Anna’s Great-Nana’s Banana Nut Bread

One of my wedding gifts from my Nana (my dad’s mother) was a collection of her favorite recipes to add to my recipe box. They’re not the recipes I make all the time – most of them are desserts and special occasion foods – but some of them are real treasures.

I occasionally, like many people, purchase too many bananas. I eat them frequently, but some weeks I end up forgetting about them until they start to be past their raw-eating-prime. (AKA they turn black and smushy)

Usually when this happens, I make smoothies.

At one point, however, I decided to see if I had a good banana bread recipe around. While digging through my recipe box, I came across one in my Nana’s handwriting, but the recipe isn’t hers. The recipe belonged to her mother in law, my Great-Nana Erma Martoccio, who lived in New York in the early 1900’s. She is largely responsible for my Nana being an amazing cook, since my Nana is a farm girl from rural Tennessee and only comes by her Italian cooking by marriage.

It’s a very simple recipe, with no particularly special ingredients, but the bread is spectacular. (It is neither low fat nor low calorie, but this is special-occasion bread.)

Anna’s Great-Nana’s Banana Nut Bread
Recipe courtesy of Erma Martoccio

Hardware:

  • Two regular loaf pans or three “small” loaf pans
  • A mixer
  • A large bowl, a small bowl, the usual assortment of measuring cups, a spatula

Software:

  • 3/4 c. butter
  • 1 1/2c. sugar
  • 1 1/2c. mashed ripe bananas (3-4 medium)
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 eggs, well beaten
  • 1/2 c. buttermilk, divided
  • 2 c. flour, divided
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • Optional: 3/4 c. chopped nuts (I use pecans)
  • Optional: 1/2 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips

I also usually make this in my stand mixer with the paddle attachment, but you can easily do it with a hand mixer and a spatula.

The Program:

  1. Preheat oven to 325F. Grease the bottoms only of your loaf pans with non-stick spray or butter. I use three 1.2 quart Pyrex glass loaf pans (they have red lids, and are, I think, storage dishes, but they bake just fine).
  2. Cream together the butter and the sugar. While the mixer is going, crack the eggs into a small bowl and beat with a fork.
  3. Blend in the mashed bananas, beaten eggs, and vanilla
  4. Add, in order and mixing on low speed in between, 1/4c. buttermilk, 1 cup flour, 1 tsp baking soda, 1/4c. butter milk and the final cup of flour.
  5. With the spatula, gently mix in the nuts and chocolate chips, if using.
  6. Divide the batter evenly between the loaf pans.
  7. If using two 9×5 loaf pans, bake for 70-75 minutes. If using three smaller loaf pans, bake for 50-55 minutes. A toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean, and the loaves should be golden brown and delicious. The tops of the loaves may crack – that’s OK (even desirable).

This recipe freezes well and will keep in the refrigerator (cooled completely and wrapped well) for at least a week or two… but it never lasts that long in my house. The chocolate chips are my own idea and not in the original recipe, but they are quite a delicious addition, if I do say so myself.

Enjoy!

Quick and Easy Enchiladas (or Casserole)

These are /not/ traditional enchiladas.  They are, however, quick, easy, and delicious, and since you are not actually cooking the chicken in the oven, relatively foolproof.  I will admit to not actually measuring anything in this recipe!

The original recipe (that I have lost) is for enchiladas, but upon discovering some completely stuck together tortillas in the fridge that were perfectly edible – but not actually capable of rolling into enchiladas – the casserole was born.

Also – you can adjust the heat as you like it.  Use spicy salsa and enchilada sauce, or throw in a few jalapenos if you favor the flame, or use mild and it’ll be much tamer.

You need:

  • 1 cooked rotisserie chicken (or a few cups of leftover cooked chicken)
  • 1 cup of sour cream
  • 1 cup chunky salsa
  • 1 can of enchilada sauce
  • 1 onion
  • 2 cups shredded cheese (cheddar or jack or whatever you like)
  • 1 package flour tortillas
  • 9×13 baking dish

Preheat oven to 375.

Pick all the meat off the rotisserie chicken and chop it into chunks.  Dice the onion. Place both the onion and the chicken in a large bowl with the sour cream and the salsa.  Stir well.

FOR ENCHILADAS:

Spray the bottom of the pan with cooking spray, and put about 1/2 cup of enchilada sauce on a big plate (measurements don’t really matter at this point). Take a tortilla and dip it into the sauce on both sides, add a scoop of the chicken mixture, and roll.  Place it in the pan.

Repeat until the pan is full, then dump the rest of the enchilada sauce over the prepared enchiladas, top with cheese, and bake for 30-40 minutes (or until bubbly and gooey and delicious).

FOR CASSEROLE:

Spray the bottom of the pan with cooking spray, and put about 1/2 cup of enchilada sauce into the bottom of the pan.

