Friday, June 29, 2012

The Best Banana Bread Ever

TGIF! 

Today I am sharing the perfect recipe to make this weekend - The moistest, tastiest, delicious banana bread... EVER!


I know... I know... there are no less than 48098264876500129858 banana bread recipes currently in existence - but this one is really special.  Something definitely worth bragging about.

You just have to trust me that this is as good as I say it is.  You do trust me, right?

The Best Banana Bread Ever

Makes 1 large loaf, two medium loaves or four small loaves

1 1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs lightly beaten
3 ripe bananas, mashed
1/4 cup butter - melted and slightly cooled
1 - 2 tablespoon(s) cinnamon sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Spray large loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray.

Combine the first 4 ingredients (flour, baking soda, salt and sugar) in a large mixing bowl.

Add mashed bananas and lightly beaten eggs.  Stir until just combined.

Gently stir melted butter into batter. 

Pour mixture into a large loaf pan and lightly sprinkle cinnamon sugar on top.

Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean - about 40-50 minutes.

NOTE:  Cooking times are approximate.


If you have an abundance of ripe bananas but are not able to bake with them right away - don't fret!  Did you know that they freeze wonderfully?  Just stick them in the freezer whole and take them out a half hour to an hour before you are ready to bake.

This recipe is an equal opportunity appeal-er (HA) - feel free to mix in anything that suits your fancy.  Chocolate chips, walnuts, almonds, pecans - all taste great ... the possibilities are endless!

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend.  Stay cool!

Click here for a printable version of this recipe.
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Thursday, June 28, 2012

Our First Garden - Update #1

A little over a month ago, I shared with you the process of creating our first garden.  A LOT has changed since my last post and we are definitely enjoying seeing our hard work pay off.  Our stomachs are really happy too!

