9/24/14

Homemade, Moist Banana Nut Bread w/ cereal flakes too!




Last night I was almost ready to call it a night and go read for a bit before heading to bed.  But the smell of ripe banana's was in the air and the 4 over ripe bananas in the fruit bowl were asking me to 'do' something with them.

Normally I simply grab them, pop them into a ziplock bag and pop them into the freezer to make something out of at a later date... except I already had 6 of them in the freezer!  No, I needed to make something.  While I intended on making muffins, I was too lazy and it was 9:00 pm so I opted for banana bread.

I don't really know why I didn't grab the binder where I keep my favorite banana bread recipe.  Instead, I sat on the kitchen floor in front of the pantry where I keep about 55 or 60 of my cookbooks and I started to thumb through some old 'church lady' cookbooks. The first one I grabbed was published right around 1939-1940 in a small church in Northern Minnesota.  A second one I grabbed is a more recent one, published in 2000 from a group in Northern Iowa.  In just these two cookbooks, I shook my head and laughed to see there was no less than twelve (12) recipes for banana bread in these two books alone.  I briefly wondered how many recipes for banana bread I have in all my collection of books, hand written recipe cards, magazines, ripped out pages, photo copies, my Grandmother's old cookbooks, hand written notebooks and more.  The number is probably staggering.

Now, since I usually cook everything from 'scratch' that means I don't actually use recipes.  I often will take 3 or 4 recipes of a certain style or type of dish and then I just start 'cooking from scratch'.  To me, a recipe is more like a general idea or something to help me brainstorm.  So last nights banana bread recipes ended up being used to brainstorm amounts for the flour, baking powder, eggs and butter but everything else was by me thinking what sounded good, or doing taste testing and deciding to add some things.  It turned out AMAZING but since it isn't actually a recipe, I decided I had better post it to my online files so my kids could make it if they wish, or if I wanted to make it again and see what I did!  Ha.  Amounts are pretty much guesstimates - just taste the batter and see if you want to add more or less of something.  It's that simple.

Banana Bread

2 c flour
1/2 baking soda
1 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
4-5 mashed, really ripe bananas
2 1/2 cups cereal with flakes;  I used Grape Nut Flakes
1/4 c hot water
2 eggs
1/2 c butter, soft
1 c granulated sugar
1/4 c brown sugar
1 t vanilla
1 t lemon juice
1/2 t cinnamon
1 c pecans, roughly chopped

Mix the bananas, hot water and the cereal together and let them sit for a couple minutes to soften.  Add the eggs, butter and sugar, vanilla and lemon juice and mix.  Add the final dry ingredients; flour, soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nuts.  Stir till blended.  Pour into a greased or parchment lined loaf pan.  Bake approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes until done.  Start testing the center at 1 hour with a knife to see if the center is done yet.  The pan you use and your own oven will determine if you need another 15 minutes.  You can cover the top with foil if it's starting to get too brown.  Let cool complete.  Turn out of the pan.  Wrap in foil and refrigerate overnight.  This improves taste and texture of quick breads!






You might be interested in;

Farberware Nonstick Bakeware 9-by-5-Inch Loaf Pan



Gifts of Good Taste:The Creative Kitchen













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9/23/14

Homemade Pizza Sauce





If you've read An American Housewife for any number of years, you may already know our family has had a standing Pizza Night weekly tradition since...  around 1997. 

Back then I had three 'Littles' ranging in ages from 1 to 6.  My husband worked Friday nights so the kids and I started a a special 'Mommy and Me Movie Night'.

Every Friday night was 'movie night' for us with either a kids movie or (at the time) watching the ABC Friday night line up that included Sabrina the Teenaged Witch followed by Boy Meets World...  and unbeknownst to me, I started a tradition that lasted until today.  The only changes made were when my oldest started high school we had to switch it to Saturday night as my oldest daughter made varsity cheerleader her Freshman year and had to cheer at the Friday night football games.

To this day... my Little's are now adults and college students, they still make sure I'm making 'pizza' on Saturday nights when they come to visit or even during the holidays! 

