Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Layered Peppermint Crunch Bark

Peppermint bark

I have said it before, but I love that my printed internet recipes are dated because it helps me remember the circumstances when I first came across them…this one is from December 13, 2000! 

I was living in the Phi Mu house and probably in the chapter room studying for finals.  One of the girls was in the kitchen making this recipe for a gift and I was totally enthralled!  I wasn’t a cook at this time (that didn’t happen until I made the switch from a being a pre-med major to dietetics…2 years later).  But I was amazed that she was making her own peppermint bark!  Who does that?  Didn’t everyone just buy it from the store?

So after finals were over and I was back in Covington for the 5 WEEK BREAK (boy do I miss that!!), I made the bark with my mom (I miss cooking with her too).  It is the best peppermint bark I have ever tried.  Hands down.

Peppermint Bark 2 

The recipe is sort of a process.  But, back then I wasn’t the “experienced” cook I am now.  This time around was much easier.  I melted the chocolate in the microwave…no double boiler needed.  I omitted some of the cream to make the dark chocolate layer a little firmer.  I added the peppermint powder* from the crushed candy canes to the first white chocolate layer.  And I didn’t use the back of a sheet pan…I used the inside. 

The stickers on the gift bags were a Christmas present from “Santa Mel”.  I love them and need to use them more often.  Every year I hesitate to give unhealthy food gifts…not because I think you shouldn’t eat them, but because I figure most people already get enough of them and I (the dietitian) don’t need to add insult to injury.  I’d rather do a healthier food gift.  But not this year!

It cracks me up that on the margin of the recipe I calculated the calories and total fat.  Back then I didn’t have access to to recipe analyzer I use now…so I had to use good old fashioned math.  I won’t tell you the numbers, no need to feel guilty around the holidays!

Layered Peppermint Crunch Bark
adapted from

This is doubled from the original…you might as well too!  It fits in a half sheet pan (13X18) perfectly.

34 ounces (around 2 pounds) good-quality white chocolate (I used Callebaut from Whole Foods…they conveniently sell 8ish oz bars of bulk chocolate), finely chopped, DIVIDED
20 regular sized candy canes (about 10 ounces) coarsely crushed*
16 ounces (around 1 pound) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate(not unsweetened; again I got this in bulk at WF), chopped
1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) whipping cream 
1 teaspoon peppermint extract

Line a half sheet pan securely with foil.

Melt half of the white chocolate in a microwave safe bowl for 1 minute at 50% power.  Stir white chocolate and continue heating at 30 second intervals at 50% power (stirring each time) until smooth (avoid getting any water in the bowl and don’t allow it to overcook!).  Add any peppermint powder* you have sifted out of the candy cane pieces if desired. 

Pour melted white chocolate onto prepared pan. Using icing spatula, spread chocolate to fill pan. Sprinkle with some of the crushed candy cane pieces (no more than half…you can decide how much/little you want). Chill in the refrigerator until set, about 15 minutes.

In a different microwave safe bowl, combine bittersweet chocolate and cream.  Melt chocolate using the same method as the white chocolate.  Add peppermint extract and cool to barely lukewarm, about 5 minutes. Pour bittersweet chocolate mixture in long lines over white chocolate in the pan. Using icing spatula, spread bittersweet chocolate in even layer. Refrigerate until very cold and firm, about 25 minutes (or more).

In the same “white chocolate bowl” as before, melt the remaining white chocolate using the same method.  Allow to cool slightly (if it is too hot, when added to the pan the bittersweet chocolate will melt too easily and the bark will looked swirled).  Pour white chocolate over firm bittersweet chocolate layer and CAREFULLY spread to cover. Immediately sprinkle with remaining crushed candy cane pieces. Chill just until firm, about 20 minutes (or overnight).

Lift foil with bark onto work surface. If chilled overnight, allow the bark to warm up slightly (so it will cut better). 

