I have been looking for a good banana muffin recipe, for quite some time now. We always have bananas that are left over and turn brown and mushy before we get a chance to eat them. I have always hated throwing them away and wasting them. When I make banana bread it is always so dense and by the time I get the inside to cook, the top is so dark and crusty. Plus, bread takes so long to cook, and it has been such a hot summer here I was looking for another option that might be quicker. So the search was on for a really good banana muffin recipe, one that is not too dense and cooks fast enough to keep the tops light and fluffy.
I came across this recipe and as soon as I saw coconut, I knew I had to try it! I’m also a sucker for crunchy so this was perfect. I like to make large muffins, like the type you buy in bakeries and coffee shops. A muffin is sometimes a breakfast meal in itself, so a cupcake sized one is just a little too small. This recipe will make 12 large sized muffins. I also added walnuts to my recipe since I like a crunch in my muffins, but feel free to add any extra goodies you would like.
In our family, my husband does a lot of the cooking. Working in a restaurant or food industry for most his life, he enjoys being in the kitchen. I have no problem with this (except for the large amount of dirty dishes he makes!). I am the baker and he is the chef!
Since we have 5 children, all with differing likes and dislikes it is hard to find one thing everyone will eat for dinner. Which means one of our staple dishes is of course pizza. Delivery is way too expensive to have on a frequent basis and making your dough from a box mix and be coin toss. The pre-made crusts that are hanging in bags in your grocery store seem dry to me, and sometimes stale. So we started experimenting making our own crust. We started using the recipe that came with our bread machine, but it took 1 1/2 hours to make, not including the cooking time! So if we wanted to have pizza for dinner, we needed to start making it over 2 hours before we were going to eat it and that did not always fit into our schedule. In addition to that, our littlest one lost the small paddle attachment that turned all the ingredients in the machine. Now it is just a sad looking box on our shelf, yearning for the day it will be used again, if ever the mixing part can be found. (cue the dramatic sad music).
We finally found a recipe that we love, and takes a lot less time to make. It doesn’t need a bread machine either!
I like to call this recipe our Super Easy Homemade Pizza Dough. My husband is always posting pictures of this on his facebook page, and we get a lot of requests for the recipe… so here it is…….
1 1/2 tablespoon active dry yeast (this is about one package of yeast)
1 teaspoon of white sugar
1 cup warm water
2 1/2 cups bread flour (it has to be BREAD flour.. all purpose will not work)
2 tablespoon olive or vegetable oil
1 teaspoon salt
(optional spices to taste)
Now, as for the directions, we make all of this in our Kitchen Aid mixer. I can’t begin to tell you how much we use this machine in our house, it is great for so many things, from making all of my cakes and cookies, to pulling the pork, once it is done in the crock pot. It really is a wonderful investment.
If you don’t have a Kitchen Aid mixer.. then GET ONE!! ha ha..But, if you don’t .. no worries, it can be done with a hand mixer
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F
In a medium bowl (We use our Kitchen Aid) dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water, stir very minimally. Let stand until creamy and foamy. It should take about 10 minutes.
Once the yeast mixture is foamy, stir in bread flour (we always use the Gold Medal brand with good results), salt and oil along with any additional spices you would like to add flavor to the dough. We use a sprinkle of Oregano and dry basil leaves.
Use the dough hook attachment on the Kitchen Aid or hand mixture and start on slow. Be sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl while it is mixing. Mix on slow until it forms a smooth ball. It should be elastic in texture
Let the mixture rest for 5 minutes.
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Lightly knead dough, when you knead, push the dough and fold over(do this about 5 times) so it forms a round ball.
When we make this recipe, we double the recipe and it will make 2 large pizzas. We like thick crust, so depending on how thick or thin you roll your dough, will depend on how many pizzas you get out of each recipe. So at this step, we cut the ball in half and use each side for a pizza.
Using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll it into a semi-round circle about 1″ thick.
Then transfer to a greased round pizza pan. We use PAM spray to grease the pan. We also use a dash a salt in the pan for flavor, you can also use cornmeal or Parmesan cheese if you like.
Using the rolling pin, roll the dough till it touches the edge of the pan. The dough will be stretchy, so once you roll it, it will want to retract a little. If you don’t have a small rolling pin like this one, you can always use your hands to shape the dough into position. Just make sure to not stretch holes in the dough. You should have plenty it fit in the pan, so this doesn’t happen. If it does, just pinch the dough together and flatten with the palm of your hand.
Use your fingers to push the edges of the dough up the sides of the pan to create the boarder of the crust.
Dock the dough with a fork.
