Thursday, July 26, 2012

Crazy Weather and a Peach Cobbler Smoothie

    According to just about every weather station on the planet (I may be exaggerating a teeny bit), my neck-of-the-woods is supposed to experience major thunderstorms, flash floods, large hail, and possibly tornadoes. Oh. OK. While waiting for every extreme force of nature to be unleashed, I'm sitting here sipping cinnamon water. I DESPISE drinking regular water, but I get dehydrated really easily, so after some experiments, I've fallen in love with Mint-Cucumber-Lemon Water, and simple Cinnamon Water (toss a couple cinnamon sticks in a pitcher full of water). Both waters are really refreshing and tasty and definitely NOT boring.
   I also made another amazing green smoothie. I actually probably looked a little crazy sitting at the table with my nose in the glass, inhaling the scrumptious, sweet, almost dessert-y scent, but I couldn't help smelled THAT good. Drink this one up. It's absolutely delish.

Peach Cobbler Green Smoothie

A couple good handfuls of spinach
1/4 C. fat free vanilla yogurt
1/3 C. unsweetened vanilla almond milk
1/2 of a frozen banana
1 peach, cubed and frozen
a good shake of cinnamon
some nutmeg
2 Tbl. quick cooking oats

Blend this beauty up and BAM! Smell up and drink up the deliciousness.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Green Smoothies and John Wayne

    Have you seen the movie, "Did You Heard About the Morgans?" If you have, you'll know what I'm talking about. If you haven't, I think you should give it a go. It's goofy, its corny, it got terrible ratings on Rotten Tomatoes....but I like it gosh darnit! know that part where Paul and Meryl arrive at the safe-house and Sam Elliott and Mary Steenburgen break the news that, no, there is no cable TV, but they DO have every John Wayne and Clint Eastwood movie ever made? Well. I'm THAT girl. No, I'm not the Meryl-type who packs an evening dress and tons of underwear for a weekend away.

There. I said it. Do you see me in a different light now? I reckon so.

                       (only old school Clint fans will see what I did there...)
    I'm not ashamed by this fact. Really. Even though I could easily rattle off a line or two from practically any of their movies and think that living in a dusty ol' town with horses always saddled and ready as your only means of transportation would be the best thing ever, I like this about myself.
    But....maybe I'm alone here. Anybody? Hmmmmm......

    Well, I highly doubt that the Duke drank green smoothies. And if he did, he would probably try to cram corn dodgers and Tequila in the blender along with the spinach. I think I'll give that one a pass.
    The following smoothie however, is quite tasty, despite the fact that it is corn dodger and tequila-less.

Pumpkin Green Smoothie

1/4 C. pureed pumpkin
2 big handfuls of spinach
1/3 C. unsweetened vanilla almond milk
1/4 C. fat free vanilla yogurt
1/2 of a frozen banana
1 1/2 Tbl. maple pumpkin butter
a good shake of cinnamon
a chunk of fresh ginger
a couple Tbl. of water

Whip it all up and BAM! Drink up and watch a Western.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Welcoming the Weekend with Pumpkin Pie Smoothies and Chocolate Banana Bread

I FOUND PUMPKIN! Enter - wacky happy dance! I was so pumped to satisfy my pumpkin cravings and the resulting smoothie was definitely worth the wait. BUT! Can you believe I almost forgot to add my pumpkin butter?! Temporary insanity must have set in...but at least it was temporary, I remembered that that sweet stuff was waiting in my fridge, popped open the lid and took a little taste. OH MAN. So good. Anyway, here's what I put in my Pumpkin Pie Smoothie:

1/2 C. pureed pumpkin
1/4 C. fat free vanilla yogurt
1/2 C. unsweetened almond milk
some cinnamon
some nutmeg
some allspice
a chunk of fresh ginger
2 Tbl. old fashioned oats
1/2 a frozen banana
1 Tbl. maple pumpkin butter

and the result? SUPER thick, creamy, slurpable PIE.

AND THEN there's my famous Chocolate Banana Bread. It really is famous. At least in my family. Despite the stick of butter that's in it, I'd say that you could get away with calling it "healthy." I mean, instead of oil, it has super ripe bananas and fat free sour cream. Potassium and calcium right? Yes.
Here she is. Just out of the oven. Oh, there's a crack in the top? It gives her character. 

How could you say "no" to a slice of that in the morning? Or the afternoon. Or  12 AM ...

