Strawberry Pound Cake Trifle

This dessert was inspired by a bad experience at a pub in Galena IL.  I know I shouldn't expect much from a touristy pub in Galena IL but a light bulb went off to make my own version of this dessert.  I believe they called this dessert "The Strawberry HIGHcake" (a twist on a strawberry shortcake I guess).  What we ended up getting was 3 slices of frozen Sara Lee pound cake topped with cheap vanilla ice cream and whipped cream and about 1/2 a cup of generic strawberry sauce.  It was a major let down.  No offense to Sara Lee, I grew up that stuff, but what I am finding in my adulthood is that homemade is ALWAYS better.  You know what's going into your body, it's less processed and it almost always tastes better.  It's a win win in my eyes.  

The great thing about this recipe is that the pound cake is quick and simple and it also is enough to make TWO of these trifles.  I made one last week for my small group and then froze the rest of the pound cake to make another for a birthday party we're going to this weekend.  Voila! Two desserts for two different occasions.  This is also uses many ingredients in your kitchen already, so you might not even need to shop for much besides maybe the heavy whipping cream and fresh strawberries if those are not your normal kitchen staples.  

Since I made the poundcake last week, I don't have pictures of step by step directions as I usually do, but I will post the recipe for you to make ahead of time.  This is by far the best pound cake recipe I have tried.  It is soft, while still being dense and holding its shape.  It's sweet but not too sweet so you can add toppings or use as a base.  It also had a beautiful crumble to it...golden, buttery and flavorful.  I almost always add almond extract to my pound cake recipe.  It adds a richness to it and lets face it, who doesn't love the sweetness of almond tingling on your tongue.  The buttermilk cuts into the sweetness and adds a special tang to its flavor.  I can't describe it all but you will taste all of these when you test it out for yourself.  First lets start with the pound cake.

Pound Cake Recipe Ingredients:

3 cups of AP flour

1/4 tspn baking soda

1/2 tspn salt

1 cup butter (softened at room temp)

3 cups white sugar

6 eggs

1 tspn vanilla extract

2 tspn almond extract

1 cup buttermilk (I used powdered buttermilk and followed the directions on the label)

Directions:

1.  Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees.  Grease a tube/bundt pan with oil spray.

2.  Whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt.  Set aside.

3.  Using a mixer with a beating blade, mix the butter and sugar until almost white in color.  Then mix in one egg at a time.  Add vanilla and almond extract.  

4.  Gently mix the dry ingredients into the egg mixture, alternating with the buttermilk.  If using powdered buttermilk, per the instructions, you add the dry buttermilk powder to the dry ingredients and use water to alternate with the dry ingredients.  

5.  Pour thick batter into prepared pan and bake for about 90 minutes.  When cake begins to pull away from the sides of the pan you know it's ready.  Also you can stick a toothpick into the center of the cake and make sure it comes out clean.  Let cake cool fully on cooling rack.  Once completely cooled, cut the pound cake into slices and then cubes.  

Adapted from: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/7722/buttermilk-pound-cake-ii/

Seriously, check out that crumble...*drool*.

Now it's time to make your strawberry sauce to dress that delicious pound cake!

Strawberry sauce ingredients:

1 -12oz bag of frozen strawberries

1.5 tbsp white sugar

2 tbsp water

1/2 tbsp cornstarch

Directions:

1.  Dice frozen strawberries, I cut the strawberries into quarters or even smaller if the strawberry was larger.

 

2.  Place strawberries in a sauce pan and cook on medium heat.  Add white sugar and continue to cook strawberries until liquid pools.  

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3.  Dissolve cornstarch into water and then add to the strawberry mixture.  Take off heat once adding cornstarch/water mixture.  Allow sauce to thicken as it cools.  

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The next step is washing and slicing your FRESH strawberries.  I used two pints of strawberries!

The last step is making the whipped cream.  This is the best part! I absolute LOVE LOVE homemade whipped cream.  If you've never made it before you must give it a try.  You can play around with the sweetness and it's just so much better than store bought and it's unbelievably easy!!  Only 3 ingredients!

Whipped Cream Ingredients:

1.5 cups of Whipping Cream

7 tbsp of powdered sugar

1 tsp of vanilla extract or I used vanilla bean paste for a more robust vanilla flavor

Directions:

1.  Pour whipping cream into mixing bowl.  Add powdered sugar.

2.  Mix on high until thickens.  Add vanilla.

3.  Mix until texture resembles whipped cream. You can taste it at this point to see if you like it more or less sweet.  (add more powdered sugar or more cream respectively).

 YUMMMMY!

YUMMMMY!

Now that everything is prepared, it is now time to build our trifle!  It's the best part!  If you've never made a trifle the important thing is layering evenly and neatly so that you can see all the layers from the sides of the bowl.  Also if you accidentally get sauce or whipped cream on the sides you might want to wipe it clean if it's noticeable so that you see the layers cleanly.  If you can careless don't worry about it!  People won't mind, I'm just a bit OCD when it comes to presentation :).

All of our ingredients all prepped and ready to go!

First add a layer of pound cake.  Be sure to cover any gaps on the sides and on the bottom.

Pour half of strawberry sauce over the pound cake layer so it soaks up the strawberry goodness!

Next, evenly layer your sliced fresh strawberries.

Be sure to check the sides of your bowl as you're assembling so you can see all the layers.

Pour half of the whipped cream over the strawberries and spread evenly.

Again, check the sides so you can see that all the layers are even.

Repeat steps, and add a layer of strawberries to the top!  What a beauty! :D

Check out those pretty, even layers!!

This is just so satisfying to see.  Congrats on making this beautiful and tasty dessert.  It is certain to be a crowd pleaser!  ENJOY!!!

 

 

 

Tres Leches Cake (Three Milk cake) most definitely not dairy free :D

I was at our nearby Pete's Fresh Market…one of my favorite grocery stores, picking up dinner items, we were hosting dinner for our bible study.  If you've never been to Pete's, that grocery has it all, a huge produce section, amazing ready-to-eat meals (packaged and also a buffet), a large variety of multi-ethnic food items with the main focus on Mexican ingredients and all at such reasonable prices.  Oh and the best part, it's super clean and organized.  I love walking down the aisles and seeing everything lined up neatly and everything is facing in the right direction.  It's very satisfying.

But I digress…I decided to have Mexican themed dinner with fajitas, chips and guacamole and rice and beans.  And then there was the question of dessert…my favorite part.  I have made caramel flan in the past, but I didn't feel like having flan.  Then it dawned on me, how about a rich, cool, tres leches cake?  There is this bakery on Halsted St. in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago, it's called Kristopher's bakery.  They have this amazing tres leches cake and I've thought about making it at home.  This was the perfect opportunity.  And what a great ending to a meal of fajitas for everyone to enjoy.

Tres leeches cake is basically a yellow cake soaked in a three component milk mixture.  The three milks that are used are sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk and cow's milk (whole or half/half usually).  

The soaked cake is then placed in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours (the longer the more milk flavor that is absorbed into the cake).  The cake is then topped with either whipped cream or if you want a lighter topping, cool whip as well.  The delectable cake is then typically topped with maraschino cherries.  This is an easy cake that can be prepared the night before.  The texture is very soft, and the longer it is soaked, the more soft it becomes.  It's sweet, but not too sweet.  A perfect dessert that pairs well with a cup of decaf coffee or tea.

