February 26, 2012

Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins


Good morning!! I hope that everyone is enjoying their Sunday morning! The flavor of the weekend in our house is banana. Ben tried bananas, (see my post about homemade baby food), for the first time this morning, and loved every mouthful. Watching him enjoy his new flavor left me wanting to make something special to celebrate.

A few months ago, someone brought my husband and I some chocolate chip banana muffins, (perhaps from Trader Joes?)... I don't remember exactly where they came from, but they were quite possibly some of the best muffins I've ever had.

As I've admitted before, (and as one could guess, based on the number of posts I've written about banana bread/banana muffins), I love banana muffins. I also love the combination of bananas and chocolate. Growing up, as a special treat my mom would get the banana-chocolate Entenmann's cake... one of those food memories that makes you smile... and want cake. Yum!

Fast forward to this morning... I had three very ripe bananas, an urge to bake, and a desire to make something a little bit special for a Sunday morning treat. I set out to make something reminiscent of the Entenmann's cake...

Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins
Makes 2 dozen

2 cups whole wheat flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
2 large eggs
1/2 cups mashed ripe banana
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 bag mini chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line two muffin pans with paper muffin cups.

In medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt.
In mixing bowl, beat softened butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Alternately add flour mixture and bananas, beginning and ending with flour mixture, occasionally scraping side of bowl with rubber spatula. Beat just until blended. Mix in vanilla mixture. Stir in chocolate chips. Pour into muffin tins, and bake 30 minutes, rotating pan halfway through.

These muffins are awesome. A perfect morning, (or any other time of day) treat... I think I'll have one again later today for dessert.

Enjoy!!

February 25, 2012

Making Baby Food!

This has been quite a week! I am very grateful that the weekend has arrived, and I have time to regroup. I have been keeping up with cooking dinner almost nightly, and have made some blog-worthy meals, but I haven't been very good at photographing my time in the kitchen... I might just start posting with fewer photos.


For those who follow me, (hi mom!), you know that I have a *gasp* 5 month old baby boy! He's a big boy, and has recently been given the green light from the pediatrician to start eating some pureed foods. We attempted rice cereal, but he wasn't a fan... and I wasn't crazy about feeding him food from a box that looks like the flaky food people give their pet fish. Needless to say, I was psyched when the words "sweet potato", "squash" and "banana" came out of the pediatrician's mouth.

I had planned on making baby food at home, fueled by my love for cooking and encouraged by friends and acquaintances who reported that it really is easy, affordable, and possible on a limited schedule. So, when one of my closest friends, knowing me as well as she does, got me the Baby Bullet as a baby shower gift, (proving not all off-register purchases are bad!!), I was very excited and couldn't wait for the chance to make some baby food!

Last weekend, I made sweet potatoes. First, I cleaned, peeled, chopped, and steamed the (organic) sweet potato. Then, I put the very well cooked potato pieces into the large mixing bowl, along with the cooking liquid and pressed down... less than a minute later, I had perfectly pureed sweet potatoes. The single sweet potato made 10* baby servings, which I very easily stored in the single serving containers, and in the freezing tray.

He loves sweet potatoes! I love that I made his food, very inexpensively... no preservatives, no unknown ingredients, and nutrient rich! Everyone is happy. (Unless its dirty diaper time, lol).

Today, I whipped up some pureed banana for him to try tomorrow morning... Very easy! Sliced raw banana, water, puree... done! Cleanup is very easy too, since all of the pieces are top-rack dishwasher safe. (I hate doing dishes). I'm looking forward to being my little man's personal chef, (and to playing with my new favorite kitchen gadget).

*We will be getting more than 10 baby servings out of the potato. The first couple of days, while getting used to eating, he didn't take a full serving. We started with a tablespoon per meal, and are now up to about two tablespoons per meal. We just follow Ben's lead.

**Do not start feeding your baby foods without guidance from your pediatrician! This website is not intended for baby advice, its simply a documentary of my experience. If you have questions about feedings, what foods to choose and how to feed your baby, it is best to speak to your pediatrician.**

February 14, 2012

Moussaka


Happy Valentines Day! I hope that everyone found a way to celebrate today. I decided to be festive by cooking a delicious, comforting meal...

I had never had Moussaka before tonight. I really enjoy Greek cuisine, but never quite get brave enough to go out on a limb and try big new things... that, and I don't particularly care for lamb, the meat that Moussaka is often made with.

But then, along came Martha Stewart. A few weeks ago, while planning out the weekly menu for our house, (which has become a MUST do in order to stay sane), I stumbled upon a Martha Stewart recipe for a "Quick Moussaka"... I quickly ran down the list of ingredients, and couldn't wait to dig in!! Eggplant, onion, garlic, cinnamon, oregano, parsley... and since I was making it myself- beef instead of lamb. Tonight, I finally got the chance to try out her recipe... and I'm in love! I will definitely be making this again and again!!

Quick Moussaka
Martha Stewart- Serves 4


Butter, for baking dish*
1 large eggplant (2 1/2 pounds), peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
7 tbsp. olive oil, divided
Salt and pepper
2 onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound ground beef or lamb*
1 28oz can whole tomatoes, drained*
2 teaspoons tomato paste
1/3 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 cup (9oz) ricotta cheese, room temperature*
3/4 cup (4oz) feta cheese, room temperature*
1 large egg, room temperature

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Butter a 4-quart ovenproof dish. On a baking sheet, toss eggplant with 6 tbsp oil and 1/2 tsp each salt and pepper. Spread in a single layer, and roast in the oven until soft and golden, 20 to 30 minutes. Transfer eggplant to prepared dish, spreading in an even layer.

In a large saucepan, warm remaining tablespoon oil over medium heat. Add onions, garlic, and ground meat; cook, stirring to prevent sticking, until meat is browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in drained tomatoes, tomato paste, parsley, oregano, cinnamon, and 1/4 tsp each salt and pepper. Simmer, crushing tomatoes with the edge of spoon, 15 minutes. Spread the mixture evenly over the eggplant.

Heat broiler. In a small bowl, mix ricotta, feta, egg, 1/8 tsp pepper and a pinch of salt. Pour mixture over the casserole, and spread evenly to the edges. Broil until topping is browned in spots, 5 to 10 minutes. Serve hot.

*My Notes: Instead of butter, I used cooking spray- it worked well, and cut a little of the fat. I loved it with beef, but will probably also try this recipe with ground turkey, or even tofu crumbles. Instead of whole tomatoes, I accidentally used a 28oz. can of crushed tomatoes- it saved me a step, and the consistency and taste was still excellent. To cut fat, I used part skim/reduced fat cheeses for the topping.

This dish was fabulous!! It was a little bit of a pain to peel the eggplant, but completely worth it. I wouldn't really call this recipe "quick" (eg. not good for your typical weeknight on the fly dinner), but overall, its an easy recipe. I'm not sure how the flavors compare with traditional Moussaka, but I'm curious to find out... Has anyone out there tried a few different versions and willing to let me know what you think?!?