Easy Banana Chocolate Cake

IMG_2062Hi all–  After a summer of fruity desserts, my taste buds have turned to chocolate– Plus recently  Ani & Brian were coming down from SF and I have a policy to always have a chocolate cake for that girl waiting on the counter when they roll in.

So this friendly little cake is perfect.  If you’re a baker, you probably have all the ingredients in your kitchen right now.  So when you want a quick cake– say ready in 45 minutes– you can pop this in the oven and all your chocolate longings will be satisfied.  I promise.

2 ripe bananas
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
1/3 cup water
1 tsp. cider vinegar
1  1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa (love Hershey’s dark!)
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips, divided
1/2 cup walnuts (or pecans), chopped (or more if you love nuts like I do)

IMG_2134In a large mixing bowl, smash the bananas with a fork until there are no banana lumps left.  Then stir in the 2 sugars, oil, water and vinegar.

Next stir in the flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt.  Then fold in 1/2 cup of the chocolate chips and the walnuts .

Spoon the batter into a 9″ or 10″ cake pan* that has been sprayed with cooking spray.  Then sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup of chocolate chips over the uncooked cake.

Pop it into a 350 degree oven for 30 to 35 minutes until it’s firm to the touch.

If you live in SF, serve this happy little cake with a scoop of Be-Rite roasted banana ice cream (the best!).  Or if your elsewhere (like us)– vanilla ice cream would be just grand…

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The Sense of the Beautiful

images“A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of his life, in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul.”

― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832 German writer, poet  and statesman)

It is one of God’s magnificent gifts– the sense of the beautiful that he has given us, the appreciation for all that is sweet and true and beautiful in this world.  Beauty in the brightness of the zinnias in the side yard, the smooth dark skin of the plums on the kitchen counter, beauty in the long jumping-dancing legs of the grand-girls, beauty in the 83 year old face on my mom…

I’m hoping to search for the beauty in my days, and to trust the maker of beauty with my worldly cares as they come.  God help me…

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Caramel Apple Pecan Rolls

IMG_2330Hi all– I’m up.  Early. It’s a Saturday morning and I rolled out of bed while it’s still dark to make these apple pecan rolls.  I guess getting up early on a Saturday is not the best way to convince you to make them!!– But these little roll are super simple using frozen bread dough.  You just need to have some time for that yeasty dough rise in the middle of the process.  They have a yummy maple glaze and sit in a puddle of caramel at the bottom of the pan– and all those sweet apple and bits of pecan!!  OK, that should lure you.

I’m whisking them off to breakfast with a big bunch of friends on Glenda’s back patio in a bit.  They send a scrumptious cinnamon-y smell out of your oven as they bake and I know will be a hit at our little breakfast potluck.  Totally worth the early morning get up!

1 loaf frozen bread dough,* thawed
a sprinkle of flour
2 tab. butter melted
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and diced fine
1/2 cup pecans, chopped

3/4 cup brown sugar
2 tab. milk
1 3.5 oz. box vanilla pudding mix (not instant!)**
6 tab. butter (3/4 of a stick of butter)

1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 tab. maple syrup

IMG_2317Thaw the frozen bread dough– let it sit out in a warm place a couple hours. or thaw in the fridge overnight.

Roll the dough on a flat surface sprinkled with a couple spoons of flour until it is a 12″ by 16″ rectangle.  Spread on the 2 tsp. melted butter, 1/2 cup brown sugar, cinnamon, apples and pecans.

Starting at the longer side, roll the up the dough, jelly roll style.  Use a serrated knife to cut the dough into 12 equal slices

Set the slices cut side up into a 9″x13″ baking dish or 10 to 12″ round cake pan that has been liberally sprayed with cooking spray.  Set them into a warm place and let them sit and rise for  1  1/2 to 2*** hours until they are about double in size.

Meanwhile, to make the topping, stir together the 3/4 cup brown sugar, milk, pudding mix, and 6 tab. melted butter in a bowl.  Set aside.

Once the rolls have risen, pour the brown sugar-pudding mix topping over the rolls and bake them in a 350 degree oven for 25 to 30 minutes until the rolls are browned and set.

Then whisk together the 1/2 cup powdered sugar and maple syrup and drizzle it over the rolls with a fork.  Delicious served warm from the oven…

* I used Bridgeford frozen bread dough.  It comes in a package with 3 one pound loaves, so I have another 2 in the freezer to use later.
**My market didn’t have the 3.5 oz. package of vanilla pudding mix–the cook & serve (not instant) kind.  So I used butterscotch (which they did have!).
***I set the oven for 350 and let it heat for just 3 minutes when I first walk in the kitchen and then turn it off.  This makes it just warm enough to raise the dough.  These rolls rose quickly and were huge in a little less than 1 1/2 hour.

P.S. I’m back from the breakfast and the rolls were as good as I’d hoped!


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Summer Corn Soup

IMG_2234Hello all–  Supper tonight landed at the intersection of summer and fall. The last of the sweet summer corn cooked into a hearty fall-ish soup.  It’s a little lighter and fresher than the normal corn chowder.  The sweetness of that summer corn shines through.

