The kitchen is too quiet. Normally making dinner involves a coordinated shuffle of bodies in the 3 ft x 6 ft space I can call my kitchen. Tom switching between the sink and the fridge, me between the fridge and the stove. We can barely fit two people in there at once, but the playful dance we enact every night has been dearly missed. Now, when I notice the sun getting low on the horizon I wander downstairs in search for an easy and healthy dinner for my daughter. Anything healthy that she will eat with minimal complaint. As for myself, I pick at what’s in the fridge. Maybe some carrot sticks, pita bread and tahini, a few slices of tomato with salt and pepper, some deli meat or sautéed chicken breast on top of a garden salad.
Gone are the roasts, the casseroles, the planned dinnertime meal. Without Tom I have lost the desire to cook anything that takes much effort. Being 3.5 hours away at work doesn’t compare to Jennifer Perillo’s tragedy, but I understand what she meant in her latest blog post when she wrote, “Mikey was my muse. Pretty much every recipe I ever created was inspired by or made with him in mind.”
In my world, Tom is the person who gets the two hour long elaborate meals. He is the one who gets the cakes, the brownies, and tries all my kitchen experiments. Our daughter wont eat most food so without him I have no one to cook for. Without him my kitchen is a very lonely place.
A few days ago I decided that we couldn’t go on like this for another 6 weeks. I would use this time apart to make things my meat and potatoes husband would not appreciate, stuff I would like to try out, like vegetarian food. There are so many meatless options that I have not had the chance to experiment with. Beans and lentils, nuts, seeds, tofu, stuff like that. I’ll share some of my discoveries with you over the next month.
Another goal, while Tom is gone, is to get my daughter cooking in the kitchen. In preschool she was obsessed with making potions. She would steal spices from the spice rack on the counter, makeup, lotions, and shampoo from my bathroom, and whatever else she could find around the house to make her special potions (poisons & medicines are out of reach for her, even with a chair). You know those times when you’re getting things done and suddenly you realize that the reason you are getting things done is because the kids are being too quiet? Often you know just where to look. I would head straight for the bathroom where I would find my little wizard combining conditioner, cinnamon and garden soil into a beauty potion for her doll’s hair.
I used this to get her in the kitchen. “Cooking is just like potion-making, little wizard. You have your list of ingredients, instructions on what goes in the
bowl cauldron, and how to stir it. All you need is a chant.” I broke out my best hag voice.
“Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.”
She finally agreed to help make it, but was firm in her opinion that she would hate it. It felt good to have her in the kitchen with me, grouchy or not, the kitchen is not supposed to be a quiet place. It’s where sacred family recipes are whispered to kin with vows to never to share them, where children beg for treats and where the whole family gathers around the table to ease their rumbling bellies and share the events of the day.
I imagine myself at an advanced age, looking back on my life through the lens of my kitchen. Trading recipes for enchiladas with a friend at my table, the whispered marriage advice that was given while cooking over the stove, the joyous celebrations with those who have become closest to me, and the mealtime dance of Tom and I every evening in our tiny kitchen. Did you know we were even married on the threshold of our kitchen? The kitchen has a living pulse within it, a spirit of giving, sacrifice and devotion that follows our family from one place to the next, growing stronger and more powerful as our table fills with family and friends.
I started her off smashing bananas, because it’s always fun to smash things at any age. Then we moved on to learning how to grate a zucchini without grating her knuckles at the same time. We discussed why adding the dry ingredients to the wet slowly would stop the flour from flinging across the room. Of course, that happened anyway.
We talked about why she cannot eat the batter covered chocolate chips out of the bowl, since salmonella is not your friend. And why banana zucchini bread is not a good treat for the chickens even though they want to try it so badly.
After her first bite she declared this bread her favorite and harassed me about having more pieces for the next two days, until it was gone. Another one for the recipe box.
Chocolate Chip Banana Zucchini Bread
Recipe adapted from Tasty Kitchen.
- 3 very ripe bananas
- 1 cup zucchini, shredded
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 egg, beaten
- 2 cups of all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 2 tbsp butter, melted
- 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped (optional)
- 1/2 cup chocolate chips (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 350. In a medium bowl mash the bananas with a potato masher or fork. Add the shredded zucchini, sugar and egg. Mix well.
2. In another medium bowl mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Gradually add the dry mix to the wet mix stirring until well combined.
3. Stir in the melted butter then add the nuts and chocolate chips. Pour into a greased loaf pan and bake in the oven for 1 hour.
4. Check for doneness by poking the center with a toothpick. If it comes out mostly clean with a couple of crumbs hanging to it then its done. If its covered with wet batter then stick the bread back in the oven for 5-10 minutes longer and check again. When finished let the loaf cool in the pan for about 10 minutes before removing. To remove, place a plate on the top of the pan and then flip the pan and plate over together so the bread is upside down on the plate. Slowly free the bread from the pan then roll the bread right side up.
Makes 1 loaf.
(Click on recipe card to save and print. It is designed to be printed on 5×7 photo paper and stuck in a card file, on the fridge or given to a friend.)
By the way, if you cut the loaf into 8 slices, each slice has only 330 calories, with 5 grams of protein, and 7 grams of fat. Plus some veggies and fruit. You could cut yourself a slice for breakfast, snack or dessert.