Simpler than Simple Brazilian Banana Bread

It’s hard to improve on the recipe for Ridiculously Simple Banana Bread, from Susan Mendelson’s Mama Never Cooked Like This.

But I decided to try – not to make it better tasting, just to make it one step easier.

photo(28)I actually wanted to resurrect a recipe that a friend from Brazil gave me many years ago, but I turned to my cookbooks when I couldn’t find it. My friend called her recipe “Lazy Banana Pie,” even though it was a banana bread baked in a loaf pan.

What made it different from Mendelson’s recipe, and any other banana bread I’ve tried, is that the bananas were cut up instead of mashed. Cutting the bananas simplifies an already-easy recipe, and provides an interesting contrast in texture.

Also, my friend’s recipe called for cinnamon, which I’ve been trying to incorporate into my diet lately. Cinnamon has all kinds of health benefits, according to numerous online articles like this one from Medical News Today.

I couldn’t find the recipe for Lazy Banana Pie, so I decided to play with Mendelson’s recipe. However, without the mashed bananas, the consistency was off. I ended up mashing part of one banana, and cutting up the rest. It turned out well… and my kitchen smelled delicious!

Simpler than Simple Brazilian Banana Bread (adapted from Susan Mendelson’s Ridiculously Simple Banana Bread)

1 1/4 c. flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. cinnamon, or more to taste

2 eggs

1/2 c. oil

1 c. sugar

2 large ripe bananas

extra cinnamon to taste

1. Sift together flour, baking soda and cinnamon.

2. In separate bowl, mix eggs, oil, and sugar with fork. Add to dry ingredients.

3. Cut two bananas in pieces, and mash about 3/4 of one banana to add to mixture. Blend well, add more cinnamon to taste if desired, and stir in remaining pieces of banana.

4. Spoon batter into greased loaf pan. Sprinkle with extra cinnamon.

5. Bake at 350 for about an hour.




A new take on being downsized?

By coincidence, I found this LinkedIn article (Laid Off? Congratulations!!) yesterday, shortly after hearing about another journalist colleague being laid off.

To the best of my knowledge, no one has congratulated her, and no one congratulated me when I lost my job last year.

It’s a tough thing to lose a job. That’s why the title of the article is so… attention-getting. The writer advises assessing what went wrong, reconnecting (i.e. networking), and having fun as you “write your future.” Not bad advice, even the fun part, which may take an extra dose of creativity, an emotional stretch, and time.

Some of the content, and especially the word “Congratulations,” proved offensive to a significant number of commenters, one of whom almost lost his home as a result of losing his job.

And yet… I believe, much as I hate to use a cliché, that when one door closes, another opens. There’s some truth in clichés.

I just read the article this morning, and while I didn’t relate to everything in it, I like the idea of moving forward.

Many of the comments that followed the article were instructive, like reminders to be prepared financially for the loss of a job, and that it’s possible to end up doing something that makes you happier.

So to my colleague who was downsized, and others, no congratulations. Just good wishes that the experience will ultimately lead to positive changes.




The urge to purge (clutter)

A post by Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, caught my eye this morning. It’s called “A Secret to Happiness? Don’t Get Organized.”


I thought organizing was a good thing. Lately, I’ve been gearing up for some serious decluttering. There always seems to be more of it to do. Sigh. I’ve been feeling the urge to purge for weeks, but haven’t had time to tackle it except in a small way.

Spoiler alert – Rubin isn’t advising not to tackle the clutter at all.

Instead, she says to get rid of things, so you don’t have to organize them. We are on the same page after all.





Advice for young adults (and older ones too)

Even though I’ve been consistent about blogging on the same days each week, sometimes life gets in the way, which explains why I didn’t post anything on Tuesday.

This morning, when I was catching up on e-mails, I found one from LinkedIn Influencers, asking what career advice I would give my younger self. I have a lot to say on that topic, because my younger self took a long time to figure out what I wanted to do, career-wise.

