Saturday, June 22, 2013

Happy 2nd Birthday, Dancer Bakes! {Oatmeal Banana Nut Muffins}

Pretend there's a candle in one of those muffins because the blog turns two today!!  WHOA!

It barely feels like this last year happened for me - graduation, marriage, and 6 months at sea dancing my little tush off made it fly by!  But even though I'm still in denial that it's really been two entire years since I started this little online journey, I couldn't be happier about where it's taken me.  I started my dance career, I lived in one of the most beautiful places in the entire world, I have a wonderful husband who helps and supports me in every way, and I've developed a deeper love of food than I ever imagined when I decided to start writing it all down.

This occasion really demands rich and delicious baked goods.  In lieu of rich, have healthy and delicious baked goods!

The other day, I got hit by a particularly strong urge to bake, fed in part by the appearance of a Nutella Swirl Banana Muffin recipe on my newsfeed - courtesy of Jessica over at The Novice Chef. I basically started salivating on sight.
However, I've recently tried to renew my commitment to eating a clean diet - high in fiber, vitamins, minerals, protein and healthy fats; low in sugar, saturated fat and processed chemicals.  The hardest part for me to cut out is sugar.  It's no secret that I love sweets, and I particularly like finishing a meal on a sweet note, so sugars - even natural ones - are hard for me to both limit and avoid altogether.
I couldn't shake the banana muffin craving, though, so I searched for a healthier recipe, and voila!  I found one!  Still sweet, but not a cupcake masquerading as breakfast.

These are oatmeal muffins, but not in the same sense as an oatmeal cookie.  In this recipe, the oats are ground into oat flour to form the base of the muffin.  I was a little low on oats at home, so I supplemented with a little white whole wheat flour and they still turned out great.  Also, these are basically the easiest muffins to make in the history of the world: all you do is process the oats, add all the rest of the ingredients, process until it looks like a batter, and bake!

In terms of the calorie count (if you even care), these beauties come to a whopping 135 calories per muffin!  Not bad at all.  If you're watching your sugar intake, you'll still need to balance these with low-sugar, high-veggie-and-protein meals, but eating one is nothing to feel guilty about!  Score :)

Oatmeal Banana Nut Muffins
Source: slightly adapted from this recipe by Michelle Hein
Yield: 1 dozen muffins

2 cups old-fashioned oats
2 extra ripe bananas, cut into quarters
2 eggs
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tbsp honey
3/4 cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 400˚F.
Lightly grease a 12-cup muffin pan with cooking spray, butter, or shortening (I used Baker's Joy).
Place the oats in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until finely ground. 
Add the remaining ingredients and blend until a smooth batter is formed.
Scoop the batter into the prepared muffin tin, evenly filling all 12 cups.  Bake for 15-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean and the tops of the muffins spring back when pressed lightly.  For me, it only took 15 minutes, so make sure to test them at the minimum baking mark - don't let them overbake and get tough!  Serve warm and enjoy - add candles if you're feeling celebratory :)

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Spinach Artichoke Hummus

Up until about a year ago, I was convinced that I did not like hummus.
At all.
As in, "get that weirdly spiced baby food away from me."

Looking back on that version of me, I have to shake my head in shame.
What was I thinking??  Was some pickiness from my "ew, beans!" phase sticking around?

Thankfully, shortly before I started rehearsals for the ship, I discovered just how ridiculous I was being and fell head over heels in love with hummus. During rehearsals, fresh vegetables, pretzels and classic hummus-to-go packs were lunch most days.  Once aboard the vessel I called home for half a year, baby carrots, flatbread crisps and spinach artichoke hummus saved my patoot during our month of Condition Red (a story for another post that...isn't pureed).  And once I got home, I learned how ridiculously easy and cheap it was to make at home and did a happy dance.

This was Attempt Number One.
And holy yum, Batman.
This was a replication of - or dare I say, improvement upon - my favorite hummus-and-everything-else flavor to date: spinach and artichoke.  There's something about the freshness, mild fragrance, and gorgeous green color that just lights my candle!  Thanks to Ali, the genius behind Gimme Some Oven (yay blog puns!), I found the ultimate recipe.  The only change we made was to swap in lime juice for the lemon, since that's what we had on hand, and thankfully the bright lime was a great complement to all the other green stuff in there.

Jon and I have been devouring it nonstop since it came out of the food processor.
And the best part? It's only 60 calories per 2 tbsp serving!!
Translation: room for more dessert later!

...kidding.  Ish.

