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Banana Chocolate Chip Bran Muffins

3 Mar

I recently stumbled upon the best banana chocolate chip bran muffins! I love the fact that this muffin favorite can be changed only slightly and become a healthy treat. Who doesn’t like banana chocolate chip muffins? And now I can eat one each morning for breakfast guilt free! I have made them the past two weekends for a quick and healthy on-the-go breakfast throughout the week. They keep very well in an airtight container for up to 7-10 days which makes enjoying these delights each morning a breeze. A banana chocolate chip bran muffin will make any morning better.

banana choch muffins

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Banana Chocolate Chip Bran Muffins (Adapted from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe blog)

Makes about 2 dozen muffins

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 16 – 18 minutes per muffin pan

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbls. butter, softened
  • 1/3 cup applesauce
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 medium ripe bananas, coarsely mashed
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 4 cups bran flakes
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl combine butter, applesauce and sugar. Mix until smooth.

Add the eggs, coarsely mashed bananas and buttermilk. Mix well.

Add the flour, baking soda, salt, bran flakes and chocolate chips. Mix to fully combine, lumpy batter is to be expected.

Fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups 2/3 full of batter. Bake 16 – 18 minutes or until golden brown and toothpick comes out clean. Transfer muffins to a cooling rack.

Cool completely before storing. Can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for a little more than a week.

Enjoy!

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Chocolate Dipped Double Ginger Cookies

18 Feb

Happy President’s Day and Valentine’s Day weekend! The past few days we have had a bit of a thaw here…if you can call 30 degrees a thaw 🙂 but unfortunately it sounds like we are in for another cold snap the rest of the week. There is not much to do other than stay inside and make the best of it when it’s practically below zero out. Just another excuse to make something sweet and indulge.

Double Ginger Cookies 1

If you like ginger cookies these are positively addicting! The dark chocolate compliments the crystalized ginger perfectly and they stay chewy long after they come out of the oven. I start making these around the holidays and usually don’t stop until the spring. They are a versatile cookie recipe that is sure to please. In December alone I made four batches of them for various get togethers and gifts. These are a fantastic sweet treat to enjoy while waiting for the weather to warm up.

Double Ginger Cookies 2

Chocolate Dipped Double Ginger Cookies (adapted from a William Sonoma recipe)

Makes 3-4 dozen

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 30 – 45 minutes

Total Time: 1 hr. 15 min.

Ingredients:

  • 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • ½ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp. ground cloves
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 2/3 cup canola oil
  • 1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup dark molasses
  • 1 whole extra-large egg, lightly beaten, plus 1 egg white
  • ½  – ¾ cup chopped crystallized ginger
  • ½ cup coarse sugar crystals
  • 1 bag of dark chocolate baking chips (I used Ghirardelli 60% cocoa)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325°F. Lightly grease 2 baking sheets or line them with parchment paper.

Over a sheet of waxed paper, sift together the flour, ground ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves and salt. Set aside. (Not imperative that the dry ingredients are sifted)

In a large bowl, using a wooden spoon, stir together the oil, brown sugar and molasses until well blended. Add the whole egg and stir until blended. Stir in the flour mixture and the crystallized ginger.

In a small bowl, lightly beat the egg white (you may need more than one egg white). Spread the sugar crystals in a shallow bowl.

With dampened hands, shape the dough into 1-inch balls. Brush each ball lightly with egg white and roll in the sugar to coat. Place the cookies about 1 inch apart on the prepared baking sheets.

Bake until the tops of the cookies are set and crackled, 15 to 18 minutes.

*NOTE* I check them at 12 min and go from there. I like them chewy as opposed to crispy so I usually take them out a little before 15 minutes is up.

Let cool for 5 minutes, then transfer the cookies to wire racks to cool completely. The cookies will firm up slightly as they cool.

While the cookies are baking (and then cooling) melt 1 package of dark chocolate baking chips in a double boiler. When fully melted, remove from heat. After cookies have cooled, dip half of each ginger snap in the melted chocolate and place on wax paper to allow chocolate to set. They will set quicker if you put them in the fridge. Makes about 3-4 dozen cookies.

Make-Ahead Tip: These cookies keep well. Store between layers of waxed paper in an airtight container.

Enjoy!

Cheesecake with Raspberry Coulis

21 Feb

Happy (Belated) Valentine’s Day!

