Monday, February 25, 2013

Secret Recipe Club: Judy's Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

For Secret Recipe Club this month, I was assigned the blog My Judy the Foodie, which is where Shari shares her adventures in cooking her mother Judy's recipes.  Shari describes herself as a former "clueless cook" who had couldn't even boil water, but all that changed when she came across her mother Judy's treasure trove of recipes.  Now, Shari shares these recipes with us, along with sweet stories about her mom. 

I knew that I wanted to make one of Judy's recipes for SRC and I happened to have 3 extra ripe bananas, ready to be turned into something delicious.  When I scanned the recipe index, my eyes lit up at the sight of "Judy's Chocolate Chip Banana Bread."  In my opinion the best banana bread recipes are always the ones shared by friends and family, passed through the generations.  So I was sure that this banana bread would be amazing.  After reading the accompanying post, where Shari describes how this particular banana bread recipe was a staple and much requested treat in her mother's home, I couldn't wait to get baking.  Put simply, this banana bread rocks!  It is moist and the perfect density.  If you follow the directions, your chocolate chips will be perfectly spread throughout the bread.  In fact, I might have to start a "ripening corner" in my own kitchen, so that I can always have this banana bread on hand.  And I highly recommend that you go bake your own immediately!  Thank you, Shari and Judy!

Judy's Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

From My Judy the Foodie
Makes 2 loaves

1/2 cup unsalted butter (room temperature)
1 2/3 cup sugar
2 eggs slightly beaten
1  1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1  1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 pint sour cream (I used low fat sour cream - 1 pint = 2 cups)
3 mashed bananas
2 cups flour (less 1 Tablespoon flour)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups chocolate chips

Cream butter and sugar.  Add eggs and salt and mix well.

Dissolve baking powder and baking soda in sour cream (sour cream will begin to foam, then add to above mixture).
Slowly add banana pulp.

Slowly add flour.

Add vanilla.

Place chocolate chips in ziploc bag with remaining 1tablespoon of flour to cover chips so they won’t sink to the bottom of the loaf when they bake. Then add to mixture.

Grease two (2) loaf pans with butter and pour batter into both pans.

Bake at 350 for 90 minutes. Check after an hour with toothpick or skewer as some ovens bake in 1 hour. Mine was done in about 65 minutes.

Release from pan once cool.

Let cool on wire rack.

Sprinkle confectioner’s sugar on top.

This bread freezes well and tastes just as good, if not better, when it’s still a bit very cold in the center!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Pretzel Bites

Pretzel Bite Recipe

I made these amazing pretzel bites for the Super Bowl and I seriously could not get enough of them.  Which is why I had to stop eating before the end of the first half of the game.  These little pretzels are soft and doughy on the inside and crisp on the outside, the perfect sports watching snack.

Be very gentle when you put the pretzel bites in the boiling water.  My first two batches went well, but then I just dropped the third batch in the water and the water erupted out of my pot and all over my stove, leaking into my preheated oven and all over the cabinet next to the stove.  It was a gigantic mess and a pain to clean up, since I was right in the middle of making the pretzels. You might want to use a really big pot as well.  Even after my disastrous experience making these pretzel bites, they still turned out great. I will be making them again for sure!

Pretzel Bites

From Annie's Eats

1½ cups warm water (110-115° F)
2 tsp. sugar
2 tsp. kosher salt
2¼ tsp. instant yeast
22 oz. all-purpose flour (about 4½ cups)
4 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
Vegetable oil, for greasing the bowl
To finish:
10 cups water
2/3 cup baking soda
1 egg yolk beaten with 1 tbsp. water
Pretzel (or kosher) salt

To make the basic pretzel dough, combine the water, sugar, salt and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Mix on low speed to dissolve the yeast.  Add in the flour and melted butter and mix just until the dough comes together.  Switch to the dough hook and knead on medium speed until the dough is smooth and clears the sides of the bowl, about 5 minutes.  If you don't have a stand mixer, just turn the dough out onto floured surface and knead it by hand for five minutes, until the dough is smooth.  Transfer the dough to a bowl lightly greased with vegetable oil, turning once to coat.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place, about 50-55 minutes or until doubled in bulk.

Preheat the oven to 450° F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and spray lightly with cooking spray.  Bring the water and baking soda to a boil in a large saucepan or stockpot.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and gently deflate it.  Divide it up into approximately 6 equal portions.  Working with one piece at a time, roll the dough out into a long rope about 1-inch in diameter.  Use a pizza cutter to cut the row into small segments, no longer than 1-inch each.  Repeat with the remaining dough.

