Too-damned-many-bananas banana bread

IMG_20151028_185953Since I have come to grips with the fact that Allrecipes may, in fact, never publish my recipe submission and because my husband has access to an ongoing supply of very ripe, inexpensive bananas I present here a recipe that uses 5 bananas per each 9″ x 5″ bread loaf. Though not as visually pleasing as drier breads I think this is made up for by the flavor and texture. And toasting helps, of course.

The flavor and mouth-feel reminds me of a banana pudding, but it maintains its cohesion as a bread and is pretty marvelous toasted with butter. How this recipe worked, I don’t know, but it does. I read a lot of recipes trying to find one that used 5 or 6 bananas per loaf that wasn’t a soggy mess and most, maybe all, seemed to have a lot of ingredients and/or a whole lot of steps. I just couldn’t see going through all that for a loaf or two of banana bread. I’m really stuck on the concept that simplest and most efficient approach is also the most elegant and durable, in life and in cooking.

Too-damned-many-bananas banana bread

  • Servings: 2 9
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients:

  • 10 very ripe bananas
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground vanilla bean (or substitute vanilla paste, or, in a pinch, extract)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 cups flour
  • 1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 350′.
  2. Grease two 9″ by 5″ bread loaf pans. I use a canola oil spray.
  3. Line a sturdy baking sheet with tin foil or parchment.
  4. Peel and dice bananas into mixer bowl.
  5. Starting mixer on low speed, blend bananas until smooth.
  6. Add baking soda, salt, and vanilla to bowl and combine.
  7. Add eggs and blend until thoroughly combined.
  8. Add sugar and combine.
  9. Add nuts now if you intend to use them.
  10. Add 1 cup of flour at a time, mixing until thoroughly combined.
  11. Pour equal amounts of batter into each loaf pan.
  12. Place loaf pans on baking sheet.
  13. Bake in oven at 350′ for about 70 minutes, or until loaves are set firm, browned, and a toothpick inserted into the middle of the loaf comes out clean. I get a perfect loaf at exactly 75 minutes in my current oven. You may need to tent your loaves with tin foil to prevent them from getting too dark, depending upon your oven.
  14. Cool about 15 minutes.
  15. Invert loaf pan to remove banana bread.
  16. Slice and serve warm with a light topping of butter.

Notes:

I like to use ground vanilla beans because they don’t add any fluid to a recipe and they provide a distinct and beautiful flavor during longer baking processes.  Many recipes use butter, oil, or various dairy products to create a moist loaf. The bananas have so much moisture that the trick here is to not compound that problem by adding in more. My family puts enough butter on the finished product that I am afraid to add any more to the batter.

You can also substitute fresh sliced or diced apples in this recipe (about 4 cups), with some ginger and cardamom or cinnamon, and a cup of pecans and the recipe still works just fine. I found this out when our apple tree finally had a bumper crop and I was willing to try almost anything to not waste them. Cider and applesauce are easier, but apple-pecan bread is a real treat.

 

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Quick buttery curry chickeny pasta in the microwave

I’ve only made this quick, delicious treat a couple of times and the optimal cook time for the pasta is yet to be determined. I would guess it is between 12 and 15 minutes, depending on the microwave.

Quick buttery curry chickeny pasta in the microwave

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients:

  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped fresh yellow or white onion
  • 3 Tablespoons butter
  • 4 teaspoons chicken broth base powder
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1/2 to 1 cup chopped pre-cooked chicken (or other protein source of choice)
  • 1 cup orzo pasta (these are the small, almond-shaped pastas used in Rice-a-roni)
  • 2 cups water
  • Optionally, add peas or carrot slices

Preparation:

