Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Chocolate Banana-Pecan-Coconut-Chocolate Chip Bread

Tonight I didn't feel like doing a lot of cooking....but ONLY because I felt like doing a little baking!  I put together a quick whole wheat Boboli pizza for hubby and I to was quick and easy and helped me use up some of my peppers and tomatoes.

Recently, I've been looking for a way to use up a bunch of overly ripe bananas sitting on my counter, but didn't feel like making regular banana bread.  So I found several recipes I kind of liked and made a few modifications and additions and it is in the oven baking as I type this.  So, in honor of today being "Leap Day", I made a Chocolate Banana-Pecan-Coconut-Chocolate Chip Bread.  Essentially it is a banana bread made using cocoa powder in the batter, so the bread itself is chocolate.  To that, I added bananas, toasted pecans, coconut and dark chocolate chips.  Before popping it in the oven I sprinkled it with a couple tablespoons of brown sugar, a tip that I had read in one of the many recipes I reviewed.  This bread was quick and easy to put together and used up all but one of my lonely little overripe bananas.

This bread surprisingly was not too sweet (which I actually prefer)...if you like a sweeter bread, you could substitute either milk chocolate chips or white chocolate chips to add more sweetness.  It would probably also be good with Reese's peanut butter chips too.  If you want it to be more "cake sweet", you could increase the sugar a little.  The unsweetened cocoa along with the dark chocolate chips lessened the sweetness of this bread.  Personally, I like it just the way it is.

Below is the recipe as well as a few pictures!  Enjoy.

Main ingredients
Wet and dry ingredients all mixed together
Chopped toasted pecans and dark chocolate chips waiting their turn to "leap" into the batter above
Batter spread into the loaf pan...waiting to be baked
Approximately 1 hour later, it's out of the oven
Brown sugar crust on top

This just wouldn't feel like my blog without at least one BOOM (an up close and personal) picture!  ;-)


Chocolate Banana-Pecan-Coconut-Chocolate Chip Bread


1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 large eggs, beaten
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), melted and cooled
1-1/2 cups bananas, mashed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup pecans, chopped and toasted
2/3 cup dark chocolate chips (60% cacao), or your favorite chips
1/4 cup coconut, shredded or flaked, optional


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour bottom and sides of a 9 x 5 x 3 inch loaf pan.

In a large bowl whisk together flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder and baking soda. 

In a medium-sized bowl combine the mashed bananas, eggs, melted butter, and vanilla. 

With a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, fold the wet ingredients (banana mixture) into the dry ingredients until just combined and batter is thick and chunky. Fold in the nuts, coconut and chocolate chips.  Scrape batter into prepared pan and sprinkle the top of the bread with brown sugar (optional).

Bake until bread rises and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 55 to 65 minutes. Cool in pan on a wire rack and then carefully remove the bread from the pan. Can be served warm or at room temperature. Cover and store at room temp for several days, or freeze for longer storage.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Tuesday Night...Roasted Brussel Sprouts, Chicken Cutlets and Mashed Potatoes - Cara Caras for Dessert!

Well, it is a gloomy Tuesday evening.  It has been raining on and off and I worked a little late tonight, so on my way home, I thought about what I might want to make for dinner.  I had picked up a 2-lb bag of fresh brussel sprouts over the weekend because I wanted to try roasting them for the first time.  I also had 3 red potatoes sitting on my counter and plenty of Perdue boneless chicken breasts in the fridge (they are on sale at Kroger this week for $1.99/  Even though I didn't get home until 6:00pm, I still had an awesome dinner on the table by 7:00pm.

