When we began our quest last January, safely stashed in Nacho’s cabinet was a loaf of banana bread, a few slices of quiche, and my aunt’s cream cheese cutout cookies. The cookies however weren’t shaped in candy canes and Christmas trees like the two dozen times before, but angels and X’s and O’s. And when I ate the last slice of quiche somewhere along the deserted highway on the Baja Coast in Mexico, I had a strange sensation of helplessness, as I realized I was devouring the last tangible piece of home.
Fortunately the mind is strong. The sensations, emotions, and experiences tied to this place we call home are abundant, and within a split second, you can be home.
At least in your mind.
When I close my eyes, I am back at the doorstep on Skyline drive. In the foreground, Black Mountain rises high in the crisp blue sky. The smell of desert rain is irresistibly and deliciously potent, and from every direction, the long reaching shadows of saguaros paint the volcanic rock. Rabbits and families of quail scurry through the cholla cactus and aloe vera patches. And inside, saltillo tiles lead to the kitchen and the aroma of banana bread from the oven gloriously chokes the air.
And then there’s my other home, two hours North, which rises high above the desert. Here, the pine forest stretches for as far as the eye can see. This time, the San Francisco Peaks are in the foreground. When I step outside of our dollhouse in the valley, I stand frozen in time, so fortunate to be spying on the massive herd of elk bugling on the hillside. I run alongside the river, flowers in bloom, briefly stopping at the pond to catch my breath and to watch the mother duck and her trail of babies, bottoms up, scanning through the depths of the water for food.
Fortunately, in July I didn’t have to dream anymore. Our impromptu trip home landed us back in Brad’s home town of Prescott just in time for the 4th of July festivities. Brad’s family and mine gathered in masses, grilling up hot dogs, burgers, and corn on the cob. In true Southwest fashion, mounds of guacamole, spicy salsa, tortilla chips, and many salt rimmed margaritas lined the flagstone countertop.
Farther down the desolate back roads in Prescott, more relatives spoiled us with their delightful food.
July was also the perfect time to visit the Red Rocks of Sedona and the overflowing blackberry bushes that lined Oak Creek. After a wonderful day of mountain biking, Brad and our good friend Mike insisted they could catch us ladies (Lauren and I) some trout. In return for their hard labor we’d make them a blackberry pie and fudge. While they fished, we put on our pants and long sleeved shirts, ready to put in a good fight with the massive web of thorny bushes. We laid down planks of wood through the bushes, gaining us access through the mess until we left in victory, bowls full of lusciously ripe blackberries. Needless to say, no trout arrived back at the house; however we did gorge ourselves on blackberry pie (recipe).
Back in the desert, my bucket lists of things to eat was satisfied in its entirety. Brad’s was too. His only request was that we make it to Barro’s Pizza. History took place here for the two of us. It seemed like a decade ago, and in actuality it was. During high school he’d come in and watch me work while dipping his fat slices of pepperoni pizza into ranch dressing.
And finally, my mom slaved away in the kitchen, cooking up batches of banana bread, quiche, and French toast. Most certainly, if I were to make a cookbook of family recipes, these would easily be the top three. I curiously wondered what foods made home “home” for other people. So, I asked Brad. Chiliquiles from Martannes, the curries at the Himalayan grill, our homemade burgers and daily cappuccinos.
Our trip back home fulfilled us in so many ways. Truly, the food came nowhere close to the enjoyment we received by visiting with friends and family. We never know where life will take us and what circumstances, both good and bad will arise in the future.
Cindy, many X’s and O’s back at you, and may you have many angels watching over you as well.
Yield: 1 loaf of banana bread
1/3 cup Crisco (or butter)
½ cup turbinado sugar (white works fine as well)
1 ¾ cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup mashed banana (the riper the better)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
In a baking pan, coat the sides with butter or Pam.
In a large bowl, mix Crisco, sugar and eggs together. Next, add the mashed banana.
In a separate bowl, mix dry ingredients together.
Combine the dry ingredients in with the wet ingredients. Pour the batter into the bread pan.
Lick the bowl clean, preferably with a spatula or spoon. This batter is not to be wasted.
Cook for 45 minutes, or until you can poke the bread with a toothpick and it comes out clean.
Let cool on a baking rack. Slice and slather in butter!
Yield: 1 pie
1 cup of half and half
2 teaspoons of flour
½ teaspoons of salt
¼ cup of cheddar
Spinach (1 frozen package)
2 chicken breast (boiled and shredded)
1 prepackaged Pie crust
2 slices of swiss cheese
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
In a bowl, mix together half and half, eggs, flour, and salt. Set aside.
Line the bottom of the pie crust with swiss cheese. Next, add the spinach evenly over the cheese.
Add the shredded chicken on top of the spinach, stopping when the chicken is level with the pie crust.
Pour the egg mixture lastly, stopping when the mixture has come close to the top edge of the pie crust.
Sprinkle with cheddar cheese.
Cook in the oven for 45 minutes or until the egg mixture is cooked through and top has browned.
Challah bread French Toast
Yield: 12 slices
1 loaf of challah bread (egg based bread)
1 teaspoon of Cinnamon
A few pinches Nutmeg
2 teaspoons of Vanilla
Whole milk (about 1 cup)
Thickly slice the challah bread and leave out for a few hours. This allows the bread to dry out, better absorbing the batter. In a bowl, add the eggs. Pour in the milk, stopping when the milk to egg ratio is 1:1 (about a cup of milk).
Add cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla. Mix well.
Dip each slice of bread into the mixture and set aside.
In a griddle, pour an incredibly healthy dose of canola oil and heat to medium high.
Place the bread in the griddle and let cook on each side for 4-5 minutes, or until brown and crispy.
Sprinkle each side with cinnamon and sugar.
Before serving, sprinkle with powdered sugar. Serve with maple syrup, or Brad’s favorite, plain yogurt and brown sugar.