Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Pineapple Carrot Banana Cake

If you've been following along, you know I have quite a few banana bread recipes on my blog.  I LOVE banana bread and am also a huge fan of carrot cake.  This is an amazing combination of the two!  Add in some pineapple and pecans and you get this sort of tropical version of banana bread!  

Similar to carrot cake, this cake gets topped with a cream cheese icing - you'll have enough leftover that you can ice the entire cake (rather than just drizzling) or use the extra to slather on the individual slices you're serving.  Because you'll want more.  It's so good!!   

This cake can be a dessert or if you're like me, who eats cake for breakfast all the time, you can eat it with your morning cup of coffee!  Would be great at a brunch too, because it's so pretty. 

Super moist, and so flavorful.  Greek yogurt, mashed bananas and crushed pineapple (along with a little of the pineapple juice from the can) make this cake so scrumptious.  The original recipe called for pineapple flavored greek yogurt, but I had plain on hand so that's what I used.  There is so much flavor from the other ingredients that I didn't miss the extra pineapple taste.

I also forgot to mention raisins!  I love raisins in anything.  There is so much texture in this bread - the chewy raisins, crunchy carrot bits, pecans.  It's so hearty!  You'll love it.  You can also make this in 2 loaf pans, just adjust your time accordingly (you'll need to add extra time - maybe about 15 minutes, but don't quote me on that!).

Pineapple Carrot Banana Cake

Serves 12-14

1/4 cup butter, melted
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 light brown sugar, packed
2 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
6 ounces plain Greek yogurt
3 ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 cup grated carrots
1/3 cup crushed pineapple, plus juice
1/3 cup raisins
1/4 cup chopped pecans
2 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

For the cream cheese icing
1/4 cup butter, room temperature
4 tablespoons cream cheese, room temperature
1 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon of milk

Preheat oven to 325 degrees, grease and flour bundt pan.  

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the butter, sugars, eggs, vanilla and stir.  Add yogurt, bananas, carrots, pineapple, raisins and pecans.  Mix slowly until everything is incorporated.  

Add the flour, baking soda and salt and mix until just combined.  Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 50-60 minutes or until top is golden and a wooden skewer inserted into the center comes out clean.  Start checking around 40 minutes - if the top is getting too dark, cover with foil until middle is done.

Allow bread to cool for 15 minutes before inverting it onto a wire rack to cool completely.  Meanwhile, make the icing. 

In a medium bowl, combine the butter, cream cheese, confectioner's sugar and vanilla extract.  Use an electric hand mixer to mix everything together.  Add the tablespoon of milk (and possibly more) to make the icing more spreadable and to the consistency you desire. 

(Source:  Adapted from Averie Cooks)

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Friday, April 25, 2014

Oreo Banana Cream Pie

I make a banana cream pie or some version of it every year for my husbands birthday.  One year, I made this Banana Pudding Poke Cake (one of the most popular recipes on my blog!).  This year, he wanted both a banana cream pie and my Double Layer "Dirt" Cake (you gotta check this one out too)...I think he just couldn't decide.  Me being the wonderful wife I am, agreed.  

Fast forward to baking day and I discover that most of the Oreos for the "dirt" cake were missing.  Ah-hem, husband...guess you didn't want that cake THAT bad.  Since I had some of the Oreos plus all of the ingredients for the banana cream pie, I decided to sort of combine the two.  Wow, SO glad some of the cookies went missing - this pie is amazing!  

Pudding in pies or cakes is my favorite.  Add a bit of crunch from the cream filled sandwich cookies and what you have is pure bliss.  So delicious!  And I love the fact that it's no-bake.  Easy!  

I started with a chocolate graham cracker crust (and made it easy on myself by using a ready to use one).  That gets layered with bananas, pudding, cookies, more bananas, more pudding, Cool Whip, then more cookies.  I'll say it again - ah-mazing!!  

