by abby on January 6, 2012 | Comment
This week I’ve been working on a new illustration that features swinging monkeys. They have been a great help to keep my thoughts to warm, steamy tropical jungles rather than my snowy, cold upstate New York scenery.
In fact, my funny, furry friends inspired me to create a tasty and healthy dessert. What better way to add a punch of color and flavor to winter than with tropical fruits? This treat is so simple that I know you will want to try it yourself. Here’s the recipe.
Blueberry Banana Orange Parfait
1/2- 1 cup washed Blueberries
1 Medium Navel Orange
1 8 oz. cup plain Greek Yogurt
1 tablespoon honey
Glassware or jar of your choice
1. Add honey to the Greek yogurt and mix together well.
2. Peal orange and sliced into small chunks.
3. Select the glassware of your choice. Have fun with this decision! There are many options from wine glasses to canning jars.
4. Begin to layer. Start with a layer of blueberries at the bottom of your glass. Then add a dollop of the yogurt. You can gently spread the yogurt around with a spoon to cover all the blueberries. Next, create a layer with several orange chunks. Top with more yogurt. Repeat this process until you fill your glass and end with a yogurt layer.
5. Slice several pieces of banana and place them on top of the final yogurt layer. Ta-da! A healthy and fun dessert!
Feel free to add in your own favorite tropical fruits to this recipe. I bet pineapple or mango would be equally as delicious. You also can add a bit of granola or crushed flax seed to the top to add a little crunch.
Do you have a great healthy dessert idea? I love to hear it!
by abby on December 13, 2011 | Comment
My whimsical handmade stripes and dots paper garlands and ornaments are so fun that they gave me inspiration for another baking project.
I love the combination of stripes and dots. The black and white color palette adds the right amount of sophistication too. If I was to host a stripes and pok-a-dot party, I would want a dessert to match. Brilliant! My first thought was chocolate. So I baked decadent chocolate brownies and covered them with vanilla frosting. The fun part comes next! I decorated the tops of the brownies with black decorating gel into stripes and pok-a-dots.
FYI: save time and stress and buy black decorating gel instead of making black from frosting. You’ll be a much happier baker. Ta-da! Amazingly cute brownies to compliment your party’s theme.
by abby on August 23, 2011 | Comment
Summer is winding down here in upstate New York. Already these last couple of days, I’ve had to wear a sweatshirt while I’m sipping my morning cup of tea. The cooler morning reminds me that Fall is just around the corner and that also means the first day of school too! Sharpen those pencils, collect the notebooks, and clean out that lunchbox. To make the start of the school year a little sweet, I was inspired to bake a homemade dessert that could be easily added to child’s lunch.
I created Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies. Yum! These cookies are quick to pull together and using dark chocolate chips adds a great twist and reduces the overall sugar consumption too. I also purposely make my cookies on the smaller size. My philosophy is you get to enjoy the indulgence without the regret. One other tip for these cookies: avoid all those nasty hydrogenated oils by using Organic Crunchy peanut butter (I used the Wegmans kind). Grab your bowls and mixer let’s bake some cookies!
Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup crunchy-style peanut butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2-1 cup dark chocolate chips
(60% dark chocolate Ghirardelli chips recommended)
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a large bowl combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and the salt. Set aside.
3. In a mixing bowl, beat the butter and peanut butter together until fluffy. This can take several minutes, about 3-5minutes. Add the sugars and beat smooth. Add the egg and mix well. Add the milk and vanilla and mix. Add the flour mixture and beat thoroughly.
4. Stir in the dark chocolate chips.
5. Drop by half-full rounded teaspoons onto ungreased cookie sheets, leaving several inches between each one for expansion.
6. If chips allow for it: use a fork, lightly indent with a crisscross pattern, but don’t overly flatten cookies.
7. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Do not over bake! The cookies may appear underdone, but they are not. (My time was 10 on the mark.)
8. Cool cookies on sheet for 1 minute, then remove to cool completely.
These cookies are not too sweet. The crunchy peanut butter add a touch of crunch and roasted peanut flavor. Always the big kid at heart, D’s preferred method of eating a peanut butter chocolate chip cookie is to dunk it in milk first, then take a bite. Enjoy the tasty treat and happy back to school!
by abby on June 10, 2011 | Comment
Happy Friday everyone! Thankfully, I survived the unbearably awful heat wave. I even had a bit of foresight earlier in the week by making several individual quiches in order to not have to touch the stove or the oven during our last 48 hours of 90+ heat. (alas this apartment and studio is without a/c). My little quiches were such a hit with D and myself that I want to share the recipe with all of you too. Are you ready for another round of kitchen magic?
