Baked

chunky-butterscotch-chocolate-chip-banana-bread

Have you guys ever tried Rent the Runway? I have lots of friends that use it and love it. I put off using it for years because I just don’t see how you can tell if a dress will look good on you just by looking at it online. And then have no time to rectify the problem if you don’t like it.  I mean, I do all my shopping online, but I order 75 dresses for an event months in advance and I still usually send them all back. But, we have a wedding this weekend and I couldn’t find anything I loved (and didn’t want to spend a fortune), so I tried it! I ordered a beautiful-looking dress from RTR to be delivered today for a wedding we have Saturday (I am writing this post Friday at 3:24pm)! And guess what! It looks terrible! Just as I always suspected, this is very risky business. Particularly if you had twins in the last year (it’s actually more than a year but I’m milking it a while longer), and your body got all different. So now here I am, about 18 hours before we are leaving for this wedding and I have 0 dresses to wear. And I’m blogging instead of shopping. I actually just tried on a few dresses from weddings past and while they generally fit, I got them shortened so short that I don’t think I could even sit down. My pre-baby self was a braver self. Or at least a sluttier-dressed self.

Onto more important things like Banana Bread.

This recipe isn’t all that different from my traditional, yet it definitely tastes different. That’s doesn’t make sense, I know! But the addition of the fresh sliced yellow (not brown) banana, makes a big difference, and so does the butterscotch chips. Butterscotch and banana, it turns out, go perfectly together. And why haven’t we been putting chunks of fresh banana in our bread all along?? IT’S SO GOOD.

Happy Saturday! Look for me on IG later wearing a very beautiful plush robe at the wedding.

Recipe

  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 large ripe bananas
  • 1 large semi-UNRIPE (yellow, not brown) banana
  • 4 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • Dash salt
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/3 cup butterscotch chips

Preheat oven to 350.  Beat the butter and sugars with a mixer. Add in the egg and vanilla.  Mash up the 2 ripe bananas, and add them to the mixture along with the milk. Mix in the baking soda and powder, flour, and salt.  Turn off mixer, then stir in chips and fresh banana slices.  Bake in a greased bread pan for about 50-60 minutes.

pumpkin-pie-with-cream-cheese-swirl-and

Some days just can’t be as successful as others. I’m sick, I feel very tired and lazy, and all I want to do is watch Ellen re-runs all day. I finally left the house to go get a healthy smoothie to boost my immunity, but literally couldn’t get a parking spot so went to Chick-Fil-A instead. You win some, you lose some.

But as I was driving home I realized Thanksgiving is just a few weeks away! And I’ve had this pumpkin pie recipe in my draft section for a whole year, since I made it last year. And I’m blogging it now, because I think you should make it for your Thanksgiving this year. You won’t regret!

I loooove pumpkin pie. Love it. Only complaint is that sometimes I crave a sweeter crust than the same old pie crust.  And I like to put little spins on things to make them my own.  The solution? Gingersnaps and Biscoff cookies for the crust, of course. Wow. Add a cream cheese swirl and you’ve successfully elevated that same ol’ pumpkin pie.

I use this pumpkin pie recipe, there is no reason to look further. Sally’s is perfect, and I’ve done the research. I make her sugared cranberries too for a little festive flair.

For the cream cheese swirl:

  • 1 package cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • vanilla

For the Gingersnap/Biscoff crust

  • 2 cups gingersnap/biscoff cookie crumbs (I did half and half, or you could just do gingersnap)
  • 1/4 cups brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 5-6 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Make the crust first by mixing all ingredients. Press into a pie pan, then bake at 300 for 10 minutes. Create the pie filling, then fill about 3/4 of the way up. Not too full or it won’t bake evenly. You will have some leftover – I ate mine with the spatula.  Make the cream cheese filling, then drop in spoonfuls all over the pie (I think I used about 3/4 of it, and again ate the rest with a spatula). Use a toothpick or similar tool, and swirl the cream cheese with the pie filling.  Bake according to Sally’s instructions, about 55 minutes at 375.

