How to escape a wildfire: a hiker’s guide

Our guide on how to escape a wildfire, inspired by Peter’s close call on the Arctic Circle Trail

When Peter headed to Greenland last summer to trek the Arctic Circle Trail, I knew he’d be unreachable for 7-10 days. He’s a highly experienced hiker, but there was a tiny part of me that couldn’t help but worry. What if he twisted an ankle or fell into a ravine? What if he was attacked? What if he lost his backpack from a capsized kayak?

There were several scenarios that ran through my head – but a wildfire was not one of them. He was heading to the Arctic for goodness sake; to Greenland of which 80% is covered in ice! Fire was a hardly a danger.

A satellite image of the fire I encountered
NASA A satellite image of a wildfire on the Arctic Circle Trail

Only, it was. Peter got caught in a wildfire and was evacuated by helicopter. Knowing how to escape a wildfire is clearly important for avid hikers, especially those who often head out alone. Here are the essentials of what you need to know.

Stay calm

Wildfires are extremely dangerous and your first instinct might be to start running as fast as you can, but panicking can be deadly. 

If the air isn’t too smoky already, use breathing exercises to calm yourself down. Take a deep breath, hold it for four seconds, then exhale slowly for four seconds. Maintaining a calm and healthy mental state is intrinsic to getting you out.

Protect your airways

Stay close to the ground and cover your nose and mouth with a cloth to filter out airborne ash. Be wary of wetting the cloth. If the fire is close, it can evaporate the water and damage your airways. Breathe the air close to the ground to avoid scorching your lungs.

Travel upwind and downhill

Upwind (i.e. into the wind)

First, determine the direction of the wind. You can do this by looking high into the sky and noting which way the smoke is blowing, assuming there’s reasonable visibility. 

If the wind is blowing past you and towards the fire, then travel into the wind. If the wind is behind the fire and blowing towards you, travel perpendicular to the wind to escape both the fire and the path it will follow. 

Fires spread faster uphill: how to escape a wildfire
FCG/Shutterstock Fires move faster uphill


If you are on a hill, travel down to level ground. Fire moves faster uphill due to updrafts so the most dangerous place to be is uphill and downwind.

That said, don’t hike down into a canyon or ravine. These can funnel intense heat and you may become trapped if the fire spreads around you. 

Head for non-flammable terrain

Once you’ve determined your direction of travel, head for the biggest area that is unlikely to burn. The following list suggests some options. 

  • Large body of water that is not closely overhung with foliage
  • Swampy areas
  • Boulder field 
  • Road 
  • Riverbeds
  • Open meadows
  • Plowed fields
  • Clear-cut area of woods
  • As a last resort, an area that has already burned
Avoid open areas with small, dry scrub brush
Yelantsevv/Shutterstock Avoid open areas with small, dry scrub brush

Avoid brush and tall grass. In general, large trees retain more moisture than dry fields, so if you can’t find any non-flammable terrain, avoid open areas with small, dry scrub brush. These will burn quicker than leafy greens.

Stay away from canyons, ravines and saddle-like ridges which funnel intense heat and can leave you trapped by the fire. 

Don’t try to outrun the fire

In considering how to escape a wildfire, it can be tempting to try to outrun it. In this case, it would serve you well to remember that wildfires can travel at speeds up to 20mph and easily overtake a runner.

If you can’t escape a wildfire using the above tactics, try to make it through the leading edge of the fire into an area that has already burned. This isn’t ideal but is safer than staying in high-burn terrain. 

Hunker down if trapped

If the fire surrounds you and there is no safe escape, find a depression in the topography with no vegetation. You may have to clear an area and dig a trench or gully. Lie inside it face down with your feet facing the direction of the flames. Cover yourself with a jacket, dirt, rocks or anything else that can shield you from the fire. Again, breathe the air close to the ground to avoid scorching your lungs. Stay down until the fire passes.

Always practice fire safety

According to the US Forest Service, humans cause nine out of 10 wildfires. These are ignited by unattended campfires, fireworks, sparks from equipment or vehicles, burning leaves or debris and even cigarettes tossed from cars.

How to escape a wildfire: Never leave a campfire unattended.
Ppa/Shutterstock Never leave a campfire unattended

Clearly, preventing wildfires is the best way to escape them. Always follow these steps when hiking:

  • Follow the Leave No Trace principles.
  • Don’t build a campfire at a site with dry conditions. Check with park authorities to see if there is a burn ban.
  • Use a designated fire ring or fire pit for your campfire.
  • If there is no designated spot, look for a site away from tents, trees or scrub.
  • Keep your campfire small and under control. Never leave it unattended.
  • Allow the fire to burn completely to ash. Then, to fully extinguish it, pour plenty of water to drown the embers. Remember that the fire might be burning underground in the roots of trees or bushes. Stir the ashes and pour more water until all the hissing stops. Make sure everything is cold to the touch.
  • If you are using a portable stove, make sure the area is clear of grass and other debris that might catch fire.
  • If you see smoke or fire, note the location and alert authorities as soon as possible.

Enjoyed this post? pin it for later…

In Underland Robert Macfarlane takes us on a journey into the worlds beneath our feet. From the ice-blue depths of Greenland’s glaciers, to the underground networks by which trees communicate, this is a deep-time voyage into the planet’s past and future. 

Lead image: Macknimal/Shutterstock

Source link

Cajun Sausage and Rice Skillet

$7.21 recipe / $1.80 serving

Hello, new favorite! I think of this Cajun Sausage and Rice Skillet kind of like “jambalaya light”. It has similar flavors and ingredients as jambalaya, but it’s a slightly scaled back, simplified version, perfect for quick weeknight dinner. And the best part? The leftovers are SO GOOD. So feel free to add this tasty skillet to your meal prep rotation!

Cajun Sausage and Rice in the skillet with a wooden spoon and lid half on

What Kind of Sausage Do I Use?

To make this skillet meal taste the best, try to find Andouille sausage, which is a smoked pork sausage commonly used in Louisiana cooking. If you can’t find any in your area (I’m not sure how readily available this is outside the southern U.S.), you can use any smoked sausage in its place. If you want to go so far as to special order some to get the full experience, check out the selection from

Is Cajun Sausage and Rice Spicy?

It can be, depending on the ingredients you use. I used a “medium” heat Andouille sausage, which had a good amount of spicy heat, as well as a little cayenne pepper in my Cajun seasoning blend. If you want to make this dish mild, make sure to get a non-spicy smoked sausage, and you can skip the cayenne pepper in the spices listed in the recipe. 

Can I Use Store Bought Cajun Seasoning?

The recipe below includes a half batch of my homemade Cajun seasoning, minus the salt because the other ingredients in the skillet contained enough salt that I didn’t need to add more. The total amount of spices used is about 1 tablespoon. If you’d like to use a store bought Cajun seasoning blend, first check to see how much salt it contains. Many store bought Cajun seasoning blends contain a lot of salt and are used more like a seasoning salt, or table seasoning, and probably will not work well for this recipe. If the blend you have is mostly just herbs and spices, I would use about 1 Tbsp for this recipe.

Can I Use Brown Rice?

Brown rice requires more liquid and a much longer cook time than white rice, so you will need to take these into account if you attempt to substitute brown rice for the white rice in this recipe. While I haven’t tested a brown rice version, I would probably add at least another cup of chicken broth and increase the simmer time to closer to 40 minutes.

Side view of a skillet full of Cajun Sausage and Rice


Cajun Sausage and Rice Skillet

This easy Cajun Sausage and Rice Skillet is the perfect easy and filling weeknight dinner, packed with plenty of smoky-spicy flavor!

Total Cost: $7.21 recipe / $1.80 serving

Author: Beth – Budget Bytes

Servings: 4 1.5 cups each

  • 14 oz. Andouille sausage* ($3.99)
  • 1 Tbsp cooking oil ($0.04)
  • 1 yellow onion ($0.32)
  • 1 bell pepper ($0.89)
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika ($0.10)
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano ($0.05)
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme ($0.05)
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder ($0.02)
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder ($0.02)
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper ($0.02)
  • 1/8 tsp freshly cracked black pepper ($0.01)
  • 1 15oz. can fire roasted diced tomatoes ($1.00)
  • 1 cup long grain white rice ($0.62)
  • 1.5 cups chicken broth ($0.20)
  • 2 green onions, sliced ($0.20)
  • Slice the sausage into ¼-½ inch thick slices. Add the sausage and cooking oil to a deep skillet or Dutch oven and sauté over medium heat until the sausage is well browned. Don’t worry if the sausage begins to brown on the bottom of the skillet. That’s extra flavor that will cook into the rice later.

  • While the sausage is cooking, dice the bell pepper. Once the sausage is browned, add the bell pepper to the skillet and continue to sauté for about one more minute.

