Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Blew-My-Mind-Delicious-Treat: Vegan (REALLY?) Banana Chocolate Chip Bread

Yup. Another vegan recipe. And it's amazing. My friends recently asked me what my obsession with trying vegan recipes was...I really don't know. Maybe it's because it seems like the 'hip' thing to do these days...? Or maybe it's because I'd like to believe that there are delicious vegan foods to discover. Or maybe because I'd like to know I'm not as completely dependent on cheese as I think I am (HA! A life without cheese? Say it isn't so!!!!). I haven't read 'The China Study' or 'Eat To Live'...no time and parenting/bible study material sort of take priority at this point in my life. Maybe I'll get to them later this year...however, I like the idea of 'cleaner' eating. Though we like to live with moderation, trying vegan recipes is my way of staying 'open-minded.' And when I stumble upon recipes like this, I don't miss the dairy or eggs.

I saw this banana bread recipe on www.chocolatecoveredkatie.com and was excited about a way to use up the spelt flour sitting in my fridge (yes, I keep my whole grain flours in the fridge). What a surprise it was to find such a low-fat treat. There is no additional fat in this bread (if you don't use oil) besides the chocolate chips! And yes, I added extra chocolate chips. Also, I realize that I have posted several banana bread recipes--all very good. But this is the only one that didn't require butter, refined sugar, or eggs. So, I will definitely be making it again!

I hope you will try this and that you enjoy it as much as I did.

(Makes 10-12 slices)
  • 2 cups spelt flour (or white, or Arrowhead Mills gluten free, etc.)
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/3 cup milk of choice (or oil)--(I used almond milk)
  • 1 and 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup agave or maple syrup (I used maple syrup)
  • 1 and 1/2 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1 stevia packet (or 1 Tbsp. more agave or other sweetener)--(I used agave nectar)
  • 2 cups tightly-packed, mashed banana (measured after mashing)-(I had a little less than 2 cups)
  • 1/3 to 2/3 cups chocolate chips (I used 1 cup and sprinkled more on top)

Preheat oven to 350 F. Combine dry ingredients, and mix well. In a separate bowl, combine wet ingredients and mix into dry. (Mix by hand, and don’t overmix.)

Pour batter into a greased loaf pan and cook for around 50 minutes. (Tip: If the top is cooked but the inside is still gooey, put tin foil over the top and continue to cook.)

After removing from the oven, let cool for ten minutes before slicing. After the first day, this bread is best stored in the fridge. Or cut it into slices and freeze for later. 

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Garlicky Sunflower Seed Spread with Parsley

I got this intriguing sunflower seed recipe from my friend, Carla, after she posted a great picture of it on Facebook. She got it from Ligia Pop, a Romanian raw food chef. I was a bit unsure about trying it because I'm not familiar with raw recipes...however, this was SO delicious! This fabulous dip/spread only requires a  handful of ingredients and tastes nutty, fresh, creamy, salty, tart, and sweet (that almost covers it all, doesn't it??).

It was a delicious spread on the pumpkin, sunflower & flax seed bread I just posted on. Carla said it is terrific served on cucumber slices as an appetizer. But, I liked dipping my carrots in it and my daughter liked dipping her crackers in it--so yes, you can use it as a dip! I imagine this sunflower seed spread would be wonderful drizzled with olive oil, if you preferred, or sprinkled with some smoked paprika before serving. I can't wait to try it again with different kinds of herbs. I especially would like to try it this summer with fresh basil instead of the parsley, spread on crostini, and topped it with fresh sliced heirloom tomatoes--YUM!


Adapted from my friend, Carla, who got it from www.ligiapop.com

  • 1 cup raw sunflower seeds (I used 1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds & 1/2 cup roasted sunflower seeds)
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp. agave nectar
  • 1 small handful fresh parsley, rinsed & lightly patted dry
  • ~1/4-1/3 cup water
  • Salt & pepper, to taste (cracked sea salt is particularly good)

In a food processor or blender (I used my Vitamix), blend/process all ingredients. Add more water, if necessary, until the texture is to your liking.

