Banana Muffins with Caramel Icing


Maddie turned six this week, and instead of a party she wanted a day at Busch Gardens.  So she just had a special dinner of Chinese food and ice cream cake, two big purple and pink bouquets of flowers from the garden, and a beautifully decorated dining room designed by her cousin.


She didn’t ask for anything except a fidget spinner, which her dad refuses to buy because they are ridiculous.  But she was happy with her surprises: books, a Moana lego set, and two new puzzles.


(The fireplace hearth turned out to be the perfect spot; they fit fully assembled and can stay out a few days to be admired.)


A good big sister, and mom to her own baby in the corner.


(Don’t a few dahlias make every garden bouquet that much more special?)

She does not love sweets, and will eat very few treats that I bake.  She is the only person on earth who does not like chocolate chip cookies.  But this is one sweet she is always excited for, so I made it for her breakfast.  They are sweet, delicious, and quick.  They are good without the icing, but it is so simple that it is worth the effort, even in the morning.


Banana Muffins with Caramel Icing:

For the muffins:

1/4 cup shortening

1 cup white sugar

1 t. vanilla

1 t. baking soda

1 egg

3 large, very ripe bananas, mashed

1 1/2 cups of  flour

1/4 t. salt

For the icing:

2 T. butter

1 T. milk

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup powdered sugar

  1.  Cream shortening and sugar in electric mixer until fluffy.  Beat in egg, bananas, and vanilla.  Combine flour, baking soda, and salt, adding to creamed mixture until just moistened.
  2. Fill paper lined muffin cups 3/4 full (should fill 12).  Bake at 350 for 22 minutes.  Cool for 5 minutes in the pan, then remove to cool on wire rack.
  3. To make icing, melt butter in a small saucepan.  Add brown sugar and milk, bring to a boil.  Cool slightly.   Whisk in confectioners sugar.  Drizzle over muffins.

Heath Bar Chocolate Chip Blondies


Almost two months of summer left, and it already feels like it is ending.  Today is one of those low humidity, not too hot, rare for Virginia perfect summer days.  More like how our fall weather is, but without school and early sunsets.  Most of our 53 windows are open and a breeze is blowing through every room.


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The garden is moving into late summer, as the more fall colored sunflowers start to bloom, like Autumn Beauty, Chianti, and the second planting of Jua Maya

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The first batch of Silver Queen corn is getting cut down this afternoon, with fall sugar snap peas, scallions, spinach, and cilantro going in its place. We had a cool and rainy day yesterday, which seemed to remind everyone summer won’t be here forever.







We baked this yummy treat together last week.  It will be a good one for lunch boxes and cooler days:

Toffee Chip Blondies

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-1 cup butter, melted

-1 3/4 cups light brown sugar

-2 eggs

-2 t. vanilla

-2 cups flour

–1/2 t. salt

-1 package of chocolate chips (12 oz)

-1 cup Heath bits

  1. Preheat oven to 350.  Line 9 x 13 casserole pan with foil, heavy duty if you have it, with enough overhang to make little foil handles.  Butter the foil.
  2. Using electric mixer, combine melted butter and sugar.  Add eggs and vanilla, beat until well combined.  Add flour and salt, beat for just a few seconds until flour is incorporated.  Gently stir in chocolate chips and Heath bits.
  3. Pour batter into pan, bake for 25 minutes.  The bars will cool to doneness and will look underbaked at first.  Allow to cool in the pan, removing with foil handles when completely cooled and ready to cut.

Marble Cake







Our awful heat wave finally broke and we have been able to go outside again.  Windows open in the morning, time reading on the porch, garden work without feeling like you might actually die.  It is so nice.

This recipe is from Taste of Home, called Marvelous Marble Cake.  It was a lot of work (done 99% by my niece, INCLUDING THE DISHES!) and is VERY sweet.  I wouldn’t make it again but it will certainly get eaten.


