Monday, February 25, 2013

GLUTEN FREE Banana Bread {from a cake mix}

This has got to be the easiest and simplest banana bread (and GLUTEN FREE) to top it off. You can make it either way though, gluten free or not, choice is yours.

After the Banana Bread is baked and cooled, I wrap them individually and freeze them for my daughter. This gives her a fresh gluten free banana bread slice anytime she wants.

Banana Bread from a Cake Mix {gluten-free}
adapted, original recipe found at Betty Crocker

Betty Crocker GF Yellow Cake Mix (we used a GLUTEN FREE cake mix, but either work well)
3 Eggs
3 to 4 Overripe Bananas
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup chopped nuts (but you can add in mini chocolate chips too)
(Options: adding in a 1 tsp of vanilla, 1/2 tsp cinnamon and someone added a snack size applesauce, I will try this for sure next time. Fall Option: Instead of Bananas add in 1 cup of pumpkin and 1 cup of chocolate chips instead of nuts.)

Smash bananas on a paper plate before added them to your mixer (if works great and it's easy peasy). Add in remaining ingredients and mix well. Prepare your loaf pan with non-stick spray and a little bit of flour, then pour batter into a loaf pan and bake.
Bake at 350 for 55 minutes, or until center comes out clean on a toothpick.
FREEZER TIP: When you have a stack of bananas or just one or two left on the counter that go uneaten FREEZE them. I never throw away a ripe banana. You can freeze them whole just as they are with the peel and everything. Then when you are ready to bake some banana bread, banana cupcakes or banana cookies, just remove the banana from the freezer and within 5 to 10 minutes its ready to add to your batter. OR if you LOVE smoothies, I take the banana and slice it and put it into a ziploc bag so I can add it to my next smoothy. No need to even thaw it out, just add to smoothy like ice and it makes it cold and also adds all the nutrients of a banana. I hope you try this and NEVER throw another banana away again.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Bars

This is an ole' time favorite of my families, it's actually already in my Family Scrapbook Cookbook (Volume 2) and it's a dessert I've made before, just never photographed and blogged. So, today here it is a good ole' fashion homemade cookie dessert bar.

It's a Sunday afternoon and the reality of my twins being 1837 miles away at college, is really starting to set in (it's been 7 months now and I miss them terribly). It's very lonely here without all my kidlets at home. I still have my 13 year old son at home, but he is away at a birthday party and today mama is all alone and needs a few more hobbies.

I am coming off of having the flu for 7 days, trust me when I say this, "you do NOT want this horrible flu in your home", it's so awful. I haven't been sick like this is many many years and it's been over a week and I am still recovering. Let's move on though to this delicious dessert instead...

Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Cookie Bars
recipe source unknown

1 pkg cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 pkg Pillsbury Refrigerated Chocolate Chip Cookie (or a homemade cookie dough)

Heat oven to 350. In small bowl beat cream cheese, sugar and egg until smooth.

You can use refrigerated cookie dough or make your favorite homemade cookie dough from scratch. In ungreased 8x8 square pan, break up half of the cookie dough and with floured fingers press dough evenly in the bottom of the pan to form a crust.  Spread cream cheese mixture over dough. Crumble and sprinkle remaining half of dough over cream cheese mixture before baking.

Bake for 35 - 40 minutes or until golden brown and firm to the touch. Cool for 30 minutes and then refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving. Cut into bars and store in refrigerator.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Pizza Bites

It's been a few months now, with several plane trips back and forth from California to Missouri, but my daughters are away at college and having the time of their life. I will admit facebook and txt'ing make it a whole lot easier. And God knew what he was doing when he blessed me with twins, because I have one twin who calls me almost everyday (thank GOODNESS) and I have another twin who I hardly hear from at all. Good thing her sister keeps me up to date on all the happenings around there. I think I've talk to them almost every single day in some way shape or form, txt, email, or facebook. It sure makes being 1837 miles away so much easier.

Here they are enjoying their very first ride down the slopes. These California girls are learning all about their first winter, not just the fun on the slopes, but the 25 degree days, tornado warnings, and finding their car covered in snow in the mornings. Let the FUN begin, they are experiencing their first ever White Winter.

