French Toast with Bourbon Caramel Bananas

Guys, can we talk about breakfast for dinner? And then briefly touch on the bananas that are too ripe to eat, but every time that Evan attempts to throw them away I freak out and insist that I’m going to make banana bread, even though I think I’ve only made banana bread twice, and then I stopped trying because the middle is always still liquid when the outside is dark brown? And I know that’s not only me, right?

French Toast with Bourbon Caramel Bananas

Anyway, here’s the thing: breakfast for dinner is possibly my favorite thing, because breakfast is usually sweet things, and potatoes, and bacon. All of those things are good. Evan, for who knows what reason, really protests breakfast for dinner, suggesting that breakfast only belongs in the morning. This man is a stickler for rules.

Obviously, this means I make BFD on duty days, and relish it hard core. This week, as I was contemplating my menu, I glanced at the past-their-prime bananas that almost got trashed over the weekend and knew exactly how I would use them (spoiler: not making bread). No, these bananas were destined to be mixed into a glorious bourbon caramel and spooned generously over golden French toast triangles. It’s not hard, at all, and is way more satisfying than syrup- really.

French Toast with Bourbon Caramel Bananas 2

French Toast with Bourbon Caramel Bananas

-          1 Tbsp butter
-          ¼ cup brown sugar
-          Pinch of salt
-          2 Tbsp bourbon
-          1 Tbsp cream (heavy, or half and half, or milk…no rules)
-          2 bananas, at any stage of ripeness
-          3 eggs
-          ½ cup milk (let’s just say dairy product)
-          ½ tsp vanilla
-          ½ tsp cinnamon
-          6 slices bread (thick, old bread is the best option, but I only had Texas Toast this week. Use what you have)

Make the caramel: in a skillet, ideally one with a heavy bottom, melt the butter and stir in the sugar, salt and bourbon. Let it bubble up and, once it gets nice and foamy, allow to cook for about a minute- it should be a slightly thick, syrup-y consistency. Remove from the heat, and stir in the cream, and gently fold in the banana slices. Set aside, and allow to cool a bit.

Make the toast: whisk together the eggs, milk or dairy product, vanilla and cinnamon. Add some butter to a skillet or griddle that’s over medium heat and coat the bottom. Working with one slice of bread at a time, dip each side into the egg mixture and lay on the griddle. Allow to cook for about 3-4 minutes on each side, or until lovely and golden. Plate the French toast, spread with butter if you like, and spoon over the banana caramel, and try not to explode with joy.

What say you, friends- what’s your favorite breakfast for dinner? Or, like Evan, are you irrationally opposed to the concept?

July Review: Birchbox, ipsy, and Sample Society

I know, I know- I’m so late to the subscription box party! I’ve been subscribing to Birchbox for a little over a year now, and have enjoyed most of what they sent me. I’ve gotten a few lackluster boxes recently, though, and decided to see what else the work of beauty subscriptions had to offer. The verdict is still out on ipsy…I’ve had two boxes now that haven’t wow-ed me. I just got my first Sample Society box, though, and love it! Check out my reviews for this month, and tell me about your subscription experiences!

Birchbox Review

Birchbox
Monthly delivery for $10/month
Includes 4-5 beauty and lifestyle samples

This month my box included a Whish Shave Crave Shaving Cream, Cynthia Rowley Lip Stain, Marcelle 8-in-1 Power Serum, 100% Pure Gingerade Shower Gel, Harvey Hello Body Cream, and a free year subscription to Women’s Health Magazine. Birchbox is kind of hit or miss for me, but this month was really a hit! Travel size shaving cream is perfect, because I can never pack it when I’m flying, and I think the magazine subscription is great. I don’t love getting foil packets, but I’m sure that I’ll use all of the samples, so I’m pretty satisfied with Birchbox this month.

