Wee Cook Wednesday: Best Ever Banana Nut Bread

banana-bread-bigNo fooling … This bread will soon be a family favorite! Whether you’re making this for a fund raiser (as I just did) or a large family, this bread is light and moist and sure to please. Freezes really well. If you don’t have 4 loaf pans, use 2 loaf pans and put the remaining batter in an 11×13 cake pan. It’s a good thing it’s so easy to make … your family will ask for it again and again!

Best-Ever Banana  Nut Bread

1 C margarine

1 C brown sugar

2 C granulated sugar

6 eggs

3 C sour cream (low-fat OK)

4 tsp baking soda

2 tsp vanilla

5-7 bananas, mashed (about 1-2/3 cups)

1 tsp salt

5 C flour

½ C chopped pecans


Preheat oven to 350 degrees, lightly grease four loaf pans (22x11x6 cm, 1.5 liter Pyrex or equivalent) with butter or cooking spray. Beat margarine, sugars, eggs, and vanilla until fluffy. In a separate bowl, combine sour cream and baking soda, let stand 3 minutes (will puff up nearly double). Stir in sour cream mixture and bananas. Gradually add flour and salt, stirring just until blended. Add nuts and stir just to incorporate. Divide batter evenly into loaf pans. Bake 50-60 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Freezes well. Makes 4 loaves.


Wee Cook Wednesday: Grandma’s No-Powdered Sugar Frosting

wedding-cakeSarah’s birthday is this weekend — she’s a big girl of seven now.

Birthday cakes always make me a little nostalgic. My mom used to be a semi-professional cake baker (she made wedding cakes out of our home). As anyone with a home-based business knows, working from home can be hazardous. Though I was no older then than Sarah is now, I distinctly recall two wedding-cake disasters. The first time our dog sneaked into the kitchen and licked the bottom tier of a wedding cake clean of frosting two hours before the cake was supposed to be at the church. The second time, my sister Chris pulled the same trick. My parents let Chris stay … but the dog was consigned to the back yard for the rest of his natural life.  

Yep, Mom didn’t always have the best of luck with the wedding cakes … But her cakes made our birthdays something special. Barbie-gown cakes, carousel cakes, Dad-gone-fishing cakes, leopard-print cakes (it was the 80s). According to her, at the tender age of four I once made Dad scour the countryside one Sunday evening when I discovered that my mother had no cake for her birthday. “She makes cakes for all of us … and she doesn’t have a cake for HER birthday. IT’S NOT FAIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIR!”

Dad returned an hour later with a bucket full of ice cream and chocolate sauce, with whipped cream and a candle on top. Apparently I was placated temporarily … but every year thereafter I started bugging him about Mom’s cake the day after Halloween (two weeks or so before Mom’s actual birthday).

Anyway, today I’d like to share a favorite family recipe, which my Grandmother used to use on birthday cakes. For those who don’t like sicky-sweet icing … or is suddenly faced with the prospect of having to decorate 24 cupcakes at the last minute without a cup of powdered sugar in the pantry.

Grandma’s No-Powdered Sugar Frosting

1/2 C milk
4-1/2 tsp flour
1/2 C white or brown sugar
4 Tbls margerine
4 Tbls shortening
1 tsp vanilla

Cook milk and flour together until thick; cool. Place sugar, margerine, shortening, and vanilla in small bowl. Add cooled milk; beat until thick — about 7 minutes. Recipe ices a 9×12 cake generously; double to fill a layered cake.

Wee Cook Wednesdays: Spiced Tea

teacupMy kids L-O-V-E hot chocolate. With big marshmallows, and a sprinkle of cinnamon. It’s the first thing they ask for when they trudge inside from the snow drifts after making acres of snow angels. Sarah wants a china cup, Chris the stoneware mug.

My tastes tend to run more toward herbal tea. But if I’m feeling particularly nostalgic — or if my sweet tooth is acting up — I dig out a jar of Grandma’s Spiced Tea. A spoonful of this in a cup of hot water, and I’m back in Grandma’s kitchen in East Grand Forks, MN, where snowdrifts cover the windows and they celebrate not only “White Christmas” but “White Halloween” and “White Easter” as well.


Grandma’s Spiced Tea

1/2 C iced tea mix (unsweetened)
1/2 C powdered lemonade mix (Wyler’s or Countrytime)
1-18 oz jar Tang
1/2 C brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp cinnamon

Mix all ingredients together well. Store in airtight container. To serve, add 2 tsp to a cup of boiling water.

Photo credit: “The Heart of Innovation”. (Note: This is NOT my grandmother.)

