May 23, 2020

Homemade Banana Bread Recipe - Joanna Gaines Magnolia Table

I love a warm sweet treat with a glass of milk in the evening. What is great about this banana bread is you can also eat it as breakfast, snack... It is a very moist bread thanks to the 4-5 ripened mashed bananas.  This recipe is from Joanna Gaines' Magnolia Table Volume One, but I added some very small changes I did, as I have made this banana bread several times. I always have a bunch of bananas at home because I enjoying eat one for breakfast, or mashed up in my oatmeal or when I make an afternoon smoothie. I save about 4-5 to make this recipe.

Homemade Banana Bread
Makes 8 Servings

+ 8 tablespoons (1 stick) salted butter, melted and cooled (I used 5 tablespoons of  unsalted butter and 3 tablespoons olive oil)
+ 1 cup packed light brown sugar
+ 2 large eggs, beaten
+ 1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract (I substituted with maple syrup, as I did not have vanilla)
+ 4 to 5 very ripe bananas, mashed 
+ 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
+ 1 teaspoon baking soda
+ ½ teaspoon kosher salt
+ ½ cup chopped pecans (I substituted with 1 cup of chocolate chips)
+ 1 to 2 tablespoons granulated sugar as needed (this will be used on top of the batter once in the pan)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray an 8 x 8-inch pan with nonstick baking spray or line it with parchment paper. I always line my pans with parchment paper, such an easy way to clean up.

In a in a large bowl beat together the butter, brown sugar, eggs, and vanilla until well blended. Next, add the baking soda and salt.

Add the mashed bananas and mix until combined.

Add the flour to the wet ingredients and beat just until combined. 

Add the pecans or chocolate chips if you are using either, and mix until combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread it evenly. Sprinkle the sugar over the entire surface.

Bake until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes. 

Let the bread cool slightly in the pan on a rack. When completely cooled, cover the pan with foil and store at room temperature for up to 2 days. Makes 8 servings. I usually eat a slice right away because I enjoy a freshly baked bread. I enjoy it with a cup of milk while reading a book. Such as delightful treat.

So good. I have tried many banana bread recipes, and this one is my go to. It is a favorite and I highly recommend it. I have not tried it with pecans, but I have tried it with chopped walnuts and it is equally delicious, but I love chocolate, so chocolate chips is my go to. 

April 27, 2020

Sephora Sale

I wanted to share what I currently own and what I just recently purchased from the Sephora Sale.

What I own:

SMASHBOX Photo Finish Foundation Primer - I didn't use primer before, but I received a small sample of this and put it on over my sunscreen/moisturizer, but under my makeup and it completely changed my makeup. It lasted longer and really gave it a clear canvas to start on and it really does smooth and blurs.

TOO FACED Born This Way Super Coverage Multi-Use Sculpting Concealer - I have two, one in Nude and the other in Natural Beige. I wear the nude in the winter and the Natural Beige in the summer or mix them together. It is a thicker concealer and for me provides a lot of coverage which I need because I have dark circles under my eyes.

BITE BEAUTY Agave+ Weekly Vegan Lip Scrub - In the winter I have really dry lips and I use this scrub 2 times a week and I notice a huge difference.

ANASTASIA BEVERLY HILLS Brow Wiz - I have tried many eyebrow pencils and though this is a bit costly, I keep going back to this one. I have had issues of the brush breaking off in my makeup bag, which has frustrated me, but the retractable pencil is so good, I haven't found a better replacement.

LANCĂ”ME Monsieur Big Mascara -  My absolutely favorite mascara. I have tried so many, but I keep going back to this one. It lengthens and makes my eyelashes look thicker. I also use the waterproof version, I use one coat of it over this mascara and that keeps the curl in my eyelashes when I use the below eyelash curler.

KEVYN AUCOIN The Eyelash Curler - Like many things on this list, I have tried quite a bit of varieties, but these are ones I have been using for a long time and love. I have used so many eyelash curlers, I have tried the "very best" to some reasonably priced ones, and this one has been my favorite for over a year.

BENEFIT COSMETICS Hoola Matte Bronzer - I use the color "Hoola", which is a natural bronze color. I also use it for contouring. I have also tried many bronzers and this one is always highly recommended. I really like and it does the job, and I haven't found one to replace it.

