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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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!

 

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!

 

A slow interest in cooking (A few favorite slow cooker recipes) January 16, 2013

Filed under: do it yourself — Heather @ 1:19 pm
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I never thought I’d write a blog about cooking. I never liked cooking. Truly, did not like cooking. I eat because my body requires it. I’m not sure I really like cooking now. But I must have been bitten by the domestic bug during our wedding because I find myself in the kitchen more, thumbing through cookbooks, searching online for healthy recipes and wandering the grocery store aisles for ingredients. Or maybe it’s just more fun to cook for two.

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Most of the recipes I’ve been trying lately are those made in the slow cooker. When my husband moved in, he brought this handy kitchen gadget. So easy to use! Just drop your ingredients into the cooker, set the time and go about your day. You return to a great smelling house and dinner is ready. We even purchased liners to make cleaning easier.

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Although I have a small, newfound interest in cooking, I still have a firm resolve to eat healthy. I’m not a fan of butter and salt (yes, both grandmothers cringed at this). But I’ve discovered some delicious, healthy slow cooker recipes that are low on fat but high on awesome flavor. Full disclosure that none of these recipes were created by me. They’re too good not to share. However, I usually tweak to suit our tastes so I listed the true recipe rather than  my tweaked versions. Another disclosure is that I don’t eat pork or beef so my favorite recipes involve chicken, turkey or seafood (or I’ll swap ground beef for ground turkey or ground chicken).

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Chuck Wagon-Style Turkey Chili

chili

This chili is hearty!

We love this Weight Watchers recipe! 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 we’re having company or want leftovers, I make a double recipe.

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Ingredients:
1 pound uncooked lean ground turkey breast
1 large onion, chopped
1 large sweet red pepper, diced
1 medium green bell pepper, diced
2 medium carrots, finely chopped
3 medium garlic cloves
15 1/2 oz canned pinto beans, rinsed and drained
3/4 cup barbecue sauce, hickory flavored (I’ve used 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
1/2 tsp table salt

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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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*Justin is not a fan of spicy so I test the chili powder amount – sometimes I’ll add only 2.5 tablespoons or even skip the chili powder and use a low sodium mild chili seasoning packet.

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Chicken and stuffing

I have seen, and tried, several variations of this recipe, using the slow cooker or not. My sister made this recipe long ago for us and Justin really liked it. This is the version that Justin tweaked to fit our tastes (he told me that he ‘wings’ it when he makes this so I confirmed a few items with my sister!).

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Ingredients:
4-5 chicken breasts
1 can low-fat cream of mushroom soup
3/4 of can (from soup) 1/2% milk
4-5 low-fat Swiss cheese slices
Stove Top stuffing, uncooked
1/2 cup low-fat unsalted butter, melted

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Mix soup and milk together in small bowl. Place chicken in slow cooker. Place a slice of Swiss cheese over each chicken breast. Pour soup mix over chicken and cheese. Pour in Stove Top stuffing. Pour melted butter over top. Cook on high for four hours.

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Easy Crock Pot Chicken Stew

Chickenstew

Add biscuits or cornbread with this stew!

We invited my mom over for dinner when we made this easy recipe (found on allrecipes.com) and she really enjoyed it. There are a lot of variations possible for this!

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Ingredients:
1 large can diced tomatoes (drain half of liquid)
1 can low-fat cream of mushroom soup
1 can low-fat cream of celery soup
1 bag frozen mixed veggies (you choose what veggies)
2 chicken breasts, cut into bite size pieces
1 cup low-fat milk
Salt and pepper to taste

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Mix the cans of soup and milk in slow cooker. Add the tomatoes, spices and chicken. Stir. Add vegetables and stir. Cook on low heat for five hours until the chicken is cooked.

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(Sort Of) Mexican Chicken

Another recipe that has many variations. I really tweaked this from the original Weight Watchers version. For instance, it calls for 12 corn tortillas to be cut into strips. We found that many didn’t allow the juices to soak through so the tortillas sort of ‘sit there.’ Use half. I also pour a bit of the liquids over the chicken, then layer the tortillas, then pour the remaining liquid. This prevents the chicken from drying. You can also add black olives or frozen corn.

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Ingredients:
2 cups chicken breast, cooked and diced
6 corn tortillas (original recipe calls for 12)
1 can low-fat condensed cream of mushroom soup
1 can low-fat condensed cream of chicken soup
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 small onion, chopped
1 small can chili with beans
4 oz green chilies, chopped
1/2 lb (8 oz) low-fat grated cheddar cheese

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Place chicken in slow cooker. Cut tortillas into small strips and lay over the chicken. Mix soups, broth, onion, chilies and chili in medium bowl. Pour over tortillas. Top with cheese. Cover and cook on low for 4-5 hours.

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I hope you get a chance to try to these recipes, and enjoy them like we do. And yes, I’m sure this particular blog brings a very big smile to my mom’s face. She loves to cook. And she makes fantastic tasting food (LOVE her spaghetti sauce). For years, she’d shake her head, wondering why the cooking bug never bit me. But no worries, Mom, I’m taking two aspirin and will call you tomorrow.

 

 
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