a balanced plate with room for dessert


Nutella Swirled Banana Bread

I love banana bread. Banana bread with chocolate chips? Good. Banana bread with nuts? Even better. Banana bread with Nutella? Best. I wonder if this bread can get any better. Maybe next time I’ll do Nutella, chopped hazelnuts, and chocolate chips. Boom. Taste explosion.

I especially loved eating the crust on this bread. Poor Mike was left with crustless pieces…


I’m going to warn you all: I am not an expert swirler. Evidence of this can be seen above. Beautiful swirls throughout the loaf? Not so much. It kind of looks like a heart, actually (awwww!!). Swirl or heart, this bread is good.

Nutella Swirled Banana Bread
slightly adapted from Sugar Plum Blog

2 1/3 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cup mashed ripe banana (about 3 medium)
6 tablespoon unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1/2 cup Nutella

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9-inch loaf pan with butter and set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, with a mixer set on  medium speed, beat together banana, butter, sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla until well combined, about 2 minutes. Beat in eggs until well combined.
  4. Reduce mixer speed to low and beat in flour mixture until just combined. Remove half the batter to a medium bowl and stir in Nutella.
  5. Take turns spooning Nutella batter and plain batter into the loaf pan. Swirl the batters together gently with a knife.
  6. Bake in preheated oven for 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with clean.

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Homemade White Bread


Nothing goes better with homemade soups and stews than a freshly baked loaf of bread. I strayed from my tried-and-true bread recipe to try this classic white bread recipe from Cooking Light. This was super easy and I had all the ingredients on hand. The bread was light and fluffy and the crust baked up to a perfect crunch. This bread will definitely make several more appearances in our home.


Homemade White Bread
makes 1 loaf

2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 cups warm skim milk (100 – 110°F)
2 tablespoons butter, melted
4 1/2 cups flour, divided
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
Cooking spray

  1. Dissolve yeast and sugar in milk in a mixing large bowl. Let stand 5 minutes or until foamy. Stir in butter. 
  2. Add 4 cups flour and salt to yeast mixture and stir until blended. Turn dough out onto a well floured surface, and knead until smooth and elastic about 10 minutes. If dough is sticky, add remaining 1/2 cup flour a little at a time until dough is easy to handle.
  3. Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning to coat top. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour or until doubled in size.
  4. Punch dough down and let rest for 5 minutes. Roll into a 14×7 inch rectangle on a well-floured surface. Roll up rectangle tightly, starting from the short edge. Pinch seam ends to seal. Place loaf seam-side down in a 9×5 inch loaf pan coated with cooking spray. Cover with damp cloth and let rise 1 hour or until doubled in size.
  5. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  6. Bake for 45 minutes or until loaf is browned and sounds hollow when tapped. Remove bread from pan and let cool on wire rack.

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Spicy Cheese Bread

cheese bread

Nothing says “Madison Farmer’s Market” like Stella’s spicy cheese bread. If you’ve never had the chance to shove handfuls of this deliciousness into you’re mouth, you are missing out. In the summer, Capitol Square is packed full of people cradling delicious, warm bags of cheesy, doughy goodness.

I might go so far to say that this bread was the highlight of my college career.

Being in the real world means I can’t drop everything and jet off to Madison to get this bread whenever I feel like it. And I’m just not willing to shell out $8 + $9 shipping per loaf for it. Fortunately, a pretty tasty replica can be created in your own kitchen.

cheese bread

Spicy Cheese Bread

1 cup warm water
2 tablespoons yeast
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
2 teaspoons crushed red pepper
1/4 cup melted butter
1/4 cup olive oil
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
8 ounces jalapeño cheese, cut into 1/4″ cubes
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

  1. Mix together the yeast and water and let it sit for 5 minutes. Add sugar, garlic powder, pepper, Italian seasoning, and crushed red pepper. Mix in the butter and olive oil.
  2. Knead in flour a little at a time by hand or with a stand mixer fit with a dough hook. Add the salt and knead for 10 minutes, or until dough is smooth. Knead in jalapeno cheese.
  3. Grease a large bowl and place dough inside. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise for two hours, or until doubled in size.
  4. Grease a round cake pan and place dough inside. Gently press dough to pan edges. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm place for 30 minutes.
  5. Preheat oven to 400°F. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese, Italian seasoning and red pepper flakes on bread. Bake for 30 minutes until bread is golden brown. Serve warm.


