I’m not usually one for sweets, but this banana bread hits the spot for me on many levels, and all depending on my mood. My favorite blend has been with dark chocolate chips (make sure to sprinkle a few on top!). But I also really enjoy it without any add-ins. I’ve had several requests lately from friends for this recipe so I wanted to provide it here on the site for the rest of you. 🙂 Plus, with our current situation concerning COVID-19, a new baked good recipe should serve us all well! Happy baking!
As Always, About the Ingredients
So I usually am not a stickler about many ingredients, but please, please listen to me on this one. The darker the banana the better the banana bread!! It should be so soft that to smash it with a fork should be hardly any effort. See the soupy banana mix below? That’s what we’re aiming for.
A little more on the ingredients: First, my recipe is a little different than most and calls for four very ripe bananas. Second, is the coconut oil. Yes, butter works too, but I like a crispier crust to my bread, and I have found coconut oil to be wonderful to work with. Next, would be the add-ins. Chocolate chips? Go for it. Nuts? Absolutely. Both? Extra yum! Something different? Let me know??
Is It Breakfast or Dessert?
If you’ve been following along, you’ll realize that this is the first recipe I’ve posted that could verge on the edge of a dessert. I’m not usually one for desserts, or baking. It’s usually too precise, and the science of it limits my ability for me to make things in a carefree manner. For now, it’s still categorized as breakfast, because my love for breakfast goes beyond the morning hours. I can legitimately eat breakfast anytime of day. If you aren’t the same way, I’m not sure we can be friends. 😉
This post is very different from my others. I felt the need to share some thoughts, musings, and to be vulnerable about where I am. Recently, the word “prepare” has been showing up for me a lot lately. I’ve always loved Benjamin Franklin’s quote: “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” To me, preparations is planning for our goals, but along the way we are going to have endings. For those that know me well, know that I’m a planner. And that I like to stick to and act on that plan as much as life will allow me.
Contrarily, if a change does occur that I did not anticipate, it can throw me into a spiral. Maybe the goal I set won’t come to fruition? Maybe there is something coming to an end that I would like to continue? What ifs and fear will flood my mind. Usually within a day or so I can bounce back, but if it’s not as soon as I would like, it tends to create a crazy spin of self disappointment that I’m not. Can anyone relate? From this, I’m learning plans are good, and actions on those plans are even better. But, being able to adapt to change is critical.
As 2019 and this decade draw to an end, I’ve been doing a lot of reflection. This year alone has been quite the journey, mostly due to my divorce. I’ve read several books (of which I will link to at the end of this post), I’ve written many pages in my journal, pondered and discussed with others how people will approach life differently, and how personal experiences shape perceptions and create schemas. What continues to be a common thread for me are my goals, the planning to accomplish them, and endings that may come along the way, either unexpectedly or purposefully.
So Why Endings?
Dr. Henry Cloud in his book “Necessary Endings” uses the analogy of a rose bush. A rose bush produces many more buds that it can truly sustain or even bloom beautifully. In order to have beautiful blooms it is required to prune the rosebush. You remove the dying or sick, but also the ones that aren’t the best. I’ve learned that if I want to achieve my goals I must make endings that will bring me closer to that goal. With that includes ending relationships, habits, or activities that would not lead me in that direction.
If I want to ensure that I am the best version of myself, I need to be intentional with the things that take my time and thoughts. I will say most people are astounded that I don’t have cable, a Netflix, Hulu, Starz/Showtime/HBO subscription, or really watch much tv at all. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a movie or show now and again. It just doesn’t put me on a path to achieving my goals.
So what are the goals I have for my life in 2020 and beyond? There are three categories for me: career, personal, and spiritual. And these are the places where I create my goals, am constantly planning, and execute endings.
I want to accomplish more in my career, and be in a place of mentorship in order to pay it forward to people in ways that people did that for me. There are steps in particular this year that I’ve made to show my abilities, and quite honestly fulfill a role prior to receiving a promotion or new title. I’ve always found this to be important. To prove you’re worthy of a new role, it helps to act as if you already have that role wherever possible and seek the opportunities that would allow you to do so in your current position. I still have much more I want to accomplish in my career, but I’ve made quite a few strides recently that put my desires on the horizon.
