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.

1wm

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/ .

Nettle2WM

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. 😦

WM

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.

2WM

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.

3WM

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

Cinnamon Buns

One of my favourite memories of visiting my grandparent’s farm on the Gaspé is my Grandmother’s (‘Mom’ as we affectionately called her) cinnamon buns.  The smell of them baking was heavenly!  As a young woman, I never even attempted to bake these delicious rolls because I knew I’d never match those of Moms.  I’ve now accepted the fact that I cannot reproduce those specific buns or that smell of cinnamon mixed with the farm scents of manure and the ocean’s salty air in my grandmother’s kitchen.

doneWM

About 15 years ago, I got a bread making machine for Christmas.  I use it these days to make my own cinnamon roll dough.  The Basic Sweet Dough recipe calls for the ingredients to be added to the bread maker and the setting set on ‘Dough’.  After 90 minutes, the dough is ready to be rolled out on a floured countertop.  Last time I made these, I was outside during the machine-making phase and was so busy in the garden that I forgot about it until 2 hours past the time it was done.  When I got inside, the dough  completely  filled the entire bread machine right to the top!  It was the best dough ever!  I gently rolled it out being careful to maintain all the air bubble which make it rise.

doughWM

Once the dough is rolled out to approximately 12 inches by 18 inches, I butter it generously over the entire surface.  Then I spoon or shake on LOTS of cinnamon all over which I cover completely with brown sugar.  I roll it up into a long ‘log’ and cut one inch ‘rolls’ – about 12-15 of them.  Sometimes I put them in a glass pan but usually I bake them on a large cookie sheet.  I move my oven rack up one level so it’s not too close to the heat.  Preheat the oven to 325F degrees   and bake for 12-15 minutes.  I have a ‘hot’ oven so I usually take them out after about 14 minutes when they are just starting to brown.  We usually can’t wait for them to cool, so I carefully pull one apart to ‘taste-test’ it…….. well that’s my excuse anyway.

rolled out WM

Here’s the Cinnamon Buns recipe:

Basic Sweet Dough

Put all these ingredients into your bread-maker in order:

1 Cup Water

2 large eggs

¼ cup Butter, softened

2 teaspoons salt

4 cups flour

½ cup sugar

3 tablespoons Skim Milk Powder

2 teaspoons quick-rise Yeast

As I mentioned, select the ‘Dough’ setting on your bread-maker and start.

ingedientsWM

Once the dough is done, in 90 minutes (like I said, I’m letting mine sit in the bread-maker for another 2 hours from now on), lightly flour a countertop.  Dump the dough onto the flour.  Use a floured rolling pin to roll it out.  Check to see if it’s sticking to the counter and if it is, add more flour to the counter.  Completely butter it, add the cinnamon and sprinkle on the brown sugar with your hand, roll up, and cut into pieces.  Grease the baking pan with butter and ‘very lightly’ sprinkle a little bit of flour.  Place the round buns on your pan and cover with a linen cloth, waxed paper, or plastic wrap.  Put in the oven and turn the light on (which will add a bit of heat).  Let rise for one hour.  Remove from the oven after an hour, preheat to 325F and then bake for 12-15 minutes.

bakedWM

You can add icing if you want – I don’t usually.  Mix icing sugar with a wee bit of milk so it’s thick enough to gently spread.  AFTER the buns have cooled completely, drizzle with icing.

Store at room temperature in a container with a tight fitting lid.  I use a cookie tin.  It takes the two of us about 3 days to eat 15 cinnamon buns and the last one is as fresh as the first one.

Enjoy!

For my cousin Bruce, in honour of Andrea

Pulled Pork

The weather has turned cold again for the umpteenth time this spring.  One day it’s 34C degrees and the next day it’s 6C degrees.  I honestly hate heating up the house when it’s SO hot outside so I won’t use my oven during hot weather. Today is a perfect day to bake since it’s only going to get up to 12C degrees, so I’m making pulled pork in the oven.   Not just any old internet pulled pork recipe – my daughter-in-law Jeanette’s Pulled Pork!   It’s ‘to die’ for.

