When Life Gives You Lemons…

Lemon Drizzle Cupcakes

Have you ever had one of those days, the kind of day that you are over and done with before it even begins? The kind that hits you smack in the face the moment you open your eyes in the morning? Yes. Those. Well, I just had one of those. Truly, I don’t have many of those kinds of days, but occasionally they happen. And when they do, well, I just have to do something to get out of the funk. So, what do I do? I bake!

When I am down, I bake. When I am happy, I bake. When I am sick, I bake. I bake in my dreams too. Baking always makes me feel better and happier. Oh yeah! Tea always makes me happy too.

Yesterday was one of those funky days. So what did I do? I made Lemon Drizzle cake in cupcake form for our afternoon tea. I can’t even begin to tell you how scrumptious these little sweet and tangy morsels of goodness are! They are moist, tender and delicious, and have just the right amount of zing.

To make these you start out with a basic sponge, which I adapted from a Mary Berry cake recipe. Honestly, not many cakes can compare to this sponge. It is truly the best and it never fails. I have made it countless times, and each time the results are amazing! I chose to make cupcakes at my daughter’s request, but this will also yield a nice size loaf.

Here are some pictures of the process:

You need:

 1 1/2 Cup of Self Rising flour, 3 large eggs, 3/4 Cup of sugar, the zest of 2 lemons,

and 1 1/2 sticks of unsalted butter at room temperature.

Cream all the ingredients together in a mixer bowl until smooth and well incorporated.

This batter is so silky and creamy.

I scoop it into the liners using two spoons. 

I have found that this gives me perfect and uniform cupcakes.

Bake at 350º for about 10 to 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the

center comes out clean.  

While the cake is baking, make the frosting. It should have a flowing consistency.

For the frosting you will need:

1/4 cup of lemon juice (or the juice of the 2 zested lemons), About 1 1/4 cups of powder sugar or as much as it’s needed to reach your desired consistency. Mix together and set it aside.

If too thin, add more sugar, if too thick, add more juice or a splash of cold water. Make as much or as little frosting as you like.

Here they are, freshly out of the oven and cooling.

After you take the cakes out of the oven and while they are warm, poke small holes all over and drizzle some frosting.

I purposely left space at the top of the cake and the liner for the frosting. You’ll see what I mean…

See? I want the frosting to pool at the edges and not drip off the sides. I love a good crunchy top! Yum!

Wait a couple of minutes and drizzle the remaining frosting over the cakes. By now the cakes have cooled and the frosting won’t soak into the cake anymore. Instead, you will have a layer of sweet frosting at the top. Let them sit for a few minutes so the frosting can dry. This makes the tops a bit crunchy. My favorite part!

We paired it with a nice cup of PG Tips, our favorite!

And my cup almost runneth over…Ha! Lots of milk, no sugar.

Lemon Drizzle Cupcakes

See that tender crumb? Nom nom!! I may or may not have eaten too many of these…

Friends, there will always be ” lemons” in life. And when those sour days come knocking at your door with a  big basket of lemons. Make cake. Lemon Drizzle cake that is… because life is always better with cake and a cup of tea, of course.

Enjoy!

~Ana

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Sticky Toffee Pudding

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The first time I had sticky toffee pudding was at a tea room in Chattanooga, TN. I had just finished a lovely meal with my friend, Star, at the English Rose downtown and the server recommended it from the menu. I ordered one to share with my daughter, a decision that I regretted almost immediately. One bite in and I was in gastronomical heaven. Wow! the cake was rich, moist, sweet, gooey, delicious. Two bites in and I almost had to fight my daughter to get another bite. So, so good! At that moment, Sticky Toffee Pudding became my number one and most favorite dessert of all time.

As soon as I got home I researched the internet to find the best recipe. Some of the recipes I found were good, but none as delicious as the one I had at the tea room. I had to play around with different recipes until I got the right cake consistency and flavor. I think it took about 3 or 4 times but with every try, the texture and taste improved. I have to warn you though, this cake is highly addictive. I usually make individual cakes because they make a beautiful presentation when served, and also stay moister that way. I can’t say enough great things about this cake. So, If you are ready to have your life changed forever, then keep on reading…

Sticky Toffee Pudding

1 1/2 cups of dates, seedless

1/2 cup, hot boiling water

1 1/2 cups, self rising flour

1 tsp, baking soda, divided

1 tsp, baking powder

2/3 cup, dark brown sugar

6 tbsp, unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 eggs

1 1/2 tsp, vanilla extract

Directions:

 In a bowl, add dates and pour boiling water over them. Add half of the the baking soda (1/2 tsp) and stir to combine. Allow that to sit for about 10 minutes until the dates have soften. While dates are getting soft, preheat the oven to 350º and grease a cupcake/muffin baking tray and set aside. Once dates are soft, use a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.

