Banana Bread…Finally!

The other morning for breakfast (well it was 11am…so late breakfast) I was going to have frosted mini wheats. They are one of my favorite cereals! I had it all poured out in the bowl and then opened the fridge and…no milk. Gah! I hate when this happens! And then after that I didn’t want to eat anything else because I had my mind set on cereal. So I sat and sulked for a while. And then I decided to make banana bread with the 3 very ripe bananas we had on the counter.

I love banana bread so much but whenever I made it, I was never pleased with the results. It was always too dry or not very flavorful. I had a lot of banana recipes saved that I wanted to try out and I finally did! I was so incredibly happy with the results! I will definitely look forward to making this again. Oh it was also super easy to make! And the oven didn’t stop working..I would have to say it was better than frosted mini wheats :)

This recipe is from 4littlefergusons on Tasty Kitchen!

Ingredients:

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar (not packed)

1 stick butter, softened

1 egg

4 tablespoons sour cream

1 ½ cup flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 whole over-ripe bananas, blended so that they’re liquid

Directions:

Cream together first 5 ingredients. Slowly add the flour and then the baking soda and salt. Add the blended bananas. Put in a greased bread loaf pan and bake at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes. (How easy was that?!?) Then enjoy the super not-dry and tasty bread! Usually I always put butter on breads and muffins, but this really doesn’t need it! Which is kinda crazy because I love butter!

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Alright…School.

I really truly had one of the greatest summers ever and I am so grateful for everything I got to do and experience. Even after I got home and wasn’t doing anything, I enjoyed just relaxing. I didn’t really want school to start because a lot of times it can be not so enjoyable and stressful. But school started again…as it does every year. And, you know what? It’s gone pretty well so far! For the first year in a long time, I don’t have a teacher that I sense is going to be bad- so far I like all of them!

It doesn’t really feel like school has started yet. This weekend feels like it’s just part of my summer vacation :) Thursday was my first day and it was a half day. After school, Celina and I went out and got pedicures! A pedicure was my birthday present for her (in June) but because summer was so busy, it hadn’t happened yet. We decided to do it for the start of school! It was a lot of fun and I love how my toenails turned out. Oh if anyone in the Spring Hill area needs/wants a place to get their nails done, I would totally recommend Luxy Salon in the Crossings. I’ve been there twice now and they’re always really nice and do a great job!

See my super awesome tan line on my feet? I know you’re jealous.

So that night, my family went to the fair! It was so much fun :) I had been planning on going to the fair just to take pictures and eat food. And that I did! I also caught part of a very interesting hypnotist show!

Mmm…funnel cake :) So tasty!

To see all my fair pictures go to http://www.amiliaphotography.com/?p=766 :)

Friday was our first full day of school…and it went well too :) Some things aren’t great yet…I don’t know where to sit in some of my classes and I don’t feel motivated to do any homework..but I’m hoping everything will start feeling more normal soon. Friday evening I returned to the fair with my friends and rode some rides! That was pretty awesome too :) Oh and I had a deep fried oreo which was super yummy!

Then on Saturday I baked banana bread and went and saw The Help at the movies. So yeah…still feels like I’m doing things in summer mode! Even as this year gets going and school becomes more hectic, I’m hoping to maintain a positive attitude. I would love it if I liked my senior year!

The Help

The Help by Kathryn Stockett is an incredible book- one of my absolute favorites. It tells the stories about women we never think of…the maids who worked for white families in the 1960s…the black people who lived in constant fear in the south. I think the book does an amazing job of telling their stories.

The movie, The Help, just came out in theaters. I was apprehensive to see it because I didn’t think it could do the book any sort of justice. I went and saw the movie with my mom and sister and I thought it was spectacularly done. I won’t say it was better than the book but seeing it made it much more real in many ways. The actors were incredibly cast, almost all of them were just what I imagined. While watching, I alternated between laughing and crying. It was so well done…and it’s a movie that certainly makes you think about what you saw for a long time after.

I think movies and books like The Help are so important. They remind us of America’s dark past and how far we’ve come. But I think it also teaches us never to allow ourselves to grow complacent at the injustice and inequality we see around us. We’ve come a far way as a nation but there is still racism here. Living in the south I am continuously shocked at the prejudice I see here…towards black people, Hispanics, Middle Eastern People, homosexuals, atheists…and the list goes on.

We’ve come a far way. But that’s not an excuse to stop working and pushing towards equality for everyone…we must always remember the people who were forced to fight for their rights. Characters like Minny and Aibileen and Skeeter in The Help encourage us to never be complacent and to have courage to do what is right.

Taco Pasta…and no comments on the thing that didn’t happen today.

I’m not going to talk about that…thing…that happened today. Maybe tomorrow. But talking about it now would make it real. And it would mean that summer is…over. Sniffle.

So instead I’m gonna share what I made for dinner last night. It was delicious! I will totally make this again. What is taco pasta? Think hamburger helper on steroids…mmm steroids.

Ha. ha. Just kidding.

