Fudgy Banana Bread

Hi!

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)

ingredients

  • 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!
Bella

High Five / 16

Hi friends!

High Five 16How are you? I’m writing this after a few snowy days at home, but you’ll hear no complaints from me. Whether it’s a result of the cold New England weather or the start of the new year, I can’t say, but I feel like I ended the week on such a productive note! I’m not sure what’s in store for the weekend, but I’ll be sure to save time for a reading session (my pile of library books is growing bigger by the day) and recipe experiments (I have numerous dishes bookmarked in Deb’s most recent cookbook).

I also wanted to share a new High Five, particularly because I feel like I’ve been reading, watching, and creating galore as of late. With that said, here are a few highlights – books, movies, articles, and the like – from my winter break. How was your week?

[1] To start, the last show I saw in 2017 was also among my very favorites. Sense and Sensibility is currently playing at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge and like the Jane Austen novel it’s based after, it’s all at once witty and heartfelt and thoughtful. I was so lucky to see it twice – first with two close friends, next with my mom and sister – and I was blown away by the minimalist set, the sharp dialogue (and complementary sound design!), and the ease at which the actors moved through the roles each time. I think there’s nothing more to say except kudos to the entire cast and crew. It’s playing until January 14th, so if you’re in the Boston area, I’d encourage you to check it out for yourself. If you can’t make it, join me instead in reading Sense and Sensibility at some point this spring. You can’t go wrong with an afternoon or two of Jane Austen.

[2] Speaking of Jane Austen, have you ever seen The Lizzie Bennet Diaries? It’s one of my favorite web series, and I bring it up only because there seems to be another channel that I like just as much. Shipwrecked Comedy is, as they write on their website, dedicated to “[creating] comedic historical literary content.” It’s a goal I think they’ve well accomplished with such projects as Kissing in the Rain, Poe Party, and their latest, a noir short film titled The Case of the Gilded Lily. I loved how the script and set paid homage to classic Hollywood mysteries, and I couldn’t get enough of the stellar cast and the roles they took on. It’s not long either; at only forty minutes, you could even fit in a viewing this afternoon! (All credit to my sister, Lulu, for the introduction).

[3] If a movie night is in your weekend plans, let me offer a suggestion: Their Finest, a 2016 release about the British Ministry of Information’s film-making attempts during World War II. I’m not one to turn down a British historical drama, and so when Lulu and I both had a free night, we jumped at the opportunity to finally rent it. I’m so glad we did. The film has a number of strong elements, including an intriguing storyline, a surprisingly sweet romance, and an engaging cast, led by actress Gemma Arterton. One critic writes that it “is a charming and thoughtful movie, about people making a charming and thoughtful movie.” You can’t sum it up any better than that. (Looking for music, not movies? I’ve found the soundtrack to be equally wonderful and certainly worth a listen.)

[4] It seems that mysteries are the theme of the week! Continuing the podcast kick I’ve been on, I started the ten-episode murder mystery series, “Deadly Manners,” on Tuesday; I’m only on the fourth chapter, but I already know I’ll be listening to the end. Taking inspiration from Clue, the podcast chronicles a dinner party at the home of the wealthy Billings family – a party that quickly takes a turn when one of the guests is found dead on the floor. With LeVar Burton narrating and Kristen Bell voicing Mrs. Billings (alongside several other stars), the line-up couldn’t be better, nor could their exaggerated, animated portrayals. I’m excited to see how the mystery wraps up – I have my predictions – but in the meantime, I’ll encourage you to listen to Episode One.

[5] January always ushers in a number of blog posts about resolutions and fresh starts. I love to read them, but I myself tend not to make long lists of goals. Rather, I choose a word that I hope will define the year ahead, and for 2018, I’ve decided on “aware.” That in mind, here’s a random assortment of links and pieces that have resonated with me as we kick off the new year:

  • I’ve long been a fan of Hannah’s writing; she captures small moments with such grace, and even her tweets read like poetry. You can then imagine how quick I was to sign up for her newsletter.
  • I’m in the process of clearing out my social media feeds, and it feels so good. It’s likely a cue I’ve taken from one of my new favorite sites, Reading My Tea Leaves. Erin’s dedication to clearing clutter and living simply is contagious.
  • Just after finishing The Hate U Give, Aneeqah’s thoughts ring truer than ever. As the YA community continues to advocate for diverse literature and representation, I think we’d do well to keep her thread in mind.
  • The theme for Rookie’s January issue is Utopia, introduced by Tavi in her monthly editor’s letter. It’s a powerful piece of writing, hitting on all of the right notes.
  • And finally, I’ve fallen into the archives of the blog 600 Acres, but I have no regrets. Like the best comfort dishes, Posie’s writing and recipes remind me of the shared power of cooking and baking.

And on that note, have a terrific Saturday.
Bella

Psst. I’m a fan of snow days as much as the next person (and I clearly love to write about them!), but these extreme temperatures can be dangerous. We need to discuss climate change at all levels, but in the meantime, please consider donating coats and other cold-weather clothing to your local shelters.

