unsalted butter

Buttered Rum Glaze
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/8 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp milk
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 Tbsp rum *

*The recipe I used called for just a 1/4 tsp of rum but I really wanted to be able to taste the rum, so I upped it to a full tablespoon. It was just right for my taste, adding a nice warmth to the glaze. If you're not into rum you can sub a teaspoon of vanilla extract.

In a saucepan over medium-high heat, brown 2 tablespoons of butter, letting it bubble up and turn a dark golden brown but being careful not to allow it burn (turn black). Once browned, remove the pan from the heat and carefully add the milk, return to stove and heat through. Pour the milk and butter into the bowl of standing mixer (fitted with a dough hook) and allow to cool so it is no longer hot but also not cool (about 100-110 degrees F). Once it has reached a warm but not hot temperature add the yeast and 1/4 cup of sugar and allow to proof. Then add the the pumpkin, salt, and 1 cup of flour. Stir until combined then add the rest of the flour 1/2 cup at a time and knead for 6 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic and just slightly sticky. If the dough is too moist, add extra flour 1 tablespoon at a time.

Move dough to a lightly oiled bowl and cover with a clean towel. Allow to rise in a warm place for 60-90 minutes or until doubled in size.

While dough is rising, brown another 2 tablespoons of butter. Add the sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg and mix well.** Making sure sugar evenly absorbs the butter. Set aside. Next, grease and flour a 9x5 loaf pan and set aside.

When the dough has doubled in size, punch it down and flip out onto a clean floured surface and knead with hands for 1-2 minutes. Roll dough into a 20x12 inch rectangle.*** Evenly sprinkle the dough with the cinnamon sugar mixture and press into dough with palms of the hand. Cut the rectangle into 6 strips. Lay strips on top of each other and cut each strip into 6 even squares (cut in half then each half into thirds). Stack strips vertically into the loaf pan. Cover the pan with a clean towel and let rise for 30-45 minutes.

In the meantime preheat an oven to 350 degrees. After rising in the pan bake for 30-40 minutes (mine took 37 exactly) or until top is a very deep golden brown.

To prepare the glaze, heat the butter, milk, and brown sugar in a small saucepan. Bring to boil then immediately remove the pan from the heat and stir in the rum and powdered sugar.

**Of course I didn't properly read this section of the directions... I was supposed to melt the butter and brush the dough with the butter then adding the sugar on top of the butter (instead of mixing it all together and sprinkling) but it worked my way so that's how I am listing it. It's really your call!

*** If dough is difficult to roll out, cover with a towel and allow to relax for a few minutes then try again.

This recipe is thanks to someone posting it on Pinterest, and me stalking a random lady in San Diego to find out how to make it.  Thank you San Diego

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Salsa and Creamy Tomato Basil Soup

With the abundance of garden tomatoes this time of year, I thought it appropriate to share a couple of our favorite tomato based recipes: Aunt Abby's Salsa and Ina Garten's Creamy Tomato Basil Soup.

Aunt Abby's Salsa 
     (We like this salsa so much that it's just about the only salsa we eat.)

Total prep time: 10 min.

(We often half the recipe as the salsa will only keep for a couple of weeks). But for a party or if you are big salsa eaters, make the whole thing!)

2 14 oz can tomatoes, slightly drained, or 28 oz of fresh tomatoes
2 serrano chilies, diced (take out the seeds or some seeds if you prefer a more mild salsa)
1/4 bunch of cilantro
1/4 of a white or yellow onion, chopped
1/2 of a lemon, juiced (we also love lime juice - use a whole lime)
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar

Mix all ingredients in a blender (we found the food processor does a great job for a chunkier salsa). Pulse until well blended and cilantro is chopped. For the best flavor, refrigerate 1-2 hours before serving.

Ina Garten's Cream of Fresh Tomato Soup.

John and I saw Ina Garten make this soup a couple of years ago and gave it a whirl. It nearly took us all afternoon the first time because we went shopping for a food mill, which didn't end up working anyway. We now just use a food processor and it seems to work well. We continue to make this soup every year as it is quite delicious!  If you discover any improvements though, we want to hear about them. 