3 tab. olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped fine
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 small red or yukon gold potatoes
3 ears of corn
2 cups chicken broth
2 cups milk
3 tab. cornstarch
salt & freshly ground pepper
Garnish: paprika, green onion & avocado

In a soup pot, heat the olive oil and then add in the chopped onion.  When the onion is wilted, add in the minced garlic and cooked 2 minutes more.

While that’s happening– cook the ears of corn for 6 minutes in the microwave in a dish with water and a couple shakes of salt.  Cut the corn off of the cobs.  (save a 1/2 cup of corn aside to use as a garnish)

Cut the potatoes into small bits.  When the corn is done cooking, pop the potatoes into the microwave in the dish with water & a shake of salt.  Cook for 5 minutes.

Then add the corn, potatoes, chicken broth and milk to the onions in the soup pot.  Stir it up and taste.  Season with salt & pepper til it’s just right.   Bring it to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes to blend the flavors.

In a container with a tight lid, shake together the cornstarch and 1/2 cup water.  Add it to the simmering soup and stir a couple minutes until it thickens.

Serve it up hot– and garnish with a sprinkle of paprika, some chopped green onion, avocado and saved corn. Makes 4 -6 lovely bowls of soup.


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Back to School Thanksgiving

A class full of fourth graders with our teacher Mrs. Mitchell at Wilson School (1961).  

Hi there– We started back to school last week.  And after our first few days together, there’s a lot to be thankful for.  So Thanksgiving is coming a bit early, counting God’s blessing for the school year ahead…

#1.  Those bright eyed “school girls” who come in early and start in on reading quizzes and morning math problems…

#2.  That little cluster of soccer playing boys, who would rather be at recess.  They challenge me to keep things fun & engaging in room two.

#3. That big guy who speaks English as a second language, but it tearing his way through our classroom library at a tremendous rate!

#4. The girl in the front row, who would’t give up figuring out place value– asking dozens of questions in her attempt.

#5.  Joanne, Kim, Maryann and Becky, by beloved teaching buddies who help me through computer glitches, pass along great writing prompts, share history study projects and listen to my periodic whining when things get complicated.

#6.  A new principal with a ready laugh and a listening ear.  She’s determined to help us to help kids learn.

#7.  A chance to read with a room  full of children every day– BFG here we come!  There’s a lot ahead this year with this room full of fab fourth graders…

Thank you Lord, for all these things and more.

P.S.– Debi, did you see yourself in the front row in that grade school photo?

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Tangerine, Avocado Salad with Feta

IMG_2229Hi friends– We eat a whole lot of salads around here.  Salad with soup, salad with pasta, salad with meat & potatoes kinds of meals.  So it’s helpful to have a long list of possible, interchangeable  salad ingredients. As much as I love those little cute tangerines, I’d never popped one into a salad until I ran across a tangerine salad in a magazine.  Here’s my version– bright sweet tangerines, creamy avocado and salty feta with a gentle tangerine dressing.  It’s quite nice.


3 tab. tangerine juice (one tangerine)
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tab. tarragon vinegar (or your favorite mild vinegar)
salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
1 tablespoon red onion, finely minced

In a container with a tight lid, shake all the dressing ingredients together until they are thoroughly blended.

4 cups of greens (we used red leaf lettuce)
4 small tangerines, peeled and sliced
1 avocado
3 tab. crumbled feta with garlic and herbs

Layer the greens, tangerines, avocado and feta on a pretty plate and douse it with dressing just before serving.

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Cinnamon Roll Scones

IMG_2114Good morning breakfast lovers– Made these yummy little guys when the kids were down from SF a couple weeks ago– but in my perennially scatterbrain sort of way I put in 1/3 the amount of baking powder called for.  They were edible (sort of) but not near good enough to pass them along to you.

So this week when friends came by, I put the tea kettle on and made a new batch– reading the recipe a little more carefully this time.  And they came out just fine, hot from the oven with a a mug of tea.  I think they’ll be a new favorite stand-by this fall.

and P.S.– thanks Jenny for pinning the recipe on Pinterest so I could find it!

1 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup currants (optional)*
1/4 cup brown sugar
4 tsp. cinnamon
2 cups flour
1 cup rolled oats (old fashioned oatmeal)
1/4 cup sugar
1 tab. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
3/4 cup milk
1 egg
2 tsp. vanilla

1 cup powdered sugar
1 to 2 tab. milk

IMG_2082In  small bowl mix together the pecans, currants, brown sugar and cinnamon.  Set aside.

Then in a mixing bowl, stir together the flour, oatmeal, sugar, baking powder and salt.

Cut in the butter with a pastry blender or two forks until it looks like coarse crumbs.

Next stir in the milk, egg and vanilla until it forms a thick dough.

Then dump in the pecan mixture and swirl it into the batter until it’s all incorporated.

Drop the dough in mounds onto a baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray.
Bake it up at 425 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes.  Makes 16 scones.

Glaze:  Whisk together the powdered sugar and 1 tab milk til there are no lumps– Add the second tab. of milk if it seems too thick to drizzle onto the scones.

*I used currants, but raisins or any dried fruit would be just fine.


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