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Velvet Banana Bread – my blue ribbon winner!

It all started in 2009 when I entered the foods competitions at the Kansas State Fair for the first time, and met a wonderful & talented woman named Colleen Woker.  We met while watching the pie judging and I asked her if she’d won any ribbons in the other competitions. She listed off approximately 241 things she’d placed in, including getting “Best in Show” for her banana bread, which as far as I understand means that her banana bread was so good, that the judges deemed it better than anything else submitted for judging in the foods competitions. I mean, it beat cakes!  CAKES! I was so impressed by her and in that moment, knew that some day I had to get myself a blue ribbon in the banana bread competition.  Little did I know it would become nearly an obsession.

In my quest to win a blue ribbon, I’ve made over fifty different banana bread recipes, and no matter how hard I tried to find the best, most perfect banana bread, the highest I ever placed was 3rd.  I really thought I was doomed to never get my blue ribbon, or even a red one.  This year I had no idea what recipe I was going to make until the day before the competition.  In fact, I had even forgotten to buy bananas in advance to let them get super duper ripe, and all I had was bananas that were still green at the stems.  Not acceptable!

I posted a last minute plea on Facebook for rotten bananas and was given some by two wonderful women (thank you Lacey & Lisa!), enough to make a practice loaf or two if I could find the time.  I decided to take my best good friend, Jackie‘s, advice and replace the pumpkin in my most favoritest pumpkin bread recipe with bananas, which she has been doing for a year.  That recipe has 1/2 cup of water in it, which I’d never ever seen in all the banana bread recipes I’ve read in my search for the perfect one, and I was so scared to try it.  I asked her probably five times, “Do you really put the water in it when you make it? REALLY?” She assured me she did, and that it wasn’t wet or gummy, but really similar in texture to the pumpkin bread.  That sold me, because that soft texture is the ultimate for me in a quick bread.

Despite my deep fears of including the water, and the temptation to replace it with something more exciting like milk or pineapple juice, I gave her idea a go, adding a touch of cardamom, and was absolutely floored by the result.  I had never in my life had such tender, soft banana bread.  And so delicious, sweet & perfectly banana-y with a the perfect balance of spices to set it off.  Unfortunately, it was one of the uglier loaves I’d ever made, and since 25% of the judging score was based on appearance, I lost all hope right there.  Because I knew it was too good not to submit, but also knew it was too ugly to win a blue ribbon. I just hoped it was good enough to win a red.

So many things went wrong in making the official loaf and my spirits sunk deeper and deeper with each obstacle. I kept questioning why I was even bothering.  This wasn’t the regular little banana bread competition, this one was sponsored by King Arthur Flour and the first place prize was a $150 gift card to their catalog, which is much bigger than the usual $9 prize.  This was a big deal, and more people would be entering than usual.  I didn’t have a chance! I was exhausted, would have loved to sleep in the next morning, didn’t want to waste the gas or the effort when I knew it was hopeless, but I’d been in the paper about the being the Banana Bread Queen Wannabe, and everyone on Facebook knew about it.  I had to go.

When I arrived to submit my bread, I noticed that everyone around me had loaves that were the same dark shiny brown, which I found unattractive.  That made me feel a little better, until I looked to see if any of my other three baked goods I’d already turned in had placed, and they hadn’t.  I knew it was going to be my very first no-ribbon year, and I went home defeated, knowing my quest might never end.

But when we returned to the fair as a family two days later, there it was. My ugly brown banana bread sitting front and center.  Next to a blue ribbon.

I squealed. I hopped around.  I squealed and hopped some more.  I think there was a lot of, “I can’t believe it!!”  I gushed my entire banana bread story to the poor couple standing nearby when my freak out started.  They were so happy for me, but everyone else looked pretty perturbed & disturbed by my antics.  I stopped myself several times from running up to random people to tell them I won.  Joshua was grinning and giggling, clearly trying to figure out what had Mom so excited.  I took his hands and we did a little celebration dance together.  When Dennis approached us (he’d been in the bathroom), I wanted to let him discover it on his own but I just couldn’t contain myself and as soon as I saw him I beamed and jumped up and down and waved him over, pointing wildly at the display case where my winning bread resided. He knew instantly of course what that meant, and he hopped up and down with me a little in celebration.  Joshua was so happy to see all the happiness and I was so happy, and Dennis was so happy, I thought all our heads might explode.

