Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Banana Bread


Around our house it’s hard to eat all the bananas I buy before a few start to turn an unattractive brown and no one wants to eat them because they’re overripe. At that point I stick the whole banana into the freezer. When I want to bake banana bread I just take a few out and place them in the sink to thaw. When they are thawed I cut off the end and squeeze the bananas into a colander, then mash them with a potato masher. A few minutes in the colander will allow excess liquid to drain off, and they are ready to use.

This recipe is from an October 4, 1983 issue of Woman’s Day, and is a Bisquick recipe.

ONE PAN BANANA BREAD

1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups mashed ripe bananas (about 3 large)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3 eggs, slightly beaten
2 1/3 cups Bisquick baking mix
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup chopped nuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease bottom of loaf pan or spray with nonstick cooking spray. Add all ingredients to pan and mix with a fork to blend. Beat vigorously for 1 minute. Bake for 55 to 65 minutes. Cool in pan 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides and remove to a wire rack to finish cooling.

I wrapped the loaf in foil and placed it in the refrigerator overnight so it would be much easier to slice, but if you just can’t resist its yumminess, go ahead and devour it immediately.
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Today’s Tips are all about bananas. This versatile fruit is good for much more than just eating! 

1)  Rub the inside of a banana peel on insect bites, cuts, scrapes to aid healing and ease discomfort or itch.
 
2) Tenderize a roast by placing a peeled banana in the roasting pan with the meat.

3) Rub shoes with the inside of a banana peel, then buff with a soft cloth. Instant polish.

4) Remove ink stains from skin by rubbing with the inside of banana peel.

5) Clean leaves of houseplants with the inside peel.

6) Dried peels make good mulch for plants.

7) Blend 2 very ripe bananas, 1 avocado and yogurt. Use as a facial mask or a hair treatment. Leave on 20 minutes, then rinse with warm water.

8) A frozen treat – cut peeled banana in half and insert a popsicle stick into the cut end. Lay on waxed paper and freeze. Remove and dip into melted chocolate, butterscotch or peanut butter chips. Roll in chopped nuts, coconut or sprinkles if desired. Refreeze.

9) Use mashed bananas to replace all or part of the saturated fat when baking. In doing this you may want to adjust the sugar that’s called for due to the sweetness of the banana.

10) This is the strangest of all! Rub your teeth with the inside of a banana peel for a couple of minutes twice a day. It’s said to whiten your teeth in about 2 weeks. (I don’t think I’ll be trying this one!)
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Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Baking Day

It’s still awfully cold in our area, and staying inside leads to a lot of free time. Yesterday I decided to use that time productively and do some baking. I baked a sugar-free yellow cake from scratch and a batch of Cinnamon Vanilla cupcakes with Cinnamon Buttercream Frosting. There is a diabetic in the house, but others that are not, so I baked for both groups.

SUGAR-FREE YELLOW CAKE

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated Splenda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup milk
1/3 cup shortening
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 8” pan, or spray well with nonstick cooking spray.

Combine all ingredients in large mixer bowl. Beat 30 seconds on low, then scrape bowl. Beat at high speed 3 minutes, scraping bowl often. Pour into pan.

Bake for 35 minutes, or until cake tests done. Remove and cool.

Adapted from a recipe in Betty Crocker's Cookbook, printed in 1971.

CINNAMON VANILLA CUPCAKES

1 (18 1/4 oz.) box white cake mix
1 cup milk
1/2 cup oil
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place paper cupcake liners in cupcake pans.

Pour cake mix into large mixer bowl and add remaining ingredients. Beat on low for 30 seconds, then on high for 2 minutes. Pour into paper-lined cupcake cups, filling about 1/2 to 2/3 full. 

Bake 19 to 21 minutes, or until cake tests done. If baking mini-cupcakes, bake 10 to 12 minutes, or until cake tests done.

Remove from pans and cool.

CINNAMON BUTTERCREAM FROSTING

1/3 cup butter, softened
3 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
2 tablespoons milk (as needed)

Beat butter, sugar and cinnamon together. Add vanilla. Add milk a tablespoon at a time until desired spreading consistency is reached.

These are totally delicious!

Note: I used a Pillsbury Traditional White Cake Mix for the cupcakes.




