Archive for the 'quick bread' Category

Strawberry Banana Bread (and a novel about my current job situation)

Almost two years ago I put on my suit, drove north for a few hours to a city I’d never heard of, and interviewed for a teaching job. We were still living in San Luis Obispo at the time, and the school year would be starting in two weeks.  After applying to almost thirty districts, I had only interviewed twice, and didn’t get either job.

I got to the school way too early, so I sat in my car on the street and watched the three other candidates walk in for their interviews.  When it was finally time for me to go in, I took a deep breath, clutched my portfolio, and nervously walked into the office.

The principal, a science teacher, and a math teacher asked me questions about my experience teaching abroad, why I wanted to work in a middle school, lessons I’d taught, and how I work with students who speak languages other than English.  They asked if I would be okay with teaching PE and I told them about how much I loved running and being active.  I felt relaxed and confident as I showed my portfolio and answered their questions.   I walked out of there thinking I might actually get to teach that year.

I got in the car to drive back home and within 45 minutes, the principal called and offered me the job.  I spent the next two years teaching 8th grade science and PE, working with a phenomenal group of teachers and a dedicated principal.  I came to realize I love teaching, and particularly teaching middle school, more than I ever thought I would.  I am incredibly grateful that the principal took a chance and hired someone with no full-time experience. I’m also fairly sure I wouldn’t have survived my first year without the other 8th grade science teacher — the most organized person I’ve ever met — who was was more than willing to answer my questions, give lesson and lab ideas,  and skip her lunch to observe and offer feedback.

The job was challenging but incredibly rewarding, and I absolutely loved my students.  But I also knew that there needed to be some changes.  I didn’t want to spend the rest of my career teaching PE; I went to school to teach science.  Also, Daly City just wasn’t somewhere I wanted to live for the rest of my life.  The summers are cold and foggy, the winters are clear, but cold and windy, and because it’s decently close to San Francisco, rent isn’t cheap.  I have a few friends who live in the East Bay, where there are trees! And you get a real summer! And you can get an entire house with a yard for the price of a tiny apartment in the the city!  Mike and I were determined to make a move.

I started applying for jobs in the East Bay a couple months ago, and went to a couple interviews.  No offers.  Then this past Thursday, I went to a screening interview.  When I sat down with the interviewer, she told me she was a principal helping the district screen applicants for a pool, not interviewing for a specific job.  If I “passed” this round of interviews, my information would be forwarded to principals with openings, and they might contact me.  We chatted about teaching, and why I wanted to leave my current position.  After answering a few more questions, she let me know that she had a science position open at her school and she was interested in having me interview for it the next day.

Friday morning I drove to her school and met with the vice principal and science department chair.  I got a tour of some of the science classrooms and computer labs.  I’d looked into the school a little bit the night before and knew it was somewhere I would love to work.  I felt pretty confident leaving that interview, and tried not to stress about it over the weekend.  Monday morning at 8:09 AM, the phone rang and I was offered the job!

After calling Mike with the great news, I immediately knew I had to bake something to celebrate, so I chopped up some strawberries and mashed up some bananas and baked this loaf of bread while Ellie hung out in her high chair.

Although there’s a lot of stress that comes with this move – finding a new daycare, finding a place to live, figuring out which gym to join and where I can run and where I’ll grocery shop… it feels so right.   I will definitely miss my first school and the amazing people I worked with, but I’m also SO ready for this new challenge (sixth graders!) and to live somewhere we really want to be.


Vegan Banana-Raisin-Nut Bread

Emily and I sometimes go a little dessert-crazy when we’re together. You saw the pretzel-M&M blondies. But what you didn’t see was the coffee-chocolate chip blondies, the coffee ice cream, and the brownies that we also made during the week she was here. And as much as I love baking stuff like that, I realize it’s probably best not to do it all the time.

Yesterday I told Mike I wanted to make chocolate chip banana bread but he gently suggested that it might be a tiny bit more reasonable to bake something healthy after our gluttonous weekend. So he suggested whole wheat banana bread with raisins and walnuts. I thought it sounded weird to put raisins in banana bread, but we made the deal that if it was good I would give him mad props on the blog. So here they are… GREAT IDEA MIKE!!!