While I loved my pizza dough recipe, I had never found nor made a pizza sauce recipe I truly loved enough to make it my standing 'go to' recipe. Not any more.

I have finally found a sauce recipe I'm more than happy with.  I will still tweak ingredients based on what I might have on hand at the time, but this is a recipe I 'played around with' and decided it was good enough to go into my 'every week' recipe files.



Pizza Sauce

Olive oil
Butter
1/2 c chopped, yellow onion
1/4 c chopped celery
2 t fresh minced garlic
6 oz. can tomato paste
1 c fresh, diced tomatoes or use diced, canned tomatoes
1 t dried basil
1 t dried oregano
1 t fennel
1/2 t salt
1/4 t pepper
1 t honey or sugar

Cook the celery and onions in a bit of butter and olive oil in a hot pan til tender.  Add the garlic.  Cook about 1 minute so you don't burn the garlic.  Add the tomato paste and diced tomatoes.  Put into a food processor and pulse for a few seconds.  Put back in the saucepan and add the rest of the ingredients.  Simmer slowly for about 20-30 minutes.  Makes about 2 medium to large pizzas.





If you enjoy visiting An American Housewife, please consider using this affiliate link if you are planning to shop for anything (seriously, anything!) at Amazon. - American Housewife at Amazon


Wilton Ceramic Pizza Stone, 15-Inch
Old Stone Oven Rectangular Pizza Stone, 14.5-Inch x 16.5-Inch
Old Stone Oven Round Pizza Stone, 16-Inch
 
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9/22/14

Product Review: Aveda Smooth Infusion Naturally Straight

I was given the products below for a product review in return for my honest opinions and comments on the product thanks to Aveda and SheSpeaks.

My hair has never been my best friend.  It's coarse, thick, dry... and curly enough not to be straight and straight enough not to be curly.  It's mostly wavy, with random spots underneath where it has tight coils. 

When I was given a chance to try Aveda's Smooth Infusion Naturally Straight line of products I did not hesitate to say "Um, yes please!"

I had assumed it would be like most hair straightening products;  it would have some sort of chemical in it to loosen the curls and waves.

Wrong.  The first thing I read about the smoothing product was that they naturally derive plant fibers to attach to the hair strands to loosen the curls and help hold the 'straight' in place.  And a second product included was a humidity barrier their fact page told me was made with tapioca starch, cassava extract and maize that promised to help fend off the frizz... even in my humid Southern weather.  The more you use the Naturally Straight creme, (which is safe for relaxed and color treated hair), the easier it is to straighten it, so you can cut back on styling time every day.

"After five consecutive applications of 
Naturally Straight, hair will stay straight 
for up to three washes."*

- AVEDA SMOOTH INFUSION™ NATURALLY STRAIGHT 

Well, I'm game!  Let's see how it does.

I washed and conditioned my hair with their products, then towel dried it, which does straighten and loosen the curls to start.  Then, I applied the smoothing cream. 



Because I have really, really thick hair it took quite a bit of coin-sized applications to make sure it was applied evenly.   I do have to stop here and mention the scent.  It is a strong citrus and what I thought of as nutmeg scent - although officially the product fact pages say "bergamot, palmarosa, Turkish Rose and Australian Sandalwood".  It took 3 applications to 'grow' on me but I have to admit I really came to like the scent in the end.

This was after the first application without using a flat-iron.  I did notice the curls 'fell out' easier.

By the third wash/condition and application of the styling creme, I found although I needed to use a straightener to finish it off, it straightened very fast and easy.  I did notice an improvement.





 

  • Smooth Infusion™ Shampoo (US $21, 8.5 oz. /250 ml): Gently cleanses, smoothes and reduces frizz.
  • Smooth Infusion™ Conditioner (US $21, 6.7 oz./200 ml): Daily conditioner smoothes and reduces frizz. 
  • Smooth Infusion™ Style-Prep Smoother (US $24, 3.4 oz./100 ml): Defends against humidity for up to 12 hours and lays the foundation for long lasting smooth styles. 
  • Smooth Infusion™ Glossing Straightener (US $23, 4.2 oz., 125 ml): Straightens hair while imparting lustrous shine and protecting the hair’s cuticle from heat damage.
Available at Aveda stores and salons and online at aveda.com. To find a location near you, visit aveda.com


