Better for You Banana Bread. (Wheat Free!)

In the immortal words of Scooby Doo, “Ruh-roh, Raggy.”

Last week, I got a little over-zealous with my banana purchase. Sunday, it was do or die. Should I throw the overripe fruit away? Heck no! Let’s make a Scooby Snack.

Rewind for a second. A few years ago, my friend Isabelle surrendered the banana bread she had worked hard to perfect while her husband was serving our country overseas. And perfect it she did. Good gracious, that stuff is addictive.

But it also has a whole stick of butter and a good bit of added sugar. Perfect for dessert. Maybe not as perfect for breakfast. That’s where my tinkering came in.

If you want the original recipe, you’re going to have to ask Isabelle. That doesn’t mean I won’t gladly give you the remix she inspired. These muffins won’t disappoint.

Better for You Banana Bread

1/4 cup softened butter

1/4 cup flax meal

1/4 cup loosely packed brown sugar

1/4 cup raw agave nectar

1/4 cup stevia in the raw

1 large egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup Greek yogurt

4 small overripe bananas mashed (for 1 cup)

1 cup brown rice flour

1 cup rolled oats, ground into flour (for 1 scant cup)

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

Optional chopped almonds to stir in or sprinkle on top

*In a small bowl, mix the rice flour, oats, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Set aside.

*In a large bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar, agave and stevia. Add in the egg and incorporate thoroughly. Now blend in the vanilla and Greek yogurt. Finally, add the banana and blend.

*Add in the flour mixture in three batches, blending thoroughly each time.

*Pour batter into a greased 12-muffin tray, filling each cup about 3/4 full.

*Bake at 350 for 21-25 minutes.

3 Flour + Flax Rustic Pizza Dough

It’s not delivery…it’s super easy homemade pizza dough. And it’s darn good.

The first pizza dough I ever made came from my most beat up cookbook, Frank Stitt’s Bottega Favorita. It’s covered in sticky stuff and stains, which means I use it. A lot.

This recipe is a much evolved, healthier version of the classic that keeps the wait at the Bottega Cafe more than an hour on most nights. I made the hearty addition of whole grains and flax. This comes together quickly. Mix, knead, roll, top and enjoy.

3 Flour + Flax Rustic Pizza Dough

Showcasing Vore’s plate. His toppings include mozzarella, goat cheese, portobello, olives and prosciutto

1 cup warm water

1 heaping tablespoon honey

1 heaping tablespoon dry active yeast

1 cup (4 1/2 ounces) all purpose flour

1 cup (4 1/2 ounces) whole wheat pastry flour

1 cup (4 1/2 ounces) whole wheat flour

2 tablespoons flax

2 teaspoons Kosher salt

1/4 cup olive oil

*In a small bowl, combine the water and honey, stirring well until combined. Add the yeast and allow it to sit for 10 minutes until bubbly.

*Combine the flours, salt and flax in the bowl of a stand mixer.

*Using the dough hook attachment, begin stirring the flour. Add in the yeast mixture, then a slow stream of the oil. Mix on a low speed for 5 minutes.

*Remove the dough. It will be just a touch sticky. Cover the dough loosely with plastic wrap and let it sit for 30 minutes.

*Break off the portion you’d like to use (half makes a grande pizza) and roll it to the shape you’d like. Top it your way, then bake for 7-8 minutes on a pre-heated pizza stone at 500 degrees.

Two side notes:  1. The dough makes great flat breads too. We’ve grilled them before. Delish!

2. Thanks to Stephanie who posted her dough recipe last week and gave me the idea to get my recipe in writing. Thanks for sharing good stuff!

Meatless Monday, with a side of Green Beans

Vore will endure the vegetarian lifestyle. Once a week. And only for one meal.

And so tonight was Meatless Monday black bean burger night, which I’ll note that he actually likes. I made a few standards: homemade buns, Mama Pea’s burgers, and sweet potato coins. But we did venture out just a smidge.

Remember when I told you about my client with the cool campus? I came home with more fresh local produce, this time by way of our new neighbor who works with the US Green Building Council. She brought organic turnips to share, and I was quick to take a handful.

Aren’t they lovely? Here’s a simple side that lets the turnips shine.

Buttered Green Beans with Roasted Turnips

1 cup turnips, peel and cubed.

1 8 oz haricots verts

1/2 tablespoon butter

1/2 teaspoon Greek seasoning

Kosher salt, to taste

*Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

*Cover a cookie sheet with parchment paper, then spray it liberally with olive oil.

*Roast the turnips for 20 minutes.

*Steam the green beans in the microwave. I used a steam-in-bag package and cooked for 2 minutes 30 seconds.

*Combine green beans, turnips, butter and seasonings. Toss to coat.

Does your family practice Meatless Monday? What’s your favorite dish? 

