Category Archives: Recipes

In the Kitchen: Fluffy Banana Snack Cake

Banana Snack Cake

What’s a snack cake? According to Wikipedia, a “snack cake” is a cream filled, frosting topped, chemical laden baked dessert confectionery. Barf.

According to me, a snack cake is a cake that you snack on. Duh.

When my daughter came to me with a request to create something out of the pile of overripe bananas sitting on our kitchen table, my mouthful of sweet teeth rejoiced. I’ve been MEGACRAVING cake lately and a quick Google search led us to a tasty looking banana cake recipe on Allrecipes.com. Of course we all know that I can’t not tinker with an already perfect recipe, so I tweaked a few things and ended up with my newest obsession: fluffy banana snack cake.

If banana bread and cake got together and had a child, this would be it. It’s light and fluffy and perfectly bananafied. It has the flavor of banana bread without the dense, chewy texture. I ate it sans topping, but I’m sure you could slather on some cream cheese or chocolate frosting and it would make a totally passable dessert cake. I’m already dreaming of sweet little fluffy banana cupcake babies. Oh yum.

What’s your favorite way to use up overripe bananas? Share with us in the comments section below!

Yummy.

Fluffy Banana Snack Cake
(adapted from THIS recipe on Allrecipes.com)

1 cup whole wheat flour
1.5 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking soda
pinch of salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
2 eggs
4 ripe bananas, mashed
2/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour an 11″x15″ glass baking dish. In a cup mix together milk and vinegar, set aside.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together flours, baking soda and salt, and set aside.

3. In a large bowl, cream butter, white sugar and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Mix in the bananas. Add flour mixture alternately in one third increments with the milk mixture into the sugar mixture, combining thoroughly between additions. Pour batter into prepared baking dish.

4. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and place the baking dish on a damp tea towel over a wire cooling rack. Cool at least 15 minutes before removing from the baking dish.

Tips and Tricks:

* If you don’t like whole wheat flour, you can use all AP flour (the original recipe did not call for whole wheat flour). I’m sure you can also use all whole wheat flour, but I can’t promise that the texture will be as light.

* I kind of hate the term “pinch of”. My “pinch” of salt was a two-finger pinch, I’d estimate that it was probably around 1/8 teaspoon if you’re looking for a more accurate measurement.

* I cut the brown sugar down to 1/2 cup from the original recipe’s 2/3 cup and it was still sweet. If your sweet tooth isn’t as demanding as mine, you could probably whittle down the amount of white sugar also. I’d start with 3/4 cup instead of a full 1 cup, and experiment from there.

* I used 1% milk and vinegar in lieu of the original recipe’s buttermilk. You could do buttermilk if you have it, or sour cream, yogurt, or lemon juice (in place of the vinegar) and milk.

* Toss in a handful of chopped walnuts and a dash of cinnamon for a more banana bread-y experience. Or throw some chocolate chips into the mix if you’re feeling crazy (or, you know, if you’re allergic to nuts).

* If you want to frost your cake, try cream cheese, buttercream or chocolate frosting. A sprinkle of crushed nuts on top of the frosting will give it a little bit of that rustic pizzazz.

*If you don’t have an 11″x15″ baking dish, you can use two 8 inch pans (round or square), or a 9″x13″ pan/dish. If you use a 9″x13″, you should cook it a little longer (I’d guestimate 35-40ish minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean).

* Baked cakes generally freeze well. If you freeze it when it’s still warm, it should retain moisture better and you won’t end up with a dry cake upon defrosting.


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In the Kitchen: Buffalo Chicken Dip

Buffalo Chicken Dip: Mess haters rejoice!

I have a serious love/hate relationship with buffalo wings.

So freakin’ tasty it should be illegal? YES.
So messy it should be illegal? YES.

So here, you see, is my conundrum. There is no way to be able to indulge in the amazingness of wings and retain a single iota of my refined ladylike ways… Oh wait, me? Ladylike? Pbbbbbfffft HA! Who am I kidding, I can’t even say that with a straight face. For realsies, I’m just a weenie and hate to eat messy food.

