Best Ever Banana Bread

I know, I know... Everyone says that theirs is the best. But this recipe really delivers. It truly is the Best Ever Banana Bread. It says so right in the title of the recipe ;-)
I've made it straight from the recipe and I've made substitutions like non-fat plain yogurt for the buttermilk or 1/2 cup brown sugar for part of the total sugar. It always turns out great! Last time I made it, I went by the recipe, doubling it because I had a lot of over ripe bananas. It made 1 large loaf pan and 24 muffins.

Here is the recipe adapted from Allrecipes.com:

Best Ever Banana Bread
(makes 1 loaf)

2 eggs, beaten
1/3 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup oil
1 cup mashed bananas
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup chocolate chips (optional)
1/2 cup peanut butter chips (optional)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Spray one 9x5 inch loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray. In mixing bowl, mix together eggs, buttermilk, oil and bananas. Sift together the sugar, flour, baking soda and salt. Add to the banana mixture and combine thoroughly. Add in chocolate and peanut butter chips. Pour mixture into prepared pan and bake for 1 hour and 15 - 20 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. For muffins, bake for 15-20 minutes.
This has become my go-to recipe for Banana Bread. If you don't already have your own "Best Ever Banana Bread" in your recipe box, I hope you'll try this one. You won't be disappointed. So, what are your favorite add-ins for banana bread? Are you a purist (only banana) or a traditionalist (adding in nuts)? Or, do you have some other wonderful ingredient that just sends it over the top? I'd love to hear.
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Book Page Decoupage Eggs

Hi there, friends! Happy Wednesday to you! Can you believe we are at the end of February already? On Monday, I shared my Springtime Side Table Vignette with you and promised a tutorial for the eggs would be coming. So, today, I bring you the Book Page Decoupage Egg tutorial.
I forgot to do a picture with the supplies you need, but they are really simple. Are you ready? You need old plastic easter eggs (whatever size you want to use), Mod Podge, foam brush and book pages ripped into smallish pieces.
Start by running a line of Mod Podge around the opening of the egg to seal it and stabilize it.
Rip up some pages of a book that you no longer need, preferably into small pieces. I tried to use strips, but had much better results with the smaller pieces. I used the same book from my Book Page Butterfly Garland.
Spread some Mod Podge on part of the egg and press a piece of paper to it.
You'll need to use quite a bit of Mod Podge to get the paper softened up to lay right on the curve of the egg. Spread the Mod Podge on top of the piece of paper too.
Repeat the process until you have covered the egg completely. All the while, you will need to do some "smooshing" with your fingers. That's the technical term for smoothing out the paper and keeping it from being too lumpy. I may have failed to mention that this is a bit of a messy craft. ;-)
When you have covered the whole egg, go over it once more with another coat of Mod Podge and set it aside on wax paper to dry completely.

That's it. You are now ready to add the adorable eggs to baskets in vignettes, to hang with a ribbon from an Easter tree, or even use them in a spring wreath.  I had so much fun doing this project. I may be looking for more uses for this book I've started tearing into ;-) I would love to see how you incorporate the decoupaged eggs into your spring decor if you do make them. Come back on Friday to see how I fashioned the twine and yarn wrapped eggs!

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For the Love of Asparagus

While walking through the grocery store late last week, I noticed they had put out a fresh shipment of asparagus. I was drawn to those glorious green spears. While I have a deep Love of Asparagus, I knew I didn't have the time to make them that night and I wasn't exactly sure when I would get to them. But, they had to come home with me. Fortunately, I had read about a way to keep the asparagus fresh longer.
When you bring the asparagus home from the market, immediately trim the ends off the spears.
Place the bunch of asparagus upright in a glass with at least 1 inch of water in it.
Place a plastic bag loosely over the asparagus and refrigerate. Changing the water daily until you cook the asparagus, you can keep it in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.

When I knew I had a little time before I would be cooking it, I sent out a plea to my Facebook fans to see what their favorite ways to prepare asparagus are. They did not disappoint. Some proposed broiling, some grilling and some suggested baking at a high temperature drizzled with olive oil, salt and pepper and even soy sauce and balsamic vinegar. For their suggestions hop over to my Facebook page and check out the post from Friday.
So, I finally cooked the asparagus last night...are you curious how I did it? Well, first, I set the oven to 425 degrees.
After washing and trimming the ends again, I placed the spears in a pan and drizzled them with olive oil. I gave them a sprinkling of salt and pepper and then put them in the preheated oven for about 8 minutes.
I removed them and sprinkled with parmesan cheese. We were having homemade pizza for dinner, so I thought I might as well add a little more green.
After snacking on some of the spears (they were irresistible), I chopped up a few of them and sprinkled them on my veggie pizza. Oh, my yum!

