1970’s Whole Wheat Banana Bread

cooling bread in pan for 5 minutes

I became a vegetarian during college in the early 1970’s.  When I moved to Tokyo six years later, I gave up this proclaimed role, because of my need to be open to all foods proffered by my Japanese hosts.

While abstaining from meat and fish, I searched for healthy alternatives in an array of natural food cook books.  There I found treasured recipes which I still use today; one was for this powerfully good, whole wheat banana bread.

Bananas have a long history.  Alexander the Great discovered them growing in the Indus Valley in 327 B.C.; they had been cultivated, however, in India since 2000 B.C.  Documentation dated in the 7th century shows that China was using them in abundance also.1

Portuguese explorers reported this same fruit in western Africa in 1482, where it probably had been grown for a long time; these Europeans adopted its local name Musa sapientum, which was originally given this fruit by Alexander the Great.  In 1496, Spanish conquerors found an intense cultivation of bananas in Tenerife in the Canary Islands.2

Nevertheless, the United States didn’t experience this tropical fruit until 1804, and then only in a limited way for the next 50 years; this delectable was imported infrequently, in such relatively small quantities as 300 stems, by sailing ships coming from the Caribbean or Central American ports.3

In 1830, during this early inactive period, Capt. John Pearsall brought the first full cargo of bananas, 1500 stems, to New York.  This man later became a N.Y. commission agent, specializing in the import of this prized fruit.  In the mid-nineteenth century, he went bankrupt when his shipment of 3,000 stems arrived too ripe to sell; big money was tied up in each of these loads, for then a “finger” sold at the exorbitant price of 25 cents wholesale.4   This was at a time when factory workers, consisting of women and children, were making between 25-50 cents per day.5

More and more cargoes from Honduras and Costa Rica were reaching New Orleans, New York, and Boston during the two decades before 1870, the year when large-scale banana traffic really began.  As the 70’s opened, the now more abundant bananas were sold, foil-wrapped, at a fair in Philadelphia for 10 cents a stem; it was the first time many of these fair goers had ever indulged in this delight.6

By 1885, 10,000 stem cargoes were being shipped from Jamaica in 10 to 12 days. Next, just prior to the turn of the century, this exotic fruit spread to inland America by rail express.7

Now, however, bananas are common and cheap; every American has experienced them, along with their familiar sweetbread.  This 45-year-old banana bread recipe is one of the best among thousands.  Here I have included grams, as someone recently requested that most accurate of measurements for my baking receipts; measuring in grams insures foolproof baking.   Nevertheless I can’t express how easy and certain this preparation is, even with cup measurements, for I could make it with my eyes closed.  Receive!

  1. James Trager, The Food Chronology (New York: Henry Holt and Company, Inc., 1995), pp. 18, 9, 41.
  2. Ibid., pp. 78, 18, 81.
  3. Ibid., p. 196.
  4. Ibid., pp. 217, 234.
  5. Stanley Lebergott, Chapter: Wage Trends, 1800-1900, The Conference on Research in Income and Wealth, The Trends in American Economy in the Nineteenth Century (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1960), pp. 449-500.
  6. James Trager, The Food Chronology (New York: Henry Holt and Company, Inc., 1995), pp. 283, 301.
  7. Ibid., pp. 320, 360.

wheat grinding attachment on a kitchen aid

Whole Wheat Banana Bread  Yields 1 loaf.  Total prep time: 1 hr & 25 min/  active prep time: 25 min/  baking time: 1 hr.

1 cup (136 grams) whole wheat flour  (Bob’s Red Mill is high quality.)

1/2 cup (64 grams) unbleached white flour  (May grind 1 cup organic, hard red spring wheat berries to make total 1 1/2 cups-204 grams-flour.)

1/4 cup (60 grams) cream* or milk, soured with juice from lemon ball

1/2 cup (113 grams) butter, softened

3/4 cup (165 grams) brown sugar, packed  (Organic brown sugar is preferable, which is available at Trader Joe’s, or may substitute a healthier 3/4 cup-95 grams-coconut sugar.)

1 large egg (51 grams)

1 tsp (7 grams) baking soda

3/4 tsp (4.26 grams) salt  (Real Salt is important for optimum health; available in health section of local supermarket.)

2 large or 3 small ripe bananas (375 grams), 1 1/4 cup  (May ripen these overnight by gently, but firmly, squeezing the whole banana, until meat is mushy under the skin; let sit at least 8 hours.)

1 tsp (4.2 grams) vanilla

1/2 cup (62 grams) nuts, optional

Spray oil  (Pam coconut spray is best; our local Winco brand, however, makes this preferred spray for less than half the expense.)

