Monday, October 24, 2016

Almost Home

So we moved a few weeks ago. I guess really it has been about 2 months, which I can't believe. This transition has given me so much to think about, so many things to process and write about, and I haven't acted on any of those promptings. So, here's where I'll start, and maybe I'll figure out some direction as I go.

Really, I guess that is what I am trying to find. A new direction. It isn't that so many things have changed. The essential things have stayed the same. I still have my beautiful, noisy, creative, imperfect kids and my supportive husband. I still have my faith, family, and friends. Some of those things are even closer now. And some of those things are further away.

I'd forgotten how hard it can be to start over in a place. True, I only moved about 40 minutes away from where I used to live, but this move has meant finding a new center. Logistically speaking, it was easy. Everything I could possibly need is within 10 minutes of our new home, which is amazing and convenient. The kids' rooms are painted and the kitchen is set up, and I have a few decorative things on the walls, so we're getting there. Most of my things have a place now.

But my heart isn't here yet.

I know. I know. I know that can't happen overnight, or even in eight weeks. And I know that this will be a great place for my family. It already is. My kids can play outside in the cul-de-sac, which I've always wanted because I lived on a cul-de-sac for a time growing up and those late-night hide and seek games are cherished memories. And we have a yard, with a great garden, a peach, pear, and apple tree. Our neighbors have been friendly, and we have kids just come knock on the door to play- none of that planning a playdate business! The girls have adjusted to school and are riding the bus without tears. My husband is talking and making friends and being himself in ways I've never really seen before, maybe because we are not living in the midst of his old high school stomping grounds. And we have a beautiful staircase, counter space in the kitchen, and all the rooms we knew we needed.

We did need this. I'm pretty sure we did because this house has all the things we talked about needing some day. And people have said that we need This house is a better fit for us. It is very practical and we have room to breathe. Our stuff has room to breathe. And I know that I was the one in the past who brought up change, who bragged about moving around as a kid, who valued change just for the sake of change, who never lived anywhere for more than 4 years at a time. I was the one who knew we could transition just fine because...and now I don't even know why! It can only be arrogance and forgetfulness. Like deciding to have a baby again. You forget some of the unpleasantness in exchange for a wonder.

But my heart isn't here yet. I left it at home, in my little brick house built in 1941 where we brought our babies home. I left it in the squeaky hardwood floors that prevented any sneaking around upstairs and left no question where the kids were running. I left it in my small but cozy kitchen with cream colored shaker-style cabinets that I didn't pick out, but would have, with our dining space just big enough to squeeze everyone around the table as long as you didn't need to open the fridge. I miss my built in shelf in the kitchen and the smell of roast cooking because it made our home smell a little bit like a crowded grandma's house, full of family, and I felt glad to be part of that legacy of memories. I miss my yard, the trees and bushes surrounding us instead of a fence. The weeds in the grass stressed me out! But it was beautiful, and fresh, and green, and not spectacular. It was just normal.

I miss my porch. I miss my kids eating ice cream on the porch, watching cars and people walk by. I miss having to make sure they didn't run too far down our huge driveway and into traffic, because the littles would get carried away in their play and forget to stay back. I miss those nights when my kitchen was clean, the dishwasher quietly humming, the only light on was the warm yellow light above the microwave, my babies asleep, when I knew there wasn't a more comforting place in all the world. I was so satisfied, and calm, and contented. This was my dream space- cozy, brick, and filled.

I don't forget the crowdedness, or the sense of frustration I had trying to make things fit. I don't miss the stress of trying to balance needs and wants, Pinterest plans and budget realities. I can't forget mowing the lawn and praying to God wondering how we could move forward. I don't miss the cat room, or the indoor cats. I don't miss not being able to walk around our bed because the closet doors blocked the way, and that we couldn't open the windows in the basement because I had painted them shut in my over-zealous project mania a few years ago. I don't miss feeling like I was missing out, or that my kids were because we couldn't afford to do all the things. Or, more correctly, we chose to afford a cozy home full of heart, in a great neighborhood with great schools. over all the things. We will be the Weasleys, I told myself. And that was enough.

