Monthly Archives:

January 2018

Win a Basket of My Hand Crafted Products!

I’ve been a little behind on blog posts recently as I’ve been busy updating my Etsy shop for Valentine’s Day. Since I’ve added some new products, I wanted to give everyone a chance to win an assortment of them! The basket will include 2 custom/monogrammed ceramic mugs, a soy candle made from a recycled wine bottle and a set of hand crafted note cards. To enter, just comment on this blog post with either a suggestion for a new product to add to my Etsy shop or something you would like to read about on the blog in the future.

One winner from below will be selected at random on Sunday evening, January 28th.

For additional chances to win, visit me on Facebook and Instagram!

Thank you for all the love and support! Good Luck!

XOXO

My Kids Asked for Banana Bread….

I have no idea why, but for the last week my kids have been begging me to make them banana bread. Like, asking me multiple times a day if I can make it for them. I’m not sure where this is coming from since I’ve never made it or had it in the house – I HATE bananas. So does my oldest, but apparently he still likes banana bread. That makes sense…. But I figure since it has bananas in it, it has to be a healthier option than the brownies and cupcakes I’m usually baking so it’s worth trying!

I thought it was going to be as easy as pulling out a recipe and mashing up the bananas I had on hand then mixing them into a little flour and sugar. HA! So I pulled out my newest cookbook that I got this Christmas since I seem to have good luck with the America’s Test Kitchen and Cooks Illustrated recipes. Their banana bread recipe called for super ripe bananas….and of course this is one of the handful of times the bananas we have in the house are green….  So I learned about ripening bananas. If you put them in a brown bag and keep it closed (try and store in a warm room in the house) they will ripen much faster. (If you’re interested in this and want to know why it works, google it 🙂 Unfortunately it still took about 3 days – and I had 3 more days of explaining to the kids why they needed to wait longer for this bread…. I should have just looked up a different recipe at this point!

So eventually the bananas were rip enough to give this a try. The kids loved it, my husband loved it, so if you like bananas (or maybe even if you don’t) then you should give it a shot! Fair warning – your entire house will smell of bananas, and not a good banana smell. Somehow, even the basement smelled like bananas (dare I say rotten bananas?!?) Maybe I’m just sensitive to the banana smell.

So this recipe is from the Cook’s Illustrated Baking Book – I highly recommend it – so far everything has turned out amazing!

You will  need:

  • 1 and 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 6 very ripe bananas (I only had 5 and this worked just fine)
  • 8 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped (optional)
  • 2 tsp sugar

  1. Adjust the oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 350º F. Spray 8.5 x 4.5 inch loaf pan with vegetable oil spray (I used Baker’s Joy and it worked great).
  2. Place 5 bananas in a bowl, cover and microwave until bananas are soft and have released liquid, about 5 minutes. Transfer bananas to fine mesh strainer over a bowl and allow to drain. Stir occasionally. After about 15 minutes you should have about 1/2 to 3/4 cup liquid.

    I know – not pretty – but keep going! (It’s going to look worse before it looks better)
  3. While you are waiting on the bananas, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt in a large bowl.
  4. Transfer the banana liquid to a small saucepan and cook over medium-high heat until reduced to 1/4 cup. Remove from heat and stir liquid into bananas. Mash with a potato masher until mostly smooth.
  5. Whisk in the melted butter, eggs, brown sugar and vanilla.

    I’m assuming this is what it looks like to make banana bread….doing it for the kids…
  6. Pour banana mixture into bowl with dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Some streaks of flour should remain. If using, fold in walnuts. Scrape batter into pan.

    He makes it look a little better 🙂
  7. Slice remaining banana diagonally into 1/4 inch thick slices and shingle on top of loaf in two rows (leaving an inch between). Sprinkle sugar evenly over top of loaf.

    Finally looking like something that may become edible!
  8. Bake until toothpick inserted into middle of loaf comes out clean. This can be as quick as 55 minutes, or up to an hour and 15 minutes. Mine was on the longer side. Let cool for 10 minutes in pan then transfer to wire rack to cool for an hour.
Not so bad after all!

This is best served warm but I did make a second time and it stays for a few days if tightly covered.

Now, how to get this banana smell out of the house…..

 

Easy Pasta e Fagioli

The frigid weather we’ve had over the past couple weeks had left my family in the mood for a “comfort” soup without all the calories that “comfort” usually brings. I had made pasta e fagioli before and it was really good, but I knew it could be better. Over the weekend I looked at a bunch of different recipes and combined what I thought were the best parts of each. I made it earlier this week and everyone in the house loved it. There are a few changes I would make for next time, so I am just going to include those below…. Don’t be intimidated by the long ingredient list. This is actually very simple to get onto the stove – then you can enjoy a glass (or two) of wine while it simmers!