Serves 8

Oreo Banana Cream Pie

1 ready-to-use chocolate graham cracker pie crust
2 ripe bananas, sliced, divided in half
2 (4 serving) packages banana pudding flavor instant pudding
2 1/2 cups cold skim milk
2 cups Cool Whip, thawed, divided in half
20 Oreos, crushed, divided in half

Place half of the bananas in the bottom of the pie crust.  Combine pudding mixes and mix in a large bowl.  Whisk for 2 minutes or until well blended.  Gently fold in 1 cup of the whipped topping.  Spoon half of the pudding mixture in the crust, over the bananas.  Top with remaining banana slices and sprinkle on 1/2 of the crushed Oreos.  Cover with remaining pudding mixture.  

Refrigerate 3 hours or until set.  Top with remaining Cool Whip, then sprinkle on remaining Oreos.  Serve cold and store leftovers covered in fridge.  

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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Rosemary Lemon Crock Pot Chicken

So it was just Easter weekend, my mother-in-law was visiting and my oven decided to go caput.  Can you even imagine?  I mean, a blogger with no oven?  I am going through serious withdrawal (it's still not fixed as of right now).  But that wasn't even the worst part.  How was I suppose to cook Easter dinner??

We thought about grilling something, anything, but our Easter dinner typically consists of turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, veggies (very similar to Thanksgiving because I don't eat ham).  Then, it hit Crock Pot!  And thank goodness for Pinterest because I had already pinned a couple of roast chicken Crock Pot recipes.  After glancing over them to check times and heat temperatures, I came up with this rosemary lemon chicken.  

Lemons, inside and out, plus a rosemary, garlic and zesty salt blend rub make this chicken absolutely incredible.  Not only does the chicken become so tender that it just falls apart, but there is enough juice leftover to make gravy.  The breast completely separated from the legs and wings as I was lifting it out of the Crock Pot, which was perfect because it was less carving we had to do.  I am hooked on roasting chicken in the Crock Pot!

 Serves 6

Rosemary Lemon Crock Pot Chicken

1 (4-5 pound) roasting chicken
3 lemons
2 tablespoons dried chopped rosemary
1 tablespoon salt-free zesty seasoning blend (like Mrs. Dash)
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil 

For the gravy
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup flour
chicken drippings from bottom of Crock Pot
1 cup reduced sodium chicken broth, or more as needed

In a small bowl, combine the rosemary, garlic, salt blend, then add olive oil to make a paste (start with 1 tablespoon and add more as needed).  Set aside.  Spray the inside of the Crock Pot with non-stick cooking spray and turn heat to high.  Cut a tiny bit off of the end of 2 lemons (so you have a flatter surface - you'll be setting the chicken on top of these so they need to be sturdy and not rolling around) and slice in half.  Set the 4 pieces on the bottom of the Crock Pot, with the insides of the lemons facing up.  

Remove the chicken giblets.  Rinse the chicken inside and out and pat dry.  Rub the rosemary garlic paste all of the chicken, including the inside.  Cut the remaining lemon into quarters and stuff inside chicken.  

Set the chicken on top of the lemon halves and cover with Crock Pot lid.  Cook on high for 3 1/2 - 4 hours or until the pop up timer pops up.  Remove chicken, set on cutting board and cover with foil for about 10 minutes.  Meanwhile, make the gravy.      

To make the gravy:  in a medium saucepan, heat butter over medium heat until melted.  Whisk in the flour and cook for about a minute to make a roux.  Place a mesh strainer over the saucepan and start ladling the chicken drippings from the bottom of the Crock Pot through the strainer.  Whisk occasionally to combine the flour mixture with the drippings.  It will start to thicken, then slowly add in the chicken broth, whisking the whole time.  Cook until thickened and bubbly, add more chicken broth to thin out if needed.  Check for seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste.

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Friday, April 18, 2014

Cilantro Lime Rice

Talk about a light, fresh side dish.  Fresh cilantro, lime zest and lime juice make this an amazing accompaniment to your summertime dinner - especially if you're grilling.   I served this with my Honey-Lime Chicken Skewers and it was the perfect addition!      