  1. Place 1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped onion and 3 Tablespoons butter in microwave safe bowl
  2. Microwave onions on high for 1 minute. Stir and cook 1 or more additional minutes, as desired, in 1 minute increments.
  3. Remove bowl from microwave onto heat-safe surface.
  4. If using a glass bowl please let it cool down before adding cold water. The change in temperature can cause the glass to shatter in a spectacular and dangerous manner.
  5. Stir in 4 teaspoons chicken broth powder, 2 teaspoons curry powder, 1/2 to 1 cup chopped pre-cooked chicken, and 1 cup orzo pasta.
  6. Stir in 2 cups of water. (Make sure glass bowls have cooled before adding!)
  7. Place a plate over the top of your bowl.
  8. Microwave on high for about 12 minutes and check. Microwave ovens vary in how quickly they cook food. Better safe than sorry. If you added more chicken, the corn and/ or peas then cooking time will be longer, up to about 22 minutes.
  9. Using hot pads, remove bowl from microwave, remove plate, stir, and check pasta for done-ness. The water should be absorbed, the pasta plump, and you should be able to easily cut an orzo piece in half with a fork or spoon. Stir.
  10. Cook additional minutes, as needed, up to about 22 minutes total cook time, or until water is all absorbed and orzo is plump and tender.
  11. Using hot pads, remove bowl from microwave and allow to sit, covered, for 5 to 10 minutes.
  12. Eat it up; yum!

Notes:

Normally I don’t suggest any particular brand of any product, but here I make an exception. After many years of trying different curry powders and powdered chicken broth bases I happened across two that I like immensely: Sun Brand Madras curry powder, by Merwanjee Poonjiajee & Sons Private Ltd, which I initially found at Safeway but my husband now buys it for me in bulk online, and Orrington Farms Chicken Broth Base and Seasoning, which I found at our local Walmart.

The Sun Brand curry powder has a pleasant, gentle yet complex, warm combo of spices that blend and compliment each other, without one or two dominating the others and that is amenable to a variety of dishes. Their use of ginger is ginger and the fenugreek is discernible, but not overpowering.  A favorite curry powder is a highly subjective and personal matter, but if you haven’t tried the Sun Madras it is worth a try. It eclipsed my previous favorite by several magnitudes of enjoyment. As to the Orrington Farms chicken broth, I haven’t tried their other products, but the chicken plainly tastes like the broth I get when I cook chicken and isn’t hiding behind a bunch of salt or filler. It’s the first and only powdered chicken broth I’ve ever tried that I would willingly eat by itself as a cup of soup. I receive no product, compensation, or consideration for these product endorsements, but I’d be totally willing to do so. 🙂

Desiccated Banana Bread

Desiccated Banana Bread

  • Difficulty: moderate
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banana bread

Ingredients:

  • 4 ripe bananas
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla (extract, paste, or ground beans)
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2 cups sugar (brown or white sugar)
  • 1 cup very soft butter
  • 3 cups flour

Preparation:

  1. Peel 4 bananas and place whole into microwavable bowl. Loosely cover bowl with glass or china plate.
  2. To release the liquid from the bananas you will microwave bananas for a total of 5 minutes on the highest setting. Microwave in 1 minute increments, checking that the liquid is not boiling over the top of the bowl. Use oven mitts to remove from microwave. Let bananas cool before proceeding.
  3. Separate banana pieces from banana liquids (between 1/4 and 1/2 cup). You will not be using the liquids for this recipe.
  4. Mash bananas with fork and separate larger pieces.
  5. Using a mixer, place bananas in bowl and blend on low speed.
  6. Add in 4 eggs and combine.
  7. Add in 2 tsp. baking soda, 1/4 tsp. cream of tartar, 1 tsp. salt, and 2 tsp. vanilla and combine.
  8. Add in 1 cup sour cream and combine.
  9. Add in 2 cups sugar and combine.
  10. Add in 1 cup softened butter and combine.
  11. Add in 3 cups of flour, one cup at a time, and combine thoroughly.
  12. Increase mixer speed to medium and beat for 1 to 2 minutes.
  13. Preheat oven to 350′.
  14. Grease two  9 inch by 5 inch bread loaf pans.
  15. Pour and scrape equal amounts of batter into each loaf pan.
  16. Line a cookie tray with aluminum foil or parchment paper.
  17. Place loaf pans on lined cookie tray (prevents oven spills if batter overflows loaf pans).
  18. Bake in oven at 350′ for 60 minutes. Check loaf for doneness (see #20).
  19. Cover with foil or paper if needed to prevent top of loaf getting too dark and bake 15 more minutes at 350′. Check for doneness (see #20).
  20. Bake additional time, as needed, until bread loaf is firm and a toothpick inserted into the middle of loaf comes out clean, indicating loaf is done baking.
  21. Cool 15 minutes before removing bread from loaf pan.
  22. Cool loaf completely, about 1 hour, before storing in plastic bag or wrap to prevent trapped excess humidity from causing mold.
  23. Store in refrigerator for longest shelf life.

