Six banana breads at once: bread in the freezer is like money in the bank.

When baking multiple loaves you can choose to make some with nuts and others with chocolate chips—something for everyone.

If you’re going to the effort of baking a quick-bread, then it’s not a lot more trouble to double or triple the recipe. There’s nothing more satisfying than having a stock pile of homemade baked goods in the freezer. I will admit that making this recipe x6 was a slight challenge in that I had to find a huge bowl, and had to scrape together 6 bread pans.

Banana Bread

1. Cream together butter and sugar, then mix in eggs.

  • 2/3 c. sugar
  • 1/3 c. butter
  • 2 eggs

2. Stir in the following:

  • 3 Tbs. buttermilk (or sour your own milk by mixing together 1/4 c. milk and 1 tsp. lemon juice, then let that stand for 10 mins.)
  • 3 medium-sized, very ripe bananas, mashed with a fork

3. Stir in the dry ingredients:

  • 2 c. flour (may substitute whole wheat pastry flour; if using regular whole wheat flour then may substitute up to 2/3 cup.)
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda

4. Optional: Blend in 1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans and/or 1 cup mini chocolate chips.

5. Pour into a well greased loaf pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 55 minutes or until tests done with a toothpick.

Chunks of pecans placed on top of the batter become toasted during baking.

Plan your week.

I’m doing what I mean to do every Sunday, and that is to plan the entire week’s menu in advance. It takes a few quiet minutes, and will save a lot of time in the upcoming week. Here’s my plan for the upcoming week:

Sunday: Tamale Pie from Laurel’s Kitchen Cookbook, broccoli, and orange slices. (Option B for my dad, who doesn’t like spicy: fish fillet, baked potato.)

Monday: Homemade macaroni- cheese-vegetable dish.

Tuesday: Tilapia marinated in neighbor Ben’s charmoula sauce, rice,  frozen mixed vegies, fruit salad.

Wednesday: Tortellini with an easy tomato sauce, crusty bread, cauliflower, green salad.

Thursday: Sausage and bean dish, polenta, broccoli, green salad.

Friday: Rotisserie chicken, creamed fresh spinach, sweet potatoes, challah.

Blue Ribbon Challah — 10 Year Anniversary of my Visit to the New Mexico State Fair

Dori taking the kids out in the Swedish double-buggy.

Picture this photo with a five year-old standing on a running board between my arms, and two large, braided loaves of challah riding on the rack beneath the little kids’ bottoms. That was the image the time this city girl decided to enter her bread in the New Mexico State Fair. (And I’m pretty sure that’s the day the buggy exceeded it’s weight limit, and one of the wheels became warped.)

We were living in the mountains just outside of Albuquerque, in a somewhat isolated area, where a trip to the big grocery store meant a 20 mile car ride. With three kids at home, ages 5, 4 and 2, I was happy to putter around the house, rather than wrangle them all into the car, and so it happened that I spent a lot of time baking bread. I challenged myself to go without using store-bought bread. Through a co-op we belonged to at the time, I ordered 50 pound bags of different kinds of flour. I baked whole wheat bread, molasses bread and a beautiful two-toned swirly bread, but our favorite was the challah I learned to bake from my Cousin Betty’s recipe.

Our mountain newspaper had a notice that the New Mexico State Fair was coming to Albuquerque. Being raised in a North Shore suburb of Chicago, I’d never so much as set foot in a state fair before, but I knew that people took bread and had it judged there. Doug was out of the country for two weeks and I was looking for something interesting to do, so I decided to enter.

I entered two separate contests: The Fleischmann’s Yeast Bread contest (with a cash prize), and the New Mexico State Fair bread contest. As I filled out the paperwork the official asked me for my empty Fleischmann’s yeast packages so she could staple them to the entry form. I’m a pretty loyal Red Star yeast user, so her request made me pause. She didn’t miss a beat, thankfully, and handed me a three-pack and a pair of scissors. “There’s a trash can under the table.” I snipped off the ends, emptied that sad yeast into the trash can, and handed her the packages to staple to my Fleischmann’s entry form.

