Pharm Fresh

The foodie alter-ego of a pharmacy student

Banana Cake with Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Frosting November 9, 2009

Filed under: cake,dessert,fruit,sauces etc. — pharmfresh @ 4:02 pm
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I know I’ve professed my love for banana flavored baked goods before, but let me reiterate: I love them!  I think it has to do with the fact that I have so many happy memories of my Nana Dee and her famous banana muffins and banana bread.  Banana bread and banana cake have always been really homey foods to me, and I find them incredibly comforting.  I happened to have some over-ripe bananas attracting fruit flies in my kitchen, so I decided to branch out from the usual banana bread and go for banana cake.

The recipe will make either one 9×13 inch sheet cake or two 8 or 9 inch round cakes.  I like to go with the sheet cake because it’s simpler.  The vanilla bean is completely optional in the frosting, but I think it gives this otherwise very simple, no-frills cake a little bit of fanciness.  Oh, and it tastes good, too.


Banana Cake with Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Frosting


Makes: 1 (9×13 inch) sheet cake or 2 (8 or 9 inch) round cakes


Adapted from: my Nana Dee


For the cake:
1/2 c. vegetable shortening
1 1/2 c. granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 bananas, mashed
4 tbsp. milk
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 c. walnuts, chopped (optional)
1 tsp. cinnamon (optional)


For the frosting:
1 package (8 oz.) cream cheese (reduced fat is fine, I wouldn’t use fat-free)
1/2 c. (8 tbsp.) butter, softened
3 c. powdered sugar
1-2 tbsp. milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, seeds scraped out

1) Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

2) In a large mixing bowl, cream the shortening and sugar with an electric mixer until combined.  Add the eggs and vanilla, mix until smooth.

3) Mix in the bananas, vanilla and milk.

4) Stir in the flour, baking soda, walnuts and cinnamon (if using), mixing until smooth.

5) Pour into a greased 9×13 inch baking pan or divide into two greased 8 or 9 inch round cake pans.

6) Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the cake is golden brown.  Cool completely before frosting.

7) For the frosting: In a medium mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese and butter until combined.  Add the vanilla, vanilla bean seeds and powdered sugar and mix until smooth and fluffy.  If the frosting is too thick, add enough milk to reach the desired consistency.  Frost cake.


Panko Crusted Chicken with Sour Cream Chive Sauce March 16, 2009

Filed under: chicken,main dish,sauces etc. — pharmfresh @ 1:16 pm
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I can’t believe it’s been almost two weeks since I last posted!  I have a good excuse though — this past week was spring break.  My boyfriend and I went on a road trip to Nashville, Tennessee.  It was a ton of fun!  We stayed at the Opryland Hotel, which if you’ve never heard of it, is this absolutely HUGE hotel that’s made to look like a rainforest.  There are real, living tropical flowers and trees all over, and the entire place is kept at relatively warm and humid to emulate the rainforest.  There were about 7 different restaurants and 3 or 4 bars in the hotel alone, a ton of interesting shops and even a nightclub!

It was a pretty long drive from here to Nashville (about 8 hours), but we managed it quite well!  On the way back we stopped in Kentucky to visit my aunt and uncle, who have a gorgeous house out in the country, complete with two of the most adorable dogs ever.

But now I’m back to the real world of school and studying.  I love traveling, but it is kind of nice to be home.

This is a dish that I adapted from a Cooking Light recipe in their October 2008 issue.  It was originally for pork chops, but I’m not a huge fan of pork…in the chop form, at least.  I’ve tried it both with pork chops and chicken, and I definitely prefer it with chicken.  I thought the combination of seasonings in the flour coating sounded a little strange at first, but it really works.  And the sauce is fantastic.  I could put it on just about everything.  It’s creamy, it’s tangy and it has just the right of onion flavor. I’ve used both chives and green onions in the sauce, and I didn’t really notice any change in taste.

Panko bread crumbs are from Japan and they’re a lot chunkier than regular bread crumbs.  They make a fantastic coating on meat because they’re very crispy.  I usually find panko in the Japanese section of the international aisle of my grocery store, but they might also be near the regular bread crumbs.


Panko Crusted Chicken with Sour Cream Chive Sauce

Adapted from: Cooking Light

Makes: 2 chicken breasts, and about 1/2 c. sauce

1/4 c. flour

1 tsp. chili powder

1/2 tsp. garlic powder

1/2 tsp. onion powder

dash cayenne pepper (to taste)

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. pepper

1 egg white

1 tbsp. soy sauce

1 c. panko bread crumbs

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

2-3 tbsp. olive oil


4 tbsp. sour cream

1 tbsp. mayonnaise

2 tsp. red wine vinegar

2-3 tbsp. chives, finely chopped

1-3 tbsp. milk

salt and pepper to taste

1) In a medium sized bowl, combine the flour, chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne, salt and pepper.

