Friday, September 19, 2014

Cranberry Chocolate Banana Bread


Previously, I shared that I worked at a diner as a baker (which I should probably remove from our information page ;), but it has been almost a year since I quit.  A couple weeks ago when I made vegan peanut butter cookies was the first time I had grabbed the bowls and spoons to get a little baking on.  It made me realize how much I missed it.
At my new job, I am truly blessed to have wonderful bosses.  One of the awesome things they do? Well they will just randomly bring food in for their employees.  Bananas, pretzel dough, cilantro, cases of yogurt, fresh vegetables from his garden, fresh eggs, goats milk, etc.  You get my drift.  
Well, I had bananas that he had given me, as well as coconut greek yogurt, so I decided to do a little more baking. This is what I came up with. :)

1/2 stick of salted butter, soft
1 cup brown sugar
2 chia eggs (1 T. chia seeds to 3 T. water.  Allow to set for 1 minutes until gelled)
5.3 oz yoplait coconut greek yogurt
3 smashed bananas (1 tsp. lemon juice)
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
1 cup dried cranberries



 Measure 2 T. chia seeds.  Add 6 T. water.


 Let sit for 10 minutes or until gelled.


Smash bananas and add lemon juice.


In a large bowl, put sugar and soft butter. 


Blend for at least 2 minutes. 


Add gelled "eggs". Blend well.


Add bananas, yogurt, and vanilla. 


Blend well. 


Stir in dry mixture. 


Stir in cranberries and chocolate chips. 


Please ignore my disgusting pan.  I just can't part with it.  It was my grandma's and it bakes breads great!! :)

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Crab (or shrimp) salad

This is my grandma Wagner's recipe... 
It is one of my favorite salads!!! :)

 What you'll need:

7 oz. shell macaroni, cooked
1 pkg. frozen salad shrimp or crab pieces
(this time I used crab...both are really good!)
1 cup chopped celery
3/4 cup frozen peas
Diced or shredded cheese

Mix together:

1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup oil
1 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tsp. dry mustard
(I have used prepared mustard too)
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/2 cup green olives, chopped

Mix ingredients together and pour over macaroni mixture. You can add
garlic salt and pepper to taste. 


Gathering ingredients


Put ingredients in large bowl.


Mix well.


Refrigerate after it is mixed...  
It may seem runny at first, but after it's chilled it will have a nice consistency. 
 It is awesome!


Hope you enjoy!!! :)

Monday, September 15, 2014

Crock Pot "Refried" Beans

I can't believe that fall is here again! Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love the crisp autumn air and being bundled in jeans and a cozy hoodie! It makes me want to run through an apple orchard (or just walk since we all know that me running is not very believable) or visit a pumpkin patch! Totally on my bucket list for this fall, by the way! The only thing that makes me sad about the fact that fall is here is that is always seems to be here and gone in the blink of an eye. Life just needs to slow down a bit so we can enjoy this wonderful season and have time to not only drive by the apple orchards, but actually stop and spend the day there. Aww...wouldn't that be nice?

Since the weather has been cooling off, my mind has been buzzing with different Crock Pot ideas and delicious baked goods. So not where I want my mind to be when my sister's wedding is only 2 1/2 weeks away! 

When I was younger, I thought refried beans were awful. Blended beans were not high on the list of favorite foods for me. In fact, they didn't even make the list. Over the years, I began to eat them in certain dishes at parties so I wouldn't look rude, secretly thinking how much better it would be without all the bean guts smeared over my plate. Now..? I love them! I could literally probably sit down and eat an entire platter of 7 layer dip with some salty tortilla chips and purposely add extra refried beans! Who woulda thought?!

Now that I know how to make "refried" beans in the Crock Pot, I love them even more! Not only are the much cheaper, they are healthier, crazy easy, and taste so much better! You will love these! :)

My husband and I both like ours a little thicker, but you can totally make them the consistency you want. Thick, chunky, thin, smooth...whatever. 
(Just use a food processor instead of a potato masher if you want a smoother consistency.)



