Darken the Roux: Chapter 1

*This is the first post in an ongoing series that investigates the history of gumbo, and black women in Louisiana. Basically, I’m adapting my undergrad thesis for the internet, so more people can read it.

Crossing Oceans on a Grain of Rice

As a child, growing up between Louisiana and Washington State, nothing excited me more than helping my mother in the kitchen. I could watch her chop, whisk, mince, and stir for hours. She always gave me some small task to complete while she explained how an entire dish worked. These served as recipes in our house. Numbers and proportions were never exact, but smells, sounds, color, and of course, tastes were everything. It seemed like my momma could cook just about anything. Since we come from a long line of Louisiana Creoles of Color (I’m also descended from Cajuns on my dad’s side of the family), our kitchen was never without bell peppers, onions, creole seasonings, and some form of smoked salty meat. Of all the wonders that came from my mother’s kitchen there were certain dishes that outshone all the others: jambalaya, rice dressing (or dirty rice), and gumbo, naturally. The pot my mother used to make gumbo was large enough for me to measure how much I’d grown from winter to winter. Could I fit inside it? Could I manage to pull it out of its cabinet? Hoist it onto the stove? Was I tall enough to stir without splattering the contents?

Gumbo was reserved for special occasions and particularly lean times in our house—times when a lot of food was needed but our budget was tight. Momma always made enough to feed an army (when it was just the two of us, a pot of gumbo could last for weeks if stored properly). To me the dish has always tasted like love. But living in northern climates, my love of gumbo was somewhat of an oddity to my friends. Most of the ingredients—Andouille sausage, roux, and okra—were foreign to them. And since northerners have been perfectly happy eating impostor versions of gumbo since the 1980s,my friends had a hard time seeing why I loved a dish that to them was a slimy, abhorrent Campbell’s soup flavor. As I grew older, my friends and lovers brought me to pseudo Cajun restaurants to try to appeal to my wild southern palate. As I scoffed over and over again at the poor excuses for Cajun and Creole food that were placed in front of me I was always met with the question: “If this isn’t real gumbo, what is?”

My sadness at every mediocre bowl of gumbo is more than just the disappointment of a native palate. Gumbo carries within its flavors a story—the story of women who came before me. When I taste a good gumbo, I can taste the history behind it. Gumbo’s history is tied closely to the history of black women in Louisiana. It traveled across the ocean with them on slave ships. As black women adapted to their new lives in Louisiana, gumbo evolved as well. Gumbo’s popularity and persistence in the identities of Louisiana is largely due to the systematic exploitation of black women. But Gumbo also tells the story of black women’s bravery, malleability, perseverance, and power. It tells the story of the numerous women who originated the dish, those who helped it evolve, and those who turned their knowledge of gumbo and dishes like it into culinary empires. The story of gumbo in the United States begins with hunger and violence. It begins with a grain of rice.

A side note before we get into the nitty-gritty: I use the terms “Creole,” “Creoles of Color,” and Cajun pretty often when talking about Louisiana, its food, and its history. While these terms might sound interchangeable to folks outside of Louisiana, they connote worlds or cultural differences. The term “Creole” has had a wide variety of uses and meanings over the years. When I say “Creole,” I’m referring to white, Louisiana-born descendants of French and German settlers. “Creole of Color” refers to the class of people born in Louisiana who are descended from the children of African slaves with French and German settlers. “Cajun” refers to descendants of German planters in the southwest portion of Louisiana (west of the Bayou Teche). There are also class connotations in the “Creole/Cajun” divide. Creoles were often wealthy landowners, whereas Cajuns are a historically working-class group.

