January 30, 2012

Banana Bread Snack Cake

This recipe was the winner for me for three reasons.

1. I had three banana's on my counter that were starting to look.....less than appealing.
2. I only had one egg.
3. I love banana bread.

It was fate that I just happened to be reading the newest recipe from one of the websites I follow and saw this recipe.  I was meant to be.

I'm sure I'm one of about a million people who love banana bread, so I was super excited to see this variation of it in a snack cake form.  I sometimes have trouble getting through an entire loaf of banana bread when my husband is out of town (yes I could cut it in half and freeze it but I don't think of logical things when I'm surrounded by banana bread) so this cake seemed much more doable for my daughter and I. 

I loved how moist this cake stayed even after a couple of days in the refrigerator.  My husband got home just in time to claim the last couple of pieces and he topped them with whipped cream.  Of course he's been known to dip an entire banana in whipped cream and eat it as a snack, but I digress. 

I loved this recipe and will make it again!

The recipe can be found on "How Sweet It Is" here.

Banana Bread Snack Cake
1 egg
1/3 cup lightly packed brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla
3 mashed ripe banana's, about 1 1/2 cups
1 cup flour (I used all-purpose but the original calls for whole wheat pastry flour)
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
3 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Pre heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Spray an 8x8 inch baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.

In a large bowl add the egg and brown sugar and mix well.  Add the vanilla and banana's and mix until combined.  Add the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt until combined.  Drizzle in the butter and combine well.

Bake for 20 minutes or until the center does not jiggle anymore and the edges are golden brown.  Let cool before cutting.

The original recipe had a cream cheese glaze that looked amazing!  I didn't have any cream cheese or I would have made it for sure.  Check out the website linked above for the glaze.

January 27, 2012

Dinner Club - Theme Bar Food/Finger Food

Lisa F. was our gracious host this month and she made an amazing pizza! This girl seriously doesn't think she's a good cook but look at this yummy pizza!

Chicken Pesto Pizza


1/2 cup pesto basil sauce
1 (12 inch) pre-baked pizza crust
2 cups cooked chicken breast strips
1 (6 ounce) jar artichoke hearts, drained
1/2 cup shredded fontina cheese


Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C).

Spread pesto sauce over the pizza crust. Arrange chicken pieces and artichoke hearts over the sauce, and sprinkle with cheese.

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven, until cheese is melted and lightly browned at the edges

TiNeill is responsible for this wonderful lettuce wrap recipe.  I was in love with these right away because they are so full of flavor and healthy and just all around delish.  Seriously, you gotta make these!

Asian Lettuce Wraps
Recipe by Our Best Bites
2 tsp canola oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 lb ground chicken*
3 ounces mushrooms, finely chopped (about 8 small mushrooms)
1/2 tsp kosher salt
4 C bagged coleslaw mix or thinly shredded cabbage
1 8oz can sliced water chestnuts, drained, rinsed, and finely minced
1/2 C thinly sliced green onions
4 Tbs soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
1 lemon, zested and juiced (about 3-4 Tbs juice)
1/2-1 tsp sriracha or other hot sauce (1 tsp of Sriracha is fairly spicy in my opinion, so if you want less or no kick, just give it a little, or you can leave it out completely)
1/3 C roughly chopped cilantro
1-2 heads iceberg lettuce
*To prepare your own ground chicken, cut boneless skinless chicken breasts into large chunks and pulse in a food processor until ground.

Dipping/Drizzling Sauce
4 Tbs soy sauce
4 Tbs rice vinegar
3 Tbs water
2 tsp honey
1-2 tsp finely minced fresh ginger
Heat a very large skillet to medium-high heat on the stove top.  When hot, add vegetable  oil and then garlic and ginger.  Saute for about 30 seconds, until fragrant, and then add ground chicken, chopped mushrooms, and kosher salt.  Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring often, until chicken is cooked through.  (*At this point, sometimes I have some extra liquid in the pan from the chicken.  If it’s quite a bit, I tilt the pan and spoon it out so the chicken can cook and not boil.) Add cabbage/coleslaw, water chestnuts, and green onions.  Cook for about 2 minutes, until cabbage starts to wilt.  Add soy sauce, sesame oil, the zest from the lemon and the lemon juice, and hot sauce to taste.  Remove from heat and stir in cilantro.
To prepare dipping sauce, combine all ingredients and whisk to combine.
To serve, carefully remove the individual leaves from the head of lettuce.  (The closer you get to the center, the easier it becomes!)  Place chicken mixture in the leaves and serve with sauce.
Yield: about 5 C chicken mixture.  Makes 14-16 lettuce wraps.