I had some extra time this weekend and was able to make my sweetie something sweet for a little Valentine’s Day celebration. I decided I was going to make cheesecake with a raspberry/strawberry coulis, however as I was gathering up the ingredients I quickly realized I didn’t have exactly what I needed. I had already gone to the store so I was determined to use what I had which is how I ended up with so many pecans in my crust and pomegranate liqueur in my coulis… Right as I was about to start I had the idea to make the cheesecake in more of a bar form and cut little hearts out using a cookie cutter (super corny I know…but I just couldn’t help myself hehe).

Thankfully the final product turned out and I now have a new crust and fruit coulis recipe to experiment with in the future.

Ingredients

Crust

  • 1 cup finely chopped pecans
  • 1 cup crushed graham crackers
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 tbls brown sugar
  • 8 tbls melted butter
Filling
  • 1 lb. cream cheese (room temp)
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp flour
  • 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
Fruit Coulis
  • 1 1/2 cup fresh or frozen raspberries
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen strawberries
  • 1 tbls PAMA liqueur (pomegranate liqueur)
  • 1 tbls freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/8 cup granulated sugar

Directions

Serves: 6-8

Time: 30 min (prep) & 65 min (cooking)

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.

To make the crust process the pecans and graham crackers in a food processor and then add the flour, brown sugar and the butter. The dough should start to come together soon after the butter is added. Press the crust dough into a 9×13 pan and bake for 15 minutes.

Increase the oven temp to 400 degrees. For the filling mix cream cheese, vanilla and eggs until blended. Add sugar and blend, add flour and blend, add heavy whipping cream and blend until the mixture is very smooth. This could take a few minutes. Pour onto the crust and bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes and then turn the oven down to 250 degrees and back for 30 more minutes. The middle of the cheesecake should look like it has just set. Turn oven off crack the door and let cool in oven for about 60 minutes (this prevents cracking). Refrigerate for about an hour before cutting out the hearts.

The fruit coulis is quite easy. Put all ingredients into a food processor or blender and blend until smooth.If desired, push the coulis through a fine mesh sieve to catch the raspberry and strawberry seeds. The fruit coulis can be made up to two days in advance and kept in an airtight container in the fridge.

To serve, garnish cheesecake with fruit coulis and fresh raspberries and strawberries.

Enjoy!

Goat Cheese Dip with Sun-dried Tomatoes, Kalamata Olives & Basil

29 Aug

I’m a dip girl. I love how easy and convenient they are. I tend to heavily favor dips as my app of choice and have quite a few that I am excited to share! The dip I am posting today is one of my favorites and one that I make quite often, not only because it is mostly goat cheese (yum!) but because it’s a cinch to make and always a crowd favorite. It takes all of 5-10 minutes and then it’s ready to enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 12oz goat cheese (room temp)
  • 4oz cream cheese (room temp)
  • 1-2 Tbls sun-dried tomatoes
  • 1-2 Tbls kalamata olives
  • 2-3 Tbls fresh Basil (chiffonade)
  • Aged Balsamic
  • Olive Oil

Preparation

Serves: 6-8

Time: 5-10 minutes

All of the additions are “to taste” so taste as you go and if you feel you need more of anything just add it in.

I usually use about 2 Tbls of balsamic and 3-4 Tbls olive oil.

Enjoy!

Watermelon Mint Salad

19 Aug

August always feels a little rushed to me. I usually spend the month trying to squeeze in those last outings and get togethers with friends and family and making sure I spend as much time outside as possible since I know the Minnesota Winter is right around the corner… And as it goes with busy schedules it’s a challenge to really sit back, relax and truly appreciate the time that you are spending with your family and friends.

With that being said, I was just recently able to spend some quality time with a good group of girlfriends of mine at one of their houses enjoying the summer weather out on her deck. We try to get together once every 6-8 weeks which with everyone’s schedule can be a little tricky but this time most of us were able to make it and we enjoyed a few summer salads and some grilled pizzas. Everyone always brings something and it turned out to be a fantastic spread! One stand out dish was a watermelon mint salad, pretty much summer in a bowl I think; so crisp, refreshing and light! I am hoping to make this salad one more time before the summer has passed us by…and by the looks of my calendar I will have plenty of chances!

Ingredients

  • 1 small seedless watermelon cut up or “balled” into bite size pieces
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil and 1/2 cup red wine vinegar. (use as much as you need to coat all watermelon chunks)
  • 1/2 of a sweet onion thinly sliced
  • a bunch of mint roughly chopped (I’d say about 1/2 to 1 cup)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preparation

Serves: 4-6

Time: 10 minutes

First ball or cut watermelon into bite size chunks. Mix red wine vinegar, salt and pepper together and slowly
add oil while whisking. Gently mix mint, onion and melon together in bowl or carved out half melon rind and pour vinegar mixture over the salad.