Ingredients

1.5 cups of All Purpose flour

1 tspn Baking Powder

1 stick of unsalted butter (at room temperature)

1 cup of granulated sugar

5 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups milk (I used 2% to cut down on fat)

1 can (14oz) sweetened condensed milk

1 can (12 oz) evaporated milk

1 tub of cool whip or a can of whipped cream or you can make your own

1 jar of maraschino cherries or berries for toppings


DIrections:

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease 9x13 pan or 10x10 square pan and dust with flour, set aside prepared pan.

2.  Sift flour and baking powder, mix together and set aside.

3.  Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add eggs one at a time and then add vanilla extract.  Beat well.

4.  Add the flour mixture into the butter mixture, one quarter at a time.  Mix well.

5.  Pour cake batter into pan.  Batter will be thick, spread to cover bottom of pan.  Bake for 25 min. or until toothpick comes out clean.

6.  Cool cake.  Take a chopstick or a fork and poke holes all over cake.  This will help allow the milk mixture to soak into the cake.

7.  Mix the three milks together and pour over cake.  Refrigerate for 1 hour.  Remove cake and spread cool whip or whipped cream and decorate with cherries or berries.  Serve chilled.  Enjoy!

 Mr. Panda wanted a slice!

Mr. Panda wanted a slice!

Rich, Velvety, Flour Less Chocolate Cake (gluten free)

If you are a chocolate lover, this is the perfect recipe for you.  This cake has an intense chocolate flavor with a soft, brownie-like texture.  And it's super simple to throw together for a last minute dinner party!  If you have Bakers chocolate on hand, you probably could put this together without running to the store.  I like to top this cake off with berries to balance out the bold chocolate flavor.  Raspberries, strawberries or even blueberries would be a nice compliment…and it also works well to help bring color to liven up this dessert.  

I adapted this recipe off the Food Network, original recipe here.  Only instead I used the water bath method to bake the cake which allowed the cake to stay intact.  A lot of the reviews complained of severe cracking or deflation of the center of the cake.  A water bath creates a nice even temperature and warm, moist heat that prevents the cake from cooking unevenly and thus prevents cracks in the cake.  This baked beautifully and if you do get cracks…which you shouldn't, but if you do, powdered sugar and extra berries can help cover them up ;).

This is definitely a crowd pleaser and people will be "wowed'" by it…no one has to know that it's so simple a monkey could make it.  Hope you enjoy this one!  Also,  I am VERY excited to be cooking in my brand new dream kitchen!!  Fully equipped with two full double ovens.  I am looking forward to sharing my new space with you all! :D  Take care!

Ingredients

12 oz. semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate (chopped)

1.5 sticks unsalted butter

1/4 tspn fine salt

6 large eggs (room temperature)

1.5 cups granulated sugar

Powdered Sugar for dusting

Berries of your choice

 

Directions:

1.  Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees.  Spray a 9 inch by 2 inch spring form pan with cooking spray.  Foil bottom and sides of spring form pan.  Boil water to fill a quarter of a larger pan (large enough to fit the spring form pan in it).

2.  Chop the chocolate in bite-size pieces.  Place chocolate, butter and salt in a microwave bowl.  Melt in microwave for about 1-2 minutes until completely melted.  Stir until well incorporated.  You can also use a double boiler and do the same.

.  Beat the eggs and sugar with a stand mixer or a hand mixer for a full 10 minutes.  (Do not do any less).  Mixture should be light yellow and fluffy.

4.  Pour egg mixture into the melted chocolate/butter mixture and stir until batter is fully mixed.

5.  Pour the batter into your prepared cake pan.  Place pan in the water bath and bake for 1 hour or until a toothpick comes out clean from the center of the cake.

6.  Cool the cake and place in the fridge for at least 4 hours before decorating and serving.

7.  Prepare for your guests to be "wowed". :D

Autumn Apple Apple Cake

I know I have said this before, but I absolutely love the fall season.  Unfortunately, here in Chicago it's one of the shortest seasons.  But I guess that makes it all the more special and I try to make the very most of it.  I get giddy thinking about visiting pumpkin patches and apple orchards.  Although, I am less excited about picking pumpkins and apples and more excited to eat fresh apple donuts!  It's just a fun season of being outside, and watching the leaves change to vibrant colors of reds, oranges, and yellows.  It all brings out a warm fuzzy feeling in me and today is the first day of Autumn! Happy Autumn day friends! :D

In honor of the first day of Autumn, I wanted to make a special cake.  I am no stranger to apple desserts.  My husband's favorite desserts all include apples.  In the past, I've made apple pies, apple crisps, apple crumbles, apple cupcakes, apple pie cookies, caramel apples, apple tarts, etc… But this time around, I wanted a recipe that I could enjoy with a hot cup of tea or apple cider as the weather temperature drops…it all sounds so refreshing.  

Something I really appreciate about apple recipes is that you can change up the flavor dramatically by just switching up the type of apple you use.  I typically bake with Granny Smith Apples because I enjoy the tartness and their ability to cut down on the sweetness.  In this recipe, I chose to use Pink Lady apples.  They are slightly sweeter and are still pretty crisp.  With this recipe, I will always use Pink Lady apples.

This apple cake is moist with a coffee-cake like textured with ample apple flavor.  Each bite contains a mouthful of diced, soft apples and the cinnamon/sugar flavor is subtle and not too overpowering.  Because of the amount of apples in this recipe, it's not too sweet.  I enjoyed a slice for breakfast this morning with my coffee and it was divine.  I hope you get a chance to try out this recipe! It would be perfect to test it out after your next apple picking adventure!

Autumn Apple Apple Cake

6 Pink Lady Apples (Peeled and Diced)

5 Tbs white granulated sugar

1 Tbs Cinnamon

2 3/4 C. whole wheat flour

1 Tbs baking powder

1 Tspn salt

1 C. Vegetable oil

2 C. white granulated sugar

3 tspn vanilla

2 Tbsn Lemon juice

1/4 C. Natural Applesauce

4 eggs

 

Directions:

 1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  Generously spray a bunt pan with cooking spray and lightly flour.  Set aside.

2.  Mix 5 Tbs of sugar and cinnamon together in a medium bowl.  Peel and dice apples and thoroughly toss and coat each apple piece.

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3.  Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt in a large mix bowl.

4.  In a medium whisk together the wet ingredients: oil, lemon juice, apple sauce, vanilla and eggs.  Mix the wet mixture into the dry.

5.  Toss a layer of apples into your prepared pan.

6.  Mix the rest of the apples into the batter and pour into pan.

7.  Bake for 1hr and 15 min. or until a toothpick is removed cleanly.

 Close up to see the beautiful texture!

Close up to see the beautiful texture!

 SO many apples in every bite!!

SO many apples in every bite!!

 Mr. Panda couldn't resist the amazing smells!!

Mr. Panda couldn't resist the amazing smells!!


Summer Oatmeal in Jars

Hello friends!!

I am back from my vacation in Spain!  It was a glorious and magical trip…and if you have never been, I highly encourage you to visit one day.  It was absolutely gorgeous.  We spent a week in Barcelona, which was beautiful.  It felt like we were a modern city living in an old world.  The buildings are incredible, and it was crazy to see them still standing and being used.  We ended our trip in Cadaques, which was small coastal town north of the city, near France.  The views were out of this world…I still can't believe places like those exist! 

For me, the one thing that I love to do while traveling is trying different cuisines.  I was excited to discover new dishes, and spices and even knew ways of cooking.  We took a cooking class while we were in Barcelona and we made a gazpacho, seafood paella and a creme de Catalan (their version of a creme brûlée).  It was so much fun learning from the Chef... his different techniques, drinking wine and making dishes I've never made before.  We even made our own fish stock from scratch to make the Paella.  It was wonderful! And we also got to meet people from around the world.  

