Hazelnut Banana Bread – to celebrate my little Hazel “nut”!
I know this is a food blog, but I’ve had a lot of thoughts on my mind this year as the holiday season surrounds us. I just wanted to take time to share a little bit with you.
Last year, our little family experienced quite a shake up during the holiday season. Our sweet 11-month old baby girl, Hazel, went in for emergency heart surgery (her second in her first year of life) on December 11 after a very scary admission to the local Children’s Hospital after a checkup gone bad. We honestly didn’t know if she was going to make it through the night. She pulled through, had a very scary, but successful surgery, but it was a slow and frustrating 5-week recovery. We spent the holidays (Christmas and New Year’s) in ICU. (If you want to see Hazel’s full story, we’ve shared a lot of experiences on a personal blog with her story – heartsofftohazel.wordpress.com. We always hope to reach out to those who need support.)
Let me tell you, any concerns about Christmas disappeared very quickly. With all efforts focused on our little one, there wasn’t time to think about gifts at all. However, I think I learned more about giving last year than I ever had in the rest of my life. It was amazing how our family and friends reached out to help us. We came home to a decorated tree one day. Gifts poured in for our two little gals since we hadn’t had a chance to focus on any type of Christmas shopping. We received meals, babysitting, tons of snacks for the long days in the ICU, and who knows how many prayers that came our direction. All of these people didn’t have time to do any of this. They had their own family, their own schedules, and their own holiday festivities since it gets so busy this time of year. But they still found time for us. And they served us without any expectation of return.
I spent many nights away from my husband and daughter. It was lonely, and it was disheartening at times. I kept trying to post on here once in a while. In a way, it was very therapeutic to me to do so. My sisters brought me fabulous meals and wonderful artisan chocolate. One sis fed us an amazing Christmas dinner (Beef Wellington). We shared some of our favorite treats with the nursing staff and tried to spread some Christmas cheer. We kept having what I considered were “inspired run-ins” with another family in the hospital that didn’t have much of anything, and we put together a last minute sub-for-santa for them (with Santa Claus appearance and all, from my wonderful father-in-law). We tried to relish in service and spreading cheer rather than the cold reality of what we were going through. And it helped.
I don’t even know why I am writing this to all of you. I have always held all of these thoughts so close to my heart and it’s hard to share since I don’t know if people will respond well. But it felt appropriate for me to reconcile this day for me and hopefully share something of value to someone who needs it.
Since this time, I’ve struggled trying to figure out how to pay all of these individuals back for everything that they did for us. There was no way and I would be forever indebted to them. The only thing I could ever come up with was to PAY IT FORWARD.
It doesn’t have to be big. It just has to be something. It’s taking a moment to share a needed smile and even just a brief chat with someone. It’s inviting your widowed neighbor over for a nice meal. It’s a simple homemade gift – nothing fancy or expensive, but something that simply says “I care about you.” It’s noticing someone’s efforts, whether they ended in triumph or failure, and acknowledging them for trying. It’s taking the time to share a laugh, or a needed cry.
I say everything above mostly to remind myself of how good I have it. I often have to reground myself. I get caught up and overwhelmed in the details of life and all of the busy-ness that can be hurled in my direction. And often I forget about what is most dear to me. And that’s the relationships that I am developing with my friends and family. At the end of the day, that’s all that really matters.
Maybe that’s why this blog has grown dear to me. Because an integral part of my life and the relationships I’ve developed with my family and friends have revolved around food. Whether it’s all of the dinners with my family growing up (we actually sat down at the table basically every night – even at ridiculous hours), developing a new treat with my husband, cooking up mad concoctions with my college roommates, the monthly get together tradition that I now have with my adult siblings in the area…….well, I just have a lot of memories created around food. When I write up a post, it brings back the events surrounding the recipe, and it’s been a fabulous reminder of how integral and amazing that this thing that we do everyday – EAT – can be much more than just nourishing our body, but also nourishing our souls.
This year has found us in a much happier place. About a week-and-a-half ago, we welcomed a third precious girl into our family. So far, everything’s been relatively calm and good. We’ve been surrounded by family and friends and even the lack of sleep that comes with a new baby is still appreciated since we are at least in the comfort of our own home. Our heart aches for some friends we know who are dealing with some medical issues with their sweet baby boy. And our hearts reach out to all those who find themselves in the same position where we were last year. We hope that we can try to do at least a little to lighten their burdens and let them know that they are not forgotten.
And so here’s my advice in a “Hazel” nutshell from what I’ve learned this last year: Cherish your family. Cherish your friends. Cherish every moment. Be kind and look for opportunities to serve. Don’t waste your time on unimportant things. Pay it forward. And, of course, eat well always.
This is my favorite banana bread recipe. Why? Still has the awesome buttery goodness flavor that we all love! But it’s not dry. The addition of sour cream helps keep it super moist and delicious! I love putting tons of different mix-ins to this bread. Mini-chocolate chips, cocoa nibs, and in this version of course, roasted hazelnuts. Make a full loaf, mini-loaf, or muffins. Any version is delicious! And let me tell you, it will disappear quickly!
Hazelnut Banana Bread
- ½ cup unsalted butter 1 cube, room temperature
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1½ cups flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup overripe bananas usually between 2-3 bananas, mashed
- ½ cup sour cream
- ½ cup skinned and roasted hazelnuts optional, I like the boil with baking soda method to get the skins off. Then roast for about 10 minutes at 350 degrees in your oven - go here to see the technique
- ½ cup chocolate chips optional, milk or dark
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Coat one large loaf pan with cooking spray, or grease liberally, and then coat with flour.
In a large mixing bowl, cream together margarine, sugar, eggs, and vanilla with a hand mixer.
In another bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, and salt. Add dry ingredient mixture in two parts to wet mixture, and blend until just incorporated. (I still use the hand mixer for this on low speed). Add the bananas and mix until well combined.
Fold in the sour cream until just incorporated.
Fold in nuts and/or chocolate chips if desired.
Pour batter into prepared pan.
Cook for 65-70 minutes, or until browned and a toothpick comes out clean in the center.
Cool on a wire rack for about 15 minutes before removing from pan.
1. I never actually measure the chocolate chips, nuts, or really any mix-ins that I do. I just of just put them in until it "looks right" so feel free to adjust those measurements. Some days you may want more, some days less, some days one or the other, some days none at all (although I'm not sure why you'd eliminate the best part!)
2. I really love using mini-chips (like Ghirardelli brand) to keep the chips more evenly distributed through the loaf.
Change it Up:
1. Substitute other chopped nuts or cocoa nibs for the hazelnuts.
2. For mini-loaves, cook for 40-45 minutes. (Makes 4)
3. For muffins, cook for 20-23 minutes. (Makes 18-20)
My little helper…..
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