VERY GENTLY Place the pretzel bites into the boiling water in batches so that they aren’t overcrowded.  Boil each batch for about 30 seconds, stirring once or twice to submerge all surfaces in the water.  Remove from the water with a slotted skimmer and spread out on the prepared baking sheets.  Seriously, be careful when you put the pretzels in the water. I had a water volcano eruption all over my kitchen.  Brutal!

Once all the pretzels have been boiled, brush the tops with the egg wash and sprinkle lightly with salt.  Bake in the preheated oven until dark golden brown, about 9-11 minutes.  Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving.  Serve with mustard.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Beauty Essentials

Beauty Essentials

Okay, so this isn't a post about food.  I wanted to share something a little bit different with you all an we'll get back to food shortly, I promise!  But for now, here are a few of the beauty products that I can't live without.  Do you have any tried and true products?  Please share!


Nars Blush in Orgasm:  This is the most perfect blush.  It gives your cheeks the perfect peachy-pink flush, with a bit of shimmer.  After hearing about it for years, I finally took the plunge toward the end of last summer, and I won't go back. 

Stila Eye shadow in Kitten:  I wear this everyday. It is shimmery and brightens my eyes.  I have deep set eyes, so I need to highlight them and this eyeshadow is perfect for that. I dress it up with a little bit of eyeliner for nighttime. I also really like Bobbi Brown's eye shadow palettes.

Benefit "They're Real!" Mascara:  I received a sample of this mascara and I was blown away by it.  It is truly a "va-va-voom" mascara, almost giving my eyelashes the appearance of being fake.  It is definitely the best mascara that I've tried, and I have tried everything from drugstore brands to Chanel.  I wear this for night and wear Cover Girl Lashblast in Brown during the day.

Maybelline Baby Lips:  I am a lip balm / lip gloss / lipstick junkie.  Seriously.  Lip stuff and nail polish are my two weaknesses, and I often don't leave the drugstore without a new lip product or nail polish.  Anyways, Maybelline Baby Lips is my favorite everyday lip balm/gloss.  It is really hydrating and also shiny, so in my mind it does double duty.  I usually go for Quenched, but I also have the Cherry Me color, which leaves my lips with a nice pinky-red color.  And it has SPF 20!  So important!


I've had problems with my skin for ages.  Breakouts, blackheads, redness, etc.  I've tried the dermatologist prescribed products route and I've tried the be gentle and don't do anything to it route and everything in between.  I've finally found some products that are working for me.

Murad Time Release Acne Cleanser:  Okay, so feel free to make fun of me.  I found out about this cleanser while reading an interview the Possessionista did with Emily Maynard.  Emily mentioned the problems that she experienced with her skin and they sounded so much like my experience, so I went out and bought this cleanser. So far, I really like it, but again it is tough to find in Canada. 

Derma E Tea Tree and Vitamin E Oil:  (not pictured) This is a miracle worker.  I've had problems with my skin forever, and I've finally found something that seems to work.  About a month ago, I bought this oil and immediately noticed a difference.  My skin was smoother, the redness was significantly reduced, and my breakouts less frequent.  Tea Tree oil is anti-bacterial and anti-fungal so it helps keep everything clear.  Vitamin E soothes the skin and heals scarring.  Plus the oil is moisturizing, so often I don't have to use face lotion.  I started using Derma E's Vitamin E cream too and I really like that as well for when my skin is really dry though (which is the case now given the winter wind that whips my skin on my walk to work.. whoa alliteration). I've seen Derma E products at Rexall in Canada, though I bought this at Terra 20


Moroccanoil Restorative Hair Mask:  I read a post by the Pioneer Woman about this hair mask and Ree definitely sold me.  I went out and bought it in December, because I knew I had 3 weeks to go until my hair appointment scheduled for while I was home for Christmas.  At that point, I desperately needed a cut (and color) and my hair was looking rough, to say the least.  After using this mask only twice, I went to a Christmas party and was asked my someone if I had just had a haircut.  It was that good.  It smoothed out my split ends and made my hair silky and shiny.  I still use it about once a week to repair the damage caused by blow drying and curling my hair. (Also at $50 it may seem a bit steep, but I still have half a tub left after using over 10 times.)

Suave Keratin Infusion Dry Shampoo:  This is by far my favorite dry shampoo.  I've tried maybe 4 other brands, including much more expensive brands, and this one works the best for me.  It smells good and does what it is supposed to -- give my hair tons of body.  Plus it is only $3.49 a bottle!  Unfortunately, I can't find it here in Ottawa, so I have to stock up when I hit Target down in the U.S.

