Category Archives: american food

RECIPE: Banana Bread

As you might have been able to tell from my last recipe, I like sweet breads. While pumpkin bread may be a seasonal treat, banana bread can – and should – be enjoyed year-round.

  • 75 grams of butter (room temperature)
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 3-4 overripe bananas (mashed)
  • 1/3 cup of water
  • 1 cup of flour
  • 2/3 cups of whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp of baking soda
  • ½ tsp of salt
  • ¼ tsp baking powder
  • 1 cup of chopped nuts (optional)

To start, preheat your oven to 170°C. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar. You can use an electric mixer, a fork, or your hands. Once the first two ingredients are combined, stir in the eggs, bananas, and water. You will want the bananas to be a ripe and mushy as possible. Next, add the dry ingredients and mix until a consistent dough forms. If you want, you can add chopped nuts at this point, but I don’t think the bread needs it.

Like the pumpkin bread, you pour the dough into a large greased loaf pan and let bake for 20-25 minutes. Again, you should cover the top of the bread with tin foil in order to prevent the crust from burning. Bake for another 30-40 minutes or until the inside is fully baked. Use a knife to check for any raw dough in the centre of the loaf. Let sit in the pan for another 10 minutes before moving it to a cooling rack. Once the bread is around room temperature, cut into slices.

Enjoy! And be sure to check out our collection of American cookbooks at the 2AD Memorial Library.

-Francis

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Midwestern Christmas

Hello Everyone, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

I wanted to take my time today to share some of the interesting Christmas traditions which pop up around the Midwest. Since this is an area settled overwhelmingly by Scandinavians and Germans in relatively large, and often isolated, communities many old traditions have survived into the current generation that might otherwise have disappeared in the melting pot of America. This creates a very vibrant and unique season to the upper Midwest which I wanted to share with you all.

First I’ll tell you about some of the traditions which come from the Swedish and Norwegian immigrants, which make up part of my personal ethnic background as well. As with any good holiday tradition these mostly revolve around food and the making/giving of traditional Christmas baked goods. No Christmas dinner would be complete without a smorgasbord containing at bare minimum some lutefisk (jellied whitefish preserved in lye), lefse (a thin potato based pancake often rolled with butter and sugar), and of course Swedish meatballs. As you can probably guess some of these are there because they’re beloved and some appear because tradition sometimes dictates communal suffering…

The cookies and baked goods which are shared and gifted during the Christmas season however are without exception phenomenal. Sandbakkel, krumkake, and pepperkakor are staples and eagerly awaited every year.

Those with German heritage, the other puzzle piece of my personal background, also have traditions which revolve around food however many also revolve around decorations. You may know that Christmas trees were a tradition in Germany and spread through the west by German immigrants or, famously, the British royal family in the 1800s. One such decorating tradition of supposed German origin, no one is able to actually confirm or deny it, is the hiding of a small pickle ornament within the Christmas tree. Tradition dictates that the first child to find the pickle on Christmas gets an extra small present to open. Mistletoe is also much in evidence throughout Germanic households as it is another Christmas decorating tradition with its origins in German mythos.

But, let us not overlook the german traditional foods. While Germany is not often held up as a paragon of the culinary arts their Christmas baking is second to none. Whether it be springerle (pillowy cookies flavoured with anise seed), lebkuchen, pfeffernus, or the ubiquitous gingerbread these Christmas baked goods make the season for me.

The most fascinating traditions to my mind within the Midwest however, come from those enclaves of immigrants from Denmark; especially those found within Southwest Minnesota. These communities are still mostly purely Danish and their traditions reflect this continuity of identity. Whereas other traditions may be modernized versions of food or decorating the Danish community traditions are about events, mostly on the family level.

When my sister married a man from a Danish family it was the first I’d heard of these wonderful traditions and I’d love to share my favorite. This is Jula Butiker (pronounced yoo-luh buh-tick-er) a celebration in early December after the erection and decoration of the Christmas tree. This celebration seems like something from Dr. Seuss in which the whole family gathers around the tree, holding hands, and sings carols to the tree.