  • Add the spices (smoked paprika, oregano, thyme, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne, and black pepper) to the skillet with the sausage and bell pepper and continue to sauté for one minute more to toast the spices.

  • Add the fire roasted diced tomatoes (with juices), rice, and chicken broth to the skillet. Stir to combine and dissolve any browned bits off the bottom of the skillet.

  • Place a lid on the skillet, turn the heat up to medium-high, and allow the broth to come to a full boil. Once it reaches a boil, turn the heat down to low and let the skillet simmer for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, remove the skillet from the heat and let it rest, with the lid on, for an additional 5 minutes.

  • After the skillet has rested, remove the lid, and fold the sausage and rice to redistribute the rice and sausage throughout. Top with sliced green onions and serve!

*If you can not find Andouille in your area, use any smoked pork sausage.

See how we calculate recipe costs here.

Serving: 1.5cupsCalories: 547.75kcalCarbohydrates: 50.8gProtein: 22.23gFat: 28.8gSodium: 1328.93mgFiber: 4.15g

Nutritional values are estimates only. See our full nutrition disclosure here.

The equipment section above contains affiliate links to products we use and love. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Overhead view of a bowl full of Cajun Sausage and Rice with a black fork in the side

How to Make Cajun Sausage and Rice Skillet – Step by Step Photos

Andouille sausage package

This is the Andouille sausage that I used. Andouille may not be readily available in all areas, so if you can’t find any, just try to get a smoked pork sausage of some sort instead. You really want that smoky flavor!

Sautéed Andouille in the skillet

Slice the Andouille into medallions and add to a skillet with a tablespoon of cooking oil. Sauté over medium heat until the sausage is well browned. Don’t worry if the bottom of the skillet turns brown. That’s just extra flavor that will soak into the rice later!

Bell pepper and spices added to the skillet

While the sausage is browning, dice one bell pepper. Add it to the skillet and continue to sauté for about a minute. Then add the Cajun seasoning: 1 tsp smoked paprika, ½ tsp dried oregano, ½ tsp dried thyme, ¼ tsp garlic powder, ¼ tsp onion powder, ⅛ tsp cayenne pepper, and ⅛ tsp freshly cracked black pepper. Continue to sauté the spices for another minute.

Tomatoes, rice, and broth added to the skillet

Next, add one 15oz. can fire roasted diced tomatoes (with juices), 1 cup long grain white rice, and 1.5 cups chicken broth to the skillet. Stir to combine and dissolve those browned bits off the bottom of the skillet.

Skillet ready to simmer

Once everything is combined, place a lid on the skillet, turn the heat up to medium-high, and allow the broth to come up to a boil. Once it reaches a boil, turn the heat down to low and let the skillet simmer for 20 minutes. (Pictured: before simmering)

Simmered sausage and rice skillet

After simmering for 20 minutes, remove it from the heat and let it rest for an additional five minutes (with the lid on). After resting, it will look like the photo above.

Stirred Cajun Sausage and Rice Skillet

Fold everything together to redistribute the sausage, rice, and bell peppers. OMG it looks so good at this point I just want to dive in!

Finished Cajun Sausage and Rice Skillet with green onions

Top the skillet with sliced green onions and serve! It’s rich, spicy, smoky, and all around DELICIOUS.

Source link

[Experiment] How AI is Changing the Way We Optimize at Unbounce

When I first encountered A/B testing, I immediately wanted to become the type of marketer who tested everything. The idea sounded fun to me. Like being a mad scientist running experiments to prove when my work was actually “working.”

Turns out though, there’s always a long list of other things to do first… blog posts to write, campaigns to launch, and don’t get me started on the meetings! I’m not alone in this, either. A lot of marketers are just too darned busy to follow up and optimize the stuff they’ve already shipped. According to HubSpot, only 17% of marketers use landing page A/B tests to improve conversion rates.

My to-do list
A small glimpse of my ever-growing to-do list. Ain’t nobody got time for A/B tests.

Sure, running a split test with one or two variants always sounds easy enough. But once you take a closer look at the process, you realize just how complex it can actually be. You need to make sure you have… 

But—while there will always be a time and place for A/B testing—there’s also now an easier and faster way for marketers to optimize. Smart Traffic is a new Unbounce tool that uses the power of AI and machine learning to get you more conversions. Every day, more marketers are using Smart Traffic to “automagically” optimize their landing pages. But whenever we launch anything new, we like to test it out for ourselves to learn alongside you (and keep you up to speed on what to try next).

Here’s what I learned after taking Smart Traffic for a test drive myself…

Shifting Your Mindset to Optimize with AI

I know many marketers are (perhaps) skeptical when it comes to promises of machine learning, artificial intelligence, or magical “easy” buttons that get them better results. But AI is all around us and it’s already changing the way we do marketing. Landing page optimization is just one more area of the job where you no longer need to do everything yourself manually.

Smart Traffic augments your marketing skills and automatically sends visitors to the landing page variant where they’re most likely to convert (based on how similar page visitors have converted before). It makes routing decisions faster than any human ever could (thank you, AI magic), and “learns” which page variant is a perfect match for each different visitor. This ultimately means no more “champion” variants. Instead, you’re free to create multiple different pages to appeal to different groups of visitors and run ‘em all at once.

This is very different from A/B testing and honestly—it can feel kinda weird at first. You’ve got to trust in the machine learning to figure out what works best and what doesn’t. Data scientists call this the “black box” problem: data goes in, decisions come out, but you never really get the full understanding of what happened in between. 

For marketers using Smart Traffic, this means shifting your mindset and starting to think about optimization differently. Unlike A/B testing, you’re not looking for those “aha” moments to apply to your next campaign, or a one-size-fits-all “winning” variant. Instead, you’re looking to discover what works best for different subsets of your audience. This gives you unlimited creativity to try out new marketing ideas, makes it easier and less risky for you to optimize, and gives you an average conversion lift of 30% compared to splitting the traffic evenly across multiple variants. (Woah.)

My Experiment with Smart Traffic

I know all this because I recently experimented with variant creation myself to better understand this new AI optimization mindset. I created 15 variants across two separate landing pages using Smart Traffic to discover…

  • How easy is it to optimize with an AI-powered optimization tool?
  • Could I quickly set up the tests in Unbounce while still getting those other to-do’s done?
  • What kind of conversion lift would I see from just a few hours invested?

I took a little bit of my inspiration from Ms. Frizzle on the Magic School Bus. No, not her haircut, her catchphrase: “Take chances, make mistakes, get messy!”

Magic School Bus Gif
Oh, so that’s where she got all her good ideas.

Creating 15 Variants in Under Two Hours

The beauty of Smart Traffic is there are no limits to how many variants you can create and it automatically starts optimizing in as few as 50 visits. Just hit the “optimize” button and you’re off to the races. Could it really be that simple?

My guinea pigs for this experiment would be two recent campaigns our marketing team had worked on: the ecommerce lookbook and the SaaS optimization guide. The team had created both of these ebook download pages in Unbounce, but we hadn’t been able to return to them and optimize very much in the months since we published.

The original landing pages would serve as my control variants. (Click to see the full pages.)

Before starting, I consulted with Anna Roginska, Growth Marketer at Unbounce, to get her input on how I should create my variants. She advised:

Anna Roginska, Growth Marketer, Unbounce

You can take the ‘spaghetti at the wall’ approach, where you create a bunch of variants and just leave them to Smart Traffic to see what happens. It’s that ‘set it and forget it’ mentality. That’s interesting, but when you look at a bowl of spaghetti… There’s a lot of noodles in there. You won’t necessarily get to explain why something is working or not working.

The other approach is to be more strategic and focused. I think there’s a huge benefit to going in with a plan. Create maybe only five variants and give them each a specific purpose. Then, you can see how they perform and create new iterations for different portions of the audience.

I had two landing pages to work with, so I thought I’d give both approaches a try. But with only a few hours scheduled in my calendar to complete all these variants, I needed to move fast.

The “Spaghetti at the Wall” Approach to Variant Creation

On the ecommerce lookbook page, I wanted to spend less time planning and more time creating. Whereas in A/B testing you need a proper test hypothesis and a careful plan for each variant, Smart Traffic lets you get creative and try out new ideas on the fly. Your variants don’t have to be perfect—they just need to be different enough to appeal to new audience segments.

This meant I didn’t have to make any hard or fast choices about which one element to “test” on the landing page. I could create 15 different variants that varied wildly from one another. Some used different colors, some had different headlines, some completely changed up the layout of the page.

Some of the variants

This is something you just can’t do in a traditional A/B test where you’re looking to find a “winner” and understand why it “wins.” I had to remind myself I wasn’t looking for that one variant to rule them all (or for that one variant to bring them all and in the darkness bind them). I was looking to increase the chance of conversion for every single visitor. Certain pages were going to work better for certain audiences, and that was totally fine.

