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The Two Bananas

The Two Bananas

Good evening, Dear Readers:

I’m sorry it’s been a week since I posted; I had a couple of obstacles, including a dying car battery and an impromptu late night meeting with the GER down at Buc-ee’s on Saturday night. We ended up chatting outside for a while, and it’s a good thing–with all the construction happening on I-45 in this area, that time let some of the miles-deep traffic dissipate. I made it home pretty easily. . .about 1:00 am. We just tend to chat about general stuff we’re interested in. Then I look up and see what time it was, and I gotta go home. Closest thing I’ve had to call a “date” in a while, so I’ll take it. He offered me one of those Mexican mineral waters he likes, so I guess you can say he “bought me a drink.” HA!

I did manage to acquire watermelon. Lots of watermelon.

I’ve been doing more on the copywriting side, contacting catalog companies to inquire if they use freelance writes. So far I got one “yes, we do, but I’m not the person you need to talk to,” but I’ll be back on it tomorrow. I’m not going to say too much about what companies I’ve contacted, but, well, today I made a discovery that left me laughing.

Some of you may know I’m a huge fan of British TV, particularly “Britcoms” like Keeping Up Appearances, Father Ted, and Waiting For God. One of the funniest Britcoms with the dual appeal of science fiction is called Red Dwarf. It’s sort of Star Wars meets The Three Stooges. (Even Patrick Stewart, aka Captain Jean-Luc Picard, is a fan.) Set three million years in the future, it focuses on the four space buffoons who bumble their way through everything and still manage to come out ahead. In Season 10 of Red Dwarf, they go back in time (by accident) and meet. . .Jesus. No kidding. Funny, and *not* disrespectful of Christians, it’s just good fun. But if you haven’t seen the series from the beginning (I have), it might not make as much sense.

Red Dwarf started in 1988 or 1989, and the audiences watching those first shows were brought from pubs located within the vicinity of the studio where it was being filmed. Back in the day, they couldn’t swear on TV like they can now, so they came up with a substitute swear word: “smeg.” Short for something really dirty, they used it all the time, telling each other to “smeg off,” calling each other “smegheads” (audience members call the cast members that to their faces now) and other derivatives to avoid saying some of the infamous Seven Dirty Words You Can’t Say On Television. Dwarfers are also called “smegheads.”

Why am I talking about Red Dwarf? Well, today in my research, I discovered a line of kitchen appliances, big and small, by an Italian company called Smalterie Metallurgiche Emiliane Guastalla. That’s right, SMEG. No kidding. In English, it means “Guastalla Emilia Enamel Works.” But has no one in Italy ever heard of Red Dwarf?

It gets worse. In one of the prior seasons–and described in one of the books–the only human character, Dave Lister, has a thing for electronic gadgets, and finds the Talkie Toaster. Described in the accompanying book Better Than Life  on page 51, well:

Talkie Toaster {TM} (patent applied for), was made of deep red plastic, and according to the blurb on the packaging, could engage its owner in a number of pre-programmed stimulating breakfast conversations. Moreover, it had a degree of Artificial Intelligence, so, in time, it could learn to assess your mood and tailor its conversation accordingly. If you woke up feeling bright and bubbly, the Toaster would respond with chirpy repartee. If you rose in a darker mood, the Toaster’s Artificial Intelligence could sense this, and provide your breakfast muffins in suitably reverent silence.

Of course, it didn’t actually work as well as advertised. It’s obsessed with making toast and conversation, to the point of severe irritation. There’s an entire routine where Holly, the ship’s onboard computer system, argues with the Talkie Toaster about not wanting anything toasted. The Toaster responds, “It is my purpose. I toast, therefore, I am.” In other words, no smegging toast, thank you very much.

Take a look at these toasters and try not to laugh. They don’t talk, but they’re not cheap, either–the toasters run $200, and the blenders nearly $500, so they’re high-end appliances. But for a Dwarfer. . .it’s just too funny. You can look at the entire line of SMEG kitchen appliances at their official website.

