Monday, April 30, 2012

Beach, Bananas, and a Berry Good Time... (Banana Panini)

Guess what we did this weekend...

Yup, you got it!

Are you surprised?  Probably not.  (Note -- no, I am not in any of these pictures.  Such is the life of the photo-taker in the family.  But my husband is there with the red surfboard.  He is well documented, as are his friends.  And my friends.  And my flowers and my food and... well, you get the point.  I really need to get better at including myself!)

I did get one picture with me included and it happens to be my favorite picture from the weekend --

Not only did we hang out with our friends who live far, far away (Washington State, which is far, far away if you live in California), but we discovered PinkBerry for the first time!  Oh my goodness, this stuff is good!  We were hoping to get some Ben & Jerry's, but they no longer had the shop open any more.  It was a sad moment until we saw a little place with a line out the door.  And I can see why.  I got salted caramel with coconut, toasted almonds, brownie bites, and heath bar crunch for my toppings.  Talk about sugar and happiness overload!  Good friends, good food, good times...  :)

What else do you think we did?  Ate bananas, of course!  We are, after all, making our way through some (and by "some" I mean "many") banana recipes.

Remember my super-sweet-find from the other day?  Well, I took some of that, spread it on some bread, placed some bananas in it, and grilled away.

I don't have a fancy George Foreman grill or anything, so it looks a little more like a grilled-cheese sandwich than a panini (I couldn't think of a creative way to make the grill-lines), but whatever, the taste is the same --> the taste of MMMmmmm!

I had one and then I was done.  It was good, but it was sweet.  Very sweet.  My husband didn't seem to mind though.  He asked for another one and then went into the kitchen and smeared some more of the Cocoa Almond Spread on a piece of bread.  I think I found something we need to keep stocked up on!  (Or maybe not... I kind of like him slim and fit ;) )

Click the button to see more banana posts.

Cost Per Sandwich: $1.38

Friday, April 27, 2012

My Confession... (Cocoa Almond Spread)

I have a confession to make.  And it may shock you.

Are you ready?

I have never ever, not even once, tried Nutella.

I hear your gasp all the way over here.  I warned you that it may shock you.

I know, I know.  I have no excuse really.  Truthfully, I didn't even know it existed until a few years ago when my students were bringing it with their fruit for snack or lunch.  Even then, I just thought it was some new-fangled kid food, like Crustables.  But then I started noticing people making references to it and its apparent amazingness on Facebook.  It didn't really phase me though, I had lived twenty-some years without it, and I figured I was doing just fine.  Others didn't think so, but I did.

Then I saw a recipe that called for it.  There it was -- my excuse to finally give in and try it.  I headed out to do my grocery shopping with "Nutella" scribbled on my list.  Right after a stop at Trader Joe's I was going to dash over to Safeway to pick some up... but you know how Trader Joe's is, right?  They have these yummy samples all the time.  And my local TJ's doesn't just have one, but they always serve two samples, plus coffee and tea.  (Are you starting to see why I have a love affair going on with them?)  And guess what one of the samples was that day?  Yup, you got it.  The Trader Joe's version of Nutella, served up with pretzels.

Creamy, sweet, and chocolately, it was delicious.  I crossed Nutella off my list and grabbed one of these off the shelf, tossing it into my cart.  Basically, from what I found out via those who have studied this intensely (and there are quite a few, surprisingly) the main difference is that Nutella is made with hazelnuts while Trader Joe's Cocoa Almond Spread is made with, you guessed it, almonds.  Calorie-wise they are about the same, both contain no artificial colors/flavors or preservatives, and they are both the same price, at least in my neck of the woods.  But you know what this one has over the other, at least for me?  Convenience.  As you know, I am a shopper of TJ's and if I can get it all in one spot for a low price, why not? 

You know what this means?  I have still never tried Nutella.  Maybe I will someday, maybe I won't.  But I will enjoy chocolately spread because it is so delicious.  How did I go this long without figuring that out?!

