Orange Spice Banana Bread

Orange Banana Bread1

It seems strange for me to think of now, but there was a time when the thought of cooking really and truly intimidated me. The idea of actually cooking something that wasn’t a pre-made mix, or didn’t involve using the microwave was crazy. I knew that the raw meat that I saw my mom, grandmother and older sister buy from the grocery stores ‘somehow’ turned into delicious cooked dinners like fried chicken, roast, stews, and stir fries- but I didn’t have a clue how it was accomplished.  Baking was a complete enigma filled with things like measuring cups and spoons, ovens, cake tins and flour- things I didn’t want to have any part of, for fear I would mess something up.

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Cooking became to be almost like math to me- I was in awe of the people that were good at it, but was fairly convinced that it would always be something that was completely beyond me. It was something that I would only embarrass myself at when attempting to do,  and that try as I might, I just didn’t get it.

It didn’t bother me at first, but when I got older and went to college, it did. I know that this may sound anti-feminist or sexist, or whatever politically incorrect terminology that you want to use, but not knowing how to cook began to make me feel like ‘less’ of a woman. That’s not to say that men can’t be great cooks (I know some myself) it’s just that I come from a line of traditional Southern women and in my family, the women cook. And they cook well. Not being able to share in that tradition kinda got under my skin for a while, until one day I just decided to swallow my insecurity and try to do something about it.

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I remember when I first started to really try to learn how to cook, my mom told me that cooking boiled down (no pun intended) to one all inclusive rule: follow a recipe, then when you get confident in your knowledge of ingredients and spices, change it to whatever you want. So that’s what I did. And I practiced. A lot. I wish I could say that there was more to it, but there really wasn’t. Beginning cooks just need to stick to those 2 rules, and you’re bound to get good: practice, and follow recipes. Then when you get comfortable enough with spices and ingredients, do whatever you want with them.

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This bread is a prime example of those rules. I had a bunch of brown bananas sitting on my table that I knew I didn’t want to let go to waste, but I wasn’t in the mood for straight banana bread. I wanted to do something a little bit different. I also happened to have a small bottle of orange juice in my fridge, and the idea of bananas with oranges was an interesting flavor combination to me. I found a recipe on Taste of Home that seemed to suit my purposes, but I still wanted to add more flavors to the bread to give it a kind of ‘kick’. So I decided to add in some spices that I would normally see in a spice cake- ginger, cardamom and coriander- and hoped for the best.

It was a winner. In fact, even now as I am writing this post, I’m rather pleased to announce to all of you that the bread you see in the pictures is now completely gone. It’s been devoured by my appreciative family. Not gonna lie, I’m a little irritated seeing as I only got one slice out of the entire loaf. But there’s always the option of making more, isn’t there?

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Orange Banana Bread

Recipe Adapted from Taste of Home

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION

Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 medium ripe bananas, mashed (about 1-1/4 cups)
  • 3/4 cup orange juice
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon orange extract or orange oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger

Directions

1. In a bowl, combine the sugar, oil and eggs; mix well. Stir in bananas and orange juice.

2. Combine the dry ingredients; add to banana mixture, beating just until moistened.

3. Pour into two greased 8-in. x 4-in. loaf pans.

4. Bake at 325° for 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes; remove from pans to a wire rack to cool completely.

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Cranberry Sauce {Thanksgiving Recap}

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It’s the last day of our Thanksgiving Recap and I have a small confession to make: before this year I’ve never even had any kind of cranberry sauce before. We’ve always had it at our Thanksgiving Dinner in the past, it’s just that we had usually got the stuff that came in a can- you know, those gelatinous disc things? Well, those are the reason that I was never felt particularly motivated to try cranberry sauce. Whenever it came my way, I immediately passed it right on down the table without so much as taking even a little bit.

Now guys, beware. I’m about to go on a mini-rant. Maybe you’re a fan of canned cranberry sauce. Maybe your family is like mine and always serve it at Thanksgiving. That’s fine. I don’t want to step on your toes. You’re free to disagree with me. This is just my humble opinion talking here. Then again, since you’re reading my blog, that means you’re entitled to it.

To me, canned cranberry sauce looks just disgusting. Really. I don’t understand how anyone can be motivated to eat that stuff. I mean, it’s called a SAUCE. How can something with the consistency of jello, be called a sauce? Guys,when you take it out of the can, it stands up all.on.its.own! How does that not make you want to hurl? Not only that, have you ever looked at the ingredients in that stuff? High fructose corn syrup is right there at the top of the list, along with who knows what else. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of those people who screen nutrition labels like a hawk. I don’t call foods out as ‘bad’ or ‘good’. I just don’t believe in that. But if I’m gonna eat something that does have HFC in it, I want it to at least LOOK appetizing to me. If cranberry sauce looks like anything to me, I say it looks like some kind of wacky science experiment from Bill Nye the Science Guy, but definitely not something I’m supposed to want to put in my mouth. Blegh.

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Okay. Rant over. I’m cool now. Moving right along. For many years, I shunned cranberry sauce completely, but last and this year were somewhat different. I saw a lot of recipes on other blogs and in magazines featuring sandwiches made from Thanksgiving leftovers with turkey, dressing, gravy and cranberry sauce. I thought that they looked pretty good, and really wanted to try one…there was just the matter of that friggin canned cranberry sauce.

I was NOT going to use it. Nope. Wasn’t gonna happen.

However, there still remained the option of making my own…

Well, I never can turn down a challenge, so I went recipe a-hunting. One of the most popular ones for cranberry sauce that I found came from Ree Drummond, aka, The Pioneer Woman. It sounded pretty easy as well as tasty so I went ahead and saved it. Bright and early on Thanksgiving morning, when everyone else was still fast asleep and I was preparing to roast the turkeys, I also threw this together on the stove top.

Holy schnapps, guys. It was a really, really, REALLY tasty!

It only took a lick off my fingertip for me to find out that I actually LOVE homemade cranberry sauce! The maple syrup gives the sauce  an autumn, harvest-y flavor, while the citrus from the orange was a further enhancement to the tartness of the cranberries. It also made my kitchen smell really good. And best of all, the sauce is actually a SAUCE- meaning it doesn’t stand up on it’s own. It was a perfect sweet-element to complement the savory-ness of the turkey, gravy, and dressing. The combination of all those flavors may sound weird, but trust me: they WORK. I’m thrilled that I went ahead and made this. It was so worth it.

Moral of the story: canned cranberry sauce sucks. Homemade cranberry sauce is awesome. It must be a (pre)Christmas miracle… or something.

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Cranberry Sauce

Recipe Courtesy of The Pioneer Woman

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION

Ingredients

*One 12-ounce bag fresh cranberries
*1 cup cranberry juice
*1 cup pure maple syrup
*3 tablespoons orange juice
*1 tablespoon grated orange rind

Directions

1. Wash the bag of cranberries under cool water, and then throw them into a medium saucepan. Pour in the cranberry juice and maple syrup.

2. Add the orange juice and orange rind (you could also do lemon rind and lemon juice – anything citrusy). Stir together and turn the heat on high until it reaches a boil and the berries begin to pop.

3. Turn down the heat to medium-low and continue cooking over the lower heat until the juice is thick, about 10 minutes.

4. Turn off the heat. Allow to cool, and then chill in the fridge until Thanksgiving dinner is ready. It should have a nice jelly-like consistency.

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