Kathy’s Banana Bread, remixed

Posted: June 24th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Dairy-free, Dessert, Gluten Free, Quickbreads, Vegetarian | Tags: | 5 Comments »

Banana bread!

Last week, I baked some banana bread for my friend Cat over at Baking With Cinnamon, which is a great baking blog that you should check out. Cat has thyroid cancer and is in the midst of preparing for another round of radioactive iodine treatment. Having had thyroid cancer myself and going through the same process a couple of years back, I know just how rough it is to be on a low iodine diet — where you have to make basically everything from scratch — while simultaneously experiencing severe thyroid hormone withdrawal. So I baked her some delicious low iodine banana bread so she’d have something nice to munch on without having to make it herself. Because there’s no dairy or soy in this recipe, the only thing I had to do to make it low iodine was leave out the egg yolks and make sure to use kosher salt (not sea salt or iodized salt) — but of course, you don’t have to do this unless you’re on a low iodine diet too. For the record, I noticed the loaf was a bit flatter and denser without the egg yolks.

This recipe originally came from my old boss, Kathy, who would bring loaves of banana bread into the office on a regular basis — much to our delight and our expanding waistlines. I mixed things up a bit by adding the spices and using 1/2 cup white sugar and 1/2 cup brown sugar instead of one full cup of white sugar.

Kathy’s Banana Bread, Remixed


1/2 cup non-hydrogenated shortening (I like Spectrum, which is organic and made out of palm oil)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
3 ripened bananas – mashed
2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon ginger


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Grease and flour a loaf pan. For those not familiar with the technique, here’s how you do it. First, using a paper towel, rub a thin layer of oil — I use shortening — around the inside of the pan, completely coating it. Then add about a tablespoon or so of all purpose flour. Over the sink, shake it around so the flour coats the all surfaces: the bottom and all four sides, up to the top rim. Tap out any excess flour. You should now have a thin layer of grease and flour coating the inside of the pan. This will prevent sticking like nobody’s business.
  3. With a mixer, blend shortening and sugars till thoroughly combined.
  4. Add all other ingredients and mix well. Spices are to taste, so if you want to add more, have at it!
  5. Pour batter into loaf pan and bake at 350°F for 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Make it gluten free!
To make this bread gluten free, substitute a flour blend of oat, millet, and sorghum (equal parts). Add 1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum and 1 tablespoon (yes, tablespoon) baking powder. The flour mix is from Gluten Free Girl Every Day and the additional xanthan gum and baking powder is from the America’s Test Kitchen How Can It Be Gluten Free Cookbook.

Mom’s Apricot Jam

Posted: June 17th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Dairy-free, Preserves, Vegan, Vegetarian | Tags: | 3 Comments »

Remember my story about making apricot jam with my mom and grandma when I was a kid? Well guess what folks: it’s finally apricot season. Last weekend Kai and I made the trek out to Brentwood to pick some cherries (more on that later). While we were there, we decided to stop by Peter Wolfe Ranch, which was right down the road. We were delighted to discover that they had apricots. And not just any apricots: Royal Blenheims, the best of the best, the apricots of my childhood. Jane Wolfe, who was tending to the fruit stand, greeted us with a half an apricot apiece. It was delicious and perfect: sweet, tart, just the right amount of softness and no mealiness whatsoever. Kai and I, despite having just picked more cherries than we knew what to do with, knew we had to buy some apricots. After chatting with Jane for a while, we each walked away with a half a lug of apricots — about 12 pounds apiece. The real kicker was the price: only $1 a pound! Let’s hear it for buying local, in-season produce.

Just look at these gorgeous apricots

This is the recipe for apricot jam that my mom used when she used to make it. It involves boiling the jam with the apricot kernels. To get at the kernels, you have to break the pit open with a hammer. This was always my job as a child, much to my delight. (What child doesn’t enjoy smashing things with a hammer?) The kernels give the jam a slightly almond flavor, which I love. They also contain cyanide, so don’t eat too many of them. I recommend using whole kernels so you can easily fish them out before canning the jam. That said, I’ve been eating this jam my whole life and my mom eats the kernels raw and we’re both still alive and kicking. If you’re really concerned, just leave them out. It’ll still be good.

Mom’s Apricot Jam

Yield: 10 half-pint jars


12 cups (about 6 lbs) apricots, halved and each half quartered. IMPORTANT: Use Royal Blenheim apricots ONLY — they’re the best!
3 cups sugar
Juice of 1 lemon
6 apricot kernels (use only whole kernels; discard any crushed kernels)


  1. Start your water bath canner boiling and place 12 half-pint jars in it to be sterilized. (The extra two are in case you end up with more jam than expected.) See my canning tutorial for more information on water bath canning.
  2. Chop your fruit, reserving pits.
  3. Using a hammer, smash the pits to retrieve the kernels inside.


  4. Stir apricots, lemon juice, kernels, and sugar together in a large, heavy pot. The pot should be larger than the amount of fruit it can hold, otherwise it will boil over. The one I use is 8 quarts.
  5. Bring to a boil over high heat. Boil, stirring regularly and skimming foam, for about 30 minutes until “jammy”. The jam should bubble up and eventually subside. Be sure to stir often, and scrape the bottom of the pot to avoid burning.
  6. Fish out kernels and discard. Make sure to get all six.
  7. Ladle jam into hot, sterilized half-pint jars. Wipe rims clean with a damp cloth. Put on lids and rims. Boil in water bath canner for 15 minutes. Transfer jars to a wooden cutting board (do not place jars directly on a cold surface). Lids should “pop” to indicate a proper seal. If a jar doesn’t pop (i.e. if you can depress the lid and it pops back up), refrigerate it and eat it within a few weeks.

