Fall is Here: Breakfast Bread with Banana Pumpkin Apple and Zucchini

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I knew I wanted bread this week but I couldn’t make up my mind on the flavor. I thought about pumpkin banana bread but then I thought about apple cake. I mentioned it to the girls and they encouraged me to make two different breads but that thought exhausted me. The result of my cravings and the girls’ suggestion is my banana pumpkin apple zucchini bread.

You are scratching your head right now and thinking why so many flavors, Shelly. If you haven’t tried this, put it on your immediate to-do list. It tastes like zucchini bread with a hint of pumpkin. The chunks of apple are a sweet surprise; They give this bread more texture.

It simply doesn’t get any more fall than this yummy, yet wholesome bread. You can feel good about eating this as I substituted half of the usual amount of the butter with mashed bananas and Greek yogurt. Plus, it’s packed with yummy fruits and a veggie. Have a slice for breakfast with a cup of coffee or tea, an afternoon snack, or with homemade whipped cream for dessert.

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  • 4 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 very ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 heaping teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups bread flour, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 apples, chopped
  • 1 zucchini, shredded
  • 1/2 cup pecans, chopped (totally optional)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350, In a medium bowl, beat butter and sugar on high speed for 1 minute until well-combined.
  2. Add 2 eggs to the butter-sugar mixture and continue beating for another minute until creamy.
  3. Add mashed bananas, Greek yogurt, pumpkin puree, and vanilla extract to the butter mixture, and continue beating for about a minute.IMG_1114.JPG
  4. In a separate medium bowl, combine sifted flour, baking powder, baking soda and pumpkin spice. Mix until well combined.
  5. Add dry ingredients into wet ingredients, and mix, using large spoon, just until combined. It’s ok if there are lumps.
  6. Fold in the apples, zucchini, and pecans (if using).
  7. Oil a 9×5 inch loaf pan. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper. Pour the batter in the pan. Bake for 1 hour. Remove from pan after 10 minutes. Place on a wire rack to cool. Enjoy!
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The batter after all the ingredients were combined.

* I didn’t add pecans in the bread. I had leftover batter and added the pecans to that portion and made 6 muffins. Yummy!

The batter with pecans

The batter with pecans

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Fall is Here: Sausage and Lentil Soup

It’s officially soup season! Whenever the weather cools down, the girls and I incorporate our weekly Panera Bread visit. My favorite item on the menu is the creamy tomato soup. It’s always my go-to.

Another favorite soup is my super versatile sausage and lentil soup. I have a basic recipe, however, I don’t usually stick to it. I add different vegetables, depending on what’s in season and what I have left in my fridge. You can literally add pretty much any vegetable and know that it will turn out great. Another great thing about this soup is that it will be ready in 45 minutes and taste like it was simmering for hours. Shonn visited over the weekend and requested this soup to take back to school with him. He is going home with enough soup to get him through the week. Enjoy!

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Before

 

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After

2 tbsp olive oil

1 lb Italian sausage, casing removed

1 medium onion, chopped

2 celery stalks, chopped

1/2 cup mushrooms, rough chopped

2 large carrot sticks, chopped

1 small zucchini, chopped

4 cups of fresh spinach or 1 bunch of kale, chopped

1 28 oz. can of diced tomatoes

2 garlic cloves, minced

6 cups chicken broth

2 cups dry lentils

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 teaspoon oregano

1 teaspoon basil

1 teaspoon parsley

1 bay leaf

Parmesan cheese to sprinkle on soup

Directions:

Add the olive oil to a large pot. Brown the sausage. Add the onions, and celery and cook until tender. Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer for 45 minutes or until the lentils are tender. Add more salt and pepper to taste. You may need to add water, depending on the consistency. Take out the bay leaf before serving. Top with grated Parmesan cheese and enjoy!

Fall is Here!

