Chocolate Banana Bread

Jessie likes to talk when she’s cooking

Growing up, my Mom made everything from scratch which meant she didn’t buy bread, cookies or prepared foods. This is just how it was. For the most part, I have followed her lead but I don’t always have time to bake my own bread. 

Jessie prefers making quick breads. They are simple and don’t take all day. When it comes to food, she isn’t always patient. During the summer we make zucchini bread and the rest of the year, she likes making banana bread and chocolate is her favorite:

Chocolate Banana Bread

  1. preheat oven: 350 degrees
  2. grease bread pan, line with waxed paper.
  3. make sure all ingredients are room temperature.
  • 3 large bananas mashed
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup melted butter
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 1/2   cup flour
  • 1  tsp. baking soda
  • 1  tsp. salt
  • 1/2      cup cocoa
  • 1/2      chocolate chips
  • 1/2      cup chopped walnuts.
  • Avocado*
  1. Mash bananas. Add sugar and eggs, mix until smooth.
  2. Add butter and vanilla.
  3. Combine all dry ingredients (tossing the chips and nuts in the flour helps prevent them from sinking) then add to the bananas.
  4. Bake for 60-70 minutes
  5. *When we were short one banana for the recipe, we substituted it with an avocado. The avocado hides in the background but does make the bread extra moist.
  6. Of course, if you want traditional Banana Bread, just omit the chocolate and cocoa.

It took years to get her to peel a banana properly. It’s the little things we take for granted.

Friend or foe, Fox or friend

Often I listen to Talk Radio while running errands. The other day, the host was wondering how news reporters can watch someone in a dire situation and not rush to aid. For a photographer, if they stop, they will lose their shot. Of course, there are times you can’t help and you can only witness. I have read about many who picked up their camera afterward and continued. They saved the day but lost the moment.

This topic intrigued me. Turning the question around, asking what would I do? I’d like to think that I’d jump in to help but you won’t know till you are in the moment.The husband says, there are two types of people. Those that run towards an opportunity or away from a problem. However, there’s a third option, those that don’t react and do nothing.

Later in the day. Jess and I went apple picking with friends. It was a beautiful day to walk in the orchard. The trees were heavy with fruit and it was easy pickings. It didn’t take long to fill our bags with apples.

As we headed back, slowly meandering out, Jess was leading the way. She was about forty-two feet ahead of us ( I’m specific because I replayed this event in my mind. I’ve also walked enough courses for fences to know my stride.)

Just after the bend in the dirt road, I glanced up at Jess and my heart stopped. There was a Red Fox jumping at her feet! Jess had a small bottle of bubbles in her right hand and she was holding it high above her head as if she were playing keep away. The fox seemed interested in what she had and was dancing around her.

Instantly, I started running towards Jess yelling, “go, go, go…”. All I could do was make noise so the fox would move along. I sensed that Jess would want to reach down to pet him like she does when she is greeted by a dog. The thought that should could get bitten made me run faster.

Fox tend to keep their distance from people. To be approached could mean he was sick but this one looked healthy. My guess is he lives in the orchard and has become comfortable with humans, maybe had been released after rehabilitation.  Regardless, I reacted and didn’t think.

While I was alarmed, my friends were not. Was this because it wasn’t their child, or was it because they didn’t grow up on a farm? Their laid-back nature made me feel like a drama queen. (found out later that one didn’t see and the other caught a glimpse, so this explains)

We were a short walk back to the register (where we’d weigh and pay for the apples), Jess voiced her displeasure the whole way. Because I yelled, she thought she was in trouble and protested the unfairness all the way back to our car. She had been minding her own business, hadn’t done anything wrong, was not afraid of the fox and couldn’t understand why she had been wronged.

Over and over I repeated why I was scared. I explained that whenever an animal shows unusual behavior, you need to be careful. It took us both awhile to calm down.

Earlier this summer, the husband saw a Black Bear walking through our backyard. I griefed him about not taking a photo. Now I get it. I understand how he felt. Even though the bear was just passing through, it was unusual to see and he went into protection mode.

It’s been a few days and I can still visualize the fox standing at Jess’s feet, his eyes turning to look at me before fox-trotting off. He did not understand why he was being yelled at. I’m sure he too felt he did nothing wrong. It’s human nature to fear what we don’t understand.

