Chocolate Chunk Banana Walnut Bread

Once again I have let bananas sit too long on the counter.  I cannot resist those beautiful yellow bunches so lovingly displayed in my local market. They entice me into a purchase nearly every time I shop.  Bananas used to be the base of my daily smoothie. There was rarely a morning I would not make a smoothie to go on my way to work.  Since I’ve moved to where I currently live, I have not been able to re-establish that habit.  I went in phases when I first settled here.  I would make smoothies for several days then abandon the idea on days I felt too slow and groggy to go through the hassle of preparing everything, which quite honestly is not that much.  However, in the early days of coming to terms with what happened in my life, nearly everything was too much.  Ultimately, I feel that has come to be the main reason I no longer have my daily smoothie.  My kitchen is so small and counter space is limited.  None of my smoothie making equipment sits out as it used to when my kitchen had more space.  It seems so silly, but it truly is a hassle to pull out the equipment from the bottom drawer, put it all together on the few inches of counter space I have, then moving to another area of my tiny kitchen where I have a bit more counter space to prepare the food to go into my blender.  Once done, I have to wash, dry and put away the things I’ve used.  I have no dishwasher to toss them into anymore.  My counter does not have the space to slide the blender base into a corner as I used to do.  I have to wipe it down, wrap the cord and bend over to put it back in the bottom drawer.  That bending over part is another reason I don’t often make smoothies anymore.  On the mornings I wake in pain, it simply hurts too much to bend over.  When the craving for a smoothie grabs hold, I will not let even the pain of bending over keep me from making one, but it is not something I will do everyday regardless of the desire. The hassle outweighs craving more often than not.

This leaves me with over ripe bananas that plague me.  I cannot have food waste.  The thought pains me deeply.  Really.  I will find any way I can to use something unless it is deemed impossible for consumption.  I remember this same value in my mom.  She would cringe and complain if she discovered food was bad.  She did what I will do and stand over the garbage saying how awful it is that it will be wasted, hesitating to let it drop into the pail.

My mom used to made some delicious banana bread.  During the holidays she would make it in tiny tins for neighbors and friends.  She would take it out of the tin, neatly use plastic wrap over it like holiday paper, then tie a ribbon around the bread like a gift.  As a child, I would take them to my teachers.  People loved getting mini bread loaves from my mom.

When I make banana bread, I feel like I take a step back in time remembering my mom and her process for preparing her bread so lovingly.  Nothing about my bread is like my mom’s except the bananas. I make a very different kind of loaf and as I go through my own process, memories of her in the kitchen permeate my mind.

I am thinking about my mom a lot these days.  The sadness from grief has found a wearisome place in my heart.  I know it is there yet it no longer consumes me.  There is still not one day that goes by without thoughts of mom in my mind.  As the fall season sets into Portland and October rolls around, I am feeling a little raw again as my attention feels more focused on reminders of her.  October is my mom’s birthday month.  It is also the month she began her swift spiral into illness and ultimate death as her cancer devoured her body.  This is a difficult time. I miss my mom more than I can describe, but I think anyone who has lost a parent understands there really are no adequate words to define such a profound loss.

I made this banana bread to use my over-ripe bananas, hearing my mom’s voice saying food waste is a sin.  As I mixed my ingredients I recall memories as a child watching my mom whip her batter with a vengeance.  How did she stir so fast??  Mom loved baking.  You could see the love in her process and taste it in her fantastic treats.  I remember that she loved banana bread, especially with walnuts.  So, this bread is made in her memory.  Since I was the kid who always wanted to do things a little different than the rest and that sentiment remains as an adult, I tossed in dark chocolate chunks.  I don’t know that mom would have approved that variation.  However, we all enjoyed giving mom reason to think outside the box a bit.  I think she would be smiling at this.  Give this banana bread a try.  I’m sure it will make you smile, too.

I adapted my recipe from the original version found on one of my favorite sites:  http://glutenfreegoddess.blogspot.com/2007/11/banana-chocolate-chip-bread.html

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Chocolate chunk Banana Walnut Bread

4 ripe bananas, mashed
1/3 cup light olive oil
1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups gluten-free flour blend
1/4 cup flax seed meal
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
3/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup dark chocolate chunks (I chopped part of a bar for this recipe)

Instructions:

Preheat your oven to 350ºF
Combine the wet ingredients a mixing bowl.