Such a bittersweet day for me. On the eve of the first day of fall, I bid farewell to summer. Gone are the beach days and the scent of sunscreen. Adios to the trips to our local ice cream shop which seemed to happen on a daily basis. I am officially turning back to my milk chocolate hue instead of the sun-kissed ebony I am in the summer months. It’s been real!

Fall is officially here tomorrow and it comes with its own delights: candy apples, pumpkin patch visits, apple cider donuts, and pumpkin ale. The scent of cloves and cinnamon begin to fill their air around this time, preparing our taste buds for Thanksgiving.

The recipe below inspired me to get in the fall mood. I found this one on the ever addicting Pinterest. I hope you try and enjoy the cinnamon rolls as much as my family, friends, co-workers, and I did. Thank you for this awesome recipe, Sally!

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls(Recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction)

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Ingredients:

PUMPKIN DOUGH

  • 1/3 cup (80 ml) milk*
  • 2 Tablespoons (30 grams) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup (120 grams) 100% pure pumpkin
  • 2 Tablespoons (30 grams) dark brown sugar (or light brown)
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 2 and 1/4 teaspoons (1 standard package) instant active dry yeast
  • 2 and 1/2 cups  bread flour (340 grams) OR all-purpose flour (315 grams)*

FILLING

  • 1/2 cup (100 grams) dark or light brown sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon EACH ground nutmeg and ground cloves*
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice*
  • 3 Tablespoons (45 grams) unsalted butter, melted

MAPLE CREAM CHEESE GLAZE

  • 3 oz (84 grams) full-fat cream cheese, softened to room temperature
  • 1/4 cup (82 grams) pure maple syrup
  • 2 Tablespoons (30 ml) milk
  • 1 cup (120 grams) confectioners’ sugar, sifted 

Sally gives very detailed instructions and tips for this recipe. You can find them here: http://sallysbakingaddiction.com/2013/09/26/pumpkin-cinnamon-rolls/

These rolls were by far my favorite pumpkin recipe, although I didn’t have one. I took a bite of my Annie’s when they came out of the oven. I had to stop at one bite as I felt myself wanting to keep them all for myself. Shonn requested that I make them again this upcoming weekend. Needless to say, I will be indulging.

More pumpkin recipes to come but in the meantime, what are your favorite fall traditions?

 

Spring and Summer Harvest: Pickling

We’ve all been there. A co-worker or two or three brings in veggies from their home garden and you are stumped at what to do with their generosity. It’s harvest time and we have been and are starting the reap the benefits of our friends, family, and co-workers’ green thumbs. You could take those beans, cucumbers, peppers, and other summer veggies and roast or saute them, but you’ve been there and you’ve done that. What now? Pickles baby!

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I subscribe to Rachael Ray magazine and this month she gives a handful of pickling recipes. It’s amazing how easy pickling is and the crazy amount of flavor you get once they are finished. I decided to pickle string beans, bell peppers, and cucumbers. This only requires about 35-40 minutes of your time and in 4 days you will have yourself some awesome sandwich toppers, drink garnishes, and snacks on their own.

I used Rachael’s recipes, but here are some other sites with yummy pickle recipes:

Serious Eats

Food and Wine

The Kitchn

Recipes

Easy-Breezy Bread and Butters

This is a traditional sweet pickle. Great for adding to tuna or chicken salads or sandwiches

  • 1 pound small cucumbers (such as Kirby or Persian), ends trimmed, cut into 1/4-inch-thick rounds
  • 1 large shallot, thinly sliced (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 6 tablespoons honey
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  1. In a large bowl, toss the cucumbers and shallot; pack tightly into 2 pint-size canning jars.
  2. In a small saucepan, bring the white vinegar, honey, salt and 1 cup water to a boil, stirring until the honey and salt dissolve. Pour the vinegar mixture over the cucumbers and shallots, making sure the vegetables are completely submerged. Screw on the lids. Let stand at room temperature 24 hours. Refrigerate at least 3 days before eating. (The pickles are best eaten within 3 weeks.)