I pretty much made this up as I went along, using a flax egg, sweetening with maple syrup, and using whole wheat pastry flour. Even with baking powder and baking soda the loaf is pretty dense and hearty, which I appreciate.

I haven’t talked too much about working out lately because last week I realized I might be done with the gym. Two days in a row, I got pretty dizzy and started having some mild contractions (which my doctor isn’t too concerned about, I may have just been a little dehydrated) on the elliptical, and switching to the bike didn’t make me feel any better.

BUT I’ve been doing way more yoga and it makes me feel awesome. Plus I can do it right here in the living room.  I want to try and do at least 20 minutes of yoga a day until the baby is born. I have no idea if that’s realistic, but I’m going to try. I have a few DVDs and podcasts, and nothing but time, so as long as I’m still feeling decent it should be doable.

And my last piece of baby news… we finally have a crib! As far as the nursery goes, that’s pretty much all we have – there’s still nothing on the walls (kind of like the rest of our house. We’re lame.) – but at least she’ll have a place to sleep!


1 tbsp ground flax seeds
3 tbsp water
2 tbsp coconut oil
4 very ripe bananas, mashed
1/3 cup Grade B maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla
1 2/3 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/3 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Start by greasing a loaf pan and preheating the oven to 350 F.

Stir the ground flax and water together in a small bowl and set aside for a few minutes.

Beat the coconut oil in the bowl of a stand mixer on medium speed. Add the bananas, maple syrup, vanilla, and water-flax mixture and mix for about a minute.

Whisk the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and nutmeg in a medium bowl and add to the banana mixture. Mix on low until just combined.

Fold in the raisins and walnuts.

Pour into the loaf pan and bake for about an hour, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely on a wire rack before slicing.

Spelt Zucchini Bread

The weather lately has been so perfect it’s kind of unbelievable. I was led to believe that Daly City was the foggiest place on Earth and I would never see the sun, so the fact that it’s been in the low 70s and sunny for the past week or so makes me deliriously happy.

I’ve been doing okay with the fact that I’m no longer running, but Sunday morning was not easy. Mike ran a 5K in Golden Gate Park, and between the perfect weather and beautiful course, it kind of killed me a little bit to be stuck on the side taking pictures. I love the energy at races, even small ones like this… definitely something you DON’T get from doing the elliptical at the gym every day. (Honestly, as much as I miss running, I’m just happy I can still work out, even if the elliptical is totally lame).

I’ll be back out there soon enough.

I am starting to accumulate a bunch of different kinds of flour. It’s not really a bad thing, but my cupboards are FULL and we are moving in 11 days. The usual suspects, cake flour, whole wheat flour, bread flour, and all purpose are being crowded out by stuff like garbazno and spelt flour (and I need to make room for coconut flour, which I’ve heard so many good things about). Um, can I use the word flour a few more times?

Spelt flour is one of my favorite substitutes for all-purpose because it isn’t too dense so a 1 to 1 sub is easy, and I like the slightly nutty flavor it adds. I think it may be slightly more nutritious, too, which is always a bonus. For a bread like zucchini, which isn’t too exotic or exciting, it adds a little something extra that just plain flour doesn’t.

This recipe originally came from Cooks Illustrated, which I know doesn’t really appreciate having its recipes altered. I really liked the changes I made though… I decreased the sugar and subbed sucanat for half of it, and added some cinnamon. Bridget recommended scaling down the fat and replacing half of the butter with canola oil, and it worked beautifully. Draining the liquid out of the zucchini is completely brilliant because it keeps the bread from getting too soggy.

(adapted from The Way The Cookie Crumbles)

2 cups spelt flour, plus more for dusting
1 pound zucchini, washed and dried, ends and stems removed, cut into 1″ chunks
1/4 cup evaporated cane juice or granulated sugar (+ 2 Tbsp for mixing with zucchini)
1/4 cup sucanat
½ cup toasted walnuts, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ cup plain yogurt
2 large eggs, beaten lightly
2 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
2 tbsp canola oil

Preheat the oven to 375 and grease an 9″ x 5″ loaf pan. Dust with flour and shake out excess.

Put the zucchini chunks in the food processor with 2 T sugar and pulse until coarsely shredded. Put in a mesh strainer and drain for 30 minutes.

Whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon and toss with the walnuts.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugars, yogurt, melted butter, and oil.

