My Amazing Banana Bread – Recipe

Who doesn’t love bananas? I buy a bunch every time I go grocery shopping, and my family eats all but 1 or 2 of them. They just don’t dig bananas that are even a little bit too ripe. (What’s your banana number?) To me that means one thing:

banana bread graphic

My mom taught me how to make banana bread when I was young, maybe I was 12 years old. I have always had this banana bread in my life. She wrote the recipe down on a recipe card that my girlfriends had given to every bridal shower guest, and then I collected all the recipes in a matching recipe box. (For you youngsters, that’s how we used to collect recipes before Pinterest.)

I make this banana bread all the time. I make it to keep on the kitchen counter for my family to eat. I make it for potlucks, for bake sales, and for people who just had a baby or surgery or a death in the family. Everyone loves it. Everyone raves about it.

But the recipe isn’t a secret. It was from the Jiffy Mix box, probably a box that my mom had in the house when I was little.

I make my own baking mix now so I don’t use Jiffy Mix, but it’s easy enough to buy a box of that pre-mixed baking mix and whip it out. This is how easy it is:

Ingredients:

2 cups baking mix
2 eggs
1 cup mashed bananas
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter

Directions:

Cream the butter and sugar together.
Beat in the eggs and banana.
Stir in the baking mix until you form a moist batter.
Use a rubber or silicone spatula to scrape batter into bread loaf pan.
Bake at 350 degrees for 55 minutes.

And this is what you get, and it’s amazing, and everyone loves it:

banana bread on cutting board

Photo by Jo del Corro via Flickr

 

How To Host a Clothing Swap – New-to-You Clothes For Free

clothing swap topsFour of the many tops I’ve gotten from clothing swaps

For a few years now I have been attending a clothing swap organized by a friend of a friend, and I love the experience so much that I want to spread the joy. The basic idea is that you take the clothes you never wear and bring them to the host’s house, and then offer each piece up to the others who have attended. Whatever doesn’t get claimed by a new owner goes in a giant pile, and gets taken to Goodwill.

clothing swap peacock topFavorite top for work, and peep toe shoes.

It’s a great way to find a good new home for your own stuff, and to bring new pieces into your own wardrobe. Excellent side effect: making new friends. I never take pictures at these events so I’m just using pictures of just a few of the items I’ve added to my wardrobe over the years that way.

Clothing swap skirtBlack and white cotton skirt. I only wore this once and brought to next swap

This idea goes along with the capsule wardrobe concept I’ve been practicing for the past several months (read it about it here on my personal site). The goal is to simplify your wardrobe and stop buying new stuff. With a clothing swap, the new stuff was going to be donated anyway so even if you wind up not loving it, you can just pass it on to donation or bring it back to a future clothing swap and see if it can grace someone else’s closet.

How To Host a Clothing Swap

Set a time and date when you can spend at least a few hours going through clothing and trying things on.

Invite people you think would be into this kind of thing. (Friends who don’t like to wear secondhand clothing might not be into this kind of thing.) Tell them to bring their friends too. A good mix of body types means that everyone who comes is more likely to find something she likes.

Tell them to bring clothing, shoes, jewelry, other items they don’t use anymore but are still wearable. Torn, stained, or broken clothing can probably be fixed but aren’t as likely to be claimed by someone new.

Invite people to bring snacks and put out water and other beverages. All that flying clothing and trying on can make your guests thirsty and hungry. Adult beverages are helpful, too.

Have a separate room like a bathroom or bedroom where shy people can try things on. But don’t be alarmed when people just start stripping in your public space. It’s bound to turn into a Loehmann’s dressing room.

Once enough people have arrived with their stuff, take turns presenting your items to the group. You can just put everything out on racks or tables and make it like a shopping event, but it’s more fun to hear the stories behind the cast off clothing. I’ve heard people say “I loved this dress and wore it to 15 weddings. It’s time for it to find a new home.”

So when it’s your turn, hold up your items and tell people about them. “This is an Old Navy fleece, size medium, that I got engaged in. I don’t think the color works on me, though.” When another person is interested, she raises her hand and you toss the item to her so she can try it on. If two or more people want the same item of clothing, they can work out who gets first crack at it.