* I added 1/4 C of Hoisin Sauce as well as basil and mint.

 1 stick of butter melted 
 1 1/2  cup sugar
 4 eggs slightly beaten
 2 level tbls flour                     
 1 teaspoon vanilla
 1 cup buttermilk
 1/2 cup good quality coconut 
 1 uunbaked pie shell

Mix together melted butter and sugar until sugar dissolves , then add rest of ingredients.

Pour in pieshell and bake in preheated   oven at 350 degrees for one hour or until set and golden brown.  Better if refrigerated and served the next day.

Buttermilk Pie and Deviled Eggs made by Lynn. Lynn is an excellent cook and always makes the most delicious dishes. I will update as soon as I get the deviled egg recipe. 

Melissa Y made two items and they were both delicious!  First off was the chocolate dipped peanut butter filled pretzels on the left.

Recipe found here

Peanut Butter Pretzel Bites
1 cup creamy peanut butter
2 tbsp softened butter
1/2 cup powdered sugar (maybe more)
3/4 cup brown sugar (maybe more)
1 bag semi-sweet chocolate chips

Combine peanut butter and softened butter in a large bowl with a fork or whisk, or in a stand mixer. Add the sugars and mix to combine. At this point if the filling will roll easily into balls without sticking to your hands you’re ready to go. If not, add a little more of each sugar until you reach a consistency that is easy to roll (I used about 3/4 cup of each sugar).

Use a teaspoon measure to scoop the filling. Roll each portion into a small ball, then sandwich them between two whole pretzels. When all the balls are rolled and successfully sandwiched, stick the whole tray in the freezer for about half an hour.

Pour the chocolate chips into a microwave safe bowl and heat at 30-second intervals, stirring occasionally until completely melted. Remove the pretzel sandwiches from the freezer and quickly dip each half-way into the melted chocolate. Return to the tray and repeat with remaining sandwiches. When all are dipped, return the tray to the freezer to set up completely. Store the sandwiches in the refrigerator until serving time.

Potato Skins: 

6 small baking potatoes
2 Tbsp butter, melted
2 tsp grill steak seasoning or seasoned salt
3 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
4 strips of bacon, cooked, crumbled

Lightly grease outside of potatoes, cut small slit in top and bake at 425 for 45 minutes or until soft.  Let stand until cool enough to handle, about 15 minutes. 

Cut potatoes in half lengthwise and scoop out cooked potato, leaving a thin layer of potato interior. 

Brush outside and inside of skins with melted butter.  Sprinkle inside with steak seasoning and Parmesan cheese.  Place in lightly greased baking sheet.  Bake 8 minutes or until crisp and bubbly. 

Fill with cheddar cheese and bacon.  Bake 3 minutes or until cheese is melted. 

I made Baked Mozzarella Sticks

Recipe found here

8 ounces mozzarella cheese
3 tablespoons flour
2 eggs
1 tablespoon water
1 cup dry breadcrumbs (I used panko)
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
4 teaspoons melted butter

Cut the mozzarella cheese into sticks and toss with the flour.  In a separate bowl beat the eggs and water.  In another bowl, combine the bread crumbs with the seasonings.
Dip the mozzarella sticks in the egg mixture, then coat with the crumbs - repeat one more time.
Please the coated mozzarella sticks on a cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil in a single layer, cover with more foil and refrigerate for 2 hours.  (I wasn't able to refrigerate because of time constraints but you absolutely should, mine melted).

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Drizzle the sticks with melted butter and bake until crisp, about 8 to 10 minutes.  Flip after 5 minutes.

Serve with marinara sauce or ranch dressing.

**For the record, there were two other neighbors (Wendy and Lisa W.) at dinner club.  I will update this when I get their recipes**

January 25, 2012

Ina Garten's Homemade Granola Bars

Continuing my efforts to post more healthy recipes; I decided to try my hand at homemade granola bars!  Why not right?  Doesn't look that hard when I see them do it on the Food Network. I went through a lot of different recipes and finally settled on one that I knew wouldn't disappoint.  Ina Garten really knows a thing or two about cooking, don't ya think?

