Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Chocolate Chip Coconut Banana Bread

There's something about using coconut oil in breads that makes it extra delicious. I don't know why or how this works, but I'm more than okay with it.

A while back, I had brought muffins into work, thinking that my coworkers would eat them. Even after telling people there were muffins in the kitchen, there was no dent in the bag of muffins. I won't lie, I'm used to bringing in food and finding it to have disappeared quickly. Not long later, I informed the guys that we all were going to be doing inventory and make the dreadful task easier, I'd make breakfast. (Seriously, inventory was not that bad.)

They didn't believe me at first, so I sent them on over here to see the recipes I'd made. Apparently visual proof of a food blog convinces people that you can actually cook and bake. Who knew? ;) Anyway, they decided on muffins, which I'll share with you next week, and since I was feeling extra ambitious, I also offered to make a bread. They gave no suggestions but said they'd eat it.


I wanted something healthy but still really tasty. There are times where whole wheat flour can leave you with a really dense and dry bread and I was crossing my fingers that the large quantity of mashed bananas plus the coconut oil would avoid that desired results. And it did!

Chocolate Chip Coconut Banana Bread
Source: Dinners, Dishes and Desserts
Servings: 2 loaves
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Ingredients:
    • 1 cup sugar
    • 1/2 cup coconut oil
    • 2 eggs
    • 4 ripe bananas, mashed
    • 1/2 cup buttermilk
    • 1 tsp. vanilla
    • 2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
    • 2 tsp. baking powder
    • 1/2 tsp. salt
    • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
    • 1 cup mini chocolate chips
    • 3/4 cup sweetened shredded coconut
Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 350. Spray 2 9x5 loaf pans with non-stick cooking spray.
2. In a large bowl combine the sugar and coconut oil. Use a pastry cutter or two forks to combine the mixture together into coarse crumbs, then stir in the eggs until well combined. Add the bananas, buttermilk, and vanilla.
3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet, just getting rid of the large lumps, but not over-mixing. Gently stir in the chocolate chips and shredded coconut.
4. Divide the batter between the prepared pans and smooth out the top with the back of a spoon. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
5. Allow to cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes before removing from the pans and slicing.

This bread can easily be wrapped in plastic wrap and foil and frozen for up to 2 months. Allow to thaw to room temperature before serving.

It turns out they liked the bread more than the muffins they chose. I only had a small slice that morning and even I was impressed with just how tasty it is. The chocolate chips add a decadence you don't usually expect in a relatively healthy bread and honestly, overall, you'd have no idea this was made with whole wheat flour and coconut oil vs. all purpose flour and a canola oil.


Monday, July 20, 2015

Pork Medallions with Mushroom Saute

Does anyone remember years ago when there was the commercial advertising pork as the new chicken? Lately I feel like I've really taken that commercials motto to heart. I typically try to not make the same proteins over and over again in the same week, so there is always one chicken dish and one pork dish.

When I first started cooking with pork, I didn't really understand its versatility. I would only make pork one of three different ways and I really had no interest in branching out to other recipes. Oh how glad I am to have changed that! Think of all the delicious recipes I would have missed sharing with you!


This recipe is simple, using only a few ingredients and doesn't take very long at all to make. If you aren't interested in the paleo version of this recipe, you can easily substitute the arrowroot powder for either flour or cornstarch, depending on what you have available in your kitchen.

Pork Medallions with Mushroom Saute
Barely Adapted From: The Healthy Foodie
Servings: 4
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Ingredients:

    • 3 tbsp. butter, divided
    • 1 lb. pork tenderloin, fat trimmed
    • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
    • 1/2 tsp. cracked black pepper 
    • 1 lb. baby bella mushrooms, sliced
    • 1 cup chicken stock 
    • 1 tbsp. fresh thyme 
    • 1 tbsp. fresh rosemary
    • 1 tbsp. arrowroot powder
    • 2 tbsp. cold water 
Directions:
1. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a heavy skillet over medium heat.
2. Slice the pork into 8 equally sized pieces and season each one with salt and pepper.
3. When the butter has melted and the skillet is hot, add the pork medallions to the skillet and cook for 3-5 minutes per side or until they form a crust. Do not move the pork around or the crust will never form. Flip over and cook for another 3-5 minutes or until the crust forms on the other side.
4. Transfer the pork from the skillet to a plate and tent with foil to keep warm.
5. Reduce the heat to medium and add the remaining tablespoon of butter, along with the mushrooms and cook for another 3-5 minutes or until they are golden brown. Slowly pour in the chicken stock and add the thyme and rosemary to the skillet. Increase the heat to medium high again and bring the mixture to a boil.
6. Meanwhile in a small bowl, whisk together the arrowroot power and water to form a slurry. Slowly add this to the skillet and stir to combine. The sauce in the skillet should thicken up within 1-2 minutes.
7. Add the pork medallions back to the pan and turn off the heat. Spoon the sauce over the pork and allow to rest in the pan for 5 minutes before serving.