Ingredients

2 lb. dry pinto beans
10 c. hot water
2 medium yellow onions, chopped
1 1/2 Tbsp. ground cumin
1 Tbsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. pepper
1 Tbsp. garlic paste


Directions

Pick out any bad beans and rinse well.
Dump beans in the slow cooker and add 10 cups of hot water. Remove any beans that float to the top.
Add the chopped onion.
Add the seasonings and stir. (Do it slowly because it will be full!)
Cook on HIGH for 4 hours.
Gently stir.
Cook on LOW for another 2 hours.
Put a colander in a large bowl and gently dump the beans in the colander.
Once drained, set the reserved liquid aside.
Transfer the beans to a large bowl.
Begin mashing the beans with a potato masher, adding the reserved liquid until you reach the desired consistency.
Add more salt & pepper, if needed.
You can serve them right away, store them in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 10 days, or divide into freezer-safe ziploc baggies and freeze until ready to use! :)

****************************************************************

What you'll need to make delicious "refried" beans in your slow cooker:


Pick out any bad beans and rinse well.


Dump beans in the slow cooker.


Add 10 cups of hot water. 
Remove any beans that float to the top.


Add the chopped onion.


Add the seasonings.


Stir. (Do it slowly because it will be full!)


Cook on HIGH for 4 hours.


It should look somewhat like this after 4 hours:


Gently stir.


Cook on LOW for another 2 hours.


Beans should be pretty soft at this point, but not mushy.


Put a colander in a large bowl and gently dump the beans in the colander.
(I used a pot & colander set that we have. It worked pretty well!)
Once drained, set the reserved liquid aside.


Transfer the beans to a large bowl.


Begin mashing the beans with a potato masher.


Add the reserved liquid, a little at a time, until you reach the desired consistency.
Add more salt & pepper, if needed.

**Like I said before, if you like them smooth and thin, just continue adding the liquid and throw them in the food processor. If you like them thick with lots of texture, just mash 'em up and add enough liquid to get them well mixed! Your call. :)


You can serve them right away, store them in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 10 days, or divide into freezer-safe ziploc baggies and freeze until ready to use! :)


Yes, I know they don't look that appetizing, but they really are even better than store-bought!
So much more flavor, and customizable to suit your tastes.
My husband even said it would be fun to try doing some ranch or taco flavored "refried" beans! 
I'm sure we'll be trying that soon. :)






Monday, September 8, 2014

Bridal Shower Game Ideas

Hosting a bridal shower is a pretty big endeavor! I've always known that there was a lot to do, and it was probably pretty stressful, but I've never had to do more than bring a dish to share.
This time around, however, my sister asked me to be the matron of honor. Therefore, the "planning and directing" of the shower fell upon my shoulders. Invitations, menus, games, prizes, and decorations...it can get to be a bit of an overload. Luckily, my sister's bridal attendants have been a great team, working together to make Laura's pre-wedding festivities wonderful memories for her!

Last Saturday was her bridal shower. We decided to host Luke and Laura's families at the same time and do one big shower for her. We ended up hosting over 75 people at this shower!

Since it was quite a job planning everything, I decided to make a post about what we did for 2 reasons.

1. It may help one of our readers out to see a base plan and work from there, rather than starting from scratch.
2. To make it easier for me to remember what to do in case I ever get do it again. Selfish, I know. :)


First of all, Laura has a bit of a rustic theme for their wedding.
Because of this, we had very minimal decorations.

No balloon, streamers, or confetti all over the tables.
Instead, we set up a "greeting table" near the entrance. On it, we set up stations for different things. For each item we placed there, we had a chalkboard explaining what to do.


GREETING TABLE

"ADDRESS YOUR OWN THANK YOU"
blank envelopes
pens

"DATE IDEAS"
2 mini aluminum pails 
(one for blank sticks & one for the sticks that are filled out)
large craft sticks
fine tip permanent markers

"PICTURES OF THE COUPLE"
small album of their engagement photos

"INSTAGRAM"
a chalkboard explaining how you could Instagram photos of the shower to an online album for the couple

***************************************************************

We also had a chalkboard placed at the beginning of the buffet line listing the MENU, and mini chalkboards near some of the dishes.

MENU

Chicken Salad on Croissants
"Wedding Salad" (a cottage cheese & jello salad...delicious!)
Broccoli Raisin Salad
Caesar Salad (w/Parmesan, cherry tomatoes, and croutons on the side)
Fresh fruit tray w/dips
Fresh vegetable tray w/dip
Cheese & Crackers

Cupcakes

Lemonade
Caribou Coffee

**********************************************************

Next is the fun part. The games!
Every shower I have been to, you receive a small gift every time you win a game. We didn't know how many people to expect and wanted to make sure we had enough prizes (since you can get a lot of winners at times!), but we also wanted to do something a little different than "the norm".