Not till I had shooed the fox did I say “damn, that would have been an awesome photo”.

It’s ironic, after raising the “what would I do” question that I was tested.

I guess the answer depends on what your element is. I may not have street smarts but have lived on farms, This is my comfort zone.

I love knowing that Jess is an animal whisperer. It’s one of her gifts. Animals sense that she will not harm. Dog, cats, and horses are drawn to her, so why not foxes? It’s all beginning to make perfect sense.

Chasing dreams

Over the summer, I had a bad case of writer’s block. I had nothing, nada, zilch. 

Looking for inspiration, I listened to a TED talk hoping to learn how writers found their spark. One lecture, had me mesmerized. Elizabeth Gilbert shared about poet Ruth Stone, how she “would run like hell home”, chased by a poem. She had to get to a piece of paper to write before the words thundered through her. If she didn’t write, it would be lost. Continue reading

Making applesauce

It has taken some practice, but Jess is finally getting the hang of peeling apples. 

Her first attempt, she peeled half an apple before walking away.

The second attempt, she’d turn the handle in the right direction, but the middle of the apple there was more resistance and  she’d reverse the direction.  This is a simple tool and going backwards doesn’t work well. 

Today was her third attempt.  By Jove, I think she got it!  Still not perfect, we are going in the right direction. 

Jess carried the pot of apples to the stove and went to town adding the cinnamon.  We are still working on portion control.

The first thing my Mom taught me to cook was applesauce. It was quick, didn’t require a recipe and kept the attention of my seven-year-old self.  The best part was eating the fresh sauce while it was still hot! 

Mom’s method was to cut up the apples, add water, bring to a soft boil, cooking till fork tender.  When the apples finished cooking, she then used a Foley food mill to remove the skin, making the sauce smooth and then would add the rest of the ingredients.  Some people like to leave the peel from red applies because it gives the sauce a blush color.

Instead of using a food mill, we prefer an apple peeler. I like to get the work done up front and it is more fun for Jess to use.  The peeler removes the core and 99% of the peel.  Add a couple of cups of water, a hint of brown sugar, a dusting of cinnamon, a splash of lemon juice and a few grains of salt.  Soft apples like Macintosh don’t take long to cook.  Finish using a potato masher.

Maybe by apple season, when the fruit is plentiful, we will go into production.  Jess just might make her own Christmas gifts for 2017.

Jess needs lots of encouragement to build her confidence.  I love how Jess grabs another apple at the end.  She makes me laugh.

New activities encourage her to use her Talker more.

The best part about cooking together is our conversation. Jess does more talking when we are doing something fun, especially when it involves food!.


Chocolate cake…one piece at a time.

img_2322After seeing a recipe for a three-ingredient chocolate cake, I accepted the challenge.

1 ripe banana
1 egg
1 Tablespoon Cocoa

Blend and pour batter into a ramekin, 3/4 full and bake.

This recipe makes one large ramekin or two small, but the size of banana may play a part.

So far, so good. The original recipe suggested to microwave, however, I attempted this years ago and found it inedible. This time I baked it for the suggested time and temperature, but this was not long or hot enough.

The second test cake, I baked it at 375 degrees for 16-18 minutes.  Of course, this doesn’t have the same texture as a traditional cake.  It reminded me more of bread pudding but without the bread!  Regardless, this was simple and tasty enough to make again.  Also, it’s best served warm.

Next attempt, I may add a handful of chopped nuts or chocolate chips to the batter.

We did add a dollop of whipped cream, but ice cream would be good too.

Put this under the category of “emergency” desserts.

If you need to omit the egg, I liked the suggestions made by Joy the Baker.








Playing hooky

Even though we live an hour shy of the shore, I rarely go. I don’t know anything about  traffic patterns, parking or beach badges. Thank goodness for “phone a friend”. Just like the game show “Who wants to be a Millionaire”, if you don’t have an answer, you call someone who does.



The previous days had been stormy and brutally humid. The weather was breaking and the shore seemed like an ideal place to take our house guest from Ohio. Over dinner, as we were finalizing our day trip, I turned to husband and said “why don’t you join us?”  Then asked Jessie if she wanted to play hooky too.  Hooky is one of her favorite words. It means fun is to be had.

