Applesauce Bread

Applesauce Bread

Applesauce Bread is moist and slightly sweet with a walnut and brown sugar topping to put it over the edge. This is the perfect afternoon snack or early morning treat.

This post is sponsored by Diamond of California, but all opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting brands that help make this site possible.

Applesauce Bread

Sometimes, during the summer, I start wishing for fall.

Up until recently, I did not have to wish so much here in Chicago – the weather was uncharacteristically cool. In the past couple of weeks, however, the temperatures have been pretty standard for the end of July – meaning not just hot, but also smotheringly humid. Someone get me a snorkel, I feel like I’m drowning.

At any rate, I now find myself wishing for cooler temperatures again. Nothing drastic – just cool enough to casually throw on a cute scarf with my outfit and actually look put together again, or to bake a loaf of bread to enjoy with a mug of tea and a good book on my imaginary front porch. That’s my kind of weather, right there.

And when fall appears, this is the first recipe that is going to be on my bucket list to make. Have you ever wondered what would happen if you made banana bread with applesauce instead of bananas? Delicious things, that’s what.

Applesauce Bread2

This is a recipe that originally came from my aunt and I only made a couple of tweaks to it:

1. I added 1/2 cup of oats to the batter and swapped coconut oil for vegetable oil. Not because I thought I could market this loaf as “healthy” if I did so, but because they both boost the flavor of the bread in their own way, without either one overpowering the flavors of the applesauce or the nuts in the batter.

2. I effectively balanced out any potential health benefits of #1 by increasing the amount of sugar-and-nut topping on the bread. Because crumbly brown sugar and nuts – use walnuts or pecans, whichever you prefer – on top of bread is pretty much a dream come true in my book.

Once the heat breaks, go forth and bake, my darlings. You’ll be glad you did.

Applesauce Bread3

5.0 from 1 reviews
Applesauce Bread
 
Yield: 1 9x5-inch loaf
Ingredients
  • ½ cup melted coconut oil
  • 1¼ cup unsweetened applesauce
  • ¼ cup milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 cups flour
  • ½ cup rolled oats
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon allspice
  • ½ cup Diamond of California Chopped Walnuts or Chopped Pecans
For the topping:
  • 6 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 6 tablespoons Diamond of California Chopped Walnuts or Chopped Pecans
  • ¾ teaspoon cinnamon
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x5-inch loaf pan. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl or measuring cup, whisk together the coconut oil, applesauce, milk, eggs and granulated sugar.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda and spices. Add the wet ingredients and the chopped walnuts or pecans and stir to combine. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan.
  4. In a small bowl, stir together the topping ingredients until well combined. Sprinkle evenly over the bread batter.
  5. Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean. Allow to cool for 10-15 minutes in the pan before removing and allowing to cool completely on a wire rack.
  6. Wrap tightly in foil and store at room temperature for up to 3 days.

 

Blueberry, Banana & Cashew Smoothie Bowl

Blueberry Banana and Cashew Smoothie Bowl

A super thick blueberry-banana smoothie is topped with toasted cashews, granola, and berries for the ultimate smoothie breakfast. 

This post is sponsored by Diamond of California, but all opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting brands that help make this site possible!

Blueberry Banana and Cashew Smoothie Bowl

Are you on the smoothie bowl bandwagon yet?

I have to admit that I am late to this party. Not to the smoothie party – I’ve been obsessed with those for ages. We’ve done mango versions, blueberry versions, pomegranate versions, coconut versions…and we know that I have a deep love for granola as well. I still have dreams about my Coconut Ginger Almond Granola. So when I started to see these mystical bowls that combined both of these amazing breakfast items pop up on Pinterest, I was curious. I sent a text over to my girl Julia – who I consider to be my resource for any and all things mildly hippy – to see what all the fuss was about and she told me I needed to try them immediately or I was a fool.

Ok, she didn’t really say that. But she did tell me that I would loooove them.

