Banana Crumb Muffins

I can never eat bananas fast enough so it is good to have some recipes on hand for when they are too ripe to eat. These muffins are easy to make and really tasty (when not made with a cup of salt – oops!).

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 bananas, mashed
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/3 cup butter, melted
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon butter

How to Make Them

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Lightly grease 10 muffin cups, or line with muffin papers.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together 1 1/2 cups flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, beat together bananas, sugar, egg and melted butter. Stir the banana mixture into the flour mixture just until moistened. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups.
  3. In a small bowl, mix together brown sugar, 2 tablespoons flour and cinnamon. Cut in 1 tablespoon butter until mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Sprinkle topping over muffins.
  4. Bake in preheated oven for 18 to 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into center of a muffin comes out clean.

Recipe courtesy of Allrecipes.com.

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BBQ Pulled Pork

Since I don’t have time to roast a whole pig, the crock pot is an easy alternative for pulled pork and will give you the same great flavor. Pulled pork is awesome on sandwiches and is a great substitute to hamburgers and hot dogs at your next barbecue (or for the big game tomorrow!).

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds pork tenderloin
  • 12 oz can of non diet root beer or coke
  • 18 oz bottle of your favorite barbecue sauce (I like Sweet Baby Rays)
  • Hamburger or slider rolls

How to make it

  1. Place the pork in the crock pot and pour the soda over the meat.
  2. Cover and cook on low for 7 hours.
  3. Drain well.
  4. Stir in barbecue sauce. Serve (Serves 6-8)

Helpful Hints

  • I find that pulled pork works better on smaller rolls. Try making a bunch of mini sliders for your next big event. Pssst…this will also make great nachos!
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Flaky Pie Crust

The holidays are a great time to break out your pie making skills. Don’t worry – making pie crust is really easy. Most people find it really intimidating so this is a great way to impress your friends and family!

Ingredients

  • 3 cups of flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 cups cold shortening
  • 6 tablespoons ice cold water
  • 1 pound of uncooked beans
  • 1 egg yolk

How to Make it

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  2. Measure flour into a bowl and mix in the salt
  3. Cut in the shortening with a pastry blender or a fork until the dough resembles giant peas
  4. Sprinkle with water a tablespoon at time and mix gently after every addition
  5. Gather dough into a ball and divide into half
  6. Put one half in the fridge for the top crust
  7. Roll the other half out evenly on a well floured surface (about 1/4 inch thick)
  8. Lay into pie plate and poke with fork
  9. Fill with uncooked beans in a piece of foil (this will keep the pie for puffing up)
  10. Bake this way for 5 minutes
  11. Remove beans and foil and bake for an additional 7 minutes
  12. Add your filling
  13. Roll out the other half of the pie crust and cover filling
  14. Seal the edges and cut off any excess dough around the edge
  15. Poke holes in the top of the crust
  16. Mix egg yolk in a small bowl
  17. Brush egg yolk on top of crust (this will make it brown and shinny)
  18. Bake pie according to your filling instructions -to prevent the crust from burning keep a close eye on it and cover the edge with foil when it looks golden brown
  19. When the pie is done, turn off the oven but let it cool in the oven for about 30 minutes – this will allow the pie to set

Helpful Hints

  • I know it will be hard but pie is best eaten on the next day. This will give it time to come together and the filling won’t run out as soon as you cut into it.
  • The crust is the most important part of the pie. The key to keeping it flaky is to keep the dough as cold as possible. Limit the amount of time you handle it and if something comes up pop it in the fridge. I like to use a bottle of cold wine to roll out the dough to keep it extra cold.
  • You will have extra dough from the edge of the crust (or a lot if you made pumpkin pie) so gather it up and roll it out. Spread butter and cinnamon and sugar over the surface and roll it up. Cut the roll into 1 inch pieces and cook at 375 degrees for 20-30 minutes. This is my favorite holiday treat!
  • Don’t worry if your pie filling leaks through your bottom crust – it will still taste great!
  • Traveling this holiday season and want to bring your famous home made pie? No problem – the TSA will allow you to bring a pie through the security check point. I highly recommend purchasing a pie carrier and make sure your pie plate fits in it before baking (yes, I am talking from experience).
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10 Great Kitchen Items for YOUR Domestic Ninja

The holidays are a great time to get (or give) some things that you might be missing in the kitchen. If you know someone who likes to cook do a little digging and find out what they need. If you’re not sure, go with one of the my favorite items listed below.

1. Mixing Bowls

Having a good set of mixing bowls is great whether you love to bake or cook. I really like these mixing bowls made by OXO Good Grips because they come in three sizes and have a rubber bottom to keep the bowl still while you are mixing.

2. Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Skillet

Cast iron skillets are great for cooking because they retain heat very well. They also need to be seasoned which means they are sprayed with oil and baked at a high temperature to allow the oil to seep into the pours of the metal. It is best to buy them pre-seasoned so your gift receiver will not have to do it themselves. Oh and grab them a silicone handle sleeve so they don’t burn their hand!

3. Silpat

Silpat non-stick silicone baking liners are a great gift for a baker. It creates a non-stick surface that is great for the oven or sticky toffees and caramels. I love using them for cookies and I could never have too many!

4. Slow Cooker

Slow cookers are great for busy moms and dads or someone who just doesn’t want to put a lot of effort into a great meal (sign me up!). I have the Hamilton Beach Set ‘n Forget 6-Quart Programmable Slow Cooker and I love it. It is great for cooking meat or whole meals low and slow. Print out my shredded buffalo chicken recipe and give it along with this slow cooker to get them started.

5. Spoons and Spatulas

When I was registering for stuff for my wedding, I realized that I had one large mixing spoon and a wisk. Every kitchen should have at least a wooden spoon, a ladle, a set of silicone spatulas, an offset spatula, a stainless steel spatula (or I guess they are called turners?), a good whisk, and a pair of tongs.

6. Knife and Cutting Board

Having a great knife and cutting board is essential to enjoying the cooking experience. Cutting vegetables and meats will be much easier and faster. If you have a good knife you need to also have a good cutting board or your knife will get dull very quickly. Epicurean makes great cutting boards that are also affordable. I have a Miyabi chef knife that I love and don’t forget the edge-guard! If you’re unsure of their knife skills (or your own) you can also get them a knife skills class as your local Sur La Table.

7. KitchenAid Mixer

Everyone loves a KitchenAid Mixer. You can get them in a bunch of different colors but stick to the artisan series unless you are making serious amounts of baked goods. You will find that the professional series doesn’t mix as well with smaller batches. If you don’t want to spend the cash on a KitchenAid mixer, the next best thing is a really good hand mixer. I use mine all the time to whip up quick batches of cookies.

8. Cookbooks

There are a lot of cookbooks out there so it might be overwhelming to find a great one. I would recommend deciding on a specific cuisine and searching Amazon.com. Read the reviews and pick the best one you can find. My favorite cookbooks are Martha Stewart’s Cookies and The Biggest Loser Cookbook but you can also go with classic cookbooks like Joy of Cooking and How to Cook Everything.

9. Something Special

There might be something special that your domestic ninja would like to have in the kitchen. It might be a cake stand, dutch oven or maybe some fancy martini glasses for their next dinner party.

10. Spices

Spices can be really expensive so a gift card to Penseys Spices or their local grocer would be much appreciated. Penseys also has a lot of affordable gift packages that are great. An old roommate of mine got the Indian spice package one year and it was awesome.

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Refreshing Fruit Water

Over the past couple of months I have noticed a lot of places serving fruit and mint infused water. It is really easy to make yourself at home so try my suggested combinations below for a relaxing and refreshing afternoon.

  • Lemon and Mint
  • Strawberry and Lemon
  • Cucumber and Mint
  • Cucumber, Mint, Lemon, Lime and Strawberry
  • Pineapple
  • Watermelon

How to make it

  1. Slice your fruit (about 3 lemons, 3 limes, one large english cucumber, half a pineapple, 4-5 pieces of watermelon, 10 sprigs of mint)
  2. Add fruit and/or mint to a large pitcher.
  3. Fill with water
  4. Refrigerate for at least one hour to allow flavors to diffuse into the water.
  5. Serve over ice.

Helpful Hints

  • You are making fruit infused water not fruit juice so don’t go over board. Put in just enough fruit to make it refreshing.
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Oven Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

I use to carve pumpkins religiously every October until one Halloween when I cut open my left arm (3 stitches-yikes!). I started up again a couple of years ago motivated to try this recipe. So instead of tossing the innards of your pumpkin this year, save the seeds and make a tasty treat (or just go buy them at your local grocer).

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 cups raw whole pumpkin seeds (make sure these are rinsed and dried out if you take them from your pumpkin)

How to make them

  1. Preheat over to 275°F
  2. Combine all ingredients and mix thoroughly
  3. Spread them out on a shallow baking dish or cookie sheet
  4. Bake for 1 hour, stirring occasionally

Helpful Hints

  • If you are taking the seeds from your own pumpkin wash them off and give them a day or so to dry out. Place them on a paper towel and put them in the sun.
  • These will make great “fingernails” at your Halloween party!