Ipsy Review

Ipsy
Monthly delivery for $10/month
Includes 4-5 full sized or deluxe sample products, flus a makeup bag

This month my box included Clear Clinic Laboratories Clear Spot Treatment, bareMinerals 5-in-1 BB Advanced Performance Cream Eyeshadow, POP Beauty Sunkissed Bronzer, Pixi Beauty Tinted Brilliance Lip Balm, Pur-lisse Daily Moisturizer SPF 30, and the pink cosmetics bag pictured here. I’ve heard so many good things about ispy, but haven’t really been wow-ed- last month I receive a full sized mascara that was unusable, due to its incredibly potent chemical small. This month, I don’t love the tiniest eyeshadow, or the tinted balm that actually doesn’t have any color. I suspect that the Spot Treatment is mostly alcohol, and it really dried out my face; on the other hand, since it was so liquid (texture of water) it went under makeup well. I am, however, happy to see a full sized bronzer, and I love having purse sunscreen. So, again, I’m not wow-ed, but not upset…I think that if my box is equally underwhelming next month, I’ll probably cancel.

Sample Society Review

Allure Sample Society
Monthly Delivery for $15/month
Includes 4-5 Full sized and deluxe beauty and makeup samples

Apparently, this subscription was only recently re-launched, and is new and improved. I can’t compare to the old version, since I just started subscribing this month, but I’m really impressed! This month I received a Maison Francis Kurkdjian Paris Aqua Universalis Eau de Toilette sample, Laura Mercier Highlighter Powder, L’Oreal Paris Colour Riche Liquid Lipcolor, Fekkai Intense Fortifying Masque, and Butter London Nail Lacquer. I could do without the perfume sample, and I didn’t love the L’Oreal color that I received, but the full sized nail polish more than made up for both of those! Also, the highlighter is a pretty substantial size, and I’m really excited to try to hair masque- my hair seems to love Fekkai products. Overall, I’m more than satisfied with this subscription so far- hopefully they keep including awesome products in generous sizes.

So- tell me about your subscription experiences! Amazing, awful, or somewhere in between? Or, is there an amazing box I need to try?

Shredded Beef and Roasted Vegetable Quesadillas

It’s funny how Taco Tuesday comes around every. single. week. and I never get tired of making or eating Mexican inspired food! This week we’re continuing our deviation from tacos, specifically, with quesadillas. Roasted Veggie Shredded Beef Quesadillas 2For this week, our quesadilla recipe was pretty intentional- beef had time to stew in a spicy marinade in the crock pot all day, and I have quite the bounty of fresh vegetables ready for roasting. Usually, though, quesadillas can easily turn into one of my fridge clean out go-to meals- we always have cheese and tortillas hanging around, so it’s usually just a matter of assembling some sort of other filling. So open your cupboards, check out what’s available, and join me in my quesadilla appreciation!   Roasted Veggie Shredded Beef Quesadillas   Shredded Beef and Roasted Vegetable Quesadillas

-          2-3 pound beef roast
-          4 chipotle peppers in adobo
-          2 garlic cloves
-          Handful of cilantro leaves
-          1 tbsp cumin
-          1 can or bottle of beer
-          1/2 sweet onion, sliced
-          1 zucchini
-          8 oz mushrooms
-          1 bell pepper
-          ½ sweet onion
-          8 tortillas
-          1 cup shredded cheese

Prepare the beef: in a blender or food processor, mix the chipotle peppers, garlic, cilantro and cumin. Pour into a crock pot, and stir in the beer and sliced onions. Place roast in the cooking liquid, and cook on low for 8 hours, or high for 4-6 hours. When this is done, remove the beef from the crock pot, shred, and return to the juice to keep warm. This is something that you can definitely do over the weekend, then use the beef all week, if you’re prepared like that. Prepare the veggies: Dice the zucchini, mushrooms, pepper and onion into pieces about 1 centimeter square- you want them all to be about the same size, and not too big. Heat a cast iron skillet to high heat. Add some oil to the hot pan, and toss veggies for about five minutes, until they’re a bit softened and have some color. You can also prep this step well in advance.Roasted Veggie Shredded Beef Quesadillas 3Prepare the quesadillas: after years of improving our stuffed quesadilla technique, Evan and I have found the best way to make them with tons of filling, but so they still stick together (because you know when you put a layer of cheese, and then a layer of stuff on top, the two tortillas never stick to each other). So, it’s pretty much rocket science- very carefully, mix some of the veggies with some of the beef and some of the cheese in a bowl (whatever proportions you like). In a skillet over medium high heat, lay one tortilla, top with the filling mix spread to the edges, and cover with another tortilla. Ta da! The cheese mixed throughout the filling acts like glue, so everything stays in. Brown on each side, slice into 4 or 6 pieces, and enjoy with a ton of guac and pico.

