Banana Bread with Walnut Butter

I woke up this morning to a familiar scent from my past. Slighty sweet, a bit spicy. It was just for a second. Memories triggered by smell always seem to linger just enough for you to recognize it and then on second sniff, it's gone. The smell was banana bread, my Grandmother's and I had to try to replicate it.

Grandma Ruth's been gone now for 8 years, and lately she's become more present in my life. For such a long time it was too painful to think about her. Too emotional to sort through her belongings, let alone depart with them. This year has been a year of dealing with the past and preparing for the future, with B. I'm fortunate to have such a loving, understanding and supportive partner to open up old wounds and learn to heal them.

My Nana made the best banana bread and as hard as I've tried - I cannot get mine even close to hers. Her breads were the color of maple syrup, had a sticky top and you could see the banana threads swirl throughout the loaf. It resembled more a cake than a bread and sliced well. Although I'm going to keep at trying to nail down a recipe close to hers - there's a sweet satisfaction in knowing it will never taste as truly good without her having made it.

It's silly, but I need to get this recipe down, I'd like to introduce my own kids to it someday.

Today's recipe is a simple recipe, and one that seemed to fit my Grandma's style. Simple banana bread, no nuts, oats or fuss. Scented with vanilla - it's a moist and wet bread.

Quest for Nana's Nana Bread #1
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1.4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
3.4 brown sugar
2 eggs, beaten
2 1/3 cups of ripe, mashed bananas

For the Walnut Butter:
handful of walnuts
couple tablespoons of soft butter

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease 2 9x3 inch loaf pans. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt. In a separate bowl, cream together butter and brown sugar. Stir in eggs and mashed bananas until well blended. Stir banana mixture into flour mixture; stir just to moisten. Do not over-stir. Pour batter evenly into greased pans. Bake for about 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into center of the loaf comes out clean. Let bread cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack.

Grind walnuts in a mortar & pestel. Mix walnuts into butter.

I like to slice off a piece as I go and lightly butter. It's how my Nana did it.

*I can tell by the un-sticky surface of the bread that this isn't my Grandma's recipe...but damn it's still good. The mission continues...


Wedding Bliss

I know I haven't been around much lately, and that's because something very cool was unfolding in my life. I was devoted to planning a wedding for myself and B. I have to admit we didn't eat well while we were in the last few months of nailing down details! The day after the wedding I cooked all day long. It was a great, guilty pleasure to get back into our kitchen and start being productive again – and what better cause to celebrate than cooking a great big feast for my new husband?

I feel so much lighter in my heart knowing I've been truly chosen. I've always had this craving of belonging to someone in a more serious way. Our commitment was always there, but there is something to be said for standing up and declaring it in front of your family and closest friends that makes it real. I've never felt more balance in a relationship. The love flows both ways and is just as deep from one to the other. I am a lucky woman, he, a lucky man.

What better way to celebrate than with food?

Soon after, we headed down to Playa del Carmen for our honeymoon. Some righteous new friends had mentioned a condo their parents owned about 40 mins from where we had intended to stay. It was beautiful. We quickly decided to not be tourists and just enjoy timeless days together. We took one day trip the entire week. It was through Altournative Tours, which is a really cool company devoted to conservation. You can read about their mission here. We decided to go on the Jungle Crossing Tour into Rancho San Felipe, a small Maya family community where the Nohoch Nah Chich Cenote system is located (one of the longest explored underground river systems in the world). It was here, I tasted what the locals call Jamaica. The tea is made from Hibiscus petals, which are steeped with sugar in water. Omuhgosh. Sweet nectar of the gods. This divine treat is super easy to make and will make your kool-aid cry.


4 cups water
1/2 cup dried jamaica flowers
1/2 cup sugar
4 cups of cold water
lime slices, for garnish and a good squeeze

Serve with sugar to taste

Bring 4 cups of water to a boil. Remove the water from heat and add the dried flowers and sugar. Pop a lid over the pot and let steep for at least 10 minutes. About midway through, give a gentle stir to help the sugar dissolve.

Strain the tea into a large pitcher. Remember to take her easy, this stuff stains! You have a concentrated tea, so now you will want to add in another 4 cups. Stir thoroughly. Taste and adjust the amount of sugar based on your tastes. Chill. Pour over ice or drink it straight like a tough-guy. Slurp happily.

Now, do me proud and go get yourself a bag of Hibiscus flowers at your local Mexican Grocer.


© 2007 All writing and photography is owned by Lollya.