OK, enough comic relief. The official Red Dwarf website is here. More funny stuff later.

This morning Neighbor K and I went walking at 5 am, and then she texted me to walk with her and the Daft Pug to Starbucks. I hadn’t hopped in the shower yet, so I put my shoes back on. One of us had to hold the Daft Pug while the other went in, but that’s OK. When it was my turn to hold the leash, he wanted to chase the black birds flying around at the fire station next door. Then K brought out her coffee, breakfast and a “Puppuccino,” which Starbucks offers to customers with canines during the summer. (You have to ask for it.) A sample-sized cup of whipped cream, icy cold, which the Daft Pug lapped up like he hadn’t eaten in a week. K also brought a small cup of water, but he was not interested and knocked it over. We were outside on a sealed concrete patio, so it won’t hurt anything, but he couldn’t believe he was at the bottom of the little cup. What a happy pug.

Sunday, the nice man who lives upstairs, Neighbor J, tapped on my door and offered me some green grapes and two bananas. “I’m going to Vegas tomorrow and I don’t want to come back to rotted fruit in the fridge.” Woo hoo! Thank you!  The grapes were gone momentarily, but what to do with the bananas?  Banana bread? Ice cream? Eat them? I didn’t want to go get anything, and since I keep ingredients stocked as best I can, I figured there would be something I could make that would use up two bananas and be a healthy nibble.

I should point out that I normally don’t eat bananas because of the high starch/sugar content. I used to, and when my parents were active Shaklee representatives, my Mom gave me a can of some kind of shake that required the addition of a whole banana in the blender. Nice, but that meant I was hungry by the time I got to work. In 1991, though, we didn’t have the advanced food transport equipment available like we do now–and because I had no car, I took the bus, so I couldn’t risk a leaky bottle with a smoothie in it.

Anyway.

My first visit was to the first Babycakes book. Bread would take a while, so I decided to look online for some inspiration. I get Facebook feeds from Elena Amsterdam of Elena’s Pantry, so I decided to visit her website and see what I could find. Typed the word “banana” in the search function, and oh, boy, did I get recipes. I looked through a few, expecting almond flour to be the first ingredient, but I also have some coconut flour, too. I searched for a few minutes, then. .  .

Bingo–Flourless Chocolate Banana Cake. Five ingredients, a couple of steps and a cake! Well. . .it’s gluten free, nut free and dairy free. There are eggs in it, too, and it’s baked, not raw. There are some Jewish holidays that forbid the use of flour, but I only know what I’m told and what I read. Like I told K, if you’re unable to have the usual specter of sweets, it’s a good thing to make.

If you’re not familiar with Elena Amsterdam, she’s a wife and mother of two who has written three books on paleo/grain free cooking; two are dessert books, and you can read her Amazon biography here. She’s an advocate for Celiac disease and grain-free nutrition after being diagnosed in 1998, went grain-free in 2001, and has been writing about it since 2006. Her cookbooks are on my wish list (I know, I need more cookbooks, right?) and her website is filled with not only simple, nutritious recipes but other good advice as well. You can also get her feeds on Facebook like I do if you’re on FB,  or you can sign up to get her emails if you’re not.

Elena describes herself as “an entrepreneur, wife and Jewish mother living in Boulder, Colorado.” (She’s GORGEOUS, too.)

So, what happens? Let me tell you.

The setup (minus three eggs.)

The setup (minus three eggs.) It was 10:30 in the morning

I should point out that the recipe calls for CACAO powder, not cocoa, but cocoa is what I had on hand, and Erma’s wasn’t open. So cocoa powder it was.

First up: separate the eggs:

Yes, they're cappuccino cups, but there's no cappuccino this time of year.

Yes, they’re cappuccino cups, but there’s no cappuccino this time of year.

