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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Zuppa Toscana


First, my thoughts go out to all of those who were impacted by Hurricane Sandy. I hope you and your families are all doing ok. Even though we were in the path of the storm, miraculously we got by unscathed. We always lose power, but this time we didn't. Our boat also stayed put and didn't float away, although we thought that it might.

Today's recipe is for a soup that is AMAZING. I made this soup for the first time about a year ago, and I have made it several times since then. I served it at a party last January and almost everyone asked me for the recipe. It is so flavorful - it's made with kale, potatoes, and sausage.  I made this soup last Friday evening and we ate it for lunch and dinner through Sunday. It is so delicious. There are barely any meals that Greg actually raves about, but he loves this zuppa toscana. I hope you will enjoy the soup as much as we do.

Recipe for Zuppa Toscana

INGREDIENTS:
1 pound of mild ground Italian sausage
1 large yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 cup of dry white wine or white cooking wine (to deglaze the pan)
1/2 - 1 tsp. of red pepper flakes
2 large or 4 small russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
2 cups of kale, chopped to your desired size
4 cups of chicken broth
2 cups of water
3/4 cup of heavy cream
Salt and pepper

DIRECTIONS:
Place a large stockpot on the stovetop over medium heat. Put the sausage in the pan and cook until it is browned and fully cooked through. Remove the sausage from the pan using a slotted spoon and transfer it to a bowl. Add the chopped onions to the pan and saute for about 5 minutes. Add in the minced garlic and red pepper flakes to the pan and cook for one minutes. Pour the wine into the pot and stir, scraping the bottom of the pan to loosen any browned bits (when you pour the wine in, a lot of steam might come up). Add in the chicken broth, water, potatoes, and kale to the pot. Put the sausage back into the pot. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Once it begins to boil, reduce the heat to medium-low and cover the pot. Let the soup simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are cooked through. Stir in the heavy cream and season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

Recipe Adapted from: Annie's Eats

NOTE: If you buy packaged kale for this soup and have leftover kale, try out this massaged kale salad with toasted almonds, red grapes, Parmesan & a lemon-honey dressing!  

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Massaged Kale Salad


Have you ever tried kale? If not, you are missing out. Before I had tasted kale, I was under the impression that it was a boring and green leafy vegetable that was very bland in taste. Boy was I wrong! Kale is tasty & it can be used in many different dishes. Since discovering the many wonders of kale about a year ago, I have made pastas with kale, kale smoothies, soups with kale, and kale salads! I love the stuff.
If you don't know much about kale, you should know that kale is a super food. It is great for protecting your health and preventing cancer, because it has cancer-fighting compounds and it is full of vitamins and minerals. Kale can be found in most grocery stores. I like to buy kale in packaged bags in which the kale has already been cut and washed, especially if I will be serving it raw.
I have made this massaged kale salad several times. It is pictured here with red grapes, toasted almonds, and Parmesan cheese. I have also made the salad with caramelized onions, toasted almonds, and Parmesan. Mango, toasted pumpkin seeds, and coconut are also great toppings for this salad - it is versatile. The dressing is a delicious mix of lemon, honey, and olive oil. I think you will love this salad & you will love the way you feel after eating all of the healthy foods in the salad (kale, almonds, red grapes). Enjoy!

Recipe for Massaged Kale Salad

INGREDIENTS:
For the salad:
3 Cups of kale, stems removed & torn into smallish pieces
Juice of 1/2  lemon (you'll need the other half for the dressing)
A drizzle of Extra-Virgin olive oil
Dash of kosher salt
2/3 cup of seedless red grapes, whole or cut in half
1/4 cup of toasted almonds, whole or chopped
2 - 3 Tbsp. of finely grated Parmesan cheese
For the dressing:
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2 Tbsp. of honey
1/4 cup of Extra-Virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper

DIRECTIONS:
Put the kale into a large bowl. Pour the juice of 1/2 lemon over the kale and drizzle with a little bit of olive oil. Add in the dash of kosher salt. Massage the kale with your hands (make sure your hands are very clean)! Massage the kale until it begins to soften and wilt (this will take 1 - 2 minutes). Set the bowl aside while you prepare the salad dressing.
In a small mixing bowl, stir together the rest of the lemon juice, honey, and a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper. Pour in the 1/4 cup of olive oil while whisking the mixture until a dressing forms. Taste the dressing & adjust to your desire.
Pour the dressing over the kale and mix well. Top the salad with the toasted almonds, red grapes, and Parmesan. Divide amongst salad bowls - serves 3 - 4.