You can bet the farm I'll be making more asparagus this spring, and I fully intend to try each of the suggested methods of preparation. They all sound wonderful! While we are on the subject, what's your favorite way to prepare asparagus?

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Springtime Side Table Vignette

Spring weather has made its appearance here in North Texas. Between the sunshine (and thunderstorms) and Easter coming in just over a month, I thought it was time to put together a little Springtime Side Table Vignette.
Right before Christmas, we did a little rearranging of furniture. I ended up with this little side table in the corner, mostly so I had a place to put my big iron lamp. For the change of seasons, I wanted to bring in some lighter elements to go with the lamp.
Years ago, my mother passed this basket on to me from her stash of decor. It generally makes an appearance during spring, as it reminds me of a bird's nest. This year, I filled it with burlap, raffia and some decorated eggs. I'll be sharing how I made them real soon.
Some clippings from a plant are getting their roots started in this little ironstone sugar bowl and add a live element to the vignette. I even brought out the Modern Botanical Bloom Print that I made a while back. All together, the items call to mind new beginnings and a fresh outlook. Wherever you are on this big spinning globe, may you be filled with the hope of spring and newness of life that comes this time of year.
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Food for the Soul ~ Hebrews 11:1

Have a blessed day, sweet friends! May your week be filled with all things wonderful and your faith strengthened day by day!

PW's Marlboro Man Sandwiches

Well, it's been a while since I've shared a favorite recipe from The Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond. Last year, I wrote about one of our favorites, the Comfort Meatballs. This dish continues to be the most requested by my son. However, PW's Marlboro Man Sandwiches have inched their way up in rank as well.
Here's what you need to make my adaptation: onion, butter, cube steak, seasoned salt, pepper, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco sauce, and deli rolls (not pictured)
Here's how you make them: Melt 1/4 stick butter in a skillet.
Slice a whole onion and add it to the skillet with melted butter.
Cook until soft, about five minutes. Remove the onions and set aside.
Take the cube steaks and cut into 1/2 inch strips against the grain of the meat.
Generously salt and pepper the meat.
Add 2 more tablespoons of butter to the pan, turning the heat to medium high and add enough meat to make a single layer. Let it cook for a minute or two, then flip the meat over and cook for another minute. Remove to a plate and continue cooking the rest of the meat.
Add the plated meat and onions back into the pan, pour in the Worcestershire sauce and a couple of dashes of Tabasco to taste.
The Pioneer Woman adds in a couple more tablespoons of butter and then simmers this over low heat for about 5 minutes. Spoon some of the mixture and juices onto a toasted, split deli roll. These are great served alongside a simple green salad.
PW's Marlboro Man Sandwiches

1 large onion
3/4 stick butter
4-6 cube steaks
Seasoned Salt
Black Pepper
1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
Tabasco sauce
deli rolls 4-6

Start by slicing the onion. Melt 1/4 stick of butter in large skillet and add in the onion. Cook for about 5 minutes, until soft and light brown. Remove from pan and set aside. While the onion is cooking, slice each cube steak against the grain into 1/2 inch strips. Generously sprinkle with seasoned salt and pepper. Add 2 Tablespoons of butter to skillet and turn up the heat. Add enough meat to make a single layer and cook for 1 to 2 minutes without stirring. Flip with a spatula and cook the other side for another minute. Remove to a plate and continue with the rest of the meat. Return all the meat and onions to the skillet. Pour in the Worcestershire sauce and a few dashes of Tabasco (according to your tastes). Also add in another 2 Tablespoons of butter. Simmer over low heat for a few minutes to warm through. Cut each roll in half (toast if you want) and spoon some of the meat mixture and juices over one half and top with the other.
Funny story about the first time I made these. My SIL, Donna, had seen them on PW's website and made them for her family. She raved about them so much I thought I should give them a try too. I had her cookbook and followed her instructions to the letter, except maybe a few less onions. Well, as I was cooking up the meat and adding in the spices, suddenly things took a very wrong turn. It didn't smell right, but I knew that they had to taste good, because Donna has never steered me wrong. I tasted the meat and noticed it had a certain "twang" to it, but served them up to my family anyway hoping for the best. They were already leery because of the offensive odor in the kitchen. Needless to say, this dish was not even edible. I have been teased mercilessly over this epic failure.

