Vegan Banana-Pecan Muffins

Friday, January 31, 2014

When I told my husband that I would be making some vegan meals at home, he was a little skeptical about my new food adventure. So, to change his mind a little bit I made these vegan banana-pecan muffins and he was sold on the idea! First, he couldn't even tell they were vegan and second, he said they were delicious…delicious! and they are delicious, people! the texture is super soft and fluffy, take a look:

Recipe slightly adapted from here.

Ingredients (12 servings):
3 ripe bananas
1/4 cup oil
1/2 cup almond milk
1 cup sugar
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1/3 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, mash the bananas with sugar. Pour oil and milk, mix well to combine. In another bowl, combine flour, salt and baking powder. Add the flour mixture in batches to the banana mixture until well combined. Pour batter into a muffin pan lined with paper cups. Sprinkle chopped pecans on top. Bake for 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Enjoy!

Book Review: Three French Hens, Two Macarons, and Lovers in a Bakery

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Disclosure: I got this product as part of an advertorial in exchange for a honest review.  

I've really tried to love this book since I was so intrigued by the title and by the beautiful cover, unfortunately the story was a big let down. I was really looking forward to the love story and I couldn't love the story at all, I couldn't connect to the characters, the story at times just seemed totally unreal, bizarre and out of place.

The only aspect I loved about the book, it's the fact that it comes with thirty indulgent french dessert recipes and photos even though they're black & white (*print version*, not digital). A recipe is mentioned in every chapter and by the end of each chapter you can find the recipe and photo. I love when books incorporate recipes with the story and when it works together becomes beautiful but in this case, I'm afraid only the recipes worked, not the story.

Here are some of the recipes in the book:
Blackberry Financiers
Charlotte a la Framboise (Raspberry Charlotte)
La Buche de Noel (Yule Log)
Tarte a la Citrouille (French Pumpkin Pie)
Croquembouche (Caramel Glazed Cream Puffs)
Cassis Macarons (Black Currant Macarons)
Upside Down Apple Tart
Creme Brûlée
and more!

I guess I'll be keeping this book for the delicious and perfect French recipes!

I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

DIY Project: Sugar Scrub with Lemon Essential Oil

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

I attended another Maker Monday event this past Monday at the library and Terra McAulliffe talked and taught us about Young Living Essentials Oils. Essential Oils are life-enhancing essence from plants, shrubs, flowers, trees, roots and seeds. They combat very effectively the damaging effects of toxins, impurities and harmful substances in our bodies and much more. 

Photos by Albright Memorial Library

During the event, we got to make a little sugar scrub with an essential oil of our choice. It was super simple and easy to make, it's a wonderful idea to give as gifts to family and friends or simply make it for yourself!

Photo by Sweet Caroline

1 cup raw sugar
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
* 15 drops lemon essential oil (I used Young Living Essential Oil) for each mason jar *
Mason jars (4 oz.)

In a bowl, combine the sugar and olive oil. Add 15 drops of lemon essential oil into the mason jar, then pour the mixture of sugar and olive oil until it reaches the top of the mason jar. * Note *: This recipe makes about 3 little mason jars (4 oz.), just to remember to add the 15 drops directly and to each mason jar, not when mixing the sugar and olive oil. 

Terra also gave us a little pamphlet with all the information about essential oils and it also came with a recipe for a Love Potion recipe since Valentine's Day is coming up soon. So fun! Here's the recipe:

Love Potion Recipe (using Young Living Essential Oils):
5 drops Ylang Ylang
4 drops Patchouli
3 drops Joy
2 drops Sandalwood
2 drops Balsam Fir

Have fun creating your scrub or your love potion!

