Sunday, November 30, 2008

Mom's Banana Apple Bread

I know banana bread is well loved by many but for me it's pretty blah. Banana bread was what my mom frequently baked when I was growing up and while I did love it, now I could easily take it or leave it. But I was intrigued by this recipe for banana bread that involved sauteed spiced apples. And thus began my journey into The Sweet Melissa Baking Book (which is excellent by the way). This loaf was really delicious and very soft. The apples added a yummy flavour - enough to convince me that while it is "just" a banana bread, I will be making it again.

I'm getting into finals now so unfortunately not as much time for baking as I'd like but I'm definitely spending a lot of time thinking about what goodies I'll be making for Christmas! I can't wait to see what everyone else will be making - especially the cookies.

If this sounds good, you might also like:
Caramelized Apple Danish Braid
Chocolate Walnut Banana Bread
Russian Grandmother's Apple Pie-Cake
Candied Maple Walnut Pancake Loaf

Mom's Banana Apple Bread
Adapted from The Sweet Melissa Baking Book

Makes either 1 9"x5"x3" inch loaf or 1 8"x4" loaf and 6 muffins.

For the apples:
2 tbsp unsalted butter
3 tbsp firmly packed brown sugar
2 apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp vanilla

For the banana bread:
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
8 tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 cups very riped mashed bananas (2 to 3)

Before you start
Position a rack in the center of your oven and preheat the oven to 350F. Lightly butter your baking pans (either one 9x5x3 pan, or one 8x4 pan and 6 cup muffin tin).

To make the apples
Preheat a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the butter and brown sugar and heat until bubbling. Add the apples and cinnamon and saute until golden and tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the vanilla. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.

To make the banana bread
1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and salt.

2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

3. Combine the orange juice and vanilla.

4. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture in three batches, alternating with the orange juice mixture, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl after each flour addition. Stir in the mashed bananas until combined. Then stir in the reserved apples.

5. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan (and muffin tin if using). Bake for 55 to 60 minutes (for loaves) or 25-30 minutes (for muffins), or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove to a wire rack to cool for 20 minutes before unmolding onto the rack to cool further.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Pasta with Creamy Spinach Walnut Sauce

Here's another healthy recipe from Moosewood. I rarely eat cottage cheese (okay I don't think I've eaten it even once in probably 10 years) so I wasn't sure how this would turn out but I was really happy with the dish. The low-fat cottage cheese makes the sauce creamy while adding lots of protein and not much fat. And I discovered that yes cottage cheese does taste good! Especially if it's in the large curd form. Anyway I guess this dish could be thought of as a kind of creamy pesto. Next time I'll add something else to it like sauteed mushrooms or some extra chopped walnuts. The only bad thing is that it's not very good reheated.

If this sounds good, you might also like:
Black Bean Chilaquile
Soba Noodles with Zucchini Ribbons
Spinach Walnut Pesto
Portabello Fettuccine with Spinach Pesto, Roasted Peppers & Romano Cheese

Pasta with Creamy Spinach Walnut Sauce
Adapted from Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favorites

My adaptations were small - extra garlic (2 instead of 1 clove), 300 grams frozen spinach instead of 10 ounces fresh, less salt, and freeze dried basil instead of fresh (though the fresh basil can easily be replaced by a tablespoon or so of dried.)

300 g frozen spinach
1/2 cup toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped
2 cups low-fat cottage cheese
2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup freeze dried basil
1/4 tsp salt
ground black pepper to taste
1 lb pasta

1 head broccoli (optional extra vegetable)

Bring a large covered pot of water to a rapid boil.

If using fresh spinach, wash it and steam it. (Cover and cook the spinach on medium-high heat for about 4 minutes, until wilted but still bright green, drain.) If using frozen spinach, thaw in the fridge (if you have that much foresight!) or in the microwave. Drain. In a food processor or blender, combine the spinach, walnuts, cottage cheese, garlic, Parmesan, basil, and salt and puree until smooth, working ni batches if necessary. Add pepper to taste and set aside.

When the water boils, stir in the pasta, cover and return to a boil. Then uncover the pot and cook until the pasta is al dente, about 7 minutes. While the pasta cooks, cut the broccoli into spears, blanch it in boiling water to cover until just tender, about 5 minutes and set it aside. Alternately, steam the broccoli. Drain the pasta and toss with the sauce. Add several steamed broccoli spears.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Sweet Freedom: A New Baking Book

I was very happy to be one of the testers for Ricki's soon to be published cookbook Sweet Freedom. I've been drooling over her posts for quite some time now and was thrilled to get the chance to be a small part of the excitement. Her cookbook is all baked goods (yum how can you say no to that!) and the thing I'm loving the most about the recipes is the fact that they taste like unhealthy delicious baked goods but are actually much better for you made with wholegrain flours and natural sweeteners alternatives. The recipes don't use wheat, eggs or dairy either. Seriously, how can you not be intrigued by now??

