I love games. My husband often teases me that we had kids so I would have someone to play games with. He always beats me at backgammon, questioning my logic and chuckling at each move I make. I always win at Scrabble, which he doesn’t agree to play all that often. He’s intimidated by my wordplay.
But, the kids and I love games. We spend afternoons playing Blokus, Wig Out, Uno, Qwirkle, Trouble, Trash, and many others. Some of us appreciate a little verbal bantering and boasting more than others. But once a winner is declared, we always shake hands and say, “good game.”
While my husband may not love games like we do, he does loves a challenge. He makes them up for the kids quite often. The “Cold Cup Challenge” was designed to see how many cups of cold water the kids could stand to have dumped on their heads at the end of bathtime. “Here Comes the Little Mousie” was created to see how many tickles it would take before they laughed. My husband promised them they could stay up all night long if they are a formidable match for the little mousie. Luckily we are still waiting for one of them to conquer that challenge.
Just today my husband created the “Cold Paw Challenge.” He sent them outside in their pajamas and bare feet to stand with arms outstretched on the frosty slate bricks to sing Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer for 3 minutes. He promised them chocolate chip pancakes if they lasted the entire time. Our son was back in the house in less than 30 seconds. However, our daughter was in for the long haul. I mentioned that we didn’t need anyone getting sick before the holidays. He insists you can’t get sick from being in the cold, another one of those child-rearing principles we disagree on. Luckily he is a big softie and called her in after just a minute and still made them both pancakes.
As a kid we played plenty of games and ate plenty of banana bread. It was a family favorite and one of the first quick breads we learned to make. We’ve baked plenty of variations, including the recipe in Beard on Bread. But one of my favorite recipes was given to me by a coworker during my college days when I was interning at IBM. Her recipe calls for pudding mix, which keeps the bread super moist. You can find the entire recipe below.
So with the stack of brown bananas taking over an entire shelf in the freezer, we decided to make banana bread one evening. After the kids were done using the bowls as drums, licking and sword fighting with the beaters, and using a double-sided measuring spoon to create a scale for weighing marbles, we finally got the bread in the oven and the house smelled wonderful.
With banana on the brains, we tackled Banana Cream and Roasted Walnut Biscotti next. The biscotti recipe does not call for bananas, which would add too much moisture, but uses banana flavored oil and banana chips instead. We used LorAnn Oils, which has quite an extensive list of oils and flavors for all baked goods. We mixed some banana cream oil with some sugar to coat the top and the banana goodness lives on.
Banana Cream and Roasted Walnut Biscotti
YIELD: approximately two dozen
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar, plus 2 tablespoons for the topping
2 teaspoons double-acting baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon banana cream flavored oil, plus ¼ teaspoon for the topping
1 cup roasted walnuts, finely chopped
1 cup finely crushed banana chips
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and place the rack in the middle of the oven.
2. In a large flat-bottomed bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt,and cinnamon.
3. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the eggs and banana cream flavored oil.
4. With a rubber spatula, stir the egg mixture into the flour mixture until the dough just starts to come together. Dust your hands with flour and knead the dough in the bowl until all the ingredients are incorporated and the dough is tacky.
5. Add the walnuts and banana chips. Knead the dough until incorporated, about 10 – 20 times.
6. Separate the dough in half. Form two logs, approximately 3 inches wide and 1 inch high on a parchment lined baking sheet. Leave several inches between the logs, the dough will spread as it bakes.
7. Mix the 2 tablespoons sugar with the ¼ teaspoon banana cream extra. Press on the top of each log.
8. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes, or until the tops begin to crack or split. Transfer logs to a wire cooling rack to cool completely.
9. Transfer biscotti logs to a cutting board. Slice the biscotti on a diagonal and place cut side down on the same parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for an additional 20 minutes, turning the biscotti once halfway through. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.
1 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups sugar
½ teaspoon baking powder
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 3 ounce package of vanilla pudding mix
3 ripe bananas, mashed
1. Grease and flour 2 bread loaf pans. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Beat together in a large bowl the eggs, oil, vanilla, and sugar.
3. Mix together in a medium bowl the baking powder, flour, baking soda, salt, and pudding mix. Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture slowly and beat to create a consistent batter.
4. Add the bananas and beat until incorporated.
5. Separate the batter evenly between the two load pans. Bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes or until the bread is set and the top of the loaf springs back when lightly touched.
What to do with the ends #50: Use the ends to start a fire in the fireplace.