None of these companies know me or asked me to do this, I just like these things and wanted to share them with you!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Brown Butter Carrot Muffins

Brown Butter Carrot Muffins recipe

My cousin got me this amazing cookbook for Christmas - The Dahlia Bakery Cookbook.  It was even signed by the chef/owner.  He told me to "write good words." Well, I'm almost tempted to let the recipe for these Brown Butter Carrot Muffins speak for itself.  I love the smell of butter browning.  The browned butter gives these muffins a wonderful complexity.  These muffins are fluffy and crumbly, perfectly spiced and sweetened.  Eat them when they are still warm from the oven, and you may think that you've died and gone to heaven.

Brown Butter Carrot Muffins

The Dahlia Bakery Cookbook by Tom Douglas

1 cup unsalted butter
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon fresh minced ginger
4 large eggs at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1-1/2 teaspoon grated orange zest
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup (about 2 medium) peeled and grated carrots
Raw, granulated, or crystal sugar as needed for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 375F.  Line the muffin pan with paper liners and set aside.

To make the brown butters, place the butter in a small saucepan over medium-high heat and cook until the butter solids are browned and smell toasty, stirring constantly, about 3 minutes or a little longer.  Watch carefully so the butter does not burn.  As the butter browns, the foam rises to the top and dark brown particles stick to the bottom of the pan.  As soon as the butter is dark golden brown, pour it into a small bowl and set aside to cool to room temperature.

Into a bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, and cinnamon together twice, then set the dry ingredients aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer or using a hand mixer, combine the eggs, sugar, orange zest, ginger, vanilla, and salt.  Using the whisk attachment, whip on medium-high speed until thick and pale, about 3 minutes.  The egg mixture should begin to "ribbon" but not hold the ribbon.

Place the carrots on top of the mixture, then pour the dry ingredients on top, and using a rubber spatula, gently fold everything together.  Finally, fold in the browned butter, combining everything thoroughly but gently.

Scoop the muffins into the paper-lined muffin cups, dividing it evenly,  using about 3 ounces or about 1/3 cup, of batter per muffin.

Lightly sprinkle about 1/4 teaspoon raw sugar and a pinch of kosher salt on top of each muffin.  Bake until the muffins are cooked through and golden, about 18 minutes, rotating the pan once halfway through the baking time.  Allow the muffins to cool for 10 minutes on a wire rack before eating.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Sugar Cookie Bars

Sugar Cookie Bars Recipe

Happy Valentine's Day!  I love this holiday, even if it is a fake holiday, possibly created by greeting card companies. I mostly like it because it's official colors are pink and red.  And because there are flowers and chocolate.  I like it even when I don't have a Valentine, because it serves as a good excuse to "treat yo'self."  I decided to treat myself to some sugary goodness (I shared with my coworkers too of course).  These sugar cookie bars are all the deliciousness of a sugar cookie with a fraction of the effort.  They are so easy to whip together and they look so pretty.  Your valentine, or maybe just you, will love them!

Hope you all have a wonderful day, full of love and appreciation of your friends and family! xoxo Kelsey

Sugar Cookie Bars

From The Baker Chick

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 egg white
1 1/2 Tablespoon sour cream
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Vanilla Frosting
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
2-3 Tbsp half and half
1 tsp vanilla
Pinch of salt
Several drop food coloring (optional)
Sprinkles (optional)

Preheat oven to 375°F. Butter a quarter sheet pan OR a 13" x 9" baking dish, set aside.

In a mixing bowl combine flour, baking powder and salt, set aside.

Using an electric mixer, whip together butter and sugar until pale and fluffy about 2-3 minutes. Mix in egg and egg white. Add sour cream and vanilla and mix until blended. (mixture may be a little lumpy at this point.)

With the mixer running on low, slowly add dry mixture and stir until just combined. Scoop dough into prepared pan, and use an off-set spatula to gently spread it to the edges. (Use your hands to gently press if needed.  Mine was a bit crumbly, so needed a little extra pressing.)

Bake 15-18 minutes or until the middle is slightly firm and the edges are lightly golden.

Cool completely, then frost and cut into squares.

Vanilla Frosting:
In a mixing bowl, with an electric mixer, whip together butter and powdered sugar until thick. (Mixture will seem dry.) Add half and half a little at a time until fluffy. Mix in vanilla and salt. Add in optional food coloring and mix until well blended.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya

Tomorrow is Mardi Gras!  Otherwise known as Fat Tuesday.  In honor of the place that celebrates Mardi Gras the best - New Orleans - I thought I would make you some Creole.  My mom and sister went to New Orleans in December and had a fabulous time.  (I was a bit jealous, because I still haven't been there.)  While they were there, they took in some Jazz, visited a few plantations, and ate some beignets.  They picked up a cute little recipe book, called "Tid Bits of Creole," for me at one of the plantations.  It has traditional recipes for gumbo, jambalaya, bread pudding, okra, and more.

