Banana Bread Brownies

I have a problem. I buy way too many bananas, and then end up with more overly ripe bananas than I can use. On one such occasion, I decided to make a bunch of banana desserts and take them to work so my co-workers would eat it all up for me. While scouring Pinterest for ideas, I saw this recipe and it was a huge hit. It took my a few months, but here it is on the website at last. Recipe and photo courtesy of

For the Brownies:

  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 3 bananas, mashed
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup pecans, chopped

For the Frosting:

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 tablespoons milk

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease a 9×13 inch baking pan with non-stick cooking spray. In a mixing bowl, mix together sugar, sour cream, softened butter and eggs using an electric mixer. Beat until well combined. Then, add mashed bananas and vanilla extract. Mix until combined. Add the dry ingredients to the batter. Mix until combined. Then, add chopped pecans. Pour the banana batter into the prepared baking pan. Bake in the preheated oven for 20-30 minutes or until ready. Check the readiness of the brownies using a toothpick inserted in the center, if it comes out clean – the brownies are ready. Remove the baking pan from the oven. Let it cool slightly. While the brownies are cooling, prepare the frosting. In a saucepan, melt butter and heat until medium brown color. Turn off the heat and add powdered sugar (1 cup at a time), stir until combined after each addition. Then, add milk and vanilla extract. Mix until combined. Pour the frosting over the brownies. Spread evenly. Let the banana bread brownies cool completely.

Buttery Glazed Green Beans

Every year I vow to do better meal planning and this year was no exception. I busted out all the cookbooks in my cupboard and did a great job of trying new recipes…for about 3 months. It started to fall apart when the kids after school activities picked up and never quite recovered. That early year diligence did lead to some standard rotations in my meals, one of which was this green bean recipe. It comes out of Chrissy Teigan’s Cravings Vol. 1 cookbook and is so simple and delicious. Recipe and photo courtesy of Cravings.

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 pound green beans, trimmed
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted, optional

In a large skillet with a tight-fitting lid, combine the water, sugar, and salt and bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Add the green beans, cover, and cook over medium-high heat until the sugar water begins to reduce, 7 to 9 minutes. Uncover and continue to cook, tossing the beans, until the sugar reduces to a very light syrup and the beans are no longer crisp but somehow miraculously aren’t mushy, making sure it doesn’t burn (add a splash of water if necessary), 7 to 9 minutes. Transfer to a serving dish and top with the butter and pepper. Season with more salt to taste. If using, garnish with the almonds and serve.

Breadsticks a la Olive Garden

The copycat cookbook I have has some really great recipes, and this breadstick is one of my families favorites. With only one rise of about 45 minutes, it is an easy one to whip up on a weeknight. Also, don’t skimp on the buttery topping, because although it sounds like a lot, it is not overpowering.

For the Dough:

  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons yeast, I use instant
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water, 105-115 degrees
  • 3 1/2 cups all purpose flour, adding more if necessary
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted

For the Buttery Topping:

  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt

In a large bowl, dissolve sugar and yeast in warm water and let sit for 10 minutes. (If using instant yeast, skip this step and just add the sugar, water, and yeast to the rest of the ingredients.) Add flour ,salt, and melted butter to the yeast mixture. Mix with a wooden spoon until fully combined. Knead dough for a few minutes, until dough is smooth and not sticky. Spray a cookie sheet with nonstick cooking spray, or line with parchment. Pull off pieces of dough and roll into strips. Cover the dough with a light towel and let rise in a warm place for 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400. Bake breadsticks for 6-7 minutes, then brush with the buttery topping. Return to the oven for 6-7 more minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from oven and brush with the rest of the buttery topping. Serve immediately.

Copycat Superfood Salad

For a while, Chick-fil-A had a salad on the menu called the superfood salad. It had kale and broccolini, dried cherries and mixed nuts. It was such a delicious salad and I was super bummed when they got rid of it. Luckily, I found a copycat recipe in a cookbook by Six Sisters’ Stuff. I leave out the broccolini, but other than that it is a dead ringer. It also keeps for a couple of days in the fridge so it’s nice to munch on through the week.