Total Time:
1 hr 15 min
15 min
1 hr 0 min

5 to 6 servings
  • Ingredients
  • 3 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped red onions (2 onions)
  • 2 carrots, unpeeled and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)
  • 4 pounds vine-ripened tomatoes, coarsely chopped (5 large)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup packed chopped fresh basil leaves, plus julienned basil leaves, for garnish
  • 3 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • Croutons, for garnish


Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-low heat. Add the onions and carrots and saute for about 10 minutes, until very tender. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, sugar, tomato paste, basil, chicken stock, salt, and pepper and stir well. Bring the soup to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer, uncovered, for 30 to 40 minutes, until the tomatoes are very tender.

Add the cream to the soup and process it through a food mill into a bowl, discarding only the dry pulp that's left. Reheat the soup over low heat just until hot and serve with julienned basil leaves and/or croutons.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Quick and Easy Salads

One of our quick go-to meals when in a time crunch is a main dish salad. In this particular picture we have lettuce (I believe both romaine and green leaf, but we use spinach all the time too), apples, grapes, craisins, feta cheese, walnuts, and chia seeds. We always do this and they are always different depending on what we have. But I ALWAYS put some sort of healthy nut (usually almonds or walnuts) and chia seeds (so so good for you and tasteless so you can add them to pretty much anything). Beans are good to get your protein so we add those frequently. We don't worry about getting enough protein because most americans get way too much anyway. There are plenty of other ways to get your protein throughout the day. Adding chicken, salmon, quinoa, and spinach are also good ways to add some protein. Pretty much the sky is the limit when it comes to what you add to it. We have been adding raw pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds lately that are also super good for you. You'd be surprised at the variety you can have, so be creative! I've discovered lately that cucumbers taste really good with fruits, and tomatoes, carrots, red onions, peppers, etc. can taste good in both a savory and a sweet salad. 

Now, the secret is really in the dressing. Nothing beats a delicious homemade dressing, but let's face it, who always has time for that. We have found heaven in a bottle AKA Sundrenchers. There are quite a few kinds which are all delicious but our favorite is by far the Honey Mustard. It doesn't have all the nasty, bad for you stuff in regular salad dressings and it tastes WAY better. I would be selfish to not share, so here you go. We get it at Good Earth, but I'm sure most any health foods store will have it (I have seen it at Real Foods too). 

This dressing is especially good for helping picky children and hubby's eat more greens. Don't be afraid to be unconventional. Any kind of salad tastes good with a delicious dressing.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Grilled Yummy Extra Delicious Sandwiches

So ladies, John's mom just made these for us on Saturday and they are super delicious! You can make them with chicken or, I believe the recipe is for a vegetarian sandwich. The onions and the white balsamic vinegar make these have a wonderful zing.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Southwest Quinoa

This is a delicious Green Smoothie Girl recipe that I have adapted slightly and we love it. You can basically make it your own and add whatever you would like to the quinoa that you have on hand. It is super fast to throw together as well. Plus we could eat mexican food every day all day over here so it's a good way to get a super healthy food like quinoa into our diet while still incorporating our love for mexican food! This makes a LOT so for the two of us we usually half the recipe. This is definitely my husband's favorite quinoa recipe that I make, so if you are trying to introduce your family to quinoa, start with this one!

This is the full recipe and makes a large bowl. Also, cherry tomatoes aren't amazing in it but it was all we had when I took this pic. I recommend Roma or vine ripened tomatoes for sure.

2 cups quinoa
4 cups water
2 cans black beans (or 3-4 cups cooked black beans)
4 medium tomatoes
8 green onions, chopped
1 cup chopped cilantro

1 heaping Tbsp. lime zest
¼ cup fresh lime juice
4-6 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp. maple syrup
1 tsp. sea salt
½ tsp. pepper

Rinse quinoa thoroughly and strain water out through a fine strainer. Cook the quinoa in water (we just use our rice cooker, it's so easy!) and add everything else when finished. Pour dressing over top and gently mix. Top with fresh salsa and guacamole if desired (in my opinion the salsa and guac are a must:) You can serve this hot or cold but don't reheat once it is all mixed together. Buen provecho!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Chicken Chimichangas

I have a very trim, slim husband who can pack in the food and he was getting tired of sandwiches for lunch and I was getting tired of having left overs always ready, so voila! We discovered these scrumptious chicken chimichangas that can be frozen and then thawed for a quick lunch. They are much healthier and tastier than frozen food aisle burritos (though we are certainly guilty of buying those for a quick snack).

