Friday, May 30, 2008

You must try this!

Mom told me a while ago about a great new recipe for banana-nut bread from the new Southern Living cookbook. I whipped up two loaves today for playgroup (well, one for playgroup and one for us ;), and WOW. This stuff is amazing! Seriously the best recipe for banana bread of any variety that I have ever tried. The cream cheese just adds a richness I've never had in any bread of this type before. I found the recipe on, and I'll post both the link and the copied/pasted version here. It came together so easily, and the results are both beautiful and delicious! This would make a great housewarming basket with some jelly and other breakfast goodies. I will be trying some of the variations that are listed below the recipe, too. Mom said the orange-pecan version is out-of-this-world good.

Cream Cheese-Banana-Nut Bread
Prep: 15 min., Bake: 1 hr., Cool: 40 min.

3/4 cup butter, softened
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups mashed bananas (1 1/4 pounds unpeeled bananas, about 4 medium)
1 cup chopped pecans, toasted
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Beat butter and cream cheese at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Gradually add sugar, beating until light and fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until blended after each addition.

Combine flour and next 3 ingredients; gradually add to butter mixture, beating at low speed just until blended. Stir in bananas, pecans, and vanilla. Spoon batter into 2 greased and floured 8- x 4-inch loafpans.

Bake at 350° for 1 hour or until a long wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean and sides pull away from pan, shielding with aluminum foil last 15 minutes to prevent browning, if necessary. Cool bread in pans on wire racks 10 minutes. Remove from pans, and cool 30 minutes on wire racks before slicing.

Cream Cheese-Banana-Nut Muffins: To bake muffins, spoon batter evenly into 24 paper-lined muffin cups. Bake at 350° for 25 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans 10 minutes. Remove from pans, and cool completely on wire racks. Makes 24 muffins. Prep: 15 min., Bake: 25 min.

Orange-Pecan-Topped Cream Cheese-Banana-Nut Bread: Prepare bread batter as directed, and spoon into desired pans. Sprinkle 1 cup coarsely chopped, toasted pecans evenly over batter in pans. Bake as directed. Cool bread or muffins in pans 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Stir together 1 cup powdered sugar, 3 tablespoons fresh orange juice, and 1 teaspoon grated orange rind until blended. Drizzle evenly over warm bread or muffins, and cool 30 minutes on wire racks.

Toasted Coconut-Topped Cream Cheese-Banana-Nut Bread: Prepare and bake bread or muffins in desired pans. While bread is baking, stir together 1/4 cup butter, 1/4 cup granulated sugar, 1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar, and 1/4 cup milk in a small saucepan over medium-high heat; bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Stir in 1 cup sweetened flaked coconut; 1 cup chopped, toasted pecans; and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract. Remove baked bread or muffins from oven, and immediately spread tops with coconut mixture. Broil 5 1/2 inches from heat 2 to 3 minutes or just until topping starts to lightly brown. Cool in pans on wire racks 20 minutes. Remove from pans, and cool 30 minutes on wire racks before slicing.

Cinnamon Crisp-Topped Cream Cheese-Banana-Nut Bread: Prepare bread batter as directed, and spoon into desired pans. Stir together 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar; 1/2 cup chopped, toasted pecans; 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour; 1 tablespoon melted butter; and 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon. Sprinkle mixture evenly over batter. Bake and cool as directed.

Peanut Butter Streusel-Topped Cream Cheese-Banana-Nut Bread: Prepare bread batter as directed, and spoon into desired pans. Combine 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour and 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar in a small bowl. Cut in 1/4 cup butter and 3 tablespoons creamy peanut butter with a pastry blender or fork until mixture resembles small peas. Sprinkle mixture evenly over batter in pans. Bake and cool as directed.

Makes 2 loaves

And the link...

Friday, May 16, 2008

New pages

I've been a busy bee working on pages for challenges and such. Thought I'd share a few! (Can you tell that twine was my latest purchase at the scrapbook store?!)

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Penne with Roasted Sweet Peppers and Bacon

When I stumbled upon these adorable little sweet peppers at the store the other day, I knew that I just had to come up with a way to use them. Here is the recipe I came up with. This dish is very similar to something I ordered at a restaurant on the River Walk called Paesano's during our trip in March to San Antonio. This is certainly not health food, but is it ever delicious!