cinnamon-toast-crunch-french-toast-casserole

I feel like I missed out on years and years of eating french toast. My mom always loved it, and I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why someone would ever order french toast over a pancake. But as I got older and wiser, I started to understand why. The reason is – it’s good. And really just another vehicle for maple syrup. After I decided I liked it, then I had a whole new problem. Instead of struggling to understand why someone would order french toast, I struggled to decide whether I should order french toast or a pancake at brunch.  Actually, that’s why we had twins. There’s no deciding anymore; we can order the french toast AND the pancakes. The grilled cheese AND the chicken fingers. The hot dog AND the hamburger.  God must have known about this lifelong struggle of mine and decided enough was enough – we’re blessing her with two eaters.

So onto this casserole. I really don’t like making brunch at home. It’s messy, usually requires lots of different ingredients and pans, and it makes the house smell like bacon until the end of time. But this french toast casserole – is different. It’s easy, quick, requires one dish, can (should) be prepared the night before, smells AMAZING when baking, and is so worth eating you won’t even think about the cream and butter in there.

Recipe

  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 large loaf Challah bread (about 1 lb)
  • 7 eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups half & half
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla

Topping

  • 1 stick butter, melted
  • 2 cups Cinnamon Toast Crunch or similar
  • 2 tablespoons sugar

In a large bowl, whisk together the beaten eggs, half & half, milk, brown sugar, maple syrup, cinnamon and vanilla. Set aside.  Slice a large loaf of challah bread into 2-inch cubes.  Melt the 3 tablespoons of butter, and pour into a 9×13 inch dish to coat.  Place the cubed bread into the dish, then pour the cream mixture all over the bread, making sure to soak every little square inch. Cover and refrigerate overnight (you can do just a few hours if that’s all the time you have, but overnight is best).  The topping will be prepared the next day.

When ready to bake, remove from fridge. Preheat oven to 350.  Lightly crush the 2 cups Cinnamon toast crunch. Mix with the stick of melted butter and 2 tablespoons sugar.  Pour the cinnamon toast crunch mixture over the casserole, making sure the melted butter gets in every nook and cranny.  Bake uncovered for 45 minutes. Serve with maple syrup (although you really don’t need it).

Candy Corn Layered Brownies

candy-corn-layered-brownies

I would like to know why Fall weather is being so elusive this year. I know it’s not just picking on Texas, because my dad just went for a swim in our lake in Northern Wisconsin. Like really northern. And I just went for a walk around the block and I’m sweating. I HATE sweating after I’ve already worked out and showered. Anyone else? Showering twice a day is just not something I have the time or patience for. I don’t even need for it to be cool; I just want it to be NOT HOT. Please, Mother Nature. I’m asking you, mother to mother.

So despite the hot weather, Halloween is coming whether we like it or not. And I really like Halloween, in it’s kind of tacky/creepy way. Plus, it’s the only time of year that we get to eat candy corn (why, by the way?). And when I was brainstorming all the ways I could eat candy corn, I decided to melt them and create a very special layer in my very fudgy brownie. AWESOME. And, pretty! Perfect dessert for a Hallow’s Eve party.

Recipe

  • 1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1.5 sticks butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 cups candy corn

Preheat the oven to 350. Grease an 8×10 (or something similar) pan.  In a microwave safe bowl, melt the chocolate chips and butter- about 30-60 seconds.  Pour into a standing mixer bowl, and beat in the sugar, eggs, vanilla, salt and soda.  Slowly mix in the cocoa powder and flour.  Pour half of the brownie batter into the pan (you’ll want to do this before melting the candy corn, because otherwise it gets hard to deal with as it hardens).  Melt the candy corn in a bowl for about 45 seconds, stirring to smooth. Using a rubber spatula, spread the candy corn over the brownie batter. Top with remaining brownie batter. Bake for about 25 minutes.

