Saturday, March 14, 2009

Breaking Bread

With the beginning of my new blog I had all sorts of crazy ideas. What would be the first entry? Of course I wanted it to be special. I am like an idea factory and everyone I asked had a different opinion. Deep down I knew I had to wait it out, that it would inevitably present itself.

This morning I remembered it was Friday, which is trash day. I literally ran out of the house in my pj’s and was practically startled to death when I looked up from my recycling bin and saw my neighbor greeting me with the biggest smile on his face. “Good Morning, How are you?” I smiled and greeted him in return, and then he said “Your mother told us you were coming but you have been here a while, almost a month right? Are you relocating here? Welcome to the neighborhood! What do you do?” My head was swimming as I had just woke up, I could hear my cell phone ringing, and all I could think about was why do all these questions keep flying at me nonstop these days! “Emily what are you doing…Why are you doing that….You did what?” Really, I am quite used to being the rebel, never following the path of someone else. The road less traveled is the one I am on…and on it for life.

I stated that I was a Media Chef, and that I was recently in a “change of life” mode. I had been laid off from my job and have finally started to do my own projects.

It was instantaneous, just as soon as the word “chef” crossed my lips, my neighbor’s eyes lit up and my body went into tingles. It made him so happy! As we began to “speak food” I had tears in my eyes and became alive. Even now as I am sitting here in my chair writing, I am wiggling and giggling.

He went on to tell me about his life as a Navy Engineer and how there was a cook on his ship that made the best bread! Time and time again it was made from the same recipe, the same yeast starter, and baked in the same oven as all the other ships- but his bread was legendary.

They had to assign an official Navy Policeman to guard the bread oven when that particular cook was baking because only the first 100 men would get it! They would take stacks of the bread, instead of following the allotted 2 slices per person rule. He didn’t understand why it tasted so differently and he had always wondered. I told him, that when you really love what you do- love it right down to the core of your being, that love transfers into every little thing you touch! Of course that bread was magical! Like that Navy cook, I too have an incredible passion and love affair for food and I hope that it translates to you through my writing.

Today, my neighbor gave me so much joy from that conversation that I thought I would make him some bread. And not just any bread, but what I love to give people that I care about the most- My Banana Nut Bread. This recipe has been in the works for about ⅔ of my life. Over the years so many of you have begged me for this recipe and I never gave in, until now!

Banana Bread is a comfort food. It seems to have this reputation of melting many hearts, especially when it comes right out of the oven and slathered in butter. Perfection!

So my friends, I am officially breaking bread with you, and my neighbor. I hope that you enjoy my blog and all that it entails: the recipes, the pictures, the stories, the trips and the companionship. Please don’t hesitate to comment or send me an email as I can’t wait to hear from you!

“Good Eating with Peace, Love, and Lucky Dogs!”
Emily’s Banana Nut Bread Muffins
Prep Time: 45 Minutes
Yields: 2 Dozen

¾ cup Crisco© butter flavored shortening
1½ cups sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extra
4 large eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp fresh ground nutmeg
1½ tsp baking soda
1½ tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
5 overripe bananas, mashed
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
1/2 cup sugar for garnish (optional)
3 tbsps ground cinnamon for garnish (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350°F and line a muffin pan with paper cupcake liners.
2. With an electric mixer, in a large mixing bowl whip shortening, sugar and vanilla together until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time while continuing to mix.
3. In another large mixing bowl combine flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
4. Gradually add dry ingredients into shortening mixture while continuously mixing.
5. Blend in bananas and walnuts.
6. Spoon batter ¾ full into lined muffin pan.
7. In a small bowl mix together ½ cup sugar and 3 tablespoons cinnamon. Sprinkle each muffin top with the cinnamon-sugar mixture.
8. Bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the center of the muffin.

Many of you know how hard it is for me to use such ingredients like shortening. There are only a few reasons why I will even allow it in my house. This recipe is the primary reason that it’s in my cabinet just in case I need to whip up a batch of banana muffins for unexpected guests- it really does make the difference in this recipe.

Are you on a diet or need to cut back on sugar?
A great friend of mine is a diabetic and I used to bake him and his lovely wife fresh Banana Bread every Sunday! Since he couldn’t “quit” my baking he came up with a great way of savoring every last bite. He would cut the bread up into bite-sized squares and freeze them. Then just pull out a few squares at a time. Also, you use a mini muffin pan to cut down on portion size. Line the pan with the mini liners and bake for 15 minutes at 350°F.