Saturday, April 30, 2011

Banana Bread & Granola Bars

Dave's been so busy putting together final projects, preparing for finals, and stressing all night about the end of school that he hasn't exactly been an early riser lately. As a result, our morning conversations go something like this "You're going to be late; time to get up. What do you want me to pack you for breakfast? Granola bar, nutri-grain bar, yogurt, cereal, pop tart?" and lately the answer has been "Some of your home made granola bars" or "Banana bread". Not that that was an option but a guy can always hope!

But with next week being finals week, I decided to be the fabulous baking wife and make both. I convinced Dave to help me out (since he needed a late Thursday night sanity break), and we made the best banana bread AND two flavors of home made granola bars. My attitude with baking is to bake more than one thing at a time when the stove is on, so why not make all Dave's breakfast dreams come true?

The banana bread recipe is from my friend Cameron. He used to stop by the house with a loaf from time to time. I remember coming home and being told he'd dropped some off and it was gone before I got a slice. We just LOVED this bread and I asked for the recipe for about 4 years before he remembered to get it to me! The only thing I've changed is to substantially increase the cinnamon. Now I'll share it with you:

Sinful Banana Bread

1/2 c butter
1 c sugar
2 eggs
2 T cinnamon
1 t baking soda
2 c flour
4 ripe bananas

Cream butter and sugar. Mix in flour, baking soda and cinnamon. Add in eggs. Bake at 350 for 65 - 75 minutes.

I've been searching for a granola bar recipe for months. I've tried a few, tweaked a few, and finally came up with this one. I wanted something more healthy than the kind you get at the store, something packed full of oats and fruits and only with a little something to bind it all together. This fulfills just that, tastes great, and travels well. I switch it up a bit each time (sometimes adding only oats, sometimes adding unsweetened puffed wheat, different fruits or nuts, etc). It all depends on my mood on the day. 

Thursday we made all the bars with oats and sunflower seeds. half had cranberries, blueberries and cashews (Dave's choice), the other half had Cranberries and Apples (my choice). These are a little harder bars, but we like them that way. They're hearty and filling!

Granola Bars
4 c rolled oats
1 c raw sunflower seeds
3/4 c wheat flour
13/4 c honey
1/2 c brown sugar
3 T unsalted butter (plus extra for pan)
3 t vanilla
3/4 t salt
1/2 c dried blueberries
1 c dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter an 9x13 glass baking dish and set aside.  

Spread oats, nuts, and wheat flour onto a baking sheet and toast 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  While the oats and nuts are being toasted, combine the honey, sugar, butter, vanilla and salt in a small saucepan.  Cook on medium heat until sugar is dissolved.

When the oat mixture is done, remove and lower oven temperature to 300 degrees.  Immediately add oat mixture to liquid mixture and stir.  Add dried fruit and combine well.  Pour into buttered pan and press firmly on mixture making sure it is evenly distributed.  

Bake for 25 minutes.  Cool completely.  Cut into 16 bars. Individually wrap in saran wrap or tore in an airtight container.

We wrap each bar individually in saran wrap (since Dave's always needing these quick in the morning), but you could just throw them all in a ziplock bag. They won't stick together or anything. They also last a long time. I'm not sure how long, but at least a few weeks. This plus a yogurt is the perfect breakfast! These alone are the perfect size for a hike. When I get a little more time on my hands I'll figure out how to make a peanut butter version of these bad boys.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Weekend & Easter Sunday!

We had a very relaxing Easter weekend! Every Friday I make a list of things I need to get done over the weekend, and we collectively decided we wanted a break, so I was done with the list in about 2 hours. Then we Decided to (finally) get our garden framed. Dave and my dad tilled up a section of our yard a few weeks ago, and we purchased the wood to box it off. But we didn't actually do anything with it. So now it's all boxed in, and just waiting to be filled with good soil, plants, and covered with black plastic.

The little box on the left is our strawberry patch. We got a few starts from my parents, and are hoping they will multiply and take over that little section. Some of the plants died, but a few are looking very promising. I'm looking forward to strawberries on our cereal, in our salads, and maybe even some jelly! Probably not this year, but in the future for sure.

Dave also has been dyeing to start some seeds, so we picked up a few herbs (basil, rosemary, cilantro), and a pack of Sweet 100's (sweet cherry tomatoes). It's not warm enough out yet to stick them outside, so we started them in pots on the kitchen window seal. Hopefully they'll sprout, and by the time it decides to stop snowing we'll be able to plant them outside! I've been watering them every morning and really hoping my brown thumb will turn green just for a little while. 

Sunday we enjoyed church followed by a relaxing day at home. We took a nap, went on a walk, and made a leisurely dinner. I made and enjoyed deviled eggs (and have three more waiting in the fridge for me to finish off) and Dave got his meat on the BBQ. Sort of. He decided he wanted to make Steak Gorgonzola for Easter (his favorite Olive Garden recipe), but we didn't have gorgonzola cheese. So he substituted some asiago (it was pre-shredded in the freezer), and it turned out really tasty too!

We've made this recipe a few times now (once making the entire sauce from scratch, and all the other times just substituting a jar of sauce to save an hour of cooking) and just love the results. So whether you make Steak Gorgonzola or Asiago Steak, it takes about 20 minutes to prepare. 

This isn't the cheapest recipe to make, the cheese can be pricy, as can the steak. But I stock up on the meat when it's $2 or less a pound, freeze them in serving size chunks, and wrap them in aluminum foil for later. Dave made this for our anniversary, and now we had it for Easter. So if you're looking for something a little more fancy that doesn't take too long but tastes fabulous!

