Recipe: Carrie’s Banana Bread

Sliced chocolate-chip banana-nut bread on a cutting board in Ashley’s kitchen. In the background is Ashley’s 21-inch kitchen iMac and her Preonic keyboard

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.

Ingredients:

  • 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)

Directions:

  1. 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.)

  2. Set the oven to 325°F (163°C).

  3. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set this bowl aside.

  4. In a large mixing bowl, add and mix the remaining ingredients in order.

  5. Slowly mix in the dry ingredients from the bowl that you set aside earlier.

  6. 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.

Recipe: Spiced Pecans with Rum Glaze

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.

Ingredients:

  • 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

Rum Glaze

  • 1 tablespoon dark rum
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon light brown sugar or dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Directions:

  1. Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350°.

  2. Line a rimmed cookie sheet with parchment paper and spread the pecans in even layer.

  3. 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.

  4. Transfer the cookie sheet with the nuts to a wire rack.

  5. For the spice mix: Stir together sugar, salt, cinnamon, cloves, and allspice in medium bowl, and set the bowl aside.

  6. For the glaze: Bring the rum, vanilla, brown sugar, and butter to boil in medium saucepan over medium-high heat, whisking constantly.

  7. 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.

  8. 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).

  9. 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.

  10. Return the pecans to the parchment-lined cookie sheet to cool. (They can be stored in an airtight container for up to 5 days.)

Recipe: Yummy Olive Tapenade

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.

Ingredients:

  • 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

Directions:

  1. Peel the garlic cloves and mince them. Then put the minced garlic in your blender or food processor and pulse to further mince.

  2. 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.

  3. Measure the capers and use the same finger trick to drain their brine before adding them to the food processor.

  4. Rinse the parsley, and gently pat it dry with a paper towel. Then chop the parsley and add it.

  5. Add the lemon juice and the olive oil.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

Our Family’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

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.

Ingredients:

  • ¾ cup white sugar
  • ¾ cup brown sugar, packed
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 ¼ cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon table salt
  • one bag (12 oz.) chocolate chips
  • optional: kosher salt, to taste
    (I prefer Diamond Crystal kosher salt, but other types of kosher salt can work too.)

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°.

  2. Mix together the white sugar and brown sugar. Then cream with the butter.

  3. Add the eggs and beat well. Then add the vanilla.

  4. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, and table salt. Then slowly add them to the wet ingredients.

  5. Add the bag of chocolate chips and gently fold those in with a spatula.

  6. Line your baking sheet(s) with parchment paper, and portion about 6 dollops of dough onto each sheet.

  7. 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.)

  8. Optional: Immediately after taking the cookie sheets out of the oven, sprinkle the tops of the cookies with kosher salt.

  9. Allow the cookies to cool for 5–10 minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack.

Recipe: Ginger Molasses Cookies

My brother made some of these ginger molasses cookies over the winter break, and I rather enjoyed them. They have a crisp exterior but a chewy interior, and they sort of resemble a cross between gingerbread and spice cookies.

Later I asked my brother for the recipe and he happily passed it along, mentioning that he originally got the recipe from his friend Kristin. (They’re yummy, Kristin!)

Note: The full recipe makes about 40 cookies, while the halved recipe makes about 20. I’m including both versions since you might not always need forty cookies ;).

Ginger Molasses Cookies—Full Recipe

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.

Ingredients:

  • 4 ½ cups (639 grams) all purpose flour
  • 4 teaspoons ground ginger (ground ginger from the spice aisle is fine)
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 teaspoons salt (bonus tastiness points if it’s noniodized salt)
  • 3 sticks (339 grams) butter, softened or at room temperature
  • 2 cups (396 grams) sugar
  • 2 eggs that have come to room temperature
  • ½ cup (170 grams) molasses
  • Set aside in a cereal bowl: ¾ cup (150 grams) turbinado sugar (“sugar in the raw”) or granulated sugar with 1 teaspoon kosher salt that you’ve mixed in with a fork

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C).

  2. In a medium bowl, stir together flour, ground ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, ground cloves and salt—set aide.

  3. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer on low speed for 30 seconds to soften. Add 2 cups (396 grams) of sugar, beat until combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Beat in eggs and molasses until combined.

  4. Beat in as much of the flour mixture as you can with the mixer. If need be, use a wooden spoon to stir in any remaining flour mixture.

  5. Shape dough into 1 ½ to 2-inch balls (4 to 5 cm). (If you have a digital scale, aim for around 28 to 30 grams per ball.) Roll the balls in the sugar & kosher salt that you had set aside. Place the dough about 2 ½ inches (6 ½ cm) apart on baking sheets.

  6. Bake for 12–14 minutes. If you’re baking multiple sheets at a time, swap the sheets halfway through. Bake the cookies until they’re light brown and puffed. After you take them out of the oven, let them cool on the baking sheet for 2 minutes, and then transfer them to a wire rack to cool.

Ginger Molasses Cookies—Halved Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 2 ¼ cups (320 grams) all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger (ground ginger from the spice aisle is fine)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ sticks (170 grams) butter, softened or at room temperature
  • 1 cup (198 grams) sugar
  • 1 egg that has come to room temperature
  • ¼ cup (85 grams) molasses
  • Set aside in a cereal bowl: 6 tablespoons (75 grams) turbinado sugar (“sugar in the raw”) or granulated sugar with ½ teaspoon kosher salt that you’ve mixed in with a fork

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C).

  2. In a medium bowl, stir together flour, ground ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, ground cloves and salt—set aide.

  3. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer on low speed for 30 seconds to soften. Add 1 cup (198 grams) of sugar, beat until combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Beat in the egg and molasses until combined.

  4. Beat in as much of the flour mixture as you can with the mixer. If need be, use a wooden spoon to stir in any remaining flour mixture.

  5. Shape dough into 1 ½ to 2-inch balls (4 to 5 cm). (If you have a digital scale, aim for around 28 to 30 grams per ball.) Roll the balls in the sugar & kosher salt that you had set aside. Place the dough about 2 ½ inches (6 ½ cm) apart on baking sheets.

  6. Bake for 12–14 minutes. If you’re baking multiple sheets at a time, swap the sheets halfway through. Bake the cookies until they’re light brown and puffed. After you take them out of the oven, let them cool on the baking sheet for 2 minutes, and then transfer them to a wire rack to cool.