Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Going bananas......

Today is one of my co-worker's birthday, like with every birthday here in the office I make a cake. I always seem to bake the same things, so this time I went out of the box a bit. I found this recipe online that I wanted to try and have been waiting for an occasion to bake. Well today is the day.

The little slice of heaven:
Banana Cake with Brown Butter Frosting
modified recipe from Everyday Cook

For the cake:
- 1 1/3 cups mashed very ripe bananas (I used frozen ones that I had in the freezer)
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (I used bottled lemon juice)
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup butter, softened (I used margarine)
- 2 large eggs

For the frosting:
- 6 tablespoons butter (no substitutions)
- 3 cups confectioners' sugar
- 5 tablespoons milk (I used water)
- 2 teaspoons vanilla

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 13x9 baking pan; set aside. (I decided to make a two-layer cake, so I used two 8-inch rounds. I greased and floured them well.)
2. In a small bowl, combine bananas, lemon juice, and vanilla.
3. In another small bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.
4. In a large bowl, add brown sugar, sugar and butter; beat on medium speed until light and creamy. Add 1 egg at a time; beat well after each one.
5. On low speed, alternately add the flour mixture and the banana mixture; start with flour and end with flour. Beat batter just until smooth.
6. Spoon batter into prepared pan and bake for 25 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

Cool cake on wire rack.

For the frosting:
1. In a small sauce pan, heat butter over medium heat until melted and dark nutty brown color, but not burned, about 6 to 8 minutes; stir occasionally. Immediately transfer butter into pie plate; refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes. (Make sure to keep a close eye on it. It's important not to burn it. The butter is browned when the little "grains of sand" you'll see in the bottom turn a uniform color, a nutty brown.) I actually left it in the refrigerator overnight...if you do that take it out to let it soften a bit.

2. In a large bowl, add chilled butter, sugar, milk and vanilla on medium speed until creamy and smooth. (I recommend adding your milk one tablespoon at a time until you reach the consistency you want)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Chicken Parmigana

I got this recipe from a friend of a friend a LONG time still never disappoints. It is a much healthier version that what you are served at the local Italian restaurant, but still just as good.

4 chicken breast
1 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup olive oil
2 eggs
16oz jar of spaghetti sauce
1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese-I substituted sliced provolone
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. In a skillet heat the olive oil. While skillet is heating, beat eggs in a bowl. Dip chicken breast in egg mixture, cover in bread crumbs and place in the hot skillet. Cook breast until both sides are brown. Spread a thin layer of spaghetti sauce at the bottom of a 13x9 pan. Place chicken breast on top of spaghetti sauce, then top with cheese. Bake in oven for about 15 minutes or until cheese has melted/browned.

I served it with whole wheat spaghetti noodles.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Chocolate Kahalua Cake

One of Jeff's co-worker asked me to make a cake for her b-day today, I was honored. I have sent my famous carrot cake on numerous occasions so I thought it was time for change. The probably, I have SOOOO many recipes that is was hard to choose just one. Well the winner was the Chocolate Kahlua Cake...if you know me chocolate wins me over every time. Who doesn't like chocolate??? Plus there are health benefits from eating it, right?

1 box chocolate cake mix
16 oz. sour cream
3/4 cup Kahlua
1/4 cup veg. oil
1 tsp. vanilla
1 bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 box chocolate instant pudding mix
1 egg


Put chocolate cake mix, sour cream, veg. oil and Kahlua in a bowl...let sit for 1 hour. You don't need to stir...just let it sit. After 1 hour has passed add the remaining ingredients and mix with wooden spoon.

Grease and flour bundt pan, pre-heat oven to 350. Bake for 50-55 minutes. Viola!!

100 Things You Should do in Your Lifetime

I found this and thought it was fun. Now I consider myself a pretty cultured, well traveled person and I still didn't get very many on the list. I really have some work ahead of me...although I will not be partaking in sky-diving or holding a praying mantis and I will try my hardest NOT to get food poisoning...doesn't sound like fun. So how many of these have you accomplished???

1. Started my own blog

2. Slept under the a tent does that count???

3. Played in a band

4. Visited Hawaii

5. Watched a meteor shower

6. Given more than I can afford to charity

7. Been to Disneyland/World

8. Climbed a mountain...I climbed a glacier does that count???

9. Held a praying mantis- no thank you.

10. Sung a solo...I do this in my car all the time sometimes with passengers.

11. Bungee jumped...I did one of those group bungees where they bring you up 250 feet from a crane and let you go...that should count!!!