  • 6 cups chopped kale
  • 1/3 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries
  • 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 4 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup candied nut of your choice

In a medium large bowl, combine kale, sunflower seeds, dried cherries, and nuts. In a small bowl, whisk together cider vinegar, olive oil, honey, maple syrup, sugar, pepper and salt. Pour dressing over salad and toss until leaves are shiny and coated. Refrigerate for 3 hours, or let sit overnight. When serving, top with a few more cherries and nuts. I also like to add chicken or salmon for some protein.

Cinnamon Squares

Over the Christmas break I binge watched Magnolia Table on Discovery plus. One of the most intriguing recipes I saw was her cinnamon squares, which she described as the middle part of the cinnamon roll. I’m glad I watched her make it because if I hadn’t I might not have rolled them out properly. Make sure you use your rolling pin to really meld those layers so they don’t puff up too much in the oven. Also, the recipe makes a huge batch so I plan on freezing the leftovers in pairs to heat up later in the coming weeks.

For the Dough:

  • 1/4 cup warm water (105° to 115°F)
  • Two 1/4-ounce packets active dry yeast (I used 4 1/2 teaspoons of instant yeast)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups milk, warmed
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) salted butter, melted and cooled, plus softened butter for the dough and pans
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 6 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

For the Filling:

  • 2 cups pecan halves
  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) salted butter, cut into pieces and chilled
  • 2 cups packed light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

In a large bowl, stir together the water, yeast, and 1 tablespoon sugar. Let stand until foamy, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the remaining sugar, milk, butter, eggs, and salt and stir with a wooden spoon until well blended. Add the flour and stir until the dough comes together. Rub softened butter on top of the dough and around the bowl. Cover and let stand in a warm spot for 1 hour. (If you use instant yeast, just put all the ingredients in the bowl and mix.) The dough will not rise very much.

To make the filling: In a food processor, combine the pecans, butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon and process until the mixture is well blended and paste-like (do this in two batches if necessary). Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Generously dust a work surface with flour. Punch down the dough and place it on the work surface. Roll it out into a 16 x 24-inch rectangle.

Spoon two-thirds of the filling mixture over the dough. Spread it to cover the dough to the edges. Starting on a short side, fold the sheet of dough two thirds of the way, then fold the other side over in a tri-fold pattern, pressing the edges together, and roll it out a little bit, til you approximately a 14×16 rectangle. Spoon the remaining filling on top of the dough and spread it to cover the dough. Starting at a short side, tri-fold the dough again and lightly roll it back into a 12×18 rectangle. Use a chef’s knife to cut the dough into 24 roughly 3-inch squares. Arrange the squares on the prepared pan so that they are touching. Brush the tops of the squares with beaten egg.

Bake until lightly golden, 25 to 30 minutes. Serve hot. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days.

Elvis Granola

This is another Centr recipe that my husband really likes. It keeps for two weeks in an airtight container and is really good on Greek yogurt.

  • 1/3 cup peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 medium banana, peeled and lightly mashed
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1/3 cup pecans, roughly chopped
  • 1/3 cup almonds, roasted and roughly chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 320 and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Blend peanut butter, maple syrup, oil and banana until smooth. In a large bowl combine oats, pecans, almonds and salt. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix well. Spread on baking sheet and bake, tossing 2-3 times for 20-25 minutes. Allow to cool, then break into smaller clusters and store in an airtight container.

Bread and Butter Pickles

Growing up I was not much of a pickle fan, but when I met my husband’s Grandma Dale, and tried her bread and butter pickles, I was converted. They are so tasty, and so good with just about anything. It only took me 15 years, but I finally got them here on the site.

  • 4 pounds pickling cucumbers, thinly sliced
  • 2 medium Vidalia onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 green (or red) bell peppers, chopped or sliced
  • 1/2 cup canning or kosher salt
  • Ice cubes

For the Pickling Liquid

  • 3 cups white vinegar
  • 5 cups white sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery seed
  • 2 tablespoons mustard seed

Combine cucumbers, onion, peppers in a large bowl. Sprinkle with salt and cover with ice cubes. Let stand for 3 hours. Rinse and drain very well. Combine all remaining ingredients for the syrup in a large pan. Bring to a boil. Turn off heat. Fill each sterile jar with vegetables and fill jar with syrup, leaving 1/4 inch headroom. Remove air bubbles with a plastic knife inserted around the inside of each jar. Wipe the rim with a clean cloth. Put the lids and rings on finger tight. Process the pints in boiling water for 15 minutes. Label when the jars have sealed and cooled.

