a spirited frap

Just two weeks ago we enjoyed a pan of Great-aunt Helen’s Toffee Squares. A promise was made to return with a suitable beverage pairing and though having kids out on summer break has derailed me, a promise is a promise … Continue reading

banana bash–three dishes you’ll want to make and one you will not

Those who’ve been here before may have read mention of neighbors who bring over a box of food every Sunday. My understanding is that their church has a community food bank, from which they take any leftovers home to share with friends and family.

It’s much like a CSA as I never know what a Sunday will bring. Near-expired dairy products, produce, cookies, bread–it’s been fun to receive this kindness weekly. We offer our thanks each time they bring bounty (though their being from Nigeria and ourselves born and raised Minnesotan means communication can be spotty) and when appropriate, share what we make with their gifts. (They once brought over a 50-pound (!) box of chocolate chips–you’d better believe they got a batch or three of cookies out of me.)

they dared me to use them all

they dared me to use them all

I share this here not so much as a personal anecdote, but rather to set up this post’s reason for being: four bunches of spotted bananas. Not four spotted bananas, no. Four bunches.

What to do? A loaf of banana bread wouldn’t even make a dent. Freezing (peeled or no, both work) would take care of what I couldn’t use, but I was up for a challenge, so put it out there on deLizious facebook that I needed banana recipes stat. And my awesome readers came through. Here’s what I did to use up three of those four bunches. (One went home with friends, so was not my problem.):

My friend Jill wrote about a smoothie her family enjoys on summer nights. Cleverly named Monkey Smoothies blend frozen banana chunks, chocolate sauce, peanut butter, and milk. I cut a few bananas up and froze them overnight, then followed Jill’s instructions the next morning. The shakes were dreamy and tasted much like a peanut butter cup would were it frozen and drinkable. Definitely a winner.

frozen bananas, pbutter, choc sauce, milk--yum!

frozen bananas, pbutter, choc sauce, milk–how could this be anything but extraordinary?

monkey smoothie: drink a candy bar for breakfast

monkey smoothie: drink a candy bar for breakfast

Fellow WordPress blogger Perky Poppy Seed opened new worlds for me with her “recipe.” She suggested slitting unpeeled bananas “banana split-style” and placing on a baking sheet. Next, the slits were filled with small pieces of butter, ground cinnamon, and a splash of rum (or brandy or bourbon) and roasted at 400°F-ish until the skins turn black. Finally, the puree is spooned from the skins and used wherever mashed banana is called for. This was a “wow” for me–any banana bread I’ve ever made (and I’ve made a fair number as I try not to repeat b bread recipes) could be made again with this spiked puree, taking on a slightly different flavor. This I had to try.

not going to win any beauty contest, but they smell heavenly

not going to win beauty contests, but they smell heavenly

I filled and roasted 10 of the bananas, placing them on a foil-lined baking sheet to avoid having to wash the pan. The fragrance was heavenly and the final puree was as amazing as I’d imagined.

this stuff is pure baking gold

pure baking gold

I immediately set aside a cup for my next project, which was…

bananarama cake!

bananarama cake!

Beki, of Beki Cook’s Cakes, is the instructor responsible for my personal best in making a cake look pretty. She responded to my facebook query with a link to her blog for what looked to be an amazing recipe. I followed this recipe mostly to the letter, though used the roasted rum bananas and sprinkled a touch of vanilla salt between frosted layers.

The cake was phenomenal, though Beki will most likely wonder if I left my fine decorating skills in her classroom. Alas, the finished cake was a bit more goofy than it was beautiful. (I could use my 7-year-old daughter as an excuse for the imperfect frosting, but she was really only responsible for one smudge in the lettering. I’ll take full responsibility here.)

one crazy--but tasty--cake

one crazy–but tasty–cake

But even without bakery-quality visuals, this cake was crazy good. I was finally able to stop myself after three slices (they were fairly small, but still!) and am even now remembering how moist and tender that cake was. How it had an earthy sweetness that keeps you coming back for more. I managed to part with half of the cake to share with our neighbors, which means the cake has already dwindled significantly. When it’s gone? I’ll make another as I have a good cup or so of the spirited puree in my freezer.

oh, this is good

oh, this is good

The one banana recipe I did not use (besides the one that read “open trash bag, throw away”–horrors!) was offered by the keeper of the Kirschner Cookbook Library, which I’ve written up here before. Megan posts great finds from this library at a favorite blog and she pulled from her archives to share Banana Sardine Boats. These scary salads are worth a click for the kitsch factor alone.