Barley, Butternut Squash & Corn Salad

Monday, January 27, 2014

I attended a vegan cooking class about two weeks ago, it was very interesting and very informative. And I've decided to incorporate more vegetarian meals at home since I can't fully commit to a vegan diet at this point, maybe in the future. I made this delicious and colorful salad and the family loved! Take a look: 

Recipe by Sweet Caroline

3/4 cup pearl barley
1 small butternut squash (peeled, seedless and diced)
1 can corn kernels, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
Chopped parley
Salt and black pepper

Pre heat oven to 400 degrees. In a baking, arrange the butternut squash evenly, drizzle 1 tablespoon olive oil and season with salt. Bake for until the butternut squash is tender. Meanwhile, put the barley in a medium pot with enough cold water to cover and a dash of salt, bring to a boil. Let it cook until tender, remove from heat and drain really well. Transfer cooked barley to a bowl, add the corn, cooked butternut squash, chopped parley, apple cider vinegar and remaining olive oil. Season with salt and black pepper. Toss really well. Serve at room temperature or refrigerate for 20 minutes. Serve and enjoy!

Spicy Rolls with Bacon & Cheddar

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

For Dough
2 cups flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon salt
3 teaspoons baking powder
3 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces
3/4 cup milk

For Filling
6 strips bacon, chopped
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a medium skillet, add the bacon and cook over high/medium heat until crispy. Remove to a plate lined with paper towel to allow the excess fat to drain and reserve the bacon fat from the pan. In a bowl, add and mix flour, sugar, salt and baking powder. Add the butter, use your hands to mix the butter really well into the flour mixture until crumbly. Stir in the milk to form a soft and sticky dough. Transfer dough to a floured surface, knead a couple times, roll out dough into a rectangle. Using a brush, brush about 1 tablespoon of the reserved bacon fat onto the rolled out dough, sprinkle the crispy bacon, cheese, parsley and red pepper flakes. Roll up the dough to form a long log, cut long into slices with a knife. In a buttered baking dish (I used a 9x13 baking dish), place the rolls and bake for 20-25 minutes. Serve warm and enjoy!

Sausage & Veggie Soup

Monday, January 20, 2014

I've been sick for the last couple of days with a cold and sore throat, to me there's nothing better than a hot and yummy bowl of soup to make me feel a little better. Take a look:

Recipe by Sweet Caroline

1 lb. italian bulk sweet sausage
4 large red potatoes, peeled and chopped
3 medium carrots, peeled and cut into coins
1 cup baby bella mushrooms, sliced
1 white onion, diced
2-3 cups fresh spinach
1/3 cup tiny pasta (I used a star shaped pasta)
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tomato bouillon with chicken flavor
Salt and black pepper

In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium/high heat. Add the minced garlic, cook for about a minute. Add the sweet italian sausage, cook until crumbly and brown in color. Add diced onions, let it cook until translucent. Add the potatoes, carrots and mushrooms; season with salt and pepper and mix really well. Pour about 5-6 cups of water and add the tomato bouillon. Bring to a boil and reduce heat, let it simmer until potatoes and carrots are tender. Add kale and tiny pasta, let it cook until the pasta is cooked and spinach wilts. Adjust seasoning if necessary. Serve hot and enjoy!

The Potty Training Battle...

Friday, January 17, 2014

As a parent I want my kids to succeed and I want to be able to help them overcome their battles. Potty training takes time and patience and I'd read quite a few tips and advices from many parents and magazines on how to tackle this. It took about four days to Sophia properly learn how to use the potty,
and I was very impressed. And here are a few of my tips for you:

 (photo source:

1. Trade diapers for regular underwear. 
On the first day, my daughter had a few accidents which it's totally normal but she loved the princess underwear that I got for her. Remember accidents will happen, just encourage your child. 

2. Rewards.
Rewards are important for kids even if it's just a sticker, create a chart to track and show their efforts. The big reward for training Sophia was that she kept saying she wanted to go to school, so I took the opportunity and said that she could only go to school if she used the potty just like the other kids. That worked perfectly and now she's going to pre-k! 

