Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Tasty Tuesdays: the 15th recipe

There's a chill in the air and that means fall is a coming, which means fall flavors and fall recipes for Tasty Tuesdays. As previously discussed, I love the flavors of fall and will incorporate canned pumpkin into just about anything: bread, oatmeal, soup, desserts, etc. Since I have such a disdain for the change in weather, I find great solace in taking advantage of the bountiful seasonal cooking opportunities.

Today's recipe doesn't necessarily scream fall, but I wanted to share it with you because I think it's the type of recipe that everyone should have in their repertoire. It's the kind of recipe typically handed down by your grandma or your mom. Loaves are baked and gifted to neighbors and friends. But the beauty of the recipe is that you're essentially taking lemons and making lemonade. Allow me to explain...

We've all been there. We've all bought a bunch of bananas only to see them turn brown before we've had the chance to enjoy them in their natural form. There they sit on the counter in all their brown glory almost mocking you for your grand ambition when you bought them at the grocery store over a week ago.

But all hope is not lost my friends. You can take these bad bananas and redeem them into something warm and comforting. I've tried several recipes, but this is my favorite so far. The original comes from Cooking Light, but I've made a couple of tweaks and adapted into my own.

This is Bananas, (and bananas are good), Bread


2 C all-purpose flour
3/4 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
2/3 C white sugar
1/3 C brown sugar
1/4 C butter, softened
2 eggs
1 1/2 C mashed ripe banana (about 3 bananas)
1/3 C sour cream (I use fat-free and it doesn't compromise the recipe)
1 T honey
1 t vanilla extract
Cooking spray

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt, stirring with a fork or whisk.

3. Place sugar and butter in a large bowl, and beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended (about 1 minute).

4. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.

5. Add bananas, sour cream, honey and vanilla and beat until blended.

6. Add the flour mixture and beat at low speed just until moist.

7. Pour the batter into an 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch loaf pan coated with cooking spray and bake at 350° for 1 hour or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.

This bread is perfect on its own for breakfast or a snack. It always works marvelously in my banana bread french toast which was featured in Tasty Tuesdays two weeks ago. I hope you enjoy!

P.S. Yes, I have picked yet another template for my blog. I can't seem to stick with one I like. Blogger doesn't exactly have a plethora of options, so I have to make do with what they offer. What do you think?

Monday, September 28, 2009

a hidden gem

A surprising and little known fact, we are roughly thirty minutes away from a winery. Yes, you read that right. While it may be incredibly small and tainted with views of the highway, it is still a fairly legitimate winery and at this point, I'll take what I can get.

Be that as it may, I have known of Delaney Vineyards since my bridal cake selling days approximately three years ago. A couple of my brides had weddings at their facilities, and my interest in a winery located just miles away from me has been piqued ever since.

Since Christina (my fousin extraordinairre) was coming north for my birthday party (post to come) this past weekend, I thought it was a great opportunity to explore this hidden gem located in Grapevine. We had plans to meet up for the winery's tour and tasting on Saturday afternoon before the big bash.

Unfortunately, the girls hit a bit of a snafu in terms of directions or lack thereof, so I actually took the first tour solo. Here are some shots from tour numero uno.

the vineyards

the vineyards at an angle

But not to worry, they made it there for the tasting and we were able to do a second tour together.

During the tasting, we sampled pours of six different Delaney wines. We tried their 2007 Sauvignon Blanc, 2006 Chardonnay Reserve, 2007 Cynthiana, 1995 Cabernet Sauvignon, 2007 Muscat Canelli and 2005 Texas Rose.

the tasting menu with descriptions

The pours were a bit on the heavy-handed side, so we had to exercise the utmost prudence and discretion throughout the tasting. This meant pouring out some of each "taste" which was like a knife in my heart.

ready for my first sip

our generous bartender in action

a delightful glass of cab

I loved trying the different varieties and there were actually two grapes (Cynthiana and Muscat) I had never tried or even heard of. While I can't say I loved them all, I was glad to have the opportunity to at least taste different flavors and experience different wines I wouldn't otherwise normally drink. If you're curious, I think the Cynthiana was my favorite with the Sauvignon and Cabernet a close second.

cheers to you, china


a trio of cheers to wine and fousins

Upon completion of our tasting, we took the tour which taught us about the "angel's share," the history of the vineyard, the grape-growing steps, the wine-making process and so much more. Due to the less than stellar climate conditions, they actually only grow one variety of grape at this location called Cynthiana.