Easy Shrimp Scampi

The only seafood anyone else in the family will eat is shrimp, and maybe a crab cake or crab dip once a year.  This is one of our favorite ways to eat it, and we always serve it with bread, salad, and fresh fruit for a fresh and easy meal.

Make sure the pasta starts cooking before you start the shrimp as it comes together very quickly.  Have your sides ready too.  The wine can be left out if you won’t drink the rest of the bottle.  It’s not worth opening one for the small amount that goes in the sauce.


Shrimp Scampi Over Linguine

3 T. butter

3 T. olive oil

5 cloves of garlic

1/2 t. lemon zest

Juice of 1 lemon

Splash of dry white wine

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

2 t. salt

half a pint of cherry tomatoes (I used sungold)

ground pepper to taste

fresh or dried parsley, a few tablespoons fresh or teaspoon dried

pound of shrimp, peeled (previously frozen is fine)

box of linguine or other pasta

  1. Start cooking the pasta to al dente
  2. Melt the butter and olive oil together over low and sauce the garlic until no longer raw, about a minute or two
  3. Add the shrimp, whole cherry tomatoes, and salt, stirring until shrimp are almost cooked, about 3 minutes.
  4. Add the black pepper, red pepper, lemon juice and zest, and white wine, and cook for three minutes more. Add fresh or dried parsley, just for color.
  5. Remove from heat and toss with pasta




Simple Sunday Roast Chicken

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It has been a quiet summer so far, relaxing at home, swimming in our water trough “pool”, taking out of focus pictures, etc.  My niece is visiting for six weeks and has been a great help around the house keeping the older girls entertained.

I have been trying to be careful to serve simple food since I know she is a little picky.  I already have three other picky eaters so adding another is a challenge.  I serve everything family style on big platters so she can take or leave whatever she would like.  This was a meal that pleased everyone and was easy for Sunday.   No last minute rushing, no sweating over the cooktop.



First the chicken is rinsed, brought to room temp, and patted dry.  Then it is rubbed with kosher salt.  I make a mix of softened butter, onion powder, parsley, pepper, and thyme, and rub that on the skin.  It is baked at 350 on the convection roast setting for an hour and a half.  Easy as can be, no real recipe needed.  Whatever herbs and spices you have and your family likes will be fine.  If you don’t have a roasting pan, use a 9X13 casserole dish.  If you don’t have a convection oven, just keep checking the internal temp until it is 160 and the skin is browned.

I served it with a BLT salad (just a chopped salad with romaine, diced tomato, crumbled bacon, and ranch),  corn on the cob from the garden, and French rolls since Matt will only eat roast chicken as a chicken sandwich.



The roll recipe comes from Bread Machine Magic.  The recipe is called “Authentic French Bread”, divided into rolls and baked for only 12 minutes.

It was a nice meal that could be prepared earlier in the day.  All that had to be done at the last minute was the corn, which is just steamed for four minutes in hot water, and to toss the salad with ranch.  Roast chicken is one of those things that looks impressive, but is a million times less work than a casserole or pasta dish.  Perfect for a Sunday.

Almost Summer, and Bread Machine Coffee Cake




This recipe has a lot of steps, but not too much hands on time.  There are separate sets of ingredients for the dough, the cinnamon topping, and the glaze.

Moravian Sugar Cake Recipe, From Bread Machine Magic

The dough:

Instant Potato Flakes 1/3 cup

Water 5/8 cup

Butter 1/3 cup

Sugar 1/3 cup

Salt 1/2 teaspoon

Vanilla 1/2 teaspoon

AP flour, 2 cups

Yeast 2 teaspoons

Add all ingredients to bread machine on dough cycle.  When cycle is complete, stretch and press the dough into a greased 9×13 pan.

Allow the dough to proof in a warm oven until doubled (about 45 minutes).

Meanwhile, make the topping.


2/3 cup brown sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

Once the dough has proofed, gently punch indentations in it with your finger, and sprinkle the cinnamon sugar topping on.

Then, drizzle on 1/3 cup melted butter

Bake at 350 for 25 minutes.

Remove and allow to cool in pan.

