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Banishing Self-Doubt With Boozy Cardamom Spelt Banana Bread

May 24, 2011

Two weeks ago I was lucky enough to sit in on a three-day, online, food photography workshop hosted by creativeLIVE and led by an award-winning and gifted-beyond-words food photographer I’ve long admired—Penny De Los Santos. For three days I was glued to my computer screen drinking in every word Penny uttered, every photo she shared. I furiously took pages of notes capturing the tips and nuggets of wisdom that I felt certain would make me a better photographer. When it was over, I cried, because it was that good. “Thank you Penny,” I whispered to my dark computer screen.

I learned so much over those three days that my head was swimming with information—information that I was eager to put into practice immediately after the seminar wrapped. Penny urged her students to take photos every day to advance their craft. “I will Penny!” I had said to my computer and empty kitchen. Then something surprising happened in the wake of the seminar—my camera sat untouched for a week.

I didn’t snap a single picture.

It wasn’t for the lack of subject material. I was cooking away for a big party. Beautiful food scenes were all around me. No, it was as though all of the “Rah, rah, I can do it!” had somehow leaked out, leaving me with the gremlins in my head that said, “You’re not good enough.” With the new eyes Penny had given me in her seminar I went back and reviewed the photos I’d once been so proud of. I hated them all now—full of “hot spots”, “too tight”, “too loose.” But what really paralyzed me was the fear that my next picture—the first “post-Penny” picture–would be just as lousy as the images I’d taken before I knew better.

On Sunday, my pity party ended the way that it started—with Penny. I stopped by her blog and found her post titled “What If You Are….”

Keep trying.
Work harder.
Stay out of your head.
Ask for advice.
Ask for honesty.
Stay open.
And no matter how bad the criticism or the word “no” feels, don’t stop believing in what you have to say photographically.
So, I say to all of you: What If you are good enough?

I read these words over and over until a beeper went off, reminding me that my favorite boozy banana bread was ready. And then I realized that I was ready to get out of my head and behind the lens again. Thank you Penny.

Boozy Cardamom Spelt Banana Bread


4 ounces dried plums (a.k.a prunes), chopped (Golden raisins or currants would be nice too.)
1/4 cup brandy (Dark rum or bourbon is just as tasty.)
1 3/4 cups spelt flour (AP or whole wheat will work as well.)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 cup mashed bananas (2 large)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons unsweetened coconut flakes (optional)


  1. Put the dried fruit and booze in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from heat, cover, and let it be for an hour or so while the fruit soaks up the liquid.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  3. Line a 9×5-inch loaf pan with parchment paper or grease it with butter. (I sometimes like making two smaller loaves–one to enjoy now and a second to stow in the freezer for unexpected guests. The smaller loaves also seem to bake more evenly.)
  4. Whisk together the dry ingredients and set aside.
  5. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and brown sugar. Beat in the eggs, bananas, and vanilla. Stir in the boozy fruit.
  6. Add the flour mixture and stir just enough to combine.
  7. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan(s). Sprinkle with coconut flakes if using.
  8. Bake for 50-60 minutes, until lightly browned on top and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. (Adjust the baking time if you are using smaller loaf pans.)
  9. Cool on a rack for 20 minutes then remove it from the pan.

Here’s another whole grain quick bread you might like: Oatmeal Fig Bread.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. May 25, 2011 7:30 am

    Love this post! A good friend also mentioned how inspired she was by Penny’s workshop and I forwarded your post to her. I think that if you are genuine and true to your self in your blog, that’s all that matters. Thanks for sharing.

  2. August 17, 2011 10:32 pm

    I was just looking for a recipe to use up some over ripe bananas…and stumbled across your blog, which is just beautiful! I might have to try this bread out 🙂

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