12. Visited Paris

13. Watched lightning at sea

14. Taught myself an art from scratch

15. Adopted a child

16. Had food poisoning

17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty

18. Grown my own vegetables

19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France

20. Slept on an overnight train

21. Had a pillow fight

22. Hitchhiked

23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill

24. Built a snow fort

25. Held a lamb

26. Gone skinny dipping

27. Run a Marathon

28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice

29. Seen a total eclipse

30. Watched a sunrise or sunset

31. Hit a home run

32. Been on a cruise

33. Seen Niagara Falls in person

34. Visited the birthplace of my ancestors

35. Seen an Amish community

36. Taught myself a new language...learned Spanish with the assistance of my high school Spanish teacher...I think that counts???

37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied...will this EVERY happen!

38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person

39. Gone rock climbing

40. Seen Michelangelo’s David

41. Sung karaoke

42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt

43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant

44. Visited Africa

45. Walked on a beach by moonlight

46. Been transported in an ambulance

47. Had my portrait painted

48. Gone deep sea fishing

49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person

50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower

51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling

52. Kissed in the rain

53. Played in the mud

54. Gone to a drive-in

55. Been in a movie

56. Visited the Great Wall of China

57. Started a business

58. Taken a martial arts class

59. Visited Russia

60. Served at a soup kitchen

61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies

62. Gone whale watching

63. Got flowers for no reason

64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma

65. Gone sky diving

66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp

67. Bounced a check

68. Flown in a helicopter

69. Saved a favorite childhood toy

70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial

71. Eaten caviar

72. Pieced a quilt

73. Stood in Times Square

74. Toured the Everglades

75. Been fired from a job

76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London

77. Broken a bone...teared my ACL...close enough.

78. Been on a speeding motorcycle

79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person

80. Published a book

81. Visited the Vatican

82. Bought a brand new car

83. Walked in Jerusalem

84. Had my picture in the newspaper

85. Read the entire Bible

86. Visited the White House

87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating

88. Had chickenpox

89. Saved someone’s life

90. Sat on a jury

91. Met someone famous...Reverend Jessie Jackson was on my plane once...does that count? I sat right behind him.

92. Joined a book club

93. Lost a loved one

94. Had a baby

95. Seen the Alamo in person

96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake

97. Been involved in a law suit

98. Owned a cell phone

99. Been stung by a bee

100. Ridden an elephant

Friday, February 13, 2009


I made some delish cupcakes for my co-workers for Valentine's Day. I love to bake, so needless to say they are spoiled, I bring in goodies often. Last Spring I took a Wilton cake decorating class that was sooo much fun, well I haven't practiced since then so don't mind my hearts...they are a bit distorted.

Cupcake: I cheated and used a boxed Devil's Food cake mix. All you need is water, veg. oil and eggs for most box mixes.

The Frosting: Wilton's buttercream frosting (makes 3 cups)

4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1 cup Crisco (not butter flavored)-if it is trans fat-free you need to add another tsp water for each cup of frosting.
1 tsp. vanilla
3 Tbsp. water or milk (I like using water because then the frosting doesn't need to be refrigerated)
1 tsp. Wilton meringue powder (I skipped this part)

(Medium Consistency) In large bowl, cream shortening and butter with electric mixer. Add vanilla. Gradually add sugar, one cup at a time, beating well on medium speed. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl often. When all sugar has been mixed in, icing will appear dry. Add milk and beat at medium speed until light and fluffy. Keep bowl covered with a damp cloth until ready to use. For best results, keep icing bowl in refrigerator when not in use. Refrigerated in an airtight container, this icing can be stored 2 weeks. Re-whip before using.

I used tip 3 to frost and tip 12 to make the hearts.

Up close:

Thursday, February 12, 2009

A penny pinching Valentine's Day...

This year Jeff and I are trying to be budget friendly and have Valentine's dinner at home. Jeff even offered to cook, bonus! With the economy the way it is I am sure we are not the only ones watching every penny. Here are a few budget friendly ways to celebrate this Valentine's Day:

1. Instead of buying a card...get out the construction paper and markers and make your own card. This homemade card is bound to melt the heart of your sweetie...bets anything Hallmark could have said.