the angels "guarding" the wine

Christina and I doing our best peakaboo behind the vines

Elisa and I posing with the vines

It was fascinating and I'm sure we barely uncorked the bottle (pun most certainly intended) on all there is to know about making delicious wine.

a closeup shot of the vine

an integral vessel in the wine-making process

99 barrels of wine on the wall

the three of us in front of a ginormous wine barrel

It was a delightful afternoon outing and a really fun experience. For those of you looking for something different to do or have always dreamed of going to wine country, but can't exactly fork over the hefty sum of cash it takes to make the trip to Sonoma (at least not at the present time), I recommend a little trip out to Delaney Vineyards. The tour is free and the tasting will only set you back ten bucks...not too shabby I say. I'll cheers to that!

a very happy trio

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

feels like I waited my whole life, for this one night...

Feel free to finish the lyrics and do a little jig while you're at it. If you haven't watched the wedding entrance video with that song ("forever on the dance floor") on youtube.com, do it now.

This post will be the third and final installment of Meagan's wedding festivities. I cannot believe the day has come and gone. Per usual, I want to relive every moment all over again and soak it all in one more time. It is no wonder couples get depressed once their weddings are over, because I'm just a guest at these affairs and I'm noticeably saddened when the day has passed. To keep this post from being entirely morose, I will get down to the details of the fun day.

My morning started off with a little baking (always a good start) and a little CD making. Since I'm SO prepared, I decided I wanted to make Meg a wedding day CD, so I put together a playlist while my beer bread was in the oven. Once the CD was complete and the beer bread was hot and buttery, I headed over to Meagan's house (one last time) to hang out with the girls who were getting their hair and make-up done. We had such a good time eating brunch, drinking mimosas and chatting about the big day.

another perfect pan of buttery beer bread

an artistic view of the mimosas

the bride getting ready for her big day

In the middle of all this, I served as the official champagne opener/mimosa maker for the day (a true honor) and I also had to get myself ready. I opted out of the "professional" hair and makeup as I'm always a little leery of other people doing my hair and caking my face with too much gunky base (hey, that rhymed). It took about 8 hours (not really) to curl my mane and Sunni graciously helped me out on the makeup front since I typically don't wear too much of that business. I tried to take pictures throughout the day, but unfortunately my skills were not up to par and it didn't get any better at the wedding.

mimosa in hand, ready to go

crystal and me

me with the bride after hair and makeup

The time flew by and before I knew it, we were running around like crazy people, trying to get out the door and to the club as soon as possible. Our less than prompt arrival wasn't too much of an issue since Meagan had overshot our picture time by about an hour...she's a clever minx that one. I spent the next half hour or so touching up various bridesmaids' curls in an effort to make everyone picture perfect for our photo shoot.

me and Haley posing for the camera

There may also have been some additional mimosa/beer bread consumption prior to said shoot which might have been the contributing factor in the case of the dress that wouldn't zip...as in my dress. It was definitely touch and go, but in the end, we managed to get me zipped in nice and snug. However, I do think the tight fit might have contributed to my uncomfortable state later in the evening, but I'm getting a little ahead of myself.

me and Meagan hanging out in the dressing room pre-photo shoot

We took pictures on the stairs, on the green, in the dressing room...you know the drill. Meagan looked absolutely stunning and I'm anxious to see how they turned out. In fact, I'm dying to see all the pictures from the wedding day.

the lovely bride mid photo

Crystal and I out on the golf course

a shot of our gorgeous bouquets

me and Brooke taking a photo opp during pictures

When we were back in the "bridal room," Meagan opened her gift from Bryan which was a glass bell with an inscription engraved on it that read "your humble servant." I LOVED it and thought it was such a great idea.

Prior to the big day, I had put together a couple of prayers for us to say for Meagan (and Bryan) on the big day. We took advantage of the down time we had after pictures and prayed over Meagan. I struggled to get through the readings (shocker), but I was so glad to have that moment for reflection before all the craziness of the wedding. And to be able to speak Christ's blessing over their marriage was truly a privilege. I can't imagine anything more important.

After many tears were shed, we turned on some fun music and had our own private dance party. I think this was probably one of my favorite parts of the day. It took me back to high school and I loved every minute of it.

a little bit sassy with the pretty bride

Crystal and Brooke getting down in the dressing room

kisses with the bride

When all the guests had arrived and were seated, it was time to take a walk down the aisle (I believe my 5th) and witness the union of Meagan and Bryan. Meagan had chosen pieces of music from different movies and I really enjoyed this aspect of the ceremony. Speaking of, it was a sob fest (at least on my end) to say the least and I was grateful for the short, but beautiful ceremony. Otherwise, I may have totally lost all composure...or what little I had remaining.

