Long Holiday Weekend {In Review}

It’s Monday…And another short week!

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Can I get a woot woot?!

How was your holiday?  Mine was FANTASTIC!

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I started Christmas day with a calm and peaceful outdoor 5 mile run.  I know that I’m supposed to be sad, but I love being able to run outside without looking like an Eskimo in December.  I will be sad when it gets much colder this week!

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The cool part of my morning was seeing two deer snacking next to the path.  #GoodMorningDeers

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I showered and packed up my presents and at 10am, my parents came to pick us up for our annual Christmas trip to Champaign, IL.  We had so much stuff, there was barely any space left in the car.

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When we arrived, everyone caught up quickly and then gathered around the table for a gorgeous Christmas dinner!

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The rest of the weekend was festive and fun!

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We got stuck in a HUGE thunderstorm while trying to walk for coffee…

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Opened presents, cuddled with pups, and enjoyed winey Mary’s and TONS of food!

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Sunday we decided that it was another successful Christmas weekend and after one last meal, we drove back home.  Cooper was waiting for us and ready to cuddle!

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We had Sunday night birthday plans for Hibachi with my close girl friends and their hubbies.

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We had a great time catching up and chowing down.  After an exciting weekend, I crashed early last night.  This morning, it was back to the usual Monday routine…gym, grocery, laundry, etc.

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However, the weather was a disaster!  It was sleeting in all directions and the roads were slippery.  I prioritized my stops, including a trip to Costco, as I got ready for the next big holiday ahead…New Years!

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It took a TON of trips through the slush to get my car unpacked, each more miserable than the one before.  I was more than happy to settle back in to watch the Yule Log and bake up a loaf of banana bread this afternoon.

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And make Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps in the crockpot for tonight’s dinner. 

I’m thinking I’ll call it another early one…Cooper’s already upstairs waiting : )

 

How was your Christmas Weekend? Share the Highlights!

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Fall Into Winter

Yea…it happened!  The storm that everyone was talking about has arrived and I have only one word to describe our street…

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WHITE!  When I woke up this morning both of our cars were covered.  Surprisingly, the BOY didn’t give me too much hassle to wake up early for our training sessions.  Dare, I say, he actually likes working out ; )

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He cleaned off the car, while I warmed up inside…

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Our workouts were tough, but good (I hate jumping lunges more than anything else…well, except maybe burpees) and the snow continued to fall while we worked up a sweat.

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Our big plan was to go straight to the Target to pick up necessities for the day.  As is our snow day tradition, ingredients for chili, snacks, and wine found their way into our cart along with a few other household things.  After Target, we swung by the dry cleaner and then Starbucks for a post workout ‘recovery’ latte.

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We were happy to get back inside and warm up.  Our original plan for the day was to get a bunch done and go out for dinner.  Since I wasn’t working this morning, I took advantage of some down time and a few old bananas.

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I turned them into the amazing Flour’s Famous Banana Bread (using the recipe from Averie’s blog) while watching college football.

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Cooper has anyone ever told you how helpful you are in the kitchen?

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No I didn’t think so!

Our fail for the day was that we only planned for one meal, chili, and because of timing it needed to be dinner. We thought about ordering our favorite delivery food, Thai, but the BOY  has been eager to try the new Mexican restaurant that opened up near our house.  A plan soon developed as we decided it would be quicker to walk the .4 miles there than clean off one of our cars (for the second time). 

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We bundled up and braved the first big snow storm of the season.

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Then, came home and devoured or lunch before taking an afternoon nap.

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I woke up first and decided I wanted to bake again.  What can I say, the snow has me in a nesting mode!  The BOY said that after last week, he wasn’t in the mood for cookies but that if I made oatmeal cookies, he might have a few.

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Rough life…right?  I found a fun pumpkin oatmeal recipe and instead of chocolate chips, subbed in white chocolate and cranberries.

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In an attempt to make them look blog worthy, I even added a few extra chips on the top.

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The addition of pumpkin to the oatmeal cookies makes them a little cake like and totally delicious!  I think if I make them again, I would add a little more spice. I can see where if you were doing chocolate chips, you wouldn’t want too much nutmeg, but with the white chocolate, I think more spice would work well.

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Around 3:30pm, the snow seemed to be stopping, leaving us immersed in a winter wonderland…just in time for tonight’s big freeze!  If I’m reading the preliminary reports correctly, it looks like we got at least 10 inches of snow in the last 18 hours.  WOW!

