Frosted Banana Bars with Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting

– johanna | February 28th, 2009

Filed under: RECIPES - Treats

For anyone who knows my kids, they actually allowed three bananas to turn brown. Shocking I know. I was faced with the dilemma of what to with them. Banana bread was out of the question. Muffins and cookies maybe. I settled on the banana bars because the fact that we have brown bananas calls for a celebration. I cringed at the amount of sugar but bit my lip and went ahead and made them. They were also a great way to use up that container or whipped cream cheese frosting left over from Mason’s birthday. Frosted banana bars would make a nice gift or treat at a party.

I substituted plain low fat yogurt for the sour cream. The next time I will try replacing a little of the all-purpose flour with wheat pastry and maybe a little wheat germ. I do not know how much good it will do but I makes me feel better. This time around the kids opted for no frosting on theirs. To appease the masses I frosted half the pan and sprinkled chopped walnuts on top.

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups white sugar
2 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
1 cup mashed ripe bananas (About 3 ripe bananas)
Cream cheese frosting or make your own

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 10 x 15 inch jellyroll pan or one 9X13 pan and an additional 8X8 pan. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then stir in the sour cream and vanilla. Combine the flour, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl; stir into the batter. Finally, mix in the mashed banana. Spread evenly into the prepared pan(s). Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow bars to cool completely before frosting.

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More Salad and Peas, Please!

– johanna | February 27th, 2009

Filed under: NUTRITION

Often on game nights we have pizza for dinner. The kids are so excited they forgo the veggies and salad filling up on pizza. Tonight the kids were outside playing and were grimy from the mud as well as exhausted. I packed them all into the bathtub for a quick scrub before dinner. By the time they reached the dinner table they were ravaging wolves. The pizza was not ready. The only thing on the table was a bowl of peas (seasoned with a little butter, salt and pepper and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese) and a salad. Maybe that was a good thing.

As I placed the salad and peas on their plates Adelin complained “I do not want that!” and Everett shoved the plate away, as usual. Mason however started to devour his peas and was already on a second helping before everyone had been served. (Shocking…I did not think he liked peas) Adelin, Mason’s shadow, joined in eating all her peas and salad. Animosity towards vegetables soon turned into a contest of who could eat their salad and peas the fastest. Requests for more came as each competitor cleaned their plate. “More peas please.” “More salad please.” By the time the pizza was done their little tummies could only handle one small slice rather than two or three.

Experts agree if getting your kids to eat vegetables is a stress do not give up. There are a few ways combat a veggie-phobia.
–No snacking allowed. If they come to the dinner table hungry enough to eat wood they are more likely to eat better.
–Treats are just that. Save the treats for a special occasion or once a day. Kids are naturally drawn to the sweet taste of sugar. They can learn to enjoy fruits and vegetables as much as a cookie if we teach them how. It may take half their childhood, as I am beginning to think in Everett’s case, but it can be done.
–Let them dip. If it takes frosting, yogurt, cheese, peanut butter, hummus or ranch dressing so be it.
–To Chop or Dice. Try serving vegetables cooked, raw, diced, sliced or in sticks. Sometimes it is the texture or the presentation that has them turning their nose up.
–Use more fruits and vegetables. Add diced, chopped or pureed vegetables to recipes. Vegetables can add wonderful flavor which means less fat, added fiber and more filling.
–Set a good example.
–Start infants on vegetables. Limit the amount of starchy snack foods.
–Offer a variety of fruits and vegetables.
–Jazz it up. Add dried fruit, cheese or nuts to salads.
–Play with your food. Be cute and dress up fruits and vegetables by cutting flowers and making faces.
–Never force the issue. Give them the opportunity and one day they will surprise you.