Before my daughters left I was trying to make all the things they wanted and one of them had found this on Pinterest and begged for me to make it, it was one of those things I keep putting off, but I did finally make it for her before she left and she loved it.

Pizza Bites
adapted by me, recipe found at The Gunny Sack
original recipe from Pillsbury - Appetizers Dec 2005

2 - 3 cans Pillsbury Buttermilk Biscuits (10 biscuits per can)
approx 56 pepperoni slices (or use sausage, pineapple or just cheese for my little guy)
1 small block of cheese (Colby Jack works great), cut into small squares
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup Parmesan Cheese
Italian seasoning
Garlic powder
Your favorite Homemade Pizza Sauce (works great with left-over spaghetti sauce too)

First flatten out all biscuits. You can use a small rolling pin or even just your hand. Layer on a small tsp of sauce, a pepperoni (or sausage, pineapple or whatever filling you like), add in a chuck of cheese and then fold. You will fold like a square (gather the bottom, then both sides, then the top), you will end up with a round'ish-square'ish bundle.

Have a 9x13 glass baking dish ready with non-stick spray and then line up the pizza bites into rows in your baking dish. Brush the rolls with the beaten egg and then sprinkle with Parmesan Cheese, Italian Seasoning and Garlic Powder. Bake at 425 degrees for 18-22 minutes. When dough is done and cheese is melted they are ready to go.

You can reserve some pizza sauce to serve as dipping sauce, or since sauce is already inside they are ready to go. My kids dip them in ranch. Pizza and Ranch they just go together.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Texas Trash {Warm Bean Dip}

Yep, this replaces all other bean dips I've made (or posted) in the past. Sometimes you just come across those recipes and no other recipe will ever take it's place. Yep, this is one of those recipes. You can bet on it that this will for sure make it into my Volume 3 Family Cookbook/Scrapbook. And I just LOVE the name too.. how CUTE is that and since I have a step-son who lives in Texas, this ones for you Brandon!

Texas Trash {Warm Bean Dip}
recipe found at Life as a Lofthouse, original recipe from from allrecipes

1 (8 oz) pkg cream cheese, softened
1 cup sour cream
2 (16 oz) cans refried beans
1 pkg taco seasoning
3 to 5 drops of Tabasco Sauce
2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
2 cups Monterrey jack cheese, shredded
diced green onions (mixed in or just garnish on top)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix together cream cheese and sour cream in a large bowl. Mix in refried beans until combined. Stir in taco seasoning and half of each of the cheeses. 
Spray a 9x13 baking pan with cooking spray. Spread mixture evenly into the bottom of the baking dish. Sprinkle the top with the remaining amounts of both cheeses.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until cheese in melted and slightly browned. Serve with tortilla chips.


Friday, February 15, 2013

Baked Blueberry Doughnuts

Of course I am on a diet NOW, but I've been holding onto this doughnut recipe for a long time now and this is the perfect time to share it with all of you non-dieters out there (oh, how I wish I could join you). For all you readers who wish to indulgence in these delicious doughnuts enjoy, enjoy (and PLEASE DO eat one for me!). They are a baked doughnut, so they are half-way good for you.

I could have doughnuts every morning for breakfast. The corner doughnut shop, to these super delicious homemade doughnuts and anything inbetween. I LOVE doughnuts, they are SO good. I have a few doughnut recipes on here and I am sure this won't be my last.

Baked Blueberry Doughnuts
recipe found at A Well-Seasoned Life, originally from King Arthur Flour

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons buttermilk (or regular milk)
2 large eggs
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons water
½ cup blueberries

Mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl. Crush your berries with the back of a fork. In a separate bowl, mix together milk, eggs, oil, blueberries and water. Pour the liquid mixture into the dry ingredients and stir just until combined. Bake at 325 degrees for 16-18 minutes in a 6-doughnut pan or in a mini doughnut maker according to manufacturer directions. Alternatively, you can bake them in lined mini muffin tins for 7-12 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. While the doughnuts are cooling make your glaze.

For the glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice

Mix together powdered sugar and lemon juice. Add water 1 teaspoon at a time until it reaches a thick drizzling consistency. Drizzle glaze over cooled doughnuts and enjoy! Yields: 8 regular or 24-30 mini doughnuts.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Chocolate Chip Cookies with Heart Marshmallow {inside}

Happy Valentine's Day, and here is another FUN recipe with the Strawberry Heart Marshmallows. We took one of our favorite Chocolate Chip Cookie recipes (read all about MY Husband's Favorite Recipe here) folded a heart marshmallow inside and came out with these beautiful cookies.

