Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Crunchy Granola Bars

We love the crunchy Nature Valley Granola bars, but making homemade granola bars can really cut costs! I've tried a couple granola bar recipes and I like this one best! They turn out crunchy if you cook them long enough. I got it from AllRecipes.


2 cups rolled oats (I was running low so I used 1 cup of rolled oats and 1 cup quick-cooking oats)
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup toasted wheat germ
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup ground quick oats (blended in food processor, or just use another 1/2 cup of wheat flour)
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup raisins (if desired)
1/2 cup honey
1 egg, beaten
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350º. Generously grease a 9x13 pan.
In a large bowl, mix together oats, brown sugar, wheat germ, cinnamon, flour, salt and raisins (if desired). Make a well in the center and pour in the oil, honey, egg and vanilla. Mix well using your hands (you might want to spray them with cooking spray—mine stuck). Pat mixture evenly into prepared pan (if you didn't grease your hands, grab a spatula greased with cooking spray).
Bake for 30–35 minutes, until the bars begin to turn golden at the edges. Cool for 5 minutes, then cut into bars while still warm. Don't allow them to cool completely, or they will be too hard to cut!

We like this granola crushed in yogurt, too!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Spicy (or not) Chicken Pasta Primavera

This is what I make when I don't know what to make for dinner:

I just made it up! It took me 30 minutes and turned out so good! I call it...spicy chicken pasta primavera...or cacciatore...or...spicy chicken spaghetti with decide. What's so great about this meal is you can customize it anyway you like! Here's my recipe.

6 chicken tenders, cut into bite-sized pieces
olive oil for the pan (less than 1 Tbsp)
1/2 a medium yellow onion, diced
2–4 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 a green pepper, chopped (any color pepper really)
Veggies of your choice, diced (I used celery, that was all I had. But carrots, broccoli, zucchini, etc would be good too)
1 can of stewed or diced tomatoes, undrained (I used stewed Italian-seasoned tomatoes)
1 small can of tomato sauce
1 string cheese, chopped into small circles (I decided last minute to throw this in and I'm so glad I did, it really added a lot!)
1/2 box of spaghetti or other pasta (I used Ronzoni's Healthy Harvest whole grain pasta)
4–5 leaves of Fresh basil (if desired)

All these spices are just to your liking and you can add whatever you want:
Italian seasoning
Garlic salt
Crushed red pepper flakes
Cayenne pepper
Bay leaf

Start water boiling for pasta. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add chicken and cook for a couple minutes. Add onion and cook for a couple more minutes, stirring occasionally. Then add garlic and cook for a minute more. Add peppers and other veggies. Add tomatoes and tomato sauce, breaking up stewed tomatoes if desired. Add spices to taste. Once pasta has cooked and drained, add to skillet and stir. Then add fresh basil (if using) and string cheese. Serve. Makes about 2–4 servings (we always eat more than 2, and we had a little leftover).

We really loved this. Hope you do too! Let us know how you make it!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Molten Chocolate Lava Cake

I've wanted to make molten chocolate lava cake for a while...because it's so GOOD! But I haven't been able to make it because I didn't have any ramekins (and would always forget to buy them)...but when my mom gave me ramekins (see Baked Eggs with Ham), it was the first thing that came to mind and I made them right away! And guess what, you don't even NEED ramekins!! You can use muffin tins! I searched through some recipes and found one I thought looked good (and fairly simple), thank you Real Mom Kitchen. This is definitely a special (eat sparingly) dessert, because it's so rich (Stew couldn't even finish his...don't worry, I muscled it down—ha)...but man oh man it's good. Give it a try, you won't be disappointed!

