Marbled Chocolate Banana Bread

I had some brown bananas.

Strike that.

I had dark, dark, brownish-blackish, mushy, falling-apart bananas.

They needed to be used ASAP.

And we all know the best way to use those kinds of bananas is in a banana bread. But I’ve been there, done that lots of times.

Now, if you’ve ever looked through my recipe index, you’ve probably realized that I quite enjoy the chocolate banana combination. And I’d already made a banana chocolate chip bread, so I knew I needed to take this version to a new level. And a little experimentation with my four-year-old was the perfect way to do it.

The Recipe:

Marbled Chocolate Banana Bread

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a loaf pan.

Part 1, Banana Bread:

3/4 c flour

1/2 t baking soda

1/4 t salt

1/4 t ground cinnamon

2 medium bananas (heavily speckled or even black bananas are best)

1/4 c butter, melted and cooled

3/8 c packed light brown sugar

1 large egg

1/2 t vanilla extract

Whisk all dry ingredients down to the cinnamon in a small bowl. Whip/mash bananas until frothy. Add the remaining ingredients and mix until blended. Add dry ingredients in two batches, mixing thoroughly after each addition. Pour into loaf pan.

Part 2, Chocolate Pound Cake:

1/4 c butter, softened

1/2 c sugar

1 eggs

1/4 c vanilla yogurt

1/2 t vanilla

3 T cocoa powder

3/8 c milk

5/8 c flour

Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs, yogurt, and vanilla and mix well. Add cocoa powder and stir until incorporated. Add milk alternately with flour, mixing just until incorporated.

Pour batter over the top of the banana bread mixture. With a small spatula or spoon, gently scoop and fold the banana mixture over and through the chocolate one.

Bake in center rack for 60-70 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in middle comes out clean.

Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, remove, and let finish cooling on a rack.

The Results:

Hey, look… something turned out pretty:

IMG_4391

And it tasted pretty good, too!

It was moist throughout, and the two flavors (obviously) went well together.

I do have to say, though, the banana bread was the definite flavor winner – for me, it overpowered the chocolate a bit. If you are a chocoholic, you might want to up the chocolate-y-ness if you make this. I wanted more chocolate, personally, but the rest of the family loved it the way it was. So, it’s your choice.

The best part, my four-year-old was SO proud and thought that the marbling was very cool.

And his smile made the extra work worth it.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Cookies

I’ll give you one good guess on whether or not this recipe was chosen by me or the kids.

Yep, we’re back to kid-friendly cooking.  And really, I don’t mind.  It’s generally really fun and this time, both boys got involved.

(Which didn’t make it easier… but they were both so proud of the finished product.)

The lady hung out snacking in her chair while I divided the boys into dry vs. wet ingredients.  We only had one major whisk of flour across the counter and one too fast KitchenAid blast of ingredients.  

I call that a win.

The Recipe:

Peanut Butter and Jelly Cookies, adapted from Oscar’s Gooey, Chewy PBJ Cookies

3/4 c flour

1/2 t salt

1/2 t baking soda

1/4 t baking powder

1 c oats

1/4 c butter, softened

1/2 c creamy peanut butter

1/2 c sugar

1/2 c brown sugar

1 egg

1/4 c oil

1 t vanilla

1/2 c jam

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease baking sheets or line with parchment.

In medium bowl whisk all dry ingredients. 

In mixer, 

Pregnancy Craving #3: Tart Fruit {French Apple Cake}

I see cooking two ways; I see it both as a science and as an art.

Usually, I take the science (aka the recipe) and tweak it here and there to my own preferences (the art).  My only exception is when I use recipes from America’s Test Kitchen… mostly because they have scienced the heck out of the recipe, and I trust their results.

I saw this recipe in Hubs’ monthly magazine and was super excited to give it a try.

The Recipe:

French Apple Cake, from America’s Test Kitchen/Cooks Illustrated

(I didn’t adapt it at all, so I thought I’d save myself the time of retyping.  🙂 Just click on the recipe title to find it.)

The Results:

Since this recipe used Granny Smith’s, I was looking forward to a tart and tasty dessert.  And after spending quite a while peeling, coring, and cutting apples, I knew I deserved it.

Everything else was pretty easy – and I liked trying new techniques that had been proven to be effective.

The only thing I wished I had done better was actually read the article about the cake… instead of just drooling over the picture.  Because, well, this did not turn out exactly as I’d expected.

For some reason, I was picturing a ‘coffee cake’ like texture with bits of tart apple thrown in.  Instead, the bottom layer is quite custard-y, which is a texture that wasn’t really that satisfying.  And all the apple bits were inlaid in the custard…

The top layer was very delicious, though, and the slightly crunchy crust made me very happy.