Gumbo utilizes the formula that has fed every group of people in Africa since anyone can remember: stew + starch + animal protein. This formula is no secret; people the world over have survived on stew since we started cooking things, but the ingredients of a gumbo—specifically rice and okra—tie the dish directly to Africa. The Transatlantic Slave Trade is directly responsible for bringing African foods like okra, yams, watermelon, and back-eyed peas to the United States. While popular myths romanticize slaves carrying okra and other seeds across the Atlantic in their hair and clothes, records indicate a much more intentional importation of African foods. Most of the foods brought to the Americas from Africa were brought onboard slave ships to feed newly captured Africans. In her book High on the Hog: A Culinary Journey from Africa to America, culinary historian, journalist, and professor of English at Queens College/C.U.N.Y. Jessica B. Harris traces the origins of various cereals, as well as rice and yams to the areas of the continent that slaves were taken from. She traces cereals, like sorghum and millet, to parts of Sudan and east Senegal, and yams to the western coast of African between the Côte d’Ivoir and Cameroon. The Senegambia region of Africa, which includes present-day Senegal and the Republic of Guinea was deeply reliant on rice as a food source. Cereals like sorghum and millet can be traced to parts of Sudan and east Senegal, and yams to the western coast of African between the Côte d’Ivoir and Cameroon. This area was also responsible for supplying two-thirds of Louisiana’s slave workforce during the French slave trade. The foods that accompanied enslaved blacks through the Middle Passage from Africa are not only the basis of most of what is called “soul food” in the United States, they also serve as a direct historical link between contemporary black Americans and our African ancestors.

The Middle Passage, the journey of enslaved Africans from their home continent to the New World, was a period of systemic violence calculated to dehumanize and break the spirits of thousands. The successful transportation and training of slaves required that slavers do everything in their power to remove every sense of dignity and of culture from their captives.This presented two problems to slavers: on the one hand, their cargo needed to be delivered in good condition; on the other hand, slaves needed to be taught to accept their new position as chattel. In her book Africans in Colonial Louisiana: The Development of Afro-Creole Culture in the Eighteenth Century, historian Gwendolyn Mildo-Hall explains the ways in which captains bringing slaves to Louisiana were instructed to “pay a great deal of attention to minimizing mortality” among their cargo, and were told to “take good care of the health of the blacks, to prevent the black women from being debauched by the black men and crew, and to clean and scrape the slave quarters every day to avoid rot.” They were also advised to avoid taking on captives that were too old, too young, or too sickly to survive the journey across the Atlantic in the first place. Early slave traders learned quickly that not only was it more costly to bring food provisions from Europe to feed the slaves picked up in Africa, it was futile. Enslaved Africans would not eat food that did not resemble the flavor profiles of their native land. In order to ensure the survival of their cargo, slavers had to pay special attention to the diets of their human cargo. They needed to keep their ships stocked with foods that Africans were accustomed to eating. Consequently, the Transatlantic Slave Trade quickly fostered a second market in African foodstuffs. For their role in feeding slaves, African foods became almost as valuable to the economy of the North American colonies as African people. Within a few generations, the foods brought to north America solely for feeding slaves became staples of the white American diet. 

Food played an important role on how slave traders dealt with their second problem as well—that of converting a cargo of people into a cargo of slaves. Food, or more precisely, eating, became a major point of contention on many slave ships. Even when slavers provided foods like rice, yams, okra, or beans for their captives, it was not uncommon for the newly enslaved to go on hunger strikes. Some would only accept the water given them, while others chose escape through starvation. Refusing food was such a common tactic of rebellion among slaves that slave traders developed the speculum oris, as a means of punishment as well as a solution. An alternative when whipping failed, the three-pronged thumbscrew device was used to force open the mouth of a slave, so that they could be force-fed through a funnel. Women often bore the lion’s share of punishments on slave ships.

In her book Ain’t I A Woman, bell hooks recounts an incident reported by Ruth and Jacob Weldon on the slave ship Pongas:

In their personal account of life aboard a slave ship, the Weldons recounted an incident in which a child of nine months was flogged continuously for refusing to eat. When beating failed to force the child to eat, the captain ordered that the child be placed feet first into a pot of boiling water. After trying other torturous methods with no success, the captain dropped the child and caused its death. Not deriving enough satisfaction from this sadistic act, he then commanded the mother to throw the body of the child overboard. The mother refused but was beaten until she submitted.

