Spring! You have returned your sunshine and its adolescent grace with your crisp mornings and mild afternoons, freshly-cut grass and the scent of lilacs now lacing the city breeze. The parks are filled with dogs and children and parents escaping said children for a well-deserved ice cold beer on a quiet, weather-worn bench. For me, spring means all those things and so much more including the dreaded month-long marathon that is spring cleaning.
To be completely transparent, my approach to spring cleaning is one of two things; either I want to throw away or donate just about everything in question in one cathartic purge or 2., I want to save everything in question for the proverbial “day” I will desperately need it. With the husband’s hoarding tendencies and my American waste habits, we are the perfect storm for a Sunday murder-suicide. Well, maybe not exactly that but you get the idea. #chillpill
My 2015 strategy this year is to tackle one section of the flat at a time (how hard could 80 square meters be? You’d be surprised) and begin with the biggest offender of them all: the kitchen. (Damn those cutlery drawers!) Which brings me to this question:
Where and when did I acquire so many spices – and weird ones at that? Gyro flavors immediately come to mind. It was time for the heave-ho and boy was I ready.
Donning an apron and rolled up sweatpants, I started pulling out the spice jars and assembling them into piles across our counter tops. “Ah, yuck,” I groaned. “We’re gonna need the vacuum stat.” We were officially hemorrhaging spice-like dust and I was covered in more spices than a paella contest in southern Spain. It is a process as I first have to read the labels in Czech or German, determine to keep or throw ’em, give a proper scrub, then organize. Sunday was a success, though. We made it through the spices, the 7 bags of half-used opened bags of pasta, the tile grime, the many kitchen instruments that NASA surely could find use for, and of course that gross cutlery drawer.
A clear space is a clear head, I always say. How organized and German I am.
Another benefit of cleaning is that you find a plethora of things that you forgot you had. For example, I found vanilla bean pods for crème brûlée I’ve been meaning to make, obscure extracts for baking, and bags of rather expensive dried cranberries that I once stocked up on during a fire sale at my local grocer. With the day coming to an end and having taken inventory of my kitchen I wanted to put some of these ingredients to good use and clean out. I had a pile of bananas that were going to go off and frankly I just couldn’t be bothered to make a smoothie/clean a blender. The task was clear: I got to work on a New England banana bread.
Banana bread is incredibly simple yet not so straight forward. I think most banana bread lovers are separated into 2 camps; either you add berries and nuts or you don’t. I am from the American camp of “more is more” so I got to work on chopping up a rediscovered bag of walnuts and getting those cranberries into motion. With a 10 minute prep, I soon had the loaf pan in the oven. I folded my arms and let out a sigh — this would pair excellently with a hot cup of tea tonight after a long day of cleaning together, I thought. Nothing quite says “sorry for kinda being an over-caffeinated jerk wielding a mop erratically” like homemade bread made with love. Right? Right. #chillpill
As I write this, the kitchen is finalized — scrubbed, organized, and ready for another year. I think that with the advent of The Bell Kitchen and a home cook blog she may just be bracing for impact in 2015; it is going to be a great one filled with setbacks and comebacks. You in? I am.
Are you in the midst of spring cleaning? If so, don’t forget to reward yourself at the end of the day for your hard work. Learn this easy-to-bake banana bread and use the oven before we take a break from it during the hot summer.
I think you should take a tip from the husband’s playbook: best to use it than to waste it. Show your bananas some love.
New England Banana Bread
Filled with cranberries and nuts, this banana bread tastes like home.
Preheat your oven to 350 F (180 C), set your baking rack in the center. Line the baking loaf pan with parchment paper
In a large bowl, sift together all dry ingredients, combine, and set aside. Using a stand-alone mixer or in another bowl, beat the sugar and eggs until light in color and smooth (about 10 mins). Slowly add the oil. Once combined, add bananas, sour cream, and extracts. Fold in your dry ingredients thoroughly but do not over-beat. Add cranberries and nuts and pour into a loaf pan.
Bake for 45-60 minutes until toothpick comes out clean