So, I think if I was prepared for the custard/cake mix, I probably would’ve really enjoyed it.  The flavor of the apples really showed through.  As it was, though, I was a little disappointed.

IMG_1799

I didn’t even take a fun, styled picture of a slice.  Sorry!

I do have to say, it did get eaten, so it really wasn’t bad at all, I promise.

Though, I think I just might be switching back to chocolate cravings…

Pregnancy Craving #2: Banana with Peanut Butter {Peanut Butter Banana Bread}

Ahhh, the oven is fixed!

And I’m back in business.

This week’s recipe is brought to you by my craving for anything that combines the flavors of bananas and peanut butter.  (Best brought to my mouth by simply dipping a banana into, you guessed it, peanut butter – I have my own dedicated tub for just that purpose, by the way.)

Anyhow, when I saw this recipe, I knew I needed to make it.

The Recipe:

Peanut Butter Banana Bread, adapted from Joy the Baker

3 ripe bananas

1/3 c vanilla yogurt

1/3 c crunchy peanut butter

3 T butter, melted

2 large eggs

1 t vanilla

1/2 c granulated sugar

1/2 c brown sugar

1/2 c whole wheat flour

1 c all-purpose flour

3/4 t baking soda

1/2 t salt

1/2 t cinnamon

1/8 t ground allspice

Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F.  Grease and flour a 9×5-inch loaf pan.  Set aside.

In a mixer, beat bananas until light and creamy.  Add yogurt, peanut butter and melted butter. Blend in eggs, sugars, and vanilla.  Mix until no sugar lumps remain.

Add all dry ingredients, and fold together with a spatula until no more flour bits remain.

Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan and bake for 55 to 65 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pan for 20 minutes before running a butter knife along the edges of the pan and inverting the bread onto a wire rack to cool completely.

The Results:

Well, this is certainly great banana bread… but it’s not nearly as peanut buttery as I’d really hoped.  (Hubs didn’t even realize there was peanut butter in it.)

I could taste the peanut butter, myself, but it was a very subtle undertone instead of the salty burst of flavor I was looking for.  Not that this stopped me from eating it at all.  Somehow, I perservered. 😉

Anyways the texture is super moist with an almost barely crunchy crust, which delighted my senses.  And, honestly, you can never go wrong with a good banana bread regardless of what you’re craving.

IMG_1793

So, I still recommend trying this – but if you want the pb and banana combo, I think I’d double the amount of peanut butter.  Or just spread some on top.

Happy Hump Day!

Key Lime Bars

I know, I know, I know.

I’ve disappeared again.

Sorry.  We’ve been dealing with what I like to call, “The Kindergarten Krud.”  It’s been hanging around our house for weeks – including 7 days of fever and no school for my oldest.

Let’s just say it hasn’t been fun.

Anyhow, I needed something bright and happy to make/eat around here, and the moment I saw these Key Lime Bars, I knew they fit the bill.

The Recipe:

Key Lime Bars, from Foodness Gracious

Crust

2 sticks of unsalted butter, room temperature

3/4 c sugar

1/4 c brown sugar, packed

2 c all-purpose flour

pinch of salt

1/2 t fresh mint, chopped

Filling

4 eggs

1 1/2 c sugar

6 T flour

1/2 cup fresh key lime juice

2 t lime zest

1 drop of green food coloring

powdered sugar and fresh mint for topping

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9×13 inch baking pan and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer cream the butter and sugars until fluffy, 3-5 minutes. Stop the mixer and scrape the sides of the bowl. Add the flour, salt and mint.  Beat on low-speed until the mixture just comes together.

Dump the crust mixture into the prepared pan and use your finger tips to spread it out evenly all over the base of the pan.  Bake for 18-20 minutes, until slightly browned on top.

While the crust is baking, in a medium bowl whisk together eggs and sugar until light and pale, about 8 minutes.  Add the flour, lime juice, lime zest and green coloring. Whisk until completely blended.

Remove the baked base from the oven and immediately pour the filling mix over the hot crust.  Return to the oven and bake
for 20-25 minutes, until brown around the edges and set in the middle.

Cool completely in the pan. Cut into squares and dust with powdered sugar and more chopped mint.  To store lime bars, place in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days.

{Printable Recipe}

The Results:

I made this dish for a get-together for my youngest’s toddler group parents.  Not only was I excited to be back in kitchen baking, but I was excited to get out of the house.  Without kids.

