Dark Chocolate Banana Bread Recipe by Brooke Courtney

If you have followed me for any amount of time, you already know that I could start off any food post I do with "dark chocolate <insert food of choice here>" recipe. Let's be real though. If you can't add dark chocolate to something, what's the point? I kid, I kid........ kind of.

I have loved my Grandma's banana bread recipe for years because it's moist and delicious and is loaded with walnuts. Last year though, I tried out a chocolate banana bread recipe I'd found online and it was reallllly good, just too sweet. So, like most thinks I cook or bake, I've now modified it to make it my own by combining the best parts of both recipes.

This bread is perfect for a baby shower, holiday breakfast or just a casual brunch at home over the weekend. And while it's loaded with chocolate, it's not overly sweet, so you don't have to feel too bad about eating several pieces. 😉

DARK CHOCOLATE BANANA BREAD

  • 3 very ripe bananas (thaw if frozen)
  • 1/2 c. butter, melted
  • 1/2 c. brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 c. milk
  • 1 c. flour (all purpose, or bread)
  • 1/2 c. cocoa powder (dark or regular)
  • 1 c. semisweet or dark chocolate chips
  • 1/2 c. chopped walnuts

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a loaf pan with non stick baking spray and coat with a little flour/cocoa if you'd like.

Mash bananas in large bowl or mixer. Add in melted butter, brown sugar, egg and vanilla. Mix well, but not on a high speed.

In a separate bowl mix together your dry ingredients - flour, cocoa, salt and baking soda.

Add your dry ingredients to the mixing bowl and stir until just combined. Gently stir in the chocolate chips and walnuts.

Transfer batter into the prepared pan. (My batter was the consistency of chocolate pudding.) Sprinkle the top with chocolate chips and walnuts, because it's prettier that way. 

Bake 40-60 minutes - or until a cake tester comes out clean. I know that's a big range of time, but it's alway best to watch your loaf specifically and know how your oven works. I set my timer for 40 minutes, clean up and go do something else, and then monitor it more closely after the first 40 minutes are up until it's just right!

Cool in pan, on a wire rack.

Finally, slice into that bad boy and enjoy while it's still a touch warm. It's delicious!!! If you don't consume the entire thing immediately, wrap bread tightly with plastic wrap and keep at room temperature for up to a few days.

Enjoy!

Balance | with Amazfit by Brooke Courtney

Balance has meant many different things to me over the years. When T.J. and I were fist married, it looked a lot like trying to live within our smaller budget, working hard at our wedding photography business so T.J. could quit his day job in a warehouse, and spending time with friends/family.

Fast forward 7+ years and over time we had to learn how to balance two full time businesses, friendships, employees, family, church, quality time together, having a BABY, staying fit, and a million other things. Like vacuuming all. the. time. because we have four cats.

But honestly, it's only in the last year and a half that I can say I've actually found some sort of balance in my life. T.J. has written about this season of our lives quite a bit on his blog, with my two favorite posts being Throw Away All The Things (when we found balance by, well, like he said.. throwing out all of the things) and, Balance Is A Moving Target (where he talks about balancing less things as a whole, and not always in a 24 hour mindset.) 

For me, my days all look a little different. I work at our walk in love. studio twice a week when my parents watch June.  Sometimes I have extra photoshoots for friends and family throughout my week. Or playdates with Junie and her friends. But most of the time there are always several categories I work hard to keep balanced in my daily life - food, family time and fitness. The latter certainly being the hardest for me. 😬 I mean, c'mon... running? It's the worst!

Balancing family time often looks like reading books to June in her room and choosing to stay off of my phone. June loves to read. Her current favorite book is this silly little book with all black and white drawings of animals and things. She makes all the sounds they do and sniffs the page with flowers on it every time. (See photo below 😂.) Not that the page actually smells good or anything... she just thinks it's what you're supposed to do.

When Amazfit, an incredibly stylish fitness tracker, reached out to me about partnering for a post, I felt incredibly comfortable saying yes. And I have loved having a way to track my steps, calories and sleep over the last several weeks, all while stacking it like a bracelet next to my other cute accessories.

It has been fascinating to track my light sleep and deep sleep, and how they correlate with how I feel the next morning. My goal, of course, is to always feel as happy when I wake up as June does while reading her books. #goals

One of my favorite ways to find balance in food is our snack trays. No joke, we eat them all the time. (You can see my recent Thanksgiving one here.) It's just a simplified, fast way to eat things that we love, coupled with the things we "should eat more of" on a daily basis. Aka: it's how we justify eating a lot of cheese.

A close second to our love for snack trays though, is quesadillas. I did not grow up making them at home, but with T.J.'s family being part Mexican, they certainly did. Back when I was 22 and all the things were smaller, I'd load it up my quesadillas with cheese and bacon and chicken and eat every single slice. Nowadays, I seek to find balance by first loading it up with tomatoes, peppers, onions, avocado, black beans and corn... and then add the cheese. And honestly, it's so much better than the ones I used to make.

Note to self: do a recipe post on the different quesadillas we make, cause that sounds delish.

Lastly... fitness. Ugh. Working out is not my favorite thing to do. I have gotten better over the years, for sure, and have learned what I do and don't like to do, along with what does and doesn't work for me. But for the most part, it's the little things that all add up. Choosing to walk to work instead of drive, jogging with the stroller on sunny days, and continuing to remind myself that it's all a journey. Oh, and that being able to make humans is an incredible thing, and that I shouldn't be too hard on myself for weight gained in the process.

