The Art of Being Thankful

Keep Calm & Gobble On Courtesy of Cherry Blossom Tree Designs

Keep Calm & Gobble On
Courtesy of Cherry Blossom Tree Designs

Happy Thanksgiving! What a difference one year makes. This time last year we were dealing with the aftermath of Sandy (thankfully I only lost power, Internet access and some of my sanity, sigh), trying to buy our first Christmas tree (a real one!) for our first apartment (a bigger one!) and just trying to muddle through the rest of the year.

I can say that I have a very long list of things and people I am thankful for and each year just keeps getting better. To you, my friends and family–thank you for making this year pivotal and fulfilling.

We each have our own way of expressing gratitude and humility. I call this the art of being thankful. There is no minimum or limit when it comes to thanking someone. Sometimes it’s just a simple smile and acknowledgement that warms the heart. A hand written card also goes a long way 🙂

Here are a few highlights of my first truly adult Thanksgiving, complete with first time cooking a turkey and things that make this holiday such a joy for me. I will be updating throughout the day and hope you are having a fabulous day giving thanks ♥

XOXO Liz Signature

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Big Sister Banana Nut Muffins

Having a big sister usually means you have a best friend for life. Someone who knows you longer and better than anyone else; who protects you and teaches you everything they’ve already learned about school, style, boys and life. As my big sister and I grow and become wiser, I have a lot to thank her for since she has always been a source of love, inspiration and of course great baking ideas.

Here’s a super easy, possibly healthy way to bake scrumptious banana nut muffins. Turn your weekend (or any day) into a sweet treat!

So I woke up yesterday, made my coffee and went to grab a banana and lo and behold, the last three I had were soft and brown. Somehow this always happens.

Then my sister popped into my head. One time when I visited her she just happened to have fresh, homemade banana nut muffin bread seducing me from inside the oven. She gave me a tip to salvage any over-ripe bananas with her quick recipe and I wanted to share this with you.

Well, I didn’t have a loaf pan readily available and decided to use the foundation of her recipe and modify it to make muffins.

{What You Will Need}
Good news is  you probably have many of the ingredients already and you can be clever and substitute when necessary.

3-4 over-ripe bananas (mashed)
3/4 cup granulated pure sugar cane (or white sugar)
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon sea salt (or regular salt)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon of baking soda
2 cups whole wheat flour (or all purpose flour)
1/2 cup ground or chopped nuts (skip for any food allergies)
1 egg
1/2 cup vegetable oil
Lemon juice from one whole lemon (or 1 tablespoon of bottled lemon juice)*
A little extra lemon juice, sugar and brown sugar to create a simple glaze
1 Toothpick

*I love the taste of lemons and add them to recipes whenever I can. For this recipe, I used the juice inside the batter to work in tandem with the Baking Soda. Since I didn’t have Baking Powder (which has a combination of Baking Soda and Cream of Tartar to help breads rise), the lemon juice should bring enough acid to react with the Baking Soda (click here for a more thorough explanation of pH chemistry for baking . Apparently, baking soda + lemon juice is great for a green household cleaning agent and can also safely whiten teeth!).

First, pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees and grease muffin pan or line with liners (I prefer pretty little liners).

I used a small 4-cup processor to chop and grind whole nuts. I had to use the last bit I had from the container, so some of the pieces were already small. I just pulsed the processor twice for each setting: chop and grind, chop and grind.

To mash the bananas, I took the easy way and used a spoon to cut and press until I achieved a smooth, thick consistency.

In a large mixing bowl, add the smaller ingredients, the sugars, salt, oil and egg. Mix these into a yellow paste. Then add the mashed bananas and chopped nuts and mix together.

Next, incorporate the flour, baking soda, vanilla extract, spices (cinnamon and nutmeg) and the lemon juice. Mix all ingredients evenly until you have a medium thick batter.

Tip: I use my Ikea ice cream scoop to transfer batter into the muffin pan. This helps me control the portions and minimize mess.

Once all the cups are full of banana batter, place the tray onto the top shelf of the oven and set the timer for 20 minutes. By this time the muffins should rise and take on a delicious medium brown glow. Take a toothpick and insert into the muffin in the middle of the tray and one on the outer edge. If no batter sticks to the toothpick, they are done! If batter sticks, whomp, place the tray back into the oven for another five minutes and check again.

