Blissfully Delicious

better for you banana breadI have an incredibly soft spots for banana bread. I always crave a thick and moist slice of banana bread for breakfast.  Just like most quick bread recipes, they require very little preparation, you don’t have to break out the mixer. You mix your wet ingredients into dry, so you use a whisk and then a spatula.  One loaf can usually last through the week, unlike some of the other baked goods, that are only good for three days, or have to be enjoyed “immediately”, or “the same day”.  Whenever I see those words, they just scare me, because in a household of two adults and two little people, I can’t honestly say that I would be able to eat an entire recipe of something in one day. That’s why I usually save recipes like that when I have company.

better for you banana bread 2 The other day, I was just thinking about when my banana bread obsession started. And I think I can trace it back to my high-school and college years. I remember wanting to cook and bake in college, but between studying for my classes and working three jobs, any time spent in the kitchen seemed like a luxury. What I did instead, whenever I went home during breaks, I’d try my hands on cooking meals for my family and baking, and this loaf was the one that I always made. It was easy and reliable, even for a novice like me. Soon, I realized that my parents didn’t care for them, so it was just me, and sometimes my sister who would eat them if she happened to be home at the same time as I was. After a long-hiatus of not making them; I have to make them myself even though these days, only Red and I would be the two people eating it at the house. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ve probably noticed that I have posted several versions of banana bread. But I’m such a die-hard fan that I always welcome a new recipe variation. My heart and tummy are definitely still open for a possibility of a better and yummier version of banana bread that I currently make today. This version uses yogurt (or sour cream) instead of oil, or apple sauce. It also mixes regular all-purpose flour and whole wheat flour. Alternatively, if you want to use white-whole wheat flour, I would say that you can replace the entire 2-1/2 cups with that.

apple pancakesAs the most important meal of the day, breakfast has became such a luxury for me. During the week, I feel like I’m constantly two steps behind, starting from the minute I wake up, all the way till it’s time to hit the bed. It starts with getting the kids ready and out the door to school; and myself to work. As much as I love eating breakfast, I just can’t get myself together enough to prepare something special during the week, so I end up eating store-bought granola bars with a little fruit, or dry cereals. On the weekends, I try to make something a little more special like pancakes, French toasts, eggs, and or bacons. When you think about it though, there isn’t that many variations of breakfast food. You’ll end up with the same thing over and over again – even when you go out and eat at restaurants.

apple pancakes 2

These pancakes though is a little break from my regular plain whole wheat pancakes that I normally make with chocolate chips (I can’t seem to get the kiddos to eat them without those morsels!) Most special breakfast that are healthy tend to be bland, but these my friends, are relatively healthy thanks to the whole wheat flour, and made fluffy with buttermilk – but yes full of flavors. Then, to top them off,  dollop a huge heaping of diced apple cooked in maple syrup. It’s hard to beat these right?

brussel sprouts bv This week was my first week back at work after two long weeks off and gosh, it felt like it was the slowest week ever! Most people at work are feeling kind of the same way; it’s hard to do a full week at work after two long weeks off. Plus, the snow storm finally hit this week; so it’s been so cold all this week; which probably makes everyone feel even more sluggish! I miss those days when my schedule is a little bit unstructured at home: with my kids running around (and fighting for toys) in the background, and being able to eat what I wanted to eat, baked whatever I wanted, watched movies until super late in the night, and not having to worry about having to wake up early for work, etc.  Actually the staying up late was a huge issue that I’m definitely paying it this week. We also got hooked on a TV series called “Reign”; have you guys watched it? Oh my goodness, I’m totally obsessed now, it’s pretty bad! A friend of mine mentioned it to me a couple of months ago, and I finally got a chance to watch it. Now I’ve been dying to park myself on the couch and watch a couple of episodes on Netflix; which probably is now going to be once or twice a month since we’re back at work.

