Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Whole Wheat Honey Banana Bread
Staying on trend with the healthy and sensible sweets I've decided to share with you an awesome recipe for Banana bread. Last year during the holidays Husband couldn't get enough of this banana bread and this season was no different. There are some fantastic recipes out there for this very traditional staple and by no means will this particular recipe blow the mind of your grandmother but if you're like us and you want to enjoy little things like banana bread without wanting to run to the gym immediately afterwards then read on and give this sweet treat a try.

This quick bread is anchored by whole wheat flour (definitely adds fantastic texture) and sweetened primarily by super ripe bananas (I'm talking straight up almost about to rot on your kitchen counter ripe) and a hint of honey. It's extremely moist and very hearty- one modest slice is all you need to feel satisfied. =) Well, let's get on with it I suppose.

  • Here's what you need:
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4-1/2 cup honey, depending on your taste, usually 1/4 cup is just right for us
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup mashed bananas (about two large)
  • 1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 scoop of protein powder (we use ON Gold standard, Banana flavor)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 cup hot water
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare loaf pan with parchment paper.

Combine oil, honey, and vanilla extract in large bowl. Add eggs and banana and mix until well incorporated. Add flour, protein powder, and salt. In a small bowl add baking soda to hot water and mix until dissolved then add to mixture and stir once more. At this point you can gently fold in your chopped nuts and then pour into prepared pan. Bake for 50-60 minutes. 

Adaptation of Zuzka's Power Balls

~Carrot Cake cookies~

So after the holidays and after all the sweet treats I made (but couldn't eat) I felt the need to refocus on my dietary needs without sacrificing my culinary stand point, which if you didn't know by this point is basically all about sweets! It's a tough gig and very tiresome but with the help of my favorite BodyRocker (and co-founder of the movement, Zuzana) I was able to satisfy my sweet tooth while sticking to my healthy eating lifestyle.

I made a batch of these cookies (although her version is called power balls) the other day and Husband absolutely adores them. You still have to keep moderation in mind but if you do happen to go overboard you're really not filling yourself with trash. 

Here's what you need:
1 cup of instant oatmeal, powdered
1 1/2 cup of almond meal*
2 heaping tbsp of honey
3 tbsp of coconut oil
1/4 cup of shredded coconut (unsweetened preferred)
1 cup of steamed baby carrots, mashed or pureed
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 scoop of vanilla protein powder (I used ON HydroWhey)
1 tsp baking powder

*For almond meal you just use a food processor to grind the almonds until there are no large chunks. Use this same technique for the oatmeal to get oatmeal powder. I've used both store bought almond meal and the almond meal I make myself and I prefer the texture of the homemade almond meal. 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. 
In a medium bowl mix together oatmeal powder, almond meal, vanilla protein powder, baking powder and pumpkin pie spice. Add mashed carrots, honey, coconut oil and vanilla extract until well incorporated then stir in shredded coconut. Drop by heaping tablespoonfuls onto a greased cookie sheet and bake for 25 minutes. Let cool 10-15 minutes before serving. 

Monday, January 23, 2012

New Year, New Adventures

This year I've decided that I want to try as many new things as possible. That means going to new places (quite possibly the easiest task on the list), trying new foods (stuff that I'm usually standoffish towards), playing new music, trying out new hobbies,etc. 

Since I love to bake I wanted to challenge myself a bit further to not only bake exclusively from scratch, but to branch out and try recipes that are intimidating and more difficult. To add to that I wanted to include Husband in my most enjoyed hobby, which is extremely new because normally he's not allowed in MY kitchen while I'm baking… it has something to do with my obsessive need for perfection and let me tell you in my mind you CAN crack an egg incorrectly. 

So every month Husband and I will pick a weekend to tackle a new cupcake recipe TOGETHER. To keep us from choosing the same types of cupcakes we've decided to have themes. We've chosen 6 types of cupcakes that we'll do twice throughout the year. Each quarter of the year will focus on different three types, trying not to overlap and hopefully as close to season as possible. This sounds confusing and I can't think of a way to explain it better so I apologize.

Anyway, these are the 6 types: chocolate, vanilla, fruit, filled, spiked and savory.

First up, we've chosen to go with a vanilla cupcake for January. It's fitting since we think of snow and white to symbolize the clean slate of the new year,etc. We've decided to pair the vanilla bean cupcake with a honey buttercream because we have an awesome local honey shop about 15 minutes away and since we usually have a stockpile of her honey in our cabinet we figured why not?!? 