In a separate bowl, add the flour, baking soda (the remaining 1/2 tsp), and baking powder. In another bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until pale in color. Add the eggs, one at a time until well incorporated. Add the vanilla extract and mix together to combine. Add the date mixture, scrape down the sides of the bowl, and mix again until smooth. Using a spatula, gently fold in the flour mixture until all has been incorporated. Be careful not to over mix. The batter should be smooth and thick. Pour into the prepared muffin tin and bake until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, about 15-20 minutes, give or take. Allow the cakes to cool for about 5 minutes in the pan before turning them over onto a baking tray or any container with tall sides. Poke holes all over the cakes and pour the toffee sauce. Let them sit in the sauce and reserve some as well for garnish. These cakes last well over a week in the fridge. They also are great make ahead desserts for any tea or dinner party. Serve them warm with custard or vanilla ice cream, and you are in for an adventure! As my daughter would say, “It’s a party in my mouth!” Ha!

Toffee Sauce

1 3/4 cups, dark brown sugar

2 sticks, butter

1/2 cup, heavy cream (or 1/4 milk and 1/4 cream or half and half, which is what I normally use)

a pinch of salt

In a saucepan, on medium heat, combine all the ingredients together and stir. Once all the sugar has melted, allow the sauce to come to a boil and immediately remove from the heat. Pour over the cakes and save some for garnish. This sauce will hold in the fridge for a couple of weeks.

I hope you give this recipe a try. It truly is the best dessert I have ever had. Seriously, nothing beats this pudding…nothing. Oh! guess what’s even better? This is wonderful with a nice cuppa tea. Can life be any better? I think not! Go! Get baking, now!

Enjoy!

~Ana

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Trash to Treasure (DIY, painted side table)

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This post has been a long time coming. A few months back, I found a side table out by the curbside and brought it home. When I first saw it, it looked terrible! It was dirty, smelly, and worn. Surprisingly, it was very sturdy, the hardware was in good shape, and had no water damage. Score! I brought it home, gave it a good scrub, brought out my trusty paint brush and paint, and got to it.

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Look at this before picture. Poor old, worn out, brown and boring table.

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After the good scrub, I removed the hardware and cleaned it up too.

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I used the best ever paint, Behr brand, which is a primer and a paint all in one. I really love Behr because I don’t have to sand or prime at all. This paint is a miracle worker. Cuts my time in half, has virtually no odor, dries super fast, and has great coverage. I seriously love this stuff!

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This is after only one coat. Seriously awesome! Doesn’t it look so much better already? The color is a beautiful off white shade called Antique White. I really like the light cream tone it has. I love white but not stark white, so this white is perfect for me. It has just the right amount of yellow in it without being too yellow…know what I mean?

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This is after the second coat and after it dried. The whole project time was about an hour and a half or so, from start to finish.

I was very happy with how it turned out.  This table had great bones, all it needed was a fresh coat of paint and little bit of TLC.

I can’t believe that people throw away perfectly good furniture! That’s fine by me though.

My motto is: your trash, my treasure! Ha!

What kind of treasures have you found by the curbside?

~Ana

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Chili and Cornbread, My Way

What do you guys want for dinner, seems to be the question I ask my husband and daughter every single day. It seems like the answer is alway the same: “Whatever you want to make!”. Really? If I had any idea on what to make I wouldn’t be asking! Most people think that because I have professional cooking experience I am not faced with the nightmare that is trying to figure out what to make for dinner everyday.

Last Tuesday, I decided that I would not ask, that I would just make. And make I did! A vegeterian chili, done my way, without chili powder because truly, I hate it. So if you would like to try a delicious and different chili, keep reading!

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Vegeterian Chili & Cornbread

2 cups, dry pinto beans (could use canned pinto beans, 2 large cans)

1 bag of frozen Morning Star Veggie Crumbles (meat substitute)

1 onion, diced

1 green bell pepper, diced

3 garlic cloves, crushed

1 large can of stewed or crushed tomatoes

2 tbsp, oil for sautéing

2 tbsp of paprika

1 tsp cinnamon

Salt & pepper, to taste

3 tsp, ground cumin

1 tsp, crushed red pepper ( or as much as you like)

condiments or toppings as desired ( sour cream, chives, shredded cheese)

Directions:

In a crock pot, add the dry beans with enough water to cover them. Cook the beans on high for about 4 hours or on low for 6 hours until beans are soft but still hold their shape(if using canned beans, omit this step). Check the beans about half way through and add more hot water if needed.

