Heather's Hangout

Sharing the people, places & little moments that make a difference.

Baking my favorite banana bread November 8, 2017

Filed under: do it yourself — Heather @ 9:00 am
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bananabread

Delicious smells and tastes with this banana bread!

There’s something about the drop in temperature and the clock falling back that jump starts my cooking interest. Maybe it’s something to keep me busy while stuck inside. It sort of amuses me to suddenly want to cook only because I swear I should be super skinny for how often I forget to eat (thankfully my stomach growls pretty loudly!).

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But alas, I walked past some quickly ripening bananas several times today before finally stopping at my cupboard where I store recipe books. One binder holds many recipes I’ve collected over the years. Among my favorites is a delicious banana bread recipe. Amazingly, all of the ingredients were in my cupboards and refrigerator. This rarely happens so I’m going to chalk this up to kicking off a great week!

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I originally found this recipe on the Weight Watchers website years ago when I was looking for a semi-healthy version of banana bread (the recipe used the old points system so I’m not going to share any of that information). Sometimes I swap the egg substitute for shell eggs (like today because I’m out of egg substitute), the cranberries for dark chocolate morsels (no judging; dark chocolate is the healthy version!), once added nuts (didn’t really like) and another time left out the cinnamon (I forgot it, oops). My point is, as with most recipes, you can make it what you want. Here’s the recipe:

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INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp light salt
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 Tbsp canola oil
  • 1/2 cup fat free egg substitute (or 2 eggs)
  • 3 medium ripe, peeled and mashed bananas
  • 1/2 cup fresh cranberries, dark chocolate chips, nuts or any ingredient
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INSTRUCTIONS:
Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray 9×5 inch loaf pan with cooking spray.

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Combine both flours, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in medium bowl. Stir and set aside.

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In separate large bowl, beat sugar and oil with an electric mixer on medium speed until sugar begins to dissolve, about 2-3 minutes.

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Beat eggs in to large bowl mixture. Beat in mashed bananas.Don’t forget to scrape down sides of the bowl. Remove beaters. Stir in flour mixture and cranberries (and/or other ingredients) with rubber spatula. Be sure to scrape sides of bowl to moisten everything.

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Pour batter into sprayed loaf pan, smoothing top. I lightly tap the pan on the counter to ensure batter is evenly distributed. Bake approximately 45 minutes or until browned – a toothpick inserted in center of loaf should come out with only a few moist crumbs. Place pan on wire cooling rack for about 10 minutes, then transfer loaf from pan to directly on rack to continue cooling.

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Cooled loaf can be sliced to enjoy and stored in plastic wrap at room temperature.

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Another idea is baking the batter in multiple small loaf pans (see my picture). I like these smaller, individual loaves as you can freeze for later, and this size is great for giving to family and friends. The cook time is a little shorter (usually 30 minutes for my oven) so keep an eye on them.

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Creating pretty pottery at local studio October 26, 2017

unfinishedpotteryvase

Starting the project.

I’ve been wanting to head back to the local pottery studio to make something artsy. It was meant to be when my friend mentioned she wanted to try her hand at pottery painting. So we picked an afternoon for our outing, choosing to meet at Creative Arts Studio in downtown Royal Oak (I took my niece here for an aunt/niece outing).

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The studio is a welcoming, sunshine-filled location that offers pottery painting, mosaics, glass fusing and more (I’ve only tried the pottery painting). Walk-ins are welcome and you can bring your own drinks and snacks. This studio charges a flat studio fee for adults and children, in addition to the price of the item you choose (ranging from under $5 to over $100).

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There are a lot of pottery pieces available, from vases to serving dishes to seasonal items to tea sets and more! I spent (too much) time wandering the rows of items, picking up one item only to spot another that interested me. Should I paint a coffee mug? Turtle for my great room floor? Horse-shaped bank? Bookends? Maybe a Michigan-shaped platter? I finally made myself focus, settling on a small vase since I’m a lover of flower bouquets placed around my house (hint to future boyfriend), although I mentally logged some other items I want to work on at a later time. The studio was fairly busy, plus a small birthday party group arrived shortly after us, so it was fun to look around at what others were working on. There were some really great ideas and talent in that building!

