Kitchen Stories- Apple Banana Muffins

Nothing gets us into to the holiday mood quicker than the start of holiday baking in our kitchen. The aromas of cinnamon, nutmeg and spice fill our home with an inviting scent that reflects the joy and warmth of the Christmas season.

We're not really expert bakers, but we have lots of fun in the kitchen and it's definitely a great way for us to bond after a long and busy week. We tried out this delicious recipe for apple banana muffins and it turned out really well, so we decided to share it with all of you!

These are perfect for breakfast or snack time. They don't contain butter or shortening, except for a few tablespoons used to cook the apples. We also cut down the sugar, and sweetened it with lots of ripe bananas, so they are a healthier alternative to store bought muffins : )

Apple Banana Muffins (recipe adapted from The Sweet Melissa Baking Book)
*makes around 15 muffins

For the apples:
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
4 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and cubed
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the banana muffins:
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup unsweetened apple sauce 
1/2 cup granulated white sugar
2 large eggs
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups very ripe, mashed bananas (about 3 to 4)

Before you start:
Preheat the oven to 350F. Lightly grease your muffin tin with butter and flour, or use paper liners.

To make caramelized apples:
Combine apples, cinnamon and sugar and let stand for 5 minutes. On medium high heat, melt butter in a skillet until bubbling. Add apples and saute until golden and tender, about 8 minutes. Add in vanilla and set aside to cool.

To make the banana muffins:
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and salt.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, pour in apple sauce and sugar and mix until well combined. Add in eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

In a small bowl, combine orange juice and vanilla.

Add flour mixture into the apple sauce mixture in three batches, alternating with orange juice mixture, combining well after each addition. Stir in mashed bananas, then mix in apples, reserving about 3/4 cup to be used as topping.

Pour batter into your prepared muffin tins and top each with about a teaspoon of the reserved apples. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool 20 minutes before unmolding onto a wire rack to cool further.

Serve slightly warm or at room temperature. Wrap muffins in plastic wrap for 2-3 days at room temperature or freeze well wrapped in aluminum foil or plastic for up to 3 weeks. 

She Said: I really enjoy baking with Bianca and testing recipes that we find online. The part I don't like is cleaning up all the mess that we make after cooking!

she said: I'm not really into bananas but these banana muffins with caramelized apples taste so good! I'm think I've been converted. : )

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London Dreaming

Ever since our trip to Paris last June, we've been busy visualizing and dreaming about our next travel destination. We fell in love with Paris and we can't wait to explore more of Europe.

Out of all the European cities, London is at the top of our list. The English capital is a diverse and exciting city to visit with some of the world's best sights and attractions and we can't wait to discover all of its iconic spots.

We love putting together travel inspiration boards. It motivates and inspires us, and helps us to focus on our goals. We have been doing a lot of positive thinking and we are targeting to be in London by mid Spring 2015, when the gardens and parks come to life and flowers are in bloom. The temperature will be in the mild 15-18ÂșC,  perfect for sightseeing and exploring. Please wish us lots of luck!

For more London inspiration, please visit our Pinterest board here.

 The London Eye, Picadilly Circus, and the Big Ben.

Currently, Europe's tallest Ferris wheel, the London Eye offers the highest viewing point in the city. This popular tourist attraction is on our must-see list. We can't wait to be strolling around Picadilly and the nearby shopping areas of Soho and Trafalgar Square and seeing the biggest clock in all of Great Britain- the Big Ben. 

 The Buckingham Palace, St. Paul's Cathedral, Red Phone Booths.

We're not leaving London without witnessing the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace and of course, a photo op with one of the queen's guards. The red phone booths that can be found all over London may now be considered obsolete, but these national icons are now being converted to solar-powered charging stations for cellular phones. We have to have our photos taken with these red phone booths before they're repainted green!

 Warner Brothers Studio Tour.

We're big Harry Potter fans and we're looking forward to going on the Harry Potter Studio Tour at Warner Brothers in Hertfordshire and seeing all the costumes, props and sets used in the films.

 Notting Hill, Covent Garden, Millenium Bridge.

Our plan is to stay in London for at least two weeks so we'll have plenty of time  to hang out with the locals in Covent Garden and try to cross the River Thames via the Millennium Footbridge!

 Borough Market, The Food Hall at Harrod's, Columbia Flower Market.

If you know us, I'm sure you already know that we both love to eat. We'll be hitting all the markets, food halls, bakeries and cafes for our fill of authentic English treats.

Primrose Bakery for bespoke cupcakes, Paper & Cup for delectable books and coffee,  and amazing cakes at Lili Vanilli Bakery.

Meringue Kisses by the Meringue Girls and the queen's favorite handmade chocolates at Charbonnel et Walker on Bond St., plus of course, a proper English tea with scones, clotted cream and all the works.

All photos taken from Pinterest.

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Celebrating Life at 95

Our family recently celebrated the 95th birthday of my grandmother who we all lovingly call "Lola Mama". Together with my aunts, uncles and cousins, we planned a special party for her to commemorate this milestone. After all, to be able to mark 95 years with relatively good health is certainly reason to celebrate. 

Being very simple, conservative, and frugal, it came as no surprise to us that my lola would oppose our party plans. The minute she found out that a hotel reservation was made as the venue of her birthday lunch, she immediately called us to cancel the reservation. "Don't fuss over my birthday," and "I'm too old to have a party,"  she repeatedly told us. She would call every night to talk us out of our plans and even threatened us that she wouldn't show up for her own party! Lol. But we insisted, cajoled, and sweet talked, and we eventually got our way.