My sister-in-law, Donna, a veteran fair goer, later informed me that picking one’s category is crucial when entering a contest. But at the time I didn’t give it a lot of thought and I chose the “holiday bread” category because challah is a Jewish sabbath bread, and the sabbath is our most important holiday — right? Unfortunately, Easter sticky buns fell into the same category. In fact, there were over 30 breads in the holiday bread competition.

The judging was fascinating. A celebrity food judge from one of the local television stations was tasting the breads for the Fleischmann’s contest. I watched with my three squirmy kids, still buckled into the buggy, while the judge took a slice from the very center of each loaf, holding some up as examples of having a good “crumb” or crust.

The kids held out long enough for my bread to be held up by the judge, who said that he was from Philadelphia and he knew what challah tasted like and that this was the best challah he’d ever had. I won a big fancy third place ribbon, and $30, which almost paid for parking and four ice creams. Later, when I talked with the judge, he told me that I should have entered in the international category. Maybe next time.

I had to drive the 20 miles back up into the mountains so that I could get Max to afternoon kindergarten, and I missed the judging of my other loaf. I called later to find out the results and learned that I had won the first place ribbon in the New Mexico bread contest. They put the bread on display in the case for the 10 remaining days of the fair and asked if I wanted it back at the end. I said no. But I did go to town to fetch my ribbons, and I framed them to display in my kitchen. With thanks to Betty Jane for her fine recipe.

My framed ribbons on the right. On the left is a “Santo,” a painted image of a saint that I got in Taos, New Mexico. On the back it says: Saint Marta. Patroness of housewives, dietitians, domestic workers, waitresses and lay sisters, invoked to protect the home.

Ingredients

For the dough:

  • 1 package yeast (2¼ tsp.)
  • 2/3 c. sugar
  • 2 c. warm water
  • 1 egg
  • 3 Tbs. oil
  • 1 Tbs. salt
  • 2 c. whole wheat flour
  • 4 c. (about) white flour

Mix together and brush on before baking:

  • 1 egg
  • 1 Tbs. honey

Sprinkle with:

  • sunflower, poppy and/or sesame seeds, about ¼  cup total

 

Directions

  1. Proof the yeast: Mix together the yeast and sugar, add the warm water, stir, and let it sit for 20 minutes. It should get foamy.
  2. Add the rest of the dough ingredients, putting in just enough white flour to make a smooth, not sticky dough.
    Knead for about 10 minutes.
  3. Cover and let rise for about 3 hours, or until doubled in size. Shape into two small loaves or one large loaf. Place loaves on a greased cookie sheet or into greased loaf pans if you want sandwich-shaped loaves. Cover and let rise for one more hour.
  4. Brush with the egg/honey mixture and sprinkle with some seeds. Bake at 350˚ for 35–40 minutes.

 

You can find this recipe (and many more!) in these cookbooks:

The Plate is My Canvas: Recipes and Stories from My Family’s Interfaith Kitchen

Plate promo shot

and

You Can’t Have Dry Coffee: Papa’s Excuse to Have a Nosh And Nana’s Perfect Pastries

Dry Coffee promo

Potato Corn Chowder

I love this soup. My first taste of potato chowder was in the basement of the Illini Union in 1975. In keeping with the diet of this part of the world, it was made with bacon and lots of heavy cream. My version is packed with great vegetables like kale and carrots, uses low-fat milk and is one of my family’s favorites.

This afternoon, in keeping with the Illini spirit, I picked up some bacon ends at the U of I meat lab. After trimming off most of the fat, I chopped up the meat and sauteed it along with the leeks. This soup is also great with bits of ham or sausage, but is also every bit is good as a vegetarian soup. Also, add some chopped red sweet pepper if you like that.