Almond Ice Cream with Cherry Compote and Brown Butter Streusel

Hi, I’m Erin and I cannot stop making ice cream.

Cherry Almond Ice Cream 3   Seriously, you guys…I’d wanted an ice cream make for years, but thought that it would take up way too much space for the few times I would use it. As it turns out- I was wrong. It takes up space, sure, but I’m making so much ice cream!

I made my inaugural batch of ice cream about two weeks ago. We had all of those fresh cherries, so I decided to go with a cherry ice cream. Obvious, right? But then, for some texture, I decided that I’d like a streusel situation swirled through and we ended up with a brown butter oat streusel. But wait- cherry goes really well with almonds, right? So we did an almond ice cream, with a sweet cherry compote and brown butter streusel.

Cherry Almond Ice CreamAnd, friends, it’s so easy- I thought ice cream making would be a process, but it really wasn’t. Notably, I used Jeni’s Ice Cream Base (of the ridiculously amazing Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream, founded in Columbus). Here’s what I did…

Almond Ice Cream with Cherry Compote and Brown Butter Streusel

-          2 cups milk
-          4 tsp cornstarch
-          1 ¼ heavy cream
-          2/3 cup sugar and 2 tbsp sugar
-          2 tbsp corn syrup
-          ¼ tsp kosher salt
-          1 ½ oz cream cheese
-          1 tsp almond extract
-          1 tbsp butter, and 1 tbsp butter, melted
-          2/3 cup chopped cherries
-          Juice of ½ lemon
-          2 tbsp brown sugar
-          1/3 cup oats
-          1/3 cup slivered almonds
-          ½ tsp cinnamon
-          Sprinkle of kosher salt

Make the base: In a small bowl, mix together the cornstarch and 2-3 tbsp of the milk, and set aside. In a saucepan, bring the rest of the milk, the cream, 2/3 cup sugar, and the salt to a boil, and boil for 4 minutes exactly. Stir in the slurry, and boil for about a minute. In a small bowl (I used the same one I had the starch mixture in) mix the cream cheese with about ½ cup of the milk mixture, until it’s completely lump free. Mix the cheese and milk mixtures together, stir in the almond extract, and cool completely. Note: some people use an ice bath to cool the base immediately, but I like to make the base the day before, and let it sit in the fridge. This is also helpful because it reminds me to put my ice cream maker into the freezer to sit overnight, as well.

Make the compote: Melt the butter over medium heat, and add the chopped cherries, 1 tbsp butter and 2 tbsp sugar. Cook until the sugar is melted and the mixture has reduced to a thick syrup. Remove from the heat and stir in lemon juice. I also recommend making this ahead of time, so it has time to cool before you stir it into the ice cream.

Make the streusel: In a mixing bowl, stir together the 1 tbsp melted butter, brown sugar, oats, almonds, cinnamon, and salt. Spread on a baking sheet and bake at 350 until the almonds are slightly brown, about ten minutes. Make sure to keep an eye on these and mix regularly, because it’s so easy for nuts to burn!

Make the ice cream: assemble your ice cream maker. Pour the base into the freezer and freeze according to your manufacturer’s instructions. When there are about five minutes left, add the cherry compote and continue to freeze. Once my mixture had reached a firm soft-serve stage, I removed the bowl from the machine and used a wooden spoon to stir in the streusel (it seemed like that might be more than my freezer could handle). Then transfer the ice cream to freezer containers and freeze for at least two hours, to really firm up. Or, I mean, eat it as soon as everything is mixed. Totally your call :)

Cherry Almond Ice Cream 4I have one more ice cream recipe in the chute (thanks to our amazing local farmers market) but then I need ideas. I’m thinking something with banana and nutella, or smores, or peanut butter and brownies. Any suggestions, or flavor profiles you love?

 

Friday Five: Acts of Self Kindness

A few weeks ago (actually, ten weeks ago, if we’re being honest) I attending a multi-day seminar called the Corporate Athlete. The very, very basic premise of the workshop was that people who work in corporate America are constantly on, between the enormous number of hours that we’re actually in the office, to the extra hours we spend on email and being remotely available and the generally ongoing brainstorming and working through problems in our off time. For all that time that we spend on the job, we generally don’t take care of our bodies, which makes you wonder- how long can you ignor your personal wellness, and still be the most effective version of yourself?