On our vacation, we mainly stuck to the Spanish cuisine.  So we had our fill of bocadillos (Spanish sandwiches with sliced meats/cheese/tomato spread), Paellas and tapas.  OH…and many Sangrias!  They were so refreshing and fruity!  We loved the food.  But it also made us starved for vegetables and fresh fruits!  Which mainly their dishes consisted of breads, meats, and cheeses.  I came home and bought every vegetable and fruit I could find at the grocery store…my kitchen counter looked like the produce section!  Indeed, we needed a cleanse from our trip.  One can only eat so many bocadillos…and feel great. =P.  

My husband suggested we go back to eating oatmeal in the morning.  For awhile here, we would make a huge crockpot of oatmeal and eat it throughout the week.  But it's 78 degrees out!  I don't want to eat a steaming hot bowl of oatmeal in this weather!  So I decided to make us a more refreshing version of oatmeal.  It's healthy and you can switch up the toppings.  You can even make the oatmeal with cocoa or peanut butter…even cookie butter if you're daring.  And I love the idea of the jars, because it's so easy and portable.  We can just grab one and go to work.  I hope you enjoy this recipe!

Ingredients

1 tub of your favorite Yogurt 32oz (2 lbs.) If you use greek yogurt, be sure to add up to 2 cups of milk or else it will be too thick

4 cups of Rolled Oats

1 cup of Almond/Coconut/Soy/ or Cow's Milk

2 TBS Chia seeds

2 TBS Flax seeds

Fruits/dried fruits/nuts/spreads/butters for topping

**This recipe makes 6 small mason jars of Oats

Directions

1.  Pour the entire tub of yogurt in a large bowl.  Mix in Oats.  Stir until combined.  

2.  Add milk, and stir until well incorporated.

3.  Lastly, add Chia seeds and Flax seeds.

4.  Fill each jar halfway, and top with fruits/nuts/dried fruits.

5.  Close each lid tightly and refrigerate overnight before eating.  They will last in the fridge for 1 week (depending on your toppings).  

 Everything just looks so much prettier in Jars don't they? :)

Everything just looks so much prettier in Jars don't they? :)


Fudgy Avocado Brownies (GF, dairy free)

I LOVE avocados.  I always try to have avocados in our home.  My dream one day, is to be able to have an avocado tree in my backyard.  Wouldn't that be something? :)  For breakfast, I enjoy spreading a half of an avocado on a piece of toast with a sprinkle of salt.  It's delicious and I feel good about eating it. For lunch, I would throw it on a salad or in a sandwich.  The smoothness of avocados make it a perfect substitute for butter in any baking recipe.  And it pairs well with chocolate.  What more could you ask for?  First, you will need a ripe, tender avocado.

I made these brownies for a friend that will be coming over tonight that is trying to eat clean.  It's tough to make completely clean desserts…but these come pretty close.  I'm hoping that she will enjoy them and that they will satisfy her chocolate craving and sweet tooth, all in one bite.  I hope these do the same for you!

Ingredients:

1 Ripe Avocado

5 oz. of dairy free, soy free, nut free Chocolate Chips (or regular chips if you eat dairy)

2 Eggs

1 Cup of cocoa

1/3 cup of turbinado raw can sugar

1 tspn Vanilla

dash of salt

1 tbsp of Almond/Cashew/Soy milk or Cow's milk if you prefer

 

Directions:

1.  Preheat oven for 350 degrees.  Grease a 8x8 brownie pan and set aside for later.

2.  In a food processor, mix your avocado, egg, vanilla and choice of milk until smooth.

 I used my Nutribullet for this and it worked great!

I used my Nutribullet for this and it worked great!

3.  Melt 100g of your choice of chocolate chips and mix into the avocado mixture.  I melt mine in the microwave for short increments and stir.  You can also use a double broiler.

 This is the brand I like to use for dairy, nut and soy free chocolate chips!

This is the brand I like to use for dairy, nut and soy free chocolate chips!

 Texture should be similar to a pudding.

Texture should be similar to a pudding.

4.  Transfer chocolate avocado mixture to a bowl and add the cocoa, salt and baking soda.  Mix until thick.  I also added another 1/3 cup of chocolate chips to the batter.

 Turbinado sugar is less processed than white granulated sugar.

Turbinado sugar is less processed than white granulated sugar.

 Extra chips for good luck ;).

Extra chips for good luck ;).

5.  Spread the batter into your greased brownie pan.  Bake for 22-25 minutes.  A toothpick will come out clean when done.

 Sprinkled some extra chocolate chips on top!

Sprinkled some extra chocolate chips on top!

6.  Cool pan and transfer to the fridge until ready to serve!  ENJOY! :D

 How rich and decadent!

How rich and decadent!

Recipe adapted from: http://www.southerninlaw.com/2014/04/grain-free-healthy-fudgy-avocado-brownies-recipe.html

Cashew Milk Horchata Brown Rice Pudding (GF)

Hi my Beloved Followers!  I am back!!  It has been a busy 4 months…hence I haven't posted a new recipe or blog since then!  With what have I been busy with you, you ask?  Let me share a few photos… :)

  Meet our Mr. Panda!  Here is his first day with us at 7 weeks (3 lbs).  He is a Bernedoodle (half Bernese Mountain dog/half Standard Poodle).

Meet our Mr. Panda!  Here is his first day with us at 7 weeks (3 lbs).  He is a Bernedoodle (half Bernese Mountain dog/half Standard Poodle).

 A few months later…. he grew… 

A few months later…. he grew… 

 And grew...

And grew...

 And now, he is 6 months old! (54 lbs.)

And now, he is 6 months old! (54 lbs.)

And now that he is old enough, I have my life back!  Those months were filled with a lot of cleaning, training, playing, walking, feeding…etc.  But now, he's napping like a big boy.  So it's back to the kitchen for me!

 

I just wanted to let you know that I didn't forget about you and this blog!  I did cook a lot throughout the 4 months, but never had enough time to take pictures and post.  But I am back and I promise to get back into my routine with posting regularly again.  Which brings me to today's recipe!

I have been wanting to make rice pudding now for at least a few weeks.  It's one of my mom's favorite desserts.  Something about the different textures of the chewy rice and the soft, creamy pudding make me drool.  And as the weather here in Chicago is "warming up" (it's currently 45 degrees)… I'm looking for some nice picnic desserts, and I found a winner!

This rice pudding is made with brown rice (healthier than the white rice) and since I'm mildly lactose intolerant, I decided to use cashew milk that I had onhand.  Since brown rice has a nutty taste to it, I figured that the cashew milk would only deepen those nutty undertones.  By the way, if you haven't tried cashew milk, I HIGHLY recommend it!  It's a nice change from almond milk and I enjoy putting it in my coffee.  It's a bit creamier than almond milk and has a nice light cashew flavor to it.  All of these delicious flavors combined with the rice reminds me of Horchata (a Common Mexican rice drink).  And I LOVE me some Horchata :D.  I hope you enjoy this new, healthier twist on a classic dessert!

Ingredients:

2 cups Brown rice (cooked)

2 cups Unsweetened Cashew Milk (Almond milk or cow's milk would also work)

1/3 cup of Sugar

Dash of Salt

1/2 tspn Cinnamon

1/4 tspn Nutmeg 

1 egg Yolk

1 tspn Vanilla Extract

1 tbs of Butter (may omit to make dessert dairy free)

Raisins (optional)

Directions:

1.  Pour cashew milk, sugar, cooked rice and a dash of salt into a sauce pan.  Bring to a boil, then simmer for 10-15 minutes until mixture is thick.

 These frozen brown rice packs are great!  I buy these at Trader Joe's.  You just pop them in the microwave for 2.5 minutes and you have 2 cups of fully cooked brown rice!

