Thursday, September 7, 2017

Banana Cake

Maybe it's because I've had tons of cake orders lately or that I'm back in training for a race and cut down my sugar intake but I've got cake on the brain! After a couple months of mostly healthy posts now I'm hitting you with two delicious cake recipes in the last few weeks. If you missed the first one- Chocolate Mug Cake in the Microwave- you might want to check it out too.

Over the summer my girls each took a few turns making dinner and of course they wanted to make dessert too!  Mayzie decided to make one of our favorites. Banana cake!  It's so quick and moist and delicious with a little cream cheese frosting. I make it in a 9x13 pan for our family but it also doubles easily and fits in a large sheet pan for gatherings. The next time you find yourself with some old bananas that need used up give this one a try.

Banana Cake
1 1/3 cups sugar
1/4 cup butter, room temp
1 cup sour cream
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups mashed bananas (I use over-ripe to give it more flavor)
2 tsp. vanilla (real vanilla people!)
2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
dash of salt

1/3 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup cream cheese
3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

For the cake- use a stand mixer to cream together the sugar and butter. Mix in sour cream and eggs (one by one). Scrape the side of the bowl to make sure everything gets combine well.  Add banana and vanilla. Add remaining cake ingredients slowly and mix together until incorporated.

Bake in a 9x13 baking dish for 34-35 minutes or until a toothpick can be inserted into the center and come out clean.  You can also check for doneness by pressing in the middle and seeing if the cake springs back.  When it does it finished.

Meanwhile make frosting by combining all the frosting ingredients until whipped and creamy.  Set aside.

Cool cake completely and frost. If desired, serve it topped with fresh bananas. Enjoy!

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Smoothie Freezer Pack and Some Favorite Smoothie recipes!

 While not an awesome picture these smoothie packs are pretty awesome!  We did these for the last freezer meal night at my daughter Emeline's request. The part I liked best was the frozen yogurt cubes! Then it all gets portioned out and put in a freezer instead of keeping a giant carton in the fridge. For the packs in the picture we did spinach, banana, berries and greek yogurt but they are super adaptable and you can make them just like you want.  Just add them to a blender with a cup of liquid and you're set to go! Give them a try and save yourself some time on busy mornings!

Smoothie Packs (7 servings)

1 (32 oz.) container vanilla greek yogurt (or regular vanilla yogurt)
7 cups spinach
7 bananas (chopped)
7 cups mixed berries (I used frozen blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries) (Also see other fruit ideas below!)

Other Supplies needed:
7 quart sized freezer bags
1 ice cube tray (with at least 14 compartments)

Prep Directions:
Spoon yogurt into ice cube tray and place in freezer.  Freeze for at least six hours or until solid.

When yogurt is frozen remove from trays and place two cubes in each of the 7 freezer bags.  Add 1 cup spinach, 1 banana, and 1 cup of fruit to each bag.  Seal well, making sure to release any extra air and freeze.

Serving Directions:
When ready to serve place contents of 1 smoothie pack in a blender with 1 cup liquid (coconut/almond/cows milk, fruit juice, or even water).

For a thicker smoothie add 1/2 cup of ice or another frozen yogurt pack.  For a thinner smoothie add extra liquid. Add some protein powder to pack in some extra energy!

Smoothie Variations (Use the following variations along with the measurements above to make your own unique packs)

Peach Perfection:
Omit the spinach and use peaches in place of the berries in the smoothie packs.  Add coconut milk and ice when you blend it.

Chocolate Banana Strawberry:
Use all strawberries in place of the mixed berries in the smoothie packs.  Add 1 scoop chocolate protein powder with the liquid when you blend it.

Peanut Butter and Jelly
Add 2 T. all natural peanut butter to your smoothie pack.  Add 1/4 cup extra liquid and/or ice when you blend it. Use almond milk for extra nuttiness!

Pina Colada
Use coconut greek yogurt in place of the vanilla yogurt.  Use pineapple in place of the mixed berries (or do half pineapple and half strawberries).  When ready to serve use coconut milk for the liquid.

