Warm Orange Honey Biscuits with Orange Mascarpone Spread

Whenever my daughter comes home for a visit, cooking and baking doubles!  Not that she eats that much but rather I like to send her off with lots of love, and in my world that means, food!  And along with that, I also like to make special meals we can share together.  

We had these biscuits for breakfast over last weekend.  A late breakfast; in fact, we can call it brunch as Gina pretty much gets up close to the noon hour when she comes home.  I really don’t mind, it actually works out perfectly.  She comes home, we spend time together, I go to bed and she goes out with her friends!  I wake up early; take a bike ride, start playing in the kitchen and she wakes to the aromas of freshly baked goodies! 

She and I got the idea for these biscuits from a cookbook she gave me for Christmas.  It’s a visual cookbook, Quick and Easy – Frame by Frame.  She obviously was sold on the pics as page by page are gorgeous, tempting food photos, from start to finish rather than a written recipe.   The “recipe” was actually for a honey muffin which caught our attention but decided to tweak it to be more like a biscuit or scone. 

For an extra creamy sweetness, I love to make flavored spreads, either using mascarpone or butter as the base and adding in ingredients to compliment what I’m serving.  Cream cheese could be used as well but I prefer mascarpone as its flavor is gentler and lighter than cream cheese and is easily spreadable.  It’s almost always in my fridge. I’ll use it to add a bit of thickness and creaminess to some of my dishes.  It’s a triple creamy cheese, sold in small containers; it is more expensive than cream cheese and cannot always be substituted for cream cheese as its delicateness will not be as firm, i.e., as in a frosting.

Warm Orange Honey Biscuits with Orange Mascarpone Spread

1 1/2 cup self rising flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon turbinado (raw) sugar

½ teaspoon ground cardamom

½ teaspoon salt

¼ cup unsalted butter, chilled

¼ cup orange blossom honey

2/3 cup yogurt

1 egg, beaten well

Orange zest from one orange

2 tablespoons orange blossom honey mixed with 1 teaspoon Grand Marnier or orange juice for glazing tops after baking

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Grease six ramekins with butter or a baking sheet.  In a mixer with the paddle attachment, or large bowl with a pastry cutter, or your finger tips in a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, spice and salt and mix to combine.  Add in the chilled butter pieces and quickly mix until the butter is thoroughly cut into the flour, resembling coarse meal.  In a separate bowl, combine the yogurt, honey, egg and zest and mix well.  Add to the dry ingredients and stir to combine.  The batter will be thick.  Spoon batter into greased ramekins or drop the biscuits on a greased baking sheet.  Bake for 18-20 minutes or until golden brown.  Remove from oven and brush on honey/orange juice mix.   Serve warm.

For the Orange Mascarpone Spread, I simply took about ¼ cup of room temperature mascarpone cheese and mix with chopped oranges, splash of Grand Marnier and orange blossom honey to taste.  Adjust amounts to your preference; substitute unsalted butter for an Orange Butter Spread.

Lemon Foccacia

My father would share many of his memories and stories growing up in Sicily.  His parents had moved to America before he was born but soon realized they missed their home and lifestyle too much.  My grandmother was then pregnant with my father so they waited for his birth and when he was a few months old, returned to Sicily.  At the age of 17 and on his own, he left Sicily to come back to his birthplace.  My father was always proud to say his was born an American and never returned back to Sicily, not even to visit. 

There were many things he missed and spoke of; his family, brothers and sisters, the abundance of fresh seafood and freshly prepared dishes and the ocean he swam in almost every day.  And the lemon trees growing in his family’s orchard!  I could tell what was most precious to him by his raised interest and excitement, and well, from a child’s perspective, his repeating of the same stories over and over again! 

His meals included lots of fresh fruits and vegetables and lemons were used quite frequently in his cooking.  He prepared simple food taking what he had and turning it into delicious meals.  Sitting around his table for a visit, you had better arrive hungry, as the food constantly appeared covering the table with quite an assortment.  There really was no excuse for being full or not tasting all that he offered!

