Sweet Potato and Apple Bread

A few weeks ago, when my family was in Philadelphia for Netty's funeral, my sister-in-law and I made some sweet potato and apple bread. It was warm, comforting, and great to eat for breakfast, snack or whenever you need something to cheer you up (without being overly indulgent). Today, after learning that another storm was headed our way, I figured it was time to make this recipe again. So, for all you sweet potato lovers out there, here is a recipe for Sweet Potato and Apple Bread:

NOTE: This recipe makes two loaves. For one loaf of bread, just halve the specified measurement for each ingredient, as I have done.


2 1/3 cups sugar
2/3 cups water
2/3 cup oil
4 eggs
2 cups mashed sweet potatoes
1 apple, peeled and diced
3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large bowl, combine sugar, water, oil, eggs, apple, and sweet potatoes and mix thoroughly. In a separate bowl, mix together the dry ingredients and then add this mixture to wet ingredients. Add walnuts and mix well. Divide between 2 greased loaf pans and bake for 60-65 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean after testing the middle of the bread. Cool in pan to room temperature.

Cheerios and Peanut Butter Granola

Once again I was in the kitchen this afternoon, brain storming ideas for healthy snack foods. I came up with the recipe for Cheerios and Peanut Butter Granola:


1 1/2 cup Cheerios
1/4 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup salted peanuts, chopped
3 Tablespoons brown sugar
3 Tablespoons butter
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
2 Tablespoons flour
3 oz. chocolate, chopped into small pieces


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 8 x 8 pan with parchment paper and put aside. Put peanut butter and butter in a large microwave safe bowl and heat in microwave for 40 seconds. Add in Cheerios, oats, brown sugar, flour, cinnamon and peanuts. Stir until well blended. Add in chocolate. Pour mixture into prepared pan and bake for 20 minutes. Cool for about an hour on a wire rack, without touching it. Then, break up the pieces of granola into chucks.

There you have it...a yummy, peanutty, relatively nutritious treat that will help you go for hours and hours!

Strawberry Granola Bars

Today, I continued my "health kick" momentum and made a homemade version of a snack I've eaten regularly since my son was born: granola bars.

In addition to the daily rigours of taking care of a baby, breastfeeding eats up an extra 500 calories a day. So you need to stay well-nourished and hydrated during this time. Granola bars have been a staple snack in the realm of my hectic day, especially when I'm on the run and need something to keep my blood sugar up.

I did a little research and came up with my own version of a granola bar recipe that I found on www.cookiemadness.net (the main difference between the recipes is that I used fresh fruit and added sugar instead of using preserves--this way I can control how much sugar is added to the bars):

Strawberry Granola Bars

3/4 cup walnuts
1 1/3 cup all purpose flour
1 1/4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
3/4 cups firmly packed brown sugar
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon of salt
12 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter
1 cup apple sauce
1 cup frozen strawberry plus 1-2 tablespoon of sugar
1/8 cup of cornstarch mixed with 2 tsp. of cold water

First, toast the nuts. To do this, spread the nuts on a cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for about 8 minutes. Let them cool completely before chopping them up.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Spray a 13x9 inch pan with flour added cooking spray or grease and flour as you wish.

In a mixing bowl, mix together the flour, oats, and brown sugar. If you are using salt, add it. Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter. Alternatively, dump flour, oats and brown sugar in a food processor and cut in the cold butter by pulsing the processor. Stir in the coconut and chopped up nuts.

Pat a little more than half of this (about 3 cups) mixture into the pan and bake for 10-15 minutes or until lightly browned. Meanwhile, put strawberries and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Take off heat and add cornstarch and water mixture. Cool in refrigerator for 10 minutes and let mixture thicken. Add it cools, add the apple sauce and then spread the strawberry and applesauce mixture over partially baked crust. Sprinkle remaining oatmeal mixture over top and return to oven. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until top is golden.

Cool completely before cutting. If you don't, they won't hold up so well! You can chill them a little to quick-cool.

This makes 12 3-inch squares or 24 2-inch square bar cookies.

I was pleased with the result and would definitely make them again!

Have a great weekend all. Don't forget, the Oscars are on Sunday night, 8pm Eastern Time!!