2. Instead of getting your sweetie expensive jewelry or an expensive golf club, make a coupon book that contains fun coupons such as, free massage, free night off from cooking, free breakfast in bed, etc. Who doesn't love having things done for them!!!

Pic from
Ci Ci Studio

3. Instead of a box of pricey Godiva chocolates get in the kitchen and make something yourself. It can be as simple as chocolate covered strawberries...hard to mess up and everyone LOVES them.

4. Instead of an expensive dinner make dinner at home together (with a glass of wine in hand of course). Or have a picnic at your local park. Maybe even order in. You could also go out to dessert and have dinner at home...this would be a huge cost savings.

5. Instead of fresh cut flowers, a plant is a more cost effective it will last a lot longer than those $100 roses.

Have a Happy Valentine's Day!!!!

Valentine's Day...a bit early

Today I received a call from the front desk that I had something that was delivered. My response..."what me???". I don't usually get things at work. Jeff tried one time, but the flowers never arrived so I thought he had given up. I get down there and I see an arrangement...wasn't sure what it was at first, but as I got closer I edible arrangements with a balloon attached. My lovely husband, Jeff, sent it for Valentine's sweet is that. He is out of town until Friday evening...hopefully there will be at least one left...maybe, but I can't promise anything.

There are a dozen milk chocolate covered strawberries, yum. I hope your Valentine is as sweet to you as mine was to me.

Don't forget...Valetine's Day on Saturday

For those of you who think it is a Hallmark holiday...I am here to disprove that. It is actually named after a patroned saint...St. Valentine.

The history of Valentine's Day — and its patron saint — is shrouded in mystery. But we do know that February has long been a month of romance. St. Valentine's Day, as we know it today, contains vestiges of both Christian and ancient Roman tradition. So, who was Saint Valentine and how did he become associated with this ancient rite? Today, the Catholic Church recognizes at least three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus, all of whom were martyred.
One legend contends that Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome. When Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, he outlawed marriage for young men — his crop of potential soldiers. Valentine, realizing the injustice of the decree, defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. When Valentine's actions were discovered, Claudius ordered that he be put to death.

Other stories suggest that Valentine may have been killed for attempting to help Christians escape harsh Roman prisons where they were often beaten and tortured.

According to one legend, Valentine actually sent the first 'valentine' greeting himself. While in prison, it is believed that Valentine fell in love with a young girl — who may have been his jailor's daughter — who visited him during his confinement. Before his death, it is alleged that he wrote her a letter, which he signed 'From your Valentine,' an expression that is still in use today. Although the truth behind the Valentine legends is murky, the stories certainly emphasize his appeal as a sympathetic, heroic, and, most importantly, romantic figure. It's no surprise that by the Middle Ages, Valentine was one of the most popular saints in England and France.
While some believe that Valentine's Day is celebrated in the middle of February to commemorate the anniversary of Valentine's death or burial — which probably occurred around 270 A.D — others claim that the Christian church may have decided to celebrate Valentine's feast day in the middle of February in an effort to 'christianize' celebrations of the pagan Lupercalia festival. In ancient Rome, February was the official beginning of spring and was considered a time for purification. Houses were ritually cleansed by sweeping them out and then sprinkling salt and a type of wheat called spelt throughout their interiors. Lupercalia, which began at the ides of February, February 15, was a fertility festival dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture, as well as to the Roman founders Romulus and Remus.

To begin the festival, members of the Luperci, an order of Roman priests, would gather at the sacred cave where the infants Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome, were believed to have been cared for by a she-wolf or lupa. The priests would then sacrifice a goat, for fertility, and a dog, for purification.

The boys then sliced the goat's hide into strips, dipped them in the sacrificial blood and took to the streets, gently slapping both women and fields of crops with the goathide strips. Far from being fearful, Roman women welcomed being touched with the hides because it was believed the strips would make them more fertile in the coming year. Later in the day, according to legend, all the young women in the city would place their names in a big urn. The city's bachelors would then each choose a name out of the urn and become paired for the year with his chosen woman. These matches often ended in marriage. Pope Gelasius declared February 14 St. Valentine's Day around 498 A.D. The Roman 'lottery' system for romantic pairing was deemed un-Christian and outlawed. Later, during the Middle Ages, it was commonly believed in France and England that February 14 was the beginning of birds' mating season, which added to the idea that the middle of February — Valentine's Day — should be a day for romance. The oldest known valentine still in existence today was a poem written by Charles, Duke of Orleans to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London following his capture at the Battle of Agincourt. The greeting, which was written in 1415, is part of the manuscript collection of the British Library in London, England. Several years later, it is believed that King Henry V hired a writer named John Lydgate to compose a valentine note to Catherine of Valois.

