23 April 2014

Dark Chocolate Marbled Banana Bread

Whew. The past month was both incredible and insane. I read 120-something articles in 30 days, wrote 4 papers in 3 days, and then in 2 hours I finished it all off by passing my comprehensive exams. All those numbers mean I'm FINALLY "all but dissertation"! However, that much frantic work also meant that I had 3 sad and neglected bananas in my fruit basket. 

So a day after my defense, I decided to do what I know how to do best- spend some quality time in the kitchen! Every time I find an occasion to make banana bread, though, I swear I also am missing a different ingredient than the time before. In the past this has resulted in using "chia eggs" to make up for being one egg shy or incorporating Greek yogurt in place of oil (or butter). This time I was short egg AND butter, but I at least had milk on hand. Remembering my friend had just had great success with a vegan banana nut muffin recipe I scoured the internet and found a vegan banana bread recipe. It didn't call for anything too crazy and at the same time had something a little different to offer- a marbled banana bread! Now, I don't have extensive experience with marbling, but the this recipe produces a gorgeous, healthy bread. It's flavorful and at the same time surprisingly low in sugar and fat!

If you're looking for a banana bread to wow people with in the future, I recommend you try adapting the following recipe for your own purposes! At the same time, I must apologize- I totally ended up eyeballing a lot of the ingredients, because I realized at the last minute I had more banana than the original recipe called for and haphazardly tried to convert the original recipe in my head to yield a larger quantity.  

Dark Chocolate Marbled Banana Bread
Lightly adapted from the Post Punk Kitchen

Yields: 12 slices

  • 1.5 c bananas, mashed
  • 1/2 c sugar
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 3 tbs vegetable oil
  • 1/2 c milk 
  • 2 1/4 - 1/2 c all purpose flour
  • 1.5 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 tbs unsweetened dark cocoa powder
  • 6-8 tbs boiling water
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. 
  2. In a large mixing bowl, add the sugar, vanilla, oil, and milk. 
  3. In a separate, smaller bowl, peel and mash approximately 3 larger sized bananas. Afterward, measure out 1.5 cups of mashed banana and add it to the mixing bowl. Beat the ingredients together.
  4. Fold the flour, baking soda, and salt with the contents of the mixing bowl until just barely incorporated.
  5. In a medium sized mixing bowl, add 3-5 tablespoons of boiled water to the cocoa powder. (I needed to use closer to 5 tablespoons of water in order to dissolve the cocoa, so feel free to add more as needed!) Measure 1-1.5 cups of the banana mixture and add this to the cocoa powder and water.  Fold the two together until well incorporated and the batter looks smooth. (If you want your marbling to be more sparse, only make 1 cup of chocolate-ified banana.) Add whatever remaining boiled water you have to the plain banana batter and stir.
  6. In a greased (or buttered) 8" x 4 " loaf pan, alternate scooping in the chocolate and plain banana batter. I used a 1/2 cup measuring cup to do so, going plain-chocolate-plain from left to right and then alternating by layer, but have fun with this! Once you have completed layering the two batters in the pan, take a knife and swirl circles and loops throughout the batter until you've created a design for the top of the bread that you like. 
  7. Bake the bread for approximately 45 minutes. At this point, the bread will likely need another 15-20 minutes, but already be golden brown. If so, make a tent of tin foil over the top of the pan to prevent burning and put the pan back in until done. The bread will be done when a butter knife can be inserted almost (or entirely) smoothly throughout the bread without producing crumbs. 

22 March 2014

Thriving on a budget

Since I lasted posted, a lot of people have been asking me about if I'm really living on $30 a week for groceries. Sure $30 doesn't sound like much, but it is entirely possible to not just live off of, but thrive on thirty dollars a week, so I figure today's post will be dedicated toward how to manage your grocery spending.

First off, I think it is important to say you need to be realistic. Different people have different eating habits. For instance, I don't eat meat, so I am able to save a lot of money in that department. I'm also a small person, so I probably eat less than people who are normal height (unless you put nachos in my face, then I'm going to eat an alarming amount). Different people also have different amounts of time that they can feasibly devote to cooking, and also like cooking (and doing dishes) to different degrees. If you hate cooking prep or just want to cut down on clean up time, then make sure you factor in the cost of these prepared foods into your budget.