This recipe was definitely a big step in the clean eating direction for our little kitchen, and I couldn't have been more thrilled with the results!  Especially when paired with baked falafel...

If you're a hummus fan with a food processor, what are you waiting for??  Get hummus-ing!

Spinach Artichoke Hummus
Source: barely adapted at all from Gimme Some Oven

1 (15 oz) can chickpeas, packing liquid reserved
4 cups loosely packed fresh baby spinach
1/2 cup canned artichoke hearts
2 tbsp tahini (sesame seed paste)
2 tbsp lime juice
2 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
Salt and Pepper, to taste

Place all ingredients into the bowl of a food processor.  Using the steel blade, process until smooth.  Add a tablespoon at a time of the reserved chickpea liquid as needed until your desired consistency is reached.  Crack out the veggies and pita chips and enjoy!

To store, scoop into any air-tight container and refrigerate.  It'll last for a couple weeks easily.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookies

I really need to practice making cookies.

But seriously.
I have cupcakes and layer cakes down.  Brownies? Check.  Biscuits, scones?  Super easy.  I can even do pie crust.
But cookies?  They're the first thing most kids bake!  The one thing that their moms will let them help with!  The foolproof dessert that can only get screwed up by not setting a timer!
I follow every direction, measure with extreme precision, set painstakingly exact timers...
And I CANNOT nail them!

I want to say I can blame my oven.  I probably need an oven thermometer so I can test what temperature "350˚" actually is.  And maybe I need to play with temperatures as well as times.

I'm just saying, for me, thick golden cookies that don't spread like the dickens are apparently a lot to ask for.
In the picture are the prettiest three cookies of nearly 3 dozen.  They just kept spreading and browning really quickly!

At least they taste good!

Pretty will come with time.

I hope.

For now, I will accept any cookie tips and tricks that you lovely people have to offer me, and will also sit back with one of my poor dilapidated tasty cookies.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookies
adapted from these cookies

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp unsulphured molasses
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (not instant or quick)
1-1/2 cups chocolate chips
scant 1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

In the bowl of a stand mixer, or in a large bowl with a very sturdy hand mixer, cream together the butter and sugars until very light and fluffy - about 5 minutes.
In a separate bowl, combine the flours, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon, whisking together thoroughly until no clumps of baking soda remain.  Stir in the oats, raisins, and pecans.
Returning to the mixer, add the eggs to the butter and sugars one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Stir in the vanilla extract and the molasses.  Gradually add the flour and oat mixture on a low speed to the creamed butter mixture until well combined.
Chill the dough, covered, for a few hours or overnight - optional, but recommended.
To bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 350˚F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, a silicone baking mat, or (in a pinch) foil sprayed lightly with cooking spray.  For giant cookies, (cause who doesn't like a giant cookie??) drop the dough in 1/4-cup sized* balls spaced evenly on the baking sheet.  Place in the preheated oven on a rack centered in the oven.  Midway through the baking time, rotate the baking sheet so the cookies bake evenly.  If necessary, flatten the domes of the cookies with a spatula.  Bake the cookies for 20-22 minutes, or until the tops are just starting to brown - don't overbake them!  You'll be sad.  Remove from the oven, cool completely on a wire rack, and enjoy!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Chocolate Frosted Yellow Cake Ice Cream

Ugggghhhh, forgive the delay.

Take that, Ben and Jerry!

Back story: Jon and I got an ice cream maker as a wedding gift.  Never have you ever seen a more thrilled couple.  Ice cream is the only dessert that Jon can't resist, and I'd been wanting to make my own fun flavors for years!  But alas, the contract was offered, life got crazy, and I left home for seven months before that beautiful piece of Cuisinart machinery could be used.

Naturally my first mission upon coming home was to use it.
Once I remembered how to use a kitchen, that is.

And can I just say...this was the first thing I made post-Hawaii that didn't involve pumpkin or cinnamon?  Going an entire calendar year without fall made me crave fall flavors as soon as I hit the mainland.

Pumpkin oatmeal, pumpkin waffles, snickerdoodle cake, and a huge batch of turkey pumpkin chili later, I was finally satisfied.
But I wanted to make something complicated.
And the ice cream maker was calling to me.

The two of us got hit by a major (and majorly random) Boston Cream Pie craving, so my adventure started with the flavors of yellow cake and chocolate ganache.  I came across a recipe for cake batter ice cream, which was always my favorite flavor at Cold Stone, and started playing with add-ins from there, eventually deciding on the yellow cake base from Country Living's Boston Cream Pie and homemade hot fudge sauce from the best cookbook of all time: How to Cook Everything.