_______________
*Consumer Testing on 122 women with curly hair The Aveda Smooth Infusion™ System
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9/21/14

TERIYAKI STIR FRY SAUCE - this time for Beef and Broccoli Stir-Fry


In yesterday's post I talked about how this teriyaki sauce has become my 'go to' for meals lately.  As a matter of fact, when my husband was away for business and my daughter at University, I didn't have to please anyone but myself for dinner so I ended up having vegetables and nothing BUT vegetables for 3 meals in a row... stir-fried with this sauce.

I actually decided to make a double batch and keep the sauce on hand in the refrigerator at all times.  I used my Pampered Chef Dressing Jar (I'll link to one below on Amazon for you to see what I'm talking about) but you can use any jar or container.  

This last time I made it into Beef and Broccoli instead of chicken.  It was incredible of  course.  You simply can't go wrong.  If I had any shrimp on hand I'd use it on that too (mental note to put shrimp on next week's shopping trip...)

 
Teriyaki Beef and Broccli Stir Fry

1/2 c soy sauce
1/4 c sweetener of choice (sugar, natural substitute, honey - although use a bit less for that)
1/2 c water
1 T brown sugar or brown sugar sweetener
1 T ginger
1 T minced, fresh garlic
1 t xanthan gum or corn starch

Beef   (save time & money - but the 'stew beef' already cut at the market)
Broccoli, red peppers, mushrooms, green peppers, onions, snow peas, fresh green beans, cabbage, bean sprouts, etc. etc.    FRESH OR FROZEN (use what you have on hand and make it work!)

Combine and mix your sauce.  Set aside.  If you have time, you can use half the sauce to marinate the beef, but if this is a last second dinner idea, don't worry about it.   Cut up your beef if you haven't bought the 'stew beef' that comes already cut into bite sized pieces.  Cook it in a bit of oil over medium high heat til starting to brown.  Add the vegetables - fresh, frozen, a mixture of both - whatever.  Cook for a bit (I add a splash of water at this point to help steam the veggies).  Then add your teriyaki sauce.  Stir quickly and cook til sauce thickens up and vegetables are as tender as you like them.  I add double the amount of vegetables I want in the end as they cook down.  Also - use as little or much of the sauce as you like.  Taste test it.   Serve over rice if you like - we like it sans rice. 





This particular time I used a fresh bagged stir-fry mix - they were having an awesome sale

LOVE this sauce so much I've taken to doubling the recipe & keeping it on hand ALL the time



You might also want to check out some dressing bottles online;
Kolder Salad Dressing Bottle
Super Salads Gift Set Dressing Bottle
OXO Good Grips Salad Dressing Shaker, Black





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9/20/14

Chicken and Broccoli Teriyaki Stir-Fry (with whatever vegetables you have on hand!)





This has become my 'go to' meal over the past 3 weeks.  I don't even have a real 'recipe' wrote down.  It's a scribbled list of ingredients on a scrap piece of paper so I don't forget something - but that's about it.  Now, if one of my daughter's or my son want to whip this up, they would probably appreciate me typing out the ingredients here on our family website... with some approximate amounts.  So here it is!

Teriyaki Stir Fry

1/2 c soy sauce
1/4 c sweetener of choice (sugar, natural substitute, honey - although use a bit less for that)
1/2 c water
1 T brown sugar or brown sugar sweetener
1 T ginger
1 T minced, fresh garlic
1 t (xanthan gum) or corn starch

Chicken
Broccoli, red peppers, mushrooms, green peppers, onions, snow peas, fresh green beans, cabbage, bean sprouts, etc. etc.    FRESH OR FROZEN (use what you have on hand and make it work!)

Combine and mix your sauce.  Set aside.  If you have time, you can use half the sauce to marinate the chicken, but if this is a last second dinner idea, don't worry about it.   Cut up your chicken, cook it in a bit of oil over medium high heat.  Add the vegetables - fresh, frozen, a mixture of both - whatever.  Cook for a bit (I add a splash of water at this point to help steam the veggies).  Then add your teriyaki sauce.  Stir quickly and cook til sauce thickens up and vegetables are as tender as you like them.  I add double the amount of vegetables I want in the end as they cook down.  Also - use as little or much of the sauce as you like.  Taste test it.   Serve over rice if you like - we like it sans rice. 












