Best Ever Banana Bread

 

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This is my family’s favorite banana bread recipe. It turn out great every time! I am always surprised at how fluffy it is compared to other banana breads. Another bonus is that it is so easy to make that even my 4 year old son can do it. I helped him make a few mini loaves to give his teachers as a end of the year thank you. He was so excited to give them something he made and he made sure he told them that!

What You Need:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 medium-large very ripe bananas (1 cup mashed)
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • Bread pans
  • 3 bowls (or 2 bowls and a blender) – 1 of them large for mixing
*Preheat oven to 325º

 

Directions:

**The trick to great banana bread is, the less stirring you do once you add the wet and dry ingredients together, the lighter and fluffier the bread will be!

Step 1: Add peeled bananas and sour cream together. I like to use the blender to do this, but you can mash them together in separate bowl, too. I also don’t wait for the frozen bananas to defrost completely before opening them. I find it less messy to set the bananas out for 20 minutes (or run under cool water for a few minutes) and then slice the banana peel a few times (the long way). The peel comes off nice and easy and the banana is still whole. Then I set the banana aside to finish thawing while I mix everything else.

 

Step 2: In a separate bowl combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir together and set aside.

 

Step 3: In the large bowl cream the butter and gradually add the sugar. Add one egg at a time and beat well after adding each egg. Add the vanilla and mix.

 

Step 4: Add 1/3 dry mixture and 1/3 banana mixture to the large bowl. Mix well, but not too much! (Remember the trick to great banana bread. See the beginning of instructions above). Add half of the remaining dry mixture and 1/2 of the remaining banana mixture. Mix well, again. Then add the last of the dry and banana mixture and mix. If using the mixer, I do quick starts to the mixer until I do not see any more dry mixture. It should mix pretty easy.

Yes, and we must not forget about the tasting! This is his favorite part!

 

Step 5: Pour batter into well greased bread pans. Add mix-ins, if wanted and stir them in lightly. We love to bake them in mini loaf pans for gifting and our favorite mix-ins are chocolate chips and/or craisins.

 

Step 6: Bake in oven. For large bread pans around 70-75 minutes (or until you can stick a fork in it and it comes out clean). For mini bread pans, it will be around 50-55 minutes depending on your oven (or until the fork trick!). Times may vary with ovens and elevation. Once removed from oven, let bread cool 20 minutes before removing it from the pan. I find using a butter knife and going around the edge of the pan (between the bread and the pan), helps the bread come out all in one piece.

 

Enjoy!!!

 

P.S. I know I’m missing a picture of the bread. I meant to take one, but I guess it never happened. I will have to snag one from the next batch we make and add it later. So, sorry! But just think “yummy good!”

I found this recipe while at a dentist appointment and flipping through a Family Fun magazine. My dentist was so nice that he made a copy of the recipe for me. What a great find!

Watermelon Jello Bowl

(Just for the record, they came up with this pose on their own. I just asked them to get near the watermelon!)

My friend made a water melon bowl for a BBQ last week and all the children there were fascinated….and I think my two ate more than anyone else, so I thought it would be fun for us to recreate it. Again, my kids were still very fascinated with it and ended up being great helpers! Fun, cheap, easy and yummy…what is not to love about it!

 

What You Need:

  • Watermelon – about the size of a Volleyball/Basketball
  • 3 Bowls
    • 1 - large enough to support watermelon while in the fridge
    • 1 – to hold all the watermelon once it is scooped out
    • 1- to mix the Jello in
  • Melon scooper, ice cream scooper or large spoons
  • Jello of choice – 2 large boxes
  • Measuring cups
  • Knife (the larger, the easier)
  • Plastic Wrap
  • Fruit (optional)

 

Directions:

Send your kids away while you cut off the top of the watermelon! My little helpers hands were all over the place, so I sent them to go tickle their dad!

Scoop out the watermelon guts using a melon scooper. We don’t have one, but discovered an ice cream scooper works well as long as I didn’t care if the watermelon fruit did not looked pretty coming out. =D

 

You now have your Watermelon Bowl.

