Monday, March 12, 2012

My Story of Grandma O'Donnell's Banana Bread

Today I'm going to share with you the most incredible banana bread recipe... ever.

This recipe holds a very special place in my heart not only because it was given to me by my best friend Meghan O'Donnell (given to her by her Grandmother, who is an amazing woman both in and out of the kitchen), but also because it was the first thing that I ever really baked on my own.

It was back when I was in college and at a time when I was absolutely hopeless in the kitchen.  I would set off the smoke alarm trying to heat up a can of soup!  Well, one day, I had a bunch of overripe bananas and decided to give this banana bread recipe a try.

Grandma O'Donnell's Banana Bread

3 bananas, mashed (sometimes I sneak in an extra one)
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup oil
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp salt
1 3/4 cup flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 to 2 cups chocolate chips (optional)

In a large bowl, cream together the bananas, eggs, sugar, oil, vanilla, and salt.
In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, and baking powder.  Add to wet ingredients.
Fold in chocolate chips if using.
Bake at 350F for 35-40 minutes for 2 loaf tins, 20-25 minutes for muffins.

Much to my surprise, the end result was absolutely fabulous!  I realized that maybe I wasn't a complete dunce in the kitchen after all.  That banana bread was the initial spark that began my love affair with baking, cooking good food (and eating it), and building up my recipe box with the best tried and true recipes.

I can now hold my own in the kitchen and have learned a lot from my husband (a former cook), friends, and family members.  But I have found that the best way to gain knowledge is by doing.
So my own personal philosophy is this...

Try recipes.  Try hundreds... thousands... even millions of recipes.  Each recipe will impart new techniques, tips, and tricks to add to your set of skills.  If you don't know how to do something called for in a recipe, look it up.  Learn, attempt, experiment, and step out of your comfort zone.  You will find some fabulous recipes and you will experience a few flops too, but once you've cooked through a large multitude of recipes, you'll have amassed not only a great selection of recipes, but a collection of kitchen knowledge and confidence.

I like to find recipes on cooking shows, in cookbooks (our local library has a great selection), and online.  The comments and reviews found on most online recipes are excellent resources as well.  Some of these recipes can be found on my Recipe Box page (find the link at the top) and there are many recipes I have yet to share with you, so stay tuned!

And now, this banana bread recipe has become even more special to me.  A couple weeks ago, my son Oliver and I made this recipe together.  It was his first time helping in the kitchen and he loved it!  Since then, baking and cooking together has become one of our favourite family activities...

...and I'm sure it will be for years to come!

Thanks for stopping by and please visit
to see the incredible artwork of my friends
Meghan & Katelyn O'Donnell.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

A Fish Called Chips

First off, I'd like to thank everyone for the lovely and supportive comments for my last post.  As I continue to hear of others with similar stories on an almost daily basis, I've realized just how important it is to share our experiences and support one another.  Thank you.

Now, on to other things...

I've been meaning to introduce to you the little surprise that my husband, Chris, brought home a few weeks ago.  After he told me on the phone that he was bringing home something special for the family, the text messages went a little something like this...

ANDREA:  I'm curious about the family surprise... Lady & The Tramp on blue ray perhaps?
CHRIS:  Way off.
ANDREA:  Hmmm... Is it edible?
CHRIS:  Yuuuuuuuup.
ANDREA:  Candy?
CHRIS:  Way off.
ANDREA:  Chicken? (that was Oliver's suggestion)

Well, the surprise turned out to be something that may be served up at an event like the Stag & Doe for our wedding...

Chris after swallowing a goldfish.  Should have bought that "Goldfish Insurance!"

But here at home, I think we'll keep this off the menu.

At first, when asked what to name our new Betta fish, Oliver would say "no" or nothing at all.

Then, a few days later, when asked again, he said "Chips!"

I think he was actually requesting some chips to eat, but the name has stuck.  It's actually quite the clever name, especially if you take the popular meal of "Fish 'n' Chips" into consideration.  Although, please don't worry, I will not be serving this Chips for dinner.

Oliver loves to feed his fish.  After a few mishaps with the food pellets spilling everywhere, we've developed a good system.  I put the required amount on a plate, set it beside the fish bowl, and Ollie puts them in one by one.

Oliver then says, "Watch fish eat", peers into the top of the bowl, and says "Mmm" each time the fish gobbles up a pellet.

I've become quite attached to the little guy and I love how he comes right over and looks up at you. Despite my track record with fish and house plants (if you remember back to this previous post where I mentioned bringing the Front Porch Ferns inside for the winter... well... they're no longer with us), I'm determined to keep Chips alive for as long as possible!

There's no doubt about it, little Chips has quickly become a part of our family life... hook, line, and sinker.

Thanks for stopping by.

UPDATE:  Chips has since passed away.  He was a lovely presence in our home and lived a good long life for a beta fish.