Fall Front Porch

Posted on October 30, 2016

Hi Everyone! I hope you’ve all had a great weekend! It’s hard to believe that November is almost here, especially given the fact that it’s been so unseasonably warm this fall. We spent the majority of September painting the exterior of our house, and now that it’s all finally done, it’s been so fun adding some fall touches to the front porch! I thought I would show you a little bit of it today. Painting the house was a much bigger project than we expected (as most house projects have been so far…!) but it’s definitely been worth it. We bought our first home, a cape cod style house, last summer, so we’ve been here for a little over a year now and we’re finally getting around to working on some of the projects we’ve been wanting to do since we moved in. Our house was a pretty saturated yellow color when we first bought it, and although it was cute (and easy to spot when driving up the hill on our street!) we wanted to tone the colors down a little and paint it a more neutral color. I knew I wanted to paint it light gray, and I thought navy would be the perfect color to use on the front door and window shutters to complement it. Since we were painting the house in September, I already had fall decorating in mind, and the gray and navy colors worked out to be the perfect backdrop for all the fall oranges, reds and yellows!

Outdoor Fall decor

I centered all the fall decor on the front porch around the front door and just tried to create a full arrangement on either side of the door using lots of different colored and sized pumpkins and mums. Whether it’s fall decorating or any other decorating and design, the best way to create a full looking grouping is to use objects of varying sizes at different height levels to create balance and depth. Hay bales are a great and easy way to add height and create an additional surface for displaying pumpkins and mums. I also created a pumpkin topiary by simply stacking three different colored and sized pumpkins on top of each other, to add another height element to the grouping. This is what it all looks like today (…because I keep adding to it and changing it up every day…)

Fall Front Porch

As for the paint colors we used on the house, that’s a whole other long story… If you’re very particular when it comes to colors, or if you’ve ever just tried picking paint colors for your house, you will know how overwhelming it can be! I went through gazillions of grays to find the perfect gray, only to find that it was way too light when we started painting. Of course I realized that after I had already bought several gallons of it… One of these days I will learn to buy paint samples and save myself (and my poor husband…) hours of frustration! So back to the store it went to be tinted and darkened. Thankfully it’s much easier to make a color darker than it is lighter! I’ve frantically taken gallons of paint back to the store to get them lightened only to find out how hard it is; this was luckily the opposite case and a pretty easy fix. The gray paint color we used is called Stone Eagle, by Sherwin-Williams, but we had it darkened just a tad so it’s not as light as the original color. It’s a cool, true gray color, and I’m really happy with how it finally turned out!

Fall wreath

As for the front door and the window shutters, I ended up going with Naval, also by Sherwin-Williams. There were a couple different navy paint colors I was deciding between, but this looked like a true navy to me, that was still vibrant and blue, for a lack of a better description, as opposed to others that were almost black or had purple undertones to them. We did several coats of it on both our window shutters and the front door, and I’m really happy with how it looks against the light gray, it really pops! I love the way it looks with the fall colors right now, and I’m thinking it’ll be a great backdrop for Christmas decorating too, where you could pair it with traditional reds, whites, silvers or golds… but one holiday season at a time!

Fall wreath

I hope you all have a great week and that Monday treats you well… Thanks so much for stopping by today! Happy Fall!

Cranberry Orange Scones & Memories of Vermont

Posted on October 25, 2016

Hello, Friends! It has been a while. A little over a year, actually, since I’ve stopped by here and shared a little bit of my world with you! It has been a busy year, to say the least, but I’ve missed blogging and thought it was about time I got back into it. I made these Cranberry Orange Scones last week, and thought they would be the perfect thing to share with you today! If you’re a scone lover, you will love these! I’ve tried so many different scone recipes, and I love the consistency of these. They are soft and buttery on the inside, bursting with fresh flavor from the tangy cranberries and fresh orange juice and zest. They’re the perfect fall treat with a hot cup of tea or coffee on a cozy afternoon! The recipe is from The Vermont Country Store Cookbook, which was created by the family that owns this traditional New England general store. My husband and I spent a couple days in Vermont over the holidays last year, and fell in love with the area instantly! We’ve loved every single recipe from the cookbook so far and opening it always brings back memories of the cold, snowy days we spent up there; driving on remote snow covered country roads, walking through quaint little towns filled with New England charm, eating the sharpest cheddar cheese and every meal involving maple syrup in some form or another! On our way to the little Bed & Breakfast we were staying at, we stopped for dinner and at the end of our meal we ordered the richest, most decadent bread pudding I have ever had, that was drowned in a thick pool of maple syrup. Since it was late and the roads were getting pretty icy, we took it to go, and within about two minutes I managed to spill the maple syrup all over the front seat of the car… needless to say, it was a sticky mess for the rest of the trip. A sweet smelling sticky mess, thanks to which the smell of maple syrup will always remind me of Vermont and that perfect snowy Christmas! Sometimes the worst messes turn into the best memories… But back to the scones!