BAREMINERALS Original Loose Powder Mineral Foundation Broad Spectrum SPF 15 - I wear it in Tan Nude 17, and it is perfect for my skin tone to give me a little natural sun kiss look. It also is a buildable foundation. I use it over my concealer, and it gives my skin a natural and luminous finish. I love that it has SPF 15, so I use this again mid-day to re-apply my sunscreen.

TAN-LUXE THE FACE Illuminating Self-Tan Drops - I have been using these drops for over a year. I have it in Medium/Dark color. And I can honestly say these are amazing. I use about 5-6 drops in my sunscreen moisturizer in the morning and I have a sun tan glow by late morning and it lasts for days. The first few times I used it, I was asked by several people "Where did you go?" They thought I just came back from vacation. Now they are just used to me being tan, because I use these drops every few days. A bottle lasts as you just need a few drops, at least I do because I am naturally olive.


What I just bought:

ISLE OF PARADISE Self Tanning Drops - I bought this in Dark to try it out because I heard such great things about it. I am a Tan-Luxe devotee and have been using it for over a year and love it. Isle of Paradise is almost half the cost of Tan Luxe for about the same amount, and works the same way, add a few drops to your moisturizer. I add it to my sunscreen. I also love that it is clean and green.

DR. BRANDT SKINCARE microdermabrasion age defying exfoliator - I tried exfoliator in a mini and it is gentle. I use it to exfoliate 1-2 a weeks, usually a day or two before I use the Tan-Luxe Self-Tan drops. I also love that it is free of sulfates SLS and SLES, parabens, formaldehydes, formaldehyde-releasing agents, phthalates, mineral oil, retinyl palmitate, oxybenzone, coal tar, hydroquinone, triclosan, and triclocarban.

URBAN DECAY Naked Petite Heat - I love the colors of this palette. They are perfect for fall and summer. I have not used it yet, but I am looking forward it. I have a lot of Urban Decay palettes and their mini versions are my favorites.

TATCHA The Kissu Lip Mask - I plan on using this right after the Bite Agave lip scrub I use twice a week.

KIEHL'S SINCE 1851 Creamy Eye Treatment with Avocado - This is a hydrating eye cream made from avocado oil and shea butter. I have used this in the past and loved it. It says you can use this a a five-minute under-eye mask and then wipe it off, but I put it on a night before bed and leave it on under my eyes all night.

SEPHORA COLLECTION Retractable Waterproof Eyeliner - I got this in Black. I have been trying to find a good retractable eyeliner to use on my waterline. All the ones I have used usually fade after a few hours. I am hoping this one has the staying power I need.

STILA Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eye Liner - I have a mini sample in Intense Black, which is a jet black, and it is such a great eye liner to make a cat eye, which I wear consistently. It is long lasting and has a perfect size to make a wing.

MILK MAKEUP KUSH High Volume Mascara - I tried a sample of this and this is the closest to the Lancome Monsieur Big Mascara. It has a lot of volume, it really lengthens the lashes. I also love that it is clean and green.

April 18, 2020

My new favorite cookie - Alton Brown's Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie

During Covid-19, we have been staying at home. I have the essentials, luckily, flour, eggs, sugar, and butter. And with those you can make lots of things. Mostly baked goods. This has been a time for me to experiment and try new recipes. And I thought this would be a good time to find the ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookie.

I have had my share of chocolate chip cookies. I have always loved cookies. I have quite the sweet tooth. As a child, like most, I would enjoy eating my cookies with milk. Oreos, chocolate chip cookies, graham crackers, and all cookies alike would be dipped in milk and thoroughly enjoyed while I sat on the floor watching a movie.

Not much has changed. I still love eating cookies and my boyfriend absolutely loves chocolate chip cookies. He likes them soft, chewy and filled of chocolate chips. As I have gotten older, I like my cookies crisp on the outside and soft and chewy in the inside.

I have tried countless recipes over the years searching for the perfect cookie. For years I used the recipe on the back of the Ghirardelli chocolate chip bags. It was our favorite cookie for years. It was classic and still is. It is one of my favorites. It can be a soft and chewy cookie if left in the oven for a short amount of time or crispy if left in the oven longer.

