banana bread, cooks illustrated


The Most Unnecessarily Complicated Banana Bread Recipe in the World {recipe}

based very closely on a recipe by Cook’s Illustrated, their original measurements and instructions, where different from mine, indicated in parentheses

This is the perfect recipe for five of the 87 ultra-ripe bananas you’ve had to throw into the freezer because every Sunday you buy a half dozen bananas convinced THIS is the week you will start your wellness lifestyle and blend fruit smoothies every morning for breakfast after yoga, but by Friday you have nothing but half a dozen over-ripe bananas, the beginning of a fruit fly problem, and four pounds you gained because you skipped yoga altogether and ate leftover pizza dipped in Ranch dressing for “breakfast” at 3PM instead.

Or that might just be me and you have frozen bananas expressly for this purpose.

This recipe can be made with very ripe bananas that have not been previously frozen, but “steamed” in the microwave oven to get the same soft, liquid-rendering effect. For those detailed instructions, check out the original Cook’s Illustrated recipe (link below)


5 frozen very ripe bananas + 1 ripe, but not frozen banana for topping

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour (Cook’s Illustrated: 1¾ cup)
¾ cup whole wheat flour (Cook’s Illustrated: none, use all all-purpose flour)
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon table salt

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
2 large eggs
¾ cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
(Cook’s Illustrated: ½ cup walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped (optional), 2 teaspoons granulated sugar for banana topping)


Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray 8½ x 4½-inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray, then line the bottom and sides with parchment paper (to make it easier to remove the baked loaf from the pan for cooling).

Defrost frozen, peeled bananas by placing in a microwave-safe bowl, covering bowl loosely with paper towel and defrosting in microwave oven for about 3 minutes, or until mostly thawed. Pour microwave-thawed bananas and liquid into a fine-mesh strainer over medium bowl and allow to thaw completely and drain on the countertop.

Whisk all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl.

Transfer banana liquid to medium saucepan and cook over medium heat until reduced to ¼ cup, about 5 minutes. Remove pan from heat, stir reduced liquid into bananas, and mash with until smooth. Whisk in butter, eggs, brown sugar, and vanilla.

Pour banana mixture into flour mixture and stir until just combined. (Cook’s Illustrated: Fold in chopped walnuts if you’re using them.)

Scrape batter into prepared pan. Slice remaining banana diagonally into ¼-inch-thick slices. Arrange banana slices on top, on either side of loaf.

Bake banana bread until toothpick inserted in center of loaf comes out clean. Baking time can take anywhere from 55 to 75 minutes depending on your oven; mine took 65 minutes.

Cool bread in pan on wire rack 15 minutes, then remove loaf from pan and continue to cool on wire rack.

Bread, tightly wrapped in plastic will keep for a few days. You can also slice the loaf and freeze!

banana bread, cooks illustrated recipe, with cream cheese and honey


There is nothing like simply sawing off that first, thick, caramelized end slice of banana bread as soon as it’s cool enough to handle, but you only get to do that once. After, toast a slice of banana bread, then:

  • spread with whipped cream cheese + fresh berries
  • spread peanut butter + honey + toasted walnuts
  • make a Fluffer Nutter ‘Nana: peanut butter + grilled marshmallows
  • make a Fluffer S’mutter Ice Cream Sundae: peanut butter + grilled marshmallows + chocolate, vanilla, and peanut butter ice creams + caramelized banana slices + hot fudge

banana bread, cooks illustrated recipe, with peanut butter and marshmallows

Notes and Shopping Resources

  • Bananas: It is best to use bananas that are so ripe, the skins are almost nearly black without actually becoming fermented. When this happens to your bananas, peel them and place them in a plastic zipper-top bag and freeze for use in this recipe. If you are using bananas that have not been frozen, just microwave them as indicated, but for only 1 minute. Proceed with the same recipe from there.
  • Flour: I use organic flours from King Arthur Flour, and keep them in airtight bags in the freezer to maintain freshness for longer since I don’t use flour often enough to buy new flour regularly, and also keeps little critters out. If you keep flour in the freezer, let your measured amount sit out on the countertop at room temperature for a few minutes.
  • Nuts: Nuts do not belong in banana bread. EVER. But if you think you need to add them, go ahead. Just don’t tell me about it.

sparkling sangria with melon, poolside
Though Champagne is the first wine that comes to my mind when someone says “sparkling,” true Champagne is probably a little “strong” for sangria, never mind that it’s normally too expensive at $50+ to dump into a pitcher with a bunch of other liquor, juice, fruit, and maybe even ice. Save Champagne for a glass by itself, and make sangria with an affordable Cava from Spain or Prosecco from Italy.