I know he would love this lemon focaccia bread to dip in herbed oil or slice in half for a sandwich.  The recipe evolved from a mix of different recipes and notes.  There is no olive oil in this but is drizzled on at the end.  I like to use olive oil that I have gently heated in strips of lemon rinds and cooled.   It’s lightly lemon flavor is balanced with sharp pecorino cheese, thinly sliced red onion, Kalamata olives and fresh oregano.  A sprinkling of citrus sea salt and a drizzle of the lemon infused olive oil at the end finalizes the amazing flavor!   

And back to you Lisa, this focaccia bread would go fabulously with your Cannellini Bean Dip at Smart Food and Fit !! 

Lemon Focaccia

5 cups unbleached all purpose flour

¼ ounce (1 packet) instant yeast

2 cups water, room temperature

2 ½ teaspoons sea salt or Kosher salt

1 lemon, very thinly sliced

½ red onion, very thinly sliced

½ cup chopped Kalamata olives

2 – 3 tablespoons fresh oregano Or 1 tablespoon dried

½ cup pecorino cheese, shaved thinly

Freshly ground black pepper

Citrus sea salt, optional

Lemon infused olive oil or good quality olive oil

Using a KitchenAid mixer, combine the yeast, 2 ½ cups flour and water.  Whisk to combine well and allow to sit for 15 minutes.  Add in the remaining 2 ½ cups flour and salt.  Knead with dough hook for about 8-10 minutes.  Dough will be quite soft and sticky, but not overly sticky that it sticks to the bottom of the bowl.  Add additional flour as needed.  Turn dough into a well oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and allow to sit for 3 ½ – 4 hours until doubled in size.  (The dough can also be made up to 3 days ahead; refrigerate the dough after it is kneaded and on the baking day, remove from the refrigerator and allow to double in size on the counter, about 4 hours).  Remove the dough to a large baking sheet, about 17 x 22 and gently press dough into shape using your fingers to dimple the dough.  Allow to rest for another hour.

Preheat oven to 500 degrees.  Lay the lemon slices on the dough, onion, olives, oregano and freshly ground black pepper.  Drizzle on some olive oil.  Reduce the oven to 450 degrees and place in the oven.  Bake for 15 minutes, remove and add the pecorino cheese, rotate the pan and return to the oven.  Continue to bake for another 15 minutes or until lemons and crust is golden brown.  Remove from the oven and transfer to a cooling rack.  Sprinkle on citrus sea salt and a drizzle of lemon infused olive oil and allow to cool for about 15 minutes before serving.

Grand Marnier French Toast with Honey Orange Syrup

Weekends are  my luxury time.  Waking up without an alarm and having coffee in bed totally pleases me.  Being able to join me in bed is pure bliss for my chihauhaus as they sleep in a cage and only allowed in to cuddle with me on these lazy weekend mornings.  They have quite different personalities and both try to compete for my attention.  Bella is sweet but stands her ground firmly when Biagio trys to steal her bone or invade her space.  Biagio is my protector, listens for every sound and growls at strangers as if he is triple his size. 

While I sip on my coffee watching and laughing at my pups, I’m dreaming up my breakfast.  Not the normal week day quick breakfast but something special and more indulgent.  I’ve earned these quiet weekend mornings after years of having woken to the high pitched voices of little ones, full of energy and breakfast demands. ( Actually, I find myself smiling fondly as I write this and remember those precious years that really do go by so quickly!) 

Keeping with the citrus theme of the month and having my last Pannetone to use up, I decided on making french toast.  Any good quality bread will do but Pannetone is my favorite through the holidays.   With its fruit and light sweet taste I thought it was fitting to pare with citrus flavors.  For a simply syrup, orange blossom honey, oranges and their juice thickened up beautifully to top the french toast.

Thanks to Aimee at Clever Muffin for letting me know about this contest, I have entered my recipe into The Breakfast of the World Challenge at VeryGoodRecipes and Drina from EaternalZest!

Grand Marnier French Toast with Honey Orange Syrup

For two servings:

4 slices thick day old bread (Pannetone if you have it)

2 eggs

2 tablespoons heavy cream

Grated zest from one organic orange

Juice from that same orange

1 tablespoon Grand Marnier or other orange liquor

1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg

In a medium size baking dish, beat the eggs, cream, zest, juice, liquor and nutmeg until combined well.  Soak the bread slices at least 5 minutes, turning once.  Melt butter on a large skillet or griddle.  Saute the bread on both sides until golden brown.  Serve with maple syrup or honey orange syrup.