Just a few simple ingredients and you get great flavor! We both really liked this dish and I plan on making it again in the future. 

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Improv Challenge: Pretzel Dogs with Honey Mustard Dipping Sauce

Hey there! It's been quite some time since I've been able to participate in an Improv Challenge. The past couple of months have either involved not enough time to make a recipe or ingredients I wasn't fond enough of to try and make a recipe.

But when Lesa created the Facebook event reminding us that the ingredients were pretzels and mustard, I was more than ready to get back into the swing of things. More than anything, I wanted to make pretzel crusted chicken bites with a honey mustard dipping sauce, but as I've mentioned, I had my wisdom teeth out last week and I didn't want to take any chances with tiny bits of hard pretzel coating. So that recipe will be made as soon as I can eat crunchy foods again.



I needed a pretzel and mustard recipe that would be soft enough for me to eat. I've already made soft pretzels and soft pretzel bites, so that was out. As was pretzel rolls because I've done those before too. So what did that leave? Hot dogs wrapped in pretzels.

I'm sure there were a ton of other recipes out there I could have made, but as soon as I saw this one on Pinterest, I knew it was the winner. I recently found the Applegate all natural uncured beef hot dogs that are nitrate free. I've never been a hot dog fan, maybe eating two of them during the summer. But then I had those hot dogs and everything changed. They're delicious. (Probably because they're not full of creepy, unpronounceable ingredients)



Pretzel Dogs with Honey Mustard Dipping Sauce
Servings: 8
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Ingredients:
for the dough:
    • 3/4 cup warm water (110-115 degrees F)
    • 2 tsp. sugar
    • 1 tsp. kosher salt
    • 1 1/2 tsp. active dry yeast
    • 2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour 
    • 1 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
    for the pretzel dogs:
    • 8 hot dogs
    • 10 cups water
    • 2/3 cup baking soda
    • 1 egg yolk + 1 tbsp. water
    • kosher salt (or pretzel salt)
    for the honey mustard sauce:
    • 1/4 cup spicy brown mustard
    • 1/4 cup honey 
Directions:
for the dough:
1. Add the water, sugar and salt to the bowl of your stand mixer. Sprinkle the active dry yeast on top and allow to sit for 5 minutes or until it becomes foamy.
2. Add the butter and the flour to the bowl of the stand mixer and attach the dough hook. Mix slowly until a ball begins to form, then increase to medium speed and mix until the dough has pulled away from the sides and has formed a smooth ball.
3. Coat a bowl with butter or oil and transfer the dough to the bowl. Toss once to coat and then cover with plastic wrap. Place the bowl in a warm spot and allow the dough to rise, doubling in size, about 50 minutes.
4. Preheat the oven to 450. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and brush with oil or spray with a non-stick spray.
for the pretzel dogs:
1. Separate the dough into 8 equal sized balls. Roll each ball into a rope, about 12 inches long. Wrap each rope of dough around the hot dog, allowing the hot dog to peek out of both ends. Repeat with all ropes of dough.
2. Bring the 10 cups of water to a rolling boil, then carefully add in the baking soda (it will rise and fizz). Place the pretzel dogs into the boiling water one at a time (do not crowd the pot, do 4 at a time if it fits better) and leave in for 30 seconds. Remove with a slotted spoon, draining the excess water.
3. Place the pretzel dog on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining pretzel dogs. In a small bowl, beat together the egg yolk and tablespoon of water. Brush the top of each pretzel dog with the egg wash. Sprinkle the kosher (or pretzel) salt on top of the pretzel dogs.
4. Bake for 12-14 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool 5 minutes.
for the honey mustard sauce:
1. Stir together the spicy brown mustard and honey mustard together in a bowl. Adjust to taste. Serve with the cooled pretzel dogs.


While it still took me forever to eat them, they were delicious!


Monday, July 13, 2015

SRC: Slow-Churned Horchata Ice Cream

Happy Monday! Can you believe we're already two and half weeks into July? The summer is going by too quickly! I don't like it.