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Dinner was Over-The-Top Mac & Cheese, a recipe that was posted on October 24, 2013. You should give this one a try – it’s creamy and spicy and comforting, and I think worth publishing again!

OVER-THE-TOP MAC & CHEESE

1 (7 1/4 oz.) box macaroni and cheese
1/2 of 10 oz. can tomatoes with green chiles (approximately 3/4 cup - save rest for later use)
1 pound ground beef
1 cup chopped onion
6 teaspoons taco seasoning mix (approximately 1/2 of packet)
1 teaspoon chili powder
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 1 1/2-quart baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.

Prepare the macaroni and cheese as directed on the box. Stir in tomatoes with chiles and set aside.

Brown the ground beef with the onion until beef is no longer pink; drain. Stir taco seasoning mix into beef. Combine the two mixtures. Add chili powder, salt and pepper.

Pour into prepared dish. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until bubbly and cheese melts.

Recipe adapted from Gooseberry Patch Big Book of Holiday Cooking (recipe submitted by a reader from Tulsa, OK).

Note: I froze the remaining 1/2 can tomatoes and chiles, and it was fine to use in another recipe.
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Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Thanks for reading!














Monday, January 20, 2014

Gratitude And Other Thoughts

I hope your January is going well. It’s been ridiculously cold and snowy here, but today the sun is shining. The temperature program on my computer says it’s 43 degrees. It’s supposed to get freezing cold again this week, but for today we’ll enjoy what we have.

That’s the point of gratitude – appreciating and being thankful for what we have. Even if things are bad (and we all have plenty of "bad"!) there are things for which to be grateful. Do you keep a gratitude journal? I had often thought of doing one, but just hadn’t started for some reason. At Christmas, though, I got the “nudge” that I needed – my sister gave me a lovely notebook specifically for that purpose. I’ve been pretty good with it, but some days I only have 1 or 2 things to write down instead of the typical 3! And I’ll admit I’ve skipped a couple of days. The idea of journaling, though, is to help us look at our lives and our situations with an open mind and to recognize all the little things that make life special. Even if it’s just a hot cup of tea on a cold day, it’s something to savor and enjoy.

Gratitude is not becoming a “Pollyana” – it’s simply living our lives with a positive attitude and bringing those little things that touch us to the forefront.
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“You simply will not be the same person two months from now after consciously giving thanks each day for the abundance that exists in your life. And you will have set in motion an ancient spiritual law: the more you have and are grateful for, the more will be given you.”
(Sarah Ban Breathnach)

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
(Albert Einstein)
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Now I have a request. I’m looking at ways to improve this blog – to make it more interesting and valuable to you, the reader. Is there something specific you’d like to see here? Is there information of interest to you? And is there anything I could do to improve the site? Would you be interested in sharing your favorite recipes for publication? Would you be interested in receiving notifications of new posts or an RSS feed in your email?

Please feel free to comment below, and I will seriously consider all suggestions.
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Today is Martin Luther King Day, National Day of Service, *Camcorder Day, *Penguin Awareness Day, *Inauguration Day and *National Disc Jockey Day.

For the remainder of the week:

Tuesday: Inauguration Day, National Hugging Day and *Squirrel Appreciation Day. (Rocky, we still love you!)

Wednesday: *Celebration of Life Day

Thursday: *National Handwriting Day, National Pie Day and Women’s Healthy Weight Day (we won’t talk about that one!)

Friday: *Belly Laugh Day, *National Compliment Day and *National Peanut Butter Day

Saturday: * A Room of One’s Own Day, *National Irish Coffee Day, National Seed Swap Day, Visit Your Local Quilt Shop Day and Opposite Day
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Here’s a great rub recipe for pork – try it on ribs or pork roast!

PORK RUB

3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons paprika
1 1/2 tablespoons salt
1 1/2 tablespoons ground black pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder

Mix well and store airtight.
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Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

California Oatmeal Cake

 
Our daughter was here yesterday for a day-after-her-birthday lunch, and we all really enjoyed the visit. Our older son was able to come, too, so there was lots of eating and laughing and talking.

This cake has been one of her favorites for years. I don’t know where I got it, but it has to be more than 30 years old - it’s written on a very yellowed piece of notebook paper. There are many versions of oatmeal cake online, some very similar. You don’t even need an electric mixer for this one! It’s very simple and delicious.

