Banana bread

I have a like/apathetic relationship with bananas – sometimes I’ll get on a tear and eat them with peanut butter for breakfast, but after a few days…meh. And since I can’t seem to exercise moderation when a good produce deal stares me in the face, more than a few turn to mush on my counter. Banana bread is the obvious choice to make them useful, but as I looked for recipes, I realized most were full of butter and sugar. Which is fine for some people, but if I want a cake, it’s going to be chocolate and it’s going to be a brownie, you know? So I went hunting, and this Cookie and Kate recipe offered a great springboard to something that seemed fit for breakfast (and even better spread with peanut butter). As a note – this is definitely a dense, chewy bread, as opposed to something with more crumble. I like it that way, but then, I also prefer brownies to cake. So.

The finished product – delicious banana bread, ready for breakfast.

You’ll need:

  • 4 bananas, the riper the better
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 t vanilla (use the real stuff if you can, it really does make a difference)
  • 1/3 c melted coconut oil
  • 1/2 c honey
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1 t ground cinnamon (I may have not measured and added more – about double – to mine. Oops. Didn’t bother me, but totally your call.)
  • 1 t cardamom
  • 1 1/2 c whole wheat flour
  • 1 c nuts (I used almonds, I think pistachios or pecans would be great, too.)

Get cooking:

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees and grease a loaf pan.
  2. Mash bananas and mix with eggs and vanilla until combined.
  3. Mix coconut oil and honey together, and add to banana mixture.
  4. In another bowl, whisk together dry ingredients (minus nuts). (I always thought this two-bowl thing was a pain, but realized recently that it allows your baking soda to get incorporated throughout and not lump up. I may have realized that when I bit into some muffins where I did NOT use two bowls. Don’t be me. Dirty the bowl. You have plenty of time to do dishes right now.)
  5. Add wet ingredients to dry and mix until just combined. Mix in nuts (if using).
  6. Transfer mixture to loaf pan, smooth out the top, and cook for 55-60 minutes.
  7. Let cool at least 15 minutes before you slice in. This lasts at least a week in the fridge, and freezes well, too.

Mediterranean date bars

I’m generally a chocolate dessert person – for years, I was ONLY a chocolate dessert person. But I’m always on the lookout for recipes that are outside of my norm, lower in sugar, and/or incorporate a new trick. This checks all those boxes. (It also checked all the dessert boxes for a new friend, which made them the perfect thank you gift.) Inspired by these no bake date bars, I tweaked a bit here and there for my own tastes and was thrilled at the result. Sweet enough for dessert, healthful enough to eat for a mid-morning snack and easy enough to whip up in about 30 minutes (even stuffing all those dates). They’re also adaptable – use whatever nuts you’re nuts about.

A little goes a long way – these are FAR richer than you’d expect.

You’ll need:

  • 24 – 26 pitted dates
  • 24 – 40 almonds (we’ll talk about the range in the instructions)
  • 1 cup coconut oil
  • 1 T vanilla
  • 4 T honey
  • 1 1/2 c flour
  • 1 c chopped pistachios

Get cooking:

  1. Stuff each date with 1 – 2 almonds. (This is the reason for the range – some dates took 1, some 2.)
  2. Line dates close together in the bottom of a dish (I used a pie dish, I suspect an 8×8 pan would be fine, too).
  3. Melt coconut oil over medium heat. Add vanilla, honey and flour. Cook for 5 – 8 minutes, until the flour turns golden.
  4. Pour mixture over dates, spreading to evenly cover (as well as you can,).
  5. Sprinkle pistachios over top, pressing into the batter.
  6. Refrigerate at least an hour, and slice with a sharp knife. (I found this made about 14 servings – again, it’s REALLY rich.)

Goat cheese sauce (and drizzled things)

Though I know how to cook fairly well, I was having a hard time adjusting to cooking for one. (You’re shocked, I know.) So I broke down and tried one of those meal kit services. Cons: pretty expensive, excessive packaging and the produce quality was laughably bad (especially as ‘fresh’ was in the name). However, I did discover 1. how to cook for one (though current life has pitched that right out the window) and 2. that a delicious sauce dresses up any dinner. This goat cheese sauce is amazing on literally anything – white meat, fish, green veggies, root veggies, bread, rice (if you can find it) – and takes very little effort. We’ll all be cooking from home for a while – might as well fancy it up a bit.

Here, the goat cheese sauce is served over chicken, roasted asparagus and potatoes. It was the perfect meal for one. With leftovers for lunch. So, for two, then.