For the Secret Recipe Club this month, I was assigned to Famished Fish, which is written by Saundra. Like me, Saundra is most relaxed in the kitchen. Also like me, she loves to get the reactions of people when they try her food. She has 3 kids, a baby and a husband to try her recipes out on though.


It took me all of about 5 minutes to chose my recipe for this month. I always like to make sweet recipes for the Secret Recipe Club, so I clicked on her Dessert tag and started scrolling through. When my eyes landed on Horchata Ice Cream, I knew there was no need to look any further. This was the recipe I was going to make.

I honestly don't even know the first time I had Horchata but I've always loved that light cinnamon flavor mixed into ice cream. Most recently, I had a cream ice version of it from Rita's since I haven't been able to find it anywhere else.



Slow-Churned Horchata Ice Cream
Source: Famished Fish
Servings: 3 cups
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Ingredients:
    • 3 cups 1% milk
    • 1/2 cup white rice, uncooked
    • 1 cinnamon stick, broken into pieces
    • 1 cup sugar
    • 8 egg yolks
    • pinch of salt 
    • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
Directions:
1. Add the milk, rice and cinnamon stick to a medium saucepan and heat over medium heat. Stir occasionally to stop the milk from burning. When bubbles form around the edges of the pan, the milk is scalded. Remove from the heat.
2. Allow to cool to room temperature and then transfer the mixture to a food processor or high powered blender. (If you have a Vitamix you do not need to allow the mixture to cool.) Blend thoroughly.
3. Meanwhile, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar in a medium bowl until a thick paste forms. Strain the milk mixture over the egg mixture, discarding any solids.
4. Then transfer the combined mixture to a medium saucepan and heat over medium heat. Use a candy thermometer to watch the temperature. When it reaches 170 degrees, the mixture should evenly coat the back of a spoon.
5. Remove from the heat and stir in the pinch of salt and vanilla extract. Transfer the mixture to an ice cream maker and process according to manufacturer instructions. Transfer the ice cream to a container and freeze.



The original recipe calls for almond extract instead of vanilla but I didn't realize I was out of almond extract until it was too late. This ice cream is absolutely to die for. You have the typical thick consistency of a store-bought ice cream from the egg yolks but the lighter milk reduces the calories and fat without taking away any of the flavor.



If you like cinnamon at all or are planning any type of Mexican food party in the near future, this ice cream recipe needs to be on your menu!



Sunday, July 12, 2015

Weekly Menu 7/12 - 7/16

Do you still have your wisdom teeth? I had mine taken out this past Thursday. Up until the minute I was in the chair, I was pretty much in denial about the entire thing. I had booked the appointments months ago and did a little research then, finding out that my face could be swollen or bruised for days and I'd likely be able to eat nothing but those items of the liquid variety.

Pretty much everyone I know chimed in with their stories, ranging from "Oh I was fine a few days later" to "I had black eyes for two weeks and couldn't eat anything but broth." Hence, my state of denial for as long as possible. Like most dental insurance, mine is pretty crappy and didn't offer me the opportunity to be put under to have my teeth removed. It also didn't cover laughing gas, but the dentist told me that was only $80 should I choose to go that route.

I opted not to. I figured I'd just put in headphones, close my eyes and ignore what was going on. I failed to take into account that I'd be so numb I wouldn't be able to feel my ears to put in the headphones. So I just closed my eyes. Luckily, my teeth weren't impacted or sideways or anything else crazy so it wasn't nearly as bad as it could have been. Honestly, the numbing needle and my jaw being stretched open that long were the worst parts of it. I didn't even know that he had done both of my wisdom teeth on the right side until he moved to the left side of me and said "halfway done".

I was concerned that the strong pain killers would make me sick and the idea of getting sick after mouth surgery sounds like my idea of hell, so we agreed to give me the middle level pain killer and I'm only taking 1/2 a pill a day combined with ibupropen. The numbing takes forever to wear off my face, which is a good thing since my dentist is 45 minutes away and it took Target to fill the prescriptions, then another 20 minutes to get home. I took the pills (which was incredibly fun, trying to swallow pills when you couldn't feel your lips, tongue or cheeks) and then stuck an ice pack on my face for an hour.

By the early evening (my appointment was at 1) there was just some minor swelling left over. I managed to sleep through the night and was only in a slight amount of pain since I had skipped a dose of medication. I can eat pretty much anything as long as it's soft and I have a ridiculous amount of time to eat it. (It took me 2.5 hours to eat a cheese steak and fries) I stopped into work on Friday and my coworkers were shocked that I didn't look like a chipmunk and felt well enough to come in.

