spotlight

I had tons of bananas left from the marathon we hosted about a week ago, so I did some serious banana bread baking over the weekend. This blueberry walnut banana bread makes a great snack and I was surprised that it wasn’t incredibly dense with the use of only whole wheat flour. Other notes:

  • To make a non-vegan version, you can use 2 eggs in place of the flax eggs (ground flaxseed + water) and regular milk.
  • I thought 1/2 cup of sugar was a lot since the bananas also provide sweetness, so I cut it in half.

Here are some other good recipes I found this week:

maple nut granola

trail mix muffins

strawberry banana muffins – you could sub whole wheat pastry flour or do 1/2 all-purpose + 1/2 whole wheat flour to make these a healthier snack or breakfast option

brown sugar salmon with pinapple quinoa

slow cooker vegetable curry

stacked roasted vegetable enchiladas

flourless browned butter brownies

And I definitely need this chocolate peanut butter pretzel granola for my sweet tooth ASAP

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valentine’s

A few months back, I got a new computer because mine was TOTALLY on it’s last leg and it has been wonderful. Except that I lost ALL of my internet bookmarks. If you had seen my bookmark folder, you would understand the seriousness of this situation. I had no less than, oh 1,000 recipes bookmarked in categories based on where I’d put them in my cookbooks after copying them down on index cards – appetizers, cookies, cakes, veggies, beans, grains, etc. I also had a category for recipes that still needed to be copied onto index cards and filed away. Sadly, this category was by far the largest. BUT! I had a totally awful habit of bookmarking something (even taking the time to copy it down on an index card!) then never making it 😦

That stops now. Perhaps it was good for me to be forced to change my bookmarking ways. Enter Pinterest. Although dangerous for its procrastination-inducing qualities, it is PERFECT for recipe storage. Now, all of the wonderful recipes I find can be stored online to be accessed anywhere, whether I have my computer or not. Not to mention there are pictures with each recipe, which really helps me I’m when looking for something specific. This new system of recipe organization has been awesome and was super helpful as I tried to decide on treats to give away for Valentine’s day!

I definitely made another batch of red velvet brownies.

Although this time, the grocery store was OUT of the big bottles of red food coloring, so I had to use half red and half blue…purple velvet brownies! πŸ˜‰

I also found this recipe for heart glazed cornmeal cookies. They were so simple to make (and delicious!) but I think taking the time to carve the shape of the heart into the cookie makes them look extra special. I say carve because I didn’t have a heart-shaped cookie cutter, so I used a knife. Worked like a charm! πŸ™‚ I started by making the glaze pink, then added my last few drops of red food coloring to get a red glaze, then added a drop of blue for purple glaze so that people would get some of each color. It looked great! And I forgot to take a picture 😦

As you probably know by now, I am HUGE on real foods as opposed to processed foods and I think the only way we can change the food system is through what we buy – our purchase is our vote. Most people see baked goods as junk, but I think they can certainly fit into a diet based on real foods – especially when you’ve made them yourself. I’m betting your kitchen cabinets don’t contain ANY of the thousands of chemicals, dyes, and artificial ingredients used in most packaged foods hanging out in stores these days. It may cost a little more, but I always bake with real butter, organic cane sugar + brown sugar, natural/local/organic/cage-free eggs (whichever I happen to have at the time), unbleached flour, etc. By giving my money to the companies that produce these products, I’m helping to support them so their prices can hopefully begin to compete with those of highly processed products like white sugar, bleached flour, and margarine.

 

sugar + spice

I had a bit of a baking extravaganza this weekend and it was long overdue! For Christmas this year, I decided to change things up a bit for my gifts. People are already overwhelmed with sweet treats at that time of year and instead of adding to the sugar overload, I decided to give bread with apple butter, pear butter, and pumpkin butter. Learning to can was fun and I liked that people could save the gift until after the month long food coma ended if they wanted to, but I must say I missed my marathon baking sessions and all of their resulting treats! So, this weekend was fun…and not totally without purpose. I do have some wonderful taste-testers for roommates/neighbors/friends, but my roommates in particular don’t always appreciate the temptation of hundreds of baked goods in our kitchen πŸ˜‰ Most of the treats I baked this weekend are being delivered as a thank you to the wonderful people who wrote recommendation letters for my dietetic internship process.

Now, the treats!

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cupcakes + Cinnamon Sugared Chip Frosting (!!)

I made these on Saturday and my roommates and I pretty much thought they were the best thing ever. That frosting?! Insane. And I’m not really a huge frosting person. But then I baked again on Sunday.