(Seriously, I pretty much was stuck in our house for a week.  Stir-crazy can’t even describe how I was feeling.)

It wasn’t a hard recipe – though I have to admit that I got awfully tired of juicing key limes – I must’ve done at least 20.  Oh, and I’d suggest doing that part before you make the crust, because it takes a while.

I promise it’s well worth it.

These tart-sweet treats hit all the right taste buds, if you ask me.  The crust is buttery, chewy, with a little crunch – and the filling is puckery tart (in the best way possible).  With the sprinkle of sweet powdered sugar, it’s a lovely combination.

The other parents seemed to enjoy them, and Hubs said they were even great for breakfast.

And they certainly brightened up a pretty dreary couple of weeks around here.

Can’t ask for more than that.

Lemon Bundt Cake with Raspberry Filling

Sometimes, you just need to say, “Screw the diet.”

(Or maybe that’s just us.)

And if you are going to be bad… might as well be really, really, really bad.

(Yes, three ‘reallys’.)

I mean seriously, if I was going to cheat, I was going to do it right.  I would go the distance and fully commit to the dark side, in order to be completely and utterly satisfied with my bad choice.

And that’s where this cake came in.

The Recipe:

Lemon Bundt Cake with Raspberry Filling (adapted from America’s Test Kitchen)

Filling (from GroupRecipes.com)

2 – 12 oz packages of frozen raspberries (not packed in syrup)

1 1/3 c water

1 1/2-2 c sugar (to your taste)

2 T of lemon juice

5-6 T of cornstarch dissolved in 1/2 c of water

In a saucepan combine the raspberries, water, sugar, and lemon juice.  Bring to boil and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until the raspberries have broken down.  Remove the mixture from the heat and strain with a fine mesh sieve. Return the strained mixture to the heat.

Dissolve the cornstarch in 1/2 cup of water.  Whisk the slurry into the raspberry mixture.  Bring the mixture back to a boil and simmer for 5 more minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove from heat and cool completely, stirring every once in a while.

It will take awhile to set up. It will thicken like a jelly. May stir it for easier spreading on cake.

Cake

3 lemons, zest grated and saved, then juiced for 3 T juice (save the remaining for glaze)

3 c all-purpose flour

1 t baking powder

1/2 t baking soda

1 t salt

3/4 c lowfat buttermilk

3 large eggs, room temperature

1 large egg yolk, room temperature

18 T unsalted butter, room temperature

2 c sugar

Take out eggs and butter about an hour before baking, so they can come to room temperature.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray and flour 12 cup Bundt cake pan.

Mince lemon zest into a fine paste (about 2 T).  Combine zest and juice in a bowl; set aside to soften, about 10 to 15 minutes.

Whisk dry ingredients in a large bow.  In a medium bowl, combine lemon juice mixture, vanilla, and buttermilk.  In small bowl, gently which eggs and yolk to combine.  In standing mixer fitted with a flat beater, cream butter and sugar at medium high speed until pale and fluffy (about 3 minutes).  Reduce to medium speed and add 1/2 of eggs, mixing until incorporated.  Repeat with remaining eggs and scrape down sides.  Reduce to low speed; add about 1/3 of dry mixture and 1/2 of buttermilk mixture – mixing until just incorporated.  Repeat with another 1/3 of dry and the rest of the wet ingredients.  Scrape bowl and add the final 1/3 of the flour mixture.  Mix until thoroughly combined, about 15 seconds.  Remove bowl from mixer and stir a few times to make sure everything is incorporated well.

Spoon 1/3 to 1/2 of batter into Bundt pan.  Use a large spoon to scoop out a well in the middle of the batter.  Fill the well with the raspberry filling – it’s okay to overflow a little.  Add the remaining batter, thoroughly covering the filling.

Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and an inserted toothpick comes back clean except for filling.

Cool cake in pan on wire rack set over baking sheet for 10 minutes.  Invert cake directly onto rack.

Glaze

2-3 T lemon juice

1 T buttermilk

2 c powdered sugar

Whisk 2 T lemon juice and remaining ingredients until smooth, adding more lemon juice until glaze is thick but still pourable.

Pour half of glaze over warm cake and let cool for 1 hour.  Pour remaining glaze evenly over top and continue to cool until room temperature, at least 2 hours.

{Printable Recipe}

The Results:

So, this was a joint effort – Hubs and me, banding together for the wrongness that was to be.  He was in charge of the filling and glaze, and I took over the cake.

(Yes, I wanted to be in charge of the part that included 18 – yes 18, tablespoons of butter.  Oh, it was so wrong!)