Second, it is wise to start by making a small cut to your current spending. Early last year, I would fluctuate up to forty dollars a week on how much I spent weekly on groceries. Once I was aware of this, I tried a budget set around roughly the average of how much I was spending then. Later on, I lowered this budget to $40 a week. Shortly after, I realized that I was routinely under my $40 price point, so I lowered it to $30. If I had started with my original spending and immediately imposed a $30 budget there is no way I would have been successful and so I think it's really important you do what you need to do to make sure you don't feel unhappy with your food options.

Third, when reducing your grocery costs consider what is in season or locally sourced. These products tend to be cheaper, and if it's locally you're sourced, you're doing the environment a favor, too. In the winter in the northeast, I realize it can be difficult to stay fully stocked on fresh fruits and veggies, because nothing is in season near you. I suggest then that you look at whether there are fruits and vegetables that keep well and that you can buy in bulk at your local grocery store. For example, Wegmans has a terrific deal on family packs of granny smith apples. While these apples are not the gigantic apples I used to feast on, they are crisp and juicy, and at $2.99 for 3 pounds, they are a steal! In addition, do some sleuthing around your freezer section. Your store might offer flash frozen, unseasoned vegetable or fruit medleys. These are often cheaper than what you would buy fresh and they are extremely versatile! {Never}homemaker recently reviewed how the frozen vegetables from Wegmans help her stay on track with healthy eating, but her post also highlights how affordable and handy they are! I try to always have a few bags of the different Asian medleys on hand, so that at night I can throw together a vegetable and tofu stir-fry in just a matter of minutes.

Fourth, and perhaps most importantly, be in the habit of planning out your meals. I don't mean that you should be planning in the sense that you should be watching your nutritional content intake, but you should have recipes picked out for the next week. This will help you stay within your budget by making sure you don't make a thousand elaborate meals within the span of one week and at the same time it will limit how much time you spend wandering up and down the aisles, throwing whatever looks good into your cart. Perhaps most exciting for me, planning out my meals gives me the chance of trying out new recipes on a weekly basis!

Do you have any tips for staying on track with grocery shopping? Chime in! Otherwise, be sure to enjoy your weekend. I'll be back with a round-up of recipes I've tried out recently and loved as lunches to bring into work!

04 March 2014

Strawberry Raspberry Chia Jam

Chee-a? Chai-a? Chia. As in, those furry grass-like pets from the 80s.

I got into eating chia seeds in the past two years when they blew up in the food world for being rich in omega-3s and fiber.

They're these tiny little seeds and as a vegetarian and someone with a fickle stomach, they just seemed like a no brainer to add to my diet. I bought them in the organic section at my regular grocery store and like to top off my yogurt with them, throw them in smoothies, and even use them as an egg-like binder in vegan baked goods. Most recently, I've been using them to make jam!

Strawberry Raspberry Chia Jam
Lightly adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod

Yields: 2 cups


  • 1 cup raspberries, frozen or fresh
  • 2 cups strawberries, halved, frozen or fresh
  • 2-3 tbs maple syrup, honey or agave
  • 1/2 tbs vanilla extract
  • 3 tbs chia seeds
  • In a small pot, bring your fruit to a low boil, stirring frequently. Once boiling, reduce heat to a simmer and continue to stir for 5-7 minutes until most of the fruit falls apart. 
  • Add in to the fruit, your sweetener, extract, and seeds. Continue to stir the mixture for an additional 7-10 minutes or until it has thickened up to a jam consistency of your liking.
  • Remove jam from the heat and allow it to cool to room temperature before serving or storing. It should keep for up to 2 weeks in the fridge.

I've been putting this jam on top of my oatmeal in the mornings to sweeten it up without the addition of raisins, honey, and the like. What's your favorite use for jam? 

03 March 2014

Life right now

Life has changed significantly since I last posted, but that's to be expected when I last posted over a year ago. What exactly has changed since then? Well, to start, I picked up running. I began by running a 5K in April 2013 and in September I had completed my first half marathon. In fact, I'm training for my second major race right now! I'll be running the Broad Street Run, a 10-miler, in May. I'm also looking at a half marathon in Wildwoods, NJ two weeks after. It also feels like I dived into adulthood practically overnight when I decided to adopt Pepper, my now 8-month old black kitten this January. I was already starting to pay more attention to my finances, but now I'm cleaning the dishes after every single meal, sweeping, Swiffering, and vacuuming on a weekly basis, and abiding by a tight budget. To top things off, in the past year I've been following a 'gluten light' diet, because it turns out my body is less than pleased with gluten consumption, although my tastebuds beg to differ.