Enjoy!

Grilled Pizza with Goat Cheese & Figs

21 Jun

I have been told that I talk a lot about goat cheese…which would be a fair statement as goat cheese is arguably one of my favorite foods (if that counts as a specific food??). I pretty much use anything as a vehicle to enjoy it. This past Friday night the vehicle of choice was grilled pizza. Additions of carmelized onions, figs sautéed in balsamic and peppery arugula picked from my little herb pots on our balcony were fantastic! I paired it with a crisp yet smooth Sauvignon Blanc which rounded out the meal perfectly.

Grilled pizza a unique way to use the grill if you want an alternative to the usual meat and fish menu. You can customize the pizza to your liking and it grills up in less than 15 minutes. Just be sure you are at the ready when the pizza is flipped – you have to put your toppings on quickly otherwise the pizza dough will cook faster than it takes the cheese to melt. It is also important to note that all of your toppings should be fully cooked (especially meat) before you put them on your pizza.

Grilled Goat Cheese & Fig Pizza

  • 6 – 8 oz. of goat cheese (choose the softer kind so it spreads easier)
  • 1/4 Cup sweet onions
  • 6 dried Turkish or Calimyrna figs
  • 1 tsp. brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp good aged balsamic
  • 4 T. butter
  • 1 small pizza dough round (I got mine at an Italian restaurant that sells fresh pizza dough daily)
  • small handful of fresh arugula
Preparation
Total Time: 30 min
Serves: 2
Heat 2 T. butter in a pan and saute onions on medium high until they become soft and start to caramelize/brown, about 7-10 minutes. Meanwhile, heat 2 T. butter in another pan and add sliced figs, brown sugar and balsamic. Saute until the figs are warmed through and sugar has started to caramelize, about 7-10 minutes on medium high heat. Keep an eye on the figs though to make sure the sugar doesn’t burn. Transfer both to a bowl and reserve. Feel free to pour any extra butter/sauce left from the onions and figs into the bowl as well.
Heat grill to high and let it warm up for about 5-7 minutes. Spread out your pizza round and drizzle olive oil on one side. When the grill is nice and hot lay the dough olive oil side down and turn the grill down to medium/high heat (if using propane). After about 5-7 minutes the dough should have grill marks and be a golden brown. Oil the top and flip the pizza. This is where you want to add your toppings. Spread the goat cheese and sprinkle the onions and figs on the pizza. If there is any extra butter that was in the bowl with the onions and figs make sure the drizzle that on too (yum!). Close the top and grill for another 5 or so minutes. When the bottom of the pizza is golden brown and has grill marks it is time to take it off the grill. Toss arugula on top, finish with a drizzle of the aged balsamic and enjoy!!

Orzo with Basil and Parmesan

5 Jun

I. Love. Fresh. Basil. I put it in everything I can and what better way to have this versatile herb shine through than a simple Orzo pasta dish. This dish is quite easy and takes about a half an hour from prep to table. A great weeknight meal for anyone short on time or who doesn’t feel like spending too much time in the kitchen.

Orzo with Basil and Parmesan (Adapted from allrecipes.com)

  • 2 T. Olive Oil
  • 1 chopped Shallot
  • 1 minced Garlic Clove
  • 1 Cup uncooked Orzo
  • 4 Cups chicken broth (use Vegetable broth for Vegetarian dish)
  • 1/4 Cup dry white wine
  • 1 Can diced tomatoes liquid discarded or 1 cup diced fresh tomatoes
  • 1/2 – 1 Cup grated Parmesan
  • 1/4 – 1/3 Cup Basil chopped chiffonade style – reserve some for garnish
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
Preparation
Total Prep Time: 30min
Serves: 4
Heat oil in a heavy bottomed pan. Saute shallots and garlic until fragrant. Stir in Orzo and saute until lightly browned. Add white wine and cook for 2-3 more minutes. Add chicken broth, cover and cook until Orzo is slightly past al dente and most or all of the liquid is absorbed. If it looks like the Orzo needs more broth feel free to add more 1/4 cup at a time.
When Orzo is cooked remove from heat and stir in Parmesan and Basil. Garnish with reserved Basil and serve immediately (with some good crusty bread if desired).
Enjoy!