Working towards Exceptional

My day-to-day journey to happy in little, bite-sized pieces.

Advertisements

Last week I did a Daily Prompt because I didn’t want to work on a piece in my drafts folder and didn’t have an idea for a fresh post. I liked where the post went and decided to do another one today. Today’s word is Exceptional.

A bit loaded for me.

I’ve been thinking a lot about me, myself, and I lately. Trying to shake off the depression and reclaim my happy. Some things are working and I’m feeling better. Happy still seems elusive. Exceptional is a concept I can’t even fathom.

Part of my depression is apathy. Apathy about getting anything done. Apathy about life. The new process of scheduling every task is working to alleviate that feeling. I felt really accomplished this past weekend. I even bragged about it to my sister. It felt good. Pride.

Doing big things a little at a time. Only I can see the day-to-day change and that’s ok. The source of my pride this past weekend was my backyard. It’s overgrown with buckthorn and I’ve been saying I’ll take care of it for years. I’m actually doing it now. I set little goals and scheduled the time to do it. During the week I clear the buckthorn from the garden-ish area that is mostly weeds. Every weekend I clear one small buckthorn tree. By the end of November, I should have one corner of my yard cleared of buckthorn. Repeat for the next 2-3 falls and it will be done.

IMG_8852
Buckthorn Corner

Once the buckthorn is cleared and I have some trees removed I can move forward with my vision of backyard. The trees are not healthy and do not provide any shade so I want to replace at least two of them with shade trees. I want to plant things that bloom in full color. The previous owner’s landscaping is all green all day. No color. That’s the opposite of me. My vision of my backyard is all the colors of the rainbow.

The backyard is on track. There is also a plan for my house. The state of my house will tell you a lot about where I am on ebb and flow of my mental health. Depression leads to clutter and mess. My house gets cleaner and I focus on decluttering when I’m coming out of my depressive periods. I’m not sure my house will ever really be clean. It’s a bit overwhelming because it’s the whole house.  I do really well with the decluttering so I’m going with that for now.

Back when I was working my company closed our corporate headquarters and relocated downtown. At the end, they were just throwing the office supplies into big dumpsters. I had the idea that I could take some of those office supplies and donate them to a school in need. That was nearly 2 years ago. Those supplies have been sitting in four big bins in my living room. Last week I went through them, wrote down what they contained and emailed an organization about the donation. Tomorrow I drop them off.

IMG_8851
Ready-to-go clutter

My goal for the winter is to finish my living room. I started painting it and never finished. Partly because I didn’t know what I wanted to do on one of the walls. I’ve figured that out and so I’m going to add that to my schedule in December after the yardwork season ends. My vision of my living room involves lots of drawers so I can move the clutter from on-top of things to inside drawers. It’s going to be amazing.

I have plans and I’m working little, by little, to make them a reality. That reality will be exceptional.

via Daily Prompt: Exceptional

 

Better than Buttered Noodles

Make a delicious homemade pasta dish the kids will love in the same amount of time it takes to make a box of mac & cheese.

My kids love buttered noodles and I started making this recipe to add some protein to the mix. It’s a little more work than buttered noodles or yet another box of mac & cheese, but it’s done in the same amount of time and tastes way better. The picture above is a variation where I added some shrimp and tomatoes that I had on hand. That’s another thing I love about this recipe. The variations are endless.

The concept came from the merging of two things. A box of Pasta Roni and the recipe for Spaghetti Carbonara. The basic recipe flavor profile mirrors Pasta Roni’s Angel Hair Pasta with Herbs. Changes from a true Carbonara include swapping butter for bacon fat and using the whole egg.

One of the goals of any go-to recipe I make is to use the ingredients I have on hand. No special shopping for that one thing I don’t have. In that spirit, here are some variations you can think about when making the recipe.

