Growing up, I ate a lot of banana bread. My mom always kept bananas in the house for us to bring to lunch or have for breakfast. But the thing is, we hardly ever actually ate them. So come the weekend, we’d have banana bread! I suspect the real reason my mom bought bananas was to make bread with them, and if one of us kids happened to eat one along the way, then great.
Now that I’m all grown up and buying my own food, I do the exact same thing. I’ve just gotten used to always having bananas on the counter, because I really don’t like them. I try to eat them all, but inevitably one or two get over ripe. So I throw them in a ziplock bag and freeze them until I have enough for a big batch of banana bread.
Banana bread is an awesomely straightforward breakfast to make on the weekend. When you’re all groggy in the morning you don’t want to make something finicky and complicated. For this recipe you simply mix wet ingredients, mix the dry ingredients, mix them together, then you throw it in the oven and go back to bed for an hour. Easy peasy.
This recipe is an adaption of a more traditional banana nut bread recipe. I use 2:1 ratio of flour to cornmeal and include dried fruit along with walnuts. The addition of the cornmeal and dried fruits makes this bread more substantial and a little less cake-like. I tend to like hardier breakfast over pastries and this is reflected in this version of banana bread.
- 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup cornmeal
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup butter
- 3/4 cup brown sugar
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 2 1/3 cups mashed overripe bananas
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries (optional)
- 1/4 cup dried coconut (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9×5 inch loaf pan.
- In a large bowl, combine flour, cornmeal, baking soda and salt.
- In a separate bowl, cream together butter and brown sugar. Stir in eggs and mashed bananas until well blended. Mix in the optional nuts and dried fruit at this point.
- Stir banana mixture into flour mixture; stir just to moisten. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan.
- Bake in preheated oven for 60 to 65 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into center of the loaf comes out clean.
A simple treat that I’ve been enjoying a lot lately is figs with melted blue cheese, drizzled with honey. It’s a really quick and luxurious side dish or appetizer. Turn on the broiler in your oven and slice figs lengthwise. Place them in a baking dish face up and put a healthy slice of blue cheese on top. Put them in the oven just long enough to melt the cheese, it only takes about a minute. After the cheese is melted, remove them from the oven and drizzle with honey. It is a really fancy seeming dish that takes all of five minute to prepare. Go ahead, treat yourself!
I recently tasted kumquats for the first time. It was a deliciously intense experience. I became interested in trying kumquats after watching some moms give their little kids some to snack on. The moms were happily munching away at the fruit while the kids made the best sour faces I’ve ever seen and immediately spat them out. Their little faces were all puckered up, brows furrowed, eyes squinted tightly shut, and cheeks turned inward. It was hilarious and I knew I had to give kumquats a try.
After I bought some kumquats I had to do a little research to figure out how to eat them. Turns out it’s pretty simple, just pop the whole thing in your mouth. Kumquats are a citrus fruit about the size of a grape, so it’s not a big mouthful. But that tiny fruit packs a punch. The outer rind has a very delicate sweet flavor and the inside flesh is extremely tart. Together they balance out to a nice sweet-and-sour flavor.
The taste took some getting used to but I really began to love the extreme flavor. Plus, they have an amazingly refreshing aftertaste. I love trying out new fruits; if you haven’t experienced kumquats, give them a try sometime!
It has taken a year and half of living in California for me to work up the courage to try new produce. Growing up in North Carolina, there was not nearly the variety of fruits and vegetables that there is here. Don’t get me wrong, there are some amazing fruits and veggies in NC, but they are much more seasonal and not nearly as diverse. There is produce at the Berkeley Bowl that I have never in my life laid eyes upon, much less eaten. Most of the time I suspiciously peer at the alien fruits and veggies, keeping a safe distance, before I head over to select some apples and carrots. But this weekend I decided to buck up some courage and buy some of these unfamiliar fruits.
After contemplating a table of very interesting and exotic looking fruit I choose a horned melon, a dragon fruit, and cherimoya. Admittedly, I choose the dragon fruit and horned melon for their visual appeal. I knew I was going to draw them for Illustrated Bites and I couldn’t help but select the most eye catching fruit. I had heard of cherimoya before and decided to try one, even though it wasn’t as flashy as the other two.