Cranberry Orange Scones
CRANBERRY ORANGE SCONES
*Makes 6 scones*
(Recipe adapted from The Vermont Country Store Cookbook)

YOU WILL NEED:

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar (plus extra for sprinkling scones)
1/2 tsp salt
1 TBS baking powder
3/4 of a stick of unsalted butter, cold (6 TBS)
1 cup fresh cranberries
1/2 TBS fresh grated orange zest
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 egg
A couple TBS of milk for brushing tops of scones

Cranberry Orange Scones

DIRECTIONS:

  1. First, mix together the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder (I did this in my electric mixer bowl). Next, cut your butter into small pieces (make sure the butter is very cold!) and mix it with the flour mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs. (*Note – the original recipe says to grate frozen butter into the flour mixture, but I found this to work just as well.)
  2. Using a wooden spoon, gently stir in the fresh cranberries and the grated orange zest. In another smaller bowl, whisk together the egg, heavy cream and orange juice, then pour it into the flour mixture while gently stirring just until a dough forms.
  3. Preheat your oven to 425 deg F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  4. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and form into a rectangle about 2 inches high. With a knife, cut the dough into 6 equal sized triangle shaped scones.
  5. Place the scones on the parchment paper lined baking sheets leaving enough room in between them, as they will definitely rise and get bigger as they bake! Pat the scones down just a little, and brush the tops with a little bit of milk and sprinkle generously with sugar. Bake the scones for about 18 – 20 minutes, until they are lightly browned on top and around the edges (watch them carefully the last couple of minutes so they don’t burn!) Once baked, let them cool for a couple minutes before eating!

*Note: The original recipe is for 12 scones, so simply double this recipe if you want to make 12! They are definitely best eaten fresh and preferably the same day as you baked them (which won’t be hard to do, trust me!) but you can definitely store them in an airtight container and they will be good for a day or two!

Thank you so much for stopping by A Homemade Living today! I promise I’ll be back again soon! I hope you have a great rest of your day, and that you’re enjoying some beautiful fall weather wherever you are!

Framed Family Recipes

Posted on September 17, 2015

Hi Everyone! I wanted to share this simple and easy idea for framed family recipes with you today! A couple of weeks ago, we moved into a new house and even though there are still a couple boxes to be unpacked, furniture to be bought and things to be fixed, it is slowly turning into the home that I had envisioned when we first bought it. When it comes to interior design and creating your home, I think it’s all about layers. You begin with the basics, your walls, your floors, your furniture… and then you begin to build more layers – you start introducing more colors, more textures, more accessories, and all the personal touches that really make a home come to life and give it its heartbeat.

Framed Family Recipes

I have a big stash of old family recipes that I somehow wanted to display in our kitchen and dining area. Some, like the one in the photo above, were handwritten by my great-grandmother in the early 1940’s, some were written out on a typewriter by my grandmother, and others are cut-outs from old newspapers, cookbooks and pamphlets. What I find so interesting is how much you can truly see into the lives of the people of the time just by reading through their recipe books. The handwritten Czech recipe above, as many others in my great-grandmother’s notebook, is entitled “Wartime recipe for…” From reading the ingredients, you can see what there was a shortage of at the time and how creative cooks became with learning to substitute various more readily available ingredients for the more sparse and expensive ones. Many of the recipes are for meatless dishes, and many use beans and potatoes (including desserts! — pastry cream out of white beans!), since that was what was available.

My Cookbook

There are many personal stories that you can begin to see as you read between the lines of many of these recipes too. As a single woman living before the outbreak of the Second World War, my great-grandmother moved to England from Czechoslovakia, and several of the recipes I read in her notebook that she wrote later as a married woman upon her return home were clearly culinary memories of her years in London. These recipes, not just in their physical written form, have travelled many miles, countries and continents, and as I hang them up on my wall here on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, I wonder which of our current family favorites will survive the test of time, and where life will take them one day!