Recipe Adapted from: The Food Network, courtesy of Aarti Sequeira 2010

NOTE:
This brand of packaged kale is very good for the kale salad. Other brands of packaged kale have been more bitter, and if I used it the overall taste of the salad was not as good. But the Glory brand always has been great! 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Truffles


Pumpkin chocolate chip truffles, garnished with gingersnap crumbs!
I think I have made up my mind about something. My favorite homemade truffle would have to be these pumpkin chocolate chip truffles covered in dark chocolate. Don't get me wrong, I still LOVE the cookie dough truffles, coconut truffles, and chocolate truffles, but the pumpkin truffles are my fave. As my coworker and I discussed, the pumpkin filling is a nice contrast to the chocolate. To me, the pumpkin truffles are kind of special since I really only make them during the autumn months. The filling kind of taste like pumpkin pie, with yummy flavors of gingersnap, cinnamon, pumpkin, orange zest & more. The pumpkin truffles were a huge hit at Carrie's shower the other weekend, and a couple friends asked for the recipe. So here it is - enjoy!

Recipe for Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Truffles 
INGREDIENTS:
6 ounces of white chocolate, chopped (I used Ghirardelli baking bars)
4 ounces of cream cheese, softened at room temperature
3/4 cup of graham cracker crumbs
3/4 cup of finely ground up gingersnaps
1/8 tsp. of grated orange zest
1/4 tsp. of cinnamon
2 Tbsp. of powdered sugar
1/2 cup of canned pumpkin
1/3 cup of semisweet mini chocolate chips
16 ounces of semisweet baking chocolate, chopped (I used Baker's chocolate)

DIRECTIONS:
Place the chopped white chocolate in a small saucepan. Put 1/2 cup of water in the pan of a double boiler and place the double boiler over medium high heat. Once the water begins to simmer, place the saucepan of white chocolate on top and stir until the chocolate is fully melted. Remove the chocolate from heat and set aside.
Place the softened cream cheese, graham cracker crumbs, ground gingersnaps, orange zest, cinnamon, powdered sugar, and pumpkin in a large bowl. Once the chocolate has slightly cooled, stir in the chocolate. Use an electric hand mixer set on low to medium-low speed to incorporate all of the ingredients together. Mix until smooth. Gently fold in the chocolate chips. Cover the bowl with a lid and place in the fridge for several hours (I usually chill for at least 4 hours, sometimes overnight).
Line a couple of freezer-safe containers with parchment paper. Use a cookie dough scoop to scoop up the mixture and form into 1-inch to 1.5-inch balls. Cover the containers and chill in the freezer for several hours (I usually chill in freezer overnight).
When you are ready to dip the truffles, line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the semisweet baking chocolate in a medium saucepan. Put about 1/2 cup of water in a double boiler and set it over medium-high heat. Once the water begins to simmer, set the saucepan with the chocolate over the boiler. Stir chocolate frequently until it is fully melted. Turn the heat off of the stovetop but keep the saucepan with chocolate over the double boiler. Drop a couple of the frozen pumpkin balls into the chocolate and use a spoon to fully coat. Use the spoon to carefully transfer the coated truffles onto the lined baking sheet. Repeat until all of the truffles are coated with the chocolate. Put the baking sheet in the fridge to allow the truffles to harden. They will be ready to eat within 20 minutes or so. Yum!