Here is a breakdown of how everything is doing:
  • Thomas Laxton (early) Peas [grown from seed] - I'm going to try to be happy about these peas, but they have provided a lot of angst over the past month.  Aside from the letter received from the environmental conservation board saying we weren't really supposed to plant our peas in the "no plant" zone - these just didn't do as well as we thought they would.  We got very excited when we saw the plants started to flower and expected to be able to harvest a ton of pods, but in the end - we only got 1 dinner's worth of peas.  I'm pretty sure they were cursed from our little brush with the "law" but for the amount of work it took to get them set up - we aren't sure if it is worth it to do it again.  Carl spent his entire birthday evening planting them this year and countless other hours getting the netting and posts set up. Knowing we will have to rip up, yet another portion of our lawn, to plant these again - makes it less likely that we will do these next year.  A real bummer since I'm not usually a pea fan and I thought they tasted absolutely delicious. We'll have to see...
  • Calypso cucumbers [grown from seed] - We originally planted numerous cucumber seeds in mounds in the middle of our peas.  Due to the letter, we knew we were going to have to rip them up since the peas would definitely harvest well before the cucumbers.  Crockett states that cucumber seedlings usually don't transport well so we are still a little worried about these guys.  We had to find a new place in our yard to house them and since then they have been doing alright (not great - just OK).  Now that they get plenty of sun, we wonder if we never had to move them - if they would have done well anyway.  I think the peas starting to climb may have been stealing some of the cucumbers sun.  Regardless, I am keeping my fingers crossed as I have been mapping out my plan for homemade pickles for months now.  Grow cucumbers, grow!
  • Organic Relay Lettuce [grown from seed] - We are in lettuce HEAVEN!  Currently - the lettuce has been the highest producer in both quality AND quantity.  The regeneration on some of these plants is really incredible and we have been eating steadily off of the same 5 or 6 plants for a month now.  A few days ago we ripped up the last bits of the old plants and re-planted some seedlings that we started a few weeks ago.  Crockett suggested this as it is a great way to ensure that you have lettuce throughout your growing season.  There is just something about this lettuce that I absolutely love.  I think that the type of soil that we used (organic loam) definitely has something to do with it.  The leaves are colorful and really crisp and definitely last much longer than if you purchased them in the grocery store.  Carl and I have enjoyed taking a fresh salad for lunch everyday and also eating Asian stir-fry turkey lettuce wraps - once a week!
  • Black Seeded Simpson Lettuce [grown from seed] - see above. We only planted half of the amount of this type of lettuce than we did the other variety and it's probably a good idea since we have had way more than we know what to do with.  This lettuce if definitely delicious but not as crisp.
  • Sardinia Spinach [grown from seed] - our spinach grew a little faster than we anticipated and as a result, we didn't harvest it as early as we should have.  While the plants grew out of control, by the time we did harvest - we quickly realized that it takes A LOT of spinach to make a decent portion for two adults for dinner.  We both really love spinach so it was great that we were able to get a handful of meals out of it before it started to die.  I don't think that spinach loves the warm weather as when it started to get REALLY hot last week - the main structure of the plant started to warp - causing the plants to fall over and the leaves to get limp.  We still ate the fallen over plant but knew that our spinach days for the season were pretty much over.  I think you can re-plant in the early fall again - but I'm not entirely sure.  We'll have to read Crockett and see what spinach wisdom he can provide us.  Aside from having it as an accompanyment to dinner - my favorite meal we had with this spinach was fresh farm egg omelets, spinach and homemade feta cheese from the Lancaster, NH farmer's market.  YUMMY!
  • Scallions/Bunching Onions [starter plant] - We only purchased one starter plant and it while it has been growing great, it has been hard to harvest since they really do "bunch."  I want to savor these babies and only use one at a time, but being so close together means that their roots also grow together so I have been trying to be extra careful when I pull one out.  Next year, I think we will definitely grow a couple more bunches as I find myself buying scallions EVERY week at the grocery store.
  • Black King Eggplant [grown from seed] - these are the one thing in the garden that I am not convinced will grow great.  They have not only been slow to grow, but some little insect has decided to make it's leaves it's grand feast.  Leaves aside, the plant is doing relatively well but for some odd reason I'm less convinced that these will be successful.  I am hoping I am wrong though because I definitely LOVEEEE me some eggplant parmesan!
  • French Breakfast Radishes [grown from seed] - Carl was convinced that these radishes grew in bunches.  After harvesting our first round a few weeks ago, we soon realized that there was no bunching going on.  As a result, we were left with 7 tiny radishes.  Needless to say we were both a little bummed so after harvesting the first batch, we planted a bunch more and expanded them to two rows.  In another week or so I'm pretty sure we will be eating radishes for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
  • Detroit Dark Red Supreme Beets [grown from seed] - Carl also applied his "bunch" theory here. #FAIL.  15 beets later - we got one dinner out of them.  We harvested them last night for dinner and plan to eat the greens in a few days.  Next year - we will definitely be planting at least two rows as these are one of my favorites.
  • Italian Dark Green Parsley [grown from seed] - growing like crazy!  5 plants was a bit excessive and I hope it doesn't go to waste.  Next year, we might stick to a plant or two as that is more than plenty for what we need it for.
  • Sweet Basil [grown from seed] [replaced with starter plants] - We got a little carried away with the basil planting and accidentally planted the seeds a little deeper than we were supposed to.  After two weeks without one seedling, my impatience got the best of me and we purchased two large starter plants that I split into 6.  I was immediately able to harvest a bunch of leaves for homemade pesto and I've been able to do it two more times since then.  The plants are growing great and after the hot weather we have been having... coupled with some rain - it looks like I'll be making another batch of homemade pesto this weekend!  This is definitely one of Carl's favorite garden delicacies.
  • Cilantro [starter plant] - at first, this was doing excellent.  After a wave of very hot weather - the plant started to turn a lighter shade of green and dry out (even though the soil was wet).  Next year, I think we will try to plant in a section of the garden that gets less sunlight.  Cilantro is one of my favorite herbs so I was a little bummed I didn't get more than a few guacamole batches out of it.
  • Dill [starter plant] - growing well although it just started to flower recently.  I'm not sure what that means, but I don't think that's good for this herb.
  • Oregano [starter plant] - growing well.
  • Rosemary [starter plant] - growing well.
  • Thyme [starter plant] - growing well.
  • Trailing Tomatoes [starter plant] - starting to flower and growing well.
  • Sweet 100 Cherry Tomatoes [starter plant] - starting to flower and growing great.  Lots of little baby tomatoes are starting to pop up.
  • La Roma II Red Tomatoes [starter plant] - starting to flower and expand.  This is the second largest tomato plant and it is really growing well.  This was also the first tomato plant to bear baby fruit.
  • Early Girl Tomatoes [starter plant] - starting to flower and growing well.
  • San Marzano Tomatoes [starter plant] - starting to flower and expand.  I can't wait for these tomatoes as - in my opinion - they make the best tomato sauce and soup with.
  • Orange Blaze Peppers [grown from seed] - growing well.  We aren't expecting to see anything major start growing for another month or so.  I can't wait for them to start growing though.
  • Hungarian Hot Wax Peppers [grown from seed] - same as above.
  • Fat 'n Sassy Peppers [grown from seed] - same as above.
  • Horn of Plenty (early bush crookneck) Squash [grown from seed] - we accidentally forgot to write down or commit to memory which squash plant was planted in each mound.  Either way - one is growing out of control and the other is doing fine.  We made sure to plant these with plenty of room to expand as they often times start to take over.
  • Richgreen Summer Squash [grown from seed] - see above.
Here are some pictures of the progress over the past month:

baby cucumber plant
 

peppers in pots


peas, pahlease!