Photo: Property of MyRecipes

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Springtime Lemon Muffins

– johanna | February 26th, 2009

Filed under: BUDGET MEALS, RECIPES - Breads

A few years ago I attended a bake off held to raise money for a girls youth group. It was a yearly event many residents looked forward to as they stuffed their wallets with cash hoping to snag one of Mrs. A’s delectable delights. Lemon bars were on the block. The gavel rang at $72.00. Mrs. A is what I call her because I cannot for the life of me remember her name. She was a petite older woman but full of spunk. I asked her what the attraction was as I had never tried her lemon bars before. She pulled me closer and whispered in my ear, “I only use real lemon.” I supposed she was not about to give up the recipe but I have followed her rule of always using real lemon juice. Not the stuff from a bottle.

Source: Michelle Christensen
1/4 cup butter or margarine, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 egg
3/4 cups, plus 1 tbsp flour
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup milk
1/2 tsp lemon zest, grated

In a medium bowl, cream together butter, sugar, lemon juice, and egg. Sift together dry ingredients. Alternately add dry ingredients and milk to make a thick batter. Stir in lemon zest. Spoon into paper-lined muffin tins (2/3 full) or loaf pan. Bake muffins at 350 degrees for 10–15 minutes or until golden brown. Bake loaf at 325 degrees for about 30 minutes. Just before the muffins or bread come out of the oven, combine syrup ingredients in medium saucepan.

2 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 cup sugar

Combine and heat just until sugar is dissolved. Prick small holes in top of baked bread or muffins with toothpick, then gently pour lemon syrup into holes. Cool. Makes 12 muffins or 1 loaf.

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Spinach Salad with Pears

– johanna | February 25th, 2009

Filed under: RECIPES - Soup / Salad

My mother-n-law introduced me to the Partridge in a Pear Tree ornaments from USA pears. My Christmas tree has a Twelve Days of Christmas theme so the pear ornaments fit right in. The cost for a single ornament has been $7.50 plus a store receipt for 3 1/2 pounds of pears. Last year the price went up to $10.

Buying the pears used to be exciting. It was like saving the UPC codes off the cereal box when I was a kid to buy a Gremlin doll. Ten dollars sounds so expensive though; not to mention the cost of the pears. So what do I make with three and a half pounds of pears? I will only eat hard crisp pears as a snack or in salads. I was glad to come across this recipe from Health magazine that solves my soft pear dilemma. I love the flavor of Gorgonzola with pear anyway. I was a little hesitant about the cider vinegar as it can be overwhelming but the 2 tsp seemed a fair amount.

Source: Health Jan/Feb 2009
1/4 cup coarsely chopped pecans
1 tbsp canola oil, divided
3 Bosc pears, peeled, cored and cut into 1/2 inch slices
1 tsp brown sugar
1 tbsp minced shallots
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp ground pepper
1/2 cup apple juice
2 tsp cider vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 (16-oz) bag spinach
2 ounces Gorgonzola cheese, about 1/2 cup

Toast the pecans in a skillet over medium heat for 3 minutes until fragrant; set aside. Add 2 teaspoons canola oil to the same skillet, and increase heat to medium-high. Add pears, and sprinkle with brown sugar; do not stir. Cook the pears 5 minutes or until lightly browned on the bottom. Stir to melt the brown sugar. Transfer the pears to a plate.

For dressing add remaining 1 teaspoon oil to pan. Add shallot, salt and pepper. Stir 30 seconds or until fragrant. Add apple juice, cider vinegar and mustard. Whisk; simmer 3-4 minutes or until slightly reduced. Add pears.

Place spinach in a large serving bowl. Pour pears and dressing on top and toss. Serve with Gorgonzola and pecans on top.

