Thursday, February 23, 2017

A Much Healthier Banana Bread

While I was doing my baking frenzy last week to get rid of as much kefir as possible, I remembered I had a bunch of frozen overripe bananas, so banana bread seemed like a really good idea. Unfortunately the really delicious banana bread I make has nothing remotely healthy except bananas, so I monkeyed with the recipe, changed flours, sugar and coconut oil for butter and came up with something a good bit healthier and still very tasty.
This is the result of my mad scientist experiment.

1 1/4 C whole wheat pastry flour (I imagine any ww would work)
3/4 C unbleached flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 C sugar (I used turbinado)
3 very well mashed bananas
2 tablespoons melted coconut oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg, beaten
1 C kefir or buttermilk
1/2 or so cup walnuts, chopped  (I probably used less)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a loaf pan (I used coconut oil spray)  Mix all the dry ingredients together (flours, baking powder, baking soda and sugar) and whisk to blend well.  In a separate bowl mix the wet ingredients (Coconut oil, eggs.kefir, vanilla and bananas) until they are very well blended.  Stir the wet stuff into the dry stuff and mix until it is combined, but do not over mix.  Stir in the nuts, and spoon it out into the prepared loaf pan.  Bake about  20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean . (For a loaf like this I use spaghetti instead of a toothpick because it is longer and reaches the middle a little easier)

Remove  and let it cook at least 30 minutes before slicing.  When I made this by the original recipe I would cut the loaf in half and freeze 1 half while we ate the other. This time since I am eating no sugars and TheHub still has cake left, I froze the cake in 2 bags, one sliced and 1 unsliced, minus one tiny  slice (think business card paper thin slice so I could taste it)  It has much less of the bad stuff (butter, all white flour, granulated sugar) than the former recipe and delivered all the taste. (OK not all the taste, the old recipe had 3/4 cup sugar and 1/3 cup of butter so it is less sweet and has no buttery flavor, but I used an extra banana which compensated for the lesser sugar amount)  Unless I was doing a side by side comparison I would not really taste the difference.  If you want something sweet, full of flavor and not so bad for you give these a try!

p.s. I wrote this on. Sunday since I knew I would be gone this week. So far I have eaten Peruvian and French food (plus American stuff of course) with the promise of Latin tonight. Food heaven!  Oh and the whole 30 thing was over just in time!

Monday, February 20, 2017

Positively Monday and Positively Blueberry Coffee Cake

EEKS!   I forgot Monday is supposed to be my positively Monday day so I am adding it to the blueberry coffee cake post.

For the first time in a very long time, Mom went to her usual Monday activity and had a good time. There were no complaints about anything, which never happens. Huge win!

I had a truly wonderful Valentine's lunch with Mom and My Beloved Sister.

I did not get home for the evening until shortly before 6 and it was still light outside!

While I was out driving I saw a yard filed with blooming daffodils.

I finished getting Mom's tax info ready to take to her accountant.  Did I mention FINISHED!

I caught up on the laundry and started getting my duds in order for a trip next week, plus I managed to use all the accumulated kefir during my baking spree!

This was another Sunday TheHub did not have to go into the office just to get things in order for the next week, so we went to church together again. It is a great way for me to start my week!

I will be traveling this week so my positives will have a different slant to them.  It should be interesting!

Now back to the blueberries!

What do you do when you begin a baking frenzy and realize that not only do you have a ton of kefir to use but you also have a couple of clamshells of blueberries in the refrigerator.  Normally I would look at this as a gift.  I mean, who doesn't want to start the week with enough fruit for a couple of days? This would be a dream come true for me most of the time, but we are leaving early Tuesday for a week long vacation. And that means we would either have to eat tons of blueberries quickly or do something with them.  I have made this coffee cake using whatever excess fruit we have and I also knew I could substitute thick kefir for the yogurt. So game on!

Blueberry (actually any berry or fruit) Coffee Cake

2 cups  unbleached flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar (I used turbanido)
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
½ cup kefir or yogurt
1 cup blueberries (You can use fresh or frozen or canned, drain and rinse them)

Streusel topping
4 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon flour
3 teaspoons melted butter
large pinch of cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350ยบ.  Grease an 8x8 baking pan.

Mix the dry coffee cake ingredients (flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt) and set aside.
Make the streusel topping and set aside  (Combine the flour, brown sugar, and cinnamon and stir to mix. Add the butter  and stir until it is the consistency of crumbs.)