It took six years and countless loaves of banana bread, but I did it. The blue ribbon is MINE! Thanks be to God, to Jackie, Lisa, Lacey, and to Colleen for not entering the banana bread competition this year and giving me a chance.  And to everyone who has rooted for me all these years, thank you!!  My quest is complete and I couldn’t be happier to have found my very favorite recipe for banana bread and gotten the blue for it so that I never have to try another recipe again.  I’m so DONE with new banana bread recipes.  This one is definitely my new favorite, and I truly may never make another recipe again.

Velvet Banana Bread

Printable recipe
Printable recipe with picture

1 cup (8 oz) mashed overripe banana
1 1/2 cups (10 1/2 oz) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (4 1/8 oz) vegetable oil
1/2 cup (4 oz) water
2 large eggs
1 3/4 cups (7 1/2 oz) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon cardamom

Preheat oven to 350F. In a large mixing bowl, combine banana, sugar, vegetable oil, water, and eggs. Whisk until well mixed. Measure the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, baking powder, nutmeg, and cloves into a separate bowl and stir until combined. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the banana mixture, beating until smooth. Mixture will be very very thin and it’s OK to mix until no flour streaks remain, but if you see little lumps of flour that won’t mix out, don’t sweat it, they will dissolve while baking and overmixing will make this tender loaf tough and dry.

Spray the bottom of a 9×5 loaf pan and pour batter in (if your pan sticks, go ahead and grease the whole thing). Bake for 60-70 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Immediately remove from pan, and cool at least 15 minutes before slicing. Remove from pan immediately and allow to cool at least 15 minutes on a wire rack before slicing. Cool completely before wrapping leftovers in plastic wrap.

Veronica’s notes: If you aren’t measuring your ingredients on a scale, please use a very light hand when measuring the flour, spooning it gently into the cup and not packing it at all before leveling it.

Also, I only left the sides of my pan ungreased because the state fair judges have disqualified me in the past for greasing the whole pan. According to them, this is a baking sin and the sides of your bread will be much more tender if you grease only the bottom. This works fine with my new nifty galifty USA Loaf Pan because it’s crazy nonstick, but if you have any other not fabulously non-stick pan, you’d better go ahead and grease the sides. I honestly can’t tell a difference in the finished loaf whether the sides have been greased or not, the judges need to chill.

Speaking of loaf pans, be sure to use a large 9×5 as this is too much batter for an 8×4 loaf pan.  If you only have a small loaf pan, make some muffins with the extra batter, but don’t fill your pan more than 3/4 full.

Lastly, if you overbake your loaf a bit (I did on the one photographed, by a couple minutes because I was busy when the timer went off), don’t forget my water trick. It works on quick breads as well as cakes! Spray the sides and bottom well with water, don’t be shy with it, and it will all absorb while cooling and soften those hardened edges right up.

Supporting your infertile friends & The Stork OTC giveaway *CLOSED*

*This giveaway is now closed. Congratulations to Laura (dandelionsarenotweeds6)!*

I know, you are waiting for my blue ribbon banana bread recipe (still happy dancing) I promised last week! Well it is still coming, I’ve gotta take pictures of the loaf I just baked, and in the mean time I have something very near and dear to my hear to talk to you about, and there is a giveaway involved so don’t be too hasty to close the window in a fit of banana bread frustration. ;)

Before the incredible gift of our son, I shared fairly often about my personal 13-year struggle with infertility, and the heartbreak.  There’s nothing quite like infertility to make you realize you’re really not in full control here. You can do everything within your power to improve your chances, from natural remedies to over-the-counter, to medical help…and you still may never get pregnant.  It’s hard to want something so badly, and not be able to accomplish it no matter the lengths you go to, or how hard you pray.

Which is why I agreed to join The Stork OTC with other bloggers to help raise awareness about how to support infertile couples and to introduce you to their nifty at-home conception device (with a chance to win one, and more, stay tuned!).  Even if you’ve never suffered from infertility, or known anyone else who did, chances are there is more than one couple you know that does, and has never revealed it.  Infertility is largely suffered with silent tears because it’s a very personal struggle that is awkward and embarrassing to share even with close loved ones.  (After fifteen years, I’m mostly past that, and it’s also easier to share to a larger semi-anonymous audience than it is one-on-one.)