We decided to play the games that we wanted, but instead of handing out a prize each time someone won, we had them enter their name into a bucket. (Of course, it was one of those mini aluminum pails to match the theme!) At the end of all the games, we had the bride pick names from the pail and they went and picked a "prize basket". She just continued drawing names until the baskets were gone.


Here are the games we chose:


PASS THE PRESENTS
(This is the only game that we had 4 "winners" for. We chose packages of fun-size candy bars. We got Snickers, Kit-Kats, Twix, and Almond Joy and wrapped them up.)

We had everyone sit in a circle, which ended up being a pretty big circle!
We randomly handed out the 4 wrapped prizes.
We then read a story and every time they heard the word "RIGHT", they had to pass the present to the right, and if they heard "LEFT", they would pass it to the left. The guests holding the presents at the end of the story got to keep the prizes! 
(Obviously, you'll want to edit the story to fit the couple you're using it for.)

"Luke and Laura met many years ago.
Laura didn't know Luke was Mr. RIGHT RIGHT away.
He LEFT for the Navy almost RIGHT after they met.
RIGHT after he returned home, Luke saw Laura at church almost RIGHT where he LEFT her.
It had been more than 4 years and now seemed the RIGHT time for Mr. RIGHT to ask her out.
Their first date LEFT them both giddy and excited.
Laura knew she had found her Mr. RIGHT.
Mr. RIGHT proposed almost RIGHT away and they LEFT to share the news!
RIGHT after their engagement, they decided to get married almost RIGHT away which LEFT them little time to make the RIGHT decisions and the RIGHT plans for their wedding.
They LEFT to meet the RIGHT people so they could help the couple make the RIGHT decisions.
They've LEFT messages, picked the RIGHT flowers, and Laura LEFT Mr. RIGHT to make some decisions, too.
Mr. RIGHT called Laura RIGHT back with the RIGHT answers from the questions she LEFT him.
Laura LEFT it up the Mr. RIGHT to pick the RIGHT best man.
With only 28 days until their wedding RIGHT now, there's little time LEFT to spare and so much LEFT to do!
But...even though RIGHT now the wedding is RIGHT around the corner, whatever is LEFT to do can be LEFT for tomorrow.
RIGHT now we are gonna have the RIGHT kind of fun with those of you that are LEFT."

**********************************

PAPER PLATE ART

Hand out a sturdy paper plate and pen to each guest. Instruct them to turn the plate upside-down and place it on their head. Without removing the plate, they had to follow these instructions...

1. Draw the bride. (Tell them it can be as simple or as detailed as they'd like.)
2. Now add the aisle for her to walk down.
3. Now, don't forget she needs a bouquet.
4. We can't forget to have her father by her side.
5. Now, put Luke at the end of the aisle waiting for her.
6. Don't forget that he needs a boutonniere.
7. Now, they are getting married in church, so they should have a cross above them.
8. Finally, she can't walk up without shoes, so be sure to give her some heels.

They can now remove the plate from the top of their head and look at their "picture". Now you read the point system so they can add up their points.

If the shoes are touching the aisle: 1 point
If the bouquet is in her hands: 2 points
If her Father is touching her arm: 2 points
If you drew a veil on the bride: 3 points
Did you draw a tiara, too? If so: 3 points
If you gave the groom a smile on his face: 4 points
If his boutonniere is on his chest: 4 points
If the cross is above them: 4 points

The guests with the highest score got to put their name in the bucket!

**********************************

"HOW WELL DO YOU KNOW THE COUPLE?"

We passed out a piece of paper and pen and had them number them 1-22. We read the list of questions and had them write their answers. Afterwards, the bride reread the questions and gave them the answers. Anyone with 15 points or higher got to put their name in the bucket!

1 POINT QUESTIONS:
1. Where did Luke and Laura meet?
2. What is Laura's favorite dish?
3. Who takes longer to get ready?
4. Who keeps their car cleaner?
5. What color are Luke's eyes?
6. Laura thinks Luke's best feature is ___________?
7. Luke proposed at a childhood fishing spot. Was it his or Laura's?
8. Luke and Laura have the same favorite beverage. What is it?
9. What sport did Luke participate in when he was 14 & 15 years old?
10. Who makes better fried eggs?
11. One enjoys reading books more than the other. Which one is the bookworm?
12. Which one LOVES pickles?
13. What frozen treat do they eat, probably too often?
14. Who loves fried green tomatoes?
15. Where will they be living after the wedding?
16. What branch of the military did Luke serve in for 4 years?
17. Who's favorite TV show is "The Office"?
18. Who was the last one to visit a foreign country?
19. Who's favorite restaurant is Red Lobster?
20. What time is the wedding taking place?

