{Recipe} Banananana Bread

Can anyone say the word "banana" without adding on extra syllables or without leaving some out?
I can't just say "banana." It either comes out as banananananana or naner or something else ridiculous sounding. Does anyone else have this problem or is it just me? It's just me isn't it. Awkward silence.

ANYWAYS, I've made this recipe tons of times & each time have either forgotten to photograph it, or I only photographed half of the steps or I forgot to take a final picture. So poor me (I like to say this to J when I'm trying to be obnoxious...poor me I'm upstairs & my phone charger is downstairs...give it a try sometime) I had to make this recipe a few times so I could actually blog it.  One of my dear friends came to visit me last summer & she's always coming up with some awesomely creative looking food.  I made the banana bread simply because we had some mushy bananas, but I didn't expect her to be impressed at all.  Much to my surprise, she LOVED it & even asked for the recipe, despite having her own.

 I love this recipe because it's NOT dry, in fact it is quite mmm...mmmo...OK, I can't say the "m" word that is opposite of dry. But you get it. It's awesome.  I can't take credit for finding the recipe, as that belongs to my sister. I made a few modifications, but you can find the original recipe, here.

Serves: 12 slices
Cook time: 1 hour 10 mins.
How difficult was this for me? Not bad at all!

2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter
2/4 cup light brown sugar
2 eggs, beaten
3 mashed, overripe bananas
*Note when it comes to mashing the bananas, I mash them pretty good, but I do leave the occasional chunk to give the bread a tad more texture.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large bowl, combine flour, baking soda & salt. 
In a separate bowl, cream together butter & brown sugar.  Stir in eggs & mashed bananas until well blended.
Stir banana mixture into flour mixture. Just stir until barely all combined. You don't want to go crazy mixing it.
**Apparently in the 3x I've tried to blog this recipe, I never took a photo of this damn step. I mean...seriously.
Pour into a greased loaf pan. 
Bake for 55 mins. then check your bread by sticking a toothpick (or knife) into the center & if it comes out clean, remove from oven.  Original baking time said 60-65 mins, but mine always seems done a bit earlier.
Let cool for 10 mins, then turn out onto a wire rack. Slice & serve!


Reading Challenge Book #7 Review

Happy Earth Day!!! I have nothing green to offer you today.  Probably should have planned out my posts a bit better. Instead, it's another book review...HOORAY! When I first started the reading challenge (catch up here) I didn't think many people would read my book reviews...turns out these are some of my most popular posts! A few years ago I had the pleasure of working with Augusten Burroughs on a show & he was fantastic.  He was promoting one of his other books at the time, but I really knew him from Running with Scissors, even though I never actually read the book (I did own it though!) & I never saw the movie. But I always heard good things about the book, so when it was time to read something that became a movie, I figured this was my chance.  I absolutely TORE through this book. I LOVED it. Every chapter felt like a new story & even though there was no real climax or even ending, it didn't bother me at all. Love love love. It was also a pretty quick read. I finished the book in 3-4 days. As always, thank you goodreads for the summary!


The true story of a boy whose mother (a poet with delusions of Anne Sexton) gave him away to be raised by her unorthodox psychiatrist who bore a striking resemblance to Santa Claus. 

So at the age of twelve, Burroughs found himself amidst Victorian squalor living with the doctor's bizarre family, and befriending a paedophile who resided in the backyard shed. The story of an outlaw childhood where rules were unheard of, and the Christmas tree stayed up all year round, where Valium was consumed like candy, and if things got dull an electroshock-therapy machine could provide entertainment. The funny, harrowing and bestselling account of an ordinary boy's survival under the most extraordinary circumstances.

Catch up on my other challenge books here


{Recipe} Chicken Stir-Fry

How many of us are constantly *trying* to make the effort to eat better? I know I'm super guilty of indulging a tad too often...just ask my pants. Well, the past few months I've really tried to make the effort to eat better during the week so when I inevitably indulge on the weekends, I don't feel so bad about it. (Yes, there is mac & cheese in my crockpot at the moment) ANYWAYS, I'm always hunting for something creative to eat & sometimes during the hunt, I forget about the classics. Thanks again to my friend Sarah, the one who provided me with the Parmesan Crusted Chicken recipe, she reminded me of an old favorite, Chicken Stir Fry.  Now, maybe because I don't have a wok I forget about this dish, or maybe...uh...I have no other excuses. This recipe was a bit involved, BUT it was SO worth the effort.  I also kept thinking I was screwing it up as I went, but nope.  The original recipe came from The Food Network & it was pretty perfect. The only thing I think I'd add next time is maybe broccoli or snap peas. Otherwise it's AMAZING!