Add the dry ingredients into the banana mixture and stir until smooth. If the batter looks too thin and wet, add more gluten-free flour, a tablespoon at a time, to thicken the batter.  Add in the chocolate chips and stir by hand to combine.

Pour the batter into the lightly greased standard size loaf pan and bake in the center of a preheated oven for an hour, until the loaf is firm, a bit crusty, and when a toothpick is stuck in the middle, comes out clean. (45 mins – 1 hr)

Cool the loaf on a wire rack. Slice when cool.
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Gluten Free, Dairy Free Banana Pecan Bread

I have had four bananas getting more ripe as each day passes.  Each morning I silently tell myself to make banana bread before they are too far gone.  My reluctance has been my inability to find my favorite recipe and the ordeal that I know could make this activity incredibly frustrating.  I am still working with limited kitchen counter space and honestly, I find making food in my little kitchen more frustrating than not.  That is just no fun for me! Additionally, I still have many of my kitchen supplies in storage due to my lack of space.

Once I decided to take this task on, I was determined to keep a positive attitude and looked at it as somewhat of an adventure.  I was not going to let my lack of kitchen supplies bring me down so I bought a disposable bread loaf tin.  I decided I would just make up a recipe, feeling confident I could pull off a decent bread.  I have been studying up on the best gluten free flours to use together to create most desirable end result.  Wow, I sure got this one right!

I  managed to get my bread in the oven after a lot of maneuvering.  Gosh, it really should not be so difficult!  I look forward to the ease a kitchen island will bring to me once I find just the perfect one for me.  I was so impressed with my banana bread I am glad I had the determination and patience to give this a try.  I think you should too.  It is a fantastic bread.  In fact, I must say this is one of the best sweet breads I have made.   The texture and  consistency is spot on and the flavor is perfect.  Not too sweet, very banana like with the perfect crunch of the pecans.  It has been a lovely morning snack with my tea.  And, it was an excellent choice for travelling food as I discovered when I packed it with me for my Boston trip.  Stay tuned for my next blog where I share all about Boston gluten free and dairy free eats!!

Gluten Free, Dairy Free Banana Pecan Bread

1 cup sorghum flour

1/2 cup brown rice flour

1 Tbsp xantham gum

1 tsp baking powder

1/3 cup raw can sugar (this could have been omitted. The bananas make it sweet!)

4 ripe bananas, mashed

1/4 cup applesauce

1/3 cup sunflower seed oil

1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk

1 tsp pure vanilla

1 tsp nutmeg

1/2 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Measure all dry ingredients into one bowl and whisk to incorporate.  Measure all the wet ingredients into another bowl and mix to incorporate.  Add mashed bananas, mix well. Pour mixed wet ingredients into dry ingredients and mix until just blended, add chopped pecans and fold into batter.  Pour batter into greased loaf pan.  Bake for 50-65 mins.

Makes one large loaf.

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Perfect Plum Bread

I have been playing around in my kitchen a lot these days. I’ve been experimenting with all kinds of different dishes just for the fun of seeing what I come up with.  I have dared to stretch my imagination and use my creativity to adapt recipes that suit my dietary guidelines, or even more exciting: make up my own recipe!

I finally have time to use my kitchen as my playground all day long if I choose because I recently decided to quit my job.  There were a lot of factors that entered into this decision and many conversations with my sweetie before I chose to go bold and make my exit while I still had some sanity.  The new school year and the new kitchen brought new insights for me.  It became too difficult for me to knowingly compromising my morals on a daily basis. Additionally, I could no longer contain my repugnance at such a broken system.  I had too many concerns and no influence to create change.  The heaviness of it all made me tired and stressed every day.  For my own mental health and really, to say “this is not okay”, I chose to leave my job.  I left on good terms and I will continue to have connections to the people I worked with closely.  It was the best decision I could have made.  I was no longer happy in my work.  From the moment I gave my notice, I felt a lightness in my entire being. It continues into my third week of job freedom.  I have been healing my overworked body and enjoying a slower pace.  Physically, I feel so much better and have more energy. Mentally, I have more focus and definitely more calmness in my mind.