Recipe Adapted from: Annie's Eats

NOTE: I originally made the truffles using white chocolate as the coating, which is totally delicious. However, I prefer the dark chocolate since the white chocolate coating is very sweet. I'm sure milk chocolate as a coating would taste pretty good too.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Pumpkin-Apple Soup


Yes, I am a little obsessed with recipes that use pumpkin and apple these days - so of course I was very excited to see this recipe for pumpkin-apple soup that combined both! A few weeks ago, a good friend of mine emailed me this recipe - the subject was "a yummy fall soup," and that certainly got my attention. I tried out the recipe for dinner one night, and Greg & I both loved it. The other night Greg invited two friends over to help him with the upstairs, and he told the friends that I would be happy to make dinner (thanks, Greg)! Well, it turned out that one of the friends is gluten-intolerant, and the other is allergic to shellfish. There went my plan of making shrimp scampi! I decided upon making the pumpkin-apple soup for dinner and I served it with a fall kale salad. Everyone seemed to be fully satisfied with the meal! I love this soup - it's easy to make and it tastes like something you'd get at a fancy restaurant. Thank you to Carolyn for the amazing recipe!

Recipe for Pumpkin-Apple Soup

INGREDIENTS:
6 Tbsp. of unsalted butter
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 apples, peeled and chopped coarsely (any variety - I used one Braeburn & 1 Granny Smith)
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. of salt
1/4 tsp. of freshly ground black pepper
3 cups of chicken broth
2 1/4 cups of apple cider
2 16-ounce cans of pumpkin
1 1/2 cups of heavy cream (or light cream)
1/3 cup of pure maple syrup
Pecans or glazed pecans, for topping

DIRECTIONS:
Melt the butter in a large stockpot set over medium-low heat. Once the butter has melted, add in the onion, apple, and garlic. Increase the heat to medium and saute, stirring frequently, until onions and apples have softened (about 5 - 6 minutes). Add in the salt and pepper, and cook for an additional minute.
Add in the broth and cider. Allow the soup to come to a boil, and then lower the heat to medium-low. Let the soup simmer for 10 minutes, then add in the pumpkin and maple syrup. Cook for another 5 - 10 minutes. Stir in the cream immediately before serving. Add a drizzle of cream & syrup to each serving. If desired, top each serving with candied pecans, such as Emerald glazed pecan pie pecans - so yummy!

Makes about 8 servings.

Pumpkin-Apple Soup Recipe Source: Emailed to me from my friend Carolyn


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Baked Apple Oatmeal with Homemade Applesauce


I had a great time co-hosting my friend's baby shower last weekend. My friend Carrie is having her first baby girl in a few weeks, and we threw her a baby shower brunch on Saturday. I made some baked pumpkin oatmeal and quiche lorraine for the brunch. For dessert, I made some pretzel M & M treats and dark chocolate and white chocolate covered pumpkin truffles. My friend Emma also made an amazing cookies and cream sheet cake for the shower - the frosting was to die for. It was so much fun & we're all so excited for Carrie!

Since we all loved the baked pumpkin oatmeal so much, I decided that I wanted to try out another baked oatmeal recipe. For Sunday breakfast, I made this delicious baked apple oatmeal for me and Greg. The original recipe calls for jarred applesauce, but since I didn't have any on hand, I decided to make some homemade applesauce. The baked apple oatmeal was quite tasty. Greg loves the baked pumpkin oatmeal, but he said he liked the apple one even better. The apple oatmeal really tastes like fall because of the combo of apples and cinnamon. Greg and I ate the oatmeal for dinner a couple times this week since we liked it so much, and I can't wait to make it again! Enjoy.

Recipes for quiche lorraine (with bacon) and pumpkin truffles will be coming soon!

Recipe for Baked Apple Oatmeal with Homemade Applesauce 

For the applesauce 
2 - 3 apples (any kind), peeled, cored, & chopped coarsely
3/4 cup of water
1 1/2 Tbsp. of granulated sugar
1/4 tsp. of cinnamon
DIRECTIONS: Put the chopped apples, water, sugar, and cinnamon in a small saucepan set over medium heat. Cover the saucepan and let the mixture cook for about 15 minutes, or until the apples are soft. Remove the pan from heat and allow the mixture to cool, then mash the apples with a potato masher until they are at your desired consistency.
The applesauce can be made the night before you make the oatmeal. Store the sauce in an airtight container in the fridge.