Which is just a fancy term for saying get your fork out and poke it a bunch of times. Just like you would a pie crust. If you don’t do this step, the dough will form large bubbles in the center. ( I speak from experience!)
Par bake crust in the pre-heated oven for 15 minutes, or till lightly brown.
Remove from oven
Spread pizza sauce and cheese. We have picky eaters and most of the kids are just fine with cheese pizza, so we stop here. But, we have been know to go crazy and put Canadian ham and pineapple, or pepperoni on the pizza as well.
Place back in the oven until cheese in completely melted and golden.
Should be another 20 minutes.
Cut into slices and enjoy all this cheesy yummy goodness.
This really is a great recipe, so easy and inexpensive to make, and the kids love to help sometimes too. You can use this same dough to make garlic knots and bread sticks as well. We make this pizza on our Friday movie nights, when friends are over for playdates, and when we just don’t have the energy to be creative for dinner.
Once you purchase the bread flour and yeast, they will last for many pizzas. Which makes it a great go-to meal. Just add a salad on the side and dinner is ready.
A new one opened last year near us in Southern California, we could not wait to go!! It was a Christmas present for our children last year, we had made reservations for opening day (not the official opening, but the first day open to guests.) We had such a great time, we have been 3 more times since. I guess we are Gold Members now. Which doesn’t really mean too much, except we get gold wrist bands each time, instead of colored ones. What it does mean is that I know a little bit about staying at a Great Wolf Lodge.
The Great Wolf Lodge (GWL for short) has 16 locations throughout the United States and Canada. The other closest ones to us are Washington State and Texas, so needless to say we were happy when they came to California. We have always gone to the Southern California GWL, located on Harbor Blvd, down the street from Disneyland, in the city of Garden Grove.
There are many different room types to choose from. They can sleep 4-8 guests depending on the room you choose. We have stayed in two different types, since we have a larger family, the basic rooms will not work for us. For this post I will talk about the Wolf Den room.
There really is so much to talk about with this place, but you know me… I like to list all of my tips. So here we go.
TOP 10 TIPS TO STAYING AT A GREAT WOLF LODGE
TIP 1: It’s not as expensive as you think… so GO!
A lot of people I know have sticker shock when they see the prices of the rooms. You have to remember that this is more than just a hotel, it’s a full waterpark as well. I looked into going to Soak City once with our family, by the time I added all the admissions and a cabana (we had a little one at the time and didn’t want to be out in the sun) it was over $300!! We would have only had one day too. At the GWL you can check in at 1:00 on the day of your arrival, spend the rest of the day at the waterpark, it is open till 9pm. It is an inside waterpark, so it is always warm! Then get up the next day and stay the entire day as well.
TIP 2: Look for a Groupon or Living Social deal
The Great Wolf Lodge, just like K1 Speed is always running specials on Groupon or Living Social. This time we are staying on a Living Social Deal that comes with a $50 dining credit with your stay. That means…. Dinner is FREE!! Just to be aware… the living social deal did not included taxes and fees, so when we went to check-in there was a $90 charge for that. I purchased a Wolf Den room that slept 6, came with 6 wristbands for the park, and the dining credit for $299. I found a promo deal online for an extra $20 off, so ended up paying $27 plus the $90 taxes and fees (just can’t escape that), so $369 total, but $50 still have the $50 dining credit.
$319 for a staycation with a family of 6 and two days at waterpark. I think that is a pretty good deal
Smaller rooms are less. We had a theme room with a separate little cabin inside with a bunk bed and TV. The rooms have a microwave, coffee maker, and a mini-refrigerator.
TIP 3: Sign up for their e-mails
Go onto the greatwolflodge.com website and sign up. We get lots of emails with different deals attached with them. We have used these deals in the past to stay, when we did not have a Groupon or Living Social deal.
Check carefully!!! The rates on their website will tell you how many people the base is for. That means if the room sleeps 6 or 7, the rate they are giving you is for only 4 wristbands, you then have to add $50 for every extra person you have in the room to have a wristband for the waterpark. So they deal could look good, but once you add the extra people it can be pricey. This is why I liked the Living Social deal ( it already came with the 6 wristbands). The prices they show do not include taxes and fees either.
The e-mails they send also keep you updated on different events they have throughout the year.
Tip 4: You only need one night
Since you get 2 days of water parking in your trip, you really only need to spend one night. I know people who have spent 2 and have said one night would have been enough. Believe it or not kids get tired of 3 days of slides and wave pools. Yes, there are other things to do there, MagiQuest, bowling, arcade, and others, but they come at a cost and really aren’t needed to have a great time. The waterpark and lobby activities will keep you more than busy.