All I can say--is YUM!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Rustic Crunchy, Munchy Pumpkin Seed, Sunflower Seed & Flax Seed Bread

This loaf is wonderful. It's really one of the best breads I've ever made. The flavor is SO wonderfully home-y. It's nutty and fragrant and a bit crunchy. Truly delicious for sandwiches and toasted with soup. Please try this bread. It is SO GOOD! Thanks to the author, Nancy Baggett, for the wonderful recipe!
My friend, Nancy, recently posted one of my favorite bread recipes on her blog. It inspired me to post again on this method since it's been a while and I've been  making more bread recipes from this book that turn out! Alright my small following of readers...I don't know how to encourage you more to try these no-knead breads. The Kneadlessly Simple bread book has changed my life---it has given me confidence to bake. The method is SOOOO EASY!!!! And even though the directions have a lot of words, after the first couple loaves, you will be able to absolutely breeze through the directions. I've thought long and hard about how to simplify the directions--but I'm not sure how because it gives you options and gray areas--these recipes are STRAIGHTFORWARD, SIMPLE and truly DOABLE!!! You barely handle the dough. You just have to TIME IT RIGHT. And there is nothing better than homemade bread! Nothing--it's like getting loaves from a bakery. Just read through the directions and work backwards. 
I usually start the process Friday and have fresh bread either Saturday night or Sunday night. OR, I start it on Sunday night and we have bread Tuesday night. I give it 1.5-2 days process. Yes, it does take planning--yes, you do have to think ahead. BUT....you just wait on the bread. Read through the recipe and decide when you want to eat it then work the time backwards. If you want this bread for Friday night dinner--start the process on Wednesday. 
About this bread--Super-Easy- Fairly Easy: All ingredients added before the first rise. Easy hand-shaping required.
Nancy Baggett's Note: I often find the seeds in breads a distraction, but in this case they make the loaf. The generous quantity of roasted pumpkin, sunflower, and flax seeds lends a delicious and very distinctive nuttiness—not to mention crunchy texture, eye appeal, and protein. The bread is baked in a covered pot for most of its time in the oven, which crisps the crust and the seeds on it, but also prevents them from burning.


Be sure to use very fresh, appealing-tasting seeds for this recipe. If you can only find raw, unsalted sunflower and pumpkin seeds, toss them with 1/4 teaspoon corn oil or canola oil and 1/4 teaspoon of salt and roast at 325 degrees F, stirring occasionally, until lightly toasted, 7 to 9 minutes.
  • 1 1/2 cups (7.5 ounces) whole wheat flour, plus more as needed
  • 1 1/2 cups (7.5 ounces) unbleached white bread flour
  • 1/4 cup flax seeds, preferably golden
  • 1 1/4 tsp. table salt
  • 1 tsp. instant, fast-rising, or bread machine yeast
  • 3 Tbsp. clover honey or other mild honey
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. corn oil, canola oil, or other flavorless vegetable oil, plus more for coating dough top and pan (I used safflower oil)
  • 1-1/3 cups plus 1 Tbsp. ice water, plus more if needed
  • 1/3 cup roasted, salted pumpkin seeds, plus 2 Tbsp. for garnish
  • 1/3 cup roasted, salted sunflower seeds, plus 2 Tbsp. for garnish
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp. sea salt or other coarse crystal salt, optional
  • 1 egg white, beaten, or 2 Tbsp. liquid egg substitute