  • Pasta: Use whatever shape you like. I prefer Fusilli or Bowties with shrimp, but I didn’t have any on hand so I used Angel Hair.
  • Water: The usual recommendation is 1 quart (4 cups) of water for every 2 ounces of pasta. The main reason given for this is that it reduces the amount of pasta that sticks together. Sometimes I follow the rule and sometimes I don’t. When I don’t I just stir the pasta with a fork about halfway through cooking and separate any noodles that are sticking together. Sometimes I forget and do it when I’m adding the sauce. It’s better to do it while it’s boiling for strand pasta than shapes since strand pasta has more surface area able to stick together.
  • Salt: I use kosher salt. Just halve the amounts if using table salt. Mario Batali is always talking about how it should taste like the sea as if everyone has tasted the fresh salt water. I use 1 tablespoon of kosher salt per quart of water. Feel free to exclude the salt from the pasta water if you need to watch your salt intake.
  • Butter: I only buy unsalted. You only buy salted. No problem. Use it and cut back on the amount of salt you add to the dish.
  • Eggs: Don’t have Large? Extra large eggs make a little more sauce. Medium eggs make a little less sauce. Use what you have and see how it turns out. Next time adjust the amount of milk to make more/less sauce.
  • Parmesan Cheese: I buy small wedges of Parmesan Reggiano because I like the nutty flavor. It’s pricey and it’s one of my few food splurges. It’s a personal preference. Use what you have. Pre-shredded, shelf stable, whatever. Don’t have parmesan? Add the same cheese you use on tacos or pizza or grilled cheese. Hell, if it’s the taco cheese that has the seasoning in it you’ll spice this dish in a whole new way.
  • Milk: I use whole. Unless I’m out. Then I use 2%. Or none. It adds some creaminess to the dish but isn’t a deal breaker if you don’t keep milk on hand.
  • Spices: Use what you like. Red pepper flakes, oregano, basil, thyme, rosemary, Mrs. Dash, seriously, whatever you like.

Once you have the basic recipe down, it’s all where you take it from there. Like my lunch pictured above. I defrosted some shrimp and pan fried them in butter with salt, pepper, and chipotle powder. I wanted some heat.

This recipe allows for a lot of variation. One way to add variety is by changing out the type of fat used. I tend to use butter because of my kids. You can use any type of fat to make this dish. Bacon fat is an obvious choice since the dish mimics Carbonara. I’ve used the renderings from roasted chicken which impart a great chicken flavor to the dish. I actually prefer the dish with Extra Virgin Olive Oil especially if I have fresh parsley on hand.

Let’s talk Extra Virgin Olive Oil for a minute. It’s sold at a variety of price points and I’ve seen a lot of recipes calling for it when it’s not really needed. I only use Extra Virgin Olive Oil when there is no heating is required. That’s when the full flavor is imparted. Once you start heating Extra Virgin Olive Oil the intense flavor you are paying for starts to fade. The only time I heat it is when I’m sauteing garlic for 30 seconds or so. That’s it. Most recipes that call for it don’t need it. Rachel Ray seems to use it in every recipe and I think it’s a waste of money. A simple Olive Oil or canola oil will suffice.

Look for a dark bottle when shopping and the Extra Virgin Olive Oil should have a green hue. The more yellow color, the lower the quality and flavor. I go for sales and two of the brands I like are Colavita and California Olive Branch.

  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil: There is no need to heat it on the stove since the pot and the pasta will have enough residual heat to warm it and bloom the flavor. You can heat the oil if you are using fresh garlic in the recipe. Saute the garlic for about 30 seconds before removing the pot from the heat.
  • Bacon: Start the bacon when you put the water on to boil and you’ll have rendered fat by the time the pasta is done. Crumble the cooked bacon and add it to the pasta.
  • Chicken Fat: Whenever I roast chicken there are always leftovers. I’ll save a tablespoon or so of the rendering from the roasting process and use that the next day when making this pasta dish. Throw in the leftover chicken at the end and you have a tasty chicken and cheese pasta dish.

