Nutella Banana Muffins

I always feel so frugal and smart when I actually use up those overripe bananas.  My family is picky and dont like “yucky nasty” brown ones.  So once that little bit of green is gone they are done for.  And we go in spells…sometimes I can’t buy enough bananas to make it to the overripe stage, and sometimes I’ll find the whole bunch turning brown.  Which is when I pretend I’m super frugal and “waste not want not” and make them into something new.  I’ve tried several recipes over the years for banana bread.  All were so so.  Most of it would be eaten, some would be left.  But this…this recipe rarely makes it to day two!  They are that good.  I found it on good ole Pinterest and I’ve made it several times.  It makes life “the best day ever!”  And I feel good about letting my kids devour the “Chocolate Banana Cupcakes”.  🙂

Here is where the recipe came from…http://www.thenovicechefblog.com/2013/01/nutella-banana-swirl-muffins/

I’m not going to tutorial the whole thing…you can read and follow a recipe right?  🙂  And dont be intimidated…the lovely cute chocolate nutella swirls are not nearly as complicated as they may appear.   They sure do look impressive though dont they?  But in my house, with three little boys…the beauty is lost for the fact its nutella…

You just mix up your batter.  Put into muffin tins..and if you are like me and dont plan ahead you put them in Christmas papers in September because you cant find any others.,

IMG_5254

Add a “glob” of nutella…seriously..like 1/2tsp, I didnt even measure.,  I just used a baby spoon.  Nothing technical here, doesnt have to be consistent or neat.

IMG_5255

Then I took a tooth pick and “swirled”.  Again not technical.  Just try to get Nutella swirled around so each but will get some.  Don’t “stir” in so its mixed in, just kinda draw it out a bit.

IMG_5256

Then they’ll look like this.

IMG_5257

I even did a few in my mini loaf pan (which is more like bars) to see how it would do.  Its silicone but I just sprayed it a bit.

IMG_5258

Bake those babies up!  About 15 mins does it.

IMG_5261IMG_5259

Dutch Oven Spaghetti and Chocolate Chip Cookie

IMG_5221

This past year we decided to join a Dutch Oven cooking club.  Which means once a month we meet and cook meals in our ovens and eat way too much good food.  Its a great family event for us and we (and the boys) learn a useful skill…knowing how to cook using cast iron ovens over a fire/coals.  I’m going to start blogging about our creations and our recipes.

This past weekend Klay had his quarterly Search and Rescue field training.  And since we try to incorporate our whole family into our activities me and boys cooked in the Dutch Oven for the team.  Well…I cooked and boys roasted marshmellows, played in the dirt, and took rides in the wagon.

IMG_5245 IMG_5224 IMG_5219

On the menu for the day was spaghetti and chocolate chip cookie.

This one pot method for spaghetti has become my very favorite.  For indoors and out!  It is also very verstaile.  Ive made it with lots of seasonal veggies as well as the more traditional meat and sauce version.

To make it I cooked a pound of italian sausage along with some minced garlic in my 14 inch dutch oven.  Nothing technical about the heat here, just browning up the meat.

IMG_5237

Once the meat was cooked I added a big can of crushed tomatoes, a big can of tomato sauce, and my spaghetti seasonings.  I wish I could tell you a teaspoon of this and that but I cant.  I just added a bunch of Italian Seasoning, Oregano, and some salt.  Then tasted it…then added some more.  Just use your best recipe.  Or even jarred sauce.  I then added a box of beef broth.  Just make it really soupy, you can add more along if needed.

IMG_5239

Then I bring it to a simmer.  Once its good and hot add angel hair spaghetti.  Or any noodle, but a good fine noodle cooks good without becoming gummy and starchy.  I break them in half as I add them.  I used one box.  Give it a good stir.  Put the lid on with a few coals on the lid.  Again, nothing super technical with the heat, just want it simmering enough to cook the noodles.  If it starts looking too dry before noodles get done add some more broth or water.

IMG_5246

IMG_5248

I think this dish was a hit.  They scraped the pot clean!

IMG_5253

I have a family of chocaholics.  There are so many yummy fruit cobblers out there for the Dutch Oven, my family doesnt like them much.  So I needed a chocolate option.  What could be better than a big, hot, gooey chocolate chip cookie?  Not much…just some ice cream on top!

There is no fancy Dutch Oven recipe for this.  I just took my favorite cookie recipe and put it in my smaller 10 inch Dutch Oven.  The 12 inch works good too, I like to keep it thin so a regular cookie recipe will make two.  Rather than cook two separate cookings I did one in my 10 and one in my 12.  I tried doubling and cooking in the bigger oven for a big crowd and it just didnt work well at all.  It burnt, I was embarrassed because it worked SO well every other time I tried it.  It might work well in one big pan but I suggest just doing two small ones.

I mixed up my favorite basic cookie recipe.  Then I spread it in the pan.  I highly suggest lining your oven for this recipe.  Either use the liners or aluminum foil.  Otherwise, the cookie will just be too hard to get out. I topped mine with chocolate chips because it makes the kids smile!

