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  • My Family’s Prized Banana Bread Recipe

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    My Family's Prized Banana Bread Recipe | Chief Family Officer

    I’ve always loved banana bread, and that’s because I grew up eating my family’s banana bread. I may be sentimental, knowing the recipe has been handed down from my grandmother, but it’s simply the best banana bread I’ve ever had. And thankfully, the recipe is simple too!

    Banana Bread | Chief Family Officer

    My favorite part of this banana bread is the crunchy, golden brown top, so I sometimes bake it in a 13×9 or 11×7 baking dish for greater surface area:

    Banana Bread | Chief Family Officer

    Hanalei Plantation Banana Bread
    Makes 2 large loaves.

    2 sticks (1 cup) room temperature butter
    1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
    4 eggs, room temperature
    2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    6 ripe bananas
    3 cups all purpose flour
    2 teaspoons baking powder
    1/2 teaspoon salt

    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 2 loaf pans and set aside.

    2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

    3. In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter and sugar on medium high speed until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Beat in vanilla extract.

    4. In a medium bowl, mash the bananas until almost smooth. Add the bananas to the butter mixture and beat well. Add the flour mixture and beat until just combined.

    5. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pans. Bake for 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

    Variations: Add 1 cup of chopped walnuts or responsibly sourced chocolate chips to the batter before dividing the batter among the pans.

    Easiest Gourmet Chocolate Dipping Sauce

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    Easiest Gourmet Chocolate Dipping Sauce | Chief Family Officer

    Not to be confused with my Easiest Chocolate Dipping Sauce Ever, this chocolate dipping sauce is almost as easy and definitely takes the flavor to another level.

    The key, not surprisingly, is the chocolate.

    For the Easiest Chocolate Dipping Sauce Ever, you just need some chocolate chips. But to gourmet-ify the sauce, you need a high-quality chocolate.

    It can be difficult to source fair trade chocolate, but it’s worth the trouble and expense because most chocolate is produced by forced child labor. Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s both carry fair-trade chocolate bars, and many mainstream supermarkets do too – at Ralphs, my Kroger affiliate, I find them in the tiny natural foods snack section. (It’s a tiny section because they’ve incorporated most of the organic and natural foods into the rest of the store, so I’m not sure why the fair-trade chocolate gets treated differently, but it does.)

    Easiest Gourmet Chocolate Dipping Sauce | Chief Family Officer

    I’ve called for 60% cacao chocolate, which falls into the semi-sweet category, but you should adjust your dipping sauce based on how intense you like your chocolate – go for a higher percentage for a darker, more intense sauce, and a lower percentage for a sweeter version.

    Once you’ve got your chocolate, all you need is a recipe:

    Easiest Gourmet Chocolate Dipping Sauce
    Makes approximately 3/4 cup

    4 oz 60% cacao chocolate, chopped (approximately 1/2 cup)
    1/4 cup heavy cream or whole milk
    1 tablespoon butter

    Combine chocolate and cream or milk in a microwave safe bowl (I use a glass measuring cup). Microwave on high for 45 seconds. Remove and whisk to melt as much chocolate as possible. If necessary, microwave on high for an additional 15 seconds, then remove and whisk until the mixture is smooth. Whisk in the butter until the butter has melted and thoroughly incorporated. Transfer to a serving bowl.

    The sauce will remain pourable at room temperature, but don’t leave it out for more than a couple of hours for safety reasons.

    Recipe: Double Chocolate Fudgy Spelt Brownies

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    Cook a new healthy dish each week in 2015 - chieffamilyofficer.com

    Not that brownies can ever count as a healthy food, but I’ve been wanting to try baking with spelt flour for a few months now – my plans just got derailed by summer vacation. I’d always thought of spelt as a “healthy” grain, and it seems to be somewhat healthier than wheat but not by a huge amount. It’s a whole grain, so it’s high in protein and fiber, and turns out to be a generally acceptable substitute for whole wheat flour in most recipes. It is a relative of wheat, so it’s not gluten-free.

    Being new to spelt, I was intimidated about using it but I had a Martha Stewart brownie recipe using spelt that I wanted to try (with my own adaptations, of course – because I can never leave well enough alone). The brownies came together like any other brownie recipe, and they were maybe the fudgiest brownies I’ve ever made. The true test, of course, was the kids – and they both liked the brownies a lot.