Coffee cake
Beat the  butter and sugar in a large bowl until it is light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, vanilla and kefir until  the batter is smooth. Add the flour mix and stir until it is just combined.  Gently fold in the blueberries. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle with the topping and pop it into the oven for 30-40 minutes.  Test for doneness with a toothpick.  Cool a bit before serving.

When I made this I was in the middle of a bakeathon, but I am eating no sweets and TheHub was already full from eating  chocolate cake.  I was wondering what to do with it (freeze? refrigerate?) when TheHub had a great idea.  He did not have to go into the office Sunday morning and suggested we take the coffee cake, some paper plates, plastic forks and napkins and share it with our Sunday School class.  Perfect solution! They enjoyed it and I got rid of most of it.  I think I have 2 small squares left and they will either be eaten Monday or frozen. Regardless, it was a great way to get rid of it  share fellowship.

It is a really nice, very moist, and delicious coffee cake that is about as easy as anything can be.  I have made it through the years with strawberries, raspberries, fresh crushed pineapple, peaches, and plums.  They are all good in the cake, but I honestly prefer the blueberries or raspberries.  So if you find yourself with excess fruit you need to use right away, this is a truly delicious method of disposal!

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Chocolate Cake Kinda

I think in a previous post we had established I had entirely too much inventory in my faux baking center, so after I shook the cobwebs out of my head this morning I decided it would be a good day to bake. It was overcast and dreary, and I had not planned on going anywhere specific anyway, so I commenced baking. (I didn't mention I have kefir running out of my ears right now and needed to use it, so that was the biggest motivator for the baking frenzy)

I started looking for a recipe that firstly used kefir, and secondly would not be too decadent, which might be an oxymoron since any recipe touting kefir as in ingredient is going to be a healthier variation. I found this recipe for Chocolate Cake here and thought I would give it a try.  I am writing the recipe with the changes I made and the taste test obviously used those changes.

Chocolate Cake

1 1/2 cup flour (I used 1/2 unbleached AP flour and 1/2 whole wheat pastry flour)
3/4 cup sugar (I used turbinado sugar)
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup oil (I used melted coconut oil)
1/4 cup unsweetened apple sauce
1 cup Kefir or buttermilk
1/2 cup orange juice
1 teaspoon orange extract

Preheat oven to 375F.
Butter an 8-inch cake springform pan and dust it with cocoa powder.
In a large bowl whisk together the dry ingredients
Add the remaining ingredients and beat until the batter is smooth and free of lumps. (Just for giggles I beat it with a wooden spoon and counted strokes.  It took a little over 500 to get a smooth batter)
Pour the batter into the pan and bake for about 45 minutes.  Use the toothpick test to check for doneness (Tooth pick inserted into the middle of the cake is crumb and goo free)

After the cake is cool make the glaze.
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/4 cup confectioners sugar
1/2 teaspoon orange extract
enough hot water to make heavy syrupy glaze  (I used maybe 2 teaspoons)

Spoon the glaze over the top of the cake.  After a few minutes it will "set" and be easy to cut.

Obviously this is not a traditional cake and it is anything but light.  TheHub really did like it though. In fact, I served him a slice before I took the picture of it, and he was back for slice number 2 and couldn't wait for the photo.  He wanted it right then.  I tried a piece about the size and depth of a postage stamp just so I could describe the flavor.  It was dense and a little gummy.  I could taste the apple sauce, but I knew it was in there.  TheHub did not notice it at all..

The cake itself is very attractive and it is said we eat first with our eyes. The chocolate/orange combo is very nice and flavorful, but I had an issue with the consistency. I am a tactile eater and even with the tiny bit I tried I didn't care for it. I will try this again using eggs rather than the applesauce, which should lighten it a little.  So I guess I will give this a 3 out of 5 stars as it is and will update this another day.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Ah, Nuts!

What I miss most while doing this Whole 30 thing is crunchy.  I mean something really crunchy and delicious, so celery and hard apples don't count. My mouth and ears want something to bite and hear at the same time that delicious crunch that certain treats bring. (Honestly, right now I would even settle for a piece of unbuttered toast.)

Since nuts are whole30 compliant I have been eating them, but I am tired of raw nuts. Knowing a cracker or toast is not going to happen I tried doing a little something different with those blasted nuts.

