Mango-Banana Bread–A Perfect Post-Nap Treat

mango chunks
Mango chunks add tropical delight to a simple banana bread recipe

My parents aren’t natural storytellers (perhaps I should ask more often?) but every once in awhile a gem from their childhood pops up. Like this one story my mum recently told me: Ma remembers always waking up from her afternoon naps to the intoxicating aroma of freshly-baked-or-cooked something wafting in from the kitchen. To get her and her siblings to fall asleep with the least amount of fuss, Popo, her mother and my grandmother, would promise her and her siblings a treat when they woke up. The post-nap delights ranged from roti bakso (savory meat-filled buns) to kue mangkok (“cup”cakes), and all were delectable.

While Ma and my uncle and aunts wriggled restlessly in their beds anticipating what lay in wait for them when they woke up, I envision Popo (whom I only know from photos) hard at work in her tropical kitchen. As she rolled and flattened soft balls of dough, she’d occasionally wipe sweat from her brow with a hanky she stuffed into her bra strap. Taking a teaspoon in hand, she’d scoop a mixture of pork, candied winter melon, and green onions into the middle of each dough disc. Gently, she’d bring the dough edges together and wrap it up into a neat oval package as she listened for rogue sounds coming from the children’s bedroom.

When Ma and her siblings woke up in a couple of hours, the buns would be out of the oven and ready to be grabbed by little hands and devoured with squeals of delight.

All this I see in the sepia tones of my mind’s eye, imagining what my mom’s childhood was like and what Popo was like.

Inspired by this perfect anecdote, I decided to recreate this experience for my son with my own post-nap treat.

One Tuesday afternoon after Isaac goes down for his nap, I busy myself in the kitchen. I want to bake banana bread but I only had two bananas (three at first but one was so ripe it fell splat on the floor when I accidentally dropped it). Desperation incites innovation and digging around my kitchen, I discover two bright yellow mangoes, ripe and ready to eat, in my fridge.

Bananas and mangoes are both tropical, I convince myself, they’ll couple very well in a quick bread recipe!

mango
The easiest way to peel and chop a mango is to first slice off the flesh, skin and all, on either side of and as close as possible to the seed. Holding the skin-side down in one hand, cut a grid into the flesh without slicing through the skin. Then turn the skin inside out and pop the cubes off the skin.

As I prepare all the ingredients, I hear a squawk. My heart sinks, it’s been barely 30 minutes since Isaac went down! Sure enough, the little guy emerges from his room, his disheveled hair in a post-nap Mohawk. I panick for two seconds before realizing, wait, he can help me bake! All kids love to measure ingredients and mix batter don’t they?

Isaac has never really shown much interest in helping me in the kitchen and I’ve never forced him. But this time, I drag his stool into the kitchen and try and talk up the mother-and-son baking experience.

“This is going to be so much fun! You can measure the sugar, flour and butter, and mix everything together. Come help mommy in the kitchen.”

“I don’t want to. I want to watch TV!”

“But baking is so much fun! Don’t’ you want to help mommy?”

“I don’t want to! I want to watch TV!”

A few volleys back and forth ending with a promise of “Thomas the Tank Engine” later, Isaac steps up onto his stool. He starts by scooping sugar into the mixing bowl. Then he helps me add the butter and proceeds to “cream” the mixture with a wooden spoon. After two or three turns around the bowl, he declares, “I’m done!” He hops off the stool and goes off to play with his airplanes.

Isaac mixing
Isaac took some time out from the laborious task of creaming butter and sugar to smile, or rather grin, for the camera

Nothing I can say henceforth can cajole him back into the kitchen.

Feeling dejected, I finish mixing the batter and shove the loaf pan into the oven.

As I sit down to wait for the bread to bake, I realize how silly I was for getting frustrated. Did I really expect everything to go according plan? Hah, it was definitely wishful thinking on my part.

If there’s one important lesson to take away from raising a toddler, it’s that you should always expect the unexpected. It builds character and encourages a flexible outlook on life. And sometimes results in a new favorite recipe!

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Mango-Banana Bread

mango banana bread vertical

Simple and straightforward, the original banana bread recipe came to me on the back of a bag of flour many years ago when I was in college. It’s been my go-to recipe ever since. Over the years, I’ve mixed it up a little: varying the ratio of white to brown sugar, using a combo of all-purpose and whole wheat flour (I add some applesauce or yogurt to moisten it up), substituting butter for shortening, etc., etc. And the sweet smelling loaf—crusted in a shiny mahogany veneer–comes out lovely every time!

