blueberry banana bread

So this is kind of delicious.

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…and strawberries. Strawberries go with everything. Almost.

It’s a wonder I still find the motivation to bake, let alone do anything anymore over winter break, given that my early mornings have disintegrated into daily battles with the alarm clock and love affairs with my pillow.  I end up getting most of my work done in the afternoon and late evening, sometimes pushing past midnight or 1 AM.  Including baking.  (Woo, college!)

Nonetheless, I found a way to milk the last of the blueberries and overripe bananas in my pantry to their most useful potential.  Combine my recent obsession with baking with my love for blueberries and voila — you get blueberry banana bread!  Mmmmm.

Looks like breakfast will be taken care of for the next week or two!

Blueberry Banana Bread

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Ingredients: (makes 3 mini-loaves)

1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 medium ripe bananas, mashed
1 cup fresh blueberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  (If the butter isn’t cooperating, try microwaving it for 30 seconds first.)  Beat in eggs and vanilla extract.  In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt and gradually add it to the creamed mixture until just combined.  Stir in banana mush and gently fold in blueberries.

Pour into three greased 5-3/4-in. x 3-in. x 2-in. loaf pans. Bake at 350° for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.  Use discretion; depending on the size of your pan(s), it could take up to an hour!  Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks.  After bread is entirely cooled, slice and enjoy… preferably with strawberries on the side.

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braised balsamic chicken with bacon rotini pasta

Today I surprised my family by making a full-course dinner consisting of two dishes: braised balsamic chicken  and a variation of this penne pasta with spinach and bacon.  Having still not finished the blueberry yogurt cookies and apple pie from two days ago, I thought it would be a good idea to transition into cooking “real” food (a.k.a. attempt to cook meat without hideously charring it to bits).

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As it turns out, dinner was a success!  The chicken came out perfectly juicy and the pasta light and crunchy with bacon bits.  As I was clearing away the dishes, my mom jokingly suggested that after tonight’s dinner, she might never have to cook again.  Ha!  Good one.

Braised Balsamic Chicken with Bacon Rotini Pasta

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Braised Balsamic Chicken:

Ingredients: (serves 4)
4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, cut into pieces
ground black pepper
1 teaspoon garlic salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, diced
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tomatoes, vine or roma, diced
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

Season chicken breasts with ground black pepper and garlic salt.  Heat olive oil in a medium skillet, and brown the onion and seasoned chicken breasts.  Pour tomatoes and balsamic vinegar over chicken, and season with basil and thyme. Simmer until chicken is no longer pink and the juices run clear, about 15 minutes.

Rotini Pasta with Bacon:

Ingredients: (serves 4)
1 (12-oz.) package of rotini pasta
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 slices bacon, chopped
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 tomato, vine or roma, diced

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil.  Add the rotini and cook until tender, 8 to 10 minutes.  Drain and rinse with cold water (so the noodles don’t stick) and set aside.  Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Cook bacon until browned and crisp, and then add garlic and cook for about 1 minute. Stir in the tomatoes, and cook until heated through.  Transfer pasta to a large serving bowl, and toss with the remaining olive oil, and the bacon and tomato mixture.

blueberry yogurt cookies

What do you do when your fridge is stocked with gallons’ worth of healthy, fresh fruit?

Bake it into unhealthy sugary desserts, obviously.

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All joking aside, these cookies are much healthier than ordinary cookies – they use no butter! – and were definitely worth the use of blueberries.  On day 2 of my baking expedition, I decided to try out this quick 30-minute blueberry yogurt cookie recipe.  The result?  These perfectly sweet, doughy cookies with tart, burst berry bits dispersed throughout.  Delicious!

Blueberry Yogurt Cookies

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Ingredients: (makes about 48 cookies)
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups plain Greek yogurt
1 large egg, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup fresh blueberries

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  In a large bowl, thoroughly blend sugar, yogurt, egg and vanilla.  In a separate bowl, whisk the flour, salt and baking powder and then blend with the wet yogurt mixture.  Gently fold the blueberries into the batter.  Drop tablespoonfuls of the cookies onto cookie dough onto greased baking sheets with about 2 inches of space in between.

