Banana Bread and a Ponder

Lives. There are approximately 7.2 billion lives struggling through their daily routines right now across the earth.

Jacked Up Banana Bread (1)I say approximately because that number is constantly changing; people are continuously being born and dying all day every day, so it’s basically impossible to ever really know what the world’s population is at any given moment. However, seems to be cool with the 7.2 number so let’s go with that. The part I want to focus on, that I want you to sit back and ponder for a moment, is the word ‘lives’.

Jacked Up Banana Bread (3)All across the world there are people exactly and nothing like you shaking hands, missing appointments, smiling, crying, who are terrified and exhilarated, expectant and somber.  Every time I start to mope about how the dishes still aren’t done or my hair is just not parting the right way or the drain is clogged in the bathtub from my ridiculously curly head of hair I force myself to sit back, close my eyes and meditate for a minute on how many people would kill to have my problems.

Jacked Up Banana Bread (4)It doesn’t always work.  Sometimes I just want to throw a fit about how he’s still not ready to go, how the dog is once again whining to go outside or how the cats have chewed up my latest craft, but those few times when I can really visualize it I’m always taken aback by the vastness of it all, by the insignificance of myself, and by the amazing powers of baked goods.

Jacked Up Banana Bread (5)So today I want you to try this with me.  I want you to put down the scrubby brush, close the door to the kids room and set your lover up in front of the tv and just sit back in a comfy chair with a warm blanket in your lap (preferably made even warmer by a purring kitty) and wonder with me about the happenings of an entire planet.  Then I want you to make some banana bread and remember that your life is beautiful and you really are lucky to be living it.

Jacked Up Banana Bread (6)This recipe is one I found on Smitten Kitchen.  Deb Perelman is one of my biggest inspirations; her recipes are always easy-to-follow and delicious, her photographs simplistic but helpful, and her writing style contains something you just don’t often find on cooking blogs: a big dose of reality.

Jacked Up Banana Bread

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

3 to 4 Ripe Bananas, smashed (depending on the size of your bananas and your preference for the level of banana flavor in the bread)
75 g (1/3 Cup) Salted Butter, melted (if you don’t have salted just add a heavier pinch of salt)
190 g (1 Cup) Brown Sugar
1 Egg, beaten
1 tsp Vanilla
1 Tbsp Bourbon (optional, a little more vanilla extract is a good substitute)
1 tsp Baking Soda
Pinch of Salt
1 tsp Cinnamon
Up to 1/2 tsp Freshly Ground Nutmeg
Pinch of Ground Cloves
190 g (1 1/2 Cup) Flour

Preheat the oven to 350°F. With a wooden spoon in a large mixing bowl, mash the butter into the bananas. Once ‘goopy’ with a few banana chunks mix in the sugar, egg, vanilla and bourbon, then the spices. Sprinkle the baking soda and salt over the mixture and stir in. Add the flour last, stirring just until blended. Pour mixture into a buttered 4×8 inch loaf pan. Bake for 50 minutes to one hour, or until a tester comes out clean. Cool on a rack. Remove from pan and slice to serve, preferably with a mug of hot milky tea (or apparently, if you’re like me, skip the tea and drink the milk).

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Cherry Brown Butter Bars

Cherry Brown Butter Bars (1)

Ah, just look at that beautiful bowl of perfectly pitted cherries.  So fresh you can practically feel the need to wash off your apron from having just returned from picking them in a field behind your house (instead of just the need to wash your hands from a recent trip to the market).  I have a deep love for cherries that stems from when I was a kid and my grandmother every holiday would take the time to specially bake a cherry pie because she knew it was my favorite.  I’d sneak pieces of that pie throughout the whole day, much to the chagrin of everyone else because by the time I got done there was nothing left for dessert.  However, the way my grandmother would make cherry pie is by picking up one of those cans of cherry pie fillings, you know?  Not by pitting fresh ones or even using the frozen.  Long story short, I, my entire life, never fully grasped how frustrating and MESSY pitting cherries can be.  I even bought one of those cherry pitters that are literally only made for pitting cherries, and I hate having one-use-items in my kitchen.  And, even with the pitter, you stil have a gigantic mess!!  Just look at this mess:

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 That, all of that, is from pitting 12 ounces of cherries.  Now I get why she used the cherry pie filling in a can; it means you don’t have to switch from tired arm to tired arm trying to scrub the stains from the countertops, bowls, cabinets, walls (yes walls) and fingers.

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All of that being said, my dislike for the mess that inevitably follows using fresh cherries for your baking desires, it’s totally worth every single pink stain.  You just can’t beat the taste of a freshly pitted cherry: sweet, a little tangy, juicy and firm all at the same time just bursting inside your mouth as you sink your teeth into its tender flesh.  That’s the flavor you’re going for here with these bars, that and the wonderful, almost shortbread, nutty flavor of the buttery crust.

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It just crosses the line of making all of that tiring scrubbing worth the trouble.

