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Bananas Foster (plus pudding or ice cream)

This blog gets less and less like a “green” blog and more like a “recipes for potentially really unhealthy foodstuffs that actually aren’t so bad if you make them yourself” blog with every day that goes by, doesn’t it?

On the other hand, it keeps us away from weird chemical processed things, so that’s not so bad. In fact, this pudding recipe–what’s to avoid? It’s good stuff, right?

In our house bananas are always going overripe before they are eaten, and at a certain point in the summer you just don’t want to turn the oven on for more banana bread, you know? So here’s a delicious couple of alternatives…these are also a good way to avoid adding much sugar, since cooking bananas really heightens the sweetness.

Easy Bananas Foster (base recipe–half or double as needed)

  • In a large skillet on medium high, melt 1-2 tbs. butter, 1-2 tbs brown sugar, a pinch of salt, and a sprinkle of cinnamon. Stir till melted and bubbly.
  • If desired, toss in a splash of brandy or rum and stir. I always do, because it adds to the flavor and enables me to stay on the lower side with the butter. (I never bother to flame it–who needs the added terror?)
  • Add 2-3 cut up bananas (or 4, I guess–go wild, you know?). If the bananas themselves are the main event, cut them in big diagonals; if you are making pudding or ice cream, go for thinner slices or even quartered slices.
  • Stir into brown sugar syrup for maybe 30 seconds till the bananas themselves start to disintegrate a little. Dribble in a few drops of vanilla extract and stir; remove from heat.

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Ridiculously easy, right? This takes, and I’m not kidding, maybe 2-3 minutes. We do this over ice cream, folded into crepes, folded into crepes with ice cream, and now added to pudding or ice cream. (In full disclosure, when the Pioneer Woman makes this, she uses a whole stick of butter and a whole cup of brown sugar to 2 bananas, so naturally if you want additional syrup knock yourself out. I prefer to exercise a little more restraint.)  So: the variations:

Bananas Foster Ice Cream/Popsicles

Use a little additional brown sugar and vanilla in the original recipe (but probably not much, since the cooked bananas impart a lot of sweetness!). After bananas are made, stir into 2 cups milk or half and half, depending on how decadent you want to be. Pour into popsicle molds or ice cream maker, and, you know, do what you do.

Bananas Foster Pudding

For this, I started with a base vanilla pudding recipe and simply combined it with the Bananas Foster:

  • In a large saucepan, combine 1/4 cup brown sugar (you might be able to adjust this down) and 3 tbs cornstarch and stir.
  • Add 2 cups milk; heat slowly over low/medium heat until sugar and cornstarch are dissolved; raise heat to medium. (If you feel daring, you could make the Bananas Foster right about now, or you could make it before or after the pudding. Just be aware that timing is sometimes an issue…)
  • Continue heating and stirring (make sure you get the bottom edges of the pan) until small bubbles form at the edges of the liquid and it thickens enough to coat the back of the spoon. Add 1 tsp vanilla extract and remove from heat.
  • If you have not already made the bananas, do so now. Add bananas mixture to the vanilla pudding mixture. Pour into 1 large or 6 small bowls; cover and chill.

Again, green? Maybe not really. But these desserts are all full of whole and barely processed ingredients, and when you think about it, they really don’t have much that’s bad in them beyond a little refined sugar and a pat of butter. I’ve made this with 1% milk, and it tastes perfectly decadent.

Let me know if you try this, and how it works for you!

Mug Shots

A couple of weeks ago, a friend posted a recipe for banana-cake-in-a-mug. I have a recipe for chocolate cake in a mug that I’ve made from time to time, which is quite good, but until I went searching I didn’t realize how many different things you can make with a single mug, in the microwave.

I’m gradually working my way down this list, and I’ll come back and update as I go. In the meantime, here’s a pretty good list to start from.

Macaroni and Cheese in a Mug–I sort of made this today, only I used leftover cooked pasta rather than cooking it first. It’s actually not bad–the cheese doesn’t melt gently into a lovely bechamel sauce like one would prefer, and it stays a little stretchy, but it tastes yummy and comfort-food-y.

Coffee Cup Quiche–This seems like a sort of no-brainer, actually; we do scrambled egg in a ramekin all the time, why not add a few extra ingredients and put it in a mug? (Obviously, no crust here, but one does what one can.)

Chilaquiles in a Mug–Quiche but with Mexican seasonings and a little tortilla chip crust and crunch. I actually like chilaquiles a lot, so I’m delighted to have found an easy way to make them for myself, since my family isn’t into it.

