Saturday, February 26, 2011

Not Yo Momma's Banana Pudding and a Recipe Fail!

The non-failure recipe. Keep reading for more info. :-)
So yesterday afternoon, after sufficient couch time, I decided to embark on a baking adventure. I hadn't baked in a long time! (Ok... just 4 days.) But we were having guests for dinner the next night, so I had to prepare a dessert!

I had been debating between Cake Batter Rice Krispies and Better than Crack Brownies... and I decided to go with the more indulgent of the two. 

It all started out innocently enough.

Basic brownie base, topped with some chopped Reese's.

It was then to be topped with a Chocolate-Peanut Butter Rice Krispy mixture. Which called for 1 1/2 cups of peanut butter. Slight problem: we were almost out of peanut butter! 

I tried to improvise, substituting some marshmallows and adding a little extra chocolate. Smelled good, tasted good, but as it set up it became not so good.

Fail, #1.

Clumpy, nasty mess. Yuck!

Attempt #2 to salvage the topping consisted of trying a no-bake cookie type recipe for the top. Ya know, where you cook the sugar and the cocoa over the stove. Usually you would stir in oats, but I stirred in Rice Krispies.

Fail, #2. The Rice Krispies did not maintain their "Snap, Crackle, Pop!" The topping was a like a layer of soggy cereal.

Did that keep me from eating it? No way! By this point I was just craving chocolate. It still did the trick. That is, until I was eating my brownie and discovered part of a butter wrapper within it... such is life. 

Eww... did I really just find a butter wrapper in my brownie?

My recommendation for myself is not to bake a new recipe the same day I have spent 2.5 hours chained to a treadmill. It obviously affected my ability to think clearly!

That brings us to today. I still needed to prepare a dessert for our guests tonight! A few weeks ago, one of the teachers at school brought in a pan of banana pudding to share. Now, normally banana pudding is not one of my favorite desserts. Hello, where's the chocolate?

But, I was coerced into trying a bite, which then turned into several bites, which turned into a bowl-full. That stuff was good! Turns out she used Paula Deen's Not Yo Momma's Banana Pudding recipe.

And I've been wanting to make it ever since!

[Side note: I was watching Paula Deen on the Today Show with Al Roker yesterday morning down in Atlanta. It was 8am, and I swear that woman had to have been drinking something! She couldn't even speak straight. It was all sorts of crazy! Did anyone else see that?]

It all starts out with two bags of these babies. Usually these are pretty expensive, about $3.39 a bag. But!! With my new couponing skills and the sale going on at Meijer I was able to get them for just $1 a bag this week. Saving money makes me happy. 

First, line the cookies up like little soldiers in your pan. The original recipe calls for a 13x9-inch pan, but I didn't have a pretty one, so I used my pretty, pretty pink 9x9-inch pan. (I did end up with leftover cookies and pudding. Which actually turned out to be a good thing, because my Business Man and I were able to do some quality-control without "ruining" the dessert before it will be served to our guests. Win-win situation!)

Then, slice up your bananas, and layer them in your pan. Bonus points if they're in nice little rows. It's funny, I am not very organized in most areas of my life, but when I am making a desserts, everything has to be lined up perfectly. It's almost OCD-ish. Each person must receive the exact same ratio of cookies:banana:pudding! (I will have to tell you a story sometime about making fruit pizza with my Business Man. It did not end well.) 

Then, you mix up the "pudding" layer. It starts with some boxed pudding mix. (The horror!) You combine the pudding mix with milk, and blend with a mixer a couple minutes until it's thick.

Then, in another bowl, you blend together an 8-oz. brick of cream cheese with a 14-oz. can of sweetened condensed milk, the healthiest milk out there! It builds strong bones!

Once that's mixed up, you fold in a container of Cool Whip. (Think of all the calcium you're getting in this dish, milk, cream cheese, more milk, whipped cream. And the bananas add a fruit serving; this is almost like a complete breakfast! Just add the obligatory glass of OJ.)

Then, fold all that into the mixed up pudding. It should be thick and luscious and creamy. You might as well taste a little bit to make sure it's not poisonous.

Spread the creamy pudding over the bananas in the pan. Pile it on thick!

Finally, you top off the pudding with even more cookies

And there you have it! Not Yo Momma's Banana Pudding! My momma's never made banana pudding (that I can remember) but this stuff is good! My Business Man and I went to town, dipping the leftover cookies into the leftover pudding. I'm sure it will taste even better after it's mellowed out in the fridge for a few hours!