Don’t mistake “affordable” with “cheap,” though. Cheap wine and bottomshelf liquor are probably why you have somewhat hazy and altogether horrible memories of sangria from your 20s. Or 30s. Or last week or whatever. Stick with decent alcohol, and stay away from too much sugar in the form of soda, juice, or you know, just sugar, too.

For the ginger flavor, I LOVE Fever Tree ginger BEER (not alcoholic), but any brand of strong-ish ginger beer will work. If you can’t find ginger beer, or find the ginger taste too strong or spicy, use ginger ale.

Sparkling Melon Sangria {recipe}


1 750 mL sparkling wine like Cava or Prosecco
1 cup vodka
1 12-ounce bottle of Fever Tree ginger beer
1 to 1½ cups each of cantaloupe, honeydew, and watermelon balls
to serve: ice, fresh mint leaves, lime wheels, colorful straws


Pour the sparkling wine, vodka, ginger beer, and melon balls into a large glass pitcher. The glass pitcher is solely for aesthetics — you can see the bright, colorful melon. Cover the pitcher tightly, and refrigerate — overnight is best but even just a few hours in the refrigerator is better than nothing.

Right before serving the sangria, add ice, fresh mint leaves, and lime wheels to the pitcher.

This sangria does not keep, not because it won’t taste good the next few days, but you will probably drink half of it by yourself before you even serve it, and then what.

cantaloupe, honeydew and watermelon prep

sparkling sangria with melon

sparkling melon sangria with cantaloupe, honeydew and watermelon
{“White Sangria” is Number 67 on my List of Things to Do This Summer}


One year it was Salsa Verde.

Another year it was Green Goddess

This year, I’m pretty sure THE sauce that will appear in my meal prep every week, that will be served alongside roast salmon at every dinner party, that will be eaten straight from the container with a spoon with refrigerator door open in the middle of the night while I contemplate life’s deeper mysteries is 

Pistachio Pesto

Pistachio Pesto is herb-y. It’s bright. It’s got that certain “je ne sais umami” from toasted pistachios. And it’s also the easiest recipe to make because the pistachios I use are roasted, salted, and already shelled. Um, yes, thank you Wonderful Pistachios No Shells. 

So far I have mixed Pistachio Pesto with Wonderful Pistachios No Shells into pasta, dolloped onto hard boiled eggs for a richer quick breakfast, and drizzled onto avocado toast. And that was just Friday.  

Complete, detailed recipes for Pistachio Pesto with Wonderful Pistachios No Shells and Pistachio Pesto Pasta below, followed by cook’s notes and shopping resources. And once you’re done making Pistachio Pesto Pasta for lunch or dinner, go to this post and make Wonderful Pistachios Sea Salted Dark Chocolate Bark and Wonderful Pistachios Matcha Dark Chocolate Bark for dessert! 

This post generously sponsored by Wonderful Pistachios. Any opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that keep The Delicious Life dating and eating.

pistachio pesto pasta with spinach zucchini and feta
PISTACHIO PESTO with Wonderful Pistachios No Shells [recipe]
makes about 1 1/4 cups


1 clove garlic, lightly crushed and inner green germ removed
1/3 cup Wonderful Pistachios No Shells
1 cup parsley leaves and tender stems
1/4 cup basil leaves
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt + more to taste


Pulse the crushed garlic clove in a food processor until finely chopped.

Add the Wonderful Pistachios No Shells and pulse again until pistachios are finely chopped.