And you know what? She was so right.

Smoothie Bowl with Berries, Cashews and Granola

Let’s evaluate what we’ve got going on here and why it’s amazing:

Super-thick berry smoothie, because super-thick smoothies are the shiz: Check.

Toasted cashews, which just so happen to be my favorite for eating straight out of hand: Check.

Granola (see previous love letter, above): Check.

Coconut, because everything is better with coconut: Check.

Extra berries, for some extra pretty on top: Check.

Mix this all up, plop your butt down and grab a spoon – you’ve got the best of a smoothie breakfast with the extra goodies on top to help keep you full throughout the morning…or until elevensies, whichever the case may be.

Berry and Cashew Smoothie Bowl

 

Blueberry, Banana & Cashew Smoothie Bowl
 
Ingredients
  • 1 banana
  • 1 heaping cup frozen blueberries
  • 1 tablespoon ground flax seed
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • ¼ cup pomegranate juice
Toppings:
  • Diamond of California Cashew Halves, toasted
  • Granola
  • Unsweetened, shredded coconut
  • Fresh berries
  • Honey
Instructions
  1. Place smoothie ingredients in a high-powered blender and blend until smooth but still thick.
  2. Pour into a bowl and top with toasted cashews, granola, coconut, fresh berries and drizzle with honey.
Notes
To toast the cashews: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place cashews in a rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until cashews are golden and fragrant. Remove to a bowl to cool before using.

 

Butter Pecan Bread

Butter Pecan Bread

Browned butter and pecans come together in the best way for a bread that is perfect for breakfast or snacking.

This post is sponsored by Diamond of California, but all opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting brands that help make this site possible.

Butter Pecan Bread

From the beginning of time, I’ve been a weird human being. I was an especially bizarre little kid.

Exhibit A: I have never liked chocolate, and as a little kid I really didn’t care for any type of candy. I suppose my sweet tooth just wasn’t fully formed yet. (Unfortunately, this is no longer an issue for me…)

Exhibit B: I was a ridiculous book worm, to the point where when I would get in trouble (which, honestly, was not very often), my parents would take away my books. Not TV, not dessert, not play time. No, I was not allowed to read before bed at night. My husband and mother-in-law still think this is just about the funniest (and most ridiculous) thing they have ever heard.

Exhibit C: For as long as I can remember, my favorite flavor of ice cream was butter pecan. Not chocolate chip (see Exhibit A), not bubblegum (gross, why does that exist?), not any of those typical “kid” flavors. Butter pecan had my heart then and it has my heart now.

Butter Pecan Bread

I was recently ruminating on this love of butter pecan ice cream and thought, “What if I put those flavors into a loaf of bread?” Because, even though it is summer and I could totally get away with making a batch of ice cream, carbs are never out of season at my house. And so, I browned some butter, toasted up some Diamond Nuts pecan halves, and threw it all into a quick bread batter.

While this bread was baking, my kitchen smelled like what I imagine Heaven must smell like.

Make this quick bread for breakfast, or put it out for snacking this weekend while friends and family are over. It may not be red, white or blue, but it is damn delicious and that’s enough for me.

Butter Pecan Bread

5.0 from 4 reviews
Butter Pecan Bread
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Yield: 1 9x5-inch loaf
Ingredients
  • 6 tablespoons salted butter
  • 1½ cups Diamond of California Shelled Pecans
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup whole wheat flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 6 tablespoon packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup full-fat Greek yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x5-inch loaf pan. Set aside.
  2. In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Once melted, cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the butter just starts to take on a light brown color. Add the pecans and stir frequently until the butter takes on a nice caramel color and the nuts are fragrant. Remove butter and nuts to a bowl and set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, salt, baking powder, baking soda and granulated sugar.
  4. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg and brown sugar until lightened in color and well combined, then whisk in the yogurt and vanilla bean paste. Add the yogurt mixture and the browned butter and pecans to the dry ingredients, and fold together just until the flour is incorporated.
  5. Spoon batter into the prepared loaf pan. Bake for 40-45 minutes, until browned on top and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  6. Allow to cool for 5-10 minutes in the pan, then remove from the loaf pan and allow to cool completely on a wire cooling rack. Bread will last, well wrapped at room temperature, for 3-4 days.