I made the custard, which took about twice as long as I expected.  I baked the cake, which turned out beautifully.  I made the fudge, which took too long cause I kept stirring when I wasn't supposed to (lesson learned).  And finally, all of the pieces were ready to become ice cream.  I assembled the machine, added the custard, and turned it on.

...And nothing happened.

Turns out you really ought to read directions for machines before you use them.  I hadn't let the bowl freeze completely.  Woops.
It worked much better the next morning.

And voila!  2 quarts of gourmet, completely from scratch ice cream!
...which I realized after my first bowl was a rip-off of Perry's Piece of Cake.
Guess my idea wasn't that unique, but making it was way more satisfying than just buying a carton.
Plus, I still have leftover cake!

We're never buying ice cream again.

Just...pardon the iPhone Instagram photo.  I try not to eat ice cream in the middle of the afternoon, and natural light isn't exactly abundant at...night.

Chocolate Frosted Yellow Cake Ice Cream
Yield: approx. 2 quarts

1 recipe cake batter ice cream
1 recipe Boston Creme Pie base, baked in one 8" layer
1 recipe hot fudge (recipe below)

Cook the cake batter custard until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon - this could take several minutes longer than you expect, so have patience! - and chill for at least two hours, up to overnight.
Bake the cake and allow it to cool completely before cutting half of it into 1/2" to 1" chunks.  Save the rest for sundaes or just plain snacking.
Cook and cool the hot fudge.
Freeze the custard base according to instructions in your ice cream maker.  Once the base is mostly solid, add the cake chunks while the machine continues to churn.  Turn off the machine and transfer the ice cream into a large freezer-safe container.  Drizzle thick ribbons of the cooled fudge on top and swirl in gently with a rubber spatula.  Transfer the ice cream into the freezer for at least another two hours, then scoop and enjoy!

Homemade Hot Fudge Sauce
From How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman
4 oz semisweet or bittersweet chocolate
4 tbsp unsalted butter 
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
Pinch salt
1/3 cup corn syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract

Combine the chocolate, butter, sugar, salt, and water in a small saucepan over low heat until smooth.  Add the corn syrup, bring to a boil, and allow to cook for 5-10 minutes - WITHOUT STIRRING (don't be like me!) - until the sauce is thick and shiny.  Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla.  Serve hot over ice cream or allow to cool to room temperature for use inside the ice cream!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Mahalo for your patience...

There was a time when I was a blogger.

That time abruptly stopped approximately 7.5 months ago.

And I can finally offer an explanation for the sudden hiatus.

I was here:

Doing this:

In plain old words,  I spent the last six months living in Hawaii on Norwegian Cruise Line's Pride of America as a dancer and singer.
And it was AWESOME!
There will be follow-up posts about my favorite places to visit and eat in the islands, as well as some funny stories about my contract.  I'm also going to see what I can do to cook some Hawaiian favorites at home! 
You know, once I remember how to use a kitchen again.  It's been a minute.

For now, I'm just glad to be back on the mainland!  I can't wait to catch up on everything I've missed from family, friends, dance, musical theater, and food :)

Back soon with more from my life on a ship!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Cocoa Glazed Banana Bundt Cake

Et voila, the first cake I baked in our new apartment!

This gorgeous thing was the product of a very domestic day alone - my wonderful husband was at work for two days straight in Pittsburgh, so my kitchen and I got reacquainted in a very intense way.  After the cake came out of the oven, those insane sprinkly pancakes found themselves on the stovetop, and broccoli fritters made it to the dinner table a few hours later.

First of all: SO. MANY. DISHES.
Second of all: SO. MUCH. DELICIOUS.

This cake is chock full of scrumptious, moist, banana flavor and the quick-and-easy glaze tastes like hot fudge.  The baking method for the cake is easily one of the most interesting I've ever encountered: the cake stays in the oven for nearly two hours at a low temperature, then immediately makes its way into the freezer for an additional hour.  The resulting cake is insanely moist and flavorful, and the outside doesn't get super dark like many banana cakes are wont to do in a hot oven.  Though it took time to bake, I was absolutely thrilled with the quick prep (especially with my new KitchenAid 6-quart pro!!) and the delectable result.  Thank goodness I found some people to help me consume it, or this delicious cake would have become 10 new delicious pounds around my waist!

I highly recommend this recipe.  If muffins or banana bread sound boring the next time you have overripe bananas, go for cake!