These frozen brown rice packs are great!  I buy these at Trader Joe's.  You just pop them in the microwave for 2.5 minutes and you have 2 cups of fully cooked brown rice!

2.  Once mixture thickens, change heat to low.  Sprinkle cinnamon and nutmeg.  


3.  In a small bowl, mix 1 egg yolk with Vanilla.  Temper egg mixture by added a spoonful of the hot rice pudding mixture and stir continuously to prevent scrambling of the egg.  

 I used my Vanilla from Mexico.  Very tasty!

I used my Vanilla from Mexico.  Very tasty!

4.   Turn off heat.  Add egg mixture to rice pudding and stir continuously to prevent scrambling.  Add butter until melted.  

 Butter may be omitted for a dairy-free version.  

Butter may be omitted for a dairy-free version.  

5.  Pour rice pudding to desired serving bowls. Allow rice pudding to set for at least 30 minutes, the pudding will thicken.  Enjoy it warm or cold!  Add raisins if you desire!  

  

Apple Cider Apple Donuts

Fall is my favorite season.  I love the turning colors of the leaves, I love all things pumpkin, I love the cooler weather, I love fall fashion, and most of all, I love making apple desserts.  I have yet to go apple picking this year, and it's almost over!  =T  My husband and I have been traveling, and so I feel like I've missed most of the fall already.  Let's face it.  In Chicago, you can't blink too hard or else you will just miss fall altogether!  

In light of this, I decided to make a batch of soft, warm, apple cider apple donuts!  It's the first thing I usually purchase at the apple orchard anyways.  But since I won't be able to make it this year, I'm bringing the apple donuts into my own kitchen! 

These are exceptionally moist, and not too sweet surprisingly.  I know my husband will enjoy these.  They are pretty simple, but you will need a donut pan.  If you don't already have one, I would suggest buying one.  You can't make baked donuts without them!

I also think next time I make these, I will add a salted caramel glaze…that would make them even yummier!  Enjoy!  And happy fall friends! :)

Ingredients

1 1/2 cup of apple cider

1 stick of cinnamon

2 cups of all purpose flour

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1 large egg (room temperature)

2 tablespoons melted butter

1/2 cup of dark brown sugar

1/2 cup of granulated sugar

1/2 cup of buttermilk (room temperature)

1 apple diced into small cubes

Topping:

1 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

 

Directions

1.  Pour apple cider and cinnamon stick into a small saucepan on high.  Reduce liquid to 1/2 cup.  Cool in the refrigerator until room temperature.

2.  Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray donut pans with cooking spray.

3.  Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  Set aside.

4.  Mix together egg, melted butter, sugars, buttermilk, apple cider reduction.  Add in diced apples at the end.

5.  Add in dry ingredients.  Gently mix together, do not over mix.

6. Fill a plastic piping bag (or a ziplock baggie) with 1/2 of the donut mixture.  Cut tip of bag or corner of baggie and pipe mixture into the donut pan.  Only fill the cavities 1/2-2/3 full.  

7.  Bake for 10-13 minutes.  Mix cinnamon and sugar in a bowl.  Roll fresh donuts into the cinnamon and sugar mixture.  Allow donuts to cool before eating…if you can wait that long! :P



Cookie butter swirled Banana Bread

One food staple in our home is bananas.  I typically will buy 2-3 bunches on a weekly basis.  Jon used to eat 1-2 bananas everyday.  One for breakfast and then one when he got home from work.  But lately, we've been having crockpot oatmeal for breakfast and he no longer eats his morning banana.  Therefore, we had a bunch of over ripened bananas waiting to be made into something special.

I love making banana bread because it's so versatile.  You can make muffins, make mini loaves, add nuts, add chocolate chips, add blueberries, freeze it for a rainy day…there are just so many options!  And it's so moist and delicious…you can really enjoy it any time of the day.  I really like having a slice with a hot cup of coffee in the morning.  

I've adapted this recipe from Allrecipes Banana Banana Bread recipe..which has over 8 thousand reviews with 4.5 stars!  It's the one and only tried and true banana bread recipe that I really loved.  It's super dense and has a rich banana flavor.  It also calls for the most bananas that I've ever seen in a typical banana bread recipe.  I mean this is a dense, rich banana bread.  If you're looking for something light and fluffy..this is not the recipe.

To decided to spruce up this banana loaf and swirl in some melted cookie butter.  I am in love with this stuff.  

I eat it with bananas, pancakes, toasts…drop a spoonful in my oatmeal.  It's delectable!  This particular brand is by Trader Joe's, but I've also seen a Biscoff brand at Mariano's.  I haven't tried any other brands besides Speculoos Cookie Butter.  If you haven't tried it, it's basically those small Biscoff biscuit cookies that they use to give you on the plane.  Sort of like a cinnamon graham cracker cookie.  They would package them in two….but it just wasn't enough. Now imagine that cookie made into a peanut-butter-like paste.  Absolutely delicious!  I'm looking forward to incorporating this into my macaron adventures!

Hope you enjoy this fun twist on the classic banana bread!

Ingredients:

4-5 medium over ripened bananas

2 cups of all-purpose flour

1 tspn baking soda

1/4 tspn salt

1/2 tspn cinnamon

1/2 c softened butter

3/4 c brown sugar

2 eggs

1 tspn vanilla extract

1/2 c cookie butter (melted in the microwave for 20 seconds)


Directions:

1.  Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease a loaf pan.

2.  Whisk together flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.

3.  In a mixer, cream together butter and brown sugar.  Cream until light and fluffy.  Add ripened bananas, eggs and vanilla.  Mix until bananas are well mashed and incorporated into batter.

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4.  Pour flour mixture into wet mixture.  Hand stir with a wooden spoon until combined.  Do not over mix.

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5.  Layer 1/3 of batter in bottom of prepared pan.  Drizzle melted cookie butter and swirl with a knife.  Repeat until all of batter is used, and swirl cookie butter on top layer.  Bake for 50-70 minutes.  Toothpick should come out clean when thoroughly baked through.  Allow to cool before cutting.  Devour.


Lentil & Barley soup

This weather is really playing tricks on me.  One minute I want to curl up with a big bowl of stew for dinner and the next, I think it's perfect weather for an outside BBQ!  Right now it's 70 degrees with clear blue skies and the sun has never looked brighter.  It would be a great day to enjoy a BBQ, but I had already had my heart set on making a lentil & barley soup!  

I have never made anything that has required either lentils or barley, but I know they are super hearty and nutritious.  This soup was the most colorful concoction that I have made thus far in my kitchen!  I took a double take on my camera screen because the colors were just so bold and beautiful.  

My husband, Jon and I have been meeting with a nutritionist who has been helping us get a jump start on our goals to eat healthy and have more energy.  We attend a gym club called Monkey Bar Gym that is in the same realm of "Cross fit".  High intensity weight training and circuits.  It was definitely Jon's idea to join in the first place, but I have really come to enjoy the people and the workouts.  A part of the gym's practice is to consume a plant-based diet, which has never even been in our vocabulary.  It's not what you think, we are no where near becoming vegans or vegetarians!  We strive to eat 80% or more plant foods and try to stay away from processed food products.  It's been quite a learning curve, but doing it as a couple, has really helped.  We're learning how to read nutrition labels, cook without oils and how to better fuel our bodies.  

This soup fits into most of those categories, although I did add a handful of shredded chicken for added flavor, and also because we're still weaning ourselves off eating meat at every meal.  We try to only eat meat at dinner.  I love soups and stews because you can really add anything you want.  The combinations are endless.  And who doesn't love a bowl of hot soup on a 70 degree sunny day? :)  Enjoy!