First Rise: In a large bowl, thoroughly stir together the whole wheat flour, bread flour, flax seeds, salt, and yeast. In another bowl or measuring cup, thoroughly whisk the honey and oil into the water. Vigorously stir the mixture into the bowl with the flours, scraping down the sides and mixing just until the dough is thoroughly blended. If the ingredients are too dry to mix together, gradually add in just enough more ice water to facilitate mixing, as the dough should be slightly stiff. If necessary, stir in enough more whole wheat flour to stiffen it. Brush or spray the top with oil. Tightly cover the bowl with plastic wrap.
If desired, for best flavor or for convenience, refrigerate for 3 to 10 hours (I usually leave this dough in the fridge overnight). Then let rise at cool room temperature for 12 to 18 hours (I pull out the dough in the morning and leave it on the counter until evening).
Second Rise: Working in the bowl and turning the dough as you work, sprinkle about half the pumpkin and sunflower seeds over the surface. With lightly oiled hands, work in the seeds and fold the dough over to fully incorporate them. Continue working in the remaining seeds, folding over the dough until all the seeds are incorporated and fairly evenly distributed throughout. Sprinkle the dough with a little whole wheat flour. Press and smooth it into the dough, shaping it into a ball as you work.
Oil a 3-1/2- to 4-quart Dutch oven or similar round, ovenproof pot.
Transfer the ball to the pot. Dusting the dough with more flour as needed to prevent stickiness, tuck the edges under firmly all the way around, forming a smooth, high-domed round loaf about 6-1/2 inches in diameter. Brush off excess flour, then brush all over with Cornstarch Glaze (or egg white wash), then immediately sprinkle the surface with the remaining pumpkin and sunflower seeds for garnish. Using well-oiled kitchen shears or a serrated knife, cut a 2-1/2-inch diameter, 1-1/2-inch-deep circle in the top. Cover the pot with its lid.
Let Rise Using Any of These Methods--there are 3 ways you can do this--pick one of the options below
  1. For a 2- to 4-hour regular rise: let stand at warm room temperature
  2. For a 1-1/2- to 2-1/2-hour accelerated rise, let stand in a turned-off microwave with 1 cup of boiling-hot water. 
  3. For an extended rise, refrigerate for 4 to 24 hours (I usually leave it in the fridge overnight until about 1-2 hours before wanting to bake the bread).

Then let dough stand at room temperature. Continue the rise until the dough doubles from its deflated size.
Baking Preliminaries: 15 minutes before baking time, put a rack in the lower third of the oven; preheat to 450 degrees F. Generously brush or spray the loaf with water.
Baking: Lower the heat to 425 degrees F. 
Bake on the lower rack, covered, for 55 to 60 minutes, or until the loaf is lightly browned--check at about the 45 minute mark to see how browned it is--it usually takes my oven less time to bake the bread.
Uncover, and continue baking for 10 to 15 minutes more, until a skewer inserted in the thickest part comes out with just a few particles on the end (or the center registers 208 degrees to 210 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer). 
Then bake for 5 minutes longer to ensure the center is done (I didn't need this last step as the bread was getting quite dark). Cool in the pot on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Turn the loaf onto the rack; cool thoroughly.
Serving and Storing: Tastes good warm but will cut much better when cool. Cool completely before storing. 

To maintain the crisp crust, store draped with a clean tea towel or in a heavy paper bag. Or to prevent the loaf from drying out, store airtight in a plastic bag or wrapped in foil: The crust will soften, but can be crisped by heating the loaf, uncovered, in a 400 degrees F oven for a few minutes. The bread will keep at room temperature for 3 days, and may be frozen, airtight, for up to 2 months.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Feta Avocado Salsa Dip

What did you eat during Superbowl Sunday? I had intended to post on this ahead of time, but of course I ran out of time. We had this feta-avocado salsa and it is too wonderful not to share! We all have trouble taking more than a couple bites. It's fresh, creamy, and salty--with just a little bit of crunch from the onion. 

Feel free to add more onion if you like! I'm tempted to add some olives next time I made it. TIP: Try to use avocados that are just on the shy side of ripe--the more ripe the avocado, the more they fall apart and the salsa starts to look more like guacamole--but that's fine too (it will still taste good)! I just like to see and taste the texture of a less ripe avocado. 

This is a great salsa/dip to make when you have friends over, but would also be a terrific topping to a grilled chicken breast in the summer. I'm confident you'll really love this salsa/dip!


Serves 6-8

  • 3 plum tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 1/2 ripe avocado - peeled, pitted and chopped (semi-firm work best)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 handful chopped fresh cilantro
  • ½ tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 4-5 ounces crumbled feta cheese (reduced-fat is fine to use)
  • Salt & pepper, to taste

    In a bowl, gently stir together tomatoes, avocados, onion, and garlic. 