My Sweet Honey Cup (Vanilla bean cupcake with Honey buttercream)
YIELD: 30 cupcakes
2 1/4 cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups milk, room temperature
4 large egg whites, room temperature
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
seeds scraped from one vanilla bean (<---New ingredient! I've never baked with a real vanilla bean before!)
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1. Center a rack in the oven to 350 degrees F. Line cupcake pan with  paper liners.
2. In a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside. In another bowl, whisk together the milk and egg whites.
3. Beat the butter, sugar and vanilla bean seeds at medium speed until the butter and sugar are very light, about 3 minutes. Add in the vanilla extract and one third of the flour mixture, still beating on medium speed. Beat in half of the milk-egg mixture, then beat in another third of the flour mixture until well incorporated. Add the rest of the milk and eggs, beating until the batter fully incorporated and smooth, then add the last of the dry ingredients.
5. Once ingredients are thoroughly incorporated, give the batter a good 2-minute beating to ensure that it is thoroughly mixed and well aerated. Using a 1/4 cup measure distribute the batter filling each well 2/3 full. I have a tiny Italian oven so I was only able to bake a dozen cupcakes at a time. Keep that in mind when setting a baking time.
6. Bake for 15-18minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centers come out clean. Cool on wire rack.
  • ½ cup Unsalted Butter, Softened
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1 lb  Confectioner's Sugar
  • 2/3 cup Honey*
  • 4-6 tbsp water, for thinning

Beat butter, shortening and honey together until well incorporated. Add confectioner's sugar and beat on low speed then slowly add in water a tablespoon at a time until you've reached your desired consistency. 

*I know this seems like a lot of honey, and to be honest it is. However, we used a very light honey called Acacia and so the flavor is sweet but not very evident. If you have a darker honey on hand start off using 1/3 cup and taste it before adding more. A darker honey tends to have a richer flavor.

Look at those gorgeous flecks of vanilla bean!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Christkindl Markt

Innsbruck, Austria

We took a quick drive up to Austria to check out the last few days of their awesome Christmas market. I'm quite certain that I would have stayed there forever if I could. The streets were lined with twinkling lights and beautiful old buildings, the air was brisk and filled with the aroma of gluhwein and brats. Snow flurries galore and the best company I could ever ask for. This trip didn't yield very many pictures because we were only there for a night and a day and we were very busy pub hopping (searching for that perfect mug of gluhwein, and in my case coffee) and no one really wanted to take their hands out of their gloves to mess around with cameras let alone having to stop and pose for pictures. It was kinda cold after all. =)

I did manage to snap a total of 4 pictures. 


This is the entrance to the city center where the market was set up. Pretty neat if you ask me… hence the picture. 

And sure, when you get to visit a place that is known for it's chocolate cake you partake in the festivities regardless of whether it's 9am and that's the first thing you've eaten all day. It was the best/worst decision I've ever made in my life. Super dense yet not heavy, perfect amount of sweetness with just a touch of citrus. Sacher torte is where it's at.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Foggy Friday the 13th.

 Just in case you like creepy images,
 I thought I'd share a quick snap shot 
of what our 13th looked like. 

I guess this one isn't so creepy with my little pup in view. 

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

New Year's Eve in Venice

If you've never been to Venice let me just say that it is like a fairytale. Every single building, bridge or boat you happen to look at is immediately and always a postcard waiting to happen. It doesn't matter if you're a terrible photographer using a flip phone camera, that picture will turn out BEAUTIFUL regardless. Husband and I had the ultimate pleasure of visiting Venice during my favorite time of year (winter) with two of our best friends who flew in exclusively to celebrate New Year's with us. 

Our journey started off very creepily. It was about 4 in the evening on New Year's Eve and a ridiculously heavy fog rolled in surrounding the bridge from mainland Italy to the island. So we could only see the road in front of us and nothing else. It was almost symbolic- like we didn't know what we were getting ourselves into. Just the idea of partying in Venice on this particular night was something that was hard for me to imagine. I hoped it would be fun and memorable but I just didn't realize how amazing of a time we would all have. 

Finally after tackling the hellacious situation that is parking within walking distance of Venice we immediately tried to get ourselves lost which is way easier than we thought and totally worth it. We stumbled across the restaurant that Zuzana and Freddy featured in one of their videos on Bodyrock.tv- I was rather tempted to do a burpee for them but I ended up not doing that (cold, rainy, and super high traffic made a burpee shout out impossible). There were so many awesome little streets within streets that led to the best spots for pictures. There were many little cafes and gelato shops sprinkled all over the place not to mention restaurants and souvenir shops. One of the coolest things I got to see that night was this awesome mask shop. They make and design all these gorgeous masks by hand which we're all about (supporting local businesses) so I decided that I'll go ahead and treat myself to a mask, but I couldn't decide which one I wanted and by the time Husband started losing focus, I had four masks in my hands! Since I couldn't take them all home, I decided I didn't want any. Call me a drama queen, I don't care. It's all or nothing with me! 

Three pit stops later and full bellies we started to make our way to Piazza San Marco where the main event takes place. When we arrived there had to have been 10,000 people there! For as far as my eyes could see in every direction there were people singing and dancing and having a blast of a time. 

I've included several photos below for you to take a peak at. We took so many pictures that my 'favorites' list pretty much consisted of 96% of the photos anyway.

I hope you enjoy them and leave a comment below telling me what you did for your NYE celebration.