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Banana Cake with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting – our Easter Dinner dessert

Kid with Banana CakeI recently started using Pinterest and came across a link there to some banana cupcakes with cinnamon cream cheese frosting that looked good.  So, I decided to make the recipe into a layer cake as our dessert for yesterday’s Easter Dinner.  Several of the comments at the Dash of Sass website thought that the original recipe made too much frosting, so I took their suggestion and halved the frosting.  It still made more than enough to frost the cake.

I used organic unbleached white flour, but I might try whole wheat pastry flour the next time I make this.   I also did not have any buttermilk as the original recipe specified on hand, so used my regular substitute of mixing plain yogurt with whole milk, and that turned out fine.  I may add another egg next time I make this to get some more lift. The cake is similar in texture to banana bread or carrot cake.

For the cream cheese, I was looking for one that did not have a lot of thickeners and preservatives, so I used Nancy’s Organic Cultured Cream Cheese.   Unlike most cream cheese that is thickened by using guar gum and carob bean gum, this one uses probiotic cultures to thicken it and so is more natural and you get a bonus dose of probiotics.  🙂  It’s ingredients are: Organic cream, nonfat dry milk, L. acidophilus, B. bifidum and 4 strains of Lactic cultures, salt.

Mike and the girls all loved this recipe.  While it is definitely a rare treat with all that butter and sugar, I will make it again.  I tried “decorating” it with a star shape made out of cinnamon, but it didn’t come out that well.  🙂  On a positive note, if you are not that great at frosting cakes and occassionally get a bit of crumb in your frosting, the cinnamon flecks in the frosting will help hide that.

Banana Cake with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

Cake:

  • 2 1/4 cups white flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp aluminum-free baking powder (such as Rumford)
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 cup mashed bananas (about 3-4 bananas, very ripe)
  • 1/8 cup plain yogurt
  • 1/8 cup milk
  • 1 tsp real vanilla extract
  • 1 -2 Tbsp rum (spiced rum is even better), optional (if you leave out, add a bit more milk instead)
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) real butter
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs

Frosting:

  • 1 8-oz. package of cream cheese
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) real butter
  • 3 cups confectioners sugar
  • 1/8 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp real vanilla extract
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 9″ cake pans. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon from the cake recipe. Set aside.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine the mashed bananas, yogurt, milk, vanilla and rum. Set aside.
  4. In a large mixing bowl (the big one that fits on your mixer), beat together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, blending entirely before adding the next egg.
  5. Once the eggs are combined, add the dry and wet ingredients in alternating order. Add 1/3 of the dry ingredients, beat on slow to combine. Add 1/3 of the wet ingredients, beat on slow to combine. Repeat until all of the wet and dry ingredients have been combined.
  6. Scoop batter into prepared cake pans. Bake 25-30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  7. Let cakes cool in the pans on a wire rack for 5 minutes before removing from cake pans. Let cakes cool completely on wire racks before applying frosting.
  8. While cakes are baking, prepare the frosting. Beat cream cheese and butter together until smooth. Add confectioners sugar in 1 cup increments. After 2 cups, check for desired sweetness. Continue adding confectioner’s sugar until you have achieved desired level of sweetness.  Blend in salt, vanilla and cinnamon. 
  9. Once cupcakes are completely cool, frost with cinnamon cream cheese frosting.

Banana Cake with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

Need to eat more fruits and vegetables? If so, have some Cabbage and Apple Salad

Cabbage and Apple Salad - finishedEveryone needs to eat more fruits and vegetables, not just kids, but adults also.  According to the CDC, in the U.S., only 32% of adults eat 2 or more servings of fruit a day and only 26% of adults eat 3 or more servings of vegetables.  

The rates where we live, Oklahoma, are even worse, just 18% for fruit and 23% for veggies.  I wonder why we are so bad at eating fruit around here?  I have NO PROBLEM getting my girls to eat fruit, as that is our go-to snack of choice, but with veggies I have to be a bit more creative.

So, this simple recipe gives you both a vegetable and a fruit in one dish.  I gave you a choice on the dried fruit and the nuts.  I used dried cranberries and walnuts for mine.  I recommend dijon mustard and red wine vinegar, but don’t fret if you don’t have those on-hand; just use regular yellow mustard and apple cider vinegar instead.

This salad is crunchy and just a bit sweet.  I will be serving it tonight with some grilled chicken, but it should go with just about any protein of your choice.