In a large pot and on high heat, add oil. Allow oil to heat up and add the veggie meat (or real meat), cook until lightly browned, or for about 1 minute. Add the onions, peppers, and garlic and sauté for about a minute. Add the tomatoes and stir to deglaze the pan. Add the paprika, cumin, cinnamon, crushed red pepper, and season with salt and pepper. Then, add the beans and stir to combine. Taste for seasoning and adjust the salt if needed. Reduce the heat to medium and allow to cook for about 20 minutes or until the beans have thickened, stirring occasionally. Serve with desired toppings. We like chives, shredded sharp cheddar cheese, and plain greek yogurt (instead of sour cream).

Cornbread (recipe adapted from a Paula Deen recipe)

3/4 cup of All Purpose flour

1 cup cornmeal

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

1 tbsp sugar

2 eggs

1/4 cup honey

1/2 stick of unsalted butter, melted (I used earth balance)

1 cup buttermilk ( I used 2% milk and a tsp of lemon juice and stirred it together)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425º and grease an 8×13 baking dish. In a bowl, mix the corn meal, flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. In another bowl, whisk the eggs, add melted butter, buttermilk, and honey. Pour the wet ingredients into the cornmeal and flour mixture and fold together until all combined and batter is smooth. Pour the batter into the prepared baking dish and bake until the top is golden or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let the cornbread cool for about 10 minutes before cutting into squares, this prevents the cake from drying out. Serve as is, or drizzle with warm honey if desired but keep in mind that this is a sweeter cornbread recipe. I do not add honey on top if I’m eating with chili but if I pair it with tea, then I do drizzle some warm honey over it. Mmmm! delish!

I hope you enjoy this recipe. Comment and let me know if you do. I am always curious to know how people like my recipes.

Enjoy!

~Ana

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Shabby Chic Lamp Shade DIY

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Years ago I bought an ugly brown and beige lamp that I wanted to recover, but somehow never got around to it. This morning, as it is usual on Fridays, I got up early to deep clean. I walked out of my bedroom, crazy haired and sleepy eyed, and I found that my husband had already taken care of the cleaning for me. I am going to brag for a minute here. Wow! Talk about a great way to wake up! Seriously, the man had done the dishes, organized the living room and dining area , swept the floors, the whole nine yards! How blessed am I? Very blessed! Ok, I’m done bragging. But seriously, how awesome is it to wake up to a clean house? Very awesome!!! So, since my day was now somewhat free, I decided to tackle that lamp, and boy am I glad I did!

The whole process took about an hour or so since I had previously painted the base.I used regular old latex paint and added a bit of Plaster or Paris to give it a chalky finish. I painted it in uneven strokes to let the brown finish come through a bit, giving it an old, worn look.

For the shade, I used white muslin that I got at Joann’s on clearance. I didn’t take a before picture of the lamp, but I did take a pic of the shade part.

This is the original color, beige and boring.

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I started out by measuring the circumference of the top and bottom part of the shade. I doubled the amount and cut 2 inch strips. (My shade was 13 inches at the top and 15 inches at the bottom, so the top strip was 26 inches and the bottom strip was 30 inches)

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With my sewing machine and using the widest stitch, I sewed right down the middle. If you have a ruffle foot, use it. It is easier and faster. I then pulled on the thread to gather the fabric in a ruffle, and using a hot glue gun, I glued the ruffle to the top. Then, I tried to cover the whole shade in one piece but found it difficult to work with, so I cut individual pieces and glued them on the sides at seams. 11263802_10206684314976474_2061540497_n

See what I mean? I tucked the fabric underneath and hot glued it to the inside, nice and tight. Once the whole shade was covered, I measured the height of each seam, doubling the amount again,  and cut 1 inch thick strips.

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I sewed right down the middle again and made ruffles by pulling on the thread and gathering the fabric.

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I hot glued those over the seams, and tucked them under the top ruffle for a more finished look. Once they were all glued around, I glued the bottom ruffle on. I finished by going back and trimming all the long strings of fabric and cleaning any glue strands that were visible.

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Here she is in all her new glory. Isn’t she so adorable? I think so. Right now, it is in my living room, on a side table, next to the sofa. I plan to put in my room or my daughter’s room when I finish the makeover. But who knows how long that will take, so for the time being, it will stay where it is.

I am really pleased with how it turned out. I am also glad that I don’t have to look at a brown and boring lamp anymore. I owe the hubs a big thank you and a few snuggles for making this project possible. What kinds of projects are you working on?