Cherry Brown Butter Bars
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen


98 g (7 Tbsp) Unsalted Butter, Melted
67 g (1/3 Cup) Sugar
1/4 tsp Vanilla Extract
136 g (1 Cup + Tbsp) All-Purpose Flour
Pinch of Salt

100 g (1/2 Cup) Sugar
2 Large Eggs
Pinch of Salt
32 g (1/4 Cup) All-Purpose Flour
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
112 g (1 stick) unsalted butter, diced
1 Lb sweet cherries, or about 12 oz when pitted (you can substitute any fruit you desire here)

Prep your Pan: 
Preheat oven to 375°F.  Create a makeshift tart pan by cutting two 12 x 8 inch lengths of parchment paper, then crisscrossing them in the bottom of a square baking pan.

Make the Crust:
Using a rubber spatula, mix the melted butter, sugar and vanilla in a medium bowl.  Add flour and salt until combined then transfer the dough to the “tart” pan, using your fingertips to push the dough evenly across the bottom of the pan, being careful to not let it bunch around the edges.  Pop the pan in the oven and bake for about 18 minutes, or until the crust has a light golden color and has puffed a little.  Remove from the oven but leave the oven on and let the crust cool on the counter while you make the filling.

Make the filling:
Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium brown heat until it has darken in color and has a delightful nutty smell, about 6 minutes.  Be careful not to let it burn (like I did) or the flavor won’t be just right.  Immediately move to a glass dish to cool.  Whisk sugar, vanilla, eggs and salt in a medium bowl then add flour, whisking until smooth.  Gradually whisk in the browned butter until well blended.

Combine the Two:
Arrange the pitted cherries, or whatever fruit you ended up choosing, on top of the cooled crust.  Pour the sugar mixture evenly over the berries, being careful not to nudge them out of place.  Bake for about 40 minutes or until the filling is puffed and golden and a tester inserted into the middle comes out clean.  Let cool completely before using the parchment to remove the bars from the pan and, using a sharp knife, cutting them into squares.
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Peach Crumble Pie

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One thing Chris and I miss the most when we travel around the United States for work is the food.  I’m not even just talking about Tex-Mex, Fried Chicken, Whataburger and BlueBell ice cream; I’m talking about the produce.
Fresh Peaches
Sure places like Ohio and Pennsylvania have some of the freshest homegrown produce you could ask for; in fact we could barely eat all of the free cucumbers and squash the locals would bring to our office to share, but when it came to grocery-bought produce the small towns we find ourselves in are sorely lacking in terms of some of the staples of home cooking: fresh peppers, both spicy and bell, watermelon, pitted and seedless, nice juicy oranges and, most importantly, freestone peaches.
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I’m telling you, nowhere in our trek across America could we find peaches that weren’t a complete nightmare to cut open and ‘de-pit.’  Many a fingernail was lost (and found, just to be clear, we never ate fingernails) to a stubborn clingstone peach pit.  So, being back in Texas during a wonderfully hot summer for a while, I’m taking advantage and baking all the peach pies, cobblers and crumbles I (and everyone in my family) can possibly stomach.

Spreading the Struesel
This crumble I found online at, but the crust I used is my favorite recipe; check out my tutorial on crust-creating here. You can also use a store-bought pie dough, but I just know you have a beautiful ready-to-bake homemade pie dough sitting right in your freezer.  Oh wait, that’s just me who always has pie dough in her freezer?  I kind of have a thing for pie dough.  And free-stone peaches.  I’m trying to get help.
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Peach Crumble Pie
Adapted from

One Frozen Pie Crust, Thawed (either store-bought or homemade
 – 3 Pounds Peaches, halved, pitted and cut into thin slices (about 8 cups once sliced)
 – 2 Tablespoons Brown Sugar
 – 2 Tablespoons All-Purpose Flour
Crumble Topping:
 – 1/3 Cup Packed Brown Sugar
 – 1/3 Cup All-Purpose Flour
 – 1/3 Cup Old-Fashioned Rolled Oats
 – 6 Tablespoons (3/4 Stick) Cold Unsalted Butter, cut into small pieces

Start by rolling your pie dough out on a lightly floured surface.  To make sure you roll it out to the correct size simply take your pie pan, turn it upside-down and hover it over your pie dough.  Once you’ve rolled it out to the point where you can see crust peeking out from under all the way around the pan you’re good to go.  Fold your dough in half then in quarters then move the dough to the pan and unfold, making sure you tuck the dough into the various edges of the bottom of the pan.  Fold the excess dough under at the ledges and pinch the dough to create a decorated edge.  Stab the bottom of the dough with a fork to make sure there’s no awkward puffing, then put the pan back in the refrigerator until you’re ready to fill it with pie.
To make the filling begin by preheating your oven to 375°F then simply toss carefully, with either your hands or a spatula, the peach slices, flour and brown sugar. To make the crumble topping mix the brown sugar, flour and oats together with your hands then work the cold butter pieces into the mixture until the pieces resemble small peas at the largest.  If you feel yourself getting frustrated with the mixture clumping too much or just not getting any smaller stick the whole bowl in the freezer and relax for fifteen minutes or so.  When you come back to the kitchen the butter will have chilled once more and the mixture will be much easier to crumble.  Now take the dough back out of the fridge, scoop your peaches into the pan (or you can carefully arrange them in a neat circular pattern) then sprinkle the crumble over the peaches evenly.  Place the pie in the oven and bake until the crumbles are golden brown and the peaches are bubbling, about an hour to an hour and fifteen minutes.  Remove pie from oven and let cool for a couple of hours before diving in.
Quintessential Pie on the Window Sill