In My Kitchen: Banana Saturday

Spring is supposed to be here.  60-70 degree weather, outdoors, windows open.  Nothing puts a damper in my springtime mood than snow! Indoors and looking around my kitchen, what to do?  Clean? Uh…  well I suppose cleaning out the fridge and pantry might count, right?

Ripe bananas  = banana bread.

This is probably the simplest recipe I could find for banana bread off of the epicurious website.  It’s a great basic recipe that you can doctor up with added ingredients like chocolate or peanut butter chips. I tried using wheat flour and thought it came out a little too “germy” for my taste.  The rest of the family seemed to like it.  It’s a good, moist recipe, but to satisfy my tastes, I think next time, I’ll try doing a 50/50 blend of wheat and regular flour rather than 100% wheat.  Plus, I like my banana bread really sweet, so I’m thinking I’ll try adding more bananas than called for to see how it goes.

Dubbed as Aunt Holly’s Banana Bread.  I don’t have an Aunt Holly, but I’ll gladly adopt the one who came up with this recipe! 🙂

Ingredients:

  • 3 to 4 ripe bananas
  • 1/4 c melted butter
  • 1 c sugar
  • 1 1/2 c flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 egg beaten
  • 1 tsp baking soda

 

 

Optional:
chocolate chips
peanut butter chips
nuts of your choice

 

 

 

Preheat oven to 350F. Mash the bananas in a bowl. Add all the remaining ingredients and mix well with a wooden spoon. Bake in a buttered loaf pan until a toothpick stuck into the bread comes out clean, 55 to 60 minutes. Slice and Serve.

 

Such an easy recipe!  Made the house smell fantastic and made an otherwise “boring, inside” weekend, productive!

 

 

Had to break for lunch while the bread baked... PBJ, only the best!

 

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a cola classic

I’ll have a Coke, please.

Anyone who knows me knows what a big cola drinker I am. Maybe my addiction started because all my mother could drink while she was pregnant with me was cherry coke. It was the ONLY thing she could keep down. I remember her telling me stories of when my dad would buy cherry syrup and add it to regular flavored coke. Back then they didn’t have ready-made cherry colas.
What is it about cola that makes it so good? Is it its refreshing, thirst-quenching flavor with all those invigorating tiny bubbles that tickle your nose when freshly poured? Does it have to be Coca-cola? In my humble opinion yes. Although I’ll drink Pepsi in a pinch. Maybe I’m biased. I was drinking home-made cherry cokes really early on it would seem! Or maybe it is because Coke was one of my accounts in my professional days – a perfect match in my opinion given my personal history.  It really was one of my favorite accounts to work on. Of course, as a vendor, we didn’t do the complete cola flavor. No, that’s a trade secret kept under lock and key. But there is a lot out there where you can learn about the history of Coke or Pepsi without having to know its trade secrets. Surprisingly, I learned that colas are citrus based. I suppose it’s the caramel color that throws me off. It was originally used for medicinal purposes. Perhaps that’s part of the reason for the caffeine. Although, despite some advocates who want to remove or reduce the caffeine for health and nutritional purposes, doing such things would change the beloved flavor profile. I know. Playing around in the lab, one could come close to duplicating the nuances of either of the “Big 2” cola flavors. But to come up with an exact match to either Coke or Pepsi, well that’s more challenging if not impossible. Coke or Pepsi drinkers, such as myself are pretty picky about their drink. If not the case, then making minor revisions to the flavors for either cost savings or to try something new wouldn’t be such a stomach-wrenching ordeal. Remember the New Coke? I was one of those loyal addicted drinkers who took a sip and thought, what happened? How did this new flavor pass triangle? As we all know, New Coke didn’t last too long. They went back to the tried and true and all was right with the world again! Even so, Coke Zero or any of the diet colas are not an exact to the original fully-leaded versions. However these drinkers are willing to make the slight concession in flavor change for the benefit of no calories. I get it.
So in my travels what are some of the unusual things I have come across with colas? In the South, boiled peanuts accompany the effervescent drink… either side by side or actually in the drink. I like boiled peanuts, but I don’t drink and chew them at the same time. That’s just me. My cousins once told me that some people use it as a sun tanning lotion. Really? That would be pretty sticky… not to mention attract every bee in town! I’ve cooked with it plenty. Ever make “beer chicken”? Instead of beer, I’ve used Coke, Sprite and even A&W root beer. Each in their own right offers slight distinctions in flavor to the chicken. Try it sometime! I can only wonder what other creative uses there are for one of my all-time favorite beverages!