Squeeze any remaining liquid out of the zucchini, then mix into the egg mixture and stir well.

Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, stirring gently until all traces of flour disappear. Pour into prepared pan and bake until a toothpick comes out clean, 50-60 minutes.

Cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes, then turn out of the pan and cool completely on a wire rack.

Vegan Pumpkin Bread

I think this is at least my tenth loaf of this bread since October 1st. I just can’t help myself! It has that perfect pumpkin spice flavor and tastes rich and decadent without sitting heavily in your stomach. I think I will continue making it at least once a week until I can no longer get those giant cans of pumpkin for super cheap at Target.

I will now go off on a tangent, so if you’re here for the recipe…scroll down a little bit.

Mike and I decided on Saturday night that Sunday would be Technology-free day. That meant no email-checking, facebooking, tweeting, taking or editing pictures, or blogging. It actually wasn’t as hard as it sounds, although I know I’m seriously addicted to both my laptop and my phone. Instead of spending tons of time glued to a screen, I actually managed to acomplish a few things:

– Read a few more pages in Everything is Illuminated. It’s a seriously terrible book and I can’t stand it, but I’m only 80 pages from the end so I can’t give up now, as much as I want to.

It’s a huge bummer too, because I absolutely adored Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

– Ran 23 miles with Mike (a run that spanned 3 counties, and crossed over the Golden Gate bridge and back!) I really wish I had my camera because it was a PERFECT day, but technology-free Sunday prevented that. I’m sure I’ll do it again, though!

– Took an ice bath after said run. Ice baths are never pleasant, and no matter how many I take, the first 3 minutes are always unbelievably painful!

– Made THE BEST CHEESE PIZZA I HAVE EVER MADE. Cheese pizza is seriously underrated. With the right technique it can be even better than those fancy-pants gourmet pizzas. I’ll post about it soon, I promise!

– Went to bed at 8 PM and slept for ten whole hours. Amazing how easy it is to relax and fall asleep when there’s no computer to distract you (or maybe I’m just really, really bad at tearing myself away from it most of the time).

As sad as I was to see the weekend come to an end, it turned out today was actually pretty great as far as Mondays go. My classes were all well-behaved and on-task, and I had time after work to make a total hippie snack (don’t knock it til you try it): Popcorn with nutritional yeast. I do not pop popcorn on the stove often enough!

Now I’m just sitting here watching Project Food Blog videos and eating pumpkin bread, hoping I don’t ruin my 4-mile recovery run or my appetite for dinner (but probably actually doing both). Self-discipline and I don’t have too great of a relationship these days.

(heavily adapted from Joy of Cooking

1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 cup packed brown sugar

2 tbsp flax seeds
6 tbsp water
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup almond milk
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup raisins
1/3 cup chopped walnuts

Spray a 9 x 5″ loaf pan with nonstick spray and preheat the oven to 350 F.

Whisk together the dry ingredients (flour through brown sugar) in a large bowl.

Grind the flax seeds in a coffee grinder or small food processor and combine with the water. Let stand for about 10 minutes.

Whisk together the remaining wet ingredients (oil through vanilla), add the flax-water mixture and mix well, then stir gently into the flour mixture.

Stir just until all traces of flour disappear, then fold in the raisins and walnuts. Spread evenly in the pan and bake for about an hour, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool in the pan for about 5 minutes then remove from th pan and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Fresh corn and chile cornbread

I thought this recipe would be a huge flop. 2 eggs, buttermilk, oil and cream (which I replaced with yogurt) and only 1 cup of cornmeal? I was incredibly dubious as it went into the oven, but what I pulled out 25 minutes later turned out to be some of the best corn bread I’ve ever made. With jalapenos, roasted poblano, and fresh kernels of corn, it tastes a little like a chile relleno, but with far less work.

The recipe came from another great library find, Southwestern Vegetarian by Stephen Pyles. I decided to forgo the cheddar cheese and heavy cream and definitely didn’t miss them at all – the fresh corn and roasted poblano contribute plenty of flavor.

