This is without a doubt one of my most treasured recipes. When baking in the oven, the sweet smell which fills the home never fails to conjure memories of grandma’s house. It’s moist, soft, and has a sweet carmelized crust. It’s pure heaven with a pat of butter or margarine. I actually don’t care for banana-flavored anything, or even bananas, but my mouth will always water for this banana bread and ONLY this banana bread.
Whenever I see a bunch beginning to brown, I jump at the chance to bake a few loaves. If I know I won’t have time before the bananas completely spoil, I throw them in the freezer until I have a free moment to bake and pull them out about an hour before.
It takes less than 10 minutes to whip up the batter and about an hour to bake. However, the heavenly scent which wafts throughout the house after only 15 minutes of baking is near-torture.
I more often than not omit the chopped nuts because of a picky palate in our midst or because I simply do not have them on hand, but the finished product is equally delicious both ways.
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- pinch of salt
- 1 1/2 cup sifted flour
- 4 tbs. milk + 1 tsp. vinegar
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- 1 cup mashed bananas
- 1 cup chopped pecans
- 1. Combine all ingredients in mixer and then pour into greased and floured loaf pan
- 2. Bake for 60-80 minutes at 350 degrees or until knife/cake tester comes out clean. (If baking mini loaves, bake for 30-40 minutes or until knife/cake tester comes out clean.)
Because there are only two of us in the house, I usually bake mini loaves and freeze the extras for later or give them out as gifts.
Rome was the last leg of our recent bucket-list adventure.
After contracting a cold in windy, rainy London & Paris, it was the most glorious feeling stepping-off the plane in Rome as we were greeted with 80 degree warmth, near-tropical humidity, and most importantly – sunshine. It felt just like our Floridian home and our spirits were instantly invigorated. The exhaustion from the last week of intense trekking was suddenly lifted and replaced with refreshed excitement.
We stayed at B&B Al Centro di Roma in the heart of the city a few steps from the Piazza Navona. It was on the fourth floor of a 17th century building overlooking the square beneath. The room was spacious, clean and the perfect haven from a day’s explorations. After a quick shower and change of clothes, we made our way to the Vatican City.
We imitated the locals and hopped on the bus headed towards St. Peter’s Square. The metro isn’t as popular in Rome as it is in London or Paris because of the limited lines (There are actually only two lines). They started digging a third a few years back, but it could be decades before it is finished as progress is constantly halted by the discovery of some new ruin while excavating. This is a common Roman quandry. It’s almost comical to be walking throughout the city and to notice that what at-a-glance appears to be nothing more than a construction site, is actually a massive unveiling of some new ancient discovery. I’m sure that the local urban developers and real estate moguls don’t find this nearly as fascinating as we do, instead it’s most likely a perpetual thorn in their side.
Our visit luckily coincided with the Vatican’s “World Tourism Day” which meant free entry and us being spared almost 30 euro to visit the museum. We were heistant that this also meant heavier traffic and longer lines, but since our visit was during mid-afternoon when most Romans are napping, the crowd was quite tolerable. One thing we quickly realized is that Romans aren’t nearly as fanatical about air conditioning as we Americans, even in their mass-visited museums. They are purely content with natural air circulation provided by an open window. Though at times I felt this was entirely insufficient, it did allow for some beautiful views of the surrounding city.
Zac was an excellent docent as he read and relayed the historical significance of the more popular pieces of art on display. The Vatican’s collection is VAST and includes selections from nearly every human century but has extensive unique collections of Greek and Roman art for obvious reasons. The sculpture of “Laocoön and His Sons” was of particular interest to Zachary. It depicts an event in Vergil’s Aeneid. The Trojan priest Laocoön was strangled by sea snakes, sent by the gods who favored the Greeks, because he had tried to warn the Trojan citizens of the danger of bringing in the wooden horse.
This hellenistic piece was a vital catalyst for the Renaissance and inspired Michelangelo and his contemporaries. It’s influence is evident in many of their works. Even more significant is the tradition within the art history world which debates the claims that this sculpture is the greatest of ALL artworks.
The end of the Vatican Museum tour funnels you towards the one and only Sistine Chapel. Photos are not permitted here (although that is often ignored) for preservation purposes, but more importantly out of reverence. The famous chapel roof is decorated with the frescoes of Michelangelo and Botticelli and the tapestries of Raphael. The center focal point is the iconic finger of God giving life to Adam which is then surrounded by the prophets and apostles of the Old and New Testament. We’ve all seen images and been taught the significance to various degrees, but no lesson compares to standing there and looking up with your own eyes.
St. Peter’s is the heart of the Vatican. The massive horseshoe shaped square is overwhelming and also an architectural feat. The square is actually bowl-shaped with the farthest rim rising higher than the center so that the hundreds of thousands who gather for addresses by the Pope can have an unobstructed view.
The inside of St. Peter’s is another architectural wonder. Michelangelo designed the ornamenation inside to such a scale that it actually makes the interior appear smaller and more intimate. This is illustrated in the latin script which circles the top interior of the entire basilica. This ribbon is actually 7 ft. tall!! This scaling technique is also illustrated in the scultpures along the pillars. See how they look the same size? The bottom icon is 7 ft. tall whereas the top is actually 13 ft.
Pretty ingenious Mr. Michelangelo!
After living in Florida for nearly twenty years, one becomes a Key Lime Pie connoisseur. It is after all, the official state dessert.
You wouldn’t think that Key Lime Pie would be difficult to do right, but you would be surprised. It doesn’t help that I’m picky. I have had some REALLY awful attempts. You can nearly always tell if fresh lime juice was used as opposed to bottled and you can definitely tell when regular kaffir limes are used as opposed to key limes. I also prefer whipped topping to meringue everytime. But all those issues can be remedied with the right ingredients.
The HARDEST part of a Key Lime or any similar style pie is the texture. One end of the consistency spectrum is a dish of liquified goop with some graham cracker crumbs. The other is sour, opaque gelatin. The perfect Key Lime pie will hold it’s shape when cut while chilled but still be creamy and light when it blesses your tastebuds.
There are a few variations of Key Lime Pie these days, baked and chilled, icebox, or pudding. The classic recipe is little more than condensed milk, juice and eggs. And the BEST, tried-and-true version I have found is included below.
DISCLAIMER: Yes, the recipe says you will need to juice about 25-30 key limes. And YES after juicing about the 15th lime your arms will want to fall off and you will feel discouraged because honestly, you will be lucky if you get a tablespoon of juice from each lime. But DON’T GIVE UP and run to the store for that little green plastic lime-shaped juice container in the produce department. Trust me, IT WILL BE WORTH IT! Consider it a premptive workout for your impending caloric intake.
- 1 + 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 3/4 of a stick of butter, melted
In a bowl, mix ingredients well and then press into a 9-inch glass or ceramic pie dish.
Bake at 375 degrees for about 15 min. or until golden brown.
Allow to cool completely before pouring in pie filling.
- 2 – 14oz cans of condensed milk
- 2 whole eggs
- 2/3 cup key lime juice (about 25-30 key limes)
- 1 tbs. key lime zest (reserve a pinch for garnish)
In a separate bowl, combine the condensed milk, lime juice, and eggs. Whisk until well blended and then pour into cooled graham cracker crust.
Bake at 325 degrees for 15 minutes.
- 2 cups (1 pint) heavy whipping cream
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 1 tbs confectioner’s sugar
Beat cream and vanilla until mixture starts to thicken and holds loose peaks. Add powdered sugar and continue until cream is light, fluffy and holds its peaks.