Tuesday, February 28, 2012

cinnamon - crusted banana bread pancakes

Happy National Pancake Day!

Ok it's really only National Pancake Day at IHOP but I had originally scheduled this post to go up later this week but decided I just had to post it today to celebrate! I don't make pancakes very often because I got spoiled eating nutella and banana filled pancake bites (ebelskivers) at my parents house, that normal, flat pancakes just didn't cut it. But now I take that all back. These pancakes are my new go-to weekend breakfast because they were easy (thank you bisquick) and tasted like fluffy banana bread sprinkled with a warm, sugary cinnamon streusel ... only better, somehow. The pancakes have the perfect amount of banana flavor without being overpowering and the cinnamon crust is the best thing ever. The cinnamon streusel melts into the pancake and creates a slightly crunchy topping. It's reminds me of the cinnamon topping on the cinnamon crunch bagel at Panera, pure cinnamon heaven. I'm already looking forward to Sunday morning because I will definitely be making these again.

Cinnamon-Crusted Banana Bread Pancakes
makes 8 large pancakes

for the cinnamon streusel
1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
6 tbsp cold butter, cut into chunks

for the pancakes
2 c. bisquick
1/4 c. brown sugar
1/2 tbsp cinnamon
1 c. milk
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 tbsp vanilla extract
2 bananas, mashed

To make the cinnamon streusel,  combine flour, brown sugar, cinnamon and butter. Mix together with your hands or a fork until it is well combined and crumbly.

To make the pancakes, whisk together bisquick, brown sugar and cinnamon in a large bowl. In a separate bowl,  whisk together milk, eggs and vanilla until combined and then stir into the flour mixture. Stir in mashed bananas until batter is combined.

Heat a pan to medium low and coat with coking spray. Drop 1/3 cup of batter onto the heated pan and then sprinkle 3 tbsp of the cinnamon streusel on top. Cook on the first side until bubbles begin to form, about 2-3 minutes. Flip pancake over and cook for another 2-3 minutes or until golden brown. Repeat this process with the remaining batter.

Cinnamon Streusel recipe from Two Peas and Their Pod

Sunday, February 26, 2012

spicy black bean soup

I can't wait until I regularly cook for someone other than myself. Usually I don't mind cooking for just myself but after making this soup today, I wanted to call all my friends over for dinner. Which by the way, might not be enough people to finish all the soup I had. If I ate all this soup, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't want to eat another black bean for years. So I threw a container or two or three in the freezer. I'm not much of a freezer person because I never think it tastes as good as the first time around but this soup is an exception. It freezes perfectly, just pour it into a freezer bag and pull it out when you need a quick meal.  

Ok and I have to say it is hard to make black bean soup look as tasty as it really is. Especially when it's pureed. I texted my boyfriend a picture of the soup and his response was something along the lines of 'where are the black beans?' I know you can't see them but they are there, just pureed, ok! This soup is super healthy and surprisingly leaves me feeling happy and satisfied. The best part about this low-cal, high fiber soup is you can afford to throw on some less healthy toppings. I can easily justify topping it with an entire avocado (versus my usual half) or as shown in the picture, a pile of queso fresco. 

Oh and did I mention I gave up carbs for Lent? Really just flour and potatoes. I don't like to talk about it because it just reminds me of what I can't eat but I'm happily accepting no carb recipe suggestions.

Spicy Black Bean Soup
makes 6 servings

3 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, finely chopped (about 3 cups)
1 large carrot, peeled and finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 jalapeno, finely diced
1/2 tsp salt
6 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 1/2 tbsp ground cumin
2 bay leaves
2 ham hock slices (see note below)
1 15 oz. can of diced tomato
2 15 oz. cans of black beans
4 cups chicken broth
juice from 1 lime
queso fresco
jalapenos, sliced

Heat oil over medium-high heat until simmering. Add in onions, carrot, bell pepper, jalapeno and salt. Cook until vegetables are soft and lightly browned, about 12 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low and add garlic, cayenne pepper and cumin. Stir constantly until vegetables become fragrant, about 2 minutes. Stir in bay leaves, ham hock slices, beans, chicken broth and diced tomatoes. Increase heat to medium-high and bring soup to a boil then reduce heat to low and simmer uncovered for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. After 30 minutes, squeeze in juice of 1 lime and puree soup to desired thickness. I used a hand blender to puree the soup but you could easily use a blender. Serve with cilantro, jalapeno slices, and queso fresco.