I used 5-minute rice so this dish was done in no time.  Keep this recipe to use in burritos or as a burrito bowl, a la Chipotle (how much do we LOVE Chipotle?).  You may want to add more lime juice after the rice has been cooked (and when you add the cilantro).  I know I wanted a stronger lime flavor, so I added the juice of a second lime, but do so according to your taste.  

Serves 3-4

Cilantro Lime Rice

3 cups reduced sodium chicken broth, or water
3 cups minute rice
zest of 1 lime
juice of 1-2 limes
3 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped 

In a medium saucepan, combine the 3 cups of chicken broth or water, lime zest and juice of 1 lime. Bring to a boil.  Add the minute rice, stir, remove from heat and cover for 5 minutes.  Fluff with fork, add the cilantro and the juice from the 2nd lime if desired .  Serve warm.  

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Peanut Butter Double Chocolate Chip Cookies

I'm so in love with this cookie!  A chocolate cookie with peanut butter chips AND chocolate chips.  I love that bite of extra chocolate you get from biting into one of the chocolate chips.

This is a crispier cookie, with a softer center - at least that's when they are best.  So don't over bake!  Pull them out when the edges look done, but they will still be gooey in the middle.  

The dough is pretty thick and the cookies don't spread out much.  So if you want a thinner, crispier cookie, flatten them with your fingers after you drop the dough onto the cookie sheet.  Since I don't like my cookies to be too poofy, this is what I did. 

See?  A nice flat, crispy, super buttery cookie!  So good.  They will stay softer in the middle for a couple of days as long as they are stored in a zip lock bag or airtight container.

Makes 3 Dozen

Peanut Butter Double Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 cups flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks butter, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup peanut butter chips
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt; set aside. 

Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugars together until light and fluffy.  Beat in the egg, then add the vanilla.  Add the flour mixture and beat until well blended.  Stir in the peanut butter and chocolate chips by hand.  

Using a cookie scoop, drop the dough onto a cookie sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes.  Allow to cool for about 2 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. 

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Monday, April 14, 2014

Caprese Sandwich with Balsamic Vinaigrette

Tomato, mozzarella and basil sandwiches are my absolute favorite.  Most of the time, I just eat them with a splash of balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper, which is fantastic, but this vinaigrette puts it right over the top.  

We will have this sandwich about a million times this summer.  The basil pictured is from my garden already and hopefully mid summer, we will have some pretty Roma tomatoes ready for picking!  If you love caprese salad, you'll love this sandwich.    

You don't have to use ciabatta rolls, but choose something hearty.  I love ciabatta because the vinaigrette really seeps down into all the nooks and crannies of the bread.  And be sure to choose a good, soft mozzarella cheese.  You'll probably have to look in the specialty cheese department of your grocery store.  Enjoy!  Once you try it, I'm sure it will become a weekly quick dinner in your house as well!
Serves 2

Caprese Sandwich with Balsamic Vinaigrette

2 ciabatta rolls
1 large Roma tomato, sliced
6 slices fresh mozzarella cheese
4 to 6 basil leaves

For the vinaigrette
1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning
pinch of sugar
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and pepper

In a small bowl, whisk the balsamic, mustard, Italian seasoning and sugar until combined.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Slowly whisk in the olive oil.  Brush the cut sides of each ciabatta roll, top and bottom, with the vinaigrette.  Layer tomatoes, mozzarella and basil leaves.  Drizzle the remaining vinaigrette (to taste) on top of the basil leaves.  Serve immediately.

(Source:  Adapted from the Food Network)

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Friday, April 11, 2014

Monster Cookies

Oh how I love a peanut butter, oats and chocolate combination.  These cookies are packed with all those lovely flavors (two kinds of chocolate!) and even raisins, which help these stay chewy even a day or two later.  Delicious!  

Let's run down the list again - peanut butter, oats, chocolate chips, m&m's and raisins - how can you go wrong?  The raisins can be omitted, but I love them in this recipe.  A contrast in texture from the chocolate chips and m&m's.