Surprisingly, I've never felt more productive or motivated in the kitchen. I spend no more than $30 a week on my groceries, but I truly look forward to crafting my grocery list each week. It's fun to be constantly challenging myself to stick to my budget, while trying out as many new recipes as possible. So it's a new year and a new me! I hope whoever it is that is reading this, that you enjoy seeing how far $30 can go and the recipes that come out of my kitchen.

TLDR; I'm back.

12 December 2012

Eggnog Snickerdoodles & the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2012

This is the second year I've participated in the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap and I've really come to love it. This year to participate in the cookie swap, bloggers were asked to donate 4 dollars to Cookies for Kids' Cancer, a non-profit organization committed to help funding new therapies that fight against pediatric cancer. Moreover, one of my favorite in-the-kitchen brands, OXO, got involved. OXO is donating 50% of proceeds from their adorable spatula AND is matching the proceeds earned from the FB Cookie Swap and donating it all to Cookies for Kids' Cancer.

So not only was this cookie swap a ton of fun to participate in, but it could not have been for a better cause!

With just over a week left in the semester, I truly looked forward to and appreciated coming home to shipments of cookies! This year I received delicious Tahini Butter Cookies from Annelies, at the Food Poet, Brown Butter Shortbread Cookies from Aaron, at the Hungry Hutch, and Moroccan Sesame Cookies from Amanda over at MoracMama. All three cookies were enjoyed on my own before deciding enough was enough and that I should probably share the wealth with my labmates at work. I'm sure my waistline will thank me for this decision in the long run, but my sweet tooth tonight sure is regretting it!

For the cookie swap, I knew I wanted to embrace seasonal flavors and do a twist on a classic cookie. In the end, I went for incorporating the rich, spiced flavors of eggnog into a classic cookie - the snickerdoodle!

Eggnog Snickerdoodles
Based on Joy of Baking's Snickerdoodles

Yields: 36-40 cookies

Cookie Ingredients

  • 2 3/4 cups all purpose flour (or half all purpose, half whole wheat baking flour)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 c unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 c granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/3-1/2 c, whole fat eggnog

Coating Ingredients

  • 1/3 c granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon


  1. In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar on medium speed for 2 -3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  2. Once sugar and butter have been creamed together, mix in the eggs one at a time, scraping in between additions. Afterward, mix in the vanilla extract. 
  3. In a medium sized bowl, mix together your dry ingredients. Fold the dry ingredients to your wet mixture.
  4. With your stand mixer or hand beaters on low, pour the eggnog into the cookie dough. If you're using whole wheat flour, you'll want to add closer to 1/2 c of eggnog. Cookie dough will be sticky at this point, so scrape down the sides and pop it into the refrigerator for at least two hours or until firm.
  5. Once cookie dough is firm, preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Set up your work station with your metal cookie sheets lined with parchment paper and sprayed with your favorite non-stick cookie spray or lined with Silpat sheets. In a small bowl, you'll want to have your sugar and cinnamon mixture. You'll also want a small, circular cup that you can press your cookie balls down with. 
  6. Spoon it 1-1 1/2" balls of dough. Roll the balls into the sugar coating before pressing down with the cup. To keep the cup from sticking, occasionally rinse the cup off with clean water. You should aim for fitting 15 cookies on a pan.
  7. Bake the cookies in the oven for 8-10 minutes. Keep a careful eye on the cookies and make sure that they are baking evenly. If your oven is as fickle as mine, you might want to rotate the pans while the cookies are baking. You also should keep an eye on the centers of the cookies to make sure they're baking all the way through, and watch for the bottoms of the cookies browning before cookies are actually done all the way through! (If this happens, try covering your cookie pan with tin foil while those cookies finish baking in the oven. Just be careful not to have the tin foil touch up against the cookies.)
If you are super ambitious, I would love to see someone try drizzling a salted bourbon caramel sauce over these cookies. I actually had bought all the ingredients for the sauce, but ran out of time! With all of the ingredients sitting in my cabinets, I have the perfect excuse to make the cookies over again, but I hope that it also inspires one of you to try out something new and make it your own!

Happy holidays, folks!