Turns out, the website version of the recipe and the cookbook are slightly different. The website recipe does not include lemon pepper. More specifically, it does not include rancid lemon pepper. I had made the dish with really old lemon pepper that must have reacted in a very negative way with the Worcestershire sauce. I had to work up the courage to try this recipe again, but I have never added in lemon pepper again. My family forgave me and they happily eat the Marlboro Man Sandwiches every time I make them now. However, before they take their first bite, they always ask, "Did you put rancid lemon pepper in them this time?" Which reminds me... it's probably time to go through the spice cabinet soon and do a little maintenance. Do you have any recipe horror stories? Please tell me I am not the only one? Please?

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Book Page Butterfly Garland

This has been a week of spring inspiration. I've seen so many beautiful projects out in blogland, I just can't help but get into too. After making the 3D Heart Banner last month, I knew I wanted to make another with a more spring feel to it. Enter the Book Page Butterfly Garland.
Here's what you'll need to make one for yourself: old book pages, jute, glue gun and a butterfly template.

First, find a book you don't mind ripping apart. I have to admit that I felt a bit naughty tearing up a book, even if it was one that I bought at a garage sale. I intended to read it, but couldn't seem to get into it. So, it has sat on a bookshelf for a couple of years just waiting. I'm so glad it is being used now, even if it's not for literary purposes.
Next, fold your book pages in half and trace the butterfly template on each page with your most stickered-up pencil ;-). I was able to get 2 butterflies per page.
Cut the design out and unfold to reveal your butterfly.
Make lots of paper butterflies.
Cut a length of jute 5-6 feet long and begin adhering the butterflies in random directions to the jute with drops of hot glue.
Fill in where necessary to achieve the look you want.
Finally, find the perfect place to display it! I tried hanging it in a few places, but I think I've settled on the mantel (see the first picture). I'm still working on my spring decorations and have even changed up the mantel, which totally goes against my "set it and forget it" decorating style. I'm excited to show you how it turns out, once I finish tweaking a bit more. So, is the forecast of an early spring getting you in the mood to freshen up your decor? Thanks so much for stopping by!  I hope you'll visit again to see how all the spring decorations come together.

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St. Patty's Pistachio Pudding Cookies

Looking for a fun "green" dessert to get you ready for St. Patrick's Day? These St. Patty's Pistachio Pudding Cookies are a great treat to surprise the little leprechauns in your life.
Here's what you need: pistachio pudding mix, baking mix (like Bisquick), egg, margarine or unsalted butter, sugar, mini chocolate chips, green food coloring and sprinkles (not pictured)
Start by mixing the softened pudding and butter together. Then add in the egg, baking mix, sugar and green food coloring, if you wish. Finally, stir in the chocolate chips.
Roll into small dough balls and dip into colored sugar, placing dough (with the sugared side up) on the cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or a baking mat.
Bake in preheated oven until edges start to turn a little golden, about 10-12 minutes.
St. Patty's Pistachio Pudding Cookies

1 small box Instant Pistachio Pudding (3.4 oz)
1 stick softened margarine or butter (preferably unsalted, as there is plenty of salt content in the pudding and baking mixes)
1 1/3 cup baking mix
2-3 Tbsp. sugar
1 egg
green food coloring
3/4 cup mini chocolate chips
green colored sugar or sprinkles

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease baking sheet or line with parchment paper or baking mat. Cream together the butter and pudding mix. Then add in the baking mix, sugar and egg and thoroughly combine, adding in green food coloring if desired. Fold in the mini chocolate chips. Roll dough into small balls and dip into the colored sugar. Place on the baking sheet with the sugared side up, slightly flattening the dough. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until the edges become slightly golden. Allow to cool completely on wire rack.
I used margarine for this batch because that's what I had on hand. I'll be making these again soon with butter to compare the two cookies. I did like the texture of these and the nutty flavor from the pistachio pudding was nice too. All my kids needed to know was that there were chocolate chips in the cookies and they were sold. Although, they told me I should have added more chips. Kids these days, I tell ya...

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