Thursday, March 8, 2012

Birthday Vanilla French Toast and the Preface of the Manifesto

This.  This is what a birthday breakfast should look like...

Vanilla and cinnamon French toast with REAL butter, powdered sugar, and warm maple syrup.  Yes, please.  It was delicious.  Thanks for asking.

Indeed, it is my birthday.  ((No, I'm not admitting how old I am.))  It has been a great day thus far with a gzillion well-wishes from family and friends.  ((The most genuine and poetic probably being, "I love you a shit-load.))  The plans include lunch with Deb where calories don't count and drinks tonight with 25 or so of my favoritest people.

I've been doing a lot of thinking lately ((no, I am not having a mid-life crisis, I'm too young for that...))  On a daily basis almost, I hear people saying how much they despise this, that, or the other thing.  How much they resent the list of crap they have to do.  You can just see how beaten down they are.  The thing that keeps going in my head is that all that bullshit that fills up your to-do list and your calendar-- those appointments to keep, people to meet, promises to follow-through on?  Those things are your life.  Not just the fun stuff.  It is the day-to-day minutiae that makes up 98% ((or quite possibly more)) of your life and you had better make damn sure that those things are the things and the people that you care about, that make you happy ((or at the very least not fracking miserable,)) and that make you someone worth knowing.

Consequently, as has been hinted at somewhat in these virtual pages, I am taking that challenge head on this year.  I've thought long and hard about what it is that I actually do that makes me feel more like me.  What it is that I look forward to the most.  What I would do if I had the time.  What I would do if I weren't too chicken-shit to try.  What I would and could do and possibly fail at like a goddamn champion.  Enough thinking.  I'm doing it.  And it starts right now. 

I'm not saying it is going to be easy.  But I know it will be worth it.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Busted But Not Busted Banana Bread

BLONDE MOMENT ALERT!  Yesterday, I had grand plans to give away of a couple of loaves of banana bread.  You see, I have this thing where I totally, entirely, and completely hate to waste food ((the therapist that I don't have will address that issue later)), add in that I love to bake stuff/make stuff, but I don't really eat any of it, and you have yourself a prime opportunity to score some homemade stuff off of me.  But...  I had a total space-out.  I don't really know what I was thinking or not thinking, but I forgot to add the sugar.  Oops.

So like any normal, totally odd person, I decided to announce my idiocy and my inability to give up on something on Facebook.  What resulted was about ten different ideas for how to resuscitate it.  And you know?  Some of those ideas are winners.  But let's start at the beginning.

What you need:

3-4 black bananas ((mashed))
1/3 cup of melted butter
1 cup of sugar ((AHEM))
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda
pinch of salt
1 and 1/2 cups of flour

What you do:

Two or three weeks prior, maybe less, buy some bananas and then totally neglect them on the counter top.  They should look about like this:

Looks terrible right?  Nah, perfect.  Here's the thing though.  These are bananas that I get from the co-op where they are not gassed.  Apparently grocery stores and/or their suppliers ((I don't know which)) "gas" the bananas so that they look all nice and pretty and yellow.  Non-gassed bananas don't get quite that same color.  They go from looking green to brown and beat-up pretty quickly.  The insides of these were actually still basically intact.

Peel them and mash them up.  You can use a potato masher or the back of a spoon.  Whichever.  Mix the melted butter into them.  Now add the sugar, egg, and vanilla and combine.  Sprinkle the baking soda and the salt over the top of that mixture and fold it in.  ((Fold is a fancy way of saying take the stuff from the bottom of the bowl and put it on the top, repeatedly.))  Add the 1 1/2 cups of flour and stir.

Pour the batter into a greased loaf pan and bake at 350 for about an hour.  A toothpick inserted in the middle should come out clean when it is done.

It will look like this if you forgot the sugar:

This is the point where I started thinking, "Huh.  That's weird.  It looks like regular bread.  Oh well."

Had I not thought about it, I never would have realized my omission.  When I cut off an end to see just how bad it was, it actually tasted *basically* normal.  I could have given it to someone and they never would have known the difference.  That said, those bananas were quite sweet given how ripe they were.  However, we came up with a number of options for how to salvage it.

1.  Sprinkle it with splenda.  I tried a bite that way.  Damn good.
2.  Dump some maple syrup on it.  Also good.
3.  Add honey to it.  Super good.
4.  Drizzle a little agave on it.  Good.
5.  Add honey butter.  The goodest.  ((Yes, it's a word.))