In Great Britain, Valentine's Day began to be popularly celebrated around the seventeenth century. By the middle of the eighteenth century, it was common for friends and lovers in all social classes to exchange small tokens of affection or handwritten notes. By the end of the century, printed cards began to replace written letters due to improvements in printing technology. Ready-made cards were an easy way for people to express their emotions in a time when direct expression of one's feelings was discouraged. Cheaper postage rates also contributed to an increase in the popularity of sending Valentine's Day greetings. Americans probably began exchanging hand-made valentines in the early 1700s. In the 1840s, Esther A. Howland began to sell the first mass-produced valentines in America.

According to the Greeting Card Association, an estimated one billion valentine cards are sent each year, making Valentine's Day the second largest card-sending holiday of the year. (An estimated 2.6 billion cards are sent for Christmas.)

Approximately 85 percent of all valentines are purchased by women. In addition to the United States, Valentine's Day is celebrated in Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, France, and Australia.

Valentine greetings were popular as far back as the Middle Ages (written Valentine's didn't begin to appear until after 1400), and the oldest known Valentine card is on display at the British Museum. The first commercial Valentine's Day greeting cards produced in the U.S. were created in the 1840s by Esther A. Howland. Howland, known as the Mother of the Valentine, made elaborate creations with real lace, ribbons and colorful pictures known as "scrap".

The above was taken from

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

It is that time of year again

tax time...go ol' Uncle Sam is back to take his cut of your hard earned money. Unless you overpaid him during the year, then you will get some money back. Too bad he doesn't pay you the interest he earned on YOUR money during the year. If only....

This year taxes are due April 15, 2009

You should have all your tax information by now...the deadline to have it in the mail was January 31st.
Here are some helpful tips to make this grueling task a bit easier:
  1. Know the most recent tax law changes...there were 16 changes for individuals in 2008 (see,,id=178012,00.html). It is important to know could mean substantial savings.
  2. Hunt for last years return. If you e-file, last years information might be needed. For those e-filing make sure you use a reputable site, I recommend going to They have several sites they recommend, if your one of the lucky ones you can even file for FREE.
  3. Gather proof of ALL income and expenses. Throughout the year I put all tax related information in a little folder so I know exactly where it is when it is time to file.
  4. Determine which form is for you...1040EZ, 1040A, etc. Based on changes in your life during the year you might need to file a different form than years past. Each form will have instructions that can help you determine if that form is for you.
  5. Gather all the applicable schedules that need to be included with your return.
  6. Fill-out return and applicable schedules.
  7. Double check your return and doesn't hurt to take a second look.
  8. All parties should sign/date the return.
  9. Make copies of the return, schedules, statements and all receipts that you will be sending to the IRS. You want to have this in case you get audited (god forbid).
  10. Send forms, schedules, required support to the IRS and payment (if you owe) . The address is typical at the end of the instructions manual, it varies by state so pay attention.
To help you out here are some deductions that are commonly overlooked by taxpayers.
  1. State sales taxes
  2. Reinvested dividends
  3. Out of pocket charitable contributions
  4. Student loan interest paid by mom and dad
  5. Moving expenses to take first job
  6. Military reservists travel expenses
  7. Child-care credit
  8. Estate tax on income in respect of a decedent
  9. State tax you paid last Spring
  10. Refinancing points
  11. Jury pay paid to employer
Note: Commonly overlooked deductions are from

Friday, wear RED!!!

Friday, is National Wear RED Day.

Wear RED to show support for the American Heart Association and their efforts to education woman about heart disease. Did you know, heart disease is the #1 killer of woman in the US? You might have been affect by this epidemic directly or someone you know has...please join the nation in raising awareness of this horrible disease and wear RED on Friday, February 6th.

For more information about woman and heart disease visit

Note: Information taken from American Heart Associations website. I come!!

PSA: Run to Target...their home design event is 50% off now.

Have I told you recently home much I LOVE Target...well I do. It is almost unhealthy really.