Apricot Jam

Can you say YUM?

(The Famous) Meyer Lemon Marmalade

Posted: June 16th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Dairy-free, Preserves, Vegan, Vegetarian | Tags: | 5 Comments »

Of all the preserves I’ve made in the past year, this is one of the best. It’s just SO good, and everyone I give it to comes back to me with rave reviews. Now I’m going to share the secret with you.

Meyer Lemons

There it is. The secret is fresh, ripe Meyer lemons, straight from your friend’s backyard. My friend Matt is lucky enough to own a house in the East Bay that came equipped with two huge and highly productive Meyer lemon trees. And I’m lucky enough to know Matt. Every time I see him, he invites me to come over and harvest as many as I can carry. Who am I to argue with an offer like that? With the last haul I got from him, I made lemon bars, lemon-infused vodka, and, of course, lemon marmalade.

Finished meyer lemon marmalade

Meyer Lemon Marmalade

Adapted from this recipe on epicurious.com

Yield: about 6 jars

NOTE: You can use this recipe for other citruses, too! I’ve made tangerine jam, with much success.


1 1/2 lbs Meyer lemons (about 6 lemons) – it’s important to use Meyers because they’re sweeter
4 cups water
3 1/2 cups sugar
1 box powdered pectin (1.75 oz) I like Sure-Jell


  1. Halve each lemon crosswise, then quarter each half. Remove the seeds and pith from the center of each 1/8th:

    You don't want this white crap in the center...
    You don’t want this white stuff in the center — the pith…

    ...so cut it off! Get rid of seeds too.

  2. …so cut it out, and remove the seeds too while you’re at it.

  3. Thinly slice:

    How to cut your lemons

  4. Place lemon slices in a large, heavy, nonreactive pot and add 4 cups water. Let sit, covered, for 24 hours. (If you’re pressed for time, I’ve found that it’s generally okay to skip the long soak.)
  5. Remember how to process jam? Using that link as a guide, start the canning process. (That is, start the water boiling to sterilize your jars.)
  6. Bring lemon/water mix to a boil over moderate heat. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for about 45 minutes.
  7. Stir in sugar and boil over moderate heat, stirring occasionally and skimming off any foam, for about 15 minutes.
  8. Add package of pectin and stir, constantly, for exactly 1 minute.
  9. Ladle jam into hot, sterilized 1/2 pint jars, filling to 1/4″ of rim. Wipe rims clean with a damp cloth. Put lids and rings on. Boil in water bath canner for 10-15 minutes. Transfer to a wooden cutting board or towel (i.e., NOT directly on the cold counter). Cool completely, approximately 12 hours. Each lid should “pop” to demonstrate its seal. If any of the jars don’t pop (i.e. if the lids can be depressed and pop back up), refrigerate and eat within a few weeks.

Quick & “Dirty” Rice

Posted: June 16th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Dairy-free | Tags: , , | 2 Comments »

Let me preface this by saying: I am not from Louisiana. I have never even BEEN to Louisiana (though I’d like to go some day). The only time I’ve ever had dirty rice was at a crazy BBQ joint in Boston. I’d been briefly exposed to Cajun cooking several years ago when my friend Chrissy LeMaire over at RealCajunRecipes.com gave me tutorial when I was crashing at her house. From that, I knew that the foundation of many Cajun dishes is the indisputably delicious “Holy Trinity” of onions, bell peppers, and celery, sauteed slowly in some kind of fat. I saw that we had 2/3rds of the trinity, some some Aidells Cajun Style Andouille sausages, and rice, and was inspired to make us some dirty rice.

While RealCajunRecipes.com‘s Dirty Rice recipe looks amazing, it was a bit more involved than I was prepared for. Instead, I used this recipe at cdkitchen.com as a starting point. We lacked the bacon, pork, celery, green bell peppers, chicken livers, and chives. What we did have was a whole lot of bacon grease, the aforementioned Andouille sausages (surprisingly not very spicy), celery seed, and red and yellow peppers. I’m not the biggest fan of chicken liver anyway, so I wasn’t too broken up about missing that key piece of the puzzle. Following the recipe, my own taste buds, and my knowledge of cooking, I interpreted the recipe according to our available ingredients. The result? Delicious.

Quick & "Dirty" rice

Quick & “Dirty” Rice

Adapted from this recipe at cdkitchen.com


1 tablespoon bacon grease
3 andouille sausages (I like Aidells), cut into coins and then in half again
1/2 large yellow onion, finely chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, finely chopped
1/2 yellow bell pepper, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
1 cup rice (we had a combination of basmati and jasmine on hand)
2 cups chicken stock (homemade, if possible)


  1. Prep your veggies and sausages. Mix all spices together in a small bowl.
  2. In a large saucepan over medium heat, heat bacon grease. Cook sausage pieces until slightly browned. Remove from pan with a slotted spoon, leaving the fat in the pan.
  3. Reduce heat to low. Add bell peppers, onion, and garlic and saute for 5 minutes. Add all spices and cook another 3 minutes, stirring. Stir in rice, cook another 5 minutes.
  4. Add chicken stock and sausages. Turn up heat and bring to a boil, then cover and turn heat down to simmer for 15-25 minutes, until rice is tender. (The original recipe said 10 minutes, but it took mine 25 minutes to get tender.)

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