Baking – Banana Bread from a mix

I love baking mixes. Do the end results taste as good as something completely made from scratch? Honestly, I think so. Although, I usually add some extra ingredients to the mixes to give them a bit more of a “from scratch” taste.

And honestly, when you have a couple bananas that are past the stage in which you would want to eat them, what’s better than banana bread? Not much, right?

Now, when I have the time, I have a recipe for banana bread that I like because it is so easy to put together. I’ve blogged about it here.

But, when it’s a summer morning and we have to get a lot of other stuff done, a mix is perfectly fine.

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Eating our way through the checklist

Throughout the last couple weeks, we were able to mark a few more things off of our summer to-do list. We ate at one of big girl’s favorite restaurants: Labriola Cafe. Their mac-n-cheese is her all-time favorite mac-n-cheese. I like their burgers.

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We also made lemonade. Now, this wasn’t fancy homemade lemonade. I wasn’t really in the mood to juice a pile of lemons. But, thankfully, big girl didn’t have a problem with that because she likes to help make lemonade the easy way.

 

 

Yep. Good ol’ Country Time lemonade. Dump the mix, add the water, and stir. Easy and the girls love it.

We also took the easy way out with some cookie baking.

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Cookie dough – already made and already portioned into perfect cookie sizes. Yep. Is it cheating? Maybe. Do I care? Nope. When you’ve had one of those weeks…..and you want cookies…..but you don’t want to have do find ingredients and do dishes……these give you a perfectly yummy cookie. And, that’s one more thing that we can mark off of the summer to-do list.

 

 

The checklist thus far:

  • Make lemonade.
  • Eat at Big Bowl.
  • Go to Millennium Park.
  • Go to Adler Planetarium.
  • Get space ice cream.
  • Go to zoo.
  • Go to Shedd Aquarium.
  • Go bowling.
  • Make banana pudding.
  • Go to the splash pads downtown.
  • Play at Maggie Daley playground.
  • Go to Field Museum.
  • Go to Art Institute and do a JourneyMaker tour.
  • Go swimming.
  • Go to the Children’s Museum.
  • Play at playground.
  • Have a pajama day (with daddy.)
  • See a movie at the movie theater.
  • See a movie outside.
  • Go to the library.
  • Go to the Family Festival downtown Chicago.
  • Make cookies.
  • Read books at home.
  • Ride the train at the mall.
  • Go to the beach.
  • Have a picnic.
  • Go to American Girl Place.
  • Draw pictures and cut them out.
  • Play with legos.
  • Make muffins.
  • Make pasta salad.
  • Play with toys.
  • Go to a festival.
  • Try to go to a water park.
  • Go to the Disney store downtown Chicago.
  • Eat at Rainforest Cafe.
  • Eat at Labriola Cafe.
  • Bake an apple pie.
  • Play games on the iPad.
  • Play Mario game with daddy.
  • Go to the Morton Arboretum.
  • Go to Mimi and Pa’s house.
  • Go to Granny and Pa’s house.
  • Go on a hike.
  • Go to the Museum of Science and Industry.

Going Stir Crazy? Stir Some Batter.

The kiddos are definitely already ready for spring. It’s just sooooooo cold. I can’t blame them. I’ve been ready for spring since December 26th. But, the girls are now old enough that when they get bored, they start arguing. I told Ryan that I’m looking forward to a time in the future (far future) when we have a two story house and I can tell the girls to “go downstairs!” Or, “go upstairs!” *sigh* That’ll be awesome.

Since we have a one-story ranch house, my solution to the bickering came in the shape of a box of bread mix. (And, the fact that our bananas were ripe…..very ripe…..very very ripe.) So, the girls and I made two loaves of pumpkin bread (with three bananas mixed in). Bread and muffin mixes are some of my favorite pantry staples. Many times, I want to bake something but I just don’t have the time to mix and mix and mix. And many mixes are actually delicious or can be made delicious by throwing in a few ingredients (chopped nuts, dried fruit, bananas that are very, very, very ripe).