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9/19/14

Sloppy Joe's




Sometimes my own search engine frustrates me as back in 2006, 2007, 2008...  blogger wasn't quite like it is now and often times back then an entire month would archive together but not the posts separately.  So, needless to say there are a couple recipes I search for - knowing they are here - and have a hard time finding them.   Now, since my site is primarily for me and my kids to use and easy and quickly find the recipes our family loves...  it makes no sense to search so long for some of the same recipes over and over again that for whatever reason, my site likes to hide from me.

And this is one of them!  SO MANY TIMES I have to do digging for my recipe for Sloppy Joe's.  And YES I do have it on a recipe card in one of my recipe books, but sometimes I like to put my laptop up on the counter and simply look at the recipe on my site.  My old eyes aren't what they used to be and it's just easy to do it that way rather than looking down at my little recipe card each time.

So here it is...   again.  Ha ha.  This is cut and pasted from my original entry back in 2008.



Sloppy Joes

1 lb. ground beef
3/4 lb. ground turkey
1/2 large onion, diced
4 T chili powder
6 T bbq sauce (I used 6 T ketchup with 6 t yellow mustard)
1 t Worcestershire sauce
1 c ketchup
2 T sugar
1 c milk
4 t vinegar
1 1/2 T flour
salt and pepper


Brown the ground beef and turkey with the diced onion. Add the rest of the spices and simmer 5 minutes. Serve on buns.
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Pinata Cookies - with the Donkey Cookie Cutter (otherwise known as a Democrat Cookie Cutter)

Back in 2012 I was browsing the SheKnows site and saw the awesome Pinata Cookies that were so popular that Spring.  I just checked today and am thrilled it's still up and running!  Many times I bookmark a site or a particular recipe only to find it's long gone in 6 months or a year or two, so I usually try to download my favorites to my website to store and keep them 'just in case'.  This one is still going strong.  Probably because they are just that cool.



Although I didn't plan on hosting a Cinco de Mayo party that year, I loved this idea and had a moment of 'why didn't I ever think of this!?'   I saved the idea to my files to make after we knew some people in our new city/state that we had just relocated to, or for a birthday as a "pinata" birthday goodie.

If you by chance haven't seen the M&M stuffed cookies (although they are ALL over the internet so you'd have to try pretty hard not to, LOL)  they are a multi-colored sugar cookie with a second for the back side and sandwiched in between them is a third cookie with the ears and feet cut off and used to hide the goodies inside.


Photo's from the link above at SheKnows

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 5 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • Mini M&M candies
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar (frosting)
  • 2 teaspoons milk (frosting)

Cream sugars with butter. Beat in eggs. Add oil. Combine dry ingredients together, and then gradually add them to the mixture. Mix in vanilla and almond extract.


Split dough into five, even-sized balls and one smaller ball (this will be the black one). Add food coloring to each of the dough balls until desired color is achieved. Gel food coloring gives you more intense colors than liquid.





Use a container the same approximate width of your donkey/burro piñata cookie cutter, and line it with plastic food wrap. Split all of your colored dough balls in half (except the black) and begin layering the dough in the container, starting with the black dough on the bottom. Alternate the colors so that you end up with two layers of each color by the time you're done.

Cover the layered dough and freeze for four hours or overnight. This is the perfect time to conserve your creative juices for what lies ahead.




Remove the dough from the container and unwrap from the plastic. Cut slices, approximately 1/4-inch wide. Place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake them at 350 degrees F for 12 minutes.




Immediately after you take them out of the oven, use your burro piñata cookie cutter to cut the cookie shapes. Working in sets of three, be sure to cut two burro piñata cookies in one direction and one burro piñata cookie in the opposite direction. (Just flip your cookie cutter over.) That way, when you go to assemble them, the finished cookie will look "pretty" on both sides -- because the baked, bottom sides will be hidden.