Summer Strawberry Cake

I started following a food blogger named Smitten Kitchen about 6 months ago and one of the things I like about her is that she makes recipes with simple ingredients, but they have a sophistication to them that takes it to the next level. This recipe is one such example. Very simple, but very tasty. Add to that the fact that our strawberry harvest was excellent this past June and you have a winner.

  • 6 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup granulated sugar, plus 2 tablespoons for the top
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 pound strawberries, hulled and halved

Preheat oven to 350. Butter a 10″ pie pan, or 9″ deep dish pie pan. Whisk flour or flours, baking powder and salt together in a small bowl. In a larger bowl, beat butter and 1 cup sugar until pale and fluffy with an electric mixer, about 3 minutes. Mix in egg, milk and vanilla until just combined. Add dry mixture gradually, mixing until just smooth. Pour into prepared pie plate. Arrange strawberries, cut side down, on top of batter, as closely as possible in a single layer (though I had to overlap a few to get them all in). Sprinkle remaining 2 tablespoons sugar over berries. Bake cake for 10 minutes then reduce oven temperature to 325°F and bake cake until golden brown and a tester comes out free of wet batter, about 50 minutes to 60 minutes. (Gooey strawberries on the tester are a given.) Let cool in pan on a rack. Cut into wedges. Serve with lightly whipped cream.

Toasted Coconut Dutch Baby

While I was visiting family in Dallas a couple of years ago I found a cookbook by the food blogger Joy the Baker. It said it was a celebration of butter and sugar and I can’t think of a better recipe to represent that than her toasted coconut Dutch baby. The Dutch baby is a cross between a pancake and a crepe and is baked in a piping hot cast iron skillet. It is so delicious it doesn’t even need syrup, although I like mine with a dollop of Cool Whip!

  • 1/4 cup sweetened shredded coconut
  • 2/3 cup flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Pinch of salt
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature*
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 cup butter

Place your cast iron skillet on a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees. Spread coconut in a thin layer in a skillet over medium heat and stir until the coconut starts to brown. Make sure to keep a close eye on this because it can go from toasted to burned in seconds! Let it cool while you gather the rest of your ingredients. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cinnamon, salt and 2 tablespoons of cooled coconut. In a separate medium bowl whisk your eggs and sugar together until thick and pale. Add milk and whisk to combine. Add the milk mixture, all at once, to the flour mixture and stir to combine. Mixture will be thin. Carefully pull the rack out of your oven and put the butter in the pan to melt. As soon as the butter has melted, swirl the pan so it coats the sides and bottom. Pour the pancake batter over the melted butter and immediately return to the oven. Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until browned and puffed along the sides and center of the pan. While the pancake bakes prepare any fruit you would like to serve with it, banana and pineapple go really well!. Once baked, remove from the oven and top with your choice of fruit and remaining toasted coconut. Slice into thick wedges, served with syrup of your choice.

*To speed up getting your eggs to room temperature, place them in a container of warm (not hot) water. In just a couple of minutes they will be room temp!

Smore’s Cookies

I was perusing Pinterest a couple of days ago and found a recipe for Graham Cracker Chocolate Chip cookies that looked intriguing. After reading the ingredient list and seeing the 3 cups of graham cracker crumbs I knew I needed to add in marshmallows and use chocolate chunks and make this a smores cookie. It was a super delicious cookie and knew it needed to be saved here on the website.

  • 3 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 sticks butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chunks
  • 1 cup marshmallows

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line cookie sheet(s) with parchment paper. Set aside. In a bowl, whisk together graham cracker crumbs, flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and sugars on medium-high speed until light and creamy. Add vanilla and eggs to butter mixture and beat again until well combined. With the mixer on low speed, gradually add the flour mixture to the wet mixture, increasing speed as needed. Mix only until just combined. Fold in chocolate chips and marshmallows, mixing to evenly distribute. (The cookie dough may feel drier than most other chocolate chip cookie batters, but it should hold together if you press it with your fingers.) Using a 2 tablespoon scoop, place balls of cookie dough onto the prepared cookie sheets. Fold a marshmallow on top of the cookie dough to make it look pretty. Bake 8 to 10 minutes. The edges of the cookies will be slightly golden and the centers still soft. Cool cookies on the cookie sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack to finish cooling. (The cookies will firm up as they cool.)