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Dilly Green Beans

Dilly green beans… green beans that are dilly… snack away with a cocktail!

  • 1 pound green beans, trimmed from stem ends into 5-inch pieces
  • 8 sprigs dill
  • 2 large cloves garlic, lightly crushed
  • 2 tablespoons dill seed
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons crushed red pepper (optional)
  • 1 cup distilled white vinegar
  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Season with salt and add the beans. Cook until crisp-tender, about 2 minutes, then drain and transfer to a large bowl of ice water.
  2. Divide the dill sprigs, garlic, dill seed, salt and crushed red pepper, if using, between 2 pint-size canning jars. Drain the beans and pat dry. Tilt one jar on its side and tightly layer half the green beans in the jar, cut side toward the bottom. Repeat with the second jar.
  3. In a liquid measuring cup, combine the white vinegar and 1 cup water. Pour over the beans, making sure they’re completely submerged. Screw on the lids and shake until the salt dissolves and the seasonings are evenly distributed. Let stand at room temperature 24 hours. Refrigerate at least 3 days before eating. (The pickles are best eaten within 1 month.)

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Sweet Pickled Peppers

These are great on almost any sandwich or wrap. I plan to use these in the girls’ pasta salad for their lunch.

  • 1/3 cup EVOO
  • 2 pounds yellow, red and orange bell peppers cut into 1 1/2-inch squares (about 8 cups)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 4 small sprigs oregano
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  1. In a large skillet, heat the EVOO over medium-high. Add the peppers, sprinkle with the salt and cook, stirring often, until the peppers are tender, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat; stir in the garlic.
  2. Divide the oregano sprigs between 2 pint-size canning jars. Pack the pepper mixture tightly into the jars.
  3. In a liquid measuring cup, combine the red wine vinegar and 1/2 cup water. Pour over the peppers, making sure they’re completely submerged. Screw on the lids and shake until the seasonings are evenly distributed. Let stand at room temperature 24 hours. Refrigerate at least 3 days before eating. (The pickles are best eaten within 1 month.)

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I also thought about pickling fruit. Got any good recipes? Let me know!

 

Blue Apron Box: Reviews

I am always looking for ways to make my day-to-day a little easier. As a single mother who works full time, it’s imperative that I minimize the things that don’t matter but are required. The first thing I outsourced was cleaning. After a few misses, I finally found a cleaning service I am satisfied with. The next thing on the list was menu planning. Obviously I love cooking, but I must admit that coming up with meal ideas can be difficult, especially when I lack inspiration. I am often conflicted between serving the same things and finding recipes that are good for us. It also never fails, when I finally figure out what I am serving I forget one important item and have to send Shonn out to grab it for me.

I’ve known about Blue Apron, a weekly meal delivery subscription service, for quite some time. I decided to finally give it a try when they offered a Groupon deal. It took about 5 minutes to register my account and create a profile which included selecting my food preferences. You have the option to choose vegetarian meals or meals with meat. If you choose the meat option, you can choose to eliminate certain meats. I originally chose every meat to keep my options open. After I selected my food preferences I selected my first delivery week. Once my week was confirmed(I selected the following week), the menu selections were disclosed.

The day before delivery, I received an email confirming my box was on the way along with the tracking number. The box was sitting in front of my door when I arrived home after work that day. Excitement!

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This week’s menu included salmon burgers with basil butter corn on the cob, hanger steaks with roasted potatoes and sauteed long beans and tomato, and parmesan-basil chicken patties with braised romano beans and barley. My daughter Annie wanted to try the salmon burgers first and I wasn’t going to deny my first born. Ha! This was definitely my favorite meal out of the three. The burgers came out perfect and the basil complimented both the burger and the corn very well.

Salmon Burgers with Basil Butter Corn on the Cob

Salmon Burgers with Basil Butter Corn on the Cob

Our next meal was the hanger steaks. I am not a steak eater at all. I am not even a beef eater outside of burgers but decided to give it a try. After having this meal I changed my meat preference to exclude beef. As the meal was tasty, I didn’t enjoy the steak. If steak is your thing, this was a nice spin on the a steak and potatoes dinner.