Enjoy!

~Ana

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Vintage Treasures

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I love thrifting. Since I started, about 6 years ago, I have found it harder and harder to pay full price for anything. My friend Jasmin and I joke about how we have both been “ruined” by shopping at thrift stores. Where I live, there are plenty of thrift stores and antique shops, so I visit frequently to see what treasures I will find. There is something about a vintage item, regardless of what it is that just speaks to my heart. I always imagine the journey that the item has been on. Who it belonged to, how it was loved, where it has been. I like to make up imaginary stories of lost love, tragedy, and joy.

On a recent trip to the thrift store, I found these three tea cups and saucers and I just had to take them home with me. Aren’t they so lovely? I really love the colors, patterns, and design.

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This Duchess beauty is in the Highland Beauty pattern with fluted edges and a mauve thistle flower.

11125230_10206665665310244_1266794486_n 11126498_10206665663870208_21304338_n  The colors are just so lovely!

The next beauty is a Royal Vale with violets pattern. It is trimmed with gold on the rim of the cup and saucer. It is sweet and delicate and in mint condition!

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I think this is my favorite teacup of the three.

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These up close details show how pretty this little tea cup is. She reminds me of Spring.

The last little beauty is very special. This is one is perhaps the one I wondered most about.

You will see why…

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I found this lovely stashed away behind some larger vases in one of the shelves. Actually, it was my daughter who found it. She loved how shiny it was. She said it must have belonged to a queen because it was all gold!

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It wasn’t until we got home that I noticed the “Wedding Anniversary” written inside of it. From its color, I am guessing it must have been a 50th wedding anniversary present. I told my daughter she was right. This teacup probably did belong to a “queen”, the queen of some man’s heart! The maker of this lovely is a Royal Windsor special edition.

I am so thrilled to have these beautiful treasures to enjoy our afternoon tea in. Truly they are one of kind vintage treasures. Want to know the best part? I paid $2.50 for each! Seems like a small price to pay for the joy they will bring to our afternoon tea. What kind of treasures have you found while thrifting?

Enjoy!

~Ana

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Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes with Vegan Vanilla Buttercream

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Sometime in early January, my family and I went vegan for about 8 weeks (we eat a mostly vegetarian diet with the addition of salmon every so often). We had just started to get back into the swing of regular life after a gastronomically exciting holiday season (I don’t know about you, but in my family we eat non-st0p from Thanksgiving to New Years!). We wanted to just lay off the heavy food and just focus on eating healthier, with less processed foods, and no dairy. That turned out to be a challenge for me since I love to bake, and most baked goods require creamy, delicious, butter and eggs. But, a challenge never stopped me! I surfed the internet and found a few vegan recipes to try. Some were terrible and others were total failures! A few here and there were good enough base recipes that I tweaked and resulted in good products.

I spent some time reworking some of my own recipes into vegan options like the chunky monkey banana bread recipe (get the recipe here), and even some bread recipes that I will share soon. Somewhere in the process, I found a chocolate cake recipe that seemed like a good base. Unfortunately, I can’t remember the website I got it from because I hand wrote the recipe on a sticky note. I did change a few things in it, which improved the taste and texture of the cake, so I guess I will call it mine now. However, I want to thank the person who created it because they provided a great working base for me. So, thank you random internet person. Thank you for sharing your recipe with me!

This cake is moist, light, fluffy, chocolatey, rich, and delicious. The buttercream is sweet, creamy, and luxurious. Truly, a winner recipe! Oh! and did I mention it is great with tea? It is! I hope you give it a try. If you do, please, comment or send me a message. I would love to hear how you liked it!

Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes

1 cup All Purpose flour, sifted

3/4 cup, plus 3 tbsp sugar

1/4 cup, special dark cocoa powder, sifted

3/4 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1 cup, unsweetened almond milk (or any nut milk)

1/3 cup, vegetable oil

1 tsp. white vinegar

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350º and line a cupcake or muffin pan with cupcake liners.

In a large bowl, sift all the dry ingredients together (flour, sugar, cocoa powder, salt, baking soda, baking powder). Mix together to combine. Add milk, vinegar, oil, and vanilla extract. Mix together until well mixed and batter is smooth. Using an ice cream scoop or a measuring cup, pour into a prepared muffin pan, lined with cupcake liners, filling about 1/2 way up. Bake at 350º for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let them cool in the pan completely before frosting. You can decorate it with anything your heart desires. I used a strawberry for these.

Vegan Vanilla Buttercream

2 sticks of Earth Balance vegan butter sticks (the yellow box), at room temperature.