Pumpkin Spice Granola

pumpkin-spice-granola

Does anyone else start to feel overwhelmed when seasonal decor starts coming out? (p.s. – I’m aware that Halloween stuff came out in July).  I’ve been successfully avoiding it for months, but it caught up with me on Monday and I came home with a bunch of mismatched pumpkins that basically have no place to go in our house.  The white ones are so pretty, the orange ones you can carve into jack-o-lanterns, and the green/grays ones are WTF. (how do they make those?) So I got some of each, and they’ll probably all be dead by Halloween because it’s still 90 degrees in Texas. Oh and I got a half-dead Mum. But I get like this for every holiday: wanting, wishing, hoping to put together a wonderfully festive home..and winding up with something that falls dramatically short. I can’t tell you exactly why this happens, but I think it basically comes down to a lack of creative talent and little to no forethought. Last year I hastily ordered these beautiful little silver Christmas trees for our fireplace mantle, only to have them arrive in 5-foot-tall boxes at about 25lbs each. Not mantle material.

Anyway…I hope someday my brain flips a switch and I start to enjoy/become good at home decorating. But in the meantime, even if I can’t make my house LOOK seasonal, I definitely know how to make it smell and taste seasonal.  So I hate to be cliche with all the pumpkin and “fall” recipes, but I can’t help it.  I’m fully on the fall bandwagon and we’re moving fast. I LOVE FALL FLAVORS. This granola literally tastes like someone took Fall, crushed it into a bunch of little pieces and threw it in your mouth in the form of cereal. Not even exaggerating a little bit here. For full disclosure, this stuff is truly amazing and addictive. Let me say Fall a few more times. Fall fall fall.

And one more note before the recipe. If you have a Trader Joe’s near you, do yourself a favor and buy the pumpkin spiced pumpkin seeds in the nut section. They are AWESOME. I was actually shocked at how good they are. And they really turn this granola into something special. Otherwise, you can easily make your own.

Recipe

  • 4 cups old fashioned oats
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 cup Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Spiced Pumpkin Seeds or recipe here
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons canned pumpkin
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Line a large jelly roll pan (or large baking sheet with rims) with foil. In a large bowl combine the oats, pecans, and pumpkin seeds (or basically 6 cups of stuff – oats, dried fruit, nuts, etc).  In a separate bowl whisk together the brown sugar, oil, honey, canned pumpkin and seasonings. Pour over oats and stir until well combined.  Transfer to the baking sheet, making sure it can all fit in a relatively thin layer.  Bake for about 1 hr 25 minutes, stirring every 20 minutes or so.

cookies-n-cream-texas-sheet-cake

Another week down (almost), and another week where I’ve come home every day with both kids. Success! Such a good feeling. Each day I’m torn between wanting to take the boys out for fun activities and wanting to keep them corralled in my living room. Usually I opt to take them out, and there’s a solid 45 minutes where I am just running back and forth between the two, sweating, making sure no one runs away or gets kidnapped. They don’t quite follow instructions yet and no play area in Dallas seems to be enclosed. How do we feel about leashes? I’ve decided it’s not beneath me. It’s not.

Sometimes when I get back from a really stressful outing I like to bake something outrageous. Baking is an outlet for me. Actually not so much the act of baking, but the act of eating the batter or dough. It really makes me happy. Last week, I had sheet cake on my mind. I loooooove the Pioneer Woman’s recipe – so I made that but replaced the pecans with Oreos (duh), and the chocolate icing with a creamy vanilla icing. Unnecessarily rich and decadent, but it makes any stressful day a good one.

Recipe

  • Pioneer Woman Sheet Cake , minus the pecans and icing
  • 1.5 sticks butter, melted
  • 3 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla
  • 4-6 tablespoons milk
  • ~30 oreos, smashed

Bake the cake as instructed. Melt the butter in a saucepan, then whisk in the powdered sugar, vanilla and milk (it should be a thinner frosting).  When cake comes out of the oven, immediately top with crushed oreos, then drizzle with frosting.

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