Elena calls for a Vitamix, but all I have is my Cuisinart blender, so that’s what I deployed for the next step, whipping up the egg yolks, agave and salt (medium, for 1-2 minutes, although I only have high and low.) It looks like this:

I had to hold it because it started to turn. . .and leak.

I had to hold it because it started to turn. . .and leak.

Next up, add the grapeseed oil and banana, mash it up and blitz it again:

I cut them, then mashed with a fork, knowing that the blender would pretty much cover the rest.

I cut them, then mashed with a fork, knowing that the blender would pretty much cover the rest.

Now, make it chocolate and blitz it again.

Next time maybe I'll get some cacao powder.

Next time maybe I’ll get some cacao powder.

This is what you end up with:

Chocolated-up banana mix

Chocolated-up banana mix

Now–shift gears and whip the egg whites until they’re stiff:

IMG_2733

Under the bowl is just a bit of rubber shelf liner. I keep them handy to keep bowls and cutting boards from sliding while I work.

Once you’re there with the egg whites, dump the chocolate mixture into a bigger bowl, and add the beaten egg whites:

Almost there

Almost there. Neat contrast, isn’t it?

Once you’ve got them in the same place, fold them together with a spoon or spatula. Don’t use the mixer again, because you’ll “flatten” the egg whites.

Fold, not blend or mix.

Fold, not blend or mix.

I think I forgot to take a picture of the cake before it went into the toaster oven, but you grease an 8″ springform pan and add the cake batter to it. I lined the bottom of mine with parchment by putting a sheet on top of the base and clipping the ring on it, making sure it was tight, then spraying a bit of oil on it. It’s the same thing you do for a cheesecake, and trim the excess from the bottom. But of course, I didn’t take THAT picture, sorry.

So bake it  for 25 minutes or so, and this is what comes out:

Cake.

Fresh out of the oven

I should have waited until it cooled a bit, but no, I burned my paws a little getting the ring off, then the cake on a plate, removed the parchment, then flipped it over onto another plate so it would look nice for the camera.

Cake.

Cake!

Amazingly, mine looks pretty much like Elena’s, only without the food stylist and fancy photography. But how does it taste? Aye, there’s the rub.

I had the first slice, and then I packed up some for Neighbors K, R and J (the upstairs neighbor who gave me the bananas.)  I thought it wasn’t bad, and passable. The texture is soft and moist, even after a few days in a container in the fridge.  I gave K two slices for her and her SO (“significant other”) and accidentally gave R two slices. I cut it and packed up the slices while it was still hot, so the condensation inside the containers clouded them. I knocked on K’s door and give her a second slice for the SO–don’t want to leave him out.

The verdict from two of the three HeatCageKitchen taste testers: It’s OK. Not great. K said it was “weird, like those Weight Watchers brownies with black beans in them.” K’s boyfriend also tried it, and said the same thing. R said it “wasn’t bad, had an aftertaste; but the pizza was really good!” J is in Vegas for a couple more days, but I wanted to get it to him before he left so that he could have it before he left. I didn’t want to bother him while he was getting ready to leave, so I didn’t knock to ask; but I think I know what he’ll say.

Now, I don’t always expect glowing reviews of my cooking. If the recipe isn’t good, I need to know that, right? At least it’s not bad enough to be tagged as a “hot mess.”

Again, I used what I had handy, which included cocoa powder, not CACAO powder. (Maybe next time.) Let me explain why I think it tasted a bit weird.

If you try to eat a bar of unsweetened chocolate, which is 100% chocolate (mostly), it’s pretty pure, and will be bitter–that’s why chocolate is cut with other ingredients like butter, cream, coconut oil, and sugar or other sweeteners are added. Unsweetened cocoa powder is, essentially, pure chocolate, much like the baking chocolate in bar form, so I’m thinking I should have likely cut back on the cocoa powder, or added a little more agave syrup. I’ll do that next time, or use the cacao powder. Like I should have.