D’s mother gifted me the individual tarte/quiche pans for Christmas. Yes, it has taken me this long to actually try them, but it was so worth the wait! Since we had six pans, I wanted to make a base egg and cheese mixture and then customize each pan with different vegetables and offer D a meat option. Everything I used, I already had in the house, so it truly came together very quickly and easily.
I also made a whole wheat crust, just to shake things up a little. I used my pie crust recipe from The Magnolia Bakery Apple Pie and substituted one of the white flour cups for a cup of whole wheat flour. Here are the details:
WHOLE WHEAT CRUST
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
½ teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons or ½ stick unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
2/3 cup solid vegetable shortening, chilled and cut into small pieces
5 tablespoons ice water
TO MAKE THE CRUST
Combine the white and wheat flour and the salt in a large bowl. Using a pastry blender (the most handy tool in my baking arsenal) cut in the butter and then cut in the shortening. I find it easier to add them separately. Keep blending until the mixture resembles crumbly sand and has small pea size pieces of the butter and shortening. Add in the ice water and toss with a fork until the dough is moistened. Using your hands, gather the dough together into a large ball. Wrap it tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Now it time to prepare the egg and cheese mixture along with the vegetables and the bacon. Yes, bacon. We had some left over maple bacon stripes from the weekend, so not wanting them to so to waste, I decided it would be a nice touch to add some crumbled bacon bits into a couple of the quiches. I cooked about 3 strips of bacon. While the bacon is sizzling, I diced up the onion and sweet peppers. Both the onion and peppers went into my base egg mixture. For cheese, we had a Cabot Garlic & Herb Cheddar block in the frig. It was wonderfully garlicy and turned out to be a great cheese to use for quiche, but, you can use a Swiss or Gruyere as well.
BASE EGG AND CHEESE MIXTURE
3 eggs, whisked
Egg White (from 2 eggs), whisked
1 cup shredded Cabot Garlic & Herb Cheese
1 ¼ cup milk (I used No Sugar Added Soy Milk)
2 tablespoon all-purpose flour
½ cup of sweet peppers (I used yellow and red pepper)
¼ cup Vandalia onion
Dash of Cayenne Pepper
Salt and pepper
Maple Bacon, cooked and crumbled
½ cup broccoli, sautéed
¼ cup sliced, jarred jalapeño peppers
PULLING IT ALL TOGETHER
Set oven to 375 or 400 degrees depending on your oven. My runs cooler, so I tend to increase the heat.
Chop the peppers and onions and sauté them in a bit of olive oil, until they are just beginning to soften. It won’t take long, maybe about 2-3 minutes. While, they are cooking, in a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and egg whites. Add in the shredded cheese, milk, and flour. If you are wondering why Soy Milk, well that’s the only milk I have in the house (D prefers it), so that’s what I used. Simple as that. Mix in the cooked peppers and onion to the egg and cheese mixture. Add a dash of cayenne pepper and salt and pepper too. Set that aside. Note: If you want extra vegetables, sauté them now as well.
Bring out your chilled pie crust to a floured flat surface. I cut the ball in thirds and rolled one piece out to fit my 4” quiche pan. Trim the excess dough and fold and crimp edges. Repeat until all 6 pans are lined with dough. Position the 6 pans onto a cookie baking sheet and place in the oven for 4 minutes. The dough just needs to begin to partial bake. Pull them out and set them on the stove. Turn the oven down 15 degrees (350 or 375).
Now’s let’s fill our quiches! If you are customizing your individual quiches, then place the extra veggies or meat into the dough-lined pans first. For example, in a couple of pans I placed crumbled bacon pieces and then transfer some egg mixture into the pan. I like using a ¼ measuring cup to fill my quiches. Other pans received sliced jalapeños AND bacon and another quiche was all veggie, with added sautéed broccoli.
Place filled quiches back in the oven for about 15-20 minutes. You want the mixture to be solid and slightly golden brown on top. Serve immediately.
The first couple of nights we served our quiches with a green salad. Last night I sautéed fiddle heads with the remaining broccoli.—a very tasty side dish. We had these quiches 3 days in a row since each was slightly different and they were so delicious. Plus—the quiches reheat very well in a toaster oven. Bonus!
by abby on May 17, 2011 | Comment
Alright who told the sun and warm spring weather to take a vacation?! We’re back to the gray upstate New York sky and the cold northern wind. Not fun for me or all the spring flowers! I think it was a gut reaction to all this nasty weather that I ended up back in the kitchen on Sunday to try to bright up the day. My weapons of choice you ask? 2 gloriously yellow lemons, a cup of purple blueberries, and a sparkling glass bread pan. Yep, that’s right, I baked Lemon Blueberry Bread!
