Tuesday, December 18, 2018

chocolate peppermint bread

I have several go-to quick breads. 
My pumpkin bread is a classic.
This Chocolate banana bread is another.

This one is a really rich and fudgy chocolate bread.
Its pretty standard but an awesome stand-by.
Especially if you add peppermint and swirls of melted chocolates and candy canes on top!

Chocolate Peppermint Bread
Makes 1 loaf.
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3 large eggs
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
Melted dark and/or white chocolate for decorating
Crushed peppermints or candy canes for decorating

Heat the oven to 350*F. Grease and flour a 9-by-5-by-3-inch loaf pan.
Beat sugar and butter together until well blended.
With the mixer on low speed, add the salt, vanilla extract, baking soda, baking powder, and cocoa. Mix until blended.
Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
Add about one-third of the flour and half of the milk and mix on low speed until blended.
Add another one-third of the flour and the remaining milk and mix until well blended.
Add the remaining flour and mix until blended. Do not over-beat.
Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and spread evenly.
Bake for about 60 to 65 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Remove to a rack to cool in the pan for about 10 minutes.
Carefully remove the cake from the pan and cool completely on a rack.
Decorate as desired and enjoy!

Sunday, December 9, 2018


i love stackable band rings.
i have four beautiful, gold hammered bands for each of our four sons mike gave me on each's birth-day and i have a diamond band from my grandmother that i stack in all different ways with my wedding band.
for our 10th anniversary, mike was supposed to get me another cool band to add to my little collection.
a couple weeks before our 10th, he sat me down and said, katie i'm really sorry but i didn't get you a band. instead, i booked a trip for just the two of us to CHINA for almost two weeks. i already cleared it with your parents to watch the boys. what do you think??
we LOVE to travel so i was all aboard!
enjoy our pictures :)

flying to lax

my essentails for a 14 hour, overnight flight.

ahhhhh, they gave us mini packets of sriracha!!!
and fed us about a thousand times on the flight.

i LOVE squatty potties!

last bit of america in the changsha airport!

more food.

bus selfie!

tiananmen square and the forbidden city!

we caught the chinese guard marching and singing!

all over china they had these cool asteroid pieces as art.
apparently, millions of years ago a meteor hit and left a huge lake in china and since then they've dredged the lake to use these rocks as art. so cool!

we had lunch on our own so we chose a local restaurant and got big bowls of mushrooms and rice and bean paste and cucumbers over noodles. all for about $7 and delicious!!

chinese kites over the temple of heaven!!

warm yogurt was everywhere in china! and they were in these beautiful ceramic containers for a dollar!

that night, we watched golden mask dynasty show with our tour!

sleeping on the way back home

the continental breakfasts at the hotels were amazing!!
such a huge selection! and delicious!
every other day of so, we'd skype with the boys :)

jade carving

and then later, we climbed the great wall of china!!
we climbed the jiankou section, which is the very steepest section!
4 miles and 65 stories straight up! we did it in 39 minutes!

the very top!
these chinese tourists were super interested in us. my semi-blond hair was a huge hit and we spent about 10 minutes taking selfies with them :)

celebratory beers!
i hate beer but that's mostly the only choice in china and these were less than a dollar each so...

later that day, we toured a cloisonne factory!

i got my vase!

that evening, was the bejing olympic birdsnest!

old town bejing!

rickshaw through old town!

family style authentic dinner in old town!

the next morning, we headed to a traditional chinese medicine place

the summer palace!

chinese water sidewalk writing

bbq-ed scorpions, tarantulas, silkworms, starfish, centipedes, and seahorses!

another breakfast

touring a silk factory!

candied, fermented mystery street fruit

more mystery fruit

even the trashcans were gorgeous

the lingering gardens in suzhou! 

one of our favorite places!

bonsai garden in the lingering garden

wandering along the grand canal

later that evening, we toured the universal studios of china...the 3 kingdoms studios

and we took a cruise on the lake taihu, one of the biggest lakes in china

the fog (and smog) made it very mysterious

exploring street markets


crepe-type things

candy stores for the boys!

fresh noodles

the BEST super spicy szechuan fish stew!

they serve silken tofu like oatmeal in china

a bowl full of pastries ;)

tree transport :)

pearl tea!

pearl exhibition!

freshly roasted macadamia nuts!

pit stop for lunch!

zongzi was a chinese tamale!
wrapped in bamboo leaves, its pressed rice with tender pork inside

the beautiful west lake and gardens

west lake is the most romantic of all the lakes :)

sampling rice wine

another chinese breakfast

this super cool grilled chinese flatbread, that was lightly stuffed with herbs, green onions, and sausage

dragon well tea plantation

sack lunch on the bus that day :)

a delicious leek and egg quesadilla thing



the famous bund

we were extremely please with the quality of hotels in china.
this one was our last one in shanghai, near the shanghai disney!

our tour guide toby teaching us some chinese!
this is "china"

haha mango pie at chinese mcdonalds!

we took a couple of maglev trains so we toured the maglev museum as well
maglev is magnetic levitation and china has the fastest one in the world!

chinese flea market!

shanghai skyscrapers.
30 years ago, this was a swamp.
30 years ago was the 1990's so it really blew our minds.

shanghai national museum!

some of these ceramics were MILLENNIA old. crazy.

tour guide for a second :)
the city god temple bazaar
the architecture was ming dynasty but now its a shopping center

dumpling time!

date newton!

walnut cookies

we stuck our stuff in the sleeping area of the changsha airport and headed out to explore

beautiful gardens and the martyr's monument

tram around the gardens

mini mcdonalds

inside the monument


hunan spicy beef!!

fried custard!

back on usa soil so ihop for breakfast ;)

to dfw!

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