(adapted from Southwestern Vegetarian)

butter for greasing the pan
1 cup yellow corn meal
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 large eggs
2/3 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 ear of fresh corn
1/2 cup nonfat plain yogurt
2 jalapenos, minced
1 small poblano

Put the poblano under the broiler, turning frequently, until blackened and blistered. Wrap in a clean towel for about 10 minutes, then remove the charred skin, scrape out the seeds, and dice.
Cut the kernels off the ear of corn and reserve.

Heat the oven to 375 F

Whisk the corn meal, salt, and baking soda together in a large bowl.

Whisk the eggs, buttermilk, yogurt and oil together in a medium bowl. Gently stir the wet ingredients into the corn meal mixture, then fold in the jalapenos, poblano, and corn kernels.

Place a cast iron skillet in the oven for 5 minutes, then remove and brush with a little butter. Pour the batter into the skillet and bake for about 25-30 minutes, or until golden.

Cool in the pan for about 10 minutes, then cut into wedges to serve.

Strawberry Bread

The Thursday night Farmer’s Market in our town is kind of a scene. It’s always packed with people, barbecue carts, a bounce house, puppet shows and live music, various political and religious booths, and of course, plent of farmers selling fabulous produce. It can be overwhelming and I usually don’t feel like dealing with the crowds (or the cold!) But Saturday mornings, most of the same farmers go to a shopping center parking lot, and that market is just focused on the food. I love it.

I picked up tons of great stuff this weekend, including the first fresh California strawberries I’ve had in a very long time. I knew Mike and I could devour all three baskets with no problem, but I couldn’t get the idea of strawberry bread out of my mind, so I decided to do some experimenting.

I used white whole wheat flour because it’s the best thing on earth, and a cup and a half of diced fresh strawberries. I wish I could say I waited for it to cool so I could cut perfect slices, but obviously that didn’t happen. I have a feeling I’ll be baking dozens of loaves of this over the next few months. With local strawberries so plentiful, who needs banana bread?

2 eggs
1/4 cup plain yogurt
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
2/3 cup sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups fresh diced strawberries

Preheat the oven to 350 F and grease an 8 x 4″ loaf pan.

Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt and baking powder in a large bowl.

In a separate bowl, beat the eggs until the evenly yellow (but not frothy). Stir in the yogurt, oil, and vanilla and stir until evenly mixed. Pour into the dry ingredients and mix until there are no longer traces of flour. Gently fold in the strawberries, then pour into the prepared pan.

Bake for about 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then run a sharp knife around the bread and turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely before slicing.

Boxty Pancakes

If you’re a procrastinator like I tend to be, and you still haven’t finalized your St. Patricks Day menu, consider putting these on it. They’re great topped with jam or as a side dish for stew, and they’re not too complex to make. Apparently there are all sorts of rhymes about boxty, including this little gem (found in the cookbook this recipe came from):
Boxty on the griddle, boxty in the pan, if you don’t eat boxty, you’ll never get a man.
Uh huh.

Anyway, Happy St. Patricks Day!. Here are some other Irish-inspired recipes to help you celebrate:

Guinness Beef or Tempeh Stew
Irish Soda Bread
Guinness Chocolate Cake

(adapted from Celtic Folklore Cooking by Joanne Asala)

1/2 pound potatoes, peeled and grated
1 cup cooked mashed potatoes
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup milk
salt and pepper

Squeeze the grated potatoes in a clean dish towel to remove excess water.
Put them in a large bowl and stir in the mashed potatoes, flour, baking soda, and milk (you may need more or less depending on the moistness of your mashed potatoes…it should have a similar consistency to pancake batter). Add a few pinches of salt and pepper.
Lightly grease a griddle and cook the boxty pancakes over medium-high heat until golden brown on each side.

Molasses Muffins

There’s a lot of advice that you just shouldn’t take, and these muffins are a prime example. On my long run the other day I realized that I hardly ever bake muffins anymore, and I’m not sure why that is, because there’s really no better way to start your day. (Unless you’re eating one of those giant ones with 80 grams of fat…then I can think of a lot of better ways to start your day.)

I knew we had carrots, apples, and walnuts, which all seemed like reasonable things to include in a muffin recipe. We also had a jar of molasses, which I wanted to try and use in place of white sugar (because it’s slightly healthier – there’s some iron and calcium in it). A little googling told me that you shouldn’t replace more than half the sugar in a recipe with molasses, but I refused to take that advice. I was fully prepared for these muffins to be a disaster, but they’re not! They’re soft and sweet, and remind me of gingerbread, but with apple, carrot, and whole wheat flour, they’re a lot healthier.

