Maple-Banana Bread

banana-maple bread

We got 28.5 inches of snow here in Philadelphia over the last 24 hours. I bought oranges, lemons and grapefruit yesterday before the storm hit, thinking that I might take advantage of the snow day and make a batch of mixed citrus marmalade.

Instead, I embraced the slowness of the snow and rambled through the day. I walked over to my cousins’ house and spent a couple of hours helping celebrate Derek’s third birthday. Back at home, I did some dishes and organized canning jars (I invest more time in this particular endeavor than I care to admit). For dinner, I quickly cooked some broccoli and reheated the rest of the chicken pot pie I made on Thursday night. And I transformed some seriously blackened bananas into Maple-Banana Bread.

I’d been watching these bananas get progressively blacker and less appealing for most of the week. Each time I made dinner, I’d move them from one counter top and then back again, always mentally promising them that I’d use them before they were beyond salvation. Today, with the snow and general coziness, baking just felt like the obvious choice.

I used to be devoted to the banana bread recipe in the late sixties edition of The Joy of Cooking (when left to its own devices, my mother’s copy opens right to that recipe). However, over the years I’ve tweaked it so thoroughly, that it’s hardly related to the original. This version lives on an index card in my kitchen, tucked between the radio and my kitchen scale. Made with whole wheat pastry flour, wheat germ and maple syrup, it manages to be tender and not too sweet (perfect with a dab of apple or pear butter!).

So gather your aging bananas and bake up a batch this weekend!

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The Blog Aid Cookbook Now Available

Much to the delight of everyone involved, the Blog Aid Cookbook is now available! So many thanks go out to Julie and her team of volunteers who helped transform an idea into beautiful reality. As it stands now, since the ordering site went live on Blurb just before midnight last night, nearly 400 copies have been sold. Thanks to the generosity the project partners (West Canadian Graphics and Blurb.com) and their matching funds (up to $10,000), those sales means that over $20,000 CDN have been raised for Red Cross and Doctors without Borders.

The book can be ordered in either paper ($25) or hard back ($50) here (or you can get to it by clicking the Blog Aid image in the right rail). Whichever cover you choose, you’ll get a 7 x 7 book, with 110 pages of recipes and full-color photos.

And, if you’re not yet tempted by this lovely book (and my three recipes), consider all the other contributors. Chef Michael Smith, Dana McCauley, Emily Richards, Catharine from Weelicious, Cheryl from Backseat Gourmet, Julie of Dinner with Julie, Jeannette of Everybody Likes Sandwiches, Nishta from Blue Jean Gourmet, Lauren of Celiac Teen, Charmian from Christie’s Corner, Shaina from Food for my Family, Shauna and Danny from Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef, Lauren from Healthy Delicious, Alice from Savory Sweet Life, Tara from Seven Spoons, Jess of Sweet Amandine, Helen from Tartelette, Gail from The Pink Peppercorn, Pierre of Kitchen Scraps, Tim from Lottie and Doof, Tea from Tea & Cookies, Jamie from My Baking Addiction, Lori from Recipe Girl, Melissa from The Traveler’s Lunchbox, Brooke of Tongue-n-Cheeky and Aimee of Under the High Chair.

So, what are you waiting for? Buy this book!

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Marmalade and Blog Aid

Sealed jars

Marmalade is lovely stuff (just ask the English) and it is best when it’s homemade. Thanks to the January Can Jam, the internet is full-to-bursting with different riffs on this classic citrus spread. However, I’m sure there are still some of you out there who are a little bit intimidated by the idea of taking on a homemade marmalade project. But, if you live in the Philadelphia area, those of you with marmalade anxiety are in luck. I’m teaching a how-to class on Saturday, February 13th from 11 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. at Foster’s Homewares. Click here to sign up!

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Last month’s earthquake in Haiti was a worldwide tragedy. I watched the unfolding devastation with tears on my cheeks and a feeling of helplessness, because beyond sending a bit of spare money and offering thoughts/prayers, what was there that could be done?

In recent days, I’ve been shown that there was actually quite a lot that could be done and I am grateful for the fact that while I was mired in despondency over the catastrophe, others were spurred to action. Food writer Julie Van Rosendaal is one such actor.

Instead of feeling sad and moving on, she decided to launch Blog Aid and create a cookbook that would raise funds for Haitian relief. She called on fellow food writers and bloggers for the recipes and photos and now, just two weeks after inception, the cookbook is nearly ready to go.

If you’re curious about how the proceeds from the book will benefit Haiti, here’s what Julie has to say about that:

The proceeds from book sales will go straight to Haitian relief via the Red Cross and Doctors without Borders, and get this: both West Canadian AND Blurb are matching the dollar amount of the proceeds raised, to TRIPLE those dollars going to Haiti. And of course until February 12th, the Canadian government will match that.

