Stuff & Nonsense: June 2019


16 June 2019

My Best Banana Bread


I had a bunch of brown bananas in the freezer and felt like baking banana bread, but wanted to mix it up a bit so I turned to King Arthur Flour's Banana Bread Interactive Recipe Generator. I'd used the generator before, with good results, and expected the same again.

I was wrong. Instead of good bread, the generated recipe yield the best banana bread I have ever baked.

After I ate three slices with sweet creamery butter and tea for supper, I sliced the rest and took it to work the next day. My coworkers fell upon it like wolves upon a wee, tender lambie and it was gone by the end of my shift. Even those who told me they disliked many of the ingredients I'd used or just hated banana bread in general, found this bread to be very moreish.


It's a sturdy loaf with tender crumb and a perfect balance of flavors. The banana and spices complement each other well, the cranberries add a bit of tartness to counteract all the sweet, the nuts add body, and the crystallized ginger bits are a little spicy flavor bombs. I have zero regrets about eating three slices for supper and I'm thinking it might make excellent french toast ...


My Best Banana Bread

Yield: 1 loaf

Ingredients

  • 2 cups mashed banana
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ⅓ cup chopped toasted pecans
  • ⅓ cup sweetened dried cranberries
  • ⅓ cup chopped crystallized ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 Tbsp coarse-grained, sparkling white sugar
  • ⅓ cup chopped toasted pecans

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F with a rack in the center position. Lightly grease a 9" x 5" loaf pan.
  2. In a large bowl, stir together the mashed banana with all of the remaining ingredients except any mix-ins (chips, nuts, seeds, etc.) Beat the batter thoroughly, until everything is well combined. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl and beat briefly to incorporate any sticky residue. Stir in the mix-ins.
  3. Scoop the batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle over the remaining teaspoon cinnamon, two tablespoons sparkling sugar, and third cup pecans over the batter.
  4. Bake the bread for about 60 to 75 minutes, until the bread feels set on the top, and a thin sharp knife inserted into the center comes out clean. If the bread appears to be browning too quickly, tent it with aluminum foil for the final 15 to 20 minutes of baking.
  5. Remove the bread from the oven. Cool it in the pan for 15 minutes, then loosen the edges, and turn it out of the pan onto a rack to cool completely.
  6. Store leftover bread, tightly wrapped, at room temperature for several days. Freeze for longer storage.

12 June 2019

#WordlessWednesday: Gray Treefrog

Found this gray treefrog (Hyla versicolor) hanging out on the patio.

07 June 2019

Arabella by Georgette Heyer


He said there was a great deal of nonsense in such books, and that the moral tone was sadly lacking.

Arabella, the eldest daughter of an impoverished country vicar, is on her way to London to make her debut (and secure a good marriage which will guarantee comfortable futures for her younger siblings) under the auspices of her godmother when her carriage breaks down in the rain. Forced to take shelter at a nearby estate, she is treated very coldly by its owner -- that most sought-after of bachelors, Robert Beaumaris. Outraged by his presumption that she is just another conniving miss out to trap him into marriage, Arabella sets herself up as an heiress without peer. Arabella has quite a lot of fun telling whoppers about herself … until she arrives in London and it becomes clear that her lies have arrived ahead of her!

You will not be surprised to discover that I really enjoyed Arabella. The principle characters were well written (and frequently hilarious), the story chugged along at a good pace with lots of witty dialogue and entertaining interludes, and Heyer’s use of historical setting and detail is always so much delicious icing on the cake.

I must admit, though, that as much as I loved the dialogue between Arabella and Beaumaris, it was Beaumaris’s conversations with Ulysses (the mongrel dog Arabella persuades him to shelter) that stole the show:

Mr. Beaumaris released Ulysses, who shook himself, sighed his satisfaction, and looked up for approbation. ‘Yes, you will, I perceive, ruin me yet, ‘ said Mr. Beaumaris severely. ‘If I am any judge of character, you picked your language up in the back-slums, and have probably been the associate of dustmen, coal-heavers, bruisers. And other such low persons! You are quite unfit for polite circles.’

Ulysses lolled his tongue out, and grinned cheerfully.

‘At the same time,’ said Mr. Beaumaris, relenting, ‘I daresay you would have made mincemeat out of that creature, and I must own that I am not entirely out of sympathy with you. But poor Poodle will certainly cut me for a week at least.’

Arabella by Georgette Heyer (Sourcebooks, 2009)

06 June 2019

Cooking From Nancy Cho's The Easy Asian Cookbook for Slow Cookers


I borrowed Nancy Cho's The Easy Asian Cookbook for Slow Cookers from my library recently and was so completely smitten with it that I purchased a copy of my own. It's just a wonderful cookbook -- very beginner-friendly with accessible recipes and (reasonably) easy to find ingredients. Allergy information (gluten/soy/dairy/nut) is included with each recipe as well as a graphic denoting the country of origin (everywhere from China to Sri Lanka). My only complaint is there aren't enough photos! Each chapter begins with a beautiful photograph, but that's it. If you want to know what a dish should look like, you'll have to google ... or check out the author's Instagram.

Vietnamese Beef Stew

So far, I have made the "Vietnamese Beef Stew," "Spicy Lemongrass Chicken," "Braised Short Ribs," and "Spicy Radish Salad" with delicious results every time. The Husband, who can be rather choosy, enjoyed everything but the (rather fiery) radish salad and that was fine, as I'd made it mostly for myself! As there are only two of us, each recipe made leftovers, but those kept well and we definitely looked forward to eating them.

Braised Short Ribs

I strongly recommend The Easy Asian Cookbook for Slow Cookers if you want to make more Asian-flavored dishes, but have felt intimidated in the past or simply want to get away from the same old slow cooker recipes.

Spicy Lemongrass Chicken

05 June 2019

#WordlessWednesday: Silent Agitator

"Silent Agitator," clock sculpture by Ruth Ewan located on the High Line near 24th Street.