Chocolate Banana Bread

1 stick butter, softened to room temp.
1/2 C. sugar
1 egg
2 large super ripe bananas, mashed
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 C. all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 1/4 tsp. baking powder
1 teeny pinch of salt
2-3 Tbl. cocoa powder (depending on your taste bud's chocolate needs)
1/2 C. fat free sour cream
1 C. chocolate chips (or, I suggest trying peanut butter chips too. I haven't done it, but I can't see how it would be a bad thing)

Heat your oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9X5 loaf pan. In a large bowl, cream your butter and sugar. Add your mashed banana, egg, extract, and sour cream and beat with your beaters until combined. Don't freak if it looks curdled. It's all good. In a separate bowl, mix your flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cocoa powder. Using a spatula, gently fold the dry ingredients into the wet until combined. Fold in your chocolate chips. Try not to dunk your face in the bowl. Pour your mixture into the pan and bake for 50 minutes- 1 hour. 

**Just so you know, I made some changes here to the original recipe. I added the baking powder and salt, the original recipe didn't call for either. I also increased the cocoa powder. I probably add more chocolate chips than one cup. The original recipe also says to beat your wet and dry ingredients together very well. I found that this made the bread not rise as well, so I think folding the dry into the wet is a better plan. 

BAM! Pumpkin and chocolate for any meal of the day. 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

What to do When Craving Fall and Pumpkin in the Middle of Summer

I don't know what it is, but I am SO in the mood for fall! Maybe it's our current heat wave that has me yearning for the crisp fall air, heavy with the scent of falling leaves, maple syrup, and pumpkin pie...which brings me to another issue (depending on how you view it). I am craving pumpkin, and anything pumpkin like  that fabulous, creamy, spicy stuff is orange gold. BUT, here lies the issue. Where do you find pumpkin in the middle of the summer?! Later today I expect my quest will take me to Walmart where I will search for a can of pure organic pumpkin like a psychotic hummingbird flits around in search of a hot pink flower full of nectar (whoah...please excuse the previous crazy rant). But until then, I will have to just stare in anticipation at that little jar of Maple Pumpkin Butter I splurged on at the Vermont General Store yesterday. Yes. I did in fact take a day trip to Vermont yesterday with my mom to visit the new King Arthur Flour facility in Norwich (I could make myself quite at home there) and to stop at the Vermont General Store in Rockingham (OMG. Just go there). Any place that has free samples of delectable Vermont cheeses, maple cheesecake, blue cheese mustard, and apple butter with SENSATIONAL cinnamon cookies, maple cookies, and pretzel sticks, is a dang national treasure in my book.
   Anyway, with my pumpkin craving in full swing at the general store, I spotted a cute little jar of Maple Pumpkin Butter. Swoon! I pried open my tight little wallet and bought some. I just couldn't resist. Now, that same little jar is sitting on my counter, with its contents just waiting to be whipped up into a pumpkin pie smoothie with some pumpkin, vanilla almond milk, and cinnamon. Ugh. Something's wrong with me.
   Until then, I will share with you the sort-of-fall-like smoothie I made yesterday (which I forgot to snap a picture of. Woops.) It helped satisfy a smidgen of my fall pumpkin cravings, so if you are in the same boat as I am, give this smoothie a try. It might help. A little.

Chocolate Banana Chai Smoothie

1 frozen banana
1/3 C. hot water, steeped for 10 minutes with a vanilla chai teabag, and cooled.
1/4 C. unsweetened vanilla almond milk
1/4 C. fat free vanilla yogurt
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
1 Tbl. cocoa powder
1 good hand-full of spinach leaves

Whip is all up in your blender and BAM! Tasty, sort-of-fall-ish satisfaction.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Green Monster Smoothie

Ok, seriously, just try this smoothie. It is simply fantastic. It's green, so don't freak out. It SO doesn't taste green. It's super thick, smooth, and creamy and the health benefits are just through the roof. I like to drink it after working outside in the hot sun, because it really replenishes all that stuff you lost in the process of sweating your butt off. I honestly feel soooo good after downing this cup of tasty nutrition.

Green Monster Smoothie

1/4 C. fat free vanilla yogurt
1/4 C. unsweetened vanilla almond milk
1 banana, frozen and sliced
2+ C. fresh spinach leaves (as much as you can cram in there)
1 Tbl. peanutbutter

Whip it all up and devour at will. BAM! Drinkin' your greens.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Birch Cakes and Grad Cakes and Humidity, Oh My!