The book will be available for order sometime this week and it includes recipes from some of my favorite bloggers. I contributed three recipes to the effort, including one for Pear Ginger Jam (truly, one of the best jams I’ve made recently). It’s a recipe I’ve never posted here, so if you want to get a peek at it, you’ll have to get a copy of the book (I will post here as soon as it’s available for order).

I am so appreciative to have gotten to be part of this project, as it has reminded me that cooperation and love can thrive, even in the face of the most horrifying ruin.

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Dark Days: Roasted Potatoes, Local Greens and a Cast Iron Frittata

Dark Days dinner

Scott and I spent the weekend away, and by the time we rolled back into town tonight, I was hungry, tired and totally weary of eating food prepared by others (admittedly, part of my fatigue came from the fact that we didn’t plan particularly well and ate more fast food than I typically eat in a month).

On the drive home, I took mental stock of my fridge and pantry, and cooked the meal you see above three times over in my head before we had even crossed back into Philadelphia.

Roasted purple potatoes (they’ve been kicking around for nearly a month now, so they were a little wrinkled but cooked up just fine), a little salad (I was praying that these greens, which I bought a week ago, hadn’t turned to sludge in the crisper, and aside from a few wilt-y pieces, were just fine — a testament to their freshness upon purchase) and a frittata made from Meadow Run Hill Farms eggs, some of the ham from last week’s pizza, a hunk of hard goat cheese from Hail Family Farms and some buying club onions and chard.

We were sitting down to eat within an hour of getting home, without calling for take-out or resorting to a heat and serve option. And most of that wasn’t active time, I de-stickered and washed all those jars I bought over the weekend while the potatoes roasted and the top of the frittata set up in the oven. Proof positive that eating local can be quick and simple, even in these dark days.

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Honey Lemon Apple Jam Recipe

honey lemon apple jam

For months now, I’ve been working on finding a way to make a jam from apples that is satisfying and, well, jammy. The problem with apples is if you try and cook them raw with sugar, which is the way you approach the fruit in most jam recipes, the apples don’t break down. They stay hard and firm, releasing little of their sugars and leaving you with a final product that is closer to marmalade than jam.

chopped apples

In some recipes, such as my Cranberry-Apple Jam, this isn’t such a bad thing. The cranberries and sugar do the jammy work, and the apples add nice texture and mouthfeel. But up until down, I’ve found that making a good jam with apples as the primary fruit just hasn’t been all that great (I did get close with my Apple-Ginger Jam, but it still wasn’t quite right). That is, until now.

This time, I cooked the apples down into a sauce with two cups of lemon juice before adding the sugar. And this did the trick. I got close to the texture I wanted from the fruit before I added the sugar (ensuring I’d get what I wanted once the sugar and honey was added), and I was able to infuse the tart flavor of the lemons fully into the jam to boot (this is a great way to get a whole variety flavors into jam, I’m already envisioning lavender, more ginger or chai spices).

honey lemon apple jam

You may be wondering why I’m so excited to find a good apple jam technique. Well, apples are cheap, abundant and store really well. I overbought at the fall farmers’ markets and so had an entire crisper drawer full that needed to be used (and I have plenty of applesauce and butter already stashed away). And, I just like apples. I think they’re endlessly adaptable and knew there was a way to make them do jam nicely.

hand written recipe

Before, I jump to the recipe, I want to talk pectin. I do include one envelope (half of the contents of a box) of liquid pectin in this recipe. However, many apples are naturally high in pectin. If you’re working with green or under-ripe apples, you might not need to add any pectin. But if you’re using old apples that have been in your fridge for a couple of months, adding a little pectin is good insurance that your jam will have a good set.

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Thrift Store Finds!

new jars

Scott and I are off this weekend, staying in the Reading area and exploring the Berks County Wine Trail (it’s just an hour from Philly!). Tonight, we went off in search of a grocery store to pick up a couple of snacks and ended up finding an enormous, brightly-lit Goodwill next to the Giant where we headed.

I delightedly headed for the door and Scott tolerantly followed (he has good-naturedly logged a lot of hours with me in thrift stores, despite not being a fan of second-hand objects). Guys, I am totally smitten with this Goodwill. They arrange everything by color, so it’s visually appealing and makes for a fun browse.

blue shelf

I was thrilled to discover a cache of old Ball jelly jars with plastic snap-on lids, several old bailing wire spice jars and two, big, yellow-topped jars (found in the yellow section, naturally) that are perfect for grain and soup storage.

Despite the fact that I’m away, I do have a new recipe coming up for you tomorrow. I think I’ve finally found a way to make jam from apples that I really like, so stay tuned for Honey Lemon Apple Jam.

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