Breads

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.

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).

Chocolate Muffins

chocolate-muffins

Ayayayay. Today has been a day. Any day where I have to unexpectedly take my twins to the doctor solo is an ‘ayayay’ day. There is just no graceful way to manage it. From bringing them into the building, to keeping them from falling off the exam table when they’re on their together (today I adopted a goalie stance), to holding one while helping the doctor pin down the other so she can look in his ears, to getting them dressed again, and finally to physically getting out the door on my way out. Yes generally people are helpful, but in the end I’m in it alone (when John is not with me). Also, my dad used to use the term ‘snot-nosed little kid.’ (in good fun, of course).  I didn’t really take that term seriously until I’ve had two with sinus infections for 4+ weeks. How does such a tiny baby make so much snot? The good news is my clothes do a really good job of wiping off their noses.

Onto more pleasant topics, my neighbor did the best thing in the world for me recently. She went to Wisconsin to visit friends, and she brought me back CHEESE CURDS. My most favorite thing in all the land. Honestly it was the best day.  So I finally got a chance to repay her, and I decided to make her these chocolate muffins. They’re no cheese curd, but they do give you a nice little kick start to your day.

Recipe

  • 1 stick butter, room temp
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3/4 cup plain yogurt
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (a little less if using regular)
  • 1/2 cup freshly brewed coffee
  • 2/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350. Cream the butter and sugar together, then beat in the egg, vanilla, yogurt and milk. In a separate bowl, mix together all the dry ingredients. Slowly add the flour mixture into the butter mixture. Mix ONLY until combined (over mixing is a great way to make dry muffins). Stir in the coffee, then the chocolate chips.  Divide into 8 greased muffing tins for larger muffins, 12 for smaller. Bake for about 23 minutes.

Chocolate Banana Bread

chocolate-banana-bread
Nothing makes me think of home more than banana bread. Silly, I know, but it’s my favorite comfort food and I spent most of my life thinking my mom invented it (that and graham crackers).  When I was little, my mom and I would play board games and on special days she would give me a piece of freshly baked banana bread. That feeling of comfort and excitement has stuck with me through the years and now that I am a mom, it makes me think of all the little things our moms have done throughout our lives that have had such a lasting impact on us. My mom did a million different things every day that turned 4 little babies into 4 strong, happy, confident women.  It’s a feat that I don’t take lightly now that the challenge is upon me, and I only hope that I can live up to the same accomplishment.

And with Mother’s day approaching, it also made me reflect on her mother, my grandmother, who we lost this year at the grand old age of 97. She was a bright, fiery spirit that I admired my whole life. She was a strong, witty, outspoken and independent woman, who even in her final months very seriously claimed that ‘God must have forgotten about her.’ But nobody could have forgotten Georgia Carr; she was a woman who we all knew was special and we didn’t need her passing to remind us.

The truth is I always wanted to be as extraordinary as my grandma, but it looks like I’m not going to be. I know this because by the time she was my age, she had literally been involved in the prisoner liberation in Dachau, Germany at the end of World War II, when the concentration camps and POWs were released into the streets.  I giggle even as I type that because it’s so unbelievable – she was in her early 20s and accomplishing such big, worldly things.  She was a proud member of the Red Cross and served soldiers during WWII in Austria, Germany, and England. This was an extraordinary thing for a woman in that time, but she carried this passion and determination with her throughout her entire life.  She was the first person to swim all the way across the Detroit Lakes in Minnesota (at the age of 15). She took flying lessons because she wanted to learn to fly a plane. She graduated from college with a teaching degree in math and phy ed. Once her 5 children were born, she was a Scout leader, PTA president, UNICEF volunteer, and church leader. At her funeral, I was so touched by the clear impact she had on members of the church; her old pastor came back to give the sermon and so many women came to help with the lunch and talked about Georgia’s impact.

She also had a fun, competitive streak. As kids, we never once won a game of scrabble or checkers against her (why on earth would she let us win, she would ask my mom).  She was part of a bridge club that was far less about socializing and eating/drinking with other women, and much more about winning. My grandma had a spark, a determination about her; And as amazing as her time in the Red Cross was along with her other accomplishments of swimming, flying, and a college degree in the mid 1900s, it’s her lifelong activism that really inspires me. I feel like once she settled down, married my grandfather and had 5 kids of her own..she still managed to make an ordinary life extraordinary. Her leadership in her kids’ activities and schools, in the church, volunteering..and still finding time to have fun (sort of) with the bridge club. That’s what I find truly awe inspiring; to maintain that level of passion and activism with everything you do, quite literally from WWII to the PTA. She was one of a kind, truly. We could all be a little bit more like Georgia, and if her funeral taught me anything, it’s that I need to get moving.

So happy mother’s day to all the moms and grandmas out there. It’s a holiday that is truly deserved..and a time to feel proud of what we do and the little people that we are molding into big people – hopefully happy, content, and full of life.

