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A Healthier Take on Strawberry Shortcake for a Big Group

I want to eat this all day, every day.

It’s no secret that there are a few select foods that I could literally could eat every single day and not get tired of them.  Nachos (and I do), a good burger, and my homemade strawberry shortcake.  My homemade strawberry shortcake is sublime.

I stumbled upon this recipe years ago when I needed to come up with a dessert for like 15 people.  Individual shortcakes would have been way too time-consuming (and quite frankly they’re kind of dry), but I had it stuck in my head that I wanted to use the pounds of strawberries that my mom had.  And then I found the original recipe I’ve adapted here…as my original post mentioned, I’m obsessed.  It’s literally the best.

healthier-strawberry-shortcake-for-a-big-group-nessa

But, as with many recipes, I wanted to see if there was a way to make it just a tad more healthy—cut down on the calories just a bit, but also bringing in some healthier elements.  And the fact is, I might like this version even just a bit more.

I cut the sugar a bit, and it definitely doesn’t lose anything.  And then I’ve substituted half of the flour for whole wheat (or white whole wheat, which is a bit softer), which gives it a great heartiness and also a slightly nutty, warm flavor that I really love.  You can make this ahead of time when feeding a big group and it’s the most moist, fragrant, yummy summer dessert I can think of.  Pair it with fresh strawberries and a bit of homemade cinnamon whipped cream, and you’ve got yourself a winner! [Read more…]

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Pakistani Kima

Full disclosure:  I have no idea if this recipe is truly Pakistani, nor do I know what “kima” is.

But I *do* know that it’s delicious, filling, healthy, and easy.  That’s a dinner grand slam in my books.

30-minute Pakistani Kima, full of veggies, protein, and aromatic spices, and comes together for a healthy & easy dinner

My sister has been making this for her family for quite a while, and she made it for us while I was visiting my parents a couple years ago.  I fell in love with the incredible aroma and flavors of the spice combination.  It’s truly what makes this dish special.

30-minute Pakistani Kima, full of veggies, protein, and aromatic spices, and comes together for a healthy & easy dinner

But it has a lot more going for it.  It’s chock-full of veggies, across the color spectrum (something that I’m usually desperately needing).  It’s also super satiating, with a one-two-three punch of the fat in the butter (don’t skimp on this), the lean ground beef, and the fiber-full vegetables.

It clocks in at around 320 calories per serving (if you make 6 servings out of the batch), which is great if you’re trying to keep your calories down but not feel hungry all the time.

30-minute Pakistani Kima, full of veggies, protein, and aromatic spices, and comes together for a healthy & easy dinner

And best of all, this recipe is super easy to make, a one-pot standby.  It only takes about a half-hour total, and only requires you to do some vegetable chopping and throw everything into a pot.  I made two desserts while putting this together a couple weeks ago, because I didn’t have to spare any brainpower for it.  So I’m kind of in love. [Read more…]

Easy Homemade Naan Bread

Once upon a time, I made homemade naan bread, and it turned out terrible.

This is not that naan bread.  This is awesome.

This has become my go-to homemade naan bread recipe

I have no idea what went wrong with the first recipe I tried, probably a year or more ago.  But it did put me off trying it again for quite a while.  However, when I decided to try my hand for the first time at Indian cooking with this chicken tikka masala over winter break this year, I knew that naan had to be in the cards for me again.

My go-to homemade naan recipe

This recipe comes together super easily and doesn’t require any special handling.  It’s not finicky at all.  Just proof your yeast, add the ingredients all at once and knead in the machine for a couple minutes, let it rise, and then roll out and fry up.  Very hands-off.

Homemade naan bread recipe...easy and yummy

I tend to use half white whole wheat and half regular flour.  To me, when I use all whole wheat it tends to be a bit too dense and loses a bit of that chewiness that makes naan so satisfying.  But you can use all of one, or mix it up however you want.

The other important thing is that you use ghee, not just regular butter.  You can buy ghee fairly easily these days (Trader Joe’s, Amazon, or a well-stocked grocery store), but if you can’t get it for whatever reason I’d recommend making a batch of your own and storing it.  The water in regular butter will keep it from frying up right.
[Read more…]

Snickerdoodle Zucchini Bread

This bread is the BOMB!