Asiago Steak

2 small steaks (for us 2 normal servings = 4 servings)
1 jar alfredo sauce
1/2 c asiago cheese (or gorgonzola)
1 c packed full of spinach (cubed)
1T sun dried tomatoes (marinated in olive oil & cubed) can also use cubed tomatoes
Balsamic Vinegar
Fettucini (4 servings)

Combine alfredo sauce, spinach, tomatoes, and cheese in a small sauce pan. Heat on low and stir periodically until everything else is done. Cook the fettucini noodles according to directions, while cooking the steak to your desired color (we did medium rare). When everything is done, combine sauce and drained noodles. Serve noodles, top with steak, and drizzle with Balsamic Vinegar (more or less depending on individual preference).

Either cheese gives the recipe a little more robust of a flavor than regular alfredo sauce, and the steak and balsamic vinegar just has the right kick to really get your taste buds going. I can't taste the spinach in it, but Dave swears he can (it's a great way to get the veggie into our diet, so I don't complain).

It was a great dinner (even if it didn't really go with the deviled eggs)! We followed it up with the church movie "To This End Was I Born", which might just become a tradition for us. It was nice to have a reminder of why we were celebrating, even though it's always a hard one to watch for me. As we watched we consumed Starburst Jellybeans, Reeses Pieces Eggs, and Cadbury Chocolate Eggs. I didn't quite find the time to pull out easter baskets this year, but these treats did make it on top of vanilla ice cream (for Dave, not for me) so there was something festive about them after all!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Holy Week and Easter

For the past month I've been spending a lot of time thinking about Easter and the Atonement. I attribute these thoughts to deciding to participate in Lent. Although I've broken down and had something sweet on a few really rough work days, for the most part I've done well at sticking to my "no sweets during the week".

My thoughts have mostly lead me to wonder what kind of traditions do Dave and I want to have centered around this Easter holiday. Reflecting back on my life, and talking to many friends about this, I've been hard pressed to find a tradition that is actually Christ centered. As Holy Week approached I started reading articles on to try to get a refresher on how Christ spent his last days of mortality. I've read an article entitled Reflections on the Savior's Last Week several times and have thought a lot about what Christ was doing/thinking and what I would do if I knew this was my last week on Earth.

I've decided I want to incorporate more of Christ into this season in the future. Maybe I'll participate in Lent each year so I'm more focused on Christ leading up to Easter. I want to set up some sort of scripture Advent Calendar that will take place for the week leading up to Easter. For next year I'll have to also figure out how to include a baby into all this, but I have a year to figure it all out. 

The only thing Dave and I have planned for Sunday is church (I'll be teaching Gospel Doctrine) and making deviled eggs. If it's nice out, Dave wants to go on a long walk and do a barbecue, but that's as far as our planning goes. It's nice to have a holiday where we can just sit back and enjoy our little family of two. Christmas always seems so rushed to me scheduling where we're going to be for Christmas eve and Christmas day and making sure we made the right food to take to the right party, that this is a nice break. Something I'm going to look forward to for the rest of the week.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Baby Preparation

Things are moving right along with this baby. I know I've said before "now I look pregnant", but over the past week I've started to look pregnant to more than just me and people that actually know I'm pregnant. I'm officially in maternity clothes, and have most of my regular clothes packed away.

I signed Dave and I up for a natural birthing class today. It starts May 10th and runs once a week for 7 classes. It's at the hospital we'll deliver at (St Marks) and focuses on the Lamaze method, so I'll need to find a book to prepare. At this point I like the idea of going through child birth without medication. The main reason is my aversion to needles. You would think someone that sold her plasma for 2 years would be over that, but no... I still close my eyes or look away every time I get a shot. So a shot in the spine that could paralyze you just sounds like something worth avoiding if possible. That being said, if I get in there and am in too much pain, I'm fine with having an epidural if I HAVE to.

Baby preparation is coming along well. I've been crocheting the edge of spit-up cloths as I travel to and from work on the train, and I've probably got 12 out of the 20 I plan to make done. They look so cute with a little scalloped edge on them! Also, I finished working on a baby boy blanket that I'd crocheted a few months ago. It just needed some ribbon woven into it and sewn into place. Now it's ready for baby use! I've made one pacifier clip, and have good intentions of making one or two more before the baby is born.

All the cloth diapers have been washed 4 times (to ensure maximum initial absorption), they're folded and tucked away in the changing table. I still need to get some disposable diapers for the first month or so (the cloth diapers I got aren't recommended for babies under 10 lbs), but I figure I'll wait on buying those. If we have a big baby (like Dave) we won't need many of those at all, but if we have a little baby (like I was) we will probably need quite a few. Either way I have time!

We have most everything we need for the nursery now, although I still need to take the time to rearrange and decide where everything is going to go. This will probably have to wait a few more weeks, because I haven't had much time on my hands between housework/cooking, and helping Dave with his final projects for school. I try to do the grunt labor for him so he can focus on perfecting the designs and all the details.

I also found a little baby blessing suit that was just too cute to pass up, especially since it was only $10! It's all white with a little collar and little vest. It's just too adorable. Now I'll just have to find some little white booties and I'm hoping to crochet a white blanket for him to use that day as well. We'll see if I can find a pattern intricate enough that it will look good with only white yarn, but also isn't too hard and time consuming. I guess we'll see what I have time and energy for. It's not a project that I have the bandwidth to start right now.