Monday, September 15, 2014

Double Chocolate Banana Bread

I'm all about healthy, especially when it's subtle and I can sneak it into the recipe. I am also all about chocolate; I mean, who isn't!? So when I saw this recipe it was love at first sight.

I have had this recipe for so long, I actually can't remember where I found it. I didn't adjust it too much, some decrease in the sugar amount and I list the nuts as optional because I have a need to increase the chocolate ratio in each bite so I add more chips instead. Because you can always use more chocolate, right? Right?

I've also tried this in a lot of different pans. These pictures were taken with my fave mini bread pan.  I can make a bunch of small loaves to keep in the freezer for those surprise visitor or gifting to someone suddenly, or of course if I get a chocolate attack. I've also made it in one large loaf pan and as muffins (my sons favorite, more portable so he can eat on the run).

This bread comes out moist; soft, and amazing texture! The crust has a wonderful slight crisp immediately after baking, and becomes a wonderful moist crust if it's kept for later.

 Either way, it's awesome. So easy to make, it just takes a couple of ripe bananas and you're set. Get ready for the most delicious, chocolate-y healthy bread you've had.

Chocolate Banana Bread

1/2 c butter, softened
1 c sugar
2 eggs
1 c mashed bananas (~2 bananas)
1/4c milk
1 tsp vanilla
2 c flour
1/4 c baking cocoa
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 c chopped nuts (optional)
1 c chocolate chips

In a mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Once creamed, add eggs one at a time, mix until creamed and then add vanilla. In another bowl, combine mashed bananas with milk, set aside. Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. Alternate scooping in the banana mix and the flour mix into the mixer while it's on; one scoop at a time. Mix only until incorporated and then add more.  Continue with this method until it's all been added. Remove the bowl from the mixer and fold in the chocolate chips and nuts by hand.
Pre-heat the oven to 350F. Pour the batter into a greased loaf pan and place it in the preheated oven. Bake for about 60 minutes, or until a testing stick poked into the center of the loaf comes out clean. If you want to use the smaller pans, pour the batter into three greased mini loaf pans and bake for about 30 minutes, using a testing stick to see if it's done. Muffins are a little less time.
Allow to cool for about 10 minutes before removing from the pan. Place on wire rack to allow for a complete cool.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Counting with Bean Bags

I am not sure where the inspiration came from, but it's there! I have been having SO MUCH FUN with making rice-bean bags! After making a few, I started to think how fun it would be to have a set with numbers on them.  The games you could play with them are endless!

I tried a few prototypes, and then... BRAINSTORM! Use my kids play-do cookie cutters to make the numbers!

It worked great! I used the black felt left over from the Creature Power Suits for the numbers and my quilting puff for tracing them.

Then, I had another brainstorm...what if I had ribbons on them as part of sensory development; and what if the number of ribbons corresponded with the number on the particular bag! Awesome!

Again, super happy with how they turned out.  It was totally worth the extra effort to put the ribbons on. I ran out of the the striped ribbon, so I decided to mix in some of the beige ribbon. It actually worked well.  It gave more texture and provided a different look.

I was worried making a bag for them out of fleece would be too stretchy; it wouldn't hold up.  Felt, on the other hand, is sturdy so I make a bag with a double drawstring on it.  You pull the two strings in different directions to cinch it shut; works great!

The bag also doubles as the first of many games that can be had with these.  Pick a distance and toss the numbers in; keep stepping back as the numbers get bigger.  Who gets the most? My kids made it up, and are loving it!

I am super happy to have found something to do with all the fleece I have. Yeah!! I am linking up with Finish Friday on Crazy Mom Quilts.  It's not a quilt, but it's a really fun finish! Can't wait to see what everyone else has been working on.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Really am Working

Yes, I really have been working on things and trying to get stuff done.  I am also trying to figure out our new schedule with everyone's different school programs and back-to-school craziness.  Hopefully I can get caught up on what's been going on.

A few weeks ago I pulled out some leftover fabric from my Goody Gumdrops quilt. I wanted to try making some strip-pieced triangles that, to me, looked like watermelon slices. I started putting them together and thought they'd make great placemats.

I just needed to get some background fabric, which I selected at Rosies during my annual visit. I admit, I wasn't so crazy about the brown when I selected it. I chose it because I thought it looked a bit like a burlap sack or a picnic table so I went with it. Now that I see it all together I love it and want more! Such a cool, clean, textured fabric. It would be amazing as an alternative to white in a quilt because it's so subtle.

It took me a bit to think about quilting on these little guys, too. I finally decided the brown looked a bit like wood planks on a picnic table and wanted to do something that looked like wood grains. I am really happy with how it's turning out so far. Unfortunately, I ran out of the beige color thread I was using.