Dining on the Road: Scottsdale

On a recent trip to Scottsdale, Arizona I found myself without my camera. Oh no! Not to worry, I figure I’ll try out the camera on my iPhone. Now I still have the iPhone 3GS version. Still a pretty good camera though – impressive.  I’ve heard the iPhone 4 camera is amazing.  Anyway, we found this cute little cafe in Old Towne Scottsdale across from Nordstroms. What a treat! First off, love that there are soooo many non-chain restauranteurs in Scottsdale. Not that McDonalds, Chipotle or Five Guy Burgers aren’t any good.  Those are some of my staples when I’m on the run.  I just enjoy dining at unique little eateries to see what local chefs and bakers are coming up with these days. For lunch, I ordered a curry chicken salad with golden plump sun raisins. Very fresh, very good – nice blend of sweetness and curry spice. Great texture! Tender chicken coupled with the crisp crunch of greens and toasted almond slivers.  And of course, I had to wash it down with a Mexican Coca-cola. My hubby ordered a chicken panini. I would have taken a pic, but by the time I remembered, he’d already scarfed down most of it. He did save me a bite. Tender grilled chicken, melted cheese, roasted red peppers and onions with some kind of aoili sauce all on a toasted, grill marks and all, sourdough bread. Now I know why it was gone so fast. To finish our meal, we split a coconut caramel cookie bar with the biggest dark chocolate chips I’d ever seen, nestled throughout. Quite the treat!

Chicken Curry Salad, Golden Sun Raisins and Toasted Almonds

 

What’s my Focus?

On a recent critique of the photos I had taken of my youngest daughter, a photographer mentioned that my choice of light was good but that I needed to focus on my subject more. He proceeded to point out in several of my photos where I had done a nice job of focusing on my daughter by simply blurring out the background. Huh? Upon closer examination, I see his point. In the pictures where my subject is the only thing in focus, her image just “pops” out at you. The blurred background offers no distraction to my main subject. In food photography, thumbing through other people’s work, I noticed that many shots have a short depth of field. Meaning, that the food item is the only item in focus while all else behind it is blurred out. It makes for an “artsy” feel and gastronomically draws the viewer into the dish. So I decided to take some classes to officially learn the fundamentals of my camera and how to gain the effect I want on purpose rather than by accident or luck – mind you… neither of those hurt to have! I shoot with a Sony α100 digital camera. Why Sony and not Cannon or Nikon? Frankly it’s because my brother-in-law had given me his old Minolta with various lenses and Minolta lenses fit Sony camera bodies. I LOVE my camera and I imagine Sony must be on their umpteenth version by now. (Note to self: add to my wish list the Sony a33). As luck would have it, the store I purchased my camera from offers a curriculum of photography classes free with purchase.  The classes are basic and practical. In them, I learned how to adjust the depth of field, what ISO and Aperture means, and what all those funny little A, P, M and so on settings are on my camera.  They taught me how to set my camera on continuous shooting and gave me recommendations for shooting in low or bright light.  I learned what light flares are! I must say that coming away from the classes, I have a greater appreciation for my camera, lenses and simply the art of photography!  Armed with my new found knowledge of the basic principles, now all that’s left is to practice, practice, practice! Which I’m more than happy to do! 🙂

I had to add this one! My 9 y/o arranged the food and shot this pic herself. It's her masterpiece!