Fudgy Banana Bread


Fudgy Banana BreadCall it the dining hall blues, but every time I return to school after a trip home, I wish for a kitchen in which I can whip up my own meals. I’m grateful, of course, for the convenience and variety of my meal plan selections, but after a long day of classes and activities, my heart sometimes longs for a serving of homemade mac-and-cheese or a chocolate chip cookie fresh from the oven. I suppose my cravings speak to the power of comfort food and its ability to transport and soothe simultaneously.

For a prime example of such dishes, one can do no better than a loaf of banana bread — except, perhaps, by adding a bit of chocolate! When I saw this rich rendition of the household favorite, I knew instantly that I’d need to make it for myself. The recipe delivered: the bread is decadent, fudgy, and flavorful. It’s, in short, comfort food at its finest, a recipe that could easily make a sweet surprise for a friend. With all this said, it’s no wonder that today, as my sister recently informed me, is National Banana Bread Day. A dessert this beloved deserves a holiday to itself.

As always, some kitchen notes to keep in mind. First, you can keep this in the fridge (my family simply heats up slices in the microwave), but I find it best enjoyed the day it’s made. Second, you’re free to skip the sliced banana on top if you fear too sunken of a bread, but I love the look – and taste! – of it. And finally, I haven’t tried this with chocolate chips, but I imagine it would be an utter delightIf you’re feeling adventurous and try it out, I’d love to hear how it goes.

Fudgy Banana BreadFudgy Banana Bread Adapted from Alison Roman’s Dining In (via A Cup of Jo)


  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar, separated
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (alternatively, use 1/2 cup whole wheat flour and 1 cup all-purpose flour)
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 5 ripe bananas, four mashed and one sliced in half lengthwise
  • 1/2 cup full-fat sour cream

to make

  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Spray or grease a 9×5 inch loaf pan, then sprinkle the pan with 1/4 cup granulated sugar so it is coated. Tap out excess sugar.
  2. In a medium bowl, stir together the dry ingredients: flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  3. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter, 1/3 cup granulated sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla for 3-5 minutes. Mixture will be light.
  4. Add the egg, and beat two minutes more.
  5. Slowly stir in the dry ingredients until just incorporated. Mix in the mashed bananas and sour cream by hand.
  6. Pour batter into prepared pan. Place the banana halves, cut side up, on top. Sprinkle remaining 1/4 cup granulated sugar on top.
  7. Bake for 90-100 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (save for a few moist crumbs).
  8. Let cool before slicing, and enjoy!

Have a lovely Friday!


High Five / 17

Hi friends!

Long time, no see! How are you? How are things? Though my semester has been off to a wonderful start, I’m nevertheless grateful to be home until Wednesday for the long weekend. I’m even more thankful that this break allows me some time to blog. I’ve missed sharing here on Ciao Bella, but what better way to ease back into blogging than a new High Five?!

Before I share the highlights of my week, however, a moment: it would be remiss not to mention the devastating school shooting in Parkland, Florida. I’m grieving for the students, educators, and families impacted by the incident, I’m angry that this is no longer a shock to those in the U.S., and I’m frustrated, if inspired, that teens are able to take more action than those in the government (I’ve also been thinking a lot about how I consume news, how I react to news, and how privilege is intertwined in both, but that’s a conversation for another day).  If you, like me, are looking for tangible ways to help, I found this link to be useful. Change can only happen if we act now.

High Five 17[1] To start, can we chat about my latest television obsession, Netflix’s American Vandal? A hilarious play on true-crime breakouts like Serial and Making a Murderer, the eight-episode series follows aspiring documentarian and high school sophomore Peter as he investigates the innocence of classmate – and class clown – Dylan Maxwell. The crime in question? Vandalizing the cars of twenty-seven teachers with phallic images as a supposed prank. I was skeptical at first (what should one expect from a show with the tagline, “Who drew the dicks?”), but its sharp storytelling and authentic portrayal of high school life quickly won me over. The profanity is aplenty, but if you’re in need of an engrossing and humorous example of satire, I can think of no better show to try (and then you’ll be ready for Season Two, due out later this year!). Have you watched American Vandal or any other Netflix series as of late?