Better than Buttered Noodles (base recipe)

  • 4 ounces pasta
  • 1 quart of water
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried parsley

This recipe makes 2 small main servings of pasta or works as a side dish for about 4 people. The recipe is easy to double if more portions are desired.

Start off by putting 1 quart (4 cups) of water on the stove to boil. Add 1 tablespoon kosher salt (or 1-2 teaspoons if using table salt) to the boiling water before adding the 4 ounces of dried pasta.

While the pasta boils whisk 1 large egg, 1/2 cup shredded parmesan, 1 tablespoon milk, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (1/4 teaspoon if using table salt), 1/2 teaspoon pepper, 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, and 1/2 teaspoon dried parsley. A couple upgrades to think about. If you want to use fresh garlic and/or fresh parsley, leave those out for now.

Important step I sometimes forget. Once the pasta is ready (I eat a noodle to check for doneness), reserve 1 cup of the pasta water before draining the pasta into a colander. The water will add some saltiness to the flavor and the starch will help achieve the consistency of the sauce that you want.

Leave the cooked pasta in the colander and return the pan to the stove. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter on medium heat and allow it to brown slightly. Should only take about a minute or so. If you are using fresh garlic that can be added once the butter melts. Once the butter is slightly brown remove from the heat, add the cooked pasta, and stir to combine. Once the noodles are coated with butter, add about 1/4 cup of the pasta water and stir. Forgot to reserve some pasta water? Me too, add some plain water and a pinch of salt.

Now that the pasta and fat are combined we can move to making the sauce. Stir the pasta while slowly pouring the sauce into the pot. Add the reserved pasta water a little at a time until you achieve the desired thickness of the sauce. If you are using fresh parsley add it now and the dish is ready to serve.

Reheating: I add a little bit of milk to the noodles before reheating. I prefer reheating on the stove since that allows me to stir the noodles while they are reheating. You can also microwave in a covered dish for 30 seconds, stir and then microwave for another 30 seconds.

Negative Nelly

Last week I started scheduling my days. It’s been going pretty well and it’s helping do the things I want to do and the things I need to do. I’m feeling like I’m getting more done. I’m also feeling exhausted. The things I’m doing aren’t physically hard. I’ve made a concerted effort to do things that make me uncomfortable when it comes to job hunting. It’s emotionally exhausting and I’m not sure it’s even working.

One of my scheduled activities is writing. I’ve been doing a mix of finishing old posts and creating fresh posts. Today I didn’t want to tackle an old post and nothing fresh was of mind so I thought I would check out The Daily Post’s one-word prompt. Today it is Deny. I sighed. It’s such a negative word.

I’m fighting with the negative right now. I used to be a happy person who enjoyed life and its challenges. I’m not in that place right now. I know it and I’ve been trying to do things in a more positive light. I post my writings with the knowledge most of them have a negative theme. That’s part of the reason I looked to The Daily Post today. I wanted a post filled with positivity.

The reason for the schedule was to help me do the things I want to do. Writing is one of those things. Today I’m striving to make my writing more positive.

Yesterday was my Mixed Media Journaling class. Another place I’m striving for positivity. We have been working on a number of pages, adding layers of texture and color. Some of my pages are darker than I’d like. I’m making a conscious effort not to let darkness into my journal. We were finishing one of the first pages we started. It was one of my brighter pieces.

The theme of my page is Exploring. One of the layers was an abstract bookshelf. I added the names of books that have a special meaning to me to the spines of the books. One of the steps was to add a quote to the page that emphasized our theme. I chose an Octavia Butler quote:

Octavia_Butler-02

I am exploring what that means for me. I want things to be different. I want to love my job and the people I work with. I’m not the same person I was a year ago. Things were pretty ugly and stressful during my last year of work. I’m glad I was laid off as part of the downsizing because, as I look back on it, I don’t like who I became during that year. It’s taken me a long time to be sure that I want to go back into the same career. I’m nervous about getting caught up again in the negative dynamics that were happening where I worked. I do not want to return to that type of culture.