This recipe is adapted from one my mother makes.  I will show you the additions.

2 1/2 cups cooked, diced, chicken (To make it vegetarian, use pinto beans for added substance).
1 cup salsa (we prefer homemade. I will share the recipe later)
1/3 cup sliced green onion
1 can black beans, drained (I frequently add another can).
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. salt
I add:
1/2 jar/ 8 oz. of Green Enchilada sauce
2 TBSP honey
2-3 cups cooked brown rice

whole wheat flour tortillas
grated cheese
melted butter

Mix chicken, salsa, onions, cumin, oregano, salt, honey, enchilada sauce and black beans in a large bowl. (I don't think these pictures will get any awards, but you get the idea. :))

 Take your flour tortillas and place a good dollop of chicken mixture, then add a good dollop of brown rice and sprinkle with cheese.  Fold the two bottoms and then the two sides, so the tortilla looks like a square pillow. Turn over so the folds are on the bottom. Brush with melted butter.

To freeze:
Wrap individually in plastic wrap and foil. Freeze for up to 30 days.

To Bake:
Preheat the oven to 475 degrees. Bake for 13 minutes. The crust should be golden brown and crispy. Serve with fresh tomatoes, salsa, avocado and lettuce.

I also convert them to enchiladas and simply top with the rest of the green enchilada sauce mixed with a bit of half and half.

P.S. HEALTH BENEFITS OF BLACK BEANS, courtesy of Whole Foods:

Black beans are a very good source of cholesterol-lowering fiber, as are most other legumes. In addition to lowering cholesterol, black beans' high fiber content prevents blood sugar levels from rising too rapidly after a meal, making these beans an especially good choice for individuals with diabetes, insulin resistance or hypoglycemia. When combined with whole grains such as brown rice, black beans provide virtually fat-free high quality protein. You may already be familiar with beans' fiber and protein, but this is far from all black beans have to offer.

To read more, visit this article on black beans:

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Blueberry Oatmeal

My husband and I recently discovered the joys of flavored oatmeal--and I don't mean the pre-flavored packages you buy at the grocery store. This is the do-it-yourself version, which is MUCH better! Who knew there was so much more to oatmeal than simply adding milk and brown sugar? While we enjoyed apple-cinnamon and banana pecan, we discovered our absolute favorite this morning: blueberry! I found this delicious recipe in a New York Times article on healthy eating. Enjoy!

Blueberry Oatmeal

1 1/3 cups water
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons honey
2/3 cup rolled oats or oatmeal
1/3 cup blueberries
1/2 teaspoon orange zest
1/2 cup milk (can substitute soy milk, almond beverage or rice beverage)

Bring water to a boil in a medium-size saucepan. Add salt, cinnamon, honey and oatmeal. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for five minutes, or until most of the water has been absorbed. Add blueberries, orange zest and milk. Bring to a simmer and simmer for five more minutes or until oatmeal is thick and creamy and blueberries have begun to pop open. Cover and let stand for five minutes before serving.

Side note: We just used frozen blueberries, but fresh would probably be even better. We also added a little freshly squeezed orange juice for extra flavor.

Sunday, March 27, 2011


I have been wanting to incorporate barley into our diets and finally found some at the store. Now, I need to find a tasty recipe.

Any suggestions?!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Whole Wheat Crepe with Spinach and Tomatoes

I love eating these for lunch. They are relatively quick and very tasty. Plus, I can sprinkle one with powdered sugar or jam at the end for a nice dessert!

Whole Wheat Crepes

1/2 cup freshly ground whole wheat flour
1 cup milk
2 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla
1-2 TBS oil or melted butter
1/8-1/4 tsp. cinnamon (if you like)

Mix well. Batter should be smooth. If needed at a bit more milk or flour. For thicker crepes, add more flour, thinner crepes, add more milk.

