Weekly Photo Challenge: Monumental

In light of the upcoming one-year anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings, this is my contribution to this week’s photo challenge: monumental. Stay strong, Boston.

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Chocolate Banana Soufflés

My husband is running this year’s Boston Marathon for Brigham & Women’s Hospital and in memory of Martin Richard, the little 8-year old boy who died in last year’s marathon bombings. He’s been trying to eat clean in prep for the big day (or he’s at least been talking about it :)), but is having a hard time giving up desserts (especially after burning so many calories while training). Last weekend, I stumbled upon this low fat, fabulous Chocolate Banana Soufflé recipe from eatingwell.com. Let me tell you, it is fantastic. You can really taste the bananas and you’ll have no idea that it’s low fat. I wonder how they’ll taste with peanut butter? 🙂

Chocolate Banana Soufflé

3 tablespoons sugar, plus extra for preparing souffle dishes
2 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (I just used semisweet chocolate chips)
2 teaspoons instant espresso powder, or instant coffee
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably Dutch-process
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup mashed ripe banana, (1 large)
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup low fat milk
5 large egg whites
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly oil six 6-ounce (3/4-cup) individual souffle dishes or ramekins or coat them with nonstick spray. Dust with sugar, turning to coat, and tapping out the excess. Set aside.

Melt chocolate over barely simmering water or in the microwave. Dissolve espresso powder (or instant coffee) in vanilla in a small bowl.

Sift cocoa, cornstarch and salt into a large bowl. Add banana, brown sugar and milk, whisking to blend. Add melted chocolate and the coffee mixture and blend well.

Place egg whites in a clean, grease-free mixing bowl. Beat on low speed with an electric mixer until frothy. Add cream of tartar; increase the speed to medium and whip until soft peaks form. Gradually add the remaining 3 tablespoons sugar and beat on medium-high until the whites hold stiff, but not dry, peaks.

Whisk one-fourth of the egg whites into chocolate mixture. Gently but quickly, fold in the remaining whites with a rubber spatula. Spoon into the prepared souffle dishes or ramekins.

Bake until souffles are well puffed and browned, but still jiggle slightly when shaken, 15 to 25 minutes, or. Remove from the oven and sift a little confectioners’ sugar over the top. Serve immediately.

I love Sundays, especially when it involves pineapple, coconut cream cheese-stuffed French toast!

Sunday is probably my favorite day of the week.  Though I am usually up early anyway, it’s the only day of the week that I don’t feel like I HAVE to get up early.  Today was especially delightful because my husband woke me with coffee in bed… my brand-new beautiful king-sized pillow top bed that makes me feel like I am sleeping in the clouds (well, as much as one can feel like you are sleeping in the clouds when there’s an 11 lb dog jammed into your side like he’s holding on for dear life).  It was a beautiful morning here in New England — spring clearly (finally) in the air. We laid in the clouds for some time this morning, staring out at the lake while contemplating what the day might have in store for us while in no rush to make anything happen.
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When hunger finally overruled laziness, I sauntered into the kitchen to see what sort of fun breakfast concoction I could make for the man who just brought me coffee in bed.  In an effort to (1) use up some leftover crushed pineapple I had in the fridge from another recipe and (2) continue to find ways in which to get us both consuming more coconut oil (both for its health benefits and because it tastes so good), I came up with pineapple, coconut and cream cheese-stuffed french toast with a delicious coconut/maple syrup.  And oh, was it devine!  It was sweet, but not too sweet (I don’t like very sweet foods for breakfast) and filling yet not too heavy.   We managed to have some leftover and I can’t wait to have it again tomorrow!

Pineapple, coconut cream cheese-stuffed french toast

8 slices of bread (I use wheat bread because it is what I had on hand — it was delicious, but you might try Challah, too)
4-oz cream cheese, softened
2 T crushed pineapple
1/2 C milk
2 large eggs
1 tsp coconut extract
1 C shredded sweetened coconut
2 T coconut oil, divided
1 T maple syrup
Confectioners sugar

In a small bowl, whisk together eggs, milk and coconut extract (if you prefer your french toast on the sweet side, try adding 1/2 teaspoon of sugar as well).

In a separate small bowl, whisk together the pineapple and cream cheese. Spread the cream cheese mixture onto each of the bread slices and then make 4 sandwiches.

On a small plate, spread the shredded coconut.

Melt 1 tablespoon of coconut oil on a griddle over medium-low heat. Dip the sandwiches in the egg mixture for a few seconds on each side and then press each side of each sandwich into the shredded coconut. Cook the sandwiches until golden brown, 2-3 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate and lightly dust with confectioners sugar.

For the syrup: In a small saucepan, melt the remaining tablespoon of coconut oil and the maple syrup over medium-low heat and melted and combined. Drizzle immediately over french toast.