The taste was delicious, as any homemade chocolate chip cookie should be, but with the added surprise of a melted strawberry marshmallow inside every bite. And since they are PINK it just makes everything better. I LOVE PINK, and actually this chocolate chip cookie recipe is really growing on me, it's now my go to recipe. I learned a few tricks and I keep improving my cookie baking techniques. Did you know to make your round cookie dough taller rather then wider will yield in a thicker cookie (tried it and it totally works).

Crisco Chocolate Chip Cookies
from Crisco

3/4 stick Crisco Butter Flavor All-Vegetable Shortening
1-1/4 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
2 tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 large egg
1-3/4 cups All Purpose Flour
1 tsp salt
3/4 tsp baking soda
1-1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 heart marshmallow for each cookie

Heat oven to 375ºF. Combine shortening, brown sugar, milk and vanilla in large bowl. Beat at medium speed until well blended. Beat in egg. Combine flour, salt and baking soda and whisk together. Mix into shortening mixture until just blended. Stir in chocolate chips.
Take a spoonful of dough and wrap around one heart marshmallow. Make sure your dough is taller then it is wide and place on cookie sheet to bake.

Bake 8 to 10 minutes for chewy cookies, or 11 to 13 minutes for crisp cookies. Cool 2 minutes on baking sheet on a cooling rack. Remove cookies to rack to cool completely.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


This is week 5 of the challenge, but there was no meeting and no weigh in (it was the half way point too and I was very bummed about the no weigh-in because I worked so hard), so needless to say I have nothing to report (as far as weight loss or weight gain). According to my own home scale, I think I stayed the same, but not for certain.

I had a few million food challenges this week with being out of town for four days at a scrapbook retreat, but I tried to over-compensate for this by making some healthy snack choices (apples and greek yogurt, nuts for snack, dip made with greek yogurt and lots and lots of salads) and I left the scrapbook room twice each day to do some kind of work out. We tried a Bob Harper pinterest post I found when we first woke up in the morning, I brought the 30-Day Shred Video from Jillian Michales which we did each day and one day we went on a 2.5 mile hike, and pretty intense hike. I defiantly got in more exercise then I ever have at a weekend scrapbooking event and this made me very proud of this small improvement in my exercise regiment.

My food intake has stayed the same, my snacks are still going very well. I am enjoying my protein shake every morning with lots of different recipes (I also love that I am cleaning out my freezer of all the half baggies of fruit that I've stuck in there). My shakes are never the same and always have a very wide variety of fruits and veggies included in them.

I love having the Special K cereal with Almond Milk for breakfast (this was today's breakfast when I ran out of the house and forgot to make my shake). I have a box of cereal and a half-gallon of milk at work, so there is no guess work and I don't need to stop at fast food when I am in a hurry.

I also keep Smart Ones at work, at only 200 calories this really helps when I am in a hurry or didn't bring a healthy lunch to work, at least it's a healthy choice. It's simple, it's easy, they are cheap and usually have them on hand for back up.

One of my many protein shakes this week (with kale), and yes I did blend the kale in.

And tonight's dinner I am calling "Everything but the Kitchen Sink" Crock Pot Chicken. I do not like to waste ANYTHING, and almost everything can be frozen. When I have a half of bell pepper, a cut up onion, some mushrooms or even fresh parsley that I can not use up in the week, I clean, chopped and freeze. This does amount to numerous baggies that collect in my freezer (I have a small Tupperware bin that I throw them all into inside the freeze. It keeps them organized) and sometimes it's just time to clean them out. Today was the first time I did this chicken recipe and it felt SO GOOD, it felt GREAT getting all of that out of my freezer (and it's all fresh ingredients still) and it felt good to finally make something healthy that can carry me through the week. I am cooking a whole chicken in the crock pot, that I will later shred and use in a multitude of recipes this week.

This NEW V8 Fusion is a wonderful drink. I can't wait to get back to the store and buy some more. And here is another simple snack, peanut butter and celery with 10 baby carrots.

