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Our sense of smell has amazing power over memory and emotions. Lemon blossoms bring me to my family home in California. Pears take me to my grandma’s house. A whiff of espresso takes me to Italy.

While oranges and other citrus may be stimulating and boost our mood, vanilla and lavender are more relaxing.

Sometimes we need the soothing smells of simmered soup or baked bread. Cinnamon, bananas, walnuts and vanilla perfuming the house, feel like a hug.

This week I wanted solace. I haven’t made banana bread in years. That’s not for a lack of overripe bananas, but because so many recipes seem more doughnut than bread with all the sugar and oil.

Many quick bread recipes have a cup of oil and up to two cups sugar. Not this LiveBest Banana Walnut Bread. I reduced the fat and sugar, pumped up protein with eggs and yogurt, and fortified fiber with whole-wheat flour, oats, prune and walnuts. During taste testing, I asked my husband what could be improved. He said: If you’d made 2 loaves.

Bananas prefer warm, tropical weather. If they get too cold, they refuse to ripen and sweeten. Bang them around and the bruises grow wider and deeper. Bananas store best at room temperature. The warmer it is, the faster they ripen. You can refrigerate them. The peel will turn black but the fruit is still good. Bananas can also be frozen. Peel them and store in an air-tight container. To ripen bananas, place them in a closed brown paper bag for a day or two.

As they ripen, bananas become sweeter and more flavorful, so are good to use in other recipes such as in smoothies or baking. Mash and add to oatmeal while cooking or slice and freeze then whirl in a food processor for sorbet.

The right pan helps. An aluminum pan is the most common pan on the market because of its ability to conduct heat. It does this very well, so it bakes a little faster and browns better. Stainless steel pans don’t conduct heat as well as aluminum. On the other hand, glass takes longer to heat and doesn’t conduct heat well, but it holds heat for a longer time. That means with a glass pan the edges of baked goods may cook faster than the center, so you end up with dry bottom and sides. Reduce the heat by 25° F. to remedy this.

Judy Barbe is a registered dietitian, speaker and author of “Your 6-Week Guide to LiveBest: Simple Solutions for Fresh Food & Well-Being.” Visit her website for every day food solutions.


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