Whole Wheat Banana Bread

Taken from the classic Sunset Cookbook of Breads, I’ve used this recipe for nearly my entire life.

1/2 cup butter, melted
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup mashed bananas (about 3 medium bananas)
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon soda
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup hot water
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

In large mixing bowl, place melted butter and sugar. Using paddle beater, mix until blended and no sugar crystals are apparent. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing until blended. Add mashed bananas.

In separate bowl, or measuring cup, measure the whole-wheat flour, salt and soda, stirring to combine. Add to banana mixture, blending well. Don’t overmix, though.

Add the 1/3 cup hot water, mixing well.

Add in remaining flour, until just barely blended, then add chopped nuts.

Pour into greased 9″ loaf pan, then adorn the top with three walnut halves. Bake for 325 for 1 hour 10 minutes, testing to check for doneness with toothpick. Turn out onto cooling rack, and don’t cut until nearly completely cool, if you can wait that long (about an hour).

Banana-Miso Bread with Pecans

Intrigued by the ingredient list in this New York Times recipe (miso?), I wanted to try it. Roasting the pecans is the first step, and I resolve to come back to this and just roast some for snacking. My first hurdle: not enough banana (I measured mine).

In the notes someone had mentioned that his grandmother baked her bananas in order to get enough for a recipe. So while the oven was preheating, I took a mostly unripe banana, placed it on some parchment paper and put it in the oven. I took it out after 10 minutes, but it could have used another ten, I think. It was hot to the touch, and most all of the banana was soft enough for mushing, which I did.

After the nuts were roasted, I just lifted over the parchment paper to the cutting board, and chopped on that. E-Z Cleen-Up!

Another commenter lined their pan with a length of parchment paper, oiling it before putting down and then a light brush of oil on the bottom after it was set in. They said it was helpful to have “handles” to get the bread out, so all the chopped pecans on the top didn’t fall off. I used fine sea salt, and organic mellow while miso (mild); I’m showing this as some mentioned that their bread was salty. Ours wasn’t. I also added more pecans, subbed in some whole wheat flour.

Last changes: I added more nuts; scoop off 1/2 cup for the top, and the rest (plus salt) go into the loaf. I also cut back on the banana. This makes one loaf.

Ingredients
½ teaspoon vegetable oil, plus more for pan
1 1/2 cups pecans
1 teaspoon fine sea or table salt
1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
1 1/2 cups white flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ cup butter, at room temperature
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
3 tablespoons milk
2 tablespoons white miso (measure exactly)
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3-4 very ripe bananas, mashed (1 1/2 cups) If you are slightly below the measure, add a bit of water to bring it to 1 1/2 cups.

Preparation

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly oil a 9- or 10-inch loaf tin, then line the base with length of parchment paper, letting the edges extend over the sides of pan to serve as handles.
  2. Toss pecans on a parchment-lined baking sheet with salt and oil. Bake until fragrant, 7 to 10 minutes. When cool, chop coarsely
  3. While the pecans cool, whisk together flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda and baking powder in a medium bowl.
  4. In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar using an electric mixer until creamy, 3 to 4 minutes. Beat in eggs, milk, miso, honey and vanilla extract until well-combined. Gradually beat in dry ingredients until just combined.
  5. Using a spatula, stir bananas into the batter to combine evenly. Add half of the pecans (and any salt on the pan) to the batter and mix to combine evenly throughout. Add batter to the loaf pan, smoothing when complete. Sprinkle the remaining pecans evenly on top.
  6. Bake until a wooden skewer inserted in several areas around the center comes out clean, 1 hour to 1 hour 20 minutes. Tent with foil if it starts to darken too much on top before the middle is baked through. Check often after 1 hour; time to cook will be variable.
  7. Let bread sit in tin for 10 minutes before removing. Set on a rack to cool for 60 minutes before slicing.

Last thoughts: We found this bread to be rather dense the first time around, so made the changes I suggested. I think I still prefer my regular banana bread, but am thinking about how to combine those salty chopped pecans into my standard recipe.

