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

 

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.

Stonefire Grill Takeout for an Instant Weeknight Meal

Stonefire Grill Takeout. It’s kind of like magic. No cooking, minimal cleanup, everyone gets something he or she likes, and then you’re done. Kitchen fairy? Nope.

stonefire grill bags

Last Wednesday we had A Day. You know the kind—play rehearsal, baseball game, karate practice…and that’s just the kids! Parents on opposite sides of town, trying to divide and conquer. By the time we would be done with all of this activity, it would be late and everyone would be hungry.

This was the perfect night to try the Stonefire Grill takeout menu. We ordered a family meal ahead of time, which you can do by phone (805-413-0300) or online, then at the appointed time, I parked in a reserved space for takeout customers. THAT was actually a super handy feature, because sometimes Stonefire is crowded (okay all the time at this location) and it can be hard to find parking. Nobody in the Bubble wants to feel that pain, right? That’s one of the reasons we live here!

Gym photobomb

Anyway once I happily parked, my karate student child and I went to the front desk, gave the staff our name, and in a few minutes we had bags of freshly cooked food ready to go. The 10 minute ride home was tough because it smelled so delicious and we were hungry!

Stonefire front desk

The meal we had included tri-tip (half barbecue, half salt & pepper), a pizza, breadsticks, a cartwheel salad, and a giant slab of carrot cake. There was enough there for all 4 of us plus leftovers! We were tired from our day, and so delighted to not have to make food (me) and to be able to eat right away (everyone).

Stonefire family meal

It was reasonably priced for the amount and quality of food we got, too. As much as I love dining at the actual location of Stonefire Grill, where the kids can be loud and refill their drinks as much as they want to, this was really convenient and we didn’t have to settle for fast food.

Stonefire Grill Takeout – Thousand Oaks
3635 E Thousand Oaks Blvd
Thousand Oaks, CA 91362
(805) 413-0300
Click here to order online

We received a complimentary meal to facilitate this feature. All opinions are our own.