But then last year I spent a week in the hospital with pneumonia and when I came home, for the first time I looked at my house and knew deep down it wasn't my forever house. I saw it differently for the first time. I didn't like that feeling. So we pushed it away. We weren't ready to change in so many ways, so there. Fine. So we had a beautiful Princess and the Frog birthday party with food and music from the bayou! And Thanksgiving, and a Christmas, and more birthdays, and then...we got the house ready in two weeks and sold it in a day and a half.

It was exciting. It was a project. It was a game. But, it was right. I know it was.

But why is my heart still there?

I can't look at my old house without crying. I can't write about it without crying. I can't drive up there or visit without my heart, my chest, physically aching. And it isn't just the space. It is the trees in the neighborhood, and walking to the library, and friends. What a difference it makes going through a mundane trip to the store when there is the strong probability you will see someone you know! Even if you don't want to see them because your hair is in a mom-bun and you may not have a bra on! Or going to the gym where they know you and your kids and you can sweat with your friends. Or just going on a walk with a destination, seeing familiar faces, feeling valued. I hadn't realized how much happiness that brought me. I knew people. I loved them because I had served them. They had served me. They knew and loved my family. None of us were perfect, but there were times when I was needed and that meant something.

I realize I can have that again. And I realize it takes time. And I realize it was largely my choice, and my family is happy here, in the new house. But I can't see long-term here yet, although that is the plan. And I know this is a new start, a new chance to redefine myself, but I'm not sure yet what I even want to be, or what to change, or any of it because I can't gain any traction. I'm not sure where I am needed yet, or who to serve. My efforts to help out at the school have fizzled, and my resolve to be 100% dependable has gone a bit flat.

This move has made me profoundly aware and embarrassed because I am sure there were other people who experienced similar feelings of confusion, melancholy, and loss in moving to my old neighborhood, and maybe I didn't reach out enough to them. And I think of all the people in the world now displaced from what they loved, from home, and my heart aches for them. I hope I can call it empathy. I know it isn't the same experience at all, but if my choice of moving from good and comfort to more comfort brings with it so much baggage, I can only imagine what others are experiencing and I pray for them more sincerely. I haven't experienced it all, but I know what I feel and I pray to One who has experienced it all. That has to mean something.

There are others within my sphere of influence that I can help and I'm shocked at my lack of sensitivity when I realize there were ways I can help that have never occurred to me. I'm sorry for that. Change brings with it a measure of self-absorption which is necessary to getting things done, but I don't want it to become self-sustaining. True, we are still getting the hang of things here. On top of keeping house and keeping my kids happily alive, there are the projects yet to be done. True there is a time and a season. But it is a little embarrassing how many times I have used "I," even writing this entry!

But really, I'm not talking about house projects. It isn't about self-deprecation. Mostly I want to say that I miss my home. I miss feeling home, the good and the bad. I feel like I'm getting over a long term relationship that ended on good terms and for the right reasons, but I'm still desperately in love. Isn't that odd?  And tonight it gets to be ok that my tears are still hot and near the surface, right? I can do hard things! I'm hoping that in acknowledging my grief for a wonderfully, unexpected and great blessing that I can start to let myself honestly come here- that I can start to come home.

( You'll need some good cheese to go with all this whining. Haha! Or at least some good bread. So...)

Bake the bread. Share the slices.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Healthy Gluten-Free Dairy-Free Zucchini Bread

First recipe post in months and it is an original. But! There are hardly any pictures because it got too dark and the lighting got bad. Not that you can tell I worry about lighting when I take pictures, but I've got to start trying, so there you go. Still, I'm trying to hurry and get this posted because you are interested.

This recipe was a giant experiment and a thrilling success. I owe the gluten-free part to Bob's Red Mill 1 to 1 baking flour. It works magnificently. If you aren't worried about gluten, just use all-purpose flour. The bread retains a really great texture, and is moist and perfect. The dairy-free part comes from using coconut oil instead of butter. I love the slight coconut flavor, but it is very, very subtle. You could use just vegetable oil or butter if you don't have coconut oil.