Ingredients:

1 chopped white onion

1 cup chopped organic carrots (or you can use baby carrots)

3/4 cup lentils

3/4 cup pearled barley

1 can diced tomatoes

2 zucchinis diced

1 cup chopped frozen baby kale

4 cups organic vegetable broth (low sodium)

2 cups water

Optional: Handful of shredded chicken (I like to keep a bag of shredded rotisserie chicken in the fridge, to add protein to salads or for instances like this).

salt/pepper/garlic powder to taste

Directions:

1.   Layer zucchini, onions, carrots, kale and tomatoes on bottom of slow cooker.

2.  Season veggies with salt, pepper and garlic powder.

3.  Pour lentils and barley over the vegetables.  Add vegetable broth and water to the pot.  Stir together.

 I added another cup while it was cooking.  The lentils and barley absorb a lot of water.

I added another cup while it was cooking.  The lentils and barley absorb a lot of water.

4.  Add shredded chicken if you would like.

5.  Set slow cooker on high for 4-5 hours.  The longer the setting, the thicker the soup will be.



Got milk? Nope.

I'm not sure when I started becoming lactose intolerant.  I used to LOVE milk.  My mom only bottle fed us with cow's milk as infants.  And as a kid,  I would drink it plain, with Nesquick chocolate or strawberry powder, pour it over sugary kid's cereals, and dunk my oreos in it.  Plus I would drink it at almost every meal.  It was my favorite drink.  I even posed for a Got Milk ad when I was in 8th grade!  I tried finding the ad to post, but I can't find it at the moment.  It seemed pretty sudden when I couldn't tolerate milk anymore and then slowly the other dairy items I loved, like ice cream went out the window too.  It was a sad day.  Every now and then I can eat ice cream if I have a Lactaid handy…but what's the fun in that? :P


Enter Almond milk.  It has been a life changer.  I never even knew almond milk existed.  How could milk come from almonds?  I couldn't fathom the process of squeezing any liquid out of a nut…you mine as well tell me to squeeze a rock so I can get a drink of water from it!  But then I came across a site that taught you how to make your own at home!  And it is really is quite simple.  A little time consuming if you don't invest in a cheese cloth (I didn't), but I think I will purchase one next time to make this process a bit easier.  We go through at least 1-2 cartons of Almond milk a week.  I typically buy the Almond Breeze brand, Almond coconut milk blend.  It's delicious!  And it's only 45 calories per a cup.  You can't beat that!  

I did really enjoy this homemade almond milk.  It turned out very creamy.  And I like that I know exactly what went into it.  Almonds and water.  But it is easier and probably cheaper to just buy it off the shelf.  If I had the time, I would make this again!  If you're curious like me and want to make a healthier version of this tasty milk, try this recipe, you won't regret it!


Ingredients

1 cup almonds

2 cups water

blender

strainer

cheese cloth

optional:  sweeteners, coconut milk, other natural flavorings


Directions:

1.  Soak almonds in a bowl of water (enough to cover every almond) for 24-48hrs.  (the longer, the more creamy).

2.  Rinse almonds with fresh, cold water.

3.  Place almonds and 2 cups of fresh water into a blender.  Blend for 3-4 minutes.  Liquid will turn instantly white.

4.  Strain milk to removed almond meal, and remove as much liquid as possible.

5.  Strain liquid again with a cheese cloth to ensure full removal of almond meal.  

6.  Next place almond meal in cheese cloth and squeeze all the liquid out.  Keep Almond meal for future baking (if so you can bake it in the oven to remove excess liquid and freeze).

7.  Refrigerate almond milk as soon as possible.  Because it is not pasteurized, it will expire in 2 days.  


Vanilla Sugared Apple Chips

I was at the store the other day and waiting in line I grabbed a bag of organic apple chips.  It was an impulse buy…but I figured if I wanted to satisfy my snack craving, I mine as well do it healthily.  Even though the only ingredients were organic fuji apples and cane sugar, they still had this "factory" taste to them.  Maybe it was the sealed bag it came in… But I digress.  It made me want to try making my own apple chips.  I don't have a dehydrator but at a low enough temperature in the oven, you can dehydrate anything.

I used Gala apples for added natural sweetness.  Granny smiths would work well if you like your apple chips tart.  I also added a sprinkle of Vanilla Sugar.  I just happened to have this on hand.  If you are looking for flavored sugars, I know that Spice House in Old Town (a great Chicago neighborhood) has a nice variety.  This particular sugar is from the French Chocolatier Jean Philippe.  It's smells amazing.  It's basically vanilla infused sugar with bits of vanilla bean.  I wanted to try out something different than the normal cinnamon and sugar.  Although, that would be tasty too!

Also, I hate using the mandolin.  In fact we got one months ago and I threw it out because I was so terrified that we were going to lose a finger slicing cucumbers that I couldn't stand to have in the house.  But really to get these apple slices evenly thin, you need a mandolin.  So I gathered up my courage and bought a new one.  A much simpler model that I felt that I could control better.  Success!  I was able to cut very, thin, even slices of apples.  The thinner the more crispy they will be.  I love to eat things with a crunch.  If you prefer your apple chips more on the chewy side, you can cut them thicker and bake them less, in which case you can just use a knife, very carefully.

 

These made my day.  There was a dark and cloudy thunderstorm that rolled through this afternoon and it was the perfect stay at home project while folding the laundry.  I imagine these will be a staple in the fall for us.  Hope you will enjoy this healthy snack!

Ingredients:

2 large apples (of your choice, I used Gala apples)

Vanilla sugar (or cinnamon/sugar blend)

Directions:

1.   Pre-heat oven to 225 degrees.

2.  Wash apples and cut off the top of the apple. (I cut my apples horizontally).


3..  Using a mandolin or a sharp knife, cut apple into very thin slices.

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4.  Place apples in a single-layer on a parchment lined cookie sheet.

5.  Sprinkle Vanilla sugar on every apple slice.  

6.  Bake for 1 hour.  After 1 hour, pull each apple slice from the parchment paper and bake another 1 hour until no moisture remains.

7.  Cool for 15 minutes, at this time, the chips will become even more crispy in texture.  Enjoy with a cup of tea!

Farmer's Market Summer Squash bread

The Story

I had lunch with my friend Stacy last week in the Loop and the Farmer's market was happening.  I didn't think I was going to purchase anything because I figured everything would be too expensive.  I enjoy buying organic produce, and supporting local farmers, but I'm also cost conscious.  But I stumbled upon a great stand that had affordable greens and squash and I bought a couple of zucchini and a yellow squash for only 50 cents each!  My husband, Jon and I enjoy broiled squash as a side dish but this time around Jon used one of the zucchinis to make a flat bread pizza the other night.  So I had one zucchini and one yellow squash left.  

My brother and sister-in-law just had a baby girl today (Eek! I am SO excited to be an Auntie! :)).    Welcome to the world baby Abigail Darlene Mei Wong!!  We are visiting them this weekend in Michigan and I wanted to bring something easy that we could have with coffee in the morning.  I saw these guys sitting on the table this morning and they became my inspiration to make a couple of summer squash bread loaves.  I love zucchini bread and thought adding the yellow squash would be interesting and add a special sweetness to the bread.  The nice thing about zucchini bread is that their moistness allows them to be baked ahead of time and they freeze well!  Perfect for gifting and/or using up zucchini before they go bad and saving the bread for a later time (IF they make it to the freezer that is).  