I wondered, though: how many variants would be too many? Would the machine learning recognize that some of these were not anything special and just stop sending traffic to them? And how long would it take to get results? With these questions in mind, I checked back on my first set of tests one month later…

Changing up the background color

Usually, color A/B tests are pretty much a waste of time. You need a lot of data to get accurate results, and most marketers don’t actually end up learning anything useful in the end. (Because color by itself means nothing, it always depends on the context of the page.)

That being said, we know there is some legitimate color theory and certain audience segments respond better to certain colors than others. So I thought it might be interesting to switch up the background on this landing page to see what would happen. And color me surprised—these variants are seeing some pretty dramatically different conversion rates:

  • Pink background – 12.82%
  • Green background – 21.43%
  • White background – 21.74%
  • Black background – 31.71%

One might start to speculate from these conversion rates that darker backgrounds perform better than the lighter backgrounds. But hold your horses, that’s thinking about this as an A/B test again. Here’s why Jordan Dawe, Senior Data Science Developer at Unbounce, says you should be cautious about drawing any conclusions from the conversion rates…

Jordan Dawe, Unbounce

Smart Traffic is not sending visitors randomly—it’s trying to get the best traffic to the best variant. So in this case, it doesn’t mean that a black background will always convert higher than a pink background. There are likely portions of the audience going to each color that would be doing worse on others. Here’s what you can conclude: the color black is preferred by a portion of the traffic that converts highly.

It’s hard to shake that mindset of looking for a “winner” and trying to figure out “why” something is working. But I was starting to accept that different portions of the audience would always respond better to different variants—this was just the first time I’d been able to use AI to automatically serve up the best version.

Making big (and small) changes to the headline

For the next group of variants, I switched up the H1 in both small and big ways to see what effect that would have on the conversion rate. In some cases, this meant just swapping a single adjective (e.g., “jaw-dropping” for “drool-worthy”). In other cases, I went with a completely new line of copy altogether.

Here’s how the variants stacked up against each other:

  • See 27 Sales-Ready Ecommerce Landing Pages in Our Ultimate Lookbook – 25.81%
  • See 27 Stunning Ecommerce Landing Pages in Our Ultimate Lookbook – 25.93%
  • Get Ready to See 27 Jaw-Dropping Ecommerce Landing Page Examples – 28.13%
  • Get Serious Inspo for Supercharging Your Ecomm Sales – 35%
  • See 27 Drool-Worthy Ecommerce Landing Pages in Our Ultimate Lookbook – 40%

Again, each variant yielded a different conversion rate. I wondered if I kept testing different variations of the headlines and found one that performed best, could I deactivate all the other headline variants and just go with the “best” one? 

Here’s how Floss Taylor, Data Analyst at Unbounce, responded…

Floss Taylor, Unbounce

Smart Traffic doesn’t have champion variants. You don’t pick one at the end like you would in an A/B test. Although one variant may appear to be performing poorly, there could be a subset of traffic that it’s ideal for. You’re better off leaving it on long-term so it can work its magic.

Trying out different page layouts and hierarchies

The last set of variants I created messed with the actual structure and hierarchy of the page. I wanted to see if moving things around (or removing sections entirely) would influence the conversion rate. Here’s a sample of some of the experiments…

  • Removing the Headline – 16.67%
  • Adding a Double CTA – 21.95%
  • Moving the Testimonial Up the Page – 27.27%

Nothing too surprising here. And because I had created so many variants, Smart Traffic was taking longer than usual in “Learning Mode” to start giving me a conversion lift. Here’s how Floss Taylor explains it…

Floss Taylor, Unbounce

Smart Traffic needs approximately 50 visitors to understand which traffic would perform well for each new variant. If you have 15 variants and ~100 visitors per month, you’re going to have a long learning period where Smart Traffic cannot make accurate recommendations. I’d suggest starting off with a lower number of variants, and only adding more once once you have sufficient traffic.

The “Strategic Marketer” Approach

So throwing spaghetti at the wall turned out to be… messy. (New parents beware.) For the SaaS optimization guide page, I wanted to be a bit more strategic. And I actually had a leg up for this one, because Anna Roginska, Growth Marketer at Unbounce, had already started with a Smart Traffic experiment on this page four months ago.

Anna had set up a test between two different variants. One had an image of the ecommerce lookbook as the hero graphic on the page, while the other used the image of conversion expert and author Talia Wolf. Anna says she decided on this second variant because of research she had seen on how photographs of people tend to convert better than products.

Anna Roginska, Growth Marketer, Unbounce

I put Talia up front because I knew from other tests I’ve run and research I’ve done. [Photographs of] people tend to convert better. I didn’t know if it would work better in this particular case, but I was able to set up a variant and use Smart Traffic to find out. And it just so happens that the algorithm started sending way more traffic to this variant.

Anna seemed to be onto something, too: her variant was converting at nearly double the rate for a large traffic subset. And while I now know we can’t consider this a “champion” variant like in an A/B test and learn from the results, we could iterate based on her design to target new audience segments.

I created a simple spreadsheet to develop my gameplan. The goal was to create five new versions of the page that would appeal to different visitors based on their attributes:

Reducing the word count to target mobile and “ready to download” visitors

For inspiration on my first variant, I consulted the 2020 Conversion Benchmark Report. The machine learning insights here suggested that SaaS landing pages with lower word counts and easier-to-read copy tend to perform better than their long-winded counterparts.

And while the original version of our download page was easy enough to read, it did have a long, wordy intro with a lot of extra detail. Could I increase our conversion rate for a portion of our audience if just focused on the bare essentials? I was ready to kill some darlings to find out…

  • Original Long-Form Version – 10%
  • Low Word Count Version – 21.43%

It seems there’s a segment of our traffic coming to this page who didn’t need to see all that extra info before they decided to fill out the form. I speculated that this variant might also perform better on mobile devices since it would be faster-loading and easier to scroll through. Interesting!

Switching the headline to target different audience segments

Next, I created an additional four page variants to speak to the different pain points and reasons our audience might want to download the guide. (Actually, this is something Talia herself recommends you do in the SaaS optimization guide.) I switched up the headline copy here, as well as some of the supporting text underneath to match. After a month, here’s what the conversion rates look like:

  • Get Talia’s Guide to Optimize – 19.05%
  • You Can’t Just Build – 23.08%
  • Optimization is a Lot of Work – 24%
  • Not Sure How to Optimize? – 33.33%

Each variant is serving a different segment of the audience, by speaking to the particular reason they want to download the guide most (e.g., maybe they don’t have the time to optimize, or maybe they don’t know how to get started). As Smart Traffic learns more about which variants perform best for which audience segments, we become that much more likely to score a conversion.

What I Learned Running These Smart Traffic Experiments

Smart Traffic absolutely makes optimization easier and faster for marketers who previously never had the time (or experience) to run A/B tests. It took me under two hours to set up and launch these experiments, and we’re already seeing some pretty impressive results just over a month later.

While the ecommerce lookbook page is still optimizing, the SaaS ebook page is showing a 12% lift in conversions compared to evenly splitting traffic among all these variants. And this is after only a month—the algorithm will keep improving to get us even better results over time. (Like a fine wine, or that suspiciously old cheese in my fridge.)

At the same time, I did walk away with a few important lessons learned. If you’re planning to use Smart Traffic to optimize your landing pages, here are some things to keep in mind before you get started:

  • There are no champion variants – Unlike traditional A/B testing, you won’t be able to point to one landing page variant at the end of your test and call it a winner. The machine learning algorithm automatically routes audiences differently based on their individual attributes, which means you have to be cautious when you’re analyzing the results.
  • The more variants you create, the longer you’ll wait – While it can be tempting to throw spaghetti at the wall and create dozens of variants for your landing page, this means you’ll also have to wait longer to see what sticks. Try starting out with three to five variations and take a more strategic approach based on research in your industry. (The 2020 Conversion Benchmark Report is a great place to start for some ideas.)
  • It’s (usually) better to leave low-converting variants active – Because Smart Traffic learns over time and continually improves, you’re typically better off leaving your variants active—even if their conversion rates aren’t all that impressive. The AI takes the risk out of optimization by automatically sending visitors to the page that suits them best. If you turn off variants, you may lose out on some of those conversions altogether.

It can be a lot of fun to get creative with the different page elements and try out new ideas. You just might want to come up with a bit of a plan first and be strategic with your approach. Still, it’s better to experiment and optimize with Smart Traffic (even if you make some mistakes along the way) than to never optimize at all.