Revised: Tiny Vanilla Cake

Perfect for two!

Revised Small Vanilla Cake
(I already published the original, but we’ve made so many changes, I thought I would post them here.)

Preheat oven to 350F.  Butter/grease the bottom and sides of your 6″ springform pan.  Cut out a parchment circle for the bottom, place in in the pan, then butter it again.  Dust lightly with flour, tapping out excess.

Ingredients

1 stick (8 Tablespoons) real butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons pure vanilla extract
2 eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup buttermilk

Glaze Ingredients:
1/2 cup powdered sugar, plus more if needed
3 Tbls fresh lemon juice

Make:
Stir together the 1/2 cup flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

Place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with a paddle beater.  Beat the butter on medium speed for 30 seconds, then gradually add the sugar.  Continue beating on medium speed for another 4 minutes, scraping the bowl at the halfway point, until it is light in color and fluffy.

Add vanilla extract and beat until combined.  With the mixer on, gradually add the eggs, one at a time, making sure they are well blended into the mixture.  Williams notes: “if the batter curdles, add 1-2 Tablespoons of the flour mixture to bind it back together.”  (I had that problem only once.)

Alternate adding dry ingredients with the milk: first add the reserved dry ingredients to the butter mixture, then the 1/4 cup buttermilk (approx).  Add another 1/2 cup flour, then the remainder of the buttermilk.  End by adding the rest of the flour, but don’t overbeat.  Scrape down sides and bottom of the bowl, blending well.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.  Bake in the center of the oven for 55 minutes, checking after 50.  If you like a lighter colored cake, cover with tin foil after 30 minutes.  Check for doneness when a wooden toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, and it bounces back after lightly tapping it.

Let stand for 10 minutes on a cooling rack.  Release the springform pan ring (run a knife around the inside of the pan, if needed) and remove.  Turn cake over, and remove both the pan bottom and the parchment, then return it to the cooling rack, right-side up.

Add the lemon juice to the powdered sugar, and whisk together, getting rid of any lumps.  The glaze should be on the thick side.  If needed add more powdered sugar, 1/4 cup at a time, whisking well after each addition.

Glaze now, while it is still warm, pouring the glaze on the top, and letting it slowly drip down the sides. It helps to put a sheet of waxed paper underneath the rack and the cake to catch any drips.

Buttermilk Waffles

The original source of this recipe was Joy of Cooking cookbook, given to me for a belated wedding gift in 1975. I probably made these waffles every week of my life when my children were growing up.

Buttermilk Waffles

Mix together:
2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon soda
1 1/3 teaspoons double-acting baking powder
1 Tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt.

In a separate bowl, beat until light:
2 egg yolks
Add and beat
1 3/4 cups buttermilk
6 Tablespoons melted butter

Combine the liquid and the dry ingredients with a few swift strokes (by hand).

In a separate bowl, beat until stiff, but not dry:
2 egg whites
Fold them into the batter.

Pour batter in a preheated waffle iron, covering the surface about 2/3 full. Bake for about 4 minutes, or until the steam has stopped emerging from the crack of the iron. If you try to lift the top of the iron and the top shows resistance, it probably means the waffle is not quite done. Wait another minute and try again. (Sometimes a fork can be useful to help loosen that top iron from the waffle.)

I like to sprinkle chopped walnuts on top of the waffle before closing the iron. Serve with warmed REAL maple syrup.

NOTE: The cookbook says “You may think our waffle recipes heavy in fat. But the richer the waffle dough, the crisper it becomes. With the butter flavor baked in, there is no reason to ladle butter on top….Since waffles are made from a batter, keep them tender by not overbeating or overmixing the dough.”

If you find that your waffle continually sticks, brush a small amount of shortening on the grids. A well-seasoned waffle iron doesn’t usually require more grease or oil.

Mom’s Dinner Rolls

My ancient recipe card with my mother’s recipe says it came from Judy Caldwell, who must have been one of her friends. I’ve modified it since, not only to cut down on the sugar, but also to make it easier to mix.

