Tuesday, August 14, 2018

A banana's highest calling

Years ago we were traveling in the midwest raising support for our missionary endeavors here in Spain.  We had a meeting at the church where the husband of a lifelong family friend of my husband was the pastor.  We arrived at a difficult week for the family as I think the husband had just returned from either a hospital visit to his dad or his dad's funeral. Pretty sure it was the second because several of his church members had delivered food to the house for the weekend that we were there.  One item brought by a dear lady in the church was this banana cake with caramel frosting.  We all had a piece and it was sooooooo delicious!  I took the knife and cut myself another half piece because one was not enough.  I was hooked!  The next day the cake was on the counter at breakfast time and I just had to have another piece, and maybe another "little sliver".  Next thing I know, our friend's mother (who lived in the basement apartment) was wrapping foil on the rest of the cake pan and stashing it away in the freezer for her daughter and son-in-law (the pastor) to pull out for themselves at a later date.  I guess she could see I needed a banana cake intervention!

This cake is easy to make, no odd or hard to find ingredients even here in Spain, and is delicious by itself.  Add the caramel frosting and you may find yourself, like me, wondering if there is a local chapter of BCA (banana cake anonymous).  My entire family loves this cake, and my son says that to be made into this recipe is "a banana's highest calling" in life.

A few "tricks" not in the original recipe:
1.  If I have bananas that are not getting eaten and are starting to turn brown I throw them in my freezer right in the peel.  Then on a day when I have time to bake with them I let them thaw on the counter (or zap them in the microwave for 30 seconds or so) and then snip off the end with kitchen scissors, then squueze the banana right out of the skin into a bowl where I can mash it with a fork or just stir it up into puree.  1 cup of mashed banana is 2 large bananas or 2-3 medium sized bananas.

2.  I cannot buy buttermilk here.  For this recipe and others that call for buttermilk I just add a teaspoon of vinegar or lemon juice to the milk that the recipe calls for.

3.  I usually bake this in a clear glass pyrex 9 x 13 pan.  In my oven it is almost never finished at 30 minutes but with the glass pan I can easily keep watch and see when the sides are getting browned.  Not sure if it is the pan or my oven but mine almost always takes about 40 minutes to bake completely. Do the toothpick test or see if the top springs back when lightly touched.

4.  I cannot get good moist "american style" brown sugar here without a bit of a hunt or spending more than I care to spend.  I have found that 1 cup of white sugar mixed with aproximately 1 Tablespoon of molasses is a wonderful substitute and works very well in this recipe.

5. Recipe says to grease and flour the pan.  Since this cake is served from the pan, the flouring step is optional.  I usually just use baking spray on the glass pan and call it a day.

6.  This cake (better said, the frosting) is very sweet so you may want to cut smaller squares to begin with .... just know that you will most likely be going back for "another smidge" or two or three.  Feel free to transfer some to a freezer friendly container if you or a family member need an intervention, or invite several friends over to help you eat it up in one sitting so you don't have the temptation around for long.

7.  Keep a few bananas in your freezer so you can satisfy your sweet tooth or whip up a wonderful treat when visitors come.  Good any time of day, with your morning coffee or tea or as a dessert after a meal.  ENJOY!



Alice’s Banana Cake

2 1/4 cup flour
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup mashed bananas
1 cup buttermilk
2/3 cup shortening or margarine
1 1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour a 9x13 cake pan.
Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Set aside.  Combine bananas and milk in a separate bowl.  Set aside.  In a large mixing bowl cream shortening and sugar.  Add eggs one at a time and beat well.  Add vanilla.  Add dry ingredients alternating with banana mixture.  (Begin and end with flour mixture)  Pour into a 9x13 cake pan.  Bake at 350 for 30 minutes (or longer depending on your oven) until cake springs back when touched lightly on top and toothpick comes out clean.

Caramel Frosting

1/2 cup margarine (butter is better and what I usually use)
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup milk
salt
1 3/4 to 2 cups powdered sugar


Melt margarine.  Add brown sugar, milk and a pinch of salt.  Boil, stirring continually for 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Cool to warm.  Gradually add powdered sugar.  Beat until thick.  If too thick add drops of hot water to thin.  If too thin add powdered sugar.