Friday Five Kindness

To cut down on a very long story, I’ve finally gotten around to taking a strong inventory of all four spheres of my wellness (physical, emotional, mental and spiritual)…and there’s some room for improvement in my life. I’d bet that there’s definitely some room for improvement in all of our lives, don’t you think? So this week’s five is all about taking care of yourself- and here are five of my ideas for Ways to Be Kind to Yourself.

  1. Movement. I’m no athlete, and you won’t find me running a half marathon any time soon. I’ve dabbled a lot, though, in many activities and there’s never been a time when I wished I would not have done something physical. Maybe you talk a long stroll with yourself or someone whose company you enjoy, maybe you take a soothing yoga class, or maybe surprise yourself with a kickboxing class, or one of the new dance classes that are popping up everywhere. Whatever you choose, getting physical is kindness to your heart, your muscles, and usually your psyche. (I finally found Yoga With Adriene, and her yoga videos are changing my life…seriously.)

  2. Self-expression. Maybe you want to literally journal, or maybe you want to vent your thoughts in the car on the way to work (I love to talk to myself in the car) or maybe art is your self-expression. However you choose, think about spending time at the end of each day getting your thoughts out. This will allow you to purge yourself of toxic internal dialogue, see what’s really floating around in there, and maybe help you find a bit of peace before you go to sleep. (I started using Emily Ley’s Simplified Journal some nights before bed, and it’s amazing how fast I can go from mind racing to perfectly calm, with the help of a complete brain dump.)
  3. Pamper yourself. I don’t know what your pampering looks like, or your budget for that matter. Maybe you need a spa day, okay, but my version of pampering usually involves finding a really indulgent beverage (today I’m looking at you, peanut butter milkshake) and giving myself a few hours to read. That’s all, really. Reading a book when there’s so much else that can be done feels like such an indulgence to me, so when I do settle down with a book, I banish any nagging feelings and just relax. It’s me time!
    Good things
  4. Affirmations. It feels cheesy, yes, but sometimes you just need to review the good things in your life. When I get down on my body, I take a stock of some of my good features (I have very pale skin, but it’s also incredibly soft. As is my stomach area J but I have surprisingly lovely feet). Or sometimes I get jealous of something happening in one of my friends’ life, and when I take a minute to list my many blessings, I realize that my life is pretty good, too. In a world that’s so full of carefully curated social media messaging, it can be really easy to compare yourself to others and come up lacking. I say, choose to see the good in yourself, and acknowledge what’s awesome. (My friend Sara, on Fit for a Bride, posted that quote last week, and I really love the sentiment!)
  5. Dream. Dream as big as you possibly can. This is the hardest idea for me to embrace- I hate to fail, but more than that I hate to fail publicly. Therefore, I usually keep my dreams small, and only share my accomplishments, and not my goals. This makes it harder for me to accomplish what I want to, because I don’t have a support system in place to help me succeed. The moment I put any of my dreams out into the world, though, people step up and make suggestions and offer resources and provide guidance, and I can accomplish anything more easily and more efficiently. So this is what I am striving for- to set goals for myself, enormous goals, and put them out into the world, and see what the world has in mind for me. Try it out…I think you will find that the world has so much support to offer, if only you reach out!
    Kind

Tell me about your acts of self kindness- what have you been doing to improve your life, lately? Or what do you want to do in the future?

Strawberry Banana Nutella Tart

Guys, it’s a summer Polar Vortex. I don’t know what your weather looks like, but Central Ohio is looking pretty grey and bleary, and is unseasonably chilly. And I’ve had a crazy week, so I just want to change into yoga pants and snuggle with Howie. And also, I need some dessert. And also, I don’t feel like being at all productive.

IMG_5388 You can see where I am in life, right now.

Anyway, recently I just wanted dessert, but I didn’t want anything standard like ice cream or brownies. And I wanted chocolate, but also fruit. And I didn’t really feel like putting out a supreme effort. I reviewed to contents of my kitchen and realized that this Nutella tart was absolutely my solution- nothing has ever been easier. Check it out!

