Going Bananas!

banana bread

Surely not the prettiest things ever, those bananas sitting on the counter or hanging on the hook.  Often they are more brown than yellow, covered in “banana freckles” and looking more like an object headed for the trash than a tropical fruit.  However, put them in your fridge and save them until you have time to bake them into Banana Bread, and they take on a whole, delicious new meaning!

banana bread recipe

For those of you who might be new to my blog (and THANK YOU! for following), I love my cookbooks and regularly grab one that I feature for the week.  This week it happens to be A Taste of Georgia, an award winning cookbook from the Junior League of Newnan, Georgia.  While not all of the recipes in Junior League cookbooks will challenge your culinary chops, they do lend tried and true recipes that often are local area favorites.  What makes this book so special to me is that it came from a dear friend when she moved away from Winston-Salem, and in it she wrote: “Here is a ‘Taste of Georgia’, thanking you for all of the tastes of Winston-Salem that you have shown me.” 

Like a good friend, recipes that you turn to over and over should be cherished, and I wanted to share this very simple but delicious recipe for Banana Bread that I made yesterday.  Enjoy, the best of food and life, and all the tasty treats baking in your kitchen!

Taste of Georgia

Banana Bread

1 stick butter                                    2 cups flour

1 cup sugar                                      1/2 teaspoon soda

2 eggs                                                1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 bananas, mashed                         1 cup nuts (optional)

Cream butter and sugar together.  Add eggs and beat well.  Add mashed bananas, flour, soda, vanilla, and nuts.  Grease and flour 1 large or 2 small loaf pans.  Pour dough into pan.  Bake for 1 hour or until brown and cooked through, at 300.

*My note: I like to mash bananas by putting them in a separate bowl and using a fork to mash each one until they are all mushed up…a great way to have your kids or grandkids help you out!

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Skeleton Keys

marion's Birdbath

Where do I begin this post?  It isn’t often I am at a loss of words, but the news of a dear friend and neighbor who died over the night has me feeling a different perspective today.  How do you sum up the magnitude of her life, such a woman ahead of her time.  She graduated college, had a career, married but never had children, and was a huge philanthropist for the arts, specifically music at Wake Forest University.  Maybe this makes more sense for me to mention that she was 107 years of age, so during her time most women were simply not doing all these things.

When we moved into our house she was already in her 90’s and still driving.  Driving I say loosely, she would amazingly back her car out of her narrow driveway once a week, on Sundays during church when the roads were quiet.  She was fiercely independent, brilliant and sharp as a tack until her last breath, and a phenomenal duplicate bridge player.  I wouldn’t be surprised to find out she had a bridge game last week, and chances are she won.

Marion pretty much outlived most of her family and many friends, and over the years we really enjoyed having her next door.  She always remembered the exact dates and ages of my children.  I will never forget her coming to the first Oyster Roast we had here, and she arrived with her handbag over her arm.  She joined us for many Holidays, and her stories at the Thanksgiving Table were always such a welcome addition.  One year we lost power and she stayed with us during the worst ice storm we have had.  She even adopted one of our cats, Wilbur, who was her very dear companion until she finally had to move to assisted living for the last few years.  We always put our Christmas Tree in our sunroom, as after the first year we lived here I would see her looking at its sparkly lights every night, and for her to later tell me how much she enjoyed our tree.  She cleaned out her attic garage one year, and kindly brought over a box of some of her Christmas things.  There are so many more stories and things to share about her, catch me one day and I can tell you more.  Marion loved to eat, but she did not love to cook.  Since she moved away there are very few meals I don’t think about her, as she was always the recipient of our dinners, too.  These memories I will cherish forever.