Honey Orange Syrup

1/2 cup orange juice

1 – 2 teaspoons orange blossom honey

1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch

Orange segments – I used one clementine orange

Heat orange juice, honey and cornstarch over medium heat stirring constantly until thickened.  Add orange segments and simmer for a few minutes or until heated through and ready to serve. 

January is #citruslove month!
Please join in on the #citruslove by linking up any citrus recipe from the month of January 2012. Don’t forget to link back to this post, so that your readers know to come stop by the #citruslove event! The twitter hastag is #citruslove :).
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Pumpkin Biscuits

A basket of freshly baked biscuits are always a welcome, special treat.  I’m no Southern gal nor was I raised on biscuits but through the years I came to like making mine with self rising flour.  Since I’ve been on a pumpkin kick, I thought I’d add in pumpkin  puree replacing the buttermilk I would normally use.  I didn’t want these to be overly pumpkin “pie” tasting, so I only lightly added some cinnamon and nutmeg.  And since I do prefer using more whole wheat than white flour, I substituted in 1/2 cup of whole wheat pastry flour instead of my normal 2 cups of self rising.

Preparing biscuits to be served hot takes a bit of planning ahead but it’s so worth the small effort.  If you’ve been following along with my preparations, I do like to plan ahead!  Regardless if this was to be served at Thanksgiving or just a small dinner party or brunch, I still like to prep the dry ingredients along with cutting in the butter ahead of time, up to one day ahead and store in a glass container in my frig.  Since all the ingredients when making biscuits should be cold, prepping it ahead ensures that.

The next day, in the morning or several hours ahead of time, I add the wet ingredient, in this case the pumpkin, which by the way, I had measured out the day before and stored it in the frig also.  I knead  and cut the biscuits and place them on the baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to bake.  I’m kinda a neat freak, cooking and cleaning as I go so when I prep in this manner, I can clean up as I go along and when my guests arrive it’s only the baking sheet I’m bringing out.

I was really excited with the taste of these biscuits.  Not sweet, but just enough to balance the pumpkin flavor.  I couldn’t find my biscuit cutter so I used a leaf cookie cutter.  Just don’t use a glass or dull object as it could compress the sides of the dough not allowing it to rise flaky.  Also, try to not over work the dough and pat the dough into a circle, as a rolling pin ends to compress it.

Pumpkin Biscuits

1 1/2 cup self rising flour

1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1/4 cup turbinado sugar

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt

1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and chilled

1 cup canned pumpkin puree, chilled

2 tablespoons melted butter for brushing tops before baking or 1 beaten egg

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  In a mixer with the paddle attachment, or large bowl with a pastry cutter, or your finger tips in a large bowl, combine the flours, sugar, spices and salt and mix to combine.  Add in the chilled butter pieces and quickly mix until the butter is thoroughly cut into the flour, resembling coarse meal.  Add in the pumpkin and stir to combine.  Turn the dough out onto a floured board and gently knead, adding a bit more flour if sticky and folding the dough back over itself a few times to create flaky layers.

Pat the dough into a circle and use a biscuit cutter to cut out the biscuits.  Depending on the size of the cutter, this will make about 8-10 biscuits.  Place the biscuits on a parchment lined baking sheet and refrigerate for one hour or up to 12 hours covered with plastic wrap.  When ready to bake, brush the biscuits with either an egg wash of one beaten egg or melted butter.  Bake for 15-18 minutes or until golden brown and set.  Serve hot.

These biscuits are part of my Thanksgiving Countdown.  If you’d like to share your biscuits for Thanksgiving, please use Linky Tools below.

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Pumpkin Cranberry Bread and Cranberry Pecan Butter

On Thanksgiving morning I want to wake up knowing that my espresso is ready to be brewed and breakfast is only moments away.  I’ve been busy prepping and planning for this day and one of the important things I do is plan for a relaxing morning.  Before the hustle begins, I can sit down and enjoy a nice slice of warm Pumpkin Cranberry Bread.  By making the bread a few weeks out and freezing it; I can defrost it the day before and gently re warm it in the oven or toaster while I’m doing my morning yoga.