Nutella Tart 2 Fruit Nutella Tart

-          1 sheet puff pastry
-          1 jar Nutella (I used an off brand, and it was perfect)
-          Sliced fruit (I love Nutella with bananas and strawberries)

Step one: spread the tart into whatever pan you can find, and ideally up the sides of the pan, to create a lip for the Nutella. Pierce all over with a fork, to prevent air bubbles, and bake as instructed on your packaging.

Step two: spread Nutella. This step can conveniently occur immediately after removing the pastry from the over, or after it cooks. No rules here, friends. Do think about using the entire jar, though- I thought it would be too much….it’s not.

Step three: top with sliced fruit. You can make it look all fancy, with concentric circles, if you like. Or just chop it up and drop it on, and call it artistic.

Step four: Consume immediately. This sounds a little melodramatic, but I’d try to eat it within an hour or so of assembling. A) it’s delicious, and there’s no reason to withhold, but b) the fruit can get a little weepy and Nutella doesn’t love the extra liquid.

Nutella TartSo good, friends, and so easy. Perfect for brunch…and any other time.

What I Read This Spring, Part 2

We’re back, with the second half of what I read over the past few months. As ever, these are my real reactions to what I’ve been reading, so feel free to disregard whatever you don’t agree with :)

The GoldfinchThe Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. This book, my friends, is well worth the time that it takes to read it (which is not inconsiderable, considering that it’s over 700 pages long). The book starts out with really heartbreaking story of a terrorist plot that left Theo without a mother. The rest of the book chronicles the various stages of his life that follow: temporarily living with a classmate’s family, moving to his Dad’s in Vegas, leaving Vegas, and then life as an adult. Each section of Theo’s life is a story unto itself, and is relatively engaging. There were a few portions that I sort of zoned out in, but in a book this long, I wasn’t particularly surprised or upset. Overall, I absolutely loved it, and really felt that Donna Tartt did Theo’s life story justice- the length allowed her to tell an entire story, and I really appreciate that in a book.

Eleanor and ParkEleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell. You know, this was a sweet book, but I think that I’m about over my YA fiction phase. I dipped back into YA for the Hunger Games, and kept reading because of the Fault in Our Stars, but this book let me know that it’s just about time to move on to other genres again. Eleanor and Park is the story of two teenagers who don’t fit in particularly well. They grow together in their ‘outcast’ status, and fall in love. Eleanor comes from a rough family situation, which provides most of the conflict in the story, and is endearingly melodramatic in her feelings for Park: “I don’t think I even breathe when we’re not together.” The end was pretty abrupt and unsatisfying. Many people like this book, and I’ll probably read something else by the author, but I didn’t love it.

Labor DayLabor Day by Joyce Maynard. I just found out this is going to be a movie, and I’m actually really looking forward to seeing it- I think the story will lend itself really well to film! So as not to ruin anything for anyone, I won’t go into the plot, but will say that I enjoyed the book and, even if it weren’t gaining popularity, would recommend it to others. There were several parts of the book where my loyalty was torn between two characters, and I was really rooting for everyone. I wasn’t thrilled with the ending, but I was satisfied with the sense of closure. Overall, a great read, and I highly recommend that you read it before you see the movie!

SisterlandSisterland, by Curtis Sittenfeld. Sisterland is the story of two sisters with ESP, so it had the potential to be very mystical, but chose not to take that direction. Rather, Sittenfeld really just told the story of twin sisters who took very different paths in life, and how their relationship fared through various life changes. I really enjoy reading Curtis Sittenfeld, and this book was no exception. This is a book about women, about sisters, about their lives and real choices that each made and how they coped with them. The plot line is well woven into these themes, and I think it was a great read- I highly recommend it.

Life as we knew itLife as We Knew It, by Susan Beth Pfeffer. Yep, we’re keeping it real with these recaps: Life as We Knew It was the final nail in the YA coffin for me. The idea of the book is interesting- there’s a meteor that knocks to moon out of alignment, causing a number of catastrophic changes in nature, and eventually leads to the downfall of a good portion of the population. I’m not much for doomsday stories, but it was an interesting premise. The problem is that the book is written largely as a diary of a girl who might be fifteen…and I found the immature voice of the narrator to be less than engaging. On the other hand, as YA fiction, this is geared towards young adults- and I’m sure that it’s perfect for that audience! Just maybe not for me, for right now. So, take that as you will.