A Healthy Snack Idea: Apple Chips

While baking can be a lot of fun, and gives one a chance to try out some tasty recipes, it can also lead to a bit of overindulgence. Considering all the sweets that have been in our house the past few weeks, my husband and I have done somewhat of a good job displaying self control (and giving away as much of it as we can). But I decided it is time, with spring and summer just around the corner, for me to zone in on some healthier recipes and ideas.

As I've stated before, my family eats A LOT of apples. Yet sometimes I just need something quick and easy to eat (especially with a 9-month-old hugging my legs) and also snacks that will keep my energy going. So today I decided to make some apple chips. I looked online and found that most recipes called for a couple tablespoons of confectioners sugar sprinkled on baking sheets lined with parchment paper, then you place the thinly sliced apples one by one on the sheets (not overlapping each other), and then a sprinkle of more powdered sugar and whatever spice you prefer--we love cinnamon so I used cinnamon. You bake them in an oven heated at 225 degrees for 2 hours 20 minutes, and voila, you have crispy, sweet apple chips.

When I mentioned my creation to my husband, he said there must be a way to make these apple crisps without the added sugar. So I baked a second batch with just cinnamon, and did everything else the same. While the sugar free crisps were not as crispy, they still had great flavor and would serve just fine as a very healthy snack.

Just for the heck of it, I also tried making sweet potato chips. I sprinkled them with salt, instead of cinnamon or sugar, and baked them for 2 hours. They came out OK, but I think if I baked them longer or at a higher temperature, they would have come out crispier. Another way to make them crispier is perhaps brushing them with olive oil. Yet, I was trying to keep both the fat and sugar content down to a minimum. Perhaps I will experiment with these sweet potato crisps another day.

Another tip for healthy snacks: Go to your local food co-op or grocery store and explore. There are some delicious and nutritious food products out there that are great for morning and afternoon snacks, and wonderful to take on road trips (especially if you want to avoid the greasy traps on the road side). Two snack items that I adore are the Bumble Bar (made up of Organic Sesame Seeds, Brown Rice Syrup, Peanuts, Flax Seeds, and other organic ingredients) and Soy Crisps (basically just puffed soy flour cakes sprinkled with a bit of chocolate and are only 100 calories per pack).

Happy Healthy Eating Everyone!

How to Make a Meal Out of Left Over Mashed Potatoes

As I mentioned in my previous post, I made dinner for my in-laws on Friday (black bean soup, roast beef, mashed potatoes and green beans), and had some left overs sitting in my fridge. The roast beef, green beans and soup were gone by the next day...But the leftover mashed potatoes had been sitting there, untouched since the original meal.

I originally planned on making my chicken cutlets tonight (in addition to some artichoke soup that I made yesterday, which I will discuss further down) and needed a starch to go along with it. My mother-in-law suggested making twice baked potatoes with leftover mashed potatoes, but something occurred to me at 3:30pm this afternoon, just as I was starting to prep the chicken: "I CAN MAKE GNOCCHI WITH THE MASHED POTATOES!"

I've been wanting to make gnocchi for quite some time, since it's a favorite of my husbands, and now was a perfect opportunity. I looked up a recipe in one of my cookbooks, and realized that it was rather simple. All you need is 1 1/2 lbs. of Yukon gold potatoes, boiled in water, peeled and then passed through a ricer (I mashed the potatoes instead which made for a softer consistency when finished cooking) and 1 1/2 cup of flour. You form it into a ball, kneed it, separate into smaller batches, roll into 14 inch ropes of dough, cut into smaller balls, and then shaped with a fork. You cover the shaped pieces of uncooked gnocchi with flour until ready to cook. Then, shake off any excess flour before boiling them (in 4 separate batches) in salted water for about 1 minute or until it floats on top. Take them out with a blotted spoon and serve in sauce. Voila! It's that simple.

In addition to making gnocchi, I thought my standard chicken cutlets would be boring. So I threw together my own version of braciole (Italian for "stuffed meat"). I pounded out the chicken until 1/4 inch thin. Then I put together some stuffing consisting of onions, garlic, mushroom, white wine, goat cheese, parsley, egg, bread crumbs, salt and pepper, and fresh basil. I put some in the center of the flatten chicken, rolled up them up, and put them in a buttered shallow pan. I rubbed some butter on the outside of the chicken, sprinkled them with salt and pepper, and put it until the broiler until browned. Then I poured some tomato sauce on top of the brown chicken (made of tomato paste, vegetable stock, garlic, basil, olive oil, salt and pepper), as well as some mozzarella cheese and baked it in the over at 375°F for another 40 minutes.