African women were also used to expose and punish suspected uprisings. Gwendolyn Mildo-Hall tells of an uprising on Le Courrier de Bourbon headed to Louisiana from Gorée:

As they were leaving Grenada on October 4, a conspiracy among the slaves was uncovered. A young nègre tried to indicate through gestures to the ship’s officers that a revolt was planned. The officers could not understand clearly what this nègre was saying. They sent for two women slaves, one from Senegal and the other from Gorée, to interpret for them. Both of the women claimed they could not understand the nègre. They were tied to a cannon and lashed, but the women still said nothing. After several other black in shackles were lashed, the woman from Senegal declared that a nègre aged about forty-five “was the sorcerer who raised their vain hopes,” and that the woman from Gorée knew this as well but did not want to admit it right away. They started lashing the woman from Gorée the same as the other blacks, and she affirmed the woman from Senegal’s declaration, pointing out the same nègre as the leader of the conspiracy to slit the throats of the whites.

hooks argues that black female slaves were the most frequent victims of brutality during the Middle Passage because white slavers could “brutalize and exploit her without fear of harmful retaliation. Thus, in preventing a revolt, women were the first to be brutalized into betraying their fellow captives. White slavers probably feared that any attempt to beat a confession out of a black male slave would only hasten the revolt itself. Because black women were not perceived as a threat, they were forced to become tools of oppression at the hands of their captors.

In order to fully enslave a people, one must destroy all ties to their culture. As African women were transmitters of their native cultures (the ones who kept the knowledge of food, agriculture, medicine, language, and many religious customs), this was largely accomplished by violently debasing them. The brutality black women suffered separated them from their countrymen; it was intended to destroy solidarity among slaves. Slavers often used sexual assault as a means of asserting both physical and psychological dominance over black women and men. But the same reasons that made black women victims of endless brutality on slave ships, sometimes allowed the preservation of certain aspects of their native cultures. While many of the cooks hired on slave ships were free people of color (usually men), they were often aided by “confidential slaves, who were given positions of power because of their linguistic ability or because they were deemed more tractable.” These confidential slaves were quite frequently women, who retained knowledge of recipes and food preparation practices from their homelands. Black women slaves were often trusted as interpreters between slavers and captives as well as among groups of slaves. It was frequently through these confidential slaves that knowledge of African foodways, languages, and traditions were brought to the United States.

Black American foodways rely heavily on the aspects of African foodways that slaves were able to protect and import through the Transatlantic Slave Trade.The African captives brought to the United States infused their agriculture and food practices into the culinary narratives of the rest of the country over time. But in Louisiana, African rice was the catalyst for the slave trade itself. When the first slave ships arrived in Louisiana from Africa in 1719, bringing barrels of seed rice as well as Africans who knew how to grow it, the new colony gained access to a food source that would become essential to the survival of the region.

In his book Bouki Fait Gombo, Ibrahima Seck, director of the Whitney/Haydel Plantation in Louisiana, links the cultivation of rice in Louisiana to the economic hardships endured by French and German Settlers to the region during the French and Spanish war for Pensacola (1719-1721):

In March 1721, supplies were totally exhausted at a time when the Indians could not provide the customary help. The Illinois Country was then well established and produced wheat in the colony in addition to husbandry of horses, cattle, and pigs. Since transportation was extremely difficult on the Mississippi River, the [French] Company exhorted the colonists to think above all about food crops. Rice was the most suitable crop because it could stand the heavy rainfalls, but none of the colonists had any knowledge of its cultivation. The solution came from the rice growing areas of West Africa.

The first two slave ships sent to Louisiana, L’Aurore and le Duc du Maine, had specific instructions to “purchase several blacks who knew how to cultivate rice and three or four barrels of rice for seeding,” intended to be given directly to company leaders in Louisiana. Settlers spent years begging the French government for slaves. But until the food crisis of 1719-1721, the French saw no need to expand the slave trade to Louisiana. In contrast to other parts of the United States, where rice was largely considered a by-product of the slave trade, the slave trade in Louisiana existed primarily because of rice.

Okra had a somewhat different and less documented journey to Louisiana. Culinary historian, Jessica B. Harris speculates, “Okra probably was first introduced into the continental United States in the early 1700s, most likely from the Caribbean, where it has a long history.” By the time the slave trade came to Louisiana, okra had become a regular slave crop in many of the English colonies in North America. It was often cultivated in small garden plots slaves kept in order to provide food for themselves. It is possible that okra predates the French slave trade in Louisiana. Before the French government granted Louisiana settlers access to slaves, officials like Bienville were known to have smuggled a few slaves from St. Domingue as early as 1708. As slaves were rarely transported without foods that were native to their diets, it is probable that okra was brought to Louisiana from St. Domingue along with these slaves. While it is difficult to say exactly how or when okra was introduced to Louisiana, it is safe to say that as the slave trade grew in the region, so did the cultivation of okra as a source of food for enslaved Africans. Louisiana’s tropical climate was extremely hospitable for growing okra and it was customary for slaves during the eighteenth century to keep small gardens from which they fed themselves and their families.