Once the two become Mr. and Mrs. Bryan Baker, it was high time to get the party started. First on the agenda was the obligatory first dance and father-daughter dance, which were both lovely to be certain. But once the sentimental dances concluded, the dance floor got rockin' and didn't stop until they shut the place down. Haylee was a wild woman spinning around the dance floor like a whirling dervish. I postulate she danced with nearly half of the guests in attendance. It must be the Lyons' blood in her.

the parentals, Haylee and me at the reception

me with Michelle and Meredith at our table

me and Cryssie at the reception

The reception boasted copious amounts of food, flowing champagne, delicious cake and catchy tunes. Those are all the necessary elements in my book to having a successful reception.

the decadent chocolate grooms cake

the pink and green wedding cakes

The night concluded with the popular sparkler send-off and the couple was whisked away into the night.

All in all, it was a joyous wedding weekend capped off with a spectacular wedding ("it will be spectacular i say, so don't worry about that"). Thank you so much Meagan and Bryan for including me in one of the most, if not the most, important days of your lives. I was honored to witness the sacred covenant and it was a blessing to share in your joy. May Christ live in and through your marriage and may He pour out peace over your household.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

here comes the sun

The day after we celebrated Meagan's last few moments as a "Miss," it was time to get ourselves thoroughly rehearsed for the big day. Thank the Lord the sun decided to finally show its face and we were actually able to run through the entire ceremony in the intended setting (outdoors on the lawn).

me and Meg

Suffice it to say, the week+ of rain left the ground more than just a teensy weensy bit on the soggy side, so it was a good thing we practiced the procession in our heels as we had to strike a perfect balance on the balls of our feet to avoid sinking into the saturated soil. Nonetheless, as someone who dreams of a wedding outdoors herself, I was still thrilled Meagan was able to have her dream wedding outdoors the way she had envisioned.

five of the eight bridesmaids

trying to smile and not sink at the same time

After we had sufficiently rehearsed for the impending nuptials, we cruised on over (and sung Dave Matthews at the top of our lungs) to La Hacienda Ranch for some margaritas, fajitas and tears...in that order. Let me be the first to say the Ranch does not mess around with their libations. Holy tequila, Batman! After indulging in half a glass of the tequila-laden concoction, I made the prudent decision to make the switch to white wine. I have grown so wise at my old age...

an innocent beverage and a very dangerous one

We watched a brief slideshow of Bryan and Meagan and were then ushered to the buffet. Actually, I take that back. Our table was the last to be invited to the buffet which resulted in one incredibly hungry hungry hippo (yours truly). I believe I shocked several people at my table when I went back for thirds. What can I say? I love fajitas and free food. Put the two together and I'm a woman out of control. Judge not lest ye be judged.

the groom and me

Emily, me, Meagan and Crystal

After we, or rather I, had finished plate #3, family members and members of the bridal party toasted the bride and groom. Childhood stories were shared, bags of props were used and memories were relived. There wasn't a dry eye in the house.

the bride and groom in their awesome hats

The night concluded with the presentation of our bridesmaid gifts which were totally brill! It's safe to say I am OBSESSED with my pink monogrammed bag and hand painted wine glass. Both gifts were so thoughtful, 100% personal and were absolutely perfect for her wine-drinking (minus Emily), tote-carrying bridesmaids. Meagan (if you are reading this), I cannot thank you enough for the gifts and I will treasure them...not to mention, get a ton of use out of them.

all the bridal party modeling our painted wine glasses

stal and I with our awesome bridesmaid gifts

It was such a great night and just a precursor to all of the fun we would have the next day. Stay tuned readers!!!

Tasty Tuesdays: recipe #14

Welcome to the 14th edition of abundant life's Tasty Tuesdays! It is a dreary day outside with considerable chill, but I have one of my hands-down favorite recipes to warm you up from the inside out.

In all honesty, this is hardly a recipe. In fact, it's really not a recipe at all, but rather a method of preparation. Fall brings us all things orange (pumpkins, squash, sweet potatoes, candy corn, autumn leaves), so being that it is the official first day of fall (sob), I think it's only appropriate I highlight one of the stars of the autumnal season.

