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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