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"O taste and see that the LORD is good." Psalms 34:8a

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Going Bananas

This post has been a long time coming, but I'm finally getting around to sharing our recent Banana Bread adventures.  Whenever the girls help me bake, I can only let them do a few simple things before they get "into" our experience too much, my OCD compulsions begin, and the sparks start to fly.  I'm looking forward to the day when they can help me more responsibly, and our experience can be more enjoyable.  The girls did have fun peeling and mashing the bananas though, and that's what I hope they remember someday.
Peeling bananas
Mashing, 
 and Mashing!  I had to let the girls use my vintage masher since my regular one's handle broke the other day.  They don't make them like they used to!
Adding the dry ingredients,
and, of course, we've got to add a few chocolate chips.  I'm so glad I can get soy-free chocolate chips at Earth Fare in Johnson City so Audrey can enjoy chocolate once in a while.
 The girls were trying to stay out of trouble while I finished the bread.  I wish they got along this well all the time!
Yummy!  I love how using yogurt makes for a healthier and yet moister finished product.

Yogurt Banana Bread
(I started with this recipe and cut the fat and sugar content)

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup plain yogurt (I like Greek style the best)
  • 6 very ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 cups whole wheat PASTRY flour
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 3/4 cup chopped walnuts or shredded coconut

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease two 9x5 inch loaf pans.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Stir in the eggs one at a time, beating well with each addition. Stir in the yogurt, bananas, and vanilla. Stir together the flour, cinnamon, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Blend the flour mixture into the banana mixture; stir just enough to evenly combine. Fold in the chocolate chips and walnuts or shredded coconut.
  3. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean, about 60 minutes. Cool loaf in the pan for 20 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.



Monday, March 12, 2012

Blueberries into Blueberry Jam

Today I'm posting my version of turning lemons into lemonade...except with blueberries....

We enjoyed a wonderful visit from my parents the last week in February, but on the day they were flying in from Minnesota, the extra refrigerator/freezer in our basement decided to start giving us trouble.  The next day, I discovered that it had given up the ghost completely, leaving me with pounds of thawing meat, vegetables, and blueberries we had picked at a local organic blueberry farm during the summer.  I'm so glad my parents were here to help us eat up my thawed stash (we only had to throw two frozen meals away), but what could I do with 9 thawed containers of blueberries?  I'd never gotten to make blueberry jam this summer when we picked, so now was my chance.

I found a great lower-sugar recipe here at the Driscoll's site which worked well.
I did find that I had to add an extra cup of sugar to make it sweet enough for my taste, but even with my adjustment, the ratio of fruit to sugar in this recipe (11 c. fruit to 2 c. sugar) is significantly lower than the low-sugar recipe on the packet of pectin I had in the house (1 1/3 c. fruit to 1 c. sugar.)  I had to cook it twice as long as the recipe states to get it to the right consistency, but I'm sure that the cooking time varies greatly depending on the water content of the fruit as well as the humidity on the day you're making the jam.
We enjoyed our delicious blueberry preserves on homemade wheat bread toast for breakfast this morning.  And yes, the daffodils have been blooming already; we've had such a mild winter they think spring is already here!

Yummy!  My girls love it.
Grandma and Grandpa enjoy their time with their granddaughters.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Valentine's Cranberry Walnut Bread


Cooking is one of those everyday tasks I enjoy.  That is, I enjoy it when I'm not being bugged incessantly by my daughters.  Often, when that supper crunch time starts, and I start getting ingredients together, the whining, fussing, and fighting rises to a fever pitch.  At these times, in the back of my mind, I'm often musing that those cooking show competitions are for wimps.  They get to focus completely on their cooking!  What if they had to deal with a preschooler and a toddler at the same time, AND get supper on the table from start to finish in 45 minutes?

I love cooking for other people to enjoy.  It really wouldn't be worth the mess otherwise.  Our church's Ladies Fellowship luncheon this past Friday inspired me to finally try to recreate some delicious whole wheat cranberry walnut bread I had from Earth Fare a few months ago.
 I love my bread machine!  It makes homemade bread possible every week in our house!  I always use the dough cycle and then let the loaf rise for about 35-40 minutes.
 The egg wash made the top "golden brown and delicious."  
 Use a Valentine's cookie cutter for heart-shaped bread, 
add some yummy cranberry chicken salad... 
and voila!, finger sandwiches worthy of Valentine's Day!
 I guess it's hard to tell they're hearts in this picture.  Maybe next time I'll choose a single heart cutter.  This was the one I had closest to the size of the bread slices.

I returned home with an empty platter after the fellowship.  I hope you enjoy trying this as much as I did.

Cranberry Walnut Wheat Bread
(I used this recipe as my starting point: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/french-baguettes/detail.aspx)
1 1/4 c. water (I use filtered to avoid the chlorine)
1 tbsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 1/2 c. bread flour
1 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
1/3 c. dried cranberries
1/4 c. chopped walnuts
1 1/2 tsp. quick rising yeast

1 egg

1. Place all ingredients except for egg in bread machine pan in the order recommended by the manufacturer.  Set to dough cycle and push start.
2. When dough cycle finishes, shape dough into a loaf on floured counter, and place into a  lightly greased loaf pan.  Cover, and let rise in a warm place for 35 minutes.
3. Heat oven to 400 degrees F.  Whisk egg, then brush over the top of the loaf.  Bake for 24 minutes or until loaf is golden brown.

Cranberry Chicken Salad
2 cooked boneless, skinless chicken breasts, shredded or chopped
(I used seasoning salt & onion powder on mine before baking for about 45 minutes)
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 green onion, thinly sliced
1/3 c. dried cranberries
1 1/4 c. mayonnaise
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper

Mix all ingredients and chill for at least 1 hour for flavors to combine.  Enjoy on Cranberry Walnut Wheat Bread!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Soaking in the Sun


 Just lying in the grass, soaking in the sun.  
If only we all would take time to enjoy the simple things.
 Picking grass together.
 "Mommy, look at the honey bee!"
"Take a picture of my flower."
"I'm sleeping"

We enjoyed a warm spring-like day on Friday.  
I'm glad being a Mom makes me take time to stop what I'm doing indoors and enjoy going outside.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Hello!

There are two types of dinnerware:  everyday china and fine china.  Fine china is more expensive and typically requires a lot more TLC than the everyday stuff.  Everyday china, on the other hand, is tougher, easier to care for, and less pricey.  Although most of us only see our fine china a few times a year, if we're lucky, we enjoy our everyday china all the time.  It often gets banged around, dropped on the floor, thrown into the microwave, crusted with leftovers, and shoved hastily into the dishwasher.  We take it for granted, yet we couldn't do without it.


Since becoming an ordinary Mommy in 2007, I've gotten beat up by the everyday; things like diapers, mincing food into tiny pieces, wiping up spills, repeating myself a million times....Many stay-at-home Moms experience the same frustration and monotony of focus.  Things to which we never even payed attention before we had children now take center stage as our day-long battles; and, before we know it, we find our minds and emotions stuck there, in the bathroom with our potty-training toddler.


Lately, I've felt the Lord urging me to purposefully step outside the everyday battles and notice the extraordinary in the everyday things, the daily miracles I overlook because the mundane frustrations of existence are shouting so loudly in my face.  Yes, life is mundane, messy, and often painful, but little joys wait silently in the background of everyday.  Lord, help me to notice them and rejoice in Your daily care for me!  Thank you, Lord, for life's "everyday china."  Psalms 34:8 "O taste and see that the Lord is good!"