For the caramelized apples
2 Tbsp. of unsalted butter
3 - 4 apples (any kind), peeled and chopped
1/2 tsp. of cinnamon
3 Tbsp. of light or dark brown sugar
DIRECTIONS: Put the butter in a large skillet and melt it over medium heat. Once it has melted, add the apples, cinnamon, and brown sugar. Cook the mixture over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the apples are caramelized (about 15 minutes). Remove mixture from heat and set aside.

For the oatmeal 
1 cup of steel cut oats
2 Tbsp. of unsalted butter
4 cups of very hot water
3 cups of old-fashioned oats (such as Quaker oats)
2/3 cup of light or dark brown sugar
1/2 tsp. of salt
2 tsp. of cinnamon
1/4 tsp. of nutmeg
1/4 cup of raisins
2/3 cup of chopped walnuts
1/2 cup of whole milk (or 2% or 1%)
1/3 - 1/2 cup of the homemade applesauce
1/4 cup of pure maple syrup
2 tsp. of vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

While the apples are caramelizing, put the steel cut oats and unsalted butter in a large bowl. Pour the very hot water over the oats and butter, and cover the bowl. Let sit for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, add in the old-fashioned oats, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, raisins, and walnuts. Stir mixture together and mix well.

In a smallish bowl, mix together the milk, homemade applesauce, maple syrup, and vanilla. Add it into the oatmeal mixture and stir.

Spread the caramelized apples evenly over the bottom of a 2-quart baking dish. Pour the oatmeal mixture over the apples. Bake the oatmeal for 40 minutes, then remove from oven and allow it to cool for a few minutes before serving. Drizzle each serving with a little bit of milk or cream, if desired.

Baked Apple Oatmeal Recipe Adapted from: Annie's Eats
Homemade Applesauce Recipe Source: All Recipes

That's Carrie in the background! My friend Tiffany did those adorable decorations.
 Carrie is having a baby girl named Aspen - so cute! 




Saturday, October 13, 2012

Tuscan Baked Beans


First, I'd like to express how much I LOVE the fall season. I wish I had more time to enjoy the beautiful weather - if it were up to me, I'd change the school calendar so there was less time off in the summer and more time off in the fall! But, it's not up to me, so I'll just enjoy when I can. I love the clear blue sky, colorful leaves, and crisp cool air. It's invigorating. Cooler weather means warmer meals - I'm excited to make some of my favorite soup recipes soon. I recently made this warm and comforting meal of tuscan baked beans. The first night I made it Greg and I ate the beans as a main course. We had leftovers, so the next night we ate it as a side dish with baked chicken. This meal is very flavorful - it is filled with herbs like rosemary and thyme. What I like best about the meal though is that it has a crunchy topping made of Panko bread crumbs and Romano cheese - mmm! This meal is fairly easy to make & it's delicious! Enjoy.

Recipe for Tuscan Baked Beans
INGREDIENTS:
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp. of olive oil, divided
1 yellow onion, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 14-ounce can of diced tomatoes, drained
2 tsp. of kosher salt
1 tsp. of freshly ground black pepper
12 sprigs of thyme
1 large sprig of rosemary
2 cans of great northern beans, drained
For the crunchy topping:
1 Tbsp. of olive oil
1 cup of Panko bread crumbs
3/4 cup of grated Romano cheese

DIRECTIONS:
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Heat 1/4 cup of the oil in a skillet set over medium heat. Add in the onions and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally. Cook for about 5 minutes (or until onions are tender). Add in the thyme and rosemary to the onion mixture and cook for 1 minute. Reduce the heat to medium low, and add in the tomatoes, salt, and pepper. Simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the skillet from heat.

Pour the beans into a 2-quart oven safe dish. Discard the sprig of rosemary and half of the thyme leaves from the tomato and herb mixture. Add in the tomato and herb mixture to the beans, and mix together. Drizzle the mixture with the remaining 2 Tbsp. of olive oil. Put the dish in the oven and bake for 35 minutes.

