Thursday, April 29, 2010

Cooking Light's Marbled Chocolate Banana Bread

Helloooo! Long time no blog. Sorry about that! Things are really becoming crazy as the end of my LAST semester of grad school nears....won't be long now 'til I'm done though! I have actually baked a few items lately but just haven't had the time to blog. I just had my third to last class of the semester this evening, so I'm "celebrating" by taking a break to share a delicious recipe with YOU. ;-)

Cooking Light's Marbled Chocolate Banana Bread. Is it really a Cooking Light recipe? Yes! And it is sooo yummy. I have been making this bread for a few years now, and it is always a hit with those who try it. It's easy too! The only "abnormal" ingredient isn't even really all that abnormal. Since it's a healthier recipe, it calls for egg substitute instead of real eggs. So if you don't typically have egg substitute on hand, you may need to make a quick trip to the store to get some. Or, you can just use real eggs, if you'd rather! Of course, that lessens the healthy factor a bit, but it's just as easy to use eggs too (1/2 cup of egg substitute = 2 large eggs). 

Onto the recipe! Check it out here. As you can see, people have rated it "outstanding." I would agree! The recipe calls for low-fat yogurt; in the past, I have used different brands and flavors, although the most common one I've used is Dannon Light n' Fit vanilla. I have also used banana flavored yogurt! I am not sure that it necessarily lends more banana flavor to the bread, but I like to think it does. ;-)

You're wanting pictures now, I just know it! So, here you go:

I used my frozen banana trick (just freeze ripe bananas if you're not ready to bake with them when they're ripe n' ready - then use them later!).

Here are the wet ingredients; they don't look too aPEELing by themselves, do they? (yes, I know that was spelled incorrectly but get it? PEEL? banana peel?)

Now, these next pictures I am including just because I think the sequence of melting the chocolate is fun! It's the little things in life...

You may be wondering how to make the bread "marbled." Well, why don't I show you?

The recipe itself details this as well, but essentially, all you have to do is take about a cup of the banana bread batter and mix the melted chocolate chips into the batter. That leaves you with some chocolate batter and some regular batter.

Next, just alternate adding the two batters to your baking pan, and then swirl them together!

Here's the mini loaf I made - love how you can see the swirls in the top of the loaf!

Mmmmm, delicious! The combination of chocolate and banana is a great combo anyway, but when you put the two flavors in a healthy bread, that's kicking it up a notch, I'd say! This bread is incredibly tasty and moist (and moistness is a quality I always desire in my quick breads), and I'd highly recommend that you make it the next time you have ripe bananas. ;-)

Enjoy, friends!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Blueberry Muffins with Streusel Topping

Hi friends! It's been a while since I posted about our lobstah dinner...I've been meaning to post sooner, but alas, life gets in the way! This post will be a relatively short one for me, but it's a deeeelicious one, I promise you. This past weekend I was home in upstate NY, and Mom gave me the reigns on Sunday morning to make something with the blueberries she had (she had put some fresh ones from last summer in the freezer to keep - and they still tasted fresh and yummy several months later!). I considered making a blueberry coffee cake, but we were all hungry and I didn't want to wait as long as it would take for a coffee cake to bake! So, I went with the tried and true blueberry muffin, which everyone loves. :)

I ended up using a previous recipe I had posted, so that made life quite easy as well. And it's making this blog post simple too - no need to repeat the recipe! I'll just provide you with a link to the muffin recipe here (it was my "berry delicious muffins" recipe). This time instead of using a berry medley, I just used blueberries; hence, the name of this post, "blueberry muffins with streusel topping." I am so original!

You can see the nice, plump blueberries here in the batter!

By the way, start to finish (including baking time), this recipe does not take much more than a half hour. Piece of, muffin! I think I've used that joke before. Sorry. ;-)

This time around, the recipe made 12 regular sized muffins plus one bigger muffin baked in a silicone muffin cup, as you can see pictured here. No need to grease it even!

I know - why don't you make your own muffins this coming weekend? I think that's a grand idea! Oh, and the next post I have planned is another breakfast item....but as to what it is exactly, I won't tell you yet. Ooooh, the suspense! Talk to you again soon, friends.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A Very Special Lobster Dinner!

I can hear you asking yourself... Lobster? (Or, rather, Lobstah?) What an unusual post from the Barbershop! Yes, this is an unusual post, I agree. About 80% of the time, it's delicious desserts that come from the Barbershop (well, to be more specific, delicious desserts are the subjects of my blog posts; desserts do not actually make up 80% of my daily food intake! I know that's what you were wondering... :)). Anyway, back to the point! I recently decided to make lobster for a special occasion, our two-year anniversary! And by "our" I mean my and Mike's anniversary of the day we had our first date (through ;-)). Mike loves seafood in general, and I know lobster is a favorite of his. I enjoy it too, but neither of us have cooked it at home! So I thought it was about time that we did so.