At this point, I use a trick I saw my sister use to finish muffins. Make a simple glaze by mixing about a tablespoon of lemon juice and sprinkle in some white and brown sugar (add a dash of cinnamon if you love cinnamon like me!). Use a silicon basting brush to mix and drizzle the glaze over each muffin while they are still warm and let it can cool naturally. This will give you a pretty sheen for display and a yummy, slightly tart first bite.

Tip: This in another big sister tip. If you end up with extra batter for any cupcake or muffin mix and need to only bake a few more, make sure to begin placing the batter in the middle of the tray, moving outward. Since the cups on the outer edge can heat a little differently, starting in the middle when you only have a few cups to fill will help ensure a more even distribution of heat.

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My version is not overly sweet or dry but I can’t guarantee that you will be able to eat just one. I apologize in advance : )

Now you have a fool proof way to make banana nut muffins. Go ahead, bring these to  your next brunch or to the office. Your friends and coworkers will thank you. Just don’t forget to thank your sister, younger or older or twin, for all they have done ♥

{Cuteness Alert}

Speaking of muffins, here’s an adorable handmade “Stud Muffin” card  from Cherry Blossom Tree Designs. Very cute but not edible!

Available: Cherry Blossom Tree Designs

Retail: $3.50 USD

Do you have a favorite tip from your sister? Let me know!

XOXO Liz Signature

Beauty Quickie: Turn your morning coffee/tea time into a multitasking spa time!

tea

If your morning ritual consists of reaching for a cup of coffee or tea to wake you up, why not use this time and the same basic ingredients to help your face feel fresh and rejuvenated?

You probably have all the necessary ingredients to de-puff and hydrate tired eyes and smooth rough lips.

What you’ll need:

  • Honey or Agave Nectar
  • Any sugar with a medium course texture
  • Two tea bags (preferably caffeinated tea)
  • Two silver spoons

Told you–your kitchen has everything you need for a mini-spa treatment!

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Let’s do this…

{Puffy Eye Treatment with Spoon}

This is probably the simplest home remedy for puffy eyes. Just place two clean silver spoons in the fridge over night or in the freezer for five minutes in the morning.

While you are upright, gently massage the area around the eye and sinuses to help drain any fluid. Be gentle. The area around the eye is very delicate.

Next, dedicate 5-10 minutes to lay down and relax. Be careful not to fall back asleep!

Place one spoon on each eye, concave side facing the eye. Once the spoons turn warm, take them off and gently massage sinus area again.

This will help reduce swelling, promote circulation and minimize dark under eye circles.

{Puffy and Dry Eye Treatment with Tea}

If I’m not drinking hot water with lemon in the morning, I usually go for some green or black tea with honey.

After you’ve steeped the tea (three – five minutes should suffice), remove the bags, place them on a paper towel inside a bowl and let them cool down. You can apply the bags while they are warm (not hot) or you may place them in the fridge for a cooling effect.

Just make sure the bags are not too damp. You may want to place a tissue under below the bags to catch any dripping.

It’s the same concept as using the cold spoons, where you will lay down for 5-15 minutes and apply one bag per eye. Relax, meditate and let the antioxidants and tannins do their work.

Optional: To begin with a gentle facial massage or to follow up with two slices of  cool cucumber.

This will help reduce puffiness and promote moisture retention around the delicate eye area.

{Lip Sugar Scrub}

Grab that clean spoon again and get ready to whip up the most ridiculously simple and cheap homemade lip sugar scrub!

Take roughly half a tablespoon of course sugar (I prefer dark brown sugar) and drizzle enough honey or agave nectar to evenly coat the sugar.

Use a clean finger to mix the two ingredients in the spoon until a thick, soft paste is formed. Place a thin coat of the mixture onto clean, dry lips and move finger in a circular motion to lightly buff off dead skin.

You may want to repeat this step a few times depending on how dry your lips are or depending on how yummy your scrub turns out!

Simply rinse your lips with lukewarm water or wipe off the remaining mixture using a wet cloth, et voilà!

You can save any extra scrub if you place it in a clean, air-tight container and place in the fridge for up to one day.

{Diva Tip: save any empty lip balm jars to reuse for homemade scrubs and balms}

The grains of sugar will help remove unwanted dry skin from the lips and the honey or agave will help soothe and condition lips. Feel free to pucker or pout and enjoy how easily your lipstick or balms will glide on your baby soft lips!

honey sugar

Now you can turn this quick, inexpensive morning facial routine into your new ritual and enjoy your new glow!

{Liz}