The cranberry butter freezes just as nicely too adding a little special treat to top the bread.  This bread could also be served with your Thanksgiving dinner and since it makes two loaves, you can have one to try now and one for later!

Scones are also easy to prepare ahead of time and freeze until ready to bake.  Two seasonal favorites of mine are my Pumpkin Scones and Cranberry Rosemary Scones.

And for some exciting news, my Medjool Date and Walnut Bread won the Swanson Health Products Recipe Contest!!

Pumpkin Cranberry Bread

3 cups whole wheat white flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 ½ cups turbinado sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1 15 oz can pumpkin

2/3 cup Greek plain yogurt

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

3 large eggs

1 cup picked-over fresh or frozen cranberries, coarsely chopped in food processor

Preheat oven to 350° F. and butter or spray two 9 x 5 loaf pans.

In a large bowl combine all dry ingredients, from the flour through the nutmeg.  In a separate bowl, mix together the pumpkin, yogurt, oil and egg, stirring to blend well.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir to combine.  Add in the chopped cranberries.  Do not overmix the dough.

Divide the dough between the two pans and bake for 1 hour, or until a tester comes out clean, and cool in pan on a rack 10 minutes. Turn bread out onto rack and cool completely. Bread may be made 3 days ahead, wrapped in foil and refrigerated.  Or freeze for up to a month.  Gently re warm or serve at room temperature.

Cranberry Pecan Butter

½ cup of unsalted butter (1 stick) at room temperature

½ cup fresh cranberries

¼ cup pecans

2 tablespoons agave or honey (sweeten to taste)

Process all in food processor until blended well.  Store in refrigerator up to one week or freeze for up to a month.

This bread is part of my Thanksgiving Countdown.  If you’d like to share your favorite bread for Thanksgiving, please use Linky Tools below.

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Whole Wheat Pumpkin Bagels

Baking bread from scratch may seem like a daunting task, especially the thought of making bagels.  Call me crazy, but I find it totally fulfilling in every way.  By working with the simplest of ingredients, flour and water, and adding a living organism, yeast, you can watch it bubble and rise into the freshest homemade bread.   It’s not that I make bagels often as it does involve a two-day process and a commitment of time.  So when I do commit to making bagels, it’s normally on a weekend.  Saturday involves the major part of the process and I busy myself with catching up on other things while the dough rises and rests.  Sunday is the fun day, waking up to boil and bake those gorgeous bagels!!

Pumpkin, of course, is just fitting for this time of year and probably not a surprise to anyone who knows me that I’d be adding pumpkin to my bagel recipe!  For baking breads I follow Peter Reinhart’s recipes from Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread.  His bagel recipe does not include pumpkin so I tweaked it a bit to make it work.  I also added in vital wheat gluten, which is optional but I learned this from Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day that whole wheat flour needs to have extra gluten added. 

Being prepared, taking it one step at a time and using a stand up mixer with a dough hook will make the process easy and the end result…fresh from the oven bagels!!  I did a quick calorie calculation on these as we all know bagels are not low in calories.   But by making 16 bagels out of this recipe, the calories came in at 220 per bagel.  Plus there is no fat, 4 grams of fiber and 7 grams of protein!  Not so bad for a bagel!  As shown in the photo, I made a pumpkin hummus spread to top on the bagels, basically adding about ¾ cup of pumpkin puree to my basic hummus recipe.   

The bagels freeze well so when my daughter finally comes home to visit for Thanksgiving, I will have pumpkin bagels for her!!

Pumpkin Bagels

Adapted from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice

For the sponge:

1 teaspoon instant yeast

4 cups white whole wheat flour

4 teaspoons vital wheat gluten, optional

2 1/2 cups water, room temperature

For the dough:

1/2 teaspoon instant yeast

4 cups whole wheat flour

6 teaspoons vital wheat gluten, optional

1 cup pumpkin puree

3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon cloves

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

3 teaspoons Kosher salt

2 teaspoons malt syrup, honey or brown sugar

For boiling and finishing:

1 tablespoon baking soda

Cornmeal or semolina flour for dusting

Sesame seeds, poppy seeds, kosher salt optional for sprinkling on top

Day One

To make the sponge:  Stir the yeast into the flour and vital wheat gluten in a 4 quart mixing bowl.  Add the water, whisking only until it forms a smooth, sticky batter (like pancake batter).  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature for 2 hours or until mixture becomes very foamy and bubbly and double in size.

