Makin’ Banana Pancakes

HG's Fab Five Banana Pancake Minis

Here’s the thing. I’m not a big whole wheat person. [Almost] Every bread I’ve ever tried that’s wheat has been either too “oat-y”, too “grainy” or tasted too much like chalk. So when I saw the ingredients for banana pancakes, a la HG‘s 200 Under 200 book, I was hesitant. Also, I’ve been afraid to try soy milk. Lucky me, this recipe calls for both.

As soon as the cinnamon-y dry ingredients combined with the banana-y wet ingredients I knew this would be a winner. Boy was it ever, if I hadn’t made them myself I wouldn’t even have known they were low-cal and healthy. The texture was perfect, no grainy or chalk taste here, only fluffy pancake goodness.

As for my topping, I didn’t leave them plain as you see in the picture above, nor did I drown them as syrup (because? as much as I wanted to do that I wanted to NOT go to the grocery store more). Instead, I sprinkled them with Splenda, it added the extra sweetness the syrup would’ve provided, without all those calories.

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Plate of food from Sweetie Pie's

The Trip that Led to the Best Meal of My Life…

Plate of food from Sweetie Pie's

Adam and I took a short road trip to St. Louis to visit my sister and see the sights just over a year ago. In the days leading up to it I was obsessive about a restaurant I had found online, as well as a museum my sister had told me about. In fact, obsessive may be a bit of an understatement. The entire trip ended up becoming quite the palette pleaser, except for Adam’s idea to eat at White Castle for lunch on our drive up. From wine and nuts, to soul food  OMG-ness and custard, this post is best read not on an empty stomach.

The restaurant was “Sweetie Pie’s at the Mangrove” and the owner was a former backup singer for Ike and Tina Turner [So umm, yeah. Cool!!!]. Food Network had featured it on “Diners, Drive Ins, and Dives” so I had high expectations. It was fantastic.

Served cafeteria style, you had your choice from 5 entrees coupled with 2 sides of your choice, cornbread, and an optional dessert. Here you see (clockwise) the crispiest and flakiest catfish I have ever put my lips to, the cheesiest 4 cheese mac and cheese cooked to perfection, a big hunk of moist cornbread, and the buttery deliciousness of mashed potatoes. For dessert I had an amazing peach and apple cobbler and a nibble of Adam’s INSANE banana pudding. I think I said OMG around 100 times while consuming this. The portions were HUGE, so huge in fact I had to take about half of what you see to my sister. Words cannot describe how great this meal was. I think this was the first time in my life that I was too full to clean my plate, and that was the biggest disappointment of this meal.

Orange Chocolate Cupcakes

Orange Chocolate Cupcakes

Orange Chocolate Cupcakes

A blog I follow almost daily is Design*Sponge. Last week they featured these cupcakes and I fell in love with them immediately. Long story short, tonight I finally had time to bake them, and boy were they worth the wait! The cake is moist and fluffy, the frosting has just the right balance of orange flavor, and the smell, oh the smell! My apartment smells phenomenal! Who knew adding/subbing a simple ingredient could make a seemingly perfect cupcake something unexpected and fabulous? Best of all, you won’t believe how simple these were to make!

Here’s the recipe:

Orange Chocolate Cupcakes
adapted from Day to Day Wonderments

  • 1 Box Chocolate Cake Mix
  • Replace Water with Orange Juice
  • 1/2 Orange Zested

Follow box directions, replacing and adding the ingredients listed above. I’m blaming the fluffiness of the cake on the orange juice, I’ve never had cupcakes turn out like this!

Orange Zest Frosting
adapted from Day to Day Wonderments

  • 4 Cups Powdered Sugar
  • 8 Tablespoons Butter, Softened
  • 3 Tablespoons Orange Juice (add more juice if needed)
  • 1 Orange Zested
  1. Mix all the ingredients until smooth.
  2. Use a round piping tip to pipe the icing.
  3. Zest an additional orange for to garnish and sprinkle a little sugar on top.

Servings: 24 cupcakes

Pizza Margherita

Tonight, I had a craving for pizza. I’ve always been a fan of margherita pizza, but whenever I order it something’s always off. There’s either  too much tomato, too much cheese, not enough basil, etc. etc. I’ve never made a true pizza at home before, but thought it couldn’t be that bad, right? After my daily workout, I headed to K-Roger, as Adam calls it, and picked up the ingredients I thought I’d need.

I laid everything out on the counter and started playing. Well, my playing paid off, because my pizza was fantastic. In fact, it’s taking everything I have not to eat the entire pie in one setting.

