Banana Bread

 

A few days ago, I bought a large bag of very ripe bananas at the insanely reduced price of $1 at my local store. There were TEN ripe, medium sized bananas in the bag! Wow, I thought, it looks like I’ll be making some banana bread!

When I peeled the bananas this morning, all but two were perfect inside – no bruises. Amazing that they’d want to get ride of a perfect product just because it ‘looks’ bad on the outside. I guess this is my commentary of how the world is in general: just because someone or something appears less than perfect on the outside doesn’t mean that they are imperfect on the inside. And so what if someone or something isn’t perfect anyway! My sweet Mother used to always say “you can’t judge a book by it’s cover” – a mantra I’ve always embraced.

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Mashing Ripe Bananas

Back to banana bread.

So first thing this morning, after my breakfast, I got busy making banana bread. I got out my loaf pans and prepared them by oiling all the inside and lightly dusting the bottom with flour.

I assembled all my bowls, measuring cups (one for dry ingredients and one for wet), measuring spoons, and ingredients. Then I began mashing the bananas one at a time on a plate with a fork – it’s really quite easy. I added each banana to the measuring cup after mashing it but I know from past experience that I’ll need 5-6 bananas for this recipe. This recipe is for 2 loaves – which freeze nicely if you want to save one for later. With the rest of the leftover bananas, I mashed up another 2 cups of banana to store in the freezer for later use. You can also simply put a very overripe whole banana in the freezer to use later.

Once baked, this banana bread should cool on a wire rack in their pans for about a half an hour. Then it’s ready for taste-testing. A slice of warm banana bread, with butter spread generously on top, and a cup of tea is to die for.

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Banana Bread Recipe (2 loaves)

2 cups mashed ripe bananas (about 5-6 bananas)
2/3 cup oil or melted butter (please don’t use margarine)
1 cup honey or brown sugar
4 eggs (I use local free-run eggs where the chickens aren’t caged)
3 1/2 cups of flour, preferably whole wheat
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 cup hot water

Beat the oil and honey/sugar together. I like to use as few dishes as possible so I crack the eggs, one at a time, in the measuring cup I just used for the oil. I beat each egg, then add it to the mixture before going on to the next egg. Mix well after all the eggs have been added. Add the mashed bananas. Mix all the dry ingredients (flour, salt, baking soda) together. Add the dry ingredients alternately with the hot water, to the banana mixture and mix until smooth. Pour equally into 2 greased loaf pans.
Bake at 325F degrees for 55 – 60 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for half an hour. Slice and enjoy!

 

from my family cookbook Mom’s Recipes

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Nettle Tea

I love tea – yes, I’m a real ‘tea granny’. I also like iced tea. When I went to Florida a few years ago with some of my grown kids/grandkids, I learned that you had to ask for ‘hot tea’ is you did not want ice tea.

NettlesWM

 
I’ve already harvested my first batch of Stinging Nettle found growing wild around my yard near the pond, river, and (unfortunately) the playhouse, where a big bunch was leaning into the porch blocking the door just waiting to brush against bare skin, stinging it for hours. Nettle is one of those amazing plants that I love and dislike. I don’t like how the raw plant stings my skin but I just love the great, healthy tea that it makes.
I picked the leaves with heavy garden gloves on to avoid the sting. I actually cut off each leaf and put it in a bag closepinned to my pants. When I got back up to the house, I blew off each leaf and placed it in my dehydrator to dry overnight.

Drying Nettles

Nettles in the Dehydrator

The next morning it was done – shrunken, crisp and ready to crumble into a glass jar to store. But first I had to make a batch of nettle ice tea to keep in the fridge for the upcoming days of heat and humidity. I fill a large tea strainer with as much dried nettle as I can stuff in. Then I place it in a glass Mason jar and fill it with boiling water. It takes hours to cool before I put it in the fridge. I leave in the strainer for at least a day to get all the flavour and nutrients I can.
I love nettle ice tea sweetened with my own maple syrup that I made this spring and with a slice of frozen lemon (to keep it cold) – especially after I come in from working outdoors in the garden for a few hours. Usually after I’m done with a glass of nettle ice tea, I refill it with water, keeping the lemon to add a delicious tarty flavour.
I wrote about Nettles a few years ago if you want to read about it here  https://grammomsblog.wordpress.com/2014/06/22/nettles/ .