African slaves were invaluable to the building of the Louisiana territory. Their resilience through the Middle Passage, as well as their knowledge of agriculture, metalworking, construction, medicine, and food preparation kept French and German settlers alive, and allowed the construction of New Orleans as well as Louisiana’s economic infrastructure. The strength and knowledge of African slaves would also lead the people of Louisiana to develop a distinct cultural identity that was firmly grounded in African customs and language.




I have some stories to tell you…

Things have been pretty quiet around here for almost a year now. I’ve had a lot going on personally—mostly trying to survive my senior year of college—and I sort of let things slip away. But that doesn’t mean I wasn’t cooking, eating, sleeping, thinking, and breathing food every second of the past year. On the contrary, I’ve made it my main focus. I decided to devote my last year of college to exploring the culinary history of my family. When I set out to write my senior thesis, I wanted to basically write a history of Louisiana’s foodways—the eating habits and culinary practices that distinguish a people, region or historic period. It only took me about five minutes to realize that a complete, or even semi-complete history of my home state’s food would be impossible to put on paper over the course of one school year. Clearly, I had to narrow things down. I decided to focus on gumbo, the “national dish” of Louisiana.

My thesis presentation. Source https://www.instagram.com/renaencns/


The more I read, the more discouraged I felt about uncovering the origins of this dish. When I was a kid, my uncle Bradley, a professor of African American history would constantly remind me that “gumbo” was an African word for okra. And while I hated those slimy green pods that my grandmother would sometimes slip into her gumbo, I loved the stew. So I took in his words, but promptly forgot them until 27-year-old me was trying to figure out where the heck a dish like gumbo comes from. I figured gumbo was an African dish, but all the books about Cajun and Creole cuisine kept saying the origins of the dish were “murky” or “shrouded in mystery.” I couldn’t help but call BS. I know when a southerner is trying to avoid a touchy subject and it seemed like all of my books were politely screaming “THERE IS SOMETHING RACIAL GOING ON BEHIND THE SCENES HERE AND WE ARE NOT GOING TO DISCUSS IT!”


So, naturally, that’s the only thing I wanted to find out and discuss.

Statue at the Whitney Plantation in Louisiana, a museum devoted to slavery in the US south.

I did a lot more reading and thinking and came to the conclusion that the missing link in the gumbo story was slavery—that peculiar institution that nobody wants to talk about. Slavery had to be the reason a stew with a clearly African name could become the most beloved dish in Louisiana. Enslaved Africans and Native Americans were essential in making Louisiana and everything it’s known for.

Then I did even more thinking and even more reading and I developed a very pronounced ache in my stomach and in my heart. Have you ever been in a situation where you’re dying to say something, but can’t for whatever reason? Like, say you’re in class and the teacher asks a question that you know the answer to but she just won’t call on you. You know that feeling in the pit of your stomach? I had that for like a year. Everywhere I turned for information on gumbo, Louisiana history, and American slavery, there were pieces missing. Every time I looked at contemporary food writing about the South and about Louisiana I got the same feeling. Finally, that ache became a question: where are all the black women? When do I get to hear their voices, their stories? My thesis advisor gave me a very simple, very challenging answer: you might have to uncover and tell those stories yourself.

I’m a mixed race black woman from Lafayette, Louisiana. Talking about the ways in which black women made and shaped gumbo and the rest of Louisiana’s iconic cuisine means talking about my own history. It means talking about the arguments between my mother, my grandmother and my aunties over what to put in the Christmas gumbo. It means talking about the Creole women of color in the French Quarter, raising families on small empires of food and voudou. It means talking about a lot of things. When I started, I had no idea how or if I could talk about any of that.