CALIFORNIA OATMEAL CAKE

1 1/2 cups boiling water
1 cup quick oatmeal, uncooked
1 cup butter, softened
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
dash salt

Topping (recipe below)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray 9 x 13” baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.

In large bowl combine water, oatmeal and butter; stir well. Cool slightly.Stir in eggs and vanilla. Combine dry ingredients in separate bowl and stir in. Mix well. Pour into prepared pan. 

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes. Remove from the oven and spread with topping. Return to the oven and broil for 2 to 3 minutes.

Topping: (Prepare while cake is baking.)

1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1 1/2 cups coconut
1/2 cup chopped nuts
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla

Mix all in saucepan on low heat until sugar and butter are melted and all is combined. Yum! This is just like candy - I could eat it straight out of the pan. Bet you could, too.
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“You can't help getting older, but you don't have to get old.”
(George Burns)

“When I was younger, I could remember anything, whether it happened or not.”
(Mark Twain)
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The Oatmeal Cake is a perfect way to celebrate Oatmeal Month! Today is National Nothing Day, Religious Freedom Day and Women In Blue Jeans Day. Tomorrow we observe Hot Heads Chili Day.

Be sure to check out the entire January observance list on the “Holidays” page.
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Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

An Easy, Delicious Dessert


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Things are starting to warm up in our part of the country, and I hope it is in your area as well. That deep-freeze was not much fun!

Last night I made this warm, sweet dessert, and everyone loved it.

EASY BAKED PEARS

4 fresh pears, halved, cored and peeled
4 tablespoons soft butter
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix together brown sugar and cinnamon. Rub pear halves generously with butter and place in baking dish. Sprinkle with sugar mixture. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until knife inserted in thickest part of pear comes out easily. When serving, spoon some of the liquid from the baking dish over the pears. These are delicious with a scoop of vanilla ice cream!

This recipe was on several websites, so no definitive attribution can be made.
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There are about 3,000 varieties of pears grown around the world, but the most familiar are the Bartlett and the Anjou. Native to Europe and Asia, the first pear trees were planted in the United States in 1620. They were first cultivated in Europe about 1000 B.C. Pears are rich in vitamin C, as well as fiber and many vitamins and antioxidants. 

A medium pear has around 100 calories. It also provides about 26 grams carbohydrates, 16 grams sugar, 1 gram protein, 6 grams fiber (all based on RDA).

Pears are also said to be very non-allergenic and easy for almost anyone to consume.

And what about a nice pear jam? That sounds like something I'll have to try!
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Please check out the "Holidays" page for the January observances!
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Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Climbing the Paper Mountain!

I hope you all had great holidays and that you’re ready for the challenge and excitement of the new year. Ours were relatively quiet, but nice. Now on to 2014!

The Christmas decorations are all put away, and the house now looks a bit dull – but uncluttered. That’s not saying the Christmas decorations were clutter, but without the colors and brightness of the trees and baubles there’s not a lot of “stuff” around. I have put all the regular d├ęcor items back out, but reorganized them a bit for a new view.

While enjoying my morning coffee today I stared at the newly-decorated shelves in the entertainment center and noticed that something looked a bit off. After a couple of minutes I realized that the candle on the top shelf and the plate just below it on the second shelf were the same color. I quickly rearranged the top shelf, placing the candle on the opposite side. Harmony was achieved! It looks much more pleasing to the eye. The same can be said for our homes. When things are where they belong and organized the entire atmosphere of the home is more pleasant. That brings me to this Tip Tuesday topic – organization.

There are articles everywhere this time of year with ideas for organizing everything. All the stores have sales on supplies for organization projects. Some items you might find helpful for your organizing efforts would be plastic tubs of different sizes with lids, zipper bags in all sizes, labels or masking tape, permanent markers, file folders, accordion files, etc. Get a shredder and be sure to use it to destroy anything with any personal information on it.

I didn’t keep up with the piles of paper last year as well as I should have, and last week I went through a big box of receipts, papers to be filed, and all sorts of statements. After shredding much of them there is just a small stack to be dealt with. I bought an accordion file and will use it during the week to store papers that are necessary to keep. At the end of the week they will be filed properly. At least that’s my plan for now!