Some things you should know:

Infertility doesn’t affect every person the same way, but in general these are some things that can be difficult for us (or even heartbreaking, depending on the day):

  • Pregnancy announcements. Personally these aren’t as hard for me as other infertiles I know, but at times, they have brought me to my knees.
  • Baby showers. Though I’m the odd infertile duck that really LOVES baby showers (part of it is the white cake, I just love it, LOL), I’m ashamed to admit that there have been times when I couldn’t force myself to go to them because my circumstances grieved me too much to join in the celebration.  I know it sounds terrible – jealous and selfish, and I was. Infertility can really put the ugly on beautiful things.
  • Mother’s Day, especially if at a place or function where mothers are singled out and honored in a way that shows them apart from the women they hope to be some day, and don’t know if they will ever be. This can be really shaming to infertile women, almost a pointing finger showing them unable to achieve what every other woman that wants to can.
  • Questions like, “When are you guys going to have a baby?” This truly isn’t an appropriate question to ask anyone, but especially if they’re infertile.  No matter who it is, this simply is not your business, and if the couple has been trying for an extended time without your knowledge, a question like that can really rip into their heart.
  • Hearing a pregnant woman or mother bitterly complaining about her pregnancy or child/children.  Having now been through pregnancy and mothering my own child, I know there are lots of hard times, but I make a point to only vent/complain to those who get it because I know how easy it is to hurt those who would give anything for the hard times by complaining.

This short list isn’t so much advice as information to help you understand your infertile friends and family a little better.  For a really wonderful series that is far more extensive with advice, you can start reading “Loving Your Friend Through Infertility.”  But if you’re looking for the short and sweet answer, it’s this: the best thing you can do is simply offer your love, prayers, and support.  And if possible, lots of hugs and a shoulder to cry on.

Now for the fun part, a giveaway!  If you are trying to conceive and it’s taking longer than you anticipated, using The Stork OTC is a nifty way to increase your odds if you want to try something at home before getting medical help.   Let’s talk shop for a minute, this thing is really fascinating, and forgive me but I’m going to do a little copying and pasting on their info so if it doesn’t sound like me, you know why:

The Stork OTC is an innovative, home-use device that helps with becoming pregnant. Whether you are just starting on your journey to parenthood or have been trying for longer, let The Stork OTC optimize your chances of conceiving. This NEW treatment option is FDA-cleared for home-use without a prescription. The Stork OTC offers a relaxed and private way of conceiving in your own home using new technology based on cervical cap insemination. This smart technique puts the sperm at the opening of the cervix as possible, optimizing your chances of conception.

• The Stork OTC is the only conception assistance device cleared by the FDA for over-the-counter sales to consumers, without a prescription.
o The Stork OTC could change the way couples approach challenges becoming pregnant.
• The Stork OTC is delivering hope to millions of Americans struggling to conceive a child.
o Can be used if you are diagnosed with infertility, have tried months without success, or simply want to get pregnant more quickly; also if you want to conceive without intercourse.
• With The Stork OTC, consumers finally have an easy-to-use, drug-free, economical conception aid they can use at home, without a prescription.
o A sensible first step before trying more costly, invasive procedures.
• The Stork OTC uses an established and effective conception technique—cervical cap insemination—which helps with many common fertility difficulties.
o Cervical cap insemination’s documented success rate is around 10-20% , similar to the success rate for IUI .
• The Stork OTC puts you in control; you can use it to optimize chances to conceive this month.
• It is available now, online and in select retailer stores, for where to buy visit

The Stork OTC lets you take charge of your family planning, and act as a team while you do it. FDA-cleared applications for The Stork OTC include common fertility difficulties attributed to both men and women, including:

• Low Sperm Count
• Motility Issues
• Unfavorable Vaginal Environment (pH imbalance)
• Unexplained Infertility

Sounds pretty rad, right? If you’d like to enter to win one, simply comment below and mention you’d love to try it out. I will draw a name from the eligible entries on Thursday, September 24th and notify the winner by email. I will update this post with the winner’s name on Friday.

Finally, there will be a Stork Twitter chat tomorrow – please join me to exchange ideas on the best ways to support others during their struggle to conceive. You’ll also have a chance to win one of three $25 gift cards to CVS/pharmacy by answering some trivia questions during the chat!

When: Tuesday, September 22 at 1 p.m. ET

Where: We’ll be on Twitter – follow the #TheStorkOTC hashtag to track the conversation. You can see the details and RSVP via this Vite:

Hashtag: #TheStorkOTC

Prizes: Three prizes will be awarded to randomly selected participants who answer the trivia questions correctly. Each prize includes a $25 CVS/pharmacy gift card

Hosts: @TheMotherhood, @TMChatHost, @CooperMunroe, @EmilyMcKhann

This content is not intended to be a substitute for medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician.


