Thursday, September 24, 2009

banana yogurt bread

I feel so fabulously Susie Homemaker-ish when I bake. I love the way it smells and it makes me want to put on pearls and vacuum. Today as the banana bread baked, I scoured the kitchen from top to bottom and cleaned one of the bathrooms. Baking is also an EXCELLENT way to procrastinate when I need to practice.

Because the last recipe I posted involved a cream sauce (well worth trying, though!), I felt the need to redeem myself by posting this much healthier recipe. This is based on a great banana bread recipe I found some time ago on the Food Network website. As a general rule, I am not a fan of Emeril Lagasse, but this banana bread recipe of his is really fantastic (original recipe here). I made it several months ago and loved it, so today when I found myself with a few overripe bananas, I decided to make it again. This time I changed a few things in an attempt to be somewhat healthier and in the name of creativity. Most significantly, I omitted all the butter! You can check out the original if you want, and I'm writing my adapted version below.


Slightly more than 1/2 cup lowfat yogurt (I love Activia)
3 overripe bananas
1/2 cup lowfat sour cream
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 cups cake flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
~1 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Lightly grease a 9 1/4 by 5 1/4 by 2 1/2- inch loaf pan (I like Baker's Joy)

In a mixing bowl, beat yogurt, bananas, sour cream, eggs, vanilla, and almond extract until well blended. Add the sugar and beat thoroughly, followed by the baking powder, baking soda and salt. When the batter is well-beaten and thoroughly blended, add the flour and mix just until the flour is smoothly incorporated (over-beating flour makes it tough). Fold in nuts.

Pour batter into loaf pan. Bake until lightly browned a knife stuck in the middle comes out clean, or about an hour. Turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

  • I felt like my bread got too brown on the edges and top before it cooked through. Suggestions?
  • Also, do you think this would work with whole wheat flour?
  • If you make this, please give me feedback about the texture. It was tasty, but I am wondering if it's a little chewy.
  • I liked this a lot, but I'm wondering how it could be improved (other than using butter!) Please let me know if you have any suggestions!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Chicken, Spinach and Mushrooms in Spiced Cream Sauce

Today is my mother's birthday (Happy Birthday, Mom!). Last night I had a little dinner for her, and my father and two close family friends came over as well. I made a bean and potato soup to start and dessert crepes to finish, both of which were a hit. But the star of the evening was this chicken dish.

I made this one up as I went along. And normally I run from cream sauce because I just feel so guilty if I put cream on anything. But this was so easy and so tasty that I'm glad I was willing to experiment with it. (Truth be told, I was planning to only have the chicken and veggies but when I put it in the pan, they just seemed so boring and un-birthdayish that I decided to try a cream sauce.) I won't make it frequently, but it will definitely have encore appearances. I'm thankful that I made mental notes as I cooked, because otherwise I probably wouldn't remember how I did this. Though, as always, I didn't really measure anything so the quantities listed below are lose approximations. So, without further ado, here is my new recipe, of which I am very proud.

This is not such an appetizing picture-- sorry! I forgot to take a picture before we served our plates. But in the casserole dish with the golden cheese on top, it is actually aesthetically pleasing as well.

Ingredients (serves 5-6)
12 chicken tenderloins (I used the frozen packaged Tyson tenderloins)
1 pint sliced baby bella mushrooms
1 lb fresh baby spinach
5 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 1/2 cups white wine
1 cup heavy cream
2 Tbsp butter
2 tsp (?) cornstarch
2 tsp (?) nutmeg
~1 cup grated parmigiano-reggiano (enough to top the dish)
salt and black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large skillet, bring wine to a simmer and add the chicken tenderloins and a little salt. Cook until the wine reduces slightly and the chicken is almost done (still a little pink in the middle). Remove chicken from pan and set aside. Add the garlic and mushrooms to the pan and cook until mushrooms have softened and darkened slightly. Then begin cooking the spinach in batches, adding more as the previous handful wilts and cooks down. When all the spinach is cooked in the pan, remove from heat and drain most of the liquid. In a casserole dish, spread out the spinach and mushroom mixture with the chicken tenderloins.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and add the cream. When the mixture is just scalding, add a heaping tsp (or 2 tsp) of cornstarch and beat well with a whisk until it dissolves. Stir gently until mixture thickens. Add nutmeg to taste (I think I used about 2 tsp). Pour cream sauce over the chicken and vegetables in the casserole dish and top with grated parmigiano-reggiano.

Bake at 350 degrees F until chicken is cooked through and cheese is golden, about 25 minutes. Let stand for about 5 minutes and serve.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

this conversation actually happened

Me (talking to my mother about someone I think very highly of): ...and he's just SO KIND.  And thoughtful and wise... and he's just SO KIND.  So kind.

Mom: Hmmm... you know, I really don't see you with someone who's VERY kind. (pauses to reflect for a moment.)  No, I don't see it.

uhhhh..... I'm still working that one out.

I'm back!

What a wonderful summer I had. In the (hopefully) near future I should have lots of recipes to share because, as is my custom, I made sure to get recipes and tips for the new foods I tried on my travels. I was awed and blessed by the outpouring of hospitality I received everywhere I went, inspired and encouraged artistically and spiritually, and refreshed and recharged by relaxing times with friends in beautiful places. I am perhaps most thankful for the intensity with which I felt God's presence with me and love for me as I went about my work and play. I was constantly reminded of His sovereignty and power which is so beautifully partnered with His perfect love and mercy. But the element of God's character that struck me most during the past months was generosity. God is GENEROUS, friends. So generous. Indescribably, unfathomably generous.

Shortly before embarking on my travels I repurchased the Book of Common Prayer (having given my old copy to a friend last year). I love liturgy, and find the prayers and readings that go along with the assigned daily Scripture passages incredibly rich and illuminating. I also find the structure of the morning and evening prayer times helpful as, to be honest, I often have trouble staying focussed and/or moving beyond my immediate felt needs. I took the BCP with me on my trip, and loved using it for morning and evening devotions (though I usually didn't have enough time in the morning to go through everything and almost always passed out at night before I could finish!). Now that I'm settling back in to life here in Jville, I love sitting with my coffee at the breakfast table and going through the BCP readings and Scripture.

That said, I want to share two prayers with you right now. Many of you will already have heard them (especially the first prayer, which is a prayer of confession). As I pray these prayers and meditate on God's goodness, I am so convicted and encouraged. Even if you already know them, I encourage you to go through them with fresh eyes and see if God uses them to speak to you.

Most merciful God,
we confess that we have sinned against you
in thought, word, and deed,
by what we have done,
and by what we have left undone.
We have not loved you with our whole heart;
we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.
We are truly sorry and we humbly repent.
For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ,
have mercy on us and forgive us;
that we may delight in your will,
and walk in your ways,
to the glory of your Name. Amen.

Almighty God, Father of all mercies,
we your unworthy servants give you humble thanks
for all your goodness and loving-kindness
to us and to all whom you have made.
We bless you for our creation, preservation,
and all the blessings of this life;
but above all for your immeasurable love
in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ;
for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory.
And, we pray, give us such an awareness of your mercies,
that with truly thankful hearts we may show forth your praise,
not only with our lips, but in our lives,
by giving up our selves to your service,
and by walking before you
in holiness and righteousness all our days;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit,
be honor and glory throughout all ages. Amen.

Me enjoying the Black Sea in Sozopol, just south of Burgas in Bulgaria