I was wasting my evening researching ways to better my homemaking skillz on Pinterest one night when I came across a link for buffalo chicken dip. The manfood gods answered my prayers for a socially acceptable, lady-friendly way to enjoy one of the finer guilty pleasures in life. The original recipe was from Allrecipes.com, but of course I can’t just leave it alone so I tweaked it a little and ended up with one helluva good dip.

Make it. Eat it. Love it. Enjoy.

Here's your "before" shot. I would've taken an "after" shot, but I was too busy eating it all up.

Buffalo Chicken Dip
(adapted from THIS recipe on Allrecipes.com)

3 large boneless skinless chicken breasts (enough for 4 cups of shredded chicken)
2-8 ounce packages cream cheese, softened
1 cup blue cheese dressing
1 cup  Frank’s Red Hot® buffalo sauce (or other buffalo style hot sauce)
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

1. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add the chicken to the pot and boil over medium heat for 30 minutes, or until fully cooked. Remove the chicken from the water and let cool for 30 minutes, and shred with a fork. You should have about 4 cups of shredded chicken.

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. On the stovetop while the oven heats, add the shredded chicken and hot sauce to a skillet over medium heat. Stir to coat chicken and cook until heated through. Add the cream cheese and dressing and heat through, stirring frequently until the cream cheese is melted and fully incorporated into the chicken mixture. Add the cheddar cheese to the chicken mixture and stir to combine.

3. Transfer the mixture to a 2 quart baking dish coated with cooking spray. Bake 20 minutes, or until bubbly and hot.

4. Let stand for at least 15 minutes before serving. Serve warm with celery sticks, carrot sticks, tortilla chips, crusty bread and/or crackers. Or just take a spoon and eat it straight from the dish. I won’t judge, I promise.

Tips and Tricks:

* If you ended up with too much shredded chicken, you can store any extra shredded chicken in the fridge for 3-4 days or the freezer for up to 4 months. Use your leftover shredded chicken for tacos/enchiladas, wraps, salads or to make more buffalo chicken dip!

* You can add a few teaspoons of salt or chicken bouillon to the boiling water if you want to enhance the flavor of the chicken.

* If you’re waist-watching, use neufchatel or low fat cream cheese. Don’t be afraid to use low fat or fat free dressing. If you aren’t a huge fan of blue cheese, use ranch dressing instead (as called for in the original recipe). On a side note, my husband gags at the thought of blue cheese, but he gobbled up the dip like it was nobody’s business. Either he’s called a truce with his lifelong hatred of blue cheese or it was just that good (or, as he said, it doesn’t really taste “blue cheesy” enough to bother him).

* After baking, a little bit of reddish oil rose up to the top of the dip. I just took a napkin and blotted most of it up, and whatever I couldn’t get out I stirred back into the dip before serving. After a little reading, I discovered that the oil is from the shredded cheddar. I suppose if you want to avoid it looking oily you can leave the cheddar out without compromising the deliciousness of the dip. If anyone makes it sans-cheddar, let me know how it turns out!

* Looking for a meatless version of buffalo chicken dip? Michelle over at The Cooking Life has a seriously delicious looking lacto-vegetarian recipe for buffalo chickpea dip. Check it out and prepare to get your drool-face on!

*This dip can be stored in the fridge (and sampled liberally) for 4 to 5 days. I can’t attest to its shelf life beyond that, because it was gone before it had a chance to become inedible.

* My bad for not taking a “prepared” shot. If you want to know what it looks like prepared, you can Google Image search “buffalo chicken dip“. Or you can take my word for it when I say that it looks very gobble-worthy.

 

In the Kitchen: Self-Serving Snack Box Tutorial and Healthy Snack Ideas for Kids

1 fruit + 2 veggies + 1 "other" = snack box success!