Ideally, I would like a job close to my home with a minimal commute. I’m not sure that’s realistic so am moving my focus to downtown so that I can take the train to work rather than driving. My desire is to continue to write every day and I would be able to do that on the train. I fear a long commute by car would be the end of this blog and my writing.

Keeping the ability to do the things I enjoy that are not work related is important to me. I stopped doing a lot of things for me when I was so wrapped up in work and raising my kids. I’m choosing to do more things for me. This blog. The Mixed Media Journaling class. Writing classes at the library. Reading books. Last night I was thinking I should get back into crocheting. I haven’t done that since before my daughter was born. I want to learn to sew and my sister is giving me one of her extra sewing machines so that I can do that.

Things that make me happy are a priority. I’m not denying that for myself any longer.

The Woman Next Door

I really enjoyed The Woman Next Door by Yewande Omotoso. It was a book I selected from one of the display tables at the library. The summer reading program theme was Community and this book also fit my goal to read more writers of color.

There are two main characters in the story who live next door to each other in a predominately white neighborhood in a suburb of Cape Town, South Africa. One is black and one is white. There is a lot of animosity between them and little patience for the other’s point of view.

Life circumstances intervene and by the third act, the women are living together. A transparent plot device that did not come across as realistic. It’s my only big negative about the book, but it is negated by the fact that I really like where the story went from there. Both women go through significant life changes over the course of the book. I can’t imagine the story without the intimacy forced on them by living together.

Marion could be any white woman. I found her character disposable. Her value came in recognizing parts of myself in her. She was a typical housewife, meddling in neighborhood business, and intent on keeping things the way they have always been.

Hortensia is the lifeblood of the novel. Her approach to life is a critical mirror. She doesn’t ignore. She confronts. She highlights. She states the unspoken. It is jarring. It disorients Marion and drives the conflict between them. Hortensia has no patience for Marion’s color blindness. Her behavior and motives are not driven by a need to make things easy for Marion. She is driven by a need to confront reality head first. She enjoys alienating people with her directness. Her goal is solitude from people and from pain.

I go back and forth about Hortensia. She is a unique character who is direct about her desire to be left alone. She doesn’t feel the need to educate Marion on the nuances of race and class. Marion should just figure it out. By the end of the book, Marion does begin to question what she was raised to believe and see the world through more than just the lens of her own reality. Hortensia is a significant reason why she does that. This is where I am conflicted about Hortensia.

The women do not become BFF’s. They do develop a mutual respect for one another. They get one another. Hortensia has opened herself up and isn’t so set on isolating herself by the end of the novel. I just wish it had come by other means. I felt this novel was written for white readers.

I identified a lot with Marion’s journey and opening her eyes to the realities of the impact of historical race and class struggles on current day behaviors. There is a land dispute in the novel that sets up her looking back on what she raised to believe. I’ve gone through a similar awakening from my white rural American education. Perhaps that is why I felt like the book was written for people like me and Marion and less for people like Hortensia. I’m disappointed and I want Hortensia to have her own story. Marion held her back.

In search of the easy button

Last night I watched The Incredible Hulk. I’d seen it before so I was only paying partial attention. Mostly I was in my own head thinking. I’ve been spending a lot of time there lately and it usually ends up with me forgetting something or messing up. While I was distracted I did notice the recurring clock in the movie. “Days without incident”.

I can’t remember the last day I had without incident. My incidents don’t involve me turning green, but sometimes there is anger. My incidents are just my anxiety dropping by to say hello. The internal static that makes the hair on my arms stand up on end. The hole in my center that pulses and demands to be filled. The tears that fall. It’s uncomfortable and isolating and I do my best to manage it.

Management is failing me right now. I’m a logical person. Logically it makes sense that I’m having issues with my anxiety right now. I’ve been out of work for over a year. I haven’t been having much luck finding a job so that is a stressor. My savings passed a threshold I didn’t want to happen. Another stressor. My house is a fixer-upper and there are a couple things that can no longer wait to be fixed. My kids are having problems at school. I need a haircut. Stress. Stress. Stress.

