Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Healthier Eating: Banana Bread

Healthy-ish Banana Bread Recipe
Here is a recipe that I personally bake all the time. It is a compilation of recipes I have tried with substitutions, subtractions, and personal preferences. I like my banana bread to be soft, banana-ful, and healthy-ish. I am by no means an amazing cook/baker, but I like to do both and know enough to take risks in the kitchen. I consider this a moderately healthy recipe, with the understanding it is a "treat". I understand gluten-free, no carbs, no sugar diets...however we are an everything in moderation family.

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees
4 ripe organic bananas, smashed
1/3 cup melted butter
1/2 cup light brown sugar
4 oz. of homemade and/or organic applesauce
1 organic egg, beaten
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 cups organic whole wheat un-bleached flour

Mix butter and mashed bananas in a large mixing bowl with a wooden spoon or fork.
Mix in sugar, egg, applesauce, and vanilla. Add baking soda, salt, and cinnamon, mix. Mix the flour in last. Pour batter into a buttered 5X9 loaf pan. Bake in the oven for 50 minutes to 1 hour depending. Cool for 10 mins, then remove from pan and cool for 10 more minutes.

I recently saw a trending article about the 5 foods we should never eat (which actually comes out to hundreds of thousands of foods on the no list). I enjoy being educated on healthy food choices, and am fortunate enough to have an allergy-free family. I try to buy as much organic produce and meat available to me. I was able to make all my baby food from scratch. However, I eat ranch dressing (at home I make it from a dry mix with organic milk and greek yogurt), I love potato chips (dipped in homemade guacamole), I eat pizza (from anywhere, the greasier the better). The amount of canola butter spread I put on my slice of banana bread is OBSCENE. 

What I can say is that we steer clear of the following things as much as possible.
-anything diet
-artificial sweeteners
-frozen foods (except Sammy)
-white rice (brown rice)
-white bread
-fast food

We make exceptions. We live on. We do the best we can, and I as a mom can mostly feel good about the food I offer my kids. Every once in a while a box of mac and cheese gets thrown in the mix...usually accompanied with a large bowl of fresh fruit and organic edamame. 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Arizona Vacation

Oh, so this is what a vacation feels like. 
I have always been one to go for a trip even with little kids/babies. I figure if I am going to be changing diapers and breastfeeding, why not do it somewhere else. Especially somewhere warm. With my youngest on the verge of potty-training, and breast feeding a distant memory...this was the first year I actually took in some long pauses on vacation.
Also, to my midwest mommas...I forgot how great it is to sit at a park in 75 degree whether. Hang on, just a couple more months.
Things We Did
-Phoenix Zoo: Second visit, still amazing.
-Children's Museum: First visit, awesome.
-Spring Training at Fitch Park: Great, free, concession stands open, playground within walking distance.
-Ate Out: Kona Grill, In-and-Out, Bandera, Humble Pie Pizza.
-Took long walks to look at cacti, mountains, and weird trees.
Smeagol Tree

-Swam in Uncle Jeff's heated pool.
-Colored, painted, played ball, read, watched cartoons...normal stuff we would have done at home, but in nicer weather.

A.J.'s Gourmet Grocery

Phoenix Children's Museum

The Many Poses of Goldie

Sunday, February 10, 2013

It's a Cupcake on a Cupcake!

Goldie will be celebrating her half birthday at school with these!

I originally saw this idea on Pinterest and had a "why didn't I think of that" moment. 
This cupcake really doesn't need much explanation, but I will give you my secrets.

As someone who regularly bakes, often from a box...here are my favorite brands.

Best Boxed Cake Mix: Duncan Hines Devil's Food
Best Canned Icing: Pillsbury Whipped (any flavor)

Making the Cupcake Cupcakes

I took the wrapper off the peanut butter cups because I could picture a bunch of preschoolers eating it. Instead of using a piping bag for the icing, I just do the same concept with a ziploc baggy. That way it is disposable. Just snip a small hole at the corner and push the icing through. This is a simple trick to give it a more professional look. A red M&M as the cherry on top. Red hots look more like cherries, but again...preschoolers.
These sprinkles are so bright and bold. They were perfect for Christmas Cookies too!