(Check back soon to see this bad-boy in action.)

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

What I'm Loving Wednesday -- 4.25.12

It's Wednesday!  I almost forgot because I didn't have work on Monday.  Totally throws me off.  But I am alright with that... we are almost to Friday I feel like I am just beginning.  Score!

On this beautiful April day, I am loving:

1) the small April shower that we had today.  You know what they say, April shower bring May flowers. 
And I love those flowers!

2) See?

Aren't these beautiful?  Tulips are my favorite.  They made up my bouquet when I walked down the aisle and often sit on my dining table in the Spring.  Simple and elegant.

And this tip to help create other flower arrangements is genius.  Way to go, Martha Stewart, way to go.

3) that this is the last week of me needing to stay until 8/ 8:30 a couple nights a week.  Those 13 hour-days really wear me out.  But alas, tonight and tomorrow night (when my students are performing Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat) and then I am back on track.  Woo-hoo!

4) this skirt.  I want it.  I want to put it on and twirl around in it.  Yes, sometimes I act like a little girl, but what can I say?  I love color!

5) these simple organizing ideas.  The buckets are cute and simple, and the lost-sock-clips are brilliant!  So much better than an ugly basket filled with mix-matched socks!

6) these pictures, for no particular reason other than they make me happy.

7) the fact that I just carried on an entire conversation in Spanish!  Sure, I threw some Portuguese words in there once or twice, but he understood me and I understood him.  And I was told my Spanish is good.  HA!

And of course, this man.  He makes my heart melt. 

Happy Wednesday, Folks!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Bonkers for Bananas: Banana Upside-Down Tart

It's a good time to be friends with me.

Wow, that's a bold statement.  So let me give you the facts and then let you decide.

I don't know what happened to me, but I have been bitten with the baking bug.  Yes, I am working on these banana recipes and all, but it is more than that. 

For example, last Friday I was in the middle of cleaning my house, dust rag in hand.  Suddenly I had a craving for snickerdoodles.  Like I needed them, and I needed them now.  Down went that dust rag and out came the sugar.

Those snickerdoodles were good, but come on, what do we (a little family of two) do with 24 cookies?  I mean, besides get ridiculously fat?  Especially when we are still working through homemade ice cream and there is a banana tart on the way? 

We share them with friends. 

And what do I do with an entire banana tart that I made this morning?

I cut it in half, wrap it up, and share it with another friend.  And it was oh-so-good.

As far as I can see, this baking streak is not ending any time soon.

Like I said, it is a good time to be friends with me.

Want more banana recipes?  Click the button!

Banana Upside-Down Tart

Recipe taken from Everyday Food, March 2012

  • Prep Time 20 minutes
  • Total Time 1 hour 10 minutes, plus chilling
  • Yield Serves 8

  • Ingredients

    • For the Crust

      • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for work surface
      • 1 teaspoon sugar
      • 1/4 teaspoon fine salt
      • 1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
      • 3 to 5 tablespoons ice water
    • For the Filling

      • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) cold unsalted butter
      • 2/3 cup packed dark-brown sugar
      • 1/4 cup dark rum, brandy, or bourbon
      • 5 firm-ripe medium bananas, thinly sliced


    1. Make the crust: In a food processor, pulse flour, sugar, and salt. Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal, with a few pea-size pieces of butter remaining. Sprinkle with 3 tablespoons ice water. Pulse until dough is crumbly but holds together when squeezed (if necessary, add up to 2 tablespoons ice water); do not overmix. Form dough into a disk, wrap tightly in plastic, and refrigerate until firm, 1 hour (or overnight).
    2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Make the filling: In a 10-inch ovenproof skillet, melt butter and brown sugar over medium-high, stirring constantly, until mixture is bubbling, 3 minutes. Remove from heat and add rum, swirling to combine. Arrange banana slices in an even layer over sauce.
    3. On a floured work surface, roll dough into a 12-inch round. Place on top of bananas and fold overhang inward. Bake until crust is golden and mixture is bubbling around edge, 45 to 50 minutes. Invert onto a serving plate and serve warm.