Serves: 4
Cook time acc to Food Network: 30 mins
Cook time acc to me: 1 hour
How difficult was this for me? A decent amount of steps, but not too hard!

4 Boneless Chicken breasts, cut into small pieces
1 large egg white
2 tbsp Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
1 tbsp plus 2 tsp cornstarch
5 tsp low-sodium soy sauce
kosher salt
1 tbsp sugar
fresh ground pepper
4 tbsp peanut or vegetable oil
5 scallions, whites cut into 1/2 inch pieces & greens sliced, separated
2 red bell peppers, sliced
1 cup frozen corn kernels
Cooked brown rice for serving

In a large bowl, toss chicken with the egg white, 1 tbsp rice wine, 1 tbsp corn starch, 1 tsp soy sauce & 1/4 tsp salt.

In a separate small bowl, mix together 1/3 cup water, the remaining 4 tsp of soy sauce, 1 tbsp rice wine/sherry, 2 tsp cornstarch, sugar, 1/2 tsp salt & 1/2 tsp pepper in small bowl until dissolved.
Set aside.
For your sanity, place the chicken, small bowl of sauce & veggies near the stove.

Heat 2 tbsp of the peanut/vegetable oil in a large wok or nonstick skillet over medium heat. 

Once oil is hot, scoop chicken from the bowl with a slotted spoon, letting the excess coating remain
 in bowl.

Place the chicken in the pan & let cook until the outside coating is set & lightly golden, approx. 2-3 mins.  Now my coating tended to fall off a bit, but still worked just fine.

Before chicken cooks all the way through, remove from heat/skillet & set aside.

Wipe out wok/skillet if necessary. I didn't need to.

Add remaning 2 tbsp of oil to the pan & heat.

Add peppers & scallion whites & fry approx. 3 mins.  I did stir the veggies a bit to prevent from burning. (And yes, a few of my scallion greens slipped in there)

Add corn & continue to fry approx. 1-2 mins until corn is tender.

Add the chicken & sauce (stir before adding) & stir everything until the sauce is thick & the chicken is cooked through.  This took me an additional 10ish mins.

At this point, we began making the rice & just followed directions according to packaging.

Add scallion greens & serve with brown rice.



The Proposal!

We're ENGAGED!!! And truthfully, I'm still in shock! J & I have been together almost 5 yrs.  & I've been thinking about this day for...well, I won't admit for how long, but let's just say a while! Many of my friends have heard the story or at least seen the FB pic that gives away how it went down, but in the spirit of getting more personal (once in a while) I thought I'd share the story & some more pictures from the actual event.  Plus, Friday's post was a tad intense & while it had a happy ending, it was quite negative (you can catch up here), so it's nice to share something a bit more light.

One of our (I'm sorry for saying "our"...it's annoying when couples say "our" or "we, I know, you can judge) favorite things to do in LA is to go hiking, however, sometimes getting out of bed can become a struggle. Friday night we went out to dinner to celebrate quitting my job & well, there was steak & champagne & lots of goodness. The idea of getting up early the next morning for a hike seemed rather unappealing.  Normally when the alarm goes off, J will ask me if I still want to go.  I was FULLY prepared Sat morning to say "Nope, nope, nope we aren't going" but he never gave me the chance. Truthfully, I was kind of annoyed! I wanted to stay in bed, but I'll be damned if I'm going to be the one to admit I wanted to be lazy.  While groaning & mumbling, I got up & got ready to go.  

Midway through the hike we always stop to give the pups some water. We got to our usual stopping point at this beautiful tree, but it was occupied by other hikers, which is unusual because this tree is off the main path. It was a bit annoying, but I thought nothing of it.  Little did I know, J was planning to propose at the tree.  We continued past the hikers when J said he still wanted to stop for water. I thought, "OK, well we can stop right in the path, who cares? It's usually pretty quiet & people can get around us if necessary" but J was intent on finding a private spot.  