2 POINT QUESTIONS:
21. What kind of cologne does Luke wear?
22. They both worked at grocery stores growing up. Can you name any of the stores? (There were 3 possible answers for this one, so they got 2 points for each correct answer.)

**********************************

TOILET PAPER BRIDES
(Each of the bridesmaids were instructed prior to the shower to bring toilet paper.)

 (The bride left the room for this one.)
We went around the room and numbered the guests 1 through 4. All the "1's" went to one corner of the room, the "2s" went to a different corner, etc. Each group was instructed to pick a "bride" from their group, they were given 6 rolls of toilet paper, and we set a timer for 10 minutes.

They created their "bride" and when the timer went off, each of the "brides" gathered to the center of the room. We brought the real bride back into the room to do the judging.

Everyone in the group that had the winning "bride" got to put their name in the bucket!

**********************************

At this point, all the games were done, so we brought out the bucket of names, mixed them up and had the bride pick out a name, one at a time. If their name was called, they got to pick one of the following baskets:


"RUSTIC HOME"
wooden cutting board
stars & stripes kitchen towel
pine-scented candle
raspberry-orange marmalade
basil pesto
small spreader
loaf of Artisan Bread 



"MOVIE CRITIC"
Nanny McPhee DVD
popcorn kernels
buffalo-ranch popcorn seasoning
nacho cheese popcorn seasoning
Mike'n'Ikes
Milk Duds



"COFFEE LOVERS"
'Caribou Coffee' coffee beans
set of mugs
hazelnut chocolate bar
orange & almond chocolate bar
French Vanilla coffee syrup



"CHEF'S CHOICE"
quilted trivet
mini "Dutch Oven"
measuring cups & spoons
basting brush
mini whisk
kitchen towel



"PAMPER ME"
lotion
fuzzy socks
set of nail polish
manicure stickers
orange & almond chocolate bar
bath salts



*We also had "COFFEE & CHOCOLATE", "MANICURE ME", and "BAKER'S DREAM" baskets that we didn't get pictures of. :(


Having the prize baskets was a great way to do it! We didn't have to worry about running out of prizes, and we were able to get prizes that were more unique and fun. I would highly recommend it!

Yes, planning a bridal shower is a lot of work, but overall, it is SO much fun! Definitely a good experience for me! :)



Friday, September 5, 2014

Vegan Peanut Butter Cookie


Mike has been craving a peanut butter cookie (or several)!  I have just not been in any mood to bake lately, which as you know, is one of my favorite hobbies.  For some reason, it just sounded like a lot of work.  I am really glad that I forced myself to make my man a treat.  Not only did I enjoy putting on my hypothetical apron (couldn't find my cute one), but my Mikey enjoyed the treat. :)  

This is such an easy recipe.  If you are looking for a quick cookie, it's a great one to try. 

 All you need is:

2/3 cup ground oatmeal
1 tsp. baking soda
1/8 tsp. salt
1 cup peanut butter
1 cup brown sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
1/8 cup water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, blend peanut butter and brown sugar. Add vanilla. Blend again.  

Stir ground oatmeal, baking soda, and salt together.

In the large bowl, slowly add oatmeal mixture to peanut butter mixture.  Stir with large spoon until almost combined.  Use blender for just few moments to make sure it's all blended. Add water.  Blend again. 

Roll into balls, and gently press a crisscross imprint with a fork.

Bake 13-17 minutes.  After taking out of oven, leave on pan for a couple minutes.  Transfer to cooling rack.  


(Directions with Photos)


 First, blend oatmeal in a food processor or blender until "flour like" consistency. 


I ran my blender for about a minute. 


Put peanut butter and brown sugar in a large bowl.  Blend until evenly distributed. 


Add vanilla. 


Blend again until mixed well. 


On the side, mix salt, baking soda, and oatmeal flour. 


Add 1/3 cup of flour at a time. 


Mix well with a spoon.  After almost mixed, use blender for just a moment. 


Form cookie balls. 


Make sure to do the iconic crisscross in the middle, using a fork. 


Bake 13-17 minutes at 350 degrees. Allow to sit on the pan for a couple extra minutes after taking it out of the oven. They are a little crumby, but that makes them great to eat warm with a glass of milk.