Simply Sinful Cinnamon Muffins

Yeah. These immediately became the favorite as soon as they came out of the oven. That’s right…muffin > cupcake with outrageous frosting and chocolate.

Red Velvet Brownies + White Chocolate Buttercream

I don’t even know what to say about these brownies except that they are so incredibly delicious. I ALWAYS go for the center pieces of any cake, brownie, casserole, you name it. BUT, these brownies have such amazingly chewy edges and soft centers, I think I’ll be saving all corners for myself πŸ˜‰ Oh, and my baked goods, midwest food-loving, Iowa roommate said this was the best frosting she’s ever eaten. Ever. AND that it was better than Betty Crocker. Boom.

Now, I had to get in a good, balanced dinner before I could dive in to sample all of these treats and a good dinner it was! I thought this up a few weeks ago and I had just the right ingredients that needed to be used up to give it another shot.

Mexican Polenta Pizza!

Mexican Polenta Pizza (serves 1)

  • 1/3 c. cornmeal
  • 2/3 c. water
  • dash salt + pepper
  • 1/2 c. black beans (pinto or kidney would work great too)
  • cumin, chili powder, coriander, smoked paprika, to taste
  • 1/4 avocado
  • 2-3 Tbsp. salsa
  • sliced green onion, frozen corn, bell pepper, feta cheese, etc.
  • 1/4 – 1/2 c. shredded cheese (I used extra sharp white cheddar)
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. To prepare polenta, bring water to boil in a saucepan. Once boiling, remove from heat and quickly whisk in cornmeal, salt, and pepper.
  3. Once combined, pour polenta onto a greased cookie sheet (or into a round cake pan if you are making more than 1 serving) and spread into a round pizza shape about 1/2 inch thick.
  4. For a more crisp crust, you can now bake the crust (plain) for 5 minutes or so while you prepare your remaining ingredients. The polenta firms up a bit as it sits as well, so it isn’t entirely necessary to bake the crust before putting ingredients on if you don’t mind a softer crust.
  5. In a small bowl or on your cutting board, mash beans and spices with a fork. I didn’t really measure, but I would start with 1/2 tsp. – 1 tsp. of each and adjust as needed according to taste.
  6. Spread mashed beans onto the crust as your “sauce”, then mash the avocado and spread on top (I forgot it and had to “scatter” it on top of all the other ingredients – it didn’t work too well!)
  7. Spread a few spoonfuls of salsa over avocado, making sure not to use too much or the pizza will get soggy.
  8. Top with green onion, frozen corn, chopped bell pepper…whatever you have on hand! I also had some leftover diced chicken (seasoned with salt, pepper, and garlic) that worked great!
  9. Top with shredded cheese and bake 8-12 minute until cheese is melted.

This crust is pretty soft, which I liked, but I did have to remove the pizza from the pan with 2 spatulas (1 from each side). I did forget to pre-bake the crust this time however, so that probably had something to do with it. Either way, I think this pizza is best eaten with a fork. It is SO GOOD though!! It is also super easy and much quicker than waiting for regular pizza dough to rise (although I have found that my go-to pizza dough recipe freezes wonderfully!!)

You know what would have gone great with this pizza? This salad I just found on my camera from a few weeks ago:

It was really just some random things I needed to use up but it turned into easily one of the best salads I’ve made! I tossed some romaine + green leaf lettuce with a little red wine vinegar and cracked black pepper. Then I tossed in some black beans, green onion, avocado, green bell pepper, and (easily my new favorite salad dressing/pizza topping/condiment in general) sun dried tomato pesto. YUM!

giving thanks

I am so thankful for my amazing friends and family and it has been a wonderful week of spending time with them! For our Thanksgiving feast yesterday (which was everything I could have ever hoped for!!), I was in charge of rolls and “something chocolate”.

It may be small, but this salty caramel drenched double chocolate loaf cake was PERFECT. I didn’t add the chocolate chips into the batter because that is just a little too much chocolate for me, but it was amazing. Bonus? The extra caramel sauce goes wonderfully with apple pie πŸ™‚

Oh, and these sweet potato and honey dinner rolls were way too good. I usually just skip rolls and bread at big meals like this so I have more room for stuffing and turkey and such, but I could NOT pass these up. They had to be the softest rolls ever made thanks to the moisture from the sweet potatoes and they had a faint sweetness from the honey…oh. my. goodness. SO glad there are a few left πŸ™‚

recap

Well, the semester is winding down which means only one thing – much more time to share what’s been going on in my kitchen! Although my goal is still to show that you can eat real, healthy food on a small budget (both money and time), I don’t always have time to SHARE about it during the semester – but it is certainly still occurring!