Last winter brought with it depression. There was a period of time where I spent my entire day in my bedroom. The kids would leave for school and I would head back to bed. I did everything in my bedroom. I searched for a job, read books, ate, just laid there. It was warm and comforting. I didn’t feel the anxiety. I didn’t feel much other than that warmth and comfort. Now my feelings are an exposed nerve.

Today’s morning trigger was the weather report. It’s going to be 80-degrees today. That was the trigger. The underlying cause is the weight gain over the past year. I’m up two sizes. Few of my clothes have followed. I’m not working so spending money on new clothes isn’t a priority. Add the fact that I have outgrown two interview outfits. I had planned an appropriate outfit — not too casual, not too business-like. An outfit better suited to the 60’s or 70’s.

I finally settled on an outfit. It’s a bit more casual than I wanted, but it fits and I won’t melt too much. I’ll be wearing it with my anxiety. It hasn’t left me.

When Innocence is Lost

The morning started off like normal. Navigating through breakfast and getting ready for school. The clean laundry hadn’t made it to my son’s room so he grabbed some clothes from the basket and stripped down.

Me: My naked boy.

My son in a shocked voice: Mom, you said the n-word!

My heart stopped.

I think it is adorable that my son thinks the n-word is naked. His innocence in full display to me. But my heart stopped and reality set in. His privilege was on display too.

I’m heartbroken that I have to take some of his innocence away to make sure he understands the gravity of the n-word. The fact that he is 8 and I haven’t had to have this conversation with him until now is my privilege on display.

What do you tell an 8-year-old about the n-word?

Not knowing where to start I explained that it is a really mean, horrible word that is used to hurt people and should never be used. No exceptions. He seemed to accept that and our focus shifted back to getting ready for school.

Not the best place to leave it. He knows there is an n-word, but doesn’t know what it is and why it is a bad word. What if he uses it thinking he’s saying naked? We need to have a longer conversation.

How do I teach my 8-year-old about the n-word?

He needs to understand the historical context of the word. He needs to understand that it is never acceptable for him to use the word. He needs to understand that using the euphemism “n-word” is done when discussing history and racism. I’m not sure context is something an 8-year-old understands.

There is also the hard concept of the current day usage in African American Vernacular English. I need to think more about how to approach that in a way that an 8-year-old will understand.

I need to teach my son the n-word. I need to do it before someone else does. And when I teach him I will be continuing its existence into his generation. It is never going away and that makes me angry. Displaced anger since the problem isn’t with the word. The issue is the contextual history behind the word. Slavery and the on-going oppression of black people in this country are forever intertwined with the n-word.

I don’t want my son to know this word, but he will. He needs to know how I expect him to respond when he hears it. He needs to know that there is no circumstance where it is ever acceptable for him to use it. He needs to know the extent of his privilege of not knowing about this word for the first 8 years of his life. He needs to know that I expect him to be an advocate for those who do not share his white male privilege.

So what am I going to say? I need to figure this out. He’s 8 so I need to make it age appropriate. I plan to do it in stages since I want him to understand the historical context as well as its current contextual usage. My knowledge of history is rudimentary so I’ll need to do some research to make sure I’m portraying events from more than just the white historical view that I was taught in school.

Here is the beginning of what I want my son to learn. It will be more than one conversation and it should be. He’s been learning about consent since he started talking. He should have been learning about this too. It’s a core principle that I have been derelict in conveying. No more.

The word is “x” and is connected to the beginning of our nation. This country’s wealth was made in the cotton industry. That wealth came at a cost. It was very labor intensive to pick cotton so a large, low-cost labor force was needed. White people who immigrated from Europe owned the farms and they brought black people from Africa and enslaved them to work their farms. Enslaved means the black people had no rights, no freedom, no choices of their own. They were treated like property similar to a house or car.

