After my Butternut Squash debacle, I was very hesitant to step back into kitchen. It must’ve been a coincidence then, when I was still recovering from killing my beloved butternut squash that my husband came home and asked me what the burning smell is. I feigned ignorance to the smell, casually saying, “Oh I was just boiling water. Nothing major.” He looked at me incredulously, with a half amused expression. Like, really. “No really, I was boiling water,” I responded. Yes, that’s right. Yours truly has managed to create smoke by boiling water. Don’t ask me how that happened—it just happened. I’m not even going to try to explain it. Or deny it. Spending time at the pumpkin patch helped me forget about it.
But I knew eventually I would have to get over my fear of burning things and start over. One day, as I was glancing at the tall bookcase in my dining room, I noticed how we have such a large collection of books, many of which are classics that I bought simply because I thought they were important to own at the time, but some are cookbooks that I purchased at antique stores and thrift shops. All these books are sitting there looking pretty without being used! I felt like Heidi from 101 Cookbooks.
Before our baby days, my husband and I would spend our afternoons together venturing into antique stores, looking for treasures. Being that it was so conveniently located in our neighborhood, we always had a great time looking for a good deal. It was one of these trips that I found a cookbook that was so amazing I knew I had to buy it right away. It’s called American Classics, and it features simple recipes that have been tested by the folks at Cooks’ Illustrated magazine. Unfortunately, it sat on my bookshelf for several years, until recently I went through my bookcase and opened it to discover a recipe for banana bread.
Now, I love banana bread and have eaten many versions of it, but I’ve never found a recipe that was so easy to follow with useful tips and one that I managed NOT to burn! (In my world, burning things is quite common). In any case, I set the book aside and told myself to make the banana bread immediately. But with having a full time job and a baby, the last thing I want to do after coming home from work is bake. It wasn’t until one day when I had the day off from work, and my brain was in full wake mode that I woke up an hour earlier than usual, did chores around the house, and later on proceeded to make this bread after putting my daughter down for a nap.
Even though this is a simple banana bread recipe, I’d prefer to call it Banana Walnut Bread, for the walnuts add a nice, nutty zing to the bread, making it soft and crunchy at the same time. If you don’t have the dark, speckled bananas, you can use semi-ripe ones like I did, just make sure you mash well, and they will turn out just fine.
By sheer coincidence, on the same day, as I was going through my fridge, I discovered the box of Rice Dreams milk that was intended for my Butternut Squash & Macaroni Casserole disaster still in the fridge. I picked it up and saw a recipe on the side of this box, and figured since I had all the ingredients for this smoothie, I went ahead and made it. This smoothie was by far a nice surprise. I knew it was a keeper when after drinking a glass of this smoothie, I wanted to make it again…and again…and again! I call this smoothie my “Husband-approved” afternoon smoothie. He asked me to make again after getting a taste of it (!). I was so excited about discovering these two recipes that I feel like I must share with you!
Adapted from American Classics *my copy is no longer available; however, this version would be the closest twin*
Yields one 9 inch loaf
*Greasing and flouring only the bottom of a regular loaf pan causes the bread to cling to the sides and rise higher. If using a nonstick pan, on which sides are very slick, grease and flour the sides as well as the bottom. Either way, use a loaf pan that measures 9 inches long, 5 inches across, and 3 inches deep.
2 cups (10 oz.) unbleached all purpose flour
¾ cup (5.25 oz.) sugar
¾ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
1 ¼ cup toasted walnuts, chopped coarse (about 1 cup)
3 very ripe, soft, darkly speckled large bananas, mashed well (about 1 ½ cups)
¼ cup plain yogurt
2 large eggs, beaten lightly
6 tbsp. butter, melted and cooled
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1. Adjust oven rack to the lower-middle position and pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9×5 inch loaf pan, set aside.
2. Whisk the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt and walnuts together in a large bowl, set aside.
3. Mixed the mashed bananas, yogurt, eggs, butter and vanilla with a wooden spoon in a medium bowl. Lightly fold the banana mixture into the dry ingredients with a rubber spatula until just combined and batter looks thick and chunky. Scrape the batter into the prepared loaf pan and smooth the surface with a rubber spatula.
4. Bake until loaf is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 55 minutes (for me, it was around 45 minutes). Cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack. Serve warm or a room temperature.
Pair this bread with the Anytime Fruit Cooler, serves 4
Adapted from Dream Blends Coconut, Almond and Chia Drink box
1 cup of Dream Blends Coconut, Almond & Chia drink (if you don’t have this milk, you can substitute with any Rice Dreams milk)
6 oz. frozen orange juice
1 cup frozen mixed berries (you can use any kind of frozen berries, I used blueberries)
½ cup brown sugar
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
2 cups of ice cubes
Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.
*OPTIONAL* Garnish with a sprig of mint, and enjoy!