Friday, August 24, 2012

Banana bread

Even better, chocolate-chip banana bread. Need I say more?

My boys love a nice thick slice with breakfast. And with lunch. And in that long gap between lunch and supper.

I got the original recipe for banana bread from my mom. Of course I've tweaked it a bit. The original instructions called for separating the eggs, then folding in the stiffly beaten whites before baking. I don't bother with the separating, but I do beat the dickens out of the butter/sugar/egg mixture, much like you do when making a cake. I think that incorporates enough air, and I stand by my decision.

My other tweak is adding a cup of mini chocolate chips. Regular size chocolate chips work too, but I find the mini chips distribute more evenly, and the bread is a tad easier to cut.

So without further ado...

Chocolate-chip Banana Bread

1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs
3 very ripe bananas, mashed
2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup milk
1 cup mini chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease a 9x5 loaf pan.

In bowl of mixer, cream together butter and sugar. Add eggs one at a time, and beat at medium speed until pale and fluffy. Stir in mashed bananas.

In separate bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Stir into banana mixture, alternating with the milk. Stir in chocolate chips.

Pour batter into prepared loaf pan, batter will be thick. Bake for at least 1 hour. My oven needs 1 hour and 15 minutes. Cake tester or toothpick should come out clean. Cool in pan 10 minutes, then transfer to rack to cool completely.

I firmly believe this makes a perfect breakfast. You've got the fruit, the carbs and the protein (from the eggs). For added protein, spread a slice with peanut butter. Yum!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Blueberries in pie form

I rarely need an excuse to bake dessert. Actually, I never need an excuse. We have something for dessert after every supper, and it's usually home made. Except for ice cream. I need to buy an ice cream maker. I've been meaning to do so for several summers. Anyway...

Our youngest son and the neighbour's oldest girl are heading off to college in a couple of weeks. So we're having the neighbours over for a little shindig to celebrate. Hubby is grilling ribs and I baked a pie.

Being that it's wild blueberry season up here in Maine, I made a blueberry pie. I found this recipe many years ago, clipped it out and stuck it in my recipe scrapbook. Based on the paper, font and style of the clipping, the recipe came from Bon Appetit. I've altered the recipe, because that's what I do. I use a purchased graham cracker crumb pie shell instead of the listed pastry shell. I changed the flavourings in the filling just a smidge. And I left off the crumb/nut topping.

Blueberry Sour Cream Pie

1 cup sour cream (I used low-fat)
3/4 cup white sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
zest from one lemon
2 1/2 cups fresh blueberries

Preheat oven to 400 F. Mix first 7 ingredients in bowl to blend. Fold in blueberries. Pour into graham crust. Bake until the filling is set, about 35 minutes. Cool to room temperature.

We have a new oven and it takes a bit longer, about 40 minutes. I look for the sides of the filling to be puffed, with one or two golden spots.

I serve with a dollop (or squirt) of whipped cream and a few fresh berries sprinkled on top.


Friday, August 10, 2012

Ewww, gross!

I’m not, as a rule, squeamish about bugs and similar critters. I have two boys, and have always enjoyed discovering with them what lives inside rotted logs and under rocks. Son1 once found a praying mantis in the hedge, and fearing the coming frost of late October, brought her inside. We set up a lovely terrarium, purchased crickets for her meals, and enjoyed her company until the following spring.

I regularly capture bugs and spiders inside the house and release them to the great outdoors.

The only bugs I go out of my way to kill (squish, DESTROY!) are those insects that damage the garden. My spring days are spent hunting down and squishing the cutworms who seem to take delight in chopping down my green bean seedlings. While digging in the garden, I collect all the Japanese Beetle grubs I can, and feed them to the chickens. If I’m feeling lazy, I just squish the buggers between my fingers. (This always reminds me of the scene from Lion King when Timon mentions a “cream filling", *giggle*.)

A few days ago, whilst checking out the tomato plants, and rubbing my hands with glee at the coming bounty, I witnessed a sight that struck horror in my soul. Well, maybe not horror, but a definite case of heebie-jeebies. Branches stripped of their foliage, and little mounds of excrement on a few leaves. I knew what this meant.

Tobacco Hornworms, aka ewwww, gross! Ginormous caterpillars that chomp the leaves with their non-horny *giggle* ends, and poop out green goo from their horny ends *snort* . (I’ll stop now.)

What do these slimy (not really) disgusting things have to do with my opening sentence? I’ll tell you. I have a deep, visceral resistance to touching the Hornworms. They are just too damn big. Firm, yet slightly squishy. And they grip the plant with steel talons (not really) so it’s not just a matter of knocking them off. It takes at least a thumb and one finger, sometimes two, and considerable force, to dislodge the b**tards. And then they rear up as if to attack! OMG that’s scary.

I’m not alone in my fight, however. For there is within the wild kingdom of insects a species of beneficial wasps who need to find a nice place to grow their babies.

Those white pellet-y things are the pupae of the wasps, parasitizing the life out of the Hornworm (huzzah!).

The caterpillars covered with their little friends I leave in place, figuring more beneficial wasps will be the result.

The caterpillars without little friends I scrap off into a container, take them out to the road, and drop a brick on their sorry asses.

Side note: the chickens won't touch the Hornworms, and, in fact, flee in terror.