Cabbage and Apple SaladCabbage and Apple Salad - in process

  • 3 cups shredded cabbage (you can usethe pre-cut bagged coleslaw mix for this)
  • 3 apples, seeded and chopped, any color
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries or raisins
  • 1/4 cup nuts, sliced almonds or chopped walnuts or chopped pecans
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard or yellow mustard
  • 1/2 Tbsp fresh minced onion (not dried)
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp poppy seeds
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  1. Mix all ingredients together, store in fridge. Serve chilled.

– Stacey

Orange Almond Cake – and it is even gluten-free

Sarah and I were watcOrange Almond Cake - slice with whole cake in backgroundhing Laura Calder’s “French Food at Home” show last weekend and she made this as part of her “French Africa” episode.  There are very few ingredients and it looked yummy, so Sarah wanted to make it.  She and Emma helped me in the kitchen today.

This deliciously moist cake really has just four ingredients: oranges, eggs, sugar, and almonds.  Three out of the four are wonderfully healthy. The eggs and almond meal give you some protein and allow you to make a Orange Almond Cake - admiring the cakelight flourless cake.  The oranges provide an intense taste, sweetness, and some Vitamin C.  Sugar… well, it is sugar.  I used a less refined version, but it is still sugar.  Based on 12 servings, each piece will have 1 tablespoon (3 teaspoons) of sugar in it.  Just plan on it being your treat for the day.

I used packaged almond flour, but you could always just grind up some raw unsalted almonds in your food processor instead.  The reason I specify organic oranges it that you are using the zest and you don’t want there to be pesticides on the skin.

The girls described this cake as: juicy, sweet, orangey, tangy and yummy.

– Stacey

Orange Almond Cake
Yield: 12 slices
Variation on Laura Calder’s recipe
 
  • 6 eggs, separated
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar, divided, (3/4 cup goes in cake & 1/2 cup in the syrup)
  • 3 ORGANIC oranges, separate zest and juice (FYI, my 3 oranges yielded 1 cup juice)
  • 1 1/2 cups ground almonds AKA almond mealOrange Almond Cake - Preparing the ingredients
  • 1 Tbsp orange liqueur such as Grand Marnier, optional (I used peach schnapps, what I had in the cabinet)
  • Candied orange zest or rind, optional for garnish (I pulled a few bits of orange rind out of some orange marmalade)
  • Whipped cream, optional for serving
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease and line with parchment a 9-to-10-inch springform pan.
  2. Separate the eggs into two bowls.  Beat the egg yolks with 3/4 cups of the sugar, and the orange zest until bright yellow.  Then, stir in the ground almonds.
  3. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites to stiff peaks.Orange Almond Cake - ready to go into the oven
  4. Stir a few spoonfuls of whipped egg whites into the egg yolk mixture, then fold in the rest, gently.  Keep it light and fluffy.
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until set, about 40-45 minutes.
  6. While the cake is baking, prepare the syrup.  Heat the orange juice and remaining 1/2 cup sugar together in a saucepan and boil for 5 minutes. Take off the heat and stir in the optional liqueur.
  7. When the cake is done baking, remove it from the oven and spoon the syrup evenly over the cake, letting the syrup soak in as you go; it will absorb all of it.
  8. Let cool, then unmold onto a serving platter. Serve the cake with candied orange zest on top and whipped cream on the side.

Orange Almond Cake - finished cake

Fruity Terrine – an updated gelatin salad

Most folks wouldn’t admit to liking a gelatin salad.  And considering some of the weird combinations that people have come up with, especially during the 1950’s and 1960’s, I don’t blame them.  The recipes always seem to start with some bright artificially colored gelatin and then add things like vegetables, canned fruit cocktail, cooked seafood, mini-marshmallows, or cottage cheese.  The results looked something like this:

Weird Jello Salads

But, a gelatin salad doesn’t have to be yucky; it can be yummy.  You just have to use juice to flavor the plain gelatin and be very selective with the add-ins.

This recipe is really just a souped up version of the Juicy Gelatin Jigglers recipe that I posted awhile back.  I was inspired by the Citrus Berry Terrine that Dorie Greenspan has in her “French Fridays with Dorie” cookbook and that had been the featured recipe for the “French Fridays with Dorie” group where lots of folks make and photograph the same recipe from the book with their own variations.