I am deeply grateful I have the option of quitting my job and explore other creative outlets for a while.  There are some new opportunities that have recently been presented to me and I am eager to network with like minds.  I feel excited for new discoveries.  And of course, I spend a lot of time in my kitchen.  So, let’s get back to that!

I purchased some plums at the local farmers market, ate a few then was going out of town so I just popped them in the freezer whole.  I had never tried this before, but I must say it was quite a successful freeze and thawed much like bananas.

I adapted this recipe from the “Eat Right For Your Type” Cookbook.  When I first began my gluten free life transition, I relied heavily on this book to guide me toward healthier choices for my body.  I made this recipe often and always received compliments on it so I wanted to give it a try again to take on our recent trip to Seattle.  However, this time I wanted to make it completely dairy and gluten free with no oats.  I did some substituting and came out with a really lovely bread that has a great texture and consistency, just the way I like a sweet bread to be.  The batter, which had a thick, gummy consistency going into the pan worried me at first.  My experience has been that means the end product will be dense and doughy.   However, it is moist without the gritty texture I often find in GF baked goods.  I was really happy with the outcome.

Here is the original recipe version from “Cook Right For Your Type”[author-Dr. Peter J. D’Adamo;copyright 1999] : 

Banana-Plum Bread

1 cup spelt flour

3/4 cup oat flour

2 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

5 Tbsp. softened butter

2/3 c turbinado sugar

1-2 tsp grated lemon rind

1 to 2 eggs, beaten

1 cup mashed banana

3 ripe plums, diced

1/2 to 1 cup walnuts, broken into pieces

I prepared it in the same way as the cook book describes except I used only 1- 8 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ loaf pan and I sprayed mine with oil versus coating the pan with butter.

Here’s my adaption:

Plum Bread

1 cup AP Gluten Free flour {I used a brand called Namaste that I purchased from Costco}

3/4 cup almond meal

3 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp sea salt

5 Tbsp soy free Earth Balance spread

1/2 cup turbinado sugar

2 tsp grated lemon rind

1 egg, beaten

6 medium sized ripe plums (fresh, frozen then defrosted) or just fresh!, peeled and diced

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray 8 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ loaf pan.  Sift flour, almond meal, baking powder and salt into one bowl.  In another bowl, blend “butter”, sugar and lemon rind until creamy.  Beat in egg.  Add dry ingredients to butter mixture in three parts, mix until just combined after each addition.  Fold in plums.  Pour into prepared loaf pan.  Bake about 40 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.  Cool on rack.  Slices very well.

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Bread, Soup and Adventures in Oregon

Oregons open roads

Oregons open roads

My sweetie and I are adventurers at heart.  One of the many things we cherish together is our passion for new discoveries in the ordinary. Ordinary Oregon is a wide open palette of cleverly hidden gems intertwined through rural towns you’d never think to venture toward without a purpose.

Some days we just want to get out of the city.  Holidays, such as our recent President’s Day provided the opportunity to do just that. With a rough idea of our desired journey, our goal was to find a body of water and a forested area to meander and picnic.  Oh, and to find the most commonplace small-time, local quick stop store where we could buy our Powerball ticket.  It’s one of the fun things we do when we take day trip adventures.  We like to believe one of those small nameless mini markets hold the winning piece of paper!  It is silly fun.

Our local weather is back to the usual rain.  We saw plenty of it on our drive, including hail!  We did get the pleasure of a few sun breaks that added to the charm of our day.  We even saw the most perfect rainbow.  By the time I grabbed my camera to get a picture, dark clouds covered it and it was gone.  That was a beautiful rainbow.   Moments later we rounded a bend to discover these beauties grazing in the shrubs.