Thursday, December 8, 2016

Apple Crisp two ways

I haven't posted in so long but lately I've been debating if I want to return to blogging or just stick with Facebook.   One of my friends was saying on facebook that he was craving apple crisp and I went looking for my post (I was sure I had blogged my apple crisp recipes before) but I guess that was done on my old blog that no longer exists.   I have a file with transcripts from that old blog, but unfortunately it is just text and none of the great pictures that accompanied those posts, many of which are photos of the kids that have subsequently been lost for good when my external hard drive crashed a few years ago.  I found the file, amazingly, and just had a fun time scrolling through posts to find the one I was looking for and enjoying the fun stories of my kids when they were little (so glad I took the time to blog them since I don't keep a diary or journal)  So, for my friend Bill, I return to blogging, at least for the time being, to post my two favorite easy apple crisp recipes.

Here is the blog post from 11 years ago (minus the photo, obviously)

This afternoon as I was sitting in the lazyboy watching a video and enjoying the quiet as Lydia napped, this paper floated down from behind me and into my lap, a "request" from Uncle Sam (aka. Stephen).    (missing photo was here)

Sorry I couldn't get the scan to be better.  It says "WE WANT YOU! to make a apple crisp! signed: Uncle Sam Ü "  With the typical Uncle Sam with his finger pointing directly at you.

Now how could I deny him?  I even went "all out" and used the "good recipe" usually reserved for a special person or occasion as it requires dipping into the "reserves" of our precious cake mixes (which can be bought here but they cost at least 3 or 4 times what they would in the states).  It is one of our favorite recipes though ... those of us with good tummies will enjoy it tonight.

"Special Friend" Apple Crisp

6 large apples  (I am using Fuji and Granny smith)
1 cup water
1 pkg. white or yellow cake mix
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup melted butter

Peel, core and slice the apples.  Arrange in a 9x13 pan.  Pour water on top.  In another bowl, mix cake mix, brown sugar, cinnamon and butter.  Combine well and dump on top of the apples.  Don't stir!  Bake at 250 degrees for 50 - 55 minutes.



When I don't have a cake mix to use, this is the recipe I fall back on.  As you can tell, both of my favorite recipes are ones that don't call for oats in the crumb topping.  I don't have anything against oats (although I hate oatmeal), I would just rather have them baked into a cookie or a loaf of bread.

Flash Gordon Quick Apple Crisp

4-5 apples
3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup melted butter

Peel, core and slice apples.  Place in a 9" pie pan.
In a separate bowl mix sugar, flour, salt, spice. Add melted butter.  Mix well then crumble over the apples.  Bake at 375 degrees for 35 minutes.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Changing my thinking One Bite at a Time

I have just finished a great little Bible Study written by a good friend of mine who used to work at my home church before the Lord moved her to a new place in life.  And He moved me and my family across the ocean too.  Thankfully we can still keep in touch through email and facebook and her blog.  This is an affiliate link to her little study on Titus 2:3-5.  I especially like her plan of going through the alphabet listing various attributes and characteristics of God as a concrete way to praise Him.  I have appreciated something tangible to help me retrain my frail brain that likes to tend towards worry and negativity.  This simple little task is helping me move the focus off me and onto my perfect God.  I highly recommend this study called The ABC's of T23.  If you use my link I will get a small % of the purchase but go order it, even if you don't use my link!


Click here to view more details

Brenda is also posting this month of November as a month of gratitude and I am loving her short devotionals and the plan to allow me to focus on being thankful for someone in my life each day of November.  This daily action of gratitude is also doing wonders to change my outlook from gray and dreary to a more positive approach to my life as God has it right now.