brussel sprouts bv 2 I know that I probably should have a more “predictably healthy” food-posts 2015 start, instead of posting these sweet and plushy Vanilla Marshmallows as my first post of the year, and then followed by my second post that talks about my new addiction to a new TV series. To compensate for that, I’m sharing a vegetable recipe today, hooray! And it’s so simple that you almost have to make it, and include it in your menu whenever you want something quick, easy, and delicious for your side dish. It’s so simple that all you need is just to remember to pick up a stalk or a bag of them from the grocery store. I also estimate the amount of ingredients in this recipe below; so please feel free to adjust the seasoning to your taste. You can thank me later :)

marshmallowsOne of the things that I love about having this blog is that it has chronicled all of the different stages of our family, including our family’s eating preference, so it’s like our family’s own personal food diary. Once in a blue moon, I’d pull an older post, read it, and then get to reflect on what were some of the things that were happening around that time that we enjoyed that particular meal. Last year around this time, my daughter was absolutely obsessed with yogurt and granola, so I made my own granola. I never even considered about making my own until I saw how much she loved (and ate it!).  Recently, her big thing has been drinking hot chocolate with LOTS of marshmallow. One of her teachers always says that it’s nice to curl up with a mug of hot chocolate, marshmallows, and a good book. I thought that it’s time that I make my own marshmallow with her.

marshmallows 2
I tried making marshmallow once and it was everything that I imagined that it should be: sweet, light and fluffy. None of the artificial flavors. It’s one of those things that once you get to taste the flavors of a homemade version; it’s really hard to go back to the store-bought version. My daughter was just a few months shy of turning one at that time, so she didn’t really eat sugar or dessert yet, let alone marshmallows. Now that she’s four and a half, I feel like I get to do so many more fun things to do with her. She’s also so excited about making all of these treats. I just love this 4-year old stage. When I first made marshmallows, I just cut them into squares, but this time, I tried doing the shapes for the kids, which didn’t turn out as beautifully as I had imagined in my head. So I did several shapes, and cut the rest in squares. You can also add all sorts of flavorings to make them more fun (peppermint for example); but I personally plan on dipping them in chocolate and roll them in sprinkles. They’re good up to a month, so we’ll see if these will last this long in our household.

Happy New Year’s Eve everyone. It’s pretty wild that today is already the last day of 2014. Are you guys ready to ring in the New Year’s? We have been laying low and enjoying our vacation at home this week and it’s been pretty fun. We just don’t get to do this very much, so we’ve been hanging out at home, touring and enjoying all of the fun things to eat and do around town. I even spent four hours cleaning, sorting and organizing our kids’ playroom yesterday. My husband thought that it was a much needed task, and wished me well from a far as he tried to keep the kids away from undoing things that I was putting in place. I was never the type who goes out and parties for New Years even before the “married life”, so we don’t have a big plan for night. We’re going to try to do something with the kids at home, and maybe a catch a movie if they fall asleep within reasonable time. For the past several years, I have been compiling the “Top Recipes” for the year toward the end of the year. It’s so much fun to review all of the things that I have cooked, baked, and blogged throughout the year – and then it’s even more fun to see if your favorites match with ours. Without further introduction, here are the top 10 recipes that made it to the list for 2014.

sloppy joes slow cooker#10: Slow Cooker Sloppy Joes – It’s really hard to not *like* Sloppy Joes. It’s hearty, a total comfort-food, and when it’s cooked in the slow cooker – it makes such a winning combo that’s hard not to like. It’s also one of those great dish to serve at parties (everyone can prep their own burgers) since you can easily double the amount. Yet without doubling the amount, it still makes enough for small family, because it is great as leftover, and can be frozen.

baked blueberry pancake #9: Oven Baked Blueberry Pancakes – This is another new pancake recipe that I was really glad that I tried. I constantly feel like a short-order cook, working at a very busy diner (a.k.a: my own house). Making the pancake batter in a pan gives me a time to prepare the pancake all in one, and then I get to sit down with my family as soon as I finish cooking this. It’s great without blueberries and can be made with other fruits as well – so it’s hard not to love this recipe.