[2] As I mentioned in my last post, I study and work best when I have music playing in the background. With the semester fully underway, you can thus imagine how much my Spotify account has been put to use. One of the albums I’ve enjoyed most was actually just released: folk group I’m With Her’s See You Around, which came out on Friday. I’ve been eagerly counting down the days since I stumbled upon their music in the summer, but the wait was entirely worth it – I can’t get enough of all twelve tracks! Like The Staves, another musical trio I adore, artists Sara Watkins, Sarah Jarosz, and Aoife O’Donovan share impeccable harmonies and warm voices (you would never believe they’ve only been singing together since 2014). My favorite songs are “Game to Lose” and “Ryland (Under the Apple Tree),” but listen to any of their music and I know they’ll make you a fan.

[3] February has been moving so quickly that Valentine’s Day snuck right up on me! While I recognize that much of the holiday is based on the commercial sales of cards and chocolates, I still love that there’s a day devoted to expressing appreciation to the people who matter to you most. I suppose it’s then fitting that my current read is Rookie on Love, which I received from my mom as a sweet Valentine’s Day present. Any longtime reader of Ciao Bella knows how much I admire Tavi Gevinson and her work – all four Rookie yearbooks hold a coveted spot on my bookshelf – so it’s little surprise that I’m digging this anthology, a love-themed, love-centered collection of poems, essays, and stories from a diverse set of authors. YA fans, in particular, would do well to check it out. (On a similar note, this recent interview with Tavi is also a fun read).

[4] When I wasn’t shopping classes or catching up with friends over these past few weeks, chances are you’d find me in rehearsal for Julius Caesar: Femmes, Romans, Countrymen, an all-femme rendition of Shakespeare’s play. Working on this show was my first opportunity to stage manage in college, and I couldn’t be happier to have been a member of the technical team; it was one of the most thoughtful, loving, and creative productions I’ve had the pleasure of working on. We had a bittersweet close to the process on Monday, but the entire cast and crew is committed to staying in touch, even as our schedules part in separate ways. Fortunately, on my end, Brown theatre keeps me busy – I’ve already started work as the general manager for a production of Heathers in April! If you’d like a taste of the show, a Facebook live stream is available HERE. Have you seen or been a part of any productions recently?

[5] Finally, I was fortunate to snag tickets to a presentation by Tarana Burke, the #MeToo founder and activist, last week. She gave a wonderful, thought-provoking talk and was so engrossing in conversation with Brown professor Emily Owens. I appreciate her sharing her experiences, as I left the presentation even more determined to do my part in the ever-growing movement. To that end, it felt fitting to attend after reading the accounts of sexual assault in the kidlit community collected by author Anne Ursu. How and when the change in publishing will occur, I’m not certain, but I do know, as Burke said herself, we “have to be drivers of this conversation.”

And with that, I wish you the most wonderful Sunday.

Current Playlist, Part Two

Hi all!

How are you? How has your week been? Mine has been relatively quiet, save for rehearsal, but that changes today as I kick off the new semester. I can’t say I’m ready for the onslaught of assignments, but I am excited about my course options and, of course, the chance to reconnect with friends.

As I enter into “school mode,” I have my playlists at the ready. Like so many, I love to work and write to music – especially when the artist is new to me! I shared a few of my favorite albums back in the summer and had such a fun time writing the post that I wanted to do a second round. That in mind, here’s a sample of what I’ve been listening to as of late. Any recommendations of your own?