Molten Chocolate Lava Cakes

4 Tbsp real butter
1/3 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1/3 cup flour
1/4 tsp salt
8 oz bittersweet chocolate (I used Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate chips and it's about 1 1/3 cup chocolate chips)
powdered sugar for dusting
whipped cream or ice cream (I did ice cream)
butter and granulated sugar for preparing pans

Preheat oven to 400º. Prepare pans by using fingers (or butter wrapper) to rub butter in the muffin tins (maybe 4–6) or four ramekins. Sprinkle in some sugar to coat the entire inner surface and tap out any extra.
Melt chocolate in the microwave, heating for one minute, stirring, and then 20-second intervals until melted.
With a mixer, beat butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Slowly add flour and salt into the butter mixture until just combined. Stir in melted chocolate by hand, until just combined. Don't over-mix.
Divide batter evenly into muffin tins or ramekins (place ramekins on a baking sheet).
Bake until tops of cakes no longer jiggle when pan is lightly shaken, about 8–10 minutes for a muffin pan and 10–12 minutes for ramekins. Remove from the oven and let stand for ten minutes.
If using muffin tins, invert the pan. You can do this with the ramekins, too, or just leave them in. Dust with powdered sugar and serve with whipped cream or ice cream.


Thursday, March 25, 2010

Spicy Thai Chicken

I have a current fascination/love of Thai food. This dish was the third Thai dish I'd eaten in five days. And it was good. Really good. It was a saltier Thai dish, definitely not as sweet as Coconut Chicken Curry Soup or Thai Chicken Peanut Noodles, and it had the perfect amount of spice. It was really quick to make too, which is always a plus!

I bookmarked this recipe in my Google reader a long time ago, and when I was searching recipes that used fresh basil (I just bought a basil plant...let's hope it lives), it popped up. It's originally from Rachael Ray, and I found it on Taste and Tell. I'm sad I didn't make this sooner! Here's the recipe with my tweaks.

Spicy Thai Chicken

1 Tbsp vegetable oil or peanut oil
1 Tbsp Asian hot chili oil (I didn't have this, so I just added a few shakes of crushed red pepper and cayenne near the end)
1 1/2 lbs chicken breasts (I used 12 chicken tenders)
1 onion, sliced thin (I used half a red onion and half a yellow, that's what I had)
1 red bell pepper, diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
Two handfuls of snow peas, cut
Other veggies (bean sprouts, broccoli, etc)
1 tsp black pepper
1/4 cup soy sauce (next time I'd use reduced-sodium, this dish is pretty salty)
1 tsp Thai fish sauce*
A couple handfuls of fresh basil, chopped (I just bought a basil plant, buying that much fresh basil would be expensive! You could use less, but don't use dried!)
Salted peanuts, chopped, for garnishing
Cilantro, chopped, for garnishing

Start rice. Heat oil(s) in a large skillet over medium high heat. Cut chicken into bite-sized pieces. Add chicken and stir fry until golden, 2 to 3 minutes. Push chicken off to the sides of the skillet and add onions and peppers to the center of the pan. Stir-fry 2 to 3 minutes, then combine with meat.
Add the
pepper, garlic, bean sprouts (if using), snow peas, and other veggies. Stir a minute and then add soy sauce and fish sauce (and crushed red pepper flakes and cayenne if not using chili oil). Adjust seasonings to taste and wilt in basil.
Remove from heat and serve over rice. Garnish with chopped peanuts and cilantro.
Serves 4.

You can find fish sauce in the Asian foods aisle of the grocery store. WARNING: Do NOT smell it when you open it. It smells nasty, but just a little in a dish adds a lot of flavor and depth! And don't worry, it doesn't taste fishy.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies

Don't worry. There are no beans in this recipe (see Flourless Chocolate Cake). Just regular ingredients in cookies, minus the flour!
One night I wanted peanut butter cookies, but a lot of recipes called for butter and peanut butter, and I just didn't want that much fat in a cookie. I found this recipe from Two Peas and Their Pod that didn't have any butter, or flour! I'd never made a flourless cookie, so I decided to give this one a go! Boy was I glad I did!

Without the flour, all you get is flavor, and these cookies were so flavorful and rich! The first batch I did turned out crumbly (like, the dough wasn't sticking together), and I attribute that to using reduced fat peanut butter. I added less than a tablespoon of water to the rest of the dough and it worked! But I think I'd use regular peanut butter next time. Here's the recipe!

Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies

1 cup creamy peanut butter (I used 1/2 creamy and 1/2 crunchy—it was good! If you use reduced fat pb, add almost 1 Tbsp of water)
1 cup sugar (I used 1/2 cup brown sugar and 1/2 cup white sugar)
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
Pinch of salt
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup chocolate chips (optional—you could try these with Hershey kisses on the top too!)