I chose this recipe for several reasons.  I loved the idea of adding dried fruit.  I wanted a chewy type granola bar.  I didn't want artificial sweeteners. I wanted to use ingredients I already had. This recipe turned out to be everything I wanted and more.  I loved it.  I wrapped several bars up in plastic wrap and brought them to work so my co-workers could give me their opinions and got great reviews.  This is a far cry from the desserts I usually bring in but I wanted to show that I'm versatile. :)


Start by browning some oatmeal and nuts in the oven.  When you can smell them, they're done! They can burn quickly so be careful.


I was glad for the wheat germ in this recipe.  I usually only use this in bran muffins.

Line a dish with parchment paper. This will make it easier to cut into bars.


Mmmmm, toasty.


The magic concoction.

Add the hot mixture to the oat mixture.


Stir well.


Add the chopped dried fruit.


Lightly press into the prepared dish and bake.


Let thoroughly cool before cutting.


I hope you enjoy these as much as I did.  Ina, you're my hero!

Modified slightly from the recipe found here

2 cups old-fashioned oatmeal
1 cup sliced almonds (I only had whole)
1 cup shredded coconut, loosely packed (mine was sweetened)
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 (I used figs)
1/2 cup chopped dried apricots (I only had a few apricots so I also used cherries)
1/2 cup dried cranberries (I used raisins)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Grease a 9x11 inch pan.  The original recipe calls for a 8x12 inch dish, which I do not own.

Put the oatmeal, almonds and coconut on a sheet pan (jelly roll pan) and spread out into an even layer. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes stirring once so there is even toasting.  Pour into a large mixing bowl.

Reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees.

In a small saucepan, combine the butter, honey, brown sugar, salt and vanilla.  Bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook and stir until well combined and then pour over the oatmeal mixture.  Stir to coat.  Add the diced dry fruit and stir well.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan.  Wet your fingers and lightly press the mixture down into the pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes.  Cool for at least 2 to 3 hours before cutting.

January 23, 2012

Cheeseburger Salad

Some of the restaurants around here will let you order one of their burgers on a salad instead of a bun and I think it's a great idea.  I've only had it out once but knew it would be something different to try at home. I have fallen deeply in love with this salad.  I've eaten twice this week already.  I think it's because you can make it different each time, the possibilities are endless.  Basically any kind of burger you've ever liked in a restaurant you'll like this way too.

I'm not saying this is a healthy salad, but if you're trying to cut back on carbs this is a great idea!  You can top this with all the things you would top your burger with, like ketchup and mustard or whatever.  You can also just use your favorite salad dressing.

Here's what I used, but this is more of a suggestion than a recipe.

1/4 pound of ground beef, cooked.
2 slices of cheese, one for on top the burger and one to cut up in the salad.
1/2 medium tomato, diced
1 baby dill pickle, diced
1 slice of onion, kept round
handful of your favorite lettuce

Place the lettuce first on a plate or dish.  Top with all your toppings, it's best if they are diced.  Cover with the cooked burger and dress with condiments of your choice.

January 20, 2012

Lemon Mascarpone Cheesecake

You have GOT to try this!  I made this for dinner at my friends house last weekend and it was so yummy!  Perfect lemony creamy cheesecake and topped with some reconstituted apricots and orange marmalade with a drizzle of white chocolate.

I found the recipe in one of my Taste of Home magazines and knew it would be perfect for dessert.  My friend Amanda is great at telling me exactly how she feels about my new recipe attempts and she loved this! Makes me happy when there's nothing anyone would change about something I made.

This cake isn't difficult to assemble and  it has that show stopper look to it so I would recommend it for entertaining.

Crush up some Biscotti cookies.

Mix with some melted butter and press into a 9 inch springform pan. Bake.

Pour the yummy cream cheese/Mascarpone mixture into the baked shell.

While the cheesecake is baking, reconstitute the dried apricots. There is another step after this one that I didn't photograph.  You're going to drain the water out of this step, then add more water into a pan with some sugar and the apricots and cook until all the water is absorbed.

Mine cracked slightly around the edges, but that's OK since we're going to cover it up. :)

Mix the marmalade into the reconstituted apricot mixture.

Spread over the cheesecake and refrigerate (preferably overnight).

When ready to serve, drizzle some melted white chocolate over the top. YUM!

Recipe found in "Taste of Home Celebrations" from March 7, 2011 page 89.

