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Better cooking at home

Tips and recipes from our St. Luke’s chefs and dietitians

Magic Valley’s in-house baker shares her versatile recipe for banana bread

Amy Ritchie and Mark Owsley
By Holly M. Anderson, Health and Wellness
February 17, 2020

Editor’s note: Every other week in this space during 2020, you’ll find recipes and tips from St. Luke’s chefs and dietitians to help you cook healthier at home.


Amy Ritchie knew she loved to cook, but it wasn’t until she started working for Mark Owsley at St. Luke’s Magic Valley that she found her true vocation – baking.

Ritchie, a member of the American Culinary Federation, had been cooking professionally for several years before joining the Magic Valley team about four years ago. Owsley was the longtime executive chef at the highly revered Gamekeeper restaurant and other former Owyhee Plaza hotel establishments in Boise until 2011, when he moved to Twin Falls to work for St. Luke’s; he’s no slouch when it comes to spotting kitchen talent.

It didn’t take Owsley long to realize that Ritchie had all the right stuff to become the facility’s baker – and the mentoring began. With her eye for detail and an ability to juggle large batches of anything and everything with ease, Ritchie was smitten. 

“I didn’t know how much I loved baking until I started training alongside Chef Mark,” Ritchie said. “It’s my passion, and I can’t imagine doing anything else.”

The rave reviews for Ritchie’s work (and work ethic!) go beyond the St. Luke’s patients and employees who enjoy her breads and sweet treats. For the past two years, she’s won best dessert honors during the hotly contested chef competition at “Epicurean Evening.” The popular annual event benefits St. Luke’s Magic Valley Health Foundation, and as Owsley notes, Ritchie was up against several chefs from prominent Sun Valley-area restaurants.

“Amy is one of a kind and definitely a crowd favorite,” Owsley said. “She loves what she does here in the kitchen. She always goes the extra mile.”

Owsley himself is particularly fond of Ritchie’s versatile take on banana bread, which you can easily adapt to your own taste preferences. 

“You can add nuts, chocolate chips or blueberries,” Ritchie said. “This bread is great all by itself, but you could top with butter, cream cheese, Nutella or peanut butter. Serve it with fruit and a side of yogurt. You can also use the banana bread to make a delicious French toast.”

St. Luke’s Nampa Clinical Dietitian Tony Teich, RD, offers another twist. 

“To add a nutritional boost, grate a medium zucchini and add it to the batter,” Teich said. “It will add an additional crunch as well as a shot of vitamin C and extra fiber!”

banana bread

Amy’s Banana Bread

Makes 12 servings

3 ripe bananas, mashed

2 eggs

1¾ cups flour

1½ cups sugar

½ cup vegetable oil

¼ cup banana pudding

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon vanilla

½ cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Pinch of salt

Directions:

  1. Combine the oil, eggs, sugar, banana pudding, vanilla, salt and mashed bananas.
  2. Add baking soda and flour.
  3. Combine well for two to three minutes.
  4. Pour into a greased loaf pan (¼ pan) and bake in a preheated 325-degree oven for 1 hour and 20 minutes.
  5. Pull out and make sure that the bread is done. (Put a toothpick in the middle. If the toothpick is clean when you pull it out, the bread is done.)
  6. Let the bread rest for about 20 minutes in the pan. Then, turn the pan upside down. Let the loaf fall out gently.

Note: This bread freezes well. Make sure to take it out of pan first, and then let the bread cool completely before tightly wrapping and freezing. You can freeze as a whole loaf or as individual slices. It should be good in the freezer for about one month.

Nutrition information per serving:

312 calories; 14 g fat (1.3g saturated fat); 132 mg sodium; 46 g total carbohydrate; 1.7 g fiber; 4 g protein


Amy Ritchie’s baking tips

  • Read through your recipe twice before you start, and always follow the recipe. (This doesn’t mean you can’t experiment with add-ins or substitutes, like Ritchie says you can do with the banana bread. Just do it carefully.)
  • Make sure your oven is preheated. 
  • Use the right tools. There are measuring cups for liquids, for instance, and different measuring cups for dry ingredients.
  • Don’t overmix your ingredients.
  • For healthier baking, substitute white flours with wheat or almond flours and try sugar substitutes. You can also use avocado and coconut oils in baking.
  • Cut your desserts into smaller pieces for calorie control. 

About The Author

Holly M. Anderson works in the Communications and Marketing department at St. Luke's.