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Lemon Angel Food Layer Cake

– johanna | February 24th, 2009

Filed under: RECIPES - Treats

I made this cake last year for a luncheon I threw for a few friends; along with my favorite southwestern chicken salad. I used a small loaf of angel food cake making three layers rather than six. I tried to find lemon curd in the bakery and cold isle of the market but was unsuccessful. The lady at the bakery did not have a clue what I was talking about. I reminded her they are a bakery and must make something that calls for lemon curd. She then directed me to the canned fruit isle where I picked up a can of lemon pie filling. (This is a small town) It was nothing close to the lemon curb I know should be in a clear tub refrigerated but it was all I had. I think I used too much of the gourmet lemon curd because the layers kept slipping around. I ended up chopping it up and threw it in a trifle bowl. The simplicity of the angel food cake paired with the lemon curd was refreshing. Add good food and friends and all my frustrations disappeared.

Source: unknown
2 small angel food cakes
1 cup lemon curd
1 can whipped cream
1 cup crushed lemon cookies

Using a long serrated knife, slice each cake horizontally into 3 layers.
Using a spatula, spread half the lemon curd on the 2 bottom cake layers. Top with a generous layer of whipped cream. Place the middle cake layers on top and spread with the remaining curd and more whipped cream. Place the remaining 2 cake layers on top, cover with whipped cream and sprinkle with the crushed cookies. Refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving.

Use banana pudding in place of the lemon curd
Omit the whipped cream. Spread sides with lemon curd and press on sliced almonds. Dust the top with confectioners sugar. Make designs by placing a doily on top before dusting with sugar.

Lemon Curd:
Source: River Cottage Family Cookbook

6 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
3/4 cup superfine sugar
Zest of 3 lemons
2 eggs, plus 1 yolk
pint Mason jar or bowl with lid

Juice the three lemons and to the saucepan with the lemon zest,eggs and yolk, butter and sugar. Cook over low heat. Stir occasionally until butter has melted and the liquid is yellow and runny.

Stirring constantly gently cook until the eggs thicken and the mixture turns to a thick sauce; about 10 minutes. Too much heat will make lemon flavored scrambled eggs.

When the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon and leave a clear line if you wipe your finger across it, the curd is ready. Remove from the stove. Pour the curd through a sieve into either a clean jam jar or a bowl. Keep refrigerated for 1 week.

Substitute a couple of limes for one of the lemons

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Lemony Grilled Chicken Without the Sauce

– johanna | February 23rd, 2009

Filed under: BUDGET MEALS, RECIPES - Main Dish

I tried a recipe last week entitled Broccoli and Butternut Squash Fettuccini and Lemon Chicken. It was a little gormet for the kids and Stephen. I liked the idea but do not think I will ever make it again unless I make a few changes. The lemon chicken however was a hit.

1-2 tbsp Olive oil
Zest of half a lemon
Juice of a whole lemon, or to taste
3 cloves garlic, chopped
4 chicken breast or thighs
Salt and pepper

Season the chicken with the salt and pepper. Slice chicken into bit sized strips.

Heat oil in the pan. Add the garlic, chicken and lemon zest. Cook until no longer pink in the center. Sprinkle with lemon juice.

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BeaterBlade for Kitchen Aide Mixers

– johanna | February 22nd, 2009


beaterblade for kitchen aide

Years ago my mother-n-law handed down her Kitchen Aide mixer, to me. Stephen thinks she has had the mixer for at least 30 years. That is what I call a wives tale or excellent quality. A few weeks ago the wire whisk attachment broke. I remembered last week when I went to make frosting for Mason’s birthday cake. (Canned frosting does not pipe very well.)

This week I decided to try searching for a replacement. While in the process I wanted to find a paddle since I did not have one. I found this really great gadget called the Beater Blade. It is not an authorized Kitchen Aide attachment though, which makes me a little hesitant. Especially since the attachment is made of a plastic rather than metal. It is certainly worth a shot for those of us who do not want to be bothered with scraping the sides of the bowl. Amazon carries them for both 5 and 6 quart, tilting head and raising bowl mixers. You can also get them in gray or pink.

