28 June 2010

Simple Frozen Decadence

Since the beginning of my weight-loss journey over two years ago, I became a huge fan of smoothies. I had my basic recipe:

  • 1/4 cup frozen fruit/berries
  • 1/4 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup liquid (soy milk, almond milk, or some kind of fruit juice)
Easy peasy, but sometimes I'd add "eyeball" the amounts incorrectly and end up with a smoothie that was way too thick. It would sometimes just get stuck around the edges of my blender and I'd have to add more liquid to it just to make it pour-able!

Little did I know, what I was actually doing was making a frozen yogurt-like dessert! I've read on many blogs and websites of dairy-free "frozen yogurt" that uses frozen bananas, however I never tried it until Saturday. In the past three days I've made two versions of it (each amazing in their own way) and plan on making more!

The base of the recipe is simple:

  • 1 frozen banana
  • a splash (approx. 2 tablespoons) of liquid, such as soy milk, almond milk, or juice
To make it into your own custom creation, just add some mix-ins!

Here's my Tropical Freeze version:

  • 1 frozen banana
  • 8 pieces Trader Joe's Frozen Mango Chunks (approx. 1 cup)
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
  • a splash Trader Joe's Unsweetened Soy Milk
Blend it all together until it's nice and smooth!

For something a bit more decadent, I also made an Almond Cocoa Freeze:

  • 1 frozen banana
  • a splash of Trader Joe's Unsweetened Soy Milk
  • 1 heaping teaspoon almond butter
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • slivered almonds, optional (as a topping)

This one was so rich and chocolatey, I could barely taste the banana flavor.

My boyfriend absolutely despises bananas (and, believe it or not, he doesn't like any fruit *gasp!*) to the point that he can't even see them without thinking the room smells foul. I've read many places that this banana frozen treat doesn't taste much like bananas, but I definitely can taste it. I hope to find a way to camouflage the flavor so my boyfriend can enjoy this healthy alternative to ice cream! I'm also hoping to make ice pops out of this stuff, and maybe even swirl some kind of syrup, jam, jelly, or honey in it to make it more like the confections in shoppes and supermarkets!

What combinations or varieties would you like to see? I will try to make some of them and feature the recipe in future blog posts!

27 June 2010

Cleaning the Pantry

I'm moving to a new apartment in less than two weeks. Despite it only being 8 miles away, I still want to consume the foods that I have on hand so I don't have to rush perishables and frozen goods from here to there and worry about it going bad! (Maybe that's just an excuse to eat my kitchen clean, haha.)

So, for the past few weeks I've been food shopping very very little, only getting things like spinach or soy milk - things I go through quickly and eat regularly. Some stuff I still have yet to consume that I really need to are:

  • Frozen veggies
  • Trader Joe's Chili Lime Chicken Burgers (frozen, though I may try to pack those in a cooler because I doubt I can eat all 6 in the next week!)
  • Tofu
  • Carrots
  • Eggs
  • Carton of egg whites
  • Soy milk
  • Orange juice
  • Tofurky sausages
  • Greek yogurt
...and probably other stuff that I can't think of right now that's been sitting in my fridge/freezer for a while.

In an attempt to begin the pantry-purging, I made some vegetarian pot-pies earlier this week using some of the things from the aforementioned list (frozen veggies, tofu, soy milk).

Vegetarian Pot Pie
Makes 4 servings.
Nutrition info here.

  • 1 sheet puff pastry, thawed
  • 2/5 block of extra firm tofu
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 2 tsp worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tbsp low sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tbsp unsweetened soy milk
  • 1 package Bird's Eye Steamfresh Mixed Vegetables

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Spray 4 ramekins with non-stick spray and set aside.

Cook Bird's Eye vegetables according to instructions. Cut tofu into small cubes and toss with paprika until coated. Add remaining veggies and remaining ingredients (except puff pastry) and mix until combined.

Evenly distribute the mixture into the ramekins. Cut puff pastry into quarters (4 squares) and top each ramekin with one square. Cut a few slits (be creative how they look!) into the top of each puff pastry. Brush some egg white on top of each puff pastry (this isn't shown in the nutrition info).