I turned to people like Michael Twitty, Toni Tipton-Martin, and Psyche Williams-Forson, who have spent years writing down the stories that are painful to tell, the stories that most people of color (especially women of color) in America have been told nobody wants to hear. Since I couldn’t find anyone writing specifically about black women’s foodways in Louisiana, I did it myself. If you’ll bear with me, I’d like to share some of what I’ve been uncovering. I’d like to tell some of those stories here.


Sound good?

It’s Been A While… Anyone Still Out There?

Geez, it’s been a long time since I posted anything!

As I promised back at the beginning of the year, there are big changes coming to The Filthy Kitchen Blog. I’m still going to be posting my recipes and tasty treats, but I’m also going to start adding more food for thought.

The main reason I haven’t been writing here is that I’m in my last year of college (finally!) and working on my senior thesis. Food means so, so much to me. It’s a huge part of the communities I come from. I plan on going to culinary school after I graduate, but for now, I want to use the academic skills I’ve been learning to focus on where I come from and the food I love. I’m using my senior thesis to focus on the history of gumbo. In doing so, I hope to tell the story of countless black women who, through resilience and ingenuity, created Louisiana’s most well-loved dish. I’m calling it “Darkening the Roux:Black Women and the Rise of Gumbo.”

“Darken the Roux” is an exploration of the impact of black women on Cajun and Creole foodways in America. By tracing the history of gumbo’s many components and incarnations, we are able to place black women firmly at the conception of Louisiana’s most iconic dish. I originally set out to write a history of Cajun foodways throughout southwestern Louisiana. In the course of my research, I noticed many very conspicuous gaps in information. While (predominantly white) authors writing about Louisiana’s culinary history are willing to pay lips service to the fact that blacks have had an influence on the creation of many Cajun and Creole dishes, they are reluctant to elaborate. For instance, we know that okra was brought to the United States from Africa as part of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, but food writers refuse to pinpoint gumbo itself as an African dish. While Louisiana gumbo is evidence of the myriad ways in which cultures have come together and interacted throughout history, its origins and its variations are African and black by nature. In researching black foodways of the American south, I found that nearly all texts exclude Louisiana’s cuisine and its history of black home cooks and chefs. “Darken the Roux” aims to fill in the gaps, and give voice to the black women who have been left out of Louisiana’s rich and colorful culinary story.

Each time I make some progress in writing it, you all will be the first to see it!

Thanks for sticking with me, folks. Here’s to culinary discovery!

Garlic Ring

So I decided to try my hand at baking bread. I’ve made a few conventional loaves of white bread before so I thought I’d challenge myself with some really crusty bread. My two favorite kinds of fancy baguette-type breads are olive loaves and garlic loaves. I had a bunch of garlic laying around in my kitchen so I decided to go for a fave. Baking bread is actually pretty easy. It just takes a decent amount  of time. I think if I didn’t have so much on my plate, with school and work, I’d bake my own bread at least once a week. But for now, lovely loaves like this one will have to remain a special kind of treat.


Garlic Ring
3 1/3 C all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp salt (I use a fine grain, non-iodized salt)
2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast (don’t use instant, or rapid-rise!)
1 1/3 C warm water (about 100 degrees)
1 Tbsp olive oil, plus 1/2 tsp for greasing the bowl
2 heads of garlic, peeled
1/2 C ice cubes, or a spray bottle filled with water

Mix the flour and salt together in a small-ish bowl and set it aside for a second.

Whisk together the yeast and warm water in a large bowl. Wait 30 seconds, then whisk again just to make sure the yeast gets fully dissolved. Next whisk in the olive oil.

Add half of the flour to the large bowl, mixing with a rubber spatula to make a paste. Add half of the remaining flour and mix it in by using the spatula to repeatedly scrape the bottom of the bowl, folding upward. Do the same while you add the rest of the flour and keep folding until all the flour is absorbed.
Cover the bowl with either a clean kitchen towel or loosely with some plastic wrap and let the dough rest for 10-15 minutes.


While the dough is resting, wash you spatula and get ready, because you’re going to do the whole folding thing again, making sure that there are absolutely no dry bits anywhere. Cover the dough again and let it rest for another 10-15 minutes.

Lightly oil a bowl large enough to hold twice the volume of dough you have right now.

Scrape your dough onto a floured work surface. Flour your hands (you really don’t need to flour the top of the dough, I promise), and pat the dough into a rough rectangle.