Snickerdoodle zucchini bread...cinnamon-sugar is my kryptonite

Cinnamon-sugar is my kryptonite in general, so it’s no surprise that I was drawn to this recipe.  It’s all the best things about my snickerdoodle bread (which is amazing, but also will make a major dent in your calories for the day), combined with a bit of whole wheat flour and fiber from zucchini.  Make no mistake, this is definitely a breakfast dessert, but it’s now only a bit of splurge rather than a complete diet derail.

Snickerdoodle zucchini bread...plenty of sweet, with a bit of healthy mixed in

The hardest thing is finding the cinnamon chips—if you see them, buy like 6 bags!  (Though this may be part of the scarcity problem…).  I think Hershey’s discontinued theirs, so I’ve been buying them on the Amazon black market, and will need to look elsewhere soon.  Cinnamon chips are seriously the best, and appropriate in all manner of delicious breakfast and dessert recipes.

Snickerdoodle zucchini bread

This was a hit at work.  And I had trouble keeping my hands off it.  I had a piece with my morning espresso, but went back several times throughout the day for another bite.  I probably had three pieces total, one bite at a time! [Read more…]

Birthday Vanilla Spice Coke Cake with Salted Peanut Butter Frosting

Every year (minus last year), I make myself a special birthday cake.  I try to pick something that’s really captured my imagination, that seems a bit fancy and more complex than I’d usually convince myself to tackle.  Something special.

This year, for reasons I can’t even quite explain to myself, I made a vanilla spice Coca-Cola cake with salted peanut frosting.

Vanilla Spice Coke Cake with Salted Peanut Frosting

Yes, you read that right.

It’s kind of conceptual…while I’m not a fan myself, boiled peanuts in Coke is considered a Southern delicacy.  Consider this the deconstructed cake version.  But without the weird texture issues.

vanilla-spice-coke-cake-with-salted-peanut-frosting-sliced

It was really a gameday decision.  I’d pored over my whole Pinterest dessert board and nothing was really jumping out at me.  But then I finally got it into my head that this vanilla spice Coke cake was going to be my base.  I’ve never had a traditional Coca-Cola cake, but my understanding is that it’s almost always chocolate.  When I ran across this recipe from Local Milk, I was intrigued…the way the flavor profile was described so beautifully, and as an interesting transition into fall,I decided it had to happen.

vanilla-spice-coke-cake-with-salted-peanut-frosting

But the frosting that went along with it was just way too finicky for my exhausted and busy self to deal with.  I looked at tons of different recipes but nothing really felt right, until I saw this salted peanut frosting.  Since I love all things peanut butter, I was on board right away, and I thought that it would be a fun complement to the cake.  While this was a bit overly sweet for my tastes (or maybe that was because I also ate a gallon of queso, so I felt a bit ill), the flavor was bomb and the cake was insanely moist.

I’ll definitely be revisiting this recipe down the road, and not just for a special occasion—the cake base itself (minus frosting the layers) was super easy and fast.  As you can tell, frosting cakes is not my particular skill set.

So happy birthday to me, and cut yourself a huge slice of cake and pour a Coke! [Read more…]

Double Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip Banana Bread

Most normal people would look at a recipe for double chocolate banana bread and think, “hey, that sounds pretty amazing!”

Double Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip Banana Bread done

But as we all know, I’m not normal.  So my first thought was, “You know what would make this so much better? Peanut butter chips!”

(weirdly, this is a fairly normal question/answer I have with myself…)

double chocolate peanut butter chip banana bread chips

Healthy?  Nah.  But amazing?  You betcha.

Double Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip Banana Bread slice

This is super moist, almost fudgy, and the peanut butter chips take this to a whole new level.  It’s not unhealthy (in fact, most of it’s not bad for you at all), but the peanut butter chips take this over the edge into dessert territory and up the calories and sugar quite a bit.  Totally worth it in my world, though.   [Read more…]

Apricot Linzer Torte

I don’t mind admitting when I’m wrong. And BOY, was I wrong about this.

Apricot Linzer Torte

See, for the past two or three years, basically every time I’ve gotten with my friend Shalya for dinner, the conversation has eventually turned to food (okay, fine, it’s on food 92.5% of the time), and every single time she’s begged me to make a linzer torte.

Apricot Linzer Torte slice

Every single time.  And I always told her she was a weirdo, because who is obsessed with linzer torte, but fine, yes, I’ll make a linzer torte if she comes to my house.  But that day finally came.  And it was glorious.