Jade BirdFirst, have you heard of British singer Jade Bird? I can’t get enough of her recent EP, Something American, and I’m clearly not the only one. NPR writes that it’s a “heartfelt blend of intimate songs;” at Pitchfork, the songs “could be plucked straight from the American heartland.” She’s been labeled a country singer, but I think that’s a disservice to the blend of blues, Americana, and folk that she so effortlessly delivers. Do check her out.

favorite tracks: Good Woman, Cathedral (Acoustic)

The Wild ReedsIn a similar vein is indie folk group The Wild Reeds. Relatively new to the music scene, they released their second album, The World We Built, just last year. I only stumbled upon their music earlier in the fall semester, but I’ve had it playing non-stop ever since. Their harmonies are something to admire. (Related: watch their NPR Tiny Desk Concert for a mid-week pick-me-up!).

favorite tracks: Fall To Sleep, Everything Looks Better (In Hindsight)

Earl St ClairI’m convinced I could listen to R&B artist Earl St. Clair – with his distinctive raspy voice – for days. He combines that signature wail with an infectious old-school energy on his debut album, My Name is Earl. The seven tracks have been my go-to workout music as of late, but it could easily transition to early morning playlists. One listen, and I’m sure you’ll draw the same conclusion: he’s an artist to watch.

favorite tracks: Criminal, Feeling Alive

Greta IssacLike so many of the artists I’ve enjoyed over the past year, Welsh singer Greta Issac is an emerging voice. She has only a few singles, but each and every one is constructed with care. Don’t be thrown by the genre of electronic pop; her work is refreshing (and incredibly catchy). All that said, I’m eagerly awaiting the release of a full-length album, but in the meantime, you can find me playing “You” on repeat.

favorite tracks: You, Tied

ALA.NIListening to ALA.NI’s EP, You & I, is like a trip back in time. It’s an album that asks you to pause, listen, and give it your undivided attention. Why this is exactly is hard to pinpoint. Is her trademark 1930s microphone that she uses while recording and on tour? Is it the parallels between her work and that of classic icons like Billie Holiday and Judy Holiday? Whatever the reason, all I can say is that I’m a huge fan.

favorite tracks: Woo Woo, Roses & Wine

Pale HoneyI’ll admit: I first looked into Pale Honey because of the duo’s name (What can I say? I was curious!). After listening to their two albums, however, it became clear that their music was right up my alley. Devotion, which came out earlier this fall, is true to the Swedish band’s “minimalist rock” style. It’s not only compelling, it’s packed with punches of raw emotion, thanks to singer Tuva Lodmark’s stand-out voice. I dig it.

favorite tracks: Get These Things Out of My Head, Real Thing

IbeyiIf an Adele endorsement isn’t enough to grab your attention, it will only take a  listen to the first minute of Ibeyi’s single, “Deathless,” before you too are a fan of twin sisters Lisa-Kaindé and Naomi Diaz. They’re a talented pair: blending Yoruba, French, and Afro-Cuban styles, they’ve created a sound that is wholly unique (and mesmerizing to listen to). I can’t wait to see what they make next.

favorite tracks: Deathless, No Man is Big Enough for My Arms

The Band's VisitIt wouldn’t be a Ciao Bella music post without a bit of Broadway! My current favorite is The Band’s Visit, a musical inspired by the film of the same name. While I would love to one day see the production, for now, I’ve settled for listening to the cast album while I bake or get ready in the morning. Star Katrina Lenk has a voice like no other, and composer David Yazbek should be praised for his beautiful music and lyrics. Excellent stuff.

favorite tracks: Welcome to Nowhere, Papi Hears the Ocean

Aldous HardingHow does one sum up the music of New Zealand singer Aldous Harding? Melancholic, dreamy, and stunning, Harding’s sophomore album is a well-drawn story; she finds sadness in celebration and growth in heartbreak. One reporter even writes that her songs will “put a spell on you.” (They’re right). To be short? I absolutely adore her songs, and I think (hope!) you will too.

favorite tracks: Party, Imagining My Man

Harry StylesFinally, Harry Styles’ solo album is old news at this point, but given how many times I play it throughout the week (i.e. a LOT), I figure it’s worth a shout-out. I was never a One Direction superfan, but give me Styles’ rock-pop mix, lovestruck lyrics, and stylistic croon, and I’m all ears. As seems to be the theme of this post, if you haven’t listened to it, it could be worth a try by the end of the week.

favorite tracks: Woman, From the Dining Table

Have a lovely Wednesday!

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