Being Mrs. Pierce

Life as a wife, hiker, wanna-be chef, book-lover, traveler, and now, mom

Zucchini-Walnut Bread August 5, 2014

Filed under: Cooking — skpierce12 @ 4:36 PM
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Last month I found myself with a few extra zucchini lying around, so I put one of them to use in Ellie Krieger’s Zucchini-Walnut Bread from the breakfast, brunch, & bakery chapter of Comfort Food Fix.


I have not had good luck with zucchini bread recipes in the past–they have turned out dry and/or tasteless. Even a zucchini-pineapple bread turned out surprisingly blah. After my last failure, I could not help but ask, Was it me, or was it the recipe?  So I wasn’t expecting the best when I embarked upon this recipe.  I followed the instructions exactly in order to discount for user error; if the recipe failed, at least I could claim it was not my fault!


About 30 minutes into the baking time, however, my kitchen was filled with the warm scent of cinnamon, and I began anticipating my first bite. I baked the loaf for an hour, as the oven in my new kitchen runs cooler than my previous one.


The recipe instructs you to wait until the bread is completely cool before slicing, but my growling tummy disagreed–it was ready for breakfast. I therefore cut into the loaf while it was still a little warm, to no ill effect. The zucchini-walnut bread was tasty (and not too dry), but it lacked oomph. In the end, both John and I rated it as an average, 3-star recipe. My hunt for the best zucchini bread recipe ever continues.


Comfort Food Fix recipes made: 24
Comfort Food Fix recipes still to make: 129


Zucchini-Walnut Bread

¾ cup whole wheat pastry flour
¾ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp ground nutmeg
¼ tsp salt
1/3 cup canola oil
1/3 cup natural unsweetened applesauce
2 large eggs
1 small zucchini (6 oz), coarsely grated (about 1¼ cups)
1/3 cup chopped walnuts

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray a 9×5-inch loaf pan with cooking spray.

2. Whisk together the flours, sugar, cinnamon, baking soda, nutmeg, and salt in a large bowl. In another large bowl, whisk together the oil, applesauce, and eggs. Stir in the zucchini. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, mixing just enough to combine. Stir in the walnuts.

3. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Bake until a wooden skewer inserted into the center comes out clean, 50 to 60 minutes. Allow to cool for 15 minutes in the pan, then transfer the bread to a wire rack to cool completely before slicing.

Yield: 8 servings (serving size: one 1-inch-thick slice). Per serving, 7 PointsPlus.


Nutella-Swirled Banana Bread April 28, 2014

Filed under: Cooking — skpierce12 @ 7:51 PM
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Over the course of many trips to Menard to visit my in-laws, a certain Nutella cake always seemed to find its way into our dinner conversations. Typically this occurred as the four of us were diving into a delectable dessert lovingly prepared by my in-laws, and we would all start throwing out the names of other favorite desserts and dessert-related memories. The Nutella cake came up every time. This was a cake that my in-laws had made and enjoyed multiple times, but that they had never made and enjoyed with us. Finally, it was decided: next visit, Nutella cake. And so it was that over spring break we four adults made quick work of an absolutely wonderful cake featuring–what else?–Nutella.


The cake was so tasty, in fact, that upon returning home I suddenly had an eye out for any and all recipes with “Nutella” in the title. It did not take long before I stumbled across this Nutella-Swirled Banana Bread recipe found on the blog Pass the Cocoa. It was a guest post done by Stephanie Wise of Girl Versus Dough (whose new e-cookbook, Quick Bread Love, you should definitely check out in the menu to the right). When I found myself one Saturday with four ripe bananas on hand, I decided to make up a double batch of the banana bread.


The recipe does involve multiple steps, but with the help of my KitchenAid stand mixer, I had the batter ready to go fairly quickly. My anticipation ratcheted up as I poured in the Nutella layer and swirled the batter around. Even before baking, this bread looked and smelled amazing.


I baked the loaves about 45 minutes rather than the stated 55-60 minutes, but my oven typically runs hot. At this point, I was too eager to try the bread to wait for the loaves to cool completely so that I could drizzle the melted chocolate on top. I sliced John and myself a piece off the end of one of the loaves while they were still warm from the oven. Even without the chocolate topping, the banana bread easily earned 5 stars. It was moist and full of banana flavor, and the Nutella-swirl layer made this the best banana bread I’ve tried.


After the loaves fully cooled, I did drizzle the melted chocolate on top as directed. After letting it set, I wrapped the uncut loaf in plastic wrap and foil and placed it directly into the freezer. John and I would eat up the cut loaf over the following week, but I had a particular destination in mind for the frozen loaf:  Menard on Easter weekend. What better way to reciprocate the Nutella deliciousness that my in-laws had shared with us on spring break than with a Nutella-flavored baked treat of my own?