There's a long list of yummy things that will be in this cookbook so go check out the Facebook group and/or the blog showcasing many of the delicious goodies you can look forward to making! Below you can see some of the things I had the pleasure of trying out.

The orange raisin tea biscuits are completely addictive. I didn't even think I'd like them but the flavours just complement each other so well. How can something so yummy not be bad for me?? Definitely will be making these repeatedly.

When I made the old fashioned spice cake, I couldn't believe how it tasted (in a really good way). And it was so moist.

Peanut butter COOKIES that I don't have to feel too bad about eating?? Nothing more needs to be said.

This sunshine breakfast loaf was so good and it's another addictive baked good. I was constantly thinking about eating it and when I could snack on it next. So good.

These crispy fruit chews were great for when I needed some energy for studying!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Black Bean Chilaquile

I love the Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favorites cookbook because I can flip through it and pick practically any recipe knowing that it's vegetarian and healthy. Not everything I've made from it has been awesome and some things have been just okay, but there have also been some things that turned out quite yummy like this one. One of my favourite things to do is sit down and look through cookbooks cover to cover, but when it comes time to making a grocery list an hour before I want to go grocery shopping, I hate it. It's impossible for me to find recipes I want to make under a time constraint - I'm always thinking I have to pick recipes that use different vegetables and different proteins, providing me with a wide variety of nutrients. Too much pressure! But if I were to just be looking at the same cookbook for pleasure I'd most likely be tagging tons of recipes.

Anyway, I realize now that maybe the picture looks like a big glop of something but you can see that on top is a layer of chips/sauce/cheese, and there's a layer of vegetables/spinach/beans, etc.

If this sounds good, you might also like:
Baked Bean Soup
Santa Fe Pasta Salad
Balkan Roasted Vegetable Salad

Black Bean Chilaquile
Adapted from Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favorites

My modifications were to use only 1/2 tsp salt, just chop up an onion instead of measuring it to be 1 cup, and using frozen spinach instead of 2 cups fresh. I made the blender hot sauce, recommended and given in the cookbook, but I think you could just use whatever salsa you have on hand. I'll add the recipe for the blender hot sauce below, but I didn't find it that amazing on its own. Mixed into the chilaquile it was yummy though.

Serves 4 to 5

1 onion, chopped
1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 cup chopped tomatoes
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels
1 1/2 cups cooked black beans (15 oz can, drained)
2 tbsp fresh lime juice
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
300 g frozen chopped spinach, thawed (or 2 cups fresh rinsed, stemmed and chopped Swiss chard or spinach)
2 cups crushed baked tortilla chips
8 oz grated sharp Cheddar cheese (low/reduced fat if you want)
2 cups salsa or blender hot sauce (see recipe below)

Preheat the oven to 350F. Saute the onions in the oil for about 8 minutes, until translucent. Stir in the tomatoes, corn, black beans, lime juice, salt, and pepper and continue to saute for another 5 to 10 minutes, until just heated through.

If using fresh spinach, otherwise use this time to thaw out the spinach by microwaving it a bit: In another saucepan, blanch the greens in boiling water to cover for 1 to 3 minutes, until just wilted but still bright green. Drain immediately and set aside.

In an 8x8 casserole dish or baking pan, spread half of the crushed tortilla chips on the bottom. Spoon the sauteed vegetables over the tortilla chips and sprinkle on about two-thirds of the grated Cheddar. Arrange the greens evenly over the cheese and spoon on half of the salsa. Finish with the rest of the tortilla chips and top with the remaining salsa and Cheddar. Bake for about 35 to 40 minutes, until the cheese is bubbling and beginning to brown.

Blender Hot Sauce

I omitted the 2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro.

1 cup chopped onions
1 cup chopped bell peppers
1 or 2 fresh green chiles, seeds removed for a milder "hot"
5 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
4 cups chopped fresh or 3 cups chopped canned tomatoes with their juice (28 oz can)
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp dried oregano
salt to taste

In a blender or food processor, combine the onions, peppers, chiles, garlic, tomatoes, cumin, coriander, and oregano and puree until smooth. Transfer the sauce to a soup pot and simmer on low heat, uncovered for about 30 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened and the flavors have mellowed. Stir often as it cooks and use a heat diffuser if needed, to prevent sticking. Add salt to taste.

Hot sauce will keep for about 2 weeks, refrigerated and tightly covered.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

I've written "I've always wanted to try..." so many times and this is another one of those times. I've always wanted to try making (and eating!) pineapple upside-down cake. My friend and I made it in high school once but we forgot to put the pineapple on the bottom of the cake pan. It was delicious but I wouldn't quite count it as pineapple upside-down cake. A while ago I saw a recipe for it on Smitten Kitchen and put it in the back of my mind to make some time. I also thought my boyfriend would love it. (Turns out he thought it was good but not anything special.)