I sometimes make these into muffins so they're a little more portable or even mini loaves so I can share with friends.  Either way, this is a great versatile recipe and I hope you can make it your own!  And an extra bonus, your house will smell amazing.  We're dog sitting and Tessy hasn't left the kitchen :).  


Ingredients:

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 tspn salt

1 tspn baking soda

1 tspn baking powder

3 tspn Cinnamon

1 tspn Nutmeg

1 tbs Chia seeds

3 eggs

1 cup vegetable oil

2 c granulated sugar

3 tspn vanilla extract

1 c grated zucchini

1 c grated yellow squash

1 c chopped walnuts *optional


Directions:

1.  Grease and flour 2 loaf pans, set aside.

2.  Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees.

3.  Whisk flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and chia seeds until well combined.  

4.  In a mixing bowl, mix eggs, sugar, oil and vanilla until creamy.

5.  Add dry ingredients to wet until combined, don't over mix.

6.  Grate zucchini and squash.  Hand stir into mixture.  Add nuts if you desire.  

7.  Pour into prepared pans and bake for 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Allow to cool on rack before cutting.

 Presentation or gift idea!

Presentation or gift idea!




Almond Horn Cookies (Gluten free)

My mom came over a couple of weeks ago and handed me this cookie.  She said, "Try this and figure out how to make it and make me some".  She has been purchasing these cookies at an Italian bakery 30 minutes from her house for $17/lbs.!  She really enjoys these cookies with her coffee in the morning and it has become an expensive habit for her.  Once I took a bite, I knew I had to find out how to make these.  They are absolutely delicious!  They're full of almond flavor (which I LOVE almond flavored desserts) and inside they're soft with an outside crunch from the toasted almonds.  

My husband Jon ate half of the cookie, so I only had half to taste and dissect.  I really enjoy the process of figuring out recipes.  It's fun to taste and write down what I'm tasting and the different ideas and techniques I can use to replicate a recipe.  They turned out to be super simple and gluten free.  I'm thinking this would also be a good cookie to dip in chocolate or even leave out the powdered sugar.  They're pretty to display and they are really easy to make.  The only drawback are the prices of the ingredients.  Which is typical of nut-based ingredients, but I definitely made these at less than $17/lbs.!  

If you're looking for a hearty cookie for afternoon tea, or a simple picnic, these are your cookies!  I hope you enjoy them as much as my mom and I!  Beware, if you dust them with powdered sugar, they can get pretty messy!

Ingredients:

1 8oz. can of Almond Paste

1/4 cup of Granulated sugar

1/3 cup of Liquid egg whites (or two large egg whites)

3 1/2 tablespoons of Almond Flour

1 6 oz. bag of Slivered almonds

Powdered sugar for dusting *optional

Directions:

1.  Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.

2.  Open can of almond paste and scoop into a mixer bowl.  Mix on medium speed.  Add sugar and egg whites.  Lastly add almond flour until mixture is dough-like. (Dough will be sticky).

 In case you're wondering what exactly Almond paste is!

In case you're wondering what exactly Almond paste is!

3.  Pour slivered almonds on a plate.  Scoop a small ball of dough with a cookie scoop onto the pile of almonds.  Roll the ball of dough into the almonds and form a log shape.  Then fold ends slightly to make a crescent moon.

4.  Place cookies on a silpat or parchment paper lined cookie sheet about 1 inch apart.  Bake for 17-20 minutes.  Almonds should be golden brown on edges.

 Before baking…

Before baking…

 After!  Baked to a toasty golden brown!

After!  Baked to a toasty golden brown!

5.  Allow to cool for at least 15 minutes before dusting with powdered sugar.   

 Beautiful cookies!

Beautiful cookies!

Summery Fresh Fruit Crisp

This warm sunny weather makes me crave sweet, refreshing fruit.  I've been stocking up on fresh fruit at least 3 times a week. I cannot believe how much fruit my husband and I go through!  I'm not complaining.  I know once winter comes I'll be sick of apples and bananas.  This is my go-to recipe for a nice, warm fruit crisp.  It's super easy to throw together and I usually have all the ingredients already in my pantry.  You can also play around with the fruit combination.  For the fall, I enjoy a nice variety of apples (granny smith, fuji, pink ladies, gala etc.).  But for the summer I like to throw together a berry mix with some fresh peaches or nectarines.  And my husband, Jon enjoys this with a cold scoop of vanilla ice cream.  Too bad I'm lactose intolerant or else I would join him :P.  It's the perfect after dinner treat!  It's also gluten free! Which comes in handy when we're entertaining large groups of people.  

I'm really enjoying being outside this summer.  Our gym closed its doors unfortunately, but since then we have moved to a park close by that allow us to enjoy the beautiful weather!  Although our workouts are at the mercy of the weather, it's been a nice change from being inside four walls.  We hope to find a place soon, so when the weather changes we can still keep up our community and the workouts!  In my previous post, I didn't seem as keen on the workouts, but since then, I've noticed such a huge improvement in my strength, body and sleeping patterns, that I'm a huge fan now!  Thanks Monkey Bar Gym trainers for all that you do!  I never thought I would be so in love with it, but I am! :)

A part of our gym training is to also eat healthier, which we definitely have since we've joined.  Since I'm a baker, I've been trying to make desserts that we can enjoy without feeling guilty about it.  And this is one of those!  Yes, there is butter, but it's a small amount in comparison to other desserts.  I hope you take advantage of the fresh fruits and make this! You won't regret it! 

Summer Fresh Fruit Crisp

Ingredients

3 cups of washed, fresh, ripe fruit (variety of your choice) For this recipe, I used strawberries, blackberries, blueberries and nectarines.*

1 cup Gluten Free Organic Rolled Oats

1 cup Gluten Free Granola (I used a KIND brand granola)

1/2 cup Almond flour

1/2 cup Raw Cane Sugar (or if you prefer brown sugar)

1 teaspoon Cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon Nutmeg

1 stick cold butter (cut into 10 pads)

Directions

1.  Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  

2.  Wash and cut fruit to your liking.  (I halved my strawberries to make them easier to eat).  To peel the nectarines, cut an X on the top and peel down.  Cube the nectarine once peeled.  

3.  Mix together Rolled Oats, Almond flour, Cane Sugar, Cinnamon and nutmeg.  

4.  Add the pads of butter.  Using a fork, cut the butter into the mixture until butter forms into balls covered in mixture.  These are called Crisp crumbs.

5.  Add Granola to mixture to the crisp crumbs.

6.  Pour enough of the mix to add a thin layer on bottom of pie pan.  (This is optional as well, I like the crisp on the bottom and top.  Traditional crisps have only the top layer).

7.  Arrange fruit in pan.

8.  Top with the crisp mixture.

9. Bake for 35-40 minutes until top is golden brown, and fruit is bubbling.

10.  Allow to cool before serving, fruit filling is very hot.  Top with your favorite vanilla ice cream and devour!

*Because there is no additional sugar added to the fruit, make sure your fruit is ripe and sweet. This will effect how sweet your crisp tastes.  Unless you enjoy tart crisps!


Homemade Crockpot Chicken Stock

I've always wanted to try to make my own chicken stock.  Canned chicken stock are composed of all sorts of preservatives and contain a lot of salt.  Even the low sodium kind has a high salt content.  By making my own chicken stock, I know exactly what goes into it and I can add/subtract to my taste.  The first step to this is to roast a chicken.  It sounds and looks harder than it actually is.  Roasting a chicken is actually one of the easiest dinners to throw together, and also very reasonable.  A whole chicken is about $4.  And if you don't want to attempt roasting your own chicken, you can use the carcass of one of those pre-cooked rotisserie chickens.  Although, be aware that the seasonings may contain a lot of salt that you may not be aware of.