Better Blueberry Muffins April 13, 2014

Filed under: Cooking — skpierce12 @ 5:14 PM
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Between the rising temperatures outside and the end-of-school-year discussions inside, my mind has already been jumping ahead to summer. Last weekend I woke up in a baking mood, but the only treats I really wanted to make were Ellie Krieger’s summer-y Better Blueberry Muffins. I first made these muffins last August when fresh blueberries were at their peak; the delightful lemon-blueberry flavor of the muffins immediately won me over. Because it is too early for fresh blueberries to be in season, I whipped up this Comfort Food Fix recipe using frozen blueberries instead. I typically am not a fan of frozen blueberries in baked goods because everything they touch turns dark purple. And indeed, the frozen blueberries “dirtied” up the muffin batter, even when I slowly folded them in.


I was surprised when my batter yielded 18 muffins rather than 12, as both times I made these muffins last August I got the typical 12 muffins from each batch. The difference may have come from the fact that my muffin tin liners that I had in stock last August were slightly larger than standard muffin liners, which is what I used this time. At any rate, I didn’t mind the extra muffins too much, especially as making 18 muffins dropped the PointsPlus value of each one from 5 to 4.


Upon tasting the muffins, I still found them light, yummy, and yes, summer-y. The lemon flavor did not shine through as much as I remembered, despite using 2 full teaspoons of lemon zest, but the lemon was definitely discernible and I would still rate them 4.5 stars. I do prefer the muffins with fresh blueberries over frozen ones, so I plan to wait until blueberries overrun the produce stands before I make my next round of these muffins.


Comfort Food Fix recipes made: 21
Comfort Food Fix recipes still to make: 132


Better Blueberry Muffins

Nonstick cooking spray
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole-grain pastry flour or whole-wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup sugar
¼ cup canola oil
2 large eggs
1 cup natural unsweetened applesauce
½ cup plain low-fat yogurt
¼ cup nonfat milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1½ teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
1½ cups fresh or frozen (unsweetened and unthawed) blueberries

1.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Coat a 12-cup muffin pan with cooking spray.

2.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

3.  In a large bowl, beat together the sugar, oil, and eggs, until the mixture is light yellow and slightly frothy. Whisk in the applesauce, yogurt, milk, vanilla, and lemon zest. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet, mixing just enough to combine them. Do not overmix. Gently stir in the blueberries.

4. Pour the batter into the prepared muffin pan. Tap the pan on the counter a few times to remove any air bubbles. Bake until a wooden toothpick inserted into the center of one of the muffins comes out clean, about 20 minutes.

5. Allow to cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Run a knife around them to loosen and unmold. Enjoy warm or let cool completely before storing in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or wrap individually and freeze for up to 3 months.

Yield: 12 servings (serving size: 1 muffin). Per serving, 5 PointsPlus.


Buttermilk Waffles with Chunky Strawberry Topping January 19, 2014

Filed under: Cooking — skpierce12 @ 10:06 PM
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To kick off our three-day weekend, yesterday morning I made up a batch of homemade buttermilk waffles with strawberry topping using recipes from Ellie Krieger’s Comfort Food Fix cookbook. These recipes also appeared in an article in Shape Magazine back in 2012.


Breakfast is one of my joys in life – especially a Saturday morning breakfast that features a warm baked good right out of the oven, off the griddle, or, in this case, the waffle iron. Such tasty treats may not always be healthy ones, so I especially liked that this buttermilk waffle recipe included whole-wheat flour and wheat germ. I used whole-wheat pastry flour as I like the fluffiness that it provides.


When I put the third batch of batter into the iron, I set the chunky strawberry topping to boiling on the stove. With it being January, I used frozen strawberries rather than fresh. I only needed to use 2 TB of maple syrup, as the topping turned out plenty sweet without any additional syrup.


The waffle recipe made enough batter for 4 full-size Belgian waffles – and then some. The final two waffles overflowed my waffle iron! The cooked waffles emerged from the iron a pretty, golden hue and the strawberry topping made for a bright red and sweet-smelling accompaniment. Taste-wise, the waffle-topping combo earned 3 stars. I enjoyed them both, but I was not overwhelmed. John tried to give me a second opinion, but he is currently suffering from seasonal allergies and therefore could not even taste his serving. I will probably keep looking around for another healthy waffle recipe to be my go-to one.


