My pal Jess and I were chatting about banana bread the other day, and I happened to mention that I was actually looking for a good banana bread recipe. And Jess quite helpfully offered to share her former nanny’s grandma’s recipe for banana bread. Naturally, I happily accepted, and I made the recipe a few weeks late—and it was scrumptious. So big props to Jess’s former nanny’s grandma, Carrie Francis.
Carrie’s Banana Bread
You can optionally mix in 1 cup of goodies—such as chocolate chips, chopped nuts, or even blueberries. I happen to prefer a combination of ½ cup of chocolate chips and ½ cup of chopped pecans, but feel free to go with whichever combination you’d like.
- 1 ¾ cups (249 grams) all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon baking soda (yeah, the big measuring spoon)
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt (such as Diamond Crystal kosher salt) or 1 teaspoon table salt (bonus tastiness points if it’s noniodized salt)
- 1 stick (½ cup or 113 grams) butter, softened or at room temperature
- ½ cup (99 grams) dark brown sugar
- ½ cup (99 grams) white sugar
- 2 eggs that have come to room temperature
- 3 mashed bananas
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ cup chocolate chips + ½ cup chopped pecans (or whichever mixins strike your fancy)
If you’re looking to include nuts among your mixins, such as pecans or walnuts, I’d recommend toasting them to bring out their flavor:
Heat your oven to 350°F (177°C).
Spread the nuts evenly on a rimmed baking sheet.
Set the baking sheet in the oven for 5 to 6 minutes.
Take out the baking sheet and set it aside to cool while you prepare the other ingredients. (If you add the nuts to the batter while they’re still hot, they could start to cook the eggs.)
Set the oven to 325°F (163°C).
In a medium-sized mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set this bowl aside.
In a large mixing bowl, add and mix the remaining ingredients in order.
Slowly mix in the dry ingredients from the bowl that you set aside earlier.
For banana bread: Pour the mixture into a buttered loaf pan. Bake for 1 hour or until a knife or toothpick comes out clean.
For muffins: Butter a muffin tin and cook for 30–40 minutes until a knife or toothpick comes out clean.
I came across this recipe in one of America’s Test Kitchen’s cookbooks a couple of years ago, and I’ve been making them ever since. They’re a nice snack for parties, and you can make them ahead of time too.
Spiced Pecans with Rum Glaze
You might already have some of these spices in your pantry, but keep in mind that ground spices start to lose their flavor after about 8 months. If your spices are older than that—or if you’re not sure how old they are—you may be best off buying new ones.
- 2 cups raw pecan halves (8 ounces)
Warm Spice Mix
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
- ⅛ teaspoon ground allspice
- 1 tablespoon dark rum
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon light brown sugar or dark brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350°.
Line a rimmed cookie sheet with parchment paper and spread the pecans in even layer.
Toast the pecans for 4 minutes, then rotate pan, and then continue to toast them until they’re fragrant and their color deepens slightly, about 4 minutes longer.
Transfer the cookie sheet with the nuts to a wire rack.
For the spice mix: Stir together sugar, salt, cinnamon, cloves, and allspice in medium bowl, and set the bowl aside.
For the glaze: Bring the rum, vanilla, brown sugar, and butter to boil in medium saucepan over medium-high heat, whisking constantly.
Pour the pecans into the saucepan. Pro tip: Grab the pecans’ parchment paper by the long edges, and then let the parchment paper form a U shape along the short edges. That gives you a funnel that makes it easy to pour the pecans into the saucepan.
Stir in the toasted pecans and cook them, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon or a heat-safe spatula until the nuts are shiny and almost all of the liquid has evaporated (about 1½ minutes).
Transfer the glazed pecans to the bowl with the spice mix; toss them well to coat them. Note: You may find yourself tempted to use your fingers to help toss the nuts, but keep in mind that they’ve just come off the stove and they’re wicked hot.
Return the pecans to the parchment-lined cookie sheet to cool. (They can be stored in an airtight container for up to 5 days.)
I tried tapenade for the first time at a café a few years ago. And I really liked it, so I sought out a good tapenade recipe—I finally settled on this tapenade recipe that I found at All Recipes, and I’ve been making it ever since.
Yummy Olive Tapenade
For best results, make the tapenade one to two days before you plan on serving it. That’ll allow the flavors to mingle, and it’ll be even yummier.
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled
- 1 cup pitted kalamata olives
[When you go to the store, make sure you buy pitted kalamata olives.]
- 2 tablespoons capers
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
[There’s a chance that you might be able to get the two tablespoons from a single lemon. But plan on having two lemons around just in case.]
