Monday, August 3, 2015

Good Ol' Banana Bread

Well, my friends, it has been many months since my last post. Don't worry; I'm still cooking and baking.  I just haven't been able to blog as much as I would like on the many fine foods I have had the opportunity to make.  Life has been busy with many changes, moves, and renovations,  literally and figuratively.

With all these changes, I have found myself a married woman and cooking and baking for the man I love with all my heart. :)  And, of course, he doesn't complain when I make anything for him.  

So with this post, I have brought out an old standard I have been making for years, Grandma Sprung's recipe, for banana bread.  However, I have altered it to make it a little healthier, and, I think tastier. 

Banana Bread (original recipe)
2 ripe bananas, mashed
2 cups flour
2 eggs
½ tsp. baking powder
½ cup melted oleo (1 stick)
1 cup sugar
3 tbsp. milk
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt

Preparation:  Mix ingredients well.  Grease bread pans. Bake at 1 hour at 350 in oven or until toothpick comes out clean.

Banana Bread  (new and improved)
2 ripe bananas, mashed
2 eggs (you may substitute the equivalent of egg whites if you'd like)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 6 oz. container Greek yogurt (A&E vanilla or almond creme are great!)
½ cup applesauce (I've also used coconut oil as well. It makes the flavor different.)
1 cup sugar
3 tbsp. skim milk
1-2 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt (I usually err on the side of less.)
2 cups flour (1 cup white; 1 cup whole wheat)

Optional add-ins: chopped walnuts, chocolate chips (my personal favorite!)

Preparation:  Mix wet ingredients well with sugar and cinnamon.  Then add dry ingredients to mixture.  Grease bread pans. Bake at 1 hour at 350 in oven or until toothpick comes out clean.  Rotate your bread pans as you bake to get the loaf to cook evenly.


Saturday, April 26, 2014

La Novella Sette Mescolare

Now, you may think from the title that I have become an expert Italian cook, however, that is not the case.  So in an attempt to make a meal with my sous chef this evening, we wanted to create a dish from my previous experiments in cooking.  Below you will find the original recipe (meaning I took it from Cooking Light in 2012 and made it my own) for my Sausage Ragu over Creamy Polenta.

The altered version of the recipe :)

The only thing that we altered was adding sauteed mushrooms to the dish.  The other alteration is the seasoning.  Because turkey sausage is not available in all supermarkets in Iowa (at least to my knowledge), we made our own spicy concoction for Italian sausage.

It was sooooo good, we have named it.  Now when one names something in my world, there has to be a story and meaning behind the name.  So after a few hours and raving over our own cooking skills, we finally came up with the following name:

La Novella Sette Mescolare

Novella in Italian literally means "new".  While I like to use it in the literary sense, this is definitely an appropriate use of the word.

It's a spice party!
Sette in Italian means "seven".  Because there are seven different spices we used to create this masterpiece, we had to continue to use the Italian theme in our naming.

Mescolare in Italian means "mix" or "blend".  How appropriate for the final part of our name, right?

Here is the recipe for our new blend of seven spices (listed in alphabetical order):

1 tsp. black ground pepper
1 tsp. crushed red pepper
1 tsp. dried parsley
1 tsp. fennel seed
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
1 tsp. minced garlic (fresh or dried)
1 tsp. sea salt

Blend all spices together and combine with ground turkey or pork for deliciousness in any meal!

Please note that this name and seasoning blend is copyrighted and patented (officially by my sous chef). We are happy to share with our family and friends; all we ask is if you use this recipe, give credit where credit is due and to also call it by its proper and newly dubbed name. :)

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Creamy Spring Pasta

So in an attempt to please my assistant in the kitchen and his Italian cravings, I attempted a new recipe, with his help, this past week.  It was taken from my Cooking Light April 2012 edition.  It was quite a lovely dish, easy and fun to make, and best served with a glass of wine. :)  Served with this dish was a side of steamed carrots, lightly salted and peppered, for a colorful compliment to the dish.  Let's not forget the rhubarb pie with ice cream to balance out the meal. :)