Sprinkle the garlic on top of your dough. Feel free to chop the garlic… or not. I like big chunks of it, but there’s no shame in spreading the love.

Now fold the narrow ends of your dough in, so that your dough will be folded in thirds (there will be three layers). Turn the dough 90 degrees, so that the seam in facing you, and fold your dough into thirds again.


Invert the dough into your oiled bowl, cover it with a kitchen towel or plastic wrap, and let the dough rest for 15 minutes. Then take it out and fold it the same way all over again!

If you need to, lightly oil the bowl again and put the dough back in. Then turn the dough over so the other side of it gets oiled, too. Cover it up, and let the dough rise for 45-60 minutes, until it has doubled in size.

Invert the dough onto a floured surface, then flip it over so that what was once the smooth top of your rising dough is facing up towards you.

Gently round the dough by using your palms to stretch the sides and fold then under. This will shape your dough into a ball. You just don’t want to deflate your dough so be nice!

Now cover the dough with a kitchen towel (you don’t need to put in back in the bowl) and let it rest for 10 minutes.

Uncover the dough and gently press it to flatten it a bit (it’s all about timing, trust me). Lightly flour the top of your dough and the fingertips of one of your hands. Use those fingers to make an opening in the center of your dough. Once your fingertips hit the work surface, start swirling your hand so that you can simultaneously rotate the dough, and widen the hole you’ve just made.


Put some parchment paper on a cookie sheet or a round pizza pan (something that is at least 12″ across). Transfer your dough to that and use both hands to widen the hole in your dough to about 5″ in diameter. Cover with a kitchen towel and let the dough rise for about an hour, until it has almost doubled in size.

About 20 minutes before the dough is done rising, set one rack in the lower third of your oven, and set a second rack right below that one. If you have a cast-iron skillet, set it on the bottom of those two racks.Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. (I will warn you, the point with the skillet is to get it smoking hot. If you have overly sensitive smoke detectors in your house, now might be the time to disable them)
No cast-iron skillet? No problem! I’ll tell you in a second what to do with your spray bottle of water.
Take the towel off of your dough and use either and a single-edged razor, an X-Acto knife, or a pair of scissors to make four diagonal slashes in the outside skin of the very top of the loaf (I’m still trying to figure out the best way to do this).

Place the pan in the oven and then place the ice cubes into the skillet. Quickly shut the oven door and don’t open it for at least five minutes.

If you’re not using a skillet, spray water all over the sides of the oven, creating steam. Quickly shut the oven door. Repeat the spraying five minutes later.

If you use the skillet and ice cubes method, you don’t need to worry about your dough until it’s done baking, 40-45 minutes later.

Set your lovely garlic ring on a rack to cool and then enjoy!

Happy Baking!

Pecans like buttah!

Do you love pecans like I love pecans? Maybe it’s the Louisiana girl in me but I can’t get enough of these rich (and really good for you) nuts. You’ve seen me use them in my banana nut bread, they are the star ingredient in my favorite pie (pecan, duh!), and now I’ve used them to make a wonderful nut butter. Like peanut butter? Try making your own pecan butter. I’ll be honest, it doesn’t taste anything like peanut butter, but I like it a lot better. Making your own nut butter is super easy and only requires one major piece of equipment. If you have a food processor or a blender, you’re golden. This was my first time making my own nut butter and I can’t wait to play around with all kinds of nuts.*

*Note: I’m cracking myself up as I write this because I have the sense of humor of an eight year old boy, sorry y’all.

Pecan Butter

2 C pecan halves (don’t get the salted kind)

2 Tbsp grapeseed oil (I like it because it has such a light flavor)

1 tsp salt

Depending in the size of your blender or food processor, you might have to do this in a couple of batches. I made mine in two batches.

I poured 1 C of pecans in my food processor along with 1 Tbsp of oil and 1 tsp of salt. I then pulsed the ingredients until they were roughly chopped.


I took a quick swipe of the sides of my food processor’s bowl with a spoon just to make sure nothing was sticking to it. Then I ground the mixture, stopping evry thime it began to form a ball and/or stick to the sides of the bowl. Then I’d scrape down the sides and keep going. In the middle of the process it looks something like this:


I keep grinding the mixture until it smoothes out and startsto look creamy.