The biggest motivation in making this bread was I wanted a healthier recipe without 1-2 cups of sugar in one loaf of bread! I know it tastes good, but all the good zucchini bread recipes seem to have at least 1 cup of oil and 2 cups of sugar. Not everyday, but today the very thought of that filled me with guilt! I'm trying to cut back on my sugar, and I also know that if I bake I will eat more than one slice, cookie, or bite. That's the truth. So, I had 2 goals in mind when I made this bread.
  1. Make deliciously healthy zucchini bread without all that sugar.
  2. Make deliciously healthy zucchini bread without all that sugar that my family will eat.
The 2 cups of shredded zucchini keep the bread beautifully moist, and the 2 ripe bananas subsidize the reduced amount of sugar. You won't miss that it! My Stella said this was the best bread ever, and she is my most honest kid. Like she'll straight up tell me in a matter-of-fact voice that dinner is gross and she doesn't like it, and feel no remorse. So, if she says the bread is good, the bread is good.

This healthy, gluten and dairy-free zucchini bread recipe takes the cake, if you know what I mean! Next time I may try to cut the sugar down to 1/4 cup, but we'll see what happens. I also like spices, especially nutmeg. If you aren't a fan, play with the spices as you will. One final tip, if I may...

  • Really do use room temperature eggs. Cold eggs make the coconut oil harden. 
  • To quickly bring the eggs to room temperature, heat  some water in the microwave for about a minute. Place the eggs in the warm water while you get ready to bake. By the time you are ready, the eggs will be too. :)
 I hope there is some of this healthy zucchini bread left for breakfast!

Bake the bread. Share the slices.

Healthy Gluten-free, Dairy-free Zucchini Bread

  • 1/2 cup coconut oil, softened or room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 2 cups flour, Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free 1 to 1 Baking Flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp cloves
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 2 cups shredded zucchini
Cooking Directions
  1. 1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Prepare 9x5 loaf pan with non-stick spray.
  2. 2. In a large bowl, whisk together sugar and softened coconut oil. Add room temperature eggs.
  3. 3. Mix in dry ingredients. Add mashed banana and zucchini. Pour into pan.
  4. 4. Bake for 60 minutes or until center is done and toothpick comes out clean.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Blueberry Peach Crumble Crisp

What is the difference between a crisp and a crumble? I'm not exactly sure about that. That is why I'm calling it a crumble crisp. (Would it be more charming if I spelled it crumblecrisp, krumble-krisp, or perhaps a crispumble?) What I am sure about is that this is one of the most gorgeous desserts I have ever made. I started beaming when I saw how pretty these fruits look together. Ripe, fuzzy peaches. Firm, dark as midnight blueberries. Look at that! This crisp looks like twilight meets dawn. Romance for your taste buds. Then I took a bite of this silky, crunchy dessert and I had perma-grin for the next four hours!

And yet, this blueberry peach crumble crisp isn't too sophisticated for a summer evening. Sweet, tangy fruit with a crunchy, cinnamonny, oaty topping, swimming in melting vanilla ice cream, it is the perfect finish for any August meal. Actually, it is the perfect finish for most meals. Honestly, it is even a perfect finish for itself as a meal, which I discovered the next day when I ate it for lunch.

Because it is lovely, warm and oozing with charm, this fruity crisp begs for friends, so as soon as I pulled this precious from the oven I called my best friend Alicia to come partake. And we did partake. Generously. The beautiful blueberry-peach juices cooled into a purply, sweet jelly which clung with the buttery crumble topping on the rim of our spoons, making teeth-skimming of the spoons a must.

Typical crisp/crumble/cobbler recipes have half the amount of topping that I used on this treasure. I like the texture, I like the crunch, I love the way the clumps of topping absorb the fruity juices. I really love that extra topping makes a bowl of this crisp feel like a meal, the virtues of which I extolled before. So, I doubled the original and I have no regrets.

Best of all, this is a simple recipe. Sticky, because peeling peaches is sticky, but very simple. Simply amazing.