Meatloaf in a mug–I’m only really linking for the concept, and I’ll post my version if I ever really make it. Off the top of my head, I’d leave out the onion soup mix and add some actual chopped up onion, carrots, and celery, with garlic and herbs. I’d swap barbecue sauce for the ketchup. But I like the quick oats idea instead of bread crumbs…

And now, on to the dessertswhich we all know is what we’re really interested in:

Chocolate Cake in a Mug–the Classic, easy and fast and fairly not-too-bad-for-you, if you leave out the chocolate chips and go easy on the sugar. I use organic yogurt and white whole wheat flour too.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake in a MugThis one will go on the list early…as soon as I get some peanut butter. Looks amazing.

Nutella Mug Cake–I don’t really buy Nutella any more, due to the whole unsustainable palm oil thing, but if I did I’d be all over this.

Banana Cake in a Mug–Looks nice, and easy, and sort of foolproof. I might consider substituting a tbs. of unsweetened cocoa powder for 1 tbs of the flour…and maybe leaving out some of the sugar since banana is usually plenty sweet.

Cinnamon Roll Mug Cake–This looks like a basic cake recipe but with cinnamon and applesauce instead of other spices and fruits; seems a little unremarkable, but who knows?

Cheesecake in a Mug–Minute microwave cheesecake; I’m not sure about this one, since you have to stir and cook as you go, so it can’t possibly have the same consistency as regular cheesecake. I tried it, but with an extra (and I think deal-breaking) wrinkle in the mix: I substituted greek yogurt and cornstarch for the cream cheese per this “normal” cheesecake recipe. Didn’t quite do it in the microwave; got all curdly and lumpy. Anyone tried this for real?

Chocolate Chip Cookie in a Mug–what’s to say? There’s nothing not to like about this…nothing all that remarkable, either, it’s chocolate chip dough but in a mug.

Brownie in a Mug–Ditto above

Cup of Coffee Cake–Intriguing. Looks like more work than it’s worth, but could be good. I just can’t see myself making this, when I could be making the next one down the list…

Mason Jar Berry Cobbler--this one makes a larger portion, or it can be divided into two mugs. (Or, I guess, halved, right?)

Anything I missed from this list? Any more awesome 1-mug microwave wonders out there?

[UPDATE: I decided I wanted a chocolate pudding recipe I could make in a mug too, and made up my own recipe based on another microwave recipe. It’s good! You mix 1-2 tbs white sugar depending on your sweet tooth, 1 1/2 tbs unsweetened cocoa powder, 2 1/4 tsp cornstarch, and a little salt in a mug. Stir in half a cup of milk slowly till there are no lumps, add 1/2 tsp vanilla, and microwave at 30 second intervals, stirring each time till it comes out sort of dark and shiny. Refrigerate till puddingy. If you’re me, you’d also cut up half a banana and a tsp. or so peanut butter and stir it in before chilling. REALLY good…]

Ripe Strawberries, Ripe! (yummy dessert and liqueur recipe)

My kids are currently addicted to the movie “Oliver,” which my mom gave them the DVD of last month. They watched the whole movie once, but since then they just skip around from good song to good song. (And in Oliver, there are a lot of good songs.) Any other theater nerd who read the title to this blog entry probably already has the strawberry-seller’s part from “Who will buy?” in Act II going through their head.  I don’t apologize; it’s lovely, and when I was in high school I wanted to be the strawberry-seller.

But that’s not the point of the post, obviously…the point of the post is that we are in that time of year when strawberries, even organic ones (the only ones I buy–I thought I was allergic to strawberries until I started eating organic ones and had no problem, and then one day bought conventional and had inflamed bumpy lips after one bite.) are delicious and flavorful and cheap. So we tend to buy 2-3 lbs. at a time, and rarely do they sit in the fridge long enough to begin to go bad.

If they do–they get cut up and quickly frozen on a cookie sheet, for later use in smoothies, jam, pie, or whatever. It’s a no-lose situation if you remember that you can always freeze them.

But in the meantime, we’ve got two lovely things we do with them, and I wanted to share those. The first is a lightened-up (i.e. more fruit, less everything else) version of my favorite summer dessert that my mom used to make when we were kids

Strawberry “Pavlova” Dessert:

Rinse, stem, and cut up 3-4 oz. ripe fresh berries per person. (Our 4 family members easily go through a pound in a sitting. We’re gluttons, what can I say?) Pull off the green collars, and cut out the stem parts, but save any berry-like bits you cut off. More later on this.

Crush 1/2-1 vanilla meringue cookie per person into smallish bits (but not powder).