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Poison Ivy

 

It loves me. It stalks me. It finds me. Every single year. No matter how careful I am to avoid it, Poison Ivy hunts me down and infects me. “Leaves of three, let them be”. Ya, right……

I wear long sleeves and gloves and try to stay away from this monstrous plant which resides under the cedars out front. Poison Ivy releases Urushiol oil which is so potent that only one nanogram (billionth of a gram) is needed to cause a rash. The problem is that I sweat a lot when I work, especially with long sleeves and pants, so my open pores absorb the resin deeply into my skin. I’m aware that poison ivy is out to get me so I’m careful about removing my outer clothing in the mudroom before I come in the house.

poison ivy
I wash my exposed face and neck with Sunlight laundry bar soap as soon as a get in the house to get off any Poison Ivy residue. But it LOVES me too much to let me go! I saw two plants this week while I was mulching and I didn’t touch them but covered them with about 6″ of mulch. TWO PLANTS!! Two lousy plants!
The ‘blisters’ started to come out the next day. First below my lower lip then beside my right eye. Then my forearms had tons of little spots that started to itch. Two years ago, the poison ivy was so bad on my face that my eyes were swollen shut – it was time for medical intervention. My daughter drove me to the doctors and I was prescribed Prednisone. I hated to take it but I was desperate – and it worked like a charm.
I’ve tried many remedies to reduce the itching: Calamine lotion; rubbing alcohol; hydrocortisone cream; letting Sunlight laundry soap bar dry on my skin; taking mega doses of garlic and vitamin C; you name it! But nothing really works for me – it just has to run it’s course which takes about 3-4 weeks. This year, when my right eye started to swell shut and the itchy blisters covered my forearms, I had to resign to a 5 day course of Prednisone and benadryl. 😦

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Two years ago my eyes swelled shut

I made some forearm ‘sleeves’ from old socks to cover the oozing blisters and prevent me from scratching. I’m trying to avoid scratching which can be a real test.
I have tried, in the past, to eradicate each plant – vinegar; covering it with a jar or can (hopefully it would suffocate); leaving it alone and hoping it would go away. One year I was SO desperate that I even bought RoundUp to kill it. Then I couldn’t bear to use it on all of them (maybe I should have…..) because I’m a supporter of a healthy ecosystem.
Maybe all I have to do is simply stay away from that part of my garden and let the whole area run wild! I’m just a sucker for punishment I guess.

Candied Squash

I love squash. My favourites are the winter types like Acorn, Butternut, and Buttercup but my overall, hands-down best is Butternut. During the summer, I like to BBQ sliced Zucchini squash brushed with my homemade Italian salad dressing.
I’ve roasted Butternut squash halves in my oven while I cook dinner. I’ve also made a yummy Curried Squash Soup (recipe here) that my DIL Jeanette introduced me to. Lately though, I’ve been craving for squash nearly every day – it’s probably due to my body’s need for more squash-specific nutrition. Afterall, squash is the new Superfood. It contains a huge amount of vitamins A, C, E, B6, B2, B3, K, niacin, thiamin, manganese, copper, potassium, pantothenic acid, folate, omega 3 fats, magnesium, and fiber.

homegrown squash

Organic Homegrown Squash

I grow squash in my garden or purchase locally grown produce in the fall – one of the best things about squash is that it’s locally grown and available all winter long. It’s not suprising why North American Natives grew “the three sisters”, corn, squash, and beans as a dietary staple. I store it every fall in my mudroom in a basket on the floor. It’s pretty cool in there all winter and I know squash probably doesn’t like it THAT cool (45F degrees/7C) but they seem to be just fine. It’s easy to cut off a hunk from the neck or half a squash and cook it randomly inside the oven of my wood cookstove.
I decided to add a little zest to my squash and now this has become my favourite! I call it Candied Squash.  It’s not really candy but it might as well be to me!   Here’s the recipe:

1WM

 
Candied Squash Recipe

1/2 butternut squash or the neck of a butternut squash
Butter – please, please do NOT use margarine (a bucket of chemicals)
1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
cinnamon
Scoop out any seeds inside the squash half you are using. I cover the open end of the other piece with a leftover plastic bag and put it back in storage with the rest.
Slice into one inch pieces. Peel off the outer skin. Cut into one inch cubes.