Wee Cook Wednesday: Easy-Peasy Beans

small_baked_beansWhen I was a little kid, I hated baked beans. Mom made them with molasses and onions and all kinds of stuff that made my nose twitch, and according to family legend I once sat in front of the same plate of cold baked beans for two days’ worth of meals before relenting and eating them. Then, only because my father threatened to serve them in my oatmeal the third day. Out of necessity, my mom fed us on$50/month for a family of five; the sooner I learned to like beans and hate wasted food, the better.

Ironically, I now enjoy baked beans. Especially this multi-bean casserole I learned to make from my friend Carol Garborg. She grew up on the mission field (Brazil), in a Christian community where food was always cooked in quantity. So whenever I have to feed a large group of people, I whip out this tried-and-true favorite. Throw it in the crock in the morning, whip up a vat of slaw, and toss a few burgers or chicken legs on the Bar-B when you’re ready to eat, and you’ve got yourself a party!

Easy-Peasy Beans by Carol Garborg

6-8 slices bacon, fried and crumbled
2 large onions, cut in thin rings
1/2 C brown sugar
1 tsp dry mustard
1/2 C ketchup
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 C cider vinegar

2-15 oz cans butter beans
1 pkg  (16 oz)  green lima beans (frozen or canned)
1-16 oz can kidney beans w/juice
1 large can (28 oz or so) baked beans (I use Bush’s New England variety)

Saute onions in a little olive oil or bacon grease. Add sugar, mustard, ketchup, garlic, and vinegar. Pour all beans into crock pot, pour onion mixture over all. Stir, and cook 4 hours on low heat; alternatively, you can put them in a covered baking dish and bake at 350 for 1 hour; uncover and bake 15 minutes longer. 

For simple supper, serve with corn bread and salad. (During Lent, just omit bacon.)

Wee Cook Wednesday: Seafood Newburg Chowder

soupThis one is a bit dear to make with all the fish and shellfish — I like to make it for Christmas Eve or New Years’ Eve, served with cheesy bread. The shellfish adds up fast … but then, it’s only once a year. Make it part of your Christmas tradition! Enjoy!

1 lb fish (haddock or flounder, fresh or frozen)
1 lb med. shrimp, thawed and drained
1 lb scallops (tiny ones)
1/2 lb crab meat (NOT “krab”)
4 Tbls butter
1/3 C flour
1 qt half-and-half
1 C milk
1 pkg tiny peas
1/4 C dry sherry (aw… don’t bother measuring)
3/4 C shredded cheddar cheese
8 oz pimento strips, drained
Sprinkle of paprika

Melt butter and whisk in flour; gradually wisk in h&h and milk. Into base add fishes, peas and sherry. Cook, stirring frequently, until fish flakes and shrimp is tender (30 minutes or so). Stir in cheese and pimento at the last minute.  Sprinkle with paprika. Serves 10 — easy to double.

Wee Cook Wednesday: Rose Sunday Tea Cake

In just a few  more days — right after Thanksgiving — we will be entering the season of Advent. These four weeks before Christmas are about more than buying presents and baking cookies … They are about getting our hearts soft and warm with thanksgiving, ready to receive the Newborn King!

Every year on the third Sunday of Advent, I host a special tea party at my house for a group of truly extraordinary friends. We met when we were all still single … a dozen years later, three of us are married, and three have become adoptive parents. One hosts an exchange student every year.

Each of us makes a signature dish. Mine is a rich chocolate pound cake I make just once a year, especially for the tea (unless my husband is able to wheedle it out of me for his birthday). This year the cake is going to be a show stopper! Over the summer I was at a craft fair, and found these beautiful hand-painted cake plates. Here’s a picture of the one I got!

Rose Sunday Tea Cake

1/2 C shortening
1 C butter, softened
3 C sugar
5 eggs, separated
3 C flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 C cocoa
1 tsp cinnamon
1-1/4 C milk
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp almond extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour (or sugar) a 10 inch tube pan.  Cream shortening and butter until light and fluffy, gradually adding sugar. Beating well on medium speed, add egg yolks one at a time. Beat well after each addition.

Sift dry ingredients. Pour extracts into milk. Add flour and milk mixtures alternately, beginning and ending with flour, mixing just until blended after each addition.

In a clean glass bowl, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold carefully, just until no white streaks remain, into the chocolate mixture. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for 75 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Cool in pan 10 minutes, remove from pan, and let cool comploetely on a wire rack. Serve with chocolate sauce.

Devastating Fudge Sauce

2/3 C cocoa
2 C sugar
1/4 C Karo syrup
1 can evaporated milk
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1 C butter

Bring cocoa, sugar, syrup, and milk to a boil. Add remaining ingredients, and boil 5 minutes longer. Serve hot.