2020 goal: Achieve the promotion I’ve been working toward. Foster at least two critical relationships that will help to advance my career .
I’m working to build my network of my closest friends. Who are the people I want or should be spending time with on a regular basis? Again, this applies at work as well. I’ve been much more intentional about scheduling time with those I want to invest in on a regular basis, at least once a month! And here’s where planning REALLY comes into play. I don’t know about you, but many of us truly live such busy lives, so if you don’t plan it, then it likely won’t happen! Specifically for those friends where their schedule is a little more hectic, I make sure we have a date for the next time to meet prior to leaving the current time together. This helps me accomplish my goals, but also gives me something to look forward to!
2020 goal: Continue to foster and grow the four closest relationships I have. Look for a mentor to guide me as I navigate being a single, divorced parent.
My faith is truly the cornerstone of who I am. I would not be any part of the person I was today if it were not for my faith and my belief in the Bible. My childhood is likely not what you would expect. And while I do love my parents, years of divorce, addiction, emotionally stunted interactions and general home turmoil would have been the “hot bed” for anyone to hold anger and resentment, give up on any potentially healthy relationships, and harbor extremely low self-esteem. Thankfully, even more so today than a year ago, I can say this is not the case for me. This is thanks to fostering a life of prayer, community with my church, and Biblical study. And while I certainly do not judge or diminish anyone else’s beliefs, or shove mine on anyone else, this is the faith that I hold on to and will continue to nurture.
2020 goal: Prioritize church events for me and my girls. Spend 20 minutes in prayer, reading, and/or meditation each day.
It’s my goal to build a life of independence for me and my girls. Show them that they are strong enough to do life on their “own”. This is done by fostering the right relationships with friends and family and God. What I will say too, if you see me, don’t think I think I’ve got it all figured out. I still struggle on many days. I’m still learning how to navigate this life of ups and downs. I do hope this post will offer you some encouragement, guidance, or open the gateway for you to share anything you’ve learned through your life journey.
2019 Book List
If you’re interested in where I pulled my thoughts on goals, planning, and endings, I’ve included links to the books that I read this year. I hope you enjoy and learn as much as I did, if not more!
And how easy it makes my life. This Chicken Taco Bowl recipe is one example: it requires very little preparation, the kids are bound to love it (mine do at least), it’s easy to customize, and then it’s done in 15-20 minutes with very little effort on your part. The fact that I don’t have to precook rice or chicken to make this meal is still mind-blowing to me! I don’t know if any of you are like me, but the number of times I’m in the middle of making a meal and realize I forgot to get the rice going. DOH! And it takes a solid 20 minutes to cook too. Big bummer when that happens. So when I came across this all in one recipe, I’ve been hooked.
The “Preparation” and Ingredients
Which there is SO little to do prior to setting your Instant Pot. The biggest time consuming thing may be cutting your chicken into bite size pieces. The rest is just measuring out the other components. Combine and tap the rice in. While it’s cooking you can shred your own cheese, slice some avocado, set the table, do a little dance 😉
But really the ingredients are simple: chicken breast or thigh, broth, salsa, taco seasoning, frozen corn, black beans, and rice. You can serve on tortilla shells, or with chips, or just fork out of a bowl.
I highly recommend this meal for large quantities of people and it travels well to bring for friends and family. And this taco bowl is versatile enough that you can quickly and easily customize it for whoever you’re making it for. What to add more of a kick? Dice up a jalapeno and add it in. Want more veggies? Add in a cup of frozen chopped bell peppers as well.
I hope you enjoy this meal as much as me and my family do!
I personally love mushroom risotto, and used to make it on the stove on a regular basis when I had the time to commit to it. Now, with my Instant Pot, I had found a recipe for risotto in one of my cookbooks and have fallen in love with the method. I make all sorts of varieties and will typically use any leftover vegetable I have in my refrigerator. Weeknight meal saving
This particular week I was really craving mushrooms. I had some rosemary growing on my deck and I knew I had frozen corn in my freezer. The night I planned to make my mushroom risotto, I was knew I would be getting home a little later and that I would be hungry; so a quick dinner would be necessary to stay on track with my diet. I always have Arborio rice and homemade bouillon cubes on hand for nights like these! Queue, the Instant Pot for heating.
