Friday, March 26, 2010

Got bananas?

Who doesn't have old squishy bananas hanging around their kitchen waiting to get tossed or used. (I know, Stephanie, not you! ewwww) But I used to buy bananas so that dad could have a half of a banana every day. And after like 3 days.. the last two bananas were too gross to eat. I would pop them in the freezer and after a while something had to be done.. because I had a freezer full of black frozen bananas.
I hardly buy bananas for myself anymore, but I do buy bananas for our snack bin at school or the Breakfast Program, almost every day. The Friday before March Break was so crazy that I didn't notice all the leftover bananas in the basket. (I usually give them away as teacher's go out the door at the end of the day).
A little digressing... I am always on the search for recipes that use up those extra bananas and as you might remember, I scored the best banana muffin recipe in the world and blogged it this time last year. Truly... wonderful muffins. In that blog, I talk about my quest for Banana Bread recipes and how long I have searched for one that isn't dry, isn't doughy, isn't too bananay... or too bland.

I think I have found it... it was a "meant to be occurrence" when my "What's Cooking" recipe magazine arrived in the mail the day before I went back to school on Monday after March Break to the overpowering smell and sight of a large amount of 12 day old ripened bananas. I quickly bagged the bananas and removed them from my office... phew... and when I got home... I cracked the magazine and tried this new recipe. It calls for Mayo.... instead of oil..

It is truly a recipe I enjoyed, a little sweet, so I cut down on the sugar, but the texture was enjoyable and the flavor is wonderful.
Every day after school I doubled the recipe and made two of these loaves each day, and in the end.. I am up 8 banana loaves and down 24 stinky black bananas. I have 4 loaves in the freezer, and the rest are all gone!

Banana Bread
3 ripened Bananas, mashed
1 egg
1/2 cup mayo ( I used Helmans light)
1 cup of sugar ( I used 3/4 cup)
1 1/2 cup flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt ( I cut this down too to 1/2)
1/2 cup nuts ( I don't add these, but I am thinking I might add some mini chocochips)

Mash the bananas, add the egg and mayo and mix well. In a separate bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, nuts ( or chocochips). Mix all these dry ingredients with a whisk and then add to the banana mix, just like you would for muffins, slowly and just til the dry ingredients are all mixed up.
pour in a greased loaf pan (9x5) and bake at 350 for an hour. Let rest in the pan for 10 minutes and then take out of pan.
You can double this recipe easily and why not.. really. If your making one, you might as well make two.


Thursday, March 18, 2010

What we have learned here in Kittery.... Part 2

We wore out about 2:30. What an experience. I have never been in so many stores in my life. With so much driving in the last two days in what feels like a foreign country, our eyes, our minds and our bodies are exhausted!
Here we sit.. in our beautiful hotel room... crunching numbers, sharing and trading receipts to balance everyones' "limits".

Kittery was by far the funnest, and our favorite stores were Tommy Hilfiger, Buxton shop, Le Gourmet Chef, Columbia, Eddy Bauer and Easyspirit. The Trading Post was weird, and disappointing, and the rest were all fun but not great deals.. We sorted through racks of Clearance and marked down, as well as racks and racks of sale items.
The things we learned today on our trip to Kittery and New Hampshire.....
1. Police cars in Maine... are baby blue... ah... who knew!
2. New Hampshires state motto is Live Free or Die... while Maine's is The Way Life Should Be
(both listed on the thousands of license plates we saw today)
3. always take two hotel room keys when ever you leave the room as a group.. especially when you have bathing suits and towels on... those keys don't always work... ugh.
4. Sporks... are the answer...
5. Retail Math is not as easy as one would expect. First you take 60% off the regular price.. and then take another 20% off of that... OK... not easy... sometimes things ended up to be FREE according to my math...
6. Maine has stolen a lot of our town names. We drove past Berwick, Yarmouth, Enfield, Kingston and Waterville!
7.Gert is our best friend... that's Gert our GPS Guide. Although.. she was a little late on a few commands... we drove through the same visitors' center twice in 3 minutes due to her late instructions to a turn or two....she more than made up for that little mishap the rest of the day.
8. Everyone in Maine is really nice and friendly. Especially at Friendly's restaurant... yum.
9. New Hampshire has the creepiest bridge ever. Vertigo when ya look up.... ewwwwww
10. Maine has a "tough" drunk driving law.
11. Truth be told... we have been spoiled and ruined at the same time. Our daughters said they will never pay full price again for anything. Mission accomplished I'd say.... but the fact is, its true. This kind of shopping where you get great products for great prices...truly does spoil you and ruin the fun of shopping anywhere else... Oh well, we are already planning our next trip!!!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Some things I have learned on my shopping trip to USA