Note: You can purchase a PawPass that includes these activities, if you are interested and it does cut down on the cost of the add-on activities.
TIP 5: Don’t pack a lot
You spend most of your day in your bathing suit. Then at night, they have a pajama party and story time in the lobby. Parents wear their PJ’s too. Then, the next day, you are back in your bathing suit!! So the need for packing a lot of different outfits is unnecessary
Tip 6: Have dinner at Hungry As the Wolf
Not only is it almost the title of a Duran Duran song, which I could like for that reason only, but I find it to be the most affordable restaurant there. You can get a large cheese pizza for $15.99 (totally reasonable!!). The pizza is actually good too!!! They also sell 2 liter bottles of soda for $5. Now, I realize that is more than in the grocery stores, but we are at a hotel, so what do you expect. I love the fact that they do this!! If your family can agree on one type of beverage, you can all share which is better than spending $2.50 per drink. They also offer yummy salads and bread sticks, as well as pasta. We eat here everytime, and sometimes have it for lunch the next day. Kids never really tire of pizza!!
Tip 7: Order a Tipping Bucket Sundae
This is a must for your stay. At the snack bar in the waterpark , they sell a sundae called The Tipping Bucket. It is $14.99, which I know is pricey.. but it is HUGE!!! It can easily feed a party of 6-8. It is vanilla soft serve ice cream, topped with brownie bites, chocolate chip cookies, gummy worms, gummy bears, whipped cream and sprinkles. The kids will LOVE it, as you are walking towards them with this monstrosity. This is also a tradition for us now when we go. You won’t regret it, and it will give you the sugar rush you need to keep going on more slides.
Tip 8: Take a picture with Wiley or one of the other characters
In the lobby you can usually find one of the characters at all times. Also, at the storytime at night one of the characters come out and will stay at the end for pictures. They have some great backdrop areas in the lobby to take pictures in front of, and they always turn out super cute. It is a must for documenting your stay there.
Tip 9: Don’t expect a nice view from your room
This is only for the Southern California location. The Lodge is located on a busy street. The property that it is located on is large, but the hotel and parking structure take up all of the room, so all the rooms face neighboring apartments, strip malls or a busy street with a view of a McDonalds. Don’t worry, you really are not in your room a lot anyways.
Tip 10: Go only if you want to have fun!!
This is not a relaxing type of getaway. It is a go, go, go sleep over. By the time you are done slip sliding away on the first day, it will be time to get dressed, grab dinner, and get ready for the storytime. It is a great family bonding vacation. Our family loves to swim together, and screaming altogether on the Howling Tornado are memories we will never forget.
We love it here and will defiantly be coming back again and again. So, get your wolf ears ready for a good time.
In a quest this summer to be more active with the family, we have decided that we are going to go on more hikes and do fun things that don’t involve a lot of cost. It is really my goal this summer break to cut the children’s screen time down. I always have to remind them that life and the world are happening around them and not on a little screen.
Today we ventured out to Oak Canyon Nature Center, located at 6700 E Walnut Canyon Rd, Anaheim, CA 92807. There is a nice shady parking lot, that is free, no permit needed. We have been there a few times, but today we decided to hike a few trails we had not been on before. One of the nice things about OCNC is that a lot of the trails are short. Since the center is nestled in a valley with lots of oak trees it is a very shaded area, so you can go on hot days and not really feel the heat. Plus, there are tons of little streams and sitting areas that make for a really relaxing day. Lots of benches are located along the trails, so bring a lunch and have a picnic. (There is an “official” picnic are next to the parking lot)
To enter the Nature center there is a small path you need to walk from the parking lot. As you pass the small sign, it is almost like entering into another little world. My little guy made a comment “look mommy, we are in a forest!” and it is true. There are so many trees and foliage, it is hard to believe you are standing in the middle of Anaheim Hills.
As you go up the first little path, you are greeted by the Nature Center building. It is a small rustic type of building that contains a wonderful little hands on children’s museum/ exploration room. Inside there is an information desk, in case you have any questions about the trails or upcoming events. The room to the right of the desk has small lizards,turtles and rodents native to the area. There a small library and large tree that the kids can sit down and read, plus hand puppets and other toys to play with. They have a table with different animal hides that the kids are welcome to pick up and feel, along with real, stuffed animals on display to get a closer look at.
Across the path from the center is a great little play area, that has logs, dinosaur shells, snakes and turtle shells to climb in and on. It is small by the kids have a great time wanting there pictures in the shell or being squeeze by the snake.
CAUTION: Go to the play area after you do your hiking. It is so hard to pull the kids away from playing, and then they are in a bad mood while you are hiking…. I may be speaking from experience on this one!!
