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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Little Free Library

I love reading books. When I was 11 years old, my love of reading began when my sister Betty told me to read Nancy Drew mystery stories. The rest is history. I have shelves and shelves full of books – some that I’ve read, some that are my kids, and some on a shelf to read ‘in retirement’ (whenever that is). So when I first heard about Little Free Libraries, I was intrigued and excited!
Little Free Libraries is just like a library only a ‘borrower’ can keep the book if they want or return it or another. There are over 36,000 registered LFLs all over the world. I LOVE libraries – our little library in town is barely bigger than my house but I can get any book I want through the inter-library loan system. My kids love reading books too. I wanted to bring that experience to others…. but with a twist.
I wanted my Little Free Library at the river where I live. Yes, I wanted to be able to have books available to anyone using the Rideau River whether it be in a canoe, motor boat, seadoo, kayak, and even on skates or a skidoo in the winter. I had a plan.
My late husband Chris was always making things out of wood. With some leftover pieces of pine used to make a rocking horse for our granddaughter Kalia, he crafted a mailbox that looked like our house. Unfortunately, the post office replaced our individual mailboxes with a community mailbox so this project was placed on the top shelf, unfinished, in his workshop. Fast forward 12 years – I thought it would be PERFECT to re-purpose it for my Little Free Library project! I would just have to assemble all the other parts, like the base, and figure out how to make one side of the roof ‘hinged’ to open and get books out.

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I first sketched our replica house’s doors and windows on one side then dug out my paints. Luckily I had the right colours of blue for the house and white for trim. First I painted all the blue siding then the darker blue roof. Then I painstakingly painted the windows with grids and doors. All these steps took days to dry in between coats of paint.
I didn’t have the type of piano hinge I wanted for the roof section: I wanted the back half of the roof fixed and screwed in place (yes I actually found the drill and remembered to charge up the battery). But I wanted to put a piano hinge at the peak for the two sections of roof to join. However, I didn’t want to spend any money for a new one! I’m not cheap (okay maybe I’m frugal) but I wanted this project to be sustainable and I wanted to use the materials I had on hand. Heaven knows that my Chris NEVER threw anything out and there are drawers full of screws and washers and little hinges and you name it! That’s the first place I always look and usually I find it too.
I thought about that roof for a few weeks. I had to use something that would allow opening and closing AND would keep the contents inside dry….. Finally I figured out a solution: I used two swatches of indoor/outdoor carpet and secured them to the roof peak with bolts, washers, and nuts. I couldn’t use screws because they would stick out on the underside and possibly scratch someone. Then I caulked the peak joint with flexible caulking, along with all the seams inside my Little Free Library house.

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I found a piece of previously used wood for the base that was a bit bigger than the LFL house. I used wood glue to secure it and when that was dry, I screwed it to my LFL house. It was ready to go! I put it in my wheelbarrow (it was heavy) and took it down to our dock. I had purchased a shiny hand-held windmill and a couple of Canada flags to attach to the dock and act as an attractant. I created a sign, printed it at home, and laminated it then screwed it onto the dock post. My (unofficial) Little Free Library was screwed onto the end of my dock and filled with books for little kids, teenagers, and adults – I packed each book in a plastic zipper-loc seal bag just in case. It has rained since and the inside of the LFL has remained dry.
Now, I just have to dedicate some funds to register it officially ($54) – hopefully by the end of the summer. I want to take a LFL sign down to the provincial park just down the road and speak with the administrator about it. On weekends, they have ‘events’ for campers and a free nearby water-access library might be of interest to them. There is also the local newspaper and radio (both of which have an online presence) that I’m going to contact as well.

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The other day, I watched a child with their father using the “library on the water” and I knew I had done the right thing. And on the weekend, my granddaughter Livi ‘borrowed’ a few books as well.
As far as I know, my (unofficial) Little Free Library is the only water-access library in the world. And on a UNESCO World Heritage Site to boot!

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https://littlefreelibrary.org/

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.

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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.