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Butter lightly a baking dish or piece of tin foil. Put in the squash. Add 4-5 small pieces of butter on top. Sprinkle with brown sugar and cinnamon. Cover or wrap the tinfoil to completely cover it.

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Bake for at least an hour at 325F degrees. I left mine in the cookstove yesterday for 4 hours because I forgot about it and it was deliciously ‘well-done’!
I usually simply pour it into a bowl and eat. Sometimes, if I’ve planned ahead, I add it as a side to my dinner meal.
I hope you enjoy this recipe and discover that squash tastes as good as it looks.

4WM

Christmas Baking Recipes

It’s that time of year again for Christmas baking.  Even though Christmas is less than two weeks away, I still haven’t started any of my baking yet and I blame it all on global warming.  Yes, that’s right, global warming a.k.a. climate change.  IT’S +10C OUTSIDE these days and the temperature doesn’t go below zero overnight!   Two all-time record high temperatures were shattered in the last two days.  There has been no snow (this time last year we had 25 cms of snow) and the grass is still emerald green and growing!  How’s a person supposed to get into the Christmas mood?  I’ve tried by getting out my Christmas village and decorating the house to raise my Christmas spirit…..  I usually do most of my Christmas baking a few weeks before Christmas and freeze the baked goods in tins in my garage but since it’s unusually warm, my garage isn’t cold inside.  This year, I’ll be baking the day before Christmas unless we get a sudden cold snap.

I want to share my favourite Christmas recipes including Hello Dollies, Chocolate Chow Mein Clusters, and Rice Krispy Squares.  You’ll find my other Christmas recipes I previously posted for Cherry Cheesecake, Chocolate Cocoanut Macaroons, and Peanut Brittle by clicking on their names.

Macaroon

Chocolate Cocoanut Macaroons

 

Hello Dolly Recipe

I have no idea where this name came from!  I got this recipe from Karen Sibbett almost 45 years ago.  My son Darin really, really likes these.

¼ cup butter

1 cup graham wafer crumbs

1 cup chopped walnuts

1 cup shredded, unsweetened cocoanut

1 cup of chocolate chips

1 can sweetened condensed milk

Melt butter in a 9X13” pan and spread around including sides.   Add graham wafer crumbs, spreading evenly around.  Add the walnuts, cocoanut, and chocolate chips sprinkling evenly.  Top with sweetened condensed milk.

Bake at 325F for 20 minutes on the oven rack that is place one slot higher.

Cool completely and then cut into one inch, bite-size squares.  These freeze very well.

 

Chocolate Chow Mein Clusters Recipe

I believe that my son Taylor prefers these.

In the top of a double boiler, combine:

½ cup butter

1 ½ cups chocolate chips

½ cup butterscotch chips

¼ cup peanut butter

Stir often until melted.

In a bowl, mix:

2 cups dry chow mein noodles

1 cup peanuts

Add to melted mixture, stirring well to combine all the ingredients.  Spoon blobs on a cookie sheet.  Cool then store in a container with a well-fitting lid.  Freezes well.  Serve at room temperature.

 

Rice Krispie Squares Recipe

Of course, who wouldn’t love these anytime – my grandchildren sure do!

In a large pot, melt:

¼ cup butter

1 package of marshmallows

Add and quickly mix:

½ teaspoon vanilla

5 cups Rice Krispies

Press into a buttered 9X13” pan.  Cool.  Cut into bite-size squares…… or bigger.

Enjoy!

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Cherry Cheesecake

The Last Frontier

I arrived in snowy Whitehorse, Yukon in Canada’s far north after a remarkable flight over British Columbia mountains.  My son and D-I-L  were waiting excitedly for me at the airport – they drove nearly 2 hours from home to pick me up!  First stop was downtown Whitehorse with it’s amazing ‘old town’, gold-rush looking buildings which date back 100 years.  We strolled around in the windy, cold, snow-covered streets wandering down to the mighty Yukon River.  This place oozed history!  It was exciting to think about days gone by when gold prospectors filled this town and others like it hoping to strike it rich.  After a stop at the used book store, we headed out of town passing the S.S. Klondike, a dry-docked sternwheeler riverboat along the Yukon River and now a National Historic Site.  Then we turned on to the world famous Alaska Highway and headed towards their new home in Canada’s north!