You may want to use your leftover banana juice for adult beverages, drink it plain, or allow adventurous pets to enjoy that banana-ey goodness.

Notes:

This recipe is a hybrid of traditional banana bread recipes and the microwave method innovated by Andrea Geary in her article titled, “Ultimate Banana Bread,” which appeared in the “Cook’s Illustrated” magazine, “All-Time Best Bread Recipes.” Dec. 2014.

Reducing the amount of fluid from the bananas intensifies the banana flavor, reduces overall cooking time, and creates a firmer, more cohesive loaf.

I use vanilla paste because my sweet husband bought me a giant container of the stuff, but pure vanilla extract or dry, ground vanilla beans will also work just fine because of the butter content and baking time.

I write my recipes with the ingredients listed in the order in which they are used and with detailed instructions that my kids can follow and check off, item-by-item, as they proceed through a recipe. The experienced cook may find them unnecessarily specific.

Susan’s Chocolate Chip Cookies

Susan's Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • Servings: 2 to 3 dozen cookies
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 to 3 tsp ground vanilla
  • 6 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/3 cups butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar (use any combo of white and brown sugar that you like)
  • 3 ¼ cups flour
  • 12  to 16 oz  bittersweet double chocolate chocolate chips* trigger release ice cream scoop

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375′.
  2. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  3. In a large mixing bowl beat 2 eggs.
  4. Mix in 3/4 tsp salt, 1 tsp baking powder, and 1 tsp baking soda.
  5. Mix in 2 to 3 tsp ground vanilla, and 6 tsp vanilla extract.
  6. Mix in 1 1/3 cup softened butter.
  7. Mix in 2 cups of sugar and combine until creamy.
  8. Mix in 3 1/4 cups flour, one cup at a time, combining until creamy.
  9. Add in chocolate chips and combine until equally distributed in batter.
  10. Use a trigger release ice cream scoop (disher) to drop dough onto cookie sheets lined with parchment paper. To keep cookie size even, draw the flat side of a dinner knife across the top of the ice cream scoop to remove excess dough.
  11. Leave 2″ to 3″ of spread space between cookies.
  12. Bake at 375′ for 15 minutes, or until light golden brown.
  13. Cool 5 to 10 minutes before serving.
  14. Enjoy!

Notes: I buy ground vanilla beans on Amazon. The Papua ground beans are vanilla tahitensis, which is fruitier and flowerier. The Madagascar beans are vanilla planifolia and have the earthier, deeper taste and smell familiar to Americans. I think ground beans create a difference in flavor and the brown specks add visual interest. Trigger release ice cream scoops / dishers make it so much easier to work with dough and create standard size cookies. I like the ones with the thumb trigger lever attached on the side because they don’t make my hand cramp. I hope your family enjoys these cookies as much as mine does.

Leftover Chicken Coconut Curry over Cous Cous

Wondering what to do with those leftover pieces of chicken? Even if you didn’t cook them quite right the first time around, or you let them sit in your fridge one day too many, no one is ever going to know after you slather them in this delightful and aromatic coconut curry.  I mean, sure, you could use perfectly fresh and well-cooked chicken and no one would hold it against you. This is one of the few meals I can recall recently where our 14 year old actually ate a plateful. Without once complaining.

Chicken Coconut Curry over Cous Cous

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons Canola oil
  • 2 medium sized onions, sliced
  • 1 potato, diced
  • 5 teaspoons garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 13 to 16 ounces coconut milk (can be thicker, as desired, if made with powdered cocnut milk)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • salt and pepper to taste

Over medium heat on the stove, heat 2 tablespoons of Canola oil in a large frying pain.

Add sliced onions and sauté until light brown.

Place diced potatoes into a microwave-safe bowl and add water until 1 inch above potatoes. Microwave on high for about 5 minutes.

Drain water off, or spoon potatoes out of bowl and add to pan of onions.

Cover pan and cook onions and potatoes about 5 minutes, on low heat.

Add butter to pan. Stir until melted.

Add coconut milk to pan, stir to blend.

Add sugar and blend.

Add chicken, cover, cook over low heat about 5 minutes, or until chicken is warmed.

