I can't take all of the credit for this banana bread recipe. My ex-brother-in-law shared this recipe with me and I doctored it up by adding some walnuts, good quality vanilla extract, and of course, some of the best granola in the world.
Jamie's a pretty good cook and I enjoyed it when he'd bake something up. He'd routinely whip up a batch of "no-knead bread" from the New York Times - I think it's Mark Bittman's recipe. It's made in a cast-iron pan, with the lid on, which creates a nice steam-effect, which pastry chefs and bakers know, is essential to that ethereal and elusive crust that home cooks are always trying to recreate.
But, back the the banana bread - I made a batch this week using the bananas I received in my Door to Door Organics box.. I let them sit and get extra, extra brown. I hope you enjoy this recipe in your home as much as I enjoy it in mine.
1 c. granulated sugar
1/3 c. butter, softenened
1 generous Tb. vanilla extract
1/3 c. milk
1 1/2 c. smashed ripe bananas (about 3)
1 2/3 c. all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/3 c. chopped walnuts
Reserve this for the topping
1/4 c. chopped walnuts
1/3 c. Three Little Birds Granola
Preheat the oven to 35o degrees
Spray pan (or mini pans) liberally with cooking spray
Cream the butter and the sugar together until nicely creamed, light and fluffy
Stop the mixer and scrape the bowl well (be sure to get down to the bottom of the bowl)
Add the eggs and vanilla gradually, 1 egg at a time. Scrape between each addition.
Add the milk. Scrape well again.
Add the mashed banana, scrape well.
Dry blend the dry ingredients and add them in stages to the batter. Scrape the mixture well between additions.
Take the batter and place into pan or pans. Top with the reserved walnuts and granola.
Place in the oven.
Watch this carefully because the granola may tend to brown and then burn before the banana bread is baked all the way through. If you notice that's the case, reduce the oven temperature to 300 and allow the bread to take longer to bake.
The bread will be done when a toothpick inserted in the middle of the loaf comes out clean.
This will take at least 50 - 55 minutes.
Cool and serve.
Happy New Year! I hope you've had a wonderful holiday season. 2017 is here and I'm here to tell you that if you've been waiting for the "right time" to follow your dream of starting your own food business, THIS is your year!
Launching any type of business can be daunting; there's so much paperwork, little things to do, big things to do, logos and branding, and more paperwork. Launching a food business can be even more daunting because of the many necessary licenses and applications required to start a food truck, incubator kitchen, restaurant, bakery, or retail food product.
When I started Three Little Birds, my phone started ringing off the hook with friends and colleagues reaching out to ask me how I did it. They, too, were looking to start a food business of their own and just didn't know where to start - it seemed so confusing.
The sheer number of these calls gave me an idea - there should be a class that would teach people how to go about cooking up a successful food business of their own. I approached Schoolcraft College, known for their premier culinary arts program, and pitched the class. 4 years later, I'm excited to say, that several students have gone on to launch some very, very cool businesses right here in the State of Michigan.
If you're tired of holding off on pursuing your dream, if you're looking for a CLEAR path, coaching from someone who has first-hand experience in starting and running a PROFITABLE food business, REGISTER for this class today.
You'll receive 15 contact hours, comprehensive resource lists, mentoring/coaching and access to my network of Michigan chefs, makers and producers who are invested in your success because they, too, had help along the way.
I hope we'll see you in class next month!
The holiday season's in full-swing. Like you, there's lots of things still left on my to-do list, and I'll probably still be adding some last-minute items, right up until guests arrive. When I entertain, I like to keep things simple. There's just no reason to make things more complicated than they need to be! The recipe here is a great one to use year-round for a sweet and savory snack, or to garnish a soup or salad.
Wishing you and your family a happy, healthy and safe holiday season!
4 Tb. butter
½ c. maple syrup
1 ½ tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
3 1/3 c. pecans
Melt the butter with the syrup, salt and cayenne pepper in a pan over low heat. Add the pecans and stir to mix. Leave them on the heat for 3 minutes.
Spread onto a baking sheet that has been lined with parchment paper or a silicone mat, and bake at 300 until dry. Enjoy!
I've been thinking a lot about my grandpa and grandma lately. I've been struck by how so many things in life circle back around. My grandparents were farmers who moved here from the Georgia hills to find a better life and to provide for their ever-growing family of 10 kids.
