Banana Bread and the Power of Family

Most recipe books will have one or two recipes for Banana bread.  It is one of
the original recycling ideas in my mind.  It uses something that some would consider having gone bad.   In my house, if the banana has a bit of brown on it, it is relegated to banana bread.  I am the only one who will eat them once they are even slightly less than yellow.  Hell Aaron prefers them slightly green! 

Banana bread is one of the most frequently made quick breads so when I was trading recipes with a friend this was one of the ones she told me about.  I met Janice 8 years ago and as we are both foodies and love to cook we hit it off quickly.  She is Italian and I love how she says thing like mozzarella and ricotta.  We would get together and cook and chat and go shopping.  But most of all we talked of family, and cooking and food.

One day when we were over she told me she had to make some banana bread to use up some over ripe bananas so I told her how I had always used the banana bread recipe my mom had in her Betty Crocker cookbook.  It was yummy and my favorite.  Janice told me of her moms recipe.  She had been making it for years and it was very much a family favorite.  I asked if she would share, knowing that alot of cooks dont share family recipes.  She said sure.

Then she started making it.  I was skeptical.  The method was odd but I figured what the heck, I would atleast try it.  I dont want to spoil the surprise by telling what the secret to this bread is but let me tell you, I have never ever, nor will I ever, use another recipe.   The chunks of banana and the wonderful flavor and richness has made this my family favorite.  With me being in school I dont get to bake or cook as often as I would like but the kids like it so much they make it all the time.  In fact for this blog update, Nik is the one making it, I am the camera lady and he is the baker.

When I told Janice I wanted to post this on my blog and I was wondering is she would mind, she reminded me that this was her moms recipe.  Janices mom died a few months ago and Janice was still reeling from the pain of it.  I was so happy to be able to honor her mom in this way.  You see, I feel that there are certain things that bond you together.  For Janice and her mom, one of the things that bound them was the love of cooking and baking and being in the kitchen.  Maybe it was the Italian in them but when Janice talks of food, she talks of family. 

I have found that is the same in my life.  My mom and I have had an odd relationship over the years and have gotten much closer in the last couple.  One of the things we have always been close about was cooking.  I can remember baking dozen upon dozens of cookies just about once a month.  I mean like 20-30 dozen cookies!  And canning hundreds of jars of tomatoes, relish, corn, and beans with her in the summer.  We made dinners and bake cakes and still call each other up when we have made something particularly awesome. 

 Janice and her mom Janet Angiollo were like us.  Food bound them together.  I am working on that tradition with my boys.  And I love teaching to cook.  I am teaching the boys and teaching Aarons girlfriend Corrie too.   Janice learned at the hands of her mom and she taught whomever would listen, just like me.  So this recipe and it is odd, fun and amazingly  moist outcome are a true tribute to one special lady, Janet Angiollo.  I know she is looking down on Janice with pride at the great woman she raised and the traditions she is passing on, to her kids and to her friends.

1 large loaf    recipe by: Janet Angiollo

3 ripe bananas
1/4 cup softened butter
1 cup sugar ( I use half white and half brown)
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda

The Cast of Characters (for a triple batch, we had a ton of bananas) Ignore the oil.. Nik had that out and I wasnt thinking and got the ingredients all arranged.  HAHA  I am not perfect..

Preheat your oven to 350.  Prep your pans by greasing them.  PUT YOUR MIXER AWAY.  This is important!  You MUST do this part.

Break your butter up into small chunks.
Then your bananas. 

Sprinkle your sugars over them.

Add your vanilla on top of the sugar.

This time I added a touch of cinnamon.  I dont always and it isnt in the recipe, but I was feeling cinnamon-ey. 

Sprinkle the soda around.

Then the flour, still not mixing it.

Then the egg (or for this case the eggs since it is tripled). 

Now that you have all your ingredients in place, layered on top of each other, here comes the most important step.  You ready for it? 

Go wash your hands again.  And yes I said again, cause I KNOW you washed them before you started!

Now comes the fun part.  This is why you dont need a mixer.  You get to use your hands.  This seems to make the difference.   I was so weirded out the first time I made this recipe at home I used my hand mixer.  It was good but not great.  The banana was all thoroughly mixed and just wasnt the same. 

