Friday, January 29, 2010

Haystacks 'N Sticks

My little kiddles L-O-V-E, LOVE, dark chocolate and peanut butter. And like most little ones, snacking is a favorite past-time. So the thought came to me…Why not combine those two sweet treats and make some haystacks?…Why not add one of their favorite snacks, pretzels?

All you need is a few things and about 30 minutes.
Here’s all that is needed to make a sweet treat that has some nutritional value too:

View complete posting: Haystacks 'N Sticks

Quick Chicken & Cheese Casserole

When time gets away from me and there is a need for something hot and comforting in a short period of time, this is the casserole that I go for. It’s quick, simple and full of that comfort food feeling. It’s a great alternative to in-the-box cheese & macaroni when the kiddles want that cheesy comfort feel too. (and it makes the whole family happy)

You could always add a can of sweet peas or corn nibblets…my kids tend to push them off to the side, so when I make it for them, the veggies get spared a trip to the trash.

View complete posting: Quick Chicken & Cheese Casserole

There is one Bar-B-Que joint that brings a enormous smile to our faces simply at the thought of it….Sweet Lumpy’s BBQ . Located in Old Town Temecula, California, this sweet haven of ribs, brisket, chicken and pork is located on 3rd street right next door to Old Town Salon. Which means, ladies you have a place to send your husbands & kids while you get pampered!

John Syroka, owner, came up for the name for Sweet Lumpy’s from his brother who they affectionately call “Lumpy”. John was able to finagle his brother’s recipe for barbecue sauce with the promise that it would be named after him. Sweet Lumpy’s was born!

View complete posting: Sweet Lumpy's BBQ in Temecula, CA

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Spiced Monkey Bread ~ Perfect For New Year's Breakfast

There is really nothing better than homemade ooey-gooey goodness that comes out of the oven early in the morning. 

And so far, every kid that has come in contact with this monkey bread has been pleased by all of the gooey mess on their little fingers. (except my Grace, she is not a fan of cinnamon) 

And it seems that every adult is still a kid inside, enjoying licking the sticky glaze from their fingers.

It seems like everybody loves monkey bread...when I first tried it I really wasn't impressed since the only monkey bread I had ever had was a microwave one out of a box (can we say dry & not very tasty?).  It definitely did not make me ever want another monkey bread again.

Until I figured out how to make it myself! And the fact that it is ridiculously easy and quick to bake makes it all the better. So, if you have about 15 minutes in the midst of morning chaos to put this together and only about 30 minutes to bake it + 10 minutes for cooling, then let's get to monkeying around!

(Remember, there is a lot that you can get done during the baking time)

There are only a few items needed:
a fluted baking pan, cooking spray, Pillsbury Country Style Biscuits, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, brown sugar and butter. (maybe a few nuts, raisins or dried cranberries)

Alright, now that I have everything that I need to get started, I grab my sugar & spices.

Since I like to have quick clean-ups, I prefer to use a sealable baggie to mix my sugar & spices in. It also makes it easy to drop the biscuits in and coat them quickly. Okay, so here we have our granulated sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and ground cloves.

Oh my gosh! I am always amazed at how wonderful those three spices smell when put together. Since most monkey breads call for just cinnamon & sugar, I wanted to add just a little bit more to make it harder to resist. Just a little bit of something extra can be such a wonderful surprise for your taste buds...and the smell, oh the smell is just so good.

Since the idea behind this is to make a relatively quick and easy monkey bread, I decided to go with the Pillsbury Original Biscuits. No biscuit mix to make, no waiting for yeast to rise...Simply take each biscuit and cut it in half. Boom! That's it!

Now if you're a little bit of a perfectionist, then you can always go ahead and round out each edge of the biscuits. It does make a pretty ball, but really isn't necessary.

Then I just drop each piece into the little baggie of sugar & spices and toss them around. 

You know, this part is actually pretty fun...the kids can help you too without a disastrous mess flying across the kitchen counter and floor.

Take a moment to coat the baking pan with cooking spray. (we do NOT want all of our efforts to go to waste) And then start lining up each beautifully sugar & spiced biscuit ball in the baking pan.

Now here is where you start adding little bits of this case raisins. As each layer is laid down, drop in a few raisins...

Perhaps a few walnuts (or pecans)....

At this point everything is looking so good...if I didn't know better, I'd grab one of those little biscuit balls and eat it!

Don't give in.

Don't do it...


I just remind myself that patience is my friend. And then continue to add sugared biscuit balls and the "extras" as I go along.

But in a medium sized baking pan, 2 levels of these little sugared balls is just not enough...

So I grab another roll of biscuits and start cutting and dredging them in the sugar spiced mixture again. It's so worth it.

After finishing off the final roll and adding in more extras, this little monkey bread is ready for the final step...