Flour for dusting sprayed pan

  1. If using fresh ground flour, begin grinding 1 cup hard red spring wheat berries now (this berry makes a dense nutritious bread, which is extremely high in protein-one serving has the protein of an egg or 7 grams), see photo.
  2. Measure cream* or milk in a medium/large bowl; squeeze several squirts of lemon juice from a ball over surface; let sit until soured, about 10 minutes.
  3. Beat butter in a large bowl until light and fluffy; mix in sugar thoroughly; add egg, beating extra well; set aside.
  4. In a medium/ large bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside.
  5. When cream/milk is soured (cream will appear curdled more than milk), add bananas to bowl and mash well with a fork; blend in vanilla; set aside.
  6. Add alternately flour and banana mixtures to butter mixture.  When all is incorporated, mix in optional nuts.  Beat well.
  7. Spray a 9 x 5, or 8 x 4, inch loaf pan; lightly dust with flour; pour batter in prepared pan.  (This bread will be denser when made in the smaller pan.)
  8. Bake for 55-60 minutes, or until bread responds, bounces back, when pressed with finger.  May also test with a toothpick; it is done when toothpick comes out, of soft area in crust, clean.  Do not over bake.
  9. Cool in pan for 5 minutes; then, remove and finish cooling on rack; see top photo.  Keeps well in refrigerator, wrapped in paper towel, and sealed in gallon size storage bag.
  10. This is a staple in my home!

Curried Chicken/Cheese Ball

curry/chicken/cheese ball

curried chicken/cheese ball

My mother’s best friend, in our small Rocky Mountain village, became my treasured ally. She and her husband moved to East Glacier Park, when he retired as a screenplay writer.  Talbot Jennings was so famous that a prominent New York City television station featured his movies, such as The King and I, for a whole week, before he died.

This illustrious couple traveled the world during the production of these films; thus, Betsy schooled me in her prodigious cosmopolitan ways.  I thoroughly enjoyed sitting under her tutelage, as she prepared me for the lions at Trafalgar Square and exceeding more, prior to my moving to London.  I believe she was even more excited than I, about my valiant relocation to Tokyo half a decade later.

The voluminous New York Times brought the vast outside world to Betsy every weekend.  She was forever clipping articles to prepare me for my numerous sojourns.

With this same spirit, starting in 1982, she helped me to grow as a historical caterer.  My creative mentor was always sending me gifts, which she ordered from the New York Times.  Ingenious gadgets were among a wide array of superlative food items.  Many of these imaginative tools still grace my kitchen today.

While I was doing my early work in Billings, Montana, I journeyed to my hometown each year, where I catered multiple theme dinners per visit. The eight-hour drive across the wide expanse of the Big Sky Country thrilled my tender soul. How I delighted in approaching the backdrop of my beloved mountains, as I gazed across those colossal open prairies.

Once there, I spent many hours drinking in wisdom at Betsy’s feet.  During one of these relished trips, she offered this  delectable cheese ball to me.  I was enamored with it then and still am today.  Then it was a frequent hors d’oeuvre at my gala catered events;  today it is still my constant contribution to every holiday meal, at which I am a guest.

May you make this blessed appetizer a family tradition as well!

Curried Chicken/Cheese Ball  Yields: 2 ½ cups.  Total prep time: 1 hr/ active prep time: 30 minutes/ inactive prep time: 30 min.  Note: you may make this a day ahead.

8 oz cream cheese, softened

1 cup raw whole almonds, chopped in a food processor  (May use slivered almonds and chop with a sharp knife.)

½ cup unsweetened coconut, finely grated  (Available in bulk, at Winco and other stores.)

2 tbsp mayonnaise  (Best Foods excels all other mayonnaise.)

2-3 tbsp Major Grey’s Mango Chutney  (Choose 3 tbsp if you want a full-bodied sweetness.)

1 tbsp curry powder, or to taste

½ tsp salt  (Real Salt is important; available in health section of local supermarket.)

1 chicken breast or 4 frozen tenderloins  (Natural chicken is best; Trader Joe’s works well for quality and cost.)

1-9 oz box Original Wheat Thins

  1. If you are using frozen tenderloins, thaw in cool water.  Cook chicken in salted boiling water. When center is just faintly pink, after inserting a knife, remove chicken from water and cool in refrigerator.
  2. Chop almonds in a food processor, by repeatedly pressing the pulse button. Pulse until nuts are in small chunks.  Some finely ground almond “dust” will be present; you will use this as well.  There will also be some big chunks; cut them, by hand, with a sharp knife.  Set aside.
  3. Mix all the above ingredients except the chicken.  Note: it works best to insert a regular teaspoon in the narrow jar of Major Grey’s Mango Chutney, when measuring it.  Be sure to use well-rounded teaspoons, as each approximates a tablespoon, for which the recipe calls.
  4. Leave this cream cheese mixture out at room temperature, while waiting for the chicken to cool.  When meat is cool, cut it into small pieces. Mix chicken into cream cheese gently, as not to shred it.
  5. Criss-cross two large pieces of plastic wrap.  Place chicken ball in the center of wrap.  Surround ball with this plastic covering.  Refrigerate on a small plate.
  6. Soften ball at room temperature for two hours before serving, to facilitate the spreading.
  7. Surround with crackers on a decorative serving plate.
  8. This is a winner!