At this point, I was over the whole experimenting process, but my lovely and talented fb friends also came up with the following ideas:  use it for French toast, make a base for bread pudding, smash it into ice cream, add chocolate or caramel sauce, cut it up into cubes and layer it in a trifle with fruit and honeyed whipped cream, top it with yogurt and fruit, or my personal favorite, smear it with frosting because why the hell not?

So there you have somebody's recipe for banana bread that has been in an email folder entitled "Recipes" since sometime in the late 90's which I sent to myself, so I no longer have any idea where it came from.

May you have better luck in actually adding everything that is called for.  Or maybe not.  Screwing something up and then working it out is a lot of the fun of cooking.  I think I'll mess things up more often.    

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Brandied Brown Sugar Bread Pudding, Minions, and Officially Officialness

     I need a long weekend to recover from my long weekend.  Or minions.  Minions might be preferable.  The weekend was packed with cooking for a dinner for 30 on Saturday, my niece flying in during the preparation, another smaller party to cook for on Sunday, and spending the day with family on Monday.  All good stuff, but it greatly interrupted my regularly scheduled laziness.  

     The party on Saturday is what I shall now call my First Officially Official Event.  The menu was hot deviled crab dip, black-eyed pea salsa ((as previously discussed)), jambalaya, Cajun pulled pork, creole rice, baked beans, mini corn muffins with roasted green chiles and honey butter, and brandied brown sugar bread pudding.  Based on the feedback I've been given, no one dish was the clear favorite, so that means I get to decide.  ((Hey, it's my blog, I can do what I want to anyway.))  I originally thought the rice was going to be my overall favorite ((I "taste-tested" a completely unreasonable amount of it and will make it over and over again)), but that honor has been given instead to the bread pudding.

More Boozy Desserts by Jules

     I have always believed that bread pudding is disgusting.  I mean, seriously, who wants goopy stale bread?  Sick.  Apparently, I didn't know what bread pudding actually was because I was very, very wrong.  ((Mark it:  March 6, 2012. Jules admits she is wrong about something.))  This stuff is to die for.  Not goopy.  Not stale.  Totally sugary boozy yumminess.  This recipe basically came from a website called "A Taste of Home" with a couple of modifications.      

What you need:

1/2 cup of raisins ((unless you agree with me that raisins are disgusting and look like bugs and should be left out))
1/4 cup brandy ((or more, why not?))
1/2 cup of butter  ((melted and with one tablespoon divided out))
1 tablespoon sugar
4 eggs, slightly beaten
2 cups half and half
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
10 slices of day-old brioche bread, 1 inch thick, cubed

What you do:

Preheat the oven to 350.

In a small saucepan, combine the raisins ((yuck)) and the brandy and bring them to a boil.  Cover and remove from heat to sit aside and marinate.  If you are leaving out the raisins, theoretically, you should still bring the brandy to a boil to burn off some of the alcohol, but if you don't, I won't tell anyone.  You can also use apple juice in place of the brandy if you want to be non-boozy.

Brush a glass pan with 1 tablespoon of the melted butter and sprinkle it with sugar.

In a large bowl combine the eggs, cream, brown sugar, vanilla, salt and nutmeg.  Stir in the remaining butter and the raisin/not bugs and brandy mixture.  Gently add in the bread and carefully swish it around.  Let it sit for about 15 minutes or until all the juice is soaked up.

Transfer it to the buttered and sugared baking dish and bake it at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes OR until a knife stuck in the middle comes out clean.

Now you need to make the sauce.

It requires:

1/2 cup of brown sugar
2 tablespoons of cornstarch
Dash of salt
3/4 cup of cold water
1 tablespoon butter
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
MORE brandy, but just a little.  Maybe 1/4 cup.

Just combine the brown sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a small saucepan and gradually add the water and brandy.  For the love of sugar, KEEP STIRRING IT.  You want to be sure the cornstarch isn't "lumping up" like your Aunt Edna's gravy.  Bring it to a boil and continue stirring for 2 minutes or until it is thickened up.  Remove from heat and stir in the butter and vanilla extract.

Some people say you should serve this on the side as a sauce.  I say to hell with that.  Dump it right on top and let it soak in.  If you make this a day ahead as I did, the sauce will turn into a caramel-ly type topping and be extra delicious.  Just reheat it in the oven or nuke it for a few seconds prior to serving.

Nutritional Info:  High treadmill alert.  When cut into 12 pieces, 1 piece is about 350 calories and 15 grams of fat.   Cut it into smaller pieces and eat two.  You'll feel better about yourself.  No, that doesn't make any sense.  That's not my fault.


I'm off to bake a huge batch of my organic, vegan dog treats.  I made a batch about three weeks ago and have been giving them to people and demand has set in.  Now if I could just keep my dogs from staring at the oven while they bake...