I have wanted to try roasting brussel sprouts for a while now.  I like them steamed and knew I'd probably like them roasted as well.  I must say...I didn't like them....I LOVED THEM!!!  As soon as I got home, I cut the end off all the sprouts, halved them and tossed them in a few tablespoons of olive oil, sea salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper.  I spread them out on a cookie sheet and popped them into a 400 degree oven and roasted them for 30 minutes until they were golden, dark (in a good way) and delicious.  While my sprouts were roasting, I cut up my red potatoes and put them in a pan to boil for about 10-15 minutes; when done I mashed them with a little butter, milk, fresh parsley, salt and pepper.  While all that was going on, I butterflied my chicken breasts, dipped them in some egg and milk wash (seasoned with salt and pepper) and rolled them in herb seasoned whole wheat bread crumbs mixed with some parmesan cheese.  I quickly sauteed them in olive oil in a pan on the stove until they were golden brown.  Literally, everything was ready within minutes of each other.  It was a delicious dinner and I'm glad I finally got to try roasted brussel sprouts!  Since it was a big meal, we are having Cara Cara oranges (by Sunkist) for our dessert.  If you haven't tried them before, you should....they have the most beautiful deep shade of orange-red flesh, they are seedless and they taste different than regular oranges -- I think they taste better.  Check out a few pics below.  Enjoy!

Brussel sprouts, halved and waiting to be tossed in some oil, salt and pepper.
Red potatoes in the pan waiting to be boiled and mashed.
Tossed in olive oil, seasoned and begging to be roasted.
Breaded Perdue chicken breasts, almost done cooking.
Just pulled out of the oven, all roasted and delicious.

Once more...check out those sprouts!

Cara Cara Oranges by Sunkist..."The Power Orange".  
According to Wikipedia: "The Cara Cara navel, or red navel orange is an early-to-midseason navel orange believed to have developed as a cross between the Washington navel and the Brazilian Bahia navel."  It further describes the characteristics as: "This medium sized navel is sweet and low in acid, the flavor is more complex than most navel varieties and has been described as evoking notes of cherry, rose petal and blackberry."
So pretty!
Check out the beautiful color

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Lasagna - Ravioli-Zucchini -- Sunday Night Dinner with the Fam

Well, tonight I had both of my boys over for Sunday dinner along with one of their girlfriends (she is really like my 4th her!).  My daughter is in Orlando  this weekend where she ran in the Disney Princess Half Marathon this I'm pretty sure she is probably having Tylenol and Advil for her dinner this evening!

I decided to make lasagna using layers of big cheese ravioli, mozzarella and Parmesan cheese, zucchini and meat sauce.  I served it with salad and Asiago Cheese Baguette bread that we picked up at Panera Bread this morning.  For dessert, I made chocolate walnut brownies with a quick and easy ganache topping made using whipping cream and melted chocolate.  In honor of Girl Scout Cookie time here in the Atlanta area, I served the brownies with a scoop of Edy's Girl Scout Samoas Cookie ice cream.  Below are some pictures of our meal and its preparation as well as the recipe.  Enjoy!

The basic ingredients for the lasagna
I sliced the zucchini lengthwise in 1/4" slices, brushed with olive oil and seasoned with sea salt and fresh ground black pepper and baked until tender
The layering begins with sauce and then a layer of cooked zucchini
Cooked raviolis are tossed with sauce to keep from sticking
Meat Sauce
Ravioli is layered on top of the zucchini
The next layer is Mozzarella and Parmesan cheese
The cheese is covered with a layer of meat sauce and then all the layers are repeated again
Baked for about 50 minutes until hot, bubbly and golden
Asiago bread from Panera
Lots of fresh basil, of course
So pretty
Chocolate Ganache Brownies with Samoas Ice Cream
Ravioli and Zucchini Lasagna