Hanger Steak with Roasted Potatoes and sauteed long beans and tomato

Hanger Steak with Roasted Potatoes and Sauteed Long Beans and Tomato

The last meal, parmesan-basil chicken patties, was a very filling meal. It was my first time cooking with barley and I think I made it a bit too al dente. Nonetheless, it was a good meal and the girls enjoyed it. The chicken patties were great compliments to the braised vegetables.

Parmesan-basil Chicken Patties with Braised Romano Beans and Barley

Parmesan-basil Chicken Patties with Braised Romano Beans and Barley

After the first week I decided to continue my subscription with Blue Apron. Even at the regular price of $59.95, it is a cost effective and convenient way to try new foods, save time at the grocery store, and spend time with the girls in the kitchen. They were very excited to help prepare each meal so I am hoping that momentum stays high for every other meal.

Thank you for making my life just a little easier, Blue Apron!

Recipe: Fried Spicy Chicken and Waffles with Peach Green Tea Lemonade

I’ve always been a fan of Rev Run, best known as “Run” from Run DMC. He’s managed to successfully transition from a hip hop legend to a motivational speaker and family man. I’ve faithfully watched every one of his shows, including Run’s House, Rev Run’s Renovation, and now, Rev Run’s Sunday Suppers.

In a recent episode, Russy, Rev Run’s son, wanted a shirt and decided to make his dad a meal to help convince him to buy the shirt for him. With the help of his mom Justine, Russy made spicy oven-fried chicken with pecan waffles. You had me at hello! Disclosure: I fried my chicken. So much for the healthy meal… I decided to look up spicy fried chicken recipes online and found the Neely’s version. I combined both recipes and created my own. Enjoy!

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Spicy Fried Chicken for 2

1 cup buttermilk

3 tbsp. sriracha hot sauce

6 chicken wings

1 1/2 cups flour

2 tsp. chili powder

2 tsp. paprika

2 tsp. garlic powder

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. black pepper

canola oil, for frying

Mix the buttermilk and hot sauce. Place the chicken in the buttermilk mixture and marinate for at least one hour or up to 24 hours. Once marinated, mix the flour, chili powder, paprika, garlic powder, salt and pepper in a paper bag. Heat the oil in a cast iron pan or fryer, about 375 degrees. Place the chicken in the bag in groups and shake until fully coated. Fry the chicken, being careful not to overcrowd the pan or fryer.

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Chicken in buttermilk mixture

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Any paper bag will do

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My version of the pecan wafffles is very similiar to Justine’s, however I removed the wheat germ and the all purpose flour and added cinnamon and only used whole wheat flour.

Pecan Whole Wheat Waffles

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 1/2 tbsp. dark brown sugar

1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. kosher salt

1 cup buttermilk

2 tbsp. butter, melted

1 egg

1/2  cup chopped pecans

Canola oil spray, for spraying

Maple syrup, for serving

Preheat a waffle iron. Combine the flour,  brown sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the buttermilk, melted butter and egg. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Fold in pecans just to combine.

Spray the waffle iron lightly with oil spray. Ladle the batter onto the waffle iron and cook until golden brown according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer to a plate and keep warm. Serve with maple syrup.

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Batter will be slightly lumpy and thick

I’ve never been one to have a food craving for a long time. I am generally satisfied after about 2 servings. Such is not the case with my latest craving, the peach green tea lemonade at Starbucks. It is summer in a cup! Light, refreshing, and just the right amount of sweetness. I’ve had a cup of this goodness every day for the last two weeks. Let’s just say I had to reload my Starbucks’ card a little more frequently than normal. As it’s great to earn stars, I had to recreate this at home as shelling out $5 for a drink every day is not a habit I want to keep. In addition to the cost, I am not a fan of the peach syrup they use as a sweetener. I decided to use peach puree instead of the syrup and agave syrup as a sweetener. Feel free to use honey instead. The peach puree makes this drink great! I hope you try it and enjoy!

