Two In One

I really could go on and on about my love of different fruits. Today is National Blueberry Pie Day so I wanted to do something with blueberries to celebrate. Ever since Barry and I started dating, my love of all things blueberries keeps growing. One thing that hasn’t changed is my love of bananas, as you well remember Walnana!

You know when you but fruit, thinking it will be gone in no time, and suddenly realize “Oh darn! Its mushy”? Well, thats what was happening with the bowl of bananas on the counter. Almost completely black! Which, of course is perfect for baking!

Blueberry Banana Muffins!

make 16 cupcakes (12 muffins)

  • 1 cup mashed bananaWP_005748
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 Tbsp sugar free syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 cup liquid egg substitute
  • 1/2 cup flax milk
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/2 cup granulated Splenda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup blueberries
  • 1/2 to 2 Tbsp chia seeds (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 F. Combine the bananas through Splenda. In a separate bowl, combine cinnamon through oats. Fold in the blueberries and optional chia seeds. Divide amongst lined cupcake or muffin tins. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the centers come out clean.

Allow the muffins to cool for at least 10 minutes and dig in.

Nutrition (1/16 with 1/2Tbsp chia):

Calories: 74, Fat: 0.5g, Sat. Fat: 0g, Cholesterol: 0mg, Sodium: 162mg, Carbs: 15.7g, Fiber: 1.7g, Sugar: 2.5g, Protein: 1.9g

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You will not regret the aromas that travel throughout your home! Heavenly!

For the sake of the blog, I cut each muffin in half, and experimented with toppings. So far, I can vouch for plain muffin, sweetened cream cheese (fat free cream cheese with a sprinkle of Splenda, smashed banana, and, of course, nut butter!

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If I Only Had A Beer…

Barry and I have a a serious weakness for soft pretzels. In all honesty, anywhere, anytime describes our craving for the baked dough! Therefore, I set out to duplicate his favorite pretzel: Auntie Anne’s Jalapeno Pretzel.

Jalapeno Cheddar Pretzel

based off CCK’s recipe

makes 12WP_005723

  • 1 cup flax milk
  • 1 tsp white sugar
  • 1 Tbsp or 1 packet yeast
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp light brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp Splenda brown sugar blend
  • 2 Tbsp light butter spread
  • 1/2 cup pickle jalapeno slices, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 Tbsp granulate garlic
  • 1 Tbsp whole wheat flour, for dusting
  • 1/3 cup baking soda
  • 3 cups warm water
  • 1/2 cup fat free shredded cheddar cheese, finely chopped
  • more chopped jalapeno slices, if desired

Heat the milk and white sugar in the microwave for about 1 minute. Sprinkle the yeast on top, and set aside. (After about 5 minutes, the yeast with foam and bubble.) Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the flours, salt, and brown sugars. Cut in the butter spread. Combine with the yeast mixture, using your hands or stand mixer for around 5 minutes. (The dough will be tacky.)

Cover the large bowl of dough with a towel, and put in a warm place 70 minutes. (I microwave the bowl for 30-40 seconds and leave it in the microwave to rise). Preheat oven to 350 F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Proceed to spray the parchment paper with non-stick cooking spray. In a separate container, dissolve the baking soda in the warm water, and set aside.

Using your hands, mix in the chopped jalapeno and granulated garlic. Divide the risen, sticky dough into 12 even pieces (6 for larger pretzels). Sprinkle 1/4 tsp of the remaining flour around the first piece of dough. Roll it out into a thin strip of dough and make into your pretzel shape. (The technique Auntie Anne’s uses is a lot harder than it looks). Dip your shaped pretzel into the baking soda, shake to dry, and place pretzels on the sprayed parchment. Repeat this with the remaining dough.

Evenly sprinkle the chopped cheddar, and additional jalapenos, if desired, over the pretzels and bake for about 22 minutes. Just keep an eye on them after about 18 minutes.

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Nutrition (1/12):

Calories: 119, Fat: 1.1g, Sat. Fat: 0.1g, Cholesterol: 0.6mg, Sodium: 141.6mg, Carbs: 22g, Fiber: 1.8g, Sugar: 2.2g, Protein: 4.6g

Even if you make 6 large pretzels, this recipe saves you about hundred calories  and half the fat, from the Annie’s alternative!!

What a concept!

After making these, I met up with Barry and a few friends to celebrate a birthday. Upon arriving (I was late since I had work), Barry had a plate with about 3 bites of some cheesy, doughy thing on it. “I saved you the last bit of this…” What is it? It was a soft pretzel smothered in crab dip, monterey jack cheese, and green onions.

On the next batches of pretzels I have two goals:

  • Make my crab dip and smother my homemade jalapeno cheddar pretzel!
  • Work on perfecting a version of Auntie Anne’s Sweet Almond pretzel! That is truly my weakness when I’m at the mall! I can smell it 2o stores away!

When Did We Get So Old?