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When the BOY (and Cooper) woke up, we regrouped in the family room for more Big Ten College Football.

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Meanwhile, I did a million loads of laundry (including rugs and blankets), treated the BOY’s back pain, and managed to feel really relaxed and pulled together at the same time.

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I was telling the BOY that I love our newish snow day tradition of staying in and laying low.  We always have a lot of fun together, and I’m looking forward to staying in tonight with wine and games…and probably some more football!

Enjoy your Saturday Snow Day!

 

Pumpkin Oat White Chocolate Cranberry Cookies

Slightly Adapted from Cooking Classy

 

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups quick oats
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/3 cups packed light-brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups canned pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips + more for the top of the cookies
  • 1 cup dried cranberries

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a mixing bowl whisk together flour, oats, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger for 30 seconds, set aside.
  2. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip together butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar until creamy (occasionally stop and scrape down sides and bottom of bowl throughout entire mixing process). Blend in egg then blend in vanilla extract and pumpkin puree. With mixer set on low speed, slowly add in dry ingredients and mix until combined. Mix in chips and cranberries (if you want some chips to show through, set some aside to press into tops before baking). Let batter rest 10 minutes (this just gives the oats some time to absorb the liquids so batter isn’t so sticky and cookies don’t spread so much).
  3. Scoop dough out 2 Tbsp at a time (I used a 1 1/2-inch cookie scoop, which I recommend using for evenly shaped cookies and fill it heaping), and drop onto Silpat or parchment paper lined baking sheets, spacing cookies 2-inches apart. Bake in preheated oven 12 – 14 minutes. Allow to cool on baking sheet several minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.

The Forgotten Weekend

Did you have plans this weekend?

Most of the people I spoke with didn’t, and I think it’s because this was a hidden weekend tucked between Memorial Day and June.  So rare!

The BOY and I started our weekend Friday with date night at Cooper’s Hawk followed by an uneventful game of Monopoly.

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We slept in Saturday morning and woke to a cool, stormy day.  I planned to go for a run and figured that I’d wait for the sun to come out in the afternoon.  The day progressed slowly with a trip to the grocery store, lunch at home, LOTS of wedding talk and decisions, baking a beautiful banana bread (recipe below), and a trip to Kohl’s for more outfit options for engagement photos.  It is so hard to figure out what to wear so that we don’t match but don’t clash for a 52 degree spring day. Ugh!

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By the time we left Kohl’s after 4pm, my stress levels were elevated.  Sadly, the sun never showed up and the rain was still pouring so an outdoor walk was out of the question.  I decided that the best thing to do would be to head to the gym to burn off some negative energy.  The combination of a long and exhausting work week with wedding plans and lack of exercise/yoga had be feeling edgy.  I knew I’d feel so much better after some laps around the indoor track!

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And I was right!  I did a track ‘Tabata’ workout consisting of 6 minute runs and 3 minute intervals (10 seconds on/20 second recovery x6 times).  Each sprint got faster and faster as I felt better and more energized.  When I got back home, the BOY was making beer can chicken for dinner, which turned out fantastic!  We had a quiet night at home watching the Blackhawk’s game (which they won…woo hoo!).

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Sunday morning, I was excited to go to yoga. I haven’t been in a few weeks due to illness and scheduling, and I knew I needed a tough physical and emotionally cleansing class.  For breakfast, I used the leftover sweet potato from last night’s dinner to whip up some 2 Ingredient Pancakes (+ flax). 

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I was winging the portions a bit but they turned out absolutely delicious!

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My yoga class was positively fantastic!  The teacher talked a bunch about giving to ourselves so that we can give to others and slowing down to connect with our breath.  It was exactly what I needed to feel more grounded and ready for the day ahead.

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When I got back home, the BOY and I made breakfast for lunch (brunch?), and then I tried on no less than 23 outfits for our engagement pictures.  I ran out of time to make a decision because I needed to run out the door for my scheduled mani/pedi.  When I got home, it was time to finish my hair and get my make up done.

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Man, I wish I had someone to do this every weekend!  The BOY and I took our pictures at the park near our house where we play tennis. We took a few fun ones on the swings and tennis courts and then the more ‘serious’ ones near the prairie at sunset.