Flat water TuesdayFlat Water Tuesday, by Ron Irwin. My sister recommended this book to me, but I feel like it came completely out of nowhere- I’d never heard to title or the author, and it was just something she picked up by chance. What a serendipitous choice, because I adored this book! Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that I rowed in college, so the subject matter was already endeared to me, but I had a hard time putting this book down. Flat Water Tuesday is the story of Rob, a young guy who kind of taught himself to row, and was on scholarship with a boarding school. He struggled to fit in, both with the school culture and with the rowing team, but earned a spot on the prestigious ‘God Four’. I’ll let you read for itself, but this was a great story of growing and adapting, embracing challenges, and of devastating tragedy. The last quarter of the book was awkward, but in an interesting way. Overall, it’s a highly recommended book on my part- I’ll probably read it again in the winter, and several more times beyond that.

I know I asked for recommendations in my recaps last week, but I’ll still take any new title or author suggestions- I need to fill up my Over Drive queue for the rest of the summer!

Spicy Chicken Lettuce Wraps

It’s Taco Tuesday, and this week I’ve taken some poetic license. I always think of lettuce wraps as a form of taco (you know, replace the tortilla with lettuce) but Evan pointed out that you can also replace the bread of a sandwich with lettuce, which results in a very similar product. I suggested that lettuce wraps can be whatever the chef intended them to be, and Evan just raised his eyebrows at me. This is our life…sometimes debating world affairs, sometimes classifying lettuce usage.

Lettuce Wraps 2   For the sake of blogging, at least, I’m proposing that today’s Spicy Chicken Lettuce Wraps fit the bill for Taco Tuesday. They’re pretty simple (ground meat, some veggies, seasoning) and totally delicious. I know that many lettuce wraps are topped with deep fried rice noodles for the crunch, but I’m sporadically on a health kick (as long as you don’t consider yesterday’s cream pie) so I used julienned carrots and cucumbers, which were just as crunchy and far less deep fried. But hey, this is America, so have all the deep fried noodles you like, if you’re so inspired. Either way, the lettuce wraps are a perfect week night dinner choice, so give them a try!

LEttuce Wraps 3

Spicy Chicken Lettuce Wraps 

-          1 lb ground chicken
-          2 tbsp olive oil
-          ½ onion
-          1 bell pepper
-          8 oz mushrooms
-          2 cloves garlic
-          2 inch piece of ginger
-          1/4 cup hoisin sauce
-          2 tbsp sriracha sauce
-          2 tbsp soy sauce
-          1 tbsp sesame oil (don’t leave this out or substitute it!)
-          Lettuce
-          2 Carrots
-          1 Cucumber
-          2 Green onions

Prepare the ingredients: dice the onion and pepper, and chop the mushrooms to similar sized pieces, and set aside. Mince the garlic finely, and peel and mince the ginger. (I like to use a microplane for ginger, but many people mince it the same way they would garlic…do whatever feels right for you.) In a separate bowl, make the sauce by mixing the hoisin, sriracha, soy and sesame oil. Separate the lettuce leaves (I used iceberg, because my grocery was completely out of everything else, but bibb lettuce and romaine are great alternatives with solid leaves), rinse and dry. Shred the carrots and the cucumber, and thinly slice the green onion for chopping.

Make the filling: preheat a heavy bottomed pan to high heat. When it’s hot, add olive oil and then add the ground chicken, stirring with a wooden spoon to break it up. In my experience, chicken releases a fair amount of liquid- continue to cook until that liquid has evaporated, and the chicken is slightly browned. At that point, add the vegetables with the garlic and ginger and cook for about three more minutes, until the veggies are softened, and the mixture is fragrant. (Remember to maintain pretty high heat, and keep moving the mixture!) When everything is cooked through, stir in the sauce and continue to stir fry for a minute, so the sauce is mixed in and everything is hot.