2) In another medium sized bowl, beat the egg white and soy sauce.

3) Place the panko in a third medium sized bowl (I used cereal bowls for this, but you can also use plates if that’s what you’ve got laying around)

4) Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a frying pan.

5) Dredge the chicken breasts first in the flour mixture, then the egg white mixture, then cover with panko.  Press the panko into the chicken to make sure it’s nicely coated.

6) Once the oil is hot, add the chicken and cook about 2 minutes on each side, until well browned.  If the chicken is not cooked through, transfer to a greased cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes, until fully cooked.

7) For the sauce, combine the sour cream, mayonnaise, red wine vinegar and chives.  Add enough milk to reach the desired consistency (I liked mine kind of thick, so I only added 1 tbsp.  If you want it to be more saucy, add more milk.)  Add salt and pepper to taste.


Avocado Vinaigrette January 13, 2009

Filed under: sauces etc. — pharmfresh @ 11:55 pm
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Well, the new semester has officially started.  This time I have all morning classes, so I’m finished by noon almost every day.  This is super news, because it gives me so much more time to cook!  Last semester I had class every day until 4 or 5, which really limited my kitchen creativity time.  I have so many things that I can’t wait to try!  As for classes, they’re just about what I expected.  Nothing is too crazy yet, but I’m sure that’ll change pretty quickly!

I’m working on making this post more learner-friendly by adding step-by-step pictures.  And of course, if you guys ever have any questions about the recipes I post, feel free to leave a comment or email me!  It’s a rare time when I’m not near my computer or my cell phone (which also has email capabilities).  There are some recipes I have stored to post that aren’t step-by-step, but most of them from now on will be!

I found this recipe in a Rachel Ray cookbook that I found while I was home over Christmas break.  I really like trying out different salad dressings, and I also really like avocados, so it was perfect!  It was really easy to make, but you will need a blender.

The verdict?  This dressing has the potential to be good.  It’s tangy and smooth, with a slight garlic aftertaste.  The only problem I had with it was that there was WAY too much lime in it, which was totally my fault.  The original recipe called for lemon zest and juice, but I realized while I was in the process of making it that I only had limes.  Honestly though, I think the equivalent amount of lemon would be just as overpowering.  I recommend leaving out the zest all together, but definitely keep the juice.  I also ended up adding 1/2 cup of olive oil instead of 1/3 cup, in order to thin out the dressing a little.  I think with those changes, it would be a much better dressing.  I think it would go especially well with taco salad, which is definitely what I’m going to try next time I make it.

Avocado Vinaigrette

Source: Rachel Ray

Makes: about 1 c. dressing


2 ripe Haas avocados

1 garlic clove

2 tbsp. red wine vinegar

1 tsp. lemon zest

2 tsp. lemon juice

1/3 c. extra virgin olive oil (I used 1/2 c.)

salt and pepper, to taste


Slice all around the avocado, all the way through to the pit.  Separate the two halves and remove the pit with a spoon.  Repeat with the other avocado.


Slide a spoon into the very inside of each avocado half, and scoop out the middle portion.


Place all four halves into the blender.


To peel the garlic, place it on the cutting board and then place the flat side of your knife over it.  Use the heel of your hand (like I’m doing in the picture) and give it a good whack.  It’ll crush the garlic and make it super easy to peel.  Then add the crushed garlic clove to the blender.

img_2976 img_2977 img_2979

Add the lemon zest, lemon juice (lime, in my case!) and red wine vinegar to the blender.  Blend to combine.


While the blender is running, pour the olive oil in a slow stream.  Blend until everything is smooth.  Taste, and add salt and pepper to your liking.


Creamy Garlic Vinaigrette November 7, 2008

Filed under: sauces etc. — pharmfresh @ 8:28 pm
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For some reason, making my own salad dressing has always seemed like something way out of my league.  I’m not really sure why, though.  But as soon as I saw Alton Brown making his own vinaigrette on the Food Network, I said to myself “huh, that’s it?  I can do that!”  And so I did!  I haven’t made made too many vinaigrettes since then, as I am very much a ranch dressing girl, but every once in a while one stands out that I just have to try.

I found this recipe online not too long ago, and it looked so delicious that I just had to try it.  I love garlic, and just about anything with garlic in it.  I will give a word of warning — the recipe calls for 1-2 cloves of garlic, and using two will make it VERY strong.  As in, you will be breathing garlicky fire for the rest of the day after you eat it, guaranteed.  Of course, I only know that from experience.  When I was making the dressing, I thought to myself “well, I like garlic, I think two cloves will be delicious!”  It ended up tasting very good, but I could have done with a little less garlic flavor.  It actually burned my sinuses.  And my dog wouldn’t even come within three feet of me until I brushed my teeth!