    Cook's Note

    Top It Off
    Instead of trimming away excess dough, fold it over to make a sturdier base for the tart. Besides, who doesn't love more crust? Serving whipped cream alongside is not essential -- but it is wonderful.

    Cost: $5.75                   Cost Per Serving (8) $0.72 

    Sunday, April 22, 2012

    Burritos, Sunshine, and Victory!

    If you haven't figured it out by now, let me give it to you straight: we love the beach.

    It doesn't really matter if we are on a tropical beach in Brazil or a NorCal one with slightly lower temps.  Ethier way, that is where we are the happiest.  What it does dictate is the type of clothes you wear while you are in the water.

    Or out of the water...
     (These girls are slightly overdressed compared to what we see on Brazilian beaches, huh?)

    But if there is sunshine and sand along with the sound of crashing waves, we are there.

    You know where else we might be?  Eating Mexican food. 

    See that smile on his face?  A smile as he has a burrito in right hand and horchata in his left?!  A few years ago the corners of his mouth would have been pointed in the other direction, but today he holds that Mexican food in his hands and smiles about it.  In fact, he was the one who suggested Taqueria Vallarta II this time, although he says it was just because he knows I like it. 

    Oh well, that really doesn't matter.  We were eating it and he was smiling.  You know what this means?  I do not need to live a Mexican-food-free marriage anymore. 

    You know what that means?


    Thursday, April 19, 2012

    Blood, Sweat, Tears, and Banana Pops (A 'Bonkers for Bananas' Post)

    I let it get to me.  I know, I know... Don't let the one bad comment ruin your day.  Oh, how that easy that is to say, yet can be so hard to do.

    Let me back up a bit.  Let me tell you about my dream.  Remember the TV show '24'?  Remember in season 2 or 3 Jack was dating some girl named Audrey, who later appeared on Grey's Anatomy but will forever be in my mind Audrey-who-dated-Jack-Bauer?  Well, she was in my dream last night.  Along with my friend Querubia.  And some other dude.  Anyway, this other dude (who remains nameless) was driving Q and I around Manuel Antonio National Park in Costa Rica while Audrey was following us.  We thought we were the good guys/spies/something and she (Audrey) was the bad one.  But then we realized that she was the good one trying to save us from the dude.  And then we passed some beach bungalows that looked really great to stay in and I mentioned that I would love to live there before I remembered, "Oh yeah, I am trying to survive here and I can't let the dude know I have caught onto his secret."  Then we stormed across a river onto the other side while all the other cars road across in big, white laundry baskets.  Water came in the car and got in my camera case and I was really sad but we needed to not focus and that and try to save our lives...

    Why do I mention this?  Because if I remember that much detail about my dream (and trust me, there is more...) then I clearly did not rest last night.  Oh, I slept.  But I did not rest.  And that is how I started the day.

    I teach math everyday.  Math is simple.  2+2=4, 7-5=2, and Tiffany + lack of sleep = overly sensitive and impatient teacher.  It is always the same.

    And that brings us to what my students and I refer to as 'Banana Pops'.   See, I have been doing these banana recipes, and they have been great.  Really great.  But they are recipes to feed 10 or 8, and we are in two.  This means that my banana bread took about a week three days to finish and we are still working our way through the ice cream.  Don't get me wrong, it tastes wonderful, but it all tastes like bananas.  (Duh.)  Day in and day out bananas.  However, I want to finish this banana journey I set out on so I figured I would kill two birds with one stone -- make a recipe AND have fun with my students.  They love it when I bring things in to cook with them.  That made today Banana Pop Day. 