Apricot Linzer Torte closeup

See, in my (limited) experience, linzer torte is basically just a simple buttery pastry crust with some jam in it, and a lattice topping.  Something that’s fine adorning a bakery case somewhere, but not something that anyone ever really chooses.  Fine, and sturdy, but not setting the world on fire.  Which just goes to show, I have been eating the WRONG LINZER TORTE all my life.

Apricot Linzer Torte slice closeup

This linzer torte recipe is anything but “fine”.  The dough basically punches you in the face with a combination of spices so aromatic my house smelled like heaven.  Pair that moist, tender spiced crust up with slightly chunky apricot jam, and you have a simple and perfect match made in heaven. [Read more…]

Jam Streusel Coffee Cake

This coffee cake is like the Sound of Music in real life.  It’s all about my favorite things.

Jam Streusel Coffee Cake slice

Jam?  Check.  Streusel?  Check.  Excuse to eat dessert for breakfast?  Check.

jam streusel coffee cake jam swirls 2

Coffee cake is kind of a perfect food.  It is easy to whip up and throw in the oven, leaving you to focus on other things.  It can be made the night before if you’re on a tight schedule in the morning.  It’s fancy enough for a brunch or shower.  It CAN even be a dessert.  And this recipe is particularly great, in that the cake itself is lovely and light and moist and fluffy—helped along by the buttermilk, greek yogurt, and extra egg yolks. [Read more…]

Lemon Cupcakes with Raspberry Frosting

I think I’ve found my new favorite cupcake recipe.  These are as close to a perfect texture and taste as any cake or cupcake I’ve ever made.

Lemon Cupcakes with Raspberry Frosting done

Someone described them as “bomb-ass”, and I’m not going to argue with them.  I mean, it would be rude.

Lemon Cupcakes with Raspberry Frosting

We wanted to do a special girls’ night for Casey’s birthday a few weeks ago, and I heard through the grapevine that she was obsessed with some Publix lemon raspberry cake, so the flavor palette for her cake was easy enough.  I was super excited, because usually people want chocolate or something super sweet, so the chance to make a fruity dessert was one I wouldn’t pass up.

lemon cupcakes with raspberry frosting lemons

And it’s a good thing these were basically perfect, because they were pretty much the only thing that went right that evening.  The restaurant ended up being a nightmare (45 minutes to order, hour and a half for food to come, took two hours to get a second drink order in), so by the time we left our numbers had dwindled by half and it was already quite late.  Thankfully, three of us persevered and went to our friend’s Midtown high rise for wine and cupcakes and a great rooftop view.

Lemon Cupcakes with Raspberry Frosting finished

Right call.  The cupcakes are the most insanely moist, dense crumb you can imagine, packed with super tart lemony flavor that never tips over the line into that weird cloying fake lemon flavor that I hate.  Even without the icing they’re perfection.  But the icing is a work of art itself.  Fluffy buttercream taken to the next level with raspberry jam adding some fruity goodness and tanginess to the frosting’s sugar overload.

In other words, you should make these TODAY. [Read more…]

Levain Bakery Copycat Double Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip Cookies

Yeah, that’s a mouthful.  But these cookies deserve all of that name and more.  They probably are the best cookies I’ve had in my life.

Levain Bakery Copycat Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip Cookies

So, this all goes back to December, when some sales rep sent us a box of cookies from Levain Bakery in New York.  These cookies weighed like 5 pounds each and were the size of your fist.  Now honestly I’m rarely that tempted by store-bought or bakery cookies.  I’m a homemade girl all the way.  But I was stressed and there were these chocolate ones with peanut butter chips that were calling my name.

So I broke off a piece of one and took it into a meeting with me…

Levain Bakery Copycat Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip Cookies

Game over.  I became instantly obsessed (and I ate the rest of that cookie, duh).  We decided to order more and then found out it was $75 for four cookies, which…NO.  So I decided that, hell or high water, I was going to perfectly replicate these cookies.

Levain Bakery Copycat Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip Cookies

And I believe I’ve gotten like 99% of the way there.  I tried a couple different copycat recipes and this was definitely the closest.  I also read through a lot of the comments and suggestions and found a couple that make a big difference, so I’ve incorporated them into my recipe below.  One other thing I’ve found is that I actually like them better the next day, vs. fresh.  The texture sets and they become moist and amazing and dense, and a little less rich than fresh out of the oven.

Fair warning, each cookie is like 550-600 calories.  But it’s definitely worth it on occasion.  Trust me and make these NOW.   [Read more…]

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