My mom is a grocery store hacker. She doesn't really like cooking, but she comes up with (I think) really funny methods for getting the job done. Part of this includes discovering all of these delicious prepared foods at the deli counter, including a legendary stuffed salmon from Stop and Shop that Candice and I still crave from time-to-time. Then there was her spaghetti sauce; I remember her telling me that she would buy a bottle of Prego, pour it into a sauce pan to warm up, and would bury the empty bottle in the recycling bin, tricking my dad into thinking she had this amazing secret recipe. She also regularly followed recipes on the back of Campbell's tomato soup cans, a sometimes forgotten resource for awesome recipes that have been tested to perfection so really it was a great plan. When we were little, she would also always redeem Omaha Steaks coupons for discounted, amazing meat variety packs that included the greatest steaks, hot dogs and garlic mashed potatoes.
My mom also taught me a few amazing lessons about food. Here are a few of her career highlights: always have a bag of potatoes cause when you're really hungry and you feel like there's nothing to eat in your house, BAM, you can have a baked potato. People who make grilled cheese sandwiches with no butter are fools and there should pretty much be a law that PBJ needs to be on white bread only. When in doubt, add some mayonnaise. Baking cookies should follow a rule of thirds-- eat 1/3 of the dough cause you know you want to, eat 1/3 of the cookies RIGHT when you take them out of the oven, and eat 1/3 the next day once they've cooled. Always have a stash of ice cream.
There are a few famous dishes in my mom's repertoire. Her beef stew, for example, is legendary among me and my sisters because my mom's recipe is practically her catch phrase-- "oh, it's so easy! 1 chopped potato, a handful of baby carrots, some chunks of beef, a can of onion soup and a can of tomato soup. Put it in the oven and bake for an hour at 350!" One day when I write my mom into my hilarious TV pilot about growing up in a zany single-parent home and it gets picked up by FOX, the promo will be a supercut of my mom saying "bake for an hour at 350!"
My mom's banana bread is also famous among me and my siblings. Why? Another one of my mom's cooking tips is, when baking, always add way more chocolate than the recipe calls for. And another mix-in can't hurt. My mom's banana bread batter more closely resembles a Coldstone GOTTA HAVE IT, filled with tasty morsels, than most other moms' banana bread batters. Because her banana bread recipe is 90% chocolate, bananas, and walnuts and only 10% of the stuff that holds banana bread together, actually baking the "bread" was practically useless. Never one for heroics, she'd simply underbake it; the oven was mostly just an instrument for melting the chocolate-- and it was awesome. My mom's banana bread was never tipped out of the bread pan, but instead was eaten with a spoon by my and my sisters straight from it.
As for my own banana bread, I'd read a tip (and, d'oh! I can't remember where I saw this. If anybody else read this article, please forward!) that the trick to any quick bread is that the 3 key ingredients (flour, sugar and oil) should be added in a 3:2:1 ratio. I also definitely recommend using oil over butter. It might be very '50s housewife of me, but it keeps the cake so moist! I've yet to master my mom's technique, but this recipe serves me well. My mom's stamp is definitely there, though. Lots of chocolate and-- you guessed it-- bake for an hour at 350! Now, get to baking before it gets too hot to use your oven.
Chocolate Banana Bread
3 or 4 very ripe bananas 1/2 cup vegetable oil 1 egg Pinch of salt 1 cup sugar (can be reduced to 3/4 if you're using a ton of chocolate, like me!) 1 tsp vanilla 1 tsp baking soda 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour 3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips (or, y'know, MORE)
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease bread pan and set aside. Peel bananas and place in mixing bowl. Mash with a fork. Once mashed, add oil and stir to combine.
2. Then add egg, salt, sugar, vanilla and baking soda and stir well to combine.
3. Last, add in flour and chocolate chips and stir JUST until incorporated. A few flour clusters here-or-there isn't terrible either. Really just limit yourself to 10-15 strokes and then put the spoon down!
4. Pour into bread pan (I use a 1 1/2 lb pan) and bake for 1 hour. When done, remove from oven and let cool before slicing and serving!