(And in case you were worried, yep—I managed to get my to-do list done, too. 😅)

Source link

The Bagel Lunch Box – Budget Bytes

$5.32 recipe / $1.33 serving

Here’s another quick lunch box idea (or meal prep breakfast idea) for you! While this one isn’t completely no-cook because it contains a hard boiled egg, it is still a super easy no-reheat lunch box that you can take to work, school, or on the road. This Bagel Lunch Box includes a mini bagel, some of my favorite Scallion Herb Cream Cheese, a handful of vegetables that go oh so well with the flavored cream cheese, and a simple hard boiled egg. It’s super simple to put together, but it makes life so much easier when your mornings are busy. Just grab a lunch box and go!

Three glass meal prep containers in a diagonal line filled with the bagel lunch box items

About that Cream Cheese…

I included my Scallion Herb Cream Cheese in this bagel lunch box because it has so much flavor and really adds a nice element of interest to the meal. If you don’t want to make this cream cheese you can use plain cream cheese or use a store-bought flavored cream cheese. Another nice option is to use plain cream cheese, but then bring some Everything Bagel Seasoning with you to add some extra flavor.

Other Lunch Box Add-In Ideas

If you want to substitute any of the ingredients or add to this lunch box, here are some good ideas of things that would also match well:

  • Smoked salmon
  • Carrot sticks
  • An orange, tangerine, or cutie
  • Grapes
  • Deli ham
  • Alfalfa sprouts

Where Did You Get Those Containers?

The divided glass meal prep containers and the small metal cups were both purchased on Amazon (links in the bottom of the recipe card below). 

Three bagel lunch boxes lined up in a row


The Bagel Lunch Box

This Bagel Lunch Box is an easy and affordable grab and go breakfast or lunch idea, perfect for work or school.

Total Cost: $5.32 recipe / $1.33 serving

Author: Beth – Budget Bytes

Servings: 4

Scallion Herb Cream Cheese

  • 4 oz. cream cheese ($0.60)
  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley ($0.06)
  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro ($0.04)
  • 1 green onion, sliced ($0.11)
  • 1/16 tsp garlic powder ($0.01)
  • 1/16 tsp salt ($0.01)
  • 1/2 Tbsp lemon juice ($0.02)

Lunch Box Ingredients

  • 4 mini bagels ($1.52)
  • 4 large eggs ($0.92)
  • 1 cucumber, sliced ($1.29)
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes ($0.75)
  • To hard boil the eggs, place the eggs in a sauce pot and add water until the eggs are covered by one inch. Place the pot over high heat and allow the water to come up to a full boil. When it reaches a full boil, turn off the heat, place a lid on the pot, and let the eggs sit in the hot water for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, transfer the eggs to a bowl of ice water to cool.

  • To make the scallion herb cream cheese, combine the cream cheese, parsley, cilantro, green onion, garlic powder, salt, and lemon juice in a bowl. Stir together until evenly combined.

  • Place one bagel in each lunch box along with ¼ of the cucumber slices, ¼ of the grape tomatoes, ¼ of the cream cheese (1 oz.), and one hard boiled egg. Refrigerate up to five days.

See how we calculate recipe costs here.

Serving: 1lunch boxCalories: 307.18kcalCarbohydrates: 30.6gProtein: 12.98gFat: 15.1gSodium: 420.95mgFiber: 420.95g

Nutritional values are estimates only. See our full nutrition disclosure here.

The equipment section above contains affiliate links to products we use and love. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Try These Other Lunch Box Ideas:

How to Make the Bagel Lunch Box – Step by Step Photos

Place Eggs in Ice Bath

To hard boil the eggs, add the eggs to a sauce pot and add enough water to cover them by one inch. Place the pot over high heat and allow the water to come up to a full boil. Once boiling, turn off the heat, cover the pot, and let the eggs sit in the hot water for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, transfer the eggs to an ice water bath to cool.

Scallion Herb Cream Cheese Spread mixed

To make the scallion herb cream cheese, combine 4 oz. cream cheese, 1 Tbsp chopped parsley, 1 Tbsp chopped cilantro, one sliced green onion, 1/16 tsp (or one pinch) garlic powder, 1/16 tsp (one pinch) salt, and ½ Tbsp lemon juice in a bowl. Stir until everything is evenly combined.

One bagel lunch box in a glass meal prep container

Place one bagel, one hard boiled egg, ¼ of the sliced cucumbers, ¼ of the tomatoes, and ¼ of the cream cheese (1 oz.) in each lunch box. Refrigerate up to five days.

Source link

tangy braised chickpeas – smitten kitchen

Note: Soy sauce can contain gluten; check the label if you need this recipe to be gluten-free. Worcestershire sauce is not vegetarian; it contains anchovies.

  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, very thinly sliced
  • 2 large, thick carrots (12 ounces), in 1/4-inch slices
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 6 ounces or 2 large portobello mushrooms, in generous 1/2-inch slices
  • 4 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 3 to 4 cups mushroom or vegetable stock
  • 1/3 cup red wine or sherry vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire or soy sauce
  • 2 15-ounce cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 bay leaf
Heat oven to 350 degrees. If you have a Dutch oven or braiser that can go from stove to oven, start in this on the stove. If not, start with a wide, deep saute pan and transfer the mixture to a 3-quart (or 9×13-inch) casserole or baking dish for the oven part.

Heat 4 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat and add onion; cook 3 minutes, until softened. Add garlic and cook 2 minutes more. Add the carrots, 1 teaspoon salt, freshly ground black pepper, and red pepper flakes and cook for 2 more minutes, until they begin to glisten. Add the mushrooms and cook for 4 minutes, until they begin to soften. Add tomato paste and brown sugar and cook until well-incorporated, 3 minutes. Add 3 cups stock, vinegar, Worcestershire or soy sauce, chickpeas, and bay leaf and bring to a simmer with another teaspoon of kosher salt and more ground pepper.

Once simmering, either cover tightly with a lid or pour into your baking dish and cover with a lid or tightly with foil and transfer to oven. Braise chickpeas and vegetables for 90 minutes, checking at the 1 hour mark to make sure the chickpeas haven’t absorbed all of the broth (and adding the remaining 1 cup broth if so). Remove from oven, discard bay leaf, and adjust seasonings to taste.

Do ahead: Braised chickpeas will keep in the fridge for 4 days, and for a month or longer in the freezer. Reheat at 350 degrees.

Source link

Coffee Break | Sally’s Baking Addiction

elise and noelle

Hi! I’m currently taking time off from regular posting after having a baby this summer, but want to check in with a little update.

Sweet readers, I’m having a tough time right now.

Whether you’re (1) evacuating your home or have family/friends on the west coast during these devastating wildfires, (2) trying to find normalcy in a very not normal world, and/or (3) adjusting to children learning at home or back in school during this pandemic, this season of life feels very different. It certainly feels different for me. We welcomed our beautiful baby girl this past summer and are absolutely in love with her. From her big curious eyes down to her tiny little toes, Elise is honestly the sweetest. She’s such an easy baby, but maybe that’s because we have the experience under our belts. Our older daughter, Noelle, just loves her and wants to be around her all the time. We’re so blessed to have our health, home, and happy daughters.

My heart is just so full.

However, at the very same time, a piece of my heart feels like it’s missing.

jude the dog

Our beloved dog, Jude, passed away last month. Jude was diagnosed with cancer in August 2019 and fought it for a year. As pet owners know, pets are a very big part of the family. And Jude? He was my shadow. My sidekick. A true companion in every sense of the word. An irreplaceable part of this family. Wherever I was, he was. If dogs have souls, Jude has one of the biggest. Not only because he was enormous at 120 lbs, he just had a very big heart. He was the kind of dog who could sense how you were feeling. Laid with you while you were sick, sat with you while you cried, smiled at you (seriously!) when you were happy. For 12 beautiful years, Jude was our constant through it all: new homes, new jobs, cookbooks, our wedding, birthdays, book tour, miscarriage, pregnancies, babies, and all the other moments in between.

For anyone who thrives on routine, the loss of such a prominent part of your life feels impossible. Additionally, the transition from 1 to 2 children certainly has its difficulties. Pair all of this with postpartum recovery, postpartum emotions, sleepless newborn nights, and the isolation felt during this world pandemic and your emotional and mental stress feel like a mountain weighing on top of you. My husband, always looking on the bright side, reminds me of the silver linings we have. We’re so thankful Elise got to meet Jude and that we even have a few pictures of him sitting beside her bassinet. And having activities and gatherings cancelled this summer has encouraged us to slow down. Maybe it’s the same for you too? We’re enjoying more time outdoors and savoring the present. And one last silver lining: While Franklin, our other dog, misses his big buddy, he’s certainly loving all the extra attention. He deserves it.

I mentioned this on social media and want to repeat it here. I know it might seem unseemly to grieve the loss of a dog when so many are losing their lives in the chaos of our world right now. But loss is loss and I’m feeling this one really hard. I recently experienced one of my best days and one of my worst. It’s been an absolute roller coaster of emotions and I’m still trying to work through it all.

black and white photo of jude

I miss him so much.