This batch makes a ton and they freeze great too.  We couldn't stop eating them as they were coming out of the oven, so I ended up freezing about 3 dozen of them.  It was the only way to ensure they wouldn't be gone in like a minute!     

 Buttery and colorful, chewy and a real sink-your-teeth into cookie.  One of my absolute favorites!

Makes 5 dozen

Monster Cookies

2 sticks of butter, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup peanut butter
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 1/2 cups quick cooking oats
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup m&m candies
1/2 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat butter, sugars and peanut butter until smooth.  Add eggs, 1 at a time.  Add vanilla.  Stir in oats, chocolate chips, candy and raisins.  Mix until everything is combined.

Using a small cookie scoop, drop dough onto a baking sheet.  Bake 10-12 minutes, being careful not to over bake.  Let cool for 2 minutes on cookie sheet, then transfer to wire rack.

Cookies can be frozen for up to 3 months in a freezer bag or airtight container.

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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Ricotta Cake

Ricotta cake is a dessert that takes me straight back to my childhood.  I remember having this at my Italian grandmother's house after having one of those huge dinners - you know, there was always a huge pan of lasagna or bowl of pasta and salad, which was then immediately followed by a roast turkey or pork.  Always SO much food! 

I found this in my recipe binder and it had been given to me by my grandmother's best friend - I know my family will remember Angie!  Her and my grandmother were a riot.  Both the shortest little old Italian ladies, so cute... 

Ricotta cake is a staple in Italy and I've read that it's available at all supermarkets and bakeries.  One day I'll have to find that out for myself!   It's a super moist, almost pudding like cake.

You wouldn't know it to look at it, but the ricotta mixture is actually poured on top of the cake batter before baking.  Then, it sinks straight to the bottom.  Dust with confectioner's sugar and/or serve with berries or a light citrus glaze.  It really is heavenly!  

Serves 18

Ricotta Cake

1 box yellow cake mix and ingredients needed for cake
2 lbs ricotta cheese
3/4 cups sugar
3 eggs
3 teaspoons vanilla
confectioner's sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare cake mix according to directions and pour into a 9 x 13-inch pan (not greased).

Mix ricotta, sugar, eggs and vanilla and spread over top of the cake batter.  Bake for 20 minutes more than the directions on the box of cake mix.  Check when there is about 10 minutes left and tent with foil if the top is turning too brown.  

Let cool before dusting with confectioner's sugar and serving. 

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Monday, April 7, 2014

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

I make banana bread so often that it's fun to change it up a bit and try mixing in different flavors.  I always add chocolate chips, sometimes pecans, but this time I tried peanut butter.  Delicious!  

Not only is there peanut butter mixed into the batter, I also swirled it into the top.  So as you are eating it, you'll get a couple of bites of an even stronger peanut butter flavor.  And what goes better with chocolate than peanut butter?  

You'll notice a mixture of milk and vinegar in this recipe.  That is actually a substitution for buttermilk and I'll tell you what, I never buy buttermilk for baking since I discovered this.  You just have to let the mixture sit for about 5 minutes before adding it to your batter so I usually do that first before I start to mix everything together.  

Makes 2 loaves

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

1 cup vegetable oil
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup peanut butter, plus about 6 teaspoons for top of batter
4 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2/3 cup milk + 1/2 teaspoon white vinegar added 
6 ripe bananas, mashed with a fork
1 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup peanut butter chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Using an electric mixer, combine the oil, sugar and 1/2 cup of peanut butter.  Combine flour, baking soda and baking powder and add to sugar mixture.  Add the milk/vinegar mixture and bananas and mix well.  Using a wooden spoon, stir in the chocolate and peanut butter chips.  

Pour into 2 well greased loaf pans (9 x 5-inch).  Drop remaining peanut butter by 1/2 teaspoons evenly over the top of the two batters (so 6 dollops per loaf).  Use a butter knife to swirl the peanut butter into the top of the batter.  Bake for 45-50 minutes. Start checking at 40 minutes and tent with foil if top is getting too brown.  Bread is done when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out mostly clean.  