Old recipes

This simple craft idea really needs no directions or explaining. All you need is a picture frame and your recipe. I think adding a mat elevates the framed recipes a little bit, and gives them a clean, crisp look. If you don’t want to use the original recipe, you may want to just scan it, adjust the size, then print it out and frame it. Another fun idea may be to print a scanned copy of the recipe for family members, frame each copy and give them away as gifts (along with the cooked/baked recipe!) – a fun holiday gift idea! What are your favorite family recipes? I would love to know! Thank you so much for stopping by today, I hope you all have a wonderful rest of your week!

Beef Stew with Roasted Garlic

Posted on September 1, 2015

Hi Everybody! Happy September! Although this crazy heat and humidity sure doesn’t feel like September fall is on it’s way, I’m hoping I wake up to a cool and crisp morning one of these days… because I’m so ready for it! As you may be able to tell by another fall themed recipe! I know I’ve shared several different stew recipes with you over the past couple of years, but I couldn’t resist sharing another. Stews are one of my favorites things to cook; not only are they so hearty and cozy, but I also happen to love the slow cooking process. All the chopping, peeling, and stirring is curiously comforting as the ingredients in the big cooking pot begin to fill the kitchen with such warmth and deliciousness! Another thing I love about making stews, is that no stew ever turns out exactly the same; you can add in different herbs, seasonings, vegetables, even meats, depending on what may be in season or what you have on hand, and somehow, it always turns out delicious! I love this particular stew because of all the fresh herbs, but also because of the roasted garlic. It’s a simple way to add more flavor, and really it’s not just for stews, you could use this in any sauce, dip or spread, to give the garlic such great sweetness and softness. Another great thing about stews is that they get better the longer they sit… the flavors marry and intensify, making it the perfect make-ahead meal!

Beef Stew with Roasted Garlic
BEEF STEW WITH ROASTED GARLIC
*Serves 4*
(Recipe adapted from Julia Child & Epicurious)

YOU WILL NEED
3 1/2 lbs beef, cut into about 1 1/2 inch pieces
1 head of garlic
A couple of tbs of olive oil
2 tbs unsalted butter
1 medium onion, diced
6 carrots
8oz mushrooms, sliced
3 fresh rosemary sprigs
3 fresh thyme sprigs
1 bay leaf
3 – 4 cups beef broth (homemade or low sodium)
2 cups red wine or extra beef broth
3 tbs tomato paste
2 tbs all-purpose flour
Salt & Pepper
To serve with beef stew: crusty white bread and/or mashed potatoes

Beef Stew with Roasted Garlic

DIRECTIONS

1. The first step is a sort of “pre-step” and that’s roasting the garlic! Preheat your oven to 400 deg F and cut the top off your head of garlic. Place the garlic cut side up on a piece of foil, drizzle it with about a tablespoon or so of olive oil, then bring up the sides of the foil and make a little “garlic package”, making sure it’s sealed well. Bake for about 30 – 40 minutes, or until the garlic cloves are nice and soft. Once soft, take the garlic out of the oven, and let it cool a little bit, then squeeze the softened garlic out!

2. While your garlic is roasting, begin cooking your stew. In a large pot, heat up some olive oil and the two tablespoons of butter, and brown your beef. Make sure you do this in a couple of batches so you don’t crowd the pot. Let the beef brown on all sides, then remove it from the pot, and add the diced onion as well as one diced carrot into the pot, season with salt and pepper, lower the heat and cook until the vegetables soften.

3. Add the flour to the vegetables and cook, stirring, for about a minute, then add the beef back in, and add the tomato paste at this point as well. Stir everything gently until the vegetables and the meat are coated in the tomato paste. Add the fresh herbs and roasted garlic (I mush it up with a fork before adding it. Also, add as much/little of it as you like, depending on how garlicky you want the stew to be! If you want it extra garlicky, you can roast more than one head of garlic!) and then drown everything with 2 cups of either red wine or beef broth. Let it simmer for about 15 minutes, then add 3 cups of beef broth, cover and let simmer for 1 1/2 hours, checking on the stew and stirring every 15 minutes or so. Then, uncover the stew, and let it cook for another 1 1/2 hours.