Marion Secrest, amazing woman, amazing friend.  Her birthday is the day before mine, and celebrating her birthday was a gift in itself to me.  Many years ago she gave me the key to her house.  There are probably very few people who still have skeleton keys to their homes, and I cherish it.  Thank you for allowing me to share her with you.  And thank you Marion, for helping me to enjoy the best of life by knowing you.  In sweet memory of you…

Skeleton key

Harvest Moon…

Can you feel it?  The change in the air, the difference in the sunlight in the afternoon, all the signs Fall is arriving.  There are so many things that bring me true joy, and Fall is definitely one of them.  Along with the colorful leaves, football games and tailgates, apples and pumpkins, there are so many glorious fall foods to savor!  This week I had some leftover apples, and instead of letting them rot, I peeled and sliced them into a covered dish.  Next I sprinkled them with brown sugar, cinnamon and butter, water to cover the bottom barely, and baked them in the oven for about an hour or more on 350.  I would give you a better recipe than that if I could, but in a way it will be good for some of you to go play with your food in that manner.  Along with cinnamon apples, you will find me making a lot of soups and stews, decorating with pumpkins on the table and taking the chill off in the upcoming weeks by a roaring fire, hopefully.

These days, we don’t have to rely on Fall Harvest moons to gather our crops during the night, a last reminder to farmers in days gone by that daylight was about to change, as well as the temperatures.  But we still need it, even if we don’t rely on it.  Yes, it is much easier to use the flashlight on your I-Phone, but if the clouds aren’t too thick go check out this gorgeous moon tonight or tomorrow night.  If you are looking for another fun Fall thing to do, consider taking the “everything Pumpkin” cooking class I will be doing at Southern Home & Kitchen.  This class is a fun Fall sampler of one of the most popular ingredients- pumpkins and Fall squash.  Spiced pumpkin muffins, creamy butternut squash soup with crème fraiche and chives, sweet potato biscuits…who knows what other surprise will be waiting!  Call 336-777.3660 to reserve a spot.

As I close, I thought I would leave you with one of my Family Fall Favorite menu’s, I hope it helps give you some inspiration if you’re wondering what to serve for dinner…enjoy!

Grilled Herb Dijon Pork Tenderloin

Parmesan Orzo Risotto

Cinnamon Baked Apples as mentioned above 

(shortcuts are fine here, such as applesauce, but you’ll have fun if you make it)

Buttered Peas

Glass of pinot noir, but you must be 21, otherwise sweet tea!

Live hard, love hard, eat well.

A strange thing happened tonight, especially for a Monday.  I sat down, glass of cabernet in hand, and watched the evening news.  Alone.  To start, I am usually running a carpool or making dinner, and I never see the evening news, much less know what current events are going on around me.  Second, sitting down for thirty minutes straight only happens if I am driving to Greensboro, or further.  But today I was in the kitchen until 4:00 pm, the kids went home with friends and then straight to soccer this evening.  After a very busy but great weekend, this is like a mini-vacation.  They are not home yet, but that door will be creaking any moment as I type furiously with my thoughts in mind.

So I am watching the news and you know how the ending segment can sometimes choke you up when they do the life stories?  Well, it did tonight.  Maybe it was just the calming effect of sitting, or the wine, but once again I was choked up and overwhelmed with the feeling of how great living, yes just living, life can be.  So easy to take for granted, so easy to feel like our days could be better sometimes, so many things to do.  Yet, life is short, and each day we are ALL doing so much living.

Our church bulletin recently sent out a great newsletter, and the theme of the upcoming year is “Are you hungry?”  Regardless of your religious persuasions, isn’t that beautiful?  Shouldn’t we all be hungry?  Hungry for life, hungry for the love of our family, our friends, all that is blooming around us?  And yes, of course, hungry for good food that feeds our body and soul.  Food that nourishes because it is shared together, around a table, with family or friends, simply shared.  Hungry just to be here now, in the moment, soaking it all in, and knowing that this is life- today.  As one of my favorite songs says, “Today is the first day of the rest of my life.  I’m alive, and well.”  With credit to a great duo between Kenny Chesney and Dave Matthews, more amazing words could not be sung.