Preheat oven to 350º. Spray 2 cookie sheets with cooking spray (I just used my that thing!). Mix the peanut butter and sugar together until creamy and smooth. Add in the egg and vanilla. Mix until well combined. Stir in the salt and baking soda. Add the chocolate chips and stir until combined. Spoon dough into balls, about 1 Tbsp of dough for each cookie. Place them on cookie sheets about two inches apart. Smash with fork (this was hard to do when the cookies were crumbly and falling apart) and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 10–12 minutes (make sure you don't overbake). Let them sit on the cookie sheet for a couple minutes. Move to a wire rack and cool. They will set up—you want them to be soft.


Sunday, March 21, 2010

Regular, Ham Sandwich?!? was made with LOVE!

Here's a quick little story for all you "foodies" out wife went on a little overnight trip to her parent's house last weekend...and she made me this cute little sandwich before she left. In honor of her, I took a picture of it and wanted to post it. Yes--you can even be creative with a regular, ham sandwich! Love you Lindsey!!! Stew

Sloppy Joes

Sometimes you've just got to eat a sloppy joe. It's fun to be sloppy sometimes, right?!

This recipe is really healthy because I add extra veggies in the mix. The original recipe (from Rachael Ray, but she has so many sloppy joe recipes that I couldn't find it!) just has red peppers and onions, but I like to add diced celery and carrots! And meat lovers won't even be able to tell.

Sloppy Joes

1 1/4 lbs ground beef, extra lean (or ground turkey is good too!)
Olive oil for the pan (if using ground turkey)
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tsp–1 Tbsp steak seasoning blend (I use McCormick's Montreal Steak Seasoning)
1 medium onion, chopped
1 small red bell pepper, chopped (you could use any color)
1–3 stalks of celery, chopped
1–2 carrots, chopped (or a handful of baby carrots)
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 cups tomato sauce
2 Tbsp tomato paste

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add oil (optional) and meat to the pan. Spread the meat around and begin to break it up. Combine brown sugar and steak seasoning. Add sugar and spice mixture to the skillet and combine. When the meat has browned, add onion, red peppers, carrots, and celery to the skillet. Reduce heat to medium and add red wine vinegar and Worcestershire sauce. Cook for five minutes. Add tomato sauce and paste to the pan, stir to combine. Reduce heat to simmer and cook mixture for five to ten more minutes.

*Crock pot version: Follow directions until meat is browned, then throw everything in a crock pot. Cook on low for 6–8 hours, on high for 3–4. Just as good!

Do you want to hear a sad sloppy joe story?? I made these this week, and I made a lot to have leftovers. Well, after dinner I left and came back three hours later and saw the pot sitting out on the counter! I was devastated, seeing as you're only supposed to leave meat out at room temperature for two hours tops. Needless to say, I threw it in the trash. Sad.

Baked Eggs with Ham

I spent the Thursday night at my parents house in Woodland, and my mom made this for dinner.

Cute, right? Not only cute, but simple and delicious! The eggs are a great texture, silky and spongy. I think this would make a great breakfast or brunch as well. We had toast and berries with it. Yum!

Baked Eggs with Ham

8 eggs (2 per ramekin)
4 slices of canadian bacon (or prosciutto, or ham)
Shredded cheese (use your favorite kind)
Green onions, sliced
Any other spices you like (thyme, dill, etc)
Spinach (optional, as we were eating we thought it would be good)
Salt and pepper
Olive oil

Preheat the oven to 350º. Rub the ramekins with a paper towel dipped in olive oil. Place one slice of canadian bacon in the bottom of the ramekin and score with knife (so it comes out in pieces when you eat it). Crack two eggs on top of the ham (optional: poke the yokes and swirl the eggs if you don't like whole yolks. I think I'll do this next time). Sprinkle green onions, spices, and salt and pepper on top. Top with cheese. Place ramekins on a baking sheet and cook for 15–20 minutes. The original recipe (which I can't find), said to bake until the cheese has started to brown, but we thought the yolks were a little too firm, so do less time if you like a softer yolk.
Serves 4.
Enjoy! And be careful eating it out of the hot ramekin! ;)

My mom sent me home with a set of 6 ramekins, so what did I do? Made molten chocolate lava cakes of course! Stay tuned for the recipe!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Coconut Chicken Curry Soup

My first time making curry.