Blueberry Peach Crisp


  • 2 cups blueberries
  • 6 peaches, peeled and sliced (about 2 1/2 cups)
  • 1 tbs lemon juice
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup flour
Topping for the Crisp
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 12 tbs cold butter, cubed
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9x9 glass baking dish with cooking spray.
  2. Combine fruit, lemon juice, sugar, vanilla, and flour in a large bowl. 
  3. In a second bowl, whisk together flour, oats, sugar, salt, and cinnamon. Add the cubed butter and, using your fingers, crumble together with the dry ingredients. (Try not to snack on all of it!)
  4. Pour the fruit into the baking dish. Evenly distribute the crumble topping over the fruit. Bake for 40-45 minutes, until golden brown and bubbling.
  5. Serve warm with ice cream or cream, at room temperature with the same, or even cold!

Mmmmm. Bake the crumble crisp. Share by the bowlful.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Mississippi Mud Cake

Remember that time I was on KUTV on Father's Day? No? Click here to catch the whole thing!

Gooey, brownie-like cake. Toasted, melted marshmallows. Chocolate Chip Fudge Frosting.

Sounds like a hot, sticky, mess, right?

It is, but it isn't. It is, but it isn't! 

Introducing Mississippi Mud Cake! Growing up, I kind of thought this was my dad's cake because he was the one that would request it. My mom would make Mississippi Mud Cake with marshmallow cream and homemade chocolate buttercream frosting, and we would always eat it when the cake was no where near cool. It was so sugary, chocolaty, and rich that it would give me a headache. I would decide I didn't like Mississippi Mud Cake, until later when I would find the fork my mom left in the cake pan. Then I would realize the cake was uneven and in the spirit of family unity I would try to "even up the rows" of cake because you can't leave cake looking uneven!

Then, my mom would come by and notice I hadn't done a great job of making the Mississippi Mud Cake look even, plus the marshmallow cream was oozing out by now, so she would take the fork and try to "even out the cake." And over the course of the next day, we would continue to "even out" the cake, straight out of the pan, until it was gone. It was a good strategy though, because then I could say I only had one slice of cake, technically.

Little Red Hen's Mississippi Mud Cake has all the delicious features I grew up with but, possibly, perfected. I add chocolate chips and shredded coconut to the batter, both of which are optional. I also use miniature marshmallows and pour on my Chocolate Chip Fudge Frosting while the marshmallows are still gooey, giving  this Mississippi Mud Cake its marshmallowy, fudgy swirled

In looking at the ingredients, you might think this is just a glorified sheet cake. It could be. But, baking Mississippi Mud Cake in a 9x13 pan, and adding coconut and chocolate chips dresses it up. Try it out, and be sure to eat it with a fork...right out of the pan.

Mississippi Mud Cake

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup butter, room temperature
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/3 cup cocoa
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup shredded coconut
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 small bag miniature marshmallows
  1. Pre-heat over to 300 degrees. Grease a 9x13 pan. 
  2. In a large bowl, cream sugar and butter until light and fluffy.
  3. Add eggs one at a time, until fully incorporated.
  4. Sift together flour, cocoa, and salt. Add to eggs, butter and sugar.
  5. Stir in vanilla. Fold in chocolate chips and coconut. Batter will be thick and fluffy.
  6. Pour (spoon) batter into  prepared cake pan. Bake for 35 minutes. 
  7. Pour marshmallows evenly onto cake and return cake to oven for another 5 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly while preparing Chocolate Chip Fudge Frosting.
  8. Make Chocolate Chip Fudge Frosting. Pour directly onto warm cake. Use a knife to make a marbled swirl, if desired.

Bake the bread. Share the slices. 

Monday, May 30, 2016

Dear Oregon: On Change

Dear Oregon,

Why did your western side have to be so green and wooded? Why did Portland have to become this beautiful food mecca, full of insane donuts, ridiculous ice cream, and white truffle oil fries? Why does your cost of living have to be comparable to here? Why do your jobs have to pay so much more?

In short, why did you have to be so wonderful that my best friend decided to move there?

I understand, Oregon, that in writing this I may alienate some of my other friends. That's not my intention and it isn't about that. It isn't like I don't have other amazing friends. I have friends that have moved away before, and we friendship other from afar. We visit, and call each other, and the distance doesn't make a difference. Really, I'm so blessed.

And I know, Oregon, I know, that life is about change. I know, how many people live within 20 minutes of their best friend from high school for 15 years. And while we're on the subject, how did that happen?