The white slave owners thought it was ok to buy, sell, and own people, but that was wrong. The white people referred to the enslaved Africans as slaves or as Negroes which is another word for black. Over time Negroe changed to the n-word.

So that’s where the word came from, but we need to talk about why it is such a bad word that we don’t ever say the word. I swear a lot and you’ve never heard me use the n-word when I’m angry or frustrated. The n-word is not a swear word like the f-word. It’s a hate word targeted at black people. We never, ever direct it at another person. Not even as a joke.

We don’t because the word is connected to a time in our history when white people thought it was ok to own black people. It wasn’t just that they thought it was ok to buy, sell, and own another person. It was that they thought it was ok to beat them up, to kill them, and to separate families (husbands from wives, children from parents, brothers from sisters). They abused and separated them as a means to keep them under control. 

We no longer have slavery in this country. The laws changed, but there continued to be white people in this country who don’t see black people as equals. They used their power to enforce new ways of oppressing black people. In the South, they passed Jim Crow laws that legalized segregation. Segregation laws enforced the separation of black and white people. You’ll learn a little about this in school. 

The part that you won’t learn in school is that it wasn’t just the southern states that practiced segregation. In the northern states, like here in Illinois, they didn’t pass segregation laws. In Chicago and other cities, there was a practice called red-lining that prevented black people from buying homes outside a red-line. It prevented black families from buying homes in white neighborhoods. It limited black people to specific areas of the city. It wasn’t a law, but it had the same effect as the Jim Crow laws. Segregation and the separation of the races. 

This is only a start. There is so much more to say. I’m ending this post, but not the conversation. More to come…

 

Perfecting Banana Bread

This week I started following some advice that I read online somewhere. The article was about how to stay on track with your goals. The advice was to schedule it on your calendar. Treat the goal like a meeting and block of the time to work on it.

I’ve been all over the place lately and haven’t been doing the things I said I wanted to do. Life has been hitting me pretty hard and its impacted my motivation so I decided to tackle my must-do and want-to-do lists with the approach recommended. I scheduled everything in either 30-minute or 60-minute increments. It is the 4th day and it has been working well. I’m getting more done and doing the things that I must-do and want-to-do.

File_002

Today during my Lunch & Shower time I decided to work on my chocolate banana bread recipe. I’ve been wanting it to have more chocolate flavor and increasing the amount of chocolate helped, but it isn’t where I want it to be. I know that coffee/espresso enhances chocolate flavor so I decided to add that to my recipe.

I like to prep all the ingredients before assembling so I got started with that. Sugar and butter in a bowl. Flour, salt, and baking soda in another. Wet ingredients in a 3rd. That’s where I ran into a problem. I may have waited a day or two too long to convert my overripe bananas into banana bread. They were not good. Off on an unplanned trip to the grocery store.

My grocery store doesn’t stock overripe bananas. It stocks green and bright yellow bananas. I picked a couple bananas that had some slight spotting and headed to check out. Something to keep in mind when making banana bread is that you don’t need the peel to be mostly brown. Ripe yellow bananas work just as well. As long as you can mash them, they work.

Got my bananas so now its on.

File_000

I start by beating the butter and sugar until small pebbles are formed. It should look something like this.

File_003

Next step is to add in the liquid ingredients and blend followed by the dry ingredients. I stop the hand mixer before all the dry ingredients are blended in fully and finish up by hand with a spatula. Each step should look something like this.

 

The melted chocolate goes in next. I scoop a cup or so of the batter into the melted chocolate and stir to combine fully. You have a couple options for how to proceed from here.

Option 1: Traditional marble instructions call for layering the two batters and then using a knife to swirl the layers into a marble pattern. I decided that was too much work so I go with the next option.

Option 2: I add the chocolate batter to the bowl with the rest of the batter and use my spatula to blend it, but not fully.

File_001 (2)

Option 3: Just add the melted chocolate to the batter and beat to combine. Marble is for looks, not taste. You do you.

