Sunday, January 31, 2010

Going Bananas!

If you've got some leftover bananas and don't know what to do with them I've got a wonderful recipe for you!  Usually I make banana bread with over ripe bananas, but this time I decided to try a cake.

In searching for a good banana cake recipe I went to my favorite recipe site - All Recipes.  I love this site because there are reader reviews of every recipe so you get to see how a recipe performs in the kitchen as well as what modifications people have made to make it their own.  The recipe I found I modified a bit to accommodate the ingredients I had on hand (ok... I'm lazy... I'd rather use what's in my cupboard than make a trip to the grocery) and I think I ended up with a happy surprise!

This banana cake is so moist that it holds up well even after almost a week of sitting in the fridge (although I doubt it will last that long!).  Topped with homemade cream cheese frosting it has a consistency that's somewhere between cake and banana bread, and is so delightfully smooth it seems to melt in your mouth.

The cake bakes on the denser side so don't expect a light, fluffy, cake.  As you can see in the photo below the cakes doesn't bake up high like some cakes do, but because it's so moist you can eat it without icing and even enjoy it for breakfast with a nice hot cup of tea or coffee.  I haven't tried it yet, but this looks like a cake that would freeze well (I'd freeze it without the frosting.)  You could also bake it in a 9x13 pan, but you may want to experiment with using a pan that size since the cake may be too thin using that type of pan.

If cream cheese frosting is too rich for you, try it with a lighter frosting or even whipped cream with some slices of bananas.  If you like nuts you can add some to the batter before baking.  I think even semi-sweet chocolate chips added would be yummy..... now that's something that would cheer me up on a cold winter day for sure!

Banana Cake


3/4 cup butter or margarine
1 1/2 cups white sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup sour cream (I used low fat)
1 cup mashed bananas (about 2 bananas)
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon allspice


  1. In a large bowl, cream together butter/margarine, sugar, eggs, and vanilla.  Set aside.
  2. In another bowl sift together flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and allspice.  
  3. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture.  
  4. Add the sour cream and mashed bananas to the batter and beat well.  The mixture will be on the dry side and seem too thick until you add the sour cream and bananas. If it still looks too thick after adding the sour cream and bananas, pour in a little bit of milk to loosen up the batter.
  5. Grease and flour 2  - 9-inch round cake pans.  
  6. Bake in a 350 degree pre-heated oven for 25-30 minutes (it took 27 minutes to bake in my oven so you may want to set your timer for 25 minutes and then insert a clean toothpick to test for doneness.)
  7. Cool for 30 minutes in the pan and then transfer to a cooling rake.  You will notice that this cake doesn't come out of the pan easily so if it doesn't come out the first time you turn it over, gentle take a butter knife and loosen it up around the sides as well as the bottom and then flip it again.
  8. Once completely cool frost it with the frosting of your choice.

Cream Cheese Frosting


2 (8 ounce) packages of cream cheese (softened)
1/2 cup butter or margarine (softened)
2 cups sifted confectioner's sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


  1. In a medium bowl, cream together softened cream cheese and butter.
  2. Add in the vanilla and then gradually stir in the confectioner's sugar.
  3. Store in refrigerator until ready to use.

Friday, January 22, 2010

A Sight For Sore Eyes!

I was in Lowes the other day to pick up something totally unrelated to gardening and saw this!

A seed display!  What a sight for sore eyes in the middle of frigid winter.  I love browsing through all of the seed packets and looking at the pictures on them.  I do a little happy dance because it means that the count down to spring has begun.  Although I've been browsing at seed catalogs for a few weeks now, when the gardening and outdoor displays start popping up in the all the stores I literally jump for joy!  I'm sure my fellow shoppers thought I was nuts when I just stood at this display and stared at it glary eyed dreaming of spring.  Although I always hate it when the stores put out Christmas stuff too early, I never get upset when gardening items start showing up in January.

There was also a beautiful table of orchids.

I really should have bought one because the price was right, but I didn't because I wasn't sure if Lowes-quality orchids would really last. 

Well I've better in gear with my spring planting plan.... I keep saying that but I just haven't had the time.  Instead I'm still after comfort food....  The other day I made a banana cake with cream cheese frosting that Andy loved!  I have to share that recipe with you.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Surviving Winter

Winter is a difficult season for me. I don't like the cold.... it hurts my hands and makes my nose run. My asthma acts up and I seem to spend the entire season with a cough and a head cold. Winter is not just uncomfortable for me -- it's downright painful. Being a gardener I complain all winter long about how miserable I am (poor Andy he puts up with this day after day so patiently) and how I long for the frozen earth to become soft again so that some sign of life will show itself. Although I love where I live, it's winter that makes me yearn for a home in a warmer climate where gardening is a year-round activity.

Now if I were rich I could have one of these....

What you see above is the huge indoor courtyard at the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum in Boston, Massachusetts. While this courtyard is part of a museum, it was also once part of the home of Isabella Stewart Gardner.

Isabella Stewart was born in New York City on April 14, 1840. She married John ("Jack") Lowell Gardner Jr. of Boston on April 10, 1860. Isabella Stewart Gardner had a zest for life, an energetic intellectual curiosity and a love of travel. Isabella Stewart Gardner, known also as "Mrs. Jack" in reference to her husband, was one of the foremost female patrons of the arts. She was a patron and friend of leading artists and writers of her time, including John Singer Sargent, James McNeill Whistler and Henry James. She was a supporter of community social services and cultural enrichment. She was also the visionary creator of what remains one of the most remarkable and intimate collections of art in the world today.

The Gardner Museum and home is a warm bright spot all year round, but especially in winter where the lush greenery of the courtyard provides a welcome respite from the cold streets of Boston.

Looking at this courtyard I can imagine that if I were rich enough to afford such a luxury I could easily survive winter in New England. How grand would it be to escape to such a lovely place and be transported away from the frigid air just outside its doors? Gardening all winter long as birds fly by and others chirping in the palm trees would be pure heaven... *sigh* to dream.

As I look out my window and see nothing but frozen ground and many feet snow... the garden beds not even visible, but sleeping beneath a blanket of white... I dream of spring and of warmer times ahead. The indoor bulbs are blooming, the seeds catalogues are being dog-eared, and soon I'll be watching my indoor sprouts grow. But for now the warmth of our fireplace and cuddling up with my love and our little Ellie will provide me with much comfort and joy.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Welcoming in the New Year

I hope the New Year finds you well and rested from the holiday season. I took a bit of a blogging break to spend time with my family and celebrate the season. It was a fun and exhausting time of year and I'm more than ready to get things back to normal.

The tree is still up - we keep it up until the Epiphany on January 6th. At this point, I'm ready to take it down, but dreading the task of un-decorating the house.

The seed magazines are starting to slowly come in and soon I'll begin prepping for indoor seed sowing. In the meantime, the amaryllis are blooming and providing a much needed bit of winter color.

It's amazing how these two amaryllis are so different. The one on the right is called "Red Lion" and has since bloomed with 3 bright red trumpet-like flowers. The one on the left I'm unsure of the name, but now has 5 blooms on it. They were both purchased at Lowes - real cheap. I'm thrilled with the results.

The paperwhites have not yet been potted up but will be soon. I always enjoy the sweet scent they bring when their blooms burst open. It's the smell of spring lurking right around the corner.

I'm also reviewing my garden and deciding what I'll plant in the vegetable raised beds as well as what needs to be divided, moved, ripped up, or planted in the perennial beds. Soon I'll share those plans with you - when I figure out what the heck I'm doing.... If I can ever figure it out that is!