The Best Banana Bread Fresh Out of the Oven

Cool Autumn days are the perfect baking days. Today was just that kind of day, and I had two ripe bananas just begging me to use them for banana bread.

I usually let my bananas get a little blacker than this, but I just couldn’t wait any longer! The banana bread still comes out delicious with this amount of ripeness.

So, I made myself a cup of coffee and whipped up this delicious, healthy-ish treat!

The recipe comes from my mom, but she actually got it from my great-great Aunt Helen. (so this is a treasured old family recipe!)¬†I modified it just a tad. Part of the modification was on purpose and part of it was not ūüôā Usually, I make these into muffins, but I didn’t feel like cleaning the muffin pan when I was done so I used a 9 x 9 pan and it turned out beautifully!

The Best Banana Bread

INGREDIENTS

  • 3/4 cup Brown Sugar (original recipe called for 1 cup)
  • 1/2 cup oil (I used Extra Virgin Olive Oil. If you want to make these low-fat¬†use unsweetened applesauce)
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 Cup Mashed Ripe Bananas (approx. 2 medium bananas)
  • 1 1/2 Cups White Whole Wheat King Arthur Flour
  • 1 tsp Baking Soda
  • 1 tsp Baking Powder (I used my new Argo aluminum free kind! love it!)
  • 1 tsp Ground Cinnamon (I adore cinnamon so I add it to almost everything!)
  • 1/4 cup milk….apparently optional, because I forgot to add it! I don’t feel like my bread suffered a bit from not using it though ūüôā

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Preheat oven to 350. Although since I used a glass pan I lowered it to 325
  • In large bowl thoroughly mix together¬†sugar, oil, eggs, and bananas. (I use my hand mixer to ensure the bananas are well mashed up with everything)
  • In medium bowl combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon
  • Add dry ingredients to banana mixture and combine well.
  • If you actually do use milk you would stir it in at this point.
  • For muffins lightly grease pan with olive oil. Just the bottom. If you do the sides they won’t rise well. Bake for 25-30 mins.
  • For a 9 x 9 pan lightly grease pan bottom with olive oil. I use a paper towel to spread around a couple of tsps. Bake for 35-45 mins.
  • The muffins/bread is done when a tooth pick comes out clean.

The Best Banana Bread fresh out of the oven!

And this is how it looks when it comes out of the oven. I promptly cut a piece and devoured it as soon as it was cool enough to pop in my mouth. Sometimes when I am feeling in need of an especially divine treat I will add 1/2 cup of dark chocolate chips to the batter…

Enjoy and try to share!

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Keeping Things out of Reach from a Tall Toddler

I was attending to my four-month old, Blue Eyes, when my 18 month old, Sweet C, walks into the room with a tomato.

I wondered how on Earth she had gotten a hold of what she apparently wanted for a snack because I had placed the fresh garden treats on the kitchen table out of her reach. Well, what I thought was out of her reach!

This is how far the tomatoes were from the edge of the table. I didn’t think to measure it, but as you can see, they were quite a bit towards the middle…

Tomatoes on my kitchen table. Quite a few inches from the edge!

So, the good thing is it was just a tomato my Sweet C took a bite of and it wasn’t say, a cookie! ūüôā

The other good thing about my toddler’s growing reach is if I need a Binky for Blue Eyes that was left on the table I know I can count on having help to retrieve it!

My babies are just growing, growing, growing! Have to enjoy all the little moments and achievements ūüôā

Anybody else have a sweet moment to share of their child surprising you with how much they have grown?

How to Make Money When Times are Tough

One of my favorite quotes is: “A penny saved is a penny earned.”

One of the things I’ve been evaluating in my own home is how to help make a little money, but without actually leaving my house. Let’s face it, times are tough! However, I don’t want to sacrifice my most important job of staying at home with my two girls. I’ve thought about¬†small business opportunities such as Pampered Chef, but let’s face it I am just NOT a salesperson. I’ve looked into whether it would be worth my time to do online surveys, mystery shopping, making money blogging, online tutoring, and a handful of other not very feasible options (at least for me!)

Then I realized I’ve had the perfect solution in my hands all along!