To shape crescents, divide dough in half and roll into a circle. Cut into 12-16 slices, and roll up from the bottom. I also brushed a bit of melted butter on the tops when they came out of the oven.

Dinner Rolls, from Barbara Sessions

1/4 cup lukewarm water
1 package dry yeast
1 cup milk
1 stick REAL butter
2 eggs
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
4 1/2 cups flour
Optional: 2 Tbls. melted butter to brush on top

In a mixing bowl, place 1/4 cup lukewarm water (110-115 F). Sprinkle one package of dry yeast over the top, or 2 1/4 teaspoons, if measuring from bulk. Let sit until yeast blooms and softens.

Meanwhile, measure 1 cup whole milk in a glass measuring cup. Add 1 stick real butter, cut into pieces. Microwave until warm (no hotter than 115; let sit until cool if it measures too warm). Pour lukewarm milk/butter mixture into bowl with yeast.

Add 2 eggs, mix. Add 1/4 cup sugar and 1 teaspoon salt. Mix.

Add 1 1/2 cups flour and mix; then add the rest of the flour in batches, but letting it remain sticky. I switched to a dough hook when I had 3 1/2 cups in, and added flour until the dough cleaned the bowl. Don’t overmix, and don’t add extra flour.

Remove beaters and cover dough with plastic wrap. Let it rise until double (about an hour). Divide into two, and on floured surface, roll out and shape (see note, above, for crescent rolls). Let rise.

Bake 12 minutes in a preheated 400 F degree oven. When rolls come out of the oven, brush tops with a small amount of melted butter.

Fall Corn Chowder

Thanksgiving 2022 was spent at my daughter’s home in a small town in Arizona. While we were there, two farm-to-table brown paper sacks were dropped off. I thought it was like Christmas with all this fresh produce from Rosebud Farms: pomegranates, red potatoes, cilantro, fresh baby greens, apples and several perfectly small ears of corn — baby corn. We served a salad that night with the fresh greens and arils, as earlier that afternoon I’d taught the charming granddaughter how to cut and submerge the pomegranate to pull out the tiny bits of red without getting it all over her.

As we were leaving the next morning, my daughter graciously gifted me the small ears of corn. We drove across the Mohave/Mojave, unpacked, and tired that night, I wanted something easy for dinner: Corn Chowder with fresh tender kernels of corn.

Fall Corn Chowder
4-5 small ears of corn, shucked, sliced off the cob (about 3 cups)**
2 slices of maple bacon, cut into small pieces
4 white rose potatoes, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/2 large onion (or 1 small onion) finely chopped
1/2 red or yellow pepper, finely chopped
1/4 cup flour
approximately 6 cups chicken broth (three 14-oz cans), divided
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
pinch of red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste

  1. In a medium saucepan, place the potatoes, covering with about 3 cups of chicken broth. You just want to cover the potatoes. The other chicken brother will be used later. Bring to a boil, then let simmer while you start the soup.
  2. In a heavy soup pot, cook the bacon, stirring to separate, but pulling just before it gets too brown. Remove bacon to drain on a plate topped with paper towels.
  3. To the bacon grease, add the onion and the pepper, and sauté until tender, without letting it burn or get brown.
  4. Sprinkle the flour over the top of the vegetables. We’ll be making a type of roux, where you cook the rendered fat from the bacon with flour, to take out the floury taste of the thickener. Stir, and add salt and pepper. It will thicken up really quickly.
  5. Using about 1/4 cup of reserved chicken broth at a time, add to the roux and vegetables. The first batch will be absorbed quickly. Add some more. And more, until you start to have a thickened paste.
  6. Check the potatoes for doneness, then pour the entire pan (potatoes and hot broth) into the soup pot, stirring all the while. It should separate, then thicken back again.
  7. Add more chicken broth until you like the consistency (I used all 6 cups), and simmer on low while you add:
    • cut corn
    • pinch of red pepper flakes
    • 1/2 teaspoon celery seed
    • salt and pepper to taste
  8. Serve when corn is tender but still has some bit to it. We like to grind more pepper over the top, and sprinkle it with soup crackers.

