Monday, May 30, 2011

Mini Banana Muffins

One of my favorite and relaxing hobbies is baking.  Unfortunately, I really only know how to bake banana bread.  Why?  Because I end up having to bake a banana something all the time.  You see...I have a really odd love-hate relationship with bananas.  I LOVE bananas when they aren't ripe.  In fact, green means good in this case.  I buy and eat bananas green and once they get one little bruise on them I am out.  So, I normally have a few bananas leftover that aren't "good" anymore.

I either give the little bruisers away or bake them.

This morning I had three bananas sitting on my kitchen counter...all nasty and not edible on their own.  I sighed and decided to take on baking them first thing this morning.  I decided to skip my routine banana bread loaf and use my new mini muffin pan.  (Everything is better mini, right?)  I have one go-to recipe for my banana breads that I love.  I'm continually trying to tweak it to make it more organic and healthy.  Below is what I actually made this morning.

Mini Banana Muffins

1 1/2 cup Organic Whole Wheat Flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup melted butter (I use Smart Balance Butter light with flax)
3/4 cup Organic Pure Cane Sugar
2 Organic Eggs
3 Organic Ripe Bananas mashed
1 teaspoon vanilla
* white chocolate chips
* coconut flakes

Preheat oven to 325F degrees.

In a mixing bowl, cream together the melted butter and sugar.  Add the eggs, mashed bananas and vanilla and mix really well.

Mix in the baking soda and cinnamon.  Then slowly pour in the flower, mixing well as you pour.  Give the mixture a really good stir to make sure everything is fully mixed and then stir in the your treat of choice.  (white chocolate chips, coconut flakes, nuts, blueberries).

Lightly grease or oil your baking cups.  Spoon your mixture into the cups.  Bake at 325F degrees for about 20 minutes.

*I actually poured out a little but of the mixture into a separate bowl and added the coconut flakes.  I also spooned the plain banana mixture into the cups and then added a few white chocolate chips to about half of the plain muffins.  I ended up with a few plain banana muffins, a few white chocolate banana muffins, and banana coconut muffins.  YUM-O.  Sparky was pleasantly surprised when he stumbled out of bed to the aroma of baking banana muffins.

In the future, I am going to try to incorporate Agave Nectar, Xanthum Gum, and coconut oil.  I will let you know how that goes.

Scenes from my morning.  Enjoying my muffins, coffee, flowers, and dogs.

*All photos belong to me, yo.

Keep on Keepin On.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Planter Boxes

The Start.  You can see that Sparky had already stained the deck and the "big" pergola.  The front was left alone after the "vision" of planters popped in Sparky's head and he was determined to build large planter boxes on the front of the deck.

Sparky first started  by building a frame along the already existing step.  We had so much left over decking wood from the deck and pergola that we just used it for these planter boxes. 

One large piece of wood was cut to fit the exact size of the very font of the step.  The two side pieces were cut to size but also each end was cut at an angle.  Sparky drilled decking screws into the pieces to attach.

Be sure to have your Project Manager "on deck" to oversee your work as you go.  

Sparky measured and cut one piece of wood the length from one end to end.  He then cut each end at an angle to match up with the previously cut side pieces already anchored and cut at an angle.  Sparky drilled decking screws to attach the pieces.

Sparky then repeated these same steps for the left side of the deck on the other side of the step.  The left side is longer than the right side, so he was sure to measure each separately to meet each sides' specifications. 

He then started the bottoms.  The main frames of the planter boxes are floating, leaving a large space between the frame and the ground.  Sparky went back and fourth between wood and galvanized metal to fill this space.  He wanted a modern look.  The galvanized metal was a great idea, but the in the end, the wood "legs" won.  We already had the wood and the wood was more structurally supporting.  Plus, if we decide later to do the galvanized metal, we can always screw the metal into the wood and then remove again if we choose that too.  It's win win this way.

The "legs" were accomplished by just taking the long decking wood and cutting to the height needed.  It doesn't have to be absolutely perfect because they will eventually be covered at the top.

You can also see here that Sparky is attaching a back deck board to close of the box in the back.

Be sure your Project Manager approves all decisions.  They have to at least feel involved throughout the process.

Be sure to make a mess.

Take a break without informing your Quality Control Manager.  Leaving them dumbfounded about your whereabouts is always fun.

Repeat the bottom slats to the other side.

Sparky then used 1x4 boards to frame the top.  He cut each side to length with angled edges.  He then drilled each piece in to the main frame allowing for an overhang from the main frame.

Sparky also lined the planter box with a weed resistant liner.

Be sure to have a Chihuahua come sniff out your work.

Before Sparky filled the planter boxes with dirt and soil, he filled the boxes about 1/3 of the way with old glass and plastic bottles.  This will save you from having to fill the whole box with soil when the plants will only use a bit of it.

Sparky then stained the planter boxes to match the rest of the deck and pergola and then we went plant shopping!  Yay!

We ended up with 5 White Pampas and 2 Red Yuccas total.

...and a sleepy Project Manager...

I think the Red Yucca look a little space alien/creature-ish.  But Sparky LOVES them.  To each his own right?

 Voila!  New planter boxes.  I think Sparky did a pretty good job.

I apologize for my crappy instructions.  I pretty much watched for the most part and only held a board up when asked.  I'm super helpful.

Keep on Keepin on.