Not Yo Momma's Banana Pudding

  • 2 bags Pepperidge Farm Chessmen cookies
  • 6 bananas, sliced
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 5-oz. box French vanilla instant pudding
  • 1 8-oz. package cream cheese
  • 1 14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 12-oz. container Cool Whip


Line the bottom of a 13x9-inch pan with 1 bag Chessmen cookies, and layer bananas on top.

In a large bowl, combine milk and pudding mix and blend well using an electric mixer.

In another bowl, blend cream cheese and condensed milk until smooth. Fold in Cool Whip. Add the cream cheese mixture to the pudding mixture and stir until well-blended.

Pour the mixture over the cookies and bananas and cover with the remaining cookies.

Refrigerate until ready to serve. Store in refrigerator.

Friday, February 25, 2011

How does one occupy herself for 18 miles on the treadmill? :-/

So, today school was cancelled. Again. I have a feeling we will still be in school in July.

We got about 6 inches of snow dumped on us last night, with winds so severe that we couldn't see out the back window. Or the front window. 

And I needed to get in a long run at some point today or tomorrow. I figured since I had all day off school, I might as well do it today. But, with the conditions, it meant one thing: TREADMILL

Now, I have run 14 miles on a treadmill before, and it wasn't death. After about 12 miles though, I was definitely ready to get off. So today would be an interesting task.

I got up around 7am to get some breakfast in my belly. (Last week's long run, I only ate a half a Clif bar before the run. Not the smartest idea. And no mid-run fueling. I didn't have a clue!)

I also bought some Clif Shot Blocks this week when I picked up my foam roller at the sporting goods store. I figured I'd give them a "shot" (haha)! I have had pretty bad experiences with stomach cramps and digestive issues while I run... ask anyone who's gone on a run longer than 8 miles with me. So the thought of actually eating something while I run seemed like it would only produce disastrous results.

So what does a girl do while she's strapped to a rotating gerbil wheel for 2.5 hours?

1.  Enjoy some quality time with the TV. Usually I don't watch a lot of TV. However, this week, since I've only been at work 1.5 days, I've watched a bit more than usual. Today I watched "I Didn't Know I Was Pregnant." (insane!) Followed by Rachael Ray's talk show (love it!) and The View (don't love it so much. Those ladies are nutso.)

2.  Practice my mental math. I'm a numbers person (hello, math teacher!) so I constantly figure out how many minutes I've run, what my pace is, if I continue this pace, how long will it take me to finish, etc... This might drive some people crazy but it keeps me content.

3.  Look forward to my next Shot Block snack. I got the strawberry flavor, and these things are like fruit snacks on steroids! Delicious! They gave me a little tummy trouble, but not so much that I had to stop running. I ate one after 1-hr of running, then 1.5-hrs, then 2-hrs. Not sure if that's how you're supposed to do it, but it worked for me!

4.  Debate with myself which treat I want to make this afternoon to reward myself, these Cake Batter Rice Krispy Treats or these Better Than Crack Brownies. Should I take a vote? My heart is leaning towards the second choice. Brownies, topped with a Chocolate-PB Rice Krispy layer? Who could pass that up? (Besides all my students out there who "don't like chocolate" when I am a super-awesome teacher and give them candy. Why would I buy anything besides chocolate?)

5.  Obsessively wipe my sweat with a little towel that my gym so graciously provides for us. Try to remind myself that sweating feels good! And try to envision that I am sweating because I am running along the beach in the middle of the summer, not because I am running inside while staring at 16 million snow banks out in the parking lot.

6.  Try to decide where my Business Man will be taking me to dinner tonight. This one didn't take long. Beer Barrel for some delicious, protein-filled, carbalicious, and nutritious pizza! (Just ignore the six layers of cheese and grease. :-P)

7.  Ponder if Diet Mountain Dew could be a good mid-run beverage choice. I mean, it kinda of looks like lemon-lime Gatorade, so shouldn't it have the same effects? (No worries, I saved my Dew-drinking for after the run. After drinking 2 humongous glasses of water as well. No need to worry about hydration here!)

The next Gatorade?

All in all, 18 miles = SUCCESS! (We'll see how I feel tomorrow... bwa ha ha...)

