Oh, Bananas!

For my first recipe in the family cookbook journey, I decided to make the Chocolate Chip Banana Bread. I know, you’re probably thinking ‘oh wow, that’s a very italian recipe…’ (please note the sarcasm in that), but it has been a staple at past family get-togethers, and it is in the cookbook, so it had to be made. There may have also been another reason I chose this recipe…

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My pet monkeys didn’t eat all the bananas before they ripened too much. Or there were extra bananas after the 5K I had helped plan. You decide…

Anyways, if you find yourself in a similar situation and asking ‘what in the world am I going to do with all these bananas, that are ripening at the same time?!’, this might be the recipe for you. Well, at least for three or four of those bananas. Or you can make a Morelli-size portion of this recipe (i.e. enough to feed the neighborhood, which is usually why so much food was made. The whole neighborhood, mostly family, really was fed. That’s how it was…and continues to be…).

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As mentioned above, this recipe is written in what I will call “normal people” measurements, in that it makes enough batter for 2 banana bread loaves. Even though I have enough bananas for a “Morelli sized” recipe, I’ll stick to the recipe as written. Which means you will need…

  • 3/4 cups white sugar
  • 3 –4 medium bananas, mashed
  • 3/4 cups vegetable oil (I used canola)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup chocolate chips (I used dark chocolate chips)

Once you gather all the ingredients…

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Blend the sugar and oil together, then add the eggs, vanilla, and mashed bananas. It’s best to mash the bananas in a separate bowl before adding to the sugar/oil mix. In yet another bowl (I never said we were going to use as few bowls as possible!), measure out the dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt) and mix/sift together. Add the dry ingredients to the wet banana mix and stir. And no need to pull the handheld mixer out of the cabinet, a whisk and some muscle work great!

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You could stop here if you’re not a fan of chocolate, but let’s be honest, there’s no fun in that! If you do want the chocolate, add the chocolate chips at this point. I highly recommend dark chocolate, just my two cents.

At this point, you want two greased (regular sized) loaf pans and an oven set to 325*. Once the chips are mixed in, split the batter between the two pans. It will look like you can fit it all in one pan but it expands, so if you don’t want a banana explosion in your oven, split it. Bake for about 40-45 minutes (depending on your oven and how well you like it cooked in the center). My oven was closer to 43-45 mins.

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Wait 43 minutes or so…

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 And ENJOY! It’s definitely best fresh out of the oven or warmed up a bit…

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* NOTE: I do not own any pet monkeys. The bananas were leftover after a 5K.

il ricettario di famiglia

Let’s skip over the blatant fact that I haven’t posted in a while. Fail. It’s been a crazy….many months.

Moving on…

A number of years ago my Italian family decided it was time to put the many, many family recipes in one place. We couldn’t make it easy by typing up the recipes in Word and giving each family member a CD of recipes. Nope, not us. No worries, we typed up each recipe but we didn’t stop there. We created our own cookbook, complete with typed recipes, handwritten recipes, pictures, games, and humor. And, of course, love.

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Over the years, oil stains have appeared on some pages and recipes have been marked up. There may also be some wine stains in there, too. And those recipes that have been marked up? Well, we’ve done some editing along the way. Apparently our editing team had some wine during the initial go through…who can blame them? Some recipes didn’t list some (obvious) ingredients, measurements were optional for some original recipes (that may not change), and some family recipes were flat-out not included. Needless to say, it’s due for a revision.

That’s where this next journey comes in. My cousin has enlisted me, and the rest of the family, to go through and make each recipe. As it is written in the cookbook. And taking notes along the way… Our goal: a second edition. Preferably with fewer typos and more recipes.

My cousin is tracking the cooking on her blog. I’ll be (hopefully) posting what I cook + bake on here. To stay true to the recipes, they won’t be as “healthy” as I would normally make them. I will be including what I would do differently though if I were making it for myself.

So dig out your apron, dust off the pots, pans, and baking sheets, and make sure you have a grocery store nearby. A glass bottle of wine might not hurt, either.

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Greek, anyone?

Vegetarian Moussaka

Being vegetarian is usually not an issue for me, especially since I’m technically only semi-vegetarian and will (happily) eat seafood. Inevitably though, one is bound to come across a situation where a vegetarian dish may not be so easy to come by. Enter a Christmas party while I was home over the holidays. Thankfully, my mom knew this and tried to fix the situation beforehand. I say tried because our initial conversation went something like this:

Mom: “I have to think of something to make that you’ll eat for dad’s family get-together.” (They usually just do ham sandwiches. Gourmet, I know).

Me: “I’ll figure something out. I’ll just throw together a big salad for myself or something.”

Mom: “I know! I have some chicken breasts in the freezer that I’ll take out.”

Me: (blank stare) “Uhhh…”

Mom: “Oh. Yah. I’ll make the vegetarian moussaka [my co-worker] talked about the other day.”

Thank you, mom, for redeeming yourself. It’s the thought that counts. And yes, I did feel like I was in the scene of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.”

I bring you vegetarian moussaka. Yes, it is in the picture above. No, that’s not ground beef you see. They are Boca’s ‘veggie ground crumbles.’ I usually try to avoid the fake meats but it wasn’t that bad and I’d use them again.

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What will you need?

  • Eggplant (1)
  • Ground veggie crumbles (or something similar. or ground beef if you’re not vegetarian)
  • Diced (or crushed) tomatoes (1 can)
  • Zucchini (1)
  • Garlic
  • Olive Oil
  • Cinnamon
  • Cumin
  • Allspice
  • Coriander
  • Oregano
  • Crushed red pepper flakes
  • Egg yolk
  • Parsley
  • Milk
  • Flour
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Salt/pepper

What you do with all of those ingredients…

  1. Start off by peeling the eggplant and slicing it (quarter- to half-inch thick slices, or so).
  2. Layer the eggplant slices on a baking sheet and top with some olive oil, a little parsley, and salt. Put them in a 350 degree oven for about 30-40 minutes, so they soften a little.DSC_0795
  3. While the eggplant slices are in the oven, start by shredding/grating the zucchini.
  4. Add olive oil and garlic (chopped, minced, however you like it) to a sauté pan (med-hi heat), followed by veggie crumbles. I added my crumbles while they were still frozen, it may help if they are thawed a little or at least broken up (and not one solid chunk).
  5. Add grated zucchini and can of diced tomatoes to veggie crumbles mix, as well as spices (a pinch of each should be fine).
    • My mom’s directions (for spices) listed the ones in the ingredient list. I used what I had on hand – cinnamon, coriander, cumin, crushed red pepper flakes, oregano. Use whatever sounds good to you.
  6. Let it all simmer/cook together for a little. Add a handful or two of chopped parsley towards the end.
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  7. By now, the eggplant should be done. Layer the eggplant slices and cover the bottom of a 13×9 glass baking dish. Or a smaller glass dish (I used a smaller one).
  8. On top of the eggplant, spread the veggie crumble mix. Topping this will be a béchamel sauce…
  9. …which you will now make. (Note: if you want a thicker layer of béchamel, use more butter/flour/milk than I list). Melt about 2 Tablespoons butter in a pan. Once melted add about 2 T flour and mix together. Mixture should not be too liquidy but not completely solid.
  10. Add about a cup of milk and stir until it begins to thicken (you do not have to stir it constantly). Once it is creamy thickness/texture, remove from heat and about 1/2 cup parmesan cheese. Mix.
  11. Pour the béchamel sauce over eggplant and veggie crumbs in pan.
  12. Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes or until it’s a nice golden brown on top.
  13. Enjoy!

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