15 years? Really? Indulge my sentimentality, but we were just there dropping Peeps on doorsteps, being disruptive in AP European History (which we still cringe about because we were never disruptive in any other class). All those drawings about putting our eggs in one basket, and eating hamburgers until we're fat as we want to be!

We started college together. We've started and quit jobs. We've been through three weddings, one divorce, and six babies. We've discussed the ridiculous political scene, the regrets and joys of being a working mom, the regrets and joys of being a stay-at-home mom. There's all the stories about the ridiculous people she meets, or the new shows that I should watch on Netflix that I'll never watch because I still don't have Netflix.There's been races run, shameless dressing up for free Chick-fil-a, baby blessings, birthday parties, and so many conversations about the virtues of baking with butter.

And Oregon, it isn't like our friendship is something from out of a movie, at least a chick-flick. It is more like a B-rated student film festival movie. We don't have girls' weekends, or stay up late painting our toenails and eating cookie dough. (If we eat cookie dough, it is during the day, thankyouverymuch.) We don't go shopping together and we rarely discuss fashion. Instead, we discuss food...a lot. There have been moments of annoyance and insecurity. There have been months where we don't see each other or talk, and then one of us pops out of the abyss and we don't say anything about the absence because these 'breaks' are part of our normal, comfortable cycle. You know, like, whatever.

At first I thought I didn't have pictures of the two of us since high school. I was wrong. I just had to check her Facebook feed. I still don't have a smartphone and rarely carry a camera. If the event was documented, it is because Alicia took the pictures. But some of the most beautiful pictures are the ones she took of my kids on the slip n' slide, or at the park, or as a newborn, so neither of us make it in the shot.

And Oregon, the significance of that absence is real. She's usually the one behind the camera because she's better at the photo thing. So when major life events come, she takes the pictures. Every baby blessing, all the over-the-top birthday parties in my backyard which end up following the same essential pattern (themed food, a few relay games, and the trampoline).

So, she's not in the picture because she is taking the pictures. The fact that there are pictures proves that my best friend was there. So, in a way, she is the picture. And I am terrified of the day that we will finally, purposefully, take a picture with the two of us in the same frame, with our hair done, not dressed as cows, not at a child's birthday party, because the only reason we would take a picture like that would be because one of us might not be there for the next major event. And I don't really want to think about that.

And soon everything we do will gain significance because it might be "the last." The last lunch date/blog planning/catch-up session, the last play-date for the kids, the last game night, the last time we share a baking success or excess of treats. Soon I'll make that last horrendous hike from the parking lot to her apartment carrying a heavy baby. What do I do with that responsibility- of marking "the last time"? I don't like that kind of weight on everyday occurrences. Probably we won't do anything about it, and we'll downplay the fact that these little things are important. I'll cry at my house, she'll cry at hers.

But what in the world do you do to celebrate the end of an era? How do you appropriately mark it? Maybe in all your wonder, Oregon, you have a good idea? Pass it along if you do, because I'm at a loss. That's really the problem. And I'm filled with this sense that I haven't given as much as I've received. Do you know what I mean?

So, Oregon, this isn't just about you. You're the unfortunate scapegoat. And this isn't just about my friend and me. It is just the beginning of summer and people are graduating, moving on. This is about losing a bit of what is good and familiar to something unknown. This is about marriage, divorce, death, and birth. This is about parents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, boyfriends, girlfriends, and neighbors. This is about the fact that in 6 years my daughter will be 18 and ready to do all the "grown-up" things that my friend and I have done. Ultimately, I think it is about the assurance that change is the right thing for someone you care about, but not seeing clearly how it is right for you because it isn't about you. So it hurts a little bit.

Maybe things won't change at all. But some things will. I know it. I can call her. I know there's still Facebook. I know I can come visit. Maybe a visit will be best because she's promised to show me all the reasons why she loves you, Oregon. So, maybe then I'll have a reason to love you, too.

You know, new memories with an old friend.

Cheers, Oregon.


Thursday, May 26, 2016

Healthy Chocolate Banana Bread

You won't miss the sugar in this easy-to-make, naturally sweetened bread!

chocolate banana bread no dairy no sugar coconut oil

My 6-year-old tells me this tastes like a chocolate donut, and I absolutely agree. I don't know if you are familiar with Dunford Chocolate Donuts, but this bread is like that donut's attractive, more athletic cousin. So really, maybe this is better, because there is no guilt involved with this Healthy Chocolate Banana Bread, whereas the donut tends to leave me wishing I'd spent more time on the treadmill. 