To roast a chicken, I usually rinse the whole chicken really well, inside and out and pat dry.  I then take softened butter and slather the chicken skin.  This helps the browning, and crisping of the skin.  I then take my seasonings and season the skin and the inside of the chicken pretty well.  I then stuff the chicken with carrots, onions and celery, the vegetable trifecta of any stock base.  Then place the chicken along with extra veggies in the bottom of the roasting pan and bake until golden brown.   Checking the middle of the chicken breast with a thermometer until it reads 180 degrees F, and the juices should run clear.  

When you are done "feasting" on the chicken, you are left with whole lot of scrap meat and the bones.  Now you are ready to start making your chicken stock!  I use this stock for everything.  It adds a wonderful depth of flavor to cook veggies.  We have been trying to cut out oil which I used to use while doing a quick vegetable stir-fry, but now I use the chicken stock.  And it is delicious.  Not only is it healthier, it's much tastier!  You can also use chicken stock in place of water in most recipes and you will have all the wonderful richness of flavors of the chicken and vegetables.  It's great for a quick noodle soup, or even lentil/bean soups.  It's quite versatile and it's freezable so if you don't want to use it all now, you can freeze it and save it for a rainy day.  It's been a lifesaver in the kitchen.  Especially when I've racked my brain with what we should have for dinner.  And I'm sure there are many more ways to use this! Be creative!  Oh and did I mention that when I made this, I was sleeping?  Yep! You just throw it in before going to bed at night into the crockpot and when you wake up it's ready to go!

Ingredients

1 Chicken carcass

2 cups baby carrots

1 1/2cups chopped celery

1 1/2 cups onions

sea salt/pepper to taste

chicken seasoning (I use Adobo)

garlic powder

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Directions

1.  Place veggies in the bottom of the crockpot and add your seasonings.   Next, place the chicken carcass on top of the veggies in the  crockpot.

2.  Pour enough water to fill the crockpot, leaving an inch from the top of the crockpot.

3.  Cover and put on low setting for 10 hours.

4.  Once finished, let cool and place is jars, or plastic freezer bags to freeze.  Chicken stock is good in the fridge for 1 week or the 1 month in the freezer.

Add a little twine or pretty ribbon and these would also make great gifts!  Enjoy!!

Wedding Strawberry Macarons

I started making macarons after I made it my new year's resolution to perfect the macaron.  Macarons are known to be tedious and difficult, basically a baker's worst nightmare.  They require a lot of patience and T.L.C. (tender loving care).  I began my adventure by experimenting with different cereal macarons, which has become a favorite among my circle of friends.  It's been fun trying out different ingredients to create macarons that you can't buy anywhere else.  I actually took a macaron class in New York City this past April and I learned the authentic french technique of making macarons.  It involved a scale, sugar water, tempering egg whites and a candy thermometer.  Very complicated and intense.  But they turned out beautiful.  The only thing is, they're sort of boring.  Authentic french macaron shells are only made with almond flour, powdered sugar, and egg whites.  The coloring of the shell depends on what flavor the filling is, so for example, a pistachio macaron, you would add green food coloring and the filling would be a pistachio paste.  And that is where all the flavor comes from.  

Maybe it's the "American" in me, but I like to have more of a robust flavor in my macarons, and so I always add flavor to the shells as well.  Either in extract or powdered form.  I know the French would be appalled at my macarons, but hey, they're pretty darn delicious!  

This recipe is for the beginner macaroner!  It requires NO weighing.  BIG plus!  And little prep work.  I made these for my co-worker's wedding this past weekend as favors.  Her colors were blush and gold and so I made them strawberry flavored with gold accents.  Some with edible gold sprinkles and others I hand-painted with edible gold paint.  You definitely don't have to decorate them as I did, but it does add a nice regal touch.  Hope you have some good luck with this recipe!  Lord knows, I've messed up plenty of macarons! Let me know if you have questions and I can help you troubleshoot.  Sorry I don't have many step by step pictures, I decided to blog these last minute!

Wedding Strawberry Macarons

Ingredients:

Shells

2/3 cup almond flour (minus 2 Tbs)

1 1/2 cup powdered sugar

2 tsp powdered freeze dried strawberries

3 egg whites (9 tbs of liquid egg whites) Microwaved for 10 seconds*

5 Tbs granulate sugar

1 tsp of meringue powder**

*this is a quick way to "dry out" your egg whites.

**can be found at Michael's, Joann's, Hobby Lobby etc.

Filling

1 stick of softened butter

1 cup powdered sugar

2 tbs powdered freeze-dried strawberries

1 -2 tbs milk 

 

Directions:

1.  In a food processor, mix the almond flour, powdered sugar and powdered strawberries until well combined.

2.  Meanwhile, using a mixer, whisk egg whites until foamy, gradually add sugar and meringue powder.  Whisk until a stiff peak forms, or I like to hold the bowl upside down and if it doesn't move, you are good to go.

3.  Add dry ingredients into the meringue and fold until mixture is lava-like and there are no pockets of dried ingredients.  Be careful not to over mix! 

4.  Pour mix into a piping bag with an Ateco 806 tip (1/2 inch round tip).  Pipe circles onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet.

5.  Once you pipe one pan, tap the pan on the counter until all bubbles are released and each circle is smooth.  If you want to add sprinkles, this is the step where you would do that.  Add sprinkles to each circle of batter.

6.  Let shells rest on the counter for at least 20 minutes before putting into the oven.  Touch the shells to make sure there is a skin that has formed.  (i.e. batter should not stick to your finger).

7.  Heat oven to 280 degrees, and bake for 15-17 minutes.  Macaron shells should be easily removed from parchment paper.  Pull the parchment sheet onto a cooling rack.  Let rest for at least 20 minutes before piping with filling.

8.  To make filling, use a mixer to whip the butter with a paddle attachment.  Butter should almost be white in color and fluffy.  Add powdered sugar and powdered freeze dried strawberries.  Add milk as needed to make sure filling is smooth and creamy.

9.  Fill piping bag with strawberry filling.  Add filling between two shells and sandwich.

10.  Once all the macarons are filled, it is it best that they "rest" in the fridge for at least 24-36 hours before eating.  It improves the texture of the macaron and allows the filling to add to the chewiness of the shells. 


Congrats to Sarah and Eric!!! 



Sunshine Honey Banana Muffins

I'm excited to post this recipe! These muffins were so yummy and moist.  I made them into mini muffins so I could grab a few on the go for breakfast.  They remind me of those bags of Hostess mini muffins.  I used to love those as a kid.  They melt in your mouth instantly…but they're super unhealthy and have all kinds of crazy ingredients to make them that consistency. 

These banana mini muffins have no sugar, only organic honey and whole wheat flour.  I also added some Chia seeds for added fiber, Omega 3 and protein.  This was an easy swap  since they're tasty and filling.  They were also a great way to get rid of our brown bananas!  

 

The day I made these, sunshine was pouring in from our windows.  It's been so refreshing walking into my kitchen in the morning and seeing the sun flood the room.  I'm so thankful for warm weather.  Summers in Chicago really are the best.  With the winter we recently had, I'm set on making the most of the warm weather!  I hope you get a chance to make these healthy banana muffins! Enjoy :)

 

Ingredients:

2 1/2 cups of Whole Wheat flour

1 1/2 tspn of baking powder

1 tspn baking soda

1/2 tspn salt

2 cups mashed banana (About 4-5 overripe bananas)

3/4 cup raw or organic honey

1/2 cup coconut oil (slightly melted, microwaved for 10 sec)

2 eggs

2 tspn vanilla

1/2 cup plain, low-fat yogurt

1 tbs chia seeds

 

Directions:

1.  Pre-heat oven to 390 degrees.

2.  In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Set aside.

3.  In a mixing bowl mix together mashed bananas, honey, coconut oil, eggs and vanilla.

4.  Add half of the dry ingredients and mix well.  Add yogurt and the rest of the dried ingredients plus the chia seeds.  Mix until well combined.