My oven has been put through a seriously intense workout the past couple of weeks. I'm talking "Insanity" intense. "P90X" intense. Any other oven would have thrown in the towel. OK, I might be exaggerating just a tad, but I at least felt like I had been put through an insane exercise program, mentally anyway. I had two cakes to do in a little over a week and a half, which for a lot of people is no big deal. But I on the other hand, am a spastic ping pong ball of stress and worry.
    SO. A couple of weeks ago, the first cake on my plate (ha ha) was the graduation cake for my brother's high school graduation party. I'd had the design planned for months. I knew exactly what I wanted to do. After practically killing my poor ol' oven making three tiers and some cupcakes, I threw these in the freezer and a couple of days later,  made TONS of fabulous butter cream frosting and a gumpaste motor board. The day before the party, I defrosted the layers, frosted them, AND, put them in the fridge overnight...BUM BUM BUM. Big. Mistake. The next day was disgustingly humid. Can you guess what happened when I took my cakes out of the fridge? They sweat. Almost as much as I did when I realized what was happening. All I can say is, thank the Lord for CakeCentral Forums. Using advise from those folks, I assembled my cake and blasted it with fans, which helped to dry it out some. Phew! Terrifying.
Can you see the shine? I can. But the cake was a hit, so its all good.
One of the guests wondered if the motor board was plastic or edible. So he broke off one corner and ate it. I guess that's one way to do it. 

The last cake of the week was for my dad. He loves birch trees, and in all of my online, time-wasting, searches, I had seen tons of different takes on birch bark cakes. So I decided to make my own version. I did a two tier, six layer cake with crusting buttercream, chocolate ganache "bark" lines, and white melting chocolate "peeling bark." 

White Chocolate "peeling bark" painted with ganache

I have to say, I am pretty darn happy with it. The melting chocolate is super easy to work with, so don't be scared of it. Give it a whirl and I promise you will be pleasantly surprised!

Oh! and the butter cream! This is the best stuff I have ever made. It is fluffy, crusts beautifully, and is not too sweet. If you dig making your own frosting, TRY THIS ONE!

Crusting Chocolate Fudge Butter Cream

Yes, this is for chocolate frosting (the exact recipe I used for the grad. cake) but just take out the cocoa and you get the vanilla version.


1 cup salted sweet cream butter, softened (2 sticks)

1 cup Crisco All Vegetable Shortening

3 t. Pure Vanilla extract

2 lbs. (8 cups) sifted powdered sugar, divided

1 cup sifted Hershey’s Cocoa

1 T. Meringue Powder

8-9 T. heavy whipping cream, divided


Cream butter and shortening, add vanilla, cream until smooth. Sift together powdered sugar and Hershey Cocoa. Add Meringue Powder. Add 1/3 of the powdered sugar mixture, beating well on medium speed until blended (keep bowl covered with damp towel while beating to keep powdered sugar in bowl). Add 1/3 of the heavy whipping cream, mixing until blended. Add 1/3 more of the powdered sugar mixture, beating well on medium speed until blended. Add 1/3 more of the heavy whipping cream, mixing until blended. Add remaining powdered sugar mixture and remaining heavy whipping cream. Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy.

Let crust for about 15 minutes before using the Viva paper towel method. 

By the way, this recipe is courtesy of gourmetcakes on CakeCentral. 

BAM! Eat the frosting from the bowl. No biggie.  

Monday, July 9, 2012

Super Fluffy Bisquick Pancakes. Doctored-Up.

I have to say, I make darn good blueberry pancakes. As a weekly ritual, Sundays are for super fluffy blueberry pancakes, REAL maple syrup, and lemonade. But OK, lets be real. I cheat a little. I use Bisquick. Now, I know a lot of people think Bisquick pancakes are at the bottom of the barrel taste-wise, BUT, this is why I doctor them up. Oh yea, throw in some cinnamon, baking powder, vanilla extract, and humongous fresh blueberries, and you've got magic on a plate. Seriously, if I could physically eat 18 of these babies by myself, I absolutely would, no joke. If you're not a blueberry fan, use your imagination! Throw in chocolate chips (which I highly recommend), strawberries, orange zest, or just make em' plain. Give these easy, doctored up pancakes a shot and you won't even think to miss "from scratch."

About 3 cups of Bisquick
A couple shakes of cinnamon
2 1/4 tsp. baking powder
1 1/4 cups of milk (maybe a little more if you are using more Bisquick)
1 egg
a couple shots of vanilla extract

Mix the dry ingredients in a big bowl. Mix the wet ingredients in a measuring cup. Pour the wet into the dry and stir until just combined. NOW HERE'S THE KEY! THE MAGIC! LET YOUR MIXTURE SIT FOR A GOOD TEN MINUTES!!!! This lets the baking powder take effect and before your eyes the batter will literally double in quantity (its the baking powder air bubbles, they're super heroes). Use a ladle and scoop out your fluffy batter onto a nonstick skillet. More magic! This makes around 14 pancakes, depending on how big you make them. BAM! Deliciousness.

PS. I know, this recipe is pretty vague. But I don't measure much. No bigs. Just do it.