1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
1/3 tsp nutmeg
2 eggs
2/3 cup unsulphured molasses
1 apple, peeled and grated
1 carrot, grated
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
1/4 cup oil

Line a muffin pan with 12 paper liners, and preheat the oven to 350 F.

Combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg in a large bowl and mix with a wire whisk.

Stir the eggs, molasses, apple, carrot, walnuts, and oil together in a medium bowl, then pour into the flour mixture.
Stir gently with a wooden spoon until mixed, then divide among muffin tins and bake for about 17 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of a muffin comes out clean.

Cool on a wire rack.

Whole Wheat Oatmeal Pancakes

I have high standards when it comes to pancakes. When I was younger, my mom always used James Beard’s recipe, often with blueberries, and always incredibly good (particularly when drenched with maple syrup). I used to order pancakes when we went out for breakfast but now I don’t even bother because I can’t stand their spongy texture. The thought of using Bisquik to make pancakes makes me shudder. The bar was set very high, very early, and I don’t see the point of ever eating a sub-par pancake.

I don’t know where my sister in law found this recipe, but I do know that these are the best pancakes I’ve ever had. They’re Mike’s favorite too, so when I surprised him with these on Valentines Day morning, he was pretty excited.

I love them for their heartiness, the nutty flavor of whole wheat and the textural contrast of the oats. They cook up beautifully brown and lacy and are just perfect with a slather of jam. I love, love, love these pancakes. Unlike some recipes that make dozens, this makes just 6 4″ pancakes, so you don’t have to slave away over the griddle for hours trying to use up all the batter.

1/2 cup plain yogurt (I use nonfat)
1/4 cup milk (more if the batter seems thick)
1 egg
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp brown sugar
3/4 cup white whole wheat flour
1/2 cup old fashioned oats
pinch salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
pinch cinnamon
pinch nutmeg

Whisk together the yogurt, milk, oil, honey, and egg in a large bowl.
Stir the remaining ingredients together in a medium bowl, then add to the wet ingredients and mix gently. If the batter seems especially thick, add a tablespoon or two of milk.
Heat a griddle and spray with nonstick spray.
Ladle out 1/3 to 1/2 cup of batter for each pancake and cook until golden brown on the bottom. Flip and cook an additional 2-4 minutes, or until golden both sides.
Serve with butter, jam, syrup, honey, molasses, applesauce, or whatever else you enjoy with pancakes.

Classic Banana Bread


I’m sure the internet doesn’t need another basic banana bread recipe floating around, and does my blog really need THREE different recipes for it? I think so. First, there’s the healthier version which has whole wheat flour and yogurt. Then there’s the oh-so-chocolatey version. But sometimes, you just need to stick with the basics. Get back to the true essence of what banana bread should be.

Last time I mentioned to Mike that I was making banana bread, I got into a little trouble. He heard “banana bread” and thought of the classic version you see here. I said “banana bread” but was already thinking about adding cocoa powder and chunks of chocolate. Although he really liked that version, he was just a little disappointed that I didn’t keep it simple. That’s the way he likes most things – just the classic version, with no fancy additions or embellishment. Which is fine, but most of the time I can’t help myself and have to mix things up a little bit.

So this time, I stayed true to my word, and made a plain old simple banana bread. And it was nice, in the classic, comforting way banana bread should be. Moist, slightly sweet, and evocative of sitting at my red kitchen table after being picked up from Montessori school about 20 years ago. The only thing I changed was the pan that I baked it in, because I only have my trusty 8 1/4″ round pan, and the baking time, which I shortened to about 40 minutes (give or take a few).


(adapted from Cookbook Catchall)
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3 mashed bananas

Preheat the oven to 350 F and grease a 9×5″ loaf pans (or a 9″ round pan – my 8 1/4″ pan almost overflowed).
Cream the butter and brown sugar, then add the eggs and vanilla and mix well.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt.
Gently stir the flour mixture into the butter and eggs, then add the bananas.
Pour into the prepared pan and bake for about 40 minutes (in a round pan) or about 60 minutes (in a loaf pan).
Cool in the pan for about 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.


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