>Week of Loaves: Apple Banana Bread

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In two days it’s December. Already, since last Friday, the “holiday push” has begun. I hope that you sincerely think about what’s important to you this time of year, and that anything that doesn’t make the list doesn’t bother you. 
If you like to show love through food, but time is not always on your side, loaves are great to make ahead and have on hand. They freeze well, travel well, and make great gifts. You can bake small loaves or enormous loaves, and they’re pretty adaptable. 
An innie loaf
This week, I’ll be blogging about a new loaf recipe every day. Please share your favorites with me, too! 
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Tips for Gifting Loaves
To make smaller or larger loaves than a recipe indicates, consult this handy chart to consider various pan’s volumes. Change the baking time as needed, paying attention to how a loaf should look when it’s done. (Many will be done when “a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean”.)
To store loaves for freezing, let them cool completely! This is very important, because if you wrap them up while any heat is left in them, the heat will be trapped and turn to moisture on the inside of the wrapping, making your product soggy. Once cool, wrap the loaf well in several layers of plastic wrap or foil. If you use foil, you might want to consider putting the loaf in a plastic freezer bag, to ensure that no air can get it and give your loaf freezer burn.

To thaw, remove from the freezer and let thaw at room temperature for several hours. If you will be mailing loaves, try to put them in the box straight from the freezer.
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Today’s loaf is a moist apple banana bread which has apples two ways. If you like cooked apples, I recommend cooking up slices in the oven on a baking sheet (350˚, til soft, about 35 minutes) and keeping the cooked slices in the fridge to dice up and add to things * last-minute. I just used 8 slices from my stash (since I had originally sliced each apple into 8) for this recipe, but I’ll give alternate directions below.
Apple Banana Bread
adapted from The Bon Appetit Cookbook, edited by Barbara Fairchild, p. 493
1 medium apple, cut into 8 slices, cored (peeled if you want) and diced
3 cups whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup ground almonds
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3 cups sugar
3/4 cup butter (1 1/2 sticks), room temperature
1/4 cup apple butter
1 tablespoon vanilla
4 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup buttermilk
3 cups mashed ripe bananas
Spray a skillet with cooking spray and heat over medium-high heat. Add the diced apple and cook, stirring frequently, until the apple is soft. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350˚/180˚. Grease two large (9″x5″x3″) metal loaf pans.
In a bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, salt, ground almonds, and spices, until thouroughly combined.
In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to cream together the sugar and butter until creamy, about 5 minutes. Scrape the bowl and beater with a spatula, then stir in the apple butter and vanilla. Beat in the eggs, scraping well after each one. Mix in half the flour mixture, then half the buttermilk, then the remaining portions of each, then scrape again. Stir in the mashed bananas and cooked diced apples. 
Scrape the batter evenly into the two prepared pans. Bake for about 1 hour, or until a wooden skewer stuck in the middle comes out clean. Cook loaves completely in pans on a rack. Remove from pans and eat, or wrap up tightly.
Yummy for breakfast
*Oatmeal, muffins, warm up and smush for rustic applesauce, layering in parfaits.
Recommended accompaniment: French-press coffee, however you take it
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>Pumpkin Time!

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What I made yesterday: applesauce!
After I finish writing this, I’m going to pick up some glittery silver pipe cleaners for my costume. And I may make this candy corn fudge, if time allows. When the elementary school up the street let out today, all the kids went haphazardly parading by in their adorable costumes. Life is good today.
Here are two pumpkiny recipes I’ve made this week. Except for the honey, these are vegan. Either one would be good with the addition of pumpkin seeds as well.
Happy Halloween!

Pumpkin Molasses Granola 
The key to good granola, in my opinion, requires two things: a long cooking time to make the oats nice and toasty, and big chunks. Even if you aren’t a “big chunks” person, please try the long cooking time. You just may find that anemic, undercooked granola is a thing of your past. Hooray!
1/3 c oil
1/6 c honey
1/6 c molasses
1/2 c pumpkin puree
4 c oats
1/2 c slivered almonds
1/2 c chopped pecans
1/2 c wheat germ
1/4 t each: cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cloves, and cardamom

Preheat the oven to 300˚. Grease a large jelly roll pan, or line it with parchment paper.
Measure oil into a medium bowl. In the same 1/3 c measuring cup, fill it halfway with the honey, then top it off with the molasses. (The oil left in the cup allows the viscous ingredients to slide right out.) Whisk in the pumpkin until smooth
In a separate bowl mix together the dry ingredients. Pour the oil mixture over and stir to combine well. (Clean hands are the perfect mixing tools for this.) Spread evenly on the prepared sheet, and bake in the middle of the oven for 30 minutes. If you like big chunks of granola, use a spatula to carefully turn it over. If you like “crumblier” granola, stir it up well with a spatula. Return it to the oven and bake for 15 more minutes. 
Let it cool completely. If desired, stir in the dried cranberries. Put in an airtight container. Makes about 6 cups. 

Pumpkin Pasta Salad
If Waldo had spatula, it would totally be this one.
1 lb penne or ziti pasta
salt
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 c prepared salsa
2/3 c pumpkin puree
1 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 t cumin
1/2 t black pepper
1/4 c olive oil
1/2 c apple cider vinegar
1/2 c halved and thinly sliced carrots
Bring a large pot of water, with the garlic and a generous portion of salt added, to a boil. (It should taste as salty as sea water.) 
While the water is heating, combine all the other ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. 
Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook according to package directions until cooked but still slightly firm. Reserve about 1/2 cup of the cooking water. Drain the pasta and add it to the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Taste and add more salt, pepper, vinegar, or whatever else, as needed. 
To make this a little more rich, you could let it cool slightly and then add some salty  crumbled cheese like Cotija, or some shaved Parmesan. You could also take this in a sweet-salty direction by added some raisins. 
Makes a big bowlful. Serve warm, cold, or at room temperature. Keeps well in the fridge. Great for potlucks.