Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Q is for ....


I bet you all thought that this letter would have me stumped!

Well, you were wrong!

It's the easiest one I've had so far!!

Well, Q is for QUALITY and we all know that when it comes to quality Bbest does it best!

Whether it's chocolate

as in this Needle Candy by birose,

or Blackberry and Basil

With eyes on the environment

Or using natural fibres to good effect

Working in glass knows no bounds, either

For fabric par excellence


Items as diverse as


delicate silk painting, Pink Peonies by ColoursandTextures.

So, whenever you want quality - you know where to search!

(Just make sure you all get ready for 'Z' when it comes!!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Spring - Summer - Bananas!

The winter has been very long for us here at home. Grey and rainy, cold and dark. We are tired of getting up to get ready for work and school in the dark, tired of coming home in the dark, tired of rain. We know it is good for the plants, the ground, the spring - but will it ever get here? We are just sick of Eastern Standard Time here on the East Coast of the United States, and ready for Daylight Savings time. Yes, my family is all into the idea of Spring – and even looking beyond that, to SUMMER! We have family dinner together once a week, and the conversation for the last several weeks has been all about getting outside, walking, riding bikes, working in the yard, CAN’T WAIT for SPRING and SUMMER, what about vacation and even going to the beach, OH YEA!We have talked about grilling out, long evenings, chatting on the patio, playing ball in the yard, summer drinks, summer salads, summer desserts. I tell you, we can’t wait.

To make the waiting a little bit shorter, I decided to bring a little bit of that summer picnic delight to the family with one of my DH’s favorite summer desserts - Banana Pudding. But every Banana Pudding recipe I have feeds, oh, like 50 (or so it seems), making a huge bowl that lasts forever. Perfect for picnics with friends, but not so great for family dinners. And so instead of going for the big pudding bowl, I found a “Cake Mix Doctor” cupcake recipe for Banana Pudding Cupcakes. I had this recipe on my mind, and before we headed off to the grocery for ingredients, I took a look at what I could find on ETSY from BBEST that brought Banana Pudding sights, sounds, and tastes into mind. Check it out!

Searching for BBEST BANANA, I found these fabulous goodies.

The entry for this great looking candle states "♥ I've tried many Banana Nut Bread fragrance oils and this one is abolutely tops! Very true to it's name, you'd think you just baked a sweet, moist loaf of mouth watering Banana Nut Bread. ♥" Ok, now that is starting to make me think of ripe fruit, hot days, summer fruit salads!

And then, at Bags and more by Pam, I found this unique Banana Berry Bag.

Pam tells us "This unique handbag with molded resin handles is hand-crocheted and features a crocheted lining, making it doubly sturdy. The bag measures approximately 9 inches across and 6 inches deep. It will hold all of your necessities without stretching or sagging. It includes a coin/card purse which fastens over the pom pom." Looks like the perfect spring into summer delight!

Searching for BBEST CUPCAKE, these little yummies showed up!

From Joonbeam, the 8.24 ... FooD TrUcK LoVe ... Upcycled Magnets. Joon remarks "How fun are these? Set of 6 retro design all American favorites from your local food truck or diner." And look at that sweet little cupcake, right on top!

And Fantasy Creation really tickled me with the Sweet Cupcake with Orange Icing Dangle Earrings Handmade from Polymer Clay. The entry says "I acually got hungry while I was making these pretty little polymer clay cupcake earrings. I've included stoppers with the gold tone ear wires. The cupcakes are light yellow with orange icing piled high, in a pale pastel orange cup, made to look realistic." They look pretty good to me, and very much like a fanciful springy delight.

Then, just browsing, I found this lovely thread selection from SassaLynne’s Serendipity collection that reminded me of the ripest of ripe bananas. Her Sassa Lynne, Three Thread Selection, Yellow, Sunshine, Yarn, Serendipity. Sassa includes three "top quality yarns in this selection. Again from our Serendipity range these mercerised cotton threads have been dyed in the same dyebath. This selection is a very unusual combination. This collection is Yellow! Beautiful Sunshine, Butter, Daffodil - just Yellow, with the faintest hint of the odd spot of Cream. They will surely brighten your day and will stitch beautifully on fabric or canvas." Now I love fiber, and as I explored more of the shop, my DH yelled up the stairs, "I thought we were going to the grocery!?!?"