Jambalaya is definitely Southern comfort food, a hearty "stick to your ribs" meal.  You cook everything in one pot, so all the flavors mingle together and the vegetables practically disintegrate into the rice. It can be a bit spicy and the fragrance that fills your house as it cooks is amazing.  This recipe will feed a crowd, so make sure you bring your appetite!

Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya

Adapted from Jamie Oliver and "Tid Bits of Creole"
Feeds 8 to 10 people

5 chicken thighs
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
Cayenne or spices of your choosing
400 grams Andouille sausage, sliced in 1/2 inch slices
1 green pepper, diced
1 red pepper, diced
1 onion, diced
4 stalks celery, diced
6 bay leaves
3 sprigs fresh thyme
2 red chiles
6 cloves garlic
14 ounce can diced tomatoes
1-1/2 quarts low-sodium chicken broth
3-1/2 cups long-grain brown rice

Heat a Dutch oven over medium-high heat with a few glugs of olive oil.  Season the chicken with salt and pepper and put it, skin-side down, in the Dutch oven.  Add the sausage and cook for about 5 minutes, then flip the chicken.  Add the onion, bell peppers, and celery along with the bay leaves and thyme.  Stir well, then cook for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring every now and again.

Once the vegetables have softened, add the garlic and chiles, stir for a minute, then add the tomatoes and chicken broth.

Bring everything to a boil then turn the heat down and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes, with the lid on.  At this point, remove the chicken bones.  Add the rice, stir well and cook for an additional 20 to 25 minutes.  Stir often to scrape the browned bits from the bottom and keep the bottom from burning (I totally failed at this).  Taste test to ensure the rice is cooked.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Spinach Stuffed Flank Steak

Spinach Stuffed Flank Steak recipe
What type of things do you normally keep in the freezer?  My freezer is usually pretty empty, but I do generally have some frozen fruit for smoothies and meat.  I usually buy chicken and flank steak at Costco, then freeze individual portions.  Of course this requires me to think ahead and thaw the meat ahead of dinner, and sometimes I fail at thinking ahead.  BUT sometimes I successfully plan ahead enough to even marinate the meat once it has thawed. This recipe is one of those successes (read: this recipe is delicious, but you need to plan a bit in advance).

It is well worth thinking ahead for this flank steak, because this marinade was described as "a keeper" and I couldn't agree more!  It infuses the meat with so much flavor and acts as a bit of a tenderizer as well. You could go ahead and just grill the flank steak after marinating it, or you can go the extra step and stuff it with spinach and garlicky bread crumbs.  From my perspective, either option works, but stuffed flank steak is one of my favorite things, so I went the extra step.  I love stuffed flank steak because there are so many fun filling options.  I like to do roasted or sundried tomatoes and goat cheese with spinach, or you could do mushrooms, asparagus or roasted red peppers.  The options are endless!

Spinach Stuffed Flank Steak

From Clean & Delicious and Clean Eating

1 flank steak (1 lb), trimmed of visible fat


2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tbsp dijon mustard
2 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 tbsp fresh chopped thyme (or 1 tsp dried)
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper plus more for sprinkling
1/4 cup extra virgin olive  oil
Kosher salt to taste

For the filling

1/4 cup whole-wheat panko
1 tbsp pine nuts, toasted
2 tsp red wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
1/4 tsp dried red pepper flakes
3 oz spinach leaves (about 6 cups)

Trim off any visible fat from the flank steak, then place the steak in a one-gallon Ziploc bag.

In a small bowl, whisk together the mustard, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, thyme, and the pepper.  Whisk in the olive oil and then pour the marinade into the bag with the steak and then seal the bag pressing out as much air as possible.  Use your fingers to massage the marinade into the steak.  Lay the bag flat in the fridge and marinate anywhere from 2 to 24 hours, turing and massaging periodically.

Preheat oven to 400°F. Arrange a rack in a baking pan and coat with cooking spray.

In a small bowl, combine panko, nuts, vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper flakes. Set aside.

Place steak on a work surface. Holding a sharp knife (ideally a carving knife with a thinner blade than a chef’s knife) parallel to the work surface and positioned along 1 of the longer sides, cut steak almost in half horizontally, so it opens like a book. Spread steak open with “spine of book” parallel to you. (I failed at doing this, and instead cross-hatched the steak on both sides, being sure not to cut too deeply).