Photos in this post were taken by Rebecca Li


Apple Pie Bread

Life is so strange. I work in food service and my days are filled with food, menu planning, nutrition… the list goes on and on. Yet, I never have time to cook. I’ve been living on school food and whatever I scrape up from the fridge at home. I was ready to live this life of school salads and random dinners for a couple months. When I started this job in July, I was told that everything would calm down by October at the latest.

Hmm. Last time I checked, it’s January, and work is still crazy. I have been dutifully taking pictures of the new dishes that I make. Unfortunately, it’s been so long since I took the pictures that I honestly cannot remember what the dish was, let alone what was in it! So, I guess I will start with one of the more recent things I’ve made: apple pie bread. I know, I know. I don’t have a lot of time to cook, so I use my precious time making things like… bread? Here’s what happened:

Cravings are a funny thing. I never seem to crave food that I have in the house. Or even food that is easily accessible to me. It’s always something that I can’t have. In this case, it was apple pie bread. More specifically, it was apple pie bread from Breadsmith. The craving hit on a Saturday night. By Sunday I was getting a bit cranky because I didn’t have any. I got ready to make the short drive over to Breadsmith and popped onto their website to make sure they had it.


My world crashed around me. They don’t have apple pie bread on Sundays. They have it almost every other day of the week. But not Sundays. I almost launched my iPad across the room in frustration. I stewed for a few minutes before deciding to make the dang thing myself.

Now, fair warning: this is not a replica of Breadsmith’s bread. It is really good though. Honestly. Mike and I inhaled half the loaf in about 15 minutes. The rest of it was gone before Wednesday.


Apple Pie Bread

For the filling:
3 apples, peeled and diced (about 3 cups)
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cornstarch dissolved in 2 teaspoons water

For the dough:
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup butter
3 1/2 cups flour
2 1/4 teaspoons yeast
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup water
1 egg

For the streusel:
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup flour
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1/3 cup chopped pecans

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9×5 loaf pan and set aside.
  2. Combine filling ingredient in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 4 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside. 
  3. Heat milk and butter in a small saucepan until butter is melted.
  4. Whisk  together flour, yeast, salt, and brown sugar in a large bowl. Add in water, egg, milk and butter. With the dough hook on your stand mixer, combine all ingredients until dough comes together.
  5. Remove dough from bowl and place on a well floured surface. Knead for 5 minutes or until dough is smooth and elastic. If dough is very sticky, add additional flour 1 tablespoon at a time, until dough is no longer sticking to the counter or your hands.
  6. Roll dough out into a 1/4 inch thick rectangle. Spread filling over the dough evenly, reserving 1/3 cup of the filling.
  7. Using a pizza cutter, cut the dough into 4×5″ rectangles. With the loaf pan on it’s side, stack the pieces on top of each other. Set the pan down and, if needed, spread the dough gently to distribute through the pan evenly.
  8. Sprinkle the remaining 1/3 cup of apple filling on top of the dough.
  9. Combine streusel ingredients together in a bowl until well combined and crumbly. Sprinkle over dough.
  10. Bake for 55 – 60 minutes, or until bread is golden brown.
  11. Let cool in pan on wire rack for 20 minutes before running a knife along the edges to loosen. Enjoy!!


Fueling the Run with Cranberry Orange Bread

Born to run? Not me. Picked last in gym class? Spent afternoons after school in math club? That’s more like it. So, why did I choose running as my sport? To be quite honest, it’s because it is one of the few sports that don’t involve an object flying at your face. Yeah, I lack hand-eye coordination. Big time.

