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On June 26th the world welcomed a very special little guy: my nephew!  This is B’s and my first time being an uncle and aunt and, besides being super excited to shower him with love and affection, we wanted to make sure we help out B’s brother and our sister-in-law as much as possible.  As part of our efforts to do so, we decided to make them some food to have to share with guests and for them to eat as they get adjusted to life as new parents.  We ended up making a lot of food (fitting our trend of over-cooking for 2 people).  Here is the menu (I will link the posts I’ve adapted as I post them):

Freezer Meals:

Chicken Stir Fry

  • Recipe forthcoming

Zucchini Bread

  • This was my first time making zucchini bread so I followed the recipe fairly closely (also not 100% sure on the outcome).  I used walnuts but did not use cranberries/raisins.  Also, I probably used over 3 C of grated fresh zucchini.  I grated a zucchini in my food processor and just used whatever was produced.

Banana Nutella Swirl Muffins

  • Two changes: I used 5 bananas and I did not use chopped pecans.  My mother- and father-in-law referred to these as life changing.

Roasted Pork Tenderloin

  • B made these and I’m not 100% clear on the recipe.  I think he just winged the recipe using a Asian inspired rub.

Twice Baked Bacon and Cheddar Potatoes

  • This recipe is more of a guideline.  We have made twice baked potatoes before we so kind of eyeballed it as we normally do.  This was the first time we froze these.  We made the mistake of making them all as if we were going to eat them that day/night.  So we did two things wrong: first, we cooked them completely; second, we cooked them with the green onions.  Some of the freezer prep recipes I’ve found since then (when I was trying to find reheat instructions for my brother- and sister-in-law) have recommended not adding the green onions until ready to eat.  I was informed that they were very good as we did them but in the future I will probably try freezing the proper way.

Blanched asparagus

  • Add asparagus to a pot of boiling water.  Cook for approximately 1 minute.  Remove from boiling water and submerge immediately in ice water to stop cooking process.  Remove from ice water and put on cookie sheet or roasting pan to cool completely.  Place in freezer bag and freeze.  To reheat, thaw the asparagus and reheat in pan with oil/butter and desired spices.

To have on hand:

Italian Roast Pork with Broccoli Rabe

  • For the broccoli rabe, submerge in boiling water for approximately 2 minutes (or until soft with a little bit of crunch).  Remove from boiling water and immediately submerge in ice water to stop the cooking process. In a medium size pan, saute 2-3 cloves of garlic with a generous amount of olive oil.  Add blanched broccoli rabe and cook for approximately 5 minutes more over medium heat.  Serve roast pork and broccoli rabe with sharp provolone cheese and/or roasted red peppers on a hoagie sandwich roll.
  • My brother- and sister-in-law also repurposed the pork (since I ended up using an 8 lb shoulder and made 3 Chinese food take out containers worth.  Each container was 8 sandwiches).  They added some BBQ sauce and adobe sauce to use in roasted pork tacos.  We also discussed how the pork could be repurposed into BBQ pulled pork sandwiches.

Chocolate cupcakes with Salted Cannoli Cream Frosting

  • Recipe forthcoming

 

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If there’s one thing you should know about me, it’s that I always keep bananas in our freezer.  It is B’s absolutely favorite thing.  I can tell since every time he opens the freezer, they fall out (our freezer is terrible, blame it on the fact we’re renters), and he yells something in joy.  I’m not going to say what he yells, seeing that this is polite company.

Regardless of B’s feelings towards the freezer bananas, I decided to make a banana bread to bring along for our trip to the Poconos.  I’ve previously made bananas foster cupcakes and I came across this recipe on Pintrest, which lead me to want to try this  recipe.  I made a few adjustments since I prefer a bit more banana flavor.  I also went with the fat-free greek yogurt instead of the fat-free regular yogurt because I’m a big fan of greek yogurt and its been awhile since I’ve used it.

Bananas Foster Bread
Serves 16, 5 Weight Watchers PP per serving

5-6 mashed ripe bananas
1 cup packed brown sugar, divided
5 tablespoons butter, melted
3 tablespoons dark rum
1/3 cup plain fat-free Greek yogurt (I used Fage)
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups ounces all-purpose flour
1/4 cup ground flaxseed
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan with cooking spray. Set aside. (I ended up using 2 – 4.5 x 8.5 pans)
  2. Combine bananas, 1/2 cup brown sugar, butter, and rum in a nonstick skillet. Cook over medium heat until mixture begins to bubble. Remove from heat; cool.
  3. Place banana mixture in a large bowl. Add yogurt, remaining 1/2 cup brown sugar, and eggs. Beat with a stand or hand mixer at medium speed.
  4. In a small bowl, mix together the flour, flaxseed, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and allspice.
  5. Add flour mixture to banana mixture; beat just until blended.
  6. Pour batter into your prepared loaf pan. Bake for 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from oven; cool 10 minutes in pan on a wire rack. Remove bread from pan; place on wire rack.

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Its fall so I have a lot of pumpkin based recipes floating around in my head.  However, its fall and I’m super busy (thank you academia and your job market schedule!) Until then, I wanted to bake and I knew I had 3 ripe bananas mocking me every time I opened the freezer and a couple of half used bags of craisins from various meals.  Thus was born the banana craisin muffins: out of procrastination and what was in our house.