You will need some Ro-tel for this pasta! I used one can of tomatoes with habaneros and one with green chilies. I like food to be spicy! But it really wasn’t very spicy. Next time I think I’ll use two cans of the habaneros.

Sometimes I think I freak out about things that don’t need freaking out about. For example, I bought shell pasta. But the box said “salad shells” and I’m going “oh my gosh…I’m not making salad…is this still going to be ok?????” turns out, it’s just normal pasta.

Also, in all the movies and stuff people are always crying when they chop up onions. Like it’s the classic thing for character Anna to have tears in her eyes and Anna’s friend, Suzy, will be like “Why are you sad? I knew you loved Fernando!” And Anna’s like “No! I’m just chopping onion!” But really they are crying because Fernando, her Spanish love, just returned to Spain to be with Isabella, the beautiful flamenco dancer. All that to say, I was flipping out while chopping the onion because I thought I was gonna start crying. But I didn’t. Anticlimactic much?

Put the onions and a pound of beef in a large skillet and cook until the meat is browned. Then drain the extra fat. Add the Ro-tel and taco seasoning and let simmer for like 5 minutes. While you’re doing this, the salad shells should be cooking. You don’t have to use salad shells. You can use any small pasta. But I liked the shells because the meat and all that stuff goes in the shells and it’s all yummy.

Then you add the cream cheese, sour cream, and pasta. Mix it until it’s all mixed! Then put some shredded cheese on top and wait until it melts. Then eat. It’s so delicious!

This is really filling! It makes a TON which is great because there were lots of leftovers. And it’s really easy to make. I would definitely recommend this!

Ingredients:

16oz (dry) small pasta

1 lb ground beef

1 small onion, chopped

2 ten-ounce cans of Ro-tel, slightly drained

2 packets taco seasoning

8oz cream cheese

1 cup sour cream

Shredded cheese (however much you want)

Directions:

Boil a large pot of water and cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain and reserve 1 cup of the pasta water and set it aside.

In a large skillet, cook the ground meat and onion over medium-high heat until no longer pink. Once the meat is cooked through, drain off the excess fat. Mix in the ro-tel and taco seasoning and let it simmer over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Add in the cream cheese and sour cream and stir until mostly blended. Now add the pasta and mix it all up. Add the pasta water if you think the sauce is too thick…I didn’t need it. Keep stirring until it’s all blended, adding salt and pepper if you feel like it! Top this with some shredded cheese and cover with lid just until the cheese is melted.

And then eat it! Lots!

Sing Your Heart Out

Yesterday I went to the fair’s singing competition, Sing Your Heart Out, because my sister was singing! She’s such an amazing singer. There were some super talented kids there. There was a grade school, middle school, and high school division. It was a rather…long night. (Hem hem for next year you should have separate nights for each division).

My sister sang Bleeding Love by Leona Lewis and just nailed it! There were a lot of other girls from her singing classes there (J. Kelley Studio) and they all did incredible. At the end of the night, the results were presented. Aaaand my sister didn’t win. But she really should have. She at least should have placed (and I’m not saying that just because I’m biased. I’m really not!). The judging was totally crazy…the high school division wasn’t judged right at all either. We were all shocked with the results. It was all very disappointing. The awards ($500 and $1000) were given out really awkwardly, too. The judges (crazy people) didn’t say anything at all, the M-C’s presented them without any sort of fanfare…I mean really! It was strange. So many of the girls were upset about the results (they had a right to be). Oh well…I guess that’s just how it goes. To make my sister feel better (for not winning) and my mom, youngest sister, and me feel better (for sitting there for 5 hours) we ate funnel cake. It was delicious!


Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting

Today (well really yesterday) was not the best day ever. It was gross outside and I wasn’t feeling great and I was tired and cranky. I just got this new mini muffin tin and I really wanted to make mini cupcakes so that’s what I decided to do. Little did I know that it would be such an ordeal to create these little cuties!

I made Pioneer Woman Chocolate Cake for the cupcake part. Because one recipe makes 24 regular-sized cupcakes, I halved it to make 24 mini-sized cupcakes. Well I forgot I was halving it half way through and added double the chocolate necessary. While I’m not opposed to SUPER chocolate cupcakes, I didn’t wanna test it. Sooo I had to start over. Then I got to the end of the recipe and…uhh there’s no baking soda. Blah! Luckily, my dad found some in the garage. Alright, crisis averted. So I put them in the mini cupcake tin (which was rather difficult and messy but I got over it) and put them in the oven. Really these only should have taken 10 minutes to bake. But the oven shut off. 45 minutes later, they were cooked. I was a little…irritated at this point. So I decided to make rice. The rice was yummy.

Here’s my new muffin tin. The little cupcake holder thingies were too small for the tins…they worked but I would prefer to find ones that fit a little better.

Later that night, I felt more at peace with the cupcakes and made the frosting for them. And frosted them. And then had fun taking the pictures. And then I ate them. Their adorable-ness and their yummy-ness made up for all the trouble they caused me!