And while my mom may not have invented banana bread, the fact that I thought she did for so many years really says it all. She was a supermom who made everything great; from games of Trouble to school lunches to our family dinners that I am now trying my best to replicate. The impact both my grandma and my mom had on me is clear; now fingers crossed I can do the same for my own children.

And on that note, onto the recipe. Banana bread, but with chocolate, so hopefully my boys will think I invented it.

Recipe

  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2  teaspoon baking soda
  • 1.5 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3 medium bananas
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 and grease a bread pan.  Cream the butter and sugar together in a standing mixer. Add the egg and vanilla.  Mix together the baking powder, soda, flour, and cocoa powder in one bowl, and mash the bananas and milk in another. Add a little of the flour mixture to the butter mix, then add a little of the banana, alternating until all is incorporated. Add the chocolate chips and bake for about 45 minutes.

Banana Bread for Two

banana-bread-for-two

People warned me before I got married that I would inevitably find out traits about my husband that  I didn’t like, that I didn’t know existed. In my soon-to-be-newlywed bliss (and ignorance), I thought no way! That can’t be true!

But after we returned from our honeymoon, about 3 weeks into our marriage, my worst nightmare came true. I got up early one Saturday morning, made my coffee, and decided – I’ll make my banana bread and bring some to John in bed! He’ll love me! I’m such a domestic person! I made it, let it cool down to a nice warm melty temperature, topped with a little butter, and brought it upstairs with a napkin. His response? “Thanks, but I don’t really like banana bread.”

A small part of me died that day.  But I had to move forward, forge on. So now I do one of two things: I either make a loaf of banana bread and freeze the leftovers, or I make this recipe which is just enough for two people. Or two days worth of banana bread for one person. Or one day’s worth if you want two muffins.

Recipe

  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 small ripe mashed banana
  • 1 tablespoon beaten egg (beat egg in a cup, and do your best to get ~1T.)
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • ~1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • Dash vanilla
  • Dash salt
  • Handful of chocolate chips or nuts

Preheat oven to 350.  Mix all ingredients together. If you need help mixing in the banana, heat it in the microwave for 20 seconds and it will mash right up with a fork. Divide into two greased muffin tins, and bake for about 22-25 minutes.

Sweet Potato Rolls

sweet-potato-rolls

Growing up, our family dinners ALWAYS included one thing: bread. Or carbs, as some call it. Bread, dinner rolls, popovers, etc were a staple in our family since my birth and I’m pretty sure it’s part of our DNA. I looooooove love love it. In fact, I never even started using butter until a few years ago. I like bread so much I prefer to eat it plain.  And if a dinner doesn’t include bread, my stomach shrinks into nothing and I pretty much die of hunger afterwards.

But, the real star amongst all of the dinner rolls/breads/popovers in our family has been my mom’s sweet potato rolls. Every Thanksgiving, we had these. So I had to continue the tradition and include them in my Thanksgiving dinner this year as well.

Now, when I asked my mom if these were hard she replied, ‘No! Really easy!!.’  I was thrilled, it seemed too good to be true. And it was.  Not that these are necessarily super difficult, but when she sent me the recipe the generational difference was glaringly obvious.  To me, ‘really easy’ means 3 ingredients, no mixer, no rising, and under 20 minutes. Maybe even the inclusion of some kind of pre-made mix.  To my mom, I think ‘really easy’ must mean no grinding your own grain and churning your own butter.

These are not ‘really easy!’ .  They’re not hard, either, but they’re not ‘really easy.’  Love this recipe all the same and will make them forever.

Recipe

  • 1 1/4 cups sweet potatoes, peeled, cooked and mashed
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • Pinch of sugar for yeast
  • 6-7 tablespoons sugar for dough
  • 1 cup milk, warmed/room temp
  • 1.5 sticks softened butter
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • ~5 cups flour
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter to brush dough with

Cook sweet potatoes. I just microwave them – about 5-8 minutes depending on size (be sure to stab them a few times first). Peel and mash. You can do this a day ahead, then just slightly warm them in the microwave prior to making the bread dough.

Using a standing mixer, whisk together the water, yeast and pinch of sugar. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes (if the yeast doesn’t get foamy, it might be old and the dough will not rise).  Mix in the potatoes, milk, 1.5 sticks butter, sugar, and salt.  Mix in the eggs. Slowly mix in the flour to create a slightly sticky dough. Transfer dough to a large buttered bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise until it doubles in size – about 2 hours. Tip here- we usually keep our kitchen at around 70 degrees. I find the dough takes a reeeeally long time to rise at this temp. The dough works best at about 75+ degrees, so I set my bowl near a sunny/warm window which helps a lot.

Preheat the oven to 375.  Punch the dough down, and line several large baking sheets with parchment paper.  Roll dough into 2-3 inch balls and drop on the baking sheets. Brush with remaining melted butter. Cover with plastic wrap or towel and let rise for another 30 minutes. Remove the plastic wrap and bake until golden brown, about 17 minutes.

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