 

The Big Fat Wedding Post

Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 8.56.48 PM

Helloooo, friends! This is highly overdue (since we’ve been married for like, 7 weeks now), but while we were on our honeymoon in Spain we got our wedding photos back, which means it is time for a big fat wedding recap post!

I will tell you from the outset that we both think our wedding day was absolutely perfect. That’s not really why I’m sharing these photos and details about the day with you, though – I truly believe that we had some of the best vendors in the business, and they deserve to have their information shared with anyone looking to get married in the Central Illinois area.

And you know that some of you are just here because you’re nosy. Don’t worry, we all do it.

I’ll be sharing links to the websites of all of the vendors at the end of the post for easy reference. So just sit back and scroll on!

All photos taken by Jared & Julie Photography.

Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 8.51.06 PM

Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 8.49.15 PM

Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 8.51.31 PM

Our ceremony and reception were both held at Proven Ground Farm in North Pekin, IL. The weather the day of the wedding ended up being absolutely perfect – just shy of 80 degrees, sunny, very little wind – but because you never know what the weather could be like in early April in Illinois, we opted for an indoor ceremony inside the barn. After the ceremony was over, all of the guests went over to the renovated grain bin for cocktail hour while the staff flipped the room for the reception. The grounds were positively beautiful and guests who were so inclined were able to walk around throughout the evening.

Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 8.52.00 PM

Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 8.52.45 PM

Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 8.54.36 PM

My dress was made of light gold satin with an ivory lace overlay, complete with hand beading and a corset back. I might be biased, but I think it was just perfect. I’m actually a little lot miffed that I don’t get to wear it again!

Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 8.52.16 PM

Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 8.53.46 PM

Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 9.02.22 PM

For my hair, we took advantage of my curls for a low, romantic updo. Instead of a veil, I opted for a pearl headpiece that I purchased off of Etsy. The jewelry I chose to wear were all family pieces – opal and pearl earrings that were my grandmother’s, and a double-strand pearl necklace and a silver filagree and sapphire bracelet that belonged to my great-grandmother. Wearing those pieces, which my mother has worn throughout the years as well, was very special to me.

Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 9.01.08 PM

Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 9.01.24 PM

My groom looked incredibly handsome with a fresh beard trim and haircut from the best barber in town, wearing a sharp-as-heck gray suit, accented by brown shoes and a champagne-colored tie. I know that everyone always makes a big fuss over what the bride is wearing, but I wanted Alex to stand out as well – and he sure as heck did.

Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 9.01.40 PM

He would like you to take note of his walnut wingtips. #priorities

Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 8.56.48 PM

Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 9.01.54 PM

Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 8.57.39 PM

Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 8.56.01 PM

Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 8.59.02 PM

Alex refers to the above as his “touch of gray” photo. I secretly call it his “silver fox” photo. Oops! Guess that’s not so secret anymore.

Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 8.59.36 PM

Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 9.00.22 PM

Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 8.50.11 PM

For colors, I chose a lovely spring palette of light turquoise and blush pinks accented by darker teal and deep pinks. Our florist put together the most beautiful flowers I have ever seen with plenty of peonies and ranunculus, including a stunning arrangement across the arbor under which we were married.

Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 9.04.17 PM

Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 9.03.12 PM

Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 9.05.16 PM

One of the most special and personal parts of the day was having my childhood best friend perform the ceremony. There is something very touching about having someone who has known you for literally half your life join you in marriage with the love of your life.

Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 9.06.11 PM

Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 9.03.59 PM

Other special parts of the ceremony included having family friends sing “The Prayer” and surprising our mothers by presenting them each with a rose – something that my parents did during their wedding and which, predictably, made Momma Swope cry.

Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 9.08.57 PM

Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 9.09.12 PM

Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 9.09.39 PM

When it came to food, we knew we had a lot to live up to – after all, all of our friends and loved ones know that our lives basically revolve around our next meal. For Alex, the most important aspect of the wedding planning was finding good barbecue for dinner, and did we ever find it. Dinner was pulled pork, brisket, slaw, beans (green and baked) and potato salad. Simple, no-fuss, good food. Instead of a wedding cake, we opted for a variety of cupcakes and Momma Swope made a Pecan Raisin Pie for the two of us to cut. I am still receiving compliments on the food and the cupcakes over a month later and am wishing I had one of the Banana Pudding cupcakes as I sit here writing this.

Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 9.10.57 PM

Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 9.10.47 PM

One last special part of the day – during our reception, just before our first dance, I surprised Alex by singing Ingrid Michaelson’s “The Way I Am” to him, accompanied by one of our friends on the guitar. Really nosy readers can see that video here, but don’t expect much – I was pretty nervous. Ha!

At the end of the day, we couldn’t have asked for a more perfect wedding. It was beautiful yet rustic and personal in the best way. Just like us, right? 😉

Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 9.11.58 PM

Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 9.11.27 PM

 

Vendors:

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

Pineapple Upside Down Cake

Marry classic pineapple upside-down cake with macadamia nuts and subtle coconut flavors for a bite of tropical cake paradise. 

This post is sponsored by Diamond of California, but – as always – all opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting brands that help make this site possible!

Pineapple Upside Down Cake

I don’t mean to boast, but I think I really hit the jackpot when it comes to in-laws.

I know it is a cliche for everyone to complain about their in-laws, but I truly cannot join in that game. Alex’s parents welcomed me with open arms from the very first time they met me and have made me feel like a part of the family every single day since. I love them deeply and feel honored to be a part of their family.

Believe me, I know how blessed I am to feel this way, and it is not something that I take for granted – I am always looking for little ways to show them how much they mean to me and how glad I am that they’re my new family. So when my father-in-law, Jeff – upon finding out that I was serving as a culinary ambassador for Diamond Nuts – made a request for a Pineapple Upside-Down Cake crusted with chopped macadamia nuts, I filed that request away in my memory bank.

Pineapple Upside Down Cake 4

Pineapple upside Down Cake

I think from now on I might just consult Jeff any time I am looking for good recipe inspiration, because this cake was downright phenomenal. I went with a fairly traditional base of butter and brown sugar, added some chopped macadamia nuts to the crushed pineapple party, and baked that underneath a traditional cake flavored with a bit of coconut milk. The addition of the coconut milk and the macadamia nuts add a subtle tropical touch that pairs well with the pineapple without overpowering it. The best part is that this cake looks very fancy – as all upside-down cakes tend do – but is actually far quicker and easier to make than a frosted cake.

I even had the chance to make this cake for my father-in-law during the family’s Memorial Day BBQ this past weekend. It was a hit – especially with Jeff and my 2-year-old niece. I am to please all ages.

Pineapple Upside Down Cake 3

5.0 from 1 reviews
Pineapple Upside-Down Cake
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Yield: 1 9-inch cake
Ingredients
For the topping:
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter, melted
  • ⅓ cup packed brown sugar
  • ½ cup Diamond of California Macadamia Nuts, roughly chopped
  • 2 8-ounce cans crushed pineapple, very well drained
For the cake:
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1½ cups flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup full-fat coconut milk
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Wrap the outside of a 9-inch springform pan with aluminum foil to prevent any leaks during baking.
Prep the topping:
  1. Pour the melted butter into the bottom of the prepared pan. Brush some of the butter up the sides of the pan to lightly grease them. Sprinkle the brown sugar over the melted butter in the bottom of the pan; top with the macadamia nuts, followed by the pineapple. Set aside.
Make the cake:
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fit with a paddle attachment, cream together the butter and the sugar on medium speed for 2 minutes until light and fluffy. Add in the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add the vanilla and mix until combine. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.
  2. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. Add ⅓ of the flour mixture to the butter mixture, mixing until just combined. Add ½ of the coconut milk, mixing until just combined. Repeat until all of the flour and milk are added, ending with the final ⅓ of the flour mixture. Mix until just combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
  3. Spoon the cake batter on top of the prepared topping, spreading evenly. Bake for 40-50 minutes, until the top of the cake is golden and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  4. Allow cake to cool for a few minutes after removing from the oven, then run a paring knife around the edges of the cake pan and (carefully) turn cake onto a cake plate while the cake is still very warm. Allow to cool before serving.
  5. Cake will last, well wrapped, at room temperature for up to 3 days.