A mama & her baby

A mama & her baby

Filled with the wonder of nature, we continued on our day, cruising through small town Oregon, enjoying lush landscapes and sweeping farm land.  We found our body of water and our forested paths. We saw covered bridges and broken down barns blanketed in moss and ivy.  We discovered that there is still a lumber industry that appears to be thriving in Oregon. It gave us thoughts to ponder and created lively conversation.  Did you know there is a Liberal, OR?   We wondered if we were the only liberals around!  We laughed.  We enjoyed each other. We got lost in the succulent array of green that our state boasts and revived ourselves in our day of exploration. IMG_1437 IMG_1446 IMG_1447

As we sat in our camper van with the clattering rain on our roof top, we also satisfied our hungry bellies and warmed our insides by enjoying a thermos of piping hot Carrot Soup with homemade gluten free bread.

Dairy free Carrot Soup

Dairy Free Carrot Soup & homemade Gluten Free Bread

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Our picnic view

The food was outstanding and so was our day.   Home and refreshed, I am ready for this week feeling relaxed and more connected with the world around me.  I love our all around Oregon adventures.  I am grateful too, for the time to feel connected with my sweetie in the midst of this frazzled, mixed up thing called life.  

Check out this recipe if you want to make your own thermos of soup for your next outdoor adventure–

http://glutenfreegoddess.blogspot.com/2007/09/carrot-soup.html

My variation was using cumin powder instead of curry powder, I added a cup of chicken broth and a 1/2 cup of almond milk for a little creaminess.

The bread was a surprising success!!  I found this recipe in my folder recently.  It was emailed to me by my son who was attending Johnson & Wales Culinary Institute in Charlotte, NC.  He was taking a bread making class and had a few lessons on using alternative flours.  I rarely have a loaf of bread turn out this amazing.  It tastes as good as it looks.  The texture is fantastic and holds up well to toppings as well as dipping into soup!

Enjoy this creation by following this recipe exactly.  I found this to be the most successful way to have a beautiful loaf of bread.  I cannot give proper credit to the author of this recipe other than to say it came from one of my sons classes!  It is a delicious recipe.

Gluten Free Bread

2 cups rice flour ( I used brown rice flour)

1 cup tapioca flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/4 cups water

1 package dry yeast

2 eggs

1/4 cup canola (or other) oil

1 teaspoon cider vinegar

Using an electric mixer, combine all ingredients. The dough will resemble a thick batter. Scoop into an oiled 9×5

loaf pan & smooth the top. Brush with a light coating of oil. Loosely cover with plastic wrap & side aside to rise until dough is even with the top of the pan; about 1 1/2 hours. (mine didn’t rise all the way but was still great!)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Remove plastic wrap and bake until golden brown, 45-50 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on rack for 30 minutes before slicing.  Freezes well.

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From tears to muffins

I apologize for letting dust settle in the corners over here in food radical’s blog world. I have been so uninspired recently. I’ve created plenty of yummy dishes, albeit a little lackluster. I take pictures, I create stories in my mind as thoughts and memories permeate my being, however I’m finding difficulty putting those stories into writing.

It’s been two months since my mom died and I’ve found it rather difficult to focus on anything but that. What’s new, right? Well, I have found some days to be a bit cheerier, however this sadness is so deep. I feel this loss to the core of my being and it can be agonizing. I can get lost in it. Sometimes I just need to redirect my mind and body; find a distraction so I can take some time to breathe.

On one of these kind of days as I scoured my recipes, I decided to go with something new. I have been wanting to try using coconut flour again. I had a small amount left that needed to be used and I just happened upon this muffin recipe:

http://www.thenourishinggourmet.com/2012/12/spiced-oatmeal-apple-muffins-gluten-dairy-egg-free.html

I love trying new recipes and this was perfect timing as I wanted to find complete focus on something different. With an almost frantic vengeance I began preparations for my new recipe. I immersed myself in measuring, mixing and baking. When my muffin tin was in the oven, I took a deep breathe realizing I did feel better. Playing in the kitchen always does this.

I think the muffins turned out pretty well for a first try. They are moist, dense and just lightly sweet. I like the smaller size muffin tin I used. These are just perfect for a morning snack along with a freshly made juice or smoothie.

Give them a try! Tell me what you think! Image