5.  Divide batter into mini muffin tins, filling about 2/3 of the way.  Bake for 13-18 minutes until tops are golden brown.



Happy Half Thanksgiving Pumpkin Whoopie pies!

I know what you're thinking…what the heck is Half Thanksgiving?  Well, it is exactly 6 months from Thanksgiving and exactly 6 months until the next Thanksgiving.  I'm on deck for leading small group this week and I wanted to do a lesson on Thanksfulness.  How much of the day do we spend being thankful?  So I thought that I would make a Thanksgiving feast and to go along with our fall-inspired dinner, I needed a pumpkin dessert.  This is where these soft, pillowy, gluten-free, whoopie pies come in!  If you've never had a whoopie pie, it is a cake-like cookie sandwiching a sweet fluffy filling.  Most times, a buttercream or in the traditional whoopie pie, marshmallow fluff filling.  So delicious!  It's basically a portable cake sandwich that you can carry around and enjoy.  I love them.  

Today is my first day off after a long stretch of days at the hospital, so I spent a lot of time browsing at Target finding my ingredients.  One of which, was canned organic pumpkin.  When I got home and started organizing the ingredients, I realized I didn't have the canned pumpkin.  OH how that made my blood boil!  >:T  One of my worst pet peeves is having to go back to the store once I'm settled and at home.  But I had no choice.  What's a pumpkin whoopie pie without the pumpkin?  So I went back to the store and came home to work on my Thanksgiving lesson.  I immediately started feeling grateful that I even have the means to go out to the store to buy a can of pumpkin!  There are so many people in this world that don't even have that luxury, whether it's a physical or monetary limitation, or the fact that I have a car and I live 5 blocks away from a grocery store that carries organic canned pumpkin!  

What a good lesson for me to swallow, I'm thankful for so many things and this made me realize how much I take for granted.  Even something like a can of pumpkin :).  Happy Half Thanksgiving! Hope this entry makes you hungry for Thanksgiving food and makes you think about the things in life that you are thankful for.

To make these slightly healthier, I used Turbinado Sugar, but if you don't have that on hand, you can substitute for brown sugar.  I also made a gluten free version since I have a GFree small group member :).  I forgot to throw in the chia seeds in this batch. 

Happy Half Thanksgiving Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

Ingredients

1 stick of room temperature butter

1 cup of natural/raw sugar cane sugar (or brown sugar)

2 large eggs, room temp and slightly beatened

1 cup pumpkin puree

1 Tbs pumpkin pie spice

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

3/4 tsp salt

233g gluten-free flour

1 package cream cheese, softened

1/4 cup maple syrup (or raw honey)

1/2 tsp cinnamon

Directions

1.  Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

2.  In a large bowl, mix butter and cane sugar.

3.  Whisk in pumpkin, eggs, vanilla.

4.  Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt, set aside.

5.  Fold in flour mixture in three batches, mixing well after each addition.

6.  Drop batter with a small cookie scoop, press down to ensure even cookies.  Be sure to space cookies well, batter spreads while baking.

7.  Bake for 10 minutes, edges may be slightly browned.  

8.  Make the cream cheese filling by whipping cream cheese in a mixer until smooth.  Add maple syrup or raw honey.  Sprinkle cinnamon.  Whip until fully combined and smooth.

 This here is a bottle of pure Vermont Maple Syrup! I've been wanting to sneak this into a recipe, so glad I got to finally use it.  It's delicious and not overly sweet.

This here is a bottle of pure Vermont Maple Syrup! I've been wanting to sneak this into a recipe, so glad I got to finally use it.  It's delicious and not overly sweet.

9.  Once cookies are cooled on a rack, spread cream cheese filling and sandwich with a second pumpkin cookie.  These can be messy, they should look slightly rustic :).



Decadent Chocolate Avocado Pound Cake `

I have a brother and a cousin that live in San Francisco and I visit often.  It is one of my all time favorite cities in the world.  I love the culture, the carefree vibe, the food trends, and the weather.  Every time I visit, I have to stop by one of my favorite bakeries called "Miette".  It's the most adorable, charming, and whimsical bakery.  I'm drawn to the pastels, the decor, the dish ware that all screams "Pinterest Me"!  If I were to ever own a bakery, it would be modeled after Miette.  

My favorite treat to get at Miette is this rich, chocolately mini Scharffen Berger cake.

 SO adorable!

SO adorable!

 Scharffen Berger is a chocolate company based out of San Francisco that makes high quality chocolate and cocoa.  You can read more about their history here: http://www.scharffenberger.com/our-story/history/ This particular cocoa really makes this chocolate cake special.  The taste is off the charts!  Even if you don't have a strong palate for distinguishing high quality vs low quality chocolate, you could really taste the difference in this cake.  This isn't your typical Nestle chocolate cake!  You can purchase this specialty chocolate online or at high end grocery stores such as "Fox & Obel" here in Chicago.  

I was craving this cake the other day, but I've been wanting to test out avocado in chocolate recipes.  I know that avocados add a richness and fudgy texture to most baked goods and I thought this would be a good pairing.  I also thought that a thick, rich chocolate poundcake would go nicely with a cup of coffee in the morning :).  I decided to add a hint of cinnamon which I recently had in a Triple Chocolate Mexican brownie and it was amazing.  Oh and if you're concerned if this recipe was consumed after my 30 day challenge..it wasn't! I made this recipe BEFORE our 30 day challenge started, I'm retro-posting.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Decadent Chocolate Avocado Pound Cake

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup almond flour or coconut flour

1/2 cup Sharffen berger cocoa

1/4 tspn salt

3 tsp baking powder

1 tsp Ground Saigon Cinnamon

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened

1 cup granulated white sugar

1 ripe avocado (about 1/2 cup)

3 large eggs

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1 cup milk

Optional Ganache Frosting:

16 oz bittersweet chocolate chips

2 cups heavy whipping cream

Directions

1.  Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  Set butter and eggs on counter to warm up to room temperature.

2.  In a medium bowl, whisk together AP flour, almond flour, cocoa powder, salt and baking powder.

3.  In a large mixing bowl (stand mixer), mix butter until light and fluffy (about 5-7 minutes).  Then gradually add sugar until it is even lighter and fluffier.

4.  Add in whole avocado, beat until well blended.

5.  Add in eggs, one at a time and mix thoroughly in between each egg.  Add in vanilla extract.  My favorite vanilla extract is Neilsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Extract.

6.  Add half of the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, mix until dough-like.  Add the milk and then the rest of the dry ingredients until combined.

7.  Pour batter into a greased loaf pan.  Lower oven heat to 325 degrees and bake for 50 minutes or until middle is firm.  Once baked, place on cooling rack before frosting.

8.  While the poundcake is baking and you are smelling the intoxicating aromas.. you can prepare a quick chocolate ganache frosting.  In a small sauce pan, add 16 oz bittersweet chocolate and 2 cups of heavy whipping cream.

9.  Melt the chocolate and cream on medium-low heat until smooth.  Remove from heat and place in the refrigerator to firm slightly. (should be well chilled by the time cake is done baking and cooling).

10. Spread onto the top of the pound cake and enjoy!

Wish I had a picture of a cross section of this chocolate pound cake.  It was rich, dense and fudge-like.  All thanks to the avocado!