…because i just do.

thoughts and things that make me happy

Month: September, 2012

An apple a day…

Hands down the Honeycrisp apple is the best out-of-hand eating apple.  I am not a huge fan of just chomping away on just any raw apple.  However, when I am able to have a stash of these apples at home I find myself reaching for one nearly every day.

First, a little history of this amazing apple.  The Honeycrisp was cultivated at the Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station’s Horticultural Research Center at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities.  It was produced in 1960 from a cross of the Macoun and Honeygold apples.  They were introduced to the public in 1991 but I had never heard of them until last year.

I can find them locally at Whole Foods in Venice, CA but apparently the apples grow best up in Minnesota and Wisconsin and peak in ripeness from September 15-October 10.  Seriously, find these apples.  They are amazing… the perfect texture and crispness when you bite into one and a great combination of tartness and sweetness.  Also,  they make a great baking apple.  Undoubtedly, these little gems are my  favorite fall fruit… but hurry, as quickly as they appear, they will disappear and you will have to wait another year to try this delicious apple!

Rows of Honeycrisps at Whole Foods. Venice, CA.

If you can’t find Honeycrisps in a local store or Farmer’s market, below are 2 orchards that will ship them to you:

Wood Orchard:  http://www.woodorchard.com/hc_order.htm
Aamodts Apple Farm:  http://www.aamodtsapplefarm.com/shop-online/honeycrisp-apples/

**double-check that the orchard is able to ship to your specific state.  Wood Orchard is unable to ship to California.

You can find more information about the Honeycrisp here.

 

The Best Banana Bread

A great way to start the weekend.

I made the mistake of asking my son what he would like for dinner last night.  He glanced around the kitchen and his eyes came to rest on a bunch of bananas.   Immediately, he commanded, “make me Banana Bread.”  Well, I may not be one for letting my son eat Banana Bread for dinner but I do often make this delicious bread as a snack and treat for my family.  This bread is also my go-to recipe for picnics and school events and has always gotten rave reviews.  It is a family favorite recipe from Mom and because of the cinnamon and nutmeg it reminds me of fall so I thought I’d share.  Also, it is a fantastic breakfast bread and is a perfect way to start a day when paired with a cup of coffee.

Banana Bread

½ cup unsalted butter (at room temperature)
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
3 bananas (very ripe and diced)
2 tablespoons buttermilk
2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat Oven to 350°.

Cream together butter and sugar with a hand mixer or Kitchen Aid® stand-mixer (fitted with the paddle attachment).  Add eggs until mixed.  Add buttermilk* and mix.

In a separate bowl combine all dry ingredients together and sift*.  Add this to the butter mixture and mix until just blended (do not over-mix).

Fold* in the vanilla and bananas until combined.  Pour batter into a greased 1 lb. loaf pan.

Bake at 1 hour.  When the bread starts to pull away from the sides of the loaf pan or when a toothpick inserted comes out clean the bread is finished.  Let bread cool 10 minutes before turning it out onto a wire cooling rack to continue to cool completely.

*see notes below for more information…

*Some Notes on This Recipe

  • While there is no substitute for real buttermilk, I have been known to simply add a teaspoon of white vinegar to the milk before adding it.  It isn’t a perfect substitute but for this quick bread I think it works well.
  • A quick note on sifting…since there is salt in this recipe I simply place all the dry ingredients together in a bowl and using a whisk, mix them for about 30 seconds.  The salt will act as an abrasive agent which means you don’t need to spend time breaking out your sifter, especially when just making a quick bread.
  • Feel free to add a ½ cup of chopped nuts to the dough (I like to use pecans)… fold them into the batter at the same time you add the vanilla and bananas.
  • Recently, I have been making this bread using 1 cup all-purpose flour and 1 cup whole wheat flour and it has turned out PERFECT.