After the beans have been in the oven for about 30 minutes, make the crunchy topping. In a medium bowl, mix together the tablespoon of olive oil, Panko bread crumbs, and Romano cheese. When the 30 minute timer goes off, carefully remove the beans from the oven and then evenly spread the topping over the beans. Sprinkle with a little bit of salt and pepper. Put the beans back in the oven and bake for an additional 10 - 15 minutes, or until the topping is browned. Let cool for a few minutes before serving. Serve alone as a meal, or serve as a side dish with meat.

Recipe Adapted from: Wegmans 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Perfect Pumpkin Ice Cream


I love pumpkin everything. Pumpkin pie, pumpkin soup, pumpkin bread, pumpkin truffles, and perfect pumpkin ice cream. I crave pumpkin even more during the autumn season, as I'm sure you do too (if you're a pumpkin fan...)! If you live in the Annapolis area, and you haven't been able to find canned pumpkin in the grocery store lately, it may be my fault. I'm sorry. I just have to prepare in case there is a pumpkin shortage this year - so every time I go to the store, I stock up on pumpkin. But it is not my fault that Starbucks is running out of pumpkin syrup, so don't blame me for that one!

Last week I made pumpkin ice cream for the first time. It was so incredibly delicious. The ice cream was the perfect texture, the perfect flavor, and the perfect autumn treat - it's perfect pumpkin ice cream. My husband and my parents agree with me on this one - and I hope that you will too. For perfect pumpkin ice cream, all you need is an automatic ice cream maker, canned pumpkin, sugar, milk, cream, and spices. Serve with a few gingersnaps, if desired. Enjoy!

Recipe for Perfect Pumpkin Ice Cream

INGREDIENTS:
1/2 cup of whole milk
1/3 cup of granulated sugar
2 Tbsp. of dark brown sugar
1/2 tsp. of cinnamon
1/8 tsp. of ground ginger
1/8 tsp. of pumpkin pie spice
1 cup of heavy whipping cream
1/2 tsp. of vanilla extract
a pinch of kosher salt
1/3 cup canned pumpkin
Gingersnaps (optional)

DIRECTIONS:
Put the whole milk and granulated sugar in a large mixing bowl. Use an electric hand mixer set on medium-low to beat the milk and sugar together until well incorporated, about 1 - 2 minutes. Add in the dark brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, and pumpkin pie spice. Beat the mixture on medium-low for about a minute. Add in the heavy whipping cream, vanilla, and pinch of salt. Beat on low for about 5 - 10 seconds. Stir in canned pumpkin and mix well. Cover the mixture with a lid, and put in the refrigerator for 25 - 35 minutes.

Pour the chilled mixture into the freezer bowl of an automatic ice cream maker. Make the ice cream according to ice cream manufacturer directions. Store the ice cream in the freezer in an airtight container until ready to eat! Serve with gingersnaps, if desired.

Perfect Pumpkin Ice Cream Recipe Inspired by: Cook Like A Champion

NOTE: Love pumpkin? I'll be posting more delicious pumpkin recipes soon, such as a recipe for pumpkin-apple soup and a recipe for pumpkin truffles! Here is a tasty recipe for baked pumpkin oatmeal. What is your favorite pumpkin treat? Let me know by leaving a comment on this post!


Sunday, October 7, 2012

Spinach Lasagna


Now, I know that I said that I was going to post more quick and easy weeknight meals on the blog, but this recipe requires a little more TLC. And it is definitely worth the time and effort. This spinach lasagna is a good meal to make during the weekends, when we have a (little) more time on our hands. I made this lasagna a couple weekends ago while my husband and brother-in-law were upstairs knocking down walls. Our brother-in-law came all the way from Loudoun County, Virginia to help, and I figured he deserved a nice meal (and Greg did too...). Over the summer we had some major home renovations, but there is still much work to be done. As we speak, Greg and my dad are upstairs hammering away! I made a quiche lorraine for dinner tonight, and I'll share that recipe later down the road. But for now here is the recipe for spinach lasagna - it is fairly healthy and filled with delicious flavor. It is also a great meal for leftovers. Enjoy.

