Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Eat: Cinnamon Swirl Banana Bread

Last Sunday it snowed.

And snowed.

And snowed.

All of our plans were cancelled and all of the weekend chores were completed. I found myself with a whole lot of free time. Plus there was a small pile of bananas on the kitchen counter getting spottier and spottier by the minute. What else was a girl to do but bake some homemade banana bread? I checked out several recipes and compiled them into this deeeelicious cinnamon swirl confection. Let me tell ya, it's very good. Several-compliments-from-my-husband good. It has a lighter texture than that of most quick breads. The cinnamon-sugar flavor is a subtle and appetizing addition to the traditional flavor and it is a healthier alternative to chocolate banana bread.

Cinnamon Swirl Banana Bread

2 cups self-rising flour flour*
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
2 eggs
1/3 cup vanilla yogurt (or regular yogurt + splash of vanilla extract)
3 ripe bananas, mashed
1/4 cup sugar
1-2 tsp cinnamon

*If you don't have self-rising flour, substitute with 2 cups regular flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp salt.

Preheat your oven to 350°F.

Cream together the sugar and softened butter. Incorporate the eggs one at a time, then the yogurt and mashed bananas. Now mix in the self-rising flour (or previously combined flour, baking powder, and salt).

Pour about half of the batter into a greased loaf pan (8.5 x 4.5 inches). Now in a separate bowl, stir together the cinnamon and sugar. Pour about half of that onto the batter. Using a clean tooth pick or knife, swirl the cinnamon-sugar blend into the batter. Pour the remaining batter into the pan and top with the remaining cinnamon-sugar.

Bake for approximately 50 minutes. Allow the pan to cool slightly (5-10 minutes) before removing your bread. Run a knife along the interior sides of the pan to loosen the loaf. Invert the pan onto a plate to remove the bread. Then flip the loaf again right-side up.

Be sure to grab a slice while it is still warm!

Tip: Do you have some rapidly ripening bananas? Just toss them as-is into the freezer and save them for when you have time to bake. They will turn black and once thawed be a bit of a mushy mess. That being said, they are perfectly good for baking! Just smoosh the fruit out of the peel and into a bowl.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Make: St. Patrick's Day Wreath

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

February 27th...

Megan: I guess I should take down our Valentine's Wreath, since February's over...but it's so gray and cold now, it seems stupid to put up our springy orchid wreath.

Matthew: You should make a St. Patrick's Day wreath.

Oh, how I love my husband!!

I did not need to hear this suggestion more than once before I hit the ground running with green felt and grapevines.

Basically, I cut out several clover-shapes in different sizes and stacked them together with some thread and buttons. I also used this flower tutorial. Lastly, I sewed little triangles along some ribbon to create a banner.

This was a decidedly not megan style of wreath, since I tend towards overly intricate projects that allow me to channel all of my not-quite-OCD energy. I did enjoy the change of pace and think I managed to pull off the "relaxed look" well enough.

Right now, my slow cooker is full of corned beef, cabbage, and potatoes. There's some beer bread baking too. Needless to say, my house smells very Irish and very good!

A special thanks to my grandmother who gave me an this old grapevine wreath she found in her basement.
It took a bit of elbow grease, but I managed to remove all of the hotglued bows, birds, and bulbs.


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Monday, March 11, 2013

Eat: Scones, Scones, Scones!

Our family recipe binder is bursting at the seams, so lately I've been focusing on simple "base" recipes that I can easily build on or diversify. This scone recipe is a great example. I would not recommend making this recipe as-is, that is to say without "dolling it up" a bit (unless you enjoy plain baked goods). No, these scones are meant for a dash of this and handful of that whatever you fancy or have in your kitchen!

See below for a variety of "dolling up" ideas; just incorporate the additional ingredients as you prepare the base recipe.

Simple Scones yields 8-10 scones
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes

2 cups self-rising flour
     OR 2 cups all-purpose flour with 1 tsp baking powder and 1 tsp salt
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup sugar
6 Tablespoons butter
2/3 cup milk

Sift together the flour, sugar, and salt. Cut in the butter until the mixture is crumbly. Gradually add the milk and mix into a soft dough. Place on a floured (or greased) baking sheet and roll into a flat circular shape. Cut the dough into wedges (like you are slicing a pizza) but do not try to separate the scones. Bake for 15-20 minutes at 400°F.


Bacon Cheddar: 1/2 tsp pepper, 1 cup grated cheddar, 8 slices of bacon (cooked, crumbled), 2-4 green onions (sliced), leave out the sugar!

Spinach & Feta: 4 ounces feta (crumbled), several handfuls of fresh spinach, salt & pepper to taste, leave out the sugar!

Mediterranean: 3/4 cup roasted red peppers (diced), handful of kalamata olives (sliced), 2 ounces feta (crumbled), salt & pepper to taste, leave out the sugar!

Lemon Blueberry: 1-2 tsp lemon juice, 1 cup blueberries

Cinnamon Sugar: Mix together 1/4 cup sugar, 2 tsp cinnamon, 2 tsp milk. Spread on scones prior to baking.

Honey Raspberry: 1/4 cup honey, 1 tsp vanilla extract, 1 cup raspberries

Pecan Streusal: Mix together 1/3 cup brown sugar, 1/3 cup oats, 1 T all-purpose flour, 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, 2 T melted butter, 1/4 cup chopped pecans. Sprinkle on top of scones prior to baking.

Pumpkin Pie: 1/2 cup pumpkin puree, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp nutmeg, a pinch of cloves, and a pinch of ginger. Also, substitute the white sugar with brown sugar.

If all else fails, throw a handful of chocolate chips into the dough!