Cook on medium heat over the stove in a crepe pan or non-stick frying pan.

While the crepe is hot, add thinly sliced tomatoes, fresh spinach and a cheese of your choice (I prefer Parmesan, feta, etc.), red onions if desired. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar. Fold the sides of the crepe over themselves and enjoy!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Granola and Granola Bars


Normally, I like to modify recipes a little bit, but this one by Ina Garten is just so good, I just made a couple of modifications. 


  • 4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 2 cups sweetened, shredded coconut (I used only about one cup).
  • 2 cups sliced almonds
  • 1 1/2 cups dried cherries, chopped
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup good honey
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • (I added a couple of tablespoons of water to make the granola a little more cohesive.)


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Toss the oats, coconut, almonds, and cherries together in a large bowl. Pour the vegetable oil and honey over the oat mixture. Add the cinnamon, and stir with a wooden spoon until all the oats and nuts are coated with the liquids. Pour onto a sheet pan. Bake, stirring occasionally with a spatula, until the mixture turns a nice, even golden brown, about 25 to 30 minutes.
Remove the granola from the oven and allow to cool, stirring occasionally. Store the cooled granola in an airtight container.

Granola Bars

After browsing expensive and fattening granola bars at the market, I searched for granola bars recipes online and found that Ina Garten actually offered a fairly healthy option. After making the recipe, it received raving reviews from my husband and extended family. I recommend it!


  • 2 cups old-fashioned oatmeal
  • 1 cup sliced almonds
  • 1 cup shredded coconut, loosely packed
  • 1/2 cup toasted wheat germ
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2/3 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup chopped pitted dates
  • 1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter an 8 by 12-inch baking dish and line it with parchment paper. (If you don't have any parchment paper, use a glass baking dish that is buttered.)

Toss the oatmeal, almonds, and coconut together on a sheet pan and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned. Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl and stir in the wheat germ.

Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees F.

Place the butter, honey, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook and stir for a minute, then pour over the toasted oatmeal mixture. Add the dates, apricots, and cranberries and stir well.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan. Wet your fingers and lightly press the mixture evenly into the pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until light golden brown. Cool for at least 2 to 3 hours before cutting into squares. Serve at room temperature.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Things to Do with Butternut Squash

Who doesn't love a good butternut squash? Unfortunately, my husband would be one of those people. He actually doesn't like squash in general, and I am always looking for good ways to sneak it into his diet. (Not only because it's good for him but also because I love it!) I recently found two recipes that have provided an excellent way to disguise butternut squash in a way that my husband doesn't even realize he's eating it. Whether you're a squash lover or not, I think you will enjoy both of these recipes.

Curried Butternut Squash Soup

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil or vegetable oil
1 cup chopped onions
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Red (cayenne) pepper to taste
2 1/2 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded, halved lengthwise, and sliced thin
3 cups vegetable or chicken broth
3 cups water
1 pound tart apples, peeled, cored, and chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large soup pot over medium heat, heat olive or vegetable oil. Add onion and sauté until golden brown. Add garlic, curry powder, cumin, and cayenne pepper; cook, stirring constantly, 30 seconds. Add squash, vegetable or chicken broth, water, and apples. Bring liquid just to a boil; reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, 25 minutes or until squash is tender. Remove from heat and let cool 15 to 20 minutes.

Puree mixture in a blender or food processor, in batches, and transfer back into soup pot. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Butternut Squash Risotto

6-8 cups chicken broth (use vegetable broth for vegetarian option)
5 Tbsp unsalted butter, divided into 4 Tbsp and 1 Tbsp
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 cups butternut squash, peeled, and finely diced
2 cups arborio rice (can substitute medium grained white rice, but arborio is preferred)
1 cup dry white wine (I used white wine vinegar)
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 Tbsp chopped chives or garlic chives

Heat broth in medium sized saucepan and keep warm over low heat. Melt 4 Tbsp of butter in a large saucepan; add onion and butternut squash. Cook over medium heat until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes.