Stew loves curry, and I thought I hated curry. I thought if I made it myself I might like it. And I loved it! I started off this recipe here, and added more veggies and more curry (I couldn't really taste it). I was kind of a space case though, because I forgot the fresh basil I had in my fridge!!! That totally would have made this even better (I had some leftovers for lunch the next day and added the basil and it was great)! And I forgot the snow peas I bought FOR THIS DISH!!!

So if you love curry, make this...even if you don't, try it—you might be surprised!

Coconut Chicken Curry Soup

Olive oil
1/2 a medium yellow onion, sliced thin
2 1/2 cups chicken broth
14 oz unsweetened coconut milk (I used the light—less fat)
1 1/2–3 tsp curry powder (I know this seems like a big spread, but the recipe called for 1 1/2 tsp, and I think I used about 3)
1 jalepeño, seeded and minced (I didn't have this, so I used cayenne pepper, but I think the jalepeño would have been really good)
3 chicken breasts, cut into bite sized chunks (or shredded after they're cooked)
2 Tbsp lime juice
1 small red bell pepper, sliced thin
Any other veggies you want. I used broccoli, carrots, and celery (snow peas would be delicious)
1/2 cup chopped green onion
1/2 cup chopped cilantro, plus extra for garnish
Shredded coconut
Fresh basil!
White rice

Heat olive oil in a soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the chicken to the oil, season lightly with salt and pepper. Saute until cooked through and golden. (I boiled my chicken first, then shredded it and skipped this step) Saute the onion, adding more oil if necessary, for a few ninutes. Add other veggies (including red pepper) and saute until onion is tender (I steamed the broccoli for a minute or two first). Return the chicken to the pot with the veggies. Add chicken broth, coconut milk, curry powder, and jalepeño (or cayenne). Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Add green onion, cilantro, and a small handful of shredded coconut and simmer for an additional three minutes. Stir in lime juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Spoon rice into bowls and top with soup. Garnish with additional cilantro, shredded coconut, and FRESH BASIL (don't forget this!).
Makes four (big) servings.


Monday, March 15, 2010

Bread Twists (like The Pizza Factory)

Do you like The Pizza Factory's bread twists that they bring out on long wooden sticks?

These are EVEN BETTER! One thing I love about making food myself is that I can control what goes into it. I know that my bread sticks aren't bigger than your arm and slathered with who-knows-how-much butter and parmesan cheese (but if you like that, then by all means, go for it!). I even made mine with a cup of wheat flour, and we both thought they were better than The Pizza Factory's! And this recipe is SO easy, you don't even have to knead the dough! The original recipe can be found here.

Bread Twists

1 1/2 cups warm water
2 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp yeast
3 1/2 cups flour (I did 1 cup whole wheat)
1 tsp salt
Melted butter (2–4 Tbsp, plus more to brush on baked bread twists)
2–4 cloves of garlic, minced (promise me you'll use real garlic for the insides, it's SOOOOOO good! You've GOT to!)
Kosher salt (for sprinkling)

Put sugar and yeast in the mixing bowl and add warm water. Cover and let sit for 5–10 minutes. Then mix in 3 1/2 cups flour, a cup at a time, and the salt. Mix until smooth (I used my KitchenAid, it took a about 3 minutes). Cover and let rise for 10 minutes.
On a floured surface, roll out the dough into a large square (this is as close as mine got to the square—haha).
Mix minced garlic with the melted butter and brush onto the dough. Then sprinkle with Kosher salt.

Fold dough in half.

Cut into one-inch strips.
Twist and place on cookie sheet. We tried a few on bamboo skewers and they were really fun! The bread twists can be placed pretty close together.
Let rise for 15–20 minutes while preheating the oven to 400º. Bake for 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Immediately after baking, brush with more garlic butter (I used powdered garlic here, I didn't know if fresh would be too strong) and sprinkle with Kosher salt and grated parmesan cheese (we were out of cheese, but they were still phenomenal without!).

We just ate them plain, but you can dip them in marinara, alfredo sauce, or ranch!

*The site where I got this recipe says it makes great pizza dough: just roll it into a circle, top, and bake at 400º for 15–20 minutes.