3 cups, confectioners sugar (powder or icing sugar), sifted

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 tsp. unsweetened almond milk (or as much or little as needed)

Instructions:

In the bowl of a stand mixer (or using a hand mixer), cream the butter at medium speed until light and fluffy. Add half of the sugar and mix well, at medium speed until creamy and fluffy, and the butter is pale in color. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the vanilla extract and the rest of the sugar and mix at medium speed for about one minute or until creamy and smooth. Add the milk if needed to loosen up the buttercream or omit if it isn’t needed.

I have found that depending on the temperature of my kitchen at the time, the buttercream can get slightly runny. If this happens, don’t panic! Simply put the bowl with the buttercream in the freezer for about 5 minutes and let it come together again. Using a rubber spatula, you can whip it again to make it nice and smooth.

Enjoy!
~Ana

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Chunky Monkey Banana Bread~Vegan


Tea time for us, is the time of the day in which we take a break from all our duties and sit together as a family. As much as we love tea, and all the yummy treats that go with it, it can get out control with all the sugar in baked goods. At home, I do my best to make most of the baked goods we have for tea. Not only do I enjoy baking, it is also a way to include my daughter in the process and provide a healthier treat. This banana bread is one of my family’s favorite tea time treats. It is moist, delicious, and healthy. It is dairy free and loaded with fiber. What’s not to love?!!!! This can be made into a large loaf or into muffins, for on the go breakfast or snack. I hope you give this a try. Send me a message or a comment and let me know how you liked it.

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Chunky Monkey Banana Bread~ Vegan

1  3/4 cup, All Purpose flour

1  1/2 cup, mashed (over ripe) bananas

1 cup, brown sugar

3/4 cup, vegetable oil (I use coconut oil)

3 Tbsp, chia seeds

9 Tbsp, water

1  1/2 tsp, baking soda

1 tsp, salt

1/4 cup, chopped dates

3 tsp, vanilla extract

2 tsp, cinnamon

1/4 cup coconut flakes (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Heat oven to 350° and line a muffin pan with paper liners, or lightly grease the loaf pan.
  2. In a cup, add the chia seeds and water and mix together. Let it sit for a few minutes until it has bloomed and it is gelatinous. Omit this step and substitute for 3 eggs if you don’t want a vegan product.
  3. In a bowl, combine flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking soda & salt. Mix well.
  4. In a separate bowl, add the mashed bananas, oil, vanilla, chopped dates, chia seeds mixture, and coconut flakes (if desired). Mix well to combine.
  5. Add the banana mixture to the flour mixture and mix until well combined.
  6. Using an ice-cream scoop or two spoons, pour batter into the prepared paper liners, filling them about 3/4 of the way, or pour into the loaf pan. If desired, top with coconut flakes.
  7. Bake for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick or cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, or for about 35 minutes for a loaf pan.
  8. Allow to cool for a few minutes before eating, or if you are like me, and have no patience, eat them while they are hot!

Enjoy!!

~Ana

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Pretty in Pink Tea

Just a few weeks ago, my friend’s daughter turned 5. She is a girly girl who loves pink, so her mamma and I set out to celebrate her birthday with an all pink tea party. My friend being so talented, decorated her dining room while I made the cupcakes, marshmallow pops, and other yummy treats. We set the table for the little ladies and served them strawberry milk for “tea”. They loved it! Here are some pictures of the Pretty in Pink birthday tea party. 10994878_1602643926615976_134452230202415814_n

Freshly picked pink tulips in a white vase for center pieces.

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Lace, floral china, and doilies brought a vintage flair.

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This floral tea pot is sure to make any tea party exciting!

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Vanilla cupcakes with vanilla buttercream roses added a sweet touch. 

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Everything was so pretty and girly. Simple and sweet, just like the birthday girl.

Isn’t life better with tea? I think so!

~Ana

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Tea for 3

Most mornings I ask my daughter what she wants for breakfast and her answer is almost the same every time, “Tea”. Tea is something we delight ourselves with on a daily basis at home. In the mornings, we usually have English Breakfast or a Chai blend. Many times in the afternoon, we have something a little lighter, paired with a slice of banana bread, scones, or a biscuit or two. Evening ritual usually involves chamomile, fennel or mint. This is what taking tea looks like at home for us on any given day. 10959885_1596868533860182_1929510364340737958_n

I really love mixing all different types of china.


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Cucumber sandwiches are my daughter’s favorite. She made these open faced sandwiches for us to enjoy.

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Biscoff biscuits are always a favorite around here.

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What does taking tea look like for you?

Enjoy!!! ~Ana

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