My friend Haran wrote to me awhile ago, telling me that his girlfriend, Nikki, was putting together a cookbook to raise money for NAMI - National Alliance on Mental Illness - and he went on to explain what it is.
Well, little did he know that I've been involved with the group because a number of my very dearest loved ones over the years have been diagnosed with mental illnesses (from depression to anxiety to bipolar disorder, and more), and NAMI is a resource so valuable that my usually verbose self can't adequately describe it. I even served briefly as a support group moderator, though unfortunately my schedule has become too chaotic to maintain that level of activity right now.
NAMI has groups for those who've been diagnosed, as well as for their family and friends. It offers support, understanding, compassion, friendship, and an entity so elusive sometimes, when mired in a crisis with a loved one or distraught over a recent frightening diagnosis ... it offers hope.
So I was thrilled to be asked for contributions to the cookbook, as well as honored and grateful to be able to give back even a bit of what NAMI has given to me.
The cookbook has just been published, and it's fabulous! Not only is it fun to recognize names of friends who also sent in recipes, but it's great to flip through and find an extraordinary number of tempting goodies that are all calling to me at once. I want to make this appetizer, that soup, this other entree, and - of course! - desserts.
How to choose? What to choose? Well, for once - an exceptional rarity, given my famous indecisiveness! - this was easy. I needed a dessert recipe to serve for an evening of watching football. It needed to be quick, easy, and a sure-fire hit. And if I could make something from a friend's recipe, even better.
And so, I chose Nikki's Banana Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting because ... well ... what could be better? "Banana," "cake," "peanut butter," and "frosting" - some of my very favorite words in the English language! I did toss in a few chocolate chips, just 'cause. Do you really need a reason to justify chocolate chips?
If you'd like a copy of Whatever It Takes: NAMI Metro Cookbook, please let me know; I'll put you in touch with Nikki for ordering. The book costs an amazingly reasonable $10 plus $3 shipping if you don't live in Ann Arbor. (If you live here, Nikki has very graciously offered to deliver the book personally.) Your contribution will help the branch which serves Oakland, Wayne, and Macomb counties - suburbs of Detroit, for those not 'round here.
But far more importantly, your contribution will help individuals who are my family, my friends, my neighbors, my community ... people who have illnesses that can be debilitating and disabling, but people who also have extraordinary abilities and unbelievable courage. Yes, sometimes a mental illness can impact a life severely; other times, you might never know someone has been diagnosed.
NAMI offers support, and it also seeks to fight the misconceptions - fears, confusion, ignorance, and stigma - that people diagnosed with mental illness can often face. One of my own personal pet peeves in that regard, for example, is hearing the word "schizophrenic" when speaking of a person with schizophrenia - never, ever let someone's diagnosis be what defines a human being. And never set limits, presuming that a mental illness will prevent someone from living a full and fabulous life.
But I'll get off my little soapbox now, and go eat cake. Really good, moist cake with extra frosting - I couldn't resist!
Banana Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting
(slightly adapted from Nikki Fitlow's recipe)
- 2 medium bananas
- 1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
- pinch of kosher salt
- 1/4 cup butter, softened
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 3/8 cup brown sugar
- 1 egg
- 1/2 cup chocolate chips
- 2 cups Cool Whip, thawed
- 1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
- dusting of cocoa powder, if desired
Preheat oven to 350F. Grease an 8"x8" baking pan.
In a small bowl, mash together the bananas, lemon juice, and vanilla.
In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.
In a large bowl, combine the butter, sugar, and brown sugar; beat with an electric mixer for 1 minute. Add egg and beat on "high" for 2 minutes until very light and fluffy.
Add half of flour mixture, and beat on "low" until combined. Add bananas, and beat until combined. Add rest of flour mixture; beat until combined. Stir in chocolate chips.
Spread batter into prepared pan and bake for 30 minutes, until a tester comes out with just a few crumbs on it. Let cool completely.
Combine Cool Whip and peanut butter; spread over cake. Dust with cocoa powder, if desired.
Makes 9-12 servings, depending on serving size.