August 21, 2014

Banana Pancakes



I am not a kid person. When someone that has a baby assumes that since I have kids I must love all babies, then hands me their tiny infant, I cringe. Don't get me wrong I don't hate kids, I just don't go crazy over every one that I see. I never have. Growing up I never wanted kids, the thought of raising tiny humans was never something that made sense to me. I hated babysitting, it was horrible and babysitting boys was the worst. They destroyed things, they never sat still and honestly I always thought I should be paid more to deal with them. As an adult I still don't enjoy the company of many kids. There are always the exception, but they seem to be few and far between. I seem to be in the minority given the fact that I love my two boys, I don't want to try for a girl, and while your kid might be cute I don't feel a biological attachment to them. Maybe growing up in the late 80's/early 90's has just left my generation a little more jaded, for better or for worse I am the way that I am.

One thing that always makes me happy is pancakes. I love pancakes, I could eat them three times a day (if it wasn't nutritionally a horrible idea). My kids are pretty much the same way, but they love waffles and pancakes about equally. Since my household is also banana obsessed I make a lot of banana pancakes. The following is a recipe for banana pancakes (they freeze very well!).


Recipe adapted from Allrecipes.com


Banana Pancakes

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
Total time: 15 minutes
Yield: 6 servings

Ingredients
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 ripe bananas
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
Cooking Directions
  1. Combine dry ingredients in a bowl.
  2. Sift dry ingredients through a flour sifter (this step isn't necessary, but it really does make for fluffier pancakes).
  3. Mash bananas either by using a potato masher, food processor, or blender. Using the blender or food processor makes for a better consistency throughout the pancakes and reduces the possibility of part of the pancakes staying uncooked.
  4. In a separate bowl combine egg, milk, butter and bananas.
  5. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients.
  6. Don't overmix, the batter will be a little lumpy.
  7. Heat either a frying pan on medium heat or a griddle with melted butter or oil.
  8. Pour 1/4 cup of the batter for each pancakes onto the griddle.
  9. Cook until middle is set and pancake is browned on each side.
Tips: 
  • The melted butter can be substituted for canola or vegetable oil or if you are watching your fats applesauce. 
  • I have made this with 1 percent and non-fat milk and either one works fine. Whole or 2% would also work, I have not made it with almond or other non-dairy milks. 
  • The sugar could be substituted for honey, agave, or the sweetener you prefer. 
  • I have made this gluten free before by making my own oat flour. Making oat flour is very easy, just place whole oats in a food processor and process until finely ground. Homemade oat flour is a great homemade gluten free flour (make sure the oats you are using are gluten free and there are some people with gluten issues that have sensitivities to oats, so be careful if you just found out you have celiac disease etc.). 
That's it! The pancakes in the photo I added dark chocolate chips and melted peanut butter. Just place peanut butter in the microwave for 20 seconds and it pours easily over pancakes (and it's great with ice cream and other desserts too-yummy!). 

August 18, 2014

Homemade Italian Seasoning



In an effort to help my oldest son I have instituted a no electronics rule until 7 pm in our house. Basically my kids are only allowed 1/2 of electronics and then by 8 they have to be ready for bed and we read a science or history book for an hour. My oldest claims that I am a horribly mean mommy, however, he has come home with A's on all his tests and papers for the last week and a half. Personally I view the fact that my kids sometimes think my rules are mean as evidence that I'm doing a good job. I have never claimed to want to be my kids best friends. What I do want is for my kids to be successful adults and part of that means not reacting when the rules that I institute result in one of my kids telling me that I'm ruining their lives. In reality I'm doing just the opposite. It would be easier for me if tonight I just let my kids play Minecraft for hours while I caught up on my favorite television shows. Their future wouldn't be as bright though and that's more important to me than taking the easy route.

I attempt to make everything I can from scratch. Having an herb garden helps tremendously since I can dry the fresh herbs and use them in spice mixes etc. Seasoning mixes are one of the easiest things to make at home and cost a fraction of the money of store bought. The following is a recipe for Homemade Italian Seasoning.

Adapted from Taste of Home.

Homemade Italian Seasoning

Ingredients
  • 3 tablespoons dried basil
  • 3 tablespoons dried oregano
  • 3 tablespoons dried parsley
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried crushed rosemary
Cooking Directions
  1. Place all ingredients in a bowl, pestle, or spice grinder. Grind spices (with a back of a spoon if doing by hand) until the spice blend becomes coarse.
Making simple pantry items at home can save a lot of money over the course of the year and taste so much better than store bought. Plus they make great gifts as part of a food gift basket! 