Excuse the screaming but…

I WON! I WON! I WON! I won the King Arthur Flour Banana Bread Competition at the Kansas State Fair!

I think after six years and over fifty different banana bread recipes tried, I’ve earned the right to yell a little about FINALLY WINNING A BLUE RIBBON!!! The curse has been lifted! LOL!

I know the photo is horrible and you can’t even see my name, but I will have better photos (from a friend who’s going to the fair tomorrow, I forgot my camera and had to use my horrible camera phone) and a recipe for you next week!! In the mean time, I’m going to spend the weekend doing a celebratory dance on the rooftop. Ha!

Some Updatey Stuff

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Well my weekly posting was short-lived, but life has been a whirlwind lately.  Look how much my boy has grown up since I last posted! Can you even believe he’s the same baby I introduced you guys to less than two years ago? Time just FLIES when you’re having fun, and I’m enjoying every fleeting second.

In other news, I was interviewed after dropping off my (whopping three) baked goods at the fair this year, and ended up in the Hutchinson newspaper on Saturday. If you click the photo you can enlarge it to read it if you like.

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So now everyone knows I’m just a wannabe. Ha!! And by the way, it’s not true that I place 3rd every year. I’ve placed 3rd twice (for my Favorite Banana Bread and Black Walnut Banana Bread), and didn’t place at all the other times. So yeah, pretty much doomed. It’s also not true that I’m “cautiously optimistic,” as I have no hope for placing with the banana bread competition this year.  In fact, I have no idea what recipe I’m even going to make even though I have to make it today. But I’m entering anyway. Pretty sure I’ll be doing this until I die, I’m all in and can’t stop now, even if it feels foolhardy and a time waste at this point. LOL! For new readers, you can see all about my banana bread journey here.

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We’ve also decided to do some fundraising to try and give our son a sibling, and I raised $320 (profit) selling a ton of cupcakes at my sister’s shop recently, and am currently organizing a garage sale that will be mainly donated items. My wonderful friend, Holly, started a Gofundme page for us that you can check out here if you want the scoop.

Joshua is currently recovering from his first bout with strep throat, which has been hard on all of us. Thankfully he loves his medicine and is doing so much better already.  It is so hard seeing your baby in so much pain, and I was so relieved when the doc said it was strep. If it had been a virus we just had to ride out, I don’t know what I would have done with myself. I was about to lose it, because nothing I did was enough to make him feel better, not the Motrin every four hours, not the Hyland’s cough syrup, not diffusing Thieves oil, not feeding him fresh pineapple, and he could hardly stand to eat and drink so he lost his baby fat again. (He had the stomach flu at the beginning of the year and couldn’t eat for almost a week, that was the first time he lost it.)  So everyone is much happier now, and we’re all trying to catch up on lost sleep.  Hopefully Joshua will be eating like a pig soon and getting back the little thigh rolls I adore so much.

I’ll be sure to update you guys on the banana bread competition when I find out. If you don’t hear from me this week, you can assume it’s more bad news. Ha! ;)

Triple Coconut Doughnuts (or Muffins)

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I’m not much of a doughnut girl, but when I get a hankering for one, it’s usually on a Saturday. I had one such a hankering this last Saturday, and decided to see if I could throw some together with the ingredients I had on hand. I found some coconut in the pantry and threw these together real quick, amplifying the coconut flavor with coconut milk and coconut oil, topping with a coconut glaze and a sprinkle of toasted coconut. And…perfection! Dense and moist, the perfect doughnut or muffin texture, and they keep well to enjoy leftovers the next day.

Triple Coconut Doughnuts or Muffins

Printable recipe
Printable recipe with picture

¼ cup virgin coconut oil, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon almond extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup coconut milk, or whole milk
¾ cup sweetened, shredded coconut

2 tablespoons virgin coconut oil, melted
1 cup powdered sugar
Coconut milk or heavy cream, for thinning

½ cup sweetened, shredded coconut

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease doughnut pan(s) and/or line muffin pans with paper or foil liners; set aside.

In a large bowl, cream coconut oil and sugar for two minutes. Add egg and extracts and beat another minute. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt into a separate bowl. Add it alternately to the creamed mixture with the milk, starting and ending with the flour. Fold in the coconut.