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After freaking out about these pics all week, I ended up in jeans and a white shirt I’ve had for years.  Go figure!  Although it was freezing, we had a lot of fun!  Afterwards, we grabbed a late dinner of beer and pizza.  I couldn’t let that awesome make up go to waste : )  It was another wonderful weekend, and I can’t wait to see ALL of our engagement photos!  And…I can’t believe that our wedding is just 131 days away!

 

What did you end up doing with your forgotten weekend?

 

Chocolate and Walnut Banana Bread

From Hoosier Homemade

Ingredients

  • 2 cups MINUS 2 tablespoons Flour
  • 1 cup Sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Baking Soda
  • ½ teaspoon Salt
  • ½ cup Oil (I like Safflower oil)
  • 2 Eggs
  • 3 very ripe Bananas, mashed
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla
  • ½ cup Walnuts, chopped
  • ½ cup Chocolate Chips

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray a bread pan with non-stick cooking spray.

In a large bowl, sift together dry ingredients; flour, sugar, baking soda and salt.  Add oil and eggs, one at a time. Beat after each addition. Add mashed banana and vanilla, beat well.  Fold in nuts and chocolate chips.

Pour into pan.  Bake at 350 degrees – regular loaf 50-60 minutes or mini loaves 30-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

 

2 Ingredient Sweet Potato Pancakes (with flax)

Serves 1

Ingredients

  • 1 egg + 1 egg white
  • 1/2 medium sweet potato (about 100g)
  • 15g ground flax seed

Directions

Place all ingredients in a blender/food processor or blend in bowl with hand mixer (this is what I did) until mixed well.

Pour onto preheated skillet with coconut oil or cooking spray.  Cook about 5-6 minutes.  Then flip for 3-4 minutes.

Top with nut butters, syrup, or fruit!

2 New Banana Bread Recipes

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So it really is tough to come up with new banana bread recipes that I haven’t shared with you guys.  I swear this blog could be titled the Banana Bread Blog : ) But with a bunch of brown bananas, I was up for the challenge. 

 

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I had motivation too!  We had our last week of tennis lessons at the park district, and I wanted to bring sometime to say thank you to our pro.  I also wanted something to serve to our overnight guests this past weekend.

 

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This first recipe adds in one of banana’s favorite companions.  Chocolate!

 

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With chocolate swirled throughout, it makes a beautiful marbled bread and also a great gift!

 

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I was only sad that I couldn’t dig right in.  It seems wrong to bring a loaf of bread as a gift with a slice missing!

 

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While bread number one was cooling, I got started on making my second loaf.  Since I’m a huge gingerbread fan and still have robust molasses in the pantry, I was excited to use it again.

 

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This bread smells delightful and puffs up beautifully!

 

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I was thankful to be able to slice off a bite to try.

 

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I am a huge fan of this flavor combination!

 

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This bread froze well and I loved eating another slice smothered with almond butter yesterday.

 

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Both breads looked and smelled wonderful!  Perfect to heat up these cool end of winter days!

Here are more recipes from the Banana Bread Blog.

 

What do you do with your brown bananas?

 

 

Marbled Banana Bread

From My San Francisco Kitchen

 

Ingredients

2 cups all-purpose flour

¾ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup sugar

¼ cup butter, softened

2 ripe bananas

2 eggs

⅓ cup plain low-fat yogurt (I subbed in sour cream)

½ cup semisweet chocolate chips

 

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°.

In a mixing bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt together.

Add sugar and butter to a large bowl and beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended.

Add banana, eggs, and yogurt; beat until blended.

Add flour mixture and beat at low speed until just blended.

Melt chocolate chips in a microwave or in a double boiler, stirring until smooth.

Add 1 cup batter to chocolate, stirring until well combined.

Spoon chocolate batter alternately with plain batter into a greased 8½ x 4½-inch loaf pan.

Swirl batters together using a knife.

Bake for 55-60 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.

Cool 10 minutes in pan on a wire rack, then remove from pan and cool 10 minutes before serving.

 

 

 

Banana Gingerbread

From Framed Cooks

 

Ingredients

2 1/4 cups flour

1/2 cup sugar

2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

3 medium very ripe bananas, mashed

1 stick butter, softened

1/2 cup molasses

3 eggs

 

Directions

Preheat oven to 375, and grease a loaf pan (or you can use 3 mini pans).

Combine flour, sugar, ginger, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl.

Mix in banana, butter and molasses until well blended, about 2 minutes on medium speed.  Stir in eggs until well combined.