**NOTE: If you are using summer corn, go for the most tender ears you can find, or cut back on the amount of corn to 2 1/2 cups or thereabouts.

Crispy Grains and Halloumi With Smashed Cucumbers

Since I cook a lot from the New York Times Cooking website, I get to know writers who make recipes that we’ll like. One of those is Ali Slagle, who introduced us to halloumi, a low-lactose cheese that kind of squeaks in your mouth. We’ve grown to really like this meatless recipe.

INGREDIENTS
3 cups cooked grains (such as brown rice, wheat berries, farro or a mix), shaken or patted dry (we use brown rice)
8 to 9 ounces halloumi or feta, torn into 1/2- to 1-inch pieces
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained, rinsed and shaken dry
4 Persian or mini seedless cucumbers
Kosher salt
2 limes or lemons or 1 grapefruit
1⁄2 cup finely chopped cilantro, dill or parsley leaves and stems, or a mix
1⁄4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
1 teaspoon ground cumin or coriander
Black pepper
Sliced radishes (optional)

PREPARATION
Step 1 • Heat the broiler on high with a rack six or fewer inches from the heat source. Put the grains, halloumi and chickpeas on a sheet pan to air dry while you prepare the other ingredients. (You can do this up to a day ahead and refrigerate the sheet pan.)

Step 2 • Meanwhile, smash the cucumbers with the side of your knife until they’re craggy and split. Coarsely chop into irregular 1/2-inch pieces. Transfer the cucumbers and any liquid on the cutting board to a small bowl and season with salt. Finely grate about 1 teaspoon of the citrus zest over the cucumbers, then squeeze in 3 tablespoons juice. Cut any remaining citrus into wedges for serving. Add the herbs and 1 tablespoon olive oil, stir to combine and set aside. (Cucumbers can be prepared up to 3 hours in advance.)

Step 3 • Add remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil and the cumin to the sheet pan. Stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper, spread in an even layer, and broil, shaking the pan occasionally or tossing with a fork, until the chickpeas start to pop and everything is crisped and golden brown, 7 to 10 minutes.

Step 4 • Serve the grain-bean mixture topped with the cucumbers and the dressing in the bowl. Season to taste with salt, pepper, citrus juice and olive oil.

Note: We have also served it with some sliced avocados.

Spicy Ginger Pork Noodles With Bok Choy

This recipe, by New York Times writer Melissa Clark, reminds us of going for dumplings; however, the shop is quite far from our home so this will have to suffice. I didn’t have any black vinegar for the final topping, so truthfully, I just left it off. In her notes, Ms. Clark says balsamic can be a substitution, although it is a bit sweeter.

INGREDIENTS:
12 ounces baby bok choy (3 or 4 small heads)
1 ounce ginger root (1 fat 2-inch- thick knob)
Kosher salt
8 ounces rice noodles, not too thin
2 tablespoons peanut or safflower oil
1 pound lean ground pork
1⁄4 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1⁄2 cup thinly sliced scallions
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 fresh Thai or habanero chile, seeded if desired, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
1 1⁄2 teaspoons sesame oil, more for drizzling
Cilantro or torn basil, for serving Black vinegar, for serving

PREPARATION:
Step 1 • Trim bok choy and separate dark green tops from white stems; leave tops whole and thinly slice stems. Peel ginger and finely chop half of it. Slice remaining ginger into thin matchsticks if using vinegar garnish.

Step 2 • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add noodles and cook according to package instructions. Drain and run under cool water; drain again.

Step 3 • Heat 1 tablespoon peanut oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add pork and cook, breaking up with a fork, until golden and cooked through, about 10 minutes. Season with salt, 1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce and 1/2 tablespoon rice wine vinegar. Use a slotted spoon to transfer meat to a bowl.

Step 4 • Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to skillet. Stir in half the scallions, the finely chopped ginger, the garlic and the chile. Cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add bok choy stems and a pinch of salt. Cook until bok choy is almost tender, about 2 minutes. Toss in leaves and return pork to skillet.