    So, not only will I make these brownies again, but I have a bag of spelt flour sitting in my pantry now, waiting to be used up. I’m going to substitute it for some regular flour in some of our favorite recipes to see how it goes. In the meantime, why not give these brownies a try?

    Fudgy Spelt Brownies | Chief Family Officer

    Double Chocolate Fudgy Spelt Brownies
    Adapted from Martha Stewart

    1/2 c unsalted butter (1 stick), softened, plus additional butter for pan
    6 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
    3/4 cup granulated sugar
    3/4 cup sucanat (or light brown sugar)
    3 large eggs, lightly beaten, at room temperature
    1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
    1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, plus additional cocoa powder for pan
    1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
    3/4 cup spelt flour

    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously butter an 8×8 pan and sprinkle some cocoa powder over the butter. Turn the pan around and spread the cocoa powder over the butter until the butter is thoroughly coated with a layer of cocoa. Dump out excess cocoa powder and set prepared pan aside.*

    2. Put the stick of butter and the chocolate chips into a large microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high for thirty seconds, then stir. Repeat as necessary until the chocolate melts and the mixture is a smooth consistency (do not microwave too long or the chocolate will clump up! you can also combine the chocolate and butter over a double boiler but I always think that’s too much hassle when the microwave can do the job).

    3. Stir the sugar and sucanat into the chocolate mixture until thoroughly combined. (If using organic sugar and sucanat, as I did, the mixture will not become totally smooth, and that’s okay.) Beat in the eggs and vanilla extract. Add the cocoa powder and salt, then stir to thoroughly combined. Fold in the flour until well combined, being sure not to leave any streaks of flour (but don’t over-beat the mixture either).

    4. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few crumbs. Let cool completely before cutting.**

    the fudgy center!

    *Alternatively, Martha recommends lining the pan with parchment paper with an overhang so you can lift the entire block out of the pan for cutting.

    **These brownies are so fudgy that cutting was difficult. I recommend oiling a pizza wheel and using that to cut your brownies, wiping off the wheel and re-oiling between cuts.

    Collage image via FreeDigitalPhotos.net by KEKO64.

    Easiest Crumble Topping

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    Easiest Crumble Topping - Chief Family Officer

    I started making crumble topping because my favorite sweet potato casserole (which I’ve made every year for Thanksgiving for over a decade!) has a streuseled topping. Since then, I’ve tended to keep extra topping in the freezer, because it makes for super easy fruit crisps and crunchy cakes and cupcakes. In fact, any time I make a recipe that calls for some kind of crispy topping, I usually ignore that part of the recipe and head for my freezer instead.

    I’m not a fan of flour in my topping because I feel like it doesn’t cook properly and tastes like raw flour – yuck! Instead, I use oats, and I’ve found that the quick cooking kind is even better than regular rolled oats. I’ve also never been very good at cutting butter into pastry, so I use my food processor instead. We have a nut-free house because of allergies, but I think walnuts or pecans would be a really nice substitute for some of the oats.

    Easiest Crumble Topping

    1 heaping cup quick cooking oats
    1/2 cup sucanat
    1/2 cup brown sugar
    1/2 cup cold butter (1 stick), cut into small pieces

    1. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the oats, sucanat and brown sugar. Pulse a few times until ingredients are well-mixed.

    2. Scatter the butter over the oat-sugar mixture and pulse several times until the butter is incorporated and the mixture clumps together. Keep cold in the fridge or freezer until ready to use.

    Crumble Before Butter Added - chieffamilyofficer.com
    the dry ingredients in the food processor

    Easiest Crumble Topping Ever - chieffamilyofficer.com
    the finished crumble

    Easiest Crumble Topping on Cake - chieffamilyofficer.com
    the crumble topping on an apple cake

    Recipe: My New Favorite, Real Food Granola

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    Real Food Granola | ChiefFamilyOfficer.com

    Ever since reading and reviewing Lisa Leake’s 100 Days of Real Food last year, I’ve been making granola. It’s primarily oats, and oats are a minimally processed food so they fit the “real food” bill. Instead of brown sugar, I’ve switched to unrefined sugar in the form of honey or maple syrup. We’re a nut- and seed-free family due to food allergies, but I think some pumpkin seeds or sliced almonds would be divine (just swap out a cup of rolled oats for a cup of whatever you choose).

