Comfort Food

There is something to be said for comfort food. Especially given the current climate.

Matt and I have been all over the comfort food this week. Comfort food: that warm content feeling that comes with eating something that feels like a hug. If I really think about comfort food its usually holiday food, but its not a holiday season really. This is probably because the holidays are when I see my family the most and I have been thinking about my family a lot this week. We have a lot of traditions around food. I think this is important. We make the same things, a lot…every year, and it doesn’t get old.

Family foods: I think of turkey and stuffing the way Grandma Helen made it, beef stew, spaghetti, chicken noodle soup, and meatloaf the way my mom makes them, lasagna the way Joan makes it, grandma potatoes the way Mandy makes them, chicken mole the way Uncle Mark makes it, breakfast cookies like Aunt Jill makes, Mark and Jill’s salsa, smoked meat treats like Matt and Willie make.

Here’s a shocker- If I think about comfort food it is often a baked good. Breads. Go. Figure. There are things my mom makes that never taste quite the same when I make them, with her recipe. What is that about? If I said this to her face or over the phone I can just hear her “its love” she’d say. Cooking and baking is my mom’s love language too. Swedish tea ring, spritz cookies, apple pie, carrot cake, rhubarb custard pie, homemade whole wheat bread, cranberry nut bread. It isn’t Christmas without cranberry nut bread. I don’t care who you are or where you are from, after you have cranberry nut bread at Christmas it will change your life. From that time on you will need it on Christmas morning. Thanksgiving morning and Christmas morning I always have cranberry nut bread. There have been holidays when I have been away from my family and not had it, and I longed for it.

I think of my dad when I eat leftovers and make chocolate chip cookies. I prefer the latter. I actually hate leftovers. He used to make cookies when I was a kid. My mom did too but she always let us help and his cookie making was more of a solo mission. He used the recipe on the inside of the quaker oat lid, its actually a recipe for oatmeal raisin cookies. But he always added chocolate chips instead. He had a sweet tooth, favoring chocolate. He sometimes let us help, and lick the beaters, and the spoons. It was a good thing he had a sweet tooth and my mom is a great baker since she was also a dentist, saved us from being sugar deprived children.

The same thing can be said for friends. I have certain recipes that I associate with certain friends. Tomatillo salsa, kimchi, hot chocolate cookies, earl grey cake, monster cookies, stir fry, banana bread, fudge, povitica, curried chicken salad, specific cocktails. When I got married a my friend Alex gifted her banana bread recipe to me (by the way, she makes the best banana bread around). I used to use her recipe every time I made banana bread. Isn’t it funny how you can get a recipe from someone and even though you follow it, maybe your end result doesn’t quite turn out like theirs? I have experienced this before, it can be frustrating but when you really think about it, I guess it must be that there’s something about that person making their recipe that makes it turn out special. She will forever be the banana bread queen.

For me, recipes that are associated with someone dear to me always create comfort food. I always change recipes, I can’t help myself. I use my own recipe for banana bread now, but I always think of Alex when I made banana bread.

Banana Bread

To be clear- this is not Alex’s recipe- if you want hers you gotta be in the inner circle, if you will. She doesn’t just hand it out. This is mine- adapted from many recipes- including hers.

4 ripe bananas- mashed
3/4 C brown sugar
3 eggs
1/3 C greek yogurt or sour cream
1/3 C butter- softened
2t cinnamon
2t vanilla extract
2 C flour
1 t baking soda
1/2 t baking powder
1/4 t salt
1/2 C nuts or chocolate chips or both!

Preheat your oven to 350 and prep a loaf pan. This recipes is a dump recipe. No creaming, sifting, or special steps here.

In a large bowl, mash your bananas with a fork. Add sugar, eggs, butter, vanilla, and cinnamon, whisk vigorously to combine. If you don’t want to workout and bake at the same time you could use a mixer. Don’t be concerned that the mixture is thin. Its fine, you do not need creamed sugar for banana bread. Calm down. Breathe. In a small bowl combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt stir with a fork to combine. Add to banana mixture at the same time you add your sour cream or greek yogurt. I always use greek yogurt but you can choose whichever you want- they work the same. Whisk again, opposite arm this time to even things out, until combined. I love multitasking. Sigh, it makes me feel so productive.

Now, this is the optional part. You can add nothing, and be vanilla. Or you can add nuts which I always do, walnuts to be specific. Or, you can add nuts and chocolate chips if you want to get funky. This time I refrained from adding chocolate.

Transfer to your loaf pan with a spatula, good to the last gloopy glob. Smooth out.

Bake at 350 for 1 hour. Then shut the oven off and leave it in there for 15 minutes. Remove to a cooling rack and allow to cool. Banana bread is amazing when it is warm. So you should eat some when it is still warm.

I did. I ate mine with an egg scramble and bacon. And coffee, of course.

Social distancing can be hard. Cook something. Bake something. It helps. I promise.

Be smart. Stay safe. Wash your hands. Don’t touch your face.

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