Recipe for Spinach Lasagna

INGREDIENTS:
2 Tbsp. of extra-virgin olive oil
2 large yellow onions, halved and sliced thin
2 large white onions, halved and sliced thin
6 cloves of garlic, minced
2 1/2 cups of chicken broth, divided
1 Tbsp. of dried oregano
2 tsp. of kosher salt
1 tsp. of black pepper
9 - 12 lasagna noodles
2 9-oz packages of frozen spinach
1 Tbsp. of salted butter
1 Tbsp. of all-purpose flour
1 large egg
2 cups of part-skim ricotta cheese
Zest of 1/2 of a lemon
Olive oil cooking spray
1 1/2 cups of Parmesan cheese

DIRECTIONS:
Put the olive oil in a large saute pan and set it over medium heat. Add in the onions and garlic and coat with the oil. Add in 2 cups of the chicken broth and reduce the heat to medium-low. Allow the onions to cook in the broth for about 20 minutes, or until they are softened.

While the onions are cooking, cook the frozen spinach according to package directions. Once the spinach is finished cooking, drain the spinach and squeeze out all of the excess liquid. Season it with salt and pepper, and set aside.

Once the onions are finished cooking, reserve 1/2 cup of the chicken broth liquid from the skillet and set aside (it will be used in the roux). Add in the oregano, salt, and pepper to the skillet and increase the heat to medium. Continue to cook until the liquid fully evaporates, about 15 - 20 minutes.

While the onions and spices are cooking, cook the lasagna noodles according to package directions (I usually cook more than the 9 noodles needed, in case some break during the cooking process). Drain the noodles, carefully transfer them on a large plate, and blot them dry. Set aside.

When onions and spices are finished cooking, remove from heat and set aside.

After everything has been cooked and set aside, make the roux. Put the butter in a small saucepan and set it over medium heat. Immediately after it has melted, stir in the flour and continue to stir constantly until the roux is brown, about 2 minutes. Add in the 1/2 cup of reserved chicken broth and the other 1/2 cup of chicken broth to the roux, and whisk constantly until the roux is thick, about 4 minutes. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, beat the egg. Stir in the ricotta cheese and lemon zest.

Coat a 9" x 13" pan with olive oil cooking spray and spread half of the roux mixture on the bottom of the pan. Line the pan with 3 of the lasagna noodles. Layer on half of the onion mixture, half of the ricotta mixture, half of the spinach, and 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese. Put 3 more lasagna noodles on top, and layer again with half of the onion mixture, ricotta mixture, spinach, and 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese. Top with the last 3 lasagna noodles, and spread the other half of the roux mixture on the noodles. Sprinkle on the remaining Parmesan cheese.

Cover the pan with foil and bake for about 45 - 50 minutes. Then carefully remove the foil from the pan, lower the oven temperature to 325 degrees, and bake for another 10 - 15 minutes. Allow the lasagna to cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Recipe Adapted from: Self Magazine

NOTE: Although the original recipe says that the lasagna recipe makes 6 servings, in my house it makes closer to 10. One serving of the spinach lasagna has about 350 calories - not too bad! It's filling, and doesn't require any sides (except maybe a small garden salad).


Friday, October 5, 2012

Chocolate Cranberry Coconut Banana Bread (CCCBB)


We live in a world filled with acronyms. I would like to take the opportunity to refer to this delicious chocolate cranberry coconut banana bread as "CCCBB," because chocolate cranberry coconut banana bread is quite a mouthful! I made this CCCBB last weekend. It was enjoyed for a couple days, but Tuesday night I put some in a container for Greg to take to work, and I left the bread on the counter ALL night long. I woke up to see it on the counter, and although I could have sworn I had put it back in the fridge, my tired brain must had forgotten. It was kind of (really) sad to have to throw it away. Luckily it is really easy to make and I might just have to make a loaf of CCCBB this weekend. Banana bread is a great comfort food, so if you need some comfort, try out this recipe. Enjoy!

