Yes PUMPKIN! Yes BANANAS! This bread is awesomely amazing and I can’t stop making it. I currently have 3 loaves in my freezer! I found myself last month with about 35 bananas from our tree in the back yard. It was the end of October and I had pumpkin on the brain too! So I found a recipe for Pumpkin Banana Bread with Vanilla Bean Glaze which is really yummy, but I had to make it my own…in other words I had to get some chocolate in there! So here’s my version and I know you will love it!
3 very ripe bananas, peeled and mashed
1 c sugar
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree
2 cups self-rising flour
2 eggs, room temp
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice
pinch of salt
1 c semi-sweet chocolate chips
Using mixer, blend bananas and sugar. Add pumpkin until well-blended. Slowly add flour (or else you’ll get a dust storm!) Then add eggs, vanilla, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice and salt until smooth. Stir in the chocolate chips by hand. I’m sure some chopped walnuts would be lovely as well. I like to make this in 2 loaf pans (one to keep and one to give away!) or sometimes in 4 mini loaf pans, the disposable kind, so that I can make these as gifts. You just need to grease and flour the pans lightly and divide the batter evenly between them. Bake at 350 for approx 40-45 minutes. Testing with a toothpick helps determine when it’s done.
Yummy and satisfying like a big warm hug, this is probably the best and quickest lasagna I’ve ever made.
3-4 Garlic cloves
1/2 Onion, chopped
2 Carrots, 1 Rib of Celery, 1/2 Green Bell Pepper all chopped
1 lb ground beef
dried basil, oregano, thyme, red pepper flakes, salt, pepper
Jar marinara sauce
Box of ready to bake lasagna pasta
3 tbsp Butter
1/4 c flour
2 c warm milk (may not use it all but it’s best to have enough ready to go)
4 c shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 c parmesan cheese
Meat Sauce: Using a large skillet sautee onion and garlic in some olive oil until translucent, but not brown. Add in remaining chopped veggies. You can always use just what’s on hand including zucchini, mushrooms, etc. Cook for about 3-4 minutes. Push the veggies to the outer edge of pan and throw the ground beef in the middle. Using the wooden spoon break up the meat so it can all get cooked and start to brown up. Add in your spices now too so they can cook with the beef. Add enough of your favorite marinara sauce so that you are left with a thick meat sauce (not too runny). Throw in some red pepper flakes for a little kick. At this point I like to puree my meat sauce with an immersion blender stick (do be extremely careful when using this tool or a blender, you need to let the sauce cool down as it may spatter and you could get burned!). I do this because my little ones don’t like the sauce chunky and, to be honest, I am now quite fond of the smooth texture. If you want to make your own sauce I would add a large can of peeled whole tomatoes (I love San Marzano) along with a large can of the same tomatoes but “crushed” variety. This gives you a nice thick sauce and would have to cook for at least 30-45 min and I would probably have added more garlic and herbs at the beginning.
Béchamel (White) Sauce: In a large skillet melt the butter with 1-2 TBSP olive oil. When it starts to bubble add the flour and whisk. The trick is to make sure you have enough liquid in the pan so that the flour doesn’t just become a thick ball of dough so be sure to add the flour 1 spoon at a time. Let the flour cook about a minute and then begin adding the warm milk about 1/4 c at a time. Keep whisking and keep the temp high enough so that it is constantly bubbling, and you will see a nice creamy sauce come together. Add salt, pepper and if you like some nutmeg. This sauce thickens as it sits so feel free to make it a little runny.
Building the Lasagna: Spread a few spoonfuls of the meat sauce in the bottom of a 9×13 pan. Cover with your ready to bake lasagna sheets leaving space in between them. Trust me they expand and you will not be left with gaps. Now spread a good layer of meat sauce and top that with a bit of the béchamel. This sauce is thicker and won’t spread as easily, thats ok. As it heats it will spread. Next is a light layer of mozzarella and a sprinkle of parmesan. You will probably get 2 more layers like this one. On top finish with the last of the meat sauce and cheeses. Cover this with foil and bake at 350 for about 40 minutes. Remove the foil and cook about 15 more minutes until the top is bubbly (I usually put the broiler on to get the cheese to brown up)
OK I’m not a chef but I do love to cook! I grew up watching and eventually helping my mom in the kitchen. Its where she spent most of her time, still does now that I think about it. And so it’s inevitable that I too spend much of my time cooking! I have fun doing it and, to be honest, I feel proud when I can serve my family a fresh, healthy meal. My girls are still pretty young but when I’m in the kitchen cooking they almost always want to watch and help me! Hmmm…I wonder where they get it from?! LOL
I’m going to share recipes on this blog and it’s primarily because I have a terrible memory and have recipes scribbled down on bits and pieces of paper that can be found in almost every drawer in my house! I need someplace to centralize my notes and this is as good a place as any. Most of my recipes come from my mom and most of them have the classic “about a cup of” and “a pinch of” as measurements. That used to freak me out when I started cooking on my own, but over the years I’ve seen it turn into an opportunity to experiment with a recipe and make it my own. So, dear reader, should you decide to try one of my recipes don’t be afraid to change something to your liking and if you have a question just leave a comment!
