Saturday, October 17, 2015

Cream Cheese Banana Bread

My neighbors have a banana tree.   Proof that I'm not in Colorado any more, right?

Their tree was going crazy and they gifted me with some of their bounty.    I couldn't eat them all at the time, so I put a few in the freezer for smoothies or baking.

Baking won out.    Surprise, surprise!

I've used the same base recipe for years, Basic Banana Bread, from Cooking Light magazine.     It's great on its own or with any  mix-ins or toppings that you want to put with it.

This time, I opted for a cream cheese, cheesecake-esque, layer in the middle.

What You Need

Banana Bread

1 1/2 cups mashed ripe banana (2 or 3 bananas - you can  measure or just go with what you have on hand)
1/3 cup plain (or vanilla) fat-free yogurt
5 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted
2 large eggs
1/2 cup  sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1/4 cup ground flax seed
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice

Cream Cheese Filling
1 egg
1/4 cup reduced fat cream cheese
1/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons flour

Combine filling ingredients in a small bowl and beat until smooth.   Then you're ready when it's time.
(filling recipe from Averie Cooks)

What You Do

Preheat oven to 350 and spray silicone 9x5 loaf pan with cooking spray.   If you're using a metal or glass loaf pan, I would encourage you to line it with foil and then spray.

In a large mixing bowl, beat bananas, yogurt, butter and eggs.   Add sugars and beat until combined.

Combine all dry ingredients (flax through allspice) in a separate bowl and whisk together.

Add dry ingredients to banana mixture until just blended.

Pour 2/3 of the banana bread batter into your loaf pan.  

Gently pour and smooth the cream cheese filling over the batter layer.   Use a rubber spatula to get the cream cheese filling to all the corners.      Pour remaining banana  bread layer on top, making sure that the cream cheese layer is covered.

Bake for 55 minutes.      Remove from oven, let cool in pan on a rack for at least 10 minutes.
Gently remove bread from pan (which is why I love my silicone pan...makes this so easy) and continue to cool.  

Enjoy when you are ready.    There is no wrong time for banana bread.

Meanwhile in Maui

Good friends of mine from Colorado were visiting this week, so we explored all over the island.

Pictured:  Haleakala National Park 

Do you have a go to banana bread recipe?   Please share!

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Caramel Apple Bars

The world of pumpkin spice has gone insane!    

I was in Target this week just counting all the different things that have been spiced...whether they need to be or not.   Coffee,  creamers, baking mixes,  M&M's,  candy corn, Oreo's, nuts, you name it, it's been PS'd.

My sister is so annoyed by the PS'ing of everything that her Facebook wall has been taken over by her friends posting every random PS thing they find.

They find a lot.

Apples are different.     They take the stage with pumpkin in the fall, but in reality, apple treats are delicious year round and don't need to be defined by a season.  And with PS being a pushy diva, poor apples aren't center stage, but are reduced to singing in the chorus.

I'm not having that.   Not.  At.  All.

So here, we give the apple it's time in the sun.   Shine, apple, shine.

What You Need

For the bars: 
1 stick salted butter or margarine, melted and cooled
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
½ cup chopped pecans, plus ¼ cup whole pecans (for the top)
2 large apples, I used Braeburn, peeled and cut into ½-inch cubes ( strict measuring was going on here

For the caramel topping:
½ cup of Kraft caramel baking bits
1 teaspoon heavy cream

What You Do

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. I used a little cooking spray on my 9x9 silicone baking pan.   If you're using a metal or glass pan, I would recommend lining with foil and then greasing it.

In a medium bowl whisk together flour, cinnamon, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. In another bowl beat together butter, sugar and egg with a hand mixer until light and creamy, about 2 minutes. Add chopped pecans and apples, and stir by hand until combined. Add flour mixture, and stir until combined.

Spread batter in pan.  In a small microwave safe bowl, combine caramel baking bits and heavy cream.  Microwave for 30 seconds, remove and stir.   Heat for another 30 seconds if necessary.

Drizzle the caramel over the batter and then strategically place your pecans wherever you want them to go.    

Bake 35 to 40 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes, then cut into bars.   These are also great right out of the oven while still warm, they will just be a little messier when you cut into them.   Nothing wrong with that, right?

Recipe Source:   Foodie Crush

Meanwhile in Travel

When I went to Colorado on vacation last month, I finally hiked the Hanging Lake Trail.

If you want to know more about this hike, read more here.   

Whether you are in the apple or pumpkin camp, I hope you're getting as much as your heart desires this fall!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Everything is Better with Praline on Top

Praline Brownies

This week I have determined that everything is better with praline on top.    

What is praline?  The dictionary says a confection made with nuts and sugar.     Most often, it's brown sugar and pecans.    If you hit up gas stations in the southern part of the US, you may run across them right by the checkout lane.

I made praline candies when I lived in Indianapolis.    Successfully.

When I moved to Colorado, I managed to ruin them twice due to the altitude and my candy thermometer my first year.   After wasting money in pecans and heavy cream, I decided that pralines were no longer on my Christmas candy list.  

Back at sea level, I'm willing to go at it again.

And why limit my praline-ing to just brownies?    

Praline Pancakes

Don't pancakes deserve the pecan, butter, cream and sugar confection?

Of course they do!

Sometimes, I just confection myself by eating it straight out of the bowl.   Sugar really does melt in your mouth.

So if you want to praline's what you need to know.

What You Need

6 tablespoons of butter, sliced
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar, packed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cups sifted powdered sugar
1 1/2 cups pecans, chopped

What You Do

In a medium sauce pan, combine the butter, whipping cream, brown sugar and salt over medium heat. Bring to a boil and boil for one minute.   Stir frequently.  

Remove from heat, add the vanilla and powdered sugar, and whisk until smooth.   Stir in pecans.

Let the sugary goodness sit for five minutes.   The sugar on the top might harden a little, but not to worry.     Pour the praline mixture over the treats of your choice - brownies, cookies, pancakes, etc.

Praline Brownies

Praline brownies were devoured in record time at my office this week.    Make your favorite brownie recipe.   I used the Ghiradelli dark chocolate brownie mix and made a 8x8 pan of brownies.    After the brownies cool completely, make the praline topping and pour over the top.    

The topping makes plenty, so you can have a thick layer of praline, or reserve some for other things.   Like pancakes.   Or eating with a spoon.

I was completely inspired to praline things after reading this recipe over on Cookies and Cups.   Check it out!

When was the last time you had a praline?  
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