For the icing:

Combine 1/2 cup powdered sugar and 3 teaspoons milk.

Drizzle over cooled cake.  Serve out of the pan.











These are what the name implies.  They come together very quickly, use ingredients I’m sure you have on hand, and are a nice crowd pleaser.  I only do cut out decorated sugar cookies four times a year at most.  They are just too much work and too much cleaning up to do regularly.

These cookies, however, are perfect for a treat for the family.  Cutouts cannot be served only to family, as it is a complete waste of effort.  You won’t feel martyred if you serve these up to your kids and husband and no one admires your hard work. Roll them in a seasonally colored sugar if you want to go crazy.

They use half butter and half shortening.  You could use just butter if you want, but the Crisco keeps them softer and milder tasting.  I have done them with just shortening, but the recipe is best as is.

Soft and Simple Sugar Cookies

-1/2 cup butter, softened

-1/2 cup shortening such as Crisco

-1 cup granulated sugar

-1 egg

-1 teaspoon vanilla

-2 1/4 cups AP flour

-1/2 teaspoon baking powder

-1/2 teaspoon baking soda

coarse/ colored sugar for rolling

  1. Preheat oven to 350.  Cream fats and sugar in stand mixer for about 3 minutes, until creamy and fluffy.  Add egg and vanilla.
  2. Combine dry ingredients.  On low speed, add slowly to butter mixture until combined.
  3. Roll in to tablespoon sized balls, roll in sparkling sugar, and place on parchment lined baking sheets.  Gently flatten with a glass.  They will spread a little.
  4. Bake 13 minutes, or until set.  Makes about 30-36 cookies.




Soft and Simple Sugar Cookies

We have at least five weeks to go before baby’s arrival, but it feels good to start getting ready.  The nursery is painted a slightly more… vibrant… yellow than I expected.  It is still soft, though, and I will tone down the overall room by adding blues, greens, and whites.  The color is “Lilting Lily” by Sherwin William’s HGTV Home Collection at Lowe’s.  I had wanted a very, very pale yellow, but it is growing on me.


Some sweet Bambi swaddling blankets my mom bought me.  They are supposedly for baby girls, but look unisex enough to me.  I guess there is quite a bit of pink, and flowers.  We are both expecting that this baby will be a girl, and I’m sure even a baby boy won’t mind.


To keep busy, we have been baking, as usual.  A very yummy banana cake, Barefoot Contessa’s recipe called Old Fashioned Banana Cake.  It was sweet enough without the icing, but the icing was good too.  We ate it for breakfast and then discovered in the book it is listed as a dessert.  DSC01015.jpg

Our seedlings are coming up quite nicely.  We had to invest in a new grow light, the Ferry Morse brand carried at Lowe’s.  The plants are doing much better.  I think they also like their new spot on top of the dryer.  Tomatoes will be ready for a slightly bigger home on Friday, and then some cosmos, dill, and cilantro will take their spots.  A little late on the herbs, oh well.  I am starting to wonder how I plan on getting everything into the ground in a few weeks seeing as how I am so big I can barely pick up a pen that has fallen on the floor.




Thinking of starting bees, but reading this book makes it seem very unappealing.  All about pests, diseases, extracting honey with weird tools.  Seems like a lot of work for something I don’t really consume a lot of.  We love white sugar around here.

I wanted to end with a recipe for my favorite pregnancy lunch.  I eat it all the time now.  I guess it is somewhat healthy?  It is certainly easy, and cheap, and delicious.  This makes enough filling for probably three good sized lunches, so keep the seasoned rice and beans for leftovers.  This is not something anyone else in my family will eat (whatever), so I get a few meals out of it.