Add rice to onion and squash. Cook 1 to 2 minutes. Add wine. Cook, stirring constantly until wine has been absorbed by the rice or evaporated. Add a few ladles of broth, just enough to barely cover rice. Cook over medium heat until broth has been absorbed. Continue cooking and stirring rice, adding a little bit of broth at a time, cooking and stirring until it is absorbed, until the rice is tender, but still firm to the bite, about 15 to 20 minutes.

During the last minutes of cooking, add remaining tablespoon of butter, 1/3 cup Parmesan, and chives. At this point the rice should have a creamy consistency. Add salt to taste. Serve with remaining grated Parmesan. (Serves 4 to 6.)

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Tortellini Soup

My husband and I recently moved to Boston and I bought a huge bag of tortellini from Costco so that we could have some quick, easy, but still relatively healthy meals while moving in. I guess I didn't realize just how many tortellini are in a Costco bag because no matter how many we ate, there always seemed to me more. In an attempt to escape my classic method of heating up the tortellini and dumping marinara or Alfredo sauce on top, I tried my hand at tortellini soup. It was fantastic! I am going to buy the Costco tortellini again just to give me an excuse to make this soup a few more times. Enjoy!

Tortellini Soup
  • 1 pound Italian sausage
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 5 cups beef broth
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 8 ounces fresh tortellini pasta
  • 1 cup sliced carrots
  • 2 cups stewed tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 8 ounces tomato sauce
  • 1 1/2 cups sliced zucchini
  • 2 green bell peppers, seeded and cubed
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  1. Remove casings from sausage. Brown sausage and cook until crumbly. Remove meat from pot. Reserve 1 tablespoon drippings.
  2. Cook onion and garlic in the drippings until tender. Add broth, water, wine, carrots, tomatoes, basil, oregano, tomato sauce, and the cooked sausage. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer uncovered 30 minutes.
  3. Add zucchini, green peppers, parsley, and tortellini. Simmer another 25 minutes, covered, for fresh tortellini, or 45 minutes, covered, for frozen tortellini. Serve with fresh parmesan cheese sprinkled over the top.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Black Bean and Rice Enchiladas

My vegetarian meal for this week (Thank you, Kristen!):

Black Bean and Rice Enchiladas
courtesy of Kristen Cutler

1 green pepper, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 (15 ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes and green chilies
1/4 cup picante sauce
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 cups cooked brown rice
8 (6 inch) flour tortillas, warmed
1 cup salsa
1 cup reduced fat shredded Cheddar cheese
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves
Saute the green pepper, onion and garlic in oil until tender. Add the beans, tomatoes, picante sauce, chili powder, cumin and red pepper flakes; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, until heated through and mixture thickens. Add rice; cook 5 minutes longer or until heated through.
Spoon a rounded 1/2 cup down the center of each tortilla. Fold sides over filling and roll up. Place in a 13-in. x 9-in. x 2-in. baking dish coated with nonstick cooking spray. Spoon salsa over each tortilla. Cover and bake at 350 degrees F for 25 minutes. Uncover; sprinkle with cheese and cilantro. Bake 2-3 minutes longer or until cheese is melted.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Speaking of Bananas...

I know I haven't posted a recipe in forever and I have a long list to share that are wonderful staples. But these Banana Oat Pancakes are hands down the best pancakes I've ever had. They taste like banana bread and I just eat them plain because they are so good. I haven't tried it yet but I'm guessing they would be good as muffins too.

Banana Oat Pancakes
3 small bananas mashed
2 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp honey or agave
2 eggs
1 cup oat flour (just grind oat groats or rolled oats (not instant) in a blender for quick oat flour)
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground nutmeg

Blend all ingredients together in a blender. Cook pancakes on griddle at low temperature (300 degrees) so that the outside of the pancake doesn’t cook too fast. They are sooooo good, you should make them as soon as humanly possible:)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

To Die for Banana Cake, Literally

We recently served this banana cake at a wedding and it was a hit. So much so, that a man came up to me afterward and said "I would kill you for that banana cake recipe." I'm sending him the recipe right away. And here it is for your enjoyment - a not-so-healthy treat. Please look into the fabulous cookbook, The Silver Palate, from which this and other recipes-so-good-someone-would-kill-you-for-them originate from.