Pour into loaf pan and bake for 55-60 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Cool in the pans for about 15 minutes, then continue cooling on wire racks.  When completely cool, gently spoon powdered sugar into a wire mesh strainer, and shake the strainer over the loaves to garnish.

Steel Cut Banana Oatmeal {Crockpot Recipe}

It seems like I haven’t posted as many recipes these last few weeks, but that’s not because I haven’t been cooking.  I took a lot of your advise and have been working to keep my meal plans simple and easy.  That combined with early morning workouts and less social media has kept my stress levels a little lower these last few weeks.  And I like it!

 

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But I also really like trying new recipes and so this week is full of them.  Which basically means, I spent Monday cooking and baking up a storm and will spread the recipe love throughout the week.

 

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Starting with breakfast!  I’ve got an entire bunch of brown bananas and have been wanting to make oats in my crockpot.  Since I also had steel cut oatmeal and almond milk in the house, this recipe was a great place to begin.

 

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Instead of overnight, I made my oats this morning, while I was grocery shopping and working out.

 

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When I got home, the house smelled fantastic.  I love all of the spices (I added a few more).  My pictures aren’t so pretty as I just packaged up my oats in 4 pyrex’s for the weak ahead.  I plan on covering them fruit, nuts, and other clean toppings.  As for this week’s meal plan, I’m sure you’re noticing a trend.  Monday is crockpot day.  Tuesday is the BOY’s day.  Wednesday is the BOY’s late night, so I’ve been making salmon, and Thursday is perfect for leftovers : )  Nice and Simple!

 

When my oats were done, I quickly washed out my crockpot and got ready for tonight’s dinner.

More Recipes to Come…

 

 

Meal Plan 2/24/14

Monday: Crockpot Thai Peanut Chicken from Rachel Schultz

 

Tuesday: Pork Chops

 

Wednesday: Salmon and Veggies

 

Thursday: Leftovers

 

Breakfast: Slow Cooker Banana Oatmeal

 

 

Slow Cooker Banana Oatmeal

Adapted Slightly From The Lemon Bowl

Serves 4

 

Ingredients

1 cup steel cut oats

1 ripe banana – mashed

2 cups almond milk

2 cups water

4 tablespoons flax seed meal

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon nutmeg

½ teaspoon cloves

Optional Toppings: banana slices, walnuts, coconut, chocolate chips or brown sugar

 

Directions

Place all ingredients in slow cooker* and stir until well combined.

Cook overnight or all day on Low for 8-10 hours.  (It only took me 4-5 hours while cooking on low.)

Stir oatmeal with a fork to loosen the steel cut oats and make sure everything is fully incorporated.

Serve warm with toppings.

Store in fridge in airtight containers or freeze.

 

NOTE: I probably should have used a crockpot liner for easy clean up with this recipe!

You HAVE to Make a Decision

After weeks of thinking, pinning, and planning, I seriously waited until the very last minute to decide what cookies I wanted to bake.  I’m not typically an indecisive person, but I think after my second week back at full time work, my brain was a bit fried.  When I finally made a list, it was way too long to be accomplished in one day, but it’s good to dream big…right?  The good news is that I kept it simple.

 

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Saturday morning was a white out!  The perfect kind of day to not change out of your pajamas and begin baking cookies immediately.  However, I didn’t have all of my ingredients.   At first, I considered ditching the cookie baking entirely and squeezing some fresh oranges for mimosas!  Followed by a movie marathon (I’m thinking Love Actually).

 

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But I knew I had a long list of cookies to attack.  A quick peak out the front door revealed that the roads were not yet plowed.  I decided it wasn’t worth it to slip and slide along the roads, so I checked my cookie list to see if there was anything I could make this morning.  Luckily, I keep the basics stocked.  I pulled out butter for later and found a recipe that used melted butter to begin.

 

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I found an easy and healthy one.  This cookie recipe was in my binder and I think it came from a magazine (a google search revealed that it is indeed from Cooking Light).  It’s super simple and includes mostly ingredients from your pantry.  I will share it with you this morning in case you are snowed in and looking to warm up your home with some baking.

 

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Baking was slightly challenging with this adorable face popping up near my bowl, in the sink, and next to the butter.

 

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But these cookies came out perfectly!  And I love that they are shaped differently than your typical round cookies.

 

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Since these cookies were super quick and since I still didn’t have soft butter, I decided I would turn my bananas into banana bread.