My grandma was an excellent cook. My mom says that she never understood how lucky she was to have such beautifully, but simply prepared meals from her mom's tiny kitchen. My grandma would make fresh biscuits every morning, and my mom would often leave the house without one, which she now regrets! Who can remember a time when freshly baked biscuits were “the norm”? Apparently, they were such a staple in the Nichols household that skipping out on them was no big deal; after all, there would be a fresh batch tomorrow…
These incredibly flakey biscuits were almost "other-worldly". She cut them with a glass that she turned upside down, there were no "fancy culinary tools" at her disposal. And even though they were pretty poor, there was always an abundance of fresh produce. Her green beans were grown in her very own garden, and even though they were overcooked by any “chef’s” standard, but good lord, they were good. Calling it a “garden” seems an understatement. Grandpa & Grandma Nix used to farm almost every square inch of their lot in Farmington on Haynes Street.
Mom says it all seemed like simple food - that there couldn't be anything special about it, but as she grew up, she realized that this wasn't just any food. This was the food dreams are made of.
I remember everything about the way my grandmother cooked. She did so much with so little - the mark of an incredibly talented chef. My grandma never finished elementary school, she never owned a pair of pants, and she never learned to drive a car, but she was one of the greatest influences on my life. My love for food and cooking began at her table, and this is one of my favorite things she ever made - cornmeal gravy,
I hope this dish brings you as much happiness as it brings to me. That's what food, love and family are all about.
1 - 3Tb. bacon grease (use what you need)
2 1/4 cups milk (you might need an additional ¼ cup)
1/2 cup white cornmeal
Salt and Pepper, to taste
In a skillet, Add at least 1 Tb. of bacon grease and toast the cornmeal until golden brown. Wisk in the milk and boil. Make sure the gravy is thin enough too, because it will thicken slightly after it is cooked. Let boil for about 2 minutes (whisk it while it boils). Adjust the seasonings (you might like to add a pinch of cayenne, nutmeg or white pepper). Serve with handmade biscuits, hot from the oven and a fried egg and bacon.
Transitioning back to vegetarian/vegan has been much easier than I expected it to be. I assumed that I would really miss eating meat and dairy. To a certain degree, there are some things I miss, but the cravings aren't terrible, and if I "cave" at all, I fall off the wagon for a piece of really
good cheese, or a little bit of butter on a delicious piece of bread.
What's most interesting to me is how good I feel. I have a lot more energy, have felt much lighter and noticing other physical changes that make any thoughts of going back to meat or as much dairy as I used to eat seem very much "not worth it".
The other thing that I'm really enjoying about this is opening the pantry or the fridge and using my imagination to come up with some really delicious meals by using ingredients that might seem pretty boring. My pantry is filled with dried beans, rice, quinoa, couscous, vegetable broth, vinegars, various condiments and other miscellaneous items that may not seem very special at first glance. It's particularly nice to be able to pull something together without yet another trip to the grocery store (in coming posts, I'll provide a "vegetarian pantry" list for you to use).
My trips to the store now are short, very straightforward and very inexpensive - another plus!
I had a bag of frozen corn in the freezer, and I knew I wasn't going to be using the entire red bell pepper, so I decided to make a roasted corn salsa to garnish the soup with. In the summer, I would use fresh corn, of course, but in the winter, this makes much more sense. Just don't use canned corn.
You could certainly just add these extra ingredients into the soup, but using the corn salsa as a topping makes the soup feel more special and the vibrant colors are welcome on cold, grey, Michigan winter days.
Black Bean Soup with Roasted Corn Salsa
3 Tb. canola oil
4 c. black beans, soaked 8 hours or “quick soak”
1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 – 2 jalapenos (depending on how much heat you like to have in your recipe), diced
½ red bell pepper, small dice
2 Tb. cumin
1 Tb. chili powder
1 Tb. chipotle chili powder
6 – 8 c. vegetable stock
1 c. crushed canned tomatoes
juice of 1 lime
¼ c Street Eatzz Smoke Sauce
(optional: 1 Tb. brown sugar)
Season to taste with sea salt
¼ c. cilantro, chopped
Drain the beans and rinse them twice.
Heat a large stock pot over high heat. Add the oil and allow the oil to heat until it shimmers in the bottom of the pan.