Total Preparation Time: 30-40 minutes


  • 3 quarts water (used for boiling veggies and noodles, so the amount doesn't really matter)
  • 2 ounces French loaf or baguette, torn into pieces
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, minced and divided
  • 1 1/2 cups (2 inch) diagonally cut asparagus
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 6 oz. uncooked wheat spaghetti, fettuccine, or any other variety of pasta
  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped sweet onion
  • 1 tbsp. flour
  • 1/4 cup fat-free, lower sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup 1% or fat free milk
  • 4 oz. 1/2 less-fat cream cheese
  • 1 ounce or 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground pepper
  • 2 tbsp. tarragon, fresh or dried
Putting It All Together:
1.  Bring water to a boil in a Dutch oven.  
2.  While water is boiling, take torn bread and put in food processor until coarse crumbs form.  
3.  Melt butter in large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add 1 garlic clove to pan and saute for 1 minute; then add breadcrumbs to saute for 3 minutes or until golden brown or toasted lightly.  Remove mixture from pan and wipe pan clean with paper towel.
4.  Add asparagus and peas to boiling water; cook for 3 minutes or until crisp-tender (the asparagus is perfect with a slight crunch in the pasta, so don't overcook it!)  Remove from pan with a slotted spoon, placing in a bowl with ice and rinsing with cold water to keep bright green color.
5.  Add pasta to the same boiling water you used for the veggies.  Cook for 10 minutes or until al dente (slightly chewy).  Drain and keep warm.
6.  Heat olive oil in skillet over medium heat.  Add onion and the remaining garlic cloves.  Cook for 3 minutes or until tender, stirring frequently.  Place flour in a small bowl; whisk in chicken broth.  Then add broth mixture and milk to pan, stirring constantly with a whisk.  Reduce heat; cook 1 minute or until thickened.  While keeping on low heat, add cream cheese and grated cheese until melted along with the salt, pepper, and tarragon.  
7.  Add pasta, asparagus, and peas to alfredo and toss well.  Sprinkle breadcrumbs on pasta when serving.

Servings (4) (1 1/4 cups)
Calories: 408
Fat: 13.8 g
Protein:  17.6 g
Carbs: 54 g
Fiber: 4.6 g
Sodium: 625 mg

Homemade Pizza :)

So, my partner in crime and I recently created a beautiful Italian cuisine with a little dough and sauce and Graziano sausage.

The recipe I use for my pizza dough can be found on the following website; I love this dough recipe as it is a healthier version and is quite tasty as well.

Whole Wheat and Honey Pizza Dough

I will go ahead and post the actual recipe and preparation of the dough below for convenience:

1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
2 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 wheat germ
1 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. honey or agave syrup
1 tbsp. corn meal

Preparation of Dough:

1.  Preheat oven to 350 F.
2.  In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water.  Let stand until creamy for about 10 minutes.
3.  In a large bowl, combine flour, wheat germ, and salt.  Make a well in the middle and add honey and yeast mixture.  Stir well to combine.  Cover and set in a warm place to rise for a few minutes.
4.  Roll dough on a floured pizza pan or stone and poke a few holes in it with a fork.  Sprinkle corn meal on pan and lay rolled out dough onto cooking pan/stone.
5.  Bake in a preheated oven for 5-10 minutes or until desired crispiness.  Now I don't usually cook it until I have all the ingredients on my pizza.

Here are the ingredients we used to create our masterpiece.

Pizza Assembling and Ingredients:

  • 1/2 lb. Graziano sausage, cooked
  • 1 cup diced colored peppers (variety of colors-I prefer this to give the pizza some character) :)
  • 1/2-1 package sliced mushrooms
  • 1/2 small onion, diced (preferably red onion, but white or yellow is fine as well)
  • 1/2-1 can black olives (sliced)
  • 1 jar spaghetti sauce/pizza sauce
  • Oregano/Italian Seasoning
  • 1 package shredded mozzarella cheese
1.  Spread cornmeal on stone/pizza pan.  Then roll out dough onto pizza pan/stone.
2.  Saute onion and peppers until slightly crisp.
3.  Then saute mushrooms separately (but don't overdo it.)
3.  Spread pizza sauce and spices onto sauce.
3.  Evenly spread cooked meat, veggies, and black olives.
4.  Top pizza with mozzarella cheese.
5.  Follow directions for baking pizza in the crust directions above.
6.  Slice and enjoy! :)

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Shrimp and Crab Gumbo Soup

This has always been one of my favorite recipes to make and eat!  It's healthy and easy to make.  If you like seafood and Cajun spice, you'll definitely be adding this to your keeper recipes.  I've taken this from the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook, but I've have added some of my own touches as well.  In the picture you see below, I have doubled the batch for leftovers for the week at work. :)

1 green bell pepper, diced (can use variety of colors; I used the mini bell peppers to add color and variety)
1 medium onion, diced
1 Tbsp. corn starch
salt and pepper
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 14.5 oz. can stewed tomatoes
6 oz. hot tomato sauce (can go Cajun if you'd like-found near the tobasco sauce)
2 cups frozen okra
1 cup frozen corn (this was an add-in for color)
1 8 oz. package of crab (imitation works fine), chopped
8 oz. frozen and cooked shrimp, detailed and chopped
3/4 cup brown rice (it calls for instant, but either works well)
1 1/4 cup water

