It’s just like Betty Crocker, Really, It’s Betty Crocker Banana Nut Bread

I picked up some bananas last week and I’ve been waiting for them to get gooey, so they’d make extra delicious banana nut bread. Let me tell you, I’ve tried quite a few banana bread recipes in my day and this one I found on Betty Crocker’s site is unbelievable.  Check out my muffins:

As I sit here enjoying my little treat, I can’t help but give you a little update on the family.  Hubby decided to get the dogs beds.  They’re huge, because we have huge dogs. The sad part is that they’re beds to date has been an old blanket, so they’re not too savvy on this whole bed thing, but Bidi is starting to figure it out. We hope she’ll make it, actually on the bed by this weekend.

Banana Bread

1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups mashed very ripe bananas (3 to 4 medium)
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups Gold Medal® all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped nuts, if desired

1. Move oven rack to low position so that tops of pans will be in center of oven. Heat oven to 350°F. Grease bottoms only of 2 loaf pans, 8 1/2×4 1/2×2 1/2 inches, or 1 loaf pan, 9×5×3 inches.
2. Mix sugar and butter in large bowl. Stir in eggs until well blended. Add bananas, buttermilk and vanilla. Beat until smooth. Stir in flour, baking soda and salt just until moistened. Stir in nuts. Pour into pans.
3. Bake 8-inch loaves about 1 hour, 9-inch loaf about 1 1/4 hours, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes. Loosen sides of loaves from pans; remove from pans and place top side up on wire rack. Cool completely, about 2 hours, before slicing. Wrap tightly and store at room temperature up to 4 days, or refrigerate up to 10 days.

St. Louis via St. Paul via Phoenix all the way to you on the World Wide Web Salad

“You have a salad spinner!” Have you seen these? You wash the lettuce, put it in a bowl with a lid, push the button and it spins the water out. It’s amazing.

I was in Minnesota with a friend this summer when her Mom was showing off in the kitchen with her spinner. I don’t know what she’ll do next….maybe an automatic chopping device.

Out of that salad spinner came an amazing salad.  I actually forgot which restaurant in St. Louis she said she adapted it from, I call it my St. Louis via St. Paul via Phoenix Salad.

St. Louis via St. Paul via Phoenix Salad


3 romain lettuce hearts
1/4 head of iceberg lettuce
10 oz. can of artichoke hearts drained (not pickled)
4 oz. jar of diced pimentos drained (not seasoned)
10 oz. can of hearts of palm drained
1/2 large red onion
1/2 cup parmesan cheese

1/3 cup Wishbone Italian, 1/2 cup Wishbone Ceasar Mixed

Wash it, chop it, mix it in and enjoy.

Oh, and one more little tip.  If you mix the salad dressing in the hearts of palm jar, it makes it easy to store.

Arizona Farmer’s Market

Eat locally.  It’s a concept, a philosophy, a movement to be aware of the impact you can have by thinking about what food is available to you locally.  You impact local economy.  You impact the environment. I know I’m not equipped to make a full on switch to only locally grown food, but I get it and when I can, I try to give my patronage to locally owned businesses, including Agri-business.

Impact the environment.  Did you know there’s a type of potato that’s been genetically engineered to help corporations like McDonalds produce more uniformed french fries? The problem with this science is that the potato, like corn feed chickens, is so full of artificial “hormones” that the original nutritional value is almost null (not like that didn’t happen after they’re fried in transfat). Here’s the kicker.  The water demands to grow these super potatoes is so great, that it’s threatening the ground water supplies in the areas where there are massive crops. Isn’t that amazing?

Busy lives.  I feel pressed to cook during the week, and cooking during the week can be a chore. That’s why I’m happy to find that the Arizona Farmer’s Market group is getting organized and making larger efforts to advertise themselves.

They’re new site is awesome and it’s easy to find dates and locations where communities are hosting events. Check out their new site and find one in your neighborhood. Arizona Farmer’s Markets.

Awesome Portobello Brucetta…This should knock their socks off

“I thought 10 lbs of potatoes would be enough,” is how Thanksgiving started last year at RJ and Melissa’s house. I had never seen 10 lbs of mashed potatoes anywhere except at the Golden Corral, but it was the first Thanksgiving she was hosting and my first one away from home, so neither of us knew better.