Assemble: lay out the lettuce leaves and spoon in the mixture (depending on what lettuce I’m using, I sometimes double the leaves so they’re less flimsy). Top with cucumber, carrots and green onions, and keep some extra sriracha in case you want a bit more spice. Enjoy!Lettuce Wraps

Peanut Butter Banana Cream Pie

Sometimes, I get an idea for a recipe in my head that I have to sit on for a really long time before I can finally commit to making it. This Banana Cream Pie was on such recipe. First, I really struggled with the topping- should it be meringue or whipped cream? The last one I had, in Central America, was meringue. An informal Twitter poll, though, showed that most people prefer whipped cream…and also pointed out that, as a cream pie, meringue was not at all called for.

After the topping was settled, I got really fixated on a peanut butter addition. Evan and I love peanut butter banana on sandwiches and in milkshakes, and it seemed like a perfect combination for this pie. My struggle was, where to put it- nutter butter crust? Maybe too sweet. A layer of peanut butter cream on top of regular crust? I was thinking that might be a little too heavy, or sticky. Finally, with some reservations, I decided to make a layer of peanut butter mousse, then add banana slices, banana pastry cream, and cover the entire thing with lightly sweetened whipped cream.

Peanut Butter Pie 2And…it was perfection. There are no pictures of the gorgeous layers because I took it to the fire station, where they demolished it.  This pie was amazing, and completely surpassed all expectations. I cannot recommend it more highly. Even people who were skeptical of banana cream pie loved it.

So. Good.

Peanut Butter Banana PiePeanut Butter Banana Cream Pie

-          1 pie crust
-          1 pint heavy whipping cream
-          ½ tsp vanilla and 1 tsp vanilla
-          ¼ cup powdered sugar and ½ cup powdered sugar
-          ¼ cup peanut butter (any kind will be fine)
-          4 oz cream cheese (any level of fat)
-          2 bananas and 3 bananas, sliced
-          2 tbsp butter and 2 tbsp butter
-          2 cups milk or cream
-          2 tbsp corn starch
-          2 tbsp flour
-          4 egg yolks

Ok, I will admit- this recipe has many steps. But it also has a lot of layers, and is amazingly delicious. None  of the steps are complicated, and I’ll walk you through them. It’s so worth it- I promise!

Make the crust: here’s a truth- I use Pillsbury frozen pie crusts. They’re delicious and easy and inexpensive. Especially for complex pies, I let someone else make the crust for me. So, either thaw your premade crust, or prepare a recipe for a single shell pie. Settle it into your pie plate, crimp the edges as you wish, and prick all over with a fork (pricking with a fork, all the way through to the pie plate, allows the steam to escape so that the crust doesn’t rise while it bakes…and is very important in blind baking). Bake at 400 for 12 minutes, or until golden. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.

Make the whipped cream: so easy! First, you want to start with a cold bowl and cold ingredients. IF you’re using stand mixer, place the metal bowl in the freezer for 15-30 minutes before you start to whip the cream. If you’re using a hand mixer or, God bless you, a whisk, make sure that you use a glass or metal bowl…plastic bowls really won’t cut it for this. Once your bowl is very cold, add the pint of cream, the ½ tsp vanilla, and the ¼ cup powdered sugar. Whip until semi-stiff peaks form- that’s when, as you pull the whisk out of the cream, a peak will hold but have rounded tips. You really want to watch this step, because if you over whip you can actually separate the milk fat and create butter. Fortunately, there’s a pretty clear ‘grainy’ stage in between where you’re still okay, so just keep an eye out for that. It takes less than ten minutes to whip cream to perfection, so have patience!

Make the peanut butter mousse: Move the whipped cream into another bowl. In your now empty but not rinsed mixing bowl, beat 1 tsp vanilla with the cream cheese, peanut butter and ½ cup powdered sugar until fluffy. Remove the bowl from the mixer and, using a rubber spatula, fold in about one cup of your whipped cream. Folding is easy- it’s just gently and slowly mixing, so that everything is incorporated without losing all the air you just whipped in. Once the mousse is all mixed, you can place it and the remaining whipped cream in the fridge until the pastry cream is ready.

Make the pastry cream: you might do this in two stages. First, melt 2 tbsp butter in a sauce pan with 2 bananas, cut into quarters or eighths. Saute for a minute or two until soft. Add the cream or milk, and bring to a boil. Boil for a minute, then remove from the heat and let the bananas ‘steep’ in the milk for a half an hour or so. This might be when you take care of the whipped cream and mousse.