Currently: July 2017

Hi friends!

How are you? When I’m away from the blog for a little bit, I like to return with some sort of update, like a High Five or, like today, a Currently post! I’ve done them a few times over the past year or so, and I like that it presents the perfect opportunity to share all that’s brightened my world. What’s new on your end?

A Piece of Work Abbi JacobsonListening: “A Piece of Work” podcast | To kick things off, I’m loving the new podcast, “A Piece of Work.” A collaboration between actress Abbi Jacobson and the Museum of Modern Art, it explores and explains some of the most popular pieces of contemporary art, from Jackson Pollock drip paintings to Meret Oppenheim’s fur-covered teacup. Host Jacobson knows her stuff – she studied fine arts at MICA before hitting the comedy scene – and yet, her sense of humor and lineup of friendly and relatable guests make the podcast accessible to even those who know next to nothing about art. My favorite episode thus far has been Questlove’s reflection on slowing down and the use of monochromatic art to do so, but there’s still more to be heard: new episodes will continue to roll out on Monday and Wednesday over the next few weeks (but in the meantime, perhaps I should check out Broad City for myself!).

Love, Hate, and Other FiltersReading: Love, Hate, and Other Filters | My recent nights have been booked with work, rehearsals, or outings with friends, so I’ve been using my afternoons, quieter in comparison, to make a sizeable dent in my reading pile. I have reviews planned for several of these novels – thank goodness that the summertime allows for so much reading and writing – but given that Samira Ahmed’s debut Love, Hate, and Other Filters doesn’t hit shelves until January, I think it deserves a small shout-out now. The protagonist Maya is as realistically drawn as they come; the romances are sweet and well-explored, and Ahmed doesn’t back down from writing about the Islamophobia that hurts so many families today. Needless to say, if this book is any indication, 2018 is looking bright in the YA publishing world (and a HUGE thank you to Emily and Tamara, who both organized the ARC tour!).

Smitten Kitchen Zucchini BreadEating: Zucchini Bread | I’ve said it before here on Ciao Bella, but my baking habits are largely shaped by what fruits and vegetables are in season, and with a farmer’s market right down my street, picking up fresh ingredients to use is a breeze. A summer favorite? Zucchini! Smitten Kitchen’s recipe for zucchini bread couldn’t be any easier to whip up, and it makes the perfect breakfast treat or afternoon snack. Feel free to have it twice in a day – your secret will be safe with me.

The Beautiful FantasticWatching: The Beautiful Fantastic | It isn’t summer vacation without a slew of movie nights, and thankfully, this past month has been full of them. While I’ve enjoyed them all, my favorite of the bunch thus far is a film I imagine few have heard about: The Beautiful Fantastic, a charming British comedy that employs the talents of Jessica Brown Findlay, Andrew Scott, and Tom Wilkinson. Described as “a contemporary fairy tale,” it follows the friendship that blossoms between the main character Bella and her elderly, rich neighbor as she tends to her overgrown garden. It’s heavy on the twee, quirky, and whimsical, but with a stellar cast and shots of gorgeous gardens, who’s to say that’s a bad thing?

Trinity Rep Shakespeare en El VeranoGoing: Trinity Rep’s Shakespeare en El Verano | One of the best parts about attending Brown next year, in my book anyways, is the city: Providence is bursting with plenty of fun restaurants, stores, and cultural events! Case in point? Trinity Rep’s Shakespeare en El Verano, a summer-long series that takes a cue from The Public’s Shakespeare in the Park by presenting free performances of Romeo and Juliet across Rhode Island; it furthers the mission of accessibility by blending Spanish into the actors’ dialogue. I saw a recent performance at Waterfire and left thoroughly impressed with the use of the space and diction to tell the story we all know well. It has me excited to return for Trinity Rep’s 2017-18 season – those student discounts will come in handy :)

Girls at LibraryLoving: Girls at Library | Though they’ve been active since 2015, it was only just recently that I stumbled upon the website Girls at Library, an online journal devoted to celebrating the power of literature. I was quickly drawn in by the stunning, minimalistic design, but stayed when I read more into their aim: “[promoting] reading as a constructive and enriching act for everyone,” a goal they complete by interviewing a wide range of readers, from a fashion designer to a singer and songwriter, for their book recommendations. There’s no better combination than stunning photography, candid articles, and women who like to read, if you ask me.

Natasha, Pierrem and The Great Comet of 1812Excited for: Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812 | Finally, I can’t wait for the coming weekend, as my mom, sister, and I have tickets to see Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812! The show has been praised by audiences and critics alike, and for good reason: Dave Malloy’s score takes inspiration from War and Peace to create a unique musical experience of love and growing old (the cast’s lively and energetic performance at the Tony’s provides quite the glimpse). I’ve had the cast recording on repeat all week, to the point that you might say I’m a tad obsessed, but then again, can you blame me? Saturday couldn’t come soon enough.

Wishing you all a wonderful day!
B

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