I planned to post more recipes during my postpartum time off, but haven’t had the chance to clear my head and publish them all. I promise I’m trying my best to bring you fresh new recipes that I prepped while I was pregnant. Thank you for your patience with me and understanding that I need this time to be with my family.

On a brighter note, it’s Noelle’s 3rd birthday next week! I can’t believe my little girl is turning 3. No big parties this year, but we’re going to make the day as special as we can. She loves the Trolls World Tour movie and I plan to make her a special Queen Poppy cake. I’m terrible with fondant, so I’m thinking vanilla cake, rainbow frosting decoration, and a Trolls cake topper. Have you ever made a Trolls themed birthday cake before? I’m open to ideas!

We took a little vacation to Deep Creek Lake last week. It was a quiet and relaxing family getaway in one of our favorite spots. We just needed a change of scenery. If I’m being honest, sitting on the back deck with coffee and a view was all the medicine we needed. It was after Labor Day, so the lake wasn’t crowded. We lucked out with weather!

deep creek lake photo

picture of deep creek lake beach

‘Tis the season for quick bread. We brought a loaf of the September Sally’s Baking Challenge recipe to the lake with us: cinnamon swirl quick bread. (There have been hundreds of participants so far this month!) This time I mixed 1 cup of chopped and peeled apples into the cinnamon sugar swirl mixture before layering it in. Same bake time. It tasted unbelievable– sort of like last week’s apple cinnamon babka but without a yeasted dough. I highly recommend it!

apple cinnamon swirl quick bread

I was going to wait until the official start of fall, but couldn’t resist. Here’s my first loaf of pumpkin bread this season. I actually prefer it plain without the chocolate chips. I used whole wheat flour in this loaf and topped it with coarse sugar before baking. Same bake time. Always so moist and flavorful.

pumpkin bread in loaf pan

sliced pumpkin bread

I want to lead by example not only for my daughters, but for my readers and followers too. In my last coffee break post, I shared my commitment to help break the unjust cycle of racism in our world and country. I hope we each yearn for a more loving and inclusive world and sometimes it’s hard to understand that in order for that to happen, we have to be the change… right now. Over the past couple months, I’ve thought a lot about the privilege I have simply because of the color of my skin. I found this article on and while the entire piece is a great BLM resource, the section titled “Reflect on all the ways you benefit from privilege” has been enlightening. (It links to a few more pieces and essays too.) I shared this on my Instagram account, but I joined Rachel Cargle’s eye-opening Do The Work course. It’s a free email course that provides comprehensive and concrete ways for being anti-racist. The emails also include links to articles, other resources, and videos. There is also The Conscious Kid organization. By joining, you have access to many resources for how to teach children (of any age) about anti-racism.

I’m still learning and growing in my own advocacy, but I hope to keep the momentum going that was seen earlier this summer. Racism has deep roots and as we continue to see it in the news every single day, it will not go away without the work.

Have you joined the sourdough bandwagon?

I just picked up a copy of New World Sourdough by Bryan Ford. I’m excited to finally learn more about from-scratch sourdough. I’ve always been intimidated by the entire process because the wealth of information online is overwhelming. However his book and comprehensive guide to sourdough (with FAQs) breaks things down into understandable steps. Super helpful if you’re a beginner like I am!

I also got Whole Grain Sourdough at Home. I haven’t had the chance to dive into it yet, but this book covers how to tackle sourdough using whole wheat flour and ancient grains. Recipes seem very easy to follow too.

two sourdough cookbooks

I think that’s about it for now. Let’s end this post on a positive note though. No matter what we’re facing in this moment: loss, heartache, exhaustion, injustice, natural disaster, anxiety, change, and anything in between, I know that food can be healing. Baking has always lifted my spirits whether that’s receiving something homemade from a loved one, baking to ease my mind, or baking for someone who needs cheering up. It’s so much more than something sweet, it’s comforting for the mind and soul. Need proof? Last year I wrote a post called What Baking Means to You. The comments are beautiful.

Thank you for being here. xo

Source link

Easy Slow Cooker Hamburger Stew

$9.88 recipe / $1.65 serving

Y’all. I am SO ready for sweater weather and cozy slow cooker stews! To kick the season off, I made this super simple Slow Cooker Hamburger Stew this week. It’s nothing fancy, it’s just simple, good, comforting food! I love the simplicity of this dish and the flexibility. It’s the perfect thing to have simmering away on the weekend as you do your chores or relax and enjoy watching the changing of the seasons. 🙂

Overhead view of a bowl of slow cooker hamburger stew with bread on the side

What’s in Hamburger Stew?

Hamburger stew is very similar to traditional beef stew, but it’s made with ground beef instead of stew meat. Using ground beef is a little bit less expensive than using stew meat, and I like how you get a little bit of beef in every bite! 

In addition to the beef we have a medley of fresh vegetables (carrots, onions, potatoes, peas), beef broth, herbs and spices, plus a little Worcestershire sauce and soy sauce to zhuzh it up a bit. It’s incredibly simple, but creates that beautifully subtle slow stewed flavor.

Why Brown The Hamburger First?

For this Hamburger Stew I browned the ground beef in a skillet before adding it to the slow cooker. I did this for two reasons. One, to render off some of the fat. I used 15% fat ground beef and there was quite a bit that needed to be drained away (I actually tested this recipe once without draining the fat and it just ended up far too oily). The second reason is that you get a nice browning (maillard reaction) on the beef in the dry environment of a skillet that you do not get in the wet environment of a slow cooker. So you’ll get just a little bit more flavor with this extra step!

Can I Use Different Vegetables?

Yes! Stews are very flexible. If you don’t like one of the vegetables listed, go ahead and skip it. Just keep in mind that the potatoes do help thicken the stew, so if you skip the potatoes you’ll have more of a soup texture. Other great vegetables to use in beef stew include:

  • mushrooms
  • pearl onions
  • parsnips
  • turnips
  • rutabagas
  • sweet potatoes
  • winter squash (acorn, butternut, pumpkin)

What Are Stewed Tomatoes?

This recipe calls for stewed tomatoes, which are a variety of canned tomatoes that are popular in the U.S. (example: Hunts stewed tomatoes). These tomatoes are cooked with seasonings and a little bit of sugar to give them the slightest sweetness. Stewed tomatoes add a little extra special unique flavor to the broth of this stew. While you can use diced tomatoes if stewed tomatoes are not available, this substitution will slightly change the flavor of the stew.

How Long Is Hamburger Stew Good?

After cooking the hamburger stew, I suggest dividing it into single portions (so that it cools faster) and refrigerating it right away. It will stay good in the refrigerator for 4-5 days, or it can be transferred to the freezer for longer storage (about 3 months). This stew is a great item to have stashed in your freezer for busy nights! It can be reheated quickly in the microwave, or slowly over medium-low heat in a pot on the stove.

Slow cooker hamburger stew in a ladle over the slow cooker


Slow Cooker Hamburger Stew

This super easy Slow Cooker Hamburger Stew is simple, comforting food at its best. And the leftovers are even better the next day!

Total Cost: $9.88 recipe / $1.65 serving

Author: Beth – Budget Bytes

Total Time: 4 hrs 30 mins

Servings: 6 1.5 cups each

  • 2 lbs. russet potatoes ($1.20)
  • 1/2 lb. carrots (about 4 carrots) ($0.45)
  • 1 yellow onion (0.32)
  • 2 cloves garlic ($0.16)
  • ½ tsp dried rosemary ($0.05)
  • ½ tsp dried thyme ($0.05)
  • 1/4 tsp freshly cracked black pepper ($0.02)
  • 1 lb. ground beef ($5.69)
  • 1 15oz. can stewed tomatoes ($1.00)
  • 2 cups beef broth ($0.26)
  • 2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce ($0.02)
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce ($0.06)
  • 1 cup frozen peas ($0.60)
  • Peel and dice the potatoes into 1-inch cubes. Peel and slice the carrots. Dice the onion and mince the garlic. Add the potatoes, carrots, onion, garlic, rosemary, thyme, and pepper to a slow cooker (4 quarts or larger).

  • Brown the ground beef in a skillet, then drain off the excess fat. Add the browned and drained beef to the slow cooker along with the can of stewed tomatoes (with juices). Finally, add the beef broth, Worcestershire sauce, and soy sauce to the slow cooker.

  • Give the contents of the slow cooker a brief stir to make sure everything is evenly combined (the broth may not fully cover the other ingredients). Place the lid on the slow cooker and cook on high for four hours, or low for eight hours.

