B is for Birding … and Banana Bread

by brookefiore

This summer has taught me many things. One thing in particular is that you just never know when something is going to come along and grab your interest. Let me back up a bit. When I was younger I was not a nature center kid, no summer camps and I even kind of hated the field trips there. I think it was the lollipops with the bugs in them at the gift shop that really turned me off to the whole nature center idea. But like I said, you just never know when your perspective on things will change. My good friend sent me this photo one rainy afternoon. I thought well, that’s nice, a broken old bird feeder from someone else’s trash pile. I thought maybe he was into birds and I never knew it or maybe he was picking it up for his mother…or something. Needless to say, I never once thought he’d gotten it for me with the intentions of bringing it back to life. He was going to take the time to fix it up! The idea began to grow on me. I didn’t know anything about birds. I didn’t even know that the act of bird watching can also be called birding. I also didn’t know what type of seed to fill it with, where to find this seed, or if it was okay to feed birds in the summertime. With a little research and some direction from my father, I was on my way. I chose to fill ours with black oiled sunflower seed. I spent many afternoons on our deck studying for RD exam this summer and these little feathered friends quickly became like my study buddies. Okay, maybe they were more of a nice distraction.As you can see, a bit, okay a lot, of vinegar was used to clean up the copper and some copper colored spray paint made the perches look like new! I am glad someone saw the vision for this bird feeder because I sure wouldn’t have. From my studying of the birds I can now tell you that this little guy above is called a Common Redpoll!

The birds are just the beginning of the creatures that have come to visit our deck in response to the bird seed. This little squirrel is actually a Red Squirrel. In my opinion he’s much cuter than most of the other squirrels I’ve seen around and he hasn’t made an attempt to get up onto the feeder…yet.
One afternoon while studying I was visited by these two. I think they were hoping to munch on some seeds but they kept their distance.

And now I present you with Rosie, she did not chose to keep her distance. In fact, she joins us often for dinners on the deck. With a little research I confirmed that no, she does not have rabies. And with a little communication with yup, you guessed it, the nature center, I am able to tell you that she was most likely born in the spring and she is just one very opportunistic creature. However, she is still a wild animal and we try to keep our distance from her.
I found this galvanized pail to hold the birdseed while also keeping out mice, pests, and our kitty. I thought that a 25 gallon pail would be plenty but then I caught word that our feed supply store had 50 lb bags on sale! Who knew I would ever gain excitement from this news? I am now looking forward to the winter for yet another reason. I can’t wait to see what types of birds and critters we attract with the colder weather. I am so thankful for this gift that I never even knew I wanted. It has taught me to be more aware of my surroundings and has opened my eyes (and ears) to a whole host of new sights and sounds that have been under my nose for my entire life.

In following the theme of realizing new interests I’ve decided to also share the recipe that I first tackled when I reacquainted myself with the kitchen, post internship. This afternoon the over flowing bowl of bananas caught my eye. Why did we have so many bananas I thought. I saw that a few were browning and becoming mushy and this reminded me of the first recipe that provided me with some confidence in my baking skills. When life gives you brown, mushy bananas, make banana bread!I am not the neatest cook. In fact, I’m a really messy cook. I think this has something to do with my drive for perfection and organization in just about every other aspect of my life. When I put my apron on I seem to allow myself to make a mess. I like to think it’s a good thing because afterwards I really don’t mind the clean up! That being said, I put all my recipes into plastic sleeves to try and shield them from the flour, eggs, and all else that seems to get everywhere but in the bowl when I cook.

Today I chose to use all-purpose flour rather than a mix of half whole wheat and half all-purpose because we didn’t have much whole wheat flour left. I try my best to incorporate whole wheat flour, oats, or flax seed into my baking to give a little boost to the fiber content. Fiber from the whole grains will provide satiety more quickly than a lower fiber flour like all-purpose will and my hope is that I will have a smaller portion of a sweet treat like this and still feel satisfied! It is important to note that the banana itself provides some fiber too and makes for an incredibly moist bread.
Voila! A quick solution for those mushy bananas and with such an easy recipe even a beginner can have success in the kitchen. So there you have it, birding and banana bread! They have a lot more in common for me than you’d think. Both have taught me that I can acquire new skills and interests at the most unlikely of times and that with a little more appreciation I can find happiness in my life where I least expected it.

Banana Bread

Makes one loaf.

3 or 4 ripe bananas, smashed

1/3 cup melted butter

3/4 cup sugar

1 egg, beaten

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 tsp baking soda

pinch of salt

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour (or 3/4 cup whole wheat flour, and 3/4 cup all purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350 F. Mix mashed bananas and melted butter with a wooden spoon. Add in sugar, egg and vanilla and mix. Sprinkle in baking soda and salt and mix these in. Add the flour last and mix. Pour mixture into a 4×8 inch loaf pan that’s been sprayed with nonstick spray. Bake for 1 hour. Cool on a rack and remove from pan to slice and serve.