Project on hold...until I get some more thread. Hopefully I can get back to work on these soon. I'm interested to see how they turn out. It seems I have more projects going at once than I've ever had before.

#1 watermelon placemats - need to finish the quilting

#2 flower garden quilt - needs quilting

#3 vintage modern stars quilt - needs sandwiching and quilting

#4 alaskan stars quilt - needs piecework still, many stars to go

#5 some secret projects - more to come on this

That's okay.  They will all get done...someday...maybe...for sure! I am linking up with WIP Wednesday on Freshly Pieced. Hopefully I will be able to report some finishes soon!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Homemade Trail Mix

I am trying so very hard to improve my eating...again.  I feel like I've done this before; oh wait, I have. Kids have this magical ability to cause me to forget how to eat properly, even though I work so hard to make sure they are eating properly.  How does that work?!?

Many years ago I was able to loose a lot of weight and get to a comfortable size. I'd like to return to that but man, it feels a lot tougher this time around. Not sure why...What changed? I am on a mission. It's going to happen!

One of the things I know I did every week was go work my horse on Friday evenings (yes, date night with the horse; he loved every minute of it :P). It doesn't sound like much, but I ate trail mix on my way to the barn and then essentially exercised (if you've never worked a horse for an hour, I'm telling you it's a workout) and went home for the night. I lost a ton of weight and didn't even notice it was happening.

So, I realize the trail mix was not the magic bullet in this equation but I unfortunately do not have the horses anymore so I have to go with the trail mix. I used to buy this mix at Costco, but I decided to make my own so I could increase the ratio of good nuts (like almonds) and the less productive nuts (like peanuts). I also wanted more raisins in the mix and I wanted to reduce the salt content.  I wait for some good bulk sales and stock up on my fave's.

It's actually chopped full of good things.  Lots of proteins and good fats that your body needs to be productive with a lot less carbs.  There are still some carbs because, frankly, I still need a hook to get me into the mix. A little chocolate, a few raisins and you have a nicely balanced mix that will keep your taste buds happy while still consuming a food that will keep your body satisfied so you can get things done. Now, if I could just figure out how to get back into the workout I had steps, baby steps.

Homemade Trail Mix

2 c cashew nuts ( raw, salted or unsalted)
2 c almonds (raw, unsalted)
2 c peanuts (raw, salted or unsalted)
2 c raisins
12.6 oz plain m&m candies (about 2 cups)

Measure each of the ingredients into a large mixing bowl.  Mix the ingredients well and store in a gallon-size ziploc bag. I have made larger mixes and divided them up and put them in the freezer to save. However if you do that, reserve your raisins and add them when you pull the mix out of the freezer.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Creature Power Suits

My son has totally been sucked into the Wild Kratts hype.  Everything in our house right now can be accomplished with 'creature powers'! Becomes extremely helpful when trying to get some chores done around the house. How many toys can the mighty lion get into the toy bin...let's find out. :)

I started searching a bit on-line to see if there were any patterns; ha ha, like I'm going to follow a pattern. Nothing really grabbed me and there was such a range from using fleece to sports cloth to felt.

I decided to go with felt. I used pictures of the Kratt Brothers show on-line to help with patch placement, and of course had to make one in each color; two kids means two creature vests.  Double the chores that will get done around here. ;)

I found some disks on-line as well, that were downloadable. I am going to print those out on some cardstock so they're a little sturdier, and I wanted to make a pouch on the vest to put the disks in. I used Some clear vinyl I had leftover from making my quilting mat and put a layer of felt behind that creating two pockets. The front clear pocket will be for the creature power currently in use and the back pouch will be for disk storage.

They are already pretty excited about them. All I have left is some sizing panels and velcro on the green one and we are ready for some serious creature power action! I bought halloween costumes last fall during the clearance sales, but I wonder if this might replace my son's Jedi least for this year.

I'm linking up with WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced.  Let's see what everyone else is doing in the back-to-school craze.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Turkey Egg Rolls

Yes, I have said it many times; chinese food is totally my weakness.  My favorite. My go-to food when I'm happy, sad, angry, bummed, tired, energized, pretty much any excuse to eat chinese food is a good excuse for me. Of course restaurant-style isn't the healthiest, so figuring out how to make my fave's at home is a big win!

I've already perfected my Cashew Chicken, and my Honey Chicken. Now it's time to get some egg rolls on the table. These really can be a meal all their own; just serve with some veggie fried rice and a little sweet-and-sour sauce and you're good to go.