It’s peanut butter frosting! Yummy yummy yummy! I have a slight obsession with peanut butter…I’ve been eating way more peanut butter than nutella the past 6 months (gasp!). Although now that I’ve made this, I want to make cake with nutella frosting! Ahhh…my nutella frosting is delicious!

I’m really wanting to get in to food photography. Usually I just snap a quick picture of the food I make but since I love photography so much, I thought I might as well have fun with my food photography! It’s hard, though, because the lighting in the kitchen isn’t good and when I’m making dinner, I’m usually just focused with eating dinner and feeding my family. But when I bake, I can take some time to photograph stuff! I did that tonight. I think the pictures turned out pretty cute :)

These were SO good. You have to eat them with cold milk…it ups the yummy-ness factor by like 10. And because they’re mini, they have no calories. So you don’t have to feel guilty when you eat 9 of them… :D

Pioneer Woman Chocolate Cake– Halve this recipe if you want to make 24 mini cupcakes or 12 regular size.

Peanut Butter Frosting– This recipe makes enough to frost the 24 mini cupcakes.

Pioneer Woman Lasagna

I have not enjoyed the weather lately. It’s all gross and overcast and stormy. Don’t get me wrong, I love storms. But if it’s going to be all icky outside, it might as well really storm. I don’t like this sprinkling nonsense. This sort of weather makes me all tired and lethargic. I just want to curl up in my flannel pajamas and eat soup and drink hot chocolate and watch movies. I realized today that I haven’t done something I really wanted to do this summer- try to bake chocolate chip cookies in the car! And now I’ve missed my chance because it’s going to be all rainy and cold (hem high 80s) until school starts! Hopefully the end of August or September has some more sunny 100+ days so I can make those cookies. Anyways…

The other night I decided I was going to make dinner and I was looking through recipes, trying to decide on what to make. I finally decided to try Pioneer Woman “Best Ever” Lasagna. I’ve always loved lasagna- I used to make it with my grandpa. Pioneer Woman recipes rarely disappoint (her best ever chocolate sheet cake is my absolute favorite!) but I wasn’t crazy about this lasagna. I really think it comes down to personal preference, though. My family likes lasagna with more noodles and not quite as much sauce and stuff. This lasagna had only 2 layers of noodles and a ton of meat and cheese. If I made this again, I would definitely do 3 layers of noodles with the same amount of filling. I still love Pioneer Woman even though we have different tastes in lasagna :)

I would definitely make some changes if I made this again. Like I said, I would do 3 layers of noodles instead of 2. I would also use fresh grated Parmesan instead of the canned kind which she called for. I would also use crushed canned tomatoes instead of whole- I’m not a fan of huge pieces of tomato so when I was making this I just crushed them up myself while they were cooking in the pan.

Brown the meat:

Add some tomatoes and stuff:

Let simmer for 45 minutes:

Make the cottage cheese mixture (looks and sounds gross but it really isn’t, promise):

Noodles! I was so hungry when making this that I ended up eating half a banana and peanut butter. And then I was still hungry so I started eating one of the extra noodles. But it was gross.

Start layering!

I thought it was neat that pioneer woman uses sliced cheese instead of shredded. I don’t think there’s much difference in taste but it was neat.

Sprinkle it with cheese:

And enjoy!

Pioneer Woman Lasagna:

Ingredients:

  • 1-1/2 pound Ground Beef
  • 1 pound Hot Breakfast Sausage
  • 2 cans (14.5 Ounce) Whole Tomatoes
  • 2 cans (6 Ounce) Tomato Paste
  • 2 Tablespoons Dried Parsley
  • 2 Tablespoons Dried Basil
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • 3 cups Lowfat Cottage Cheese
  • 2 whole Beaten Eggs
  • 1/2 cup Grated (not Shredded) Parmesan Cheese
  • 2 Tablespoons Dried Parsley
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • 1 pound Sliced Mozzarella Cheese
  • 8 Lasagna Noodles for 2 layers or 12 for 3 layers
  • (add 1/2 Teaspoon Salt And 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil To Pasta Water)

Preparation Instructions

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.

In large skillet or saucepan, combine ground beef, sausage. Cook over medium-high heat until browned. Drain half the fat. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, 2 tablespoons parsley, basil and salt. After adding the tomatoes, the sauce mixture should simmer for 45 minutes.

While that’s simmering, in a medium bowl, mix cottage cheese, beaten eggs, grated Parmesan, 2 more tablespoons parsley, and 1 more teaspoon salt. Stir together well. Set aside.

Bring a pot of water to boil with the olive oil and salt. Cook lasagna noodles until al dente.

To assemble:
Arrange 4 cooked lasagna noodles in the bottom of a baking pan, overlapping if necessary. Spoon half the cottage cheese mixture over the noodles. Spread evenly. Cover cottage cheese with a layer of mozzarella cheese. Spoon a little less than half the meat/sauce mixture over the top.

Repeat, ending with meat/sauce mixture. Sprinkle top with extra Parmesan.

Put it in the oven at 350-degree for 20-30 minutes, or until top is hot and bubbly.

Pioneer woman also says you can freeze it or refrigerate (for up to two days) instead of baking it right away.

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