To make the dough:  Using a stand up mixer to knead the dough, dump the sponge and the additional yeast into the large mixing bowl.  If making by hand, add yeast to the same bowl containing the sponge.  Stir yeast into the sponge.  Add 3 cups of the flour, the vital wheat gluten, pumpkin, spices and malt syrup.  Mix on low-speed with the dough hook or stir by hand until the ingredients form a ball, slowly working in the additional cup of flour.  Transfer the dough to the counter and knead by hand for 10 minutes or continue kneading with the dough hook for about 6 minutes.  The dough should be firm but still pliable and not tacky or sticky.  If the dough seems tacky or sticky add a bit more flour.

Shape the dough into a large ball and cut in quarters.  Cut each quarter into 4 so that you have 16 balls of dough.  Place the balls of dough on a large baking sheet and cover with a damp towel.  Allow to rest for 20 minutes.

Line two sheet pans with slipat or parchment paper and lightly spray with oil.  Shape the dough ball into a bagel by pressing your thumb in the center to form a whole and gently widen it with your hands to the shape of a bagel.  Make sure the dough is evenly stretched.  Place the bagels on
the sheet pans and lightly spray the tops with oil.  Cover loosely with plastic wrap and allow to rest for another 20 minutes. 

After 20 minutes, check the bagels to make sure they are ready to be refrigerated by dropping one bagel in a bowl of water.  If it floats to the top within 10 seconds, they are ready to be refrigerated up to two days.  If not, allow the bagels to rest another 10-20 minutes and test again.

Baking Day

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees having two racks set in the middle of the oven.  Prepare the baking sheets by spraying the slipat or parchment paper with oil and sprinkling on the cornmeal to prevent sticking.  Bring a large wide pot of water to a boil and add the baking soda.  Drop in only 1-2-3 bagels at a time that will fit the pot without crowding.  They should float immediately.  Boil for 1 minute and then flip over and boil the over side for 1 minute.  For a chewier bagel, boil for 2 minutes each side.  Using a slotted spoon, lift the bagels from the boiling water and place on the prepared baking sheets.  If topping the bagels, so do as soon as they are taken out of the water and placed on the sheet.

When all the bagels have been boiled, place the sheets into the oven.  Bake for approximately 5 minutes then rotate the pans, switching shelves and turning the pans.  Reduce the oven to 450 degrees and bake another 5 minutes or until they turn a light golden brown or darker if you

Remove the pans from the oven and let the bagels cool on a rack for 15 minutes or longer before serving.  Makes 16 bagels. 

Medjool Date and Walnut Bread and Recipe Contest

Quick breads are just that, quickly prepared, no yeast for rising time, just stir and bake.  Like banana bread, date and nut breads are extremely versatile and I bake these types of breads often to have on hand for snacking and meals.   I always reduce the sugar and replace butter for applesauce to make healthier versions of what could be sugary, buttery or oily quick breads…or is that dessert?

I am always changing around the spices I use and dropping in additional surprises, like mini chocolate chips, coconut, pecans instead of walnuts or pistachios or almonds.  If I have a good base recipe, interchanging like items always seems to work well.  To state the obvious, changing out nuts for nuts, dried fruit for dried fruit, spices for spices.  Additional items are added in ¼ cup amounts, no more than two additions.

Along with the versatility of ingredients, serving ideas are endless as I shared in my banana bread recipe.  As this bread is fairly dense and not overly sweet, a quick dip in egg for French toast is a heavenly treat for breakfast topped with chunky sautéed peaches or apples and syrup.

Toasted into cubes, date and nut croutons are amazing with a fall salad of spinach, pears, pancetta, gorgonzola and balsamic dressing.  Truly a winning combination!

And speaking of winning, Caroline at Sweet Caroline’s Cooking  recently posted a Swanson’s health product review through which I found out about their Blogger Recipe Contest.