Because this recipe is so quick, the prep is truly getting everything measured out and ready prior to cooking (see Mise en Place). Once I have everything out on the counter, I start heating up my Instant Pot with the “Saute” function and get the oil melted. I then add the mushroom and spices and saute till the mushrooms have browned. Stir in the rice and broth making sure to scrape the bottom. Cover and time to pressure cook! For only 5 minutes. And if that broth is somewhat warm, you’ll be counting down faster than you can set the table. At the end of the 5 minutes, do the quick release. Stir in the semi-thawed corn, cheese, and fresh rosemary. Serve and enjoy!
Make it Your Own
The key components of this recipe are the rice, stock, and seasonings. Feel free to substitute other vegetables based on what you have on hand in your freezer or refrigerator. I personally love to use frozen peas as well. Zucchini is good too, but I would not recommend pressure cooking it for 5 minutes. Instead, I would saute it before adding it to the mix (translation, extra dishes to clean). This dish is also great heated up for lunch the next day so I recommend doubling the recipe to make sure you have enough to do that!
What variations will you try? Do you have any questions on what would work or not? Leave a comment and I’ll give you my input 🙂
These from scratch waffles are perfect for your home waffle maker. The ingredients are simple and wholesome too so you don’t need to feel guilty when you indulge 😉
The key “special” ingredients include applesauce, coconut oil, and whole wheat pastry flour. Applesauce is a great way to keep the waffles light and moist on the inside, coconut oil instead of butter helps them to crisp up, and the whole wheat pastry flour keeps them wholesome without turning them into a dense brick. All of these elements together are what, to me, makes the absolute perfect waffle.
This recipe is really easy to pull together. Most waffle recipes require you to whip egg whites. Cut out all of that (and a few extra dishes) by using a blender to mix your ingredients. DISCLAIMER: Just be sure to add them in the order stated in the recipe! Don’t worry, I’ll remind you there too 🙂
After that, it’s simply pour and cook according to your waffle maker’s instructions. For me this means four minutes (slightly longer for the first batch). The waffles come out super crisp on the outside and light and airy on the inside.
Prep and Enjoy Later!
These waffles are JUST as good from frozen. This recipe makes enough for a family of four with maybe a couple of waffles left over depending on what else you’re serving them with. Once the waffles have cooled, wrap them in plastic wrap in single layers. Wrap a set in foil if you like, and then place in a freezer safe bag. I highly recommend going straight to the freezer and skipping the fridge altogether. When you want to make your frozen waffles, preheat your oven to 350. Place the FROZEN waffles (please don’t thaw first!!) in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake for about 5-10 minutes, you’ll likely smell them when they’re ready to eat again. 🙂
I’m confident these will become a new staple in your home like they have mine.
This quick avocado tuna salad was conceived during our summer vacation at the beach on the last day. We were running out of some ingredients, yet still had some other items we wanted to use up. The plan had been for tuna straight out of the can as a lunch option, but I was in the mood to get creative. The end result had just the right balance. This is an easy, quick meal to prepare!
The Ingredients and Preparation
You will need a lemon, a little onion, garlic cloves, some tomato, one large avocado, seafood seasoning and a can of tuna. An avocado tool makes things extra quick and easy.
The only ingredients I used in total for this avocado tuna salad was the avocado and tuna. And after reading that, I hope you chuckle like I did at the irony of that statement! 🙂 The point is that this recipe has simple ingredients and requires little preparation before you get to enjoy.
Once you dice some tomato and onion, then mince garlic and juice the lemon. Mix all ingredients with a tsp of seafood seasoning. I recommend refrigerating for about a half hour to let the flavors meld, but not required.
How to Eat Avocado Tuna Salad
You can eat this just as prepared if you like. I also recommend with tortilla chips or crackers. But, today, I had done a spin ride and needed the extra calories and protein. I decided to make this an avocado tuna salad toast. With the whole wheat bread the avocado tuna salad has TONS of protein, about 10 grams, so it is also great as a recovery meal.
I first found a recipe called “Rustic Polenta Casserole” in this wonderful cookbook/resource The Make-Ahead Cook. I highly recommend it for storing and freezing tips and techniques. This recipe in particular came into the fold of our “regulars” in our house. It’s a dish full of vegetables that my girls don’t seem to need any coaxing to finish eating. WIN!