And if you hadn’t guessed, no discussion of traditions would be complete without a mention of the wonderful foods made in celebration of the season. While the Danes share many traditional foods with the rest of Scandinavia, although they usually wisely avoid lutefisk, they do have one extra special dish. Æbleskiver are made when the whole family gathers as a family event and are small pancaky doughballs with bits of seasoned apple inside. You may have even seen them attempt to make these on Bake Off with varying success although any Danish grandma would have put them all to shame. These warm soft treats truly have the taste of the holidays.

Every culture and area in the world has their own special traditions for any holidays they observe but I find it fascinating the blending of traditions which we are seeing in my home area. The combination of what were even 20-30 years ago largely individual ethnic enclaves means many families get to take the best of everything and create their own traditions for the generations to come.

 

Thanks for reading! Share some of your own holiday traditions below and keep the spirit going.

-Mike

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RECIPE: Pumpkin Bread

During these past few years in the UK, I haven’t really gotten nostalgic for American cuisine. There is however, one exception. Pumpkin bread is a mainstay of autumnal Americana. It tastes good warm, cool, or with cream cheese. Honestly, I’d eat it all year long if pumpkin puree weren’t such a seasonal ingredient. However, while the American food section of your store may still have some tinned pumpkin in stock, I thought that I would share my recipe for pumpkin bread.

  • 1½ cups of flour
  • 1 cup of white sugar
  • ½ cup of brown sugar
  • ½ tsp of baking soda
  • 2 eggs
  • ¼ tsp of salt
  • ½ cup of vegetable oil (alt: sunflower oil)
  • ½ tsp of cinnamon
  • ½ tsp of cloves
  • ½ tsp of nutmeg
  • ½ tsp of ginger
  • 1 cup of pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup of raisins (optional)

To start, preheat your oven to 175°C. While that’s happening, mix all of your dry ingredients (except the sugar and raisins) in a medium bowl. If you don’t have a whisk, a fork will work just as well. Next, mix the sugar and wet ingredients in a large bowl. Once that’s the same consistency, slowly mix in the dry ingredients. You can then add the raisins, but I personally think that the pumpkin bread is fine without them. If it’s closer to Christmas, consider replacing using cranberries instead of raisins.

By now, the oven should be ready. So, pour that pumpkin-y goodness into a large greased loaf pan. Let bake for 20-25 minutes or until the top of the dough begins to harden. Cover with tin foil in order to preserve a soft and moist crust. You’ll thank yourself later. Return the bread to the oven for another 30-40 minutes or until the inside is fully baked. A good way to check is to stick a knife into the centre of bread and pull it out; if there’s any raw dough, it will stick to the blade.

Let the bread sit in the loaf pan for another 10 minutes for the crust to harden and the inside to finish baking. Then, remove the bread from the pan to finish cooling. As tempting as warm pumpkin bread it, I recommend waiting until your loaf is room temperature before trying to cut it into slices (especially if you added raisins). You don’t want it falling apart on you.

Enjoy! And be sure to check out our collection of American cookbooks at the 2AD Memorial Library.

-Francis

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Recipes for a sweet wintery feast

By Danielle Prostrollo

pie 2

Recently, we held a Thanksgiving event at the library which included a taste of some classic flavors from the holiday dessert table. Now that Thanksgiving feasts are finished and everyone begins to prepare for the Christmas holidays, I wanted to point out some of the great recipes that were used for our event that can be easily made for any autumnal and winter get-together!

PIES

Classic Pumpkin pie from Better Homes and Gardens (BHG) is a stalwart at the dessert table. Paired with a bit of fresh whipped cream, it can’t be beat.

Similar to pumpkin pie, but a bit more mild tasting, BHG’s sweet potato pie is a similar custard-like pie for those who may prefer a more subdued flavor.

 

OTHER

Tending more toward a winter-y flavor, a gingerbread loaf cake makes for lovely nibbles with a cup of coffee or tea. I made this loaf, minus the lemon drizzle, and people loved the spicy counter balance to the other sweeter offerings.

Another popular pie in America is a classic pecan pie. This isn’t a tidy bake, by any means. So, to recreate a similar flavor palette for easy eating, I served candied pecans made with a buttery sugar glaze.

 

I hope these classic American recipes help to get everyone into the holiday season, and use the inspiration to have their own wintery social hour with family and friends in this lead up to the Christmas holidays.

Happy (belated) Thanksgiving and Christmas season!

 

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