Potato Corn Chowder

  • 1 leek or 1 large onion, chopped
  • a few slices of ham or bacon (optional)
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 5 medium potatoes, chopped (I leave the peel on)
  • 1 large sweet potato, chopped
  • 2 large kale leaves, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped parsley
  • 3 large carrots, chopped
  • 3 cups corn
  • 3 Tbs. butter
  • 2-3 cups milk
  • 1 Tbs. basil
  • 1 large bay leaf
  • salt
  • pepper

Saute the onions and meat, if you’re using it, in the olive oil. When the onion is soft add all of the vegetables and the basil, and just barely cover with water. Cook for about an hour, until the vegies are soft. Take out 2 cups of the broth and vegetable mixture and quickly run through a blender, and then return to the pot. Add the milk and butter and heat very slowly until warm. Season with salt and lots of fresh pepper.

Popovers

Soup night is transformed by popovers. These lovely little breads puff way up in the pan, are hollow and buttery on the inside and slightly crisp on the outside. They only take about 45 minutes start to finish, and are amazingly simple to make. Is there anything better than a hot bread product to serve with your nice pot of soup?

Popovers

  • 4 Tbs. melted butter
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup 2% milk
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, and when it’s hot, stick your 12-slot muffin pan in the oven to heat up for about 5 minutes.

While the pan is heating up, mix together the slightly beaten eggs with the milk, and mix in the flour and salt. Don’t worry if there are some small lumps in the batter.

Take the hot pan out of the oven and brush it with the melted butter. You’ll use up all the butter to do this. Then very quickly fill each hole with about 2/3 cup of the batter. Do this quickly so that the pan doesn’t cool down, and then put it back in the oven.

Bake for 35 mins. Serve hot!

Orange Peel Fruit Bowls

Blackberries, strawberries and oranges served in an orange peel.

Today I saw a picture of a Waldorf salad served in a hollowed out apple and was inspired to create mini fruit arrangements for dinner. I’ve made large center piece fruit arrangements many times, but never individual ones. These were quick and simple to make, beautiful, and gave our Thursday night supper a festive feel.

Cookies Two Ways

Joe shows off his bedtime snack.

This is the best chocolate chip cookie recipe I’ve ever used. It’s a peanut butter chocolate chip cookie recipe, and makes a chewy on the inside, crisp on the outside cookie that rivals any you might consider buying at the bakery in the mall. You can choose to make them bakery-large, by using a 1/4 cup to measure out each cookie. Or, if you prefer moderation in your caloric intake, I recommend purchasing a mini scoop. You wind up with nicely sized cookies that are uniform in size. Joe, of course, goes for the large size.

Pick up one of these small scoops at a kitchen specialty store. Drop cookies can be made quickly, and will be of uniform size.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • 1/2 c. butter
  • 1/2 c. all natural peanut butter
  • 1 c. brown sugar
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 Tbs. corn syrup
  • 2 Tbs. water
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 2-1/2 c. flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 c. chips (large, small or chunks)

Bake 375 degrees, 12 minutes, or until browned.

Pasta Two Ways

I wanted a thick rich mushroom sauce for tonight’s pasta, but knew that 2/3 of the kids wouldn’t eat it. So I made two sauces at the same time. I was able to make both sauces while the water boiled and the pasta cooked.

Portobello Mushroom Sauce

  • 3 large portobello mushroom caps, chopped
  • 2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 3 Tbs. butter
  • 1/2 cup half and half
  • 1/2 cup 1% milk
  • 1 Tbs flour

Saute the mushrooms in the butter with lots of coarsely ground black pepper, and a little salt, until soft and the liquid comes out. Stir in the cheese and flour, and then the half and half and milk, keeping the heat low and continue stirring as the cheese melts.

Alfredo Sauce

  • 4 Tbs. butter
  • 2 or 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped fine
  • 1/2 cup half and half
  • 1/2 cup 1% milk
  • 1 Tbs. flour

Saute the garlic in the butter, stir in the Parmesan cheese,  parsley and flour; then add the half and half, milk, keeping the heat low and continuing to stir as the cheese melts.

