Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Mango Banana Muffins with White Chocolate Chips

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At the office, I have the special treat during the summer months of working with Heather, she is a very dear friend. Working in a place dominated by men, it's always nice to have more female companionship!  Heather has left the office now, and gone back to college.  But, we had lots of fun going over recipes while we had time! It was so much fun sharing my love of baking and inspiring Heather to try new recipes.

One day when we were going over some of my pinterest albums (honest, we really do get lots of work done), the recipe for White Chocolate Chip Mango Banana Bread just jumped out at her, so I made that for her last day at work. It did not disappoint! We both loved it! This past weekend, I did change it up a little bit, and tried them as muffins. Complete hit. Moist. Delicious. Packed with flavor.



Mango Banana Muffins with White Chocolate Chips (adapted from Sally's Baking Addiction)

2 c. white whole wheat flour (I used one cup whole wheat, and 1 cup all-purpose)
3/4 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
3/4 c. sugar
4 T. unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs
1 1/2 c. mashed very ripe banana
1/3 c. Greek Yogurt (I used plain, but if you could find Mango... use that!)
1 t. vanilla extract
2/3 c. white chocolate chips
1 c. chopped mango
2 T. shredded sweetened coconut

Directions
Preheat oven to 350F. Line muffin pan with paper liners.

In medium bowl, whisk together flour(s), baking soda and salt. Set aside. In a separate large bowl, beat sugar and butter with mixer on medium speed until well blended, about 1 minute. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add mashed banana, yogurt, and vanilla. Continue beating until blended.

Slowly stir in the flour mixture by hand, until just combined. Do not overmix (this part is important). Fold in white chocolate chips. Gently fold in chopped mangoes. 

Spoon batter into muffin tins, to about 2/3 full.  Bake for 15 minutes.  Remove and sprinkle with shredded coconut.  Bake for 5-10 minutes longer or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.  

Cool muffins in the pan on a wire rack.  Remove from pan when cooled.

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Sunday, August 26, 2012

Flowers or Weeds

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The difference between a weed and a flower? My definition is....
 A weed is in your way. 
A flower is pretty wherever it is.



















Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Spicy Corn Chowder

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I love soups, chili's and chowders! Sadly, it has been to warm this summer for us to enjoy any bowls of goodness. With the temperatures dropping back to reasonable, and the veggies rolling out of the garden, I have been ready to get back in the groove! 

We had a lot of corn to pick last weekend.Considering the drought and heat we had this summer, I was pretty shocked at how much corn we have had. Most of it was enjoyed right on the cob, and more was taken to the freezer.  Finally, it was time for me to do something fun with the corn! I remembered a recipe I was introduced to a couple years ago. A friend had made Spicy Corn Chowder following the Neely's recipe. I didn't have the chance to try what she made, but she raved about it so much I found the recipe and made it for myself.  It was definitely a keeper! It isn't to spicy to me, so if you want some real kick to it, add another jalapeno, or some more cayenne!


Spicy Corn Chowder (Source: Food Network)

4 pieces thick slice bacon, chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 medium red bell pepper, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 small jalapeno, chopped seeds and ribs removed
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/4 c. all-purpose flour 
4 c. chicken stock
2 large red potatoes, diced small
1 c. heavy cream 
16 ounces corn (frozen or fresh)
1/4 t. cayenne pepper 
1 bay leaf

In a small saucepan over medium heat, saute the bacon until crisp and browned and fat is rendered. Transfer to paper towel, and set aside. Leave about 4 tablespoons of bacon grease in pan.
Add onions and red pepper to pan. Saute until tender and translucent, about 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Add the jalapeno and garlic and saute until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the flour until thoroughly combined. Cook the flour until it reaches a slight blonde color, about 1 minute. Stir in chicken stock and potatoes; simmer for 10 minutes; potatoes will become soft. Add the cream, corn, cayenne and bay leaf. Simmer for 15 minutes. Pour into serving bowl and garnish with reserved bacon.

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Saturday, August 18, 2012

They just keep growing!!

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It is hard to believe it is mid-August, and this garden is just not slowing down. 
The freezer is slowly filling with all sorts of veggies to keep us going with our own food through the winter. 

Today I did find signs of our first intruder ever. Apparently a raccoon found a way to slip past our dog, undetected. 
I trust that this will not happen again!

For planting the green beans so late, they are doing awesome.

I searched all spring for the perfect bean. 
I like the really long skinny varieties. I think I found a winner!

Lovely sunflowers. The bee's love them, too!

Blooms continue on the squash and pumpkins.

The pumpkin vine has grown up and over the tomatoes. 
I should cut it off, but I am curious how far it will go!

Dug up our first carrots of the season today. Small, but good!

Second harvest of cabbage!

Finally a perfect head of cauliflower! It is apparently doing better, in our cooler temps.

And the big attraction. . . . . My mammoth pumpkin! I am so excited to see how big it ends up!