This is a snapshot of a typical day at our house:

(While I’m doing a load of laundry) “Mommy, I’m hungry!”
(While I’m scrubbing the toilet) “Mommy, I’m hungry!”
(While I’m exercising) “Mommy, I’m hungry!”
(While I’m in the bathroom, shower, or otherwise momentarily indisposed) “Mommy I’m sooo hungry!”
(While I’m washing dishes… right after breakfast/lunch/dinner) “Mommy, I’m sooo hungry I’m going to starve and die if you don’t feed me unreasonably colossal amounts of food right noooooooooooow!”

It’s enough to drive a crazy person even crazier.

I’ve approached the situation from numerous angles. Here is what I’ve tried:

  • “No” = Fail
  • “No” + trying to reason with a 3 and 4 year old that they just ate and shouldn’t be hungry = Fail
  • “At least wait until I’m off the toilet/done paying bills/have washed the bleach off my hands” = Fail
  • Allowing my children liberal access to the fridge = Fail (you’d think this would work, but they just whined that they couldn’t find anything to eat and hounded me to find them a snack)

I was ready to throw in the towel and set up a permanent residence in my kitchen, since it was becoming apparent that I wasn’t allowed to leave it lest my kids become hungry and need another snack. But in a wonderful twist of fate, I came across a photo that someone posted on Facebook of a Tupperware full of snacks. The caption indicated that they fill the Tupperware each day with a variety of healthy snacks and leave it in an accessible place in the fridge for their child to graze on throughout the day. THIS! This was the answer to my conundrum. I wish I could find the original source and give credit where credit is due, but I can’t seem to hunt it down. So to the genius who passed along this life saving idea: Thank you, you are golden.

So how do you set up a snack box for your children? First, find a non-breakable container that will hold a few assorted snacks. I used plastic food storage containers from Ikea, but you could use Tupperware, a small shoe box, brown paper bags, lunch boxes or sacks, or even those plastic takeout containers.

Next, pick snacks. I take advantage of my children’s grazing habits to fulfill the fruit and vegetable guidelines, knowing that they’re more likely to nibble on a veggie if it’s at their leisure rather than when it’s a requirement on their dinner plate. I use a “1 fruit/2 veggies/1 other” formula to decide what goes into our snack boxes. Here’s a list of possible options for creating your own snack box:

Fruit:
1/2 banana
apple or pear slices
segmented orange
grapes
berries (blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, etc)
stonefruit (ie peach, plum, nectarine, etc)
2-3 prunes
applesauce
kiwi slices
dried fruit (apricots, apples, mangoes, banana chips, etc)

Vegetables:
baby carrots or carrot sticks
broccoli spears
cauliflower florets
frozen peas or green beans
kale chips
tomato slices or cherry tomatoes
celery with nut butter or cream cheese
cucumber slices

Other:
popcorn
graham crackers
1/2 muffin
goldfish or other small crackers
yogurt
granola or granola bar
veggie straws or pretzels
nuts and raisins or dried cranberries (trail mix)
roasted chickpeas
hard boiled egg
cheese cubes, slices or string cheese
rice cakes
sunflower or pumpkin seeds

*For children who are apprehensive about eating plain raw veggies, you can include something tasty for dipping:
hummus or other bean dip
guacamole
ranch dressing
cottage cheese
cream cheese or sour cream mixed with herbs
peanut butter dip
marinara sauce
salsa
yogurt
ketchup

The containers in the photo above are silicone baking cups that I picked up at Bed Bath and Beyond. They’re the perfect size for holding little people portions of food. No worries if you don’t have those, you can use little sandwich baggies or any other small food container you might have. I’ve also recently stumbled upon bento lunch boxes that would be perfect for snack boxes and eliminate the need for using individual snack containers.

You’ll want to find a spot in the fridge that is easily accessible for the kids so they can grab and go without hounding you as you’re honing your inner Grammy Award winning superstar shaving your legs in the shower. Or, you know, pooping.

