Friday, December 19, 2014

Prize-Winning Banana Bread

Gifts From the Kitchen: First Place Banana Bread

Need a gift for a neighbor... ??  
Something to take as a hostess gift?? 

...Or perhaps you are the proud 
owner of a bunch of very over-ripe bananas...
..Or maybe you just need an award winning, 
easy and delicious recipe for banana bread??

Whatever the reason, 
you have come to the right place!

This prize-winning banana bread is sure to do the trick.  
As a gift,

wrap it up sweetly and include the recipe...
because they will want to make it again and again. 

When gifting this bread,
 I like to pair it with a bag of my favorite coffee...

It's a sweet treat...that's for sure.
This banana bread recipe has won more 
than her fair share of first place ribbons...

....5 time first place winner!  

Our neighbor said, 
"I do believe that was the best banana bread I've ever eaten!"
 I think he may be right.
  The very most important thing 
about banana bread in general, 
is of course...

The star of the show...
the main event...

THE banana.

The bananas must be ripe, over-ripe is better,
... and almost black is usually the very best. 
 The ones I used in the photo were acceptable, 
but if you are looking for an over-the-top 
BANANA flavor, let them be very over-ripe.

Three tips to GREAT banana bread:
     1.  Do not over mix.  
    The wet batter will certainly be lumpy, mashed bananas are lumpy by their very nature. Once the flour is incorporated....stop mixing.  When you do mix, be gentle...the crumb of your bread will be tender instead of tough.
      2.  Use the best ingredients.  
      By this, I mean use very fresh eggs and produce whenever possible (still use over ripe bananas in this case), it will reap the best final product.  The same is true for flour and baking soda, make sure it's fresh. 
        3.  Make sure the oven is level and pre-heated to the correct temperature.


        I love that a banana bread is simple to make. 
        The reward far outweighs the effort that goes into making it.

        There is something so sweet about a well-made, 
        well presented homemade treat.  

        This is a family favorite and most definitely good enough to give as a gift....
        ...and also good enough to make on a Sunday morning and keep it all for yourself... 


        The winning banana bread recipe is just below, along with a printable version...

        For even more prize-winning recipes...

        Because these other recipes are too good not to share...

        Please visit:

        First Place Apple Pie

        a Best of Show and 4 time first-place winner!!



        Or try the carrot cake... a BIG, big winner and a favorite of mine.
        (2015 update) This cake won a blue ribbon at the 2015 Ohio State Fair.

        Prize-Winning Carrot Cake


        Here is the recipe for the first place banana bread as promised.

        For a printable copy of the recipe: click here


        Happy Baking!!

        ~Karri

        Monday, December 15, 2014

        Santa Claus-Mopolitan: A signature holiday drink


        Santa Claus is coming to town...
        He knows if you've been bad or good... 


        So be good for goodness sake... 


        ...and whip up a batch of these Santa Claus-Mopolitans...pronto...
        for all your holiday guests!! 


         --Quickest way off the naughty list that I know!

        Usually the arrival of Santa means the arrival of holiday parties...  hooray!!

        With the rush of holiday hostessing duties... 

        you can be sure thirsty party goers will be a 

        big part of the holiday equation!!
        One thing I have found to be a life saver...

        is planning ahead a signature drink for a large crowd... 
        Of course I offer a few other beverages,

        including non-alcoholic options... but for me... 

        having a pre-made, really delicious drink....

        ...with fun garnishes that 

        guests can serve up themselves...everybody wins!!

        ...it takes a lot of stress off this jolly 'ol elf...
        It's such fun to have a signature drink at parties...

        and holiday parties are no exception.  

        With a little prep work you can have enough holiday cheer for a crowd, 

        complete with rimmed glasses.

        Rimming the glasses can be done ahead,

         and actually are sturdier if made in advance.  

        Even rimming clear plastic bar ware would be a great option for easy clean up.
        When rimming the glasses 
        I used a squeeze of lime juice and a little light (clear) 
        corn syrup on the outside of the glass rim.  

        Tip:  
        If you get too much of the coconut garnish on the inside of the rim, 
        the coconut will float into the cocktail...
        not a disaster, but it's prettier left on the outside rim of the glass.
        I used flaked sweetened coconut and white sanding sugar.

        The coconut looks just like the white trim on Santa's red coat...

        It's an easy touch, that adds so much to the look of this drink... 

        then sit the glass upright to dry.

        Here is the recipe for the 
        Santa Claus-Mopolitan:

        1 serving:
        1/2 cup cranberry juice
        1/2 cup white peach cranberry juice
        1 ounce triple sec
        1/2 ounce vodka
        Shake with ice, pour into rimmed glass.
        Garnish with fresh cranberries

        For a crowd, easily serves 16 guests:
        1 -64 ounce bottle cranberry juice (Ocean Spray)
        1 -64 ounce bottle white cranberry-peach juice (Ocean Spray)
        16 ounces triple sec
        8 ounces vodka
        Chill well for at least 3 hours before guests arrive.



        Cheers!!!

        Still in the holiday mood for 
        more Santa-inspired fun??  
        Visit 'Photos with Santa Christmas Tree' post...

        Click here:
        Photos with Santa themed Christmas Tree



         One of my favorite holiday decorations!!


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        Wednesday, December 10, 2014

        EASY SNOWMAN CRAFT

        I have a special box in the basement...