One of the great thing about this cake is that it's incredibly moist. And while it is a very good cake, it's not a personal favourite. I'm posting about it because I think it's a good recipe, it's just not my thing. I'm sure there are other versions of pineapple upside-down cake that I might like better, but this one resulted in a wet bottom (that sounds weird when talking about cake). You pour rum over the flipped cake (so on the bottom where the pineapple is). And I only poured half of the recommended amount when it had already become too mushy. Anyway, lots of people liked it and the taste is really great but I'd prefer it if the pineapples had lots of gooey caramel with them (there is some but not enough).

I should figure out some more exciting ways to photograph my food but sometimes it's just enough of a challenge to take a picture with natural light (and now that it's getting darker to be home to take a picture with natural light).

If this sounds good, you might also like:
Carrot Coconut Cake (with White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting
Coconut Lemon Bundt cake
Key Lime Pie
Orange Berry Muffins

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen from Gourmet, February 2000

1/2 medium pineapple, peeled, quartered lengthwise, and cored
3/4 stick unsalted butter
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon dark rum
1/2 cup unsweetened pineapple juice
2 tablespoons dark rum

Preheat oven to 350F.

Prepare a 9 inch round cake pan by buttering sides.

Make topping: Cut pineapple crosswise into 3/8-inch-thick pieces. Melt butter in pan. Add brown sugar and simmer over moderate heat, stirring, 4 minutes. Remove from heat. Pour into 9 inch round cake pan. Arrange pineapple on top of sugar mixture in concentric circles, overlapping pieces slightly.

Make batter: Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Beat butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, then gradually beat in granulated sugar. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla and rum. Add half of flour mixture and beat on low speed just until blended. Beat in pineapple juice, then add remaining flour mixture, beating just until blended. (Batter may appear slightly curdled.)

Spoon batter over pineapple topping and spread evenly. Bake cake in middle of oven until golden and a tester comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Let cake stand in skillet 5 minutes. Invert a plate over skillet and invert cake onto plate (keeping plate and skillet firmly pressed together). Replace any pineapple stuck to bottom of skillet. Sprinkle rum over cake and cool on plate on a rack.

Serve cake just warm or at room temperature.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Wild Rice Almond Cherry Pilaf

I bought ExtraVeganZa a couple of months ago and so far have only made this one recipe. There are lots of interesting recipes in the book including some intriguing pie crust recipes - pumpkin seed rice flour crust, almond oat crust, barley coconut crust, buckwheat hazelnut crust, etc. Okay looking over these crust recipes reminds me that I must make crusts more often and must try out these healthier pie crusts. Anyway, the wild rice almond cherry pilaf was yummy. It could be a meal on its own though I usually ate it with something else as well. It makes a ton so either be ready to eat it for at least a few days or have people to share it with!

Now onto something a little (a lot) more unhealthy. MyRecipes has started their cookie countdown - go here to sign up for the newsletter. I've already found a few I want to make (mind you there aren't many cookies that I wouldn't want to make. So far - lemon coconut snowballs, chocolate chip cookie bars and death by caramel bars.)

Oh and some of you asked what our kitten's name is - her name is Abby. She was sick for a while but now seems to be doing better, and acting like a psychotic little kitten running around. She also chases her tail! Which I've only ever seen dogs do. Mind you she has a very enticing puffy tail.

Other healthy meals:
Lemon Miso Tofu and Eggplant
Artichoke Rotini Pasta
Walnut and Mushroom Nut Loaf
Sweet Potato and Black Bean Chili

Wild Rice Almond Cherry Pilaf
Adapted from ExtraVeganZa

My adaptations were to use less oil, more onion and more garlic.

1 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 ribs of celery, thinly sliced
6 cloves garlic, diced
1 cup brown basmati rice
1 cup wild rice
1 tbsp sea salt
2 tsp dried savory
1/2 cup dry sherry
1 cup dried cherries, finely chopped
4 cups water
3/4 cups almonds, toasted and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 tbsp tamari

Toast the almonds in a small frying pan for 5-10 minutes on medium heat, until they begin to lightly brown. Remove from heat and allow the nuts to cool. When cool, chop into coarse chunks and set aside.

In a large cooking pot, saute the onion, celery and garlic in the olive oil on medium heat. When the onions become translucent, stir in the basmati and wild rice. Add the salt, savory and sherry and allow the rice to simmer in the sherry for 5-10 minutes. Stir in the cherries and water and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to low and allow the rice to simmer for about 45 minutes.

Check to make sure that all of the water is evaporated. You may need to cook the rice a few minutes longer to ensure that it is thoroughly done. When all of the water has evaporated, remove from heat and allow the rice to cool for 5-10 minutes. Stir in the toasted almonds, parsley and tamari. Transfer the rice to a serving dish and enjoy.