But for now, I’ll provide a few links to advice from other sources:

1. The LinkedIn blog: “If I Were 22: 80+ Influencers Share Lessons from Their Youth.”

2. Judith Timson’s column in today’s Toronto Star: Words of wisdom for commencement season.

3. A commencement speech by Sandra Bullock at a New Orleans high school.

Advice to new grads seems to be the theme of the week. But I don’t think it’s just for them. 😉




Chocolate Sunday – Be choosy about chocolate!

This week, the news about chocolate was kind of disappointing. This article from The Globe and Mail says that health benefits are “unlikely,” because the amount of resveratrol is not high enough in a typical diet to create the kind of benefits that have been hyped. Resveratrol is a compound found in chocolate, which is thought to be linked to reduced inflammation and reduced risk of cancer and heart disease. Sigh.

But another article in Forbes ends on a more positive note, saying that a little bit of chocolate and red wine “may do you good.” It also says there may be other substances in chocolate that are beneficial.

The good news is that nobody is saying to avoid chocolate. Just have it in moderation. Which we knew, anyway.

But it got me thinking. If you’re going to consciously limit your chocolate intake – and maybe limit it further – what is the very best chocolate? The most decadent?

I think if you’re going to have just a small amount, it should be a chocolate you can savour. Something rich and maybe expensive, so you won’t be as tempted to overindulge.

The first two chocolates that come to my mind are Valrhona and any high-quality chocolate truffle, the kind you buy one-at-a-time because they are so rich. Like the truffles at Cocolat in San Francisco, circa 1984. But they were so big that I’m not sure they qualified as something to eat “in moderation,” unless you shared one with a friend.

What comes to your mind? Is one chocolate enough, if it’s perfection?



Almond-Butter Cookies

I don’t usually buy prepared baked goods, aside from bread. But I succumbed to a craving this week, and ended up baking anyway.


Fresh from the oven, yesterday.

I’m a big label-reader, and when I saw peanut butter cookies in a local bakery made from peanut butter, sugar, eggs, and nothing else, I remembered that I’d made them that way myself once or twice.

Why not try the easy peanut butter cookie recipe with almond butter instead? I think of almond butter as a step up nutritionally, but each one has advantages, as long as the product is minimally processed and doesn’t contain additives, according to this Globe and Mail article.

Also, I had more almond butter than peanut butter at home, and wanted to use some of it up. I combined two kinds of almond butter – thick almond butter in the opened jar, and more liquidy almond butter in the new jar. I figured they’d balance each other out.

I decided to top each cookie with a whole almond, à la Bonnie Stern, circa 1978, the year her Food Processor Cuisine/La Cuisine Tourbillon was published. I used to enjoy making (and eating!) her buttery Almond Cookies, each garnished with a whole blanched almond.

But no need for butter or flour in this week’s recipe. I based my cookies on this three-ingredient recipe for Best Peanut Butter Cookies Ever on, and a similar one on Kraft Canada’s website.

I used organic sugar, in part because I like the granular texture. It’s also less processed than regular white sugar, but I still try to consume it in moderation (most of the time!).

The cookies were delicious, especially after I let them cool!

Almond Butter Cookies

1 c. almond butter

3/4 c. organic sugar

1 egg, slightly beaten

whole almonds, 1 per cookie

1. Mix together almond butter, sugar and egg with wooden spoon.

2. Form batter into 1″ balls and place on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper. Leave space to allow them to spread.

3. Flatten each cookie with the palm of your hand, but leave them a little puffy.

4. Press whole almond into each cookie.

5. Bake 10 minutes at 350, or until baked through. Cookie will lift easily with a knife when done.

6. Cool briefly on cookie sheet, then transfer to wire rack to finish cooling.







Am I doing okay acquiring LinkedIn connections?

Since I joined LinkedIn a little over a year ago, I’ve acquired 201 connections, most of whom I know personally and/or have had contact with professionally.

