Sunday, February 17, 2013

Best Banana Bread

My husband loves baked treats and frequently asks me to bake some. Once in a while, I give in and bake a batch of cookies or banana bread. I pack some of it up and send them off to work with him. His coworkers often ask me for recipes. Now, I can send them here.

Like most bakers, I have tried many different recipes for banana bread before finding one that absolutely blew my mind. I asked my husband to taste the bit of dough left in the bowl. He doesn't usually like to, but when he did, he was floored. We knew this was going to be good. The best way to describe this banana bread is to say that the crust, which comes out a nice shade of brown is on the crispy side. But the center is so soft and almost doughy without being underdone. Take great care not to eat too much (this is difficult) because it is very sweet. I might even suggest adjusting the sugar with each new batch. Though my husband would disagree as he thinks it's perfect the way it is. To each his own.

Taste in Bloom Original Photo
Difficulty: Easy; Serves: 1 loaf; Total time: 2 hrs 20 mins

Barely adapted from *Food Network: Flour's Famous Banana Bread

  • 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup + 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 3 1/2 very ripe bananas, mashed
  • 2 Tbsp crème fraiche or sour cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cups walnuts, toasted and chopped (opt. - I left them out)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line bottom of a loaf pan with parchment paper.

Sift dry ingredients together: flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. 

Whisk together sugar and eggs until light and fluffy, about 10 minutes. Drizzle in oil and add mashed bananas, crème fraiche or sour cream and vanilla extract.

Pour into lined loaf pan and bake about 45-50 minutes, up to one hour.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Chicken Soup

I consider a good steaming bowl of chicken soup one of the best comfort foods out there. I love chicken soup any time of the year and for any meal of the day. My definition of a good chicken soup is one that is packed with flavor and herbs that clear up congestion in your body and soul. With every bite, take a deep breath of the steam wafting from your spoon. I sincerely hope this evokes feelings of wellness and happiness. That is what it does for me. 

Taste in Bloom Original Photo

Difficulty: Intermediate; Serves: 6; Total time: 2 hrs 30 mins

  • 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • one recipe Mirepoix
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 recipe chicken stock (recipe below)
  • shredded chicken from one whole cooked chicken
  • salt, to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • handful of fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 8 oz package egg noodles


Heat the olive oil in a large stock pot over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots, celery, garlic, thyme and bay leaf. Cook until softened, about 6 minutes, stirring frequently. Pour in chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and stir in chicken pieces. Allow to heat through for a couple of minutes. Sprinkle with chopped parsley when ready to serve.

In a separate smaller saucepan, cook egg noodles according to package instructions. Serve separately from the soup. Noodles tend to soak up all of the soup broth if they are cooked in the soup.

Chicken Stock Recipe:
  • 1 whole chicken, approximately 3 1/2 lbs (free-range preferred), rinsed, giblets discarded
  • 2 carrots, coarsely chopped
  • 3 stalks celery, coarsely chopped
  • 2 white onions, quartered (no need to peel)
  • 1 head of garlic, chopped in half (no need to peel)
  • 1 turnip, ends removed, halved (no need to peel)
  • 1/4 bunch fresh thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • up to 1 tsp whole black peppercorns


Place all ingredients in a large stockpot over medium heat. Cover with cold water (about 3 quarts). Slowly bring to a boil. 

Reduce heat to a simmer, partially cover with a lid and allow to simmer for 1 1/2 hours. Skim off any impurities that rise to the surface as necessary as the broth cooks. Also, if necessary, add water to make sure the chicken stays covered, careful not to add too much. (Note: I found I did not need to skim the broth, nor did I need to add any water as it cooked. It came out perfectly).

Carefully remove the chicken to a cutting board and allow to cool before handling. Shred the chicken off of the bone and discard the carcass.

Strain the broth through a fine sieve into another large stock pot and discard the vegetable solids. Use immediately or set the pot into a bath of ice water to cool before storing in the refrigerator. Use within 4 days or freeze for up to several months.