Yet, I have always been on the hunt to see if there could be even a better recipe. And I found it! It is from Alton Brown and if you love a soft, chewy cookie filled of chocolate chips this is the recipe for you. His recipe differs then moust

Ingredients (Adapted from Alton Brown)
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter (Sometimes I just use 1 and half sticks)
  • 2 1/4 cups of bread flour (I didn't have bread flour, so I used 2 cups of all-purpose flour. He indicates that bread flour will be even more chewy. I had great success with using all-purpose. If you try this with bread flour, let me know how this goes.)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/4 cup white sugar 
  • 1 cup brown sugar (His video shows 1 and 1/4 cup, but his site says 1 cup. I used 1 cup)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract (I didn't have any, so I substituted with maple syrup)
  • 2 tablespoons milk (I used non-fat milk or 2%. milk and both worked perfectly)
  • 2 cups of chocolate chips (I added dark chocolate and semi-sweet milk chocolate chips)

Makes about 24 cookies (depending on the size of your cookies).

- Heat oven to 375 degrees.
- Melt the 2 sticks of butter in a saucepan (remember I usually just use about 1 1/2 sticks, your preference) or in a microwave bowl. It doesn't have to be completely melted, but very very soft.
- In a large bowl mix the 1 cup of brown sugar and the 1/4 cup of white sugar, then pour all the butter in the bowl and mix it with the sugars very well until creamy. 

- Add the 1 egg and 1 egg yolk and mix it, add 1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla extract (I used maple syrup) until well blended with the sugars and butters, as shown in the above photo.

- Add the 2 tablespoons of milk and add the 1 teaspoon baking soda and 1 teaspoon salt to the bowl and mix it.
Note: In Alton's recipe he says to mix the baking soda and salt in the flour. In my experience, when I mix the baking soda and salt in the flour, even with the most mixing and using a mixer, I sometimes can taste the baking soda in the baked cookie, so I include the salt and baking soda with the wet ingredients and never had a problem again. The other difference is that Alton used a table mixer, but I just used mix it with my spatula by hand.

- Next add the 2 1/4 cups of flour little by little until completely combined.

- Add the 2 cups of chocolate chips and combine it. I sometimes use a little more. I make sure it looks even. Chill the dough in the fridge for about an hour.  If you do not have an hour, at least chill it for 20-30 minutes. This holds the cookie up in the oven, so it does not go completely flat, unless you want the cookie to spread quickly in the oven - it's your cookie, you do what you want to do : ) 

- Once chilled, scoop onto parchment-lined baking sheet (it is okay if you do not have parchment paper), 6 cookies per sheet. I used a small ice cream scooper (a large rounded tablespoon).

- Bake for about 9-10 minutes. This is what worked in my oven, but it might alter on yours. Alton recommends checking after the 5 minutes. He said it might take up to 15 minutes. For me 9 minutes is usually the sweet spot for soft cookies.

It is a delicious, soft and extra chewy cookie. It comes out as a golden brown perfection. They lasted a few days and even on the last day they were still delicious and chewy. The best homemade cookie I ever made!!

I recommend taking the first bite after it has cooled for a few minutes out of the oven, so you get to experience the softed melted chocolate chips.


April 2, 2020

Homemade English Muffins

I absolutely love english muffins. I usually start my morning toasting a store bought english muffin and spreading once slice with jam and the other slice with peanut butter. They are so versatile, they can used for breakfast, think egg sandwiches, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, toasted with butter, or as a quick lunch with avocado or mini pizzas. The ideas are endless. 

Recently, I was not able to purchase english muffins, and it finally motivated me to make my own. I have been wanting to for the longest time. I found a video from Living Traditions Homestead and tried out their recipe. It was so quick and easy. I shared their recipe and video below. I only make homemade english muffins now.

1 ¼ cup warm water
1 Tbsp. Sugar
1 Tsp. Yeast
2 Tbsp. Melted Butter or Oil
2 ¾ Cups flour (Plus a little extra)
1 tsp. Salt
Cornmeal for dusting (optional)

Mix warm water and sugar in a large bowl and sprinkle yeast on top.  Let rest, covered, for 10 minutes.