My TV

I like to watch television especially during cold winter evenings. For decades now, we have subscribed to a satellite TV company and have a small 3 foot satellite dish mounted on our roof. I remember the time before satellite TV was available that the options were a TV antenna or a monstrous, spaceship-looking 10 foot diameter satellite dish. The small TV antenna could simply be mounted on a roof or an antenna tower. However, those huge old school vintage satellite dishes required ground mounting and were an eye sore. My husband Chris wanted badly to get one of those huge monstrosities but I put my foot down and said no way I’m gonna look at that thing! When the new small satellite dishes came on the market, he convinced me that it would look unobtrusive mounted on the garage roof and I wouldn’t even notice! Besides, he said, I would get to watch crystal clear TV instead of the ‘snowy’ pictures I was used to and the signal wouldn’t cut out at 10 p.m. near the end of a good show. Okay, SOLD!
The dish was mounted and hooked up by cable to the indoor receiver (which was an additional cost). And now, instead of free, albiet fuzzy at times, TV we had a monthly bill! It started out as a reasonable $30 and stayed that way for quite a long time. Then in the last decade, the price kept creeping up. I promised myself that when it got to $50, I was going to cancel it, then $70, but I kept it anyway – it’s now $77 plus over $10 in tax. I calculated that we’ve probably spent nearly $10,000 on satellite TV over the years – crazy!   I think I was addicted to satellite TV – I now LOVED watching the Home and Garden TV (HGTV), the Women’s Network, and the History channel!
In the past few years, my grown kids kept telling me that there was a better way now. There was online streaming, Netfix, Project FreeTV….. I learned also that a few years ago, the industry changed the way TV signals over-the-air were delivered from analog to digital High Definition to TV antennas. My son Darin even made me a “coat-hanger antenna” (which I mounted on to our telescope at the window) so I could watch non-satellite, over-the-air (old fashioned way) high definition local TV programs on our new flat screen TV. It was SO much clearer than the satellite TV reception! I wrote about watching the Olympics (here). Oh yes, you can pay the satellite provider more money for high definition after you also purchase from them a high definition receiver.

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Home made antenna

I’d been getting “all my ducks in a row” over the past six months anticipating making a change. It was a bonus to me when the CRTC (Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission) announced last fall that service providers must offer basic TV packages for $25 or less by March 1, 2016. I began taking note of the TV channels that I watch the most. I already knew that I usually watched only about a dozen channels of the 225 in the package that I subscribed to. There wasn’t much choice – it was the ‘Package’ or nothing.
I shocked myself when I realized that I was ‘addicted’ to satellite TV. But once that happened, I was determined to do something about it. My family will tell you that I’m a bit of a ‘control freak’ and I didn’t feel that I had any control over my satellite TV programming. I knew I had to make changes in stages. I had to find an amicable balance that worked for ME.
The first week of March, I went online to check out the new $25 “Skinny” Basic TV packages with my satellite provider, Shaw Direct, but was very disappointed that their website did not have these up and running yet. So this week, I went online again and the ‘Limited’ package was finally available! They sure know how to use marketing skills calling it ‘Limited’ and making customers feel that they are getting something sub-standard or limiting. I found that it was exactly what I wanted! I had already decided the amount of money I would pay for my television entertainment: maximum $50. The Limited plan gave me all my local stations (most of which I could also watch in high definition on my homemade over-the-air antenna as long as the weather was good) and a few others plus the Weather Network (a must for me) – up to 50 channels. Then there were several bundles which you could add: 5 more channels for $15 and another 5 for five bucks more. Luckily, the channels that I had already determined that I wanted were in the cheapest bundle. Not only that, several channels were bundled along with another similar channel like HGTV with the DIY channel (which I didn’t have before), both Women’s Network East and West, and History channel East and West. I ended up with all those channels plus CTV News Channel and Cottage Life channel (which I had watched at my sister Faye’s house). So basically I got MORE for LESS $$! And I came in under budget. AND I GOT TO CHOOSE.
I found our old TV antenna in the loft of the playhouse – I want to mount it on the roof again and see what reception I can get with it before I spend money on a new TV antenna. I like to BE the chooser of how I spend MY time. I don’t want it imposed on me when I decide to watch television. I can pick whether I want to watch TV shows or movies via my chosen satellite programming or over-the-air antenna in high definition or stream via my computer hooked up to the HDMI to my TV.
I’ve been beaming all week.

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:

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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.

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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

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