front to back - spinach, lettuce, radishes and beets

lettuce seedling replacements, ready for the garden!

summer squash x2 and tomatoes
 
beets, radishes and lettuce

basil deliciousness

sweet pea

lettuce galore

spinach

plum tomato baby

cherry tomato babies

lettuce harvesting

my favorite live-in scarecrow

custom flower boxes built by my handy husband
With some of the leftover wood from the garden, Carl made some custom flower boxes that sit in front of our garage.  All three boxes have the same flowers in them and really look great next to the garden.  Next month, Carl plans on using the rest of the wood to make one more small above ground garden to house rhubarb, chives and (maybe) strawberries next year.  I am REALLY looking forward to that.  

Speaking of berries, have a little look-see at what we found growing right next to our house:

blackberry surprise
I've secretly been chanting over these bushes - "grow, grow, grow."  For totally selfish reasons, of course...  The Pioneer Woman makes a delicious blackberry cobbler that I've had my eye on for many months now.

Needless to say, I think things have been quite successful for us so far. What is also surprising is that we have escaped (knock on wood) any sort of woodland creature eating our prized possessions. That, in itself, is a win in my book!  I am really looking forward to fresh peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, cucumbers and squash in the coming months.  Until next time...

Have you started a garden this spring/summer?  If so, what are you growing?

If you haven't started a garden this year, I'd love to know what your favorite garden veggie is!

Please feel free to leave responses in the comment section below.  I REALLY enjoy hearing from my readers!

...and a special thank you to all of the folks who have stopped by via www.kevinandamanda.com and also showed me support on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest.  I really appreciate you taking the time to check out my blog! If you also have a blog, I would love to check it out.  Feel free to leave your URLs in the comments section below!
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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Old Fashioned Date Filled Cookies

At the beginning of the month, this gorgeous lady turned eighty-nine years young....


This is Carl's grandmother, Elizabeth, and she is quite possibly one of the sweetest ladies known to mankind.  I was first introduced to her cooking a little over 7 years ago when Carl and I first started dating. The very first recipe of hers I tried were these delicious date filled cookies.

I know what you're thinking - DATES?! BLEH.  I said the same thing at first... that was until I bit into one of these delicious morsels and life has never been the same since.  In the past few years, Carl's grandmother has handed over her recipes to the family and cut back on her cooking.  A few years ago, she re-located to an assisted living facility and sadly, had to give up her kitchen.  Before our last visit to New Hampshire, I asked her if she wanted to assist me in making these cookies and she was all for it.  She was quick to let me know that assisting really meant "watching" or in other words - bossing me around... but I really wouldn't have it any other way.  She was dressed to the nines when I picked her up and even called a few hours before wondering when I was going to come pick her up.  We had a wonderful day and being able to "cook" with her really warmed my heart.  This was definitely a great memory I'll have with her for many years to come. 





Grandmother's Old Fashioned Date Filled Cookies

Makes just over 2 dozen 4-inch round cookies

COOKIES:

1 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup shortening
3 cups flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Combine dry ingredients in bowl.  Cut in shortening.  Add wet ingredients and mix until well combined.

Roll dough out on a floured surface.

Cut circles and place on cookie sheet.  Add filling [recipe below] to center of cookie.

Place additional cookie circle (see note) on top of cookie + filling and gently press around edges.

NOTE:  Cut a small slit in the middle of the cookie circle BEFORE placing it on the other cookie with jam.

Cook in a 350 degree F oven for 10-12 minutes.

FILLING:

1/2 lb dates, cut up
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup granulated sugar

Mix all ingredients in a small sauce pot.  Cook mixture on medium heat until it starts to thicken.   The filling should be close to jam consistency (not watery) when done.


Click here for a printable version of this recipe.

Doesn't Grandma's touch just make everything taste better?

Do you have a prized recipe that your Grandma used to make/makes?   