For Christmas Mom gave me one of those copper ceramic pans (best non-stick pan ever!) so I put about a cup of assorted raw nuts (pecan pieces, cashews and almonds) in the pan and whirled them around with a wooden spoon over medium high heat, until they smelled nice and toasty. (5 minutes maybe) I have one of those Misto oil sprayers I keep filled with olive oil so I gave then a couple of squirts with that then sprinkled them with my double secret sweet potato seasoning blend.(equal parts of ground cumin, chili powder, and ground coriander, a dash of oregano and 1/2 the amount of garlic salt.  I used 1 tablespoon of the 3 ground spices to 1/2  tablespoon of the garlic salt for my measures because I am  eating  baked sweet potatoes often and I wanted to have it made ahead of time to grab and shake.)

I have to admit the hot nuts did add a little crunch and a whole lot of deliciousness to what had been just plain old boring nuts.  I have no idea why I didn't think of doing this a little sooner. I ate a few and stored the rest in a jar.  Next time I need a snack I am going to pour a few in a ramekin and pop them in the microwave to heat them, because they taste really good and right now I need/want flavor . . . and texture . . . and something chocolate!

p.s. next time I make these I will probably bake them in a 350 degree oven for about 7 minutes for more even roasting. I will also use pecan halves instead of pieces, but I only had pieces today.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

VD Greetings

It seems that for everyone out there Valentine's Day means something different. I have gotten roses and chocolates and jewelry and just about ever other traditional love token throughout the years, but now we just go out to eat and give each other a card. A day sans flowers and gifts is still perfect and more than enough. A couple of years ago we went to a very nice restaurant and even with reservations, we did not get a table until nearly 9:30.  Neither of us want to eat that late, especially on a weeknight. Since we are having beautiful weather and have steaks in the freezer I suggested we grill them and stay home. TheHub was more than happy with that suggestion so those are our plans for the evening.

For years My Beloved Sister and I met our parents for lunch on Valentine's Day, which over the years became known as Valenlunch.  Last year was the first holiday since Dad died and Mom did not want to go, but this year Valenlunch is back on and we will be headed out to  Taziki's for our traditional meal. (Taziki's is the closest restaurant to My Beloved Sister's office so we always meet there, and exchange homemade cards after eating Greek food. ) My Beloved Sister and I try to make the other laugh so our cards are filled with all kinds of inside jokes, including "Happy VD".

When we were kids this commercial aired all the time, especially on Saturday mornings. As we got a little older we began calling Valentine's Day "VD" because we are sick puppies and like to make each other laugh. Now every Valentine's Day one of us will call the other and start singing this song, which makes the other giggle, or snort coffee, or howl like a hyena. (It all depends on timing and how and where you catch the other with the call) This year I snuck the call in first, by calling her right as she got to work. Too bad it was a few minutes before her official work time began since she had not grabbed a cup of coffee, so no coffee spewing. Drats!

In closing this post, my wish is that you all go out and spread a little VD cheer and share a good belly laugh with someone you love!  Happy Valentine's Day!

Monday, February 13, 2017

Positively Monday

After thinking about this concept instead of 5 positives, I have decided that I will end each day recounting the positive things that happened that day. When Monday gets here I will hit Publish and start all over.  Hopefully it will adjust my thinking.

I spent Monday housebound by choice, so I had a nice rainy day at home with no negatives and few true positives It was just a very even keeled day. I will count serving turkey for the 4th day in a row and having TheHub really like it as my big win of the day.

I started the day out butt early with Mom for an appointment with her Neurologist. It was pouring down rain during drive time when we got there. (Bad) Luckily the office has valet parking (Good) but I couldn't drop Mom off then go park since this was her first visit and she didn't know where to go. If I had let her off she would wander who knows where. (Neither good nor bad, just how it rolls with her) Since it was the first visit, we had to be there 45 minutes early to fill out a virtual novel's worth of paperwork. (Bad) The doc was running behind and we did not get out of his office until after noon. (Bad) Mom was having a melt down because she missed her mid morning nap (Bad) Valet parking lost both my keys and my car (Bad) 1 hour later they found both (Good) and refunded my valet charge. (Really?) Drove home soaking wet after waiting in a partially covered area while they tried to find my car. (Uncomfortable, but at least I had my car). It was nearly 2 when we finally got to Mom's so all plans I had after taking her home flew out the window because I would have to take a shower and start over with hair, clothes and makeup. (Neither good nor bad, just the way it was) The rest of the day was uneventful but I did have 2 big positives. 1. The doc is not concerned that Mom's tremors are Parkinson's. 2. TheHub had an unexpected work related dinner out, so I didn't have to cook.  Cold turkey and dill pickles for me! (And now the turkey is gone forever, except I had another turkey breast thawed so I had to cook it?!?)