3. Take your time.
By the second day, I notice Sophia kept holding her pee for the longest time, so I would take her to the potty and let her sit there for a few minutes from time to time, just for encouragement and for her to get used to, sometimes she peed and other times not. Takes time and getting used to the potty. By the third day, she would ask me to go potty and eventually by the fourth day she would go by herself.

4. Night time.
Sophia still wears a diaper to go to sleep but I want to tackle this during the Summer time and work on new ideas for her not to wet her bed at night. Wish me luck!

5. My final tip: only potty train when you feel your child is ready. I've tried to potty trained Sophia before and it didn't work. This time around I really felt she was ready and she succeeded.

Good luck in potty training your child and tackling the battle!

A Nice Winter Day

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Yesterday we had a nice winter day, 
the sun was shining and for a change, 
it was a little bit warm. 
So, we headed for our nearby park after we had lunch, 
it was a nice walk with the kids and 
they loved being out for a change. 
Take a look:

♥ ♥ 

Pepperoni Naan Pizza

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Last night I improvised a little pizza night at home for the family, I had a naan bread and thought it would be perfect to use it as pizza dough. It worked really perfectly and the kids and hubby loved it. Besides, you can add topping that you like and prefer, I just used pepperoni since that's what I had on my refrigerator anyways. Take a look:

* Tip *: This is perfect for games night, quick and easy!

Recipe by Sweet Caroline

2 whole wheat naan bread
1/3 cup tomato sauce (use your favorite)
3/4 cup shredded mozzarela/cheddar cheese
Few slices of pepperoni

Pre heat oven to 400 degrees. Place naan bread on a non stick baking sheet. Spread the tomato sauce on each naan bread; sprinkle the cheese on each, add pepperoni, sprinkle the top with oregano. Bake for 4-5 minutes until the cheese melts completely. Serve and enjoy!

Breakfast Series: Spicy Kale with Sunny Side Up Egg

Monday, January 13, 2014

This breakfast is so delicious, I love the combination of the spicy wilted kale with the sunny side up egg. Once you cut through the egg and the yolk runs through the kale, it becomes a state of perfection and yumminess on another level, I'm not kidding! Take a look:

Recipe by Sweet Caroline

3 cups kale (washed, dried and chopped)
1 egg
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Sea salt

In a large non stick skillet, heat half of the olive oil over high heat. Add the crushed red pepper flakes. Add the chopped kale and sauté until the kale wilts. Season with sea salt, remove kale to a plate. Heat the remaining olive oil, crack the egg in the center and reduce heat to medium. Let the egg cook until the white part of the egg is cooked completely, about 3 minutes or so. Top the kale with the sunny side up egg. Serve and enjoy!

Turmeric Chicken with Zucchini

Friday, January 10, 2014

I love quick and easy meals! this recipe is just like that and it's delicious and full of flavor, I love turmeric but sometimes I just forget to use it in my dishes. Take a look: 

  * Tip *: You can swap the zucchini for broccoli or cauliflower. 
For vegans or vegetarians: substitute the chicken for tofu. Give it a try!

Recipe by Sweet Caroline

2 boneless and skinless chicken breasts, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 small white onion, diced
1 large zucchini, cut lengthwise and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/8 teaspoon chili powder
Salt and black pepper
1/3 cup water

In a medium pan, heat the olive oil over high heat. Add the minced garlic, sauté for about 1 minute. Add the chopped chicken breasts, let it cook completely. Add the turmeric, cumin, chili powder, salt and black pepper. Add the diced onions and sauté until onions are translucent. Add the zucchini and mix well. Pour the 1/3 cup water and reduce heat to medium. Let it cook until the zucchini is tender. Serve and enjoy!

Creamy Chicken with Mushrooms & Spinach (Recipe Video Included)

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

This recipe is super simple and easy, I make this quite often since it's so delicious and quick to make. Also, I'll be trying to make recipe videos this year, it's hard but I'm willing to try. I did make one last year as a tryout but never tried again, so let's see how it works out from here. Take a look:

* Tip *: This would be great served with pasta too, just add 1/3 cup of grated parmesan cheese when you add the heavy cream. 