I really wanted to create a treat that was less treat-ish. Something with which I could trick my family, and my sweet tooth. My banana bread recipe rules, as does my Healthy Coconut Banana Bread, so I decided to experiment. Dark chocolate cocoa powder is one of my favorite kitchen staples, and I had all this Quest protein powder, so I created some magic. The recipe below is the result of multiple test batches, and has been tasted by rigorous testers, and it has handled the pressure beautifully! Did I mention yet that this bread has no added refined sugar?
chocolate banana bread no dairy no sugar coconut oil

OK. Let me clarify before anyone freaks out. I added no white or brown sugar, or honey, or agave. None. I did  add semi-sweet chocolate chips. You can check the ingredients of your preferred brand to see what they use to sweeten their chips and choose accordingly. Also, I recognize that the yogurt I used, Dannon Oikos Triple Zero Vanilla Yogurt, has some sort of sweetener, and that the Quest Vanilla Protein Powder has a minimal amount of sweetener. All that said, most of the sweetness comes from the ripe bananas, and the miraculous thing is that the dark chocolate flavor from the cocoa and chocolate chips justifies the lack of sugar. You don't miss it. 

chocolate banana bread no dairy no sugar coconut oil

I know that many people, (well, I say many, but...) may read this and think, "I don't have all of these ingredients and I don't want to buy them." That's fine with me! Substitute all you want.  Use regular yogurt, or sour cream for the high-protein Greek stuff. Or, you could easily make this bread dairy-free by subbing coconut or soy yogurt for the Greek yogurt. Skip the protein power if you don't have it. You have my permission, not that you need it! 

I knew I would change all that stuff if my kitchen wasn't stocked that way. So, I also made a batch of Healthy Chocolate Banana Bread without the special ingredients, just cutting way back on sugar and using regular cocoa powder, regular yogurt, no protein powder. I even used milk chocolate chips. Amazingly, I couldn't really tell that the loaf with sugar was sweeter.  That's with adding 1/4 cup of sugar! What!?!

Amazingly, the dark chocolate "healthier" version was richer, moister, and better. My Stella likes it more, and so did my other guinea pigs. (Thanks BoTS friends!) Plus, I think it is prettier. See how dark it is? So intense. I love that color. And the fact that this bread tasted delicious made me do a dance. Several times. And I ate it for dinner the night I made it, which perhaps defeated the purpose of healthier chocolate banana bread, but there is over 40 grams of protein in one loaf! So I was like, "It's fine."

chocolate banana bread no dairy no sugar coconut oil

One final note: this bread doesn't taste super banana-ish. And if you use coconut oil, you'll get a hint of that too. Mostly, you'll just be tasting wonderful, wonderful chocolate. I'm excited for you to try this! Whenever you do, in no time you'll be left with this:

Healthy Chocolate Banana Bread

Recipe by Little Red Hen
Chocolaty, moist, delicious bread sweetened with bananas. No added sugars, easily non dairy, and packed with protein.
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 60-90 minutes
Total time: Under 2 hours
Yield: 1 loaf
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup dark cocoa powder
  • 1 cup Greek vanilla yogurt, I used Oikos Triple Zero
  • 2 cups flour (1 cup white, 1 cup wheat)
  • 1 scoop Quest Vanilla Protein Powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3-4 small bananas, mashed
  • 1/4 cup almond milk
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
Cooking Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Prepare a 9" loaf pan with non-stick spray.
  2. In a large bowl, mix melted coconut oil with cocoa powder. Add dry ingredients and yogurt. Beat in eggs, mashed bananas, and milk. Fold in chocolate chips.
  3. Bake for 60-90 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.
Bake the bread. Share the slices.

chocolate banana bread no dairy no sugar coconut oil

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Pennsylvania Dutch Pies

Delicious, flaky and meaty, these pies are a sure family favorite!