Step 5 • Toss noodles, remaining 1/4 cup soy sauce and 1 1/2 tablespoons rice vinegar into the pan. Cook until just warmed through.

Step 6 • Transfer to a large bowl and toss with remaining scallions, sesame seeds, sesame oil and herbs.

Optional: In a small bowl, combine ginger matchsticks with just enough black vinegar to cover. Serve ginger mixture alongside noodles as a garnish.

Salmon-Rice Bowl

This is my favorite one-pot meal, although there is some chopping of toppings. It comes together quickly, and is also good the next day.

Ingredients:

¼ cup unseasoned rice vinegar
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
1 ½ cups sushi rice (short-grain white rice), rinsed until water runs clear
1 ½ pounds skinless salmon fillet, cut into 1-inch cubes
½ teaspoon toasted sesame oil
¼ cup low-sodium soy sauce
3 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
2 tablespoons safflower or canola oil
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped scallions
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger (from one 2-inch piece)
3 Persian cucumbers, thinly sliced
8 ounces green coleslaw mix (about 3 packed cups) OPTIONAL
1 avocado, halved, pitted and thinly sliced or cut into chunks
Nori Komi Furikake seasoning

Prepare:

  1. In a large saucepan, combine rice vinegar, sugar and salt; stir to dissolve the sugar. Add the rice and 1 3/4 cups water, and mix well. Bring to a boil over high heat, then cover and reduce heat to low. Cook until rice is tender and most of the liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes.
  2. In a small bowl, toss salmon with 1/4 teaspoon sesame oil and season with salt. Once rice is tender (after about 20 minutes), arrange salmon in an even layer on top of rice. Cover and steam over low heat until fish is cooked to medium, about 12 minutes longer.
  3. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine soy sauce, white vinegar, safflower oil, scallions, ginger and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon sesame oil. Mix well, and season with salt.
  4. Scoop salmon and rice into bowls. Top each with some cucumbers, coleslaw mix (if using) and avocado. Drizzle with the vinaigrette. Top with seasoning.

Cold Noodles with Tomatoes

It had been a hot week, with all daytime temperatures approaching — or over — 100 degrees. I saw this on the New York Times Cooking website, and we decided to try it. That first time we garnished it with a soft-boiled egg. Wrong. The “broth” was barely there, so this week we made it again, with the revisions shown below. Much better, and perfect for a really hot day. We like the addition of the shrimp, but you could leave them off.

Last note: I usually toast my sesame seeds in a small non-stick skillet, swirling and tossing until they look a slightly darker color. But on our last trip to the Ranch 99 Market near us they had a large container of Toasted Sesame Seeds. We brought it home with us and used it this go-round.

Gather Ingredients:

  • 2 pints ripe cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt (Diamond Crystal)
  • 12 to 14 ounces somyeon, somen, capellini or other thin wheat noodle
  • 1/2 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large garlic cloves, finely grated
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 2 cups cold filtered water
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
  • 2 to 4 radishes, thinly sliced
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced at an angle
  • 2 Persian cucumbers, sliced
  • 1/2 cup crushed ice
  • 1/2 pound raw shrimp, tails off, deveined, cut in half

Prepare:

  1. In a large bowl, toss together the tomatoes and salt. Let sit until juicy, at least 10 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook the noodles according to package instructions, drain and rinse under cold water. Set aside.
  3. In a small saucepan, poach the shrimp briefly in boiling salted water. Remove promptly and rinse under cold water. Set aside.
  4. In small bowl, whisk together vinegar, soy sauce, sugar, garlic, mustard and sesame oil. Add to the tomatoes, and toss with a spoon until well combined. Stir the filtered water into the tomatoes and sprinkle the surface of the broth with the sesame seeds, radishes and scallions.
  5. Right before serving, add the ice to the broth. Divide the noodles among bowls, and ladle in the broth and any unmelted ice, making sure each serving gets a nice sprinkling of tomatoes, radishes, scallions and sesame seeds.