Peach Green Tea Lemonade

4 lemons

2 peaches, peeled and quatered

4 tazo green tea ginger tea bags

agave syrup, to taste, about 1/3 cup

12 cups water, 4 cups used for the tea

1 peach and 1 lemon, for slicing

Add the peaches to 4 cups of water in a large saucepan. Boil the peaches for about 5 minutes. Turn the heat off and allow the water to cool slightly. While the water is cooling, juice the lemons in a bowl. Add the tea bags to the water and steep for about 5 minutes. Take the peaches out of the tea and blend until it becomes a puree. Add the puree, lemon juice, tea, syrup or honey and rest of the water to a large pitcher. Allow to refrigerate for 3 hours. Enjoy!

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Summer Vacation: Puerto Rico and Cape May, NJ

So let’s just put it out there. Ive been slacking on my posts. Its summer for goodness sake! Give me a break. 🙂 Ive been traveling for the past month and bought everyone back a gift. Inspiration!

Puerto Rico

This year our family visited Loiza, Puerto Rico. Loiza is located about 35 minutes from the San Juan airport and is filled with awesome beaches. Though not as popular as San Juan for tourists, the locals dominate this area and now I understand why. We stayed on a beachfront rental community. I cooked most of our meals but we did get a chance to try two places that we enjoyed.

El Verde BBQ

El Verde is a truly local, no frills restaurant. Great for grabbing food on the go for the family as the portions are huge! The meat is sold by the pound and the sides are very large. Before I get to the food I must mention their pina coladas. The pina coladas were sooo good! No mixes used at El Verde; very authentic with just the right amount of rum. They were so good we went back two times during our stay. Now onto the food… We ordered the chicken(whole), rice and peas, sweet plantains, mofongo, and pork ribs. Monfongo is a staple of Puerto Rican cuisine. It consists of garlic flavored mashed plantains that are not ripe(sweet) yet. It’s a savory dish that pairs well with various meats and sauces. El Verde makes their mofongo very simple but tasty. If you are visiting the San Juan area try to visit this local gem. The prices are low and the food is just plain good!

BBQ Chicken, mofongo, and pork sausage

Pork ribs, plantains, BBQ chicken, rice and peas, and dried pork

Punto De Vista Restaurant

We decided to visit the Old San Juan area to walk around pick up some local treasures. When we arrived in the city we were hungry and decided to stop at Punto De Vista. It was conveniently located on the corner right across the street from the water and offered outside seating. The waitress mentioned the mofongo was really good so I ordered that with skirt steak and a garlic sauce on top. I would imagine this version of mofongo would be perferred by someone not familiar with the dish. I enjoyed it because it reminded me of steak and potatoes. The consistency of the plantains were more like chunky mashed potatoes so they paired well with the small strips of steak. The garlic sauce was just salty enough. The rest of the girls ordered fish tacos as they weren’t as daring as I was. They were just as tasty as I snagged one from my sister’s plate. Their version of tacos are rolled up versus being rolled over.

Cape May, NJ

After a great week with the family, I decided it would be a great time to spend some time with Shonn before he heads off to grad school. The time has finally come for my Mason scholar to head into the world of higher education. I know that he will be studying and networking for the next two years so I wanted to plan a little getaway. He decided he wanted to visit somewhere with sand so I chose Cape May. I always wanted to visit Akwaaba Bed and Breakfast so this was a perfect opportunity to get what I wanted and what he wanted. We stayed two nights at Akwaaba’s Buttonwood Manor in Cape May, NJ. Before we got on the road we stopped at Panera Bread for breakfast. I ordered the egg white, spinach, tomato, and avocado power sandwich. The sandwich also came with white cheddar and I added ham as well. Yummy!