The first fruit that I sliced open was the horned melon. The interior of the fruit is bright green transparent packets of juice, similar in texture to citrus but much more slimy. The flavor of the flesh is slightly sweet. I thought it tasted similar to a cucumber, while my sweetie thought it tasted somewhat like kiwi. I read that the peel is edible but I don’t know why you would try to eat something covered in spikes.
The dragon fruit has a beautiful white, juicy interior speckled with tiny black seeds. To eat it you slice it half lengthwise and run a spoon the circumference of the section to remove the flesh from the peel. You can then lift the white part out and slice it. The peel is not edible. I found dragon fruit to be quite tasty but subtle. It was refreshing, crunchy, and only slightly sweet.
I was excited to try the cherimoya after reading a little about them. They are also known as a custard apple and Mark Twain called it “the most delicious fruit known to man.” To eat it you simply slice it in half and spoon out the interior. Don’t eat the seeds though, they are poisonous. The cherimoya was very sweet with a bananaish flavor and texture. It was a little too sweet for me, though after doing some reading the one I chose may have been over-ripe.
Overall I’m glad I’ve started to branch out from my usual apples and oranges. However, I don’t think I’ll purchase these particular fruit again. I found them more pleasing to the eye than the palate. It was a fun taste test but no new favorites yet.
Until recently, pomegranates were a bit of a mystery to me. I didn’t know how to tell if it was ripe, how to peel it, or even what to do with it once I managed to get it peeled. Pomegranates are fairly common here in California but back home in North Carolina they aren’t as widely available. They only appear around Christmas and at several dollars a pop, they always seemed too pricey to take a chance on. So when I noticed them at the Berkeley Bowl for a dollar, I decided to buy a few and figure out what to do with this mysterious fruit.
My first attempt ended in a pulpy mess. The dark purple juice splattered everywhere (including on my sweetie’s white laptop) and I destroyed a majority of the seeds. Realizing brute force wasn’t the best method for extracting the tasty seeds from the membrane, I did a little research. Turns out there is an easy and much less messy way to peel a pomegranate.
Step one: Slice the pomegranate in half. You may want to place a paper towel on your cutting board to prevent the juice from staining the board.
Step two: Submerge the pomegranate in a bowl of cold water. Keeping the pomegranate under the water reduces the mess and makes it easier to separate the seeds from the membrane. Push on the outer part of the peel to begin separating the seeds from the pith. You may have to push hard to crack the peel and white membrane.
Step three: Gently remove the seeds from the white membrane. The seeds will sink to the bottom of the bowl and the membrane will float. Once you have removed all of the seeds, pick out any pith that is floating on the surface of the water. Using a small mesh strainer is the easiest way to do this, but you can pick it out by hand.
Step four: Strain the pomegranate seeds.
Not too bad, huh? Now that you have the fresh pomegranate at your disposal, there are a number of ways you can enjoy it. It’s great in a fruit salad or on a spinach salad with blue cheese. Of course you can always snack on them straight up. So delicious!
One of the biggest differences between living in small town North Carolina and Berkeley, California is the food. Obviously, there are huge cultural differences and the fact that I don’t have to own a car… but if you’re looking at day to day differences in how I live my life, it’s the food. My God, it’s the food. Anyone who knows me well will tell you, I am a hungry person. I probably eat 4 meals a day with a few snacks in between. My insatiable hunger is the butt of many good natured jokes and jabs from friends and family. Needless to say, food is important to me.
A little Bay Area Love for my family.
This year for Christmas, I brought home a taste of the Bay Area for my family. Freshly roasted coffee, amazing citrus, avocados, and pomegranates are all things that are hard to come across in our small home town. All of the fruit survived the journey and and everyone was excited to sample all the tasty foods. They especially loved the Satsuma Mandarin Oranges. I promised to send another package of the Satsumas after I go back.
Moving to Berkeley, the foodie capital of the world, was a huge improvement to my hungry lifestyle. The produce is varied and fresh, the restaurants are amazing, and there are Farmer’s Markets everyday of the week. I don’t know if I would call myself a foodie, there are too many snobby connotations. Okay, so maybe I’m a foodie, but only a slightly snobby one. I love good food and I love to share my culinary adventures. This blog is dedicated to my two loves, illustration and food. I hope to share good food and good art with you, my readers, my friends. Here we go!