Hubs made the filling several hours beforehand, to make sure it set up pretty firm – and he even chilled it in the fridge for a bit.  When we used it, it was about the consistency of thick jam.

This is only the beginning of the raspberry goodness. I went around one more time with more on top.

It was actually quite fun doing this with Hubs (for the most part).  It could’ve been because we were working well together… or it could’ve been because we were giddy with excitement, thinking of our upcoming treat.

And when it came out of the oven, looking all golden and delicious, smelling like a lemon dream; I’m pretty sure we were drooling.  It was very hard to wait the several hours for it to cool completely.

But when we finally got to eat… holy smokes was it good.

The lemon cake was very light and just full of lemon flavor.  And, as we all know, lemon and raspberry are always a fantastic combination, so the filling was a perfect complimentary taste.  It wasn’t too sweet, which I was worried about.  The tang of the lemon and tart of the raspberry balanced out all that sugar.

Between sharing with the neighbors and serving our boys, we actually kept our cake consumption fairly moderate.

But, boy oh boy, did we enjoy every bite.

(And went right back to our healthy eating plan – no damage done.)

It was so worth it.

Apple Cider Muffins

I was craving a warm, tasty apple muffin.

(Darn Pinterest and all the autumn treats floating around.)

But we didn’t have any apples – and I couldn’t get out of the house because of the napper.

We did have some apple cider and some applesauce, so I decided to see what I could do…

The Recipe:

Apple Cider Muffins, adapted from Lehighvalley.com

1 egg, room temperature

1/4 c applesauce

1 c whole wheat flour

2/3 c all-purpose flour

1 c apple cider

2/3 c sugar

1/2 c butter, room temperature

2 t baking powder

1 t cinnamon

dash of ground nutmeg

dash of ground cloves

1/2 t salt

Preheat oven to 350.  Grease or line 12 cupcake wells.  In large bowl, cream together butter and sugar.  Add egg and applesauce, beating well after each addition.  Whisk together flours, baking powder, spices, and salt.   Add 1/3 of the flour mixture to the butter/sugar mixture, then 1/2 of the cider, and repeat, ending with the last of the flour and mixing only until incorporated. Pour into prepared cupcake pan, filling each cup 3/4 way full. Bake 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cupcake comes out clean.

{Printable Recipe}

The Results:

Well, these certainly hit the spot.

And I think I did a pretty good job of taking a very sweet cupcake recipe and mellowing it out a bit into a muffin, with a couple healthier substitutions (though I did leave the sugar and butter alone).

I especially enjoyed the slightly dense texture that was full of the cider-y spice flavor.

I think if I were to make these again, I would add some apple chunks to give it that little extra ‘something’ to make them even better.  (And it would NOT use the cupcake liners – these babies stuck hard to the liners, so beware.)

Oh, and if you want another take on Apple Muffins, check out Smidge’s Saucy Apple Spice Muffins… hers look divine!  (And proof that great minds think alike.)

Strawberry Macaroon Shortcake

Hi, my friends!

(Can I just say it’s great to be back?… Though no one told me how hard it was going to be to pull up ‘add new post’ and start writing again.  I think I’ve started this post about five times, already.  But I gotta finish it sometime, right?)

It has been a wonderful month off – with vacation trips, school prep, getting my oldest off to kindergarten (big deal!), and just enjoying my kids to the fullest.

Through this time, I realized how much time I was spending on the computer – and how much my boys appreciate having that time for themselves instead.  So I’m coming back with a new attitude and focus… you may see fewer posts and less commenting, but know I’m still around, reading about your fantastic food and experimenting with my own.

I’ve also decided to stick to what I love to do… bake.  So they’ll be a lot fewer ‘meal’ posts and hopefully more baked goods.

So let’s get back on track with a tasty dessert.

The Recipe:

Strawberry Macaroon Shortcake, adapted from Kraft recipes

1-1/3 c flake coconut

1/2 c slivered almonds, chopped

1/3 c sugar

2 T flour

1/8 t salt

2 egg whites

1/2 t coconut extract

1 c whipped cream

2 c strawberries, sliced

Preheat oven to 325°F.  Mix coconut, almonds, sugar, flour and salt in large bowl.  Beat egg whites and coconut extract lightly with fork.  Add to coconut mixture; mix well.

Line cookie sheet with foil  Spread coconut mixture evenly onto foil, forming a flat 8 inch circle.

Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until lightly browned.  Cool.  Remove from foil.  Cut into 8 wedges.  Top evenly with the whipped cream and strawberries just before serving.

{Printable Recipe}

The Results:

I made this earlier in the summer to enjoy with our neighbors.  It was a perfect dessert to eat on the back porch while the sun set.

