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).

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.

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.

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

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.

Roasted Beets, Citrus and Spinach Salad

This recipe, originally from Bon Appétit (February 2011, by Myra Goodman and Sarah LaCasse; their photo is being used) was the salad I chose to use for our Valentine’s Day Dinner this year.  I don’t know why we didn’t go out.  We both seemed to be moving at glacial pace at home, with job and church responsibilites sapping all our energy to look up a restaurant, make the reservation, change our clothes, pay 60 bucks a person for a Valentine’s Day meal of some significance.  We could have paid only 20 bucks a person at Chili’s or something, but just try and have an intimate conversation in THAT place.

Yield: 4 servings   —  Active Time: 20 minutes, with Total Time: 1 hour 50 minutes (includes roasting and cooling time) We found that this filled us up quite a bit–if I were to use this as a first course again, I’d eliminate the feta cheese.



3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons finely grated orange peel
2 teaspoons finely grated grapefruit peel
1 teaspoon honey
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

To make: whisk vinegar, mustard, citrus peels, and honey in small bowl. gradually whisk in oil. Season vinaigrette with salt and freshly ground black pepper.


4 2 1/2-inch-diameter unpeeled beets, tops trimmed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 6-ounce bag baby spinach
2 small pink or ruby grapefruits, all peel and pith cut away, segments cut from between membranes
2 oranges, all peel and pith cut away, segments cut from between membranes
3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese (4 ounces)
1/4 cup chopped fresh chives

Preheat oven to 400°F. Toss beets and oil in large bowl; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Wrap each beet in foil. place directly on oven rack; roast until tender, 60 to 70 minutes. I ended up roasting mine about 90 minutes; somewhere I read that the more the merrier as it carmelizes the sugars in the beets and makes it incredibly delicious.  Agreed!  Open foil; cool 30 minutes. Rub skins off beets; cut each into 8 wedges. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. If your beets are big, you may want to cut them in half.

Place spinach in large bowl; toss with 2 tablespoons vinaigrette. Divide among plates. Add beets and citrus segments to same bowl. Add 2 tablespoons vinaigrette; toss to coat. Arrange beet mixture atop spinach; sprinkle with cheese and chives. Serve, passing any remaining vinaigrette.

Chewy Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies

We were shopping–the Mr. and I–for Christmas, and beside the register was a brochure pushing anything Martha.  I picked it up because she had a recipe for these cookies.  I’d been thinking about trying to find a recipe like this ever since Dave and I had chewy gingerbread cookies at the Cheese Board Collective in Berkeley.  That day we’d driven down across the Delta, got stuck in horrid traffic, our tempers frayed and flared, but we made it to the Collective about 45 minutes before they closed down.  Our pizza was delicious, the salad was crisp, but the cookies–oh my–the cookies!  After we visited the Berkeley Rose Garden we went back for two more, but alas!  They’d sold out.  So they remain in my memory.  These resemble those from the Cheese Board, but I can’t remember now if the Berkeley variety had chocolate chunks in it. Oh well–these are delicious, too.

Chewy Gingerbread Cookies—yield: 30

originally from Martha Stewart, amended by me

14 ounces best-quality semisweet chocolate chips
3 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
2 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 cup packed dark-brown sugar
2 tablespoons finely grated, peeled fresh ginger
1/2 cup unsulfured molasses (I use the green label molasses)
2 teaspoons baking soda, dissolved in 1 tablespoon boiling water

2/3 cup granulated sugar, in bag (for coating)


1. Sift together flour, cocoa powder, and spices into a medium bowl. Put butter, brown sugar, and grated ginger into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on medium speed until fluffy. Beat in molasses.

2. Beat in flour mixture in 2 batches, alternating with the baking soda mixture. Mix in chocolate chips. Shape dough into a disk, and wrap in plastic (or place in gallon-sized Ziploc bag). Refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours (up to overnight).

3. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Shape dough into 1 and 1/2-inch balls, and drop them into a bag filled with some granulated sugar, tossing to coat. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets, pressing down on each cookie slightly to flatten. (I used the bottom of a glass, dipped in sugar.)

4. Bake until surfaces crack slightly, 10 to 12 minutes. Let cool on sheets, 5 minutes. Transfer cookies to wire racks, and let cool completely. Cookies can be stored in an airtight container up to 3 days.

Cook’s Confessions: I left mine in the fridge for 3 days–just couldn’t get the time to bake them up.  They were fine.

Note: you can store fresh ginger in the freezer.  When needed, peel with a paring knife, then grate on the fine section of your cheese grater.

These cookies are best when warm–so set them in the sun for a few minutes to soften.