I liked that this vinaigrette incorporated sour cream — it made the dressing nice and creamy without too many added calories, and it also added a nice tang that goes really well with the rest of the ingredients.  I ended up adding quite a bit of pepper (about 3/4 tsp.) before it tasted right to me, but add salt and pepper to your tastes.


Creamy Garlic Vinaigrette

Source: Cooking for Seven

Makes: About 1/2 cup

1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil

3 tbsp. sour cream

1 tbsp. white or red wine vinegar

1 tbsp. lemon juice

1-2 cloves garlic, minced

sea salt and ground pepper, to taste

1) Combine all ingredients in a small container with a lid.  Shake well until everything is combined.

2) Allow to sit at least one hour or overnight for best flavor.  Enjoy!

*Cautinary note:  there have been a few studies/articles that warn against storing garlic infused oils for long periods of time without sufficient refrigeration and/or preservatives, because of the risk of botulism poisoning.  As this isn’t straight garlic infused oil, there isn’t much, if any, risk for growing botulism, plus the acidity of the lemon juice and vinegar added to the dressing will also help to ward off any microbial growth.  Still, just to be safe, I would recommed making this dressing the day before you plan on eating it, or right before eating, (making it a day before eating will let the flavors have time to meld, and result in a better tasting dressing) and keeping it refrigerated in the meantime.  I made mine the day before and stored it in the refrigerator and I’m still alive to write this post, so I fared just fine.   Don’t let this deter you from making this dressing though, it’s really very good!


Chicken Stock October 5, 2008

Filed under: sauces etc. — pharmfresh @ 10:20 pm
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I am a champion procrastinator.  I can always find something that is more “important” to do than studying.  It’s not necessarily something that I’m proud of, but it does come in handy sometimes, especially those times where I would basically rather do anything else.  Take, for example, my junior year of college: I convinced myself that I needed to take a break from studying for my organic chemistry final exam by driving a half an hour away to Horrock’s.  (Horrock’s is a local Michigan farm market — for the longest time I thought that there was only one of them in my hometown, but discovered that there was another closer to Grand Valley, where I went to school.  Hence, the trip.)

Last year, my roommate and I would regularly procrastinate by going to dinner, movies, the bar (a definite favorite), or just randomly exploring Grand Rapids.  Now that I don’t have a roommate anymore, I have to get a little more crafty with my excuses. This coming week I have an exam in pharmaceutics, which is guaranteed to be ridiculous.  So, I convinced myself that I really needed to try my hand at making homemade chicken stock.  The reason?  My boyfriend is coming to visit next weekend (yay!), and what I’m making him for dinner calls for chicken stock.

Nonetheless, I’ve been meaning to try this out for quite a while.  And I had a 6 hour long study group session earlier today, so I think my chicken stock making break was quite well deserved.

I’m very happy with how this turned out.  First of all, it took minimal preparation — you basically roughly chop everything, throw it in a big pan, and leave it alone to boil.  It also tastes absolutely fantastic.  I could have eaten it right out of the pan (after it was strained, of course).  Canned chicken stock can’t even begin to compare to this stuff.  I adapted my recipe from this one from Alton Brown.  I scaled it down quite a bit (there is no way I need 5 quarts of chicken stock!), and changed the amounts of some ingredients.  I bought a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken from Meijer, took all the meat off the bones and used the leftover parts for the stock.  The recipe I’m going to list on here is what I used, but this recipe is very open to changes, so feel free to make it the way you like it.  I would stay away from adding salt until it’s completely done — you will need to keep adding water as the stock boils and it will eventually reduce down, so the taste of it will change.

I took a lot of pictures during the process, so I think I’ll post this in a step-by-step fashion.

Homemade Chicken Stock

Source: Alton Brown

Makes: about 3 cups

1 rotisserie chicken, all meat removed

1 large carrot, cut into large chunks

1 small onion, cut into quarters

1 stalk celery, cut into large chunks

10-15 whole peppercorns

4 sprigs fresh thyme

10 sprigs fresh parsley

3 cloves garlic, smashed

1) Place all ingredients into a large stock pot.

2) Add enough water to cover the ingredients.

3) Bring to a boil on high heat, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 6-8 hours (I simmered mine for 5 because I got tired and wanted to go to bed.  It turned out just fine though.)  If any scum floats to the top during boiling, strain it off with a slotted spoon or sieve.  Add hot water as needed to keep the bones and vegetables submerged.

Hour 1

Hour 2

(notice that after only two hours this stuff is already darker and richer in color than canned chicken broth…)

Hour 5

4) Strain out all of the cooked pieces with a fine meshed sieve, then discard.

5) Season the stock to taste with salt.  Immediately freeze or refrigerate stock, or grab a spoon and eat it right out of the container!