Comfort Food Fix recipes made: 4
Comfort Food Fix recipes still to make: 149


Buttermilk Waffles

¾ cup all-purpose flour
¾ cup whole-wheat pastry flour or whole-wheat flour
2 TB toasted wheat germ
1¼ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
1½ cups low-fat buttermilk
1 TB canola oil
1 TB honey
1 large egg
½ tsp vanilla extract
Nonstick cooking spray
1 recipe Chunky Strawberry Topping (recipe follows) or confectioners’ sugar for garnish, optional

1. Preheat a waffle iron.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, wheat germ, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In another large bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, oil, honey, egg, and vanilla. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, mixing just enough to combine them.

3. Spray the waffle iron with cooking spray. Ladle enough of the batter to cover three-fourths of the surface of the waffle iron (a heaping ½ cup for a 6-inch waffle iron), close it, and cook until golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Repeat with the remaining batter. Serve with the Chunky Strawberry Topping or a dusting of confectioners’ sugar, if desired.

Yield: 4 servings (serving size: 1 6-inch Belgian-style waffle). Per serving, 7 PointsPlus.


Chunky Strawberry Topping

2 cups fresh or frozen (unsweetened) strawberries, stems removed (10 oz)
2 TB pure maple syrup, plus more to taste
2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

In a medium saucepan, stir together the strawberries, maple syrup, and lemon juice and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer until the liquid has thickened slightly, about 5 minutes. Flavor with additional maple syrup, depending on the sweetness of the fruit. The topping will keep up to 4 days in the refrigerator stored in an airtight container.

Yield: 4 servings (serving size: ¼ cup). Per serving, 1 PointsPlus.


Pumpkin Streusel Coffee Cake (New Recipe #103) December 23, 2013

Filed under: Cooking — skpierce12 @ 9:49 AM
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Two weekends ago DFW was hit with a winter storm that left the roads covered in ice. My school district canceled classes that Friday and Monday, so I found myself with an unexpected four-day weekend at home. In the past, I probably would have spent most of that time reading, but my inner chef is calling loud and clear these days. As a result, I fiddled the hours away each day in the kitchen. On that Saturday morning, I tried out the Hungry Girl’s Pumpkin Streusel Coffee Cake for breakfast. A well-documented fan of pumpkin, I was eager to try this light –and pumpkiny — version of coffee cake.


For the white sugar, I followed the Hungry Girl’s alternative suggestion, which calls for Splenda No Calorie Sweetener (granulated) instead of regular sugar. Using Splenda lowers the PointsPlus value of each serving from 4 to 3. While I enjoy the PointsPlus benefit of Splenda, I remain conflicted about baking with and consuming it. I am attempting to eat more natural, less processed foods, so the use of Splenda is in direct contrast with that goal. Yet six years of WeightWatchers habits are hard to break, and I want to maintain my current waistline. The final outcome of the sugar vs. Splenda war remains, therefore, TBD.


I removed the coffee cake 35 minutes after I placed it in the oven, and it passed the toothpick test. I did not feel the need to bake it any longer, even though the recipe calls for a 45-minute baking time. The breakfast treat made my house smell like fall as it cooked and cooled; it created the perfect blend of cinnamon and spice in the air. When it was finally time to try a piece, I was pleased at the taste and texture. The crumb topping is a definite plus; it added a pleasant crunch to the sweet and moist cake underneath. John and I both granted it 3 stars.


Pumpkin Streusel Coffee Cake

Crumb Topping
¼ cup Fiber One Original bran cereal
3 TB old-fashioned oats
3 TB brown sugar (not packed)
2 TB granulated white sugar (or Splenda No Calorie Sweetener, granulated)
½ tsp cinnamon
2 TB light whipped butter or light buttery spread

1 cup whole-wheat flour (I used whole-wheat pastry flour)
½ cup granulated white sugar (or Splenda No Calorie Sweetener, granulated)
¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
¾ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp pumpkin pie spice
¼ tsp salt
¾ cup canned pure pumpkin
½ cup fat-free liquid egg substitute
½ cup club soda
1/3 cup low-fat buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla extract

1.  Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray an 8″ X 8″ baking pan with nonstick spray.

2.  To make the crumb topping, place cereal in a sealable plastic bag. Seal bag, and finely crush cereal with a meat mallet or other heavy utensil. Transfer crumbs to a medium bowl. Add all other topping ingredients to the bowl except butter, and mix well. Add butter, and mash and stir until uniform.

3.  To make the cake, in a large bowl, combine whole-wheat flour, sugar, all-purpose flour, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, pumpkin pie spice, and salt. Whisk thoroughly.

4.  In a medium-large bowl, combine pumpkin, egg substitute, club soda, buttermilk, and vanilla extract. Whisk until uniform. Add mixture to the large bowl, and whisk until uniform.