And how long should we keep those papers? I find myself hesitant to pitch a lot of things because I think we might need them at some point; however, many of those things can be eliminated! Here’s a guideline for keeping many papers:

Birth certificates, marriage license, death certificates, insurance policies, social security cards/information, passports, military records, wills/trusts, living wills, power of attorney forms – keep indefinitely.

Deeds to house, loan documents, mortgages, vehicle titles - keep until home sold, vehicle sold or discarded.

Income tax returns and supporting documentation – keep 7 years.

Auto and home insurance policy statements – keep until renewed.

Credit card records – keep until paid (but keep for tax purposes)

Bank statements – keep 1 year (or keep for tax purposes)

For long-term storage of the documents you keep, you may want to make copies (either paper or on disc) and keep one at home while putting the other in a safe-deposit box.

Now might be a good time to do a home inventory. Go through your entire house with a video recorder, noting when items were purchased and from where, as well as prices and estimates of value. Listing the information on paper would be good as well. Make copies of both and keep the duplicates in the safe-deposit box. This can be a great help in case of any disaster at home.

When it comes to other areas of the home, such as the kitchen and closets, the best way to conquer the clutter is to make 3 piles – keep, donate and pitch. And, as I tell myself often - be brutal!

Closets:

If you haven’t used it or worn it in a year, it’s time to let it go.

One idea is to have a Swap Party with your friends. Have everyone bring the items (in good condition, of course) that they no longer want or wear. After trading, everyone will go home with something "new".

Kitchen:

If it is broken or doesn’t work, throw it out.

Store items for the same cooking process together. For instance, store baking ingredients in the same area, measuring cups and spoons together.

Keep dry food items in plastic tubs or glass jars and label them for easy identification.

Clear the counters of clutter. They will look neater - and you’ll have more work space!

Bathroom:

Clean out the medicine chest and any storage cabinets. Destroy old medications. One way to do this is to crush the pills and mix them with used coffee grounds. Throw out empty containers, removing any personal information on the labels.

General Organization:

Make a “home” for everything (I learned this term from working in a retail store several years ago) – and always put things in that home. Walk through the house once a day, picking up stray items and returning them to their places.

Make things you use most often easier to get to, and move things you don’t use often but want to keep to the back of the closet or cabinet.

If you have duplicates of any one item, consider getting rid of one. Ask yourself if you really need two.

Use your calendar and make lots of lists!

I hope you’ll join me in organizing things this year! My list is long, so I’d better get to work. Let me know how your efforts go!
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“Organizing is what you do before you do something, so that when you do it, it is not all mixed up.” (A. A. Milne)

“For every minute spent in organizing, an hour is earned.” (Anonymous)

“Organize your life around your dreams – and watch them come true.” (Anonymous)
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Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy 2014!


I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season and are ready to jump right into the new year. Are you full of resolutions, plans and hopes? I’m working on my list of goals and plans, but never do resolutions. I figure they just set you up for failure in most cases. Plans and goals, however, will allow for adjustments and changes as you go along, hopefully achieving them and adding to the list.

Today I start the new year working, as well as doing the usual household chores and cooking. The traditional New Year’s Day dinner is in the works – pork and sauerkraut in the crockpot. I’ll add to the menu mashed potatoes, blackeyed peas, cooked apples and biscuits. Our oldest son will be coming to have the first dinner of the new year, joining the youngest son, my husband, mother-in-law and myself. There’s also a peanut butter & banana pie chilling in the refrigerator for dessert. We’ve gotten a bit tired of all the cookies and candies that have been in front of us for the past several weeks, and any cookies that are left over will be frozen today.

Years ago my mother used to jokingly say that however things are on New Year’s Day is how they’ll be all year. For instance, if your house is dirty it will be dirty all year. If you’re sick, you’ll be sick all year. So this year I suppose I’ll be working. Maybe not such a bad thing, huh?

Anyway, I wish you all a happy, healthy and prosperous new year. May all your fondest wishes be granted!
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“An optimist stays up until midnight to see the new year in.  A pessimist stays up to make sure the old year leaves.”  ~Bill Vaughan

“A New Year's resolution is something that goes in one year and out the other.”  ~Author Unknown

“Be at War with your Vices, at Peace with your Neighbours, and let every New-Year find you a better Man.”  ~Quoted in Benjamin Franklin's 1755 Poor Richard's Almanac, December 
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Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Thanks for reading!