When the oil is hot, add the onions and garlic and saute until they’re translucent. Add the red pepper and jalapeno peppers and cook until somewhat soft, stirring with a wooden spoon.
Add the spices, stir with the wooden spoon to combine the spices with the vegetables.
Take the stock, add about a cup of it to the pot, and stir with the wooden spoon, scraping up the “fond” off the bottom of the pan (don’t skip this step, that’s where all the flavor is!).
Add the rest of the stock, the beans, tomatoes, lime juice, and Smoke Sauce. Reduce the heat, simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the black beans are tender. This will take at least 40 minutes.
If you like the soup to have a “creamier” texture, take about 2 cups of the soup out of the pot and use an immersion blender to blend it. You may need to thin this with some vegetable stock. Add this puree back into the soup and stir to combine.
Adjust the seasoning with salt to taste. Stir in the cilantro. If you think it’s too spicy, you may want to add 1 Tb. of brown sugar.
Roasted Corn Salsa
1 (10 oz.) bag Earthbound Farms Organic Corn Kernels
¼ red bell pepper, diced
½ red onion, small dice
½ jalapeno pepper
1 – 2 Tb. cilantro
½ lime, juiced
Sea salt to taste
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Spray a half sheet pan with cooking spray.
Spread the corn kernels out onto the sheet pan and spray with some cooking spray. Roast them in the oven until nicely golden brown. Remove from the oven and set aside.
Combine the corn with all of the other ingredients and season with salt.
Set aside until the soup is finished. When the soup is done, top the soup with some of the corn salsa.
It's been too long! Caught up in the daily details of running TLB, it was hard to find the time to write the blog. In many ways, the business has changed - I no longer offer retail sales and my product is only available in wholesale food service now, which I understand has been a disappointment for many of you.
That being the case, it seemed incongruent to update the blog and Facebook page as if there were stories and experiences that someone would want to read about in that "social", conversational way. This made the blog seem like a self-indulgence, rather than a resource, which I always wanted it to be.
Recently, though, I've taken on a project, unrelated to TLB, but "foodie", nonetheless, that I decided I'd like to share with you, our food-loving friends. Many years ago, disenchanted with the daily grind of restaurant prep and execution of recipes I had been making and eating for years, I made the decision to go vegetarian. It was so exciting to learn how to cook all over again, without the benefit of simple, go-to flavor enhancers like butter, cream, BACON. A new world had opened up to this young culinarian and I was hooked.
After 3 years, I went vegan, just to make it a little more of a challenge - and to keep it interesting. At the time, I was working at Whole Foods Market as their Community Relations Specialist and found it was easy to be vegetarian or vegan because we were in an all-natural, vegan, special diet paradise, but I struggled when I left to accept a position with another company, and eventually went back to my omnivore ways.
As time passed, I remembered how good, whole and healthy I felt when I wasn't eating animal products, and after practicing yoga and receiving my RYT 200, I started to soak up all I could learn about Ayurveda. With this new information, I was inspired to adopt my vegetarian/vegan lifestyle again and am enjoying the art of cooking at home, which had become a very dull and unenjoyable task.
On Sunday, into my kitchen I went. The fridge was stocked with tons of fresh produce, the pantry filled with vegan friendly staples, and I watched Scandal on Netflix (I KNOW! - Guys, bear with me -THAT is my guiltiest indulgence right now). Instagramming as I went, some friends asked for recipes and I really don't have anywhere else to put them, so - we'll put them here.
I hope you'll overlook the "un-TLB-ness" of it all, and just enjoy the journey as I transition back to vegan, missing Haloumi cheese with every step. Don't hold me to any standards yet - I might cave, temporarily fall of the wagon and succumb to a Taco Tuesday, or something, but I'm giving it my best effort.
I hope you'll enjoy one of the recipes I created on Sunday. I made some adaptations from a recipe that was created by a friend of mine, Marna, who's an amazing chef in her own rite.
Quick plug for a product that appears in this recipe - Street Eatzz 313 Foodie Sauce and Street Eatzz Smoke Sauce. Check them out at http://streeteatzz.com/
Do yourself a favor and get some! And, don't attempt this recipe without the Smoke sauce - it just won't be the same. The "Smoke", as it's often referred to, rounds out the acidity and the spiciness of the curry. It really does pull the whole dish together.