You’ll need:

  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 – 2 T olive oil
  • 3/4 – 1 cup white wine
  • 4 oz goat cheese

Get cooking:

  1. Heat small saute pan over medium heat. Add oil, let heat 30 seconds, then add shallot and garlic. Saute for 2-3 minutes, until both are fragrant.
  2. Add wine to pan, scraping any bottom bits of shallot/garlic, until wine reduces by 1/2 (about 5 minutes).
  3. Crumble in goat cheese and stir continuously until melted into sauce (there will still be little clumps, that’s fine).
  4. Drizzle over anything! (Ok, ice cream would be weird, but you get the idea.) Note: if what you’re drizzling over isn’t seasoned, you might want to add a bit of salt and pepper to this.

Twice unbaked potato salad

Twice unbaked potato salad

I like to cook – so I’m usually not one to shy away from complicated dishes and spending some good time in the kitchen. But all of that goes out the window (as I head out the door) when it comes to summer. My three commandments of summer food:

  1. Simple
  2. Speedy
  3. Served Outside

The first two are key to spend more time in the third. In the summer, I am outside as much as humanly possible. I do not have a clean house, clean car – my clothes may be clean, but they’re certainly not put away until the first major thunderstorm rolls in.

Twice Unbaked Potato Salad
Twice unbaked potato salad – one of the many beautiful dishes on this summer spread!

Which it did the morning Erin invited me and a variety of other Grand Rapids bloggers to her rooftop patio for a Slaw Social sponsored by Reser’s. (Luckily, the sun was out by party time.) Here’s the thing – I don’t love most cole slaw, because as a general rule, I don’t like mayo. Reser’s slaw has some, but is actually really mustard forward (and also has ketchup, pickles, peppers and cabbage). On the first taste, it reminded me of my Granny’s potato salad. So I thought, “How can I make potato salad cocktail party material?”

Twice unbaked potato salad
Easy to make and easy to eat – the perfect appetizer or side dish for any summer party.

Four ingredients and thirty minutes later, I had something simple and simply delicious – and still had enough time to put away my clothes before the rain let up.

You’ll need:

  • 1 tub Reser’s Stadium Cole Slaw
  • 1 2-pound bag mini potatoes (I used red skins, any will do)
  • Smoked paprika
  • 1 bunch green onions, sliced

Get “cooking:”

  1. Bake the potatoes (I did mine in the microwave in about 10 minutes).
  2. Scoop out the potato flesh into a larger bowl. Add the cole slaw and mix.
  3. Sprinkle the potato skins with salt and smoked paprika.
  4. Fill the potato skins with the mixture, then sprinkle with paprika and the sliced green onions.
  5. Enjoy somewhere outdoors and fabulous!

*Reser’s kindly provided both samples and a stipend for supplies, but as always, all thoughts are my own.

Tomato peach burrata salad

Summertime dinnertime – it doesn’t get better than sitting on the back deck with a delicious, light dinner, a glass of cold white wine and a good book. Tomato season is almost upon us, and I implore you to give this potentially wacky combination a try. Initially, the combo of tomato, peach and burrata seemed a little too far out (even though tomatoes are technically a fruit). But as much as I hate to say it, I was wrong. Except I don’t really hate it, because this is light, refreshing and the perfect “celebrate the best of summer” dinner. This serves one generously, probably two in reality (I had leftovers).

Tomato peach burrata salad
ref=”https://foodiefling.files.wordpress.com/2014/09/img_1275.jpg”> Late summer on a plate – tomato peach burrata salad.[/ca
 

Based on: http://www.twopeasandtheirpod.com/tomato-peach-burrata-salad/

 

You’ll need:

  • 2-3 medium tomatoes, sliced
  • 2 large peaches, sliced
  • 1 ball burrata cheese, sliced
  • ½ cup fresh basil, torn or chiffonade
  • Good balsamic vinegar (flavored is fine)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Get cooking (or not, in this case):

  1. Alternate the tomato and peach slices on a plate.
  2. Nestle in burrata (though it’s very wet, so slide may be a more appropriate term.)
  3. Toss the basil on top, drizzle with balsamic and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Summertime and the eats are easy

When Erin said she wanted to have a party to celebrate the end of summer (because we’re just that kind of masochistic here in Michigan) on her rooftop deck, I said “What can I bring?” Well, it turns out the lovely people at La Terra Fina* wanted to step in and help with that. They sent me two dips – their Spinach and Artichoke (the greek yogurt version) and the Lemon Pepper Asiago. I’m a little embarrassed at the ease of what resulted, but that speaks to the quality of these dips.