If you walk up the main trail a short ways, right past their amphitheater area. You will see a sign that says OAK CANYON MINE. Go into it! They have a mining set area set up with some really cool information about the mining that happened during the 1800’s in Silverado Canyon… who knew right??? Perfect for your 4th grader who studying the gold rush. They have an old sluice,mock mine entrance, and camp set out. Make sure to read all the signage!
Another really cool thing about Oak Canyon Nature Center is all the different types of Cactii they have on the trails. It was fun for the kids and adults to check them all out. Since we went in the Spring (end of May) the Cactii were blooming!! The flowers on them were amazing. Most of the Cactii we saw were located on the Heritage Trail.
We then ventured to the Stream Trail. It is a lovely trail, very shady and great for kids. Lots of bridges to go over, and it follows a stream, hence the name, so there is a lot to look at. We saw the most beautiful Egret sitting on a tree branch over a babbling brook… like really… where else in Anaheim can you see that??? it was magical and I know the pictures from our cell phone will not do it justice.
We took few other short trails and then ended our day there. I have to mention, that while we were there a wedding was taking place in there amphitheater area. I have seen two other weddings there as well in the past. It might be something to keep in mind if you are thinking about going towards the evening on a weekend. You are still able to move freely around the center, but we did try to keep the kids while the ceremony was started. It was kinda neat for them to see the bridal party and bride walking down the path. I’m sure that the pictures of their wedding will turn out amazing!!! There were also other families there with photographers having photo shoots, but check with the center, since I believe you have to get a permit to professionally photo shoot there.
There is also a kids summer camp there from 9-12 during the summer. My children have participated in it before, and it was a really cute, well run camp through the city of Anaheim Recreation. The nice thing about it too, was I did not have to worry about them getting sunburned or overheated, since it is such a shady area. I would say, if you wanted to visit during the summer, to wait till after noon to go.
There are many different programs that they offer too, such a Family Nature Nights, Tiny Tots during the school year and Discover Nature Family Programs. In the past they have offered Movie Nights during the summer, but after inquiring about it during our trip, I was told they WILL NOT be offering them this summer 2017. Overall it is a wonderful place to take the family. The kids can run around in nature and get really dirty. A lot of the trails are short and well marked, so the kids can run along ahead and explore. Like I said, if you go pack a lunch and spend the day. it is a hidden treasure here in Orange County.
It’s a bird,it’s a plane… nope, it’s a really cute Superman Cake. The man of steel is watching over this birthday boy. The Superman Logo was hand cut, using the transfer process from an image that was downloaded. They do have cutters that will cut the logo for purchase. Since I do not know what size I will actually need until the order is places, I just hand cut it. If you are looking for the cutter, you can find them here...http://amzn.to/2rPcV9L It also includes the Batman cutter in 2 sizes. The cutters do make the process faster, and the smaller ones would be perfect for cupcake toppers.
I have used this large cupcake pan many times. Usually I make 1st Birthday smash cakes with this design. When I make smash cakes, everything is buttercream, except for a few decorations. Since this was for a 7 year old, I could cover the bottom of the cupcake with fondant. I still use buttercream to make the swirls on the top of the cupcake, since it makes it more authentic looking. There always has to be buttercream frosting on top of a cupcake right??? This cake pan takes 1- 1 1/2 boxes of cake mix. The pan is also non-stick, so you just need to spray some cooking spray all over the inside. Be generous with it. The combination of colors for this cake are great. I really love the purple and lime gream mixed in with the pink. This cake pan is becoming a little harder to find these days, but if you are looking for it on Amazon, here is the link http://amzn.to/2rB3lIF
I really like using the lettering molds that I used on this cake. The font is nice and I like the fact it has an upper and lower case alphabet. You push the fondant into each letter mold and then peel back the silicon form. The letter come out quite easily, especially if the inside is lightly coated with shortening. This is the lettering set I used http://amzn.to/2sOtU0i
4th of July is right around the corner, and this is the perfect cake for your BB-Q. This cake is quite simple to make. The blue swag is made by cutting a large rectangle and then folding it similar to when you make a fan,but loosely,then gather the ends together. The star cutters I used were from 2 different sets. The larger ones are from the Wilton star set. The smaller ones are a set of plunger cutters from PME. I LOVE plunger cutters.
Don’t you just love the gang from Sesame Street?? They are iconic and so lovable. Such a cute and fun theme for a first birthday. The cake is a two tier, with the characters being made from marshmallow fondant. The stars at the top, that spell out Conner, need to be placed last, and you can not keep pulling them out, because the stars will start to spin, since the hole is now a little loser. A letter might start facing in the wrong direction. We don’t want it to spell CO NOR!!
