Saturday, September 25, 2010

Little Indulgences: Banana Chocolate Chip Bread

On Wednesday it was Ian's real birthday.  We went to Sonic (his request), gave him our present (a new bicycle helmet), and lit a candle on a single cupcake (two cakes in a week was one cake too many).  He was thrilled with the whole thing, and I think, felt pretty celebrated.

Our neighbors also gave him a gift, a book with a wind-up train that runs around a cardboard track built into the pages of the book itself.  It was a cute gift.  Ian's still making thank you cards (we do this with all of the gifts he gets ... little does he know what torturers we are), but when he saw one of the neighbors outside, I encouraged him to go say thank you and offer her a hug.  This neighbor is in her mid to late eighties, and still drives around and sweeps the street and has her nose in everyone's business: let's just say she's pretty active for her age.  She means well, but you sort of need to take what she says with a grain of salt (or several), because she has a lot to say; she's the sort of person who will continue her one-sided conversation long after you've turned your back and waved goodbye.

She accepted Ian's hug gratefully, and followed him back to our porch to chat, and suddenly, noticed my belly.

"Are you pregnant?" she asked, staring at my protruding belly.

"Yes, quite," I answered.

"Ohhhhh ... And when should we expect the baby?"

We?  "Late January, early February, we hope," I replied.  (Busybody though she is, she doesn't know about our losses, or my diagnosis of secondary infertility.)

"Oh, that'll be nice.  Are you excited?"  She looked at Ian, then at me.  "He's four?"  she said.  "You know, you shouldn't have waited so long to have another.  Now you'll have to start all over again."

I took a deep breath, looked her straight in the eye, and said, evenly, "well, A., things don't always work out like you might want them to, now, do they."

She chewed her lip a little, thinking.  Then agreed, looking at me, almost surprised at the realization.  "You're right.  I guess you can't really plan that."

On the one hand, she's old.  And she says things without thinking.  On the other hand, this is another instance of how deeply ingrained the expectations are in our culture: expectations of motherhood, childrearing, women's roles.  We've come a long way, baby, but dammit, we still have a long, long way to go.  I wonder, why can't I tell her about our pregnancy loss?  About the frustrating diagnosis of secondary infertility, about being convinced I wasn't being treated for hypothyroidism and that it was messing with all of my hormones?

Keiko has a great post this week about self-nourishment.  She reminds us to take time for ourselves.  To allow ourselves little indulgences that renew us, allow us to keep going when the questions, the doctors' visits, the anxieties of the everyday make us feel like we've been kicked.  When I cook, I try to balance health with a little indulgence, because I cook to feed the body and soul.  This bread is a good example: it's not the healthiest thing in the world, but it's a nice occasional indulgence.  Most recently, I made it for our new friends from northern New England who have taken the plunge and moved to the mid-Atlantic (hi, C!). That time, I put in one less banana, thinking maybe I'd be left with less batter, but I think it made a difference in the moistness, so as strange as it sounds, do go with the five bananas recommended below.

This is my stepmother-in-law's recipe.  She's tweaked it a bunch over the years to make it healthier (my father in law complains bitterly about this), but I think it's just as good as the first time I tasted it.  The one thing you need to remember is to pull out some extra batter and make a muffin or three for yourself ... the down side of packing so many bananas in there is that the center takes a LONG time to cook.  Happy indulgence.

Banana Chocolate Chip Bread

1 c. sugar
1/2 c. butter
2 eggs
1 1/2 c. mashed bananas (~5*)
2 1/2 c. flour (I use half whole wheat pastry flour)
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
chocolate chips (half a bag, maybe?  or more if you're feeling particularly indulgent)

Preheat oven to 375.  Cream sugar and butter.  Add eggs and beat.  Add bananas and mix well.  Mix dry ingredients in a small bowl and add in two additions, mixing well.  Add chocolate chips and mix well.  Pour into greased and floured loaf pan.  Bake 45 minutes to an hour (I find that sometimes 1 hour 15 minutes is necessary).

* You can freeze bananas that are headed into overripe territory, right in their skins!  They make great banana bread or smoothies later on; all you need to do is run them under some hot water, and they will slip right out of their skins.  Note: while convenient, this is a messy affair, so be prepared.
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  1. Looks tasty. I was thinking about making and posting a banana bread this weekend. Seems a bit superfluous now. :)

  2. I think I must sound like a broken record, but that looks really yummy. Just made some banana bread this weekend, but next time I think I'll try yours, the chocolate chips just sound like such a good idea. :)

  3. I absolutely loved this cake and think I will make it this week!

    I do not excuse bad behavior for age, unless it is a person under the age of twelve. I think that if she is driving and cleaning and with it enough to remember Ian's birthday, she is aware enough to not say what she did. Maybe a generational thing? I think not. I can be a hard ass when it comes to this sort of stuff. I don't think commenting on other folks' family planning was ever in vogue. Good for you for saying something, a very tactful something. You are a class act Ms. Justine!

  4. Sounds yummy. Unfortuantely my husband can't stand the taste or smell of banana so I probably won't get to try this.

    I hate those expectations. I remember my brother-in-law's then girlfriend asking me where my children were one Christmas. She couldn't understand me just not having any.

    GAH! It's Tuesday, and I started writing this comment yesterday and just saw I never submitted it! But I do have an update: today while walking in to work my husband informed me that yesterday he had a banana, date, and oat muffin for lunch. Apparently recently at work he's had some banana cake (if there's cake there's no way he's not going to eat it) and liked it; he didn't think it was too bananay. So now he's open to trying banana baked in things as long as I use up all the bananas I buy so they aren't in the kitchen 'smelling things up'. :-)

  5. Your son's hug probably really made her day regardless. Man oh man woman that bread looks divine!

  6. tasivfer: throw them in the freezer. Odorless storage. Hooray that your husband is venturing into bananaland!

    JeCaThRe: I'm sure yours would be healthier. ;)

    Jenn and K: thanks! I never get tired of hearing that things sound/look good. And chocolate chips are almost always a good idea, aren't they?

    Cristen: you'll have to let me know how it turns out for you!


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