 

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By the time my bread was ready, the BOY was awake and the streets better plowed.  I convinced him to help me brush off his car, so that I could venture out into the world.  I needed to go to the grocery store and figured since I was heading out, I might as well throw in a yoga class.

 

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The BOY was nice enough to pull my bread out of the oven for me and when I returned home after yoga and the store, I sliced it right up.

 

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This peanut butter bread is one of the best I’ve EVER had!  The flavor is incredible with crunchy ends, and the inside moist and delicious!

Even though I’m not officially snowed it, I’m planning on pretending like it and baking up a storm today!

And in case you’re planning on doing the same, here are two awesome recipes to start with.  Decisions…Decisions…

 

 

How do you like to spend a Snowy Saturday?

 

 

Granola Cookie Wedges

From Cooking Light April 2013

 

Ingredients

1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar

2 tablespoons canola oil

1 tablespoon butter, melted

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1 large egg white

2.25 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1/2 cup)

1/2 cup quick-cooking oats

1/4 cup chopped pecans

2 tablespoons semisweet chocolate chips

Cooking spray

 

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°.

Combine first 7 ingredients in a large bowl; stir until well combined. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Add flour, oats, nuts, and chocolate chips to sugar mixture; stir until just combined.

Scrape the dough into a 9-inch glass pie plate coated with cooking spray, and spread to edges using a spatula. Bake at 350° for 13 minutes or until set. Cool slightly on a wire rack. Cut into 8 wedges.

 

 

Peanut Butter and Banana

Whole Wheat Quick Bread

From Cookin’ Canuck

 

Ingredients

4 medium ripe bananas, well mashed

1/3 cup non-fat plain Greek yogurt

1/3 cup crunchy peanut butter

3 tbsp canola oil

1/3 cup plus 1 tbsp granulated sugar

1/3 cup plus 1 tbsp (packed) brown sugar

2 large eggs

1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour

3 tbsp ground flax seed (flax meal)

3/4 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

 

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a 9- by 5-inch loaf pan with cooking spray.

In the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a large bowl, with a hand mixer), combine the mashed bananas, Greek yogurt, peanut butter and canola oil. Mix on medium speed until combined.

Add the granulated and brown sugars, and mix again until combined.

Add the eggs one at a time, beating between each addition.

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour, ground flax seed, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.

With the mixer on low, gradually add the flour mixture to the banana mixture. Beat until just combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and spread evenly with a rubber spatula.

Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, approximately 1 hour. Allow the bread to cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Remove from the pan and cool completely on a wire rack. Serve.

 

Note: I was going through the motions adding in my ingredients and was about to stir in my flour mixture when I realized I used the white flour that was out and not whole wheat flour.  Oops!

Baking and Breaking Bread

I think I was in denial about my big job change.  I kept saying that I would deal with it in November and then November was here and now my last day has passed and I have a few weeks of fun before diving into my next job.  They say that this new generation will have around 11 jobs in their lifetime.  Ok, I don’t know if anyone really says that, but I did read it on a website.

 

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I’m 7 1/2 years out of grad school and I’ve had 2 jobs, and now just starting my 3rd.  It seems to me that in healthcare, we tend to stay put.  There is so much more than salary that plays a role in job decisions and for those of us in the underpaid pediatric realm, this is even more true.  We do what we do because we really do Love What We Do!

 

 

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Over the past 5 years, I have baked countless breads that I’ve shared with my coworkers or served at classes at my job.  The most of them are probably banana : )

 

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I thought it would be fun to bake up a few loaves of bread for my last day and was excited to find a banana bread recipe that I haven’t tried yet.

 

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The addition of warm apples to sweet banana bread is a MUST!

 

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I know that there are plenty more breads in my future with new coworkers, new friends, and new adventures.  And…I will always remember the past bites with sweet memories!

 

 

Apple Banana Bread

From The Keenan Cookbook

 

Ingredients

1 3/4 cups flour

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 cup white sugar

1/2 cup dark brown sugar

2 eggs

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce

3 tablespoons milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 large bananas (mashed)

1 large apple (peeled, cored, chopped)

 

Directions

Mix together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and sugars.

Blend in eggs, oil, applesauce, milk, and vanilla.

Stir in banana and apple.

Pour batter into greased loaf pan.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 1 hour or until toothpick test comes out clean.

Freezes well.