Aside from dealing with some pain every morning that I wake up (it feels like right after you have your teeth cleaned), I've been fine. I'm actually bored that I can't exercise and I'm dreaming of the day I can crunch into a salad.

I'm sure you don't really care about my teeth though, so let's get onto the soft menu that I've come up with for this week.

Sunday: shepherd's pie 

Monday: chicken noodle soup 

Tuesday: kung pao meatballs with stir fry veggies

Wednesday: pineapple bacon sausage with bell peppers and pineapple

Thursday: leftovers

Friday: out 

For breakfast this week I figured smoothies were a good bet. I'm having leftover chicken noodle for lunches. 

Friday, July 10, 2015

Prosciutto Arugula Pizza

There is a farm market I pass on the way home from work now every day. They're open year-round but I started going there in May to pick up local produce for the weeks when I wasn't going to Wegman's. The produce at the other grocery stores is abysmal at best. Sometimes I seriously wonder how they get away with selling strawberries that are bruised or moldy or lettuce that is so limp you know it past it's prime last week. Anyway, one thing I immediately noticed at the farm stand is that they have a tub of arugula for $2.

I never used to like arugula, thinking it just didn't taste like lettuce. Well, it doesn't taste like lettuce, it has a distinct peppery taste and sometimes has more hints of a bitter note than others. My tastebuds changed over time and now I could honestly eat an arugula salad nightly.

I also have a deep love for prosciutto. It comes in 2 and 4 oz. packages here and there have been nights where I've intended to eat a slice and then end up eating the entire package. Anyway, combining arugula with prosciutto is like my current heaven of choice so this recipe was a no brainer.


Prosciutto Arugula Pizza
Inspired by Food Network Magazine
Servings: 2
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Ingredients:
    • 2 whole wheat pita pockets 
    • 3 tbsp. pizza sauce
    • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
    • 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper 
    • 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella
    • 2 slices prosciutto, chopped
    • 1 cup arugula
    • 1/2 tsp. olive oil
    • squeeze of fresh lemon juice
Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 425. Line a baking sheet with foil. (Or heat a pizza stone with the oven.)
2. Divide the pizza sauce and spread evenly onto the pita pockets. Sprinkle with garlic powder and crushed red pepper.
3. Divide the cheese between the two pita pockets. Then add the prosciutto on top. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until the cheese has melted, the prosciutto is crispy and the pita is toasted on the bottom.
4. Meanwhile, toss together the arugula with olive oil and lemon juice. Once pita pizzas are removed from the oven, divide the arugula on top of each and cut in half to serve.



The pita pockets I bought came 6 to a pack. I may have ate two of these a night for three days in a row. This is definitely one of my ultimate snacks or meals that requires very little preparation and cook time. 

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Orange Carrot Smoothie

I won't lie, I was hesitant on making this smoothie. Carrot juice?! I like carrots as much as the next person, or probably even more since I could eat an entire bag of the baby versions in one sitting if I put my mind to it, but something about carrot juice just makes me squish up my face.

However, the picture of the smoothie on The Iron You looked really tasty and Target had a small bottle of Boathouse Farms carrot juice on sale so I figured there was no time like the present to try a smoothie carrot juice.



Orange Carrot Smoothie
Source: The Iron You
Servings: 1
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Ingredients:
    • 1/2 cup orange juice
    • 1/2 cup carrot juice
    • 1 large banana, sliced
    • 1/2 cup peach slices, fresh or canned
    • 1 1/2 cups ice
    • 1 tsp. chia seeds
Directions:
1. Combine ingredients into your blender and blend on high speed until smooth.



The recipe calls for vegan protein powder which I'm interested in getting, but currently I've only been able to find a Paleo version that wants $56 per large tub of it. For something that I don't even know if I'm going to like, I'd prefer not to purchase the caveman sized portion of it. If anyone has any suggestions for me, please leave them in the comments! 

Monday, July 6, 2015

Bacon Wrapped Chicken with Onion Gravy

I found this Paleo recipe on Stalkerville and was intrigued by the ingredients. The word "gravy" at least in the typical sense does not lend itself to a Paleo lifestyle so I was really curious to see how these ingredients were going to work together to create a gravy and if it would taste anything at all like gravy.

Plus, how can you say no to anything wrapped in bacon?