But right before I shut the computer off, I came across this from Judy's shop - and though these are not named “Banana Pudding,” they looked just as wonderful to me.

Judy describes these beauties better than I can - "Soft and generously-sized, these 100% cotton spa cloths are crocheted in griddle stitch with a shell stitch edging. They will dress up your bathroom and provide scrubbing action at the same time!"

Filled with inspiration, I set off with DH to the grocery for our ingredients, and when we came home, I made these. They were absolutely delicious and had the family grinning - and I am sure it is because my BBEST Friends had me smiling & INSPIRED, as usual! Try them, they are worth making!

Banana Pudding Cupcakes

• 24 paper liners for cupcake pans
• 36 vanilla wafers
• 3 medium-rip bananas
• 1 package (18.25 ounces) plain yellow cake mix
• ½ cup vegetable oil
• ¼ cup milk
• 3 large eggs
• 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

• 2 cups milk
• 1 package (3 ounces) cook and serve vanilla pudding mix
• 3 Tablespoons butter
• 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

• 1 cup heavy (whipping) cream
• 1 Tablespoon sugar
• 2 medium-size ripe bananas cut into 24 slices

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 24 cupcake cups with paper liners. Count out 12 vanilla wafers for the garnish and set them aside. Place the remaining 24 vanilla wafers flat-side down in the bottom of the cupcake liners. Set the pans aside.

Prepare the cupcake batter: Slice the bananas and place them in a large mixing bowl. Mash with a potato masher or fork until the bananas are smooth, 1 minute; you will have about 1 ¼ cups. Place the cake mix, oil, milk, eggs, and vanilla in the bowl with the banana puree. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed for 30 seconds. Stop the machine and scrape down the sides. Increase mixer speed to medium and beat 2 minutes mode. Spoon or scoop 1/3 cup batter into each lined cupcake cup, filling it ¾ of the way full. (You will get between 22 – 24 cupcakes.) Place pans into the oven.

Bake the cupcakes until they are golden and spring back when lightly pressed with your finger, 18 to 20 minutes. Remove the pans from the oven and place them on wire racks to cool. [At this point, the recipe has loosen the paper liners so you can ultimately remove them – I didn’t do that.]

Prepare the filling: Place the mild in a medium size saucepan. Whisk in the pudding mix and place the pan over medium heat. Continue to shisk as the mixture comes to a full boil, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the butter and the vanilla. Pour the pudding into a bowl to cool for 20 minutes.

Prepare the topping: Place a large mixing bowl and electric mixer beater(s) in the freezer to chill. Put the 12 vanilla wafers into a plastic bag and crush. Remove the bowl and beaters from the freezer. Pour the cream into the bowl and beat on high speed until thickened, 1 ½ minutes. Stop the machine and add the sugar. Beat on high speed until stiff peaks form, 1 – 2 minutes more.

Assemble the cupcakes: Remove the paper liners if desired. Spoon ½ cup of the cooled pudding into a pastry bag fitted with a wide tip. (I used a plastic bag and a funnel). Pipe a generous amount of pudding into the cupcake through the center of the top (1 to 2 Tablespoons), allowing about 1 teaspoon of the pudding to overflow onto the top surface of the cupcake. Repeat with the remaining cupcakes. Sprinkle the vanilla wafer crumbs on top of the pudding. Dollop about 1 Tablespoon of whipped cream on top of the crumbs.

At this point I stopped and covered the cupcakes and put them in the fridge. The next day, just before serving, I stood a banana slice in the whipped cream.

Store these cupcakes, without the banana garnish lightly covered in the refrigerator for 1 day. Add the banana slice just before serving.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Best laid plans...

I know it may seem like I am making excuses for why I "didn't do my homework" of writing an exciting, fresh blog post on time today, but...I am dog sitting (no, the dog is lovely and did not eat my homework!), and I have just spent the last couple of hours trying to figure out how to fix my own personal blog. It seems that Blogger is not supporting FTP publishing any more, so I have to "migrate" my blog to their own hosting services. To clarify, I have always hosted my blog on my own web host, created the posts using Blogger's software, and used FTP to upload the content to my web host's servers. But no more. The migration instructions are a little confusing for my particular situation, so researching what to do has taken more time than I anticipated. And I still haven't fixed things yet!

