Who knew that panini press sitting in my pantry could make a little bitty cake? Just look at this tiny layer cake – absolutely adorable and just right for two to share. Claudia and I made this just as we were saying goodbye to summer vacation and getting ready to head back to school. It always makes us sad, so we needed a treat to make the transition back to school a little sweeter.
There was a lot of fun factor with this cake too. Our only other panini dessert attempt ended in disaster, so this was more like an experiment than anything. Happily for us, it worked and we got to enjoy the results.
Recipe: Panini Press Layer Cake
2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
2 Tbsp. melted butter
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/4 heaping tsp. baking powder
pinch of salt
1 1/2 Tbsp. milk
Preheat the panini grill to 350°F or medium-high. Spray two 6-ounce ramekins with baking spray.
In a small bowl, whisk the egg and sugar together until they are combined. Stir in the vanilla and melted butter. Mix in the flour, baking powder and salt until the batter is combined and smooth. Stir in the milk. Divide the batter equally between the two ramekins, ideally filling each about halfway. Set the ramekins on the panini grill and close the lid so that the upper grates make contact with the upper edges of the ramekins. Bake the cakes until they are set and spring back when touched in the center, about 17 to 19 minutes. Allow them to cool for 5 minutes in the ramekins, then invert them onto a rack to cool completely. Assemble the layers and frost.
My dabbling with quinoa in dessert recipes didn’t quite work out for me, so I’ve gone back to savory quinoa dishes instead. This is a very healthy salad and it makes a huge amount, so it’s great to know you have a go-to lunch all week. This salad has taken the top spot in Jim’s go-to lunch rotation. It’s easy enough to make and it really does feed him all week. It’s filling and flavorful, though I’m such a lightweight when it comes to heat, that it’s actually a little much for me. If I were making the salad just for me, I’d have to cut back on the hot sauce a bit, but Jim thinks it’s great just the way it is.
Recipe: Buffalo Chicken Quinoa Salad
(adapted from Half Baked Harvest)
3 c. cooked quinoa
2-3 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cooked, cooled, and cut into bite-sized pieces
1 bunch of green onions, chopped
2-3 stalks celery, diced
1 1/2 – 2 c. fresh spinach, thinly sliced (chiffonade)
1 c. Frank’s Red Hot Sauce
1/3 c. olive oil
1 c. crumbled blue cheese
Cook quinoa according to package directions and cool. Cook chicken breasts and cut them into bite-sized pieces when cool. In a large bowl, mix quinoa, chicken, most of the green onions, and celery. In a separate bowl, whisk together Frank’s Red Hot Sauce and olive oil. Pour hot sauce mixture over quinoa mixture and stir to combine. Stir in most of the blue cheese. If you’re not serving the salad right away, refrigerate it at this point. Just before serving, stir in the chiffonade of spinach. Sprinkle the top of the salad with the reserved green onions and crumbled blue cheese.
Oh. My. Gosh. I can’t even put into words my complete love and adoration for this dip. It is THAT GOOD. The kind of good that makes you want to pay homage to it with a poem… or a love song… or a limerick. Something. But you can’t, because you’re too busy holding your graham cracker in one hand and your spoon in the other, just trying to decide which way you like eating it the best. And since you still can’t choose, even after you’ve eaten your weight in dip, you’ll just have to find a reason to make it again. Soon. Really, really soon.
Recipe: Cake Batter Dip
(slightly adapted from Mommy’s Menu)
1 boxed cake mix (any flavor – I chose yellow butter cake mix)
1 1/2 c. plain nonfat Greek yogurt
2 c. Cool Whip (I used light Cool Whip and would like to try fat-free next time.)
lots of sprinkles/jimmies
graham crackers, animal crackers, pretzels, (or a spoon) for dipping
Stir all ingredients together in a mixing bowl. Transfer to serving dish, cover, and refrigerate until ready to use, at least one hour.
(I also think this would make an excellent cupcake frosting!! Just be sure to refrigerate them, since you’re using dairy products.)
The heat wave that clobbered us last week has gone as quickly as it arrived. We’ve had a couple beautiful warm days and have even been able to turn off the a/c and throw the windows open. But when we were in the midst of 100+ temps, the kids were screaming for ice cream. This was a great recipe to make with them because all you do is stir it up and pour it into the ice cream maker for about 15 minutes. That is literally it. Quick and easy and a cold treat in minutes.
Recipe: Hot Cocoa Frozen Yogurt
(adapted from kitchenability)
2 ½ cups nonfat plain Greek yogurt
½ cup and 2 tbsp. instant hot cocoa mix
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 Tbsp. marshmallow fluff
2-3 Tbsp. mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
2-3 Tbsp. Jet-Puffed Marshmallow Bits* (These come in chocolate or vanilla flavored. We used chocolate.)
Stir Greek yogurt and hot cocoa mix together until combined. Add the vanilla extract and marshmallow fluff and stir again until mixed. Stir in mini chocolate chips and marshmallow bits until everything is fully incorporated. Transfer to ice cream maker until your desired consistency is achieved. (It doesn’t take long to reach a soft-serve consistency, so keep an eye on it.)
(If you don’t have an ice cream machine, just pour your mixture into a freezer-safe container, cover, and freeze overnight.)
My kids are so funny when I ask them to try something, whether it’s a dessert or something new I’ve just cooked. They both look at me suspiciously and ask what the secret ingredient is. When did they catch on to my good-willed deception anyway? I guess the jig is up, as they say. I still hold out until they’ve tried the food in question, just in case they really love it and won’t care what I’ve added.