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Bake for about 10 minutes until cookies are barely browned at the edges.  Some of the blueberries will burst during baking – not to worry!  Remove from the oven and let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for two minutes, and then move the cookies to a wire cooling rack to cool completely.  Once cooled, serve plain or frosted.  Enjoy!

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homemade apple pie with brown sugar glaze

One of my biggest goals this winter break was to learn how to cook.  While I can safely say I’ve mastered the art of grilled cheese (or maybe I just can’t get enough of it), knowing how to cook pretty much necessitates that I also learn how to bake.  (A woman’s gotta know how to bake, y’all.)

you can even see my cat in the upper left corner.

you can even see my cat in the upper left corner.

Not that I really mind.  This Sunday I tried my hand at some good-old apple pie.  The result?  Delicious savory pie with a warm apple filling and light, flaky crust.  Not too sugary, but a perfect treat to satisfy the sweet tooth.  Did I mention this was my first time baking something from scratch? :)

Homemade Apple Pie with Brown Sugar Glaze

apple pie 2

Ingredients: (serves 6)

Pie Crust:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup shortening
1/2 cup water

Apple Pie:
2 pie crusts (1 for base, 1 for making the top lattice)
6 apples, cored, peeled and sliced/diced
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup water

Pie crust: In a large bowl, combine flour and salt.  Mix in shortening until mixture resembles course crumbs, then add water and stir until mixture forms into a ball.  Divide dough into half and shape into balls, but make sure not to overwork it. Refrigerate for at least four hours (I did overnight).

Apple pie:  Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Melt the butter in a saucepan, and stir in flour to form a paste. Add water, white sugar and brown sugar, and bring to a boil. Reduce temperature and let simmer. Place the bottom crust in your pan and cover with apples, mounded slightly. Cover the top with a lattice work crust. Gently pour the sugar and butter liquid over the crust so it does not run off. Bake 15 minutes in the preheated oven, and then continue baking at 350 degrees F for 35 to 45 minutes until apples are soft.

Serve hot and enjoy!

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roasted tomato caprese grilled cheese with balsamic vinegar glaze

caprese: [kuh-prey-zey, ‐zee]
adjective, prepared with fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil leaves and drizzled with olive oil: a caprese salad; caprese sandwiches; pizza caprese.

a.k.a. SAVORY DELICIOUS GOODNESS. I’m talking Panera-Bread-worthy. Oh my god.  A few weeks ago I tried a similar version of this recipe with avocado as a substitute since basil wasn’t lying around, but after a huge shopping spree at Costco today, I had all the ingredients I needed for this godly creation.

…and boy am I pissed I only made two.

Roasted Tomato Caprese Grilled Cheese with Balsamic Vinegar Glaze

grilled cheese tomato caprese 2

Ingredients: (serves 2)

4 slices sourdough bread
2 tomatos (vine or roma), cut into 1/2-inch thick slices
3-4 ounces fresh mozzarella
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
12-15 basil leaves

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Place tomatoes on a nonstick baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Roast the tomatoes for 45-50 minutes.  Meanwhile, add balsamic vinegar to a small saucepan and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes until liquid begins to resemble syrup.  Pour vinegar into a bowl and set aside to sit.

Once tomatoes are finished, brush both sides of each slice of bread with olive oil and place into a large griddle over medium heat.  Add mozzarella cheese to one side, followed by tomatoes, followed by basil leaves, followed by cheese and bread.  Grill until cheese is melted and each side is golden and crispy.

Once the sandwiches are finished, serve immediately and drizzle with balsalmic glaze. Enjoy!

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fruit parfait

My midnight snack.