4. While it’s cooking, saute the sliced mushrooms until tender in some olive oil, then about 15 minutes before the stew is done cooking, add the mushrooms, as well as the remainder of the carrots (peel and cut them into chunks), and the rest of the beef broth if necessary – if the stew looks too thick, add in some extra broth to thin it out (you can use more than one cup if you need to). Discard the bay leaf and fresh herb sprigs, and check that the seasoning is right, adding in more salt and pepper if you need it (sometimes I add in a pinch of sugar at the end to balance out the flavors). Serve with mashed potatoes, fresh crusty white bread, and an extra sprig of fresh rosemary on top! Bon Apetit! (said in Julia Child’s voice, of course!)
(*Note: To make fishing out the herb sprigs easier, you can make a “bouquet garni” which basically just means placing the herbs in a piece of cheesecloth and tying it up, then placing that in your cooking pot. You could also just tie up all the herbs and place them in the pot. I would definitely recommend doing one of these, otherwise you will be spending time trying to fish those sprigs out, and there will be way too many little pieces of rosemary swimming around your stew!)

I hope you all have a wonderful day, and enjoy this hearty, cozy stew!
Thanks so much for stopping by today!

Spiced Applesauce Muffins

Posted on July 26, 2015

Hello Everyone! I hope you’re all having a great summer! Sorry it’s been quiet around here for the past couple of weeks, life has been busy to say the least! It’s been a crazy hectic summer this year, between traveling, new jobs, looking for and getting ready to move into a new house… all exciting things, but overwhelming at the same time! But since I’m having a quiet Sunday afternoon at home today, I thought I would share this sweet treat that I’m having with my cup of tea right now with you! This year was the first time in a long time that I was looking forward to the summer. Last winter was so long and cold that I couldn’t wait until the day I could trade my winter boots for flip-flops and get in my car without having to get mountains of snow off of it first! But now, a couple of weeks into the heat and humidity that we get here on the East Coast, I remember why I always dread this time of the year, and why I usually spend the summer impatiently waiting for fall to come already… That sort of explains this recipe. A craving for fall. These Spiced Applesauce Muffins are basically a taste of fall in a delicious little package! They’re light and fluffy because of the applesauce, and have that distinct fall taste and smell thanks to all the warm spices. I usually bake muffins or some sort of quick bread on Sundays, so that I have something that’s easy to grab on my way out the door in the morning for the rest of the week. If you’re as anxious for fall to come as I am, you will love these! And if not, save the recipe for September! Here’s how to make these…

Spiced Applesauce Muffins

SPICED APPLESAUCE MUFFINS
*Makes 12 muffins*
(Recipe adapted from Epicurious)

YOU WILL NEED
MUFFINS
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) + 3 tbs unsalted butter, melted
1 cup applesauce, unsweetened
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
TOPPING
1 tbs granulated sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Spiced Applesauce Muffins

DIRECTIONS

1. First, preheat your oven to 400 deg F, and line a standard sized muffin pan with 12 paper liners. In a medium sized bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ground cinnamon, ground allspice and nutmeg. Set aside.

2. In your electric mixer bowl, whisk together the eggs and the brown sugar, then slowly begin pouring in the melted butter, and mix until you have a smooth mixture. Add in the vanilla extract and applesauce, then begin adding in the dry ingredient mixture. Gently fold in the chopped nuts (you could substitute raisins for chopped nuts, those would work well too!) and then divide the batter equally between the 12 muffin cups (you want them to be about 3/4 full). Sprinkle the tops with the cinnamon sugar topping mixture (this will form a thin “crust” on top of the muffins as they bake), then bake the muffins for 18 – 20 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Once baked, let the muffins cool for a couple minutes before eating.

I hope you all have a wonderful rest of your weekend, and enjoy this recipe if you try it out!

Strawberry Bread with Greek Yogurt

Posted on May 3, 2015

Hey Everyone! Happy May! How did this happen?! Sometimes it feels like the days and weeks just drag on, and other times, it feels like life is speeding ahead at a thousand miles an hour. It definitely feels like the latter is happening around here these days, and I can’t believe that the summer is almost here! I wanted to stop by and share this Strawberry Bread with Greek Yogurt recipe with you today, since it’s the perfect “almost summer” quick & easy recipe, and with strawberry season coming up soon, it’s a great seasonal quick bread to make! Greek yogurt is one of my favorite things to bake with, because it always keeps cakes and breads so moist. I always use it in banana bread, and it works great in other quick breads too! You could of course use other berries, like blueberries, raspberries or blackberries in this recipe instead, and even do a simple confectioners’ sugar glaze on top… that’s the great thing about quick breads, you can add whatever looks good in your fridge or pantry! Here’s how to make this strawberry bread…