If you (or someone in your circle) is in a position where you can’t have certain foods or ingredients, and want to “have your cake and eat it too,” this recipe might be a good option. I’ll look for cacao powder and try again one day. Maybe the GER might want to try it–he says he might want to try last week’s pizza recipe, but I warned him that I need some notice, since the quinoa soaks overnight. (And I nibbled all the sliced-up sausage, darnit.)

The recipe is available on the Recipe page in PDF format so that you can print or download it for later. My notes are included, along with a link to the original recipe on Elena’s Pantry.

It’s now August. Fall will be here before you know it, and that means MY BIRTHDAY!! I know it’s time when the pomegranates start showing up in the grocery (and they’re *not* the ones grown in Chile.)  What am I going to do this year? Heck, I dunno. I’ll know when October gets here. Pizza, cake, something free from Starbucks, Denny’s and Sephora, and anything else I can find to sign up for by October 15th. It’s MY birthday, right?

For now, I’m going to have some more watermelon, clean my messy kitchen, do evening prayers and hit the sack.

Until next time. . .Enjoy!

 

 

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Update on the HeatCageKitchen garden (with pictures)

Update on the HeatCageKitchen garden (with pictures)

Good evening, Dear Readers:

I’ve got a busy week this week, and possibly next. Five, possibly six interviews–something’s gotta hit, right? Cross your fingers.

It’s late at night, so I could make a big boo-boo. It happens. Still trying to get up early in the morning, and now my head is telling me to go to sleep. I will, shortly.

Today I went into Wal-Mart for a few things, and, while I rarely shop there, I went in out of convenience–I had just returned from my second interview today, and it was easy. While I frequent Target, Bed, Bath and Beyond and other stores that carry housewares, I am often fascinated at Wal-Mart’s varied and interesting culinaria. (Kitchen stuff.) They carry the famed breakfast sandwich maker, but I am no longer interested in it, even though it’s a neat little item. No, today’s fascination is with a weird little item that takes frozen bananas and turns them into a dessert resembling ice cream. No kidding, check it out:

Yo, what?

Yo, what?

I didn’t form much of an attachment when I saw that price tag, but if you have someone in your household who has a dairy allergy, or just can’t stomach regular store-bought ice cream (get it? stomach?) this little item might be just what you need.

Let me point out that one of the reasons I don’t mess with bananas anymore is because they are very high in starch, which translates into sugar–very important for diabetics, too. I guess you could toss some cocoa powder in, too, and make. . .chocolate banana frozen dessert, too. Like I said, I didn’t fall into mad love with it, so I probably won’t be getting one even if I do find myself working soon. But I’m passing along this info to my readers for anyone who might be interested. I’m sure you can find them at nearly any Wal-Mart in America.

Oh, and my current gotta-have-it food is now. . .popcorn. Yes, for some reason, I’m now in love with hot-air-popped popcorn, and I eat plenty of it. At $1.88 a bag at Wal-Mart, and likely less elsewhere, it’s an affordable indulgence. Contrast that with my former can’t-get-enough, dark chocolate Mounds bars, and you’ll see that I’ve moved up. I went about 2 weeks without one of those bars, and then had one, and now can’t stand them! Last time I was in Wal-Mart I got one of their double-sized packets for $1, and I gave the second pair to Neighbor K who had just finished a grueling semester. And that’s it, I don’t want Mounds or Almond Joy anymore.

The garden is humming along, although our erratic rain amounts means I water a lot, and even then sometimes, it’s not enough. I forgot to take a picture of the hanging basket, but the replanted strawberry plant is producing flowers. I hope it grows out of the pot and gives me lots of berries, but we’ll see. The mint plant is doing well:

Mojito, anyone?

Mojito, anyone?

No kidding, that’s like a foot high. I’d better cut them and do something with it, right? Admittedly, some weeding needs to be done, and soon, but for now I gotta keep watering.