Treadmills are great, but nothing could ever replace a run with one of these ladies.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

What do you mean I don't need to carb-load for a 5k?!?

So... I mentioned yesterday that I ran 16 miles last Friday. Some of you might be thinking... "Why, oh why, would you put yourself through 2+ hours of torture and pain?" And trust me, I think 16 miles is a looooong way to run, too. 12 is not bad, just an hour and forty minutes or so. But once you get up over the 2-hour range, that's just insane!

You see, one of my life goals is to run a marathon. I've run two halves, one in 2006 and one in 2010. I like the half-marathon. But I want to be able to say I've completed a full. I wasn't sure if I was quite ready to tackle it just yet, but I set forth a tentative training plan about 5 weeks ago. (You can see my weekly runs here, or by clicking The Land of Running at the top of the screen.) I decided that if I made it to a 16-miler and felt okay, that I would proceed with running the marathon. The 16-miler went great! So I guess here goes nothing.

I've decided to run the Cincinnati Flying Pig Marathon on May 1. It has been acclaimed in Runner's World magazine as "great for first-time marathoners!" So it should be fun. (As fun as running 26.2 miles can be.) It's also pretty close to the Bean Town, so we won't have to drive super-far. And it's cheap! (Compared to other marathons...)

To celebrate my commitment, I went to MC Sporting Goods today and got myself my very own foam roller. (Thanks to Pat & Jo for the gift card for Christmas! It came in real handy.) No more using the sweaty one at the gym that has been touched and used by who knows how many people. Now I can roll out my sore IT bands in the comfort of my very own home! (Err... apartment.) Of course, with my Business Man wondering what in the heck I am doing and what that thing is for. He told me he expected it to look like a giant lint roller... haha. 

Love at first sight!
The foam roller also came with an ab workout DVD. I'm not sure it will ever get used, ya know, because I already have abs of steel. Right... this past Saturday I went with my mom to her Pi-Yo class and just about died. I thought I was fit, but I struggled big time through that class. What do you mean side planks? And hovers six inches off the ground? Did I mention I was the youngest in the room by about 3 decades? Oiy...

Action shot! And yes, that is a look of pain on my face. Those of you who have suffered ITBS know what I'm talking about. (And that stands for iliotibial band syndrome, not what you were thinking...)
Anyways, when it comes to running, you always hear about people needing to "carb-load." While this is true the night before a long race, it is not necessarily true for all types of workouts. Too bad I pretty much carb-load like it's my job. I can't help it, carbs are my favorite food group! Besides ice cream, of course.

[Side note: One time a friend asked me for a few recipes to try, and I ended up giving her all pasta recipes without even realizing it. Even more proof that I am a carb-a-holic.]

Anyways, even though my next long run isn't scheduled until Thursday, I decided to start carb-loading a little early this week. More like I just wanted an excuse to make this Upside-Down Fettuccine Bake. It's one of my momma's recipes, and it's super-yummy.

It takes about an hour from start to finish, so you won't have dinner on the table in a flash. (Sorry, but I'm no Rachael Ray.) But, about 25 minutes of that time is bake time, so you have time to finish up the dishes, fold the laundry, and clean the bathroom while you wait. Or surf the internet for more recipes. (Can you guess which I did?)

The steps are a little tricky, so here I will outline them.

You start off by making the sauce. Italian sausage, onion, tomatoes. A little basil. Spread that into the bottom of a greased 8-inch square pan.

Then, you make the noodle mixture. Spread that over the sauce mixture. Bake at 350*F for 25 minutes.

When it's all baked, you have to flip it onto the serving platter. That's why it's called Upside-Down Fettuccine Bake. And this is where it gets fun.

A few minutes after it came out of the oven... getting nervous.

Cover with your platter. (Or regular dinner plate, that works, too.)

Mid-flip! Eyes filled with anticipation!

Removing the pan. Will it all flip out alright?!?!?

Sweet, sweet success! 

Cut into wedges, and serve! With a cheesy noodle crust and a sweet sausagey-tomato topping, this one's a winner! Especially topped with some more Parmesan. It also heats up beautifully for leftovers.