It kind of feels like the wrong time of year to make these Pennsylvania Dutch Pies, but it is rainy and cloudy again here, so I think it is still a good idea to eat them. Plus, they taste really, really good. Is there ever a bad time to eat something that is really, really good? I can't think of one. At first I thought, "A funeral is a bad time to be eating really, really good food," but then I remembered you always have a good luncheon and talk about happy memories at funerals, so that's out. Then I thought maybe standing in line at the DMV would be another inappropriate time, but then that is such a miserable experience that really, really good food could only improve the situation. 

Perhaps during the second act of an opera would be a bad time, (although I do have a story which involves a symphony, my little brother, a large leather jacket, and the smell of chicken fingers wafting through the air, but that story is for another day.) Of course, the bathroom is the obvious bad place to eat really, really good food. But let's not go there...figuratively.

These Pennsylvania Dutch Pies are easy, delicious, and an easy freezer meal. Ground beef, cheese, and cabbage may sound kind of boring, but the dijon mustard makes them taste awesome. The first time I had these Dutch Pies was my birthday a few years ago. I thought we would go out to dinner, but our night was running late and my best buddy, Alicia, had gotten my husband and I tickets for Peter Breinholt's Christmas concert. There was a huge snowstorm, so we crawled downtown,  parked, and got to the concert in plenty to time to sit, but not in enough time to eat dinner. The concert was amazing- I got to be with some of my favorite people and listen to my favorite music in a beautiful place- but by the time we got home it was WAY late. I'll admit, I was a little grumpy that my birthday dinner was a lame ol' freezer meal until I took a bite. Happy birthday to me! Pennsylvania Dutch Pies are tasty! And now you can make them too, even if it isn't your birthday. 

Pennsylvania Dutch Pies

  • 1 onion, chopped 
  • 2 cloves of minced garlic
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 4 cups shredded green cabbage
  • 3 tbs dijon mustard
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • salt and pepper
  • 2-3 premade pie crusts
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 tsp water
  1. In a large skillet, cook ground beef, onion, and garlic until juices run clear and beef is thoroughly cooked. Drain grease, if desired.
  2. Add cabbage and cook until wilted, about 5-10 minutes.
  3. Remove from heat and add mustard and cheese. Add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside to cool slightly.
  4. On a floured surface, roll out pie crust. Cut into 4 pieces. Lightly fold each piece of crust in half, so there is a gently crease.
  5. Put about 1/2 cup beef onto each piece of pie crust. Fold in half and use a fork to seal the halves together. Repeat until all filling is used.** Refrigerate pies for 30 minutes.
  6.  Preheat oven according to pie crust instructions, or 450 degrees. Place pies onto prepared cookie sheet.
  7. ***Mix egg white with 1 tsp water. Whisk with a fork and spread onto each pie. 
  8. Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until pies are golden brown. Serve immediately.
**3 crust are needed for 12 pies. 2 crust will make 8 pies and the additional filling can be frozen, or it is pretty tasty in a warm tortilla with extra cheese. Yum...

***To prepare pies as a freezer meal, once pie crusts are filled, wrap individual pies in freezer paper and seal in Ziploc bags. Do not do egg white wash until ready to bake. To bake, unwrap frozen pies, brush pies with egg wash, and bake at 450 degrees for 15-20 minutes, until pies are cooked through and golden brown.

Bake the bread. Share the slices. 

Monday, May 9, 2016

Healthy Coconut Banana Bread

I love eating treats for breakfast. Cookies, bars, breads. Waking up knowing there is something awesome upstairs waiting for me in the kitchen makes me so happy! It is something to look forward a little private holiday that only I am celebrating. Sure, I could wait until lunch to indulge, but I don't. It is a bad habit. Recently though, I read that having something sweet after breakfast can curb cravings later in the day. Now that is a healthy eating tip I can get behind! So, I had to come up with something I could feel good about eating in the morning. Enter Coconut Banana Bread!

This Healthier Coconut Banana Bread is roughly based on my Best Banana Bread. However, I switched it up and I feel great about it. Coconut oil replaces the butter and gives great flavor. I added desiccated coconut, (that stuff you see sprinkled all over smoothie bowls), that I got at Sprouts. I used a combination of white and whole wheat flour to prevent the bread from being too heavy. But the best substitution is getting rid of the sugar! No white sugar in this bread! Just 1/4 cup honey, combined with ripe bananas and some yogurt, is enough to keep this bread sweet. Scoff if you will, but I'm being honest!