Add parsley and basil, pulse until chopped, then while the food processor is running, slowly add the olive oil in a steady stream.

Add 1/4 teaspoon salt, pulse, then taste and adjust. The pesto will be salty from the pistachios and the salt, but not too salty. You can always add more salt to the pesto later, or season the final dish (which may have additional salt from the cheese and other ingredients).

Keep any leftover Pistachio Pesto in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to three days.

serves 6

12 ounces pasta
1 large zucchini, cut into a shape similar to your pasta (see note)
1 cup Pistachio Pesto with Wonderful Pistachios No Shells (recipe above)
2 cups baby spinach
4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
lemon juice and zest, optional

Place zucchini in the bottom of the colander you will use to drain the cooked pasta.

In a pot of salted boiling water, cook pasta until al dente. Drain pasta into the colander with zucchini. Shake the colander to drain out as much water as possible, and give the zucchini extra time to heat.

Pour pasta and zucchini back into the pot in which you cooked it, and add baby spinach.

Toss pasta, zucchini, and baby spinach with Pistachio Pesto in the pot until everything is well-coated. Add feta cheese and very gently toss. Plate, then sprinkle with additional feta, lemon juice, and lemon zest if using.

Notes and Shopping Resources

  • Pistachios: I used Wonderful Pistachios No Shells for the Pistachio Pesto. The pistachios are already shelled, making them easy to throw into this recipe and any other pistachio recipe (and snack on, while you’re cooking!). You can find Wonderful Pistachios in their bright green package in the produce and snack aisles of most grocery stores.
  • Pesto change-o: Make this Pistachio Pesto with 1 cup of any leafy greens or herbs you have on hand to replace the parsley. Arugula makes this pesto much stronger and more peppery, baby spinach keeps the pesto pretty mild. Just be sure to keep the minimum 1/4 cup of basil; you can make the pesto with all basil, which will give the pesto that familiar pesto flavor. I do not recommend cilantro here, or ever, because cilantro is disgusting.
  • Cutting zucchini for the pasta: If you are using a short pasta like penne, slice zucchini lengthwise, then cut each half on the bias into 1/4-inch thick pieces. If you are using long pasta like spaghetti or linguine, and you happen to have a spiralizer, spiralize your zucchini into long noodles! Otherwise, the bias-cut slices are perfect.
  • Plant-based: As printed, Pistachio Pesto with Wonderful Pistachios No Shells recipe is 100% plant-based. The recipe for the pasta can be made 100% plant-based and dairy-free by leaving out the feta cheese or substituting a plant-based cheese.
  • Gluten-free: As printed, Pistachio Pesto with Wonderful Pistachios No Shells recipe is 100% gluten-free. The pasta recipe can be made gluten-free by using a gluten-free pasta product. I have tried it with a quinoa and brown rice based pasta and it tastes great!


  • Pasta Salad: Toss Pistachio Pesto with short pasta like penne, tomatoes, other fresh vegetables, and diced mozzarella cheese, then chill for a pasta salad.
  • Grain Bowl: Stir 2 tablespoons of Pistachio Pesto into a cup of hot cooked grains like quinoa or brown rice, then use that as a base for a Grain Bowl.
  • Salad Dressing: Add 1 tablespoon lemon juice and 1/4 cup of olive oil, shake into a vinaigrette, and use on a green salad with crunchy cucumbers and snaps, or drizzle over a plate of sliced avocadoes and nectarines and feta.
  • Pizza Sauce: Spread 2-3 tablespoons of Pistachio Pesto on shaped pizza dough in place of tomato sauce. Favorite toppings with Pistachio Pesto are mozzarella or burrata, then prosciutto and fresh figs added after the pizza is baked.
  • Savory Yogurt Dip: Stir into plain yogurt for a savory dip for crudites.
  • Sauce: Serve Pistachio Pesto as a sauce over pan-seared salmon or roast chicken.
  • Side Dish: Cut broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, carrots, potatoes, radishes, anything into bite-size pieces, toss with a little olive oil, and roast at 400°F for about 35 minutes. Toss hot roasted vegetables with 2-4 tablespoons of Pistachio Pesto. 
  • Eat it straight out of the container with a spoon.