(last weeks stats) 
Starting Weight: 182
Tonight's Weigh-In: 176.6
DOWN this week  <2.2> lbs
TOTAL loss for this challenge <5.4 > lbs
Goal for Next Tuesday Weigh-In: 174
Challenge Goal Weight (10 weeks): 164
Ultimate Goal Weight: 139

This is one of my diet tricks, snack on cucumbers! WHOLE cucumbers, over and over again and whenever you are hungry. I buy them by the dozen when I am dieting and they really help that crunchy, need to snack feeling especially after work when I get the munchies. (don't judge us we are in our PJ's scrapbooking away in the dessert)!!!


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Chocolate Dipped Strawberry Marshmallows

The Valentine's Day strawberry marshmallows that are out in stores are so cute, I just can't help myself every time I pass by them in the grocery store I want to pick up a bag. I've already made a few fun things, check out these SUPER DUPER CUTE Chocolate Chip Cookies with Heart Marshmallows and last year these Heart Brownie Bites.

I had planned out an entire PINK Baby Shower using lots of pink, lots of hearts and lots of awesome ideas with these heart marshmallows, including the cutest dessert bar ever.

But, today I wanted to share this cute gift idea for a great Valentine's Day treat. These are a simple treat all you need to do is just dip the marshmallows in some of your favorite melting chocolate, decorate and bam a super cute Valentine's gift. Have your kids give them away to special friends or teachers or make them for your co-workers, either way they are sure to make someone smile.

TIP #1: When buying lots of holiday M&M's I've got lots of tips and tricks for saving them up and separating the colors. Whenever there are holiday M&M's out in the stores, I gather up my coupons (usually stocking up the day after for the half price sale) and using coupons and getting them at half price they are a steal. I bring them all home and separate the colors into baggies (this is WAY cheaper then buying M&M's buy the color at a store or online). I then store them in their separate baggies in my baking cupboard until an event takes place. I've used the red for a sports party, the pink for a PINK Baby Shower and the list goes on and on. I love having all the colors of the rainbow at my finger tips and whenever my hubby and I go to the movies our favorite thing is M&M's and popcorn. I can just grab a colored baggie and throw them in my purse (totally beats paying $4 bucks at the theatre for a small box).

TIP #2: Melting Chocolate. When you are finished using melting chocolate and you have some left overs, it's very easy to just re-harden in small disks and re-use later. I take all the left over melting chocolate and drop in small spoonfuls on wax paper. Let re-harden over night and then store in a baggie until you need to remelt and reuse for another project.

Chocolate Dipped Strawberry Marshmallow
original idea spotted on Pinterest from Monster Mama

Strawberry Marshmallows
Melting Chocolate
White Melting Chocolate
Valentine's Day M&M's

Melt your milk chocolate in a microwave safe bowl. Using a toothpick dip each heart marshmallow in the chocolate until it's completely covered. Lay out on wax paper and immediately set a Valentine's colored M&M on the center. Let dry. Melt a few melting chips of white chocolate into a small ziploc baggie, in the microwave. Once melted cut off a small corner and then decorate. I slid the marshmallows onto a skewer before placing into a long baggie, but this is not necessary. Tie with a cute bow and deliver.

Saturday, February 9, 2013


HAPPY HAPPY it was weigh-in on Tuesday and the contest is almost half way done. We are now at Week 4 and I FINALLY, yes FINALLY lost weight. And it was 2.2 lbs, I was thrilled, more then thrilled. All my hard work, two work outs per day, and eating lots of healthy stuff has finally paid off. Now, let's hope I can repeat and repeat again. (Oh, did I tell you I am out of town for 4 days at a Bed and Breakfast, Lord, give me strength on all this delicious food, photo to the left). I ate all my fruit FIRST, filled up my tummy and then ate half the quiche (and yes I ate the english muffins, they were homemade). But I did do a 20 minute work out in my room this morning before breakfast and brought Jillian Michales 30 Day Shred to do today after lunch. I've got THIS!