This was a recipe I had found last year on allrecipes.com and just hadn’t had the chance to try it out. Well, the time had come. This is a great quick bread that really comes together in about 15 minutes. The hard part is waiting the hour while it bakes! I honestly didn’t adjust the recipe much. Though I will offer a couple of ideas at the end that might make this bread even more delightful. Here’s the main recipe:
Lemon Blueberry Bread
Yield one loaf: 16 servings
1/3 cup butter or margarine, melted
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons lemon juice (fresh is best!)
1 ½ cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup milk
2 tablespoon grated lemon peel
½ cup chopped nuts (I like walnuts)
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
2 tablespoon lemon juice
¼ cup sugar
1. In a mixing bowl, beat butter, sugar, juice, and eggs. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt; stir into egg mixture alternatively with milk. Fold in peel, nuts, and blueberries.
1. Pour into a greased 8 inch x 4 inch x 2 inch loaf pan. Bake 350 degree F for 60-70 minutes or until a knife comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, combine glaze ingredients. Remove bread from pan and drizzle with glaze. Cool on a wire rack.
Overall, this bread turned out wonderful. The top is golden brown and offers a slight crunch, while the middle is pok-a-dot purple and moist. I was hesitant to add in the chopped nuts to the batter (usually I’m not a huge baked good nut fan), so instead I sprinkled a hand full of chopped walnuts to the top. After trying a slice of the bread, I would change my mind on the nuts and say that the walnuts were a good contrast to all the citrus flavors happening with the blueberries and lemon. My suggestion: Don’t be shy with those nuts! I also LOVE lemon zest, so I was very generous with my lemon peel. I prefer not to add extra sugar to baked goods, so I opted against adding the lemon sugar glaze. But I’m sure it’s lovely on this bread!
Remember too that this bread isn’t just for brunch or breakfast. D and I had our second slice of the day for dessert on Sunday night. I warmed up a couple of slices in our toaster oven, placed them in a bowl, and then dolloped some low fat vanilla yogurt on top! As D told me: “You are one dangerous woman”. Go ahead, be dangerous too!
by abby on May 10, 2011 | Comment
In honor of Mother’s Day last Sunday I decided that I should bake a little breakfast treat. With 3 very ripe bananas at my disposal the decision was made to make Banana Bran Muffins. I have this habit of looking over a couple of recipes and then combining them and adding my own touches. This approach makes it slightly harder to recreate the recipe later, so this time I decided to write down what I did and share it with you.
The muffin recipe starts from a banana bread recipe that I was taught to bake in 8th grade Home Economics (do they even that that class anymore?). To add the bran part of the equation I scoured the internet to find something that didn’t use a bran flake cereal, but actual bran flakes. I prefer to use what I have in the house already and thanks to a boyfriend who enjoys baking bread, we have all sorts of fun grains in the pantry. Having found the right portion of flour to bran flake here’s the recipe I followed:
Sunday Morning Banana Bran Muffins
(Yields 12 muffins)
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 bananas, mashed
1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup wheat bran
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, raisins, or sliced strawberries
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease a muffin pan or line with paper muffin liners.
2. In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and brown sugar together until fluffy. Add mashed bananas, milk, vanilla and eggs; mix well.
3. In a separate bowl, mix together flour, bran, baking powder, soda, and salt.
4. Stir in flour mixture one half at a time until just blended. Don’t over blend! Stir in walnuts/raisins/strawberries. Pour batter into prepared muffin cups. Sprinkle bran flakes over the batter filled cups.
5. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until a knife inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Cool in the pan for a few minutes, then remove muffins and place on a wire rack to cool completely. Enjoy!
For an additional twist, I added sliced, ripe strawberries to half of the muffins. I placed a few strawberry pieces in the bottom of the cups and added the batter over them. Then I used a spoon to blend it all together. I like to use a ¼ measuring cup to scoop out the batter into the muffin cups. It’s usually pretty close to the right amount with one scoop. Another great idea is to dust the tops of the batter filled cups with a pinch of bran flakes.
There’s nothing better than a warm muffin with a dab of butter. In crazy moment yesterday afternoon, I actually added a smear of peanut butter to one! Yum! Either way, I do hope you enjoy these muffins.