Swanson Health Products sells a full range of discounted organic foods, vitamins and supplements, natural skin care, and so much more.    To enter the contest, bloggers create an original, healthy recipe using at least four ingredients that can be purchased at Swanson’s.  Winners are chosen based on healthy, unique recipes and most popular.  So my dear friends, if you like this recipe, please share me, like me, twitter me and leave a comment!   And, if you’re so inclined, enter your own healthy recipe! Thank you from my healthy heart!

Medjool Date and Walnut Bread

1 cup pitted dates, coarsely chopped 

¼ cup date sugar 

¾ cup boiling water

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour 

1 tablespoon flaxseed meal 

2 teaspoons baking powder 

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon cinnamon 

½ cup unsweetened applesauce

1 egg (1 tb. ground flax seed and 3 tb. water soaked for 5 minutes)

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

1 ½ tablespoons dark rum (or freshly squeezed orange juice)

½ cup chopped walnuts 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray or lightly grease a 9×5×3 loaf pan.  Combine dates, date sugar and boiling water in a small bowl.  Allow to sit and cool for about 10-15 minutes.  Meanwhile, combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl and set aside.  In another smaller bowl mix together the applesauce, flax egg, vanilla and rum until combined well.  Add both the applesauce mixture, followed by the date mixture into the large bowl of dry ingredients, combine well.  Stir in the walnuts.  Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for approximately 45-50 minutes until golden brown and a toothpick test comes out clean.

For serving with a spread I like to prepare flavored butters or cream cheeses by simply mixing in an all fruit jam like orange marmalade or pumpkin puree with a favorite spice, like nutmeg or cinnamon in softened butter or cream cheese.  The spread will last 2-3 days in the refrigerator.

Oh girl….Can you ever leave good enough Banana Bread alone?

I’m sure I can’t be alone in this habit of mine.  I see a recipe that sparks my imagination… I am served an entrée at a restaurant that gets my creative juicing going… someone tells me about a fabulous dish they ate that triggers a new idea….and I’m headed straight to the kitchen!  I can never tell when something is going to grab my attention.  Like just last week, Chef Mom wrote about her amazing Banana Bread recipe from her friend Doree.

Okay, banana bread.  I would have read that post on any other day and thought it sounded good, I’ll try it someday.  However, on that particular day, it triggered a reaction.  What I loved about the recipe was its very basic, simple ingredients.  I like having recipes with a good foundation that I can seasonally add in ingredients or make adjustments like swapping out sugar for agave.  Chef Mom had rave reviews on this bread so that helped too.

The versatility of this bread is awesome from beginning to end.  I could serve this banana bread warm from the oven or top a toasted slice with whipped cream cheese and fresh mango for a special breakfast treat and later that evening, serve a grilled slice with rum sautéed pineapple, a scoop of coconut gelato and a sprinkling of nuts.  A drizzle of chocolate was later added to this outrageous dessert treat!

Banana Bread in all its glory

Adapted from Chef Mom – see her original recipe here

1 ¾ cup whole wheat white flour

¼ cup agave

½ cup raw sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

2 eggs

4-5 mashed bananas

½ cup unsweetened applesauce

¼ cup Greek plain yogurt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Combine the dry ingredients; flour, raw sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.  Using a large mixing bowl, combine the wet ingredients; eggs, Agave, bananas, applesauce, yogurt and vanilla extract beating until smooth.  Add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.  Pour into a greased loaf pan and bake for 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.  Allow to cool on rack.

For the variations above:  

Breakfast Treat:  Toast a slice of banana bread under the broiler, flipping once for both sides.  Smear on whipped cream cheese and top with fresh fruit.

Dessert Idea:  In a skillet, sauté pineapple with maple syrup or honey and a splash of rum until warm and slightly carmelized.  Lightly toast or grill a slice of banana bread.  Top the bread with the warmed rum-sauce pineapple, add a scoop of gelato and a sprinkling of toasted nuts.  A drizzle of chocolate as I later did sends it over the top!