Cut bark crosswise into 2-inch-wide strips. Using metal spatula, slide bark off foil and onto work surface. Cut each strip crosswise into 3 sections and each section diagonally into 2 triangles (only if you want to be that detailed…I wasn’t so precise…I like the “homemade” look of irregular sized pieces). 

Can be made 2 weeks ahead. Chill in airtight container.

* I put the candy canes in a zip-top bag and crushed them with a rolling pin.  I then sifted the "peppermint powder” and added it to the first white chocolate layer.  Some of my pieces were to big for my liking.  So I repeated the process and actually added the new powder to the dark chocolate layer (I can’t waste anything!).  I also didn’t use all the candy cane pieces because I thought it would be too much…so I guess I did waste after all!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Best Banana Bread

So it’s finally official…I now have the necklace to prove it…I was part of the Saints’ Super Bowl winning season.  I’m thinking I need a second one to keep it company – Two Dat?!?


Just had to show off a little…the real topic at hand, Banana Bread.  Hilary’s roommate’s dad works for Chiquita and they always have a surplus of bananas at the house.  Last month I inherited a box of them, and after sharing some with Jess and using a few for banana oatmeal, I still had a lot leftover.  When life gives you bananas, make banana bread!



I never throw old bananas away.  There is a bag in my freezer where all those past their prime are destined.  While overly brown bananas are not good for eating out of hand, they are perfect when you want a strong banana flavor to shine in a recipe…for me that usually means banana smoothies and banana bread.

PB231816 PB231817 

If made the right way, banana bread can be both moist and low fat…why??  Because the bananas are used to replace a lot of the fat (and sugar) in a standard quick bread recipe while keeping it from becoming dry and crumbly (the same can be done with applesauce and pumpkin).  Beware, however, this is not always the case*.

Things that make this the “best” banana bread?  Good vanilla extract (I sound like Barefoot Contessa), moistness from the yogurt, and the peace-of-mind knowing it’s healthy (thanks to the bananas and whole wheat pastry flour…I also add 1/2 a cup of King Arthur Harvest Grains blend). 


By the way, this huge bottle of extract (32 oz) is an INCREDIBLE deal…it will last you forever and it is better than the imitation extract they sell in the grocery.

PB231821 PB231826  PB231829

This bread is so delicious you will want to eat it for dessert and so healthy you won’t feel guilty eating it for breakfast.  Perfect either way with an ice cold glass of milk (or milk with ice in it if you are me!). 


Best Banana Bread
adapted from The Fresh Loaf

Makes 12 servings

1 cup whole wheat (pastry) flour
1 cup all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg (go easy on it so it doesn’t overpower the banana flavor)

1 1/2 cups mashed bananas (about 3 large(
1 cup Greek fat free yogurt
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons butter, softened
2 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Adjust oven rack to lower middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-by-5 inch loaf pan; set aside (I use a piece of parchment in the bottom as well). Combine dry ingredients together in large bowl; set aside.

Mix wet ingredients together in a medium bowl. Lightly fold banana mixture into dry ingredients with rubber spatula until just combined and batter looks thick and chunky. Scrape batter into prepared loaf pan; bake until loaf is golden brown and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 55 minutes. Cool in pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

I slice mine and then freeze the individual slices…so I don’t eat it all at once :)

Per serving (1/12th of the loaf): 162 calories, 4 g fat (2.2 g saturated), 26 g carbohydrates, 2 g fiber, 9 g sugar, 5 g protein; Exchanges: 2 starch, 1/2 fat

* Compared to Banana Nut Loaf from Starbucks: 490 calories, 19 g fat, 75 g carbohydrates, 4 g fiber, 7 g protein

Or their Reduced-fat Banana Chocolate Chip Coffee Cake: 390 calories, 7 g fat, 79 g carbohydrates, 3 g fiber, 5 g protein

Even if you cut my loaf into 10 slices it’s still only 195 calories and 5 g fat