Lastly, sit down with your children and tell them that if they’re hungry in between “designated feeding times” (yes I run my home like a zoo, mwuahahaha) they can help themselves to whatever is in their snack box without having to ask. Explain that they can eat that food whenever they want, but when it’s gone it’s gone. So if they eat it all by 10 in the morning they’re going to have to starve in silence until lunch, regularly scheduled snacktime and/or dinner, because they’ve been pre-warned of the consequences of overindulging. I guarantee you the first couple of times they might excitedly gobble up all those snacks faster than you can blink, and then come to you 5 minutes later with tears of hunger streaming down their cheeks, begging for more food. Don’t cave in to their wily demands. Slowly but surely they’ll learn the concept of self-regulating and only eating as much as they need to at a given moment.

Try incorporating healthy snack boxes into your daily routine if your little ones are perpetually hungry food hounds like mine. I promise you’ll start hearing less of the “H” word in no time.

On a side note, this whole snack box idea has gone over so well with the kids that I might start making one for myself. As a stay at home mom the fridge has become a regular haunt, as well as my own best friend/worst enemy. Having pre-portioned healthy snacks at my fingertips might just help keep my boredom/mindless snacking habits in check.

What healthy snacks would you fill your snack box with? Share with us in the comments section below!

In the Kitchen: Creamy Black Bean and Sweet Potato Burritos

Creamy Black Bean and Sweet Potato Burritos

Fact: I love anything that can be wrapped in a tortilla and eaten. If you scooped a pile of mud into a tortilla and handed it to me, I’d probably consider eating it (before coming to my senses and wondering why on earth you’d hand me a mud filled tortilla).

One of my favorite tortilla hugged dishes is the burrito. With two small children, I tend to resort to the basic (aka plain) burrito filled with yellow rice, black beans and shredded cheddar. Every once in awhile though I get gutsy and decide to gamble my luck at the dinner table with “new and exciting” (aka not plain) fillings. Tonight was one of those nights.

I came across a blog post a few months ago that mentioned sweet potatoes in burritos. I wish I’d bookmarked it because the sweet and savory flavor combination had me salivating on my computer keyboard. Alas, I did not and to this day I couldn’t tell you what the original recipe to inspire me was. A quick Google search though proved that it wasn’t a lone concept, apparently I’m the last person to put sweet potatoes in my burritos.

I found many recipes that, while all tasty sounding, just weren’t hitting the spot for me so I decided to improvise. Not a huge fan of salsa, which appeared in many of the recipes I found, so I left it out. I was in the mood for something creamy so I decided to toss in some cream cheese. My kids won’t touch chiles with a ten foot pole so I avoided those. What I ended up with was a super yummy budget-friendly meatless dish that is going into my recipe box for all eternity. Yes, I have a recipe box. It is my belief that everyone should have a recipe box. End of story.

*By the way, I just realized I haven’t posted a new recipe since December. What the hickity heck?!?

Creamy beans, rice and sweet potatoes: a match made in heaven.

Creamy Black Bean and Sweet Potato Burritos
Serves 4

  • 4 cups cubed sweet potato (1/2 inch cubes, approx. 2 large potatoes)
  • 1.5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped yellow onion
  • 1-15 ounce can black beans
  • 1.5 cups cooked brown rice
  • 6 ounces cream cheese, cubed
  • 3 tablespoons taco seasoning
  • 2-3 tablespoons water
  • shredded lettuce or baby spinach
  • shredded cheddar cheese (optional)
  • 4 large flour tortillas (“burrito style”)

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Toss cubed sweet potatoes in 1 tablespoon olive oil and spread in a single layer in a glass baking dish or cookie sheet. Roast potatoes for 35-45 minutes or until tender, flipping once halfway through roasting time.

2. In a skillet over medium heat, saute chopped onion in remaining 1/2 tablespoon of oil for about 3 minutes, or until translucent. Add taco seasoning, cream cheese and water and stir constantly until cream cheese is melted.

3. Add beans and rice to skillet and stir to incorporate into cream cheese mixture. Heat through, stirring constantly.

4. Divide mixture into 4 servings and spoon one serving of mixture into the center of a tortilla. Add cheddar cheese if desired, and top with lettuce or spinach. Roll up tortilla and serve immediately.

Tips and Tricks:

* If you have dried beans instead of canned, you will need 2 cups of cooked beans for this recipe.