Upside-Down Fettuccine Bake

  • ½ lb. Italian sausage
  • ¼ cup chopped onion
  • 16-oz. can diced tomatoes
  • 1 tsp. oregano
  • ½ cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • ½ cup Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 8 oz. hot cooked fettuccine
  • 3 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 2 tbsp. margarine
  • 2 tbsp. chopped parsley
  • ¼ tsp. garlic powder


Preheat oven to 350*F. Brown meat in pan; drain. Add onion; cook until tender. Stir in tomatoes and oregano; bring to boil. Simmer twenty minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in mozzarella cheese. Spread into greased 8-inch square glass pan. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. In large bowl, toss noodles with 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, eggs, margarine, parsley, and garlic powder. Spread noodle mixture over meat mixture. Bake for 25 minutes. Invert onto serving platter. To serve, cut into wedges.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Trip Home and a Cupcake Recipe

For recipe, see bottom of post.
Woot woot for 4-day weekends! My Business Man and I were able to go home and visit our fam this past weekend, which was a blast. We hadn't been home since Christmas (!) so there was lots of catching up to do. 

I didn't have school Friday, so we even got to leave a little earlier than usual. Of course, not until after I ran 16 miles. (In shorts! In the sun! I was happy. I will expand on why I am running so much in a future post, promise.) We re-fueled along the ride with some Starbuck's, which was awesome. Did I mention it was sunny and beautiful out? That called for my usual 'summer' drink, an iced mocha. Did I mention I was happy? 
I believe my Business Man threatened to make me walk the remaining 240 miles home when I asked him to take this picture. Or maybe I said I would walk home, just to "prove a point." I might have once attempted to walk 11 miles home from work one summer trying to "prove a point" to my Business Man. I won't bore you with the details, but if you really want to know, just ask.

The weekend was spent talking and visiting and cuddling. (Well, cuddling with this cute pup.)

Trying to figure out if we liked each other or not. Don't worry, we became best friends real quick. And then napped together on the couch.
We also ate some delicious food from our favorite restaurants back home. I always thought it was crazy how when my uncle came to visit from Oregon, he would have to go visit all these certain restaurants, unique to the Peoria area.  What was the big deal? Now I know. When you have gone 109283721 weeks without a gondola, you start to crave it. Big time.

Anyways, we're back in the Bean Town now. With a whole mess of icy yuckiness outside. (Very technical terminology, I know.) We already have a delay scheduled for tomorrow because of the weather. We didn't have school today (go presidents!) so I slept in, and went for a nice lil' run at the gym. Then made a trip to Meijer, and saved over $8.00 in coupons. Not bad, not bad. 

The afternoon was spent catching up on schoolwork, because I tend to wait 'til the very last minute. There might have been papers from January that still needed to be graded. (It's those darn writing prompts!  I have to give my students writing prompts every week in my math classroom. I don't mind assigning them, I just don't love grading them. Any English majors out there wanna help me out??)

And then there were cupcakes. Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Cupcakes, to be exact.

You see, last week, one of my classes earned their "goal average" on their exam. So now they get cupcakes. I let them vote last Thursday, and out of all the choices, the #1 pick ended up being Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Cupcakes. I hope school's not cancelled tomorrow, so they get to enjoy them!

I think this is the very first recipe I ever made out of Anne Byrn's Cupcakes from the Cake Mix Doctor. I cannot even tell you how many times I've made it since. Lots and lots.

I made two versions today. A kid-friendly and an adults-only. Both start off with the same peanut butter-yellow cake fluffy base. The kid-friendly is frosted with a simple chocolate frosting. 

Basic chocolate frosting with some Reese's garnish! These will be going to school.

Now onto the good stuff. The adult-version requires indenting the cupcakes down with a spoon, before filling with a luscious dark chocolate ganache. Mmmm... not for the faint of heart.

These will not be going to school. These will be staying home, for me, myself, and I. I mean, my Business Man.

Never made chocolate ganache before? No problem, it's a cinch. Just two ingredients!

Heavy cream and chocolate chips. (I never said this was healthy stuff.)

Dump about 2 cups of semisweet chocolate chips into a bowl. (Just one bag. Nestle works well.)

Heat 1 cup heavy whipping cream in a small saucepan or in small bowl in microwave just until it bubbles. (My microwave took about 2 minutes, but it's pretty weak, so watch it.)

Pour the cream over the chocolate and let it sit. DO NOT TOUCH IT FOR FIVE WHOLE MINUTES!!!! I know your impatience will be killing you, but trust me. If you don't wait you'll have lumpy ganache. Think of it as an exercise in self-control.