Strawberry Bread with Greek Yogurt
STRAWBERRY BREAD WITH GREEK YOGURT
*Makes 1 loaf*
(Adapted from The Smitten Kitchen)

YOU WILL NEED
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 eggs
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup plain Greek yogurt (I use fat free yogurt)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 – 1 1/2 cups fresh strawberries + 1 tbs all-purpose flour

Strawberry Bread with Greek Yogurt

DIRECTIONS

1. First, preheat your oven to 350 deg F, and grease (or line with parchment paper) a standard sized loaf tin. In your electric mixer bowl, whisk together the sugar, eggs, pure vanilla extract, vegetable oil and Greek yogurt. Once you have a smooth, creamy mixture, sift in the flour, baking powder and salt, and mix until you have a smooth batter.

2. Chop your fresh strawberries into small pieces (about the size of blueberries), then gently toss them with the tbs of all-purpose flour (this will prevent the strawberries from sinking to the bottom of the loaf as it bakes). Using a spatula, gently fold the strawberries into the batter (reserving a couple to sprinkle on top of the loaf), then pour it into your prepared loaf tin. Sprinkle the remaining strawberries on top, then bake the bread for 50 minutes to an hour, until an inserted toothpick comes out clean! (If the bread browns too much as it bakes, simply cover it with some foil to prevent burning.) Let cool before slicing.

Happy Baking, Everyone!
I will be linking to these awesome blogs!

April Favorites

Posted on April 30, 2015

Hi Everyone! Can you believe that tomorrow is May 1st?! This has been one of the craziest, busiest and most stressful months in a while around here, but it’s also been a very exciting one, filled with lots of fun things and new adventures! I feel like whenever this time of year comes around, it feels like the summer is just around the corner; we’ve had such beautiful sunny weather for the past couple of days and even had our first bonfire and s’mores of the year! Here’s a little bit of what’s been happening this month…

LUSH Bath Boms Blueberry Coffee Cake Muffins
Left: LUSH bath treats – a flower bubble bar and a lavender bath bomb! If you’re a bath person and you’ve never tried any LUSH products, you should definitely give them a try! They smell incredible and are super moisturizing, and they are really fun too – some of them have glitter inside, others have lots of different layers of colors inside that turn the bath water into crazy colors! Right: I made Ina Garten’s Blueberry Coffee Cake Muffins for breakfast over Easter, and as with all of Ina’s recipes, these were delicious!

Blueberry Coffee Cake Muffins
You can never go wrong with the Barefoot Contessa! I also made her savory Leek & Artichoke Bread Pudding and her Caramelized French Onion Dip this month, which were both amazing too!

Easter dinner Easter candy
Left: A pretty loaded Easter dinner plate! Featuring honey glazed ham, the Pioneer Woman’s mac and cheese, the Barefoot Contessa’s leak and artichoke bread pudding, a fresh berry salad, roasted asparagus and classic deviled eggs. We ate leftovers for days and still have ham in the freezer! Right: Easter candy!

Ducks at the park Cherry Blossom Festival DC
Left: One of my favorite things about the weather finally being nicer are evening walks at the park. I love these long spring days, and that it’s not pitch dark by 5pm! Right: One of my favorite things about the area that we live in is the annual National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington DC (you can read more about it in this post). If you’ve never visited DC when the cherry trees are blooming, you should definitely plan on it next year, it’s absolutely gorgeous!

Miss Shirley's Annapolis MD 
Left: The most incredible chicken & waffles at Miss Shirley’s in Annapolis. This is one of my favorite restaurants in this area, they have so many delicious breakfast dishes to choose from, but this was definitely one of the best things I’ve had in a long time! Right: This man is my favorite thing every month. And every day. Always. Forever.

Banana Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting Carrot Cake Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
Two of my favorite posts that I shared with you this month: Banana Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting (left) and Carrot Cake Cupcakes (right). I was obviously having a cream cheese frosting moment this month, since both these recipes feature it!

I hope you all had a wonderful month, and that the one ahead is going to be even better! Thanks so much for stopping by, I hope you have a great rest of your week! Stop by again soon for lots of new projects and recipes!