Sautee pepper and onion in pan with olive oil until tender.  Add corn starch and stir for a minute or two.  Add the canned tomatoes, tomato sauce, okra, and corn and let simmer for about 10 minutes.  Add crab, shrimp, brown rice, and water.  Cook on stove until rice is cooked.  This recipe is approximately 250 calories and is low in fat as well.  A great soup to warm you up for this time of year.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Canadian Beef Stew & Honey Oat Bread

What a perfect time of year for a loaf of fresh bread and homemade soup!  You're getting a two for one deal today with a Canadian Beef Stew and Honey Oat Bread.  I obtained and altered the stew recipe from a healthy cookbook I have and the bread can be found on the following webpage:

Canadian Beef Stew 

1 pound lean beef or bison (cut into chunks)
1/2 cup wheat flour
1 Tbsp. freshly ground rosemary
1 Tbsp. ground pepper
1 tsp. sea salt
1-2 tsp. oregano
1-2 tsp. sweet dried basil

Directions for meat:  Place flour, spices and cut beef into a Tupperware container with lid.  Shake seasoned flour well with your meat and set to the side.

1 large sweet onion (chopped)
2 leeks (washed well and chopped)
4 Tbsp. olive oil
Ground pepper and sea salt to taste

Directions for onions:  In a large dutch oven, put onions, leeks, olive oil, and salt and pepper until onions and leeks are tender or for about 5 minutes.

3 carrots (peeled and cut into chunks)
3 parsnips (peeled and cut into chunks)
4-5 small red potatoes (cut into small chunks)
1 large package mushrooms (washed well and sliced)
2 cans plum tomatoes (chopped-save the juice to add to the stew)
2 cups beef or chicken broth
1 cup dark wine (I used a very inexpensive Cabernet Sauvingnon.)

Directions for rest of stew:  Add vegetables to dutch oven for about 10 minutes.  Add meat, broth, and wine.  Let simmer for about 30 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.

Honey Oat Bread

2 Tbsp. plus 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats, divided
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup all purpose flour
2 1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 1/4 tsp. salt
8 ounces (scant 1 cup) nonfat or lowfat plain yogurt
1 egg
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup honey or agave syrup
3/4 cup lowfat or fat free milk

Directions:  Place rack in middle of oven and preheat to 375F.  Generously coat a bread loaf pan with cooking spray.  Sprinkle 1 Tbsp. oats into the pan.  Tip the pan back and forth to coat the sides and bottom with oats.

Thoroughly stir together the flours, baking powder, soda, and salt in a large bowl.  Using a fork, beat the remaining cup of rolled oats, yogurt, egg, oil, and honey into a medium bowl until blended well.

Stir in milk.  Gently stir the yogurt mixture into the flour mixture just until it's incorporated but not over-mixed (otherwise, it will be tough dough and bread).

Spread the dough into bread pan and sprinkle remaining tablespoon of rolled oats on top of bread. Bake the loaf until well-browned on top and toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean about 40-50 minutes.  (The top of the bread loaf may crack which is normal.)  Let the bread set for 15 minutes, and then take a table knife around the edges of the pan to loosen the bread.  

Enjoy together on a nice cold day! :)

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Stuffed Peppers

I have a new favorite recipe from my mother.  She has given me the basic recipe, but, of course, I have adjusted it to make it my own.  It's a perfect and easy recipe not only for the autumn season but all year long. However, I especially like it when the cool weather has begun, and fresh produce is very inexpensive this time of year.  I was able to purchase three peppers for $1.00 at my local Fareway this week.

Stuffed Peppers
  • 5-7 peppers
  • 1 lb. ground beef or turkey
  • 1 medium onion, chopped/diced
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes (fire-roasted is what I like)
  • 1 14 oz. can Manwich
  • 2 cups brown rice, cooked (I use the new instant Minute Rice) (See picture for reference)
  • 1 8 oz. bag mozzerella cheese
  • 2 tbsp. fresh basil, chopped
  • Seasonings to taste (fresh rosemary, salt, pepper, Italian seasoning)

Preparation:  Cook ground meat with seasonings and onion.  Add cooked rice and tomatoes and simmer. Cut the top of peppers and de-seed, leaving cavity for filling.  Place peppers in a baking dish (I used bread pans to keep them upright, but be sure to spray the pan!  Add a little cheese to the inside before adding meat mixture. Cool, then stuff mixture in peppers.  Add cheese as topping.  Cook peppers at 350 until peppers are soft.  I usually cook for about 30-45 minutes.  (You could skip the cheese if you want to cut on the calories or cholesterol.)

I had about two extra cups of meat mixture after filling seven medium to large green peppers.  I have decided to freeze that extra meat mixture and will make more stuffed peppers to freeze next week.  It makes quite a bit, and you'll have at least a full week of meals!  It's simple and easy, healthy, and filling! :)