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Peanut Butter Cookies

– johanna | February 21st, 2009

Filed under: RECIPES - Treats

I admit I am not the best baker. Baking is too precise for me. I enjoy throwing things like vegetables and herbs in a pot and hoping for the best. Movie night came and the gang wanted cookies. I wanted to oblige them, however, we were all out of granulated sugar. The pleasing mom that I am I grabbed the brown sugar and went to work.

First I had to find a recipe. Some days I worship the internet for the great resource that it is. Other days I curse its very existence…like today. Today all I wanted was a golden star to appear on the screen next to a link to the greatest peanut butter cookie recipe ever. Instead, all I got was page after page of hopefuls. I was short on time as well as ingredients so I went with the one that looked pretty and seemed easy. Then I altered it a bit. I had to figure out if I could even use all brown sugar in the recipe. I had heard once that using brown sugar in the place of granulated sugar would make a flatter cookie as well as slightly alter the taste. I did a little research and discovered that if I add a little baking soda they should be fine.

I added between 1/4 to 1/2 tsp baking soda to 1 cup packed brown sugar. We use Kirkland Organic peanut butter which has a runny consistency. I was worried about the brown sugar causing the cookies to spread too thin in addition to the runny peanut butter. I figured if I added a tad more flour then I should be fine. I added 1 tablespoon wheat pastry flour (to make me feel healthier) and 1 tablespoon wheat germ in addition to the 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour. Definitely my favorite peanut butter cookie recipe so far. It was tender and did not have the floury taste typical of peanut butter cookies.

Source: Adapted from Simply Recipes
1 cup packed brown sugar
Scant 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour (see notes above)
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 heaping teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

Mix scant 1/2 teaspoon baking soda with brown sugar. Mix the butter and sugar until combined. Add the peanut butter, vanilla and egg. Mix together the dry ingredients – flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Stir into the sugar butter mixture.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Using a scoop drop onto ungreased cookie sheets. If you do not have a scooper roll dough into 1 1/4 inch balls. Place about 3 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Pressed slightly with a fork in a criss cross pattern then baked for 9 minutes. Cool on baking sheets for a minute; transfer to rack to cool completely.

Makes about 2 dozen cookies.

For chewier cookies, bake at 300°F for 15 minutes.

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Asian Orange Chicken

– johanna | February 20th, 2009

Filed under: RECIPES - Main Dish

We really enjoyed this version of orange chicken. Last year my sister-n-law Jennifer sent me a wok that I am so in love with. It makes sauteing a cinch. Most of the prep work is all about the marinade which needs to be done at least two hours in advance. I skipped on the breaded chicken. Instead I sauteed the chicken in my wok. If you are a traditionalist definitely use breaded chicken. We served ours with stir-fry vegetables.

Source: Harry Wetzel the holiday spot
1 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons orange juice
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/3 cup rice vinegar
2 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh ginger root
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons chopped green onion
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons water

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil

Pour into saucepan 1 1/2 cups water, orange juice, lemon juice, rice vinegar, and soy sauce; and set over medium-high heat. Stir in orange zest, brown sugar, ginger, garlic, and chopped onion. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat, and let cool 10 to 15 minutes.

Place chicken pieces into a resealable plastic bag. When contents of saucepan have cooled, pour 1 cup of sauce into bag. Reserve remaining sauce. Seal bag, and refrigerate at least 2 hours.

In another resealable plastic bag, mix the flour, salt, and pepper. Add marinated chicken pieces, and shake to coat.
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Place chicken in skillet, and brown on both sides. Remove to paper towels, and cover with aluminum foil.

Wipe out the skillet, and add the sauce. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Mix together cornstarch and 2 tablespoons water, and stir into sauce. Reduce heat to medium low; stir in chicken pieces, and simmer, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

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Text Before You Buy With Google

– johanna | February 19th, 2009


The next time you are out shopping and wonder if you are getting a good deal send a text message to Google at 466453. The service is free although carrier text message fees may apply. Text the name of the item, the price and the product code. Google will text you back a list of stores and their price fore the same item. Simply go to Google Mobile link to get started.

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