I use my large roasting pan to cook it in but you can probably use a slow cooker if you adjust the cooking time.

Jeanette’s Pulled Pork Recipe

  • Pork roast (butt or shoulder, bone-in is best)  1 to 2kg
  • a few big chunks of veg like celery, carrot, onion, garlic in the bottom of the pot
  • put you roast on top
  • add what will be the equivalent  to a BBQ sauce below ( you can use your favourite bottled BBQ sauce but I’d recommend you try this recipe first)

In a large bowl, combine:

  • 3/4-1cup ketchup or plain can tomatoes or tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar or honey or molasses
  • 1/3 cup cider vinegar
  • 3 teaspoon chopped garlic
  • 1 tablespoon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1 (2 for spicy) tablespoon cumin
  • ½ teaspoon chilli powder
  • pepper and some salt to taste
  • add (2 to) 3 cups water (stock/beer – I’ve always just used water but Jeanette says beer is best!). Make sure the liquid goes half way up the roast.
Ready to bake

Ready to bake

Cover with lid and cook in oven for 3+ hours at 325F degrees (or less long at 375F degrees), but basically till it falls apart.

Taste the sauce throughout to see if its balanced well and adjust a bit if necessary.

Remember the liquid will reduce and become a thicker sauce and the vinegar flavour will be less strong.  Check throughout to see if sauce is thickening…adjust salt at the end….you can uncover the last hour or so to let it really thicken.  Every time I’ve made this the sauce thickness has been different.

When done, scoop out the veggies and set aside in a covered oven-proof container.  Place in the oven, which you’ve just turned off, to keep warm.  Carefully remove the pork.  Place the roast pan with the barbeque sauce in the oven as well, to keep warm.

cooked

cooked

Remove all the meat off the bone and shred into small pieces.  This usually takes me 20+ minutes – hence why I keep the other stuff in the oven to keep warm.  Pour the warm sauce on top and mix.

Tonight we had pulled pork on garlic toast with a side of the carrots, celery, garlic, and onion from the pot.   It also goes nice on buns or as a side to veggie dishes or salad.  It’s quite a bit of meat for just two people so I usually divide it up into meal-size containers and freeze them for future use.

ready to eat

ready to eat

Thanks again Jea!

Chocolate Coconut Macaroons

This time of year, there are a lot of chocolate treats going around. My children used to love hunting for chocolate goodies all over the house. It was especially funny when they’d discover an unfound treat months later in a puzzle or under a couch cushion or when they opened up the dining room table to add the leaves.
Rather than give candy to my family now, I make these special ‘cookies’ to eat. Like many of my deserts for special occassions, these macaroons are very nutritious……..sort of. They have something from every food group – 1. Fruit: coconut & cocoa; 2. Meat/Alternatives: milk & butter; 3. Carbs: oatmeal; 4. Fats/Oils/Sugar: butter & sugar. Well, it could be a meal in itself! It IS if I say so – my house, my rules. Okay, not quite.
I’d like to share the recipe that my sister Betty originally gave to me for Chocolate Coconut Macaroons  – makes about 3 dozen.

Chocolate Coconut Macaroons Recipe
cooking macaroonsCombine in a large pot, mix well & bring to a boil:
1/2 cup Milk
1/2 cup Butter
4 heaping Tablespoons Cocoa
2 cups Sugar (ya I know, my bad)

Remove from heat and add:
1 teaspoon Vanilla
pinch of salt
Combine these two ahead of time and have them waiting in a bowl to add:
2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
2 cups rolled oats (uncooked oatmeal)

Mix well. Spoon quickly onto a cookie sheet covered with parchment or wax paper. Let sit until firm or cool.

Macaroon
Share.
Eat in moderation.
Enjoy.

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