Recipe courtesy of AllRecipes.com.

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Sunday Night Chili

Chili is a great meal to make on a Sunday so you can enjoy it all week long. It will smell so good by lunch time you won’t be able to keep yourself from having a bite (or two). If you plan it right, it will be ready just in time for Sunday Night Football!

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds lean ground beef
  • 2 (29 oz cans) tomato sauce
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 1 small green bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon white sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can white kidney beans (or white beans), drained and rinsed

How to make it

  1. Place ground beef in a large skillet and cook over medium-high heat until evenly brown.
  2. Drain and set aside.
  3. Place onion, celery and green pepper into the same skillet and cook until tender, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add everything to your crock pot and cook on low for at least 6 hours.
  5. Serve with some fresh cheddar cheese and a small dollop of sour cream (Serves 6-8).

Helpful Hints

  • Brown the beef and cook the veggies the night before. Measure out your spices and keep them in an air tight container so they are ready for you to pour in first thing in the morning.
  • Substitute half of the hamburger for lean ground turkey to save on some fat and calories.
  • Serve with tortilla chips or crusty bread!
  • Divide left overs into portions and bring them for lunch.

Recipe courtesy of Allrecipes.com

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Fresh Peach Drop Cookies

Peach season is coming to an end and in case you are getting tired of pies and cobblers (okay so that is a stretch but lets keep our options open) try this recipe for peach cookies. They have a great sweet-tart flavor and cakey texture that everyone will love.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large ripe peaches peeled, pitted and chipped into 1/4-inch pieces (1 3/4 cups)
  • 1/3 cup peach or apricot jam
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

How to make them

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Whisk together flour, salt and baking soda.
  3. Use an electric mixer to mix the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.
  4. Reduce speed to low and add the egg and vanilla.
  5. Add the flour mixture and mix until well combined.
  6. Add the diced peaches and jam.
  7. Mix until well combined.
  8. Drop dough onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper or a silpat.
  9. Combine 2 tablespoons sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle on each cookie.
  10. Bake cookies until golden brown, 11-13 minutes.
  11. Let cool on baking sheet and then transfer to wire cooling racks.

Recipe courtesy of Martha Stewart’s Cookies (pg 217)

Helpful Hints

  1. To keep cookies fresh longer, put a piece of bread in the storage container with your cookies. I know it sounds weird but it will keep your cookies from getting hard and going stale.
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Sangria!

Sangria is great for big parties or events. It is really easy to make and everybody loves it! I recently made a batch for a fourth of July party and it was a hit. You can also try this with white wine and different variations of fruits and fruit juices.

Special thanks to Michelle for sharing her awesome Sangria recipe!

Ingredients

  • 1 lemon and 1 orange per pitcher
  • Sangria wine (I like Carlo Rossi Sangria wine-about $9 and makes three pitchers per jug).
  • 1 cup of orange juice
  • 1 cup of lemon-lime soda.
  • Splash of brandy.

How to make it

  1. Slice an orange and a lemon.
  2. Put half of the slices in your pitcher (save the other half to garnish your drinks).
  3. Fill pitcher 2/3 full of Sangria wine.
  4. Add orange juice, lemon-lime soda and brandy.
  5. Stir and serve on ice with a garnish of lemon and/or orange.
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How to Make the Best Bacon

I love bacon and I’ve tried everything from pre-cooked bacon to beef bacon (this was an unfortunate grocery store accident – tastes like beef jerky). I’ve also tried a number of ways to cook it – frying pan, microwave, griddle. The best way to cook bacon? – The oven. Not only does it get your bacon crispy and delicious, it also lets you forget about it for 20 minutes while to prepare the rest of your meal.

Ingredients

  • One package of your favorite bacon (I like hickory smoked)
  • One baking sheet
  • Aluminum foil

How to Make it

  1. Line your baking sheet with aluminum foil
  2. Place flat strips of bacon on the baking sheet (about 1/4″ apart)
  3. Place the baking sheet in a cool oven
  4. Turn the oven on to 400 degrees
  5. Cook the bacon for 20 minutes
  6. After 20 minutes check to see if the bacon looks crispy (you might have to remove it from the oven to get a good look)
  7. If you still see some fat on the bacon leave it in for a couple more minutes
  8. Watch it carefully to make sure it does not burn

Helpful Hints

  • If you have more than one baking sheet of bacon you can put both trays in at the same time but it will take a little longer to cook
  • I love to make a batch of bacon on the weekend and use it on my sandwiches all week for lunch or a cobb salad for dinner.
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