Banana Bread!

Chunky Monkey Muffins (Banana Double-Chocolate Chunk)

May 1, 2020

I love bananas, their shape, color, scent & taste–and that they come wrapped in their own packaging, with a handle to boot. I even did a “Banana Crazy” story for the Tribune once-upon-a-time : ) I always look for the shapeliest bunch, wait patiently for them to ripen and buy the exotic ones when I can find them. But it’s rare that those beautiful yellow bundles all get eaten when perfectly ripe. There are always one or two left behind, their skins gone past freckled to bruisy and slack with waiting. But I NEVER throw those holdovers away and you shouldn’t either. Because they are fantastic baked into banana bread and muffins. This recipe can be used to make either! My directions are for muffins, but you can divide the batter between two 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 x 2 1/2 inch loaf pans greased and lined with parchment, for equally tasty results. If making loaves instead of muffins: Just bake for an extra 20 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the tops of the loaves comes out dry.  Continue Reading…


Sweet Potato Peanut Soup

April 24, 2020

We tried a gardening experiment last summer, growing as many varieties of peppers as we could, enjoying their bright freshness through the summer, and then drying them to spice up soups and chili pots through the rest of the year. This vegan sweet potato peanut soup makes wonderful use of them, adding kick to the velvety richness of the potage. I include roasted carrots in the recipe, sliced into rounds and mixed in at the end, adding nice vegetal flavor and a bit of texture to the soup. Right before serving, squeeze in juice of three fresh limes. Spoon soup into bowls over hot long-grain rice,  and garnish with ground peanut, multi-colored carrot bits and snipped fresh chives. This is also very good with fresh cilantro.

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Buttery Biscuits

Meta’s Buttery Buttermilk Biscuits

April 14, 2020

I woke up this morning remembering a whimsical fact: When my youngest child was a very small grasshopper, he nicknamed one of his best buddies “Buttery Biscuit” : )  No particular reason, Charlie shrugged when asked why. He just liked the name. Moving to the sunny kitchen today, I thought, “Why not make some now?” which led to a search through recipe card files, for the first recipe I was ever given: Meta’s Buttery Buttermilk Biscuits. Tall, with tender layers inside and perfect golden tops that crumble when you bite ‘em, the biscuits were part of the farm breakfasts my first babysitter, Meta, made me in Riesal, TX, where I was born. Continue Reading…

Gluten Free Vegan

Very Nutty Peanut Butter Granola

April 9, 2020

Was a time when “granola” wasn’t just used as the noun for the crunchy, nutty, dried fruit cereal, but for me and my kindred spirits who didn’t shave our legs, favored vegan foods and usually had a copy of the Bhagavad Gita partially memorized : )

This recipe is an ode to all those good-and-natural kindred spirits! And it’s the next in my series of recipes that use stuff you’ve had in your cupboard, but keep neglecting. In this case? That jar of natural crunchy peanut butter–the one where the oil has separated to the top, leaving a dense mass of unspreadable ground peanut underneath. If your kids are like mine, the suggestion that they “just need to spend a little time stirring the two parts back together” gets an eye roll, and a “no thanks” as they reach for another option.

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Naturally-Dyed Eggs

April 1, 2020

Well, here’s a Jacob Grimm you may not have heard : ) As a philologist studying Germanic folk customs, Grimm speculated that the custom of Easter eggs may have stemmed from springtime frolics in honor of Eostre—the Proto-Indo-European goddess of dawn.  If so, it’s just one more in a longtime legacy of eggs and the ancients. 60,0000 year old decorated ostrich eggs have been found in Africa. Rituals connecting eggs and rebirth go back 5000 years or more in Egypt, Sumeria and Mesopotamia. And historians tell us Christians in the latter culture were the first to dye eggs ritualistically, coloring them red as a reminder of  blood. Continue Reading…


Egg-Salad Sandwich (Perfection)

April 1, 2020

To me, the best egg salad is a refined egg salad. In the realm of protein-“salad” fillings, chunky is fine with chicken, turkey, lobster or even tuna. But with egg salad, chunky seems clunky to me.  A lightly-textured egg salad, on the other hand–one made with ultra-smooth whipped yolks, riced hard-cooked whites, home-made mayonnaise, very-finely minced herbs & pickle, and home-baked pain de mie bread—now that is a thing of beauty.

I imagine my preferences were borne of good memories of refreshments at countless Ladies Aid functions (I was a churchy kid,) plus innumerable engagement parties, birthdays and baby showers all including some form of egg-filled finger sandwiches, deviled eggs, or both. These snacks were served a lot because eggs are both economical, and stretchy—a little bit goes a long way.  Anyway, after some hundred bite-sized snacks or so,  the line between deviled egg and finger sandwich sort of blurred for me. With both, it was the smooth, tangy/spicy/piquant yolk filling that drew me, not the bland, bald-slipperiness of flabby whites.

With that in mind, figuring out how to make the perfect egg salad sandwich meant coming up with the right ingredient combination for that yolk mash, and then putting it together with the best ratio of finely-chopped egg white,  best bread and best contrast-providing vegetables. Continue Reading…

American Classics

Corned Beef Hash

March 21, 2020

What to do with the leftover corned beef? Make hash! It takes just three ingredients: corned beef, potatoes, and onions. (Well, six ingredients, if you include the vegetable oil, salt and pepper.) Really simple, really good. Your culinary goal? Achieving a nice mix of textures: slightly chewy + crispy corned beef cubes, crunchy-edged potatoes, and soft, silky onions. Here’s how!

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American Classics

Texas-style Chili Mac

March 18, 2020

The first time my parents drove to the tiny Texas town where I would spend my early childhood, Dad got lost. He found a filling station and asked the attendant where Riesel was — pronouncing the placename “Rye-zel.” The man blinked at dad for a few moments and then, eyes wide with belated recognition, said, “Ohhhh! you mean REEEEE-zel!”  drawing out the eeeeeeeee’s in an impossibly wide-mouthed drawl. And so it was, we moved back to Texas. Mom had grown up in Houston and coached collegiate basketball in Texarkana. Then she made a serendipituous wide swoop North to coach at the University of North Dakota, where she met Dad, a South-side Chicago native, at the beginning of his vicarage in the frozen North. After a few winters there, Mom was very glad to get back to the Lone Star State. My brother and I benefited from the remoteness–and the heat. We ran around nearly naked for two years, in, and out, and all around the old wooden farm-house, with it’s big rooms, tall windows, and banana trees out back, where we used to sit on the porch steps and eat huge slices of Texas watermelon : ) And my mom’s cooking. Continue Reading…

Work With What You've Got

Chicken + Veggie Noodle Soup (Gluten Free)

March 11, 2020

With a pandemic raging, daily life has taken on some sudden changes. For my family, with an nonagenarian dad upstairs to care for, and my husband’s company travel on hold, we are largely sequestered here in home offices, doing what we normally do, with restrictions.  Added to the normal good-hygiene practices of frequent and now even more thorough hand washing, we’re adhering to the six-foot distancing rule when out in public, eliminating large-group interactions, and, like many of you, are doing a lot more cooking at home. The big question: “Is it safe to eat fresh vegetables and produce?” is YES. According to international food safety authorities, coronavirus needs a host—either an animal or human—to grow, so it’s impossible for it to grow in food. Carefully washing fresh vegetables in cool water, removing and discarding any bruises or imperfections, and then cooking them is best the way to go. Here at our home, our focus on nourishing, immune-boosting meals has meant plenty of oatmeal at breakfast, loads of citrus, garlicky stews, cruciferous veg, and of course SOUPS! Continue Reading…