School’s Out (and a banana bread recipe)

It’s the end of the school year.  Wait, what?  Wasn’t it just December? We were so exhausted from all the homework, studying, play rehearsals, field hockey games and practices, voice lessons, ski club, swim meets, theatre classes, lacrosse games and practices, birthday parties and everyday school and work life.  It felt like there was no end in sight!  Yet, here we are and school is winding down and summer break is here and I’m not at all sad about it!

Last summer, was the summer dreams are made of.  We went on an amazing trip out west.  Carrie, Daisy (our beagle) and I drove across the country from Ohio and met up with Casey (my husband) in Salt Lake City, then headed to Lake Tahoe.   The drive was long, tiring and exhilarating all at once!  Daisy was so confused but quickly learned about long stretches in the car, bathroom breaks at random gas station grassy areas and hotel elevators.  It was quite the adventure driving to Tahoe.  Once there, we hiked, swam and played continuously for a couple weeks.  Carrie turned twelve in Tahoe and I wanted to stay in those moments forever.

We left (reluctantly) and she started 7th grade with all the excitement the start of the school year brings.  We heard this year would be brutal and that was no lie.  She’s learned a great deal about time management, BIG school projects, hours of studying and relationships (good and bad).  I learned a lot about patience, acceptance and letting go and maybe some new wines I hadn’t tried. 🙂  Middle school is hard!  Of course, she got through it and I’m so proud of her for trying new things, getting good grades and navigating through some tough situations!

We usually go all out on end of the year teacher gifts.  Last year, we made these cute baskets for DIY Sparkling Rosemary Lemonade and relaxation.  Big surprise…I like to go the homemade route!  They were so fun and the teachers loved them!  As a matter of fact, most of them told me the only thing missing was vodka.  Truth!

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This year, Carrie’s a little older and we’ve done teacher gifts throughout the year and I’m not sure it’s still “cool” to give teachers big homemade presents.  So, for the last day, we chose to do something a little more simple by making homemade banana bread and include sweet notes and gift cards from Carrie.  Teachers work countless hours and we hope this small, but loving, treat helps them know how much we appreciate them!

I’m sharing a banana bread recipe I’ve made for years.  It’s not heavy because it calls for yogurt instead of a ton of butter and oil.  You can also make it your own by adding all sorts of things like coconut, chocolate chips, toasted walnuts, pecans, cinnamon…the sky’s the limit!  Go BANANAS!  I’ve included other options below in the recipe.

You’ll start with some super ripe bananas (I didn’t get a picture of those before I started making this recipe).  Measure out your dry ingredients, prep loaf pans and combine the small amount of butter and sugar with a mixer until light and fluffy and add eggs, one at a time.  Then add mashed bananas, yogurt and vanilla.

I made three recipes here and I wanted to make mini loaves.  I wash and reuse the foil loaf pans and simply spray them with coconut oil.  You can use a larger pan or make muffins, just adjust baking time. I also use really good vanilla when I bake.  My favorite is Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Extract and I mostly buy it on Amazon. I buy in bulk and just keep refilling my smaller jar.  Can you tell it’s been with me forever?

Once the batter is combined, pour into pans or muffin tins.

For this recipe, I kept the batter plain because I didn’t want to worry about nut allergies or anything.  To make it feel a little more special, I love to sprinkle raw/turbinado sugar on top to give the bread a little crunch and fun sparkle.

Bake the bread and let cool slightly, then remove from pans and allow it to completely cool on a rack. By now, your house will smell amazing and you should probably make sure the bread is everything you want it to be.  Have a fresh, warm slice.  Smear it with almond butter or peanut butter or cream cheese or honey.  Brew a pot of coffee.  Take a moment to breathe and indulge.  Yes, please do all of this because it’s almost SUMMER!

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Back to the task at hand.  Once our loaves cooled, we placed them in bags and attached notes from Carrie.  I love that she enjoys hand-writing thank you notes.  She took some time and reflected on her school year and thought about what each teacher means to her.  Writing thank-you notes and giving a homemade gift is such a win-win.  It feels good all around!

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This bread is so easy, makes the perfect gift for anyone in your life and can be frozen for special weekend breakfasts and snacks.  Heck, you don’t even have to wait for the weekend!  I saved a loaf to have for our first official day of summer break breakfast.  Yes! I hope you make it and love it and give it!

Classic Banana Bread

Ingredients
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour or use whole wheat pastry flour (I love King Arthur flours)
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar (you can use coconut sugar or granulated white sugar)
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups mashed ripe banana (about 3 bananas)
1/3 cup plain nonfat yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Cooking spray (coconut is my preferred)

  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt, stirring with a whisk.
  3. Place sugar and butter in a large bowl, and beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended (about 2 minutes).
  4. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.
  5. Add banana, yogurt, and vanilla; beat until blended. Add flour mixture; beat at low speed just until moist.  Spoon batter into an 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch loaf pan (or mini size pan or muffin tins) coated with cooking spray.
  6. Bake at 350° for 1 hour (or less if you use a smaller pan) or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in pan on a wire rack; remove from pan. Cool completely on wire rack. Wrap or place in a storage container to keep fresh. Freezes beautifully!

Your can make this banana bread fit what you’re craving by following some of these options:
Marble style: Stir 1 cup batter and 1/2 cup melted semisweet chocolate chips together in a small bowl. Spoon plain batter into pan, alternating with dollops of chocolate-chip batter. Drag a knife through batter to swirl. Bake as directed.

Berry style:  Fold 1 cup fresh blueberries into batter. Bake as directed.

French-toast: Cut bread into 3/4-inch slices. Toast until slightly crisp on both sides. Whisk together 2 eggs, 2 Tbsp. milk, ground cinnamon and nutmeg to taste as well as a pinch of salt in a shallow bowl. Dip bread in mixture, let excess drip off, then place on a hot griddle, turning once.

Chocolate-chip style: Fold 1 cup dark  or semi sweet chocolate chips into batter. Bake as directed.

Streusel style: Combine 2 Tbsp. rolled oats, 2 Tbsp. flour, 1 Tbsp. brown sugar, 1 Tbsp. butter, melted, and 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg in a medium bowl. Divide batter among 12 paper-lined muffin cups. Top with streusel. Bake at 350°F until done, about 25 minutes.

Coconut style:  Fold 1 cup shredded coconut into batter.  You can even add lime juice and zest or make a lime glaze for the top to take you away to the tropics.  Bake as directed.

*Recipe adapted from Cooking Light magazine

 

 

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