  • After cooking on high for four hours or low for eight hours, remove the lid and stir the stew. Use the back of a spoon to slightly mash some of the potatoes, which will help thicken the stew.

  • Add the frozen peas (no need to thaw) and stir to combine into the stew. Taste the stew and add extra salt if needed (I did not add any, this will depend on the salt content of your beef broth). Serve hot with bread for dipping!

See how we calculate recipe costs here.

Serving: 1.5cupsCalories: 348.27kcalCarbohydrates: 41.42gProtein: 20.15gFat: 11.83gSodium: 751.72mgFiber: 5.07g

Nutritional values are estimates only. See our full nutrition disclosure here.

The equipment section above contains affiliate links to products we use and love. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Scroll down for the step by step photos!

Try These Other Stew Recipes:

Front view of Hamburger Stew in the slow cooker

How to Make Slow Cooker Hamburger Stew – Step by Step Photos

Vegetables herbs and spices in the slow cooker

Peel and dice 2 lbs. of potatoes into 1-inch pieces. Peel and slice ½ lb. carrots (about 4 carrots). Dice one onion and mince two cloves of garlic. Add the potatoes, carrots, onion, and garlic to a slow cooker along with ½ tsp dried rosemary, ½ tsp dried tyme, and ¼ tsp freshly cracked pepper.

Browned ground beef and stewed tomatoes added to slow cooker

Brown one pound of ground beef and drain off the excess fat. Add the browned ground beef to the slow cooker along with one 15oz. can of stewed tomatoes (with the juices).

Beef broth Worcestershire sauce and soy sauce added to slow cooker

Add 2 cups beef broth, 2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce, and 1 Tbsp soy sauce to the slow cooker.

Slow cooker ready to be turned on

Give the contents of the slow cooker a brief stir to combine. The broth will not fully cover the meat and vegetables, but that’s okay. The vegetables will release more moisture and increase the broth as they cook. Place the lid on the slow cooker and cook on high for four hours or low for eight hours.

Cooked hamburger stew in the slow cooker

After cooking on high for four hours or low for eight hours, it will look like this. Give it a good stir and smash some of the potatoes against the side of the slow cooker. The smashed potatoes will help thicken the broth into a nice hearty stew.

Frozen peas being added to the slow cooker

Stir one cup of frozen peas into the slow cooker (they’ll thaw and heat within a minute or so). 

Finished slow cooker hamburger stew in the slow cooker

Give the hamburger stew a final taste and adjust the salt to your liking. I didn’t need to add any because the broth I use (Better than Bouillon) has a decent amount, but if your broth has less sodium you may find that a pinch of salt at the end helps the flavors pop!

Slow Cooker Hamburger stew in a bowl with a spoon lifting a bite

Serve the hamburger stew immediately or refrigerate until ready to eat (but I don’t know how you’ll resist having a bowl after smelling that cooking all day!).

Source link

How to Freeze Bananas – Step by Step Guide

I was freezing some of our brown bananas the other day and decided to take a few snapshots of the process and do a quick little “How to Freeze Bananas” tutorial. Why? Because while a lot of people know you can make banana bread with brown bananas instead of letting them go to waste, you don’t always have time to make banana bread right when the bananas are ready, and sometimes you don’t have enough bananas all at one time. Freezing your overripe bananas will help you reduce your food waste even further, and makes sure you have ripe bananas on hand all the time for things like banana bread, smoothies, and more.

Two brown bananas on a marble surface with title text at the top

Can I Freeze the Bananas Whole?

You may be asking yourself, “Can I just toss the banana in the freezer, peel and all?” and the answer is yes, but that’s not the best way to do it, IMHO. While you can freeze a whole banana with the peel, the banana becomes very soft after thawing, making it very difficult to peel without making a mess. Just go ahead and peel it first and thank yourself later.

I also prefer to slice my bananas before freezing, instead of freezing the whole peeled banana, because it makes them easier to measure (thaw only what you need), faster to thaw, and easier to blend into a smoothie.

How Long do Frozen Bananas Last?

Frozen bananas will continue to brown in the freezer, just at a much slower rate than on the counter top. I find that they’re best when used within 3 months of freezing, but your milage may vary. To make sure you’ve got plenty of ways to use those frozen bananas before they get too brown and shriveled, I’ve got several recipe ideas for you listed below.

What Kind of Container Should I Use?

I like to use zip top freezer bags because they can hold a varying amount, I can remove as much air as possible, and it’s easy to write the contents and date on the front. If you prefer to not use plastic, you can freeze your bananas in glass meal prep containers or glass jars and simply add some freezer tape or a freezer label for writing the contents and date. Always write the contents and date on your frozen goods! 🙂

Frozen banana slices in a labeled freezer bag

How to Keep Frozen Bananas from Turning Brown

Bananas continue to turn brown in the freezer, just like they do at room temperature, but at a much slower rate. To slow the browning almost to a halt, you can dip the frozen banana slices into lemon juice before freezing, but that’s just waaaaay too much work, IMHO. Instead, I freeze the banana slices as-is, and just make sure to use them within a few months. Nothing lasts forever and you’re already extending their life a lot by freezing them.

How to Thaw Frozen Bananas

You can use the frozen bananas in recipes while still frozen (see list below) or thaw and mash them before adding to a recipe. To thaw the frozen bananas, simply leave them out at room temperature for about 30 minutes. Or, if you froze them in a freezer bag, you can drop the freezer bag (still tightly closed) in a bowl of warm water for about 10 minutes. 

Thawed frozen bananas will let off some liquid. You’ll want to stir this liquid into the bananas as you mash them. Mashed bananas are often used in recipes to add moisture, so you don’t want to lose that liquid that seeps from the bananas as they thaw.

What Can You Make with Frozen Bananas?

You can make so many yummy things with your frozen bananas! Here are some ideas:

Uses for frozen bananas (not thawed):

Uses for frozen bananas (thawed and mashed)


How to Freeze Bananas

A simple, step by step tutorial on how to freeze bananas for user later in banana bread, smoothies, muffins, and more.

Author: Beth – Budget Bytes

Freeze Time: 2 hrs

Total Time: 2 hrs 10 mins
  • 1 brown banana (or more)
  • parchment paper
  • baking sheet
  • freezer safe containers
  • Peel the banana(s) and cut them into ½-inch thick slices.

  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and lay the banana slices on the lined baking sheet in a single layer. Freezing the bananas individually first helps prevent them from sticking together in one large clump when frozen.

  • Freeze the bananas for 1-2 hours, or until solid, then transfer to an air-tight, freezer-safe container, like a freezer bag, glass meal prep container, or glass jar. Label the container with the contents and date.

  • For best results, use within three months.

See how we calculate recipe costs here.

Nutritional values are estimates only. See our full nutrition disclosure here.

The equipment section above contains affiliate links to products we use and love. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

How to Freeze Bananas – Step by Step Photos

Sliced bananas on a cutting board next to banana peels

Peel your banana(s) and slice into ½-inch thick slices.

banana slices on a parchment lined baking sheet

Line a baking sheet with parchment, then lay the banana slices on the lined baking sheet in a single layer. Freezing them individually like this first prevents them from sticking together in one large clump in your container later. Transfer the banana slices to the freezer and freeze for 1-2 hours, or until the slices are solid.

Frozen banana slices in a labeled freezer bag

Once solid, transfer the banana slices from the baking sheet to an air-tight, freezer-safe container, like a freezer bag, glass meal prep container, or glass jar. Keep frozen up to 3 months for the best quality.

Source link

Apple Cinnamon Babka (Recipe + Video)

This apple cinnamon babka features sweet apples and a thick cinnamon filling twisted inside a rich and buttery yeasted dough. Finish the indulgent loaf with a buttery brown sugar cinnamon crumble topping and bake until golden brown. This is a must-try recipe and it’s impossible not to love!

This recipe is brought to you in partnership with Red Star Yeast.

slices of apple cinnamon babka

What is Babka?

Babka has a rich history. When I read more about the treat as I worked on today’s recipe, I learned that it originated in the early 1800s with the Polish Jewish community. Leftover challah dough was filled with jam or cinnamon, rolled up, and baked. The babka we see all over the place today, I read, is much richer and sweeter than its ancestor. You can find it filled with chocolate or almond paste– this is my favorite chocolate version— or the newer babka variations with pizza fillings, nutella, pesto, and more. Food52 has an in-depth article all about babka if you want to read more about its history and popularity today.

I first tried my hand at homemade babka a couple years ago. Who’s made the nutella babka recipe before? If you loved it, you’re in for a treat today. If you’re not a fan of nutella, you’re also in for a treat today. I revamped the dough so it’s (1) even richer (2) even flakier and (3) only yields 1 loaf instead of 2. In terms of taste and texture, it’s like a brioche loaf. We’re filling it with a thick layer of sweet cinnamon and you can use your favorite variety of apples. If I’m being honest, this apple cinnamon babka has to be one of the best things I’ve made all year. Between all the recipe testing, today’s photos, the video, and making it for a few friends, I’ve baked about 12 loaves by now. And there’s NEVER a crumb leftover.