Spinach Artichoke Mushrooms
Spinach Artichoke Mushrooms – delicious and delightfully easy!

The first dish (I can’t even call it a recipe guys, it’s cheating) is spinach and artichoke stuffed mushrooms. I cleaned the mushrooms, pulled out the stems, stuffed them with the dip and roasted them at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes. The end. Good hot, good cold, good anywhere in between. One tub of dip took about 20 oz of mushrooms, give or take depending on size. I had a little leftover, and tossed with sautéed mushrooms the next day for dinner – also wholly good, and holy easy.

Lemon Pepper Crostini
Lemon Pepper Crostini – great in a pinch!

The second was a bit more…hairy. I have a pizza I love with a goat cheese lemon base, zucchini and summer squash, so I thought I’d reproduce here with a zucchini beer bread (since GR is Beer City) and spread the lemon pepper dip on top. Well. I enjoy under-baked bread as much as the next person, but this took it to new heights – 1.5 hours in the oven and we were not spreading anything on that bread. Plan B, formulated while I’m in nothing but a towel, hair and makeup not done, supposed to be downtown in 15 minutes (it’s a 15 minute drive y’all). Buy flatbread. Spread with dip. Top with sautéed summer squash. Done.

As it turns out, summer came out in all her glory to big farewell – good friends, good food, great views.

*La Terra Fina was kind enough to supply the ingredients, but as always, all thoughts are my own.

 

Vegan palak paneer

Listen, y’all know I love cheese more than my luggage. But sometimes, especially after an epic cheese-fest, I recognize the need to cut back. A little. I stumbled across this recipe for vegan palak paneer on Food 52 and thought “Well, I think I hate tofu, but with curry…”

Turns out, curry covers everything – I actually like this dish just as much, if not more, with tofu vs paneer (plus, tofu is easier to find.) Even better, I discovered recently that the tofu isn’t even necessary! Less palak paneer then and more…Indian creamed spinach?…not the same ring, but still delicious.

Delicious Indian dinner - Indian BBQ pork, vegan palak paneer, cauliflower rice and naan.
Delicious Indian dinner – Indian BBQ pork, vegan palak paneer, cauliflower rice and naan.

Especially since this was part of a larger Indian dinner, I figured the protein wasn’t needed. I also used fresh spinach because I got a great deal at the Costco, but would absolutely use frozen in this unless you hit a sale. (2.5 lbs, for real, is a lot of spinach.) One last note on coconut milk – I have discovered, as of late, the magic that is full-fat coconut milk. It’s so…CREAMY. Which sounds dumb and obvious, but I swear, it’s a little mind-blowing. So since you’re being so good about eating your greens – and coconut oil is health food and all – I’m saying go for it.

You’ll need:

  • 2.5 lbs of fresh spinach or 4 10 oz bags of frozen spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry (you are cooking the spinach quite a bit, so frozen is really fine here.)
  • 2 15 oz cans coconut milk (I prefer using at least one full fat, as it really adds to the creaminess of the dish)
  • 1 block extra firm tofu, cubed – optional (I have included it in the past, but didn’t here as I served it with another protein.)
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 T coconut oil
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 T fresh ginger, minced
  • 3 T curry
  • salt and pepper to taste

Get cooking:

  1. If using fresh spinach, cook in batches until wilted down, squeezing as much excess water from cooked spinach as possible. If using frozen, defrost and squeeze out as much water as possible. Set aside.
  2. Heat coconut oil over medium heat, and saute onion until browned, 8-10 minutes.
  3. Add other spices and cook 2-3 minutes.
  4. Add spinach back in, along with coconut milk and tofu (if using). Simmer for 10-15 minutes.
  5. Serve over rice with naan.

Cauliflower rice

I find myself, in general, super skeptical of fad diets. Oh don’t misunderstand – I’m not judging. I’ve tried the Jillian Michales 7-day detox water, whipped up more than one green smoothie and hopped on the spiralizer train. I’ve done chocolate brownie date bites and powdered peanut butter and, in fits of complete self-loathing, stevia brownies.

Some of these things have been total disasters (stevia’s aftertaste makes me very skeptical of its natural claim), but others were a pleasant surprise. (The brownie bites, while not brownie-ish at all, were nevertheless good, slightly chocolatey and imparted a fair amount of energy.) Spiralized veggies and spaghetti squash can be pretty good in certain dishes, and I’ve even found tolerance for the occasional green smoothie (though I’m always scavenging for a snack by 10.) Cauliflower rice was another fad I was prepared to hate. But the man loves him some fried rice, and while I’m really good about veggies in my diet, he is…less so.