Tex-Mex Grilled Burritos




-2 cups cooked white rice

-2 tablespoons cilantro

-juice of a lime

-teaspoon each of garlic salt, cumin, and chili powder

-can of black beans, rinsed and drained

-shredded Mexican cheese

-sour cream

-burrito sized tortilla

  1. Mix all but last three ingredients in a large bowl.  If the rice is cold, reheat everything in the microwave for a minute of so.
  2. Cover your tortilla with cheese, then add a few dollops of sour cream.  Put the rice mixture in the center, and fold up into a burrito.  Spray the seam with a little cooking spray to help seal it.
  3. Grill on the stovetop until crispy.  Start seam side down to avoid a mess.

Waiting and Eating

We are having a second week of unseasonably warm weather.  Things are blooming early and the windows are all open.  The front field is starting to green up, quite unevenly.


My sad little daffodil patch is budding, even though I see fully opened daffodils in everyone else’s yard.  I will have to choose an early variety to plant this fall along the fence line, facing the road.  These are pink, peach, and frilly, but not early.  Next weekend I will plant sweet peas to climb the fence behind them.


My constant companion has found new buttercups and dandelion flowers to pick.


And swings to swing on. DSC00901.jpg

And here is something we baked yesterday.  These lemon bars are pleasantly tart on top, with a yummy shortbread crust.  They pack well in lunch boxes and stack just fine in the cookie jar as well.  This is a Southern Living recipe that I adapted to make more lemony.  This picture is awful, they are actually quite pretty in person.



Classic Lemon Bars:

For shortbread crust:

-2 cups flour

-1 cup cold cubed butter

-1/2 cup powdered sugar

For lemon filling:

-4 eggs

-1 3/4 cups granulated sugar

-2 1/2 t. lemon zest (4 large lemons should give you the zest and juice you need)

-1/2 cup lemon juice

-1/4 cup flour

-1/2 teaspoon baking powder

  1. Preheat oven to 3650.  Line a 13×9 pan with aluminum foil, with enough of an overhang to have handles to lift out.
  2. Combine crust ingredients in food processor, pulsing 7-8 times until butter is size of small pea.
  3. Press into lined pan and bake for 25 minutes.
  4. Combine filling ingredients with whisk until well blended, pour on top of crust
  5. Return to oven for 30 minutes.
  6. Let cool in pan about ten minutes, then lift out using foil handles and place whole thing, foil and all, on cooling rack until completely cool and set.
  7. Dust generously with powdered sugar and cut into squares.

Spring Comes Early/ Lemon Bars

The gloom has finally broken around here.  We had two days in the 70s, and even though it is cold today, there is plenty of sun, and more warm weather ahead.  My daffodils are popping up, and there is time for Maddie to play outside after school before it gets dark.  A lot more eggs, too, at least six a day, which is enough to share with friends.


Plenty of sunshine in the house. (And some dishes to do.)



And my peach and cheery branches are blooming!



They are all a few weeks apart.  When one starts blooming, the next gets moved to the fireplace mantel where it is warmer.

A cold day like today, baking is nice, but not something too heavy that feels like winter.  Blueberry muffins are just the thing.  I adapted this recipe a bit from a very popular one at allrecipes.  We love these!  They are simple and delicious, and a great thing to bring to a friends house.  The basic batter also works well with mini chocolate chips and a plain sparkling sugar top.


Streusel Topped Blueberry Muffins:

1 1/2 cups flour

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 t. salt

2 t/ baking powder

1/3 cup melted butter

1 egg

1 t. vanilla

1/3 cup milk

1 cup fresh blueberries

(For the topping:

1/2 cup sugar

1/3 cup flour

1/4 cup cold cubed butter

1 1/2 t. cinnamon

  1.  Preheat oven to 400, and line muffin tins with paper cups.  (This usually makes around 18 muffins)
  2. Combine dry ingredients in large bowl.  Mix the next four ingredients in medium bowl.  combine the two, stirring by hand with a rubber spatula for forty strokes.  (Yes.)
  3. Add the blueberries last, stirring very gently until just combined.
  4. Fill muffin cups 2/3 full.
  5. Combine streusel ingredients using a fork or pasty blender, then sprinkle on top, using all of it.
  6. Bake 20 mins.  Cool on wire rack.





Longer Days, and Blueberry Muffins