Recipe for Chocolate Cranberry Coconut Banana Bread (CCCBB)

INGREDIENTS:
2 cups of flour
3/4 tsp. of baking soda
1/2 tsp. of salt
1 cup of granulated sugar
4 Tbsp. of unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
2 large eggs
3 ripe bananas (medium to large in size)
1/3 cup of part skim ricotta cheese
1 1/4 tsp. of vanilla
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/3 cup of dried cranberries (such as Craisins)
1/3 cup of sweetened shredded flaked coconut

DIRECTIONS:
Grease a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan with baking spray. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium-sized bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Then, in a large bowl, beat the softened butter and sugar with an electric hand mixer set on medium speed. Mix until the sugar and butter are well combined (3 - 4 minutes). Add in the eggs, one at a time, and beat well after each egg is added.

In a smallish bowl, beat together the bananas with an electric hand mixer on medium-low speed until they are mashed well. Add the bananas to the butter and egg mixture. Stir in the ricotta cheese and vanilla extract, and mix on low until they are blended. Add in the dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, salt) to the wet ingredients. Beat until the dry ingredients are just incorporated. Add in the chocolate chips, dried cranberries, and coconut. Use a spoon to gently fold them into the batter.

Pour or spoon the batter into prepared pan. Bake for 55 - 60 minutes, or until a toothpick pricked in the center of the loaf comes out clean. Let the bread cool for 15 minutes in the pan, then carefully transfer loaf out of the pan and allow it to cool completely on a cooling wrack.

*Makes about 12 - 15 pieces (unless you accidentally leave the bread out on the counter overnight...).

Recipe Adapted from: Recipe Boy

NOTE: 
Looking for a great set of mixing bowls? You will love the Cuisinart stainless steel mixing bowl set with lids.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Spicy Bean Burritos

Well, I promised that I would be making more quick and easy weeknight meals, and that is exactly what I have been doing lately! It is pretty sad that my weekdays are filled with work and my weekends are filled with school work. I can thank my online professor for posting assignments on a Saturday that are due by Monday. Who does that? Not me. I make spicy bean burritos.

I have made this meal several times in the past year or so. Just like the spicy sesame noodles, this recipe is great when I am pressed for time (spicy is a common theme). The meal takes about 20 minutes or less to make from start to finish. These burritos are easy to make and they are healthy. And of course they are super tasty! Serve the burritos with your favorite mexican sides - I like to serve mine with chips and homemade salsa. Delicious!

Recipe for Spicy Bean Burritos

INGREDIENTS:
For the beans:
1 Tbsp. of canola oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp. of cumin powder
1/2 tsp. of chili powder
1/8 tsp. (or less) of cayenne pepper
1/8 tsp. of salt
1 tsp. of chopped chiles in adobo sauce
1 tsp. of sauce from the chiles
2 cans of black beans, drained
1 can of kidney beans, drained
1/3 cup of chicken broth
6 Tbsp. of super salsa (or jarred salsa)
For serving:
6-inch (or larger) flour tortillas
Shredded cheddar cheese
Chopped tomatoes
Black olive slices
Chopped avocados
Salsa
(or other favorite burrito toppings - lettuce, sour cream, green onions, etc.)

DIRECTIONS:
Add the oil to a large skillet. Put the skillet over medium heat. Once oil has become hot, add in the garlic, cumin powder, chili powder, cayenne pepper, salt, chiles in adobo sauce, and adobo sauce. Stir, and let the spices simmer for about 45 seconds. Add in the beans and broth. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. Once the mixture boils, reduce the heat to medium-low and allow it to simmer for 12 - 15 minutes. Remove the mixture from the heat. Mix in the salsa and use a fork to mash the beans to desired consistency.

Lightly zap the tortillas in the microwave by heating them on low for about 30 seconds. Then scoop bean mixture down the middle of each flour tortilla. Top with cheese, chopped tomatoes, black olives, avocado, and more salsa (or your favorite toppings). Fold tortillas and serve. Enjoy!

Recipe Source: Pink Parsley Catering, originally from Cooking Light




NOTE:
The burritos tasted great with some tortilla chips and homemade salsa on the side. If you are looking for a good salsa with lots of kick, check out the recipe for super salsa!