I was scarred for life when I played soccer in elementary school. Tennis lessons in middle school? Horrifying. To this day, I stay away from soccer, volleyball, tennis, kickball and any other sport that involves a fast-flying ball.

I started to run my junior year in college to prepare for a family vacation to the Boundary Waters. I decided to use the ever so popular Couch to 5K program as my training guide. I’m not going to lie, doing day 1 of week 1 was almost too much for me and I wanted to quit halfway through.  But, I pushed through it. Two days later, I pushed through another workout. Rinse and repeat until I could (gasp!) run for 30 minutes straight. Boundary Waters went off without a hitch. Unfortunately, having nothing to work towards after the trip, I stopped running.

I didn’t start running again until my younger sister talked me into running a 15K with her. I have no idea how she convinced me, but it turns out that my promise would change my life.  I spent that winter painfully, slooooowly running (a more accurate word would probably be shuffling) that winter, gradually working my way up to 1 mile, then 2, 3… when I finally hit 5 miles, I felt like I had conquered the world.

I trained as hard as I could and in November of 2011, I ran my very first race at the age of 24. Completing the 15k was probably one of the most proudest moments of my life. I had done what I thought was impossible: I was a runner. I ran a 5 mile Turkey Trot a few weeks later and knew I was hooked.

My sister (R) and me after the Hot Chocolate 15K in Chicago

Mike and me after the 5 mile Turkey Trot

I am now looking forward to another 15K in February and then a half marathon in May. I may not be fast, graceful, or have an athlete’s body, but I am a runner.

The best part? Running fueled a new interest in nutrition. I had a degree in dietetics, but never knew what I wanted to do with it until I started running. I realized how I felt after I ate certain foods. I found out my perfect pre-run (Greek yogurt and a small banana) and post-run (most recently cranberry orange bread) foods. Running urged me to continue my schooling, and that’s where I am now – working through a dietetic internship with a new passion for nutrition!

If you made it through this long-winded post (quite possibly my longest ever), I am amazed. As a thank you, I will offer you the recipe to my new favorite post-workout food – cranberry orange bread!

I have made the bread two ways now – one as written on and the other with the changes published below. I prefer the recipe below – it’s a bit denser and not-so-sweet. Adding in whole wheat flour and reducing the amount of butter and sugar are an added health benefit, too!

Cranberry Orange Bread

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large orange, zested (about 1 heaping tablespoon)
1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
2 tablespoons butter, softened
2 tablespoons unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
3/4 cup orange juice

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour a 9×5 loaf pan.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and orange zest. Stir in cranberries and walnuts. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, cream together butter, applesauce, and sugar until smooth. Beat in egg and orange juice. Stir in flour mixture, mixing until just moistened.
  4. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan and bake for 55 – 65 minutes, or until bread is golden brown and springs back when lightly touched. Let stand 15 minutes and then turn out onto cooling rack to cool completely.

Recipe adapted from


Pita Bread

I can’t believe it took me this long to make pita bread! Never again will I pay $3+ for a tiny bag of pita. I can no make it at home for just mere pennies. That’s my kinda food!!

In fact, the money you save can buy you a neat little thermometer. It will come in handy… for example, you can use it to make sure your water is the right temperature in this recipe! Or any recipe with yeast, actually.

Don’t like pita? Make this any way. It’s fun watching the dough rise in the oven from completely flat to a mini-balloon.