    Mix in cilantro and oregano. Gently stir in olive oil and vinegar. Then stir in feta. Taste, and season with salt & pepper.

    Cover, and chill for at least 2 hours (but no more than 6 hours). Serve with tortilla chips.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

We're moving in a few months and my husband has taken ghost-like characteristics due to board studying. Our to-do list is feeling a bit insurmountable right now, so my in-laws graciously came to visit and help us start with the 'purge, organize & donate' project. It was wonderful. The problem is, we need about 10 more of those visits! I knew that all I had to say to my mother in-law was 'salted caramel and chocolate' and I knew she'd be on board. So while the guys were cleaning out the garage, we made our new favorite cookie bar!

Not sure how to start discussing these bars because all I can say is: They. Are. Amazing. I absolutely HATE how good they are. I sort of wish I'd never even made this recipe....because I simply could not stop eating them. Oh Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars, you have stripped me of all self-control. And it is downright embarrassing. The least I could do is share along the recipe from Maria & Josh.

Try these delicious, unpretentious bars--they're a step up from the traditional chocolate chip cookie. And if you are worried about your own self-control, make them to serve for others! They will love you for it :) The only thing different we did was to use the WHOLE caramel package of these. Don't skimp or skip the salted layer--here's what it looked like during that step:

The coarse sea salt is wonderful on top of the sweet, gooey caramel. The chocolate takes it over the top. Keep in mind that the caramel hardens after a while, making the bars easier to cut.



Adapted from www.twopeasandtheirpod.com

  • 2 1/8 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 12 Tbsp. butter, melted and cooled to room temperature (1 ½ sticks)
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 cups chocolate chips (we used closer to 3 cups)
  • 10 ounces caramel candy squares, unwrapped (we used the whole 14 oz. package)
  • 3 Tbsp. heavy cream
  • Coarse Sea salt, for sprinkling over caramel and bars (don't skimp!)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Spray a 2-quart baking pan (which is an 11 X 7 pan-I used a glass Pyrex dish) with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, salt, and baking soda. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix the melted butter and sugars together until combined. Add the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla extract and mix until smooth. Slowly add the dry ingredients and mix on low, just until combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.
In a large microwave safe bowl, combine the caramels and heavy cream. Microwave caramels on High until caramels are melted, stirring every 20 seconds. This will take about 2 minutes, depending on your microwave.
Divide the cookie dough in half. Press half of the cookie dough into the prepared pan, smoothing the top with the spatula. Pour hot caramel over the cookie dough. Sprinkle caramel with sea salt. Drop spoonfuls of cookie dough over the caramel and spread dough with a spatula until the caramel is covered. Sprinkle the bars with additional sea salt.
Bake cookie bars for 30 minutes or until the top of the bars are light golden brown and the edges start to pull away from the pan. Cool bars on a wire rack to room temperature. Cut bars into squares and serve.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

A Black-Eyed Pea Salad that Makes a Browned-Eyed Girl Happy

My husband used to sing 'Brown-Eyed Girl' to me when we were dating. It always made me love him more--how can you not love a man that celebrates a common trait in an average woman? Black eyed peas are the only legume with a human characteristic. Makes me think they're a little special among the more common beans and peas. Maybe that's why I always felt this kinship to black-eyed peas....they're a little misunderstood. It's unfortunate, because they're quite versatile and the more I make with them, but more please I am with them! Black-eyed peas are delicious. I recently used them in a salsa and was super impressed. Will post on that sometime--but, in the meantime, try this great little side that comes together quite quickly if you have the peas cooked ahead of time.