The timing was right, husband was game. As for Jess, one trait people with Angelman Syndrome have is impulsivity.  Sometimes it’s good to break routine.  Didn’t have to ask her twice, she was in.

IMG_1502The next morning we headed for Belmar. At the time, we didn’t realize  we chose the best day. The skies were clear and it wasn’t very crowded.  While husband went to get the badges, I called a rental company.  Within seven minutes, we had umbrellas and lounge chairs delivered and set up. It was like hotel service but without the hotel!

Even though we were slathered in sunscreen, the shade from the umbrella was welcome. Jess planted herself in the sand and was happy as  a wave that dances on the sea.  I was going to say “happy as a clam”, but how do we really know if clams are happy? The ones I’ve known ended up in soup or at a clam shack…IMG_1533

We were not lacking for entertainment. A surf school was in front of us, on the other side of the pier is a relatively new bird sanctuary. Now that they have their own private space, rare birds are making an appearance.


IMG_1522Good eats were a short stretch down the beach. Specifically, Playa Bowls, a refreshing alternative to fast food.

For fear of getting too much sun, we left around noon. It was too early to head home, so we drove through a few shore towns before ending up at the Seaside boardwalk for lunch. None of us had walking shoes, so we did the tourist thing, we rented a surrey.



With the sky so blue, we couldn’t help but sing the song from Oklahoma,

All the world ‘ll fly in a flurry
When I take you out in the surrey
When I take you out in the surrey
With the fringe on top…

When it was time to head home, we realized that we had been given a gift, time together on a beautiful summer day.  It’s amazing how only nine hours felt like a weeks vacation. It doesn’t get better than that!



















Volunteer…you are needed!

Everyone has their passions. Some like working with the young, the elderly, the disadvantaged and others with special needs. Then there are those who prefer to garden and have their hands in the dirt.  I fall into yet another category, my calling is to work with animals. I once volunteered with Big Brothers/Big Sisters, but realized that my gift is with the winged or four legged.

For a few years, I volunteered at the local Wildlife center. Animals that had been displaced, injured or orphaned were brought in every day. My job was to clean and feed.  They had bats, baby bunnies, chipmunks, fox, ground hogs, skunks, squirrels, opossums, snakes, turtles and baby deer, as well as, baby  birds, eagles, hawks, owls and vultures.

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  • The Owl  is a resident and is used for teaching. I picked up the Cardinal on the road. He had been flying in circles, probably neurological. The Wren was one that had been caught in a sticky mouse trap.

The majority of my time was spent with the birds. The babies were fun, but I was enamored with the owls. Like all of the animals at the WLC, they had their own special diet.  The big owls lived in outdoor aviaries, but the smaller screech owls lived inside.  They were fed pinkies which needed to be cut into pieces with scissors.  This job was not for the squeamish.

After a few seasons of cleaning the butts of baby birds, I was ready to do something different. Last year, after we adopted a four-month old puppy from Georgia, I knew where I wanted to volunteer, with Soco.  It’s a tough job playing with puppies, but someone has got to do it.  Of course it involves changing paper and picking up poo, but it’s okay, they are just babies.

Every time I volunteer, I fall in love. For a fleeting moment, my heart makes me want to adopt, but then my brain takes over.  Our home has filled its quota of rescued dog and cats.

How fortunate I feel to have the opportunity to work with dedicated dog lovers. These are mostly rescue dogs, as well as, some who have been surrendered. Georgia is a state that does not have a spay/neuter policy.  If a rescue operation doesn’t step in, their odds of survival are not good.


Chester, a very sweet boy! He’s about 8 months old.



Here are just a few photos from  today.  Maybe you will see a face that says “pick me”, don’t hesitate to go and meet them. If you have an opportunity to adopt a rescue, you won’t be disappointed. They know they are lucky dogs to find a  home.



The puppies:

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Spaghetti…leftover or new beginnings


This didn’t photograph well, but don’t let that fool you. This was so good, this was all that was left to share.

After having spaghetti and meatballs, there’s often leftovers. What to do, what to do.  Sure, it can be reheated, or you can reinvent it and make a spaghetti pie.  Basically, you can add anything that works together and pleases your palate.

