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Strawberry Banana Bread

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Back in what feels like another lifetime, I was a second grade teacher. One portion of our daily routine included an activity we called Writers’ Workshop. It was a time of the day devoted towards writing, where my students could work independently or collaboratively on various forms of written expression. While they worked, I’d meet with individual students to help walk them through the editing process, while weaving lessons about writing technique, language, and grammar into our little discussions. Some students worked on personal narratives, others on poetry, and others on persuasive writing.

Strawberry Banana Bread Attempt #1 – with freeze-dried strawberries

And then there was the group of boys who’d formed a rock band and spent their time during writers’ workshop writing song lyrics. Now, this rock band was no casual arrangement. Though not a one of them played a musical instrument, they took the idea of their band quite seriously. These boys waited all day to work on their writing. They put careful thought into their choice of words and worked cooperatively to fine tune their performance. I was feeling like a pretty awesome teacher for being able to get my students so actively engaged in the writing process and so motivated to develop their writing skills. And that’s right about went things went sour with the band.

Strawberry Banana Bread Attempt #2 – with strawberry glaze swirl on the top

You see, ‘Diego’ kicked ‘Joshua’ out of the band. It had something to do with not fully committing to his dance moves. Seriously. Joshua was crushed. ‘Willis’ tried to remain neutral, but it was clear that he was also  unimpressed by Joshua’s moves. I intervened and brought peace back to the band long enough for them to perform the song they’d been working so hard at.

It went something like this…

Oh, when am I gonna be a man?

I wanna be a man!

I’m gonna get a wallet.

I’m gonna go to the gym.

Ooo, when am I gonna be a man?

It was sort of a rap song. And clearly very revealing about a second grader’s perspective on what makes a man…gym memberships and wallets. Of course.

Strawberry Banana Bread Attempt #3 – invisible strawberry glaze swirl throughout the bread

I was reminded of this memory when I walked into my living room to find my 5 year old giving my 3 year old lessons on how to be a man. They were as serious about these lessons as my former students were about their rock band. The lessons involved such behaviors as hopping on one foot, not crying, and toasting blueberry waffles. All very important man behaviors, for sure.

Kids are funny. They’re constantly trying to make sense of their little worlds and every so often, they give us a peak into the carnival of their little brains. Like this morning, on our walk back from the grocery store, when we passed an empty bottle on the side of the road.

That’s weird, commented my 5 year old.

I bet it was a man sitting by the road singing a song who left it there, replied my 3 year old. (A hobo with a handkerchief on a stick, perhaps?)

What was he singing, I asked.

Yankee Doodle, replied my 5 year old confidently.

No, my 3 year old adamantly intervened. I think he was singing Nowhere Man. 

I will bake five dozen cookies for any hobo with a bindle, singing Nowhere Man, on Blueberry Lane.

Strawberry Banana Bread Attempt #4 – with fresh strawberry puree and dried strawberries

But we hadn’t gone to the grocery store to buy cookie ingredients. We were picking up fresh strawberries and bananas for this Strawberry Banana Bread. This recipe is the result of not one, not two, not three, but four attempts. (We’ve been eating a lot of banana bread around here.) Every batch was delicious in its own right. But, it wasn’t until the fourth batch that I nailed what I’d been trying to accomplish.

Doesn’t seem like making a loaf of strawberry banana bread should be such an issue, right? But here’s the problem…when baked, strawberries become undesirably mushy. So, in my first attempt, I tried incorporating freeze-dried strawberries to conquer the mushy dilemma. The result was acceptable. The freeze-dried strawberries rehydrated during baking, but there wasn’t enough strawberry flavor throughout the loaf. So, on attempts two and three, I made a strawberry glaze, which I attempted to swirl throughout the loaf using two different techniques. But, the banana bread was too dense to produce my intended result. Both of those loaves came out fantastically sweet and moist with a lovely caramelized crust, but I still wasn’t satisfied. On my final attempt, I had the epiphany that I could puree fresh strawberries to replace all of the water and part of the vegetable oil in my normal banana bread recipe. This had the double effect of dispersing the sweet strawberry flavor throughout the bread as well as slightly lightening the recipe. Chopped dried strawberries lend additional strawberry flavor and a nice variety of texture to the loaf.

Strawberries and bananas are a classic flavor combination. And they’ve never been better combined than in this twist on banana bread. This is more than just a banana bread with a few strawberries mixed in. This bread pays equal homage to both the strawberries and the bananas. Definitely worth the four attempts it took to come around to this recipe!