Time: 10 minutes prep, 50 minutes baking
Makes: 1 loaf

3/4 cup granulated raw sugar or brown sugar (I really like Wholesome Sweeteners brand)
1/3 cup butter, softened
2 eggs at room temperature
1-3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 very ripe honey (Altaufo) mango, peeled, seeded, chopped and mashed (about 1 cup)
2 large bananas, mashed

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9 x 5 x 3-inch loaf pan.

In a medium mixing bowl, cream the sugar and butter with a wooden spoon. Add the eggs and beat well.

Sift flour, baking powder and soda and salt and add to the creamed mixture. Stir in the mango and banana and mix until just blended. It will be lumpy but don’t fret.

Pour the batter into the greased pan and bake for 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Cool in the tin for about 10 minutes before turning the loaf onto a wire rack to cool completely before slicing (if you can wait!).

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Great Cookbooks for Holiday Gifts

Seven fabulous books to cater to everyone on your gift list!

We’ve all heard it before: It’s the thought that counts.

Yeah right.

I, for one, prefer not to give gifts just for the sake of giving. I actually do want to the person at the receiving end to like my gift. And during the holidays, this desire amps up the pressure to buy something special for each and everyone on my list.

Even as I’m slowly checking people off my list, I thought I’d make your life just a little bit easier. A group of writer friends and I decided to organize a virtual potluck featuring great cookbooks perfect for holiday gift-giving.

Whether you’re buying a Christmas gift for your sister-in-law or a hostess gift for your next holiday party, you’re sure to find a book beckoning to you in this lovely mix.  Be sure to scroll right to the bottom where you’ll find blurbs about each book; click on the blog links for a full post plus a recipe.

My contribution to the potluck is Chickpea Curry with Tomato and Mango from Roz Cummin’s blog. Roz is a food writer who focuses on sustainability, agriculture, fishing, and aquaculture, and has written for notable publications such as edibleBoston, Grist.org, and Culinate.com. She’s funny and articulate, and her stories (like her wonderful self) never fail to make me ponder, or laugh out loud. Her latest project promises to do both. Roz is working on a book charmingly titled: Golden Afternoons: The Official Handbook of the Society for the Preservation of Ladies’ Afternoon Tea. The book will include a contribution from me, so look out for it!

Apparently, Roz came up with this recipe while tearing down the aisles at her local Whole Foods trying to figure out what to cook for her vegan co-op and a new, I’m-allergic-to-everything member (I’ll let you read her entertaining tale for yourself). The dish is easy to make and a fabulous mélange of sweet, tart, and spicy. Even though I’m still working through my Christmas list, at least I know what I’m making the next time friends come over for dinner on a cold, wintry day.

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Chickpea Curry with Tomato and Mango
Recipe adapted from Roz Cummins

The combination of sweet-tart Meyer lemon juice and sweet, fresh mangoes makes for a delicious modern take on an Indian curry. (Psst, you can also use dried mangoes snipped into strips as Roz does in her original recipe.) The Meyer lemon is thought to be a cross between a true lemon and either a mandarin or the common orange, and is not as sour as a regular lemon. Its floral fragrance and sweetish juice make all the difference in this curry.

Time: 45 minutes
Serves: 4 to 6

1 tablespoon curry powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 cup canola oil
2 cups chopped yellow onion (approximately 2 medium onions)
1 tablespoon minced ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 (28 oz) cans fire roasted organic tomatoes (crushed or whole)
1 small ripe mango, chopped (I used an ataulfo mango but any kind will do)
2 (15 oz) can chickpeas, rinsed and strained
2 to 3 chili peppers (I used fresh Thai bird chilies and Roz use piri piri peppers from a jar, optional)
Salt to taste
Juice from 1 Meyer lemon or 1 tablespoon regular lemon juice
1 cup cilantro leaves, loosely packed

Warm the spices in a large pot over low heat until they become aromatic, about 1 to 2 minutes. They do not need to change color. Dump the spices onto a plate and wipe the pot clean with a damp paper towel.

Add the oil and heat over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Add the chopped onions, followed by the ginger and garlic. Cook until the onions are translucent and the ginger and garlic are fragrant. They do not need to brown.

Reduce the heat to medium and add the tomatoes. If you are using whole tomatoes, use a spoon to break them down. Toss in the mango. Cook for five minutes then add the spices.

Add the chickpeas followed by the chili peppers, if using.

Simmer the curry for about 30 minutes or until the chickpeas are slightly softened and completely warmed through.

Take the curry off the burner. Throw in the lemon juice and stir. Taste the curry. Now add a pinch of salt and taste again. Correct the seasoning with more salt if necessary.

When you serve the curry, throw some cilantro (see Pat’s note below) on top of each portion. Ask your guests to stir it into the curry. Serve with naan, paratha, or basmati rice.

Pat’s notes: A grandmother I cooked with once told me not to chop cilantro leaves as the leaves would turn brown. Pluck them or tear them instead.