    Real Food Granola
    makes approximately 8 cups

    1/4 cup butter (or 2 tablespoons butter + 2 tablespoons coconut oil)
    1/2 cup honey or maple syrup
    1 1/2 cups water
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    4 cups rolled oats (or one 1-lb package)
    2 cups quick oats (I always have these on hand through Subscribe & Save)
    1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt (I like the Trader Joe’s canister, because salt is the only ingredient – no anti-clumping agents)
    1 cup responsibly sourced mini chocolate chips (I get mine at Whole Foods)
    1 cup chopped dried cranberries or other fruit of your choice
    1 cup roasted dried coconut chips, optional

    1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper, with an inch or two of overhang on the sides.

    2. In a large mixing bowl, combine rolled oats, quick oats, and salt. In a 2-cup microwave-safe measuring cup, combine the butter and honey or maple syrup. Microwave on medium-high for one minute, or until the butter is melted. Add water until you have 2 cups of liquid. Stir in the vanilla and mix until all liquids are thoroughly combined. Pour the liquid mixture over the oat mixture and stir until the oats are thoroughly covered and have absorbed all of the liquid.

    3. Pour the oat mixture onto the prepared baking sheet, and spread the mixture into an even layer. Bake for approximately two hours, stirring every half hour, until all oats are golden brown. (Burnt granola is bitter and awful, so if you’re not completely confident in your monitoring ability, reduce the heat to 275 and bake for three to four hours. If you forget to stir the granola every half hour, it shouldn’t burn as long as you don’t leave it too long!)

    4. Once all of the oats are a beautiful golden brown, remove the baking sheet from the oven and let the oats cool completely. Transfer the cooled oats to a large mixing bowl (you should be able to pull the sides of the parchment paper together to lift the oats and slide them into the bowl). Add the chocolate chips, dried fruit, and dried coconut if using. Stir to thoroughly distribute the mix-ins. (Depending on how large your pan is, you may be able to do your mixing right on the parchment, and save yourself from having to wash another bowl.) Store the granola in an airtight container. Serve with yogurt for a delicious and easy breakfast!

    My Favorite Brownie Recipe

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    Brownies

    This brownie recipe has become my favorite brownie of all time because it’s easy to make and has the most incredible texture. I bake it in my toaster oven, and the top becomes a thin, crunchy layer that gives way to chewy brownie underneath. Best of all, there’s healthier ingredients like whole wheat flour and sucanat, but still, it’s a brownie so you can’t go overboard. The only thing I don’t recommend this brownie for is bake sales, since you’re only using an 11×7 pan so the yield is fairly small … which is a good thing if you’re going for portion control, LOL!

    CFO’s Favorite Brownie
    adapted from Spoonful.com

    4 tablespoons butter
    2 ounces (about 2 tablespoons) responsibly sourced semi-sweet chocolate chips*
    1/4 cup white whole wheat flour
    1/4 cup unbleached all purpose flour
    1/3 cup fair trade Dutch-process cocoa powder*
    1/2 teaspoon baking powder
    1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
    2 large eggs
    1/2 cup sucanat
    1/2 cup organic sugar
    1 tablespoon canola oil
    2 teaspoons vanilla extract

    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray an 11×7 baking pan with nonstick baking spray.

    2. Combine the butter and chocolate chips in a small microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high for 30 seconds, or until the butter and chocolate have melted enough that you can stir them into a smooth liquid.

    3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt, and set aside.

    4. In a medium bowl, beat the eggs, sucanat and sugar until thickened, about five minutes. Mix in the chocolate mixture, oil, and vanilla and beat until well-combined. Add the flour mixture and beat until just combined, scraping the sides of the bowl once to make sure everything is mixed well.

    5. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Bake until the edges begin to pull away from the sides of the pan, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out mostly clean. Cool completely on a wire rack before cutting.

    **The chocolate doesn’t have to be responsibly sourced, but read this Baby Toolkit post to find out why it should be. I was very happy to find bags of responsibly-sourced chocolate chips at Costco!