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Barry and I, along with two friends of ours, got the heck out of Delaware a few weeks ago. After Beauty’s passing, it could not have come at a better time.

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Gary and Maggie packed up their car with Leo, the Shepard, and I and Barry with Lily, the black Lab. We hit the road and after a couple hours on the road and few bathroom breaks in between, we arrived at a cute little cottage.

The night we got there, Maggie and I hit the grocery store, while the guys and the pups made themselves  at home. Maggie and I whipped up dinner and we were all  in bed by 10pm.

A brief background on Maggie and me. We have known each other since we were for, went through 9 years of school together, lost touch, and reconnected last year. True friendship is known when you don’t talk or see each other, but when you need them, they are there. Thats Maggie and me. Although we ha lost touch, when one of us needed the other, needed a place to go, or a shoulder to cry on, we were there.

As we were cooking dinner, we sipped on our glasses of wine. It was so amazing to think of how far we have come. Who would of thought that 18 years later we would be cooking dinner for our boyfriends and sharing a bottle of wine?

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Its a good thing we slept so well, too, because Maggie took Barry and I to the slopes. I have never skiied before and its something I’ve been wanted to cross off the Bucket List. After breakfast and a nice hike with Leo, Maggie, Barry and I headed to White Grass to test our my balance on cross country skis. I didn’t fall!!!!

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I’ll admit, that as much fun as it was, it was exhausting and rewarded myself with one of the fabulous house baked cookies from the lodge. Chai Sugar cookie sounded fantastic and I was not let down! I can’t wait to try to make these!

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White Grass kind of reminded me a bit of Fresh Thymes in that all the products are locally sourced, organic, vegan, and oh so yummy!

After enjoying our post-ski snacks, we hit the small town for some site seeing. We drove through a small town called “Thomas.” I immediately text my dad and questioned why he never told me he owned so much real estate. That was my attempt at humor… Barry quite enjoyed our brief tour of a small firehouse.

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One our way home, I required a serious pick me up. Maggie recommended a coffee shop called “Tip Top,” which reminded me of a smaller Bakeri. Ironically, they even sold chocolate from a shop headquartered around the corner from Bakeri. Barry ordered a Nutter Butter cookie sandwich, which was almost too rich. I said, “almost.”

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The following and final night was rather similar. As much as we wanted to hit the town, we decided to stay home and… wait for it… and play sherades. It was then, that we looked at each other and said, “When did we get so old?” Maggie and I drove into town to Hellbender Burritos, a hippie burrito joint with massive servings, while the guys ran out to grab beer and start a fire.

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No, those aren’t foil-wrapped foootballs. Those are our meals! I ordered the Gendarme with Seitan. How often do you see a burrito joint that offers seitan?! Oh yeah! I ate it open faced and loved the simplicity and marrying of flavors of the peppers, onions, and mushrooms. Barry ordered the pork Shovelhead, while Maggie and Garry both got the Hellbender with chicken. Needless to say, these burritos did not last long.

Whenever I travel anywhere, I always look for notable restaurants in the area. This trip was no different. Barry and I scoured numerous menus before deciding on The Boulevard Diner. Honestly, Barry had the final say. I was pretty surprised how quickly he demanded that this be our stop. After we watched a clip on youtube and Barry saw a quick glimpse of a sandwich piled high with meat, he shouted, “We’re going here!” While he was completely memorized with the sandwich, I was intrigued by the Sour Beef and Dumplings. Ginger Snaps in the sauce? MMMMMM! Since we had Lily in the car and had been delayed in traffic by a massive accident, I called and placed the order to go.

My conversation with the girl on the other line went like this:

“This sounds like a silly question, but we heard about you on Triple D and on the show there was this big sandwich piled with meat. Whats that called? I couldn’t find it on the menu posted on the website.”

“Not a problem. Thats the Big A… It stands for “The Big Ass.”

“Yeah, whats on that?”

“Yeah, so I’d like to place an order for pick up, please. I’ll take the Big A, the Baked Potato Imperial, and the Sour Beef and Dumplings.”

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I knew if I told my mom about the baked potato, she’d kill me if I didn’t  bring it home. She was tickled pink, we all were, after digging into a baked potato covered in crab meat. Not just any crab meat, lumps and chunks of crab meat!

WP_005572The sour beef and dumplings caught my eye because the sauce was made with gingersnaps! I adored this dish! That big tray was the half size! I can’t imagine ordering the full size. It really was sweet and sour! It was fantastic!

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Lastly, the Big A. On the show, it looks like a normal burger. Oh no! They handed us a cake box. I picked it up and it weighed a ton! I opened the box to find a 9in bun, piled with pit beef, corned beef, and shredded beef, all topped with tomato, lettuce, onion strings, and horseradish mayo! Oh! My! Goodness!

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I wound up weighing it when we got home and the it was over 2 pounds!

Its safe to say that this splurge made for multiple meals and we went to be with overly stuffed stomachs!

We are already planning a second trip to take dad since its only about 55 minutes away.