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
Peel the garlic cloves and mince them. Then put the minced garlic in your blender or food processor and pulse to further mince.
Use a fork to transfer the olives from the jar to your measuring cup. After you’ve filled the measuring cup, place your fingers over the top of the measuring cup to form a makeshift strainer, and turn the measuring sideways over your sink to drain the gist of any brine. Then empty the measuring cup into your food processor.
Measure the capers and use the same finger trick to drain their brine before adding them to the food processor.
Rinse the parsley, and gently pat it dry with a paper towel. Then chop the parsley and add it.
Add the lemon juice and the olive oil.
Blend until everything is finely chopped. Transfer the tapenade to a small bowl or serving dish, and then season it to taste with salt and fresh cracked pepper.
Optional: If you like your tapenade the way I make it, be generous with the pepper. Typically, I’ll go for three twist of the pepper mill, and then I’ll stir the tapenade with a spoon; then I’ll add three more twists of the pepper mill and stir the tapenade once more.
If you don’t plan on serving the tapenade right away, put a lid or plastic wrap over the container and keep the tapenade in your refrigerator; take it out about an hour before you plan on serving it.
My family has been using this chocolate chip cookie recipe since I was little. I think we originally got it out of a magazine, and it’s been one of our go-to recipes for years.
Our Family’s Chocolate Chip Cookies
For best results, set out the butter and eggs on your counter for a few hours beforehand so that they can come to room temperature by the time you have to mix them in with everything else. As a rule of thumb: The butter is soft enough when you can easily squish the stick between your thumb and index finger.
- ¾ cup (148 grams) white sugar
- ¾ cup (148 grams) brown sugar, packed
- 2 sticks (226 grams) unsalted butter (Or for a vegan version, I’ve had success with Miyoko’s Vegan Butter, which I found at Target.)
- 2 eggs (Or for a vegan version, I’ve had success with Bob’s Red Mill Egg Replacer, which I found at Target.)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 ¼ cup (320 grams) flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon table salt
- 12–12.5 oz (340–355 g) dark chocolate from 70%+ bars (alternately: one 12 oz / 340 g bag of chocolate chips)
- optional: sea salt to sprinkle on top, to taste
(I prefer Maldon sea-salt flakes for sprinkling on top, but other types of sea salt can work too.)
Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).
Mix together the white sugar and brown sugar. Then cream with the butter.
Add the eggs and beat well. Then add the vanilla.
In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, and table salt. Then slowly add them to the wet ingredients.
Roughly chop the dark chocolate bars. It’s fine (and even preferable) if not all the chopped pieces are the same size—aim to have most of the pieces around ½ to ¾ inch (1 to 2 cm) on any given side. Then add the chopped chocolate pieces and gently fold them in with a spatula.
Line your baking sheet(s) with parchment paper, and portion about 6 dollops of dough onto each sheet. (If you have a digital scale, aim for around 38 to 40 grams per cookie.)
Place the cookies in the oven for 5 minutes—then swap the baking sheets and continue baking for another 5 minutes. When they’re done, their tops and edges should have just started to brown.
(If the tops of the cookies are still batter-colored when your timer beeps—that is, the tops haven’t the slightest browning—put the sheets back in the oven for another 30 seconds.)
Optional: Immediately after taking the cookie sheets out of the oven, sprinkle the tops of the cookies with sea salt.
Allow the cookies to cool for 5–10 minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack.
My brother, Adrian, and his awesome wife, Margaret, got married in Boston over the summer (in Cambridge, specifically). They got married near the end of August, and the whole thing just couldn’t have been better— the highs were around the mid-70s, and everything went off without a hitch. It was just wonderful.
I would have normally brought my DSLR with me with me to Boston, but in the weeks leading up to the wedding, I realized that pairing a DSLR with a wearing-to-a-wedding dress would have all the grace of a boat anchor around my neck. So I decided to rent a Fuji X100S—it worked a treat, and it couldn’t have been half the size of my DSLR.
The wedding was on the Saturday afternoon at St. John the Evangelist in Cambridge. The church was only a little over a mile from the hotel where we were staying, but with the heels I was wearing, I wasn’t about to walk there. So we just took a bunch of taxis, and that worked out fine.
Margaret and Adrian wrote their own vows and, well, let’s just say that I was glad that I was wearing waterproof mascara. I cried a good bit, especially toward the end of the ceremony, but they were all joyous tears. And their high five at the end of the ceremony was the icing on the cake.
I couldn’t be happier for Margaret and Adrian. Those two are the bees knees, and I wish my brother and my new sister the very best.