Enjoy your bread twists!! We sure did! And please excuse our messy kitchen...we were in the middle of baking! ;)

Venetian Apricot Chicken

This was the second amazing dinner in a row this weekend (after the de-li-cious Bourbon Chicken). I've been wanting to try this recipe for a long time, and when I finally got some apricot preserves I decided to give it a go. Whoa, were we missing out all this time!! This recipe definitely makes it into our favorites to make often.
I first tried this recipe at Olive Garden (it's one of their "garden fare" healthier low-cal meals) and loved it. The meal itself is fairly simple, just a grilled chicken breast with a sauce made of apricot preserves and chicken broth, and a side of asparagus (and/or broccoli) with a tomato basil mixture on top. The flavors are amazing though: the salt of the veggies (and of the delectable bread twists I will post next) complements the sweet apricot chicken so well!
I found the recipe on Olive Garden's website. Here is my take on it.

Venetian Apricot Chicken with Tomato-Topped Veggies

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 bunch of asparagus (remove bottom inch or more of stems*)
1/2 lb broccoli florets
1 Tbsp olive oil (I always use a little less)

Apricot Sauce:
1/2 cup chicken stock or broth
1/2 cup apricot preserves
salt and pepper to taste

Tomato Mixture:
1/2 lb roma tomatoes, chopped
6 basil leaves (fresh is so worth it), cut into 1/2" pieces
1 tsp garlic pepper**
Salt to taste

Garlic Herb Seasoning:
Mix together:
3 tsp garlic pepper**
1 tsp Italian seasoning

*Here's a trick: bend one asparagus until it snaps. It will snap towards the bottom, and where it snaps, cut the rest at that point. This gets rid of the woody, hard-to-chew stems!

**What in the world is garlic pepper, you ask? I looked it up and it's a mixture of spices. You can go buy it, or you can do what I did and mix garlic salt, pepper, dried onion, parsley, and brown sugar.

[You do all of these around the same time]
Heat grill for chicken, bring pot of salted water to a boil.
Mix chicken broth and apricot preserves in a sauce pan. Add salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil and remove from heat.
Combine tomatoes, basil, garlic pepper, and salt in a bowl and set aside.
To the pot of boiling water, add asparagus and broccoli and cook for 1–2 minutes. Transfer them immediately to a bowl of ice water to stop cooking.
Drizzle olive oil in a saute pan, heat on medium low heat. Heat cooled veggies and tomato mixture until hot, KEEPING SEPARATED in pan. Do NOT overcook (I cooked my tomatoes too long).
Grill chicken (I used my George Foreman grill, you could maybe broil it).
To plate, place chicken on a plate next to the hot broccoli and asparagus. Sprinkle the garlic herb seasoning on the green veggies. Pour the tomato mixture on top. Top the chicken with the apricot sauce and garnish with chopped parsley (I forgot that step, but parsley doesn't taste much).

Bon appetit!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Zucchini Bread

Just in time for St. Patrick's Day! This zucchini bread is moist and the crust gets slightly crispy and sugary when you bake it! My mom gave us a loaf last weekend for St. Patrick's Day and we just broke into it today (I love my freezer). I asked her for the recipe because it's yummy and I wanted to share it! [By the way, this bread was colored with green food coloring (yeah, my mom's awesome like that*) normally wouldn't turn out this green.]

Zucchini Bread


3 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
3 eggs
2 cups grated zucchini
2 cups sugar
1 Tbsp vanilla
1 cup oil
Nuts (if desired)

Preheat oven to 350º. Sift flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon together. Set aside. In a separate bowl beat together eggs, zucchini, sugar, and vanilla. Then beat in the oil. Stir in the dry ingredients. Add nuts if desired. Grease and flour two loaf pans. Bake for 60 minutes, until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

I know there are a million zucchini bread recipes out there, but trust us, this one is good!!