Strawberry Banana Bread

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cup flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup pureed strawberries
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup mashed ripe bananas
  • 3/4 cup dried strawberries, chopped

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a loaf pan with baking spray.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Add the vegetable oil, pureed strawberries, vanilla, and eggs. Stir until well combined. Add the mashed banana and dried strawberries. Stir until well blended. Pour the banana bread mixture into the prepared pan.

Bake for 60-70 minutes.

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Grilled Chicken, Strawberry and Spinach Salad in an Orange Poppy Seed Vinaigrette

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Later this morning, I’ll be chatting with the morning host of Charlotte’s Lite 102.9. (Any Charlotte readers out there??) Lite 102.9 has recently begun featuring my blog on their website, which I think is super cool. And they have the great idea to put together a series of short audio clips about cooking, family, and this blog to air for their online streaming content listeners. I think that’s even cooler. I’m just hoping I don’t get stage fright…or phone fright, I suppose.

My husband says that I ought to practice my non-regional dialect and annunciation ala Will Ferrell Anchorman style. Unique New York. Unique New York. You know you need unique New York. The Human Torch was denied a bank loan. My husband believes that my accent may be a bit too Long Guyland-y for southern listeners. Of course, he’s just poking fun at me, but we do have some definite differences in agreement over how certain words should be pronounced.

In our 16 years together, some of our biggest arguments have revolved around how to pronounce the names Erin or Aaron and Carrie or Kerry. We’ve nearly come to blows over the proper way to say crayon (It’s definitely not ‘cran’). And don’t even get me started on orange. I can acknowledge that there’s an ‘or’ in the beginning of the word, so it could be pronounced like oar-inj, but that’s just not how I say it. And well…I’m just going to go eat my R-enges now.

However you say it, sweet oranges make me think of summer. And it doesn’t get much more summery than this light spinach salad, topped with a tender grilled chicken breast, sweet mandarin oranges and fresh strawberries, dressed in a vibrant orange and poppy seed vinaigrette. It’s bright, fresh, and perfect if you’re watching your waistline for summer!

Grilled Chicken, Strawberry, and Spinach Salad in an Orange Poppy Vinaigrette

Ingredients

  • Juice and zest from 1 navel orange (about 1/3 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon poppy seeds
  • Crushed red pepper, to taste
  • Pinch of salt
  • 4 grilled chicken breasts (seasoned with salt and pepper), sliced
  • 8 cups fresh baby spinach leaves (approximately)
  • 8-10 strawberries, sliced
  • 1 cup mandarin orange segments
  • 1 red onion, very thinly sliced

Directions

To prepare the vinaigrette: Combine the orange juice, zest, vinegar, olive oil, honey and poppy seeds until well blended. Season with salt and crushed red pepper, to taste.

To assemble the salad: Toss the spinach leaves in some of the dressing. (Do not overdress.) Arrange a pile of the dressed spinach leaves on each plate. Top with the grilled chicken, red onions, strawberries, and oranges. Drizzle a little extra dressing over the chicken.

Makes 4 meal-sized salads

Strawberry Spinach Smoothies

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Obsession, thy name is Strawberry Spinach Smoothies.

I honestly can’t quantify the amount of fresh baby spinach my family has consumed over the past two weeks. We are a family obsessed. It would probably behoove Popeye to snatch up whatever remaining spinach he can get his hands on, before my family calls dibs on every last green leaf. I suppose there are worse things to be obsessed with.

It all started with the Strawberry Basil Smoothie recipe I recently shared. While adding the bright green basil, it occurred to me that a bit of spinach might be a nice match to the ripe summer strawberries.

So, as soon as I was able to get my hands on some spinach, I set about making my first ever strawberry spinach smoothie. I started with just a small handful of spinach. A quick taste led to another handful. Another taste, another handful. Turns out that these smoothies can easily handle a full bag of fresh baby spinach without sacrificing any of the sweet strawberry flavor.

Now, admittedly, adding vegetables to a smoothie is not an insanely novel idea, but it’s one I hadn’t tried before and I just had to share the recipe with you! These smoothies are so insanely nutritious and delicious, you won’t be able to stop smiling. You’ll smile even wider while watching your young picky eaters happily gulp down massive quantities of fresh, spinachy goodness.

Strawberry Spinach Smoothies

Ingredients

  • 3-4 cups frozen strawberries
  • 6-8 cups baby spinach
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 cup apple juice, milk or water

Directions

Blend all ingredients until smooth and frosty. Enjoy!

**Tips**

Buy and freeze plenty of strawberries now, while they’re in season and priced low.

Freeze your strawberries on a baking sheet before placing in a container to help prevent them from sticking together.

Chop large strawberries before freezing to make things easier on your blender.

Freeze leftover smoothie mixture in ice cube trays. Blend your frozen smoothie cubes with a splash of juice when you’re ready to enjoy!