So here I am, 4:00 5:00 6:30 8:45pm, trying to keep my canine guest amused while wracking my brains over this "migration" issue (I want to fly south right now), and I am still staring at a blank blog page. What to do? I decided to fall back on what BBESTers like the most: food! Since I don't eat wheat due to allergies, I bake gluten-free using alternative flours. My staple kitchen grain is rice flour, which comes in white and the more whole-grain brown. I use white rice flour for finer baked goods such as cakes and fancy pastries, while brown rice flour makes great bread, pancakes and muffins. Either can be used for coating meats, though I prefer the texture of white for this purpose. My next two favorite flours come from tubers and roots: potato and tapioca starches. Make sure you use potato starch flour in baking as potato flour is heavier and rather odd-tasting (somewhat potato-ish); potato starch is fine, white, and similar to cornstarch in consistency. Tapioca starch is extracted from the root of the plant species Manihot esculenta, also known as the cassava or manioc, which is native to South America. Both starches can be substituted for wheat flour in white sauces as they act like thickening agents. You may also want to try substituting flours made from other plant sources, such as amaranth, corn, soy, nuts, teff, quinoa, chick pea, sorghum, or millet.  It may take some experimentation to find the taste and texture combination that is right for you. For some tried-and-true flour formulas, visit I use Bette Hagman's Original Formula, fourth one down on that page.

Our favorite sandwich bread recipe. Use brown rice flour for more whole-grain fiber.

Some of you may be a little timid about trying to cook without America's favorite grain, wheat, but never fear, it isn't so hard. With just a few careful substitutions, anyone can enjoy cooking and eating gluten-free.** Just be aware that the texture of gluten-free baked goods can be more dry, crumbly, and not as airy compared to the texture of gluten-based baked items. Don't expect gluten-free cakes and cookies to rise as much as their wheat-containing counterparts. That is because gluten, the protein in certain grains (wheat, barley, spelt, and rye), when combined with water, adds elasticity to dough and helps it rise. Wheat contains "two proteins, glutenin and gliadin, which turn into gluten when they come in contact with liquid. As soon as glutenin and gliadin are surrounded by water, the gluten molecules develop and begin to form strong, sticky, elastic bonds. These elastic bonds give dough its stretchy, 'doughy' qualities...Two other factors that affect the development of gluten are (1) the amount of water that's added to the flour (the more water, the more gluten, and the chewier the dough), and (2) the amount of mixing or kneading. Kneading helps the bonded gluten molecules form into long elastic strands or sheets. That's why dough can rise when yeast has been added. The yeast gives off gasses, the gasses are trapped by the sheets of gluten molecules, and the dough rises." (

In some recipes, simply substituting rice flour or a wheat-free flour blend for the regular flour will be fine. This one-to-one replacement works best in things that don't need to rise much. Most other recipes will require some tricks to compensate for the lack of gluten. has a few good suggestions:

  • Bake breads and rolls in containers with walls.Without gluten, bread loafs and rolls don't hold their shape. Bake bread in loaf pans or Bundt pans, and use muffin tins for rolls.
  • Add gums to your gluten-free flour. The sticky effect created by gluten can be simulated to a certain extent by adding gums, for instance, guar gum or xantham gum. These gums are only added to recipes in small amounts (such as 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon per cup of flour) and are already included in some of the commercial gluten-free flour mixes.
  • Add some protein when you use gluten-free flour. Chef Coppedge explains that because gluten is a protein, it can help to add some protein to baking recipes when you're substituting gluten-free flours for wheat flour. For instance, he suggests, try replacing half a cup of water in your recipe with egg or liquid egg whites. (
Before I leave you for yet another walk with our doggie guest (walk number five since noon!), I'll give you a recipe in the sweet spirit of BBEST:

Chocolate-Buttermilk Cake (gluten-free)

¾ cup boiling water
¾ cup Droste Dutch Process Cocoa
1 cup buttermilk
2 ½ cups gluten-free flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. xanthan or guar gum
½ tsp. salt
¾ cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 ½ tsp. gluten-free vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour three 9-inch round layer-cake pans. Pour boiling water over cocoa to dissolve. Stir in buttermilk; set aside and cool. Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, xanthan gum, and salt. Beat together butter and sugar in large bowl with electric mixer at medium speed until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in vanilla. Beat dry ingredients into butter mixture alternating with cocoa mixture. Pour into pans, dividing batter equally. Bake 25 minutes or until centers spring back. Cool cakes for 10 minutes and turn out of pans. Frost each cake layer and refrigerate. (I like to use a homemade mocha frosting but you can use any variety you like.)