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Presenting all the cookbooks in our potluck:

100 Perfect Pairings: Main Dishes to Enjoy with Wines You Love
By Jill Silverman Hough

Chock-full of delicious, creative, and easy-to-make recipes for everyday cooks, 100 Perfect Pairings makes food and wine pairing easy and approachable. With recipes organized into twelve chapters by wine variety, simply turn to the chapter for the wine you want to serve, make any of the entrees you find there, and enjoy it with your wine. It’s that easy. Be it Pinot Grigio or Pinot Noir, a big dinner party or a simple meal with friends, “100 Perfect Pairings” promises wonderful recipes that make every pairing, well, perfect!

Jill Silverman Hough is a cookbook author, food and wine writer, recipe developer, and culinary instructor whose forte is making food and cooking simple yet special.
On Jill’s blog:  Tortilla Soup from Almost Meatless

Almost Meatless: Recipes That Are Better for Your Health and the Planet
By Joy Manning & Tara Mataraza Desmond

Ideal for today’s conscientious carnivores, Almost Meatless is a timely new book featuring 60+ tasty recipes that go light on the meat.  Without compromising flavor or protein, these dishes maximize health benefits while minimizing the grocery bill and impact on the planet.

Tara Mataraza Desmond is a writer, cookbook author and recipe developer focused on food for health and wellness, pregnancy and parenthood.
On Tara’s blog: Yogurt Chicken with Yogurt Chutney Sauce from 100 Perfect Pairings

Brewed Awakening

By Joshua M. Bernstein

Brewed Awakening is Joshua M. Bernstein’s definitive take on the craft beer revolution. The book is the deeply reported story of the wild innovations and passions driving craft beer, focusing on the tales of the risk-taking brewers, bar owners and the dedicated beer drinkers across the globe. There’s a story in every pint glass, and Brewed Awakening gives voice to each one.

Josh Bernstein is a Brooklyn-based beer, spirits, food, travel and bicycling (phew!) journalist, as well as an occasional tour guide.
On Josh’s blog: The Jucy Lucy Burger from The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches

The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches
By Susan Russo

How do you keep a Dagwood from toppling over? How did the Hero get its name? And who invented the French Dip? Discover these answers and more in The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches—a chunky little cookbook dedicated to everything between sliced bread. You’ll find recipes for every sandwich imaginable along with fascinating regional and historical trivia. From the humble Sloppy Joe to the chic Nutella sandwich, from the iconic Po ‘Boy to the fresh-faced donut sandwich, The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches will satiate sandwich connoisseurs everywhere.

Susan Russo is a San Diego-based cookbook author, blogger (Food Blogga), and freelance writer specializing in food and lifestyle.
On Susan’s blog: Highlights from Brewed Awakening

The I Love Trader Joe’s College Cookbook
By Andrea Lynn

The ultimate one-stop shopping guide, The I Love Trader Joe’s College Cookbook finally offers starving college students a welcome relief from fast food fiascos. Designed to help shoppers recognize the best finds and reap the fruits of Trader Joe’s smart buyers, many recipes utilize TJ’s signature products to create unique meals like olive focaccia, frito pie, pulled-pork sliders, and fish tacos, among other things.

Andrea Lynn is a NYC-based food writer and recipe developer who has tasted almost every product Trader Joe’s has to offer.
On Andrea’s blog: Ravioli Lasagna and Baked Macaroni with Ricotta, Spinach and Mint from Parents Need to Eat Too

Parents Need to Eat Too: Nap-Friendly Recipes, One-Handed Meals & Time-Saving Kitchen Tricks for New Parents
By Debbie Koenig

Give a new parent the gift of sanity! Parents Need to Eat Too makes it easy for new moms and dads to take care of themselves as well as they’re caring for baby. Every recipe has been tested by a group of more than 100 moms, and every recipe also includes instructions for turning that dish into baby food. The book goes on sale in February, but author Debbie Koenig has created a special holiday offer, available now: She’ll send a free signed, custom-made bookplate and holiday card to anyone who pre-orders the book as a gift.

Debbie Koenig is a Brooklyn-based food and parenting writer and blogs at Words to Eat By.
On Debbie’s blog: Olive Focaccia from The I Love Trader Joe’s College Cookbook

Golden Afternoons: The Official Handbook of the Society for the Preservation of Ladies’ Afternoon Tea
By Roz Cummins

Roz Cummins is a Boston-based food writer who specializes in sustainability. She also loves tea and baking. She has worked as an editor, a teacher, and an arts administrator. She is currently working on a book called Golden Afternoons: The Official Handbook of the Society for the Preservation of Ladies’ Afternoon Tea.

On Roz’s blog: Steamed Meatballs with Tangerine Peel from The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook