Warm and Gooey

So last week Petey and I had a couple of errands to run.  It was one of those really cold, windy, raw days.  It was the kind of day where you’d happily stay bundled up in bed sipping hot chocolate if you could.  But of course you can’t (or at least I can’t).

As we were coming home, we noticed that the convenience store on the corner wasn’t selling gas, and it looked kind of dark inside.  I started to get a wee nervous.

Inside our house my fears were realized.  The power was out.  It was dim and chilly.  We had some more running to do, so we locked up and left, hoping that the electricity would be back when we came home.

C’mon guys…

Once we finished everything, it was dark outside, and even colder than it had been, but the power was finally back on.  Of course it took the rest of the night to reheat the house, but at least we had the electricity with which to do it.  For the rest of the evening, we felt pretty chilly and quite sorry for ourselves.

That night would have been perfect for a warm, moist gooey piece of my special banana bread.

bb bread

Brown butter banana bread.

Brown butter country banana bread

The day before:

Toast ½ cup pecan pieces in dry pan until the color deepens and you can smell the toasted aroma.  Store them in airtight container.

Make brown butter:

Put 5 ½ tablespoons butter into saucepan.  Melt on medium.  Turn down heat, and continue to simmer until the milk solids turn amber and the aroma is warm and nutty.  Cool, stirring frequently to keep the brown bits suspended in the butter.  Once cool, refrigerate.  The next day, take butter out of fridge a couple hours before making bread, so it can soften.

Banana bread:

1 cup light brown sugar

Brown butter, softened

2 eggs

1 ½ cups ripe bananas, mashed smooth

1/3 cup water

1 2/3 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon baking powder

½ cup toasted pecans

1-8 ounce bag Heath Bits’O Brickle Toffee Bits

1 tablespoon vanilla

¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350.  Grease bottom of 8 ½ or 9 inch loaf pan.

Cream butter and sugar in large bowl of stand mixer or with hand mixer.  Mix in eggs one at a time until blended.  Add bananas, water, vanilla, and nutmeg; beat 30 seconds.  Stir in rest of ingredients, except for nuts and toffee until it just comes together.  Gently stir in nuts and toffee chips.

Pour into loaf pan.  Bake until toothpick comes out clean, 60-75 minutes.  Cool five minutes and turn out onto cooling rack.  Makes about 24 slices.

There are two ways to eat this; for breakfast, or as a dessert.

For AM banana bread, spread slices with softened butter.  Place in a 300 degree oven for 15-20 minutes until browned and crisped.

Even better with a schmear of peanut butter.

For an indulgent after dinner treat you’ll need dulce de leche, a cooked caramel from Latin America.  But luckily, it’s crazy easy to make.

Take one can of sweetened condensed milk (unopened), and place it in a large heavy pot.  Cover it with water, and bring to slow simmer.  Continue simmering for 4 hours, making sure it is always completely submerged.   Remove from water and let it totally cool (I mean it.  For safety’s sake, make sure it’s cool) before opening.  Or cook completely submerged on low in a slow cooker for 8-10 hours (Please, please be careful—hot sugar is so dangerous it can badly burn your unborn descendants).

Presto change-o! It’s like magic.

Drizzle a little onto warm slices of banana bread and add a scoop of ice cream if desired.  If the loaf is to be exclusively for dessert, after removing from pan onto cooling rack, poke it all over with a toothpick, and pour warm dulce all over the top and let it soak in and cool before slicing.

This would be perfectly yummy if eaten in the summer.  But there’s something about eating it warm, when it’s cold outside that feels like a hug from Grandma, without that pesky eau de Bengay.

Yeah, she wasn’t feeling the Bengay line.

Thanks for your time.

Eat like a hummingbird

I’ll bet you think this is going to be about dieting, don’t you?

Nope, this is pretty much the opposite.  I’m going to talk about Thanksgiving desserts.  We’ll return to the hummingbird presently.

Last month the Sylvan seniors at Mt Sylvan Methodist Church (5731 N. Roxboro Road) asked me to speak to the group.  I said yes, but was terrified.I’m a talker, not a speaker.  The last time I gave a speech was in junior high, when I ran for 7th grade class president.

I lost.

My talk went well.  I didn’t freeze, or faint, or puke.  And afterward they gave me dessert.  There were many homemade treats, so I enjoyed a sampler plate.  My favorite was a pumpkin bar.  Which is crazy, because I don’t normally like pumpkin. It had great flavor, a delicious gingerbread crust, and a very thin, very crispy top, kind of like a brownie.It was made by Bess Hunnings Smith, the pastor emeritus at Sylvan.  When I requested the recipe, Bess started laughing.  She told me it came from a box.  It was Krusteaz Pumpkin Pie Bar Mix.  It’s available in local stores.

So if you or any of your Thanksgiving guests usually dislike pumpkin, or you desire at least one easy dish for the day, give it a try.When I was a kid, there was a neon-green goo that came in a mini-trash can.  This ‘toy’ really didn’t do anything except gross out adults.  It was called ”Slime”.

When we lived in Puerto Rico, my mom got a fruity gelatin recipe that also was a rather unfortunate shade of green.  My brother christened it Slime.   Even though it isn’t the most appetizing looking dish, it’s really yummy, and everybody in the family loves it.

Ross Family Slimeslime 21 large package lime jello, prepared according to directions, but not set

1-14.5 ounce can of pears, drained

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

1 envelope Dream Whip (not Cool Whip), prepared according to directions

Put warm-ish prepared jello, cream cheese, and pears into blender or food processor and blend until smooth.  Gently fold in Dream Whip.  Pour into 9×13 dish or ring mold and refrigerate until completely set.  Serves 12-16.And now we’ve circled back around to the hummingbird (cake).

You’ve got two simple desserts so far.  This next one is a show stopper that is also simple, but deceptively so.

*Note-no hummingbirds are harmed in the making of this cake.  Rather, it’s full of things that might attract a hummingbird.

Double-glazed hummingbird cakehummingbird cakeCake:

3 cups all-purpose flour

2 cups sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

1 8-ounce can crushed pineapple with juice

1 cup canola oil

3 large eggs, beaten

 2 bananas roughly chopped, not mashed

½ cup toasted pecan pieces

2 teaspoons vanilla


hummingbird glaze

2 tablespoon melted butter

1 tablespoon rum

1 can cream of coconut (make sure you get coconut cream, and not piña colada mix)

2 ½ cups sifted powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 325.  Generously grease 10 cup Bundt or tube pan.

In a large mixing bowl, stir together flour, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, and salt.Remove 2 tablespoons juice from pineapple.  Set aside for glazes.

Add pineapple, oil, eggs, banana, nuts, and vanilla.  Stir by hand until just blended—don’t beat.

Pour batter into Bundt.  Bake for about 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until toothpick inserted comes out clean, but moist.  Place cake, still in pan, onto cooling rack set on a cookie sheet for 15 minutes.Mix glaze #1: Whisk 1 cup of powdered sugar with 1 tablespoon pineapple juice, rum, and enough butter to make glaze that can be drizzled.

Invert still hot cake onto rack, and remove cake from pan.  Drizzle with glaze #1.Let cake finish cooling completely.

Glaze #2: Into powdered sugar whisk 1 tablespoon pineapple juice and enough coconut cream to make glaze.  Spoon over cooled cake.  Allow glaze to set before serving.Serves 16.

Any (or all) of these desserts would be great for turkey day.   They’re quick, and can be prepared well in advance.

And to retain some sanity during the holidays, it’s wise take any opportunity to cut yourself some slack.Thanks for your time.