The sugar glaze! Start with brown sugar and then add in the remaining sugar & spice mixture that was used to coat the biscuit balls.

I then cube my butter....I love using my Pyrex measuring cup in the 30-50 seconds, cold butter can be melted down to perfection.

A little stir and into the sugar bowl it goes! Stir in the butter and allow some of the sugar to dissipate (only about 2 minutes).

Once the butter and sugar are mixed, you have this wonderful smelling glaze that is ready to go all over the top of the monkey bread.

Alright, here we have our baking pan of bliss....full of monkey bread and sugar glaze.


It may look like too much glaze, but oh me. This is the perfect amount.

Into my preheated oven it goes at 350°F for 28-32 minutes. And now we wait...and wait....oh yeah, I couldget some vaccuming done, or perhaps some laundry....


Oh timer of joy, how I love thee right now.

There is a wave of giddiness that sweeps over me at this moment.

Just look at this golden brown crusty goodness! And OH THE SMELL! That aroma that just teases you because you can't dig in right away...again, patience.

After 10 minutes (which seem like an eternity), invert the baking pan on a large dish or serving platter. Give it a slight jiggle...and the monkey bread should slide right out.

This is when you are rewarded with the sight of that beautiful glaze dripping down the sides.

Time to get sticky! Don't hold back, just jump in there and grab a few pieces. (I like to go after the ones on the bottom...they have a wonderful crunchiness from being exposed in the oven)


Then after about 3-4 minutes, this is the sight that you will see....monkey bread disappearing rapidly. ENJOY!

***If you do not have a bundt pan, a muffin/cupcake pan can be used instead!  This also allows for easy portion control. BUT cut the biscuits into quarters so that you can arrange approx. 6-8 pieces in each hole.  This also takes about half the cook time!! Adjust the cook time to 11-14 minutes, depending on your oven.***   

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Banana Nutty Bread

This is one of my favorite vices...and my mother's as well. We always laugh about how "addictive" it seems to be to our sweet-tooth. But at least it's filled with the goodness of bananas and walnuts! There is that little piece of positive news that I can pull out to justify my love of banana nut bread.

Let us begin, shall we? Start by preheating your oven to 325°F. 021a
Prepare a 9x5x3 loaf pan with Butter (or Pam Spray for Baking) . I tend to choose the Pam Spray For Baking since it has flour in it to allow for an easier release. Grab a large bowl and hand mixer (or your trusty KitchenAid standing mixer!) and a rubber/silicon spatula. (We must make sure that ingredients don't just get stuck to the side, never really joining the party.) Banana Nutty Bread 001a
Go ahead, grab your large bowl. Let's get started by adding our 1 cup of sugar and 8 tablespoons of butter to our empty vessel. Banana Nutty Bread 002a
Cream sugar and butter together in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Banana Nutty Bread 003a
Now, we need to get our eggs to join the party. Add 2 eggs, one by one, beating well after each addition to make sure they are well incorporated. Banana Nutty Bread 004a Banana Nutty Bread 005a
Add 3 beautifully ripe bananas to sugar, butter & egg mixture. Depending on the ripeness of your bananas, you may want to mash the bananas with a fork in a separate bowl before adding to the mixture. If you are like me and wait until you have dark brown to black bananas, then no mashing is necessary. If not, I would suggest mashing them to allow for a creamier texture. (In this instance, my 3 year-old insisted that Mommy only use one "yucky" black banana and two "pretty" yellow ones)
Banana Nutty Bread 006a
Ahhh...the smell of sweet bananas! How I love it! The batter will start becoming very creamy (or perhaps a bit watery in appearance if you choose to use overly ripe bananas as I do). This is the beginning of something very good. Banana Nutty Bread 007a
And now it's time to get to the spice of it all...1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon and 1/4 teaspoon of ground nutmeg. If you have fresh nutmeg, this is the time to use it! Banana Nutty Bread 008a
Right about now you will be enjoying the very welcoming aroma of the bananas mixed with the cinnamon and nutmeg. But oh no...we aren't done yet...
Banana Nutty Bread 009a
Here is where things could get really messy. It's time to add our 2 cups of all-purpose flour. The least catastrophic way that I have found of adding flour to my mix...1/4-1/2 cup at a time. Banana Nutty Bread 010a
And then I do a little bit of folding with my spatula. Before turning on the mixer...and viola! No flying flour all over my kitchen! Banana Nutty Bread 011a
Then I just repeat the process until all of the flour is incorporated. Banana Nutty Bread 012a
Next we add our teaspoon of baking soda. Blend in until well incorporated. Banana Nutty Bread 013a
Then a little bit, or 1 teaspoon, of baking powder. This is essential! Should you forget the baking soda & baking powder, there will be a huge hunk of not so edible bread...which would be a complete shame after all this effort.
Banana Nutty Bread 014a
Take a little time to scrape the sides of your bowl. Just to be sure that there isn't anything missing from the party. Then blend away for about 45-60 seconds, just to incorporate anything that needed a little help. Banana Nutty Bread 015a
And now we add our 1 tablespoon of milk. If you use anything other than whole milk, then that's your choice, but there is just something going on with the whole milk that just works with this bread so nicely. Banana Nutty Bread 017a
Once again, I would highly recommend that you fold in some of the milk before blending. Then have at it! (thus sparing your shirt, counter, favorite apron, etc., from splatterdom) Banana Nutty Bread 018a
Now add in the 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla extract. Pure vanilla extract brings out the best flavor! I highly recommend splurging when it comes time for baking. Turn on the blender for just 10 seconds to mix in our vanilla goodness. Banana Nutty Bread 019a
Just a little bit of salt really helps bring out the sweetness of the bananas. So let's toss in our 1 teaspoon of sea salt. Blend briefly (10 seconds) just to incorporate the salt. Banana Nutty Bread 020a
And now, the time has come to add our partner in crime...the walnuts! So grab that 1 cup of chopped walnuts and toss them into the batter. Blend for just a few seconds (5-10 seconds) so that the walnuts are distributed nicely in the batter. Here is the point where there is a choice to be made...if you do not like walnuts, then I would suggest using some chopped pecans instead. OR just start a second batter and have one with walnuts and one with pecans! How can you say no to that suggestion?! Banana Nutty Bread 022a
Time to grab the prepared loaf pan and start pouring in our batter. Banana Nutty Bread 023a
Here we are...the moment just before placing all of our hard work into our toasty hot oven. Take a final look and ask yourself this question: Should I place some nuts on top? or not? The choice is up to you. (If I add them on top, then my little kiddles won't touch it.) Banana Nutty Bread 024a
Goodbye sweet promise of banana nutty goodness! And now we wait as everything magical happens inside our 325°F oven...for the next 60-70 minutes. (That's 1 hour to 1 hour 10 minutes for those with timers that are not accommodating) Banana Nutty Bread 025a
Ahhhh!!!! Can you smell that wonderful aroma?! Be sure to test this lovely golden brown loaf before pulling it from the oven. When you have inserted a toothpick into the center of the loaf, and it comes out clean, then you can celebrate! Banana Nutty Bread 026a
Let the banana bread stand for approx. 10 minutes, tempting you to jump the gun and start slicing. Then carefully remove from the loaf pan, placing it onto a cooling rack for another 15 minutes. Once cooled, go ahead and move it to a cutting board...pick up your serrated knife and slice yourself a much deserved slice of this comfy, cozy slice of heaven. Enjoy!