This year, we’ve learned some lessons and Mel decided to throw another bash.  I’ve got some traditional Southern dishes I’m whipping up and more on that later, but the appetizer I’m contributing should knock their socks off.  Its one I found in a Gourmet a few years back and I made it for a bookclub meeting when we were reading The Other Boleyn Girl.  Here it goes:

Portobello Brucetta

1 1/2 cups balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
6 4-inch-diameter portobello mushrooms, stemmed, dark gills removed
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 red onions, sliced (about 6 cups)
2 large red bell peppers
3 tablespoons thinly sliced green onion
3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 garlic clove, minced
1 3 1/2-inch-diameter sourdough or French-bread baguette, cut into 24 slices
Additional olive oil

Preheat oven to 375°F. Mix vinegar, honey, brown sugar and thyme in medium bowl. Transfer 1/2 cup marinade to small bowl; set aside. Place mushrooms in 15×10-inch glass baking dish. Pour remaining marinade over mushrooms. Cover baking dish with foil and bake until mushrooms are tender, about 40 minutes. Transfer mushrooms to work surface; cool. Cut mushrooms into 1/2-inch-wide slices.
Heat 2 tablespoons oil in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add red onions and sauté until very tender and beginning to brown, about 25 minutes. Pour in reserved 1/2 cup marinade and cook until liquid is absorbed and onions are glazed, about 6 minutes. Set onions aside.

Char bell peppers over gas flame or in broiler until blackened on all sides. Enclose in paper bag and let stand 10 minutes. Peel, seed and chop peppers. Place peppers in medium bowl. Add green onion, basil, garlic and 1 tablespoon oil and toss to combine. (Mushrooms, onion mixture and bell pepper mixture can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover separately and refrigerate.)

Preheat oven to 375°F. Place bread slices on baking sheet. Brush bread with additional olive oil. Bake until lightly toasted, about 10 minutes. Layer portobello mushroom slices, arugula, onions and then bell pepper mixture atop bread slices. Bake until heated through, about 3 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

If you only have a second in Austin, here’s where you should grab a bite

We’re in town for Sister-in-Law’s wedding this weekend and it’s always a whirlwind to see everyone, do everything and putting a wedding into the mix makes for a busy weekend.  But it doesn’t mean that I won’t stop at one of these places.

If you have a quick visit to Austin planned, here are some of my guilty pleasures:

  1. Taco Cabana– Think of a sit down Taco Bell with booze and homemade tortillas.  It’s quick, it’s pink and it’s really good.  I always swing by for a breakfast burrito.
  2. Bill Miller BBQ– Rancher plate.  For $5 you get one meat, two sides and a large iced tea.
  3. SaltLick– Brisket. This is good stuff opposed to Bill Miller which is cheap and tasty.  The BBQ sauce here is vinergy, but has that wasabi appeal to it.
  4. Kolaches- Get them anywhere, I have a few favorite spots, but Kolaches are the best in Central Texas.
  5. Katz– Did you know Schlotzsky’s is an Austin based company? So, imagine a deli like that before it became a chain.  This place is awesome.

Guilty pleasures.  Where would we be without them?

What? Everyone’s doing it. Get off my back.

I’m really surprised that AT didn’t get whiplash tonight when we were watching Desperate Housewives.  You see I had her over for dinner and to help me determine the best places to put my Christmas trees.*  She gave me a hard time earlier when I said I was putting up some decorations.  When the scene in Desperate Housewives cut to Bree putting her holiday cards together, it was too funny.

Here I was, in the kitchen with my coordinating apron cooking home made mac and cheese, pumpkin bread and preparing to bake apples.

More on that later, I want to give some quick fly-bys of some of the food that passed my way this weekend:

  1. RoadRunner Park Farmer’s Market- There’s a very informational web site you Phoenix-Phoodies (oh, that’s so funny, get it, PHoenix-PHoodie, omg) should bookmark, it’s the Arizona Community of Farmer’s Markets.  With the cooler weather comes more variety from local farms.  I got the best stone ground bread, a juicy tomato and some really sour green apples.
  2. Matt’s Big Breakfast– I read about MBB a few months ago and have been waiting to check it out.  It was good  to a good business on a corner that could really use some TLC.  It was a little busy and the place only holds about 30 people, so just go when you have some time and aren’t in a rush.
  3. PB Loco– again. I’m obsessed, really, but it’s just so good.  I get the Nutella-Peanut Butter and Banana Sandwich.  What about that doesn’t sound good.

*Did you catch that? Tree(s).  Here’s the deal, I love to decorate for the Holidays and in the desert, there’s no hedges.  Which means there is no place to put Christmas lights. I have to do something with all those lights, right?

