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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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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http://about.me/foodradical63/#