The world is your oyster when making Spaghetti pie.  If you double the recipe, use a spring form pan. This will make it taller and makes for a fun presentation for a party.

I didn’t have a large amount of pasta left over, so used a 9×11” casserole dish.  In my fridge, besides the meatballs, I had leftover pulled pork and fresh spinach. Yum!

Use this basic recipe as your guide:

preheat oven to 375 degrees

1 lb. cooked pasta (I used Angel Hair that was gluten free)
2 eggs
4 oz. Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp. garlic
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. oregano
8 oz. marinara sauce
1/4 cup water (or milk, half&half, vodka…)

4 oz. cream cheese
4 oz. sour cream
4 oz. mozzarella cheese
1/2 teaspoon garlic
S&P to taste

  • Stir in the eggs, Parmesan and spices to the cooked pasta (you can use whatever pasta shape you have on hand). The eggs help the pasta retain its shape and prevents it from puddling on your plate.
  • Put a thin layer of sauce on the bottom of a prepared (greased) 9×11” pan.
  • Next use half of the spaghetti mixture
  • Dot this with the sour cream and cream cheese. I eyeball this and roughly drop a teaspoon of each like I do when baking cookies. Either shred or cut thin pieces of mozzarella.
  • I used a jarred marinara sauce (choose one that doesn’t have fructose corn syrup or sugar). If I cut the sauce with water, half&half, cream or even vodka, it tastes more homemade and loses the prepared-jar-taste.  Often I will add the liquid to the jar to get every last bit of sauce out of the jar, using just enough that it cleans it out, but not so much that it becomes runny.
  • Repeat this layer.

Bake at 375 for 35 minutes, or till bubbly

You really can’t go wrong. Use as much or as little cheese as you want.  If you don’t have mozzarella, there’s no rule saying you can’t use cheddar or Swiss. Ham or bacon, or just leftover veggies. If you have leftover chicken, just chop that up, add artichoke hearts and mushrooms and you have a completely different dish. As I said, the world is your oyster 🙂

Greek Ziti & Ice cream sandwiches

We’ve been held up in the house too long for one reason or another.

When I’m bored, it’s my motivation to try new recipes.

IMG_8788Dinner:   If I had the ingredients, I would have made Pastitsio but ended up making a version of this Greek Ziti instead. When I say version, it means I didn’t have all the ingredients, so I improvise, substituting with half a box of Cavatappi noodles, 24 ounce jar of marinara sauce and a third cup of milk and gluten free panko crumbs.  The nice thing about making this type of dish, is that you don’t have to be as precise as when baking.

IMG_8790IMG_8791Dessert:. An ice cream sandwich recipe caught my eye. I’ve never attempted them before. I didn’t realize that they take no time at all to make. This took less time than baking a batch of cookies.

For these, I almost kept to the recipe. I replaced the all-purpose flour with GF flour.  I cooked this directly on the Silpat but it would have been just as easy to use parchment paper.

I chose not to soften the ice cream, but cut slices with a knife.  For the sandwich, I used a pizza cutter and a ruler.  It would have been fun to cut them in bite sized pieces.

If I spent more time, I could have made them look prettier, but it didn’t matter, they were eaten too quickly.

The nice thing about posting recipes is at least I know where I can find them!

Ingredients for sandwich, preheat oven to 350, cook for 10 minutes, cool before assembly

  • 1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup (100 grams) white granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup (65 grams) all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup (25 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 cups (2 pints) (950 ml) Ice Cream (Homemade or Store Bought), slightly softened – see what happens in step 6 if you let it get too melty!!
  • 10 x 15 inch (25 x 38 cm) rimmed baking sheet



Is life a game, or a box of chocolate?

IMG_0914Life isn’t fair, so get over it. I find myself thinking this more often than not. I’m so tired of hearing people lament about their lot in life. I’m sure some will think how can I possibly say this because we have been blessed in many ways. We live in a home with running water, a toilet (three in fact), heat, clothes in our closet and our pantry is full. Even our family is intact. By all accounts, we are the top 1% when compared to the world. I’m even more fortunate because I have a dog at my feet and a cat in my lap. Continue reading