It was a brief, but so necessary get away. Great weekend!

Golumpki

No, I did not make up that word, like I did with Wal-nana

You know what it is, you’ve eaten it, you probably just know it by another name. Each culture has there own way of doing things: Asian countries make dumplings, Italians make ravioli, and Polocks make pierogies. Greeks stuff grape leaves, and Polocks stuff cabbage leaves…

I have a cabbage problem, in that I love it! It is one of the most versatile foods in the world, in my opinion.

Golumpki

makes about 20 rolls

The Roll:WP_005595

  • 1 large head cabbage
  • 2 Tbsp quinoa
  • 1 lb extra lean ground turkey
  • 8 oz mushrooms
  • salt and pepper, to taste*

The Sauce:

  • 1 cup Campbell’s Condensed Tomato Soup
  • 1 cup red tomato pasta sauce, your favorite (50 calories or less)
  • 1 1/4 cup water

Bring the quinoa and 1/2 cup water to a boil. Meanwhile, carefully core the cabbage. I find that angling the knife toward the center of the head helps. This will keep the head in tact and allow the core to be removed (or at least most of the core). Fill a large pot with water, place the cabbage in, cored side down, and keep on high heat. As the cabbage cooks, you will be able to remove the leaves. Carefully remove the leaves off the head and transfer to a colander**.

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While the cabbage and quinoa are boiling, chop the mushrooms into bite-size to fine pieces. Combine with the ground turkey, salt and pepper. Set aside. Once the cabbage has been removed and drained, pour the cooked quinoa into the meat mix, along with any water remaining in the quinoa pot (at least 1/2 cup). Mix the meat well.

Lay the cabbage leaves out and scoop 2 tablespoons of the meat mix in the cabbage leaf. Roll the rib end over, fold the sides, and roll like a burrito. I like using tooth picks to secure the rolls.

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I know many people bake their golumpki, but this family has always used a pressure cooker. Fill the pressure cooker with enough water to cover the metal insert. Layer you cabbage rolls on top of each other to fill the cooker. Secure the lid on the pressure cooker, place the rattle on top, and turn the heat to high. In the meantime, combine the ingredients for the sauce in a small sauce pan on low heat, stirring occasionally. Once the the pressure cooker begins to whistle, time 10 minutes. Using an utensil, slowly depressurize the cooker by venting the rattle. DO NOT remove the lid of the pressure cooker until it has completely depressurized!

Spread a thin layer of the sauce on a serving dish. I like to use spoons to remove the rolled cabbage from the pressure cooker. Lay the cabbage rolls over the thin layer of sauce. Continue to do so until a layer of the rolls is made a pour a layer of the sauce over that. Continue with this technique and just dig in!!!!

*The leaner the meat, the more s/p is typically used.

**The trick is to ensure the rib of the leaf is cooked enough to fold, but firm enough to maintain its structure.

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I love these these babies! Its light and filling…and MMMMMM!

One head of cabbage makes so many rolls, but they are so yummy that its hard to share!

The Greek Wars

I’m sure you’ve seen the commercials for Yoplait calling out Chobani yogurt. I know my yogurt preference, so I thought this was kind of a neat idea. I decided to host a Greek War at my house.

WP_005368Five Greek Yogurts, Five brands, Five tasters…

I kept the challenge completely blind. I wrapped each yogurt container with paper and labeled them A through E. I gave mom, dad, Frank, Barry, and myself a piece of paper listing A to E, ranking 1 through 5 stars, and comments for each yogurt… Oh yeah, I was legit!

The lowest total score a yogurt could receive was a 5 and the highest was 25. It was pretty interesting how honed in your taste buds gets when you’re comparing. I’ve eaten all of these individually, but my opinions surprised me during the tasting.

By the end of the tasting, I was able to rank the Cherry flavors of Yoplait, Chobani, Fage, Dannon, and Shop Rite brand. The real judgement came from mom. She really does not like yogurt of any kind, so her opinion of which tasted the best was one I took seriously. Surprisingly, she was really focused during the testing, more descript than any of the yogurt lovers of the house.

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The comments ranged from texture to color to appearance to flavor. Drum roll please…

Mom

Dad

Barry

Frank

Sammy

Comments

Total

Yogurt

A

2

4

4

5

3

Mild, thick

18

Shop Rite

B

5

5

5

4

5

Chunks of fruit, very sweet, creamy, delicious, thick

24

Dannon

C

1

1

1

1

1

Sour, terrible, no taste

5

Chobani

D

4

2

3

3

4

Sugar alcohol, smooth,

16

Yoplait

E

3

3

2

2

2

Dense, bland, take it or leave it

12

Fage

I, honestly, was NOT surprised that Dannon had won our tasting. Its my favorite. I do not care for Fage, never really have, but I never thought I’d rank Chobani lower than the “original” Greek yogurt.

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Now, I’m wondering…

what is it that makes one Greek yogurt better than another… ?

What is your favorite?