Cinnamon swirl banana bread

Happy New Year!
It’s been a good 2 weeks since I last posted. We flew our family back to Baltimore to spend Christmas at my parents’ house. It was so nice to see the joy on my parents’ faces as we brought together all their children and grandchildren for Christmas dinner. It’s been a long time since we were all home at Christmas and my mother always does such a fantastic job at making the house feel magical.

Beautiful Christmas morning sunrise over my parents' fields.

Beautiful Christmas morning sunrise over my parents’ fields.

Unfortunately, it wouldn’t be Christmas without someone getting sick, and that someone was me. I came down with what I thought was a really bad cold, and then proceeded to pass it Patrick, Sophia, and both my parents. What a nice Christmas present that was to everyone! Turns out it was a version of the flu that wasn’t covered by the flu shot. Here’s my public apology — I’m sorry!

Nora, Me (with the flu), and Sophia on Christmas Eve

Nora, Me (with the flu), and Sophia on Christmas Eve

After recovering from the flu and a fantastic New Year’s Eve celebration at our neighbors’ house, I was ready to get back in the kitchen on New Year’s Day. Outside was blanketed in snow and bitter cold winds, so I decided to stay indoors and make banana bread. Wanting something on the lighter side, I found a recipe in the 2010 edition of “Light and Healthy”, from America’s Test Kitchen and the editors of Cook’s Illustrated. This recipe called for roasting the bananas, which was a new cooking technique for me and was great fun!

I adapted the recipe to make it gluten-free and dairy-free and added a cinnamon swirl to the middle for extra measure. 🙂 It turned out beautiful–naturally sweet, light, moist, and full of bold banana flavor. Truly one of the best looking and tasting breads I’ve made
to date.

Cinnamon swirl banana bread
Adapted from Cook’s Country: Low-fat banana breadgluten-free, dairy-free banana bread

Gluten-free non-stick spray
4 ripe bananas
2 large eggs
 2 tsps vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups (7.5 oz.) gluten-free flour mix
1/2 cup (3.5 oz) sugar
 2 tsps baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 TBSP canola oil
2 oz. Tofutti Better than Cream Cheese (cut into pieces and chilled)

Cinnamon swirl:
1/8 cup (1 oz) sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon


  • Heat oven to 325°F with rack in the middle. Spray bread loaf pan with non-stick spray and set aside.
  • Bake bananas directly on the oven rack for about 20 minutes or until skins turn black. Let bananas cool to room temperature.
  • Leave the oven on at 325°F.
  • Use this time to start your flour mixture. In a small bowl, whisk together eggs and vanilla and set aside.
  • Using a standing mixer or hand mixer, combine flour, 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix until blended.
  • Add the oil and Tofutti. Note: I wanted to make this bread dairy-free, so I used my non-dairy cream cheese preference — Tofutti Better than Cream cheese, which worked great. If you have no dairy restrictions, regular or fat-free cream cheese works equally well.
  • Add the cream cheese, one piece at a time and mix on slow speed until cream cheese pieces are pea-sized. Then slowly add in the egg mixture.
  • Now, cut the tops off your bananas and squeeze into a small bowl, and mash. Note: This was the first time I’ve ever roasted bananas. The original recipe doesn’t say anything about the water content produced through roasting. I was thinking to myself that the flour mixture looked too thick, but when peeled the bananas, I realized there was a lot of water content from the bananas, and this helped to bring the bread dough to the right consistency.
  • On low speed, mix the mashed bananas and banana-water into the flour mixture until just blended or about 30 seconds.
  • In another small bowl, combine 1/8 cup of sugar and 1/2 tsp cinnamon.
  • Pour half the bread dough mixture into your bread pan. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar, and pour the remaining bread dough on top and smooth out with a spatula.
  • Bake for 50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  • Allow bread to rest in pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack.


Just like the pumpkin bread, the flavors in this banana bread intensify after it’s had a chance to thoroughly cool and relax. So, be patient, and wait a couple of hours before
you enjoy!


7 kid-friendly gluten-free staples

There’s no doubt about it–going gluten-free is expensive!! And frustrating! And often disappointing. When a new gluten-free product makes an appearance on our grocery store shelves, I grab it like it’s the last iPhone on the store shelf. Which is crazy, because it’s not like there’s a horde of people fighting me for it.

Here’s how the scenario often plays out. I run home and tell Nora I’ve found a new cracker (or whatever) for her to try. She eagerly takes a hearty bite with a light in her eyes. Then her chewing slows, the light fades, and she shakes her head “No.” And into the trash it goes. Sometimes, I force myself to keep it, thinking it will get better by turning stale in our pantry. Trust me, it doesn’t.

Through our countless trial and error episodes, we have found many products that we love, sometimes even more than the original. Here is our first list or recommended kid-friendly foods. These products are ones that I buy regularly now and they have been taste-tested by some of the most picky children (and adults) I know.

1. Udi’s Sandwich Bread
I didn’t want to select just one particular kind of bread because I know there are some kids who will only touch white bread. Our current favorite is Omega Flax & Fiber.