Here is another idea, baking cupcakes to say Thanks to a special someone. I used Duff's Candy Writers to make the polka dots and "Thanks". You can use the candy writers to make any design you can think of! Just let them dry and voila! 

Thursday, February 7, 2013

My Childhood Piano

Piano Bench Makeover

Sometimes all it takes is for one person to suggest that you might be good at something. The wheels start turning and the next thing you know you are taking piano lessons after school with your elementary school music teacher. Maybe this is what sparked my insane love for music...who knows. Either way, the piano is now living with me. It is the perfect piano for my littles to learn on, but it needed some TLC after over 21 years of serious love.
The piano bench before photo. Did I play piano with knives in my pockets?

I decided to make a custom cover. With absolutely no idea how to begin, I first found this awesome tutorial and went fabric shopping.
I found this tribal-ish print at Needle and Thread located in Valparaiso. If you like fabric, prepare to stand with your mouth agape for at least 15 minutes.

I bought the rest of the materials needed based on the tutorial above and got cracking.

Our Signed Band of Horses/Alabama Shakes Poster looks nice hanging on the wall above the piano.

I added some pizazz with a couple vases I bought at Michaels and a framed watercolor original by Goldie. Who knew such art could come from a Hot Wheels coloring book?

Now we have the perfect little corner for G & R to build their love for music.

Have any questions on how to DIY? Leave a comment and I will be glad to help!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Party Planning Tips!

Parties no longer consist of just purchasing a cake and a carton of ice cream. With new party planning websites, Pinterest, and Facebook...party planning has become extreme. I LOVE IT! I really do. I love invitations, decorations, menu planning, and mostly seeing my guests enjoy a GREAT party!

The rules I give myself when I am planning a party are:
1: Am I getting enough Bang for my Buck?
2: Is the effort worth the result?

Yes, a hand painted goody bag for each child is adorable, but if it takes 6 hours to do one...x-nay.

Here are 5 tips for planning a perfect party:

1: Personalize the invitation
The invitation sets the tone for the party! Let it be personal. Add a special photo of your little one that is refrigerator worthy. Find one that perfectly matches your theme. If money is tight, find a custom invitation at www.etsy.com and print it off at home or with a local printer. A great way to personalize the invitation is to tweak the standard who, what, where, when, and why. For example, if your theme is a Superhero Party, you could word your invitation like so...
Please fly on over and celebrate the birth of Bat-Rex-Man! Drive your bat-mobile over to the bat-cave located at 225 Hill Dr. Get ready to POW, BANG, and BOOM at 11:30 on February 21, 2013.
Here is an example of a custom invitation I purchased here for a train party.
2. Choose a few Signature Snacks
Along with your regular party snack favorites, add a few that really add to your theme. For the train party I did "trail mix", which was easy and yummy!

3. Avoid Store Bought Decor
You know the drill. You spend $50 on cute plastic centerpieces...and then throw them in a cabinet or the trash never to be seen again! I say, in order to get more bang for your buck...use decor that really is purposeful or reusable. For the train party, I used trains that we already had in the house and a few balloons purchased at a local party store. My rule for balloons is just make sure you have one for each guest...because children love balloons and it is a great addition to any treat bag. Instead of buying theme specific decor, use decor that lends itself to your color palette...like poms, serving-ware, and REAL CLOTH table cloths.
4. Hand-made and Home-made
Adding your own details makes people feel special. Don't waste time organizing the shoe closet before a party...do spend your time on things that will stand out and reflect all the effort you have made. These are cupcakes I made for a Scooby-Doo party...boxed mix and frosting from a can!

These treat bags were purchased at a dollar store and then customized with labels I had made at beau-coup for a Candy Buffet.
Don't forget that adults like to feel special too! I made these tags at home with images from the internet and a sharpie. I used regular tape to give it the laminated look.
5. Visualize the Purpose of your Party
The point of a party is to celebrate something or someone, enjoy the company of friends, and have a great time. Keep your expectations of perfection at bay...remember your signature touches will do all the talking! After the hustle and bustle of guests arriving and food preparation, remember to connect with the people you love. Those will be the moments you remember most. Oh, and designate someone to take lots and lots of photos!

Feel free to browse my personal pinterest boards here!