* Side note: speaking of my mom coloring food...she's always been festive with holidays. It used to gross us out once when she dyed our milk (and cream of rice) blue for April Fool's Day. Yuck! ;)

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Bourbon Chicken

Have you ever eaten anything so yummy-in-your-tummy that it makes you say, "Mmmmm" every bite and jump up and down in your seat and wave your arms like an excited three-year-old?
No? neither (I might be lying).
This was so good that I may have eaten every last bit from my bowl and licked the bowl after (while Stew was out of the room...and just one lick!). It may have been so good that I saw the tiny amount of sauce leftover and dumped the little leftover rice I had in the pan just to soak up the sauce...and Stew may or may not have totally caught me in the act of eating the saucy rice straight out of the pan. It was even good enough for me to say, “I could eat something like this every day,” as I was cleaning up.
If only there were leftovers. :(

So getting closer to the point...I don't think this should be called Bourbon Chicken...there's no bourbon in it...but I don't know what else to call it, so we're calling it Bourbon Chicken, alright? What is bourbon chicken you ask? "Bourbon Chicken is a flavorful dish named after Bourbon Street in New Orleans, Louisiana, and for the Bourbon whiskey ingredient. The dish is commonly found at Cajun, Chinese, and American BBQ themed restaurants" (thank you, wikipedia). I didn't know Cajun, Chinese, and American BBQ restaurants could serve the same dish!?
But don't let all that throw you off—I'm glad I didn't. I thought this dish tasted like a delicious rice bowl at Rumbi, and I love me a good rice bowl!

The sauce, oh the sauce, was so amazing. I've never been able to make an Asian sauce like this before. It was the perfect blend of sweet, salt, and spice (just a little kick, not punch-you-in-the-face with heat). The original recipe didn't call for veggies, but I added them because I LOVE veggies in my rice bowls (especially the broccoli, because the "leaves" hang on to the sauce)! I guess the veggies make mine less Bourbon-y and more Asian. ;)

Bourbon Chicken Rice Bowl

1–2 pounds (depending on how saucy you want it) boneless, skinless chicken breasts or tenders, cut into bite-size pieces (I used 7 chicken tenders)
1–2 Tbsp olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 tsp ginger (I used fresh, but you can use the powder)
3/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (or more if you like it spicy)
1/4 cup apple juice (replacing the bourbon whiskey)
1/3 cup light brown sugar
2 Tbsp ketchup
1 Tbsp cider vinegar
1/3 cup soy sauce
broccoli, red pepper, any other veggies of choice

1 Tbsp cornstarch/1 Tbsp water slurry, optional

Heat oil in a large skillet. Add chicken and cook until lightly browned. Steam veggies in the microwave until a little underdone. Remove chicken from skillet. Add remaining ingredients (minus the veggies and cornstarch slurry), heating over medium heat until well mixed and dissolved. Add the chicken and veggies and bring to a hard boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10–20 minutes. If you prefer a thicker sauce, add a slurry of cornstarch and water (premixed separately) to reach desired consistency. Serve over hot white or brown rice.

*I have to admit that I didn't follow the directions exactly. I cooked my chicken all the way through before removing it from the skillet. I also don't think I cooked my sauce long enough (we were hungry!), it probably could have been thicker...but it was STILL fantastic, so I think it's hard to mess up!

If you like Rumbi's rice bowls (or Cajun, Chinese, or American BBQ—haha), you'll love this!

*Special note to Lindsey's dad: You will absolutely LOVE this! I PROMISE! :)

**Update on 5-2-10: The photos on this post probably aren't exactly what your sauce will look like. I was in a hurry the first time I made it and didn't let the sauce simmer and thicken long enough. It will probably look more like this:

But either way, it still tastes phenomenal!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Black Bottom Banana Bars

I LOVE LOVE LOVE having ripe bananas around because there are so many yummy things I can bake with them! A perfect example of a yummy banana dessert are these:

Black Bottom Banana Bars. The perfect combination of chocolate and banana that is moist, light and delicious. Sprinkled with a little powdered sugar, it's the perfect banana dessert. Plus I made mine with DARK CHOCOLATE cocoa, so they turned out extra delicious!!

Black Bottom Banana Bars

1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened (I used oil and it was fabulous! You can also substitute half the butter for applesauce if you want to cut a little fat, although this does change the texture a little...I usually make them this way, but I was out of applesauce)
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 cups ripe bananas, blended (about 3)
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup cocoa (try the Hershey's Special Dark!)