Let cool for 5 minutes in the pans, then turn out on a wire wrack to finish cooling.  Store at room temperature for up to 3 days.  Bread can be kept in the freezer for up to 3 months (wrap in foil and place in freezer bag).

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Friday, April 4, 2014

Dutch Oven No-Knead Crusty Bread

I've been really enjoying trying out different types of bread making.  And I LOVE this recipe!  So easy that you'll want to make bread ALL the time.  Not to mention so unbelievably delicious (and beautiful, right?). 

You'll want to read through this entire post for extra little tips as far as handling and baking the dough.  I've included some step-by-step pics as well.  

I mean just gorgeous.  Look at that crusty top.  In the middle the dough is chewy and absolute perfection.  You'll notice little black dots in this finished loaf - they are poppy seeds.  I made an Everything loaf!   You can add whatever you like to this dough - cheese, herbs, nuts, etc.  I've added the amounts I used to make the Everything loaf at the bottom of the recipe. 

I used 2 different sizes of Dutch Ovens.  This orange one is a 3 quart and the loaf fit perfectly.  I also used a 7 quart and is was fine, but the bread spread out a little and wasn't so round.  Still delicious!   

All the ingredients get mixed by hand and what results is an incredibly sticky dough that requires no kneading.  At this point, you can add other ingredients to flavor the bread. 

It will look at bit smoother, but still rather messy once everything comes together.  Cover with plastic wrap and let sit for 12-18 hours.  I did mine close to bedtime, let it sit overnight and baked it the next morning. 

It will double in size and look like this.  If you're ready to bake, preheat your oven to 450 degrees.  Once it reaches 450, place your Dutch Oven in the oven with lid on.  Let heat for 30 minutes.     

Meanwhile, prepare a work surface heavily (and I mean heavily!) covered with flour.  Flour your hands and dump the dough onto the floured surface.  This makes 2 loaves so you'll need to cut it in half (keep flouring hands because it's still incredibly sticky).  Cover the loaves with plastic wrap and let sit until pot is heated.

Carefully remove the pot from the oven - remember it's crazy hot!  Pick up one of the dough balls and drop it into the pot.  You do NOT need to oil your Dutch oven or cast iron pot.  Doesn't matter if it's enamel coated or not, you shouldn't have any trouble with the dough sticking after it's finished baking.    

Pictured here are the 3 loaves I made - the 2 on the right are plain loaves and I followed the recipe below.  The one on the left is the Everything loaf and I actually halved the recipe just to make the one.  I obviously used a bit more flour on my hands for that one, but I love the way it looks.  So rustic!  

The back right one is the loaf that was in the 7 quart - notice it is more oval shaped because it's spread out a bit.  

Wouldn't these make the nicest gifts?  For a new neighbor or just to do something nice for someone.  The loaves are so gorgeous they may not believe you made it!  

Makes 2 loaves

Dutch Oven No-Knead Crusty Bread

6 cups all purpose flour
3 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon instant yeast
3 cups water

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, salt and yeast.  Add water and mix until everything comes together (it will be very sticky and wet).  Cover bowl with plastic wrap and set aside for 12-18 hours.  
When ready to bake, preheat oven to 450 degrees.  When it reaches 450 degrees, place a dutch oven or cast iron pot with lid in the oven for 30 minutes.  Meanwhile, pour dough onto a heavily floured surface and shape into a ball (you'll need floured hands as well!).  Cover with plastic wrap and let sit while pot is heating.  Carefully remove HOT pot from oven and drop in dough.  

Cover and return to oven for 30 minutes.  After 30 minutes, remove the lid and bake an additional 15 minutes.  Remove bread from oven and place on a wire rack to cool.

To make Everything bread:  add 2 teaspoons poppy seeds, 2 teaspoons dried chopped onion, 2 teaspoons sesame seeds.  

(Source:  Recipe from Simply So Good)

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