Feed your soul.  I challenge you to feed your soul today, and then again tomorrow, and the next day…give yourself that nourishment, and share it with others.  Life is short.  Live hard, love hard, eat well.  Enjoy the best of food and life.

Yo, yo sloppy joe!

Just a quick little blurp here with an easy recipe to follow.  This afternoon was one of those days where I didn’t have anything planned for dinner.  I had been in the kitchen all day, and while I always have a lot of food, sometimes it just isn’t turned into a meal yet.  Such was the case this afternoon at 4:00 while we were doing homework and thinking about our next move.  With lacrosse until 7:00, I knew it needed to be easy.  A quick glance in the fridge and pantry, then 30 minutes later a yummy batch of sloppy joe’s was born.  We had Sloppy Joe Hoagies, using up some hoagie rolls we had on hand, and made the meal complete with fruit salad.  I hope this helps you out in a pinch on a busy afternoon, there is nothing wrong with a delicious sloppy joe, and this homemade version is “1,2,3 easy peasy” and a lot better tasting than the can!  Enjoy…

Juju’s Sloppy Joe Sauce

 Ingredients

  •  1 lb  ground beef (bison or ground turkey can be substituted)
  • 1/2 c  chopped green pepper
  • 1/2 c  chopped onion
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 1 Tbsp  brown sugar
  • 1 tsp  mustard
  • 1/2 c  ketchup
  • 1 Tbsp  white vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp  worchestershire sauce
  • 1 8oz can tomato sauce (or, tonight I used leftover marinara sauce I had in the fridge instead)
  • Water to make it your preferred consistency…some like it thick and some like it saucy!

 

Directions:

1 Brown ground beef in large sauce pot or skillet with pepper and onion. Drain grease.

2 Add all other ingredients, mix well. Cover, and simmer for 20 minutes.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

3 That’s it!  Serve it up on some Martins’ party rolls for great sliders, or hamburgers buns, or on hoagie rolls for a sloppy joe sub!

The honey pot…

“If you really want to make a friend, go to someone’s house and eat with him…the people who give you their food give you their heart” -Cesar Chavez  

I’m quickly inspired by quotes and writing, like the one quoted above.  After sharing a fun night with friends and good food, plus some awesome college football sponsored by the Clemson Tigers, it just seemed the perfect Sunday morning post.  Cooking is a labor of love.  For many, the key word in that last sentence is labor, and that’s ok!  But for a few hundred years now, we as people have had a tradition of breaking bread together no matter where we live, what language we speak, or if that bread is shared in an adobe, mansion, or pagoda.

It strikes me all the time, simple little things that make each day better, like the quote. Or, the other day it was my honey pot.  Small, yellow, with a unique little shape, I love my Le Creuset honey pot.  Every now and then when the honey is used up and it’s washed clean and the sticky goes away, it’s like a new little invention.  Smooth, golden honey flows back in, ready to top buttered biscuits and spread joy around the table.

Honey pot on my windowsill...

Honey pot on my windowsill…

You might be inspired, you might be rolling your eyes, but either way I hope you find your own honey pot.  Find it, share it, and as the bumper sticker says “Don’t postpone joy.”  Enjoy, the best of food and life.

Biscuits with Butter and Honey

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon white sugar

1/3 cup shortening

1 cup milk

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C).

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Cut in the shortening until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Gradually stir in milk until dough pulls away from the side of the bowl.
  2. Turn out onto a floured surface, and knead 15 to 20 times. Pat or roll dough out to 1 inch thick. Cut biscuits with a large cutter or juice glass dipped in flour. Repeat until all dough is used. Brush off the excess flour, and place biscuits onto an ungreased baking sheet.
  3. Bake for 13 to 15 minutes in the preheated oven, or until edges begin to brown.

Split in half and spread with butter, drizzle with honey and enjoy.

Fun fact: I only refrigerate butter after I buy it and until I’m ready to use it.  I keep me butter out, softened, and in a covered butter dish all day, ready to use anytime.