My longtime web friend R didn’t take my advice and put his mint in a container. Now he has a carpet of it in his backyard. Good thing it’s a big backyard! He could make mojitos for a week and still have a lot left over.

I have two pepper plants, one bell, one Anaheim, and so far, so good:

Peppers--I hope!

Peppers–I hope! Garlic scapes just to the left.

Now, if you’re wondering what that white stuff is, it’s very simple–that’s crushed up eggshells to keep the snails out. They won’t cross them, because the sharp edges can cut them. I don’t mean any harm to any snails, but I want them OFF my plants, darnit! Anyway, I also purchased a pod from Lowes’ that was guaranteed to grow lettuce, and it’s starting to sprout, finally:

Lettuce. From a pod

Lettuce. From a pod

To the left is a little green stem that is the regenerating remainder of the previous lettuce I planted there that I. . .ate recently.

Next up: BASIL!!

Pre-pesto

Pre-pesto

Got smart, planted more than one seed, I want a bumper crop this year. The snails got to them before, so I have to make sure there are no spots for them to crawl through safely. By the time these little seedlings make it to two feet, I don’t think it’ll be a problem.

My little citrus plants are doing the best they can in pots:

Lime and Meyer Lemon trees

Lime and Meyer Lemon trees

Unfortunately, while I do have four Meyer lemons with one on the way, many of my little lemon sprouts fell off, leaving me with four. I’m guessing that the swath of blooms didn’t all get pollinated, so that’s why I’m left with. . .four. Take a look, I’ll at least get some this year, although I can’t say when.

An unripe Meyer lemon. When ripe, it will be four times that size and yellow.

An unripe Meyer lemon. When ripe, it will be four times that size and yellow. The surprise flower is just above my hand.

Check out the closeup of my lime tree–yes, it’s going to produce, too!

See the tiny limes?

See the tiny limes? So far, I’ve counted three, but you can only see the two in the middle in this picture.

Next up, my four-year-old batch of regenerating spring onions, complete with weeds:

Green Onions

Green Onions, fresh anytime!

I know, I know, I need to get some weeding done. I’ve been busy, OK?

What I forgot to take pictures of were the three containers of garlic with huge, long green scapes, and the rosemary plant, which is now pouting because I moved it to the corner. It gets plenty of sun and water, it’s just not right in front of me.

This week I received the June issue of Martha Stewart Living, and in one of the pages of short blurbs, there is a small article on garlic scapes, those long green things that grow out of the ground. Wait, let me explain it this way: you know how when you keep garlic in the fridge a long time, it starts to sprout? That’s called a garlic scape, and it can be used just like regular garlic. Yes, you can plant them, but you have to be very, very patient. I might have accidentally dug up one of mine while checking to see if it was ready to harvest. It wasn’t. Darnit.

Anyway, the blurb said that Martha pickles the garlic scapes. Well, go for it. . .I’m waiting for the darn garlic to be ready to harvest. But I do go out and nibble them occasionally–they’re not as strong as regular garlic, and it’s right tasty. Just don’t expect anyone to snog on you until you use some strong mouthwash, OK?

I am still being a good, gluten-free blogger, haven’t been tempted in some time. That’s OK, I’ve got plenty to tempt me in-house. I over-shopped while I was working, so that I wouldn’t have to buy too much when the unemployment was done. Just things like milk and eggs, and popcorn, for now.

Cross your fingers.

While I don’t do much to promote this humble blog, it has a following, and I have actually told a few folks about it in interviews, mostly because there is an expressed interest in writing, or writing is part of the job description. I do have a few more topics to tell you about, like the chorizo I tossed into a meatloaf, but. . .maybe tomorrow or this weekend. I took pictures of that.

And for those of you above the Mason-Dixon line, please sit tight, spring will be at your door in about a month, and you can put away your snowshoes and heavy coats, finally. If you’re lucky. Stay warm until it does.

As always, Happy Dining!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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