For the middle cookies in each set, cut off the ears and legs, and cut out the center where the M&Ms will go. I used a small square cutter, and made three cuts to get a narrow rectangle. Try to work quickly, because as the cookies cool, they are more likely to crumble or break. Let them cool on the baking sheet before you move them and remove the excess, outer cookie.

I haven't made these yet - the photo's are from the recipe link above

To assemble, take the first piñata cookie and lay it upside down so that the baked bottom is facing up. Outline the center of the piñata body with a "frosting glue" mixture of milk and powdered sugar. (I used 1/2 cup of powdered sugar and two teaspoons of milk. If you put it inside a Ziploc bag and cut off a tiny tip of the bag's corner, you can pipe it onto the cookie easily.)
Put the middle cookie on top of the frosting glue and add the M&Ms to the open center. Put another outline of frosting glue on the middle cookie and place the opposite-cut piñata cookie on top (so that the pretty side is facing out). Let these sit and harden for at least 30 minutes before you stand them upright.


As noted in the recipe above, you will need vibrant, gel food colors, not liquid.  Liquid can't get as vibrant and for the amount you add, your dough becomes too sticky and wet.

I found these on Amazon.  They are highly rate and are the Americolor Soft Gel Paste Student Kit- Culinary Academy 1st Choice!

Now for the cutter's!  This is the cookie cutter most of my visitor's end up purchasing;  It's the first Choice of most of my readers...

Copper!  This cookie cutter is most beloved.  A little more expensive, but it's copper, handmade in the USA and is large enough to not only tell it's a donkey, but works for the Pinata cookies as there is room to stuff them! 

  • Handmade in the USA from timelessly beautiful solid copper, this cookie cutter is a work of exceptional quality and durability. Sizes may vary slightly due to the handcrafted nature of this product. One side of the copper is tightly folded over for safety and stability.
  • In business since 1983, we have served well over 100,000 customers who've discovered the timeless value of our superbly made, high quality, beautiful copper cookie cutters.
  • Apart from the actual bending of each cookie cutter, each of our cookie cutters undergo a 15-step manufacturing process overseen by our Coppersmith Ray Braman. This process is designed to ensure every cutter that leaves our workshop is of the highest quality. These production qualities are very unique, and quite extraordinary given the many shapes, sizes, and categories of copper cookie cutters we offer.
  • Our copper cookie cutters are hand-formed, hand-soldered, and marked with our "Maker's Mark". The maker's mark dates back to the early middle ages when metal craftsmen marked each piece they created with a distinctive symbol, much like an artist signs a finished painting.
  • Because of the attention to quality in making this cookie cutter, we generally cannot undercut the prices of the more common foreign made or lighter weight copper cookie cutters on the market.




Democratic Donkey Cookie Cutter
If you can't get the copper cookie cutter above, this would be my second choice.  It's large enough to use for a stuffed Pinata Cookies as it says it is 4.8" tall at the highest but I also love that it has a handle on it!  This really is helpful and is a plus when you are stamping out many cookies.  This would be a great option if you need a nice large cookie cutter.

  • Made of tin wth sturdy handle
  • Colorful card with cookie recipe included
  • Great also for brownies and finger sandwhiches
  • Made in the USA!


These not in my top choices at all for pinata cookies because they are so tiny however, if you need to make donkey cookies for a barnyard party, a democrat political event or yes... even pinata cookies with just a tiny bit of 'candy stuffing' these would do on a very tight, small budget.  And admittedly, I'm usually in that very tight, small budget crowd!!

  • Made in the USA
  • Cookie cutter measures approx. 3"
  • Made of tin plated steel
  • Great for cookies, sandwiches, brownies . . .
*He's a little guy!  Only 3 inches big at his tallest!  Won't work especially well for Pinata cookies, but it could be done. 



  • Tinplated steel
  • Wipe with damp cloth to clean
  • Heavy duty, not flimsy
  • Great for cutting cookie dough, craft clay, soft fruits.
  • Not Dishwasher safe
*This one is very tiny and does not have a handle.  Some reviewers have complained about the size, the shape and the fact that it doesn't resemble a donkey well enough.
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