Part 2- strain the bananas out of the cream or milk and discard. In a small bowl, mix the sugar, flour and corn starch. Whisk in a little bit of the banana milk, and make a lump- free paste. Add the paste back to the milk in the sauce pan, bring to a simmer, cook for two minutes while stirring, and remove from heat. In another small bowl (or the same one from before, really) separate the egg yolks and stir together. Take about a half cup of the thickened milk mixture and stir into the egg yolks. (This is called tempering the eggs. If we just added them straight to the milk, they might be shocked by the temperature and scramble…not ideal. So we introduce them gently to the heat.) Return the egg mixture to the milk, bring to a boil, and cook for two minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat, whisk in 2 tbsp butter and 1 tsp vanilla, and cool completely.

 Assemble the pie: as a reminder, everything should be cool when you assemble. So, start with the pie crust and top with the peanut butter mousse. Arrange the sliced bananas in a layer and top with the banana pastry cream. For the whipped cream, I used a pastry bag to make pretty swirls, but you can certainly spoon it on and swirl nicely. I’d recommend letting everything settle for maybe an hour in the fridge, and then enjoy!

Friday Five: Small Bathroom Inspiration

Here’s something I’ve recently been thinking about- Evan and I moved into our home almost three years ago, and we have never showered in our master bathroom. The thing is, our house had wallpaper in nearly every room, including the master bath. We removed it and painted most rooms, but we never go around to repainting the bath. It’s just the two of us (three while Shannon lived here) and we have another full bath, and we just used that.

Friday Five BathroomWell, the time has come, my friends! In my Summer Bucket List, I declared that some sort of home improvement was in order, and it’s going to be a renovation of the master bath. I’ll share photos and specific inspiration as we get more into it, but for now I’m using my Friday Five to showcase some of my favorite small bathroom ideas.

  1. Strategic shelving and storage. Our bathroom istiny- like, I can touchall of the walls (well, three walls and the shower door) standing in one place. There’s absolutely no space to store anything, especially once we install a pedestal sink (to be fair, our current vanity is 18” wide, soits not like we’re eliminating a ton of storage anyway). I love the idea of wall shelving, but worry that it will really clutter up the space. So, I’m proposing glass shelves, which look less bulky, and utilizing baskets to corral our junk.

  2. Towel solutions. TOWELS TAKE UP SO MUCH SPACE! And there really is no space for them, especially the fluffy oversized towels I love so much. So I have a fewideas- first, a series of towel bars (maybe three) spaced vertically on the call outside the shower, like the pic above. Or, maybe two rows of hooks…I really think hooks are more efficient in drying towels anyway. Or, maybe a shelf situation like you see in hotels, so we can stack clean towels on top, and hang damp towels to dry below. Any of these would be fine, but I’m very serious about dedicating asignificant amount of our limited wall real estate to housing our towels.

  3. Art. I love seeing art in thebathroom- it makes it feel more relaxing and welcoming. We have a window that takes up a fair amount of our wall space, but I’d love to somehow include some framed prints. Maybe, if we do shelves above the toilet, we could make some space for photos there? Or a plant?

  4. Alternative medicine cabinets. Our housewas built in the 60s, and the bathroom features agood sized medicine cabinet, but it’s insanely shallow and doesn’t hold things the way I’d like while also allowing the door to close, and the items that it does hold come tumbling out, because it’s so shallow. I hate it.Pinterest, however, has suggested that maybe I remove the door, re-space the shelves, and use glass ones, and use the same (or similar) tile as we use in the shower for the back of the cabinet. This is an idea I call really getbehind- the tile would be so pretty, and without the door, I can use small baskets/jars/containers to hold the essentials.Perrrrfect.

    Subway Tile

    Image Source via Pinterest

  5. Subway tiled showers. Ok, this might be trendy, but I really love glass subwaytile- I think it’s beautiful and reflects light so well.  I’ve been afraid to find pricing so far, but I would really like to use white, or grey, or light teal glass tile for the shower, and take it all the way to the ceiling. It’s the one aspect of the room that I’m really set on…and I think it will look lovely reflected in the new door free cabinet space.

What do you think? Any advice, suggestions, or guidance from anyone that has already renovated a tiny bathroom? Or, are there other awesome bathroom ideas out there that I haven’t found yet? We’ll take any and all input as we move forward with this!