August 17, 2014

Blog Forward Challenge #3 + Giveaway

#sponsored: l received complimentary products and ZonePerfect promotional items as a part of this challenge. However, I am free to comment about ZonePerfect in a positive, neutral or negative fashion and all opinions expressed are solely my own. 

I can't believe this year is going by so quick! My kids started school really early this year so they are already 2 weeks into the new school year. I thought having my kids in school all day would make things easier, but there has been one problem after another that I've had to deal with during the day since school started. I'm hoping that eventually things even out a little more in the coming months. This is my third post in my Blog Forward series which I started at the beginning of the year. So how are my resolutions coming?

I would love to say that I have stuck to all my resolutions completely. That would be great, but not realistic. I still struggle with eating breakfast every morning, some mornings I am great and eat healthy all day, other days I drink my morning tea and water all day completely forgetting that I forgot to eat. As I get older it has been harder for me to follow a consistent eating schedule. I no longer get hungry in the morning, I just don't. Most days I don't feel the need to eat until the middle of the afternoon. Since my metabolism has always been high eating most of my calories in the evening hasn't caught up with me yet, but I know that I need to get myself into better eating habits the faster that 40 approaches.

Luckily I have been better about spending more time on myself, exercising and taking time to relax, so my progress hasn't all been bad. I plan to allow myself to re-charge this first month of school and then start focusing on my eating habits once again. I have always been someone that needs to keep track of my bad habits before they spiral out of control. Keeping myself in check keeps the chaos at bay.


ZonePerfect send me another box of protein bars as part of this challenge and I really do like the gluten free bars. They are great for me to grab in the morning when I take my kids to the bus and don't have the weird aftertaste that many gluten free products have. They are a nice way to keep my bad eating habits in check.

Now for the fun part! You can win a ZonePerfect well being essential kit which includes a pedometer, tumbler, lip balm, hair ties, hand sanitizer and box of ZonePerfect bars. Just enter through the rafflecopter form below. Good luck everyone.




a Rafflecopter giveaway

August 16, 2014

WORLDFOODS Sauces Review

#Sponsored Disclaimer: I received this product for free from the sponsor of the Moms MeetSM program, May Media Group LLC, who received it directly from the manufacturer. As a Moms MeetsSM blogger, I agreed to use this product and post my opinion on my blog. My opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinions of May Medai Group LLC or the manufacturer of the product.


I'm not impressed with the ethnic food restaurants in my area. There are a few that I would consider adequate, but none that I would consider great. I'm also pretty picky. I grew up surrounded by great ethnic restaurants and with a mother that could cook anything she set her mind upon. For these reasons I cook a lot of recipes at home. I try not to limit my home cooking to one type of food, but rather to experience as large of a variety of foods as I can with the ingredients available in my area. While I enjoy cooking from scratch there are times when it's nice to be able to throw together dinner in a hurry. Recently I was given the opportunity to try WHOLEFOODS sauces in my home kitchen and share my impressions with all of you.

So what are WORLDFOODS sauces? WORLDFOODS has been around for over twenty years making all-natural ingredients. They use authentic herbs and spices, and offer over 65 products inspired by the tastes of Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Cambodia, China, and India. Each sauce is gluten and allergy free as well as free of added oil, trans fat, artificial ingredients, preservatives, or food flavor enhancers. Interested in trying the sauces yourself? Right now if you like the brand on Facebook, you can enter to win a selection of WORLDFOODS sauces. Or you can head over and receive a coupon for a $1.00 off by going to the following link :


I was sent a variety of sauces to experience in my home kitchen. Since there were a number of sauces I tried to use a variety of proteins including flat iron steak, chicken, pork, and lamb. All of the sauces were very easy to prepare and weren't overly salty (which is something I am sensitive to, I tend to stay away from salty foods). They were also mild, making them kid friendly which is important in my house since I have two young boys. The only negative thing that I found with the sauces was that a few of them were a little on the bland side. This is great for kids, but if you are looking for a little more kick you might want to add a small amount of crushed red pepper to turn up the heat a little bit. The sodium content is also a little high (even though it doesn't taste that way) so if you are on a sodium restricted diet you might want to be careful. Overall, though the sauces were a nice way to get dinner done in a hurry.



For more information go to the following links: 

August 15, 2014

Decaf 5-hour ENERGY® Lemonade Recipe + Giveaway






Disclaimer: The 5-hour ENERGY® samples, gift card, information, and additional gift pack have been provided by the makers of 5-hour ENERGY®. As always all opinions expressed are solely my own. 

I love drink recipes. There is something great about sitting down with a delicious beverage during/after a stressful day. During the summer I live on water, iced tea, and lemonade. When the heat and humidity get high I just feel like staying inside and drinking something cool and refreshing. Given my love of summer drinks I am going to share my recipe for mint lemonade made with decaf 5-hour ENERGY® shots as part of their “Yummification” contest.