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potteryvase2017

My new vase!

The staff was very friendly and helpful. We were directed to shelves of glaze colors. The glaze is food safe on the finished product. I selected a few colors for my vase, then settled at a table with my friend to start the creative process.

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Three coats of each color is required for a deep color upon finish (it’s helpful that there are sample color tiles of the finished, three-coat color). I discovered the only challenge to working at a table with another is you ‘might’ lose track of how many coats you’ve painted while talking. Ha! So one of my colors got an extra coat because I couldn’t remember and decided I’d prefer a darker color rather than lighter.

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You write your name or initials on the bottom of your item and leave it at the studio to be fired. Pick it up in a week and you have a great item to keep or give as a gift!

 

Yummy, easy egg muffins April 14, 2017

Filed under: do it yourself — Heather @ 9:00 am
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eggmufinsWhile I know that breakfast is an important meal, I admit that I often have a difficult time eating a good breakfast. I’m usually hustling out the door to work or an exercise activity without a lot of time to make something healthy. My typical meal is grabbing a granola bar and coffee that I can eat at my desk or in the car.

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But I’m trying to get better about what I eat. So I was happy to discover a new dish for easy to make egg muffins. The eggs provide good protein and the extra ingredients help fill me up. The size makes them easy to pop in the microwave to heat.

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I’ll provide the basic recipe below but you can use any ingredients that you want! Make all vegetable, add some meat or bake with just eggs. Here’s the recipe:

 

 

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Ingredients:

12 large eggs

1/2 cup red peppers, chopped

1/2 cup green peppers, chopped

1/2 cup shredded cheese

1 cup mushrooms, chopped

1/2 cup turkey pepperoni, finely sliced (optional)

1/2 cup bacon bits (optional)

Salt, pepper (or other seasonings) to taste

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Instructions:
Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.

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Break eggs into mixing bowl and whisk until combined. Add ingredients to eggs and mix well. Season to taste.

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Coat muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray. Pour egg mixture evenly into 12 muffin cups (I use a 1/3 measuring cup for easy filling). Bake 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into center of muffin comes out clean.

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Place remaining egg muffins in sealed container and refrigerate. Enjoy!

 

Make a vision board for the new year January 18, 2017

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Cheers to a great year!

Week 3 of my best year ever started! So far, it’s been a good year. I kicked off my fitness routine (more to come on that later), biked a few times, met up with friends many times, and got working on some professional projects.

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One of my favorite activities that I like to do to kick off a new year is make a vision board. It’s a fun, simple way to  keep my goals, and dreams, in a visible spot (I usually keep it in my home office but since I’ve been in a temporary apartment while house hunting, I keep my board on top of the microwave and it’s proven to be a great spot. Every time I heat up some tea, food, whatever, I look at my board. It often reminds me of where I want to head and to lose the distractions!).

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Making a vision board is also a perfect excuse to get some friends together (not that we need excuses!). While you can of course make one on your own, I find it fun to get together to share your goals and see the creativity others use when making a board. My friend hosts an annual vision board making party with a bunch of women, food, drinks and craft supplies. It’s a lot of fun! I couldn’t make it a few times in the past so gathered my sisters and other ladies together because I really wanted to make a vision board. Last year, I helped plan a vision board party for my sorority alumnae chapter. And if you want to make it on your own, go for it!

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Remember that nothing on that board has to be perfect, nor is it set in stone. It’s your vision board! Some women get detailed both with their goals and creativity with paper, stickers and images, while others think broader, find what they need and glue it on wherever the whim takes them. And that’s beautiful because…say it with me….it’s your vision board! (Getting the picture that this project is all about you?)