Fruity Terrine – an updated gelatin salad
Serves 4-8 depending on your appetite

  • 2.5 cups of orange juice (I used refrigerated not-from-concentrate, but freshly squeezed is always better)
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 2 envelopes of unflavored Knox gelatin, each envelope holds about 1 Tbls gelatin
  • 2 cups fresh fruit of your choice (strawberries, orange segments, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, etc.)
  1. Place 1.5 cups of juice in a microwavable 2-cup measuring cup. Microwave juice for 60-75 seconds.
  2. Pour hot juice into a 5-cup container (I used a Rubbermaid plastic container with a lid). Stir in honey.
  3. Sprinkle gelatin powder on to hot juice and use a fork or small whisk to mix it in until it dissolves and there are no clumps.
  4. Pour in the other 1 cup of juice and mix well. Put the lid on your container and refrigerate for about 30-45 minutes while you prepare your fresh fruit.
  5. When the gelatin had slightly thickened but is not set, stir in the fruit.  Continue to refrigerate for 4+ hours.  Unmold and serve with additional fresh fruit as a garnish.  I unmolded mine by setting the mold in the sink filled about halfway up the mold with hot water for a few seconds.

I made this as a part of our Christmas meal to add something “fancy” that contained fresh fruit.  I used just strawberries and clementine orange segments.  The kids liked it so much they wanted me to make it again. So, I made it again for New Year’s Eve dinner with different fruit, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries.  I have since made it yet again with just blackberries and raspberries.  They really like it.

– Stacey

Two notes:

  1. Gelatin is made from animal parts, so it is not vegetarian or vegan.  If you want to make a veggie version of this recipe, I have been told that you can substitute agar-agar for the gelatin.
  2. If you want to use pineapple or pineapple juice in this recipe, you can’t use fresh of either and have it work.  Fresh pineapple has an enzyme in it called bromelain that will prevent the gelatin from jelling.  Apparently, papaya and kiwi also contain similar enzymes.  But don’t fret, canned pineapple and pineapple juice don’t contain bromelain. The canning process heats the pineapple to a temperature sufficient to break the enzyme down, making it gelatin friendly.
Fruity Terrine - Christmas

Fruity Terrine - Christmas

 Fruity Terrine - New Year

 

 

 

 

Green Smoothies

green smoothieHere is a quick post of a recipe that can be a healthy breakfast or snack and incorporates fruits, veggies, and dairy…GREEN Smoothies.  You even get your probiotics with the yogurt.

A green smoothie is made green not by adding some icky food coloring, but by adding some yummy and healthy greens.  You can use spinach, kale, chard, etc.  

We keep raw spinach on hand for salads so that is what we usually put in.  The ratios are up to you, feel free to experiment.  Sometimes I even replace part of the milk with carrot juice.  To make it really rich, you can use coconut milk in place of the milk.

The girls like it and so do I.

Green Smoothie

  • 1 cup fresh fruit (we like bananas)
  • 1 cup frozen fruit (such as peaches, mangos, pineapple)
  • 1 cup raw spinach (packed into measuring cup) or 2 big handfuls
  • 1  cup milk
  • 3/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 Tbsp honey (optional)

Place all the ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth.  Serve.

– Stacey

Visions of Sugar Plums danced in their heads…

Visions of Sugar Plums are dancing in their heads

Visions of Sugar Plums are dancing in their heads

Did you always wonder what a sugar plum was at Christmas when you read that famous poem “A Visit From Saint Nicholas” ?  I guess I always assumed it was some kind of candied plum similar to the yucky candied fruits you stick in a fruit cake and so I certainly never dreamed about them.  But, it turns out they are not; they are actually more like a homemade Lara Bar.

Remember that not so long ago, before the days of cheap HFCS and flying fresh fruit across the world, sweet things, especially during the winter were a rare treat.  Think back to when you got an orange in your stocking and you were excited about it.  So, some dried fruits and nuts rolled in a bit of sugar or exotic coconut was something special…one might even have visions about it.  🙂

Sugar Plums are a combination of dried fruits, such as prunes, figs, apricots or dates finely chopped and mixed with chopped nuts such as walnuts or almonds, and once exotic spices like coriander, anise, fennel, caraway, or cardamom.  This mixture is rolled into balls and often coated with sugar or shredded coconut.

The girls all love these and help me make them.  Their job is to form the balls with well washed hands. 

The first time I tried these, I used powdered sugar to roll them in.  I don’t recommend that as by the next morning, the powdered sugar layer had turned into a clear sticky layer on the sugar plums.  It was also VERY messy. The next time, I used Sugar in the Raw, a coarse minimally refined sugar and that worked a lot better.

We find them plenty sweet with all that dried fruit, but if you want them sweeter, then add a bit of honey.  Oh, they are really fast to make and require no baking.  Last Christmas, I made a “Figgy Pudding” for the first and last time.  This was a LOT easier.

