Tag Archive | fruit

Banana Bread

One of our favorite breakfast items is homemade banana bread.  I’ve been making it for years, tweaking the recipe and messing around with it changing out the bananas for other fruits.  It has become a family favorite and my husband requests it for the guys at his office every now and then.

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Gather together all your ingredients and grab a big mixing bowl and your favorite wooden spoon and let’s make banana bread!

I have found a fantastic new use for my potato masher….mashing bananas! This wonderful tool pictured below was a gift from my thoughtful friend, Tonya.

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One of my “secrets” to having plenty of bananas ready for baking at any given time: freeze those overripe Produce Manager’s specials. You know, the ones where you can buy a whole bag of bananas for 99c! Every time they are on sale at the market, I buy 1-2 bags and peel them, lining them up in a large freezer bag. Lay the flat and you’ll have bananas ready at any time!

Here’s the recipe that I have used:

Banana Nut Bread

Preheat oven to 350F

1/3 c. shortening – note: I do NOT use shortening, substitute canola oil, extra virgin coconut oil or safflower oil – cup for cup

3/4 c. sugar – I cut this back to 1/4 cup

2 eggs – I half this

1 3/4 cup flour – I take the 3/4 cup & change it out to whole wheat pastry flour

1 tsp. aluminum free baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt – I use kosher salt or sea salt

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1 c. mashed bananas – as you can see from the picture above, I pour the thawed bananas and the juices in all together, plus I use more than a cup…..makes it extra good!

1 cup chopped walnuts – or your favorite nut – pecans are good for this too.

3 tbsp. milk – I use unsweetened soy milk – you can use whatever you want

In a large bowl, cream together milk, oil/shortening and sugar; add egg and beat well. Sift together flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda and add to creamed mixture.  Stir until well mixed. Fold in bananas and nuts, blending well. Pour into greased loaf pan.

Bake for 50 minutes or until golden brown and pick inserted comes out clean.

Remove from pan and cool on a rack. Wrap and store overnight.

Or as we do in our house….slice it up hot and chow down!

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Cutting back on the sugar works okay for this recipe if the bananas are super ripe. If you are concerned about any bitter taste, make sure that your bananas are just spotted, not super black. But if they are that ripe, a couple little scoops of stevia will help adjust the flavor and allow the sugar amount to be cut in half or more.  Pure honey also works well as a sugar replacement in this recipe. You’ll need to reduce the oil/shortening amount to compensate for the extra moisture that honey provides.

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Won’t you pull up a chair, have a cup of tea and a slice of banana bread with me? I’d like that very much!

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Garden Delights

Each year for the past 3 or so, I’ve started dabbling in the garden. I have many wonderful childhood memories of eating wonderful things from my parent’s garden. My mom has a green thumb like no other and it’s amazing how, even to this day, her zest and energy to work in the yard puts me to shame!

My childhood gardens were filled with cauliflower, 10-lb. cabbage heads, broccoli, sweet corn, green beans, peas and so much more. I remember mom used to chase me out of the garden for standing there and eating the peas! There is nothing as good as fresh peas straight from the garden!

I’m not as much a green thumb as my mother, but I sure try! My garden is much, much smaller than hers ever was, but the bounty from it is plenty enough for me and my husband. Last summer I came across this wonderful book at my local library and just had to take it home with me. The book is by Brett Markham, Mini-Farming: Self-Sufficiency on 1/4 acre.  It is a wonderful book for refreshing your knowledge or for explaining gardening and giving wonderful tips on how best to use up the space in a small yard. The book is through Skyhorse Publishing and you can click here to see their website: Mini-Farming.

My garden is just 3 raised beds that are 4-ft. x 8-ft. x 6-in. high.  We bought a composite board kit that we found at Sam’s Club. I wanted to use the composite boards for a couple of reasons…I didn’t want any treated wood around my garden, thereby decreasing the chance of having any arsenic leech into the ground and I didn’t want to have to replace the boards any time soon.  And since I am no longer allowed to lift anything over 10 pounds, using concrete blocks was out of the question.

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We started out by putting a scoop of mushroom compost in these boxes followed with some top soil and I added a big bag of Miracle Grow garden soil to each block. I strongly believe that this combination has resulted in a much healthier and bigger plant.  Last summer my tomato plants had stalks about 1.5-2 inches in diameter! My green pepper plants had stalks that were nearly 1-inch in diameter!

