A handful of months ago when we were planning our year-long road trip, we made a list of all of the National Parks and places we wanted to see and calculated the driving distances between each. Four to six hours is where we like to cap our driving time at any one go to help prevent burn out, and so for any destination that required driving more than this length of time, we did our best to pick a spot or two along the general route to crash for the night. Cashton, Wisconsin was one of those places.
Cashton is five hours from Chicago and only came on our radar because there was a pet-friendly AirBnB listing with solid reviews. The carriage house is on a two hundred and fifty acre homestead and horse farm and we thought that could be fun too. What we didn’t expect was to meet two of the most welcoming, warm, and interesting hosts, Carol and Ron, who have twenty-three kids (eighteen of whom they adopted from all over the world) and thirty grandkids! They also have the friendliest bunnies, a massive St. Bernard dog, chatty ducks, and lots of beautiful horses. And Cashton? It has the most dazzling sunsets we’ve ever seen. The first night the sky turned such a bright gradient of orange and pink, I actually stopped what I was doing inside the house three separate times to go outside and just stare at it in awe.
Another very pleasant surprise while we were there was finding a vegan-friendly co-op the next town over that put our Whole Foods in Boston to shame. I stumbled upon so many new-to-me and local brands for everything from coconut milk ice cream to kombucha to gluten-free bread. It was paradise.
Given the unexpected abundance of food options and the cozy carriage house kitchen, complete with a stove and an oven (amenities I no longer take for granted), I spent a day leisurely working on a new banana bread recipe, then turning it into French toast, with breaks in between for strolling through grassy fields and saying hello to cows and horses grazing along the way. Life felt like one of Gwyneth Paltrow’s glow-y cookbook photos for a moment there and I soaked in every sunny second.
This banana bread is adapted from my secret ingredient banana bread of almost four years ago, shortly after I first started Pickles & Honey. I wanted a vegan version that would be low-glycemic and naturally sweetened, lower in oil than traditional banana breads, and gluten-free but not dry or crumbly. This is that banana bread, and it’s made even more delicious in French toast form using chickpea flour for a subtle egg-y flavor. Top it with coconut whipped cream, walnuts, berries, and a pour of real maple syrup for a breakfast or brunch that feels decadent and fancy while still being effortlessly simple to make.
- 3 medium, very ripe bananas
- ⅓ cup unrefined coconut oil, melted, plus extra for greasing the pan
- ¼ cup coconut sugar
- ¼ cup unsweetened applesauce
- 2 cups all-purpose gluten-free flour blend (I used a homemade mix of brown rice, sorghum, chickpea and tapioca flours)
- ½ teaspoon xanthan gum
- 1½ teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon fine grain sea salt
- 1 cup plain, unsweetened non-dairy milk (I used cashew milk)
- ⅓ cup chickpea flour
- 1 tablespoon arrowroot powder
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- pinch fine grain sea salt
- prepared loaf of banana bread, cut into 1-inch slices
- coconut oil for greasing the pan
- maple syrup
- coconut whipped cream
- walnut pieces
- fresh berries
- Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9x5 inch loaf pan.
- Make the banana bread: In a large bowl, mash the bananas until very few lumps remain. Add the coconut oil, coconut sugar, and applesauce. Whisk to combine. Sift in the gluten-free flour blend, xanthan gum, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Mix with a wooden spoon until just combined (the batter will be very thick).
- Transfer the batter to the prepared loaf pan and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool completely, then cut into 1-inch thick slices.
- Make the French toast: In a large shallow bowl, whisk together the non-dairy milk, chickpea flour, arrowroot, vanilla, and salt. Heat a large non-stick frying pan over medium heat, then brush it with coconut oil. Take one slice of banana bread and soak it in the milk mixture for about 15 seconds on each side. Place the soaked bread on the pan and cook until golden, 3 to 4 minutes on each side. Repeat with the remaining banana bread slices, greasing the pan before each. Serve warm, topped with maple syrup, coconut whipped cream, walnuts and fresh berries. Enjoy!
P.S. If you’re ever in Wisconsin, you must visit Carol and Ron in Cashton. xo Amanda