To help with the calorie factor, I used ground turkey instead of ground pork (although both are pretty healthy). You could also use shredded rotisserie chicken; super tasty! Once your prep is done, cooking is pretty easy and rolling is very much like making a burrito; no problem.

Something else some people are afraid of is the frying. If you drain on a wire rack after cooking, excess oil will drip off and these little guys really aren't so bad for you. I tried baking them and wasn't impressed with the results. When I fried them, I only used enough oil to submerse one side at a time (maybe 1-2 inches deep). That way I had more control over the cooking process and could pull them out easily.

If you really aren't interested in frying, or if you really want to be calorie-savvy, you can eat it right from the skillet, or you can wrap the filling in a lettuce leaf for lettuce wraps. The filling is amazing! I truly could make it a meal all by itself!

Great hands-on meal for kiddos too, and adding the dipping sauce really sells them on it! My daughter couldn't get enough of this one. I played around a bit with re-heating and found it's best to make a large batch and freeze them uncooked.  When you're ready, you can thaw them and drop them in a little oil to  achieve the best results.  Re-heating cooked ones in the microwave made for a very soggy result. No fun. Again, totally worth putting a little oil in a pan.  Only takes a few minutes and the results are amazing! You're gonna love these!

Turkey Egg Rolls
¼ c soy sauce
2 Tbs rice vinegar
1Tbs light-brown sugar
3-5 c vegatable oil
1 napa cabbage (~2 ½ lbs) shredded
2 c shredded carrots (about 4 med)
3 garlic cloves, minced
½ tsp ginger (or 1 Tbs fresh minced ginger)
½ tsp pepper
½ tsp salt
1 lb ground turkey
16 egg roll wrappers
1 egg, beaten

In a bowl, combine soy sauce, vinegar and sugar. Set aside.

Heat 1 Tbs oil in a very large skillet.  Add cabbage, carrots, and garlic. Add ginger, salt and pepper. Cook down, stirring regularly, until vegetables are tender; about 7-10 minutes.

Turn up the heat to high. Push the veggies to the side and add the turkey and soy sauce mix on the other. Brown the meat, slowly mixing it with the veggies. Once the meat is no longer pink and the sauce is reduced, about 5 – 7 minutes, pour the mixture on a plate to cool.

Layout your egg roll wrappers on a flat surface, one at a time in a diamond position. Brush a little egg along the edges of the wrapper.  Place the meat filling in the center. Pull one corner up and over the filling. Then fold the sides over and finish by rolling towards the final corner. There are usually instructions on the wrapper package to help you.

Heat 3-4 cups of oil in a 5-qt pot for frying to a temperature of about 350° F.  Place 4 egg rolls in at a time, browning on each side for about 2 minutes.  Place them on a paper towel or cooling rack. Serve with sweet and sour sauce, hot mustard, or soy sauce.  I also like to serve these with vegetable fried rice and make a dinner out of it.

Side Notes:
These are bakeable. 400° F in the oven, place the rolls on a rimmed pan and brush each roll with oil before baking for about 10 minutes. Admittedly, I was not so impressed with the results.  It’s worth frying them, and it’s super quick and easy and actually still relatively healthy (all that turkey and veggies working their magic).

They are also freezable. After rolling, place them on a tray and place it in the freezer. Leave them for a few hours and then place them in a Ziploc bag until you're ready to cook them. Simply pull them out about 30 minutes before you want to cook. 

*Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart Living recipe, Pork Egg Rolls

Linking up with Hun...What's for Dinner. Come on by to get some other great meal ideas!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Motivated in the Kitchen

I love when I get a burst of energy to get things done, and then I'm actually able to get those things done! THE BEST! I was on a mission the last couple of days with recipes.

I bought the ingredients for egg rolls as well as things to make my own trail mix a couple days ago. I'm trying to put together those recipes and another bread recipe, but until then, I kept myself busy with produce I got the other day.

It's finally peach time here and they taste amazing! My kids DEVOUR peaches! I cannot keep them in the cabinet, they eat them so fast. I saw Sprouts was having a sale, and I went for it.  They also had Pink Lady apples on sale, which is a fave around here so I bought a bunch of those as well.

Aren't they beautiful?!?!? I love the colors they show off in their simple clear jars! Just amazing! Makes my mouth water just looking at them.  I could open a jar right now...but I won't. I better wait for the kids to wake up from rest time or I'll be in big trouble. ;)

I'm going to experiment a little with the canned apples. I want to try putting them in lunches with a little cinnamon-sugar (we can't have any nuts, including peanut butter, in lunches) and I want to try making applesauce, and peach-applesauce, and strawberry applesauce, and...well, you get the idea. We're going to have fun with apples around here!