I love this jar.

I’m a little nutty about waste. As in, I will go great lengths to avoid contributing to our trash.

Poor Vore. For the first couple of months of our marriage, I would run behind him, pulling recyclables from the trash and saying, (in my best holier-than-though tone) “We recycle!”

Like it or not, he’s a recycler now, too.

Think back to the logo on your recycle bin. You know, the one with the three arrows? REUSE is on there too. That’s where my jars come in.

We go through lots of almond butter, salsa and spaghetti sauce, all packaged in glass. Why would you throw a perfectly good container in the trash? I use these guys a million ways. Here are the top 5:

  1. Storage for my bulk bin goodies, as seen in the image above.
  2. Vessel for liquid lunches. Soup, anyone?
  3. Low-to-the-table vase. Tie a ribbon around a jar for Shabby Chic lovely.
  4. DIY salad dressing shaker.
  5. Protein powder transport. After your workout, add water and shake.

Do you reuse glass jars? What’s your favorite way to reincarnation?

How we save money: the bulk bin edition

Ah, the bulk bins. I once found these intimidating. Now we’re best friends. 

Here’s how it works: health food stores stock a wide variety of goods in big bins with scoops. You grab a bag, portion out what you’d like, write a number on it, then pay. Packaging is minimal (eco-friendly!) and you buy only what you need (no waste!)

I first ventured onto the bulk aisle seeking the freedom to experiment. Say you have a recipe that calls for a tiny amount of something you’ve never tasted, maybe buckwheat flour. The smallest package you can find is 1 pound. If you try the recipe and hate buckwheat flour, you’re stuck with a useless, expensive product. But if you hit up the bulk bin, you get the amount you need and you’re done. The risk is minimal. No fuss, no muss.

There’s also an argument in favor of bulk bins as a less expensive way to buy grains, nuts, etc. I ran across this article today proving the theory has its skeptics, but I’m a believer. It may not be 89% cheaper as one study claims, but it almost always saves a little something.

Why don’t I prove it? The image below shows the bulk bin items that made their way into my cart this week.

I wandered the aisles, picking up a few of the name brands. Check out the comparisons:

How about those oats! This savings makes organic doable for our family, which is a big deal to me. And the mushrooms? Wow. Half off!

For the items we buy, the bulk bins are almost always a better deal, some by a little, some by a lot. Here’s my advice: take a few minutes to comparison shop on the things you buy frequently. Saving $1.50 for every pound of oats you buy is HUGE if you eat them for breakfast daily.

Now that I’ve got you sold on the bins, what are you to do with the contents of the baggies you bring home? That’s coming tomorrow in a post I think I’ll call, “I love this jar.”

If you shop on the bulk aisle, what’s your best bargain? 

Beer Soaked Sweet Potato Wedgie-Fries.

No, not that kind of wedgie. It’s what you get when you cut sweet potatoes half way between a wedge and a French fry shape. Wedgie-Fries!

Nutrient rich sweet potatoes are soaked in a hearty bath of Bud Light so a hint of brew flavor sneaks in to every delicious bite. Cooking at a low temperature, then cranking up to broil means you get a soft inside and a crispy exterior. Tempted? You should be.

Vore gave these healthy fries the thumbs up. No seriously…he flashed a thumbs up across the table. This recipe is man approved. Enjoy!

Beer Soaked Sweet Potato Wedgie-Fries

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Cut your sweet potatoes in half, then keeping halving your pieces until you get a chunky French fry shape.

Place your fries in a shallow dish (this is a pie plate) and cover them with your favorite beer.

Allow the sliced potatoes to soak at room temperature for at least 30 minutes, turning a few times to ensure they all get nice and drenched in beer-y goodness.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper, then lightly spray it with olive oil. (Hi there, awesome Misto!)

Bake at 350 for 35 minutes, turning once half way through baking.

Now turn your oven up to broil. Watch your fries closely; you want them toasty but not burned! For my oven, golden brown came after 3 minutes of broiling.

Remove your fries from the oven and get to shaking–seasoning, that is. Ours included a light dusting of sea salt, cumin, chili powder & paprika. For the adventurous,possibilities are endless. Cinnamon sugar next time?

Sour Cream Cupcakes with Over-the-Top Strawberry Frosting

Cupcakes, ready to party.

My dear friend Niloo’s birthday is this week. If anyone ever loved a birthday, Niloo is the girl. A celebration was obviously in order.

We had a gathering of friends weekday style, involving a table overflowing with giggling girls, margaritas and…cupcakes, via yours truly.

Let’s talk treats. The texture is a cross between a muffin and poundcake, slightly dense and extra moist. Sour cream gives the cake a not-too-sugary tang. Couple this with a light and creamy frosting, and you’ve got a subtle riff on that sweet and sour thing Starburst and Skittle lovers relish. Each component is good on it’s own, but together? Bliss!