Creamy Mushroom & Parmesan Quinoa

Posted on April 27, 2015

Hi Everyone! I have a super quick & easy quinoa side dish to share with you today that you can easily whip up in about twenty to thirty minutes! This Creamy Mushroom & Parmesan Quinoa is, as the name suggests, so creamy thanks to all the cheese, and really hearty and satisfying, yet still pretty light. I love how versatile of an ingredient quinoa is; that you can use it in both sweet and savory recipes, serve it hot or cold , and make it into a main dish or a side dish! I’ve cooked it in pretty much all these ways, and this is one of my favorites! You could substitute other vegetables for the mushrooms, or even add in shredded chicken and make this into a main dish!

Creamy Mushroom & Parmesan Quinoa
CREAMY MUSHROOM & PARMESAN QUINOA

YOU WILL NEED
1 1/2 cups quinoa (uncooked)
3 cups water
8oz mushrooms (baby bella or button), sliced
1/2 – 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 – 3 tbs olive oil
Salt & Pepper
2 – 3 tbs fresh parsley, chopped
Optional: red pepper flakes, dried thyme, 1 tbs butter

Creamy Mushroom & Parmesan Quinoa

DIRECTIONS

1. First, cook the quinoa according to the instructions on the box (combine the uncooked quinoa with water and cook for about 15 minutes, or until all the water has been absorbed, the quinoa is fluffy and has little “tails”). Make sure you rinse the quinoa before cooking it! If you want to add extra flavor, cook the quinoa in chicken stock instead of water.

2. While you cook the quinoa, prepare your mushrooms. Thinly slice them, and saute them in a medium sized pan with some olive oil. Season them with salt and pepper (I also add in a pinch of red pepper flakes and dried thyme, but that’s totally optional) and cook until the mushrooms have browned nicely. Set aside.

3. Next, add grated Parmesan cheese to your cooked quinoa (I add about 1/2 cup and then add extra on top right before serving) and stir well, until the quinoa becomes nice and creamy, and has almost a creamy risotto texture. Stir in the chopped parsley (I use Italian flat leaf, but you can use curly if you prefer that. Reserve some of it for sprinkling on the top) and mushrooms, and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper if you need to! And if you’re feeling extra indulgent, add in a tablespoon of butter to add some more creaminess!

If you like this Creamy Mushroom & Parmesan Quinoa, check out more of my quinoa recipes:

Quinoa Breakfast Bowl with Fruit, Nuts & Seeds  Kale Salad with Pomegranate Seeds, Roasted Butternut Squash & Quinoa Cheesy Broccoli & Quinoa Patties

Left: Quinoa Breakfast Bowl with Fruit, Nuts & Seeds, Middle: Kale Salad with Quinoa, Roasted Butternut Squash and Pomegranate Seeds, Right: Cheesy Quinoa & Broccoli Patties

And since this recipe uses fresh parsley and you may have some left over, this is my favorite ways to store the leftover fresh herbs so they don’t go to waste! Check it out here!

  How to store fresh herbs
Happy Cooking, Everyone!
I will be linking to these awesome blogs!

Banana Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Posted on April 14, 2015

Hi Everyone! A miserable, rainy day like today definitely calls for a sweet treat, don’t you think? Instead of making my favorite Chocolate Chip Banana Bread with Greek Yogurt (or this Nutella Swirled Banana Bread!) with the very ripe bananas that were sitting on the kitchen counter, I made something a little more special (but just as quick and easy!); This Banana Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting! Sure, you could just make the cream cheese frosting and eat it with a spoon (just kidding!) but it’s even better spread thick on this banana cake, topped with a handful of chopped nuts! The cake itself is so moist and delicious and makes for a great treat to go with your tea or coffee!

Banana Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
BANANA CAKE WITH CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

*Makes one 8 inch cake*

YOU WILL NEED
BANANA CAKE
2 very ripe bananas, mashed
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil (or unsalted butter)
1 large egg
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
1/3 cup applesauce
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tbs baking soda
Optional: 1/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

CREAM CHEESE FROSTING
4oz cream cheese, softened
4 tbs unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
Topping: 1/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Banana Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

DIRECTIONS

1. First, preheat your oven to 350 deg F, and grease an 8 inch square (or round) baking pan. In a large bowl, cream together the sugar and oil (or butter if you’re using butter instead of oil). Next, add in the egg, vanilla extract, applesauce and mashed bananas, and mix until you have a creamy mixture.

