Gone Bananas

The smell of good bread baking, like the sound of lightly flowing water, is indescribable in its evocation of innocence and delight.

- M. F. K. Fisher

I buy bananas for the sole purpose of making banana bread. We usually both eat one banana out of a bunch, and then they sit on the counter waiting for their time. I think banana bread is just a way for the banana to extend its usefulness to society, and I respect that.

This recipe is adapted from The Joy of Cooking - the best part is the addition of peanut butter. I love peanut butter and banana sandwiches, so it seemed a natural fit to me. It creates a very tender cake, with a hint of salty peanut taste to counteract the sweetness.

Peanut Butter Banana Bread

2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon-sugar blend
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1 egg
1 cup brown sugar
3-4 ripe bananas
1 1/2 cups creamy peanut butter
5 tbsp. vegetable oil

- Preheat oven to 375. In a large bowl, combine the first 6 ingredients.

- In a separate bowl, combine the last 5 ingredients, ensuring bananas are mashed well.

- Add wet mixture to dry mixture and mix well, until just moistened. Pour into greased muffin cups or loaf pan (I use mini loaf pans) and bake until a toothpick inserted into the bread comes out clean, about 18-22 minutes (this will depend on whether you're using muffin tin or loaf pan).

* On another note, I'm heading to Mississippi today to attend a funeral - and while it's a sad occasion, I have a touch of guilty excitement at seeing my grandmother and enjoying some true Southern cooking.


Queso Ra, Sera

The poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese.

~G.K. Chesterton

It has taken me many years to come to grips with the following fact: I am not laid back.

I am particular about things that don't matter, I worry about circumstances that will never come to pass, I get worked up easily. Luckily, I found in my husband a man that finds this endearing instead of infuriating. When he witnesses me making a conscious effort to let things slide, and failing miserably, he rolls his eyes knowingly.

Preparing to welcome a child into our lives is proving to be a test for me. I'm constantly thinking about the future, wondering about how things will be, all the while knowing that I have zero control. Fortunately, I have the kitchen - my haven when I get overwhelmed and need to relax. When I'm experimenting with a new ingredient, trying a new recipe, or creating one of my favorite dishes, I'm serene...I disregard the stress and welcome the calm.

I found this recipe for chile con queso from Culinary Adventures of a New Housewife and had to try it. Queso is one of my favorite snacks, and after spending a sunny day nervously watching my husband perch atop a ladder to clean our gutters, I needed comfort. The result is a lighter version of queso, tangy from lime and beer, with a kick of spice thanks to chili powder. We settled in to watch the Super Bowl, and as I curled up under my favorite quilt with this snack in hand, I let go.

Chile con Queso

2 tsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup light colored beer
1 1/2 cups milk, divided
3 tbsp cornstarch
1 3/4 cup shredded sharp Cheddar
1 10 oz can Rotel (drained)
2 tbsp fresh lime juice
1 tsp salt
1 tsp chili powder
cayenne pepper to taste
1/4 cup scallions
2 tbsp fresh cilantro

- Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion & garlic, and saute until beginning to soften and brown. Add beer and cook until reduced slightly, about 1 minute. Add 1 cup milk and bring to a simmer.

- Whisk the remaining 1/2 cup milk and cornstarch in a small bowl. Add to the saucepan and cook, stirring constantly, until bubbling and thick, about 1-2 minutes. Reduce heat to low, add cheese and cook, stirring until melted. Add tomatoes, lime juice, salt, chili powder and cayenne (if using). Serve warm, garnished with cilantro & scallions.