I’m Stuffed! Ciabatta Salad Sandwich

If asked for my preference as to how I like my pizza, it would be topped with a salad!  Crisp, mixed greens mounted on a hot slice of pizza.  I don’t often if ever eat it out this way, but my daughter certainly has seen me do this many times at home and I believe I have caught her piling salad on her pizza too!  I finally spotted it on a menu in an Italian restaurant which made me feel quite happy I wasn’t the only one enjoying pizza this way!

The same goes for sandwiches; I’m not a deli meat kind of gal.  Grilled veggie Panini’s are fabulous but when I’m not in the mood or have the time to grill, a salad in a sandwich is quick and easy.  The ingredients vary depending on what I have on hand, but the method does have importance.  Trying to eat a sandwich with loosely mixed ingredients can become quite a messy undertaking.  Therefore, after much trial, error and messy hands, I have perfected my salad sandwich making!

To begin with, I love ciabatta bread.  It crisps up nicely when lightly grilled and the airy pockets make it lighter, less doughy bread.  Still, I cut it not exactly in half lengthwise, about ¾ of the way up and will remove some of the bottom half bread inside to create a “shell or bowl” to fill up with the salad.   I spread pesto on the inside of both and grill or broil until lightly golden.

Slicing tomatoes and cucumbers is better for layering in the sandwich than using chopped veggies which will tend to fall out easier.  Mixed greens of all sorts, arugula, spinach, romaine, crumbled cheeses, artichokes, garbanzo beans, avocado, roasted peppers, etc, etc, are mixed with a light vinaigrette and piled inside.  Sometimes I will lightly broil the filled bottom half to softly melt the cheese and rewarm the top half.  The top should be gently pressed over the salad and cut into individual wedges just before serving.

Since there is no mayo in it, it’s great to wrap up and take on a picnic or bike ride!

Farinata…Chickpea Flatbread

Welcome to my new-found favorite treat… Farinata  (fa ri na ta) !  Most of my friends are familiar with polenta crostini, pouring the soft, creamy mixture into a baking sheet, chilling overnight and cutting into squares to grill or fry.  Farinata or Panelli, the Sicilian version, is made out of chickpea (garbanzo bean) flour.  Chickpea flour, water, olive oil and herbs.  Simple, beautiful, healthy, yummy.

Panelli is made similar to making polenta by simmering the chickpea flour and water until thickened, pouring into a baking sheet and chilling until firm.  Panelli is then cut into squares and fried until crisp and golden brown in olive oil.  Farinata is made in the oven in a cast iron skillet and cut pizza style into wedges.  I will make both versions, but prefer the Farinata method as posted.

The texture has a salty crispy exterior and a light soft interior; almost pancake like in appearance.  It is hard to detect the chickpea flavor as it is fairly bland.  Therefore, seasonings of herbs and onions add to the flavor, as well as, toppings of chopped olives, sun-dried tomatoes, gorgonzola and/or grilled veggies.   I enjoy it as a gluten-free pizza!   It’s best served warm but I like it also made ahead and served at room temperature appetizer style.


Adapted from Italy in Small Bites

1 cup chickpea (garbanzo) flour

1 ¾ cup water

¾ teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil (plus additional for drizzling on top)

½ large onion, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon fresh rosemary chopped

Optional toppings:  chopped Kalamata olives, chopped fresh or sun-dried tomatoes, gorgonzola, thinly grilled peppers and/or zucchini, shaves of parmesan, proscuito, arugula

Whisk together the flour, salt and water in a medium bowl until well combined and no lumps.  Stir in the olive oil.  Cover and refrigerate overnight or at least 4 hours.  The batter should thicken slightly.  Whisk to reblend before proceeding.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Heat a well-seasoned cast iron 10 or 12 inch skillet with 2-3 tablespoons olive oil.  Add onion and sauté until soft, about 2-3 minutes.  Pour in the batter allowing the batter to spread out evenly.  Sprinkle on the rosemary and allow to cook for about 2 minutes.  Place skillet in oven and bake for 40 – 45 minutes or until the Farinata is firm and the edges are set.  Turn on the broiler to brown up the top for a few minutes, watching carefully.  Remove from oven and allow to set a few minutes, then carefully remove the Farinata to a cutting board.   Season with freshly ground pepper, drizzle on olive oil (optional) and cut into wedges.  Serve as is or with additional toppings.