This recipe is fully customizable. Have fun playing around with different combinations of fruits and vegetables!

Strawberry Cheesecake Ice Cream

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It takes a lot for a non-chocolate dessert to excite me. It’s got to be something pretty special. Even still, I usually feel chocolate’s absence. I must admit that when I put this recipe together, I tried to rationalize a place for chocolate. I almost threw in a handful of chocolate chips, for good measure.

But I would have been wrong to add the chocolate. This luscious ice cream, with the rich taste of a slice of strawberry cheesecake, does not need a stitch of chocolate. It’s true. It’s perfectly decadent as it is. So deliciously decadent that I’ve been battling with the little angel and devil on my shoulder about whether I should exercise a bit of self-control or simply surrender and finish every last bite for breakfast.

Is there any better way to welcome summer than with some homemade ice cream made with hand-picked berries?? I think not.

Go ahead. Indulge.

Strawberry Cheesecake Ice Cream

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar*
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup light cream
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 cup fresh strawberries, halved if large
  • 1 cup graham crackers, broken into small pieces
*Use more or less sugar, as desired, depending on the sweetness of your berries.

Directions

In a large bowl, beat together the cream cheese and sugar until creamy. Add the sour cream, cream, lemon juice and vanilla. Beat until smooth. Add the strawberries and beat until the berries mostly break up, leaving a few delicious chunks. Refrigerate for about an hour. Pour the mixture into your ice cream maker and freeze according to your machine’s directions. Add the graham crackers during the last 5-10 minutes of freezing.

Inspired by the Cheesecake Ice Cream recipe found here.

Strawberrylicious Round-Up

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Strawberry season has finally hit its stride in our neck of the woods. I foresee an afternoon of berry picking (and berry tasting) in our near future. I’m also predicting that the ice cream maker may find its way out of storage for this season’s inaugural batch of sweet, creamy goodness.

New strawberry recipes are forthcoming. In the mean time, here are a few previously posted Gourmand Mom strawberry recipes. Click on the titles for the recipes!

Strawberry-Rhubarb Crisp

Strawberry Pretzel Squares

Strawberry Spinach Salad with Goat Cheese and Almonds

Quadruple Berry Muffins

Mixed Berry Mousse with Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta

Strawberry Stuffed French Toast

Strawberry Spinach Salad with Goat Cheese and Almonds

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Dear Yesterday’s Strawberries,

I feel compelled to offer you the sincerest of apologizes for my actions.  In choosing to engulf you in a layer of sugary gelatin, I disrespected your fresh-picked strawberry goodness. It was a mistake. You’re good enough.  You’re sweet enough. And, doggone it, people like you. I’m going to make it up to you! Today, I will enjoy your brethren in all their unadulterated natural goodness in a salad of fresh spinach and strawberries, adorned with goat cheese and almonds, and dressed in a strawberry balsamic vinaigrette. It’s the least I can do!

Sincerely,

The Gourmand Mom


Strawberry Spinach Salad

Ingredients

For the salad:

  • Baby Spinach, washed
  • Strawberries, quartered or sliced
  • Goat Cheese
  • Almonds, sliced

For the Strawberry-Balsamic Vinaigrette:

  • 1/8 cup Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1/4 cup Olive Oil
  • 3 ripe Strawberries
  • 1/2 Tbsp Honey
  • 1/8 tsp Cinnamon
  • Salt

Directions

In a blender or food processor, combine oil, vinegar, strawberries, cinnamon and honey. Blend until well combined. Season with a sprinkle of salt. To compose the salad, toss the spinach with a small amount of dressing. Top with strawberries, crumbled goat cheese, and almonds.

Make it a meal by adding a sliced chicken breast! I seasoned my chicken with a little salt and pepper. Then, I placed it in a baking dish, poured a bit of balsamic over it and baked in a 375 degrees oven. Perfect with the salad! Light, refreshing, and incredibly satisfying!

This is how to use fresh-picked strawberries!!

Strawberry Fields Forever

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Strawberry season is here and we’ve got two of the best little berry pickers! They’re short, like the strawberry plants, and they like to pick stuff. So, it works out quite well. Yesterday, we took a little trip to one of the local strawberry fields and put our little berry pickers to work. We came home with a huge bucket full of very ripe strawberries.

I foresee a couple of berry dishes on the menu this week… Perhaps, a strawberry spinach salad or maybe a sweet treat or two? But, never fear, I have more than just berries planned for this week. I’m also thinking about crab cakes with chipotle remoulade and some fettucine with shrimp and asparagus in a lemony-basil sauce. Perhaps we’ll even pay another visit to the farmer’s market and see what the kids come up with. I’m always up for a challenge!

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The Gourmand Mom

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