Susie’s Pumpkin Banana Bread

As a missionary for World Impact, our niece Susie spent many years working with Spanish-speaking immigrants, first in Los Angeles, California, and later in Wichita, Kansas.  She lived in the neighborhood where she ministered, teaching Bible clubs to the kids and various adult classes as well, all designed to guide people to a faith in God and eventually to establish churches.  No longer a missionary, Susie now teaches English as a Second Language in the Wichita school system to students from Asia and Africa as well as many from South and Central America.

She brought two loaves of a golden bread to a family dinner the last time we visited Jerri’s relatives in Kansas.  After two slices I asked her for the recipe and an explanation of how she came to make such a great-tasting treat as Pumpkin Banana Bread.

As she tells the story, when she moved back to Kansas from California, she wanted to plant a new church for underserved Latinos in Wichita.  She recruited a team which spent weeks walking and praying through three lower-income neighborhoods which had a large percentage of Spanish-speaking residents. They wanted to move and were seeking God’s guidance about which neighborhood was ready for a Spanish-speaking church plant.

On one prayer-walk, they discovered the “perfect house” with a large back yard for BBQ’s and rooms large enough for ESL classes, Bible studies and worship services.  However, the house was already under contract—even if World Impact had been able to afford it. They settled on an empty house with a complicated financial situation that the owners let them use for the summer to teach Bible clubs.  When the bank could not release the building for sale by summer’s end, Susie called to find out if the “perfect house” had in fact been sold.

Surprised to hear that the contract had fallen through, Susie convinced the World Impact leaders to tour the house. They could see the home’s potential for ministry and decided to move ahead. With lots of prayer and a generous gift from a WI board member, Susie and her team had a home for the new church. As Susie concludes the story, “We closed on the house in September, moved in in October, sent out a fund-raising letter in November, and paid off the house completely by the end of the year. ONLY GOD could have done that!”

Susie continues, “So. . . where does the bread fit in? We started an ESL class to get to know our neighbors. We had a big table and a big dining room, and we had fun, lively classes! But in the Latino community, there are always refreshments at every get-together. What could I serve? I bought some delicious Mexican pastries one day, but that proved to be too expensive to do regularly.  So, I decided to serve different kinds of homemade bread and coffee or tea. I made the bread and froze it so I wouldn’t have to bake before each class. The ladies loved the bread, and I accumulated quite a collection of recipes. The Pumpkin-Banana Bread was one of the breads that I served to my ESL class. They enjoyed it, and it also became a favorite of our young director!

“By the way, we planted our church–La Iglesia de Cristo Victorioso! They first met in our living room, but now they have their own building and their own pastor. They are currently completely independent from World Impact and are doing well.”

Here is Susie’s recipe for a really delicious banana bread complemented by pumpkin!

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups granulated sugar

2/3 cup vegetable oil

4 large eggs

3 1/3 cups flour

2 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. baking powder

1 1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp. ginger

2/3 cup water

1 15 oz. can mashed pumpkin

1/2 cup mashed, ripe banana

3/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted

PROCEDURE:

Grease the bottoms and a half-inch up the sides of two 9 x 5″ loaf pans and set them aside.  Preheat the oven to 350º and lightly toast the pecans by stirring them in a small skillet over moderate heat until they begin to change color.  Mash the banana.

In a very large mixing bowl, beat the sugar and oil with an electric mixer on medium speed until they are well blended.  Add the eggs one at a time and beat them into the sugar and oil.

Sift the flour, baking soda, salt, baking powder, cinnamon and ginger into a separate mixing bowl.  Add the flour alternately with the water to the sugar mixture, beating after each addition just until the flour is combined with the liquids. 

Beat in the pumpkin and banana until you have a smooth batter. Blend in the pecans, and spoon the batter into the pans.

Bake for fifty to sixty minutes.  Check for doneness with a toothpick inserted into the center of a loaf.  If it comes out clean, the bread is done. If not, bake for another five to six minutes and check again.

Remove the pans from the oven and allow them to cool for about fifteen minutes on a rack.   Loosen the loaves from the pans and turn them out to finish cooling on the rack. 

NOTES:  Susie says that she often substitutes apple sauce for part of the oil and that you can use more mashed banana.  I mashed a large banana which produced three-fourths of a cup, and the bread turned out fine.  Incidentally, I like to butter my banana bread.

Speaking from experience, I urge you to be very careful when you toast the pecans.  I heat a small cast iron skillet first, pour in the pecans and use a wooden spoon to stir the pecans continuously.  As soon as the nuts begin to change color, remove the pan from the heat and pour the pecans into a small bowl.

