Banana Bread Redux

Happy 2011! Though I typically settle into a bit of a depression over holidays passing by (especially saying buh-bye to Christmas tunes!), this year I'm trying to get excited for other things in my life instead. Like shedding a few pounds after tossing the leftover cookies, getting back to a workout routine, and planning to see friends who we haven't seen since before Thanksgiving due to time inexplicably flying by.

On New Year's Eve, I spent the day at my parents house, breaking in my new camera by taking lots of photos of this little cutie.

 

Shaun and I opted to stay in with a Boardwalk Empire marathon. What can I say, we are obsessed! Is anyone else watching? The night was capped off with a little hors d'oeuvres spread in front of our Christmas tree.

 

On New Year's Day, we hopped the Path into the city for a little lunch and Rockefellar Center with Shaun's parents, aunt, uncle and cousin. No matter how many times I see the tree, it never gets old.

 

Meanwhile, in my time off from work last week, I worked on some new recipes. Last year, I tested out The Joy of Cooking Banana Bread Cockaigne and it quickly became one of my favorite quick bread recipes. But when I realized that I had a bowl full of these...

I thought I'd change it up and try out a healthier option. You know, part of that whole post-holiday cut the fat thing. Oh and please don't judge me for allowing a bunch of bananas to rot on my countertop. Thanks.

But look what came of those ugly things! I was so happy with how this bread turned out. Let's face it, by substituting applesauce for oil and honey for sugar, it's not necessarily a sure thing. But this bread was a moist, filling one that I'd surely make again!

Whole Wheat, Almost Sugar-Free Banana Bread
*Makes 1 loaf
1/3 C unsweetened applesauce
1/4 C honey
2 tbsp Splenda brown sugar blend
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
3 bananas, very ripe and mashed
1 3/4 C whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 C hot water
1/2 C chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

In a large bowl, beat the applesauce, honey and Splenda brown sugar blend.

Meanwhile, mash up the bananas.

 

Add the eggs to the applesauce mixture and mix well. Beat in the vanilla and mashed bananas. Stir in the flour and salt, mixing until just combined. Add the baking soda to hot water. Mix to let dissolve and then add to the bread batter. Lightly stir in the walnuts. Pour into a greased loaf pan.

 

Bake for 50-55 minutes.

Slice up and enjoy!

So there you have it. A simple way to change up your standard banana bread into a delish, healthy, guilt-free option! So what do you think?

And for the question of the day: How are you beating the post-holiday New Year blues? Or are you simply psyched to kick off 2011?

 

Zucchini Pizza Friday

It's no secret that the mister and I love zucchini. Oh and we also get down with pizza every now and again. I am a huge fan of pizza - be it artisinal, giant Jersey Shore boardwalk-style slices, Manhattan pizza parlor slices, or even making it in my own kitchen.

In addition to touring NYC pizza kitchens with my friend Lauren, I used to enjoy Pizza Friday every single week while at my previous place of employment with friends Kristin, Catherine, Jeanne and Mary who were just as avid about pizza as me. It was a weekly outing creatively named "Pizza Friday". (side note - pizza friends, I miss you!).

Since I still haven't found that perfect slice of delivery pizza in Jersey City after a two and a half year search, I decided to give it a go on my own. And my homemade creation is nothing short of cheesy, salty, lightly greased goodness. Oh and did I mention that it's not terrible for you? Or that yes, this pizza is as good as it looks? Well it's a true story.

One of the things that I love about cooking is that there are endless possibilities. I took the white pizza topping idea that I had from my Cinque White Pizza and turned it into the real deal. Sometimes there's no need to reinvent the wheel. Using part of a fabulous dish to invent a brand new one is the delicious melted cheese on top of an already great pizza.

Zucchini White Pizza
1 pizza dough, I used whole wheat purchased in the refrigerator section of grocery store
1 C part skim ricotta
1 egg white
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1 zucchini, thinly sliced
olive oil
flour, whole wheat or all-purpose
parmesean cheese
mozzarella cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 450 degrees, or whatever your package suggests. In a bowl, mix together the ricotta, egg white, salt, basil and oregano with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon until light and fluffy.

Remove pizza dough from its container (whether tightly wrapped bag or canister if using the Pillsbury kind). Put a bit of flour down on your board or countertop and knead the dough with some flour to get it stretchy and unsticky. You will only need about a tablespoon for this entire process.

Rub your baking sheet with a bit of olive oil. Stretch the dough out to fill the sheet. It may require a bit of elbow grease to get 'er done, but gently stretch the dough until it is fully laid out and about the same width throughout so that it will cook evenly. Layer the ricotta mixture, mozzarella cheese, parmesean and zucchini on top. Drizzle the zuccini with just a bit of olive oil.

Bake for 20 minutes, or as directed on your package of dough (mine said 20 minutes at 450 degrees). Transfer to a cutting board and slice with a pizza cutter. Devour immediately.

Doesn't it look delicious? The browned bits of melted cheese add an amazing flavor while the egg white keeps the ricotta moist and creamy. And isn't is a great way to get some veggies into your meal? I imagine that this would be equally delicious with onions, bell peppers, yellow squash, eggplant or even butternut squash, perhaps?

So what do you think? Have you ever made pizza at home? Have you ever taken a part of one dish to recreate a new one entirely?