Old-Fashioned Sugar PlumsMaking Sugar Plums
Based on the recipe from Nourished Kitchen
Yield: 40 sugar plums

  • 1 cup shelled walnuts (or pecans or almonds)
  • zest of 1 orange or ½ tsp orange extract
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/4 tsp ground coriander seeds
  • 1 cup chopped pitted dates, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped dried apricots, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped pitted prunes (prunes are just dried plums), roughly chopped
  • Coarse granulated sugar or dried coconut, optional

Toss the nuts into a food processor with the zest of one orange, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, coriander as well as chopped dates, apricots and prunes.  Pulse the mixture three to four times to combine, then process the dried fruit, nuts and spices until a paste forms – about four or five minutes.  Depending on your food processor, you may need to do this in two batches.  My Kitchenaid food processor likes doing only half of a recipe at a time.

Transfer the paste to a mixing bowl and form the sugar plums by rolling about 1/2 tablespoon of the paste in the palms of your hands until a round ball forms.

Rolling the sugar plums in sugarDredge the Sugar Plums in either coarse granulated sugar (Sugar in the Raw works great because of its large crystals) or dried coconut.  Sugar Plums can be refrigerated in a sealed container for up to 1 month. If you layer the Sugar Plums, place a sheet of waxed paper between each layer.

Variations: You can substitute any nut or seed for the walnuts such as pecans or almonds or pistachios, you can useSugar Plums close-up different dried fruits such as dried apples, figs or raisins to replace some of the fruits and you can use the spices of your choice such as anise, cloves, or ground cardamom to replace the coriander.  You could even add a bit of unsweetened cocoa powder.

– Stacey

Sugar Plums in Bowl

Our local FOOD DAY event was GREAT!

Food Day BagI posted a few weeks ago about our PTA’s plans for celebrating Food Day at our local elementary school.  Our school if from Pre-K to 5th grade and has just over 530 students.  Well, I wanted to let you know that it went great.

Fruits and veggies prepped for Food Day

Fruits & veggies prepped for one grade for Food Day

We had a lot of support from the community and from other PTA parents, as well at the teachers.  Our speakers included: Matt Runkle of Native Roots Market, Becky Black from the OSU Extension Office, a local farmer William Edgar, Wanda Danley from the Norman Farmer’s Market, Prof. Deborah Dalton from OU’s Interdisciplinary Perspectives on the Environment program, and one of our PTA moms that did double duty, Laura Vaughn, who is an enthusiastic home gardener.  We are very thankful to all our speakers, especially considering the short timeline in planning the event.

We had gotten produce donations from Native Roots Market, Natural Grocers, and our local Homeland store.  That was supplemented with some extra veggies funded by the PTA and then several parents sent enough of their kids favorite fruit or veggie for that child’s class.  All the kids got to taste broccoli, apples, celery, spinach, grapes, bananas, summer squash, carrots, mushrooms, and peppers.  We also had samples of fresh ginger and basil to try.

Volunteers from OU’s OUr Earth student organization helped throughout the day.  They guided the speakers from class to class and helped the teachers serve the fruits and vegetables during the tasting.

Prior to Food Day, we put posters up around the school announcing it and we also included a flyer in the kids’ “Thursday Folder” that goes home to parents each week.  That is where we invited parents to send additional fruits and veggies for their child’s class.

Teacher Food Day Tasting

Blindfolded Teacher Fruit & Veggie Tasting

The morning of Food Day, the school started the day with their regular Monday Morning Assembly, but it included an introduction to Food Day and a blindfolded fruit and veggie tasting with three of the teachers.  The kids loved that part.  We had the teachers taste all of the fruits and veggies that the students would be trying later that day.

Then, during the class’ regular “snacktime” the speakers talked for about 10 minutes about where your food comes from and making healthy food choices including eating more fruits and vegetables.

The cafeteria also joined in during lunchtime by highlighting the Sodexo “Fruit of the Month” for October which was grapes.

– Stacey

Here are some pictures of our Food Day speakers in the classrooms:

Food Day - Pre-K

Matt Runkle of Native Roots talking to the Pre-K kids

 
Food Day - 1st grade

1st grade learning about cantaloupes from farmer William Edgar

 
 
Food Day - 1st grade

1st grade learning about cantaloupes from farmer William Edgar

 
Food Day - 2nd grade

Matt Runkle of Native roots talking to a 2nd grade class

 
Food Day - 4th grade

Wanda Danley of the Norman Farmers Market talking to 4th graders

  
 

 
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