Farewell Summer…

I have been a lazy blogger as of late but it has been a conscious decision. After we got back from Kentucky at the beginning of August, we had exactly one month before today (the first day of Mack’s second year of pre-school). During the past four weeks I have discovered a new addiction, battled tiny bugs, explored an island, played in a creek bed and enjoyed tried and true SoCal summer fun. Below are some of the things that have prevented me from blogging this past month…

26 Miles across the sea, Santa Catalina is a-waitin’ for me…

I’m embarrassed to say that I have lived in SoCal for the last 16 years and have never been to Catalina island. It’s always been there…a looming mass of land amid a deep blue sea that I can see on clear days from our local beach. Still, I never took the hour and a quarter ferry ride across the Pacific to this amazing destination and neither had my husband nor my son. Mack usually refers to these sorts of trips as “adventures” and since none of us had ever been it was truly a very special family adventure.

We started our journey at the Port of San Pedro (which has a beautiful new ferry terminal) and boarded the Catalina Express.  As we cruised out of San Pedro our boat was met with an enormous pod of dolphins splashing and playing alongside the boat.  It was a good omen.  A brief hour and 15 minutes later we were docking at Avalon and it felt like we were stepping into another world.  The island is 76 square miles and most of it is completely uninhabited.  We spent our 3 days playing a lot of mini-golf, renting a golf cart to explore the town of Avalon and its surroundings, riding in a glass bottom boat and a submarine and swimming and enjoying island life.  We stayed in the lovely Pavilion Hotel and are already planning our next trip back to the other end of the island where the only other inhabited city of Twin Harbors rests.

Strolls to the Casino along Via Casino Way, golf cart rides and of course the Avalon Fire Department.

Mini golf, ferry boats and submarines.

Might as well face it, you’re addicted…

I also found a new addiction this past month.  I’m totally late to the party on this one but recently my evening activity has revolved around plopping myself in bed, donning my husbands Bose Noise Cancelling headphones and escaping into the medieval fantasy land that is Game of Thrones.  Being a non-cable family we don’t often indulge in too many television shows but after my best friend shared her HBO Go password with me, my iPad has become my gateway to addiction.  I could do an entire post about all the reasons I adore this show.  For now I’ll just say it’s a good thing I’m only 2 episodes from the end of Season 2 or my son might be showing up lunchless at school.  I will have to patiently wait until April, 2013 to satiate my appetite for more fun with the Stark, Baratheon, Targaryen and Lannister families.

Arya Stark, my favorite character on Game of Thrones.

Flea, Fly, Flo

As the families in Game of Thrones continue their fighting,  I waged my own war with some tiny little bugs called fleas.  Yes, my strictly indoor cat became flea-ridden and his favorite spot for sleeping is in my son’s room.  It has literally taken me an entire month to rid the carpet from these pesky little hoppers.  Shubert the cat is now on a strict regimen of monthly Advantage treatments and after vacuuming Mack’s carpet 4 times a day for 4 weeks, it seems I have won my battle.  For those of you who don’t know… apparently August is prime flea time here in SoCal… I recommend treating your pets year-round, even if they are indoor only.

My chosen weapon for battle against the fleas.

I am a Child, I’ll last a while…

We also spent a great day at an amazing children’s museum called Kidspace in Pasadena.  I’d been to this little gem before but it seems now that Mack will be four in a couple of months he really can enjoy everything this place has to offer.  He and his friend Bennett hit the ground running and spent the day racing tricycles, crawling through ant holes, spraying water guns, exploring a creek, climbing the 40′ Raindrop Climber and shooting ping pong balls from an air cannon in the newly opened Galvin Physics Forest .  I’m pretty sure I had just as much fun and was just as exhausted simply from watching Mack and Bennett be their rambunctious selves.  Nestled between the Rose Bowl and the Rose Bowl Aquatics center, it may be a trek from the westside but it is well worth the drive.  We can’t wait for their Pumpkin Festival during the last weekend in October!

Bennett and Mack explore Kidspace.

Another Day in the Park…

And then there were just so many gorgeous days of playing at the beach and the parks near our home.  We are so lucky to be able to walk to the ocean or to one of the five nearby parks in our neighborhood.  We had barbecues with friends and picnics in beautiful Will Rogers State Park.  And so…farewell Summer of 2012, and thank you for an abundance of magical memories.

A beautiful end of summer sky over Will Rogers State Park on Labor Day.