Bacon Wrapped Chicken & Onion Gravy
Source: Balancing Paleo
Servings: 4
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Ingredients:
    for the chicken:
    • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
    • 4 slices thick-cut bacon 
    • 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
    • pinch of kosher salt 
    • pepper, to taste
    for the gravy:
    • 1/2 large sweet onion, thinly sliced
    • 1 sweet apple thinly sliced, peel on
    • 1 tsp. olive oil
    • 1 tsp. dijon mustard
    • pinch of dried thyme 
    • salt and pepper 
Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 375.
2. Toss the onion and apple slices together with the olive oil, salt and pepper and then place in a glass 9x13 baking dish. Bake for 20 minutes, stirring halfway through.
3. Meanwhile, season the chicken breasts with garlic powder, salt and pepper. Wrap each chicken breast with a slice of bacon, securing it with a toothpick if necessary.
4. Remove the apple and onion mixture from the oven and place the chicken breasts on top. Bake for 25 minutes then increase the oven temperature for 425 and bake for 10 more minutes.
5. Transfer the chicken to a plate and tent loosely with foil.
6. Transfer the onion and apple mixture and any juices to a food processor or blender. Add the dijon mustard and thyme. Blend until smooth. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper if necessary.
7. Spread onion gravy onto the plate and place the bacon wrapped chicken breast on top. Serve immediately.



It actually tastes like gravy. I was not expecting that at all. Of course its not your typically white gravy or beef gravy, but it's still really good. Apples and onions pair so nicely chicken and pork that it's really a no brainer for how delicious this recipe is. 

Friday, July 3, 2015

Cheesy Bacon Ranch Dip

Do you have plans for this holiday weekend? Tom and I are going to be in D.C. for a concert. Late last year or earlier this year I just so happened to catch on the radio that the Foo Fighters were going to have a concert. Tom has wanted to see them in concert forever so I knew there was no way we were going to pass up this opportunity.

Since the concert is on the Fourth of July and it is their twentieth anniversary tour, the concert is all day long and they're going to have fireworks at night. Not wanting to deal with holiday and concert traffic, we're going to take the Marc train down today and then we'll come home Sunday night.

We're trying to fit in a bit of sight seeing in DC as well, but we don't have definite plans for anything, so we'll see how that goes!

If you're looking for a pretty quick dip to bring to any cookouts that you might be attending, I highly suggest this one. You should refrigerate it overnight to let the flavors really sink in and meld together, but if you only have a few hours I promise it will still be a tasty concoction. (And I know this because I was impatient and tried some a few hours after refrigerating it!)


Cheesy Bacon Ranch Dip
Inspired by various Pinterest recipes
Servings: about 2 1/2 cups
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Ingredients:
    • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
    • 8 oz. sour cream (light or full fat)
    • 1 packet ranch dip mix
    • 3 pieces bacon, cooked and crumbled
    • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese 
Directions:
1. Add all of the ingredients into a bowl and stir until well combined. Cover with plastic wrap or transfer to a seal-able container and refrigerate overnight.
2. If desired, cook additional bacon and crumble on top just before serving with chips, crackers, or veggies.


I actually had extra bacon and even cheese that I planned on topping this with before I served it. Except, I served it at my moms house after I transported it from home. And where was the extra bacon and cheese? In my fridge, an hour away. And then as proof for how good this is, I didn't even get to bring any home so I could haven't taken a better picture without making more. And believe me, this is not the type of dip you want to leave around.

Unless you're cool with downing an entire bag of chips and all of this dip yourself. 

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Honey Banana Smoothie

Last (?) year I bought a Vitamix. She's plum colored and I named her Vivi. I figured if I was going to spend that much money on an appliance, it deserved a name. However, poor Vivi doesn't get as much use as she should. When we first got her, there were lots and lots of milkshakes happening in this house.

But as time went on, apparently Vivi lost her appeal to my milkshake drinking husband. I do have to say, I'm not a huge fan of soups in the Vitamix because I think it makes them too smooth and almost frothy, which is just kind of weird, but I'm entirely off topic now.

Last week I was trying to figure out what to have for breakfast and Vivi caught my eye. She looked lonely sitting there on the counter, unused so I decided to give her a workout by having smoothies for breakfast all that week.



Honey Banana Smoothie
Source: Cookaholic Wife
Servings: 1
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Ingredients:
    • 2 ripe bananas 
    • 1 cup milk (I used almond)
    • 2 tbsp. honey
    • 2 cups ice 
Directions:
1. Place ingredients into Vitamix (or blender) and blend on high speed until smooth.



Four simple ingredients and lots of flavor! I ended up making more of these to drink at night instead of just for breakfast they were so tasty. You could also add in protein powder or fiber power if you were looking for a heartier version.