IMG_5241

I’m sure there is a special formula for number of coals to temp etc.  I just do a few on bottom, a few on top, and watch it closely to see if its burning or cooking unevenly.  If I see one spot cooking faster I just try to rotate it frequently.  Take it off as cooking is just starting to brown.

IMG_5249

And this is why you need to line this.  Just lift cookie out straight to a plate and cut and serve!  You will not be disappointed.

IMG_5251

I think they really enjoyed coming in from training to a hot meal.  And it gave me and boys a way to be involved.  They have already put in their requests f0r next quarter’s training….dumplings has been requested…might have to give that a go.

IMG_5243

 

 

End of our first “Summer Break”

 

So schools been back in for a few weeks now.  We’re starting to fall into routine.  Days are getting shorter, that breeze is a little cooler, the leaves are starting to rustle…school is back in, summer is over, I’m starting to want to make all things pumpkin.

wpid-img_20140621_133345_078.jpg

Summer break went well, it wasnt the scrapbook-esque vision I had in mind in May, but we had some lovely moments.  We had some not so lovely moments too, but lets not blog about all those.  We only want the highlights reel online right?  

wpid-mycollage_2.png

We did summer reading program, we happily turned in our reading log with our 15 books, which paled in comparison to the kids with hundreds of books..but we enjoyed ourselves, enjoyed the programs.  Had a good time, read a few books, saw a few great presentations.  Magic show, mad scientist, Kindermusic, made straw rockets and launched them, saw some cool science experiments.

wpid-picsart_1402923129062.jpg

We did some gardening…we picked beans, we canned beans.  We picked and shucked a LOT of corn.  We did tomatoes.  We picked and put up blackberries.  We fried and froze okra.  We ate and pickled squash.  We shelled and canned beans and peas.  We let the laundry and toys pile up while we worked on the garden stuff.  We got stressed over the mess, but we got through.

wpid-20140706_134831.jpg wpid-img_20140623_152107_445.jpg wpid-img_213512538696034.jpeg

We had VBS at church.  We learned about some weird animals.  We’re still singing the songs.  Right after VBS we went right into birthday parties…all 3 of them, not including the mini parties to make their days special.  Right after birthday parties, while still amid the mess of wrapping paper and rearranged furniture we went right into getting ready for school. 

IMG_4419

Now, schools in.  Its September.  We’re having math tests and spelling words and reading homework.  We’re starting preschool at home with James.  

All in all summer was good.  I wish we would have worked on more “stay in practice” work.  I wish we would have had less stare at the TV days.  I wish we would have played outside more.  But life is life, schedules and plans are made to be broken.  Now we’ll focus on doing our best in first grade and enjoying the fall…I forsee apple picking, pumpkin patch, hiking trips, Dutch Oven cooking, and days that Im not going to blog about thrown in there too.  😉 

Little Monster First Birthday Party

 Sorry a little late on this post, things have been crazy the past couple months as we wrapped up summer, birthdays, and started back to school.

Littlest boy turned one on July 22.  With the help of Pinterest for a few ideas we threw him a Little Monster first birthday party.  We do first birthdays with a family meal so we had a cookout.

For invitations I printed the information on a half of a piece of green cardstock.  I suppose any color could be used.  Our tag line was “our little monster is turning one come have some cake and join the fun”.  I then folded in half and glue different size and combo of googly eyes on the front, then drew  a simple mouth.  Each invitation was a little different.  Sorry I neglected to get a good pic.  But I think the concept is pretty simple.  

For decorations I carried out the googly eye theme.  I did a monster banner with different colors of card stock, googly eyes, and glued triangles onto a strip of ribbon.

IMG_4346

IMG_4347

We also picked up a package of balloon animals and thanks to instructions and YouTube Daddy made a few creations, including a one eyed monsters, pretty much like the guy from Monsters Inc.

IMG_4348

Cake was “contracted out” because I didnt want the mess or hassle.  We have a great cake lady who is very very reasonable so I just tell her what I need.  VERY worth it for me.  I do enjoy dabbling in some cake decorating but  I also enjoy removing any stressor and mess from my kitchen!  I sent her an inspiration idea for cupcakes and then picked up our two dozen monsters.  Very pleased.

 IMG_4482 

Food was simple.  And made as much “ahead” as I could manage.  We had burgers, potato salad, and baked beans (in crockpot) which took a lot of the stress off of me and I could focus on cleaning, decorating, and enjoying his special day.  I didnt go too overboard with cute food, even though I saw some neat ideas.  I did give potato salad a face…

IMG_4485

 

Of course, can’t forget the birthday boy.  I made him a super cute first birthday shirt to go with his special day.  Not much of a tutorial or explanation for it.  Just cut out a number one, had my mother in law embroider his name on it for me.  Then I never found the right mouth to embroider and ironing on didnt work so we just painted it.  It worked surprisingly well.   Added some button eyes.  And appliqued them on.  MUCH easier than the Lego people from my earlier post.  (I’m not an applique fan!)

IMG_4367

 

All in all I think the party was pretty successful.  He had cake, got gifts, and was celebrated.  Now he is one.  Next year, I think I’m doing one big party for all three boys.  Theme still to be decided but I figure I have time right?