You will need:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped (or 1 full onion if it’s small)
  • 1 and 1/2 pounds ground beef (I like to use ground beef, however this soup typically uses an Italian sausage. My kids prefer ground beef and I think it’s a perfect substitute. Most recipes also call for 1 pound of meat. I use more because with three boys, we need it!)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 carrots, shredded or cut into short, thin strips (I did not use carrots this time but would add in next time for sure)
  •  2 stalks celery, diced (another one I didn’t use this time but would definitely add in next)
  • 28 oz can whole peeled tomatoes
  • 2 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup water
  • 15 oz. can red kidney beans drained and rinsed
  • 15 oz. can white beans, drained and rinsed
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp basil (optional – my husband hates it so we never use it!)
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup ditalini pasta
  • Parmesan cheese and fresh parsley to garnish

  1. In a large pot, heat 1 tbsp olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the carrots, celery and garlic and cook an additional 2 minutes.
  2. Add the remaining tablespoon olive oil and the meat. Cook until browned and little to no pink remains.
  3. Add the chicken stock, wine and water.
  4. In a food processor, puree the tomatoes and their juices until they are a consistency you enjoy (my kids don’t like chunks of tomato in their food so I puree until mostly smooth). Add the tomatoes and bring to a boil.
  5. Add the beans then mix in the seasonings. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed (the amount you will need will vary depending on the type of meat you are using). I add about 1 tsp salt and 1 tsp pepper at this point. Simmer for at least one hour (up to 90 minutes if you have time – my kids were starving and I let simmer for about 30 minutes and the beans were not as flavorful as we wanted).                                                                                                              
  6. When you are ready to eat, bring the soup back to a boil and add the pasta. It will absorb a LOT more liquid than you probably expect. If you want this to be more “soupy” add about 1/2 cup pasta. If you would like more of a stew consistency you can add 3/4 to 1 cup pasta. Cook according to the instructions on the package.

    Right before serving
  7. Top with Parmesan cheese and fresh parsley if desired!

(This is how it thickens with the pasta after sitting a while. I added too much pasta this time around, though no one complained!!)

Enjoy!

Snow Day Waffles

Yay – snow day!!!! This morning there was a little extra time to make the kids a fun breakfast instead of throwing a bowl of cereal in front of them to scarf down in 5 minutes before running to the bus stop. Their request…Star Wars waffles! Of course they request waffles when we are out of our favorite Aunt Jemima mix… so today I learned it’s actually super easy and quick to make waffles from scratch! And the ingredients are probably everything you already have in your cabinets.

I started with a receipe from Allrecipes.com and just tweaked it slightly. The batter tasted a little bland so I added a little extra sugar, salt and vanilla. (It’s a snow day – already loosening up on the New Year’s resolutions!) You can find the original recipe here.

All you will need is:

  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 and 3/4 cups milk (I used 1%)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • fruit and whipped cream for toppings (or chocolate chips, etc.)

I mixed the ingredients with my Kitchen Aid stand mixer, however a hand mixer would work just fine. You could probably also whisk ingredients by hand and get a little arm workout in!

  1. Preheat waffle iron.
  2. Beat the 2 eggs until light and fluffy – this took several minutes using the whisk attachment at medium to medium high speed.                                                                                                         
  3. Add the flour, milk, oil, sugar, salt, baking powder and vanilla extract. Mix until well combined. (I switched to the paddle attachment to mix these ingredients.)                                                             
  4. Spray waffle iron with cooking spray. Pour mix into waffle iron and cook until golden brown.
  5. Top with fruit, chocolate chips, whipped cream, etc. and serve! (This made about 7 “Star Wars” waffles which are very large!!)

Enjoy!!

 

Happy New Year 2018!

Where did 2017 go?!?!

But what a fun year to look back on! We started the year with a family trip to Disney – my boys’ first time there! It was my youngest son’s first flight….and one we will NEVER forget (not in a good way – he screamed…and screamed….for what felt like hours). Fortunately the plane ride home was a complete 180 and this went down as our best family vacation yet (obviously we had a lot of help – my parents and brother and his family came along for this one).

We also spent a weekend with the kids in Vermont – a lot less relaxing than we anticipated since the original plan was a kid-free weekend away…. but they still talk about that weekend and I’m happy it worked out that they came with us 🙂

Over the summer we took the kids on a family trip to Jamaica, this time with my husband’s side of the family. Despite major issues and delays getting both there and home (hours and hours and hours of delays) we managed a little relaxation and some great tans 🙂

My oldest son started Kindergarten and my youngest started a 2’s program for a couple hours a day leaving me with 2 hours of kid-free time for the first time in 6 years!!! What a mix of emotions!

My husband and I (thanks to my parents for the gift card and his parents for the babysitting) got to have an amazing dinner at the famous James Beard House. This was a truly unique experience and an evening we’ll always remember!

Then just over 3 months ago I dug up the courage to start the blog I had been thinking about for quite some time. As I sit here writing this I can’t believe it’s only been 3 months because SO much has happened in not so much time….. I spent the first month trying to figure out how to set up the website and just get it up and running with some basic content. Then I had the amazing opportunity to host a launch party at my favorite store – Athleta – so the next month was jam packed with planning for that and building the website out even more.

I unexpectedly received requests for some of the products I made and put up on the blog so I started an Etsy shop and even had a table set up at several ladies “shopping” events in town! I never expected to receive as many orders as I did and ended up spending most of December filling these orders! (This led to some last minute craziness trying to start and finish my own Christmas shopping less than a week before Christmas then prepare to host Christmas at our house – but with some (or a LOT) of help from my husband it all got done and I think my boys had their best Christmas yet!)

 

Christmas Dessert Table
Lemon Bundt Cake
Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownies and Cookies
Chocolate Cupcakes

I’m really looking forward to what 2018 has in store! I definitely plan to build this blog up as much as I can and also add new products to my Etsy shop. Maybe tomorrow I will even get back to the gym for the first time in over 2 months!!!!

A huge thank you to all my friends, family and followers that have been so amazing and supportive these last several months. Especially to my hubby who does more behind the scenes for this than you could imagine (this blog probably should have been called “CanthonyGrams”)!

Cheers to an amazing 2018 filled with much health and happiness!

XOXO

We tried to remove the Stormtrooper mask….that was NOT happening!