Needing a pick me up in your thoughts and attitudes today?  Head on over to Petals From The Basket and get a little gratitude in your attitude.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Meal Plan October 22 - 28 Pantry Manna

Last week was one of those weeks.  You know, the kind that stretch your faith and test your sanctification.  The kind that come around every once in a while to see if what you say to everyone else about trusting the Lord is something you really believe after all.  We were caught by surprise by an exorbitant utility bill that came in last week and received some other news from back home that was unpleasant and unexpected and promises to bring us some challenges after the new year. Some new challenge or disappointment seemed to pop up each day threatening to pull me into a pit of worry and doubt.  It is easy to get discouraged when we put our focus on ourselves.  Then today I read an update from a dear friend who is literally fighting the battle for his life and my own little hiccup in life pales completely in comparison.  And yesterday we had the privilege of sharing the Good News of the gospel with a new friend using this incredible tool which is the reason why we are here in Spain in the first place.  And God has done other things just today and even last week sprinkled in between the tough days to remind us that He really does care for us.  He showed us His love through our church family, supporters back in the States, our Pastor, and even through our neighbor, who showed up Sunday night with some fresh picked egg plant and a couple pomegranates.  This is the same neighbor who just a few years ago seemed to be in a perpetual state of anger at us for all the excessive noise we apparently generated on a daily basis.  The only time we ever saw or heard from him was when he would come upstairs and yell at us.  Saturday he even asked my husband if they could meet regularly to give him English conversation practice.  
  Today I was trying to come up with a plan for meals that would work with our schedule this week and be possible to carry out without a trip to the store, at least for a few more days.  I pulled together this dish grabbing ingredients that were in the freezer, pantry and fridge.  There wasn´t really enough chicken for a whole meal by itself but diced up and added to steamed broccoli and some cooked ¨ble¨ (cracked wheat that is cooked kind of like rice but is more filling and more nutritious than white rice -- at least I think so.  please don´t burst my bubble if I am wrong) and covered with a gravy made from chicken broth it became a hearty filling meal.  I decided to coin a phrase for this kind of thrown together improvised meal.  I am calling it ¨Pantry Manna¨ from Exodus 16:15 When the sons of Israel saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. And Moses said to them, “It is the bread which the Lord has given you to eat.  
I read that verse to the family as I explained the way I named our ¨casserole¨ and it was a reminder that The Lord has given us our food to eat not just today but every day.  We can either look at it and say "What is that?" or we can be thankful to Him for once again giving us just what we need (and most of the time SO MUCH MORE).  One great thing about this "manna" verses the kind in Exodus is that the 3 servings that were left in the pan can be stored in the fridge in tupperware and brought to school for the kids´ lunches tomorrow.  No waste.  :-)

"Pantry Manna" Version 1.0

Monday 10/22
Pantry Manna version 1.0

Snacking meal --  peanut butter on integral Maria cookies (kind of like graham crackers)
fruit: apples, bananas or pomegranate that the neighbor brought to us last night.



Tuesday 10/23 (parent meeting after school)
lentil soup with Spanish chorizo
salad



Wednesday 10/24
Ikea meatballs in crockpot
Baked sweet potatoes


Thursday 10/25
broccoli, ham and cheese quiche (modified from this recipe)
tossed salad



Friday 10/26 (youth group party at the house)
ham and cheese sandwiches
pepperoni pizza puffs
chips and onion dip
veggies and ranch dip


Saturday 10/27  (Major fund-raising event for ds#1's senior class fund)
midday meal  clean out the fridge of leftovers
evening: hotdogs and "fair food" at the school Fall Festival

Sunday 10/28
Swiss Steak (in the crockpot)
Mashed potatoes
whatever veggie is a good price at Wednesday´s market (broccoli, cauliflower or maybe brussel sprouts)

Needing some menu inspiration?  Head on over to Laura´s for Menu Plan Monday and see tons of great Menu plans for the week.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