  • 5-6 medium (about 2 pounds) zucchini, cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • 2 packages (26 ounces each) frozen large cheese ravioli
  • olive oil to brush on zucchini and sauté onion
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 pound lean ground beef, 90% fat free
  • 2 jars (26 ounces each) tomato-basil sauce (or your favorite sauce)
  • 2 cups shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line cookie sheet with foil.  Place sliced zucchini on the cookie sheet and brush lightly with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Bake approximately 20 minutes or until tender; remove and let cool.  Meanwhile, grease a 3-quart ceramic lasagna pan or baking dish and set aside.
  2. Heat large covered saucepot of water to boiling over high heat. Add ravioli and cook until ravioli rise to top (approximately 3 to 4 minutes).  Don't overcook or they will fall apart.
  3. Meanwhile, in 3-quart saucepan, heat 2 teaspoons oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook 8 to 10 minutes or until tender and lightly browned; add ground beef and cook over medium-high heat 5 to 7 minutes or until browned, breaking up beef with side of spoon. Stir in tomato sauce and heat until simmering.
  4. Drain ravioli; return to saucepot. Toss with some of the sauce to keep from sticking.
  5. In prepared baking dish, arrange half of zucchini; top with half of ravioli, then half of mozzarella and half of Parmesan; spread half of the meat sauce over the cheese. Repeat layering of all ingredients. Cover with foil and bake at 375 degrees for 35 minutes or until hot in the center; uncover and continue baking approximately 15-20 minutes until golden and bubbly on top.  Remove from oven and let cool 20-25 minutes to let the cheese set and keep cut pieces from sliding and falling apart.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Chicken-Broccoli-Tomato Tortellini Alfredo

Today was a lazy Saturday here -- I was thinking about making stuffed cabbage for dinner, but I never made it out to the store to get the I put together a quick Chicken-Broccoli-Tomato Tortellini Alfredo.  It was easy and good.  I cooked a bag of frozen cheese tortellini (it only took 2 minutes to boil), steamed some fresh broccoli (took about 4 minutes), diced a couple Roma tomatoes and then diced and sauteed a couple of boneless chicken breasts in a little olive oil and then tossed it all together with a jar of Classico Poblano Pepper Alfredo sauce.  It took less than 30 minutes to put together from start to finish.  I served it with a loaf of hot crusty French bread.

Love the colors
Here is another angle...I love the fresh veggies and makes the dish!
It was as good as it looks and so simple to throw together which is a great combination!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Spinach-Tomato Pizza and Leftover Rigatoni with Meatballs--Wild Wednesday Night Dinner

Tonight I had intended to have the leftover rigatoni and meatballs for dinner and enjoy not having to cook.  But for whatever reason, I was in the mood to prepare something this evening (probably because I didn't have to)!  I had a small leftover ball of fresh pizza dough, 1/2 a container of fresh organic baby spinach and Roma I decided to make a smaller thick crust "Chicago Style" pizza.  The plus is I didn't have to spend as much time rolling out the dough to a thin circle.  I quickly sauteed my spinach to get the liquid out, thinly sliced my Roma tomatoes and removed their seeds and then rolled the dough out to a small thick circle.  I spread a little sauce, covered it with some mozzarella and Italian shredded cheese and scattered my cooked spinach and tomato slices and popped it in the oven.  I must was really good!  We had one slice of spinach tomato pizza alongside a small portion of leftover rigatoni with a meatball on top...I know it sounds kind of weird...but sometimes weird is good!  :-)

Check out my pizza & rigatoni with meatball combo below!

Spinach-Tomato Pizza -- I tried to convince my husband that the tomatoes kind of looked like pepperoni...just better for him...not sure he bought into that one.
Leftover Rigatoni with "Meatball" & Spinach-Tomato Pizza

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Pizza Night...and Nutella No-Bake Cheesecake...Yummy!

Well, tonight was our pizza night.  I used Publix's fresh pizza dough for our crust and put Roma tomatoes, green peppers and onions on my half and turkey pepperoni and artichoke hearts on hubby's half.

I also made a new dessert using a recipe I found on Pinterest -- Nutella No-Bake Cheesecake.  The crust was made with crushed Oreos mixed with a little butter, pressed into the bottom of the serving glasses I used.  The filling was made by creaming together cream cheese and Nutella and folding in a container of light cool whip, then spooning it on top of the crust and chilling.  I served it with a dollop of fat-free whipped cream and sprinkled a few mini chips and toasted hazelnuts on top.  It was an easy dessert to put together and it looked and tasted more complicated than it actually was. The recipe is below.