Awhile back for example (a LONG while…I honestly don’t even remember when), I finally madeΒ  a recipe from Clean Food that IΒ  bookmarked over a year ago.

I pretty much always have the ingredients, I just never made it happen. I have no excuse!

Aduki beans could easily be substituted for black beans, but I was able to find them at People’s Grocery in the bulk bins. Planning ahead to soak them is what took me so long to finally make this recipe, I think. Millet is one of my favorite grains and the lemon dressing was super easy, only requiring a few common ingredients. This salad would be a great side dish, but it wasn’t incredibly filling as a meal for some reason.

Another quick, easy meal when your cabinets are completely empty? Potatoes and eggs.

All I have to say is thank goodness I randomly started liking eggs, even if I can only eat them like this. I have no problem spending $3.00 for a dozen, cage free, free range eggs that I can use in baking OR for a quick meal. They are a MUCH cheaper protein source than grass fed beef or free range chicken.

This particular bowl consisted of roasted potato cubes, green onion and red bell pepper for a little flavor, and some sausage I had thawed from the local farmers market. Yum!

Now, can we switch gears a little bit for dessert?? First of all, I don’t think I ever shared my first adventure into the world of cake pops for my roommate Sara’s birthday.

They spell “Happy Birthday Sara”. She went home for her birthday so we couldn’t celebrate with her. I hid this in the fridge in her room for when she came back πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

Definitely not too bad for my first attempt, but this experience gave me some insight for future trials…and an idea for what I think will be an extremely delicious entirely homemade version (I may have cheated on this one in the interest of time and money…)

Even more exciting was this cake I made yesterday (yes, we have finally caught up with everything I’ve managed to document and not blog about for the past few months!)

Pumpkin Pomegranate Upside-Down Cake (based off of Emily’s Pumpkin, Fig, & Pomegranate Upside-Down Cake). I made the original version for Christmas last year, but I wasn’t a huge fan of the fig jam and thought raspberry jam would taste much better. I also un-veganized this version by using real butter, buttermilk, and eggs. For some reason, this one fell apart when I flipped it, but it still tasted AMAZING and my Life Group was very forgiving about it’s less than spectacular appearance πŸ™‚

The cake is so moist and the tart raspberry-pomegranate-cranberry topping completes the fall flavors so well. You must try this cake!!

I plan to be back soon with more about some of Trader Joe’s purchases I shared awhile back, as well as more baking and an adventure into the world of canning! πŸ™‚

sweet caramelized bananas

It is probably no secret that I have a serious sweet tooth. I LOVE desserts! But do you know what I think might be one of the greatest desserts? The one nature created…fruit! Fruits are filled with natural sugars that make them so incredibly sweet tooth satisfying, while also containing fiber and several nutrients that your body needs. Nutrition and dessert all in one? Yes please!

Tonight’s fruity dessert came in the form of banana! To begin, I sliced a banana in half, then sliced each half lengthwise to give me 4 slices of banana. I layered them in a baking dish and sprinkled with brown sugar and cinnamon.

Meanwhile, the oven was heating to 400 degrees so that it could turn these…

….into these!

Oh man. Wait a minute. Did you see all of that caramelized banana goodness?

Yummmm. Next, these babies went into my bowl! (don’t forget to scrape that caramelized sugar out of the dish with your spoon. It gets all candy-like and delicious…like turning your spoon into a lollipop! πŸ™‚ )

Even though the banana already tasted like candy on its own, I decided to add a little something extra…

Shaved chocolate! This was actually a leftover chocolate egg from Easter, but I also could’ve used chocolate chips if I’d had them. We’re not quite done yet!

I finished it off with some Dannon All-Natural Vanilla yogurt and a sprinkle of homemade pumpkin spice granola! Yum, yum, YUM! Sweet tooth: satisfied. And with all natural ingredients too! (…minus that little sprinkle of chocolate πŸ˜‰ )

Who says dessert has to be bad for you?? I really don’t like designating foods as “good” or “bad”, as I think that just makes people feel guilty or like they can’t enjoy themselves. I like to avoid processed foods as much as possible for several reasons but I think everything can be enjoyed in moderation. But moderation is key and not every day is a day for something extremely indulgent. For those days when your sweet tooth is calling your name but you don’t want a decadent slice of triple chocolate cake or a rich bowl of ice cream, look no further than your fruit bowl! πŸ™‚