Left in my freezer, then, is about a cup of spirited banana puree and maybe 1/2 cup frozen banana chunks. I was thrilled to meet my banana challenge, though also had plenty of help from facebook readers. While the four bunches of spotty bananas are gone, I’m certain I will run across more sooner rather than later and I’d bet you will, too. So I ask you to keep the recipes and ideas coming. What is your go-to banana recipe when you find yourself with too many brown bananas? Please share as it’s more fun to go bananas with fellow food folk 🙂

kitchen toys part 1

People joke about men and their toys, whether motorcycle, power tool, or sports car. Kids have their playthings, too. My toys are found in the kitchen. I love my Kitchen Aid stand mixer as well as its grain-grinder attachment. My blenders (both traditional and immersion) and food processor are great fun to use. Don’t even get me started on the cotton candy maker–it’s just plain magical. (And worth its own post another day.) It’s also fun to use my cream whipper (who needs Redi-Whip?) and soda maker.

The soda maker is my most recent purchase. It’s shiny red (love it!) and purchased from an online restaurant supply store. I also bought a case of CO2 chargers at a huge discount (my kind of shopping), so now have a lifetime supply of soda water. Just as I love baking my own bread, there’s great satisfaction in starting with basic ingredients (just water in this case) and transforming it into something amazing (yes, bubbly water is amazing).

Having soda water at the ready at any time is lovely. Carbonated water mixes with just about anything–fruit juice, lemonade, purchased or homemade drink syrups (have made amazing ginger ale this way), and even chocolate syrup and milk (think egg cream). It’s also an essential in any home bar and means you don’t have to run to the store to enjoy a bourbon-and-soda.

My Whip-It! Soda Siphon wasn’t overly expensive (costs less than a sports car, for sure) and just thinking about using it makes me smile. Sounds like a toy to me.

shiny red Whip-It! Soda Siphon

homeade ginger ale = carbonated water + Fee Brothers Warm Ginger Cordial Syrup

jammin’ 2

Tonight, I made jam with the berries from our generous neighbors. I’m still a jam newbie, so it was great fun to stir, boil, and learn. I watched the numbers go up on the digital thermometer and matched temperatures to changes in the jam’s consistency. Stirring the brilliantly hued syrup (blackberries, blueberries, raspberries) made for a stunning canvas–the jam-to-be looked like a pinker version of Van Gogh’s Starry Night with its sparkly swirly insanity. The process wasn’t without hiccups, though. Apparently, my canning jars have been used for craft projects (kids) and an undectected clump of glitter made its way into the boiling water when the jars were being sterilized. Rewash. Re-sterilize. When the jam was jarred and processed, I scraped all I could from the saucepan, wishing I could retrieve every last bit. Remembering the chocolate syrup we’d poured over our pound cake and strawberries for dessert earlier, I took the last of the syrup and stirred it into the pan. Stirred and heated gently, the simple, homemade syrup became an elegant chocolate-berry syrup. Magical. I found the chocolate syrup recipe a while back on a clone website. It was too easy and fun to make to ever go back to buying the packaged kind. It makes great chocolate milk and hot chocolate and is wonderful drizzled over pound cake and fresh fruit. And now I know that berry jam is its perfect flavor partner.

Chocolate-Milk Chocolate Syrup

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (you can play around with using dark or regular–it’s all good)
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 dash salt

In saucepan, combine cocoa, sugar and salt. Add water; mix until smooth. Bring to a boil. Boil 1 minute, watching carefully so it doesn’t boil over. Reduce heat; simmer 3 to 4 minutes or until just slightly thickened. Remove from heat; cool slightly. Stir in vanilla. Store in refrigerator.

homemade Hershey’s syrup–sweet!