Then just spoon it into your favorite jar or immediately spread it on your favorite bread. This recipe makes about 8 oz. of pecan butter. You can use this nut butter in any way you would use peanut butter.


Pecan butter and apple slices is a killer midday snack! Plus, pecans are filled with healthy oils and fatty acids and stuff so you should really try to eat them, like, all the time.

Happy snacking!


Fully Loaded Banana Bread

So the holidays were crazy, and while all I wanted to do was bake lots of tasty treats for my loved ones (and put the recipes up here), I found myself running all over the place nonstop. When my roommates and I realized that nobody would be home for Christmas to feed our two lovely cats, we had to call in a favor from our wonderful friend SaraLouise. She took amazing care of our kitties and I wanted to give her an equally great thank you present. But, being super short on time and money, I had to get a little creative.

My kitchen was full of overripe bananas, and I had a bunch of pecans and chocolate chips left over from past baking projects. The solution was simple: MAKE THE BEST LOADED BANANA BREAD EVER!!!

This recipe is super simple and takes almost no time to make. It’s super tasty and you can modify the add-ins any way you want. Don’t like nuts? Leave ’em out! Like coconut? Throw a cup of shredded coconut in! You can add berries, take out the chocolate, switch out the nuts, do whatever makes you happy! But here’s what I made for SaraLouise:

Fully Loaded Banana Bread

2 1/3 C all purpose flour (you could easily substitute a gluten free all purpose flour)

¾ C sugar

2 ½ tsp baking powder

½ tsp salt

2 eggs

4 overripe bananas, mashed (you can use a fork or a potato masher)
1 stick (8 Tbsp) melted butter

2 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 C pecan pieces, coarsely chopped

1 C chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Mix everything except the nuts and chocolate chips together in a large bowl until fully combined. If it’s easier, you can mix all the dry ingredients together first in one bowl, and all the wet ingredients together in another bowl. Then you can throw them all into a large bowl and mix! I use my electric mixer, but I have fond childhood memories of building my arm muscles while mixing banana bread with a wooden spoon. Once the batter looks nice and smooth, add the nuts and chocolate chips. Stir it all up!

Scrape the batter into a greased loaf pan and bake for 55-60 minutes. I cut a piece of parchment paper to fit the bottom of my pan. This’ll help the bread to come out much easier. The best way to test if your banana loaf is done is to stick a knife or a skewer into the center and pull it out. If the knife/skewer comes out clean, you’re good to go!

Banana Nut Bread

Let this puppy cool for at least 10 minutes before you dig in.

This loaded banana bread makes an excellent gift. It’s also fun to keep to yourself, but try not to inhale it all in one go. Again, customize this any way you like. To make this recipe vegan, sub 1/3 C coconut oil for the butter, and use the flax seed egg substitute I detailed in some of my previous posts. As always, I’d love to hear any of your modifications or questions.

Happy Baking!


Humankind/Noodlekind, vol. 1

I believe that there are few things in the world more perfect than a hot bowl of noodle soup. The Grand Canyon? The Pyramids? The laughter of a child? Nah, give me ramen or give me death.

My teensy-weensie, slightly all-consuming obsession with the noodle has led me to ramen shops all over the city. The one I find myself running to the most is Strings Ramen in Chinatown. I love this place for it’s oh-so-convenient location, and it’s stellar food. You can find it about a block west of the Cermak-Chinatowm redline stop. Since I live close by, I’m here all the time.

I normally order the tonkatsu ramen: a beautiful, smoky pork broth with duck and pork belly, and springy noodles that hold on to their form texture for dear life. Add a soft-boiled egg, and we’re in business!

Strings Tonkatsu Ramen

My boyfriend often gets the oden ramen: a shoyu (soy based) broth, filled with chunks of chopped pork belly and an amazing assortment of skewered fish cakes, tofu, and vegetables. This ramen is simply amazing. The only reason I don’t order it more often is that I can never finish it all. And there’s nothing sadder to me than wasted ramen.

Strings Oden Ramen

So if you’re ever in the Chicago area and find yourself craving a good bowl of noodles, give Strings a try!

2141 S Archer Ave
Chicago, IL 60616


Happy dining!