If nobody wants your sad old item, toss it in the Goodwill pile. This pile will grow as the event goes on. At the end, people might sift through it, giving those things a second glance.

After the event is over, immediately load the leftovers into your car and take them to a donation center.

Then wash the new-to-you clothing items and add them to your wardrobe. Enjoy!

clothing swap tie dye dressFloor-length tie-dyed dress I wear as a swim cover-up. Cheers!

 

Aroha: the Foodiest Restaurant in Town

Aroha dining patioCourtesy of Aroha Restaurant

Aroha New Zealand Cuisine and Bar has been in the little cluster of restaurants at the corner of Lindero Canyon Road and Russell Ranch Road since 2014, but I’ll bet you haven’t even noticed it*. The restaurant is tucked away behind Cici’s (pancakes) and Barone’s (Italian), across from Lure (seafood) near the Marriott Residence Inn. Aroha just put in an awesome outdoor bar, though, so this summer if you drive by on your way to Target or In & Out, you’ll likely see a bunch of people on their patio for happy hour and wonder what the heck you’re missing.

The answer is you’re missing the fanciest, tastiest, most exotic dishes I’ve seen on any menu in the surrounding area so far.

Aroha crab cakesOur starter: Lump Crab Cakes
with spiced avocado mousse and a micro licorice salad

The atmosphere at Aroha is fairly chill. The dining room and patio are inviting and comfortable, tastefully appointed with Crate & Barrel-esque minimalist furniture, but not precious. The waitstaff are friendly and knowledgeable about the menu without making you feel inferior for never having tried lamb or venison, or not knowing what horopito is. (It’s an herb.)

And then you see the menu.

Aroha New Zealand beer

We started with a New Zealand beer and a fancy-sounding cocktail that was supposed to turn pink when you squeeze the lime into and mix it in.

Then since I had to have the most “New Zealand-y” dish on the menu, I chose the venison.

Aroha venisonAward Winning Horopito Crusted New Zealand Venison:
pan roasted with sweet potato, cherry compote, pistachio, and vanilla-parsnip purée

I had never tried venison before, but like I always say, I’ll do it for my readers. You’re welcome. The chef recommends his venison be served medium-rare, so I rolled with that. I took care to put a little bit of each item on my plate into a forkful, and tasted. The result made me feel like Remy in Ratatouille describing the combination of flavors exploding in your mouth.

Aroha salmon

My husband had the salmon. He said “It was awfully good.” Normally he would stop there, but when I pressed him for more words, he shared that he enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere juxtaposed against the sophisticated dishes. The pricing on the menu items makes Aroha an indulgence, a dinner we would splurge on for a special occasion. Just being there made it a special occasion.

Which meant we had to have dessert.

Aroha Pavlova

Aroha Pavlova closeupThe Pavlova

The Pavlova is the national dessert of New Zealand, so naturally we had to order that. At Aroha (which means “love”) it arrives as three fluffy pillows of sweet meringue surrounded by fresh kiwi and strawberries, topped with passion fruit seeds and flowers. It tastes like homemade marshmallow. Sweet and exotic. I paired it with a super sweet dessert cocktail, Harold’s Hata, which tastes like a coconut White Russian. Tasty, but it’s all you need for dessert and you should NOT drive home after drinking it.

Aroha’s young chef Gwithyen Thomas is a New Zealand native who moved to our area for love. His wife and baby son were at the restaurant on the night we dined there, and his enthusiasm and love of food and what he does shined through in our conversations. He told us about how the deer and salmon were raised, flown here, and prepared, and how his kitchen and dining room staff have the same love of food that he does.

And it shows. Check out Aroha for happy hour or a full meal. It will be an experience, I promise you that.

Aroha New Zealand Cuisine and Bar
30990 Russell Ranch Road.
Westlake Village, CA 91362
(805) 405-5054

(*If you have, please share in the comments – I’d love to know if you dined there and what you thought!)

My husband and I dined as guests of Aroha. All opinions are our own.