Both the pizza and the dessert were yummy.  The best part is I have plenty of pizza left for tomorrow's lunch (I also saved 1/2 of my dessert to enjoy tomorrow too).  Not bad for a Tuesday night!  I've posted a few pictures below.  Enjoy!

Ready to go into the oven
Fresh out of the oven
Nutella No-Bake Cheesecake
Topped with a little dollop of whipped cream & sprinkled with a few mini chips and toasted hazelnuts...yummy!

No Bake Nutella Cheesecakes


For the Crust

12 Oreo Cookies, crushed into crumbs
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For the Filling

1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
2/3 cup Nutella
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 (8 ounce) tub frozen whipped topping, thawed

For the Garnish

whipped topping, optional
chocolate chips or shavings, optional
toasted, chopped hazelnuts, optional


1. In a medium bowl, stir together the Oreo cookie crumbs and melted butter. Evenly divide the crumbs between your individual serving dishes and press into the bottoms of the dishes to form a crust layer.
2. In a large bowl, with an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and Nutella until smooth. Add vanilla and mix to combine. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the whipped topping until well blended and no streaks remain.
3. Evenly pipe or spoon the filling into individual serving dishes. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.
4. If desired, garnish with additional whipped topping, chocolate shavings, and/or toasted, chopped hazelnuts.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Mama Mia, That's a Mighty Tasty Meatball...Gia Russa Style

This evening I was in the mood for meatballs...don't ask me why, but I was.  I had a 1-lb package of Perdue ground chicken breast in the fridge and decided to use that as the base for my meatballs.  To the chicken, I added 2 large cloves of minced fresh garlic, 1 egg, 1/3 cup of whole wheat bread crumbs, a couple tablespoons of chopped fresh Italian flat leaf parsley, 1/2 teaspoon of Turkish oregano (yes, these meatballs are culturally diverse), cracked black pepper, a smidge of sea salt, a heaping 2/3 cup of freshly grated Romano cheese and a few tablespoons of shredded Parmesan...and then to moisten it a little more, I added about 1/4 cup of spicy Sicilian pasta sauce....whew!  I mixed all the ingredients together in a medium bowl and then used a small ice cream scoop to make fairly uniform meatballs, placed them in a baking pan and baked them at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes.

While my balls were baking, I brought a pot of water to a boil to cook my Gia Russa Whole Wheat Roman Rigatoni.  In another pan, I sauteed a couple of sliced small zucchinis and then set them aside.  In yet another medium sized pot, I dumped an open jar of Gia Russa Hot Sicilian Sauce and most of another jar of Gia Russa's "New" Low Sodium Tomato and Basil Sauce and began heating it...and because I can never leave well enough alone, I added a generous few shakes of red pepper flakes to the sauce as it heated.  Once my sauce was hot and my meatballs baked, I placed them in the sauce, added the zucchini and covered them and let them simmer and mingle for another 20 minutes or so.  After the pasta was done...I plated my rigatoni ("bowled" it actually) and placed 2 meatballs and my spicy sauce on top.  I then topped it with more fresh chopped parsley and shredded Parmesan cheese.....Mangia!  And as always, I took a few pictures...check them out below!

Basic ingredients
United Nations seasoning (Italian parsley & Turkish oregano)
Perdue ground chicken lean
Lined up and waiting to be popped into the oven
I love this pasta...whole wheat "Gia Russa" rigatoni
Sliced little zucchinis...up close and personal
I used a combination of these 2 sauces
All baked and getting ready to "mingle" a while
Zucchinis have been added to the mix and mingle party
Meatballs, zucchini and sauce served on top of a bed of rigatoni...yummy!
Take a peek inside the meatball...they are so tender and delicate