apricot ice cream#8: Fresh Apricot Ice Cream – While we all really loved this ice-cream at our household, Apricot ice cream isn’t exactly a very common flavor that everyone tends to be drawn to, so I was glad that this recipe made it to the Top 10. It’s creamy, bursting out in apricot flavors, and just a perfect way to enjoy fresh sweet apricots when it’s in season. It basically tastes like you’re biting into a frozen apricot. Thinking about this ice-cream makes yearns for warm summer nights with flip-flops.

fresh apple scone 2 #7: Fresh Apple Cinnamon Scones – This is one of those scones that makes your house instantly feels like home, and smells like Fall. The apple bits along with the cinnamon chips are nestled between the soft tender layers of crumbs, covered in crusty skin full of sanding sugar. It tastes best immediately after it comes out of the oven, but it is yummy and tastes like apple cake once it’s reheated. Either version of this scone still makes my heart sing.

SC Pumpkin Cupcakes 2#6: Spiced Pumpkin Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Buttercream Frosting – Cupcakes! Oh, cupcakes! I dream about cupcakes all the time. Every single time I get stressed out, which is about all the time now, I dream of whipping up a batch of cupcakes. You probably ask, why not cakes, right? Well, one cupcake is all that I need to satisfy my emotional cravings and occasional sweet tooth. So I load them up in my cupcake carrier, and take them to work to share the love. This one is my new favorite yet. A beautiful spiced cupcakes with lots of pumpkin flavors and the fall spices that I love, but tender crumbs and just enough moistness to remind me that it’s a treat. And that Salted Caramel Buttercream basically just brings a new meaning to frosting.

shiracha egg salad
#5: Egg Salad Sandwiches with Bacon and Sriracha – Everyone at my house loves bacons. Whenever I don’t know what to make for breakfast or even quick supper, I whip up eggs and bacons for my family, and then I eat mine with avocados. When my daughter didn’t really want to eat anything that I made for her, she would eat bacons. I have probably eaten enough bacons in my life that if I didn’t eat any more bacons for the rest of my life, I’d be okay with it. While I really prefer simple egg salads, I really loved the addition of both bacon bits and Sriracha sauce in my egg salads, it gives it enough bite and edginess that you wouldn’t get in your everyday egg salads.

flour choc chip#4: Flour Bakery Chocolate Chip Cookies – I love homemade chocolate chip cookies. And since I love everything else that I made from Joanna’s book, I knew that I had to see what she would do to improve a classic cookie that everyone loves. The addition of bread flour was sort of a genius. It gives the cookie a slight add of stability without jeopardizing its classic core: soft in the middle, with all of the beautiful crispiness in the outside: my perfect cookie. I can’t go back to my old chocolate chip cookies.

orange chicken 2#3: Chinese Orange Chicken – This orange chicken was everyone’s favorite as well. It’s hard to beat crispy chicken bites slathered with sweet orange sauce. Once you figure out how to make this easy chicken dish at home, you won’t be needing your carry out menu anymore.

slow cooker chili

#2: Slow Cooker Weeknight Beef Chili – Everyone has their own Chili recipe; and this has became mine. At the end of the day, Chili is one of those dishes that just tastes better when it has simple ingredients and slow-cooked all day. Everyone, I mean, everyone -can benefit from having several reliable slow-cooker recipes. It’s the best friend of any household with two working parents; and reliable delicious recipe like this is one the many reasons that I’m still able to prepare home cooked meals for my family for most nights.

Mongolian Beef

#1: P.F Chang Mongolian’s Beef – This recipe, wasn’t only, our personal favorite – it was also the most pinned, shared, and clicked on in 2014. This is one of those recipes that turns people into cooking more at home: it’s the very example of how home-cooked meals can be delicious and easily rivals some of your upscale restaurants. If you still haven’t given this a try – do so in 2015, and you’ll know why!

I didn’t really start compiling the top recipes for each year that I had blogged until the last four three years, but here are some of the past years’ reviews for a little throw-back actions :)

2013 Top Recipes in Review

2012 Top Recipes in Review

2011 Top Recipes in Review

Last but not last, thank YOU for your readership in 2014, and I look forward to 2015! Happy New Year.