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You need simple supplies to get started:

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Your goals. Some people get detailed (lose 10 pounds, get a puppy, go to Italy, find a new job, etc.). You can do whatever you want. It is after all your vision board! I often set some specific goals but this year I am focusing more on broader goals, with a few details included.

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Poster board. This can be any type of poster board. I usually choose a  standard white board with a little thickness (for easier display) and cut it to 15″ x 20″ size. It keeps it manageable to make and to display.

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Magazines. Use any magazines to find images of your goals, words, letters, whatever you want. If you make your board with a group of people, ask everyone to bring what they can. It’s fun (and easier) to have a variety of choices.

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Craft supplies. Stickers, sparkles, decorative paper and any other fun crafty item you want to include on your board.

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Scissors. For cutting your images and paper.

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Glue sticks. Place your items and stick ’em on!

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You can add any other item to your list. Whatever helps you get started and focused. No one is going to knock on your door to check the status of your projects/goals. The idea is to keep you focused on what you want. As I said, sometimes those goals change and sometimes you simply decide you want to do something else with your year and life. Have fun with this project! It’s your vision board! (okay, I couldn’t resist.)

 

Warm up with delicious chili and soups January 15, 2017

Filed under: do it yourself — Heather @ 7:54 pm
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Winter weather is still finding its way to Michigan. When the temps are low and cold, I enjoy a warm meal at the end of the day. I try to eat fairly healthy, which means trying to cook more at home.

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I love using my slow cooker. It’s so easy to drop ingredients in it, go to work and come home to a great smelling home and food ready to eat. Something about cold winter weather makes soups and chili sound pretty appealing so those type of slow cooker recipes keep making their way out of my cookbook. These are a few of my favorites that I’ve made several times, with variations of my own.

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Chicken taco chili

I love tacos and chili so a combination of the two is a win for me. And this slow cooker chictacochilirecipe is a definite win in the taste and easy to make categories.

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Ingredients:

  • 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 can (15 oz) black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 cans (15 oz each) diced petite tomatoes
  • 10 oz frozen corn
  • 8 oz tomato sauce
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 package taco seasoning (I use low sodium)
  • 1 Tbsp chili powder

Place all ingredients, except chicken, in slow cooker and mix well. Place chicken breasts on top and gently press down so chicken is covered by liquid mixture. Cook on low for 10 hours or high for 6 hours. About 30 minutes before cook time ends, remove chicken breasts. Shred chicken and return to slow cooker and stir, then let sit for remaining time. Serve with whatever toppings you prefer (sour cream, tortilla strips, shredded cheese, cilantro, etc.).

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*Adapted originally from skinnytaste.com

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Chuck Wagon-Style Turkey Chili

I’ve made this Weight Watchers recipe many times and slowly have added my own adaptation of it to fit my tastes. It is delicious and filling. The only downside is that the original recipe makes only enough for one bowl for maybe four adults (and not really hungry men) so if I’m having company, I make a double recipe.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 pound uncooked lean ground turkey breast
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 large sweet red pepper, diced
  • 1 medium green bell pepper, diced
  • 2 medium carrots, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 15 1/2 oz canned pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 10 oz bag of frozen corn
  • 3/4 cup barbecue sauce (I’ve used hickory, honey or Sweet Baby Ray’s)
  • 1/3 cup canned tomato paste
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 3 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano

Spray a large nonstick skillet with nonstick spray and set over medium high heat. Add the turkey, break it up, and cook thoroughly. Transfer the turkey and any juices to a 5- or 6-quart slow cooker. Add all remaining ingredients and stir well. Cover and cook until vegetables are softened – usually 4-5 hours on high or 8-10 hours on low. Stir in additional water if chili appears dry.

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Vegetable soup

This soup is healthy and delicious (yes they can be both!). It’s easy to make and full of vegsoupgood things! You can increase or decrease the vegetables listed below, based on your preference. For instance, I like the shredded cabbage in this soup so sometimes add more.

