15 January 2015

Happy Birthday Edna: Banana Cake

150109 Edna Staebler Banana Cake 2

Happy birthday to my friend, Edna Staebler. This Canadian culinary gem would have been 109 years young today. She was a marvel and a talented woman who wrote about life, but is best known for bringing Waterloo County fare to the world.  I've written about her several times, including  here, here and here.

Even though 1 January marks the new calendar year, 15 January starts my culinary year: The holidays' excesses have lulled, the fridge is now rid of overcomplicated and overzhuzhed memories.  Overreaching and overhyped wannabe food personalities are hushed.  
It's time to return to what sustains me for the other 350 days of the year--delicious yet simple foods, born of tradition, seasonality and curiosity.

This January sees a surfeit of bananas in my house--more freckled yellow fruit than I care to mention are in bowls and on my countertop, thanks to my parents.  Don't ask.  Things like this just happen.

While banana'd treats are a temporary staple--banana smoothies, and peanut butter, banana and honey sandwiches--I still feel up to my knees in bananas.  I could take Josephine Baker's lead and make a fashion statement, but I don't. 

Edna offers several delicious-looking banana baking options, but this simple banana cake from her first book, Food That Really Schmecks, caught my eye.  As with all of her recipes, this one is easy, tasty and came together quickly.  I've made some minor changes: instead of shortening, I used butter with a splash of oil, and I substituted sour cream and milk for sour milk. 

The end result is a tender-crumbed, old-fashioned cake, devoid of propensity but filled with comfort and flavour.

This cake can be made in a rectangular pan or in two round tins, sandwiching a slathering of whipped cream and sliced bananas between layers.  Edna recommends a penuche icing--which I'm sure would be scrumptious--but I think unadorned is best.

150109 Edna Staebler Banana Cake 1
Banana Cake
Edna Staebler - Food That Really Schmecks (adapted)

Yield: One 33x23x5cm (13"x9"x2") cake

110g/125ml/0.5c softened butter
1Tbsp/15ml flavourless oil
300g/375ml/1.5c sugar
1tsp/5ml salt
2 large eggs
325g/560ml/2.25c all purpose flour
1tsp/5ml baking powder
0.75tsp/3.75ml bicarbonate of soda
2Tbsp/30ml sour cream 
2Tbsp/30ml milk
260g/250ml/1c mashed overripe bananas (2-3 large bananas)
65g/125ml/0.5c walnut or pecan crumbs


Preheat oven to 180C/350F (moderate/Gas Mark 4)

Prepare a 33cmx23cmx5cm (13"x9"x2") pan by either lining it with crumpled greaseproof paper or by greasing and flouring.

Sift together the flour and leavening agents. Set aside.

Mix together the sour cream, milk and mashed bananas. Set aside

Cream together the butter, oil, salt and sugar. Scrape down the bowl and add eggs one at a time, beating well between editions. Scrape down the bowl again.

Add the flour and banana mixtures in the usual way (dry-wet-dry-wet-dry), scraping down after incorporating each banana mixture. 

Fold in the nuts and give the batter a good stir to ensure no flour clumps are hiding. The batter should be light and thick but moussy texture.

Pour into the prepared pan, level the batter and smooth the top. Tap on the counter once or twice to release any large air bubbles.

Bake for 40-45 minutes. The cake should be golden brown, the top springs back when lightly touched, and the cake pulls away from the sides. An inserted bamboo skewer should come out cleanly.

Slather with the icing of your choice (cream cheese, penuche, chocolate, vanilla, peanut butter), dust with icing sugar or leave as-is.


  • The baking time listed is for the rectangular cake pan.  If baking in two 20cm/8" or 23cm/9" pans, bake for 25-35 minutes


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05 January 2015

On the 12th day of Christmas...