        It's probably my favorite box of ornaments...and that's saying a lot...

        If you only knew how many ornament boxes there were... you would know that these hand made beauties must be something special...

        ....And they are.
        Even some of my very own grade school ornaments have made their way into the "homemade" box here at our house...

        I remember my first grade teacher carefully writing '79 onto the back of the construction paper ornament I had painstakingly cut out... and then...

        The magic...

        I was allowed to use the drippy white glue..."all by myself" to add a "few" accents on the front.... this must have been a monumental moment... to have this memory stay with me all these years.... (How was I to know in 1979, how far my crafting skills might take me...)
        Finally, I was allowed to sprinkle copious amount of kelly-green glitter all over the perfectly written '79...and with a quick shake... my ornament was a glistening work of art...

        I was thrilled...

        I remember being instructed not to touch the wet glue numbers... "Let it dry"

        ... but I touched it anyway... I couldn't resist touching the glittery green globs... you can still see the little indents on the 7 and the 9, where the glue had been especially puffy....  
        ....and I made quick work of the puffy spots with my first grade patience...
        ... I was beyond excited to present my very special gift on Christmas morning....

        ...Oh, the anticipation of having something so special to give to someone you love....

        We wrapped our handmade ornaments up in red, white and green tissue paper... I can still remember not being able to decide which piece of tissue paper to choose... Those were some big decisions... I had never been asked to choose wrapping before...

        Looking back, we spent what seemed liked days working on all those masterpieces during my grade school years... it was probably more like an hour or so... but it always felt very special.

        Currently, in my special collection of hand crafted originals, I have  an assortment of salt dough ornaments, yarn dolls, wreaths made of sugar gum tree pods... macaroni angels, beaded candy canes and the list goes on...


        ...and on....
        This might be the kind of ornament only a mother could love...

        Think of all those teachers who managed it all   ...and without the use of Pinterest...

        ...Bless their hearts...

        Not only for herding a classroom of children through the rigors of making treasured keepsakes, but for putting so much effort into helping me (and all of us) to make something so heart felt that Christmas morning....  could never get here soon enough...

         ...waiting...

        ....just to give my gift.


        Now that I'm all grown up, I love nothing more than receiving my children's hand-crafted holiday decorations....works of art.
        ....As a dutiful "room-parent" last holiday season, I fashioned a special party keepsake for the children to make:

        A Snowman

        I used the help of Pinterest--for the initial inspiration and then used the Ellison Letter Machine at our school for the rest.  Many, many schools have die-cut machines and hopefully yours does too... it helped in making this a very easy endeavor....

        ... Even if you don't have access to a die-cutting machine, tracing shapes wouldn't be too involved...after all...you are making a treasured keepsake...

        HOW I CREATED THE SNOWMAN:
        1. First I took close-up, side profile photos of the children in the classroom and had them printed.  It cost maybe 2.50 for the 25 photos.

        2.  I pre-cut the kid's faces... as a time saver...if you choose to have the children cut out their own  photos, I'd be sure to have doubles printed...just in case of unwieldy scissors...

        3.  Using card stock I cut out large circles in white, black squares and long rectangles, orange commas and using a "curly" font, I cut out the letter "S" in varying colors.

        4.  I made an example snowman as a pattern for the children to follow.

        5.  On party day, each child assembled their snowman with glue sticks.

        6.  Add a hole punch to the top for a string... and Taaa Daaa... You have just helped to make a childhood memory!
        Be sure everyone writes their name on their snowman and mark the date ...the years will fly by and the memories will be fuzzy...so mark the year and even add the grade/teacher...it can be thoughtful reminder down the road.

        These cute snowmen would also make darling gift tags...

        Wishing everyone a holiday full of love and homemade treasures... and don't forget to "let it dry!"

        Tuesday, December 9, 2014

        Vintage Kitchen Tool Wreath


        With no shortage of vintage kitchen tools... 
        Adding a touch of farmhouse-inspired 
        decor only takes a few minutes...


        Sometimes imperfect,
         one-of-a-kind things are much better than brand new and shiny... 
        ...perhaps a little bit like me.
        I'm not an antique, just yet... but I'm working on it...

        Maybe that's where my affection for vintage treasures comes from... 
        I have a special place in my heart for all things "antique"...  
        This wreath is special..
         all those old kitchen tools have a story to tell... 
        experience and know-how... 
        If these vintage kitchen tools could talk... 
        I bet they would have some recipes to share...
         This particular wreath has taken many different forms 
        over the years and has 
        been re-worked a time or two.  

        Originally, this wreath was a gift from my aunt, 
        it was all wired onto a grapevine wreath form...
         I've taken a few pieces off and added a few pieces...
        b
         If you plan to make one for your very own, 
        choose chippy paint, 
        vintage or antique kitchen utensils.  
        These are easy to come by in antique malls, flea markets and yard sales.  
        This wreath has about 15 or so pieces,
         including a wooden spoon, cookie cutters, a pastry blender,
        and a tea strainer. 

         I like to work in the same color palette, 
        so this wreath is mostly silver, wood and red painted handles. 
        (I spy two green handles too)


          Using fine gauge wire and wire cutters, 
        affix the vintage kitchen utensils around the wreath...
        there are no rules so if you don't like where you 
        place an item, you can move it to a better spot.
        Finally...add your ribbon... 
        it can be tucked in and around the wreath or 
        add just a bow...or none at all...