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Homemade Taco Seasoning

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I love making foods with Tex-Mex or Mexican flavors. Taco seasoning has some of my favorite spices all blended together. I use to, on rare occasions, dabble with a recipe for making my own mix since I could never seem to have packets of it in the cupboards when I wanted to make taco's. The day I found this recipe, I was hooked. It's simple, fast, and easy!

Then one day I read the ingredients in the store bought packet I had on hand. . . .  I never bought a packet again. I am not exactly running around eating all healthy foods, but I was shocked to see such a list of ingredients beyond spices! That was the last packet that I ever bought. 

This recipe is so much easier to have on hand than a packet. Try it, I am sure you will love it too!




Homemade Taco Seasoning  (Adapted From Smells Like Home)

1/4 c. ancho chili powder
1 t. garlic powder
1 t. onion powder
1/2 t. crushed red pepper flakes
2 t. dried oregano
2 t. paprika
2 T. ground cumin
3 t. sea salt
1/2 t. black pepper

Combine all ingredients. Store in an airtight container.

Add 2 1/2 tablespoons of taco seasoning mix, with 1/2 cup of water to one pound of ground meat.   Simmer for about 15 minutes or until liquid is reduced. 

Substitute 2 1/2 Tablespoons of mix in recipe calling for one packet of taco seasoning.

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Sunday, August 5, 2012

Veggies, Veggies and Fruit!

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Considering what bad weather we have had this year for drought and heat, the garden is still doing well! I guess that my attempts at watering did pay off. 

Lettuce is still producing like crazy. I am really dreading the day we have to go back to buying store lettuce.
 
Apparently, my dog is protecting the lettuce from something....!

I think that my peppers are going to be my pride and joy of the garden this year. They had a tough road, but are finally producing! I hope that I am lucky enough to continue to pick many more of these!

The cauliflower looks to be almost done, but the broccoli is still going crazy. Last night I did my first attempt at freezing broccoli. It really was very simple. Clean it, blanch it, freeze it. Can't get much easier than that!

The Sweet Corn is doing much better than I had expected this season. Some of the corn did not pollinate due to the weather, and we have had a few ears that we had to give right to the chickens because of this, but overall... pretty successful!

Pumpkins are still growing! I really don't know pumpkin sizes well yet, but after 2 unsuccessful years of try to raise pumpkins, I am thrilled over the growth.


Our blackberries are winding down for the season, but we enjoyed them while they were here. All of us did. Our dog eats them right off the vine. And the chickens apparently wait for me to set my bowl down so that they can dig in. 


I found a local vendor that sells peaches that they have shipped to Wisconsin direct from the peach orchards. No middle man, no sitting around in semi trailers. It's as fresh from South Carolina as I can get them without driving there myself. Trust me...  anything from South Carolina is better :)


I think I smell a peach treat coming to share with ya'll this week!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Blackberry Pie Bars

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Blackberries are ready!! I have been so looking forward to our season of berries and trying a new recipe! I went to pick berries the other day, and made the mistake of sitting my bowl down for a few minutes while multi-tasking. Mistake. I went back to the berries, and the chickens found my bowl of berries, and ate all but two of the berries. Not the end of the world, but I had a lot of berries picked already! No worries though, I picked enough to get back inside and debate what recipe to try!

After browsing through bunches of cookbooks, scouring pinterest, and poking around facebook, I decided on this recipe from Joy the Baker.  I am so glad I did.  It was simple, and so tasty!!! I did reduce her original amount of berries by one cup, out of laziness on not wanting to pick more berries. We ended up really liking the amount of berries to the amount of crust and topping.





Blackberry Pie Bars (Adapted from Joy the Baker)

Crust and Topping
3 c. all-purpose flour
1 1/2 c. sugar
1/4 t. salt
1 1/2 c. chilled unsalted butter, cut into cubes
zest of two lemons

Blackberry Filling
4 large eggs
2 c. sugar
1 c. greek yogurt
3/4 c. all-purpose flour
pinch of salt
*5 c. fresh black berries  or 2 16-oz  packages frozen blackberries, defrosted and drained

Crust and topping-

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease 9 x 13-inch backing pan.  Zest two lemons. Measure the sugar onto a clean work area.  Rub the lemon zest into the sugar with the back of a spoon (this will create a lemon scented sugar). 

Combine lemon sugar, flour, salt and butter in an electric mixer with a paddle attachment.  Beat the ingredients on medium speed until the mixture looks dry and crumbly.  Reserve 1 1/2 cups of crust mixture to use as the topping.  Press the remaining mixture into the bottom of the pan.  Bake the crust for 12 to 15 minutes until it is golden brown.  Let cool for 10 minutes while you make the filling.

Filling-
Whisk eggs in a large bowl.  Add sugar, greek yogurt, flour and salt.  Gently fold in the blackberries.  Spoon the mixture evenly over the crust. 

Sprinkle the reserved crust mixture evenly over the filling.  Bake for 50 to 60 minutes until the top is lightly browned.  Cool for 1 hour before slicing.


**Note - Add up to 6 cup of fresh berries depending on your taste.



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