...my tummy remembered the wonderful foods that made it so happy this season

141225 Xmas Boiled Potatoes 141225 Xmas Brussels Sprouts 141225 Xmas Carrot Salad 141225 Xmas Cheddar Jalapeno Scone 2 141225 Xmas Maple Harissa Carrots 141225 Xmas Plum Pudding 141225 Xmas Roast Asparagus 141225 Xmas Roast Turkey 141229 Mushroom Crostini 141231 Brussels Sprouts Hash w Poached Egg 2 141229 Garlic Shrimp 100929 Margarita Ice Cream 1

From top left to bottom right:  Broasted potatoes, Brussels sprouts with bacon and pine nuts, Carrot salad, Cheddar-jalapeno scones, Maple-harissa glazed carrots, Plum pudding, Roast asparagus, Roast Turkey, Mushroom crostini, Hash with poached egg and bacon, garlic shrimp, margarita ice cream

Some recipes to follow...

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06 December 2014

25 years...

I went to an all-girls’ Catholic high school.  Our teachers were compassionate, bright, funny and most importantly: encouraging. We were encouraged to speak up in class, pose questions and debate viewpoints. In other words, we were told our thoughts, ideas, and contributions were valid and necessary.

In hindsight, we learned in a very safe environment—we weren’t diminished because of our sex, and we weren’t held to gender-based stereotypes.  This is probably why, when I took a few classes at the boys’ school across the road, I had no problems speaking my mind.  I know the fact I didn’t automatically defer to post-pubescent male opinion ruffled some teenaged feathers.  When my teachers thanked me for defending ideas and presenting a non-male point of view to classes of 30+ boys—I realized those chalkboard-lined rooms would be probably be training grounds for the real world. In fact, they were.

I was a student, technically in high school but taking University classes, when Marc Lepine screamed “I hate feminists!” as he killed 14 women at L'École Polytechnique.  While that terrible day happened 25 years ago, I remember it as if it was yesterday: the outrage, the fear, the shattering sadness.  Most of the victims were not much older than me.

Much has been written and broadcast this week about the anniversary.  Some, by reporters who were first on scene, others trying to determine the progress (if any) in battle against misogyny and violence against women.

This happens at a time when the news is dripping with alleged assaults against women by Jian Ghomeshi, Bill Cosby and Canadian Members of Parliament.

This happens at a time when Gamergate encompasses long series of seemingly ingrained and systemic misogyny and harassment within video gaming.

This happens at a time when Canada’s Justice Minister doesn’t see harassment in Parliament or in his political party, and claims ignorance of Marc Lepine’s motives. (For the record, we have known Lepine’s motives for decades).

Although we’ve made strides over the past quarter century, we still have far to go.

We are still in a world where star or key employees get the kid glove treatment when accused of sexual harassment and misconduct.

We are still in a world where non-profits provide free labour to police a social media platform’s online harassment, instead of those platforms taking ownership their role in these issues.

We are in a world where an American magazine tries to ban the word “feminist” from pop culture, only to change its mind when the masses object.

Through all of this, there is hope.

Conversation is changing.  Issues of violence against women, sexual harassment and other related issues are now openly talked about because of hashtags such as #IBelieveLucy and #BeenRapedNotReported.

Culture is still shifting.  Although old boys clubs’ stalwarts can still hold power, a new generation of leaders are taking these issues seriously and taking action now.

Communities are reacting.  As of time of writing, Bill Cosby is still slated to perform at my local performance space next month. My friend is spearheading a counter-event to support sexual assault survivors.

Every year I post the names of the 14 women who lost their lives in a horrible act of hatred. They should not be forgotten.

Geneviève Bergeron (1968–1989), civil engineering student
Hélène Colgan (1966–1989), mechanical engineering student
Nathalie Croteau (1966–1989), mechanical engineering student
Barbara Daigneault (1967–1989), mechanical engineering student
Anne-Marie Edward (1968–1989), chemical engineering student
Maud Haviernick (1960–1989), materials engineering student
Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz (1958–1989), nursing student
Maryse Laganière (1964–1989), budget clerk
Maryse Leclair (1966–1989), materials engineering student
Anne-Marie Lemay (1967–1989), mechanical engineering student
Sonia Pelletier (1961–1989), mechanical engineering student
Michèle Richard (1968–1989), materials engineering student
Annie St-Arneault (1966–1989), mechanical engineering student
Annie Turcotte (1969–1989), materials engineering student

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