Cranberry Pecan Bread

A good alternative to raiding grocery store shelves for things one may not ordinarily buy in bulk but that are imperative to have on-hand during a weather semi-emergency – bottled water, bagged bread, peanut butter, hot dogs (maybe, maybe not), big clear plastic gallons of milk – is to host a baking marathon. Attendees: the baker, a TV show or movie that requires only intermittent attention to follow the plot line (say, Con Air with commercial breaks, or Burn Notice, or Best in Show — but only if you’ve seen it a few times already), and maybe someone to eat up all the finished products.  Should this storm really ratchet up, I might regret buying pastry flour, sticks of butter, and lemons instead of edible staples. Ice cream somehow found its way into the grocery bag too, so if the power goes out, please join us for a freezer par-tay. All joking aside, with lots of family and friends living up and down the coast, we’re hoping for a quick turnaround and a lesser impact than what is predicted for this storm that just so happens to share my opposite-of-destructive mother’s name.

Thanks to a few episodes of season 3 of Nikita, we’ve got a loaf of pecan and cranberry-studded bread cooling next to a pear and apple crisp that also is…cranberry-studded. Nikita herself probably doesn’t eat anything baked, or anything with fat, salt, or sugar for that matter, but she might be enticed to chow down on a slice of this bread before she heads off to ride motorcycles and karate-chop bad guys. It’s got the texture of a good banana bread with a slightly crunchy top due to a sprinkling of sugar, and the usual blah-blah-blah about how the tartness of the cranberries nicely offsets the sweetness of the bread. They really do, though. As soon as I can get my hands on more fresh cranberries, I’m making this again.

Cranberry Pecan Bread
(Very slightly adapted from Martha Stewards recipe found here)

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 large egg, lightly beaten
3/4 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
12 ounces fresh cranberries (if buying in the store, 1 bag is typically 12 oz.)
1/2 cup pecans, toasted and roughly chopped
1 tablespoon turbinado sugar, for topping (I used regular sugar)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees; grease a loaf pan (I use coconut oil spray, but Martha says butter and flour, and she is Martha).

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a medium bowl, mix together butter, egg, milk, and extracts. Add wet mixture to dry mixture and stir until just combined, then fold in cranberries and pecans.

Pour batter into your loaf pan; sprinkle top with turbinado sugar if desired.

Bake until a toothpick inserted in center of loaf comes out clean, about 1 hour and 15 minutes.

Transfer pan to a wire rack; let bread cool 30 minutes. Invert onto rack, then immediately turn right side up to cool completely.

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Hooray for Sept 18 – New Releases

Two new releases today, and they pair quite nicely with the big wind gusts and impending all-night storm. Both are coming to Boston (Grizzly Bear on Saturday, Menomena next month) – can’t wait to do this all live.

Grizzly Bear: Shields.  Flits between raw, lovely, and listenable with a hint of roughed-up Belle and Sebastian.

 

Menomena: Moms.  Just might like their other albums better but it’s too soon to tell. They’ve got these sleeper hits that get their hooks into you a little deeper with each listen.

The Upside to Going in Circles

This is one of the best times of year for sunsets in our neck of the woods/city. My favorite place to enjoy it is the Chestnut Hill Reservoir, where the running path has been revamped in the last two years – widened, smoothed, with weeds kept at bay.  It doesn’t boast sailboats like the Charles, but it has a nice beginning and end, full circle, without streams of bicycling commuters zipping by too close or too fast.  You go around one side almost blinded by sun, and come back around the other casting 20-foot shadows for the cars on Beacon to admire.  Students, older Brookline residents, parents with strollers, a few guys fishing – a nice slice of life to pass or be passed by.

When you finish your laps, refuel with a protein-filled snack. A recent cabinet-rummage inspired these banana treats, which hardly need a recipe – just assemble and eat. They will fill you up, so if you’re peckish rather than ravenous, perhaps go for half of everything listed below.

Banana & Sunflower Seed Butter Snacks
Serves 1-2

1 ripe but not too squishy banana
1-2 tablespoons sunflower seed butter
Approx. 1 teaspoon chia seeds
1 tablespoon large, unsweetened coconut flakes
Small handful of chopped pecans or walnuts, if desired
Pinch of flaky sea salt

Slice banana in half lengthwise. Spread with sunflower seed butter, then sprinkle on coconut flakes, nuts, chia seeds, then salt. That’s it.  I bet little kids would like this if you sliced the banana in coins instead.  It’s also really good for breakfast with some black coffee or juice – something astringent or slightly bitter to cut the creaminess.

P.S. Running at dusk? Here’s a good tune for it: Mansions on the Moon – Radio

Your Every Playlist Song

This picture has nothing to do with anything.

Besides Ween’s “Your Party” (a song worthy of its own post, really) and the almighty “Sledgehammer,” another tune that merits its 4 minutes and 22 seconds on your playlist is Allen Toussaint’s version of “Blue Drag 07.”

Allen Toussaint – Blue Drag (Audio HQ) by STARDUST72

It’s equally superb over a summer thunderstorm, issuing static-flecked from those crummy portable speakers you use while painting the bedroom (mine plug into a 1999-era yellow “sporty” discman that has white specks from when I painted a barn and a bazillion feet of fence on the alpaca farm), as dinner prep company to chopping onions barefoot in a hot kitchen, or at the end of it all, harmonizing with the clink of fat wine glasses and cheese-plate chatter. At my parents’ house, it would probably elicit some twirlies and slow knee sways in the kitchen. This scene, basically.  We have a lot of neighbors.

You can put it on just about every playlist except “Sisters Work Out Mix 2011” (reserved for such classics as “Barbra Streisand” and the entire Daft Punk “Alive 2007” album) and “Mad & Hyper Mix” (Prodigy’s “Breathe” on repeat, obviously).

Enjoy!

Winwood

Holy moly Steve Winwood.  I’d say you’ve still got it, but it appears you never lost it in the first place. Saturday night’s concert had Matt getting his groove on in the aisle at the Bank of America Pavilion. The grooving isn’t unusual in and of itself, but taking it to an aisle only half-sheltered by a torrential downpour means something special was going on up on stage. The space at our assigned seats just didn’t have the circumference required for full range of extreme dance motions.

I could wax poetic about the musical prowess of the band, that 7-minute drum solo, the guy that played four instruments (sometimes two woodwinds at once) and sang backup vocals, how Winwood and Bill Nighy have got to be related, and the awesomeness of Winwood’s 1990s New Mexico button down shirt, but better to just urge you to go see him and his band yourself, if you can make it. If you’re really lucky, maybe he’ll even play “Valerie.”