Tear up 2-3 tortillas and make a layer of tortilla goodness on top of the sauce.  Add approximately half of the chicken mixture, spread evenly, followed by another half cup or so of the enchilada sauce, and half of the cheese.

Repeat with more tortillas, chicken, and sauce – but hold off on the cheese.  Add another top layer of tortillas, the last dregs of the sauce, and the last half of the cheese.

Bake for 30-45 minutes, or until bubbly and delicious.

Delicious Crispy Baked Cabbage

“Traditionally” Irish-Americans eat corned beef and cabbage today – but I am not a fan of the traditional Irish method of cooking said cabbage, which is to boil the life out of it.  It’s smelly, slimy, and generally not my favorite.  However, I *do* like cabbage – and this is the way that I usually choose to make it.

  • One head of cabbage (serves 4-6)
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Olive oil or melted butter
  • Mustard (Spicy Brown/Grainy plz!)
  • Yoghurt or sour cream

Preheat your oven to 400F.  Line a cookie sheet with foil, and smear a little oil (or spray it with cooking spray) to keep the cabbage from sticking.  Slice the cabbage into wedges – leaving the core intact, so the wedges don’t fall apart.  I usually shoot for 8 wedges – if the wedges are thicker they’ll take longer to cook, thinner and they’ll get more brown/crispy.  Sprinkle each wedge with salt and pepper, and brush the cut edges with a little olive oil or melted butter.

Bake for 10-15 minutes, watching carefully, until the cabbage gets brown and crispy on the edges and is softened slightly.

Mix equal parts mustard and yoghurt or sour cream, and drizzle it over the cabbage wedges.

You can also successfully grill the cabbage instead of baking it.

Simple Balsalmic Roasted Asparagus

For about 1lb asparagus

  • Olive Oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Balsalmic Vinegar

Preheat oven to 375F.  Trim asparagus ends, and place in a glass baking dish – I usually use an 8×8 pyrex (but a loaf pan works as well).  Drizzle with olive oil (probably 1-2 tbsp), sprinkle with salt, pepper liberally, and then add 1-2 tbsp (ish) of balsalmic vinegar.  Toss the asparagus well to coat.  Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until sizzling and the asparagus juuuust start to turn dark.  The skinnier the asparagus, the more flavor they will pick up, and the faster they’ll cook.

(if you overcook them, they’re still delicious, just they get a little brown around the edges instead of staying bright green).

If you are feeling adventurous, you can quickly dip bread in the yummy juice that will be left over – just be warned that it is quite strong (and mostly vinegar!)

Strawberry Sorbet

Fast, simple, and utterly delicious.

  • 1lb bag frozen strawberries, partially thawed (I leave them on the counter for an hour or two in the bag)
  • 3/4c powdered/confectioners sugar
  • 3Tbsp vodka
  • Juice of one lemon (fresh is best)

Cut open the bag of semi-frozen strawberries and dump it (and any liquid) into the blender.  Add remaining ingredients, puree thoroughly. Pour into ice cream freezer (I have one of these), and freeze according to directions.  Can be eaten soft serve or put in the freezer to harden.

Using the confectioners sugar and the semi-frozen strawberries makes it so you don’t have to let your sorbet mix chill in the fridge before making it into sorbet – it’s already cold, and you don’t need to make and then cool a simple syrup. The vodka is in there just to help it stay scoopable/softer when fully frozen – you won’t taste the alcohol.

Stuffed Roasted Poblano Peppers

My own take on the restaurant classic.  Serve with refried beans and sour cream.

  • 3 large or 4 medium poblano peppers
  • 1 onion
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, diced into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1 cup diced tomato (fresh is better, canned will pass)
  • 1/2 cup diced mushrooms
  • shredded monterrey jack or cheddar cheese
  • Spices – I use cumin and “Fajita Seasoning” (this has salt in it, if you want plain seasonings, add salt)
  • 2 qt casserole dish with lid

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Wearing gloves (really, trust me) wash the peppers, and then using a sharp paring knife, slice down one side and across the top part way to make a T shaped opening.  Pull out the white pith, and slice out the seeds, leaving the stem intact.

In a skillet over med-high heat, saute the chicken until it’s about half done, then add the onion and garlic. Season with Seasoning Salt and Cumin.  If you like spicier peppers, add some cayenne or red pepper flakes. When the chicken is cooked, add the tomatoes and mushrooms, cook for 1-2 minutes, then remove from heat.

Put the peppers into a 2qt casserole or covered baking dish (I can baaarely fit three peppers in my standard 2qt). Sprinkle a little of the shredded cheese in the bottom of each, and then stuff with the chicken mixture. Fold the sides back up, and sprinkle with the rest of the cheese.  Dump the enchilada sauce in the pan, making sure to get a little over the openings in the pepper.

Cover and bake for 30-45 minutes.