Thursday, December 29, 2011

You Can Do It!

Thinking about the New Year approaching, I want to encourage you to do something that you have always wanted to do. My younger sister, Brittyn, has always wanted to go sky diving so for her birthday this year she went. This wasn't something my dad necessarily agreed with but my grandpa (my mom's dad) was backing her up. He went sky diving for his 70th birthday.
She loved it!

If sky diving isn't for you, like it isn't for me ha ha, then maybe it is a project that you want to begin.

My parents and I have always wanted to turn our backyard into a relaxing haven. This past week we did a DIY on our backyard.
First, we removed a stump by burning it and then taking an ax to it.
Then, we leveled the ground as best we could to prepare for the stone fire pit. My dad and I stacked the stones and topped the fire pit with a top from a metal fire pit. My mom and I filled large pots with plants such as chard and decorative cabbage. My dad filled the areas around the pots with pine straw he raked from a friend's yard.

Next, we painted the patio furniture with Rustoleum brown hammered textured paint and I painted the rusted fire pit top with Rustoleum black heat proof paint. We poured lava rock around the base of the fire pit and used decor pieces and pots for tables. My mom found the decor pieces and pillows from Ross and Dirt Cheap. You don't have to spend a fortune to make something look good.

We are still adding more to the space like red square pavers around the fire pit so more pictures to come!
Fuel up before you begin your project with my lightened up sweet potato-banana muffins. Great way to use leftover baked sweet potatoes or your leftover sweet potato casserole (if you use the casserole, reduce the sugar amount in the muffin).
Sweet Potato- Banana Muffins

4 Tbsp. butter, melted
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup cane sugar (or granulated sugar)
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. cinnamon
½ cup baked sweet potato
1 medium very ripe banana
1 large egg
1/2 cup lowfat buttermilk
3 Tbsp. whole milk
2 Tbsp. raw agave (you can use honey)
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

Pecan Topping:
½ Tbsp. butter
1 Tbsp. cane sugar
¼ tsp. cinnamon
½ cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin tin with 11 muffin liners.
Set the melted butter aside to cool slightly while you mix the dry ingredients.

In a mixing bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon.

In another mixing bowl, mash the sweet potato and banana together until smooth. Beat in the egg with a whisk. Add the slightly cooled butter, whisking constantly. Whisk in the buttermilk, milk, agave, and vanilla until incorporated.
Using a rubber spatula, fold in the dry ingredients in 3 intervals into the wet. *Folding the ingredients in will help to produce a light muffin. Do not over mix!
Using a ¼ cup measuring cup, fill the muffin liners with batter.
To prepare the pecan topping, mix together the butter, sugar, cinnamon, and pecans in a small bowl.
Divide pecan topping amongst each muffin.
Bake muffins for about 18-20 minutes. Allow to cool for 5 minutes. Enjoy!
Makes 12 muffins


  1. It looks like you were busy Whitney. The backyard looks great. You should try sky diving. It is fun and relatively safe (beginners can have experts help them along).

    The muffins sound fantastic. I have to make those!

  2. Thanks for the recipe Chef....must bake for the kids on new years eve...Happy New Year to you too..
    - Noor Azmir Mohamad Ali, Malaysia

  3. The fire pit looks awesome. I want to build one of those or some type of grill. I love sweet potatoes and bananas. I think I'll have to make those muffins ;)

  4. Thanks for keeping up your blog, Whitney. I enjoy the way you diverge from cooking with your other interesting stories.

  5. Hahaha. Really great to read that your grandpa did sky diving on his 70th Birthday! I would never dare to try it I am too scared. My new year resolution to be a little less impatient. I am going to try it in the coming year :D

    Once again I must appreciate, your backyard looks amazing and it was real fun seeing you roasting marsh mellows with your family.

    The recipe looks great, can't wait to try it.
    I have everything right now with me but I have a question. Can I use a normal banana instead of a very riped one?

    I wish you and your family and John Michel a very HAPPY NEW YEAR.

  6. @sheenam yes you can the flavor of the banana will just not be as pronounced

  7. @James I enjoy writing my blog. It is fun to share stories and recipes

  8. @HJ Chief I hope your kids enjoy the muffins

  9. @Eric thanks my family and I are really enjoying it. We are going to have a fire and friends over for New Years Eve

  10. Made your muffins, but I made it as a (small) loaf of bread instead (the muffin tin was hiding). Very light and airy, but I had to cook it much longer. Thanks for the suggestion - I eliminated two left-overs with one dish!

  11. I can't imagine what it tastes like, but I would like to try it.