In typical fashion, I had yet to make this recipe the same way twice. Medleys of different vegetables, meats, and cheeses have all been used. But, tonight, I made the absolute winning combination. Thus, I have something worthy to post for you all!
The base of this recipe is polenta and primavera sauce (vegetable sauce). Polenta is an Italian dish of boiled ground cornmeal and similar to grits you’d find in the south. Primavera is a great way to use those fresh summer garden vegetables in a different way. Sauté some root vegetables, heat up tomatoes, add some wine (always!) and herbs and you just made tomato sauce.
You can make the polenta and primavera ahead of time (2-3 days) and refrigerate until you’re ready to make the casserole for dinner.
Polenta Casserole with Eggs
If you made everything prior to, you’ll need to bake for about 30 minutes covered to reheat. Otherwise, make indentations in the sauce to crack six eggs. Sprinkle each egg with salt and pepper. Bake 25 minutes or until egg whites are no longer transparent. The runny yolks add such a creamy texture to this recipe, it really took it to the next level. I hope your family enjoys as much as mine does!
This easy to prep ahead dish is great for any weeknight meal!
Casserole, Eggs, Polenta
1.5cupPolenta, cooked according to directions with broth
1tbspOlive Oil, extra virgin
1tsp Salt, plus a pinch
1/2tspPepper, plus a pinch
28ozCanned Crushed Tomatoes
1cupWhite Wine, preferably dry
3cupsGreens, spinach, kale, Swiss chard all work well
1canGreat Northern Beans, drained and rinsed
Cook polenta in broth according to package directions. Spread into 9x13 oven safe dish.
Heat oil in a pan on medium heat until shimmering. Sauté fennel and carrots for about 5 minutes until softened. Season with salt and pepper and basil. Add garlic and cook 1 minute more.
Pour in tomatoes and wine. Bring to a simmer. Add greens and cook just until wilted, about 2 minutes. Add beans and stir to combine. Primavera is made.
Pour primavera over polenta. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese. If serving another day, cover and store in the fridge 2-3 days. If refrigerated, cook casserole 30 minutes (until begins to bubble) at 350F prior to adding eggs.
Make 6 divots into primavera. Crack one egg into each egg and season lightly with salt and pepper. Cook in oven at 350F for 25 minutes. Serve!
When I Make Cioppino, It’s Usually for Sunday Dinner
We love to eat seafood in my house. And cioppino is one of our favorite seafood dishes. The reason I usually make it on a Sunday is because of time. I will make the broth a day ahead of time so it can really have time to absorb all the wonderful flavors I want to incorporate. Sunday is just the day all the seafood is added in. And usually it involves guests of some sort to enjoy the two day cooking I’ve just done. Now, before you you tune me out, I have PLENTY of suggestions to not make it an all weekend thing for you as well!
Every good stew or soup starts with the stock. Now you can purchase a seafood stock (which I recommend for the non two-day excursion and you can skip to next step), or you can get creative and make your own. For this particular recipe I went all out and did stock with a red snapper fish head!
My Instant Pot is my favorite for making stock. I use a cheesecloth (makes straining quick and easy) to wrap up all the yummy things into one ball. Set at 30 min on stew, and forget. For fish stock, I definitely recommend thyme, dill, and a bay leaf as your herbs of choice to pair with lemon rinds, carrots, celery, fennel or onion, and PLENTY of garlic 🙂
The first half of this I like to make the day before. I’ll even let it sit on the stove for nearly the entire day (it’s just veggies). After I get the seafood stock going in the Instant Pot, I chop the vegetables and get cooking on the stove. Sauté the fennel, add the garlic, add the rest of the veggies, tomato paste and seasonings and blend. Add potatoes, white wine, diced tomatoes with their juices, and water if needed to cover the potatoes. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, and cook for about 10 minutes. At this point you can leave your veggie mix on the stove to cool. Once the seafood stock is finished you can add to the veggie mix and store in the fridge once cooled.