Preheat oven to 350º and lightly grease a 9x13 pan. Cream butter and sugar together. Add the egg, bananas, and vanilla. Stir in flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Divide batter in half. Stir cocoa into one half and spread in greased pan. Spoon white mixture over top and swirl with knife. Bake for 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Great fresh out of the oven, great the next day (and the next). Try freezing them and eating them right out of the freezer too!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

Mmmm....this is comfort in a bowl right here. It's going to rain this you should make this soup!

I found the original recipe in a Martha Stewart cookbook called, "Fresh Flavor Fast." I don't like chicken noodle soup (crazy, right? I especially hate it when I'm sick—I go for father like daughter I guess), so I thought this would maybe be a good alternative! I tweaked it a little to make it slightly healthier, and so I could put it in the crock pot, since we're gone all day. It turned out great, except the rice cooked a little too long and kind of broke apart. It was still good though, even the leftovers! To make it in the crock pot, just put everything in the pot and turn it on low for 6–8 hours (I did mine 10+, that's why the rice did what it did) or high for 3–4 hours.

Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

2 Tbsp olive oil (you can omit this if you're doing it crock-pot style)
1 onion, coarsely chopped
Salt and pepper
3 1/2–4 cups (or 2 cans) of chicken broth or bouillon
2/3 cup wild rice blend
2 1/2 cups water
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
4 carrots, coarsely chopped
4 celery stalks, coarsely chopped

In a large pot, heat oil over medium. Add onion, and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally until onion softens, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add chicken broth, rice and the water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cover and cook 35 minutes.
Add chicken, carrots and celery. Return to a boil; reduce heat to a simmer. Cook uncovered until vegetables are tender and chicken is cooked through, about 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer chicken to a cutting board and shred with two forks.
Return chicken to the pot. Season soup with salt and pepper.

Enjoy! We sure did!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Secret Ingredient Flourless Chocolate Cake

Look at this cake.

What would you guess is the secret ingredient?

Hint: It makes the cake a whole lot healthier by adding fiber, protein, and vitamins.

Answer: Pinto beans!

I'm not posting this recipe because it's fantastic and everyone will love it and you have to make it right now. I'm posting it because it's a yummy alternative to other flourless chocolate cakes that use lots of butter and fat.
I'd found the recipe here last week and couldn't get it off my mind. She raved about it and I had to make it.
The verdict? This cake is REALLY dense, like most flourless chocolate cakes. It reminded me of a dense chocolate cheesecake, without the cream cheese. It is a really dark, bittersweet flavor that I love. It's also super easy and quick to make! Stew thought the cake had a bean flavor and the texture was a little weird. It might have been because I'd told him there were beans in it before he ate it (bad idea). My little sister who was sleeping over tried it, not knowing about the beans (although I did tell her Stew didn't like it), and she said it had a “dirt” texture. After I told her there were beans in it she didn't eat any more. Ha. Me? I ate my whole piece plus some of Stew's leftovers. I guess it's the idea of a “healthy dessert” that makes me look (or taste, rather) past the slightly grainy texture. I think it's better refrigerated than warm—it hides the beans a little better.
So if you're like me and can sacrifice a little texture for a WHOLE lot healthier slice of cake, you'll love this recipe. Maybe don't even tell anyone there are beans in it. They might not even notice.

Secret Ingredient Flourless Chocolate Cake

8 oz. unsweetened chocolate (I used Ghirardelli)
2 cups pinto beans, cooked, drained and rinsed
4 eggs
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
Optional: sliced almonds, powdered sugar, melted chocolate

Preheat oven to 350º. Grease a 9-inch round cake pan and dust it with cocoa powder.
Place the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl. Cook in the microwave for about two minutes, stirring every 20 seconds after the first minute (so the chocolate doesn't burn), until chocolate is melted and smooth.
Combine the beans and eggs in a food processor or blender. Process until smooth. Add the sugar and baking powder, pulse to blend. Pour in the melted chocolate and blend until smooth, scraping down the corners to make sure the chocolate is completely mixed in. Transfer the batter to the prepared cake pan. If desired, sprinkle with sliced almonds.
Bake for 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 to 15 minutes. Invert onto a serving plate. If desired, dust with powdered sugar and/or drizzle with melted chocolate just before serving.

By the way, in 16 servings (it will serve more though) there are about 150 calories, 7 grams of fat, 4 grams of fiber, and almost 4 grams of protein! Not bad at all!

If you dare give this a try, let us know how you like it!