The BEST way to make money with times are tough is to SAVE money!

Thank you, Mr. Benjamin Franklin!

I am already a pretty frugal person. As in most instances, there is always room for improvement! So here are a few things I am already doing or plan on doing to make/save me some money!

1. Keep a Grocery Budget Less than $200 a month.
Right now I have two adults and two children, and one is a toddler and one is an exclusively¬†breastfeeding baby, so it’s not difficult to feed 2 1/2 people on that budget. But, as food prices go up and our kids grow (or we become a larger family), I need to really buckle down and be making some wise and economical decisions.
One of the ways I keep a low grocery budget is by buying very little convenience food. A website I recently came across Grocerybudget101 stated perfectly what I have been thinking about these pricey items:

Consumers have been manipulated by marketing¬† companies for decades to believe¬† that we have less and less time and¬† ‚Äúneed‚ÄĚ these products, which are often¬† loaded with colorings,¬† preservatives and lack any nutritional quality.
The next time you find yourself in the grocery store, I challenge¬† you to take a¬† peek into the carts of folks that walk by. The majority of¬† items within the¬† cart is convenience items that people have been¬† manipulated into purchasing¬† under the false pretense that they ‚Äúsave¬† time‚ÄĚ or are easier than preparing¬† real food at home.

I feel like I am not only doing my checkbook a favor from not buying many convenience¬†foods but also I¬†am making the best and healthiest choices for my family. Not all convenience¬†foods are these awful, kill-ya things, but I see a choice between bad, good, and best…and in my humble opinion most of these “time saving” options just don’t fall in the “best” category.

2. Distinguish between wants and needs.
This may sound really elementary, but it is so helpful and so true. I often find myself asking this question, “Do I really need this?” The answer is usually no, and it saves us a TON OF MONEY. I am not suggesting it is wrong to buy things we want, even as far as food goes! I LOVE ice cream, but I don’t need ice cream. I do buy ice cream once in a while, but it is not on the weekly grocery list! It is okay to treat yourself and your family.
However, if you have a clear list of want you really need and what is just wants, I think you can save yourself a lot of conflict and cash.
In other words, prioritize! These are very personal decisions. If you truly want to save some money though, it might come down to cutting down some enjoyable “wants”.

3. Spending time can be better than spending money.
Family and friends are great! But sometimes we can get caught up in “having to spend money to do something “. Again, while this is not wrong, it is not necessarily true. Some of the best memories I have of family and friends are just spending time together, not necessarily going anywhere particular, just hanging out! It really is the simple things in life!
I think the same can be said about presents. Especially at Christmas my family has never really been about the gifts. I mean, don’t get me wrong, getting a great gift is awesome! But for us it is the togetherness and the celebration of the CHRISTmas season! I still like to give little gifts, but a lot of times they will be something simple and homemade… like cookies and fudge! (I am going to try to make some tasty yet healthier¬†treats this year…)

4. Manage Time Wiser
And for me, that means getting off the computer now. Break time is over because the kids woke up from nap time!

More next time on how time management is a money saver!

To-Die-For, Amazingly Rich, Chocolate Cake With Chocolate Frosting. And it’s Healthy!?

To die for chocolate cake!

Yes, you read the title right. A healthy chocolate cake? That is to die for and richly delicious? It is true my friends!

Now, by healthy, I don’t mean it can replace your veggies or you should go and eat the whole thing, but as far as chocolate cakes go this recipe…takes the cake ūüôā

One serving, about a 2.5 by 3 in slice, of cake minus frosting is ONLY 136 calories, just a hair over 2 g of fat, 15.4 g of sugar, and has 4 g of fiber¬†and 4 g¬†protein! Here’s the nutrition info¬†thanks to sparkpeople’s recipe calculator.

I tweaked the chocolate banana cake recipe from the joyofbaking.com

The original recipe had a lot more sugar, all-purpose flour, canola oil, and a little less banana and cocoa powder.