The “Little Prince” is a very popular theme for 1st birthdays for little boys. I have seen it done with all shades of blue. The crown of this cake is made from fondant with Tylose powder, which is used to make fondant dry quicker. The crown has to be made AT LEAST a day in advance, so it can dry into shape. I form it around a tall storage canister. Once it is dried and able to stand on it’s own, it is then sprayed by airbrush with the gold coating. The crown imprint needs to be done before drying.
My son love Star Wars- The Clone Wars, so when I was asked to make this cake, I knew he was going to love it. I used a transfer image to create this design. That means that all the elements on the cake were hand cut, using exacto knife. It is a tricky process, since you have to make sure all the edges look nice and it is in the correct place.
Moana was such a fun movie. I was excited to get my first request for a cake with this theme. I love all the colors that were in the movie. Trying to capture them all in a cake is impossible, but we gave it a try.
I creating matching items for a birthday party. This party is an “Under the Sea” theme. Smaller 2 tiered cake 6″ and 9″ with matching cupcakes. I love the colors. Look for our “how to” on making the cupcake toppers.
Our Newest creation. A very special graduate, got a very special graduation cake. The colors, letters and year of graduation on the bottom, with her future university and mascot on the top. Reaching higher and welcoming her to her new life as college student. We wish you all the best Miss. Emma G.
This is a simple way of doing a BB-8 cake. It is an 8″ round cake. Using just the main elements of the character. The antennae are bamboo skewers covered in fondant.
Every year on the last day of school, it has become a tradition that each child receives a candy lei at school as soon as they get out of class. It is just a cute way for us to celebrate all their hard work and say.. “Yea!! Summer is here. Let the good times commence!”
For my now 10 years old son’s 1st birthday I ordered poly tubing from a site called East Coast tropics, made especially for candy leis. I have been using them every year, until last year, when tragedy struck and I ran out of leftovers. To my dismay, I went online to find that they are so longer in business…..insert sad emojii here. I went on Amazon to find other options. They do offer candy lei kits you can purchase or rolls of poly tubing in which to make them. I thought the kits were kind of pricey and I really did not want a design on them. I though it would cover the candy too much. The rolls of poly tubing were even more!! Although I do want to add that the rolls would be great if you wanted to make them for a party with a lot of children, or other function. They do make the process a little easier.
There had to be a less expensive way to make these.
So here it is! Don’t worry, it’s pretty simple too.
Here is what you need. I bought everything except for the scissors at the Dollar Tree, so it is very easy and one trip is all you need. Just make sure you purchase enough candy for all the leis you need.
1 roll of cellophane
1 bag of curling ribbon
tape (make sure it is clear)
don’t forget a selection of assorted candy your children enjoy. Remember, you can fill the lei with whatever you would like, so if you would like little bags of healthy snacks, or other items you can do that as well.
First you want to roll out the cellophane on a large flat surface. Dining table or kitchen island work great. I rolled out my piece to about 48″ but you can make them longer if you would like. Then lay out the candy you want to have in the lei, in the order you want them to be in the lei.
Then, you need to cut the roll of cellophane so that there is enough to encase the candy in a tri-fold fashion. In my case, it was about 7″-8″ wide. (so the total dimension on my piece of cellophone is 8″x 48″).
Fold the front section of the cellophane over the candy and tape down in sections.
Then fold the remaining piece of cellophane over the first and tape. It doesn’t have to be perfect or pretty, because we are going to cinch it with ribbon. Now, the candy is wrapped as snug as a bug inside all the cellophane.
We now want to cut our curling ribbons into pieces long enough to curl once they are tied. Mine are probably about 8″-10″ long. It’s not an exact science. You want to tie the ends of the lei first to make sure all the candy stays inside.
Now, we are going to just continue to tie the lei between each section of candy. Make sure that you tie then tightly and double not. We are almost done!!
Proceed to curl each ribbon end with the flat side of your scissor. You can always add extra pieces of ribbon if you want a really festive look.
Now, depending how long you made your lei you can either just tie the two ends together, or like mine, I cut a long piece and used that to connect the two ends. I like my leis this way, so it is not as bulky around the neck and does not get caught in my childrens hair. Plus, that hot and sweaty little neck can melt the chocolate!!!!
See… it wasn’t so bad, you might even say It’s A Cake Walk. Now get creative, go crazy and make your kids some Happy Campers on the last day of school. Well, they are going to be happy campers anyways, because afterall….it is the last day of school!!