Sprinkle panko mixture evenly over steak, leaving a 1-inch border along the farthest edge. Arrange spinach on top of panko mixture. Beginning with the closest edge, roll steak up, gently pressing down on spinach.

Rotate steak roll so it’s vertical to you and tie crosswise at 1-inch intervals with kitchen string. Place steak on rack in prepared baking pan and bake until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of steak registers 150°F for medium doneness, about 35 minutes, or 130°F for medium rare, about 30 minutes. Transfer steak roll to a cutting board, loosely cover with foil and let rest for 10 minutes (internal temperature will continue to rise to about 160°F for medium and 140°F for medium rare).

Remove foil and string and carefully cut steak crosswise into 1/2-inch slices. Serve drizzled with any juices accumulated on cutting board.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Blood Orange and Fennel Salad

Blood Orange and Fennel Salad with Avocado

I might be addicted to blood oranges!  Specifically the combination of blood oranges and avocado.  This time these lovelies come together in a beautiful, elegant salad.  The salad pairs sweet blood oranges with creamy avocado and crunchy fennel.  The tangy Dijon-shallot vinaigrette brings everything together.  It is full of color and sunny flavors, and will certainly brighten these dreary, cold winter days.  I imagined myself transported to California while I ate this salad, allowing my imagination and my taste buds to travel from cold Ottawa to a nice, mild beach.  I'd even be happy if I had to wear a sweatshirt.  Anything other than the giant parka and snow boots, that I've been living in since November!

Blood Orange, Fennel, and Avocado Salad recipe

Blood Orange and Fennel Salad

2 blood oranges
1 Naval orange
1 medium fennel bulb
1 avocado, diced
3 tablespoons toasted Hazelnuts, chopped

2 tablespoons olive oil
1-1/2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon honey
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 shallot, minced
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Whisk together the dressing ingredients. (If you need to toast the hazelnuts, preheat the oven to 400F. Spread the hazelnuts on a rimmed baking sheet and toast for 5 minutes.  Chop.)

Slice the tops and fronds off of the fennel bulb. Slice the bottom off the bulb, peel the outer layer off and discard. Slice the bulb in half, then cut very thin slices crosswise using a sharp knife.  Toss the fennel in a medium bowl with half the dressing.

Using a serrated knife, slice the peel off the oranges removing as much white pith as possible. Place a mesh strainer over a small bowl; segment the oranges and let them fall into the strainer.  Allow the juice to drain.

On plates, arrange oranges, top with fennel and avocado.  Drizzle with the remaining vinaigrette.  Garnish with hazelnuts and fennel fronds.

Blood Orange, Fennel, and Avocado Salad recipe

Friday, February 1, 2013

Mushroom and Kale Stuffed Peppers

Mushroom and Kale Stuffed Peppers Recipe

Remember the slow cooked kale from last week?  Well, it is delicious on its own, but it is also really good stuffed into peppers, with ground turkey, mushrooms, and sundried tomatoes.  I ate half of this mixture before it even made it into the peppers.  Stuffed peppers make a comforting meal and work quite well as leftovers in my opinion. I cut these peppers in half and brought them in for lunch, and was really satisified.

This could count as one of your low-carb meals for Chris Powell's carb cycling diet. I can look into the nutritional information and post it later, for those interested.

Mushroom and Kale Stuffed Peppers

Head of lacinato kale - slow cooked (olive oil, shallots, red pepper flakes, garlic)
1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/3 cup dry white wine
3/4 cup diced Cremini mushrooms
3/4 pound lean ground turkey
14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes
1/4 cup diced sundried tomatoes (not in oil)
Sea salt
Freshly ground pepper
Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Sauté the kale in olive oil for about 3 minutes.  Add the shallot, garlic, and red pepper flakes.  Turn the heat down to medium-low and cook for 20 minutes, stirring frequently. Watch the garlic to ensure that it doesn't burn.  Remove the kale and set it aside. Try not to eat it all. I'm serious.

In a separate pan, cook the ground turkey over medium high heat.  Season with salt and pepper and cook until there is no pink left.

In the pan used to cook the kale, add a tablespoon of olive oil and the mushrooms. Sauté until the mushrooms begin to brown, then pour 1/3 cup of wine into the pan.  Cook an additional five minutes, then add the turkey back into the pan, along with the sundried tomatoes.  Cook for a few minutes, before adding the diced tomatoes and kale.

Cut the tops off of 3 stuffed peppers. Remove the inside ribs and the seeds.  Fill the peppers with the meat, mushroom, and kale mixture. Bake for 10 minutes at 375°F.  Serve topped with some freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

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