2. Next, sift in the rest of the ingredients: all-purpose flour, salt, ground cinnamon and baking soda, and mix until you have a smooth batter (it’ll still have some lumps because of the mashed bananas, which is fine). Using a spatula, fold in the 1/4 cup of chopped walnuts or pecans if you’re using them, then pour the batter into your prepared baking pan, and bake for about a half hour, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. (If the cake begins to brown too much on top, you can cover it with a piece of foil to prevent it from burning.)

3. While the banana cake is baking, prepare your cream cheese frosting. This is my favorite cream cheese frosting recipe (it’s a Martha Stewart frosting recipe), and I use half of her original recipe for this cake. To make the frosting, make sure that both the cream cheese and the unsalted butter are at room temperature and completely softened, otherwise you won’t get a smooth frosting out of this! Using the whisk attachment on your mixer, mix together the cream cheese, butter, sugar and vanilla extract until completely smooth.

4. Once the cake is completely cool, (make sure it is COMPLETELY cool, you don’t want your frosting to melt off the cake!) spread the frosting on top using a spatula. I like to make it look very casual and just make frosting swirls using the spatula, but you can make it look as fancy as you like! I don’t go all the way up to the cake edges, but leave about a half inch border or so, because I think it looks pretty when you can see the cake! At the end, simply sprinkle with more chopped walnuts or pecans!

Banana Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

(*Recipe Notes: I tweaked and combined a couple of my favorite recipes to come up with this Banana Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting recipe. You can substitute buttermilk, Greek yogurt, sour cream or plain yogurt for the applesauce that I used here, any of those would work well in a banana cake. You can also substitute butter for the oil that I used here. This cake isn’t overly sweet, which is why the cream cheese frosting works well with it (it’s the same cream cheese frosting I use in these Carrot Cake Cupcakes), but if you prefer a sweeter cake, add in extra granulated sugar, or even brown sugar to the cake batter! And the more ripe the bananas are, the more sweetness they will add to the cake! I make this cake in an 8 inch square baking pan, but you could use a round pan instead, and even double the recipe, and make it into a two layer cake for a special occasion!)

Banana Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
Happy Baking, Everyone!
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2015 National Cherry Blossom Festival, Washington DC

Posted on April 13, 2015

Hi Everyone! I hope you all had a great weekend! I wanted to show you a little bit of ours with a couple of pictures from this year’s National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington DC! This is one of my favorite times of the year in this area because of all the trees that turn the whole city pink and white as they begin to bloom. We have gone to see the cherry blossoms in the city every year since we’ve lived here, but there is something so enchanting about it, that it just never gets old.

2015 Cherry Blossom Festival

2015 National Cherry Blossom Festival
This year we went down to see the cherry blossoms on what we found out was the first day of the peak bloom days. It was an absolutely gorgeous day for it; it was so sunny and warm, which after the long winter we’ve had still feels almost unreal! The Cherry Blossom Festival is always pretty packed with people, apparently attracting about 1.5 million people every year, but I’ve never seen it as crowded as it was this year! The peak bloom coincided with spring break for lots of kids, a hockey game in DC and a lockdown around the Capitol building for a couple hours as we found out later on… suffice it to say, it was REALLY crowded downtown!

2015 National Cherry Blossom Festival

2015 National Cherry Blossom Festival
We walked around the Tidal Basin area, which I think has the prettiest views of the cherry blossoms. It’s a beautiful walk any time of the year, but seeing the Jefferson Memorial surrounded by the pink trees, the National Monument towering in the background, and the hundreds of fluffy cherry blossom branches leaning over the water is quite breathtaking!

 2015 National Cherry Blossom Festival 2015 National Cherry Blossom Festival

2015 National Cherry Blossom Festival
How beautiful are all these cherry blossoms?! In one section of the path around the river, the trees get very low, making you almost have to crouch down as you walk through what looks like a cherry blossom tunnel from a fairytale! Yes, the whole place is crowded with tons of people, everyone trying to get the perfect shot of the blossoms and the beautiful DC architecture, but even that can’t take away from the beauty of this!

2015 Cherry Blossom Festival Washington DC

Cherry Blossom Festival
It was the perfect spring day.

2015 National Cherry Blossom Festival
If you’ve never been in DC during this time of the year, it’s definitely worth a visit! You can read more about the National Cherry Blossom Festival here. Thanks so much for stopping by today, I hope you all have a great week!

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