 

Chess Pie Bars

Chess Pie Bars

Perfectly rich, custardy chess pie portioned into bars – perfect for serving just two people!

Chess Pie Bars

I am highly overdue with this post.

I took these photos weeks – nay, months – ago when I made this recipe, yet I have failed to share it with you. Perhaps I was waiting for juuuust the right moment.

You see, this recipe comes from my friend Christina’s cookbook – the aptly named Dessert For Two: Small Batch Cookies, Brownies, Pies, and CakesChristina was one of the very first “established” bloggers to befriend me when I started this site, and she remains a dear friend several years later. I was thrilled when she first told me that she had landed her first book deal – I knew that it would be positively amazing, because every recipe she cranks out is nothing short of mouthwatering.

As for my timing in telling you about this book, Christina just gave birth to her and her husband’s first little girl (joining their two babies of the four-legged variety) five days ago, so it seems only fitting that I should post this recipe now. (Make sure to pop over to Christina’s Instagram to check out some cutie-pie pictures of her newest addition – she’s a cutie for sure.)

Chess Pie from Dessert for Two Cookbook

This cookbook makes me happy because it contains all of the home-spun recipes you could want, sized down to serve just two people. I love chess pie, but that stuff is rich – there’s no way I could ingest an entire full-size pie and survive to tell the tale. So instead, I turned to Christina’s Chess Pie Bars recipe – Christina makes them in a loaf pan, with a shortbread crust like lemon bars. They’re easy to cut into 2 large or 4 smaller bars, and don’t leave the leftovers calling to you from the fridge every time you go to get a drink of water. (Don’t tell me I’m the only person who can hear her dessert taunting her from the other room.)

In short, you need to buy this cookbook. I would tell you more, but I’m too busy plotting what recipe I want to make next.

Chess Pie for Two

 

5.0 from 1 reviews
Chess Pie Bars
 
Yield: 2 large or 4 small bars
Ingredients
For the crust:
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, diced
  • ½ teaspoon cider vinegar
  • 3 to 5 tablespoons water
For the filling:
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon yellow cornmeal
  • 1½ teaspoons all-purpose flour
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1½ teaspoons cider vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
Instructions
Make the crust:
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl. Add the butter, and kit it into the flour using a pastry blender or two knives until evenly incorporated. Add the vinegar and 3 tablespoons of water, and stir with a fork until a shaggy dough forms. If the dough doesn't clump together nicely and there are dry bits at the bottom of the bowl, add up to 2 more tablespoons of water.
  3. Press the crust into the bottom of an ungreased 9x5-inch loaf pan. Bake for 10 minutes and remove the pan from the oven. Then, turn the oven temperature down to 350 degrees.
Make the filling:
  1. Sir together all the filling ingredients. Pour over the parbaked crust. Bake for 40 minutes. The pie bars are done when the top is nicely browned and dry.
  2. Let cool completely in the pan, and chill overnight for the prettiest slices. Serve chilled or warm, whichever you like.
Notes
While the instructions call for an ungreased baking pan, I lined my loaf pan with a "sling" of parchment paper across the bottom for easy removal of the bars once cooled.