These brownies are a good example. Because they’re a little flatter than our normal brownies and the top didn’t get all nice and crinkled like it usually does, they knew right away that there was a “secret ingredient” in there. To their credit though, they both tried them and Claudia actually really liked them. Sam told me he did, but I found most of his in the trash later. Me? I am eating them left and right. Apparently, just because I know there is something remotely healthy in there, I can just grab one whenever I want. Right? Isn’t that how it works?
Anyway, the secret ingredient here is black beans. No one would have ever guessed. I’ve made chickpea brownies that were a big hit with the kids because they were over-the-top chocolatey, but I thought these were better. And they’re way healthier! The edges were a little weird to me – kind of crispy and chewy all at once, but Claudia couldn’t get enough of them, so we have been tag-teaming. She gets the edges and I get the middle. We’re a good team.
Recipe: Black Bean Brownies
1 15 oz. can of black beans
1 brownie mix
handful of chocolate chips, optional
Rinse black beans well and return to the can. Fill the can with water, covering the beans. Pour the mixture into your blender and blend for a couple minutes, until pureed (the mixture looked like a lot of liquid, but it’ll be fine). Pour brownie mix into a large bowl and add the bean mixture. Stir until combined. Add a handful of chocolate chips and stir. Pour into a prepared 9×13″ baking pan and sprinkle with a few chocolate chips. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until brownies start to pull away from the sides of the pan. Cool completely before cutting.
I don’t have a recipe to share today, but I really want to tell you about a girl who is making an incredible difference in her community. Cat Gleason is only 16 years old, but her mission is “Helping to feed the hungry and homeless one pie at a time,” and she’s been doing just that for more than a year. In Ocean City, NJ, Cat is known as Pie Girl. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of enjoying her pies, you’d know there couldn’t be a better name.
My sister and I look forward to riding our bikes to the Farmers Market while we’re vacationing in Ocean City every summer. Last year, we saw Cat’s array of pies and couldn’t pass by without a couple to take back to share with our families. To be perfectly honest, only Sam and I got to enjoy the blueberry pie I bought that day. Jim and Claudia stayed on the beach a little too long that afternoon and the two of us ate the whole thing before they got back. Oh my gosh, what a memory! We each sat there with a fork and just could not stop eating this incredible blueberry crumble pie. We truly savored every single bite. Needless to say, I became an instant fan.
Cat uses fresh ingredients she purchases at the Farmers Market and bakes weekly in her church’s kitchen. She donates 100% of her profits to God’s Kitchen at St. Peter’s United Methodist Church and a local food cupboard. She really is feeding the hungry and the homeless with her pies. I was, and remain, in awe of this young woman. I started following Pie Girl’s facebook page and looking forward to our next OC vacation.
Then, at the end of October, Hurricane Sandy hit the New Jersey coast and wreaked havoc in towns up and down the coastline. We love Ocean City and after 14 years of taking our kids there, we’ve come to think of it as a sort of second hometown. We followed the news closely, and worried and prayed as the storm hit. As I scanned news of Sandy’s aftermath, I saw an article mentioning Pie Girl. It turned out that Cat’s family decided to stay on the island during the storm and Cat moved into action. According to the Ocean City Gazette, Cat shared pots of homemade soup and freshly baked cookies with neighbors. She did the same in other neighborhoods. When she wasn’t handing out food, she was helping folks clean up. Then she reached out even further and created the Ocean City Relief Center, with the help of other volunteers. They provided a safe place for families to get a hot meal, some companionship, and access to charging stations for their cell phones.
We were happy to get back to OC this summer and enjoy all the places we’ve come to love. The crowds were a bit smaller than usual, but we hope that they were enough to help the town continue to rebound from Hurricane Sandy. We looked forward to Wednesday’s Farmers Market all week, and after we parked our bikes, we made a beeline straight to the charming Pie Girl sign.
This year, we spent a little time talking with Cat and her mom, Karin. I continue to be so impressed with Cat’s dedication, kindness, and talent. She is proof that there are no age restrictions on following your heart and helping others. We can each make a huge difference in someone’s life, and people like Cat show us that it really is possible to change the world. One pie at a time.
You can follow Pie Girl on Facebook or visit the Ocean City Farmers Market at Sixth & Asbury Ave., 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesdays through Sept. 4.
Our family vacation was last week and, for the 14th summer in a row, we spent some time in our favorite beach town. Every year we look forward to seeing if there will be any new offerings on the boardwalk to add to our can’t-wait-to-have-that-again list of foods. We were definitely not disappointed, but our new love came in a completely unexpected form. Bananas. Just bananas. We fell head-over-heels in love with a tiny little spot along the boardwalk called Freaky Fruit. Their motto is “It’s halfway good for you.” I love that!
My husband kind of stalked the place trying to figure out what they were really doing to make his banana whip taste so much like ice cream. I’ve seen this pop up on other food blogs over the past few months and I tried to convince him that it really was made with bananas, and only bananas, but he just couldn’t believe it. And in his defense, it truly is so darn good that it’s hard to believe there’s nothing to it but a couple of frozen bananas.
We’ve been buying bananas every time we stop by the store now and we’ve got a nice stash in the freezer. It’s so simple to drop some into my Ninja blender and in a couple minutes (and with a little bit of scraping down the sides) we’ve got frozen banana whips that totally rival the boardwalk shop. Our new motto is that we’ve gone bananas for banana whips!
Recipe: Banana Whips
frozen bananas… that’s it!
Peel and freeze chunks of bananas. When you’re ready for a banana whip, drop a few pieces into your blender and blend until smooth and creamy, scraping the sides occasionally. No need to add anything else, but be adventurous with them. You can add a spoonful of peanut butter, Nutella, or chocolate to the blender. They’re also tasty with a dash of vanilla extract or a sprinkling of cinnamon. Be creative!