Make whipped cream, or be lazy and evil and use the canned stuff that says “made from real cream.” But the good stuff is so much better.

To serve:

Easy way: Put 1 serving berries into each bowl, sprinkle with crushed meringues, and dollop with whipped cream

Classier for-company way: In a parfait glass, layer 1/2 serving berries, 1/2 serving meringue bits, and dollop whipped cream; then repeat. Garnish with 1 small berry.

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This is seriously good, and really easy to do, and tastes amazingly decadent considering it’s only 3 simple ingredients. You could probably lighten it up a bit more even by substituting vanilla greek yogurt for the whipped cream.

And now…remember how I told you to save any cut-off berry-bits from the de-stemming process?

Fresh Strawberry Liqueur

This is a time-consuming process; it will take a couple of months at least to complete. On the other hand, it takes almost no active working time, so it’s painfully simple for something so good.

Prep: On your kitchen counter, at the beginning of strawberry season, place a clean mason jar. Fill it about halfway with 80-proof vodka, or a half and half solution of Everclear and distilled water. (If you will eat a lot of strawberries, use a quart jar. If you’re doing this for your first time, maybe start witha pint.)

Over strawberry season: Each time you stem and cut up strawberries, save the bits you cut off the hulls, that little bit where you can’t avoid cutting off some fruit. Drop them into the jar-o-booze. (Take off the green leafy collars, but the little stems themselves are no problem; whatever comes off the berries, drop it in the jar.)

When the jar is basically full: once your jar is full enough that the berries are no longer under the surface of the vodka, stop adding. (Or add a little more vodka.) The point is to keep the berries submerged. Shake the jar every couple of days or so. If you were inclined to drop half a vanilla bean in there, it would probably be amazing, though I’ve never tried it.

Alternatively–after a couple of weeks, you could drain the older strawberries out, making room for new–until your solution smells delicious and strawberry-y!

When to drain: Up to a 2 months after starting, or at least two weeks after adding the last berry-bits, strain through cheesecloth or clean muslin or even a coffee filter. Dispose of fruit; save boozy liquid. Call it “Strawberry Vodka” and stop here, if you want. It’s probably delicious as it is. But if you want to go the extra step…

To make the liqueur: If you have 2 cups of strawberry vodka, make a simple syrup out of 2 cups sugar and 2 cups water by heating them together until the sugar melts. (This is supposed to give you 2 cups solution, one of those cool paradoxical things, but I always have some extra.)  Let cool. In a large jar mix equal parts sugar syrup and strawberry vodka. Decant into bottles, label with contents and date you poured, and let mellow in a cool dark place for at least 2-3 months.

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This stuff is seriously good.  And don’t feel like you have to be limited to strawberries either–toss a few raspberries or cherries in there if they are on the verge of turning–pretty much anything except bananas would probably be great.

Let me know if you try this, and how it turns out!

Rice Pudding Risotto

A few weeks ago on The Green Phone Booth I posted a “cookbook roundup” of some of my favorite cookbooks.  One of them, The New Basics, is where I got the basic template for the absolutely delicious rice pudding I made the other night. No joke, this is probably the best rice pudding I’ve ever had.

The recipe in that cookbook is for Hazelnut Rice Pudding.  It calls for chopped toasted hazelnuts, currants soaked in Frangelico liqueur, Arborio rice, milk, and sugar.  I’ve honestly never actually made that exact recipe, because I almost never make any exact recipe–but doesn’t it sound amazing?  Still, a couple of afternoons ago I just wanted rice pudding…plain old happy comfort food.

So here’s how the basic recipe worked; it takes a long time and needs a little babysitting but not a lot of actual attention or work:

Risotto Rice Pudding

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In an oiled casserole dish, place the following:

  • 4 cups milk
  • 5 tbs sugar
  • 1/2 cup arborio rice (risotto short-grain rice)
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1-2 tbs. brandy (optional; other liqueur would work)
  • 1/2 cup raisins soaked in brandy for a couple of hours to overnight (soaking optional; alternate dried fruits could be very nice)

Bake uncovered in oven for about 2 hours, stirring every 15 minutes or so. (If you forget it’ll make one of those ucky skins on top after 25-ish minutes.  If so, no big deal; just skim it off and continue.) After 2 hours the rice should be very mushy and what liquid is left will be thick and creamy.  Remove from oven and stir in raisins. Let cool; pudding will thicken even more upon standing.

That’s IT.  So easy, so yummy.  And I took a few baking potatoes, scrubbed and pierced them, and put them in the oven with the pudding for the last 90 minutes or so of baking.   So one oven heating served multiple purposes.