Recipe with Notes and Resources first, scroll down past the photos for the story after.
{ click for Roasted Salmon Nicoise Salad Board recipe }

avocado citrus salad with feta and pistachios


serves 4

Through March, citrus is at the peak of its season, so there will be everything from deep dark red blood oranges to peachy pink Cara Cara oranges to bright white oro blanco grapefruits at the markets. You can use whatever you want, but try to find a mix of colors and at least one grapefruit to have something very tart, otherwise the salad might be a little too sweet. See notes after the recipe for more information on citrus, as well as brands/resources for the ingredients and additional recipe tips.


6-8 citrus fruits, any kind: blood orange, cara cara orange, navel orange, oro blanco grapefruit, pink or red grapefruit, pomelo
4-5 kumquats, thinly sliced cross-wise, seeds removed
2 firm ripe avocados, peeled and sliced lengthwise
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
juice from half a lemon
¼ cup thinly sliced red onions, soaked in cold water for 10 minutes
½ cup crumbled feta cheese
½ cup roasted pistachios, roughly chopped
flaky sea salt and pepper


Peel citrus, separate segments, and carefully remove the thin skin and white pith from each segment. It is time-consuming and very tedious, but sometimes you need an activity that lets your mind wander while keeping your hands away from your phone. You can of course, peel the citrus, and cut cross-wise into round slices that look like bright colorful suns.

Arrange the citrus segments and avocado slices on a serving plate with high sides (to keep the citrus juices). Add sliced kumquats. Drizzle citrus and avocado with olive oil and lemon juice. Scatter red onions, feta cheese, and chopped pistachios over the citrus and avocado. Sprinkle with ground black pepper and a little bit flaky sea salt (will depend on how salty the feta cheese and pistachios are).

Citrus segments by themselves, i.e. without olive oil and additional salad ingredients, can be kept in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for two days. Avocados will not last, but why wouldn’t you just eat them all.

avocado citrus salad with feta and pistachios

Pho Ga (chicken pho) with Quinoa

Pho Ga to phight phlu. Quinoa for january qleanse. Recipe first, cook’s notes and shopping resources follow.
chicken Pho Quinoa, closeup
Yes, that is parsley in my pho. I can’t stand cilantro.
chicken Pho Quinoa,bowl

Pho Ga Quinoa (Chicken Pho with Quinoa) Recipe

Guided by recipes from Charles Phan, Steamy Kitchen, and Viet World Kitchen

serves 4


For the Quinoa:

2 cups quinoa, uncooked
2 garlic cloves, lightly crushed
1-inch piece ginger, lightly crushed
1½ cups filtered water

For the Soup Base:

1 medium onion, cut in half, unpeeled
1 3-inch piece of ginger
1 whole chicken, quartered
1 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
10-12 sprigs fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 pod star anise
½ stick of cinnamon
5-6 whole black peppercorns

For Garnish:

sliced scallions
sliced onions
fresh bean sprouts
cilantro (I HATE cilantro, so I use parsley, which is totally sacrilegious, I know, but who cares when you’re using QUINOA instead of noodles already?!)
sliced jalapeño or serrano peppers
lime wedges
sriracha hot sauce, garlic chili sauce, and hoisin sauce


Cook the Quinoa: Rinse the quinoa in a pot of cold water until the water runs clear. Drain the rinse water, then add the garlic, ginger, and filtered water for cooking. Place the pot on the stovetop over high heat. Once the water boils, turn down the heat to medium-low or low and simmer the quinoa uncovered until cooked, about 20 minutes.

If you have an electric rice cooker, use it to cook the quinoa with the garlic and ginger. You can also use plain cooked quinoa that you already have.

Make the Soup Base: Turn one of the burners on your gas stove to medium-high. Using a pair of metal tongs (and wearing a heatproof mitt or glove), place the onions and ginger directly on the burner over the flame, turning them occasionally until they are charred black all over, about 10 minutes. If you don’t have a gas stove, you can get the same effect with a grill, the broiler in the oven, possibly a toaster oven. Allow the ginger and onion to cool, then remove the black charred skins by running the onions and ginger under water and rubbing the skins off with your fingers. Use a few paper towels to dry off the onions and ginger, rubbing to remove any remnant charred skin.

