Tuesday, February 24, 2009

National Banana Bread Day

February 23 was National Banana Bread Day, and although my schedule for yesterday was carefully planned so I would have time to post my incredible recipe for Banana Bread, it was not to be.

First, I had to make an emergency visit to the car dealer, and when I finally got to the library around mid-afternoon, I found I couldn't get on the internet because my wireless adapter had broken. Off to the store for a replacement and back again to discover the library was getting ready to close.

So, I am a day late. Nevertheless, in honor of National Banana Bread Day, here is one of my favorite recipes from my book, Cruising Connecticut with a Picnic Basket. I hope you enjoy it.

(My Aunt Madeline's recipe dates back more than 75 years. If you like your bread sweet and moist, you will probably agree this really is the best.)

3/4 cup butter
1-1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1/4 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup mashed bananas
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup chopped walnuts

* Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
* Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs and sour cream, mixing well. In another bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt. Add this mix to creamed mixture alternately with the bananas. Stir in vanilla and nuts.
* Pour into greased and floured 9x5-inch loaf pan.
* Bake for 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and bread breaks away slightly from the edge of pan. Cool in pan on wire rack for 15 minutes; remove from pan and finish cooling on rack.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Greetings From a Happy Snowbird!

It has been almost one year since I started my blog, and this is the longest I have gone without posting an entry ~ over three weeks. For many reasons which are unimportant, it has taken me longer than usual to get here and settle in to the Florida life which I will enjoy for the next several weeks. And, how exciting it is to see sunny skies, sunsets, green grass, and flowers! I love it, and I wish I could have packed up all my friends and family and brought them along to share it with me, especially with the blustery weather back home.

I've even gone on two picnics so far. One was at Myakka River State Park in Sarasota, a 350-acre park with scenic drives, wildlife observation areas, and airboat and tram tours to search for wildlife. The other was at The Rookery in Venice, a small island for the protection of the wading and nesting birds that I love to photograph, including both the snowy and great egret and the great blue heron.

Both times I made Wild Rice and Ham Salad, simply because of its ease and simplicity, and because everyone who tastes it loves it. The rest of the suggested menu items are tortilla chips and Salsa, pumpkin or zucchini bread and watermelon, but any bread or fruit will do. I also like cherry tomatoes with this salad.

This recipe is from my book, Cruising Connecticut with a Picnic Basket, 2nd Edition, and I am happy to share it with folks who are lucky enough to be in a climate suitable for picnicking in February; for everyone else, keep this on hand for all your spring and summer picnics. Not that there aren't places for hearty folks to enjoy a February picnic in Connecticut, such as The White Memorial Conservation Center in Litchfield, but in that case, I rather think my chili recipe would be a better choice!

2 cups cooked wild rice
1/2 pound lean ham, cut into bite size chunks
1/2 cup golden raisins, soaked in hot water for 20 minutes and drained
1/4 cup thinly sliced scallions
salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup pecan halves

1. In small shallow pan spread pecan halves in a single layer. Bake in 350-degree preheated oven until toasted, approximately 5 minutes. Watch closely. Cool. (I personally like smaller pieces so I cut them in half again.)
2. In large bowl, stir together rice, ham, raisins, and scallions. Add salt and pepper.
3. In small bowl, whisk oil and vinegar together until well blended. Slowly pour over rice and ham mixture until the salad contains the amount that suits you. (I almost never use the entire amount.) Toss.
4. Serve at room temperature or chilled. Just before serving, garnish with pecans. Serve on lettuce leaves.
Serves 4-6

Travel Tip: Refrigerate salad overnight, or at least two hours before packing in cooler.