Occasionally I wonder if I should be more aggressive about seeking out connections. Or, perhaps, if I should be more strategic. My acquisition of LinkedIn contacts has relied largely but not exclusively on instinct and natural evolution (growing via people I’ve crossed paths with one way or another).

I do trust my instincts, but when I found an article the other day titled “What Do I Do with Random LinkedIn Connections?”, it naturally piqued my interest.

The article had to do with requests to connect that are sent by random people, whose names might be unfamiliar.

The first time it happened to me, I accidentally hit “Accept” on my iPhone. Because of its small size compared to my computer, it’s easier to press the wrong button. Groan!

“Oh no!” I thought.

As it turned out, the person who sent the request had enough mutual connections and mutual professional interests that my concerns were allayed. But LinkedIn’s help centre “strongly recommends” accepting invitations only from people you know.

The article about random connections advises members to request more information before accepting a random invitation. I’ll have to remember that next time.

Do you accept invitations from people you don’t know? What are your criteria?

A new reason to walk (for creative people!)

I thought I knew all of the reasons that walking is good for you. I even wrote an article about it in 2004. It’s good for overall well-being, and beneficial for medical conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, depression, arthritis, chronic fatigue, diabetes, and osteoporosis.

But now I see in this New York Times article that it’s also good for your creativity! I do find myself thinking about new ideas after I walk, although much of that is a natural outgrowth of conversation with my walking partners.

When I used to walk alone, it was also a good time for me to think. I like having that pocket of time, without distractions like screen and fridge.

Now I wonder if it’s having an effect on my writing. Hard to tell, because I’ve been walking regularly for several years. But I like to think so 🙂



Chocolate Sunday – Mother’s Day treats!

I wasn’t going to post anything new specifically for Mother’s Day, even though I searched through my recipes to find a special chocolate dessert. Instead, I ended up using my tried and true (and easy!) recipe for flourless chocolate cake.

ecuadorean chocolateThe other night, I tried some Ecuadorean chocolate that we received as a gift. Milk chocolate with passion fruit was a special treat, because I’d never tried it before.

Another treat – a little Mother’s Day present – some organic dark chocolate. I’ll try it later.

It’s definitely a Chocolate Sunday.

What to do with frozen blueberries

I had lots of good reasons for buying frozen blueberries whenever it was that I bought them, but I didn’t end up using them until this week.

blueberry muffinsReasons like…

1. Fresh blueberries can be expensive.

2. The frozen ones were organic and Canadian.

3. Blueberries are good for you.

4. Even though I buy fresh blueberries all the time, we go through them quickly.

But it kind of defeats the purpose to buy food, and not use it. I decided to use the blueberries to bake something that would be good with a cup of tea. I googled blueberry cakes and muffins, and the first few recipes I found didn’t appeal to me – or if they did, I didn’t have the right ingredients. So I turned to my well-used copy of Norene Gilletz’s MealLeaniYumm, and I’m happy to say that her recipe for blueberry muffins is also online (scroll down once you click on the link). Her recipes are always good!

I didn’t bother with the streusel topping, and I used gluten-free flour (a cup-for-cup type). Aside from that, I followed the recipe pretty much as she wrote it. I included the optional orange rind in greater quantity than Norene recommends. I think it adds a lot of flavour.

The muffins are moist and tasty, even better on Day 2.

I learned a few things as well.

1. There’s a trick (or two) to using frozen berries so that they don’t stain the whole batter. I rinsed and dried mine as per the instructions on the King Arthur flour website.

2. Yahoo! answers recommends dusting the frozen berries in flour first, which is also recommended in the recipe. So my bases were covered! In addition, I banged the still-sealed bag on the counter a couple of times before I opened it, to break up the berries.

2. I realized after I started making the recipe that my baking powder was well past its expiry date. But, thanks to, I now know that you can test baking powder for freshness by adding a teaspoonful to warm water. Magic!

To my great surprise, the mixture bubbled and fizzed even though the baking powder was best before… a year ago. I went ahead and used it, but I think it’s time to get a new container.