We knew she was finally convinced because she started nodding in agreement when my sister told her that it is a blessing to be 95 years old with good health and excellent memory, and that we would like to honor this blessing with a special gathering of family and friends. My lola still goes to Sunday mass, spends time walking around and tending to her garden in the morning, keeps herself abreast with current events, and remembers everyone's birthdays too! What an inspiration!

All in the family! 25 grandchildren and 8 great grandchildren. I hope I live long enough to see my great grandkids. But not too soon, Bianca, okay?!? :)

Beautiful inside and out, that's how I would describe my lola. She takes good care of herself and it shows. She always gets compliments for her beautiful skin. See our funny Instagram post here.

My lola got married at the very young age of 19 to my then 33 year old grandfather. She tells me that she wasn't the least bit interested in my lolo because he was so many years older than her. But her family convinced her, saying he was a good man and the right one for her. My lolo was smitten by her and they eventually fell in love, got married, and were blessed with nine children.

They didn't always have an easy life especially during the war when food was scarce, but my lolo worked hard and was a good provider. With the help and support of my lola, they were able to send their children to good schools and they are now all professionals.

My lola became a widow in 1995 and in the subsequent years, lost her three children (including my mom), one after the other to the big C. It was a dark time for our family, but it was my lola's strength and strong faith that kept us united. I myself can't even imagine the thought of losing my own child, but she bore it all with grace and acceptance, and never lost her zest for life. Despite everything, she remained grateful and at peace. Not once did I see anger, resentment or fear. She is truly an inspiration.

I am so happy that her birthday went well and so thankful that we were able to come together as a family to honor her and let her know and feel how special she is to all of us.

We love you so much, Lola Mama!

Holidays On The Homefront

We are so excited about H&M opening its second store in Robinson's Magnolia this coming November 20, 2014. Aside from apparel for women, men and children, the store will also carry a selection of home decor from H&M Home! Our tree isn't up yet, since we both haven't been in a holiday mood. But browsing through H&M's website certainly inspired us and got us into the spirit of the season!

We're loving the gold themed Christmas ornaments and home accessories from their holiday collection, which would be a nice change from our red and white Christmas baubles from last year.

 Glass Christmas ornaments.

 Gold metal bowls and trays, Metal ornaments.

 Green and gold glass dispenser, Sequined cushion cover, Assorted candlesticks.

She Said: I've been dreaming of updating my bedroom! I'm partial to white and lots of muted tones for my personal space. Soft neutral tones are good for relaxing, calming and makes everything look clean and peaceful. And of course I've got to have fresh flowers to keep me happy.

 White cushion covers, Metal planter, Duvet set, and a Soft weave blanket for the cool nights ahead.

she said:  I've been really loving small details with a lot of personality. I think they can really make a room look like your own! This bedroom looks so charming and quirky. Just like me! ; )

Duvet cover set, Bunny slippers, Ceramic mug, Candle in a cup.

All photos taken from H&M Home.

DIY Corkboard

We have a whole bag full of wine corks at home that we use for all sorts of craft projects. We don’t really drink wine, so we scavenge for these corks along with other reusable things like glass jars, paper, boxes, ribbons and all sorts of stuff we can use for crafting and as props for our photo sessions at home. Our small storage room under the stairs is actually bursting to the brim with our growing collection.

Since we’ve both been spending lots of time at home this past week, eating lots of cupcakes and cookies, we decided it was time to get out of the kitchen for a little bit of exercise. Crafting involves lots of hand movements, sweating and concentration, pretty much like exercising, so it’s the closest we can get to leading an active lifestyle. Lol!

We like to leave each other notes and reminders during busy days and always write to-do lists because we are both so forgetful. There’s a magnetic board that we use in our bedroom but we need another bulletin board for the kitchen so we don’t miss out on anything.

This DIY Corkboard is inexpensive and fun to make, and we’re really hoping you get to try this project! Before you go out to buy materials, check out the items you have lying around at home. You’ll be amazed at the amount of things that can be re-purposed. We used a brand new picture frame that we found wasting away in the storage and we are glad to be putting it to good use now!

What you need:

1 wooden picture box frame (size depends on how many wine corks you have)
glue gun
glue sticks
lots of wine corks
paint brush
non-toxic washable paint or acrylic paint if you prefer

How to:

Choose a work area with a flat surface and cover with newspaper or a drop cloth for easy clean up.

Preheat glue gun. Set aside.

Prepare your box frame. If it comes with a glass top, remove this and keep for future craft projects. Retain the cardboard or wooden backing of your frame. This is where you will attach your corks.

Arrange your wine corks by lining them up inside the box to figure out how many you will need. Our frame measures 12” x 12” in size and we used a total of 100 wine corks.

Using your glue gun, apply hot glue to bottom of cork and press firmly inside the frame in upright position. Continue to do this, arranging the corks in rows. Don’t worry if your rows don’t come out in straight lines. The corks come in different sizes so it’s okay if there are gaps.

With a small brush, paint the tops of the cork in random colors to add some contrast to your board. Let dry for at least 3 hours.

We used non-toxic washable paint from Creative Kids Studio. We love using this paint because they come in bright colors, and since it’s water based, clean up is a breeze. 

Christmas is just around the corner and we’re hoping that we have time to make homemade presents for all our friends and family. Happy crafting!

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