Curried Lentils with Sweet Potatoes & Spinach.
1 sweet potato, medium dice
1 Tb. canola oil
1 Tb. garlic, minced
3 Tb. canola oil
1 Tb. fresh ginger, grated
1 onion, small dice
2 Tb. curry powder
2 Tb. garam Masala
1 qt. vegetable stock
2 c. French Green Lentils
1 bay leaf
½ c. fresh salsa, drained
5 oz. baby spinach
¼ c. Street Eatzz Smoke Sauce
1 Tb. apple cider vinegar
sea salt to taste
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Spray a half sheet pan with cooking spray.
Toss the sweet potatoes with 1 Tb. of canola oil and place the cubed sweet potatoes on the sheet tray. Roast until caramelized, stirring occasionally. When the potatoes are finished roasting, remove them from the oven and set aside.
While the potatoes are in the oven, heat a large saucepan and add the oil and heat until the oil shimmers. Saute the garlic, ginger, and onion. Remove from the pan and set aside.
Return the pan to the heat and deglaze the pan with some of the vegetable stock. Use a wooden spoon to release the fond from the bottom of the pan (that’s where the flavor is!). Use a whisk to incorporate the curry powder, and garam masala and then add the rest of the stock.
Add the lentils and the bay leaf and bring to a boil.
Once the lentils and stock come to a boil, reduce the heat to medium/medium-low and cover with a tight-fitting lid. Cook until the stock has been absorbed into the lentils and the lentils are plump, about 20 minutes.
Remove from the stove and place the lentils in a large mixing bowl. Remove the bay leaf.
Use this saucepan to wilt the spinach: spray the bottom of the pan with cooking spray. Return to the stove and add the spinach. Wilt. Remove from the pan and set aside.
Combine the lentils with the Street Eatzz Smoke Sauce and apple cider vinegar. Add the sweet potatoes, onion and garlic mixture, spinach, salsa. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt.
This dish can be enjoyed by itself or you can serve it with basmati rice.
Spoiler alert: owning your own business is hard.
Don't misunderstand - I wouldn't trade it for the world. I'm absolutely in love with my life. But if you're under the impression that entrepreneurs are spending their afternoons at the nail salon or on the golfcourse, sipping cosmos or smoking cigars, without a care in the world, you're mistaken.
Things move slowly, almost at a snail's pace. I think that if there's any real struggle, it's that. For a chef, someone who's used to working at break-neck speed, moving rhythmically through your days and nights in a professional kitchen, dancing around several other cooks, sharing tight spaces and making the most of every. single. second. - this new life of paperwork-filing, on-hold-waiting, business-owning is a slow state of affairs.
You spend a lot of time waiting for a lof of other people to do things that you need for them to do so that you can take the next step in your process. And, the most interesting part - they're not, and most likely have never been, chefs. You find almost immediately that you see the world in very, very different ways and your sense of urgency is often not only unappreciated, but often misunderstood. Here's another spoiler: when you're a chef, dealing with non-chefs, be careful - lots of people will think your sense of urgency is sort of off-putting (read "rude") and sense of humor is not funny.
I'm in a very unique position because I'm a chef who no longer makes my product. I have a top-notch copacker who produces my product for me. So, I'm like a racehorse with no race to run. Imagine me, with all of that pent-up energy and drive and NOWHERE to go, just hanging out in my stall, READY to RUN, but most of the time, I WAIT.
Things go wrong, that's your third spoiler. But, that's OK, because I grew up in a family of entrepreneurs, so I was ready for that one. Things go wrong, horribly wrong, but you just have to shake it off, and keep going. Or in my case, shake it off, wait, and then hope that I'll get to make a move shortly.
I teach a class at Schoolcraft College for people who think that they might like to start a business in Michigan and I talk to them about all of these things. We talk about the ups, the downs, the pros and cons. I tell them about my experiences, the victories, the disappointments, the little foils that have happened along the way, and some of the outrageous things too.
One night, I was telling a story about a particularly hellish incident that I had with some paperwork that was required for a license that I needed for my business and the story was quite involved. Once I finished telling the story to the class, a woman in the back, who had been coming to class for several weeks said, "WHY do you still DO THIS?!" and I started laughing.