Now that all the ingredients are combined I dump it in a buttered and floured 8×4 and bake it in the oven. Don’t want to hassle with buttering and flouring your 8×4? Cooking spray does the trick too.

Banana bread is the best on the first day and still warm. Yes, you should cool it, but the crusty crunch of the crust and soft warmth of the bread is amazing. Well, it should be. This loaf not so much. Too much coffee flavor overwhelmed the chocolate. Not the effect I wanted. I used a tablespoon of coffee. Next time I’ll try it with a teaspoon. Or I might switch to espresso powder. Probably will try both because I want the recipe to be accessible.

The base recipe I started with was published in Cooking Light over 10 years ago. I don’t think my modifications would qualify this recipe for Cooking Light. I’ve added back some fat and with it came a richness that I like.

I’m sharing the recipe I made because I want to share the process of recipe development. There are plenty of final recipe versions out there for readers and my hope is that my experimenting will give readers the confidence to try changing recipes on their own. Follow along and see how this recipe develops.

 Chocolate Banana Bread with Coffee – Take 1

  • 1 cup (225 grams) sugar
  • 1/4 cup (half stick) room temperature butter
  • 2 cups (250 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 3 ripe bananas
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup sour cream or plain yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon strong coffee
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour (or cooking spray) 8×4 loaf pan. Don’t have an 8×4 loaf pan, use whatever size you have.

Combine 1 cup (225 grams) sugar and room temperature 1/4 cup (half stick) butter in a large mixing bowl. Forgot to put out the butter before you started? Cut it into 8-slices and then cut those slices into 4 spaced out on a plate. I set mine on the stove near the draft from the oven heating and they are usually soft enough by the time I’m done measuring out the rest of the ingredients.

Combine 2 cups (250 grams) flour, 3/4 teaspoon baking soda, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl. Stir with a whisk or spoon to combine. Sometimes when I’m on a healthier kick I’ll do 1 cup of all-purpose and 1 cup of whole wheat flour. It makes the loaf denser which I don’t mind.

Combine 3 ripe bananas, 2 large eggs, 1/4 cup sour cream or plain yogurt, and 1 tablespoon strong coffee in a medium bowl. Use a fork, potato masher or pastry blender to mash the bananas and mix with the other wet ingredients. I don’t notice a taste difference between sour cream or yogurt. I use full-fat sour cream because that’s what I have on hand. I do notice the bread has a richer flavor when using full fat, but the recipe works just as well with reduced or no-fat sour cream or yogurt.

Melt 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips. I use my 2-cup glass pyrex and microwave them for 60 seconds. If you are using a plastic Pyrex or bowl you’ll need to reduce the microwave time.

Now that all the ingredients are prepped we can move onto mixing. I use a hand mixer. If you have a stand mixer, use it. Get your money’s worth. Cream the butter and sugar together

Cream the butter and sugar together. Should take about 1 minute; longer if your butter isn’t at room temperature. Add banana mixture and beat to combine. Add flour mixture and beat until most of the flour mixture is combined. Finish by hand with a spatula.

Marble options: Add 1 cup of the batter to the Pyrex/bowl with melted chocolate and stir to combine.

  • Option 1: Layer 1/2 plain batter on the bottom of 8×4, followed by a layer of chocolate batter and finish with remaining plain batter. Use a knife to swirl batters together in the pan to create the marble.
  • Option 2: Add chocolate batter to plain batter and hand mix with a spatula a few times to create the marble in the bowl. Do not overmix or you’ll end up with no marble.

No marble option: Add the melted chocolate to the batter and stir to fully combine.

Loaf goes into the oven for 1 hour, 15 minutes. The first time you make it you’ll want to check it about 5-10 minutes early to account for your oven temperature variability and if using a different size loaf pan. It’s done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool for 10 minutes and remove from loaf pan. Finish cooling on a wire rack.

Normally I would say yummy goodness awaits, but this recipe was too coffee for me. I’ll be adjusting the amount of coffee next time and let you know how it goes.

Happy Baking everyone!