Bake at 400 degrees F for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown.

Now, I think I need to get back to cleaning and packing. Luckily my mom is arriving on Tuesday (my dad arrives on Saturday) to help me finish up my packing and cleaning and to provide much-needed assistance with the move itself! Maybe they'll help me eat my food, too...!

20 June 2010

An Exchange of Goods

A coworker of mine has a fun little agreement with me that began in April. I made a butterscotch cake for the Keeneland horse race for a group of people I barely knew (as I was invited by a friend, yet knew nobody else!). One guy in particular was commenting on how great the cake was and told me that his mother makes her own apple sauce and has been doing so for years.

Since then he has brought me a jar of his mom's apple sauce with one catch: I have to make something with it, and as payment I get to keep the rest of the jar of apple sauce for my own enjoyment. I happily agreed!

I've baked muffins for him the first time around but because of our schedules never really working out with one another, it wasn't until last week that he could get another batch for me. The muffins I made last time weren't that great, so I decided to take a different route: bars.

Apple Oat Bars
Makes 20 bite-sized bars.
Based on this recipe.

3/4 cup apple sauce
1 cup dried apple rings, chopped roughly

1.5 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup brown sugar Splenda blend
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 tsp vanilla
2 egg whites
1/4 cup melted margarine
1/4 cup apple sauce

Preheat oven to 350. Grease an 8x8 baking dish.

Mix together filling ingredients and set aside.

In a separate bowl, mix remaining dry ingredients. Add melted butter, followed by all remaining wet ingredients.

Press half of the oat mixture into the bottom of the pan, as evenly as possible. Spread filling over crust. Top with remaining oat mixture, pressing evenly so it covers all of the filling.

Bake 30-35 minutes or until golden. Cool before cutting.

06 June 2010

Fill-You-Up Breakfasts

I've been trying to broaden my breakfast horizons lately. I want to try to stay away from boxed cereals, frozen waffles, and other foods that my lazy self normally enjoys and stick with whole foods. I'm no hippie (or maybe I'm in denial...) but I like cooking from scratch, so why engorge in boxed foods? I need to embrace my creativity... with minimal work, haha! Anyway...

Usually I use my over-ripe bananas to make banana bread; but, honestly, after a while it gets pretty mundane to just make banana bread all the time!

I decided to come up with a random breakfast food a couple of weeks ago using some bananas that were nearing their end.

Banana Pan-Cakes
Makes 6 Cakes

1 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup ground flax meal
2 ripe bananas
1/2 tsp cinnamon
a spash of soy milk

I mashed up all the ingredients together. It kind of looked like sticky oatmeal cookie batter while tasting like banana bread!

Form them into 6 patties (or however many you want) and brown them in a skillet. For me this was about 5 minutes on each side. Yum!

Next up, I really enjoy the idea of things cooking themselves while I sleep. A while ago I tried to make crock-pot oatmeal and failed miserably. This time I decided to stay away from the heat as to avoid further disappointment.

Maybe this isn't traditional muesli but it tastes good (and is good for you!) and I don't know what else to call it.

Lazy Girl Tropical Muesli
Makes 2 servings.
Nutrition information is here.

1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt
16 pieces frozen mango chunks
3 packets Truvia sweetener
1/4 cup coconut flakes
1/3 cup unsweetened light soy milk

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl until thoroughly combined. It'll be really thick. Cover with a lid and refrigerate overnight.

I've made this a couple of more times with fresh diced up strawberries and kiwi, coconut, and sunflower seeds. It's very versatile, so use whatever you have on hand!

Memorial Day Weekend (And Bad News)

I lost my camera, which makes me really sad. I have a bad habit of losing things that I like, and this is one of those moments. I took it with me to Texas last weekend while I was visiting my brother, sister-in-law, nieces, and nephew. I have a lot of photos of a great weekend, as well as photos of the amazing food that we ate that I was hoping to share with you, my readers!

Unfortunately all I have are these photos that I took with my iPhone, but if I find my regular camera I will post the better photos as well. (Here's to hoping...)