What magnificent country!  Towering mountains on all sides!  Glacial lakes!  We even saw two mule deer and a family of three moose sauntering on the road on our journey!  We arrived in town just before dusk and made a quick tour of this historic ‘gold rush’ town along a glacial lake.  The whole area is surrounded by giant mountains and glaciers.  It’s like a picture out of a National Geographic magazine.  Then we arrived on the mountain at their new home overlooking all this splendor.

On my first full day, we drove further down their road to The Grotto.  Warmer, demineralized drinking water flowed out of a cave at the side of the road and rushed further down towards the lake.  Water cress was growing abundantly in the fast flowing creek so we harvested a handful to add to our stirfry.  A couple of local guys stopped by on their way home from their logging camp to get a few jugs of spring water and chat for a bit – they were interested in the new ‘Outsiders’ who had just moved to town.

Atlin Mountain overlooking Atlin Lake

View from their living room.

Day two found us taking a country drive back along the Spruce Creek to Surprise Lake.  In the early part of the last century, 10,000 gold prospectors lived in a town they created called Discovery, in tents, and panned for gold.  Remnants of old log homes and wooden gold ‘mining’ equipment still remain, like a monument to the past.  As we drove along, we suddenly spotted a wild lynx sitting along the far bank of the river!  At first I thought it was a wolf.  We skillfully skidded to a stop on the snow-covered road while my son literally jumped out of the car with his camera and ran to begin taking pictures and video.  The lynx stayed for about 10 minutes which shocked us because they are normally shy animals.  It was amazing to see such a wild, majestic animal!

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Lynx

We arrived at Surprise Lake Recreation Site and followed wolf tracks to a clearing which had picnic tables and an old cast iron Franklin stove, stocked with wood logs ready to burn.  All this overlooking the big lake, surrounded by snow-capped mountains.  My son told me that anyone can camp free at these B.C. Recreation Sites all over the province.  Who wouldn’t want to with all that privacy and breathtaking scenery!  On our way back to town, we stopped at a log cabin from the gold rush days which was being restored by the province.  It brought back memories of that bygone era when men and women came by ship up the west coast of North America and trekked over mountains by foot or dog sled, to arrive in these parts in hopes of finding their fortune in gold.

My daughter-in-law’s been cooking up a storm – she’s an awesome cook and I enjoy flavours from around the world when I’m with them.  We even had delicious breaded moose steak with salad – I’d never tasted moose before and enjoyed this wild game.

The next day, the clouds finally cleared out and I was able to see the tops of the surrounding mountains!  From their living room, I had to remember to breathe as I couldn’t believe that I was actually seeing this incredible site of a glacial lake and snow covered mountains.  Their lake is fed by hundreds of mountain rivers, creeks, and the Llewellyn Glacier and is the source of the mighty Yukon River, which has huge historical significance in this country’s past.

LLewellyn Glacier by http://mmellway.wix.com/photography and  https://www.facebook.com/martymellwayphotography/

LLewellyn Glacier

After cleaning the wood stove chimney, we ventured out to the beach on the lake.  We followed fresh wolf footprints along the shore in the bitterly cold wind taking pictures along the way until we were chilled to the bone.  Then we drove up the road to a viewpoint of the Llewellyn Glacier.  WOW!  The Juneau Icefield in the distance was enormous and the mountains went on as far as we could see, even to Alaska I think – wow this country is beautiful!  Then we ventured into town for a look-about and stopped at the infamous beached riverboat Tarahne which carried gold prospectors, supplies, and visitors across the lake back in the day.

The riverboat Tarahne

The riverboat Tarahne

I’ve seen more wildlife this week than in the past few decades:  Orca whales off Vancouver Island; Bald Eagles on Van. Isl. as well as soaring over my son’s house; Mule Deer including the one who sauntered right outside the front of the house, eating fireweed; a female Moose and her two calves crossing the road on our drive here from Whitehorse; a wild Lynx sitting along Pine Creek just outside of town at the old gold mining area of Discovery; a tiny Pygmy Owl that landed on a tree beside the front porch at dusk; a coyote sitting beside a frozen lake; and a pack of wolves crossing the road on our way back to the airport.