1 1/2 cups biscotti crumbs (I used 12 Stella Dora Biscotti)
1/3 cup butter, melted

2 pkg.'s (8 oz) cream cheese, softened
2 cartons (8 oz) Mascarpone cheese
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice
3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp grated lemon peel
2 tsp vanilla extract
4 eggs, lightly beaten

3/4 cup coarsely chopped dried apricots
1/2 cup boiling water
3/4 cup cold water
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup orange marmalade
2 ounces white baking chocolate

In a small bowl, mix together the biscotti crumbs and melted butter.  Mix well until the mixture looks like wet sand.  Press into the bottom and sides of a greased 9 inch springform pan.

Place the springform pan on a cookie sheet and bake in a 350 degree oven for 8-10 minutes.  The crust will be a light golden brown.

In the bowl of your stand mixer, add the cheeses and sugar and mix until smooth. Add the lemon juice, flour, lemon peel and vanilla and mix.  Add the eggs, beat on low speed just until combined.  Pour into the crust.

Cook the cheesecake on the same cookies sheet at 350 for 45-55 minutes. The cheesecake is ready when the center is almost set (still slightly wiggly).  Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Carefully run a knife around the edges of the pan to loosen.  Cool for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, soak the apricots in boiling water for 10 minutes.  Drain and discard the liquid.  Use a small saucepan to bring the apricots, cold water and sugar to a boil.  Reduce the heat to simmer, uncovered for 12-14 minutes or until all the water is absorbed.  Mine took much longer than 14 minutes for the water to absorb, more like 30 minutes.  Remove from the heat, stir in the marmalade.  Cool to room temperature.

Carefully spread the topping over the cheesecake; cool for 30 minutes longer.  Refrigerate overnight.

In a microwave, melt the white chocolate, stir until smooth.  Drizzle over the cheesecake and let stand for 15 minutes.

Refrigerate leftovers.

January 16, 2012

Carmel Pretzel Bites

I'll apologize right up front for the lack of pictures here.  These delicious creations were done on a "baking day" with a couple of my neighbors.  I didn't even get to take very many pictures of my own creations from that day.  These were made by my friend Melissa and they were delish!

First you take some of those Carmel squares that are individually wrapped and flatten them out using a rolling pin. 

Next, wrap the Carmel around the pretzel nugget. 

Now, melt the chocolate over a double boiler and dip each piece until fully covered.  Put on wax paper for at least 2 hours to set. 

I'm sorry that I don't have a finished product shot; with all the baking going on I sort of forgot and then, well they got eaten too fast....

Recipe found here at "The Busty Baker"

1 14-ounce bag soft caramels
1 10-ounce bag pretzel nuggets
12 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
2 cups natural almonds, toasted and finely chopped (optional)

Unwrap the caramels and flatten them one by one with a rolling pin.  After the Carmel piece is flat, wrap around a pretzel nugget.  When they are all wrapped in Carmel, melt the chocolate over a double boiler until smooth.  Dip each Carmel covered pretzel nugget in the chocolate and place on wax paper to set.

January 13, 2012

Chocolate White Chocolate Chunk Cookies

These were Santa's cookies this year.  I think he liked them; or at least I think he did since they were gone the next morning.  These were easy to make and turned out perfectly.  Slightly crisp on the outside and chewy on the inside.  Just the way I like them. 

Recipe from Ina Garten and found here


1/2 pound unsalted butte,r at room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 extra-large eggs at room temperature
2/3 cup good unsweetened cocoa
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 pounds good white chocolate, coarsely chopped


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Cream the butter and both sugars until light and fluffy in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the vanilla, then the eggs, 1 at a time, and mix well. Add the cocoa and mix again. Sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt and add to the chocolate with the mixer on low speed until just combined. Fold in the chopped white chocolate.

Drop the dough on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, using a 1 3/4-inch ice cream scoop or a rounded tablespoon. Dampen your hands and flatten the dough slightly. Bake for exactly 15 minutes (the cookies will seem underdone). Remove from the oven and let cool slightly on the pan, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

January 10, 2012

Pear Pie

I made this pie for my dad's arrive for Christmas.  I baked it the day he was expected to arrive.  I wanted my house to smell like pie, and it did.  Mission accomplished.  The fact that we ate pie for the next four days is beside the point.