Banana Bundt Cake
Source: adapted slightly from My Baking Addiction

1 1/2 cups mashed ripe bananas
2 cups white whole wheat flour

1 cup all-purpose flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups buttermilk

Place a rack at the center of the oven and preheat to 275˚F.  Thoroughly grease and flour a 12-cup nonstick bundt pan, or use a baking spray with flour to coat it.

In a small bowl, mash the bananas.
In a medium bowl, mix together the flours, baking soda, and salt.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, cream together the butter and the sugar until pale, light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating well until fully incorporated, then stir in the vanilla.  Alternately add the buttermilk and the flour mixtures to the bowl of the mixer, mixing until combined and smooth.  Stir in the mashed bananas.

Transfer the batter to the prepared bundt pan.  Bake in the preheated oven for about 1 hour 40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.  
Immediately transfer the pan to the freezer for about 1 hour.  Remove the pan from the freezer to a rack for at least 3 hours.

When ready to serve, invert the cake onto a serving plate or cake stand and prepare the glaze.

Simple Cocoa Glaze

1/2 cup powdered sugar
3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp pure vanilla extract (I used Mexican vanilla)
2-3 tbsp half and half or whole milk

Combine powdered sugar and cocoa powder in a bowl and whisk together thoroughly.  Switch to a spoon and add vanilla.  Gradually add the milk or half and half until a thick but pourable glaze is formed.  Spoon over the top of the cake and allow the glaze to drip down the sides.  Give it an hour or so to set slightly, then slice and serve.  Enjoy!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Birthday Cake Pancakes with Adults-Only Vanilla Cake Glaze

 My birthday was a week ago.

There was no cake.
Which was totally my own fault - my layer cake pans were in storage and I totally ran out of time to make myself a cake anyway.
And don't get me wrong, my birthday was incredible!

That morning, I had to wake up super early to drive half an hour to a class I was assisting with.  Before I woke up, Jon had left the apartment, and he came back with my favorite pancakes as a surprise.  When I got back from work that night, a dinner of pan-seared salmon with pesto and parmesan-crusted baked zucchini was almost ready - I'm blessed with a husband who can cook really well!  And then, before the night was over, he took me downtown to The Chocolate Bar for drinks and dessert.  The day was not extravagant or big or blown-up, but because I got to spend so much time with my new husband, it was perfect.

Birthday with no cake?  Weird!
So this weekend, I made up for it.

I present to you: Birthday Cake Pancakes.
Also known as the best pancakes EVER.

It's Funfetti in pancake form!
Could anything BE more perfect??

Um, yes.

Birthday Cake Pancakes with a boozy Vanilla Cake Glaze.

Cake mix.  Vanilla.  Sprinkles.  Topped with powdered sugar, more vanilla, half and half, and CAKE VODKA.

Please, for the love of all that is good, invite some girlfriends over and chow down on these suckers.
And depending on how much glaze you use, you might wanna pick a chick flick and stay put for a while ;)

Birthday Cake Pancakes
Source: barely adapted from My Life as a Mrs. via Rachel Cooks' pancake party
Serves: 4-6

1 cup cake flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup yellow cake mix
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 eggs, beaten
1-1/2 cups buttermilk
1/2 cup milk
2 tbsp butter or coconut oil, melted
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup rainbow sprinkles
Butter, for the griddle
Adults-Only Vanilla Cake Glaze, for serving (recipe below)

In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, cake mix, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  In a medium bowl, beat together the eggs, milks, butter or coconut oil, and vanilla.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix together until combined.  Fold in the sprinkles.
Heat a skillet or griddle over medium-low to medium heat.  Preheat the oven to its lowest temperature setting and have an oven-safe plate ready.  Add a bit of butter, allow it to melt, and spread it out.  Using a 1/4-cup measure, add the batter in rounds and allow them to cook until the edges are set and the tops are covered in popped bubbles.  Flip and continue to cook until the pancakes spring back when pressed with a spatula.  Remove pancakes to the plate and place in the preheated oven while you cook the remaining batches of pancakes, adding a little bit more butter to the pan or griddle before each batch.  Serve with syrup or glaze and ENJOY!

Adults-Only Vanilla Cake Glaze

1 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1-1/2 to 2 tbsp cake flavored vodka
1-2 tbsp half and half

Using a spoon, stir together the ingredients, starting with the lowest recommended amount of liquid and adding more if necessary, until a smooth and slightly thick glaze is formed.  Spoon liberally over Birthday Cake pancakes and enjoy!