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Ingredients:

  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 medium carrots, diced
  • 1 medium red pepper, diced
  • 1-2  celery stalk(s), diced
  • 2 small zucchini, diced
  • 2-3 cups green cabbage, shredded
  • 10 oz frozen corn
  • 6 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper or to taste
  • 1/4 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp table salt or to taste (optional)
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice (optional)

Add vegetables, broth and oregano into large pot. Cover and bring to boil over high heat. Once boiling, reduce to low heat, partly covered, and simmer for 10-15 minutes or until vegetables are softened. Season with salt, pepper and lemon juice to your taste.

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You can also use a blend of frozen vegetables for the soup. If you want to add a meat, I sometimes add cooked, diced chicken or sliced chicken sausage.

 

Tomato/cucumber salad holds onto summer September 23, 2016

Filed under: do it yourself — Heather @ 11:45 am
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tomatoesI know the first day of fall happened yesterday but I’m not quite ready to pull out the sweaters, boots and chili recipes. Instead, I’m wearing shorts and sandals today, and snacking on some refreshing summer vegetables.

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Believe it or not, I wasn’t a fan of tomatoes until about two years ago. Yes, I ate tomato-based foods (spaghetti sauce, salsa, etc.) but I politely declined any fresh tomato. Then I happened to try grape and cherry tomatoes and loved them. Now I buy containers of the mini tomatoes from the road side farm stand near me almost weekly since I love to snack on them. I even grew a small plant on my balcony, which produced some delicious cherry tomatoes. But, sadly, not enough to keep me fulfilled, thus I continue to support our local farmers.

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In case you’re wondering (as I did) about the difference between grape and cherry tomatoes – it mostly comes down to the shape. Cherry tomatoes are round and small, similar to cherries. Grape tomatoes are typically oblong, and a little hardier and smaller than cherry tomatoes. Cherry tomatoes tend to be a little sweeter than their grape size counterpart.

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Anyway, I digress. With this love of the mini tomatoes, I started making a tomato and cucumber salad over the summer. Each time I made it, I added various ingredients to switch up the flavors based on my appetite.

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tomatocucumbersaladIt’s such an easy recipe. I slice a handful of grape tomatoes in half (length way). How many I use depends on the salad I’m making. Just for me? Maybe 10-12. To share? I add more. Then I slice a cucumber into small pieces and mix the vegetables together. Some other ingredient options:

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Fresh mozzarella balls, sliced

Bacon bits

Chopped hard boiled egg

Fresh spinach

Chopped chicken

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Then I add mix 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, then drizzle onto the salad. Toss lightly and enjoy!

 

Summer pasta, bacon and vegetable salad September 7, 2016

Filed under: do it yourself — Heather @ 4:00 pm
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pastasaladThe humidity finally slid out of Michigan, leaving wonderfully warm, yet relaxing weather. Despite the pumpkin seasoning and haunted houses appearing in retailers, it’s still the summer season so I’m still enjoying all things summertime! This means that I am not ready to turn the hot oven on to cook. I shared in a recent blog that I’m trying to make myself prep meals more often so I dug through some favorite recipes again.

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This easy summer pasta salad came from a Kroger mailer! I’ve tweaked it a bit to add some variety for my taste. It’s such a simple, yet tasty salad that you can really make it any way that suits you.

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Here are the ingredients for this yummy salad:

  • Cooked pasta (I use approximately 6-8 oz uncooked)
  • 1-2 cups chopped romaine lettuce (you can also use spinach)
  • 1 cup sliced grape tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup bacon bits
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Dressing:

  • 1 Tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 1 Tablespoon mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup olive oil (sometimes I use flavored olive oil, like basil)
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Once the pasta is cooked, run under cold water to cool. Mix all ingredients together. Add the dressing – I add a little at a time, then toss the ingredients to determine if I need more dressing. You can also optionally add salt, pepper and seasonings to taste.

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To make this a heartier meal, I’ve added diced cooked chicken, fresh cut broccoli and cucumbers. I also switch up my pasta, at times using wheat, veggie or gluten-free pasta. It’s really an open recipe based on your palate!

 

 
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