Pita Bread

1 1/8 cups warm water (110°F)
1 1/2 teaspoons white sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

  1. In a small bowl, combine water, yeast and sugar. Let sit until foamy, about 5 minutes. Add in oil.
  2. Combine flour and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer. With a dough hook, lightly mix to combine.
  3. Pour yeast mixture into flour and mix on low (#2 on a KitchenAid) until moistened, about 30 seconds. Increase speed to medium (#4) and knead for 10 minutes, until dough is smooth.
  4. Place dough into a large, lightly oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise until double in size.
  5. Turn dough onto lightly floured surface. Stretch dough into a 12 inch rope. Cut into 8 even pieces and roll each piece into a 6 – 7 inch circle. Set aside on a lightly floured surface and cover with a towel. Let rise for 30 minutes.
  6. Meanwhile, reheat oven to 500°F and place baking stone on oven rack. Allow to heat for 20 minutes.
  7. Place dough onto baking stone (I was able to make 3 at a time) and lightly spritz with water. Bake for 3 minutes, or until pitas are puffy and tops are not yet brown.
  8. Remove from baking stone and let cool on a clean towel.

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Chicken Tikka Masala with Naan

I bought a huge tub of plain, non-fat yogurt to use in some dish I planned on making. Then, I couldn’t remember what dish I wanted to make. Does this ever happen to you?? It happens to me way too frequently. I tried to fix this by writing down the meals I have planned on a piece of paper, but then I end up misplacing the paper or throwing it out. Maybe I should start writing the dishes I want to make with it on the food itself.

I looked online for a bit to find a dish that would use a good portion of yogurt and finally found one that I thought sounded pretty good. Chicken Tikka Masala. Don’t let the long list of ingredients scare you. It’s really a lot easier than it looks, since most of the ingredients are spices! Give it a try – I loved it and will definitely be making it again!

Chicken Tikka Masala
serves 4

For the marinade:
1 cup plain, non-fat yogurt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons black pepper
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch pieces

For the sauce:
1 tablespoon butter
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, minced
4 teaspoons ground cumin
4 teaspoons paprika
2 8-ounce cans tomato sauce
2 cups half and half
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

  1. To make the marinade, combine yogurt, lemon juice, cumin, cinnamon, cayenne, black pepper, and ginger in a large bowl. Stir to combine. Stir in chicken, cover, and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.
  2. Preheat grill to high.
  3. Thread chicken onto skewers. Discard marinade. Grill chicken until juices run clear, about 5 minutes on each side.
  4. To make the sauce, melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Saute garlic and jalapeno for 1 minute. Stir in cumin and paprika. Pour in tomato sauce and half and half, and stir to combine.
  5. Bring to a boil and reduce heat and let simmer for about 20 minutes, or until sauce is thick. Add in grilled chicken and simmer for an additional 10 minutes.
  6. Garnish with cilantro and serve with rice or naan (or both)!

recipe adapted from

Easy Garlic Naan

1 .25 ounce package active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
1/4 cup white sugar
3 tablespoons milk
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon salt
4 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup butter, melted
2 cloves garlic, chopped

  1. Dissolve yeast in warm water. Stir in 1 tablespoon sugar and let stand for 10 minutes, or until frothy.
  2. Pour liquid into mixer fitted with dough hook. Add in milk, egg, salt, and 2 1/2 cups of flour. Knead on low speed for 1 minute, or until ingredients are thoroughly mixed. Add in remaining 2 cups of flour 1/2 cup at a time, mixing after each addition. Mix until dough clings to hook and cleans sides of bowl, about 2 minutes.
  3. Knead for 2 more minutes, or until dough is smooth and elastic. Remove dough from hook and place in oiled bowl. Cover with a damp cloth and set aside to rise. Let rise for 1 hour, or until dough has doubled in size.
  4. Punch down dough. Pinch off ping-pong ball sized pieces of dough. Roll into a ball and place on a cookie sheet. Repeat with remaining dough. Cover dough with a damp cloth and let rise for 30 minutes, or until double in size.
  5. Meanwhile, combine melted butter with garlic and set aside.
  6. Roll risen dough balls into a thin circle.
  7. Heat oil in a small pan over medium high heat. Cook dough on one side until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Before flipping, brush uncooked side with garlic butter. Flip, and cook second side until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Brush cooked side with melted butter. Continue this process until all the naan has been prepared.