Headed to Bed Bath and Beyond with coupons in tow to pick up a couple of needed/wanted items. While there I noticed table after table of clearance items.  I managed to pick up 2 Christmas presents super cheap. 60 cent slippers for Pip, and 1.93 fleece lined leggings for My Beloved Sister. I count this as a huge financial positive!

Heard bad new about my BIL's PET scan first thing out of the chute this morning, which set the stage for a bummer of a day. (Bad)  Read Lauralynne's post about food inventory and decided to do one of my own.  Got one area completely cleaned out (including consolidating some duplicate items) and inventoried (Good) Took  Mom's meat slicer from her basement. It had never been used and was a great help in slicing the turkey breast for freezer storage, plus it cleared an area from her basement bar.

Went to bed insanely late (4:30 a.m. Bad)  and slept in.  It felt great  (Good) Had a "No Mom Issues" day (Better than good), and went out to eat for dinner. (Good for no cooking. Bad for not using up some of the excess in the kitchen)

Did not get called to Mom's house one time today, and I really did enjoy having the day for myself.  I did talk to her about 4 times but it was good.  I am 3/4 of the way though my 3rd book for February, so I should easily be able to read the 4 I planned on this month.

For the first time in a long time on a Sunday morning TheHub did not have to work and we were able to go to church together. I go alone if I have to but like it so much better when he gets to go.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

I Guess I Am A Spice Girl After All

I have one of those corner cabinets with a built in double tray lazy Susan.  I tried putting all sorts of things there but found it did not fit my cooking style, so I finally declared it would be my spice cabinet.  Eventually I had to add 3 more free standing shelves to it so everything would fit, but I have to be careful when I turn it.  Some of the containers are so light they will fall off into the dark hole at the back corner and then I have to take everything off of it so I can go fishing for the kamikaze bottle with a pair of tongs. Inevitably the item I need is the jumper.
After doing the spice inventory I found I really should have done this long ago. I had partially used duplicates of about 5 things, plus I have 3 unopened containers of thyme. Anything I could consolidate was and those 3 blooming jars of thyme are all still in there. I have the bottom shelf with my savory items.  I use them much faster than I do seasonings for baking so I keep them within easy reach.  I also am a little funny about how they are organized on the trays.  I lump like seasonings together, so all seasonings that are blends are in one quadrant, the hotter one are in another. seeds and pods occupy their own space and herbs share the last.  The white free standing shelves go no where. They are rubber banned together by their rear legs on either side of the center rod. it gives me one side for garlic and onion based containers and the other side holds small jars of seasoning blends.  It has an additional shelf on it so I can double all those small jars. I should never be allowed to walk into Penzy's. I tell myself the jars are so tiny and they won't take up any room__until I have about 20 of them

Savory Things

Powdered things
hot chili
pepper (black and white)
paprika (regular, Hungarian sweet, and smoked)

Seeds and whole things
red chili
thai chili

Herb things
dill weed
bay leaves

Blended things
Chinese 5 spice
bon apetit
garam masala
Old Bay
Rogan Josh
sandwich sprinkles
hot curry

Salt things

Sweeter Things

Whole things
cinnamon sticks
orange peel
lemon peel
poppy seed
vanilla beans

Ground things
lemon peel
vanilla powder
pumpkin pie spice

Extract things

Other things
baking powder
baking soda
1 quart crab boil seasoning
1 pint butt rub
4 pack food coloring
dehydrated lemon juice
dehydrated lime juice
butter buds
fruit fresh
cream of tarter
Mexican fruit seasoning

My oils, salts and thickeners  live in a cabinet right by the stove

Oil things
grape seed
toasted sesame
hot chili
oil spray (regular, olive oil, coconut oil)
baking release spray

Salt things
pink Himalayan
black diamond
Molokai red

Thickening things
corn starch
arrowroot starch
agar agar

Vinegars I use all the time hang out on a tray on the countertop (Easy access )
red wine
white wine
balsamic (regular, basil infused, and aged)

Other than the fridge and the bread box, that is is for food stored in the kitchen.  I do have a second refrigerator and a freezer in the laundry room.  I also have a small cabinet with more food storage there.  I will have to inventory those later.  The laundry room is my big clean up/ clean out  and reorganize room for February. I will work on  those areas sometime next week.