While I do not in any way advocate for the fall season (as it signifies the departure of my beloved summer), I do LOVE the flavors that accompany the unwelcome weather. I appreciate all things pumpkin, squash, cinnamon, nutmeg, gingerbread and so forth, but I absolutely adore the perfection of the sweet potato. I find it to be a crying shame that many reserve this root vegetable for their Thanksgiving spread and do not delight in its goodness on any other occasion. Now don't get me wrong. I love a good sweet potato casserole laced with butter and brown sugar and crowned with a beautimous bevvy of toasted marshmallows, but the beauty of the sweet potato is it doesn't need all that razza-ma-tazz to taste positively brilliant. It can (and should) be enjoyed on a regular basis using the most simplest of preparations.

This is what I bring you today, the secret to preparing an amazing sweet potato.


1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

2. Prick holes in your sweet potatoes using a fork.

3. Individually wrap each potato in foil and place on a baking sheet.

4. Bake potatoes for a minimum of 1 hour and 30 minutes.

5. Remove from foil and enjoy.

The roasting brings out the sweet potato's natural sweetness and is divine on its own. However, my sister likes it with a brown sugar butter sauce I make by melting butter and brown sugar together in the microwave. For a quick and budget-friendly meal, top your potato with baked beans or black beans. Add a salad and you have protein, veggies, carbs and TONS of vitamins.

I cannot say enough about the simple goodness of a baked sweet potato. I could easily eat one every day. I hope you take advantage of this preparation method and begin to enjoy sweet potatoes on occasions other than Thanksgiving.

Reader question: what's your favorite fall flavor?

Monday, September 21, 2009

before the Miss became a Mrs. (Baker)...

...we had to send her off with a proper celebration!

a cautionary warning sign on the door (because we just get so crazy)

It was just like old times with Crystal, Brooke and I hosting the party together. Who knew roughly ten years ago (when we all worked at Sonic, spent our summers at Hurricane Harbor, quoted movie lines religiously and thought we were SO cool) that we'd be all grown up and throwing our friend's bachelorette party/lingerie shower together?

the hostesses

Soon she'll be a bride, all dressed in white
Let's get her ready for her honeymoon night!

The cake, the dress, the church and such...
All of this planning - it can be way too much!
Good friends, many laughs, & sassy lingerie...
A night of fun for Meagan before her wedding day!

So join us for some snacks, a few drinks and some wine.
By the end of the night, we'll all be feelin' fine!

The day is fast approaching, and very soon, Meagan Cavanaugh will be Mrs. Bryan Baker. In order to send her off right, please make plans to attend her bachelorette party/lingerie shower.

The bash took place at the 2-1-1 (as all great parties do), and we all worked fast and furiously to get things set up and ready to go on Thursday night. The streamers were hung, fondue was melted, dips were prepared, cookies were baked, shrimps were sauteed, wines were chilled and wedding cake martinis were mixed. All we needed was the bride and we were set to have a great night.

the bachelorette and me

Since there was quite a spread of food, we started on that right away. I always love good party snacks and this was no exception.

a sideways glance at the spread

all this platter needs is some wine

veggies and carbs, together at last

recognize this from Tasty Tuesdays?

Once we had filled our plates (and gone back for seconds/thirds), it was time for Meagan to see what kind of swag she scored.

fun gifts

For added fun, the bride had to "earn" her gifts. Prior to the shindig, I sent Bryan some questions to answer about their relationship. They ranged from funny to serious to totally trivial. Meagan had to guess his answer to the questions and could only open a gift after she had correctly guessed his answer.

Meg showing off one of her gifts

Once the gifting portion of the night was complete, everyone headed over to the "table of wine" for the tasting portion of the evening. Guests were instructed to bring a bottle of wine with a story to accompany their selected bottle. This was somewhat successful...but a good idea in theory. The actual wine tasting, however, was a rousing success. There were whites, reds, roses, sparkling wines, dry wines, full-bodied, and on and on. Everything from merlot to pinot grigio to pinot noir to chardonnay was represented. Although I was unable to participate (6:45 AM wake-up call), I could tell everyone really enjoyed the opportunity to sample the different types of wine and I highly recommend it for your next event.

and not a drop was wasted

a beautious shot of the lineup

As the night progressed, there may or may not have been some dancing, but what's a party without dancing? I am certain you concur with the sentiment. There may have also been massive consumption of sweets and treats.

my rum cake, obvs

an assortment of cookies (funfetti especially for the bride)

big group shot of the girls

I was so happy to be able to co-host this party for my dear friend Meagan and it was even more fun to do it with Brooke and Crystal. Through all the ups and downs of high school, four years of college (at different schools), jobs, living in the real world, becoming adults, it's such a blessing to still be friends and to share in life's great moments together.

Cryssie, Meggie, Brookie and Rachie, friends since 9th grade

channeling our classic crazy pose from high school...for old time's sake