WFMW Sandwiches for a crowd

I was so excited Saturday to think I had come up with an original idea that solved my dinner dilemna when my family got home from choir practice after 9pm ravenously hungry.  My menu plan had grilled cheese sandwiches on the plan and I had all the ingredients.  The problem was that Friday night a piece fell off the hood of my range and landed on my new (less than 6 month´s old) glass top stove and broke it.  I was unsure about using the burners until I talked with our landlord.  Plus the nice big griddle that I used to use on my old gas stove will not work on the new stove due to it not being flat on the bottom.  I was looking at a long process of cooking up 1 or 2 sandwiches at a time on the back burner of the stove to feed all 6 hungry mouths.  Then I thought, what if I just put all the sandwiches together on a big cookie sheet and put them in the oven under the broiler?  I did just that with enough room for 9 sandwiches on my cookie sheet.  I watched them carefully and when the tops were nice and golden brown I flipped them over to do the other side.  We all LOVED how they turned out.  The cheese inside was melted perfectly and there was a nice balance on the bread between being soft from the melted butter and having a little crunch from the toasted edges.  The best part was that all the sandwiches were done at the same time and we were able to sit down together and eat without Mom in the kitchen as the short order cook.  Totally works for me and I think it may be the way I always do grilled cheese, at least whenever I need to make them for more than just one or two of us.



Check out what works for others on this week´s Works For Me Wednesday link up.

Oh, and what a surprise to head over to Laura´s blog Monday and see her weekly plan including Oven Grilled Cheese Sandwiches.  Great minds think alike I guess.  (but I do like my idea of using the broiler setting so I can easily see exactly how toasted my bread is getting and when to flip them over).

Monday, October 15, 2012

Menu Plan October 15-21

Kept to the menu plan as well as I could but had to do some menu changes when the only store that I have found here that sells cottage cheese was all out.  The saddest thing was that I couldn't even find a shelf tag or an empty spot where it should have been so now I am fearing that they may have discontinued selling it.  That means my poor broccoli egg casserole will have to go off the menu rotation for a while.  I hope I am wrong and that the next time I go to the Lidl they will have the cottage cheese back in stock.  This also means I won't be putting lasagna on the menu either (since I usually use cottage cheese to substitute for ricotta) until I can afford to go to the wholesale club store and buy a large tub of ricotta.  Maybe next payday I will schedule that trip for ricotta and replenish my supply of pepperoni so pizza can go back on the Friday night rotation too.  Once I get the ricotta I will plan a marathon cooking day and fill the pasta that I bought when in Germany and France this summer and found the right kind of pasta to make stuffed shells.  They are so much work in the initial prepping but they will be a great quick and easy meal to pull out of the freezer during the holidays.  I know it is only October, but it's time to start thinking ahead to those weeks when things are REALLY crazy busy and money is even tighter because of all the extra expenses that happen around the holidays.


I almost ditched the idea of sausage gravy and biscuits for Friday morning's brunch but I am so glad I went ahead and bought the pork the night before.  Everyone loved it, even my son's friend who had slept over the night before.  Big breakfasts are definitely NOT the norm here in Spain.  Check out my photo I snapped on instagram right before digging in.  I will be putting this sausage seasoning spice on my wish list for anyone visiting us or sending us a package to include in their box or suitcase.  It turned plain old ground pork from the butcher shop into the tasty breakfast sausage we have been craving for the last 10 years of living overseas.  

This week is starting out with one child sick with what is probably a throat infection (we'll find out at the doctor's office tonight) and one with a birthday party to attend.  Visitors, dentist appointments, church services and choir rehearsals will keep us running to and fro all week but at least the week will end with a dinner invitation after church to the home of one of our teens so I don't have to plan a meal for Sunday.  That will be a nice break for me.

Here's the plan that is linked up at Menu Plan Monday over at I'm an Organizing Junkie

Monday 10/15 (sick ds#3 has Dr. appt and dd has an afternoon birthday party invite)
Cheeseburgers
cucumber and carrot sticks
chips
chocolate cupcakes for dessert (for the kids -- hubby & I are supposed to be on a diet.  We did cheat and eat a cupcake yesterday when my daughter made them but today I. must. resist.)