So what is the 5-hour ENERGY® shots “Yummification” contest? First off how to enter: "To enter the contest, visit www.5houryummification.com and follow the instructions to complete the entry form; “Like” 5-hour ENERGY® on Facebook, then create and submit a video that is no longer than 60 seconds showing an original combination being made, tasted, and named (creativity counts!)." Drink creations must follow the approved/non-approved ingredients guidelines (i.e. no caffeinated beverages or alcohol). The idea is to use the energy shots in an everyday beverage and to be as creative as possible! One grand prize winner will win $50,000. Entries must be received by August 19, 2014 at 11:59 pm.

If you've never tried 5-hour ENERGY shots here is more information:

· 5-hour ENERGY® shots are dietary supplements that provide hours of energy and alertness

· Contain a blend of B-vitamins, amino acids, and essential nutrients

· Helps people feel alert and energized for hours

· Zero sugar, zero carbs, zero herbal stimulants and 4 calories!

· Caffeine in a 5-hour ENERGY® shot is comparable to a cup of the leading premium coffee

· May consume up to 2 bottles of 5-hour ENERGY®, spaced several hours apart. For moderate energy, drink ½ bottle of 5-hour ENERGY®

Now that you know a little about the contest here is my recipe using the decaf 5-hour ENERGY® shot:


Mint Lemonade

Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup mint
  • 2 cups sweetener (sugar, honey, stevia etc.)
  • 6 cups water
  • 2 cups fresh lemon juice
  • Decaf 5-hour Energy shot
Cooking Directions
  1. Make a simple syrup using the 2 cups of sweetener and 2 cups of water. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring until dissolved. Let cool. In a large pitcher place lemon juice, 4 cups of water, and 1 cup of the simple syrup. Add more water or sugar to taste. Stir in mint and let cool for at least one hour in the fridge. Pour into a cup over ice and add Decaf 5-hour Energy shot. 
For more information go to the following links:

· 5-hour ENERGY® “Yummification” video contest site: www.5houryummification.com

· 5-hour ENERGY® “Yummification” video contest Facebook tab: https://www.facebook.com/5HourEnergyShot/app_119145321465581

· 5-hour ENERGY® Twitter: https://twitter.com/5HourEnergy

Now for the fun part! You can enter to win a gift pack which includes a variety of 5-hour ENERGY® shots and a $25 dollar Visa gift card. Enter through the rafflecopter form below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

August 1, 2014

Bread Machine Homemade Bagels



I am a dog person. However, my husband and oldest son love cats.....so we have three of them. The cats and I get along, somewhat. I am the one that cleans their boxes and spends most of the day with them. Yesterday our oldest male cat pushed me when I was trying to figure out what a smell was around his food dish. Not just a little tap either, he was seriously trying to push me over. I think the cat is a little too smart. Whenever he is mad at me he does sneaky little things to annoy me. He knows exactly what buttons to push. Then when my husband comes home he acts all sweet and nice. It's a cat conspiracy. I prefer our dogs. If one of them annoys me, I put them outside or in their crates. Easy enough. If one of the cats gets upset my furniture or rugs suffer. So I definitely prefer my dogs, cats are a little too much like angry sneaky humans.



I have one more week of my two boys being home for summer break. Trust me I am literally counting down the days until school starts next Wednesday. Since I have two growing boys home everyday I have been making a lot of bread and baked goods. We can go through  whole loaf of bread in a couple of hours (no joke). This week I tried a new recipe for Homemade Bagels from Allrecipes.com.


Adapted from Allrecipes.com.


Homemade Bagels


An easy bagel recipe that can be made with a bread maker, mixer, or by hand. Freeze well so they can be made in big batches.

Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes
Total time: 3 hours 20 minutes
Yield: 12 bagels
Calories per serving: 196
Fat per serving: 2.8g