Place the charred onion and ginger, chicken parts, and the remaining Soup Base ingredients (salt, fish sauce, sugar, cilantro, coriander, star anise, cinnamon, and black peppercorns) in a large stock pot. Fill the pot with about 5 quarts cold, filtered water, or at least enough to cover the chicken by several inches. Bring to a boil, then immediately turn the heat down to medium-low. Simmer uncovered until the chicken is cooked through, about 25-30 minutes, skimming the surface of the soup to remove foam and fat globules with a mesh skimmer. I use a spoon because I’m too cheap and lazy to buy a special utensil.

Remove the cooked chicken parts from the soup base with a pair of tongs to a plate. Keep simmering the soup base, while the chicken cools. Once the chicken parts are cool enough to handle (about 10 minutes), peel off the skin and tear the meat from the bones. Cover and refrigerate the chicken meat until serving. Return the skin and bones to the simmering soup base and allow the soup base to simmer for 1½ hours on very low heat, covered with just a little bit of airspace to let steam escape.

Strain the soup base through a colander lined with cheesecloth or a large sieve, pressing down on the skin, bones, onions, ginger and spices to extract all the flavorful liquid. Discard the skin, bones, onions, ginger, and spices. Taste the soup base and adjust the seasoning with any more of salt, fish sauce, or if you must, sugar.

(I try to stay as far away as possible from any added sugar to anything, especially savory food even though I KNOW sweetness brings out the contrasting savory and sour flavors. OMG THERE IT IS – contradiction.)

If planning to eat immediately, return the strained soup base to the cooking pot and place over low heat to keep the soup base hot. If planning to eat later, cool the soup base to room temp, cover, then refrigerate.

To Serve the Pho Ga Quinoa: Place about 1 cup of cooked quinoa in each of four bowls. Ladle hot soup base into each bowl. Add a handful of shredded chicken meat to each bowl, along with some sliced scallions and sliced onions. Serve with plates of the remaining garnishes on the side (fresh bean sprouts, mint, basil, cilantro, sliced jalapeño or serrano peppers, lime wedges, sriracha hot sauce, garlic chili sauce, and hoisin sauce).

To Store Leftovers: If they are kept in separate containers and covered, leftover quinoa, soup base, and cooked chicken can all be stored in the refrigerator for a day or two. Reheat individual components separately then assemble to eat again. Pho Ga Quinoa that has been assembled in the bowl doesn’t keep well so plan accordingly.

chicken Pho Quinoa


  • QUINOA. I buy organic quinoa from the bulk bins at Whole Foods.
  • CHICKEN. From Puritan Poultry/Marconda’s in the 3rd/Fairfax Farmers’ Market (LA)
  • SUGAR. More traditional pho recipes incorporate “rock sugar” which is literally giant rock crystals of sugar, slightly amber in color. I have a bag that I bought when I visited a Vietnamese market in Orange County, but it’s not super easy to find, so substituting regular sugar is fine. If you are avoiding refined sugar, just leave it out. (If you’re eating truly low-carb, you wouldn’t be eating this with quinoa either.)
  • FISH SAUCE. There are many brands of fish sauce out there, but I use Red Boat fish sauce, which I have found in the larger Whole Foods markets in my city (Los Angeles), though it may not be available in all regions. You can always buy Red Boat fish sauce online.
  • SRIRACHA. We all know the sriracha sauce that comes in the rooster bottle with the green top, but that is not the only one. I found a (mostly) organic sriracha sauce by Sky Valley at Whole Foods.
  • All other produce and ingredients from local farmers’ markets or Whole Foods (though my local Ralphs grocery store is ever-expanding their organic selections).

star anise, cinnamon and coriander

cranberry cheddar grilled cheese { click for CRANBERRY WHITE CHEDDAR BRIED GRILLED CHEESE SANDWICH recipe }