Tuesday 10/16  (supposed to have visitors for lunch)
Chicken fettucini alfredo (carried over from last week)
fresh steamed broccoli
tossed salad
fresh hot spanish bread from the local store.  YUM

Wednesday 10/17 (prayer meeting night and morning market day)
Lentil soup with Spanish chorizo
rice
salad

Thursday 10/18 (dd has dental appt and dh has class at night)
Taco salad

Friday 10/19 (I am hosting a coffee/craft/cooking "class" in the morning so will need to have my midday meal prepped early or cooking in the crockpot) 
Italian sausages and peppers in the crockpot (saving some to use next week in Lasagna Soup)
Buttered noodles
Bruschetta
Oatmeal blueberry bars for dessert (since that is the recipe I am teaching the ladies in the morning.  I double it and use blueberry jam instead of raspberry)

Saturday 10/21 (another long afternoon-evening at the church for youth group and christmas cantata rehearsal)
Midday meal:  Clean out the fridge of leftovers
Late supper after church activities:  Toasted cheese sandwiches and raw veggies.  Check back here in a couple days for my Works for me Wednesday post explaining how I discovered I could streamline the process of making grilled cheese for a crowd.  Necessity was the mother of invention but I am thrilled with my "discovery".

Check over at Menu Plan Monday for tons of other great menu plans this week.


Sunday, October 14, 2012

Details, details, details





I came across this piece that I wrote to share at my grandmother's funeral several years ago.  Then a few hours later, while sorting through some pictures I flipped through the pack of photos to find this wonderful shot that my brother took of her.  The date on the picture is not when he took it, but rather when I took a picture of the enlarged print that was hanging at my parents' house when I was visiting one day.

Details, Details, Details

When I think of my paternal grandmother, it's not always the big things that stand out in my mind.  I am reminded of her unique quality to make even the simplest of daily tasks special because of her attention to detail.  Her dress made it evident to all that this was a lady who "had it all together" and if you ever went shopping with her you found out that that doesn't just "happen".  She knew what she was looking for and she let the salesclerk know.  She was willing to pay handsomely for quality goods but was not afraid to request an appropriate discount for something less than perfect.

Orange juice or ginger ale were more special in her flowered glasses, ice cream tasted better in the turqouise colored bowls, and the cookies for dessert and the  bread for toast and sandwiches were always from Pepperidge Farm.  Even a hamburger from Friendlies was special if you used a knife and fork and ate it with her by your side.  

Gram's little details were what made  holiday celebrations with her so memorable.  It was agony as a child to wait until Grammy came over before we could open our Christmas presents but I learned that waiting is good and anticipation makes the reward even sweeter.  I don't remember many of the actual gifts that I received from her, but I will always remember how they were wrapped.  Her boxes were so beautifully wrapped and everything was done "just so", down to the number of loops on her handmade bows.  We grandchildren always marvelled and thought it was magical that she could wrap a present with barely a speck of tape.  The making of the gravy at Thanksgiving and Christmas was her job because no lump was tolerated in Gram's gravy.  It was always she who gathered us women together to wash and dry the dishes immediately after the meal because that's how things were supposed to be done.

She made each of us grandchildren feel special by starting the "birthday dinner out" tradition.  She would take us out to eat at the restaurant of our choice and then out to the mall to pick out a present.  I was so nervous the first time, not knowing what on earth I would say to her all night.  She was a wonderful conversationalist, and those once a year excursions with her became the highlights of my growing up years.  Birthday memories always include the details:  a Shirley Temple with dinner, watching her count out crisp dollar bills from her impeccably organized wallet, the way she would reapply her lipstick after dinner, and stopping at the Putnam Pantry for a box of mints on the way home.

She taught me that attention to details distinguishes you in the workforce.  I was so priviledged to know Grammy B. not only as her granddaughter, but also as her co-worker at the Rose Medallion gift shop.  She had high expectations as she trained me as a sales clerk, and I worked hard to imitate her.  I loved our Sunday afternoons together in the store.

Grammy gave me so many things: an appreciation for beautiful things, lessons on the importance of managing your money well, a sense of adventure and a love for travel, but most of all she taught me that it's the little details that make life special and that create memories that last for generations.