Add oil and salt to mixture.

Then add in the flour until it is only slightly sticky.  

You can put the dough on floured surface and knead for 3-4 minutes.  I left it in the bowl and continued to knead it in the bowl. Add flour if necessary to stop dough from sticking to kneading surface.

Using another bowl, put the dough into an oiled bowl.

Cover with a towel until the dough has doubled in size.  About 1 hour. 

Make sure the room is nice and warm while it is rising. As you can see from the above photo, it doubled in size.

After it has risen, knead the dough a couple times and then using my hands I flattened the dough, not completely, it was still thick. I then used a cup to cut the circles out. I made exactly 10 with the dough, no left over dough.

Sprinkle corn meal on a piece of parchment paper and place the dough balls on top.  Flatten each ball to about 1 inch tall.  Cover with a dish towel, as shown in the above photo, and let rest for 20 more minutes. I did not add corn meal to mine because I did not have any, so it is optional.

Heat a frying pan on low heat and lightly oil.  You may need to adjust the heat, but you want to leave them in there slowly "baking" / "cooking". I had to increase the temperature to go them dark brown on each side.

Place as many of the muffins in the pan as you can and cook for about 8-10 minutes or until brown 
on the bottom.  Flip and cook another 5-7 minutes or until done. Some recipes recommended browning for a few minutes on each side using the skillet and then baking them in the oven at 200 degrees for 10 minutes, to ensure the inside is baked. I simply cooked them on the skillet for about 10 minutes on each side and if the bottoms did not brown, I cranked the heat to medium so that they could get brown.

I cooled them off on a cookie rack. And this is how they look.

Once completely cooled, use a fork to split them open. I read that you do not want to use a knife to slice them open. Using a fork to split them open provides the "english muffin" appearance with the nooks, as seen in the photo above. You can toast them in a toaster and serve them with your choice of toppings.

Enjoy! I hope these come out great for you. 

March 28, 2020

Women Denim Overalls

For years I've been searching high and low for denim overalls; looking at photos and reviews online, trying on pairs I would find at the store, but not quite finding "the one". I made it a tiny mission to find one I loved, had good reviews, and had the style I was looking for.

I wanted them to have a medium wash, have a comfortable/relax fit to them, fitted on top but relaxed on the hips, possibly a few tears to give it a "I've had these forever" look. And I finally found a few pairs that I liked and ordered a few to try on and found some at the store.

For reference, I am 5'5" and usually wear a size 10/12 for bottoms and 8 for tops, considering this, I have more of a pear shape, I have larger hips and small shoulders. This combination is tough to find good overalls that are flattering because many denim overalls have buttons on the hips that sit right at the largest part of the hips and accentuate them. 

I ended up purchasing denim overalls from the Gap, Target's Universal Thread line and American Eagle (AE) to try on. Below I included my reviews and a few recommendations of other overalls I have found.

American Eagle Stretch Tomgirl Denim Overalls

 First, I ordered a pair from AE that were constantly sold out, had raving reviews,  and was looking forward to their arrival. About a week later I received an email from American Eagle saying they cancelled the order due to not having the inventory to fulfill the order. I never got to try those on, about a year later I found these, pictured above, on their website. I also ordered their 90s Boyfriend Denim Overall in Large, and it was too big and not flattering.

I got the Stretch Tomgirl in Medium because that is the largest size they had left online and I absolutely love these. They are perfect, so I am keeping them. The adjustable straps aren't too long, so I don't have to move it all the way back like I usually have to and the hips were not too tight. The rips are not overly ripped and are super comfortable.

Gap Relaxed Denim Overalls

In the 90's Gap overalls were No.1 and I remember my sister would create the perfect rips in jeans and denim overalls. She would do it for all her friends. She was the jean whisperer.