Oatmeal Cranberry Pecan Cookies

To say that I’ve been a little busy would be an understatement.  Not with any one thing either, I’ve just been busy.  It’s hard when you’re popular. :P

I’ve even been sneaking blog reading in at work when I need a little break and I’m jealous of all the good baking that’s been going on.  The other day while on African Kelli, she mentioned that she was going to bake Oatmeal Cranberry Cookies and I knew that I had to find time to whip up a batch from this great recipe I found at Central Market in Dallas.  I’ve tweaked the recipe a bit, but you could add raisins, dates or walnuts.

Oatmeal Cranberry Pecan Cookies

2 c all purpose flour
1 t baking powder
1 t ground cinnamon
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt

3/4 c unsalted butter
1/4 c vegetable shortening
1 c sugar
1 c dark brown sugar
1/4 c honey
2 large eggs
1 T vanilla extract
3 c old-fashioned oats
1 1/2 c cranberries
1 1/2 c pecans

Preheat oven to 350F. Use a Pam on the cookie sheet. Blend the first five ingredients in medium bowl.

Using an electric mixer, beat butter, vegetable shortening and both sugars in large bowl until fluffy. Beat in honey, eggs and vanilla. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in oats, cranberries and pecans. Drop batter by the table-spoonfuls onto the prepared sheet. Space them about 2 inches apart and flatten cookies slightly.

Bake cookies about 10-15 minutes. Cool completely. Makes about 4 dozen.

On another note, Hubby is on his way to France.  Not that I care.  I mean what’s the big deal.  I mean what’s so great about France.  I bet the weather is going to be crap.

Ok, so the weather is going to be perfect, but there will be something.  I better get a good trip gift.

Baby Environmentalism

Did your high school have Channel One News? Our’s did and it was big deal, we could watch TV in class, it was so cool.  I remember watching one newscast on the plastic rings that come on six packs of soda and how ducks and other wildlife were getting caught in the plastic rings.  The reporter, it was John Norris I think before he became a MTV Veejay, told us to “always cut the rings before tossing them.

Here I am, umpteen years later and I’m still cutting the rings on my six packs.  One day hubby saw me doing that and asked me what I was doing.  I told him I was protecting the ducks and that I cared about the environment.  He laughed.

Why did he laugh?  I never watched him do anything that was halfway conscience when it came to the environment. I was really proud of my meticulous ring cutting.  Think of all those ducks whose lives I was saving.

That’s when I became really “aware” of the crap I was mindlessly just tossing away.  I was embarrassed.

I’m not saying that I’m hugging any trees (come on, I’m from Texas, we have to adhere to some stereotypes) but I am making an effort. Here are some easy things I’ve started doing:

  1. Separating my newspapers/catalogues/flyers
  2. Taking a canvas bag to the grocery store
  3. Not individually bagging my fruit and veggies if possible
  4. Returning plastic grocery store bags when I forget the canvas one

I also printed out this handy sheet from the City of Phoenix web site, Recycle List.  Do you do anything simple you’d like to share?

M Streets in the House

It’s so funny, the neighborhood we lived in Dallas was called the M Streets, but tucked into these streets was one that stood alone; Kenwood.

Why would city planners put a K street in the middle of the M Streets?  Not being from Dallas, when hubby and I started looking for houses, we didn’t realize that it was a big deal to live on an actual M street, not a K street in the middle of all these M’s.  People on the M Streets had freakin bumper stickers that looked like those Euro-stickers with the country code on them, but they simply had a M on it.  So, feeling like the drama/band/goth/math club outsiders, we started calling ourselves the M-ish street crew.  But like a lot of outsiders, we were never organized enough to get a bumper sticker.

I went back to Big D this weekend to meet up with the girls to start shopping for Carey’s wedding dress.  Do you want a peek?

Ha! Ha! Too bad.  This is all you’ll get.

But if you go to Dallas and you’re staying in the Uptown/Highland Park/Ross Avenue area, here’s the places I recommend:

  1. Gloria’s on Greenville Ave
  2. Cafe Izmir on Greenville
  3. Mi Conzuelas on Main
  4. Bread Winners on Hall
  5. Times Ten on Skillman
  6. Aw Shucks on Greenville
  7. Luby’s on Mockingbird
  8. Campisi’s on Mockingbird
  9. Central Market on Lovers
  10. Cafe Brazil on Central Expressway