 

Get fancy and cut a V-design  on the edge of the watermelon to fix the “it’s a plain watermelon” look.

 

Place Watermelon Bowl inside of a large bowl to give it support while it is setting in the fridge.

 

Boil water for Jello and follow Jello instructions and mix up in a separate bowl. Using ice for a 1/2 cup or so of the cold water helped cool off the water quickly, so it was not too hot before adding it to the Watermelon Bowl.

 

Add Jello to Watermelon Bowl. Cover and let it set in the fridge. If you want to add fruit to the Jello, wait about 1 hour to an 1.5 hours then add the fruit. I was surprised at how fast the Jello set even though it seemed like it was pretty deep. It was finished chilling 5 hours after putting it in the fridge!

 

My kids were so excited about eating from this bowl that they went down for naps with no fights because they were told they could have it if only they took a nap! They also tell everyone that comes over about their creation. It was a lot of fun and really easy to make!

Enjoy!

Yummy Soft Pretzels

Here is the pretzel recipe I talked about previously. I finally found and tried an alternative way to make them and it worked! No more soggy pretzels! The kids have a lot of fun rolling these out and creating. Their favorite thing to do is to create little people. And best of all, these pretzels are oh, so yummy! Here is the recipe:

Ingredients:
Dough
  • 1 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1 1/8 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup bread flour
  • 3 cups regular flour

Soda Solution

  • *2 cups Warm water
  • *2 tablespoons baking soda

* Alternative: instead of using the 2 cups water and the 2 T baking soda use 1 beaten egg (or if you prefer, 2 egg whites)

Topping

  • 1/2 stick of butter (you don’t use all of it) – Sweet Butter is one of “Aunt Annie’s” secrets
  • Cinnamon/Sugar mix for cinnamon pretzels
  • Coarse salt
  • Or other favorite topping

Makes 2 pans or about 12 pretzels

Directions:

Sprinkle yeast on lukewarm water in mixing bowl; stir to dissolve. Add sugar, salt and stir to dissolve; add flour and knead dough until smooth and elastic. (I had to add at least 1/4 cup more water, because it was just too dry.) Let rise at least 1/2 hour.

While dough is rising, prepare a baking soda water bath with 2 cups warm water and 2 Tbsp baking soda. Be certain to stir often (or prepare your beaten egg).

After dough has risen, pinch off bits of dough and roll into a long rope* (about 1/2 inch or less thick) and shape. This is the fun part…Let your children create whatever they can come up with; monsters, people, animals, or making a basic pretzel is just fine, too!

Pretzel people are their favorite to make and balling up the dough and carrying it around in a cup is okay, too! That kept our little friend occupied for a bit!

His man has a lizard head and snake head feet…his own idea!

Dip pretzel in soda solution and place on greased baking sheet. Soda solution works great if you are making a regular pretzel design, but if you are making animals, people and anything else, the egg works better. Alternative: Brush Pretzel with egg, using a spoon. It will give it that nice shine after you bake them.

After coated with the beaten egg and waiting to rise

Allow pretzels to rise again. (Letting them rise is best, but if you are short on time or patience, I set my oven to 200 and let them rise in there for 5 – 10 minutes) Bake in 450 oven for about 10 minutes or until golden (closer to 7 -8 minutes worked best for me). Brush with melted butter and enjoy!

Toppings: after you brush with butter try sprinkling with coarse salt. or for Auntie Anne’s famous Cinnamon Sugar, try melting a stick of butter in a shallow bowl (big enough to fit the entire pretzel) and in another shallow bowl make a mixture of cinnamon and sugar. Dip the pretzel into the butter, coating both sides generously. Then dip again into the cinnamon mixture. I use the stick of butter and brush it over the pretzels just after they get out of the oven. (I didn’t have a shallow bowl big enough to dip the pretzels into!) And it was easier for me to put a pretzel on a plate and sprinkle the salt or the cinnamon/sugar mix on the pretzel rather than dipping the pretzel into the topping. 

* The longer and thinner you can make the dough rope, the more like Auntie Anne’s they will be. The easiest way to get this is by holding the two ends of your dough rope and kind of treating it like a jump rope by swinging it. It will start to stretch out. Once the ends seem to be about the right thickness, then move your hands closer to the center and swing the middle. Swinging is much easier than trying to roll it out to get it long enough!