Penne with Roasted Sweet Peppers and Bacon

Assorted small sweet peppers, or 2 large red/yellow bell peppers
5 pieces thick-sliced peppered bacon (I prefer Petit Jean brand), chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 shallots, chopped
1/3 cup dry white wine
1 cup cream
2 tsp. fresh thyme, minced
1/8 tsp. cayenne
Salt, to taste
1 lb. penne rigate, cooked according to package directions
Freshly grated Parmesan, for serving

To roast the peppers, heat a grill pan over high heat (or you can use your outdoor grill). Place the washed peppers on the grill pan, and grill until blistered and blackened on all sides. Remove peppers from grill pan and place in a resealable plastic bag, sealing tightly. (The trapped steam that accumulates as the peppers cool will make peeling the peppers much easier!) After about 10 minutes, remove peppers from the bag and, rinsing under cool water, gently peel away and discard the blistered skins and inner membranes of the peppers. Coarsely chop the roasted peppers and set aside.

In a large saute pan, brown bacon over medium-high heat until crisp and fat is rendered. Remove bacon to paper towels to drain. Drain off all but 1 tsp. of the drippings. Add the shallot and garlic and saute in the reserved drippings until shallot is translucent and garlic is fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add white wine, scraping up browned bits that have accumulated on the bottom of the pan. Simmer until wine is thick and bubbly, about 2 minutes. Add cream, stirring until smooth. Add thyme and cayenne, and season to taste with salt. Simmer until sauce is thickened and flavors are blended, about 5 minutes more. Toss cooked pasta with the sauce. Serve pasta sprinkled with the browned bacon and a generous amount of grated Parmesan.

Friday, May 9, 2008

I've been scrapping up an absolute storm lately for the Embellish It! class with Feeling Scrappy. We are sure having a lot of fun! Even if you've missed the start of this particular class, there are other exciting learning opportunities on the horizon: a class focusing on paper, and then (be still my heart!) a notions class! And on top of the classes, the Feeling Scrappy challenges are another outstanding way to hone your skills while getting to know fellow scrappers. So all you scrappin' types out there (and I know there are many of you!), come and join us! :)

Till the class is over next month, my layouts for the class will be top secret, but I thought I'd share this layout I finished recently of some of Charlotte's pictures at 6 months. I'm on a vibrant color kick lately!

Spaghetti with Chorizo and Almonds

One ingredient we're completely hooked on right now: Spanish chorizo. The smoky flavor is absolutely amazing when used any number of ways, but this particular recipe that Matt found on is my absolute favorite. This dish has it all: a great smoky and slightly sweet flavor from the sausage and the saffron, and an amazing array of textures. And as an added bonus, it makes for a great lunch the next day!

Spaghetti with Chorizo and Almonds

Thursday, May 1, 2008


Lately we've been on a quest to explore different grains. This week's new option was quinoa (pronounced keen-wah), and it was absolutely delicious! Native to South America and the Incas, quinoa is packed with nutrients, and is an excellent source of protein. Perfect for a vegetarian meal! I found a recipe in the new Southern Living Cookbook for a quinoa-vegetable pilaf, and with a crusty loaf of bread alongside, it was perfect spring fare. I highly recommend it! I've typed up the recipe below, including the couple of changes I made as I went. I rarely leave a recipe unchanged!

Vegetable-Quinoa Pilaf

1 cup uncooked quinoa (**IMPORTANT: Rinse the quinoa thoroughly under cold water until the water runs clear before cooking. It has a very bitter outer coating that apparently tastes awful!)
1-3/4 cups chicken broth
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 medium leeks, chopped (See photo below for my substitution. Scallions would probably work fine, but if you haven't ever tried leeks, you really should! Such delicate onion flavor.)
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped yellow bell pepper
3/4 cup finely chopped carrot
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
2 cloves minced garlic
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan
salt & pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Combine rinsed and drained quinoa and the broth in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes or until quinoa is tender and liquid is absorbed.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add leeks (or your particular substitution) and next 4 ingredients. Cook until vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in garlic; cook 1 minute. (**The recipe doesn't call for it, but at this point, I added a splash - probably 1/4 cup - of white wine and simmered for a couple of minutes until it was thick and bubbly.) Combine vegetable mixture and quinoa. Stir in cheese, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with parsley.

Aren't these onions gorgeous? I found them at the farmers' market last week. I used them in lieu of the leeks the recipe called for.

I think Jack was a fan!

Topped with freshly grated Parmesan - perfect!