Ingredients:

  • 1 can refrigerated pizza dough
  • ~ 5 slices mozzarella cheese
  • 1 vine-ripened tomato
  • 5 -6 basil leaves
  • 2 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Italian Seasonings
  • Garlic Powder

Directions:

  1. Roll out the pizza dough onto your baking sheet/stone.
  2. In a small bowl, season EVOO with garlic powder and seasonings to your preference.
  3. Brush oil mixture onto the dough.
  4. Tear apart the mozzarella slices and spread them out across the dough.
  5. Thinly slice the tomato and place slices on top of the cheese.
  6. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and bake according to your dough’s directions. (Mine was 450 degrees for 13 minutes)
  7. Once out of the oven, tear basil leaves and sprinkle on top.
  8. Slice and enjoy!

Servings: 8

Nutrition per serving: 180 cals, 7g fat, 6.75g protein, 23.25g carbs, 7.2mg cholesterol

mmm, mmm, good!

The Fins have it right. Their meals are thought out and healthy. Colorful and, I dare to say, completely natural. We were lucky to get traditional “home cooking” for the majority of our stay and while I’ll be the first to say I’m a picky eater (I’m sure I’ll get a lot of agreements on that statement), I managed to find at least one dish at each meal that I enjoyed the taste of. I always loved the appearance of every dish!

I remember the first morning we were there and seeing our host, Liisa, come in from the grocery store with a big, woven basket of fresh fruits and vegetables. The thing that I was most surprised by was the way lettuce was sold. The roots were still attached at the bottom and the top was open to the air. Liisa told us that she could re-plant the lettuce if she wanted, but she rarely did.

Every meal had a beautiful, fresh salad. Easily the most colorful and vibrant I’ve ever seen. Crisp green lettuce and bright red tomatoes were the standard in almost every salad served. Additions like red onion, watermelon, cucumber, oil soaked feta, and grapes would also accompany the salad. One thing I’m sure to try back in the states is adding watermelon and red grapes to my salads every once in a while.

Potatoes were another big staple of Finnish cooking. Usually served au gratin or boiled with fresh dill, we learned that the Fins really enjoy a good starchy potato.

Every meal had some sort of meat. While there we had chicken, beef, and pork. My favorite preparation were the mincemeat patties with onion. Similar to meatloaf, but fixed without ketchup and in small patties, they were cooked in the oven and positively delightful!!

One obvious and yet ignored practice by most Americans is that if the Fins have a heavy meal for lunch or dinner, the other meals of the day are adjusted accordingly. Normally the smaller meal is a simple preparation of breads, fruits, and cheeses. I’m really going to have to adopt that. These small meals were some of my favorites of the trip.

Finally, Coca-Cola tastes 100 times better in Europe. Perhaps the reason could be the simplicity of the ingredients: Carbonated Water, Sugar, Colour, Phosphoric Acid, Flavorings, and Caffeine. I guess what they say is true, “The easier it is to pronounce the ingredients, the better the taste.”

RIP

This weekend, I lost some of my closest friends. The kind of friends that you can depend on to help you through the worst of times, bringing you joy simply by being in their presence. This weekend? These friends plummeted to a horrifying death that ended on my kitchen floor.

These friends cooked with me, like trusty sous chefs.

They were dependable, helpful, and perfect.

These friends? Were my measuring spoons, and not just any measuring spoons. Spoons I had searched at least a year for and found at the one and only Anthropologie. These spoons were me. They were my soul in spoon form. Delicate, colorful, cheery, and positive. They were all that and more. One even measured a “pinch”. I mean? Come. On. How precious is that?

But now? Now they have a new life. A life broken, lying on my kitchen counter, because I can’t bear to part with them just yet, and a life of unspoken dreams, helping me make Boeuf Bourguignon and Coq au Vin.

Parting is such sweet sorrow.

Creamy Tomato Basil Soup

I found a tomato basil soup recipe that I like, FINALLY.

I’ve been through 4 recipes and so far?

  • Southern Living let me down
  • Hungry Girl let me down
  • other random blogs let me down
I was hanging by a thread, and I needed this recipe to be good. If for no other reason than I’ve been craving a good at-home version for weeks.

Here’s the recipe I followed:

Ingredients

  • 1 large can of petite diced tomatoes with juice
  • 3 cups tomato juice
  • 8-10 leaves fresh basil
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Place tomatoes and juice in a stock pot over medium heat.
  2. Simmer for 30 minutes.
  3. Puree the tomato mixture along with the basil leaves.
  4. Return the puree to the stock pot.
  5. Place the pot over medium heat and stir in the heavy cream and butter.
  6. Season with salt and pepper.
  7. Heat, stirring until the butter is melted. Do not boil.

Yield: ~5 servings