For us, it worked best for my son to hold one end of the “rope” while I held the other and then we would swing it. He got a little frustrated doing it on his own.
Oh, so good!
And of course, if you leave the room, tell someone that the timer is set for the pretzels that are baking in the oven or this may happen….
The picture does not do them justice. They were rock hard and dark brown!

This recipe can be found  at the CDKitchen under the name “Aunt Annie’s Soft Pretzels.” I made some of my own enhancements to the recipe!

Fruit Smoothie – Yum, Yum!

The weather is getting warmer (and staying warmer, no snow again here!), the trees are getting greener and there are a ton of strawberries at the store! I love warm weather for many reasons, but one of my favorite reasons is because it means that we get to have our favorite treat everyday, if we wanted to. There is nothing better than a cold fruit smoothie made from fresh (or frozen) fruit on a warm day. Yum! It also makes me feel like a better mom because my kids are getting in more fruits and veggies. Yes, I said veggies! I love to add spinach to our smoothies. It does not change the taste and it is good for you. The best of both worlds! Another reason I love to make smoothies so much is because my children really enjoy helping make them, too, making it a really easy and rewarding activity!

Here is how we make ours and I’ll explain the veggies further down.

What You Will Need:

  • Orange juice – fresh or frozen concentrate
  • Fresh or Frozen berries, you choose (we love to add strawberries, blue berries, black berries, and raspberries)
  • Banana
  • Spinach – fresh or frozen (see tips below if your child has a problem with it)
  • Ice cubes/water

~ Also, see variations below…

* This recipe will make 5 to 6 glasses with 6 oz of smoothie

Directions:

Add a handful of strawberries (usually ends up about 6 strawberries), add 1-2 handfuls any additional berries you are adding, add 1 medium sized banana, and 1 handful of spinach leaves. Then add about 1/4 cup of orange juice concentrate (1 cup if not concentrate). If your berries are fresh, add 1/2 to 1 cup ice cubes to the mix that way you can make sure your smoothie is cool, otherwise add 1/2 to 3/4 cups water. I eye this and aim for 3x what I added of the concentrate.

They love to help!

Now blend!

Make sure you taste it before you start handing it out and that it does not taste too sweet or too blah! Sometimes I have to add a few more strawberries or another banana.

If you want it to be thicker, add more ice cubes. I usually have to do this when I use fresh fruit!

If you want it to go further than the 5 or 6 cups without having to use anymore berries, add a banana and add more ice/water (and sometimes a little more juice). I was able to get a good 4 or 5 more glasses out of it!

And adding a straw seems to make it that much more enjoyable to drink! Mmmmm!

Spinach Tips: Every time I make this smoothie for someone new (especially teenagers) they usually cringe when they see me adding a leafy vegetable. My nieces will attest to that! I convinced them to take a little nibble out of a spinach leaf. Once they tasted it and saw that it didn’t have much of a taste, they did not mind me adding it and even more so after they got their first taste of the smoothie. They loved it and I never heard them complain again! My kids do not even think twice about adding the spinach

P.S. I like using frozen spinach just because I do not have to worry about the fresh stuff dying if it is not used fast enough.

 

Variations

  • Instead of adding juice/water, add a small container of yogurt – different flavors give it a different twist. Add milk or ice/water to thin it out.
  • Add cranberry juice with the orange juice

And the list could go on and on, but I will let you get creative!

 

Other Tips: I find that the frozen fruit is more affordable when I buy a large bag of it from Costco vs. my local grocery store or even Wal-Mart.

 

Now go treat your taste buds!

Cupcake Ice Cream Cones

These cupcake ice cream cones have been a favorite of ours for birthdays and special occasions for a couple of years now. They are easy to make and all ages seem to really enjoy them. I thought this was the normal way of making them and discovered that there was another way of making them. The other way to make cupcake ice cream cones is to put the cake batter in the cones and cook them standing up in the oven. I then was told of how they tipped over or burned and as you can imagine, it was really messy. I will admit that I found the instructions for this version on the side of a cake mix box. I tried looking for it online and could not find it. So, for your enjoyment here is how you make them:
Items Needed:
  • Favorite box cake mix
  • Ice cream cone cups
  • Cupcake baking cups
  • Cupcake pan
  • Frosting/decorations

Directions
1.  Make the cake mix as directed on the box.