Note: You can usually find ham hock slices in the meat section of the grocery store, not refrigerated. I use ham hock in soups to add a bit of a smoky, salty flavor. If you can't find a ham hock, you could substitute smoked bacon, smoked sausage, smoked ham or just leave it out completely and add a little extra salt.

Recipe adapted from Cooks Illustrated

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

mexican fiesta salad with cilantro lime vinaigrette

I've been on a total salad kick lately and I'm trying to go with it because it doesn't come around very often. Every week for the past month I have craved this grilled chicken mexican salad from one of my favorite mexican restaurants. After eating way too many chips and salsa and ordering this salad more times than I'd like to admit, I decided I had to start making this salad at home. It really is one of my favorite salads ever and it's made with the simplest ingredients. You can spice this salad up with some roasted jalapenos or use the cilantro lime vinaigrette to marinate chicken or shrimp.

And if you are anything like me and want to make leftovers out of everything in sight, you can save an opened avocado for later if you leave the pit in the unused half. To save guacamole, throw the avocado pit in the bowl and store the guacamole or unused avocado in an airtight container.

Mexican Fiesta Salad with Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette
makes 4 salads

for the salad
1 head of lettuce
1 c. pico de gallo (store bought or homemade)
1 c. queso fresco, crumbled
1/2 red onion, diced

cilantro lime vinaigrette
1 c. packed cilantro
1/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 c. lime juice
1/4 c. orange juice
1 tbsp honey
1 garlic clove, minced
pinch of salt and pepper

Blend or puree cilantro, olive oil, lime juice, orange juice, garlic, salt and pepper together in a blender or food processor.

Toss lettuce, pico de gallo, queso fresco, red onion, avocado and dressing together.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

vanilla bean cupcakes

I'm slowly realizing that I need to be planning fun, festive recipes weeks before a holiday actually hits so I can post them pre-holiday. Since I've surprisingly never baked cupcakes for my blog, I decided Valentine's day was the perfect occasion to try something new. My plan was to bake cupcakes with pink hearts baked into the middle. I decided to stick to basics with vanilla bean cupcakes so that the pink heart in the middle would really pop. But bad news, the pink heart would not stand up! I dyed about a cup of the cupcake batter pink and baked it into a thin layer, let it cool, cut-out small pink hearts with a cookie cutter and tried standing the hearts in the tin on a small amount of cupcake batter. But for some reason my pink hearts would not stand up in the cupcake tin. I keep telling myself they wouldn't stand up because the cupcake hearts were just so fluffy, but I'll probably never know because it was discouraging. Even through the hearts didn't work out, these cupcakes are so delicious and super vanilla-y. I can count the number of times I've used actual vanilla beans on one hand because they are expensive and a bit of a hassle but these cupcakes made me realize what a flavor difference they can make. Happy almost Valentine's day, hope you celebrate with someone special!

Vanilla Bean Cupcakes
makes 18 cupcakes

for the cake:
2 1/4 c. cake flour or all-purpose flour would work
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 c. whole milk, room temperature
4 egg whites, room temperature
1 stick of butter, softened
1 1/2 c. sugar
seeds from one vanilla bean
2 tsp pure vanilla extract

for the buttercream:
3 sticks of butter, softened
seeds from one vanilla bean
2 tsp clear vanilla extract
1 1/2 pounds of powdered sugar
4 tbsp whole milk

Preheat oven to 350°F. 

Sift flour, baking powder and salt together.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the milk and egg whites.

In a large bowl, beat the butter, sugar and vanilla bean seeds at medium speed until butter and sugar is light and fluffy. Add in the vanilla extract and one third of the flour mixture and mix well. Beat in half of the milk/egg mixture and then beat in half of the remaining flour mixture. Add the rest of the milk and eggs and beat mixture until it is smooth. Then add the last of the flour mixture and beat until smooth. Pour batter into cupcake tins.

Bake cupcakes for 18-24 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centers comes out clean.

To make the buttercream, beat butter and vanilla bean seeds until fluffy. Slowly add confectioners sugar and beat until smooth. Add in vanilla and 3 tbsp of milk, blending on low speed until combined.

Recipe from My Baking Addiction

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