Banana Craisin Muffins
Makes 12, 6 Weight Watchers PointsPlus per serving

1/3 cup Craisins (I used Ocean Spray brand)
2/3 cup Sugar substitute (I used Splenda sugar blend for baking)
1/3 cup Smart Balance buttery sticks
3 ripe bananas, mashed
2 eggs
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/3 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp table salt

Instructions

(1) In a large mixing bowl, cream butter/buttery sticks and sugar substitute. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add very ripe, mashed bananas and mix well.

(2) Combine the flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda; add to creamed mixture. Fold in craisins.

(3) Fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups three-fourths full. Bake at 400 degrees F for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks.

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I’ve been craving smoothies.  Its spring and its (rarely) sunny and warm here in beautiful Steelers Nation.  Most places I know that sell smoothies make them incredibly unhealthy with lots of sugar, ice cream, or full fat yogurt.  I decided I’d satisfy my craving by making a similar one at home.

Strawberry Banana Smoothie with Greek Yogurt
1 serving, 3 Weight Watchers PointsPlus per serving

5-6 ice cubes (or crushed ice)
6 large strawberries quartered
1 large banana
1/2 C Fage 0% Greek Yogurt
2 tsp Splenda (or another no calorie sweetener)

In a blender (or in a Cuisinart, since my blender is non-functional) add ice.  Run until ice is transformed into a slushy mixture.  Add strawberries and bananas.  Run until fruit is smooth.  Add yogurt and Splenda.  Again, run until smooth.  Serve immediately.

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Bananas Foster Cupckakes

This original source can be found here: (source).  I made one adjustment: I only made half of the batch since I was making two other types of cupcakes.  For the frosting, I made the same batch of cream cheese icing for these and the dark and stormy cupcakes.  Then I added rum to the dark and stormy ones.  This was much more fluid than I anticipated for both because I beat the cream cheese to long and it reached room temperature.

Banana Mixture
6 tbsp unsalted butter
1/4 cup brown sugar packed
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 firm but ripe bananas, sliced
2 tbsp dark rum
1/4 tsp vanilla extract

Cupcakes
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
3 tbsp butter, softened
3/4 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup egg substitute
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp dark rum
1/3 cup sour cream (plus a little more, original recipe was 3/4 C so I halved it)

DIRECTIONS
For the Bananas:
In a saute pan over medium heat, combine the butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Cook until butter melts and sugar is dissolved (4 to 5 minutes). Add the banana slices and cook until tender, turning once for 1 to 2 minutes per side. Stir together rum and vanilla.  Turn off the burner and add the rum mixture to the pan.  Using a long match, light the alcohol by placing the flame just in the outer edge of the pan.  Stand as far back as possible. The flame should extinguish in a few seconds. Gently shake the pan from side to side to coat the bananas with the sauce. Spoon the bananas into a bowl and set aside.

For the Cupcakes:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar with electric mixer until light and fluffy. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt. Add eggs, vanilla, rum and banana mixture. Mix well.  Add flour mixture alternately with sour cream; blend thoroughly but do not overmix.  Pour into prepared cupcake pans.  Bake 20 – 25 minutes (recipe calls for this, mine took 35 minutes to cook) or until toothpick inserted comes out clean.  Cool for 4-5 minutes in pan on rack. Remove and cool completely before frosting.

For the frosting:
1/2 cup unsalted butter
2 oz. cream cheese, softened
1-1 1/2 tablespoons homemade or store bought caramel sauce (I forgot this in my batch)
2-3 cups confectioners or powdered sugar (to get desired consistency)
1 tsp of cinnamon, sprinkled on top

1. In a large mixing bowl, beat the softened butter and cream cheese together until fluffy; add the caramel sauce and beat until fully incorporated.  Slowly add confectioners or powdered sugar into the bowl, 1/2 cup at a time and beating after each addition. Continue adding the sugar until you have a thick frosting of your preferred consistency.  If the frosting becomes too thick, add a tablespoon or more of fat free milk to thin out.

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Chocolate Banana Cupcakes with Banana Meringue Frosting
8 servings, 8 Weight Watchers PointsPlus per serving

1 cup flour
5/8 cup granulated sugar
5/8 teaspoon baking soda
5/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/3 cup oil
5/8 cup water
5/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
5/8 teaspoon banana extract
5/8 tablespoon vinegar
1 packet Jell-O Instant Banana Cream pudding

Frosting (note: this made way too much so I tried to make cookies out of the rest)
1 egg whites
1 cup sugar
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 tsp banana extract
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Mix the instant pudding according to instructions on packet (points based on fat free milk).  Put in fridge to set.  Mix all other ingredients together until moist and well blended.  Put in a lined cupcake pan and bake for 20-25 minutes.  Let cupcakes cool.  Once cupcakes are cooled, remove a “cone” of cupcake from the middle.  Remove the inside part of the cupcake while keeping the top.  In the “cone” add the instant banana pudding.  You should use about 1/2 cup of pudding for all 8 cupcakes.

Icing

Combine egg whites, sugar, and cream of tartar into the mixing bowl of your stand mixer and set over a water bath.  Whisk by hand for a few minutes until the sugar is dissolved and mixture is warm to the touch.  Transfer bowl to electric stand mixer, beat on high-speed until stiff glossy peaks form, about 10 minutes.  Add banana and vanilla extract.  Beat on medium speed.  Frost the cupcakes using a piping bag and toast with a torch if you have one.

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