2.  Place cupcake wrappers in the cupcake pan
3.  Fill each cupcake 2/3 full of cake batter. (If you have a metal cupcake tin, you can pound it lightly on a hard flat surface (i.e. table, counter, floor) to help get any air bubbles out. This will help the cupcake cook evenly and prevent the cones from tilting. If you do not pound it, it will not make a huge difference but your cones when completed may have a little more personality to them! )
4. Next, place the ice cream cone upside down on top of batter. You don’t need to press it down, just make sure it is touching the batter (see picture below).
(Sorry, this picture is actually of the cupcakes after baked. I forgot to take a picture prior, but wanted to give you the general idea of what they should look like prior to putting them in the oven.)
5.  Then bake in the oven as directed on the box for cupcakes.
(Another fun activity…watching the transformation from dough to cake!)
6.  Let the cupcakes cool

(The batter was closer to half filled with most of these cupcakes in this particular batch and so the finished product with 2/3 full will look more like the front center cupcake. Sorry for the confusion!)
7.  Once the cupcakes are cool, you can remove the wrapping and stand them up on the cone. Then frost, decorate….
….and Enjoy!

The Best Pizza is Made at Home!

We love homemade pizza here in our house and the kids love to help us make it! We will make it for birthdays, friends, movie night or anything else we can find an excuse to make it for. This dough recipe is the best I have found. There is no waiting for the dough to rise. Just make it, roll it, top it and bake it!  Here is what you need… (p.s. this is the same dough recipe I used to make the Heart Shaped Calzones)

Ingredients Needed:

(Dough)

  • 1 pkg. active yeast (about 2.5 tsp.)
  • 1 c. warm water
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 T. oil
  • 2.5 c. flour
  • 1 pizza pan or Jelly Roll pan – pre-greased

*Note: I will make 1.5x this recipe for 1 Jelly Roll pan/cookie sheet size pizza

(Pizza Toppings)

  • Pizza Sauce (I use Hunt’s Mushrooms or Garlic and Herb canned spaghetti sauce – 1 26.5 oz can will make 2 to 3 Jelly Roll pan/cookie sheet size pizzas)
  • Any favorite toppings: sausage, pepperoni, peppers and tomatoes are our favorites
  • Shredded Mozzarella Cheese

Directions for Mixing the Dough
(Preheat oven to 425 degrees.) Dissolve yeast in warm water. Stir in remaining ingredients. Beat well with spoon or fork, if not using a mixer. You may need to add a little more flour depending on your elevation. I will add everything, but the last 1/2 cup and then I’ll keep adding until it is just sticky enough that the dough does not stay on my fingers. Let rest 5 minutes. Mix dough and place on pre-greased cookie sheet. 

Directions for Making the Pizza

If you do not have a rolling pin, a sturdy glass or cup will work just as well. A rolling pin usually has a hard time on a Jelly Roll pan anyways.

 Separate the dough into 2 balls for 2 mini pizzas or 1.5x the dough recipe to have a full pizza with a good crust. Some children will need assistance putting enough pressure on the cup to actually roll it out.
First bring the sauce out. I put some sauce on the center of their pizza and then I let them spread it out on their own. It was hard for me to let them do it because I was afraid of the mess, but they did well. Then, I let the kids put on their own toppings of meat and veggies on their pizzas. If they did not put any veggies on it, that was ok with me, but I wanted to give them the option…and of course, tasting does happen, too! Next, add the cheese and then you are ready to bake.
Bake in the oven on 420 Degrees for 20 minutes
(or until the crust/cheese is starting to brown.)
And just so you can see what a large pizza will look like…
YUM!!! It is seriously so good!
Try it and let me know what you think! It’s a simple meal to make, takes less than 20 minutes to put together and so much fun, too!
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