* I prefer brown rice, but you can use whatever kind of cooked rice you like. To make preparation easier you can cook the rice ahead of time. I batch cook my rice to use throughout the week, as cooked rice tends to store well in the fridge for up to a week.

* If you’re waist-watching, you can use reduced fat (or neufchatel cheese) without compromising the taste of the dish. You can also cut back the cream cheese to 4 ounces and add a few extra tablespoons of water until the mixture is creamy.

* If you don’t have taco seasoning, it’s really easy to make. I use THIS recipe from allrecipes.com and omit the crushed red pepper flakes and oregano, and add a pinch of cayenne. If you’re lucky enough to have a warehouse club membership like BJ’s or Costco, you can find a ginormous container of taco seasoning for dirt cheap.

* The great thing about this recipe is that it’s not set in stone and can be adapted to your personal taste. Add corn or peppers to the rice & bean mixture, toss salsa into the cream cheese (or use as a topping), substitute sour cream for some (or all?) of the cream cheese, throw in a handful of cilantro, top it with a dollop of guacamole. Don’t be afraid to experiment and make it your own!

What’s your favorite burrito filling? Share with us in the comments section below!

In the Kitchen: 2012 Food Bucket List

homemade bagels

One thing I love about food preparation is that there is always going to be something new that you’ve never tried before. It’s never boring, and the possibilities of what you can create are endless.

In an effort to avoid falling into a food rut, I like to challenge myself to experiment frequently with new recipes and techniques. Sometimes this requires me to step outside of my comfort zone as a non-professional cook, but I tend to pick up valuable skills by doing so, and the experience alone is usually worth a potentially failed dish or two. I’ve discovered how to make bread, yogurt, marshmallows, bagels, pasta, mayonnaise and so many other awesome things that I never in a million years would have thought I could make from scratch.

This year I’ve put together a list of things I’d like to try before the year ends. I’m trying to keep the list short and manageable, which will increase my chances of completing each recipe. But even if I don’t get around to all of them, this gives me a starting point for motivation! Here it is, my 2012 Food Bucket List:

  1. vanilla sugar – I’ve already started this, we’ll see how it comes out in a week!  Done!
  2. homemade english muffins
  3. cinnamon raisin bagels – I’ve only mastered the plain bagel, time to expand my horizons
  4. tofu – I just want to prepare it in a dish, since I’ve never cooked with it before Done!
  5. homemade pop tarts
  6. ranch dressing Done!
  7. homemade pitas
  8. challah bread
  9. vanilla extract
  10. baked falafel Done!
  11. General Tso’s chicken from scratch
  12. noodle kugel
  13. blueberry pie
  14. homemade crackers – Like a butter or cheddar cracker
  15. homemade ricotta cheese
  16. homemade cream cheese
  17. savory shortbread – I once ate a smoked onion shortbread cookie, and I’ve been obsessed ever since
  18. homemade fruit leather
  19. chocolate syrup from scratch
  20. jelly – grape?
  21. homemade graham crackers
  22. won tons – Won ton soup is my Chinese takeout order go-to
  23. meringue – …and then a lemon meringue pie, naturally!
  24. egg nog
  25. carrot cake – my all time favorite dessert that I’ve never personally prepared
  26. galette
  27. cheese straws
  28. soft pretzels
  29. polenta – I actually just want to try it, since I’ve never eaten it before
  30. bloody marys – my all time favorite alcoholic drink that I’ve never personally prepared
  31. matzo ball soup
  32. poached eggs – I’ve tried this in the past, wholly unsuccessfully
  33. milk pie
  34. sprouts – I’d like to grow our own
  35. homemade cheddar biscuits – I have a food crush on the Red Lobster Cheddar Bay biscuits and determined to replicate them in my oven
  36. yeasted coffee cake
  37. homemade liqueur – maybe amaretto or irish cream
  38. sourdough bread
  39. homemade tootsie rolls
  40. french macarons – I’ve never even eaten one before, but they intrigue me nonetheless! I suppose my plan should be eat first, make later.