    As you can see, they were having fun.  Most of them were having fun, anyway.  But there had to be the very small percentage who complained, goofed off instead of helping their table, and one who asked, "Do I have to do it?"  I think under normal circumstances I would have let it roll off me, but every time one of these little comments happened (ok, the three times) it just grated on me.  I have planned something so fun for you and you just want to complain? I wanted to shout.  Of course, I couldn't, so I just held it in.  But it wasn't fun for me anymore.  Suddenly I was not making banana pops with my kids.  Nope, now I was just cleaning up chocolate, digging out bananas, scraping burnt chocolate into the trash, and rinsing my own burnt fingers (due to my own lack of thinking) under the running water.  Now it was work.  And that hurt me.  Because I wanted it to be fun and I wanted it to be a good memory and I wanted... I wanted to sleep. 

    Instead, I headed to my boss's office and began to cry. 

    Yes, I cried over bananas and chocolate not going quite as planned.  The first time in seven years of teaching that I cried because my students weren't happy with my activity.  And I felt so stupid... But she listened.  And then she said, "Of course you are feeling this way.  You put energy and thought into this and wanted it to be a great moment, but you wound up getting slapped in the face."   Yes.  That is exactly how I felt.  As she pointed out, "A slap in the face doesn't hurt less just because a nine-year-old is doing it."  We talked it out, moved onto other topics of conversation, and I went to get my kids from PE to take them back to their banana pops, waiting for them.

    Which they loved.

    So, they weren't the prettiest.  But they tasted great.  When I look at those smiles I realize that maybe one or two didn't have the best moment, but most loved it.  That's why I did it -- for those kids. 

    Wanna know something sweet?  Those kids who wanted to stay out of it and didn't do anything had pops, too.  Their seatmates didn't want them to be left out and made some specifically for them.  Everyone had at least one, and everybody wanted more.  Everybody.  So really, I did it for them -- the complainers and mishchief makers -- as well. 

    I was going to come home and make some pretty ones and take some great pictures, but I will leave that to the rest of the food photography world right now.  I am going to leave these pictures as they are.  These are our banana pops.  The pictures might be a little rough, but so was the experience.  But end the end it turned out alright.

    And look, someone even made one for me.  :)

    For more banana recipes -- and ones that really turned out alright! -- click the Bonkers for Bananas button below.

  • Prep Time 10 minutes
  • Total Time 10 minutes plus freezing
  • Yield Makes 20

  • Ingredients

    • 5 firm-ripe bananas, cut into 2-inch pieces
    • 6 ounces semisweet chocolate chips (1 cup)
    • 1 tablespoon sprinkles


    1. Insert a toothpick into each banana piece. Arrange bananas, toothpick side up, on a parchment-lined baking sheet and freeze until firm, 2 hours.
    2. In a medium microwave-safe bowl, heat chocolate chips in 10-second increments, stirring between each, until melted and smooth. Working quickly, dip each banana piece in chocolate, shake off excess, and cover with sprinkles. Chocolate should set quickly, but if necessary, freeze pops to harden coating before serving.

    Cook's Note

    Freeze pops, wrapped, up to 3 days.

    Cost: $3.45                   Cost Per Serving (20) $0.17

    Wednesday, April 18, 2012

    What I'm Loving Wednesday -- 4.18.12

    It's back!  I have really missed doing these but every Wednesday for the past five weeks has made it impossible.  Today I start again, and I am ready.  It always puts such a good spin on this day!

    Today I am loving:

    1) my students!  There is this certain time in the year when I realize, "Man, I love these kids!"  That is usually around October.  And then there is another point in year when I think, "What am I going to do without these faces in life all the time?"  That is about now.  Several things have happened this week, whether words spoken or jokes made or just simple gestures, that made me see that I am that point in the school year. 

    2) the sunshine.  Surprised?

    3) these styles --

    You might have seen this last picture already on my blog, but I must say, I am loving these dresses!  Number three is my favorite.  What I am not loving is that Forever 21 ran out before I got one :( 

    4) words of affirmation

    5) insurance.  We realized last night that our debit card had been cloned while in Brazil.  They started using it yesterday and I figured it out right away, but I am grateful that cards come with insurance so I don't have to lose the tons of money they spent out shopping.  Last school year my car was stolen (terribly crazy story) and Geico did what they were supposed to do and we were taken care of.  So although I may not enjoy paying for the insurance every month, I love that I have it when I need it!