Banana Nutty Bread
1 Cup Sugar
8 Tbsp. Butter (room temperature)
2 Large Eggs
3 Ripe Bananas
1 Tsp. Ground Cinnamon
1/4 Tsp. Ground Nutmeg (freshly ground is best)
2 Cups All-Purpose Flour
1 Tsp. Baking Soda
1 Tsp. Baking Powder
1 Tbsp. Milk
1/4 Tsp. Vanilla Extract
1 Tsp. Sea Salt
1 Cup Chopped Walnuts

Preheat oven to 325°F. Prepare a 9x5x3 loaf pan with Butter (or Pam Spray for Baking).

Cream sugar and butter together in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one by one, beating well after each addition to make sure they are well incorporated. Add bananas to sugar, butter & egg mixture. Depending on the ripeness of your bananas, you may want to mash the bananas with a fork in a separate bowl before adding to the mixture, thus creating a creamier texture.

Mix in cinnamon and nutmeg slowly. Add flour slowly. I suggest adding it in 1/2 cup increments. (I like to fold the dry ingredients into the mixture with a spatula first to avoid airborn puffs and splatter) Next add baking soda. Add baking powder.

Fold in milk before blending...again, I fold therefore I am not covered in splatter. Add vanilla extract. Pure vanilla extract brings out the best flavor! I highly recommend splurging when it comes time for baking. Now it's time for just a bit of sea salt to bring out the sweetness of our bananas.

Finally but not least, we add our walnuts. Now if you aren't a big fan of these crunchy guys, then by all means side-step this step OR replace them with pecans. Pecans & bananas are just too perfect together! But for the sake of tradition, we are calling for walnuts.

Pour your batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake for 60-70 minutes. When your loaf looks beautifully browned and a toothpick can be inserted into the middle and removed clean...You are ready to pull that goodness out of the oven! Let the banana bread stand for approx. 10 minutes, tempting you to jump the gun and start slicing. Then carefully remove from the loaf pan, placing it onto a cooling rack for another 15 minutes. If you give into temptation 10 minutes into the cooling one will blame you. Slice and enjoy!