Okay, so maybe I said “small and manageable”, but once I began typing I started to remember a gazillion other things that I wanted to make. Oh well, like I mentioned before, even if I don’t accomplish them all it gets me motivated to try. Wish me luck! And if you have any tried and true recipes for any of the things I’ve listed above, please do share!

What’s on your bucket list of foods to eat or make? Share with us in the comments section below!

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Monday Menu Plan: 1/9-1/15

I’m currently obsessing over Pinterest as a source for new recipes. If you’ve never heard of it, Pinterest is a “virtual pinboard” where you can keep track of awesome things you find online or on others’ Pinterest boards. I created a board for recipes that I find, and I’ve been been noticing that I reference it quite frequently for new meal ideas.  It’s proving to be a great tool for keeping me organized, since I’m otherwise the kind of person who prints out every single recipe that I might want to try so that I won’t forget or lose it (and end up buried in an unmanageable mountain of papers). If you haven’t yet, go check it out… and prepare to be hooked! (You can find all of my boards HERE)

Menu Planning

Breakfasts: oatmeal, hard boiled eggs & toast, fresh fruit, homemade yogurt, granola, spinach smoothies

Lunches: peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, tuna sandwiches, fresh fruit and veggies, leftovers

Snacks: fresh fruit and veggies, popcorn, graham crackers and peanut butter, pretzels, applesauce, yogurt, ginger cookies

Dinner:

Monday
  • bean and rice bake
  • mixed veggies
Tuesday
  • spaghetti squash with parmesan and butter
  • salad
  • garlic bread
Wednesday
  • veggie stuffed twice baked potatoes
  • salad
Thursday
  • roasted chicken
  • green beans
  • rice
Friday
  • baked ziti
  • salad
Saturday
  • vegetarian chili
  • cornbread
Sunday
  • scrambled eggs
  • mixed potato homefries
What’s on your menu plan this week? Share in the comments section below!  If you blog your own menu plan, leave a link so we can check it out. And if you want  information on how to plan a weekly menu, click HERE.
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Monday Menu Plan: 1/2-1/8

Happy 2012 folks! One of my goals for the new year is to eat meatless dinners 5 days a week. We generally don’t have a meat heavy menu, but in discussing it with my husband Mike (a die hard carnivore by the way) I realized that we both felt much better during the year that I completely cut meat out of my diet. He was free to eat meat during that time, but since I wasn’t a short order chef he mostly ate what I did and only occasionally prepared his own meaty meal. The only thing standing in my way of committing to another year of 100% vegetarian dining is an absolute obsession with bacon, not to mention a fine appreciation for the occasional juicy burger, so in the name of compromise we’ll be eating less -meat instead of meat-less. If you’re considering incorporating more meatless meals into your diet this year, here are a few good resources* for vegetarian recipes:

*Note: While all of these websites offer vegetarian and/or vegan recipes, some sites may not be exclusive to meatless eating. Please don’t have a heart attack if you click on a link above and find a recipe for chicken pot pie. Or, you know, bacon.
What’s your favorite website for finding meatless recipes? Share yours with us in the comments section below!

Breakfasts: oatmeal, fresh fruit, homemade yogurt, scrambled eggs and toast, spinach smoothies

Lunches: peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, tuna sandwiches, tomato soup, fresh fruit and veggies, leftovers

Snacks: fresh fruit and veggies, popcorn

Dinner:

Monday

Tuesday

  • creamy baked macaroni & cheese
  • broccoli
Wednesday
  • family-sized ham sandwich
  • veggie straws
Thursday
Friday
  • pizza
  • salad
Saturday
  • veggie noodle soup
Sunday
What’s on your menu plan this week? Share in the comments section below!  If you blog your own menu plan, leave a link so we can check it out. And if you want  information on how to plan a weekly menu, click HERE.
Did you like this article? You can get all the latest posts at Gingerly Homemaking in your email inbox by clicking the link below and entering your email address. Your address will only be used for mailing you new posts via Feedburner, and each one will include a link so you can unsubscribe at any time.
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