If so, please leave a comment below - I would love to hear them!
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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Past Two Weeks

We celebrated our two year wedding anniversary 50+ floors above Boston.  The view was breathtaking and the champagne and excellent cuisine just threw it over the top.

I can't believe how fast two years goes by!  It seems like just yesterday that I was saying, "I do!"

I am definitely a lucky girl.  I am very blessed to have such a wonderful husband and I can't imagine life without him.  I love you, Carl! xoxo



We harvested the very first pea from our garden.  It was sweet and delicious and Ecto-cooler green!


Our basil was starting to grow out of control so I made pesto and then slathered it on this bad boy.


I also made one with pepperoni - as this is a must if you live with the human garbage disposal Carl.


I've been training hard for the Boilermaker 15K coming up in just a few short weeks.  I've had a few near death experiences, but I'm surviving.... BARELY.  We'll see what the next 13 days brings - hopefully new lungs and faster legs.


Carl convinced me to make homemade LOBSTA rolls.  WICKED good indeed.


Carl brainwashed Henry into thinking the Indiana Jones marathon was the coolest thing since peanut butter, cheese and ice cream combined.


We went to the New England Revolution game and painfully sat through 90+ scoreless minutes. #NOTCOOL.


Henry couldn't bear the thought of it either.


Henry and I put the theory "the way to a man's heart is through his stomach" to a test on Father's day.  I think we were successful with these steak and cheese breakfast burritos.



Sweet Sunday hammock bliss.

...until I fell asleep and was woken up by 60lb raccoon climbing up my hammock tree.  Just saying: If raccoons were chasing me in the Boilermaker... I could come in first place - for sure.  I'll leave it at that.


Nutella brownie bites with Nutella buttercream frosting helped me survive the traumatic raccoon experience.


This dapper dude was the only one that came to my rescue.  I'm pretty sure everyone in the neighborhood heard me except for Carl... who was only 500ft away.


Oh ha-PEA day...


...x 2538798375 when I stumbled upon these babies.


We finally got to catch up with my sister and BIL.  It was great to hear about their trip to DisneyWorld while chowing down on homemade chicken nuggets.  Classy dinner, I know! (PHOTO COURTESY of my other BIL - Peter)


My "breakfast of champions" lately - Rice cakes, almond butter and bananas.


...with Samoa crunch bars chasers!


I was blessed and incredibly lucky to meet up with one of my absolute favorite bloggers on earth - Amanda from www.kevinandamanda.com!  These treats were well deserved after walking 24580 miles though Boston while our faces melted off in 95+ degree heat.


Followed by a little Modern Pastry redemption from my "Johnny Cupcake isn't really a cupcake shop incident."  I'll save that story for another day though - I'm still shuttering in embarrassment!



We capped off our delicious day together at Nebo feasting on delicious pizza and great conversation. My belly was full and my heart was even fuller.  A special Thank you to Amanda and Kevin for a great day!  You totally made my day/week/month and probably year too!



My dear friend got married!!  I'm pretty sure she was one of the prettiest brides to ever walk this earth.  I may or definitely did cry through the entire ceremony.


This salad at the wedding was life changing.  So life changing that the next day I ran to the grocery store and bought every single ingredient to try to re-create it.  I'll let you know how that turns out.


Am I right? or am I right?  How gorgeous is she!?  Monaa and I have been friends for many years.  We went to college together and also cheered our division 1 basketball team on for four years.  I love her so much!  Congratulations Monaa + John! Enjoy your honeymoon in St. Lucia!


Carl decided to take the "scenic" route home from the wedding in Saratoga - which had us driving through almost every NE state you could possibly imagine.  Three hours into the drive he shouts, "The Hartfords are driving through Hartford, VT!"


We were happy to pick Henry up from his doggy-cation with his pals Joe+Sam.  It was pretty great seeing how happy he was to see his momma and daddy - it defintely made the 2958 mile drive through New England worth it!! On another note:  I think he was also happy to hear that doggy braces are NOT in his future.


We rounded off the weekend with homemade peach cobbler for me and raspberry cobbler for Carl. The two scoops of ice cream on top were totally excessive necessary.


Get in ma belly!

This is how we all feel after the past two weeks.  Although, if Henry were president, I'm pretty sure he would be a strict enforcer of nap time.  He's got my vote.
And last but not least - a real treat... I'll leave the caption of this one up to you guys.   (Thanks to our dear friend, Connie for this hilarious picture!)
I hope you all had a wonderful weekend! xoxo.

Want to keep up with me on Instagram?  You can find me here.
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