We went on a walking tour of town and explored the century old buildings, most of which are still in use.  This town is classic Frontier at its best!  I half expected to see a moose walking down the street (although there were moose tracks in the snow).  Remnants of the old gold rush days are still scattered among the town’s buildings and even the buildings themselves are historical monuments to this bygone era.

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Century old log building

I wasn’t disappointed when the clouds cleared to reveal the spectacular Aurora Borealis, also known as the Northern Lights, on two nights I was there!  WOW they were spectacular!   We watched swaths of green (and once purple) swaying and waving, expanding then contracting, continuously moving as if a gently breeze of breathtaking colour in the night sky.  Our eyes were focused on the horizon and up in the night sky for hours while we stood at the windows snug inside the house, in the dark, watching in awe and taking photos.   I felt inspired.  There are SO many scenes I want to paint now.

Northern Lights by http://mmellway.wix.com/photography and  https://www.facebook.com/martymellwayphotography/

Northern Lights

I’ve had an amazing time in this part of the country.  It truly is the last frontier of Canada.

Thanks to my son for allowing me to use some of his photos.

 

 

Grandkids and Pizza

The best combination!

Last weekend my 2 oldest granddaughters Kalia and Livi came over for the day.  I always love when they visit.  I also know that a 12 and 10 year old would probably rather be playing with their friends than spending the day with their ol’ gramma so I really cherish these times.

Kids today are so busy.  There are sports and studying after school and a whole slew of activities on the weekends.  It makes my head spin!  Vegging out is a luxury.  I was going to take them into town the day they came here but it was so windy and cold outside that we just stayed home.  Livi made a valiant attempt to go outside to play on her rope swing but the wind was just too much for her.

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Kneading the dough

Soon after the girls arrived, I started the pizza dough using my daughter-in-law Jeanette’s recipe (below).  I figured that maybe it would be fun for the girls to do some cooking and make their own pizzas for lunch.  I mixed together all the ingredients and let it rise while we watched a Disney movie (they still love Disney movies – heck, we all still love to watch Disney movies).  After an hour, I called the girls to the kitchen.  It was time to knead the dough!  I divided it into 3 pieces and dumped a bit of flour on the center island for each one.  I showed them how to knead the dough, sprinkling a little flour if it got sticky.  Livi had a great time adding lots of flour until I mentioned that the dough needs to ‘rise’ and double in size so if she added too much flour, it might get too heavy to rise.  She eased off adding more flour.  After 10 minutes of kneading and chatting, we put our balls of dough back into the bowl and covered it with a linen tea towel.  I explained why I use a linen towel – so the dough doesn’t stick to it.  We left it rise again until double in size while we watched another Disney movie.

Making our individual pizzas

Making our individual pizzas

After an hour or so, we took one of the balls and divided it into three separate pieces that would become our individual pizzas.   Each one of us rolled out our dough to fit the pans – a LITTLE bit more flour was used on the center island.  Then we cut up some tomatoes fresh from the garden, onions, and shredded some mozzarella cheese.  I almost forgot about the lone green pepper from my garden until Livi reminded me!  I also had some olives in the fridge.  Each one of us spread some pizza sauce on our dough then loaded them with our individual favourite toppings while the oven heated up.  I baked them all at the same time for 12 minutes and they were ready to eat.

They were pretty big pieces!  Livi was only able to eat half of hers while Kalia devoured all of her’s – she’s growing fast and is now taller than me.  We went back to watching more movies, tummies full.

I love spending these precious times with my grandchildren.  All too soon they’ll be all grown up.

Mmmm, 3 individual pizzas ready to eat!

Mmmm, 3 individual pizzas ready to eat!

Jeanette’s Pizza Dough

Mix together:

2 teaspoons dry yeast

3/4 cup lukewarm water

2/3 cup flour

Let sit for 30 minutes, then add:

1 cup flour

Let sit for 30 minutes, then add:

2+ cups flour (add 1/2 cup at a time)

1 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup olive oil

Add flour until dough pulls away from the side of the bowl.

Knead for 10 minutes and let it sit until doubled in size.

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