Recipe by Sweet Caroline

2 boneless and skinless chicken breasts, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup baby bella mushrooms, sliced
1 small white onion, diced
3 cups fresh spinach
1/3 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and black pepper

In a medium pan, heat the olive oil over high heat. Add the minced garlic, sauté for about 1 minute. Add the chopped chicken breasts, let it cook completely. Add the diced onions and sliced mushrooms, sauté until onions are translucent. Pour the heavy cream, reduce heat to medium, cream should thicken after a few minutes. Season with salt and black pepper. Add the fresh spinach. Once the spinach wilts, you're ready to serve. It's perfect with white rice. Enjoy!

Bon Appétit!

My Favorite Healthy Dishes From the Past...

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

We're always trying to eat healthy in the beginning of a new year, as a resolution or simply to get better in choosing healthier dishes for our bodies. Either way, these dishes will leave you and your body satisfied! I've chosen a variety of dishes: smoothies, salads, soup and snacks - all perfect to a healthier new you. Take a look:

1. Mango & Rosemary Smoothie (my favorite - super yummy and refreshing)
2. Arugula, Orange & Pomegranate Salad (I love the crunchiness from the pomegranate seeds)
3. Peach Salsa (fresh and a great alternative from the regular salsa)
4. Simple Salad with Grapes, Cheese & Turkey (super simple and delish)
5. Baked Chips with Spinach & Cannelllini Bean Dip (this dip won't disappoint, I promise!)
6. Carrot & Ginger Soup (great flavor combination, a must try)
7. Tuna with Beet Salad (quick and easy)
8. Green Juice: Spinach, Pineapple & Orange Juice (a great start to any morning or perfect after a great workout)

I hope you'll enjoy these yummy recipes!

January's Wish List

Monday, January 6, 2014

When I started blogging I used to post about the item of the week (kitchen gadgets, utensils and so on), so I decided to bring the post back but in a different format, as a wish list. I'll be sharing every month my favorite finds and things that I like and eventually want to buy in the future. Take a look:

January's Wishlist

Cassava Soup

Friday, January 3, 2014

Cassava or yuca is a root and it's used quite a bit in dishes throughout South America. It's a great source for carbohydrates and also really starchy like a potato, it's delicious when fried too! This soup is really rich and delicious, full of flavor. If you've never used cassava before - give it a try. Take a look:

Recipe by Sweet Caroline

1 bag (24 oz.) frozen cassava (I used Goya brand)
3 celery ribs, sliced thinly
1/2 white onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
6 slices bacon or 1 ham steak, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 chicken bouillon
1/4 tablespoon cumin
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
Salt and black pepper

In a medium pot, combine the frozen cassava, chicken bouillon and enough cold water to cover. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer until fork tender. Remove from heat and let it cool slightly. In small batches, transfer the cassava and liquid to the blender and puree. Once, pureed transfer to a bowl until everything is done. In another medium pot, heat the olive oil over medium/high heat. Add the chopped bacon or ham, let it cook until crispy. Add the garlic, onion and celery, sauté until the onions are translucent. Pour the pureed cassava, mix to combine. Add cumin and parsley, season with salt and black pepper. Serve and enjoy!

Spinach & Persimmon Salad

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Here's a great and healthy way to start your new year. Persimmon is a delicious fruit found all winter long and perfect in salads too. Give a try, I'm sure you're going to love it! Take a look:

Recipe by Sweet Caroline

4 cups baby spinach and baby kale
1 persimmon, thinly sliced
1/2 white onion, thinly slice
1 tablespoon roasted salted sunflower seeds
Your favorite balsamic vinaigrette dressing

In a serving dish, arrange the baby spinach and baby kale, add the onions and persimmon on top. Sprinkle the sunflower seeds. Pour your favorite balsamic vinaigrette right before serving and toss well. Serve and enjoy!

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