Raspberry Peach:
Omit the spinach.  Use 1/2 raspberries and 1/2 peaches in place of the mixed berries in the smoothie packs.  When blending use 1/2 cup almond milk and 1/2 cup orange juice for the liquid and add 1/2 cup ice.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Molten Lava Mug Cake (in the microwave)

That's right, cake in a microwave!  I found this recipe a couple years ago on and with a few tweaks it has been my go to for a quick dessert.  You can check out the original on her website too because her pictures are gorgeous and her site name is hilarious.

The original recipe says for one but this makes a pretty big bowls worth so we usually split it between us. It takes about 5 minutes to throw together and even less to cook.  Also, it doesn't leave you with an entire cake to slowly eat the rest of the week so it's only one night of bad eating choices ;)

Molten Lava Mug Cake (2 servings)
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 T. unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. baking powder
pinch of salt
3 T. butter (melted)
3 T. whole milk
1 egg (small is good here)
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips*
1 T. water

In a large (microwave safe) cereal bowl combine flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder and salt.  In another bowl melt butter.  To the melted butter add milk, egg, and vanilla.  Whisk to combine.  Add to dry ingredients and stir until combined.  Place chocolate chips on top of batter in a clump in the middle (you don't need to push them down in, they'll take care of that themselves during baking).  Sprinkle tablespoon of water over top of the batter and chocolate.

Bake in the microwave on full power for 1 min. 35 seconds (up to 2 minutes depending on microwave) or until cake is set but not dried out.  (You don't want to over bake it or you won't get your molten core!) If still not cooked through keep baking at 5 second intervals until done.

*For a nutty twist you can sub 2 T. peanut butter instead of the chocolate chips.  Push it down into the batter slightly.This gives you a nice peanut butter lava instead of chocolate.  It's pretty much Alex's favorite this way!

Monday, August 14, 2017

New features!

I've been making a few subtle changes to my blog lately that I wanted to point out to people!

Image result for freezer pic
1) I've added a new tab at the top of the page for freezer meal workshops.  A few months ago a couple friends and I started a group in Los Alamos where people pay to come and cook for 2 hours a month and leave with a weeks worth of dinners! In doing that I've really started to collect and adjust recipes to make them work for the freezer and wanted to share!  I'm still working on getting pictures attached to all of them and making them just perfect but in the meantime you can at least see the recipes and get your freeze on!  If you're local you can also get more information about attending freezer meal workshops in the future.  Just click on the tab that says freezer meal workshops and recipes! Happy Cooking!

Image result for thinking picture
2) In the past I've periodically written essays and other non-recipe/homemaking type posts on neighborjulia. I've recently made a new goal to write something meaningful every day but I also realize I have a lot of readers from my local community using neighborjulia recipes that may not want to know everything there is to know about me!

For these reasons I've decided to take all those types of posts off this blog and move them to a new one! However, I couldn't move the comments so feel free to read through them and comment again! I will be posting political essays, book reviews, religious conversations, poetry, weightloss/fitness tracking and more on my new blog: Semi-Deep Thoughts by Neighborjulia. So if you're interested in any of that you can check them out there and if you're just in it for the food you can stick with neighborjulia and not have to hear all my ramblings ;) A link to my semi-deep thoughts blog can be found on the sidebar also! Happy reading!

Monday, August 7, 2017

Salisbury Steaks with Homemade Brown Gravy

This is a meal we had a lot growing up.  I loved it as a kid and now I love it as an adult because my kids will eat it too!  It's quick and hearty and I usually have most of the ingredients on hand.  We always called them juicy hamburgers growing up but I've since learned they are also called Salisbury steaks. You can call them whichever you prefer- I suppose more people will know what you're talking about if you call them the latter though. ;) Give them a try!