My sister-in-law is Vietnamese and cooks the greatest Asian food I've ever had. This was my lunch the first day I was there: Vietnamese soup of some kind. It wasn't pho... but I forget the name. Broth, sprouts, cilantro, beef, noodles, and hot sauce on top.

My two nieces preparing some chicken dumplings, and the finished product (that I actually cooked!) which ended up pretty good. I was really flustered because, well, my sister-in-law sets the bar high with her cooking and I didn't want to disappoint!

For our first dinner there, and our next day's lunch, we had a crawfish bake!

Corn, potatoes, crawfish, dumplings... all of it spicyyyy because that's how we roll in our family! My lips were on fire, but it was totally worth it.

I really really hope I find my camera, not just because of the photos on it but also because I really don't want to be spending more money on things! I have a back-up camera but it's very unreliable and the quality isn't as good as my other one.

I have some other recipes, photos, and things to post here that I've been procrastinating doing, so hopefully that'll buy me time to find my camera!

02 June 2010

LOST (...in baking)

The series finale of LOST was just over one week ago. It was my favorite show on TV and the finale was awesome (at least in my opinion; others definitely feel differently!). In the past, I've baked some stuff for LOST, but definitely nothing compared to what I brought to my friend's finale party!

The best thing about this cake is a combination of two things: it looks complicated, but it's really a very basic technique!

LOST Finale Cake

1 box white cake mix (I used Reduced Sugar Pillsbury)
1 box dark chocolate cake mix (I used Reduced Sugar Pillsbury)
1/2 batch Creamy Vanilla Almond Icing + 1/4 cup Hershey's Dark Chocolate Cocoa Powder
1 tub creamy vanilla frosting (I used Reduced Sugar Pillsbury)
2 ounces Semisweet Baker's Chocolate
blue food coloring
green food coloring

Follow directions for cake using two 8" round cake pans (for each flavor of cake). I made the following substitutions:
  • Margarine for the butter
  • Unsweetened apple sauce for the oil
Let cakes cool completely before frosting. In the meantime, make the frosting (link above) by adding the cocoa powder before you add the powdered sugar. Set aside.

Also, make yourself the numbers... not just any numbers... but the numbers! ;) Melt the chocolate, put it in a piping bag (I used a Ziploc bag and cut the tip off of it), write the numbers on a piece of parchment or wax paper, and put in the fridge until hardened.

When cakes are cooled, stack them on top of each other.

I made 2 round chocolate pieces, one round white cake piece, and one square white cake piece (which will come into play later). My white layer was a bit wider than the chocolate so I trimmed it to fit.

Next, find something round to trace that's about half the diameter of the cake rounds. Mine was a cookie jar lid.

Using a knife with small serrations, I cut through all the layers of the cake at the same time. I repeated this through the one layer of square white cake. (You can use another round, but I only had 3 round cake pans, haha!) Then you'll have a core.

Rearranged the core to be the opposite of the outer ring. So, the outer ring is black-white-black and the inner ring is white-black-white. I used the black cake to make the dome on top, carving it as best I could.  In between each layer I put the previously-made chocolate frosting to hold it all together.

I dyed 3/4 of the white store-bought tub of frosting blue (for the water) and the other 1/4 I dyed green (for the island's jungle).


First thing's first: let me explain why I'm not using home-made frosting. I didn't have the stuff, and I always keep an emergency stash of boxed cake mix and pre-made frosting for emergencies! If you want to make your own frosting, I always say go for it!

Now, it's time for the "crumb layer" of frosting. When frosting most cakes (especially when they've been cut into, like the dome "island") you'll get tons of crumbs in the frosting. So, I used about 1/4 of each frosting and did a thin layer, then let it sit for a little while (about 10 minutes) so the crumbs would stick more to the cake.

See the difference? :) All you need to do now is grab the numbers, and put them on the outside!

Now, what's with all of those cores and layers and stuff on the inside? Well, check it out!

For all of you LOST fans out there, I used three main themes from the series in this cake:
  1. Black vs. White (the two kinds of cake)
  2. The Island (the colored frosting)
  3. The Numbers (the chocolate on the outside)
Dorky? Yes. Yummy? For sure! You can make boxed mixes into fabulous baked goods by just using simple techniques!