I especially enjoyed the strawberry coconut flavor combination.  And the shortcake tasted just like a regular macaroon; slightly crispy, toasted coconut on the outside – and soft and chewy in the middle.  Hubs contributed with a bourbon-infused whipped cream that was out-of-this-world.

And it was double-y good since it was one of the first ‘real’ desserts we’d had all summer.

(But more on that another time.)

All the bowls came back empty – always a good sign.

Hoping you’ve all had a wonderful month – and looking forward to catching up.

Banana Oatmeal Muffins

So, as I’ve mentioned the last couple of weeks, we’re trying to eat better.

And for me, that means lots of cooking experiments.

Sometimes they turn out good… sometimes, not so much.

Now, I’m posting this recipe to see if any of you out there might have a suggestion for making them better…

(Though probably actually following the recipe would’ve helped.)

The Recipe:

Banana Oatmeal Muffins, adapted from Keeping Up with the Joneses

2 & 1/2 c oats (old-fashioned kind, not quick cooking)

3/4 c plain low-fat greek yogurt

1/4 c applesauce

2 eggs

1/2 c sugar

1/4 c vanilla protein powder

1 1/2 t baking powder

1/2 t baking soda

1/4 t salt

2 bananas

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.   Spray muffin pan with non-stick cooking spray.

Place all of the ingredients, including banana,s in a blender or food processor, and blend until oats are smooth.

Divide batter among tin, and bake for 15-18 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.

{Printable Recipe}

The Results:

These weren’t terrible, but they were certainly lacking something.  I had reduced the sugar from 3/4 c to 1/2 c – replacing the last 1/4 c with the protein powder.  Additionally, I didn’t have a full cup of yogurt, so I added the 1/4 c applesauce.  Perhaps it was those substitutions that made them bland.

They also did not turn out looking too pretty.  They actually looked decent coming straight out of the oven, but they soon collapsed, leaving behind a heavy-looking, flat muffin.

If I’d taken a side view, you’d see how truly flat they are.

There’s a definite banana taste, but it’s just kind of dull.  And the texture is really spongy, which is kind of weird in my opinion.

Anyways, they had mixed reviews in the family.  One of my boys liked them, the other did not.  I thought they weren’t too bad, but Hubs was not impressed.

So, now for your help…

What would you do differently or add to make these better?  I’d love any ideas.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Fruity Yogurt Power Pops

Yeah, I’m cheating again.

This is not a real ‘cooking’ post.

But it’s just about all I’ve got in me now.

(Not in a bad way.  Just in a ‘it’s still gorgeously warm and sunny out, and I refuse to heat up my house with the oven, plus I’m too busy making sure the boys don’t drown or kill each other in the backyard’ way.)

When I saw this post at skinnytaste.com, I just knew I had to make my own version.

The Recipe:

Fruity Yogurt Power Pops, inspired by skinnytaste.com

(Makes about a dozen + pops.)

For the Blue:

1 c blueberries

1/2 c greek yogurt (plain or vanilla is fine)

1/3 scoop vanilla protein powder

1/4 c 100% juice (I used acai berry for color)

For the White:

1 banana

1 small can of crushed pineapple

1/2 c greek yogurt

1/3 scoop vanilla protein powder

1/4 c 100% juice (apple this time)

For the Pink:

1 c strawberries

1/2 c non-fat strawberry yogurt

1/3 scoop vanilla protein powder

1/4 c 100% juice (apple again)

Blend blue mix.  Fill popsicle molds 1/3 of the way up.  Freeze for half an hour.  Insert stick(s) and let freeze for another hour.

Blend white mix.  Add to molds, filling another 1/3 of the way up.  Freeze for an hour.

Blend pink mix.  Add to molds, filling to the top.  Freeze for another hour or until ready to serve.

{Printable Recipe}

The Results:

Let’s just say my boys are obsessed with our small smoothie blender, so even making this recipe was super fun for all.  Even though it’s several steps, the overall time spent working is minimal, and you get several pops out of it.

(We also happened to have some extra, which I just poured into ice-cube trays.  These will be perfect to pop out and add to any regular smoothie any morning.)

Once complete, we were all excited to give them a try… and we weren’t disappointed.  They have a fresh, tangy flavor that was very refreshing while hanging out in the backyard in the sun.  And I knew they were pretty darn healthy, which always makes me feel good.

As you can see, I had no actual popsicle sticks, so lollipop ones had to do.

Refreshing, tasty, and healthy – a perfect combination, if you ask me.

Wishing you all a great end to your weeks.