Salisbury Steaks (makes 8)
2.5 lbs. ground beef
2 T. Worcestshire sauce
2 tsp. seasoned salt
pepper to taste
1 recipe brown gravy (below)
parsley (for garnish)

Combine ground beef with 2 T. worcestshire, seasoned salt and pepper.  Form into 8 patties and place inside a large skillet.  Cook beef until no longer pink but still tender.  While patties are cooking begin making gravy. When patties are done cooking, pour gravy over patties and continue to cook until gravy is thickened.

Brown Gravy
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp. minced garlic
4 cups beef broth or stock
1/4 cup ketchup
1 tsp. dijon mustard
1 T. Worcesteshire

To make gravy- In a medium saucepan melt butter. Add flour and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until butter/flour mixture is golden brown. Add garlic and continue cooking for 1 minute or until fragrant. Whisk in remaining ingredients until well combined.  Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally (making sure to scrape bottoms and sides of pan). If adding to cooked salisbury steaks go ahead and pour gravy over top of them now, otherwise leave gravy in saucepan. Whether in the skillet or saucepan- Simmer for 15 min, over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until reduced and thickened.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Thai Peanut Pasta

This was a delicious pinterest find! Plus I bought already prepped veggies in the produce section which made this meal super quick to pull together! My kiddos loved it and so did Alex and I.  I may have tricked them into trying it by telling them there was a secret ingredient (peanut butter) and whoever figured out what it was could have a popsicle for dessert.  I might have to start doing that with more dinners because they all cleaned their plates! I like to believe that also had something to do with the food being good ;)  Anyway, give it a try!

Thai Peanut Pasta
3 chicken breasts (grilled and thinly sliced)
1 lb. thin spaghetti
1/4 cup sesame oil (divided)
1 cup shredded carrots (I bought a bag of already shredded carrots)
2 cups shredded cabbage (I bought a bag of cole slaw mix)
1/2 bunch green onions (chopped)
3 tsp. minced garlic
1 T. fresh ginger (peeled and minced)
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup chunky peanut butter
3 T. rice vinegar
2 T. siracha
fresh cilantro (optional)
chopped peanuts  (optional)

Grill chicken until cooked through.  Remove from heat and let set for 5 min. before slicing thinly.

Meanwhile, in a large pot bring water to a boil and cook pasta until al dente (you don't want it mushy!). Drain pasta, toss with sesame oil, and set aside.

Add remaining oil to the bottom of the pot and saute green onion, carrots and cabbage until slightly softened (it doesn't take long). Then add chicken, garlic and ginger and continue cooking for 1 min.

Add remaining sauce ingredients to pot and stir to combine. Place noodles back in the pot and toss all ingredients together.

Top with fresh cilantro and/or chopped peanuts if desired. Enjoy!

Monday, June 26, 2017

Caprese Salad

I love summer! I love that you can just chop up fresh ingredients and call it a meal. Have this salad with some grilled chicken and maybe some watermelon and you're good to go. You'll look super fancy and you'll still have time to read a book or something after you make dinner!

It's so fast to make and you can change it to fit your tastes/needs.  You can make your own balsamic drizzle like I have below or make this recipe even easier by buying some pre-made at the store. I've found it in the oils and vinegars section.  You can marinate the tomatoes in balsamic vinegar for an extra punch or add a little ground pepper at the end.  Enjoy!

Caprese Salad
16 oz. fresh mozzarella (I get mine at the Murray cheese counter in Smith's)
4 larger roma tomatoes (you want them to be firm)
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil (more if you like!)
balsamic drizzle (recipe below or buy a pre-made drizzle)
salt and pepper to taste

Balsamic Drizzle:
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1 T. corn starch

Combine all drizzle ingredients in a large saucepan and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to med low and allow to thicken.  When sauce is reduced to desired thickness remove from heat and allow to cool.

Meanwhile, slice mozzarella and roma tomatoes into 1/4 in. thick slices and arrange on plate alternating between cheese and tomato.  Sprinkle chopped basil on top.  Drizzle cooled balsamic glaze over salad.  Top with salt and pepper if desired.