In case you’re wondering, our self control is stuck inside one of those apple cinnamon swirls. I’m positive you’re going to obsess over it too.

apple cinnamon babka loaf

Apple Cinnamon Babka Video Tutorial

Detailed Overview: How to Make Apple Cinnamon Babka

The full written recipe is below, but let me walk you through the steps so you can understand the process before starting.

  • The dough. You need milk, yeast, sugar, butter, egg yolks, salt, and flour. Why only egg yolks? They make the richest tasting dough. We’re not wasting the egg whites, though– we’ll use one in the filling and one to brush on the dough before adding the topping. The dough is very soft, supple, and almost creamy-feeling. After the dough is prepared, it’s time to knead it. You can knead the dough with your mixer or by hand. You can watch me knead the dough in the video tutorial above. Add additional flour as needed to prevent the dough from sticking to your work surface.
  • Extended rise time. Allow the prepared dough to rise in a relatively warm environment for 3-4 hours or until nearly double in size. This dough is rich with fat, so it takes longer than other doughs to rise. Don’t be nervous if it’s closer to 4-5 hours– it’s a heavy dough and needs extra time to rise.
  • The apple cinnamon filling. First, soften the apples on the stove with a little butter. (Step 5 in the recipe below.) Second, combine melted butter, brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, salt, and vanilla extract until crumbly and combined. Stir in one of the leftover egg whites. The egg white helps solidify the cinnamon filling, so it’s extra thick and crumbly inside. Like cinnamon swirl quick bread, this babka is heavy on the cinnamon. We really want it to stand out!
  • Shape the babka dough: As noted in the written recipe below, punch down the dough then roll it out into a 12×16 inch rectangle. Gently spread the brown sugar cinnamon filling all over the dough, then top with the apples. We’re shaping today’s babka a little differently than the nutella babka. In that recipe, you slice the rolled dough down the center to expose the nutella inside. That proved to be very difficult here as all the apples spilled out. Instead, tightly roll up the dough to form a 16-inch log. Fold in half, then twist it to form a figure 8. Use the video tutorial above for a visual and detailed directions below as your guide.
  • 2nd rise: Let the shaped babka rise in a greased loaf pan for about 1-1.5 hours.
  • Crumble topping: The crumble topping is totally optional. But it uses some of the same ingredients you need for the dough and filling, so why not? Mix a little brown sugar, flour, and cinnamon together. Add cold butter and using a pastry cutter or a fork, cut it into the brown sugar mixture until crumbles form.
  • Finish it off before baking: Remember that other egg white? We’ll use it here. Carefully brush the surface of the babka with last remaining egg white. Using a toothpick, poke 10-12 holes all over the top of the loaf. Why are you doing this? It actually allows steam to escape from inside the loaf so the layers don’t separate. I learned this trick from Food52. Finally, sprinkle the crumble topping on top.
  • Time to bake: The bread takes about 1 hour, give or take. If you notice the top browning too quickly, loosely tent the pan with aluminum foil.

Serving/Slicing Tip: For neat slices, I recommend cooling the babka completely before slicing. The bread has so much filling that it will fall apart if sliced warm.

Best Yeast to Use

You can use active dry or instant yeast. The recipe does not change– you will still do each of these exact steps regardless of which type you use. The rise times may be *slightly* longer if using active dry yeast. I recommend Platinum Yeast from Red Star, which is an instant yeast blended with natural dough improvers. I’ve used this yeast for nearly a decade and it’s consistently been my favorite.

Are you new to working with yeast? Here’s my Baking with Yeast guide.

Step-by-Step Photos

Here is the dough after it rises and then after you punch it down:

babka dough

Soften the apples on the stove and make the cinnamon filling:

fillings for apple babka

Spread cinnamon filling on rolled out dough and top with apples:

dough with apples and cinnamon filling on top

Roll it up into a log:

rolled up babka dough

Left photo below (before 2nd rise): fold log in half then twist into a figure 8. Place into your greased loaf pan, then let it rise until puffy, about 1 hour.

Right photo below (after 2nd rise): Dough is nice and puffy. Brush with egg white, poke holes in the loaf to prevent separation, then top with crumble topping.

cinnamon babka before baking

Bake until golden brown. The brown sugar cinnamon topping melts down, some apple cinnamon filling may seep out creating jammy-like edges and crevices, and the entire kitchen smells like fall. This is SO GOOD:

apple cinnamon babka in loaf pan

slice of apple cinnamon babka

In Short, This Apple Cinnamon Babka Is:

  • Extra flaky
  • Buttery, moist, and overflowing with apple cinnamon filling
  • Mesmerizing with all those delicious swirls
  • Topped with buttery brown sugar cinnamon crumbles
  • Irresistible & addictive (we COULDN’T STOP EATING THIS)
  • Satisfying, especially on a cool rainy day
  • Worth all the effort, trust me



This apple cinnamon babka features sweet apples and a thick cinnamon filling twisted inside a rich and buttery yeasted dough. See recipe notes for freezing and overnight instructions.


  • 2/3 cup (160ml) whole milk, warmed to about 110°F (43°C)
  • 2 and 1/4 teaspoons (7gPlatinum Yeast by Red Star (1 standard packet)*
  • 1/3 cup (62g) granulated sugar, divided
  • 5 Tablespoons (70g) unsalted butter, sliced into 1 Tbsp size pieces and softened to room temperature
  • 2 large egg yolks (reserve 2 egg whites for filling and topping)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 and 2/3 cups (335g) all-purpose flour, plus more as needed and extra for work surface and hands


  • 3 Tablespoons (43g) unsalted butter, divided
  • 2 large apples, peeled and thinly sliced into bite-size pieces (22.5 cups)*
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 cup (200g) packed light or dark brown sugar (or a mix of both)
  • 1/4 cup (31g) all-purpose flour
  • 2 and 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg white (reserved from dough)

Crumble Topping (Optional)

  • 2 Tablespoons (25g) packed light or dark brown sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons (15g) all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 Tablespoons (30g) unsalted butter, cold and cubed

Brush on Assembled Loaf

  • 1 egg white (reserved from dough)

  1. Prepare the dough: Whisk the warm milk, yeast, and 1 Tablespoon of sugar together in the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with a dough hook or paddle attachment. Cover and allow to sit for 5 minutes. *If you don’t have a stand mixer, use a handheld mixer or mix the dough by hand using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon.*
  2. Add the remaining sugar, the butter, egg yolks, salt, and 1 cup (125g) flour. Beat on low speed for 30 seconds, scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula, then add another cup of flour. Beat on medium speed until relatively incorporated (there may still be chunks of butter). Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Add 1/2 cup of flour and beat on medium speed until the dough begins to come together. As the mixer runs, add another 2-4 Tablespoons of flour depending on how wet the dough looks. (I usually add another 2 Tbsp, which makes it about 2 and 2/3 cups of flour total.) This should be a very soft and almost creamy-feeling dough. Do not add more flour than you need.
  3. Knead the dough: Keep the dough in the mixer and beat for an additional 3 minutes or knead by hand on a lightly floured work surface for 3 minutes. Add additional flour as you knead it, as needed to prevent it from sticking to the work surface. The dough is very buttery and soft. (See video tutorial above if you need a visual of kneading dough by hand.)
  4. 1st Rise: Lightly grease a large bowl with nonstick spray. Place the dough in the bowl, turning it to coat all sides. Cover the bowl with aluminum foil, plastic wrap, or a clean kitchen towel. Allow the dough to rise in a relatively warm environment for 3-4 hours or until nearly double in size. This dough is rich with fat, so it takes longer than other doughs to rise. (If desired, use my warm oven trick for rising. See my answer to Where Should Dough Rise? in my Baking with Yeast Guide.)
  5. Towards the end of rise time, you can prepare the filling: Melt 1 Tablespoon of butter in a large skillet on the stove over medium heat. Add the apples. Stir and cook until the apples are slightly softened, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice to help prevent browning. Set aside. For the rest of the filling in this step, make sure you don’t prepare it too far in advance because the butter will solidify and spreading onto the dough will be difficult. Melt remaining 2 Tablespoons of butter in a medium heatproof bowl in the microwave (or use the stove). Stir in brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, salt, and vanilla extract until crumbly and combined. Stir in the egg white. Set aside.
  6. Grease a 9×5 inch loaf pan.
  7. Shape the dough: When the dough is ready, punch it down to release the air. Flour a work surface, your hands, and a rolling pin. Roll the dough out into a 12×16 inch rectangle. Carefully and slowly spread the cinnamon filling mixture on top. (The dough is quite soft underneath and you don’t want to tear it.) Add the apples in a single layer. Using floured hands, tightly roll up the dough to form a 16-inch long log. If any parts of the dough feel soft as you roll it up, add a sprinkle of flour as I do in the video above. Place the log on its seam. Fold in half, then twist it to form a figure 8. Pinch the ends together. Use the video tutorial and photos above as a visual. Place in prepared loaf pan.
  8. 2nd Rise: Cover shaped babka with aluminum foil, plastic wrap, or a clean kitchen towel. Allow to rise until it’s puffy and nearly reaches the top of the loaf pan, about 1-1.5 hours.
  9. Towards the end of rise time, you can prepare the crumble topping: Mix the brown sugar, flour, and cinnamon together. Add the cold butter and using a pastry cutter or a fork, cut butter into the brown sugar mixture until pea-size crumbles form. Refrigerate until ready to use.
  10. Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Place a baking sheet on a lower oven rack to catch any juices or crumbles that may drip/drop down. (Has only happened to me once!)
  11. Carefully brush the surface of the babka with last remaining egg white. Using a toothpick, poke 10-12 holes all over the top of the loaf. This allows steam to escape from inside the loaf so the layers don’t separate. Sprinkle with crumble topping.
  12. Bake: Bake for 60-65 minutes or until golden brown on top. If you gently tap on the loaf, it should sound hollow. If you notice the top browning too quickly, loosely tent the pan with aluminum foil. (I usually add aluminum foil over the loaf around the 25 minute mark.) Remove from the oven and allow bread to cool in the pan for at least 30 minutes before slicing and serving. For neat slices as pictured above, I recommend cooling completely before slicing. A serrated knife is best for slicing.
  13. Cover leftover babka tightly and store at room temperature for 2 days or in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.