Mix until it is all combined and then mix a bit more breaking up some of the larger chunks of banana and make sure that the butter is not in large pieces.

Pour into prepared pan(s).

And bake until golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean, about 45-60 minutes depending on your pan size.

Let warm slightly before you remove from the pan and slice in thick slices.  Serve with butter, or jam or plain.   Just look at those fantastic chunks of banana in it.  So good….

 This is true comfort food.  And elicits memories of cooking with my mom, and Janice and now my kids.  This is a fun recipe and one that is very easy to make with your kids.  We have done a couple of variations too.  We substituted the butter with peanut butter and made Elvis bread, get it PB and Banana!  You can sub 1 of the ripe bananas for 1/3 cup of crushed pineapple.  As mentioned above we add cinnamon sometimes.  Make this the way you like but remember two important things, never use a mixer and that family cooking is the most gratifying and tasty way to cook. 

Happy Baking!!!

And thank you Janet!


Chocolate Chunk Chile Mango Cookies

Big Name for a Huge Flavor.  I was sitting innocently at lunch last week and was checking my email and Rob sent me a Facebook link to a Trader Joes site where they use TJ items and make yummy things like this.  I started planning my TJ trip at lunch that day.  After class that night I went and got the chocolate and the mango.  And it sat on the counter until last night.. 5 long nights it sat and stared at me…. begging me to bake them. 

I of course made the mistake of adding to my recipe builder on Weight Watchers.  Not good.  Not good at all.  If they worked out according to the recipe and the amount you were supposed to get.. it would be 4 points per cookie!!  4!! for each cookie.  Undaunted, I knew they needed to be made.  It was something that I had to do.  I mean.. fruit, chocolate, and chili.. what more could be said. 

So last night I got the help of my twin monkeys…  you remember these two right?

and we went to work making these cookies as is.   Somethings I will tweak so I can have them more often but I am trying to not do that with sweet things.  I need to cut back on my sweet tooth.  It is why I am on WW and why it is hard for me to lose it.  So I will make these as a treat, and only infrequently!  The rest of these will go to work tomorrow.. well the few that are remaining.  I have had half my daily points today in just cookies.   Not good!!

In my defense, we had to rush Rob to the ER last while I was making said cookies.  He had a fever and with cancer, that is a bad thing, so his oncologist said get him in to the ER.  The kids had to bake the last two pans..  and my nerves have been shot ever since waiting for the labs to come back.   

6 oz of dark chocolate  (on the TJ bar shown I used 15 squares)
1 bag of chile mangos (if you don’t like spicy you could use 8 oz of dried mango)
1 cup softened butter
1 cup white sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp hot water
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
3 cups flour

Cast of characters

Next step is to set the boys/men up to do some heavy chopping.  Nik to dice up the mango and Aaron to chunk up the chocolate.  

At first I was annoyed that the chocolate was splintering and not chunking nicely but once the cookie cooked it was nice to have a little nugget or sliver here and there throughout the cookie. 

While those are being chopped and diced, cream the butter and sugars.

This is what your chocolate and mango will look like..   a bowl of spicy heaven..

Add the salt, vanilla and eggs and mix to incorporate.

Add the baking soda to the hot water and then add to the mixer along with the flour.

Mix 5-6 turns or until about 1/2 way mixed, scrap down your side and then add the mango and chocolate.

Mix until incorporated. 

Drop by spoonful onto a parchment lined cookie sheet or use your well-loved Pampered Chef stoneware.. lol  As you can see ours are well used.  I love how I can cook anything on them and the flavors dont mix.

And the finished product.. ready for a nice study break…..

I have to say, I really liked these cookies.  The mango has a sweetness that works so well with chocolate and the spiciness is just an added bonus.  I can say I would love these without the spicy mango (meaning just dried mango) and other than being a bit crisper than I normally like, these are so rich and flavorful I will be adding these to The Box.   I think I might work to make them a bit less crunchy though. These would be amazing with a bit more chewiness to them.   

Oh and in the end it made 80 cookies, so I corrected it in my WW recipe thing and for 2 cookies it is 5 points.. that was a bit better!!  Enjoy!

Happy Baking!!