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HALLELUJAH, we have success! — Delicious Gluten Free Carrot Cake

My mom was diagnosed with celiac’s disease last year and, since then, I’ve been trying my hand at different gluten free recipes for her.  She loves food and this disease has been a bit of a hardship on her.  Now my mother, God love her, is an incredibly picky eater so trying to find the right recipes has been trying, to say the least!  Last week, we got together to celebrate my birthday and my sister’s birthday so I thought I’d try a gluten free carrot cake recipe I found at www.glutenfreecooking.about.com.  HALLELUJAH, we have success!  She loved it and even asked for the recipe!  As a bonus, my husband (my dessert lover) loved it, too, and said he couldn’t tell that it was gluten free.

I mostly followed this recipe exactly other than using coconut oil instead of the olive or vegetable oil.  Comments on the website noted that 1½ cups of oil seemed excessive and some thought the cake was a bit greasy. I didn’t want to end up with a dry cake so I measured 1½ cups of oil exactly this time.  Though I didn’t find the cake too greasy, there was a little bit of a greasy texture (I made both a cake and cupcakes and really only noticed it when holding the cupcake; they didn’t taste greasy) so next time I will only use one cup of oil.

The frosting was delicious, but the recipe didn’t cover the whole cake and all of the cupcakes so I’d probably increase it next time.  I don’t think you’d need to double it, but maybe increase it by ½.

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups light olive oil OR your favorite vegetable oil
  • 2 cups all-purpose gluten-free flour mix (also use 1 teaspoon xanthan or guar gum to the recipe if the mix you are using doesn’t already contain one of them) (Note: I used King Arthur gluten free flour and 1 teaspoon of xanthan gum)
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons gluten-free baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chopped nuts
  • 3 cups freshly grated carrots
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 ounces cream cheese
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups gluten-free powdered sugar (See note)

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350° F / 176° C Use two round 9-inch cake pans, one 9×13 pan or 36 muffin cups for this recipe. If using round cake pans, lightly grease and place a circle of parchment in the bottom of the pan for easy removal. Use paper lining cups if making cupcakes.

  1. Cream sugar and eggs in a large mixing bowl with an electric beater or stand mixer. Add oil and vanilla and beat just until smooth.
  2. In a separate bowl combine gluten-free flour mix, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Whisk to combine. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and beat until blended.
  3. Stir in grated carrots and nuts. Pour the batter into prepared pans.
  4. Bake in preheated oven for 45-55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. For muffins, reduce baking time to 30-35 minutes or until they pass the toothpick test. Cool on a wire rack.
  5. While cake or muffins are cooling place butter, cream cheese and vanilla in a large mixing bowl and beat on high until smooth. Add powdered sugar and beat until smooth and creamy.
  6. When cake is cool frost.

P.S.  If anyone has a delicious gluten free recipe out there, please feel free to share here and, thank you!

Quick Tip — Mise en Place

Cooking should be fun but if you aren’t organized, it can be intimidating and stressful. One easy way to reduce some of that stress is to chop, slice, dice, weigh and measure your ingredients for any recipe before you start cooking. This is known as mise en place. When you aren’t organized, you run the risk of ruining your dish because you aren’t focused; you’re measuring when you should be stirring or you’re focused on stirring and mismeasure an ingredient. Doing the prep work before I start any dish has truly helped to keep cooking fun and enjoyable for me. You can get cute little dishes for your mise en place for just a few dollars, or you can just use what you’ve already got on hand.

Cranberry-sauced Pork Chops it is!

It’s apparently still winter here in New England so… Cranberry-Sauced Pork Chops it is!

One of my favorite recipes from my mom is her cranberry-sauced pork chops. It’s probably more of a fall comfort meal but, given that another snow storm was brewing (it IS nearing the end of March, isn’t it??), I thought it might be nice to bring a little comfort home last night. Since there were only 2 of us, I only made 2 chops but I didn’t cut the amount of sauce because I love sauce!

In a pinch, I’ve also used orange juice in place of the apple cider and it works just fine. I’ve also used boneless chops in the past but I like the tenderness of the bone-in better.

Cranberry-Sauced Pork Chops

6 pork loin rib chops, cut ¾ inch thick
1 T butter
½ C apple cider or apple juice
1 C (1/2 of a 16 oz. can) whole cranberry sauce
2 t cornstarch
1 t brown sugar
½ t finely shredded orange peel
Salt and pepper to taste

Sprinkle chops with salt and pepper. In skillet over medium-high heat cook chops in hot butter for 3-4 minutes or until brown, turning once.

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Drain fat and then pour the apple cider over the chops. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 5-6 minutes or until pork juices run clear.

Transfer chops to a platter and keep warm.

Reserve ½ C of the juice in the skillet.

For the sauce: stir together the cranberry sauce, cornstarch, brown sugar and orange peel. Stir mixture into reserved juices in the skillet. Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened and bubbly. Cook and stir for 2 minutes more.

To serve: Pour sauce over chops!

(While I do actually enjoy making my own risotto, because it was a weeknight, I cheated a little with a store-bought version of butternut squash risotto. I did change it up slightly by using chicken stock (it called for water), and sautéing shallots and a little mushrooms to go in it. Finally, I topped with a bit of freshly grated parmesan and a little bit of pepper.)

This guy was chomping at the bit to try it. Hope you are, too. 🙂

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