Sour Cream Cupcakes

1 stick butter, softened

3/4 cup sour cream

1 cup organic cane sugar

3 large eggs

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon fine grain salt

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 cup vanilla almond milk

1/4 cup half and half

Cream butter, sugar and eggs; Add your flour and beat; Pour in a muffin tin; Bake and cool

*Combine flours, salt and baking powder in a small bowl and set aside.

*Add the butter and sour cream to a large bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat them together until fluffy.

*Mix in sugar slowly, then beat in the eggs one at a time.

*Add in about 1/3 of the flour mixture and beat until combined. Add 1/2 cup almond milk and beat. Repeat this pattern, ending with the flour.

*Spoon batter into pre-greased muffin tins, filling each 3/4 of the way full.

*Bake at 350 degrees for 17-20 minutes, or until golden. Cool cupcakes on a wire rack

We all know I love my Vitamix! I’ve used it for a zillion things, but now it has a new trick…frosting!

Over-the-Top Vitamix Strawberry Frosting

3/4 cup cream cheese, softened

1 cup confectioner’s sugar

5 tablespoons butter, melted

1/2 cup chopped strawberries

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 teaspoons vanilla

*Add the ingredients to your high speed blender in the order listed above.

*Start the blender on a low speed, then gradually work up until strawberries are fully pureed and all the components are fully integrated, stopping to scrape down the sides when necessary.

*After cupcakes have fully cooled, frost them and garnish with a strawberry piece. Store in the refrigerator.

Italian White Bean Cakes

Bean cake served with broccoli, cherry tomatoes and Kefir Cornbread

Vore got a last minute call for a boy’s trivia night. You see a lonely wife. I see opportunity!

While I don’t love hanging solo all the time, every once in a while is grand–it creates prime time for experimentation. Today’s tinkering came out tasty, if I don’t say so myself.

Italian White Bean Cakes

1 1/2 cups cooked canellini beans*

*mine came from dry beans, but this equals one can

1/4 cup liquid egg whites

1 tablespoon Rondele garlic and herbs spreadable cheese

1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

2 tablespoons brown rice flour

1/4 cup onion, sautéed.

1/4 cup mozzarella cheese

*In a large bowl, coarsely mash your beans.

*Stir in egg whites, Rondele cheese, basil, salt and pepper. Stir well until combined.

*Rice flour comes next. Mix until evenly distributed.

*Now add the onion and mozzarella.

*Form 4 patties. The mixture is pretty wet, so I’m guessing you’d have trouble rolling these with your hands. I just scooped my patties into the hot skillet and got them nice and round there in the pan.

*Pan fry the patties over medium high heat until both sides are a golden brown. Enjoy!

Vega on Trial.

I caved.

My Vega Sampling

I hear the blogosphere talking up Vega products all the time, so I’m always curious when walking down the supplement aisle.

The drill looks like so: I pick up a container of Vega. I read the nutrition facts. Looks good! But then I see the price. HOLY EXPENSIVE. It’s at least double the price of my normal 365 Brand whey powder. And so I put it back and move on.

But last week Vega was on sale. With large containers $7 off, I decided an experiment was worth it. So I took home a few mini-packs and slugged smoothies. Here’s what I thought:

Vega One Chocolate

Warning: a serving is A LOT of powder. I usually blend my protein shakes with fruit, but chocolate has always been the exception. I threw the packet contents in the shaker cup with the recommended 8 oz almond milk and it didn’t leave much room at the top of my 16 oz container. After shaking, it was still chunky and I had to add more milk.

But once we got the powder to mix in, the chocolate flavor was spot on. The drink was borderline milkshake thick, and maybe faintly grassy? Still delish. I had it for breakfast with a small side of oatmeal (1/3 cup) and stayed full until lunchtime.

Vega One Vanilla Chai.  

I wised up this time and used the VitaMix to blend my drink. I added just a smidge of frozen banana and loved the flavor. Again, you could pick up an earthiness, but I don’t think it was a deal breaker.

Shake and Go Smoothie in Tropical Tango.

Wow. This is really good. I blended mine with almond milk and frozen peaches/banana. It felt like I should be sipping it on the beach.

 

Warning: the powder is slightly green. The drink is…you guessed it…slightly green. It ain’t pretty–see anecdotal photo to the left–but my it tastes good.

 

Vanilla Almondialla

Ditto the above. This has a strong almond flavor that makes it truly different from any protein powder I’ve ever had. And the two servings of veggies–well that just won my heart.

I high-tailed it back to Whole Foods and bought the two Shake and Go flavors while they were still marked down. And now I’m in smoothie paradise.

What’s your favorite protein powder? Clearly I’m up for experimenting!