Ingredients:
  • 1 1/4 cup warm water
  • 3 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 4 1/4 cups bread flour
  • 1 tablespoon yeast
  • 4 quarts water
Cooking Directions:
  1. Add the first 6 ingredients to your bread maker in the order recommended by your bread machine (for mine I add wet ingredients, flour, and then yeast).
  2. If you have a bagel cycle select it, if not select the regular dough cycle (on my machine the only difference is that the bagel cycle has a longer rise cycle - 1 1/2 hours).
  3. Check the dough while the cycle is kneading, oftentimes more water or flour need to be added. The dough will come into a nice ball and stretch when it has adequate amounts of both.
  4. Alternatively if you don't have a bread maker this recipe works by hand or in a mixer.
  5. Add all ingredients to you mixer (or a bowl if making by hand) and knead 8-10 minutes.
  6. Oil a bowl (I prefer glass since it doesn't get cold like metal) and place dough into a ball.
  7. Cover with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and let rise 2 hours (skip this step if you are using a bread maker since the bread machine does it for you).
  8. Take the bread dough out of the bread machine and punch it down.
  9. Divide into 10-12 pieces (you can make your pieces bigger or smaller depending on the size of the bagel you prefer).
  10. Roll each piece into a ball.
  11. Place your thumb through the middle of the ball, making a hole, and pull out to make a round doughnut shape (use your other 4 fingers and other hand to help with the pulling).
  12. Alternatively you can roll each piece into a 6 inch rope and then join the ends (I prefer the first method since my ends never seem to stay together).
  13. Cover the bagels and let them rest for 15 minutes.
  14. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  15. Bring the 4 quarts of water to a boil.
  16. Drop the bagels in the water and allow to boil 30 seconds on each side.
  17. Move the bagels to the baking sheet.
  18. If you want to add toppings do so now (poppy seeds, sesame seeds etc.).
  19. You can also add an egg wash in this step: 1 tablespoon of water and one egg white. Combine and then brush on top of bagels. Then add toppings. 
  20. Bake bagels for 20 -25 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through.
Notes: 
  • The amount of flour and water can vary greatly depending on how liberal you are with measuring the dry ingredients and how accurate your liquid measuring cups are. I always check my dough during the kneading cycle and add more water/flour in order to achieve a dough that stretches and doesn't break with pulled gently. 
  • Play around with the toppings, I have tried everything from bacon to chopped nuts and they all are delicious. The toppings are where you can really make the bagels something special. 
  • These freeze very well. Just slice each bagel in half, place halved bagels in a freezer bag, and store for up to 3 months. They are great for weekday breakfasts since they can be placed in a toaster straight from the freezer. 
That's it. I love making homemade bagels. They are much cheaper than the store version and are delicious topped with cream cheese, butter, or jam. 

July 27, 2014

Whole Wheat Beer Biscuits



In a week and a half both of my kids will be in school. My youngest is super excited about starting kindergarten and has been talking about it non-stop for pretty much the last two months. I'm excited, but also nervous. I have stayed home with my kids for 8 years and for the first two years after graduate school I looked for work and found nothing. So basically for the last 10 years I have stayed at home. I'm more than a little nervous about both of my kids being in school. Originally I had planned on going back to work when my youngest started kindergarten. However, my area has absolutely no jobs besides fast food and Wal-mart, and when I factor in the additional amount my student loans would go up and child care I probably would probably only break even. So for now I will be staying at home. It will be a time of transition for both my youngest and I and I'm hoping that the next couple of weeks bring lots of positive changes for my whole family.



My family loves biscuits. They are one of their favorite breakfast foods and my youngest will eat two at a time if I let him. I try to add whole wheat flour into my family's diet whenever I can and this morning I made Whole Wheat Beer Biscuits.

Whole Wheat Beer Biscuits


Recipe Type: Breakfast
Summary:
An easy biscuit recipe using beer and whole wheat flour.
Preparation Time: 0h, 5m
Cooking Time: 0h, 20m
Total Time: 0h, 25m
Yield: Serves 8

Adapted from The Sunset Cookbook.


Whole Wheat Beer Biscuits

Ingredients
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 4 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup beer
Cooking Directions
  1. Combine flours, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.
  2. With your fingers or a pastry blender cut in the butter.
  3. Beat egg and then add to flour mixture.
  4. Add beer and mix just until dough comes together.
  5. Pat dough into a 1-inch thickness.
  6. With a 2-inch biscuit cutter cut out biscuits.
  7. Place on a greased or parchment papered baking sheet.
  8. Bake in a pre-heated 425 degree oven for 18-20 minutes.
Notes: 
  • If your family isn't a fan of whole wheat flour this recipe would also work with white whole wheat flour. It's an easier transition to whole wheat for kids and has a rise similar to regular all-purpose flour. 
  • Make sure to not overwork your dough. The difference between great biscuits and mediocre is all in the amount of kneading. Biscuit dough needs a light touch. Never use a rolling pin, hand pat the dough out, and only mix the ingredients until they just come together. Anything more and your biscuits will be tough and won't rise. 
  • I have also tried this recipe with only 1/2 cup of butter and had similar results. I try to cut down the amount of butter my family consumes when possible and while the biscuits weren't as rich, my husband and kids didn't notice the reduction in butter once the biscuits had jam and/or butter on them. 


That's it! They have a beautiful rise in the oven and are great either with butter or jam. Any type of beer would work, I used a wheat beer that I already had in the fridge. Have a great week everyone. 
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