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And yes, they stopped fighting the entire time that we were preparing the bread. Ten minutes later they were arguing again but that short time was peaceful……

Baking Cookies (the easy way)

One of the last things on the summer checklist is to bake cookies. Now, when we’re not so close to the beginning of the school year, I love flipping through cookbooks and planning and shopping for ingredients and all that. However, when we are close to the beginning of the school year, I basically have no desire to take the time to do anything. I always feel like there is no time to get anything done……so, I knew that we were going to make cookies but I wanted to make it as easy a possible.

So…..I present to you…..super easy cookies!!!!

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Yep. I bought the kind where you just grab the cookie dough cubes and toss them on the cookie sheet. But, actually, the kiddos had a lot of fun with these. Big girl liked to position her cookies in a certain pattern. Little girl liked to lick her hands after placing her cookies. (Ew.)

The chocolate chip ones turned out better than the Reese’s pieces ones but I’m kind of blaming my cookie sheet on that one. The newish cookie sheet had the chocolate chip cookies on it. The much older one had the Reese’s pieces ones…..the older cookie sheet might be close to being removed from the cabinet for good. ūüė¶

One of the strangest things that happened for me was the strong desire to have a glass of milk with the cookies when they came out of the oven. Now, for most people, wanting a glass of milk with cookies is just a given. It is simply assumed that you are going to have a glass of milk with cookies. For me, however, that is something that hasn’t happened in a long time. When I was pregnant with big girl, most dairy foods tasted….well….off….for me and it took awhile for me to like eating them again. But milk, well, milk still tastes kinda off for me.

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But, let me just say, that glass of milk was sooooooooooo delicious with the cookies!

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So, I may have found a way to talk myself into having a glass of milk every day.

I’m just going to have to bake more cookies.

 

Summer checklist thus far:

  • Go to the library.
  • Go to the pool.
  • Make banana pudding.
  • Ride the train at the mall.
  • Go to the playground.
  • Make cookies.
  • Go downtown.
  • Go on a hike.
  • Have a picnic.
  • Go to American Girl Place.
  • Go to the beach.
  • Go to the zoo.
  • Eat at Flat Top Grill.
  • Read books.
  • Eat at Noodles & Company.
  • Get ice cream.
  • Go to the splash pads downtown.
  • Go to the water park.
  • Go to a festival.
  • Go to the movie theater.
  • Play on the McDonalds playground after lunch.
  • Go to family fun festival downtown.
  • Go to the Art Museum and go to the kids area after looking at paintings.
  • Go to the dinosaur museum (Field Museum).
  • Go to the space museum (Adler Planetarium).
  • Have a pajama day. (Although big girl has now requested that we have 100 pajama days.)

 

Blueberries, blueberries, and more blueberries!

I love summer. I love summer temperatures. I love summer vacation. I love summer food. Sometimes, however, in my joyful summer food purchasing, we end up with way (!!!!!!!!) too much of something. Right now, that something is blueberries. We have so many blueberries! So tonight, I made cobbler.

I did a quick search for a cobbler that 1) looked easy and 2) did not need any ingredients that differed from what we already had. This one came up at the time of my search and I decided to give it a try.

It came together really easily and quickly. There’s hardly any mixing involved!

Blueberries!!!!

Blueberries!!!!

It’s a good thing that there is a new container of ice cream that’s just waiting to sit on some cobbler……

Blueberry, blueberry muffins

We bought a huge container of blueberries from Costco. Yay! But, they quickly got to the point of use-them-or-throw-them-away. So, the search for a muffin recipe began.

I wanted to find a super easy recipe. Super, super easy recipe.

I found this one. I don’t often make Paula Deen’s recipes. But, this sounded so yummy. 1 stick of butter? Oh yea. A pile of sugar on top? Yep. Good idea.

I got ready to make the muffins and realized that we were out of baking powder. Ok. The next day, with a brand new package of baking powder, I got ready to make the muffins…..and we don’t have any eggs. Ok. Finally, day three, I made the muffins. Finally.