    6) this ponytail.  I need to try this.

     7) these ideas for the home --


    (I need to add that I have the same plant as in the top picture but I neglect it :(  It is on the balcony and I forget it is there.  This has inspired me to give it some more TLC.)

    8) these sweets.  OH I WANT THEM!  Don't be surprised if you see me recreating them sometime soon...


    9) these words.  I truly think that if we all let this guide our daily interactions/deeds that the world would be better all around.  I cannot control the world or anyone else in it, but I control myself, so this is the motto I strive to live by.

    10) my man.  He makes me laugh.  I love that.

    Happy Wednesday, Folks!


    {February 29, 2012}
    {February 22, 2012}
    {February 15, 2012}
    {February 8, 2012}
    {February 2, 2012}
    {January 25, 2012}
    {January 18, 2012}

    Tuesday, April 17, 2012

    Bonkers for Bananas: Banana Rum Ice Cream

    It's HERE! 

    I leaked it out on Facebook the other day that I discovered the secret to making ice cream without an ice cream maker and everyone kept asking me, "HOW?"  Clearly, this is something that is desired knowledge, and I have it.  Kind of makes me feel powerful... and makes me question if I should share my secret.  What can I say?  Knowledge is power, and we all like power.  But I figure if Martha Stewart shared it with me I should be kind enough to share it with you.

    Banana Rum Ice Cream.  Four words that really mean just one: delicious. 

    A bunch of bananas, some sweetened condensed milk, a pint heavy whipping cream, and a little bit of rum and sugar cooked together.  That's all it took.

    As a side note, not only did I make ice cream for the first time, but I made whipped cream for the first time.  It was always one of those things I knew I could do, I just never did.  Now I can check that off of my list of things that must be mastered in the kitchen.

    This recipe called for a lot of banana.  That would be where it gets the title, right?  Now that I have mastered it once my brain is rolling with all the possible ice cream ideas.  Like, what if I did pineapple with the condensed milk and added coconut milk instead of the rum/sugar concoction?  Would that make pina colada flavor?  Or how about chocolate with the condensed milk and stirring in bits of Oreo's?  Or maybe Andes Mints?  Oh, the possibilities are endless!  And I am completely alright with that.

    I figure as long as you have the whipped cream (fresh, from you), the condensed milk with its added flavor, and something to stir in that is sweet, you can just mix them all together and freeze overnight.  It worked with bananas, I am sure it will work with other things.

    Now the secret is out.  Now you know you, too, can make ice cream in your own kitchen.  Please, let me know what flavors YOU come up with!

    Whenever you see this logo, click it to see the other fun banana recipes I am trying this month.  Next up, simple banana popsicles and a banana panini... Go ahead, click it :)

    Recipe from Everyday Food, March 2012
    • Prep Time 10 minutes
    • Total Time 40 minutes plus freezing
    • Yield Makes 1 1/2 quarts


    • 3/4 cup dark rum
    • 3/4 cup golden raisins  (Didn't use them -- I don't like raisins.)
    • 1/2 cup sugar
    • 4 soft-ripe medium bananas, coarsely chopped
    • 1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
    • 2 cups cold heavy cream


    1. In a medium saucepan, combine rum, raisins, and sugar. Bring to a boil over medium-high.  Let boil for five minutes and remove from heat, letting cool completely, 30 minutes.
    2. In a food processor, combine bananas and condensed milk and process until smooth, 2 minutes. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat cream on high until stiff peaks form, 2 to 3 minutes. With a rubber spatula, gently fold banana mixture into whipped cream. Fold in rum-raisin mixture. Pour into a 5-by-9-inch loaf pan, cover with plastic, and freeze until firm, about 8 hours (or covered, up to 1 week).

    Cost: $7.94                   Cost Per Serving (8 bowls) $0.99

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