  1. Freezing Instructions: Baked babka freezes wonderfully. Wrap the cooled loaf in plastic wrap, then a layer of aluminum foil. Freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw wrapped loaf overnight in the refrigerator or at room temperature, then warm to your liking. You can also freeze the dough. After punching down the dough in step 7, wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap, then a layer of aluminum foil. Freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator, then punch the dough down again to release any air bubbles. Continue with the rest of step 7.
  2. Overnight Instructions: Prepare the dough through step 3. Place into a greased bowl (use nonstick spray to grease). Cover tightly and place in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours. Remove from the refrigerator and allow the dough to come to room temperature, then let it rise until doubled in size, about 3 hours. Continue with step 5. I don’t recommend shaping the bread the night before as it will puff up too much overnight.
  3. Yeast: Platinum Yeast by Red Star is an instant yeast. Any instant yeast works. You can use a 1:1 substitution of active dry yeast instead with no changes to the recipe. Rise times will be slightly longer if using active dry yeast. Reference my Baking with Yeast Guide for answers to common yeast FAQs.
  4. Apples: Use your favorite variety of apple. I typically use Granny Smith, Fuji, or Honeycrisp.

Keywords: babka, apple cinnamon bread, yeast bread, cinnamon babka

Source link

Chocolate Banana Muffins – Freezer Friendly

$3.97 recipe / $0.33 serving

What to do with browning bananas? It’s the question that never stops needing to be answered. The other day I was about to make a batch of my Yogurt Banana Bread with some over ripe bananas, but I decided to change it up last minute. I added little cocoa powder and a handful of chocolate chips to the batter, then scooped it into a muffin tin instead of a bread pan for easy portioning, and I got these tasty little Chocolate Banana Muffins. They’re the perfect not-too-sweet treat that I can keep in my freezer for days that I want a little something special to go with my morning coffee.

Chocolate banana muffins in the muffin tin, on a cooling rack, and a wooden cutting board

Use Ripe Bananas for the Best Flavor

I know chocolate banana muffins sound delicious, but have patience and wait until you have some brown, over ripe bananas to make this recipe. Over ripe bananas are sweeter and their banana flavor is more intense, which is what you want for the banana flavor to really come through in the muffins. Plus, they’re easier to mash when they’re soft and super ripe. 😉

How to Freeze Chocolate Banana Muffins

I love the fact that these banana muffins are already in single-serving portions, which makes them really great for freezing and thawing as-needed (or “as-wanted”?). To freeze the muffins, make sure they cool completely to room temperature, then place them in a gallon-sized zip top freezer bag and transfer to the freezer. To thaw, you can either let them sit for 15-30 minutes at room temperature, or microwave for about 30 seconds until they’re warm and the chocolate chips are melted. They’re sooooo good with a cup of coffee!

Other Muffin Add-in Ideas

Muffins like this are kind of fun because you can really play around with the add-ins (in addition to, or in place of the chocolate chips). Peanut butter chips would be really good in these muffins, as would something like shredded coconut. Walnuts are a classic with banana bread, but almonds would probably taste really nice with this banana-chocolate combo, too.

Chocolate Banana Muffins in a muffin tin, some turned on their side


Chocolate Banana Muffins

Chocolate Banana Muffins are a delicious freezer-friendly sweet treat, and a great way to use up brown bananas so they don’t go to waste!

Total Cost: $3.97 recipe / $0.33 serving

Author: Beth – Budget Bytes

Servings: 12

  • 1 cup mashed bananas (about 2-3 bananas) ($0.42)
  • 1 cup plain yogurt ($0.67)
  • 2 large eggs ($0.46)
  • 1/2 cup sugar ($0.40)
  • 4 Tbsp metled butter ($0.52)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract ($0.30)
  • 1.5 cups all-purpose flour ($0.23)
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder ($0.21)
  • 1 tsp baking powder ($0.02)
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda ($0.02)
  • 1/2 tsp salt ($0.01)
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips ($0.70)
  • Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line a muffin tin with paper liners.

  • Mash the bananas well. You’ll need one cup mashed bananas. If you have slightly less than one cup, you can use slightly more yogurt to make up for the banana. If you have slightly more than one cup, you can reduce the yogurt slightly to compensate for the extra banana.

  • Add the mashed banana to a large mixing bowl along with the yogurt, eggs, sugar, melted butter, and vanilla. Whisk the ingredients together well.

  • In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

  • Pour the dry ingredients into the bowl with the wet ingredients and stir just until they are combined. It’s okay if the mixture is a little lumpy. Do not over stir. Finally, fold the chocolate chips into the batter.

  • Divide the batter between the 12 wells of the muffin tin (it will fill each well up to the top). Transfer the muffin tin to the preheated oven and bake for 35 minutes.

  • After baking, remove the muffins from the tin and allow them to cool on a wire rack before serving.

See how we calculate recipe costs here.

Serving: 1muffinCalories: 232.86kcalCarbohydrates: 38.8gProtein: 4.37gFat: 8.02gSodium: 233.58mgFiber: 2.22g

Nutritional values are estimates only. See our full nutrition disclosure here.

The equipment section above contains affiliate links to products we use and love. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Scroll down for the step by step photos!

Close up front view of the chocolate banana muffins in the tin

How to Make Chocolate Banana Muffins – Step by Step Photos

Mashed banana in a measuring cup with a fork

Preheat the oven to 350ºF and line a muffin tin with paper liners. Mash 2-3 bananas well with a fork. You’ll need 1 cup mashed bananas. If you have slightly less banana, you can add a little extra yogurt to make up for it. If you have a little more than 1 cup banana, you can reduce the yogurt a little to compensate for the extra banana.

Wet ingredients for the banana muffins in a bowl

Add the mashed banana to a large mixing bowl along with 1 cup plain yogurt, 2 large eggs, ½ cup sugar, 4 Tbsp melted butter, and 1 tsp vanilla extract. Whisk these ingredients together well.

Dry ingredients for muffins in a bowl

In a separate bowl, stir together 1.5 cups all-purpose flour, ⅓ cup unsweetened cocoa powder, 1 tsp baking powder, ½ tsp baking soda, and ½ tsp salt. Stir until the dry ingredients are very well combined.

wet and dry ingredients being stirred together with a spatula

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir just until everything is moistened. The mixture will be lumpy, but try not to over stir (the photo shows the mixture half stirred, check the next photo for the appearance of the fully stirred batter).

Chocolate chips being added to the batter

Finally, fold a ½ cup chocolate chips into the batter, again taking care not to over stir.

Muffin batter in the muffin tin, unbaked.

Divide the batter between 12 wells of a muffin tin. The batter will fill each well all the way up to the top. Transfer the muffin tin to the preheated 350ºF oven.

Baked chocolate banana muffins in the muffin tin

Bake the muffins in the preheated oven for 35 minutes. Remove the baked muffins from the tin to cool before serving.

Chocolate banana muffins in the muffin tin, on a cooling rack, and on a cutting board


Source link