Optionally, a basil top (stem and four leaves) on top of curry before covering and cooking last 5 minutes.

Serve over cous cous.

To make cous cous: in a microwave-safe bowl, mix 1 cup of cous cous, 1 1/4 cups water, 1 tablespoon butter, and a light sprinkle of salt. Cover lightly, making sure steam can escape. Cook on high in microwave for 4 to 5 minutes.

Testament to the edibility of this recipe, the pan has been scraped. It’s not exactly the curry over cous cous photo I was hoping for, but it’ll do.

chicken-coconut-curry

Curried Chicken Salad (no mayo)

Curried Chicken Salad

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

– Solids

  • 1 apple, finely diced
  • 2 or 3 celery stalks, finely diced
  • 1/2 to 1 cup onions, diced
  • 1 to 2 cups dried cranberries
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups cashews, whole, halved, or chopped, preferably without salt.
  • 5 cooked and diced chicken breasts or 2 12.5 oz cans premium chunk chicken breast

– Sauce

  • 16 oz sour cream
  • 3 tablespoons curry powder
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons mango chutney
  • 2/3 cup white wine

Mix all solid ingredients thoroughly in a large bowl.

Combine all sauce ingredients in a medium sized bowl.

Thoroughly combine solids and sauce. Add pepper to taste.

Eat!

Even though it may seem tempting to substitute almonds or some other type of nut for the cashews, don’t do it. Cashews are an integral component for this dish to taste proper. I used slivered almonds once and, although it wasn’t inedible, I had to promise several family members I would never do it again. You may enjoy substituting 1/2 cup of cashews with pine nuts.

This recipe contains no mayonnaise. Every other curried chicken salad recipe I’ve tried contains mayo. And lots of it. I cannot imagine why. I admit that I’m not a big fan of mayo anyway, but I think it really overpowers the delicate nuances of flavor in this recipe. If you’ve used salted cashews and mayo, the result is a sodium overload. Even if you would normally use mayo instead, consider trying the sour cream at least once. It’s possible you could substitute yogurt or tahini, but I haven’t become that adventurous yet.

Lastly, regarding sauce substitutions, I tried using coconut cream, rather than sour cream. The sauce was so bizarre I converted it over for use as a satay and had my husband bring home a container of sour cream to use in the curried chicken salad. They can’t all be winners, I guess.

Here’s a fascinating video on cashew production. If you’ve ever wondered why cashews were so expensive, this is why. Bet you’re glad the recipe didn’t call for cashew apples!

Orange Julius-style popsicles or drink

orangepopsI have seen no end of recipes and packaged additives claiming the ability to transform normal orange juice  into something that tastes like the original Orange Julius. Each and every one of these–and, yes, I tried every single one I’ve come across–has been a monumental disappointment. Some were close, but no cigar.

The other day, I saw a recipe in a friend’s newsfeed describing itself as a totally healthy, GMO-free version of the orange creamsicle. After rejecting a couple of the suggested ingredients outright and substituting in what I had on hand, the results were not quite orange creamsicle, but were certainly reminiscent of an Orange Julius.

I gulped the test batch down right out of the mixing bowl, while my husband watched in amused and slightly horrified disbelief. The nearest Orange Julius stand is, as far as I know, about 200 miles away, so I feel this behavior was only to be expected.

Normally I wouldn’t say this, but, to get these results, you really have got to use the brand name products described in this recipe. As to the “Simply Orange,” their production includes a flavoring process that achieves a uniform, specific flavor that is distinct from all other brands (some find this process both unhealthy and undesirable). As to the “Silk” brand coconut milk, it contains, among other things, guar gum and carageenan, which moderates the texture, as opposed to unadulterated coconut milk from the can. It is also the most similar product to the coconut milk offered by Knudsen back in the late 1970s and early ’80s, which, to my knowledge, is no longer available.

With that long preface, onto the recipe.

Orange Julius Popsicles

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 2 cups “Simply Orange” orange juice
  • 2 cups “Silk” brand coconut milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup white sugar (optionally increase to 1/2 cup sugar)orangey julius

Combine all ingredients and mix thoroughly, preferably in a container you can shake or a blender.

Pour into plastic popsicle forms and freeze until solid, or serve over crushed ice, or blend with crushed ice. Might be good with some Caribbean-style rum.

Deeeelicious!