Banana Cake
The Silver Palate Cookbook
Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins

1/2 cup unsalted butter, plus more for greasing the pans
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra for flouring the pans
1 cup granulated sugar
3 eggs, separated
1 cup mashed ripe bananas (we usually use a little more, about 3 medium bananas)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Cream Cheese Frosting (see recipe below)
1/2 to 2 medium, firm, but ripe bananas, sliced (only use if you are serving immediately and not freezing)
1 1/2 cups shelled chopped walnuts (optional, as always)
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting the top

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 9-inch layer cake pans.
2. Cream the butter and sugar together in a mixing bowl. Add the egg yolks and beat well. Add the mashed bananas.
3. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together and add them to the butter mixture. Stir until just combined. Add the buttermilk and vanilla. Beat the egg whites to soft peaks. Fold gently into the batter.
4. Pour the batter into the prepared pans. Set on the center rack of the oven and bake until a cake tester comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool in the pans on a rack 10 minutes. Unmold and cool on a rack for 2 hours.  (If planning to freeze the cake for a later date, let the cake cool, but you don't have to wait 2 hours, and then wrap in plastic wrap and freeze).
5. When cooled, place one layer on a serving plate and frost with the cream cheese frosting. Arrange banana slices over the frosting; cover with the second layer and frost the top and sides of the cake.
6. Cover the sides of the cake with the chopped nuts, holding the nuts in your palm and pressing them firmly to the sides of the cake. Dust the top of the cake with confectioners' sugar.
Serves 8 or more. 

Cream Cheese Frosting
8 oz. cream cheese at room temperature
6 TBSP unsalted butter
3 cups confectioners' sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Juice of 1/2 lemon (optional)

1. Cream together the cream cheese and butter in a mixing bowl.
2. Slowly sift in the confectioners' sugar and continue beating until fully incorporated. The mixture should be free of lumps.
3. Stir in the vanilla, and lemon juice if desired.
Frosting for a two-layered cake. 

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Good Try, Vegetarian

In an effort to promote healthy eating in our household, I made a New Year's Resolution to try to make more vegetarian meals. Yesterday, as I got out my cookbooks to make spaghetti sauce, I passed over the all-too-delicious looking meatballs and my eye glimpsed a recipe for Gnocchi, the classic Italian potato dumpling. "Perfect!" I thought. I can still create a more filling meal without adding the meat!

Don't be fooled. My gnocchi didn't look anything like this.

It could have been a relaxing day when I finished making my marinara sauce at 11 a.m. However, I was for some reason intent on making gnocchi, so the rest of my free time and lots of time that wasn't, was spent in boiling, peeling, grating, mixing, rolling and shaping little potatoes into dumplings. Had they been delicious, my efforts would have been worth it, but no; they were bland, soggy dumplings that I ended up throwing away and being frustrated over because I had spent my whole day attempting to make bland dumplings. Yikes.

The good thing was that the marinara sauce was delicious. We tossed it with whole wheat spaghetti noodles and served it with herb french bread and squash and it turned out to be a lovely meal.  No recipe for gnocchi today, but make the sauce. It was worth it and much faster.

Based off the recipe from Williams-Sonoma for

2-3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 small yellow onion
2-4 garlic cloves (minced)
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
3 (14.5 oz.) cans of stewed tomatoes (2 cans Italian style, 1 can garlic and olive oil) - undrained
dash of nutmeg
1 bay leaf
1 tsp or more of basil (1/4 cup chopped fresh basil)
red pepper flakes
freshly ground pepper

Dice the onion. Heat olive oil in a pan with high sides. Add onion and cook until onions are tender (slightly translucent). Add garlic and cook approximately 1 minute. Pour in red wine vinegar. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat.

Add the tomatoes, nutmeg, red pepper flakes, basil (if using fresh, wait until 10 minutes before serving to add) and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil and then lower to heat so that the sauce can simmer. Simmer for about 1 1/2 hours. Occasionally add more water if the sauce is getting too thick. Discard bay leaf. Toss with pasta and serve.  Or let cool and refrigerate  for up to 4 days or freeze for up to 3 months.