Gia sharing a cookie with baby sister!
I absolutely love that Sprout is searching for a kind kid to be their “Chief Kindness Officer”! Teaching and fostering kindness in our children is so important and Sprout wants to share how our kids demonstrate acts of kindness. (For more info on the contest click here!) Now, more than ever before, I’m seeing how important it is to model the behavior and habits I hope my girls will one day take on as their own. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to program them to be any certain way, I’m just trying to set a good example. I value kindness and thoughtfulness and if I don’t demonstrate those qualities then how can I expect them to? I think this contest is a great way for me to show Gia that there are so many different ways we can be kind everyday. I hope you will be inspired to talk to your little ones about kindness and share a picture as well. Who knows? You might win a trip to Sprout’s HQ and better yet, a charitable donation will be made in your childs’ name!
I’m faced with yet another challenge! My girls were born 5 days apart (and 2 years of course!). Come birthday time – what do we do? 1 party for both? Well, that was my intention this year since the baby was turning 1 and, let’s be honest, she won’t know the difference! But then my sanity flew out the window and I planned a cookout at the last minute to celebrate Bianca’s big day. Nothing fancy, but lots of work nonetheless! Then it was Gia’s turn and since her birthday fell on a school day I obligated myself to taking cupcakes in the afternoon so we could all sing her “Happy Birthday” together! And finally the “kiddie party” was on the weekend. Dora has been playing a big part in her life lately so I stuck with that theme.
I sure wish I had been smart enough to come up with the concept for Party City! Whoever did must be a gazillionaire!!! I’m such a sucker for putting together a nice-looking party, though. Thank goodness I love arts and crafts and I always try to have a few (if not most) of the decorations homemade.
Here is my version of Dora’s friend Map! I got the idea from one of my favorite websites: Pinterest! I used low-fat cheese sticks and a Sharpie to draw the face on. It only took about 5 minutes to do 24 of them.
Fullfilling, rewarding, fun, joyful…I can think of a million adjectives to describe what it’s like being a parent, but easy isn’t one of them! It seems like its just one thing after another. There are some really tough days and nobody tells you before you have kids that it will be like that. Its just one of those things you have to experience for yourself…and along the way just keep appreciating those amazing moments when you wouldn’t trade places with anyone for anything in the world!
Sometimes it’s just really hard to find balance. Continue reading
Alcalá de Guadaíra
Thank you everyone for your advice and encouragement prior to our big trip to Spain. The long flight with the two little ones wasn’t so bad, but maybe I was just psychologically prepared for no sleep at all! The couple of hours I actually got were a luxury The 7 hour layover in Madrid was dreadfully long but thankfully we found a rather nice children’s area with toys for kids of all ages and even a quiet room for naps. We packed snacks, we had toys and crayons and books, but at the end of the day what did my toddler do? Play on the iPad.
Bianca’s Baptism day
Alcalá is a special place. It’s a place where you walk through town everyday, you bump into friends on the street, and your kids play outside every single day. Maybe I’m just feeling a little nostalgic but they really do “work to live” rather than “live to work” like so many of us do here.
While there we baptised Bianca and we’re so lucky we could! Such a special day we will always treasure.
We also got to have fun at the Feria which is a sort of carnival that happens every year. It’s really hard to explain, and the pictures don’t do it justice but just trust me when I say it’s like nothing you’ve ever seen! I’ll puts some pics at the end of the post.
I think the big lesson from the trip for me was to accept that our routines were gonna change. I focused on trying to keep some of the basic structure of our daily routine but realized quickly there was no way that it was going to be the exactly same. Bedtime? That was the tough one! The sun didn’t set until about 9pm and we never even sat down for dinner before then. All in all it worked out, and as family, we really enjoyed ourselves. When we departed all we could talk about was when can we come back? next summer? can more of my cousins make it with their kids too? I have so many wonderful memories of the time I spent in Spain throughout my own childhood and nothing would make me happier than for my girls to have a similar experience.
That was until the flight home.