Unfortunately, Annenberg has fresh berries about 1% of the time (seriously, why is fresh fruit not a daily thing? Apples and bananas don’t count), so I indulged myself this evening with homemade fruit parfait!

fruit parfait

Fruit Parfait

Ingredients: (serves 2)

2 cups vanilla yogurt (Greek works especially well)
1 banana
1/2 cup strawberries
1/2 cup blueberries
4 tablespoons granola or wheat germ

Slice bananas and strawberries into small pieces.  Layer fruit with yogurt and granola.  Enjoy!

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grilled cheese with roasted tomato and avocado

The holiday spirit is well in season this December, bringing with it a host of  delicious home-cooked meals and sugary temptations.  For myself, coming home from Harvard this winter break was initially both a relief and a shock — gone was Annenberg, but so were its endless options and well-stocked salad bar.  You forget how much you eat in college when you are not limited by the size of your refrigerator or tray.

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Luckily, there are plenty of healthy options for every meal which are available year-round.  Earlier tonight, I introduced my family to an inspired creation, grilled cheese on seeded country bread with roasted tomato and diced avocado. While the original recipe calls for basil leaves, I made the best of my pantry and replaced it with a creamy guacamole-esque spread instead. Mmmm!

Grilled Cheese with Roasted Tomato and Avocado

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Ingredients: (serves 2)

4 slices whole wheat seeded bread
1 tomato (vine or roma), cut into 1/2-inch thick slices
1 hass avocado
3-4 ounces fresh mozzarella
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar (optional)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Place tomatoes on a nonstick baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Roast the tomatoes for 45-50 minutes.  Meanwhile, pit and peel avocado.  Dice into as small pieces as possible, and place in a bowl.  Add lemon juice and salt, and mash to your desired consistency.

For the optional balsamic vinegar glaze, add vinegar to a small saucepan and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes until liquid begins to resemble syrup.  Pour vinegar into a bowl and set aside to sit.

Once tomatoes are finished, brush both sides of each slice of bread with olive oil and place into a large griddle over medium heat.  Add mozzarella cheese to one side, followed by tomatoes, followed by avocado, followed by cheese again.  Grill until cheese is melted and each side is golden and crispy.

Once the sandwiches are finished, serve immediately and drizzle with balsalmic glaze. Enjoy.

Much love and many thanks to my friends and family this winter.  Happy Holidays!

spicy hummus dip

Recipe by Remi Y. ’16

Why settle for plain salad-bar hummus when you can make your own? Paired with homemade toasted pita chips, this delicious dip adds a dash of flavor to any meal.

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spicy hummus dip

garnished with a spinach leaf because there wasn’t any parsley. win.

Spicy Hummus Dip

Ingredients: (serves 1)

4 tablespoons hummus (from the salad bar)
A generous amount of olive oil
A dash of ground black pepper
A pinch of spicy red pepper seeds
pita bread

Drizzle olive oil over hummus and add ground black pepper and spicy red pepper seeds.  Pop a few pita bread halves on the toaster (the one with the conveyor rack) and bam, instant pita chips.  Dip, taste and enjoy!

tuna pasta salad

I’ve been enjoying this salad on a daily basis now, so I thought I’d introduce to you the recipe behind one of my favorite healthy creations from Annenberg.  The great thing about this salad is that it is wonderfully filling (thanks to the pasta) and the dash of white vinegar adds just the right touch of acidity to this lightly salted mix, which when combined with blue or feta cheese will make your mouth water.  Mmm.

tuna pasta salad

Tuna Pasta Salad

Ingredients: (serves 1)

1 cup cooked rotini pasta, drained (can be substituted with ziti)
2 cups spinach leaves
3 tablespoons flaked tuna
3 tablespoons feta cheese (can be substituted with bleu cheese)
olive oil
a dash of white vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

Combine spinach leaves with pasta, cheese and flaked tuna in a deep dish platter.  Drizzle olive oil generously over the salad and toss thoroughly.  Add a dash of white vinegar and season with salt and/or pepper to taste.  Enjoy!