When I read the reviews about this pie they were all fantastic.  They all said that everyone who tried it couldn't believe it was pear and not apple and that they all became huge fans of it.  I happen to love pear so I was hoping it would be  more like pear than apple and I think it really depends on what kind of pears you use.  I happened to buy a bag of pears at the grocery stores that has several different types in it.  There were Green Anjou, Bosc. and Red Bartlett.  Oh and by the way I'm totally guessing at these.  I used this as a reference. I tasted each one to see if there were any significant differences and guess what....there are. Some of them (the Green Anjou) seemed grittier but had nice flavor. The Bosc also seemed to have a grittier texture but not as pronounced as the Green Anjou and the Red one was the most flavorful, least gritty to me.  I think if you used all red in a pie it might seem more like apple because of the smooth texture.  Either way, I'm a pear pie fan now.

To start, you need to use your favorite pie dough recipe.  I used this one.

Begin by coring and slicing all of the pears and putting them into a medium to large bowl.

Place one of your pie crusts in a pie dish. Add the pears and alternate layers of pears and then the cinnamon sugar mixture.

When you get to the last layer, add the cinnamon sugar mixture and the butter pieces.  Now top with your remaining pie crust and cut vents for the steam to escape.

I topped my top crust with some milk and then sprinkled a little extra sugar on the top.

While baking, make sure you watch to make sure the edges don't get too dark.  If they begin to just put tin foil over them.  I didn't have any problems with mine however so you probably won't either.

I found this recipe here and didn't change a thing.

Pear Pie

1 recipe pastry for a 9 inch double crust pie
1/2 cup white sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
5 cups peeled and sliced pears
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Add the flour, sugar, salt and zest to a small bowl and set aside.

Arrange one of the pie crusts in the pie dish with some slight overhang.  Layer in the pears and the cinnamon/sugar mixture until the pears and the sugar mixture are used up.  On the top layer add the Tbsp of butter that has been cut up into several pieces and dot the top and add the lemon juice.  Add the second pie crust on top, fold under any overhang and tuck under the over hang from the first pie crust layer, then use a fork or your fingers to flute the edges.  Cut the top of the pie crust to ventilate.  I added some milk and sugar on top but you could also use and egg wash or just leave plain.

Bake in a preheated 450 degree oven for 10 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 350 degrees and continue cooking for another 35-40 minutes.

January 8, 2012

Vanilla Cupcakes

I made these yummy cupcakes for my daughters daycare holiday party.  I decorated them like snowmen and in the process of frosting them some of the cake/frosting FELL into my mouth.  It was the weirdest thing.  I'll tell ya, it took a lot of restraint on my part to not eat ALL this frosting.  I kept telling myself "it's for the children.....and maybe they won't eat them all".  But they did. It's probably just as well.

My house smelled sooooo good while these were baking.  There is just something about the smell of vanilla that I adore.

I decorated the cupcakes with some marshmallows, the bottom one I squished down with the palm of my hand and also put it flat side out.  I used pretzel sticks as arms and orange jelly candy for the nose.  I used a tube of black decorators frosting for the details and I would have put Hershey kisses or York Peppermint Patty's on his head as a hat (if I had of remembered to buy some).  I also put a pretzel stick on the bottom marshmallow to stick into the top of the cupcake to keep them from tipping over.

I got the cupcake and frosting recipe from one of my favorite websites "Brown Eyed Baker" found here

Vanilla Cupcakes

Yields 12 cupcakes

1½ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon table salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), room temperature
½ cup sour cream
1 large egg , room temperature
2 large egg yolks , room temperature
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract

Pre-heat the oven to 350. Line a regular sized cupcake pan with paper liners.

In the bowl of your stand mixer add the butter, sour cream, egg and egg yolks and vanilla.  Blend on medium until smooth. In a separate bowl whisk together the dry ingredients and then slowly add them to the butter mixture.  The batter should look smooth when done.

Divide the batter evenly in the 12 cupcake pan and bake for 20-24 minutes.  The cupcakes will remain a pale color when done.  Use a toothpick to determine when they are done.

Cool on a wire rack until room temperature, then frost.
Vanilla Butter cream Frosting

Yields enough for 12 cupcakes
1 cup (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2½ cups powdered sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Mix the butter in your stand mixer until smooth, slowly add the confectioners sugar on low speed until completely blended.  Add the vanilla extract and mix well.  Mix on medium-high speed for about 2 minutes until light and fluffy.