Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Yummy banana nut bread

I couldn’t resist a bag of ripe bananas on a discount rack at my grocery store Saturday morning. The bag of eight bananas cost just over a dollar. I immediately had a vision of loaves of banana nut bread!

I’ve loved banana nut bread for years, thanks to my mom’s great recipe, and have made it many, many times. I’ve used Mama’s recipe and another one I discovered as a newlywed. When I’m in a hurry, I make banana nut muffins because the cooking time is so much shorter.

I had planned on making two loaves of banana nut bread as soon as we got home from our shopping trip but got very discouraged when I realized I hadn’t purchased the buttermilk needed in my go-to recipe. I’ve made buttermilk substitute before with milk and vinegar, but it’s just not the same flavor.

On a normal day, I would have jumped in the car and headed back to the grocery store. We live about a mile from the closest one. But thanks to my tumble six weeks before and the resulting ankle fracture, I still can’t drive. (Can you hear me screaming in frustration??) I didn’t want to ask my husband to take me because he had his own chores going.

So I pulled out my church’s new cookbook and also read a few recipes online and came up with my own adapted version.

The recipe I made yields two loaves of bread, which is what I wanted. I cut back on the butter that I saw in many recipes and lowered the sugar a little as well, choosing to use both granulated and brown sugar. I also finely chopped 11/2 cups of pecans (instead of the 2 cups I would have normally used) so they would distribute better in my bread.

I saw several recipes that included cinnamon, but I didn’t want that this time.

The bottom line, for me, is how can you go wrong with almost any version of banana nut bread that is packed with the flavor of butter, nuts and bananas, of course?

This bread was very dense and moist. We loved it warm from the oven, and we loved it later as it cooled. I like to warm the bread the next day in the toaster oven to get little bits of toasted and browned bread. It is so delicious!

Banana Nut Bread
  • 1 1/2 sticks butter
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups mashed ripe bananas (about 4 medium to large)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups self-rising flour
  • 1 1/2 cups pecans, finely chopped
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cream butter and sugars until combined. Add in eggs and beat for about 1 minute until light and fluffy. Stir in mashed bananas and vanilla. Add flour and nuts. Pour into two loaf pans that have been prepared with baking spray.

Bake at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes. Check around 40 minutes to make sure it’s not browning too much. At the 40 minute mark, I turned down the oven to 325 and baked for another 10 minutes. Use toothpick to check if bread is done in the middle.

Let cool in pans for about 10 minutes. Remove to wire rack and wrap in aluminum foil while still very warm.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Simple back-to-school treat

There’s something about fall and the beginning of a new school year that makes us think of fresh starts. A new box of crayons, new jeans and shoes, a new dance class or soccer team.

For the cook in the family, it means thinking once more of early morning breakfasts the kids can eat in a hurry (that’s my house at least) and something to fill the lunch box and kids’ tummies!

I always look back to my own school days and remember how Mama froze pimiento cheese sandwiches on white bread, cut in half and wrapped in foil. I’d take half a sandwich to school for snack, all thawed and ready for me when it was time for morning snack in my classroom at Vinson-Bynum School. I still remember the taste of that cold pimiento cheese Daddy probably made. Yum!

I never did that specific thing for my children, but I did many things to make the snacks or lunches they took to school more appetizing. Don’t get me wrong; there were plenty of days they took a peanut butter sandwich and a snack bag of whatever convenience food we had on hand. But there were also days they took homemade granola bars, muffins or trail mix. Sunday evenings were usually my time to cook these treats for the week. I felt such a sense of accomplishment to have a pasta salad ready for Anna’s Thermos or ham and cheese muffins for Robert’s breakfast.

My younger child is in college now, and her brother has graduated and started a career. But when I saw a recipe recently for peanut butter muffins, I immediately thought about how perfect it would be for either breakfast on the go or in lunch box (if there are no peanut allergies to contend with!)

I ran across the recipe one afternoon while reading through some old magazines. This recipe was from a 1998 issue of Quick Cooking.

I had all of the ingredients for this simple recipe, so I made it, with only minor changes. The main thing I did was add a handful of chocolate chips to half the batter. I left the other plain. Both versions are very good, but I know my husband and I preferred the ones with chocolate chips!

I really liked these simple muffins. Next time I make them, I’ll probably make them with a mix of whole wheat and plain flour, and I will definitely put chocolate chips in all of them, or maybe a mix of chocolate and peanut butter chips.

These muffins are delicious straight out of the oven while they are still warm. But when you eat them the next day, pop them in the microwave for maybe 10-15 seconds, just long enough to warm those chocolate chips!

Peanut Butter Muffins
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 3 tablespoons cold butter, divided
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • Cinnamon-sugar
  • Jelly, optional
In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Cut in peanut butter and 2 tablespoons butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Beat the eggs and milk; stir into the dry ingredients just until moistened. Fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups two-thirds full.

Bake at 400 degrees for 15-17 minutes or until muffins test done. Melt remaining butter; brush over the tops of muffins. Sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar. Cool for 10 minutes; remove to a wire rack. Serve with jelly if desired. Yield: 1 dozen.

Nutritional facts: 1 serving (1 each) equals 221 calories, 10 g fat (4 g saturated fat), 46 mg cholesterol, 298 mg sodium, 27 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, 7 g protein.

Quick Cooking

* I used self-rising flour and omitted the baking powder and salt; next time I will work in whole wheat flour. I also added a few chocolate chips and used a combination of brown sugar and granulated sugar. I didn’t add the cinnamon sugar and butter to the top of my muffins.