410 Bank St

En route to Cape May I started reading articles about the town’s food offering. Based on reviews, we decided we would try 410 Bank St for dinner. Upon arrival we were immediately seated outside in the garden area. Our very attentive waiter greeted us and opened our bottle of wine(they are BYOB but also carry local wines from Cape May Winery).

We started with the mako shark. Overrated, but Shonn enjoyed it. It was seared in a sweet thai chili sauce. Very popular dish according to our waiter. Shonn ordered the gumbo after rave Yelp reviews and recommendation from the waiter. I order the chilean sea bass. I usually order the sea bass whenever its on the menu. The gumbo was really good; not too spicy as I feared. It was more of a stew consistency and was loaded with yummy andouille sausage and seafood: shrimp, scallops, crawfish, and a lobster tail. The chilean sea bass had a pecan crust and was accompanied by a shrimp and crawfish creole sauce. So good and the portion was huge. The fish was cooked to perfection, so moist and flaky. I attempted to eat all of it but Shonn was ready and waiting to finish it for me. The thing that made this restaurant a winner was the service. I can count on one hand the number of times I have been blown away by stellar service. This was at the top of my list. We recommended 410 to a couple staying at our B&B and after visiting, they shared my sentiment. Great place!

Mako Shark

 

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Chilean Sea Bass

Gumbo File

Gumbo File

Rea’s Farm Market

Simple review… Stopped at this small farm market on our bike ride to the Cape May Lighthouse. I picked up a ripe, sweet tomato and was greeted by Mrs. Rea. She was so sweet and told me the tomato was a great choice. Agreed!

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Willow Creek Winery

In our journey to the lighthouse we stumbled upon Willow Creek. Needless to say I was super excited to stop and sip. We rode our bikes through the beautiful vineyard which was about a five minute bike ride to the actual tasting location. I enjoyed seeing and reading about the different grapes in the wine making process. We made it to the tasting room which was a massive room with immaculate woodwork. They offer about 10 different types of wines ranging from ones that were exclusively made on sight and some that were mixed with a California grape. The best part about the visit was our wine tender, John. He was very helpful and passionate about each wine. I definitely recommend this place for anyone in the Cape May area. Oh, and they also sell eggs! The chickens greet you as you ride by their area. 🙂

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Key West Tacos

After an afternoon of bike riding, we were pretty hungry. On our walk back to our B&B, we walked past Key West Tacos. This place is very true to it’s surroundings and has a nice outside garden area for seating. My favorite taco was the shrimp taco that happened to be on special at the time. There was a nice pineapple habanero sauce that was super tasty. Shonn ordered the pork and mahi mahi tacos.

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Black Duck

It was our last night in Cape May so we decided to end the trip with a good meal. I hadnt been hungry the latter part of the day for some reason but knew I needed to eat something. I asked my friend Jessica for recommendations as she owns a shore house in Wildwood and knows a thing or two about the NJ shore restaurants. She recommended Black Duck so Shonn and I made reservations for their last seating of the night, at 9. We walk in and the restaurant was a bout half full as patrons were ending their meals as the restaurant closed at 9:30. We started with the guazpacho: roasted tomatoes, blackened shrimp, and housemade guacamole. Burst of flavor! Shonn ordered the crab cakes with spiced Yukons, garlic spinach, and a lemon nage. I ordered the pan roasted salmon with lobster, spring vegetable risotto a red wine syrup and spiced shallot. The food was phenomenal. I couldnt finish my food but savored every piece I did manage to get down. I can’s wait to go back when we are in the Cape May area. By the end of our meal we were one of the two parties left so the wait staff was very attentive. We felt like we had the place to ourselves. What topped it off is that it was a 2 minute walk from our B&B.

Gazpacho

Gazpacho

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Salmon with lobster, spring vegetable risotto a red wine syrup and spiced shallot

Crab cakes

I hope you enjoyed reading about my awesome time away from reality! Where are you vacationing this summer?