Here are the lobsters, still in the bag...trying to peek out! I got them from a well-known lobster company in Boston, James Hook & Co.

To go with our pound and a half lobsters, I also made mashed potatoes (red taters!) and roasted green beans and red peppers. Super simple and healthy! That's the best combination, isn't it? And speaking of healthy, lobster actually isn't all that bad for you either. It's probably not so good for you if you douse it in butter, but lobster meat itself is not too caloric (I thought it might be until I looked it up and saw that it's 142 calories per 1 cup - not too bad). You can check out the nutrition facts here. Lobster is an excellent source of zinc, potassium, and vitamin B12. Who knew? Not I! It is high in cholesterol, however. :-( (So just don't eat lobstah several times a week and you're good to go... ;-))

Okay, now let's get down to business with the actually cooking of the lobster. We boiled the lobsters by following this recipe from the Food Network. All we did, essentially, was boil some water and plop the lobsters right in the water! We let them cook for about 15 minutes, and that was it! So darn easy. Of course, we did have some fun with the live lobsters... We put one on the kitchen floor to see if Dude (the cat!) would react at all. He seemed puzzled by it at first and just stared. After a minute or so he got up the courage to explore it more closely with his nose and he "kissed" it. The rubber bands were on the lobster's claws, so don't worry, we weren't endangering Dude!! I know my brief description of the experience here is not all that exciting, but we were amused. :)

There's Dude, making friends with the lobster!

Yes, I held one... AND I put him into the boiling water! I'm heartless... :-\

It amazes me how bright red the lobster gets when it's cooked!!

As for the sides served with our lobster, they were easy too. For the green beans and red peppers, I just washed and sliced them, put them in a glass baking dish, and then drizzled with olive oil and spices (garlic and rosemary, I think it was). After baking them at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes, I put a few fresh scallion slices on them for a little extra flavor. Eeeeaaasy!

I followed this Cooking Light recipe (loosely) for the mashed potatoes. The reason I say I followed it loosely is because I did not measure the potatoes or the milk. I just eyeballed it! And I have to say, they came out quite well! The recipe doesn't really call for any extra flavors other than salt and pepper, but I added rosemary and scallions (at the end). Mmmmm. Oh, and I have a confession to make.  I had NEVER made mashed potatoes from scratch until making these! How crazy is that?! I will definitely be making them again, for sure. I left the skins on for some added texture and the aesthetic value of the added color. ;-)

Oh! I can't forget the beer! I did some research as to which types of beers pair well with lobster. I mean, I'm dating a beer guru; how could I not look into selecting an appropriate beer? I chose a beer from Cooperstown, NY actually (woohoo upstate NY!) from the Ommegang Brewery. It's called Hennepin, and it's the style of Farmhouse Saison. Here is a good description of the beer, right from Ommegang's website. Soooo tasty! It did accompany the meal quite well, I must say.

There's Dude again, wondering what happened to his lobster friend! Dude's thinking, "why is he bright red and on a plate now?! I'm confused!"

Anyway, if you've never cooked lobster yourself but enjoy eating it, I'd highly recommend trying your hand at cooking it at home. It's super easy and sooooo delicious. We ate every last bit of it! Can't let something delicious like that go to waste!

And last but not least, Happy Anniversary, Mike! ♥

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Peanut Butter Creme-Filled Chocolate Sandwich Cookies

Welcome back to the Barbershop! To be honest, I had no real inspiration for this next recipe I'm about to share, other than the fact that the combination of peanut butter and chocolate is ALWAYS a hit in my book! And I always enjoy trying a new creation, of course. :) I found this recipe in my March issue of the magazine, "Everyday with Rachael Ray."

The recipe provided the instructions to make the chocolate cookies from scratch, but I will admit that I actually used my all-time favorite cookie shortcut, which is to make cake mix cookies. I used a Betty Crocker devil's food cake mix and followed the tried and true recipe that I posted about a while back on my blog (you can find it here!).

This time around I actually chopped up some hershey kisses and added them to the cookie batter for a little twist. I was going to add chocolate chips, but I had a lot of hershey kisses lying around and I thought I'd use them up. :)

I followed the peanut butter creme filling recipe from the magazine, which is:

-2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, room temperature
-1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
-3 Tbsp. confectioners' sugar
-1/4 tsp. salt

All you have to do is cream together the butter and peanut butter with an electric mixer, and then mix (still with the electric mixer) in the confectioner's sugar (sifted) and salt. Voila! 