As Susie suggests, you can freeze this bread and serve it a couple of weeks later.

Teri’s Grandma’s Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Grandpa and Grandma Rang’s farm was two miles from their church at Phipps, Wisconsin.  Trinity Lutheran Church was a modest white clapboard church built in 1905 on land donated by a parishioner.  Another family donated five acres across from the church for a cemetery.  The church was demolished many years ago, and trees grow where I once recited Bible verses, but the cemetery is still maintained, and we visit it regularly to put flowers on the graves of my parents.

My first memories of church services and other activities all involve that little church.  My mother and father were active members, which meant that we kids were also part of that church family.  It was there that I learned that one should fill the front pews out of respect for the minister, that you didn’t need fancy clothes but you should wash and wear clean pants and shirts and that you kept quiet and paid attention during the service.  Mom made sure that I was dressed in a clean white shirt and wore a clip-on tie every Sunday.

I remember potlucks with lots of food and time to play with the other kids while our fathers met on church business with the minister and our mothers visited with each other.  By the time I was five or six I was one of the kids who had walk-on roles in the Christmas play.  While the older kids were dressed as angels, Mary or Joseph or the three Wise Men and recited scripture, we little kids pretended to be shepherds or, worse, sheep. 

It must have been a Christmas service that persuaded Grandpa and Grandma Rang to take their family to church on a snowy December night in 1922.  My father told me the story many years ago.  In the summer, the family rode to church in their Overland touring car, but in winter they traveled by horse and sleigh.  On that occasion, however, the snow was so deep that the horse could not pull the sleigh.

“It just acted like a plow,” said my father.  “Pa told us we would have to walk.  So that’s what we did.  And we weren’t the only ones.”

“Pa broke trail, and George and Margaret who were bigger helped tramp down the snow.  I helped Stub get through it and Ma made sure no one got lost.    It took us a while, but we made it in time for the service.  The minister’s wife had hot cider for everyone afterwards in the parsonage next door to the church.

“It was easier walking home, because we had made a pretty good trail.  Harold (my father’s younger brother) was born about two months later.  Ma and Harold did just fine.”

Today I think often of this story when church is canceled because of a winter snow or ice storm warning.  “People don’t want to have an accident driving in bad weather,” says Jerri.  I don’t reply, but the temptation is there:  “Couldn’t they just walk?”

Though Dad did not mention them, I would be nearly certain that the minister’s wife would have put out a plate of cookies to fortify the parishioners for their walks home.  One Sunday when Connie Schultz and her daughter Teri were hosting the coffee and treats after the service, they had made an old-fashioned raisin oatmeal cookie that I’m sure would have been familiar to the minister’s wife and my father.  

Teri told me that they are one of the first cookies she remembers making with her grandma Rachael Schultz.  They aren’t overly sweet but are delightfully moist.  Connie explained that boiling the raisins was probably the reason why the cookies stayed so moist.  Whatever the explanation, the recipe for these cookies deserves a place in your recipe box.

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup butter

1 cup raisins

2 large eggs

Pinch of salt

1/2 tsp. nutmeg

1 tsp. cinnamon 

1 tsp. vanilla

2 cups old fashioned oatmeal

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1 cup chopped walnuts

PROCEDURE:

Start by bringing the eggs and a cup of butter to room temperature by setting them out an hour or so before starting the cookies.

Put a cup of raisins into a small saucepan and cover them with water.  Bring the pan to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer the raisins for ten minutes.  Remove the pan from the heat and let the raisins cool a bit.

While the raisins are cooling, cream together the sugar and butter in a large mixing bowl.  Add the eggs, spices, and five tablespoons of the raisin liquid to the creamed sugar.  Sift half of the flour and soda into the liquid ingredients, then stir in the oatmeal followed by the rest of the flour.  Drain the raisins and blend them and the walnuts into the batter.  You will have a moist batter.

Drop batter by rounded teaspoonfuls onto greased cookie sheets and bake at 350º for ten to twelve minutes until the cookies begin to brown on the edges.  Cool them on wax paper and store the cookies in an airtight container.

NOTES:  In case you are wondering, a pinch of salt is about a sixteenth of a teaspoon, roughly the amount you can pick up with your thumb and first two fingers.  If you are using unsalted butter, use a quarter of a teaspoon of salt.

If the batter looks a little too moist, you can stir in a tablespoon or two of flour at this point.