Here is what I did, and it was soooo rich and moist and beyond delicious!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 cup¬†brown sugar
  • 1¬†3/4 cups¬†plus 1 tablespoon¬†King Arthur’s Whole Wheat White Flour
  • 1 cup¬†unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3¬†medium-sized super ripe mashed bananas
  • 1 cup¬†warm water
  • 1/2 cup¬†milk
  • 1/2 cup¬†unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure¬†vanilla extract
  • 1 Tbsp cinnamon (optional, but I sure love to add cinnamon to everything I can!)
  • 1 Tbsp ground flax-seed (optional)

DIRECTIONS

  • Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F. (but since I used a glass pan I set it to 325 F!)
  • Butter a 9 x 13 inch¬†pan.
  • Combine¬†the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and flax-seed.¬†Set aside.
  • The dry ingredients all mixed together

  • In another large bowl,¬†beat together the eggs, mashed bananas, water, milk, applesauce, and vanilla extract.
  • Love to use my mixer to make sure the wet ingredients (especially those bananas!) are beat up really good!

  • Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir,¬†until combined.
  • Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 35 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.
  • batter in the pan, ready to go into the oven!

  • Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack.
  • When completely cooled, use this frosting recipe!

Of course the frosting adds a bit more calories (just over 100) with some extra fat (9 g) and a tiny bit more sugar (5 g), but I think this is an improvement over the traditional frosting made with butter and tons of confectioners sugar. Depending on what recipe is used you can easily get just as many grams of fat (if not more), and exponentially more sugar (between 20-40 g!)

I made this as a birthday cake for my brother-in-law and sister-in-law and they, along with everyone else at the party LOVED it and I just had to share this wonderful find with all of you too!

Meal Planning…The Quest Continues!

The truth is this: I’m starting to get discouraged with my¬†meal planning efforts, which in reality are barely on paper; just wishes, hopes, and dreams in my mind.

After reading this wonderful the post Mastering Meal Planning¬†from The Nourishing Home I realized what the number one thing that is holding me back. Her first step is¬†“create a ‚ÄúMaster List of Meals‚ÄĚ that your family enjoys.” Really, really good advice I thought! And then quickly I realized we are a family of very few meals. I rarely use recipes. Rather, I just sorta bake a meat and a veggie or two (not anything fancy from a recipe mind you, just the plain ole peas steamed with maybe a dab of butter), and throw in a fruit for dessert.

We just eat very simply.

This is good and bad. I grew up with my mom always having lots of variety and trying out new recipes. My dad would eat anything, and if us kids didn’t like something we still tried it and politely expressed we preferred a different meal better.

The reason I don’t really use recipes is because I can’t make casseroles, soups,¬†rice dishes/stir frys,¬†I can’t make things that are too saucy, too spicy, too vegetably, too…DIFFERENT! The reason I can’t is because I would be the only one eating said exciting, flavorful, variety packed dishes, and that just isn’t very economical! Though Sweet C is not a picky eater, she does like to have her food prepared rather simply and separate. I have not trained her to do this, but she automatically separates her meat, pasta, veggies, whatever from each other. It’s okay if they touch, she just doesn’t like stuff mixed together…Know what I mean? And my beloved hubby, well, he is just sort of a¬†meat and potato man. Although he does eat fruit and the occasional veggie on the side.

So, what’s a wise woman to do? I need to manage my home, be prepared, economical, organized, and feed my family in a healthy way. I also need to be respectful of my husband. And then it dawned on me…I mean, really, there must have been a little light bulb that flashed above my head!

Simple is GOOD!

Not the simple of “let’s just eat mac and cheese” and the easy, non-healthy processed food and fast food diet. (Which we have done in the past¬†and are now choosing to leave those ickies¬†behind!) The simple I am referring to is: don’t stress out and do what is good for your family.¬†What is good for my family is not lamenting over recipe after recipe I can’t make and everybody else is making (or at least pinning over on Pintrest). I am choosing to no longer stress out over “if onlys”.

What I am going to do is be who we are as a family. That doesn’t mean I’m giving up on leading a healthy lifestyle. There are still tons of ways we can improve, but it doesn’t have to be through all the other recipes people are posting. As long as we are getting the nutrients that our bodies need and we like the taste of what we eat and I’m not breaking the bank…then I am going to CELEBRATE!

So, I will make a master list of meals (or just plain old whole foods, sort of like fruit and veggie list). And if it only has ten meals on it, then so be it!