Some fun facts about black eyed peas:
  1. Eating black-eyed peas on New Year's Day is considered to bring good luck (mainly in the South)
  2. Black-eyed peas are heat-loving and do well during droughts. 
  3. They produce a lot of nectar and large crops can be used for honey.
  4. They were introduced in the United States in the 17th century in Virginia. 
  5. It is thought black-eyed peas originate from India and China but brought to West Africa by slaves.
  6. They are originally named 'cowpeas'.
  7. They are a key-ingredient to Hoppin' John--which is considered a staple in African-American soul food. 
(Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

I came up with this simple, easy lunch salad one afternoon and we have loved it so much that we've made it three times so far. It's great alongside sandwiches on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon and terrific with a slice of homemade brown bread and a hunk of good cheese such as Manchego. It's even good with some feta sprinkled on top. Add more veggies, if you like! 

This deli-style salad stores well and would make a great summer side at a picnic. It would also make a great salad to eat on a weekday lunch at work. Try it! It's very healthy, very good. 


Serves 4-6
  • 1 (16 oz.) package frozen black-eyed peas
  • 1 big bell pepper, diced (preferable red, yellow or orange)
  • 3 green onions, sliced (white & green parts)
  • 1 medium carrot, shredded or grated
  • 1 (10 or 12 oz) package grape tomatoes, rinsed and dried
  • 2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil (or more, to taste)
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • Salt & pepper, to taste

Cook black-eyed peas according to package directions (should be 45 minutes or just a little over that). Cool the peas. (You can do this step a day or two in advance and store cooked peas in the fridge until you're ready to toss with the rest of the ingredients).

Gently toss the chilled peas with the vegetables and olive oil, lemon juice, and spices. Serve or return to the fridge until ready to serve. 

Store leftovers in the refrigerator--will keep for a day or two.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Black Bean and Lentil Soup with Smoked Paprika

First of all, this was fabulous. Second of all, this was healthy AND fabulous. Third of all, you should make it!!! Saw this soup on Cookin' Canuck and was surprised to see lentils and black beans together--we love both and would have not thought to put them together. What a great idea! I've adapted the recipe somewhat because of my love of all things smoked. It's awesome. Shared it with folks and was asked for the recipe. Definitely going in my permanent rotation. Filling, straight-forward and delicious.

As has been my recent method, I made a double recipe and froze half of the soup--it defrosted beautifully. The smoked paprika is what makes this soup--do not skip it or use regular paprika--the soup will not be the same.

This soup is perfect for a cold day. It's perfect to reheat at work. It's perfect to serve for a casual dinner with grilled cheese sandwiches and fresh fruit. Enjoy!

Adapted from www.cookincanuck.com

  •   1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 large onion, chopped
  • 2 large stalks celery, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (I used 3 cloves)
  • 2 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 (14 oz.) can diced tomatoes (use 'fire-roasted' if you can find them)
  • 1 cup dried brown lentils
  • 4 3/4 cup low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth, divided
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 (14 oz.) black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • Salt and pepper to taste (I used a smoked salt—it was fantastic!)

Heat olive oil in a large sauce pan set over medium heat. Add onions and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are beginning to soften, 6 to 7 minutes.

Add garlic, smoked paprika and bay leaves and saute for 30 seconds.

Stir in diced tomatoes with juices, lentils, 3 cups vegetable or chicken broth and 3 cups water. Increase heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat slightly and cook, stirring occasionally, until lentils are tender, 25 to 35 minutes.

Remove from the heat and let cool for about 10 minutes. Remove and discard the bay leaves. 

*Transfer half of the lentil mixture, half of the black beans and 3/4 cup vegetable or chicken broth to the bowl of a blender or food processor. Pulse until combined, but not pureed. It should be a chunky texture. Pour the blender mixture back into the lentils in the saucepan, along with the remaining 1 cup of chicken broth and remaining black beans. 

Stir the soup and reheat over medium heat. Stir in parsley. Season with salt and pepper to taste--seriously, the smoked salt is wonderful in this! (Trader Joe sells smoked sea salt for $3)

Serve with freshly grated Parmesan cheese, if possible. Would probably also be great with fat-free Greek yogurt and sliced green onions. YUM!

*Note: I did NOT take the soup out of the pot—I inserted my stick blender into the soup pot for about 5 seconds or until just a bit of the soup was pureed to give it some creamy feel but still retained the chunky texture. Therefore, I added ALL of the broth into the soup all at once.