Enjoy a special treat! Yum!
(Adapted from a cake recipe provided on the Droste cocoa box.)

When choosing basic ingredients such as vanilla and baking powder, makes sugar they are gluten-free. If a package is not labeled, you can check online lists, or contact the manufacturer.

**Gluten sets off an autoimmune response in people with Celiac disease, which causes damage to the small intestine. This, in turn, causes the small intestine to lose the ability to absorb the nutrients found in food, leading to malnutrition and a variety of other complications. The only effective treatment for CD is adhering to a strict gluten-free diet. For more about Celiac disease, see the Celiac Sprue Association's website.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Instead of rain, think Sunshine!

I believe we have all endured a long, cold winter this season. The tail end seems to be very wet in many areas with above average rainfall. So, I decided to try and look on the bright side (please excuse the pun!) and think ‘Sunshine’. Yes, I have glimpsed the odd ray of sunshine drifting down and what a difference it makes to the world! Not only does the world look good but it puts a smile on peoples faces and just puts a more positive emphasis on our day to day lives.

So, with that in mind… think positive, think sunshine!


You are my sunshine by Attack of the Vintage

The perfect little gift for the one you love!


Sunshine and Shadows by Big Island Rose Designs

The subject was shadow but Rose couldn't do just shadow so along came the sun and there you have it - Sunshine and Shadows!


Yellow Sunshine Yarn by Sassa LynneRain

This collection is Yellow! Beautiful Sunshine, Butter, Daffodil - just Yellow, with the faintest hint of the odd spot of Cream.


Rainbows and Sunshine by Bags and More by Pam

This sunshine and rainbows inspired sweater will be adorable on your small four-footed friend!


A Little Bit of Sunshine by Yankeegirl

An original watercolor painting of a single sunflower.


Sunset by Colours and Textures

This is an original watercolour of a sunset and was inspired by visits to the English coast particularly Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly


Dragon Folding Sun Hat by AltheaP

This is such a great idea! Comfortable woven cotton sunhat folds into its own zippered pouch, tucks into a pocket, purse, or backpack. Keep one in the car and you'll always be ready!


Sunbird by Sixsisters

This was so much fun to do! Joan drew and hand cut the bird. Then the flower after which some thread was added to the flower.


Sun on the River by Heron Kate

Original painting on gallery wrapped canvas, 12 x 12 inches square.

Don’t just sit there! Go on! Check out more exciting items from such a talented group of people who make up the BBEST TEAM!

Monday, March 22, 2010

It’s Raining…..Oh, My!

“Oh, darn it,” I said to myself as I saw the first sprinkles of rain hit the driveway.  Sally was on her way over, and we were going to put purple and yellow pansies in the bed in front of the house.  I was so excited thinking about how gorgeous the pansies would look from now until really hot weather arrived.  But, the rain was going to put a damper on those plans!

Just then I saw a car coming up the drive.  Sally jumped out and dashed to the porch since the rain was coming down harder now.  “Spring is really here,” Sally exclaimed, “and the rains have begun.”  I laughed and shooed her into the house.

“Well,” sighed Sally.  “What are we going to do now since it is raining?”

“We’ll just leave the flats of flowers on the porch,” I answered.  “I’ll set them out in the yard later and let the rain give them a good soaking.  And as soon as the rain stops, in the bed they’ll go.”

“Sounds good to me,” responded Sally.  “But, I had my heart set on putting these flowers out and looking at their beautiful effect.  Oh!  I know,” she continued.  “Let’s check out your Bbest Team Members and see what kinds of flowers we can find there.”

“What a wonderful idea,” I replied.  “Let’s get some lemonade, that last box of Girl Scout cookies, and head for the computer.”

zuda gay

yankee girl


six sisters


on a whimsey

mystic silks







clay center





“Truly magnificent,” sighed Sally. 

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

P is for ......


And I can promise you that you will be spoilt for choice if you search for something pretty by Bbest!

These are just a few items from a Pretty Good Team!

Search Bbest Team for more!