from heart to hands to table

Strawberry Banana Bread

I’ve been thinking about my friend Sheri a lot these days. About a month ago, she got a call out of nowhere from her mother’s neighbor. Her mom had died. Suddenly. With no obvious cause. When she called me to tell me what had happened it took 2.4 seconds for me to know that something awful had happened. Sheri doesn’t often cry but the way her voice broke as she said the words poignantly conveyed the breaking of her heart. At first all I could give her was stunned silence, then a  well meant, but utterly meaningless, “I’m so sorry.“There is no limit to how painful losing your mother is, I know this personally, but I have to say, when my mother died I was surrounded by family and we were (almost) all in the same city. We were able to plan and manage all the logistics together. We had each other to lean on.

Sheri is doing all of that alone in another country.

See, we live in Vancouver, but Sheri grew up in Hawaii. She is an only child and her parents were divorced so there was no option but to return to a not-so-shining paradise and take care of business. That means funeral arrangements, caring for her aging and ailing grandmother and finding her long term care, as well as the small things, like closing bank and cell phone accounts. Everyday is a new list of to-dos, endless, foreign and cloaked in grief. I cannot even imagine.

If you know Sheri, you know how independent she is, how strong and capable. She is thorough, organized and always in control of whatever she is doing. Despite a month in a city and country that she no longer calls home, with countless appointments with lawyers, banks, and other officials, she is still herself. We spent some hours on Skype with her this weekend. She seems thinner, a bit tired and her hair is a lot longer than when she left, but she is still the same old Sheri with a wicked sense of humor and her thoughtful, quiet nature. It’s clear that she is missing home and we know we are missing her.

Sheri enjoys baking. She generously baked hundreds of incredible, huge chocolate chip cookies for the take-home treats at our wedding. This Christmas she brought the famed Momofuku Milk Bar’s Crack Pie and every Thanksgiving she makes an incredible sour cream pumpkin Bundt cake. More than baking itself, Sheri loves baked goods. I wish she was home so I could bake her this simple, delicious cake and give her a hug.

Sheri, I know you’re reading this. You’re a great friend, so great that despite the distance and all that’s on your plate, you are reading your friends’ blogs, remembering their birthdays, taking time to share a laugh and asking us how our days are.  When you come home, I will bake this again. We’ll have tea.  We’ll talk. And slowly, but surely, things will begin to return to normal. I promise.

Strawberry Banana Bread

preheat your oven to 350°

grease and flour a 12 cup Bundt pan or two 8×4 inch loaf pans

Mix this easy cake by hand to avoid over mixing and toughening the batter.

1 C coarsely chopped fresh strawberries (from about ¾ lb. hulled strawberries)

2 C mashed banana (from about 3 large bananas)

3 eggs

1 Tbsp vanilla extract

½ C yogurt

1 C softened butter or margarine

1½ C light (golden) brown sugar

3 C all purpose flour

1 tsp baking soda

1½ tsp baking powder

¼ tsp salt

Clean, hull and chop strawberries. Set aside.

Measure and mix all dry ingredients. Set aside.

In a large measuring cup (4 cups) mash and measure the bananas. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well between eggs. Add the vanilla and yogurt. Don’t worry if the mixture looks slightly curdled. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar together. Add the banana mixture in 2 parts, mixing thoroughly before making the second addition.

Add the dry ingredients in two additions as well. Be careful not to over mix.

Fold in the strawberries and swirl them through the batter. Scoop the batter into your prepared Bundt pan. Knock the bottom of the pan firmly on the counter a few times to settle the batter and prevent air pockets.

Bake for 60-75 minutes or until the surface is golden brown and a cake tester or toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.

Allow the cake to cool for 10 minutes in the pan before inverting and releasing it onto a wire cooling rack. Allow to cool completely before cutting and serving.

Glaze for Strawberry Banana Bread

1 tsp strawberry yogurt

1 C icing sugar + 1 Tsp, divided

1 drop red food coloring

Mix all ingredients well , minus the additional teaspoon of icing sugar. Pour over cooled strawberry banana bread. Once the glaze has set/dried, dust with remaining icing sugar.

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