When you’re ready to add all the seafood goodness, heat up you vegetable stock and fish stock to a boil. Add in your chopped haddock and cook for 15 minutes. If using uncooked shrimp, put into the soup just before the mussels and cook 1-2 minutes, and another 3-5 more minutes once the mussels are added. If the shrimp is already cooked, discard unopened mussels and add to soup to warm through. And, that’s it! You have cioppino, maybe even on a Sunday 😉
Why “Simply Larissa” came to be was to share my recipes that hopefully introduce you to new foods and inspire you to cook! But for a better understanding of how it all came to be, keep reading. 🙂
Where I Learned to Cook
I grew up around family that cooked. My mom and step dad made all sorts of dishes that ranged from Italian to Polish to Pittsburgh (think Ham BBQ, and if you don’t know just click the link 😉 ). I was also fortunate enough to learn some traditional Italian dishes from a real life Nonna. From there, I just have a natural curiosity about cooking: I watch tons of cooking shows, YouTube videos, and read soo many recipes. If I want to make a certain dish, I read or watch videos of at least 5 different recipes for that dish. What usually ends up happening is a blend of some bits of each of those recipes as my final dish.
Because of this kind of “wing it” approach, I found I didn’t always recreate certain dishes the way I wanted to. So the next phase began with writing things down, making notes on at least a print out or a cookbook. Now, I have a notebook that I jot down amounts and steps. It is usually a sloppy mess as I adjust while I go! But, now, I have my true versions of my family’s favorites.
What are the Goals for Simply Larissa
While I love to cook (and am more than willing to put in the extra time to do some “fancy” cooking) I need to balance it with being a full-time working mom outside of the home. On this blog, anything marked as “Weeknight” is something that can be done within a half hour or so (maybe less with a little meal-prep). The other major goal to the blog though is cooking with real, whole foods. With that said , I do think we live in an incredibly busy world with jam packed schedules. It’s all about balance and more the 80/20 rule I like to try to live by. You can’t cook every meal or even every dinner. It’s just not going to happen. But, when you can, I think it’s important to try to cook something wholesome that will nourish the body and the soul.
My hope is that you’ll find recipes on my blog that are accessible, healthy, and quick!
How Simply Larissa Got Started
When I started sharing my food on Instagram I also started receiving requests for recipes. I decided I wanted a blog that enabled me to share those recipes that are favorites.
You’ll see that I try to add recipes every so often. And that it generally happens in spurts. But, in time, my goal is to have a collection that my girls can also utilize as they begin their cooking journeys.
Feel free to share your thoughts, ask questions, or make recipe requests below in the comment field!
I love to find recipes that fit in my Instant Pot for a weeknight meal. And this particular recipe is a great option, super easy to make, but with high end tastes. This chuck roast was part of a cow purchase we made this year. All of which was automatically thrown in the freezer. We were super excited about the opportunity as it was a grass fed, Waygu beef that was raised not too far from our home. If you know beef, this is about as close to a triple play in quality! You can tell the quality by the marbling of the meat – I may be weird here, but this picture gets me hungry!
If the meat is frozen, thaw in the refrigerator for 36 hours (single layer, bottom shelf). I did cut the one piece to fit in the Instant Pot. You want the meat to be lower to middle of the pot for even cooking purposes. The vegetable choices can be up to you, but I chose a little less traditional pot roast mix. Pictured below there is 5 carrots (peeled and cut in large pieces), 2 peppers (1 red and 1 green and in large pieces), 1 fennel bulb (large slices), and 3 garlic cloves (2 sliced, 1 whole), and plenty of Italian seasoning. Unlike some recipes, I did not add any oil due to the fat content of this cut of beef.
This is where the secret ingredient comes in. Well, it’s actually my mother’s secret ingredient, so kudos mom! My biggest gripe with pot roast is that the vegetables turn to mush. Unidentifiable lumps that all taste the same. Not with this recipe. After you layer your seasoned veggies and meat, combine 1 cup of red wine and 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar. Blend and pour over everything. Set for 8 hours on low using the slow cook function, and you have dinner!
Finishing Touches and Substitutions
If you view my recipes, you will find the trend of fennel in a large majority of them. Our family simply enjoys the added complex flavor of this root vegetable, but you are always more than welcome to substitute for an onion instead. As for the traditional combination, you can also chop up celery instead of peppers. Serve over mashed potatoes and you have dinner! I hope you enjoy this recipe!