After the five minutes is up, you may begin stirring. And keep stirring for quite a bit of time. At first it will look like nothing is happening. It will look gross.

You call this ganache? I call it melted ice cream soup.
Just keep stirring, eventually it'll all come together.

There it is, nice and beautiful. Now, you can let it sit at room temperature for awhile and wait for it to thicken up to be able to spread. Or you can speed up the process by putting it in the fridge for about 30 minutes. Just make sure you stir it every once in awhile.

Once it's ready, you can fill your cupcakes. Yes, I said "fill", not "frost." These adult cupcakes are not for chocolate weaklings.

Now I already said that you would have indented your cupcakes. Basically, about 1 minute after they come out of the oven, press a little indentation with a spoon into each cupcake.

Reminds me of Peanut Butter Cup cookies that I used to make at the bakery where I had my first job. I also remember sometimes the whole batch getting "stuck" in the pan and breaking. Too bad we couldn't serve them and I just might have had to take them all home. Not that that ever happened, of course.
When the ganache is ready, spoon as much as you can into the little indentation. Spread the rest to the edges so it looks pretty. Then top with some chopped Reese's cupcakes! Perfect garnish.

Technically, these should be stored in the fridge. However, I have left them in a tupperware on the counter before and they have been fine. Though, I highly recommend you store them in the fridge. The chocolate ganache firms up and becomes almost fudge-like. Pour yourself a glass of milk and you'll be in chocolate peanut butter heaven!

Oh, chocolate ganache. Delicious.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Things I'm Lovin'

Reasons I am Happy Today

1. I ran outside today! In shorts! In the middle of February! Yessss! It was so glorious. Even though the wind was treacherous. I just did an easy 4.5 miles because I've got 16 on the schedule for tomorrow. Yikes!

Rockin' out my favorite Nike tempos.

Running in 60*F weather in February means a lot of melting snow. Which means a lot of running water around town, which means a lot of puddles and mud. Which means dirty legs. Good thing I got a shower after!

2. We have no school tomorrow to make up for our two nights of Parent/Teacher conferences this week. Woo hoo for sleeping in! I'm gonna stay up late and party like it's 1999. Okay, not really, I will probably still be in bed passed out before 10pm. But at least I don't have to set an alarm tomorrow!

3. As a result of no school tomorrow and no school Monday (President's Day), my Business Man and I are going home for the weekend! I'm excited to see our fam and get some cuddle-time with my mom's puppy.

4. I took a Couponing Class last week, and have been getting myself into the world of mega-couponing. I got my first "real deal" today. 2 bottles of toothpaste for free plus $0.54 store credit! 

Paid $6.46!

Got back $7 UPRewards! (In-store cash.)

5. Panera Bread. I think I've been there once a week since the start of 2011. Pure heaven for a carb-a-holic like myself. I even tried something new tonight! Turkey Artichoke Panini and Fuji Apple Salad. Yum. Oh, and a cookie the size of my face.

Please ignore the crazy high-on-sugar facial expression. I was excited about the cookie.

6. I have discovered the delicious-ness that is full-fat yogurt. I have always eaten the 'light' stuff until recently, when I decided to give my Business Man's regular yogurt a try. What was I thinking all my life? The real stuff is so much creamier and tastier! 

The only problem is, now my Business Man and I will be fighting over flavors. No more 'his' and 'her' yogurt!

7. Sleeping in until 7am on school days. Now that I don't have a first period class, I can slide in right before the bell rings! I like extra sleep. Although it does make for some interesting encounters in the morning, as my Business Man and I are getting ready at the same time. Let's just say that the kitchen table (layered with towels) is also our ironing board, which makes it hard for one person to iron while the other is trying to get her breakfast and lunch ready. Maybe it's time to shell out the whole $12 an ironing board would cost.

8. This coffee cake recipe. It's a knock-off recipe of Starbuck's coffee cake. I made it for Sunday School at church last week, and it was phenomenal. I'm not sure if it actually tasted like Starbucks', as I've never had coffee cake from Starbucks', but it was delicious. But, how could anything with two sticks of butter just in the topping not be delicious?

That's all for now, be back later if I survive this 16 mile run tomorrow. Happy Long Weekend! And if you don't have a long weekend, Happy Regular Weekend! Because weekends are still fun. :-)

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