The plants you see to the left are all my volunteer tomatoes that have popped up from last year’s crop! Turns out we have 8 volunteers this year! Essentially doubling my crop this year. Because about 3 weeks before they pushed through, Jeff came home from the farmer’s market with 4-Brandywine and 4-Big Boy plants. I’ve never had Brandywine, so thought it would be a wonderful addition to the mix. I believe we have Beefsteak, Roma and Big Boy volunteers based on the location where they popped up.

To help control the hornworms and other pests, I have planted marigolds (also from the seeds I’ve gathered from seasons past) and cosmos in and around the tomatoes. Doing this for the past few years has allowed me to not use any pesticides of any kind on my garden.  This year, I’m afraid of some contamination because with the mild winter, the county has taken to spraying our neighborhoods with pesticides for bug control. We’ve already noticed how bad the pests are this year and worried about how it will affect the garden.

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I’ve also begun to plan my potted garden for this season. Since I’ve been including more fresh herbs in my cooking as well as drying and making my own herb seasonings, it seemed like having a garden near the kitchen would be a grand idea. We recently added a grill to our “outdoor kitchen” and I’ve started cooking outside during the hot summer months leaving the kitchen and house inside much cooler.  As these herbs grow, the pictures will follow!

At the end of the season last year, we purchased two peach trees. The dollar value was 2-for-1 at that time, so we were able to plant more by waiting until the end of the season when the prices get slashed.  The trees appeared to be about 2-3 years old, so I figured in about 1-2 seasons, we would start seeing fruit. Well, this year we have fruit! I wasn’t sure if I should cut them off and let the tree grow another year, but in the end, we decided to see what happens.

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For now, enjoy some photos of my garden as it stands now!

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It’s official…..summer has officially started! Here’s to happy gardening and warm, lazy days filled with family, friends and lots of good food!

Blackberry Fields Forever

When it comes to fruit, it is really hard to find one that I don’t like. And when it comes to Sunday mornings, more often than not, pancakes made from scratch and fresh fruit is the menu choice of the day! Growing up, my dad and mom used to make pancakes for Sunday morning breakfast every now and then. Boy, were they delicious! I never dreamed I would one day own a home that would have blackberry bushes! It took a year, but the harvest was unbelievable! And I never had to plant them! These berries came from my bachelorette pad which we now refer to lovingly as our “other house.” To preserve them, I froze a batch of them and now have them whenever I feel like having one!

Years ago, I quit using box mixes and started learning to make my pancakes from scratch. That way, I can control what goes in and more importantly, what doesn’t go into my dishes! Let’s get cooking!

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I don’t measure much once I have mastered a recipe. So to make things easier, I have taken a recipe that I started with that is very good. If you’ve never done this, it’s a great start and as you get this recipe mastered, you can play with it and change it.

The original recipe is as follows:

4 tbsp SACO Buttermilk Blend

1 c. all-purpose flour

1 tbsp. sugar

1 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. salt

1 egg

1 c. water

2 tbsp. oil

Sift dry ingredients together into a mixing bowl. Add beaten egg, water and oil. Beat just until batter is smooth. Don’t overbeat! A few lumps in the batter will be fine. Set aside your batter for just a few minutes. Using a non-stick spray, drop by small ladle-full or by tablespoonful onto a heated skillet, turning once lightly browned. Stack and butter.

Now here is what I’ve done with the recipe:

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Cyn’s Pancakes (except for the flour, please keep in mind my measurements are approximate)

3 tbsp. SACO Buttermilk Blend

1 tbsp. raw wheat germ

1/2 c. unbleached, all-purpose flour

1/4 c. whole wheat pastry flour

1/4 c. soy flour

1/4 tsp. stevia extract powder

1 tsp. aluminum-free baking powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. sea salt

1 egg

1 c. organic soy milk

2 tbsp. pure vanilla extract (I love vanilla!)

Sift together all the dry ingredients and add beaten egg, milk and vanilla. Beat just until batter is smooth. Do not overbeat! This recipe makes about 10 pancakes. Just double or adjust for servings needed.

While watching a cooking show which featured homemade syrup, I decided to try it. The first couple of tries, it wasn’t the correct consistency. I’m still working on perfecting the syrup, but here is the recipe:008

1 c. sugar (I used dark brown sugar)

1 c. water

bring to a boil, let cool, serve while warm

You can add your favorite fruits, extract flavorings, like vanilla, and/or a dash of cream to vary the flavors.

By the time our breakfast was ready, the blackberries had thawed and were ready to eat.

I use real, un-salted, sweet cream butter or a vegetarian variety, Earth Balance Spread atop the pancakes. Add a few of the thawed blackberries and finish with the homemade syrup. Mmmmm! So good!

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Bon Appetite! Until next time….