A Baker’s Dozen of Health Tips

I taught a cooking class to the women in my church recently. The focus was on how to eat healthy.  Here is a recipe for sprouting pumpkin seeds along with lively tips from my class.

Sprouting explodes powerful nutrients and unlocks enzymes to greatly aid digestion and bring optimal health. Buying sprouted seeds of any kind is very expensive.  Below is a recipe for doing it ourselves cheaply.  This same process may be used to sprout any seed and the grain quinoa as well. Now for my health-giving advice:

  1. Enjoy food! God created us to have pleasures at his right hand. It’s important not to deny this! I almost always invite Jesus, my King, to sup with me when I begin a meal.  I let him in.  Eating is a holy exercise.  (Revelation 3:20:  “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock:  If any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.”) Let us invite Jesus, our Redeemer, into our hearts at mealtimes.
  2. Eat multiple, small meals-4 to 5 per day ranging from about 200 to 600 calories each.
  3. Eat foods that please the palate. Make sure they are healthy choices, with lots of variety, and are small portions.
  4. When weight increases suddenly, such as after the holidays, let us be very observant of reducing the quantity (not quality) of our food. Cut back on the special treats, but don’t avoid them totally. Just be more aware of how often we eat them and how much we eat at a time. Let us be patient in letting the weight adjust itself when we are faithful.
  5. Count protein intake for the day. (I was border-line anemic several physicals ago; I wasn’t getting enough protein and very little meat in my diet. Now I am careful about watching both protein and iron consumption.)
  6. Tip for helping our bodies absorb iron: Have a small amount of vitamin C when eating foods high in iron.  Examples are citrus fruits,  fresh squeezed lemon water, tomatoes, strawberries, kiwi, melon, dark greens, broccoli, etc. Choose foods high in iron daily: Include meat in our diets (beef is the best choice, chicken is also very good.) Use spinach. However lots of raw spinach isn’t good. Balance raw spinach with cooked spinach and other dark green leafy vegetables..
  7. High quality salt and electrolytes are so important. A proper balance of these will bring stability to our emotions as well as doing good things for our physical bodies. Use Real Salt, available in the health food section at our local supermarkets. Himalayan salt is also very good, but more expensive. Good salt has a pink color to it; while white salt, including white sea salt, is stripped of necessary, health-giving minerals.
  8. Supplements such as vitamin D and calcium, etc. are very important. It is hard to get the full quantity you need of these in food. Ask your health care provider what you should be taking for YOUR body. Much to my surprise, I discovered supplementing calcium damages my particular physical make-up!
  9. Quinoa is a power food with all the amino acids in it (only eggs and quinoa have these.) Sprouting amplifies its food value. Use it in salads; add it to soups, meatloaf, and casseroles. It is extremely high in protein, but low in carbohydrates and calories.
  10. Spray vegetables and fruits with 97 % distilled white vinegar, mixed with 3% hydrogen peroxide. Let sit 3 minutes. Rinse WELL. This kills parasites and cleans produce.
  11. Start day with eating about 6-7 dried prunes to bring regularity to your bowels. (Prunes with sorbate are fine. It is a natural preservative aiding color and softness of fruit.) 
  12. A miracle happened to me. A seed of God was planted and grew without my efforts: I used to weigh 226 lbs. At this time I used tons of salad dressing. I watched a close friend use dressing sparingly. OVER TIME I began to prefer just a little salad dressing with lots of greens. I first enjoy the plain greens, saving the rich blessing of the dressed salad for last. I DO NOT LIKE the cloying heaviness of too much salad dressing now! I didn’t do this. God did!
  13. Sprouted Pumpkin Seeds May use other seeds or quinoa. (Yields: about 2 cups.)
    1. Cover 2 cups of raw pumpkin seeds with water in a special sprouting container, or a quart-size bowl.
    2. Let sit for two days, changing water frequently (at least every 8 hours.) Seeds will not sprout tails, but the enzymes will be alive in them anyway.

    IMPORTANT NOTE: When sprouting quinoa, drain well after sprouting, then refrigerate.  This is all that is needed for sprouting quinoa.

    1. With pumpkin seeds, drain well and spread out evenly on a cookie sheet. Salt generously. Real Salt is best (this is available in the nutrition center of your local supermarket.)
    2. Dehydrate in a dehydrater, or a conventional oven at a low setting of about 175 degrees.
    3. Check after two hours, if using a conventional oven. Continue drying process, checking every half hour, until seeds are dry. Remove from oven when seeds are crunchy.

    6. Cool and store in an air-tight container. Refrigerate.