Lastly, I preceded this meal with some artichoke soup I made yesterday as my mother in law graciously watched my boy. This idea was motivated by a friend who challenged me to duplicated a recipe of artichoke soup she tasted a while back, and has not been able to find anything comparable since. I found a recipe on Simple Recipes and gave it a shot. The only thing different I did was use frozen artichoke hearts instead of going through the labor of making them for scratch. The outcome was rather good, or so my husband says.

Here are pics of the meal I made tonight:

A Meal to Impress the In-Laws

Starter Course

  • Black Bean Soup, consisting of onions, garlic, roasted red pepper, fresh basil, black beans, tomato paste, cheddar cheese, cumin, a little cream, and some extra shredded cheese for topping.

Main Course

  • Roast beef, simply seasoned with slivers of garlic, olive oil, salt, pepper, and fresh thyme, baked at 375°F for 30 minutes to brown, then an additional 2 hours at 225°F for utter tenderness. Meat thermometer should read 145°F for medium-rare.

  • Mashed potatoes, with butter, cream, salt, and milk, mashed by hand and then whipped with electric stick blender for light and fluffy consistency.

  • Green beans, seasoned basically with salt and pepper.

Dessert Course

  • Apple and Blueberry Gallette (also known as a No Pan Pie), based roughly on a recipe by Alton Brown.

  • Low-calorie option: Apple baked slowly in the juice of one orange, seasoned with cinnamon, nutmeg, and orange zest.

Valentine's Day Treats

In case anyone was curious about my lack of posts this last week, my paternal grandmother passed away on Friday (three weeks after we lost my husband's grandmother). It was unexpected and very sad, but as my husband says, there is always a silver lining to every dark cloud (my son was able to spend some time with family he had never met before). With that said, some serious baking was needed to bring some comfort to me during this difficult time.

While yesterday may not have been the most romantic Valentine's Day I've ever had, I spent most of the day catching up on sleep and experimenting with chocolate. Not a bad way to spend February 14th, eh?

First, I attempted to make simple chocolate truffles. I found a recipe that I THOUGHT would be simple...But instead of using bittersweet chocolate as the recipe called for, I used Hershey's milk chocolate for the inside ganache. And no matter what I did, the chocolate would not stay in a round shape and would just melt down to a patty. I tried to save the large batch of milk chocolate ganache by adding some dark chocolate I found, some light corn syrup to thicken it up, freezing it longer, etc. But to no avail, it would not keep its shape. Alas, I made a tiny batch with the remaining dark chocolate I had in my pantry, without adding any milk chocolate whatsoever, and it worked. I also rolled the successful truffles in some cocoa powder, and it looked just right.

Sooo...I had all this melted milk chocolate ganache left over, and I decided to use it for some other basic chocolate recipes. I made a batch of my Chatanooga Chew Chews (see my previous post), as well as a batch of "Reeses" peanut butter cups consisting of graham cracker crumbs, butter, confectioners sugar, peanut butter, and a layer of the ganache on top. Mmmm...good.

After working with chocolate all day, I also felt like I needed to make something with color. I had some red decorating sugar, and decided on making some heart shape sugar cookies. I came across a small problem...With all the cookies cutters I've collected over the years, I could not find a heart shaped one among them. So, I thought "WHAT WOULD ALTON BROWN DO IN THIS SITUATION?" I cut a heart out of a piece of cardboard, and wrapped it in aluminum foil. After I made the dough and chilled it for an hour, I rolled it onto a floured surface, and used my template to carve out heart shape cookies. I then brushed them with an egg wash and sprinkled the red sugar on top. They turned out soft, sweet, and nice to look at.

Here is a peek at the Valentine's Day Treats I made:

Final Superbowl Menu

After adding a few things here and there, here is the final menu that I served to a group of friends for Superbowl Sunday (Although the Bears did not win, a good time was had by all):

Mini Pork and Beef Meatballs with pasta sauce
Homemade Soft Pretzels
Bruschetta on Crustini
Olive Tapenade and Cream Cheese on Crustini
Spinach Artichoke Dip
Spicy Mixed Nuts
Cheesecake Pops
Variety of Beers (Magic Hat, Harpoon, Sam Adams)
Guacamole with Blue and Tamari Tortilla Chips (brought by Chris and Missy)
Bourbon Chicken Tenders (brought by the Rock Family)

How To Make Soft Pretzels

With the Superbowl tomorrow, I have an awesome menu of appetizers planned, including spinach artichoke dip, olive tapenade on crustinis, bruschetta, mini-meatballs, crudites, cheesecake lollipops, and beer (one couple is also bringing guacamole and chips, another is bringing spicy chicken wings). Can it get any better than that?

It has been requested that I start adding the recipes to the things I make onto my blog. And while it may not always be possible for me to do so, I decided to document the steps of making soft pretzels, including ingredients, directions, and pictures to follow. Bon Appetite! Go Bears!

Soft Pretzels


4 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
1 packet of dry active yeast
1/4 c. of sugar
1 tsp. salt
2. tablespoons salt
1 1/2 cups milk
2 tablespoons cooking oil
1 slightly beaten egg white plus 1 tablespoon of water
course salt, poppy seeds, sesame seeds or cinnamon sugar (whatever topping your prefer)


Mix 1 1/2 c. of flour and yeast in a large bowl (or food processor with dough function as I have done). In a medium sauce pan, mix the milk, sugar, oil, and salt and bring to 120 degree. Pour liquid mixture into flour and yeast, and kneed (or blend for 30 seconds. Add the rest of the flour (3 cups) and mix well. Put ball of dough on a floured surface and kneed for 6-8 minutes. Place ball of dough in a greased bowl (making sure the dough is also greased on all sides) and put in warm place for 1 1/4 hour (I heat my oven to 170 degrees and then turn it off, giving the dough a nice, warm place to rise). SEE PHOTOS 1-10 BELOW

After it has finished rising, place dough on a floured surface and punch it out. Let it rest for another 10 minutes. While it is resting, preheat your oven to 475 degrees and prepare two greased baking sheets. Then, roll out the dough into a 12" x 10" rectange. Cut into strips about an inch wide and 12" long. Roll out each strip into 16" (or you can make some smaller as I have done). To form pretzel, cross both ends over once, and then twice, and fold the twisted end over the looped end. SEE PHOTOS 11-15 BELOW

Put on baking sheets, spread about 2-3 inches apart, and bake for 4 minutes. Take out of oven and lower the heat down to 350 degrees. Boil 3 quarts of water. When the water is boiling, add 2 tablespoons of salt. Drop the pretzels in water for two minutes, turning them over half way through. Take them out of the water and put them quickly on a paper-towel lined plate for only a few secrets. Quickly transfer them to a greased backing sheet (so they don't stick to the paper towels). Prepare the egg wash with 1 egg white and 1 tablespoon of water. Brush the pretzels with the egg wash and sprinkle them with kosher salt (or sesame seeds, cinnamon sugar, poppy seeds, or whatever topping you prefer). SEE PHOTOS 16-18 BELOW

Put them in the 350 degree oven, for 20-25 minutes or until brown top. When finished, quickly transfer them onto a wire rack. Best eaten when fresh and warm, but definitely ok to store in a well sealed container (only seal when they have completely cooled). SEE PHOTOS 19-20 BELOW





















Baking Is As Good As Drinking Coffee

This morning, I woke up incredibly tired...My body ached, and it was just hard to get out of bed. I guess that's one of the pitfalls of having a baby (though it's definitely worth it!) My thoughtful husband put on a pot of coffee before he went work, which has become a necessity since I've become a stay at home mom. But today, I needed a little something else. Before I knew it, I was scooping out flour, mixing eggs, and putting together a recipe for Apple Walnut Cinnamon Muffins. Believe it or not, by the time they went into the oven, I was feeling awake and alert...and I hadn't even finished my cup of coffee.

Funny how things come full circle. I am now tired again and ready for bed. So, I'll keep this entry short.

Here are pics of my apple cinnamon walnut muffins, mmmm-good!