This one did not have any rips. These came in xs - xxl and available petite, regular and tall. I bought these in a regular large as some of the reviews said it ran snug. I tried it on and was not impressed. While the hip was relaxed, which is what I was looking for, the ran short. They are definitely cropped, so regular is a cropped pair to the ankles as I am only 5'5. The problem was that torso area is too long and I had to move the straps all the way up so the back looked funny and lastly the buttons are right on the hip area, and if you have large hips like me, they make them look even bigger. For me, it wasn't flattering at all, but I do have to say they are super comfy. I wish I could keep them just for the comfort, it definitely has a relaxed feel, and I think a medium might improve the overall fit, but I wasn't satisfied enough to try another pair. I think the fit will still not be right. There is something about the long torso and where the hips lays that I don't think will be right at all. If you have a long torso and not big hips then these are for you.

Target Universal Thread High-Rise Cropped Denim Overalls

These are the definite winner. These are my absolute favorite from all the ones I tried. I usually wear a size 10/12 in pants and tried both the 10 and 12 at the store. The 10 is a bit fitter, but not tight and still comfortable and flattering. The size 12 is bigger, and I am thinking of keeping for days I want something really roomy and comfy to relax in. These, surprisingly, got some bad reviews on the Target website, but I am so happy with them. After trying countless denim overalls these are the best looking on my body type. They don't look like they would flatter larger hips and thighs, but I was surprised how flattering they look on my hips. These are frayed and cropped.

I wish these came in my size, because these look like the perfect denim overalls with the right wash color, just enough rips to give it an edgy look, and the relax fit I am looking for. 

March 24, 2020

Gluten Free Chocolate Brownies

I love a good fudgy chocolate brownie. I have a favorite local spot that makes the most delicious triple chocolate brownies, but they recently closed temporarily due to Covid-19. So I have been back to baking my favorite things as my state has put into effect a "Stay at Home" order.  

Luckily, I have lots of flour, eggs, sugar, and tons of chocolate chips, all things I can live off of, maybe not the most nutritious of things, but definitely will make me happy.

I had a huge bag of gluten-free flour, so I used it to make this recipe, or you can use regular all-purpose flour. I didn't taste a difference, nor was the texture that different.

Let's make some brownies!

This recipe is from King Arthur

4 large eggs
1 1/4 cups Double-Dutch Dark Cocoa or Dutch-process cocoa
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon espresso powder, optional for enhanced flavor
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup unsalted butter (I used 1 1/2 sticks of butter)
2 1/4 cups sugar (I only used 1 1/2 cups of sugar)
1 1/2 cups  King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour or Gluten-Free Measure for Measure Flour (I used 1 cup of flour - I adjust a little because I cut out a bit of butter)
2 cups chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9" x 13" pan or do what I usually do - just cover my brownie pan with parchment paper (easier clean-up).

Crack the 4 eggs into a bowl, and beat them. Add the cocoa, salt, baking powder, and vanilla for about 1 minute, or until smooth. 

You can also add the espresso powder, but this is optional. Blend until smooth.

In a medium-sized microwave-safe bowl, or in a saucepan set over low heat, melt the butter, then add the sugar and stir to combine.  Continue to heat (or microwave) briefly, just until the mixture is hot (about 110°F to 120°F), but not bubbling; it'll become shiny looking as you stir it. Heating the mixture to this point will dissolve more of the sugar, which will help produce a shiny top crust on your brownies.

Add the hot butter/sugar mixture to the egg/cocoa mixture, stirring until smooth.

Add the flour and chocolate chips, stirring until smooth. Again, adding the chips helps produce a shiny top crust.

Spoon the batter into a lightly greased 9" x 13" pan, or one covered in parchment. The brownie batter feels a bit heavy, I did not pour it in to the pan, I had to spoon it in.

Bake the brownies for 28 to 30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, or with just a few moist crumbs clinging to it. The brownies should feel set on the edges, and the center should look very moist, but not raw batter. Remove them from the oven and cool on a rack before cutting and serving. 

As a note, I overcooked these. When I inserted the knife to test, I kept getting chocolate and was worried it did not bake, turned out I was inserting it in the melted chocolate chips, yup, so I kept putting it back in the oven.  The brownies still tasted moist and delicious, so I was lucky, but I baked it an additional 7-9 minutes that it did not need, and this batch would have been ever more moist.

I hope you are enjoying your favorite little things if you are staying indoors. These made quite a few brownies, and I am enjoying one with a small cup of milk every night. Cheers!