Spoon into doughnut or muffin pans, filling ¾ full. Bake doughnuts 10 minutes, muffins 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

While they are baking, toast the coconut and make the glaze. Place the 1/2 cup coconut in a skillet and toast over medium heat, stirring frequently until golden. Remove from heat and prepare the glaze by mixing the oil and powdered sugar together as well as possible with a fork in a small bowl. Add coconut milk or cream a little at a time until glaze consistency.

Once doughnuts and/or muffins are done, turn out onto wire rack and spoon glaze over the top. If they are cool enough to handle, you can also turn them upside down to dip into the glaze while they are warm. After glazing each, sprinkle with coconut while the glaze is still wet. Enjoy warm or allow to cool. For storing leftovers, allow to cool completely before storing in a Ziploc bag with the air pressed out.

Veronica’s notes: while the doughnuts came out of the pan with ease, perhaps due to the shorter bake time (sugar hadn’t had time to caramelize onto the pan), this batter tends to stick to even the most nonstick muffin pans and I highly recommend using liners if baking in a muffin pan. Also, the almond extract in this tends to flavor it as much as, or a little more than, the coconut. It is a nice compliment, but if you’d like the coconut flavor to come through more, especially if using cow’s milk instead of coconut, use 1/4 teaspoon or replace with more vanilla. Last, please do NOT substitute coconut milk beverage (found in the refrigerated non-dairy section) for coconut milk. Use the full-fat canned stuff.

Toddler Tuesday: the sleeve-sniffer & some videos

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Joshua has been a pajama sleeve-sniffer ever since he rejected his pacifier at about six months old.  He replaced the suckling comfort of the paci with the feel of pajama sleeves against his nose, and still does a suckling motion with his mouth, like he’s sucking on his tongue, and he breathes heavy while doing it.  It’s so weird, and cute.  If he can find any jammies in the laundry before naptime, he will dig them out and carry them around by the sleeve, sniffing on them.  I finally caught it on camera. Enjoy. :)

I also have a few recent (within the last couple weeks) videos I had to share too, for those with a few extra minutes to kill. None are very long, all about 30 seconds.

Remember him lovin’ on his Daddy back in February? That’s not going to end any time soon. Here he is still doing it, 7 months later. :)

Here he is groovin’ to Bon Jovi while we were at Five Guys.

Another one from Five Guys, cleaning up the mess he made. This was totally his idea. And don’t worry, his hands got washed after this. :)

Zucchini-Beef Enchiladas

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Enchiladas are one of my favorite foods, but they are a bit filling and heavy for summer fare.  I had a few zucchini to use up, and decided to try adding one to enchiladas.  Worked great, added some low-calorie nutrition & a little extra texture without detracting from the yummy flavor.  These were a hit, and we all liked them so much, I know I will never make my Mom’s Beef and Cheese Enchiladas without zucchini added in again.  And pssst: you can totally “bake” these in the microwave – doesn’t take long, just until the cheese is melted.

Zucchini-Beef Enchiladas

Printable recipe
Printable recipe with picture

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium zucchini, quartered & chopped
1 lb lean ground beef
2 1/2 tablespoons homemade taco seasoning (or 1 packet store-bought)
2 tablespoons water
15 corn tortillas
1 (8 oz) package cheddar cheese, finely shredded
1 (19 oz) can red enchilada sauce

Preheat oven to 350F. Spray a 9×13 dish with cooking spray and set aside.

Heat skillet over medium-high heat and add olive oil, swirling to coat bottom of pan.  Add the zucchini and cook about ten minutes, stirring often, or until soft.  Remove to a plate, then add the ground beef and cook until browned.  Drain and add taco seasoning, water, and the cooked zucchini.  Stir well and cook a few minutes longer. Remove from heat.

Wrap four tortillas in a damp paper towel and microwave for 30 seconds. Set aside a cup of the cheese to use for the top. Take tortillas one at a time, keeping the others wrapped, and put a little cheese in a line down the middle, then some of the beef mixture, about 2-3 tablespoons. Roll up tight and place in prepared dish. Repeat, warming additional tortillas as necessary, until all the filling is used. Pour enchilada sauce over the top, then sprinkle the remaining cheese over. Cover with foil and bake about 30 minutes, or until cheese is melted.

Veronica’s note: I know it’s so much easier to buy pre-shredded cheese, but you just will never get the same glorious melt that you get with cheese you’ve shredded yourself. It’s worth the few minutes and extra clean up. Also, if you’d like to “bake” these in the microwave, it’s best to divide the recipe between two smaller microwave-safe dishes. Keep an eye on it and just let it go until the cheese is melted – should take five minutes or less. I prefer to do a few at a time on a plate.


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