Apple-Topped Meat Loaf

I wanted a lighter sort of meat loaf, so I mixed in some ground pork with the beef, soaked some bread in apple sauce, mixed in plenty of chopped apples and onions, and the result was superb. We ate it with some roasted new potatoes and fresh green beans. A great meal.

Apple-Topped Meat Loaf

  • 1-1/2 pounds lean ground beef
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 2 medium apples, chopped
  • 4 slices whole wheat bread, soaked in 1/2 cup apple sauce and 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1 Tbs. salt
  • freshly ground pepper

This makes a huge meat loaf. Our family of six will eat it tomorrow as leftovers. Mix everything together, top with sliced apple rings, and bake at 375 degrees for about an hour, or until meat thermometer reads 160 degrees. During the last 10 minutes, if you like, you can spread on a mixture of 1/3 cup ketchup, 1 Tbs. brown sugar and 1/2 tsp. dry mustard.

Roasted new potatoes, lightly coated in olive oil, sprinkled with kosher salt and rosemary. Bake in the oven with the meat loaf, but they only take about 45 minutes.

Bharathi Shares Her Kitchen

My first attempt at Indian cooking included cholae and fried rice.

Indian food is one of my favorites, but the spices are a mystery to me. On Friday, AJ and I were invited to our friend Bharathi’s kitchen for an Indian cooking lesson. Bharathi is eager to learn some American recipes and suggested that we exchange some native recipes and cooking tips. She taught us fried rice with mint, cloves and cumin; cholae — a dish with garbanzo beans, tomatoes and about a dozen wonderful spices; and toor dal, again made with 6 or 8 lovely spices.

I love how Bharathi’s kitchen is filled with containers of legumes and, of course, spice after spice. She taught me the names of the spices, and let me hold them and smell their fragrance. Although her ingredients are somewhat different then mine, her cooking style is very much like mine. She does not measure, nor does she follow a prescribed recipe. Her cooking is a work of art, dappled with exotic spices with names like hing, amchur and chana masala.

My hand-scrawled notes with the names and procedures are a bit ragged and I was anxious to give some the recipes a try while the instructions were clear in my head, and the memory of the taste was vivid. So today, Doug and I visited the Indian grocery store and bought the ingredients, and then I made up a batch of cholae and fried rice for dinner. The spices and flavors are so complex — I’m quite beside myself that I’m learning to create with a new palette of flavors!

Do you want to learn a new cuisine? Is there someone you know who cooks something that you admire? Invite them to participate in a cooking exchange with you. Next week I plan on teaching Bharathi my brownie recipe, from scratch.

Fried Rice (Indian Style)

  • 3 c. basmati rice
  • 2 Tbs. butter
  • 2 Tbs. oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 tsp. cumin seeds
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp. ginger, minced
  • 2-3 c. mixed vegetables, frozen or finely chopped fresh
  • 8 whole cloves
  • 1 tsp. salt, or to taste
  • 6 c. water

Heat butter and oil, add onion and saute until soft. Add garlic, ginger, cloves, and cumin seeds. Stir for one minute, then add rice and stir 2-3 minutes. Add salt, vegetable and water, and cook as you normally do for rice, for about 45-50 minutes.

Cholae (a spicy, flavorful, garbanzo bean and tomato stew)

  • 1 Tbs. oil
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tsp. grated fresh ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
  • 5 c. cooked garbanzo beans
  • 1 28-oz can chopped tomatoes (use the juice as well)
  • 1 15-oz can tomato sauce
  • 1 Tbs. amchoor powder (dried mango powder)
  • 2-3 tsp. channa masala (cholae masala) seasoning
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 4 whole bay leaves

Heat oil, add onion and saute until soft. Add garlic, ginger, cholae masala, turmeric, bay leaves, tomatoes and tomato sauce. Heat over medium heat for a few minutes and then stir in garbanzo beans, amchoor, salt and a little water (to adjust consistency). Heat over low heat for 30 minutes or more.