I will say, though, that I actually "1.5'd" this recipe. So, I didn't quite double the filling recipe, but I did add 1.5 times the amount of each ingredient. Given the number of cookies I had (about 24 - good for 12 sandwich cookies), I thought I might need more filling than what the original recipe made (which was for 8 sandwich cookies). The proportions worked out perfectly, I must say! Then, all you have to do is just spread some filling on one cookie and top it with another. Done!

The cookies themselves are light, chewy, and chocolatey...and then the peanut butter creme filling is, simply put, awesome. Can you ever go wrong with the peanut butter/chocolate combination? I think not! You must try this one, friends. :)

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Lemon Cupcakes with Strawberry Filling and Lemon Buttercream Frosting

It's springtime in Boston, friends! That means it's time to bake with spring-like flavors...I think lemon and strawberry fit well with spring, don't you? :)  I made these cupcakes for my boss Gina's birthday at work, and they were a hit! I was pleased since it was a new recipe, and I always get a little nervous testing out a new recipe for a real occasion!

I found the recipe I used on a blog called The Cupcakery. I borrowed both the cupcake and frosting recipes from the Cupcakery blog, but the strawberry filling recipe came from a different blog. I'm stealing recipes from all over, people! 

Now, there are a lot of pictures with this post...just wanted to give you a fair warning! And they're not even of each step of the process. That would just be crazy! Believe it or not, I cut down on the pictures included here. ;-)

The cupcakes themselves were super easy; the only steps that took a teeny bit longer were "making" the lemon zest and juice (and that was really only five minutes).

For the cupcake recipe, I used the zest of two lemons and then for the juice, I got about two tablespoons out of one lemon. So, I saved the second lemon's juice for the frosting recipe.

Here you can see the lemon zest and juice before I incorporate them into the batter. They added just the right amount of "tang" to this recipe, I thought!!

I was able to make 18 regular sized cupcakes out of this AND 12 mini cupcakes. That is a lot of cupcakes! I think I ended up bringing all of the large ones to work and about six of the small ones. At the end of the celebration there was one mini one left....was it left out of politeness, perhaps? Nobody ever wants to take that last item left!

Okay, okay, onto the filling and frosting. I get so sidetracked sometimes. :) I had fun making the strawberry filling recipe; aside from my post a couple weeks ago for sweet potato muffins with cinnamon mascarpone filling, I have never "filled" a cupcake or muffin before! And now I think I'm hooked. It's such an easy way to jazz up a recipe!

As I mentioned earlier, I used the filling recipe from another blog. It called for five easy ingredients; fresh fruit, water, vanilla extract, sugar, and cornstarch. You can make this with any fruit, I bet, too. Raspberries, blueberries, pineapple, cherry...lots of options here! The fruit filling smelled sooo good while it was cooking on the stove too. I think it was the vanilla that was so aromatically pleasing. :)

I used the same method I used with the sweet potato muffins to take out the centers of these cupcakes - a grapefruit spoon! It was the perfect tool for this purpose!

Now, the fruit filling really only made enough for 12 cupcakes, so next time if I used the same cupcake recipe, I'd probably double this fruit filling. You can see in this picture below how the filling didn't quite fill the entire center that I had cut out either. Perhaps I cut out too much! Those centers that I cut out though did make for a tasty snack for the baker, if you know what I mean... :)

Frosting time! The recipe was easy...but I think I messed it up. :-(  I somehow decided that skim milk would be fine in place of the whole milk asked for in the recipe. 'Tis not true, friends! The recipe calls for whole milk for a reason. The frosting, as I made it with skim milk, was a bit more runny/liquidy than I expected. Now, it still tasted great, don't get me wrong. But I wasn't really happy with its consistency. We learn from our mistakes I guess! Next time I'll do it right - no substitutions!

You can see how the frosting kind of "sank" down a bit on these cupcakes (the ones with the fruit filling) in the picture above. The rounded-top cupcakes, however, looked a little more pleasing to the eye as far as how the frosting set on them.

I remedied the look of the fruit-filled cupcakes by putting half of a strawberry on each one. That did the trick for the most part! Don't they look better now?

And....ta is one cut open so you can see the filling inside!

I would definitely make these cupcakes again. Delish! I thought they were light and fluffy while moist at the same time. That was the general consensus among coworkers too as we gobbled them up at Gina's birthday celebration at work on Friday. Here are a few pictures of my awesome coworkers, as well as the birthday girl herself, blowing out the candles! Happy birthday, Gina! :)