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Thursday, January 10, 2013

Breaking Bread-- Two of My Favorite Recipes

(A random Thanksgiving at my small NYC Apartment. )

When I was growing up in Texas, cooking was always a part of the atmosphere, and I do still love to cook. Especially for a dinner party and for people that I love. For me it's creative. I espicially like making up my own recipes, or trying to figure out the ingredients of something I try in a restaurant...chemistry at it's best.

It's no surprise that each year the Southern Baptist Church were I spent my youth would always produce a church wide cookbook, with anyone who wanted, contributing their signature recipe or two, each year. This cookbook served as a fundraiser for church activities, but more importantly than that, it was a type of sharing, with each person proudly putting their name after their Surprise Tamale Pie, Chicken Tetrazzini,  or their version of a Coca-Cola Cake.

All church tested and Family approved.

Sometimes, when at my Mom's house, I still take out one of those old cookbooks and look at the dishes, sure, trying to find something I remembered from my youth, to use that can of Campbell's Mushroom Soup that I have on the shelf... but I also look at the names...

Many of those lovely ladies were my Sunday School teachers, or they came over for my Mom's Tupperware parties, or they were mothers of my classmates.  I read their names and remember them as they were then, coming to the church potlucks, covered dish in hand...many of them now gone...

Recipes as artifacts of our lives.

It's an interesting concept.

And as I've written about before, it's always amazed me how smells and such can make us time travel and take us back to the "moment when...."

And sometimes, falling out of those old cookbooks at Mom's, where they have been tucked away like little maps to some surprise treasure, are my Mother's handwritten recipes as well, scribbled on scraps of papers or grocery bags.

Maw Maw's Jam Cake, Aunt Lana's Pink Stuff, Aunt Margaret's Gumbo....

And of course, they are much more than they appear... They are artifacts, written in a hand that no longer writes the same, or in the case of the ones from my Grandmother, gone forever... some sporting stains of a kitchen war and remnants from a flurry of creation from various times, perhaps when the Crisco got out of hand...all of them browning on the edges.  They remind me of Sunday dinners or family fish frys. The whole family together-- those dishes walking through the door. And the voices that went with them.

(And sometimes Elvis stops by. Here at my Mom's 80th! Alas I had no peanut butter and banana sandwiches on hand. He wasn't, however, all shook up.)

On a little side note, I just threw an 80th Birthday Party for my Mom, and told everyone to bring a covered dish if they like...just like we did when I was growing up. Just like folks in Texas still do...You don't go to anyone's house empty handed. Aunt Lana asked me what she could bring, and I, of course, suggested her legendary "Pink Stuff." What would a family gathering be without it. :-)

So, in the spirit of all that's wonderful about sharing recipes as parts of our lives, and the fellowship of sharing food = time,  here are two concoctions  I'll share with you today.

The Banana Bread is a Costa Rican version that is more dry than the Texas variety, but I find it travels well, and is a great source of energy when I'm hiking or need a quick snack on the road.  The Bread Pudding is wonderful warm, and served with a little milk on top. This recipe is very similar to the one my Mom has made for years.

I'll be honored if you try 'em, write 'em out and sick 'em in a little cookbook at home. Sometime in the future, perhaps someone will open it, and a little piece of paper will flutter to the ground, and the past is aromatic  again.




8 tbsp oil or butter
 3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup whole wheat flour
3 large bananas
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup shelled walnuts

(sometimes I also add a teaspoon of cinnamon)

Preheat over to 350. Mix all ingredients. For an 8 in square pan. Double recipe for a large pan. Add a little milk if mixture is too dense.  Bake 50 to 60 min. I always cover with foil until the last 5-10 minutes. Insert knife in middle and if it comes out clean, it's done!



6 slices of day old bread
2 tablespoons butter, melted (or olive oil)
1/2 cup raisins
4 eggs, beaten
2 cups milk 
1/4 cups white sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350. Break bread into small pieces into an 8 inch square pan. Sprinkle melted butter over bread. Sprinkle raisins over mixture. 

In a medium mixing bowl, combine eggs, milk, sugar, cinnamon and vanilla. Beat until well mixed. Pour over bread, and lightly push down with fork until bread is covered and soaking up the egg mixture. 

Bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes, or until the top springs back when lightly tapped. Again, I put foil over the top until the last 5-10 minutes. 

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