We finally found an area, watered the dogs & just as I was ready to trek on, he told me he had a surprise but I had to turn around. Oooook. So I turn around & at this point I'm not entirely sure what's going on, but I could hear J rustling with the dogs, clipping something on & he kept telling them to "sit" & "stay, stop moving" etc. I know how hard it can be to get these two to pose, so I couldn't help but laugh.  Finally, J told me to turn around & there he was, on one knee between these two.

I re-staged the photo seeing as it would have been inappropriate to make J stop saying nice things to take his picture. You can imagine how long it took to get them to sit still.
And bring on the tears.  If you know me at all, my dogs mean everything to me, so to have them involved just made this moment extra special, even if they had NO idea what was going on. Though, Fig seemed pretty thrilled. We had a really special moment that included an apology for the proposal to take so long (it's not like I was impatient or anything :) ) & then he got back down on one knee, brought out the ring & I was done.  I mean, how STUNNING is this ring?? And it's mine?? Sigh. 

Looking at one's hand up close...hello wrinkles.
We took some photos because...duh & yes...some of them are the cheesy-show-off-the-ring photo, but whatever, I give you the right to judge.  We've already received so much love from our friends & family & I couldn't be more grateful & thankful to have you all along for the much anticipated ride. This next year or so is going to be crazy, but I can't wait to soak it all in.  I'm saying this now so in 6 months when I'm stressed to the max, I can think back & remember just how excited I was in the beginning.  

I think Duke was ready to keep hiking at this point...

Then there's this guy...

Just a few of the MANY attempts to get them to re-create the scene.

Now, I'm going to shut up because I really don't want to become "that girl" that all my friends bitch about...recipes shall resume tomorrow :)


Ch Ch Ch Chaaaanges...

"Action may not always bring happiness; but there is no happiness without action"
            -Benjamin Disraeli

If you saw my Instagram yesterday (@Raalph120 Follow me!) you know I'm making a big change. For the last few years, it's been no secret that my life has revolved around my job.  I've missed countless family events, birthdays, weddings, even just simple nights out (or in) with my friends all for the sake of my job. A job that has just about killed my soul & made me question myself & what I believe in. Have I made these sacrifices because I'm ambitious & I want a successful career? Have I stayed for so long because I truly believed in the work I was doing? Or because I was terrified about being unemployed again?  Well, I'm not sure. It's probably a combination of all of those. But what I do know for sure is I stuck around for fear of upsetting my bosses.  How many people are out there doing the same? But looking at the big picture should their happiness trump mine? I don't think so. (Sorry bosses, you know I love you!)

I've been really unhappy for a long time, but my pride & I guess ambition (?) have kept me from leaving. I actually did try to quit a few years back & when I walked out of the meeting with our big boss,  I left with a promotion & a pay raise.  A few years later when I REALLY thought I was going to be done, I got promoted again.  I know, I know, what the hell am I complaining about? Promotions & pay raises! Steady work in the land of cancelled television shows! Health insurance! Stop whining & grow a pair! Except, despite all those things, I was still really really unhappy.

I'd told J, my family & my friends that at the end of this season I was going to finally quit. However, I don't think anyone believed me because I've been saying this for SO long. I'm like the girl who cried quitting. So what makes this time different? Well, it hit me a few weeks ago after I just completed  working 17 days in a row.  I finally took a day off, yet I spent the entire day checking my email & feeling guilty because I was actually having a really nice day.  HELLO! THAT IS NOT NORMAL! One nice day & I felt like I didn't deserve to be enjoying it.  The sick thing? It wasn't my bosses emailing me or making me feel guilty, they actually left me alone. It was my own twisted self that made me feel this way.  After a major sob fest (sorry J) I knew I had to stick to my guns this time. No more complaining or whining. There was only one thing that would make me happy & I just needed to muster the courage to do it. It was time to quit.

And I did. And it feels AWESOME. It was a bit of a process & lots of carrots were dangled, but I knew deep down, I had to do something drastic if I wanted to be happy again because life is just too fucking short to continue being miserable.