Shake Photos: I am hooked on Protein Shakes. I make them every morning and they are never the same. I probably couldn't even write up a recipe for you because there are no two that are ever alike. I will say that I add 2 tbsp of Flax/Chia Seed, usually a tbsp of Cottage Cheese or Greek Yogurt, 8 oz of water and 1 scoop of a Protein Drink Mixture from Herbalife into every smoothie. Then I add in a vegetable or two and a fruit here and there and that's my morning smoothie. The fruits and veggies I use are Apples, Sweet potatoes, Jicama, Avocado, Kale, Banana, Berries and even got a Pear and Pomegranate this week, pretty much anything is a go.

Chicken: This week I made 4 chicken breast just for myself for lunches everyday. Me, not wanting to eat the same thing everyday I decided to make four different kinds of chicken. Two of them I used rubs I had the the others were two recipes I found, one is Honey Garlic Chicken. This worked out great and I will for sure be repeating this process with probably four different recipes next week.

Snack Time: Computer, Blogging, and Lap Top is always needed for snack time and some edamame.

Starting Weight: 182
Tonight's Weigh-In: 176.6
DOWN this week  <2.2> lbs
TOTAL loss for this challenge <5.4 > lbs
Goal for Next Tuesday Weigh-In: 174
Challenge Goal Weight (10 weeks): 164
Ultimate Goal Weight: 139

Myself and my Friend Cynthia at our Scrapbook Retreat in Twentynine Palms

Friday, February 8, 2013

Chocolate Chip Cookies w/Heart Marshmallows

Here is a quick and easy recipe if you've discovered those adorable little heart marshmallows in the grocery stores. Here is our favorite Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe (repeated) or use your own favorite recipe, add in a package of pink M&M's and here's an out of this world delicious cookie.

Chocolate Chip Cookies w/Heart Marshmallows
cookie recipe source unknown, heart idea all my own

2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg & 1 egg yolk
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup Pink M&M's
1 pkg Pink Heart Marshmallows

Preheat oven to 325. Grease cookie sheets. Sift together flour, baking soda & salt; set aside. In a medium bowl , cream together melted butter, brown sugar and white sugar until well blended. Beat in vanilla and eggs until light and creamy, mix in the sifted ingredients until just blended. Stir in chocolate chips and M&M's by hand. Drop cookie dough on to cookie sheets and bake 10-12 minutes. As soon as you remove from the oven press heart marshmallow into the center of each cookie, allow to sit for about 1 minute and then go back and press a second time lightly with your finger, this will ensure that the semi-melted marshmallow will adhere to the cookie.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Cantina Steak Burrito {Taco Bell}

With Taco Bell's new Cantina menu, even on a diet you can still find a healthy fresh fast-food solution. I've been eating Taco Bell for as long as I can remember, it's now one of my son's favorite places to eat. I am usually a creature of habit and have the same thing each time I visit. There are about 4 or 5 menu items that are on my list and I just rotate through them. So, trying out the NEW Cantina Steak Burrito was a treat for me.

It was a Sunday afternoon, my son and I decided to stay in our pj's and have a relaxing day at home (yes, it was Super Bowl Sunday too, but with the hubby working, we never even turned it on). My son enjoyed his video games and (me) mommy was in her scrapbook room watching chick-flicks all day long. It really was a PERFECT Sunday afternoon.

When we got a little hungry I decided to head through the Taco Bell drive thru (yep, in my pj's). The NICE thing about drive-thru's no one cares what you are wearing. I ordered my son's usual items and I purchased the Cantina Steak Burrito for myself. I decided to just stick with the one item this time and I am glad I did, the burrito is HUGE. It's a great size and can even be split with a friend or family member. I know if my husband had been home, this would have surely filled him up with one burrito.

The Cantina Burrito is filled with thick cut steak, rice, black beans and guacamole. It also has pico de gallo, and a roasted corn & pepper salsa and to top it off it has creamy cilantro dressing, all of these things are VERY DELICIOUS! The two flavors that stood out to me were the fresh guacamole and the creamy cilantro dressing, these two elements were my favorite part of this new burrito. When I saw that there was a Cantina Bowl too, it's now next on my list to try. I encourage all of you to stop by local Taco Bell and try out the new Cantina menu, I don't think you will be disappointed.

"As part of the DailyBuzz Food Tastemaker Program,
I received a stipend for this post, but the opinions are mine"

This post is sponsored by Taco Bell. See how great our steak is when you try the new Cantina Steak Burrito. Because when it comes to a great steak burrito, it's all about the steak.
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