They came together fairly quickly. Since we had so many blueberries that needed to be used, I added an extra half of a cup of blueberries to the recipe.¬† Would that throw everything off? Only one way to find out….

Finished muffins.  And my in-need-of-a-manicure nails.

Finished muffins. And my in-need-of-a-manicure nails.

They taste pretty good and are full (!!!!!!!) of blueberries. I don’t quite understand the sugar on top.¬† I kept them in the oven a bit longer than needed to bake the muffins but the sugar didn’t do anything. It just sort of sat on top. I thought that the sugar would caramelize a little or something but that didn’t happen. The texture is a bit off.¬† The muffins fall apart very easily.¬† Perhaps that is because I added so many blueberries?¬† Maybe the added blueberries made the muffins structurally unsound.

But, the important thing is that the finished muffins do taste good and very blueberry-y.  And bonus: baby girl loves them! She loves picking out the blueberries and then eating the rest of the muffin.

Winnie-the-Pooh First Birthday

I can’t believe how quickly this year went by.¬† Baby girl is one year old! When beginning to plan her party, I decided to go with one of my favorite topics – Winnie-the-Pooh! I wanted to keep it simple while also making it super cute. But….yea….simple and easy to put together were the goals.

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This paper became a huge part of the party design. I found a template for pennants here. I cut out the pennant pieces and used a circle paper punch to cut out lots of circles.

Lots and lots of pennants

Lots and lots of pennants

I used the circles to make a little banner for the cake and as confetti on the table.

Cake banner

Cake banner

Finished cake banner. I attached the circles onto the ribbon with tape then used tape to attach the ribbon to sticks that are used for candy making.

Finished cake banner. I attached the circles onto the ribbon with tape then used tape to attach the ribbon to sticks that are used for candy making.

My mother-in-law noticed that the cake design was close to that of big girl’s birthday. I like that a lot of the design was the same but still different for each girl.

I hung pennants everywhere……until I ran out of pink ribbon.

On the fireplace....

On the fireplace….

On bookshelves....

On bookshelves….

After I ran out of pink ribbon, I had to improvise. (Hint – always buy too much ribbon.) I cut the top tab part off of the pennant pieces so that they were now just a triangle and taped them up as though they were a banner.

On the front door....

On the front door….

On the high chair....

On the high chair….

On the closet door....

On the closet door….

I didn’t want to go overboard with Winnie-the-Pooh so I picked accents of pink and yellow. There was also a lot of pink and yellow in the Pooh paper so it worked out well.

Pink and yellow napkins, utensils, and plates all from Target. The little yellow buckets were from the Target dollar section. Man....I love the Target dollar section.

Pink and yellow napkins, utensils, and plates all from Target. The little yellow buckets were from the Target dollar section. Man….I love the Target dollar section.

The sprinkles on the cake were also pink and yellow.

The sprinkles on the cake were also pink and yellow.

For the menu, we decided to have picnic-type foods. Sliders, brats, hot dogs. All sounds good, right? Except big girl won’t eat any of those things so I also made sure that we had the ingredients for PB&J sandwiches. I used a cute beehive cookie cutter to cut the bread. I’m guessing that the cookies would look better than the bread as the bread just looked like a weird triangle….or a letter A….

PB&J. Everyone's favorite.

PB&J. Everyone’s favorite.

After I settled on the Winnie-the-Pooh theme, I asked my mom to be on the lookout for Pooh bear stuff at yard sales or resale shops.¬† She found a cute vase/carafe that I added to the table decor. Unfortunately, the pic that I had of the vase refuses to be uploaded…..after four tries…..oh well.¬† Just know that it’s cute.

The food!

The food!

I think that the party turned out really cute. I did not spend nearly as many hours preparing this one as I did when big girl turned one but I wanted to be well-rested (or as well-rested as a mother of a 3 year-old and 1 year-old can be) for the party. Once I found the scrapbook paper I knew that the whole party would come together pretty easily.

Easy. Cute. Birthday party goals were definitely achieved.