So what's next? I have NO freaking idea & ya know what? That is OK.  To everyone in my life that has felt neglected or abandoned because I couldn't make it to something of yours due to work, I am so sorry. Will it happen in the future? Maybe. But I cannot thank you all enough for standing by me & listening to me complain for YEARS about work. I love you all. And J, you should get a trophy for all the shit you've put up with. I love you more than words could ever describe.

While I know quitting a job isn't a big deal to some people, it is to me. So let me have my moment. Bring on the funemployment. Bring on the unknown. Welcome back life.


{Lately Loving} Dark, Dramatic Walls

It's no surprise I like things that are bold. The word beige is simply not in my vocabulary. So, it really comes as no shock that I'd be drawn to dark, dramatic walls in a home. However, this up & coming trend can be tricky to successfully pull off.  The key is to make sure your furniture & home accents are bright & colorful so they really pop. This will prevent your home from feeling like a prison.  Below are some of my favorite ways people have used dark paint in their homes. I can't wait till we have another home because you better believe some room in our next home will have dark walls!
I'd love to hear your thoughts on whether you'd incorporate this trend in your house! Leave your comments below!


{Recipe} Greek Stuffed Turkey Burgers

Summer (or spring for some of you poor folks) is quickly approaching & nothing says summer more than being outside grilling.  I LOVE grilling & not just because I don't actually have to grill (thanks J) but because some of the foods I love most taste best when grilled (kosher hot dogs, I'm looking at you.) So I realized recently that I needed to up my grilling game. However, our grill is currently covered in leaves, so grilling without doing a major clean-up wasn't going to happen. But that was OK because I own a Foreman & for the sake of trying new recipes, the Foreman would totally suffice. Except, I seem to have LOST IT. No, seriously, my Foreman is M.I.A. Did I loan it to someone? If you have my Foreman, can you just tell me? My only other thought is it somehow ended up in our storage unit in the garage which is a giant pain to get to. SO instead of giving up, I went to target & bought a grill pan (similar one here mine also included a lid). Problem solved! I wanted to make turkey burgers but wanted something more fun. I got the idea to grill Greek turkey burgers out of absolutely nowhere. But once I did a quick search on Pinterest, I discovered they were a thing. The best part, this recipe lead me to a new blog, Budget Bytes...which is all about making yummy meals for as cheap as possible.  J & I both LOVED this recipe & were actually sad when our dinner came to an end. Some turkey burgers really lack flavor & can be really dry. These were SO full of flavor & tender. The recipe says it makes 6 burgers...in our house it only made 4 :) There was also a delicious Greek sauce that was awesome, but the recipe made about 10x the amount we needed, so I attempted to cut down the amount below. We will definitely be making these again!!

Serves: 4
Cook time: 30 mins
How difficult was this? Not hard at all!
4 oz. plain greek yogurt
1 medium fresh lemon
1/4 tsp minced garlic
1/4 tsp dried dill
1.25lbs ground turkey
1/4 medium red onion, chopped (some used the leftover onion to top the burger)
2 oz. frozen spinach, thawed & drained
1/4 cup crumbled feta
1 tsp dried oregano
1/3 cup bread crumbs
1 large egg
salt & pepper to taste
4 wheat burger buns (THRILLING)
Cucumber/Tomatoes (optional for topping)
First,  you need to make the sauce so the flavors have time to blend while making the burgers.
In a small bowl, combine Greek yogurt, garlic, dill, juice from half the lemon & a dash of salt.
Cover & refrigerate until it's time to chow.
In a large bowl combine the meat, onion, spinach, egg, feta, bread crumbs, oregano, salt & pepper.  I also added just a bit more garlic in for funsies.
Mix everything as thoroughly as possible.
Divide the meat into 4 equal parts. Then roll into nice round balls.
If using a regular grill, flatten the balls just a bit. Because we used a lid on our grill pan (there is probably a better name for it) it flattened our burgers a bit for us but you'll see ours are a tad more plump & took longer to cook.
Make sure you use a non-stick pan OR really spray down your grill.
Cook until meat is thoroughly cooked through. It took ours about 20 mins,  We cut into one just to make sure.
Once cooked through, remove from heat & top with desired toppings. Personally, I didn't think they needed anything besides the sauce.