Delicious Indian dinner - Indian BBQ pork, vegan palak paneer, cauliflower rice and naan.
Delicious Indian dinner – Indian BBQ pork, vegan palak paneer, cauliflower rice and naan.

Turns out, we like it a lot! (In fact, it was declared “one of the best thing to ever come out of my kitchen” from a man who would eat Cincinnati chili and shells and cheese until the end of time.) Like veggie ‘noodles,’ I would argue it’s no replacement for the real thing – but when you’re using rice as a vehicle to sop up something else – like in the Indian feast pcitured above – it’s perfect.

You’ll need:

  • 1 head cauliflower, chopped roughly
  • 2 T oil of choice (cater to cuisine)
  • 3-4 T spices as needed
  • A food processor

Get cooking:

  1. Pulse cauliflower florets in food processor until pebble-sized.
  2. Saute in oil for 7-10 minutes, checking texture (this is really a preference thing, however done you like it is how done it should be).
  3. Add in spices of choice and saute 1-2 more minutes.
  4. Serve with…anything!

BBQ pork – Indian style (slow cooker)

Everyone has that ‘favorite restaurant dish’ – every time you order something else (because variety is spicy and all that) it’s good, maybe even really good – but nothing lives up to that one amazing thing. At Graydon’s Crossing in Grand Rapids, that dish (for me) is the Bali pulled pork. I didn’t even consider I could attempt it at home until I was messing around on Pinterest. (See, sometimes those rabbit holes pay off.)


This is a slow cooker recipe, which means it’s pretty hands off and simple. You might even be tempted to skip the browning step, but in Indian cooking, toasting the spices really does make a huge difference. This recipe was part of a larger Indian feast, so I focused solely on meat and seasoning here – if you were serving it alone, I’d serve pita-like with naan and pickled veggies.

Recipe loosely adapted from http://myheartbeets.com/indian-style-pulled-pork/

You’ll need:

  • 3lb pork (either shoulder roast (more fat) or pork loin (lean))
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 T coconut oil or ghee
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2  fresh ginger, minced
  • 7-8 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 T curry powder
  • 1 T garam masala
  • 1 15oz can tomato sauce
  • 2 T honey
  • ½ c water

Get cooking:

  1. Heat coconut oil over medium-high heat, add onions and saute until soft, 8-10 minutes.
  2. Add pork and sear until browned on all sides.
  3. Add seasonings and saute 2-3 minutes, until you can smell them.
  4. Add tomato sauce, water and honey. Transfer to a slow cooker and cook on high for four hours or low for 8.
  5. Shred meat, taste, and adjust seasonings as necessary.
  6. Serve with naan.

Fresh 7-layer dip

You guys. This dip. ZOMG it’s like someone took your grandma’s 7-layer dip and gave it to a gourmet chef, who slapped it into shape like a boot camp sergeant. Not gonna lie: this dish requires a lot of stuff. But start to finish, I’d say this is doable in under an hour, if your chopping and multitasking skills are on point. (My wine handicap added a bit of time.) Technically, this dip is only 5 layers, but you can always add some tomatoes or olives or whatever else you like on your tacos.

Fresh 7-layer Mexican dip
Super tasty, very impressive, good as an app or a standalone meal.

This thing is a showstopper – the best appetizer at any party and totally appropriate for dinner, all on its own, with chips. Not kidding. It also goes pretty well with this. Thanks to Annie’s Eats for the recipe!
You’ll need:

Beans: 

  • 1/2 lb. chorizo
  • 1 15 oz. can black beans
  • 1/2 c chicken broth
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Layers:

  • 1 1/2 c guacamole (Either prepared or homemade.)
  • 1 c fresh salsa (I used this fresh tomatillo salsa, but use your favorite.)
  • Crumbled queso fresco or shredded pepper jack cheese – as much as you want 🙂

Sour cream: 

  • 1/3 c sour cream (or plain greek yogurt)
  • 1 chipotle in adobo, chopped (seeded if you don’t want it super spicy)
  • Juice from 1/2 a lime

Get cooking:

Beans:

  1. Heat a pan over medium-high heat, add chorizo and cook 5-7 minutes, until browned and fully cooked.
  2. Add beans and stock, cooking for 5 minutes until stock reduces.
  3. Mash beans and set aside to cool.

Sour cream:

Mix ingredients together, adding salt or more lime juice as wanted.

Assemble the dip:

  1. Spread the beans on the bottom of a 9-inch pie plate or cake pan.
  2. Top with guac, salsa, sour cream and cheese.
  3. Serve with your favorite tortilla chips or veggies.