I'd like to tell you that I always look this put together while working out, but that's simply not the case. Just last week I started walking at 6am with my neighbor/friend Leah, because at some point in her "I haven't worked out since 1999" thinking, it seemed like a good idea. Trust me, when I meet Leah at the corner of our two streets, my sweatpants are all but duct tapped to my ankles to keep the wind out, and I've got four very unflattering layers of heather gray on. But hey! At least I'm walking 3 miles. #balance 😂 Leah, if you're reading this, please burn this well-lit, posed image of me in cute workout clothes into your mind, and think of it when I see you Wednesday morning in the dark. Thank you.

If you'd like to get an Amazfit for yourself, you can use the code MYAMAZFIT to save 40% on your purchase. In the first photos, I am wearing the Moonbeam tracker, which looks a lot like a super cute watch. In the last images, I am wearing the Rainbow wristband, with the blush colored metal details! You can also take out the ceramic tracker and wear it as a necklace. 😍 They also have loads of other styles and wristbands (for guys too!) on their site, so check them out. So really, there is no excuse to not track your activity anymore... cause you no longer have to compromise your personal style to stay healthy.

This post was sponsored by Amazfit. As always, all opinions are my own. Thanks for supporting my blog and the awesome people who sponsor it.

Snack Tray / Thanksgiving! by Brooke Courtney

Thanksgiving is hands down one of my favorite holidays simply because of all the food. Being someone who loves to cook, I love the endless ways you can make the Thanksgiving staple items -- mashed, smashed, baked, fried, twice stuffed, broiled and toasted. Okay, I'm hungry already just reading those words.

This year, T.J. and I will not be hosting our own Friendsgiving, so instead, we've been chowing down on a Thanksgiving themed snack tray! It's super easy to make and would be the perfect little addition to game night or small group gathering in the next week! 

THANKSGIVING SNACK TRAY

  • Sweet potato chips
  • Mini marshmallows
  • Pecans
  • Craisins
  • Cubed cheese
  • Salted pumpkin seeds
  • Turkey roll ups with chive cream cheese, sprinkled with cracked pepper + oregano (like stuffing!)
  • Apples, sliced and sprinkled with cinnamon + sugar (like apple pie!)

Junie the Kangaroo by Brooke Courtney

Target does it again. This kangaroo costume is so incredibly cute. And though it took some serious convincing, coupled with a LOT of clapping and praise to get June into it - it was worth it! 😍 T.J. and I helped June get dressed about 30 minutes before the neighborhood trick-or-treating began, and our wonderful neighbors brought out their baskets of candy for June to snack from. Last year, June was only 7 months old at Halloween, so we put her in a cute "Bootiful" onesie, but that was the extent of it. This year though! We were ready! However, in typical fashion, June wasn't sure about it at first..... 😂

It took her a good three minutes to actually shuffle her way over, about four feet in distance, to their candy. And once she finally picked out a piece, THIS was her face. "Don't watch me, OKAY?!"

Oh my word, we were DYING. 😂 Bless her. But, once she realized what was inside the chocolate wrappers, she warmed up quite quickly.

With half a Twix in her system, she was feeling GOOOOOD, and starting sprinting down the sidewalk, kissing her baby-roo on top of the head, and jumping up and down at our request.

Then we crosssed the street to see June's BFF, Clara, who was dressed as a cupcake. The two girls sat on the steps and tugged on one another's costumes, while us adults shoveled pizza into our faces that was just delivered, nice and hot, to the door! #pennstreethalloweentraditions

At one point June popped up from the steps, as if she'd suddenly remembered her costume had a pouch with candy in it. She was so excited she started kissing baby-roo on the head again. 😂

We get a lot of trick-or-treaters on our block (like hundreds), so Junie spent the rest of the night sitting on T.J.'s lap, helping to hand out the candy from our house. She loved seeing everyone's colorful costumes and meeting the little kids. It was such a fun night that we're already looking forward to next year. 😊

Happy 30th to... ME! | The Butterfly Atrium by Brooke Courtney

brookecourtney_hersheygardensbirthday-44.jpg

About two weeks ago, on October 7th, I turned 30. FREAKIN' 30! That's nuts. Thirty years. Did I say that already? I turned THIRTY. Actually, I'm truly not bothered by it at all. The older I get the more I appreciate my age and what it means to me.

The weekend before my birthday, T.J. and I had the pleasure of staying at The Hershey Hotel for two days. However, it was rainy most of that weekend, so we didn't get to use our free Hershey Gardens + Butterfly Atrium tickets. Thankfully they were valid for an entire week, so we went back on my birthday!

We started off our morning inside the newly renovated Butterfly Atrium! It was beautiful and June really enjoyed it. As hundreds of butterflies flew around, she'd point to them and go, "Wooooooooow." It was so precious. She was also equally interested in sticking her hands in the little stream as she was in the butterflies themselves. You do you, Junie.

Several times we had butterflies land on us, which is so magical to see them up close like that. In fact, you have to be checked out in a room full of mirrors before you leave the atrium, to make sure you don't take any with you!

Also, June's little ponytail. I can't handle the cuteness.

I had thought about taking June earlier this spring, but am so glad we waited until this fall. She's loving all things animals right now and kept pointing to the trees and flowers too, taking it all in.

After we finished our time inside the Butterfly Atrium, we wanted to take a little more time before June's nap, so we wandered around The Children's Garden for a few minutes. Well, T.J. and I wandered, June sprinted from place to place. 😂

June's been teething hard for months now, working to get her 2 year molars through a bit early. Which is pretty obvious, since her fingers are in her mouth in every other photo these days!

I'm so glad we took a little morning day trip to the gardens as a family to commemorate my 30th. The rest of my birthday day was spent with family, sipping iced coffees on our front porch in the sun, and at our local town fair eating funnel cakes and french fries with friends.