It was obvious that she thought that what I had just described was unacceptable. It was just too much of a pain in the ass to be a business owner if I or she was going to have to go through something like that. But I see things so differently - working for someone else who controls my future, decides my worth, and doesn't treat me with respect is too much of a pain in the ass for me! I already did that. I did that for a long time and I did that until the very minute that I didn't have to do that any longer.
In February, on the verge of something really important for my company, I got some very frustrating news - a project that I was working on for TLB was put on hold indefinitely and there was, on the surface, NOTHING I could do about it. I just had to wait. Someone else might have thrown in the towel and given up, but I decided to wait and to work while I waited.
My brother is a US Marine and I often think about one of his letters from Boot Camp at Parris Island. He wrote to us that a lot of his time was spent doing the usual, "hurry up and wait", and that's what owning a business is like, except you learn how to work while you wait because you can't afford to just sit still and let time go by with nothing to show for it.
Since I've always planned on developing other products, I have spent the "down time" on developing a chocolate chip cookie recipe. It's a fun distraction when I need something to look forward to, and a way to put my time to good use.
It doesn't matter if you own a business, are thinking of starting a business, or are just in a place where you feel "stuck" or "out of control" of your life. Like Pema Chodron says, "If you're invested in security and certainty, you're on the wrong planet". Everything will change and we have to learn to accept whatever is happening at this present moment.
We have to be open to the idea that we cannot control every single aspect of what's happening to us or around us, and spend each moment making the most of the space we occupy. Giving into our anger or frustration doesn't solve any of our problems or make our situation improve - it only separates us from our destiny and dishonors our true selves.
The next time something isn't going right for you, or you feel stuck in a place that you're not wanting to be, find a way to honor yourself while you wait. It might lead you to a better idea or a better place than where you were to begin with or ever imagined., or you might just have cookies - and who wouldn't like that?
I'm going to start this post by giving a nod to my friends who know I hate crockpots. I developed this recipe because I needed a quick and easy, wholesome recipe for my blog on A Healthier Michigan. I realize that I'm in the minority with my disdain for the crockpot, so, knowing that millions of folks everywhere have an out-of-control infatuation with their slow cookers, I concede.
As summer draws to a close, there’s a chillier feeling in the air and autumn seems like it’s just around the corner. With the kids back in school and our schedules stretched to the limit, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the prospect of putting wholesome meals on the table each and every day. Luckily, with a little planning, the most important meal of the day is a no-brainer.
Oatmeal is a breakfast staple, but with a busy morning routine, it can be a hassle to make a batch from scratch, rather than tearing a pouch open and popping it in the microwave. There’s nothing quite as comforting as a steamy bowl of freshly made oats with whole fruit, rather than a mug of pulverized oats and rehydrated apple flakes. I set out to create a recipe that was delicious and easy to grab in the morning, likely on the way out the door.
If you decide not to use the best granola in the world (ours, of course), in this recipe, just use whole oats. I have no idea why you'd want to do that, though... (wink).
Overnight Apple Oats
1 cup Three Little Birds Granola
3 Granny Smith or Honey Crisp apples, chopped
2 cups apple juice or apple cider
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1.5 Tablespoons freshly grated ginger
Spray the crockpot generously with cooking spray and combine all of the ingredients. Stir to combine and set the crockpot to the low setting. Cover with the lid and set the timer to cook for 6 hours. Enjoy!
Summer was a whirlwind for this little bird. The busier I get, the more crowded my thoughts, the fewer blog posts I write for fear that I've lost any sense of coherent thought.
The biggest development over the summer was the opportunity we had to provide a signature flavor of granola to The Grand Hotel. We were so honored that our product was considered for this iconic Michigan destination.
I started working on the Grand Hotel project back in May. Thanks to Chef Source, an amazing local food distributor in Canton, MI, after several months, I received the news that The Grand would make their first order. Just like the saying goes, "good things come to those who wait".
We're also thrilled to soon provide Holiday Market and Better Health with our original flavor - Lois' Favorite Granola. You'll soon be seeing our cheerfully colored bags of granola on their shelves.
As we head back to school and work after a beautiful summer holiday, I am looking forward to patiently but persistently working on growing this little business and I hope you and your families are realizing positive growth too.
Stacy Sloan; Chef & Founder of Three Little Birds