Thursday, May 31, 2012

Creamy, Dreamy Banana Cake

This is indeed a creamy, dreamy recipe. I wanted  to make an easy fruit cake so I perused many of my banana bread recipes, as well as fruit cake favorites and came up with this simple, one-layer cake, topped with an out-of-this-world, decadent cream cheese frosting. It took me a few tries to get it right, and I believe the secret to this cake's yumminess is the 4 very ripe bananas I used and that creamy half  cup of sour cream.

One Layer Banana Cake

2 cups AP flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
4 T unsalted butter softened to room temperature
2 T canola oil
3/4 cups Splenda No Calorie Sweetener (granulated sugar works fine too)
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 egg white, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 very ripe bananas- the browner the better
1/2 cup light sour cream

4 oz Neufchatel cheese (low fat cream cheese) softened to room temperature
4 T unsalted butter softened to room temperature
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar

Pre heat oven to 375 degrees and spray an 8" x 8" pan with cooking spray. I like to buy the disposable aluminum pans that come in packages of three and go on sale quite often. They're easy to transport and you never have to ask friends for your cake pan back.

In medium bowl whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In small bowl, mash bananas and combine with sour cream. Set aside.

Using an electric hand mixer, beat butter, oil and Splenda until incorporated (2 or 3 minutes). Add eggs, egg white and vanilla. Add half the dry ingredients into the butter/egg mixture and combine. Now add the banana/sour cream mash into the batter and mix until incorporated. Add the rest of the dry ingredients and mix until smooth. Try not to overmix.

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake 40-45 minutes. Allow to cool on wire rack and prepare the frosting.

In separate bowl, with hand mixer or a sturdy spoon, combine Neufchatel, butter and vanilla extract. When incorporated, add the confectioners' sugar and mix until frosting is smooth. When cake is cooled, frost that little darling and slice yourself a little goodness. I like to cut 9 slices per cake. Twelve seems a bit chincy, and six is a bit over the top.

The re-mix: #1-Sprinkle crushed nuts to the frosting. #2-I can't wait to try this recipe with strawberries and bananas. I think it might work. Plus strawberries have been on sale lately and that is always a plus. #3-And then I had the carrot cake thought. Might experiment a little with that. I'll keep you posted. 

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Spinach and Artichoke Dip with a Twist

Last week my friend Maryann had a birthday and to help her celebrate, I made what seems to be America's favorite ooey, gooey, munchy, dippy, comfort food- Baked Spinach and Artichoke Dip. I added a little flavor booster that really took the dish to a new level- Roasted Garlic. Plus I lightened the ingredients as much as I could so we can all have a few more helpings. Here are the ingredients and simple instructions to roast the garlic, in case you've never done that before.

Baked Roasted Garlic, Spinach and Artichoke Dip

Roasted Garlic
1 small head of garlic
1 T olive oil
1/2 tsp coarse sea salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper

The Dip
8 oz neufchatel cheese (lower fat cream cheese) softened to room temp
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup reduced fat shredded Mozzarella cheese
1/3 cup lite sour cream
1/3 cup lite mayonnaise
10 oz package of frozen chopped spinach thawed or defrosted in the microwave, then squeezed dry to remove any liquid
1 can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped (any size can will work)
1 head of roasted garlic
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp hot sauce

To roast the garlic: Pre heat oven to 400 degrees. Place a baking sheet in the oven as it pre heats. Remove some of the outer layers of the garlic skin if they are plentiful. Cut the top off the head of the garlic and place on a piece of aluminum foil. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt and pepper.

Seal the foil and place on pre-heated baking sheet. Roast 30-40 minutes. Allow to cool slightly and squeeze the roasted pulp into your mixing bowl (discard the skin). Doesn't that garlic look perfect?

To make the dip: Pre heat oven to 350 degrees. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl using a rubber spatula or sturdy spoon. When well mixed, spread into baking dish that's been prepared with cooking spray. Maryann's was baked in a medium sized gratin pan, and mine was done in a small (individual) ramekin. If you want a cheesy top, sprinkle a little more Parmesan cheese over the mixture. Bake 35 minutes and serve with pita chips, grilled Italian bread or raw veggies.

Re-mix: This is a very smooth dip, so if you want a bit of a surprise crunch, add a small can of diced water chestnuts to the mixture (I've done that before). Another thought I had was adding carmalized onions instead of the garlic to the mix.  I will try this and post an addendum to this recipe if the onions are as sweet with this combo as I think they will be. I'll be making this all summer and serving it with raw vegetables (zucchini, summer squash and radishes) and any artisan bread I come across. Hope you'll give this a try!