Tasty and moist, this Coconut Banana Bread has a great texture and is just sweet enough to to start my day off happy. Or to stave off my late-afternoon sugar cravings. I like to top it with Earth Balance Coconut Peanut spread at breakfast. I love happy, healthier mornings!

Healthy Coconut Banana Bread

  • 1/2 cup coconut oil, softened
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 large bananas, mashed
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup nonfat vanilla Greek yogurt
  • 2 cups wheat flour (or 1 cup white, 1 cup wheat)
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup desiccated coconut (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Prepare an 8" loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl cream together the coconut oil, honey, mashed bananas, eggs and yogurt. 
  3. Mix in flours soda, powder, salt and coconut until just combined. Pour into loaf pan.
  4. Bake until golden brown and toothpick comes out clean, about 40 minutes. 
  5. Let cool in pan for 5 minutes. Remove from pan continue cooling on cooling rack. 

Bake the bread. Share the slices.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Citrus Pound Cake

Happy Mother's Day week! Happy May! Happy better-bust-out-the-razor-and-shave-because-it-is-shorts-weather! It is beautiful outside today. So beautiful that I'd honestly rather be outside watching my kids play in the yard than writing, but it has been a long time and I found a little pocket of time. It was either post, or take a nap, and today the post won. So I guess I win too! But you definitely win because you are looking at a perfect spring and Mother's Day pound cake.

Light and bright with citrus flavors, this pound cake doesn't feel like a pound cake. I mean, it is still loaded with butter and sugar as all self-respecting pound cakes should be. But, orange, lemon, and lime juices,give this pound cake a springy lift. After eating a slice you feel happy and satisfied. No heavy weight of regret. That's a Happy Mother's Day right there!

I also made a citrus simple syrup to pour over the cake. The lemon and lime juice, water, and sugar combine to add a slight crunch to the cake before icing. Plus, the syrup intensifies the pound cake as the citrus flavor in the cake is fairly subtle.

I topped the cake with a pourable cream cheese icing because I thought it would look pretty. I did a fine, not incredible, job of pouring it. More important was the flavor! The tang of the cream cheese really paired well with the sweet citrus of the pound cake. Add some fresh lemon, lime, and orange zest for color and voila! You've got the perfect end to your Mother's Day brunch or dinner. The only thing that can make this cake better would be a guarantee that someone else will do the dishes!

Citrus Pound Cake

  • 1 1/2 cups butter, room temperature
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp lemon extract
  • 5 eggs
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a bundt or tube pan with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, cream butter, sugar, vanilla and lemon extract. Add eggs, one at a time, until incorporated.
  3. Add flour and baking powder. Slowly stream in milk and orange juice. Mix until just combined.
  4. Pour batter into bundt pan and bake for 1 hour and 20 minutes, or until golden brown and cake tester comes out clean. (If cake is browning too quickly, use foil to cover edges.)
  5. Cool upside down on a cooling rack for easier removal from bundt pan.
  6. While cake bakes and cools, make Simple Syrup.
  7. Pour syrup over cake.
  8. While syrup sets, make Cream Cheese Icing.
  9. Pour icing over cake and top with fresh citrus zest.
Citrus Simple Syrup
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • zest from 1 lemon 
  • zest from 1 lime
  • juice from 1 lime
  • Juice from 1 lemon
  1. Heat sugar, zest, and water in a small pot over medium-high heat, stirring consistently, until sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil.
  2. Pour through a sieve if desired, and cool completely before pouring over cake.
Pourable Cream Cheese Icing
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 4 oz cream cheese, room temperature (really important if you don't want lumpy icing!)
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream (or milk)
  • 3 tbs water or orange juice
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp lemon extract
  • lemon, lime, and orange zest
  1. In a large bowl or food processor, combine powdered sugar, cream cheese, cream, orange juice and extracts. Beat until smooth, adding additional water if necessary, a teaspoon at a time. Pour over cake.
  2. Let set 20 minutes before slicing. 

Bake the bread. Share the slices.