2. Gluten-free Corn Pasta
I haven’t found a brand I don’t like yet. Since we discovered it, corn pasta is preferred over all others in our house for it’s nearly normal texture, taste, and “chew.”

3. Annie’s Gluten-free Rice Pasta and Cheddar
The one exception to my corn pasta rule is this box macaroni and cheese. Preferred over the creamy frozen version, this was gobbled down by a slew of kids who didn’t know it was your regular blue-box mac-n-cheese. And they came back asking
for seconds.

4. Rudi’s Gluten-free Plain Tortillas
Bring back taco night! With these, we never have to worry about the tortilla crumbling apart or tasting like cardboard. And we are happy to have quesadillas back on the menu!

5. Pamela’s Gluten-free Baking & Pancake Mix
OMG. I think that was our actual response when we first tried these heavenly pancakes. Now we cannot live without this mix in our house. Make pancakes, crepes, or use it for baked goods in a pinch. So delish.

6. Gluten-free Honey Nut Chex
Ok, so this is a bit of a cheat. But one year ago the gluten-free cereal choices were much more limited for us. Now, several brands have started to adorn the GF label. Honey Nut Chex brought a bit of normalcy back into breakfast.

7. The Great Organic Beef Hotdog by Applegate
Never fear, Applegate hotdogs are here to save your summer BBQ. We brought these to all our summer gatherings, and never had to worry about mystery ingredients. They are gluten-free, dairy-free, and casein-free, but also full of flavor and snap!

If you happen to shop at Whole Foods, I do know that they have a policy that you can bring back any food, even if it is opened, if you don’t like it. I haven’t inquired to see if other grocery stores honor the same policy, because quite frankly, I’m one of those people who say they will return something and then I never do.  If you are thrifty and more organized than me, check with your local grocery store to see if they have a similar allowance. It could save you from throwing your money away on food you
don’t enjoy.

Share the love: Do you have favorites to add to this list? Bring ’em on!

Gluten-free, dairy-free pumpkin bread and cream cheese frosting

Adapted from Laurie Bennett’s Down East Maine Pumpkin Bread

Original recipe says it makes 3 loaves. My recipe makes about 18 muffins and 1 loaf of bread.

Pumpkin bread isn’t just for Thanksgiving! Sure, it’s a great on a cold, blustery day, but I’d prefer to enjoy it all year long. And we do, since my family requests it on a regular basis. Lucky for me, it’s SO easy to make gluten-free.

Our favorite pre-celiac recipe for pumpkin bread was the Down East Maine Pumpkin bread posted on It’s full of sugar and spice and everything nice. Although I love the full-fat, full-calorie version, I knew that if we were going to eat it this often, I’d have to lighten it up a bit. So, the recipe below has several alterations: fewer eggs, less sugar and oil, and the addition of ground flax meal to boost the nutritional value, if even only slightly. For the full-blown version, click the link above and substitute GF flour mix for the all-purpose flour.

I always prefer to make muffins AND bread with the same recipe. Muffins are great because they are portable snacks for school or when you’re out and about and not sure about your GF options.

For muffins, try topping them with my dairy-free cream cheese frosting (recipe below).

Delicious gluten-free pumpkin bread/muffin recipe
This recipe is also naturally dairy-free!

1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree
ÂĽ cup ground flax meal
2 eggs + 2 egg whites
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup water
1 cup white sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
3 cups all-purpose GF flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Spray muffin tins and bread pans with GF non-stick spray.
  • In a large bowl, mix together pumpkin puree, eggs, oil, water, sugars, and flax meal until well blended.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger.
  • Stir the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture until just blended.
  • Pour into the muffin and bread pans.
  • Bake muffins for about 30 minutes; bread loaves for about 50 minutes. Insert a toothpick or knife to check that it comes out clean.

Let muffins and bread rest. Although it’s hard to resist eating one right away, and quite frankly, my family never succeeds in holding off, you’ll find that pumpkin bread always tastes better the next day. The flavors intensify after the bread has had a chance to rest.

They’ll never know it’s dairy-free, gluten-free cream cheese frosting

Since this is a muffin, and not a cupcake by my standards, I like the frosting to lean more toward the cream cheese taste. If you like yours sweeter, try making the frosting with equal parts cream cheese and confectioner’s sugar or upping the vanilla a bit.

Also, to stay on the healthier side, I only put a very small dollop on the top of each muffin, but you can adjust this recipe to your liking, or midnight craving.

Note: You may want to double the recipe below if you like a lot of frosting.

½ tub of Tofutti® cream cheese
¼ cup confectioner’s sugar
ÂĽ tsp vanilla


  • Combine ingredients in bowl or mixer. Beat until smooth and well-blended.

Try adding in other flavors such as cinnamon, lemon juice, orange juice, or apple cider for variations on the standard cream cheese recipe.

Share the love: What’s your favorite bread recipe? We love all kinds: pumpkin, banana, zucchini, cheese. Send your favorite recipe to, and if it gets a thumbs up from our family, I’ll post it on my blog!

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