After I get a little routine going, then I have decided to have my fun, and experiment, and add variety through simple side dishes. I will aim to always have two side dishes. A guaranteed side hubby will love (ie mashed potatoes) and a side me and Sweet C can enjoy, and if dear hubby wants to take a taste he will be more than welcome to it!

Off the top of my head here is the beginning of my meal list:

Spaghetti with Prego Sauce and Ground Beef
Hamburgers
Baked Chicken
Beef Pot Roast
Pizza with pepperoni (and bacon if possible)
Eggs and Toast

Simple Sides I already make and no recipe required:

Mashed potatoes
Steamed corn
Steamed peas
Baked sweet potato
Steamed brocoli¬†(but haven’t made in a while due to breastfeeding…)
Baked Carrots
Steamed green beans
Diced tomato (mainly for Sweet C, one of her absolute faves!)
and whatever fruit we have on hand, just plain and raw, but delicious!

Here’s to the simple life, learning to be content with things you can not change (perhaps this is also flexibility peppered with grace?), and also making the changes starting in your own life that need improved.

What do you think of simple is good?

Easiest and Tastiest White Cupcakes

Cupcakes from my Sweet C’s first birthday party. These were a hit and sooo easy to make!

 

I originally got this Simple White (Cup)cake recipe from here.

But when I made the recipe into cupcakes for my Sweet C’s first birthday party in the spring I made a couple changes. This is what I did and they were DELICIOUS! (And super easy!)

SIMPLE WHITE CUPCAKES

Ingredients

  • ¬†1 cup white sugar (I would love to experiment without using white sugar in this recipe!)
  • ¬†1/2 cup butter
  • ¬†2 eggs
  • ¬†2 teaspoons Pure¬†vanilla extract
  • ¬† 1 1/2 cups King Arthur’s White Whole Wheat Flour
  • ¬†¬†2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ¬† 1 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
  • ¬†¬†1/2 cup milk

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.¬†Line¬†muffin pan with paper liners.
  • Cream together the sugar and butter.
  • Beat in the eggs, then stir in the vanilla.
  • Combine flour, baking powder, and cinnamon and add to the creamed mixture and mix well.
  • Stir in the milk until batter is smooth.
  • Spoon batter into the prepared pan.
  • Bake for¬†20 to 25 minutes.

There, that was easy, wasn’t it? Enjoy these delicious cupcakes with or without frosting. Or even better, add a scoop (or two) of your favorite all natural ice cream like Turkey Hill’s All Natural Chocolate!

 

Today I feel especially blessed by witnessing the love celebrated in the marriage of a close family friend. Congrats Mr. and Mrs. Wright!

 

The Night-Time Dilemma

“To do, or not to do? That is the question!” William Shakespeare

(Thanks for the hook, Shakespeare!)

The kids are in bed, well at least one is in bed…My toddler, Sweet C, has bedtime between 8:30 and 9 o’clock. My darling three-month old, Blue Eyes,¬† gets turns being held my Mommy, Daddy, and the swing during the evening. But generally speaking, the evening is free time for me and Hubby. And by free time what I really mean is “the night-time dilemma”.¬†I could just sit and relax (and maybe blog or look at Facebook) or finish up chores that didn’t get done during the day, which would be most of them!

Finishing up chores makes the next day run soooo much smoother. It is less stressful to walk into the kitchen and see clean counter, a dish free sink, wiped down table. I am mostly great at least having the kitchen in order before I go to bed. But then there are nights like tonight where I am just physically worn down and have already mentally checked out!

I have an option, (we all always have a choice). Get motivated, get moving, and as the old Nike slogan aptly encouraged, “Just Do It!”. Or, I could slump around tonight worrying about how tomorrow I am going to have just that much more to do (and less time to do it since we have a wedding to attend). It is not always easy to just pull myself up by the bootstraps and kick myself in the rear to get going. I need an outside source of inspiration, a conviction to take the less easy choice, a reminder to strive for the best.

Enter Proverbs 31

The Wife of Noble Character. That is who I want to be! From verse 27: “She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.”

Truth and Wisdom are great at giving inspiration, aren’t they?

 

What motivates you?