5.  Pour cake batter into the baking pan. Sprinkle with crumb topping.

6.  Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 45 minutes.

7.  Let cool for 30 minutes. Slice into squares, and eat!

Yield: 9 servings. Per serving, 4 PointsPlus (or 3 PointsPlus when using Splenda in place of granulated white sugar).


Pumpkin Bread (New Recipe #98) December 7, 2013

Filed under: Cooking — skpierce12 @ 6:05 PM
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Without realizing it, I have apparently embarked upon a quest to make every pumpkin recipe that crosses my path. Just when I think that I have satisfied my pumpkin-baking urge for the year, I come across a new recipe and before I know it, I am in the kitchen making it. Such was the case with the Hungry Girl’s Perfect Pumpkin Bread.


For the dried fruit, I picked raisins over cranberries since I had very recently made the Cranberry Pumpkin Bars. I plumped my raisins before stirring them into the batter. The rest of the recipe I made according to the directions, although my bread needed only 40 minutes in the oven rather than 50.


Unfortunately, the Perfect Pumpkin Bread did not turn out so perfectly.  The taste of the bread was very disappointing — rather blah and barely sweet.  On the positive side, each serving of this bread was a generously-sized slice.  However, the large portion size was not enough to make up for the lack of taste; this bread earned only 2 stars.  I do not expect that I will make this recipe again.


Perfect Pumpkin Bread

1¼ cups whole-wheat flour
¼ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup Splenda No Calorie Sweetener (granulated)
¼ cup brown sugar (not packed)
2¼ tsp baking powder
1 ½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp salt
1/3 tsp pumpkin pie spice
One 15-oz. can pure pumpkin
½ cup fat-free liquid egg substitute
1 tsp vanilla extract
¼ cup sweetened dried cranberries or raisins, chopped

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a loaf pan with nonstick spray.

2. In a large bowl, mix both types of flour, Splenda, brown sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, and pumpkin pie spice.

3. In another large bowl, whisk pumpkin, egg substitute, and vanilla extract. Add this mixture to the large bowl and stir until just blended.

4. Stir in chopped cranberries or raisins. Transfer batter to the loaf pan and smooth out the surface. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 50 minutes.

Yield: 8 servings. Per serving, 4 PointsPlus.


Yippee Chippee Chocolate Chip Muffins (New Recipe #91) November 28, 2013

Filed under: Cooking — skpierce12 @ 7:25 PM
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Muffins are among my favorite baked goods to make from scratch. They are slightly sweet, warm, and fluffy as they emerge from the oven in handy, single-serve portions. Best of all, they make the house smell like a bakery. So when I come across a new muffin recipe, I am inclined to try it. Thus it was with the Hungry Girl’s Yippee Chippee Chocolate Chip Muffins.


This particular recipe drew my attention because it gave me an excuse to buy a carton of Almond Breeze unsweetened vanilla almond milk. I have seen Almond Breeze on numerous ingredients lists (most of them by Hungry Girl) and always have been intrigued. While this recipe calls for light vanilla soymilk, I substituted the Almond Breeze instead. I also used regular milk chocolate chips in place of the mini semi-sweet chocolate chips, not having any of the latter on hand.


For being a “diet” recipe, these muffins turned out surprisingly delicious. They had just the right amount of chocolate in them and were light and fluffy, just as muffins should be. They are perfect for both breakfast and a sweet bite at the end of the day. John and I gave them 4 stars, and I promptly made a second batch a couple of days after the first, as John and I gobbled them up in record time.


Yippee Chippee Chocolate Chip Muffins

1 cup whole-wheat flour
¼ cup Splenda No Calorie Sweetener (granulated)
3 TB brown sugar (not packed)
1½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
½ cup light vanilla soymilk (I used Almond Breeze unsweetened vanilla almond milk)
¼ cup sugar-free pancake syrup
¼ cup fat-free liquid egg substitute
2 TB light whipped butter or light buttery spread, room temperature
2 TB no-sugar-added applesauce
½ tsp vanilla extract
¼ cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips (I used regular milk chocolate chips)

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a standard 6-cup muffin pan (or 6 cups of a 12-cup muffin pan) with foil baking cups or spray with nonstick spray.

2. In a large bowl, whisk flour, Splenda, brown sugar, baking powder, and salt.

3. In another large bowl, whisk all other ingredients except chocolate chips. Add the flour mixture and stir until smooth. Fold in chocolate chips.

4. Evenly distribute batter among the 6 lined or sprayed cups of the muffin pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean, about 22 minutes.

Yield: 6 servings (serving size: 1 muffin). Per serving, 5 PointsPlus.