Our day started bright and early yesterday morning from the Valley.... Debbie and I drove to the big city for some warm up shopping at Costco... and then picked up the baby daughters and started our "March Break" vacation. We drove as far as my sister's place and spent the night (after a quick shopping trip to Walmart... I forgot my bathing suit..geesh).
After a fitful sleep (prolly too excited) we hit the road at 7AM and was at the USA border by like 9.. which became 8am....
Some things we have learned so far
1. Debbie's car can go at least 50km (thats 30 miles) after the EMPTY TANK light comes on. Whewwww....
2. Its the law in Maine that when your windshield wipers are on.. you must have your headlights on too...
3. We learned 9 different stretches you can do at the wonderful Maine Rest Stops.
4. The rumbly ruts on the sides of the roads are really helpful to keep us on the road while we are gazing at all the stores and buildings going by.
5. All American money looks alike.

6. When entering an outlet store, you immediately head to the back of the store... or the basement..... CLEARANCE.....
7. there is a chocolate bar named Whatchamacallit....
8. That whoop-di-do's are delish!!!!! (from the Wicked Whoopies Freeport store)
9. There are 38 Lindt's chocolates in a pound - Clearance Bin... $6.50 yum... peanut butter...
10. Are you a Fruit or a Nut.... Body Works asks the question... we are mostly fruits.. but Ash is on the fence.. she like both!
11... those luggage trollies from hotels are worth their weight in GOLD!!! See Michelle's blog for pictures of this event!
12. The Burlington Coat Factory is not JUST coats... thanks for that bit of advise Michele!!

13. Just about anything will make 4 tired girls giddy... sleepy snorts, vending machines, funny accents...great hats.!
14. Oh, Ashley not only hogs the blankets... she twists through the night, using the tuck and turn method to steal the quilts from her mom.
15... kind of creepy when 4 beautiful babes (thats us) when for a swim and one lone guy sat in a lounger and watched us... ewwwww...
16. The GPS is our best friend. She guided us through Portland to our hotel, and through uncharter roads in New Brunswick.. hee hee...

That is the end of Day 1.. on our trip to Maine for some retail therapy. Tomorrow.. Kittery and Fox something or other... pooped.. going to bed!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Probiotics... anyone!

Can you believe that yogurt was not always a popular food item. When I was a teenager, my mom introduced the family to yogurt. Her German friend (I can't remember her name) gave her some and told her it was really good for you. My mom was all about "healthy" stuff so she introduced us all to yogurt. Mrs... (Oh, I wish I could remember her name) made it for us for a while (plain, unsweetened) but really and honestly... it was the more disgusting thing I had ever eaten... and no one in the house liked it... That little trend died off after a few months.

Then comes my friend Ann who again tried me on yogurt... but this time she added fruit and honey to it. So... ok... getting a little better, but still.. not something I would chose first... I tried to like it, and when she would give me a little tub of it, I plastered it with honey.. and would eat about half each time. That trend died too.. after a little while.

Then commercial yogurt came along.. packed with sugar and fake flavorings just on
time for me to feed it to my kids!!! Not being someone who enjoyed "additives", I decided I would start making my own. I acquired a yogurt making set from a yard sale and off I went.. making yogurt for the kids. And here I was back to the plain sour crap that Mrs whats*her*name made. I added canned fruit cocktail or jam to it and honey... and the kids would "sort of eat it"... and after a while I was throwing it out more than not. In my next yard sale, the yogurt maker found a new home and a new family. That trend ended.. after a while.

Turn the clocks ahead now.. 20 years... and yogurt has become the mainstay of many kids, many households and many diets... including mine. I have eaten nothing but fat free, sugar free yogurt for years as well as the kids.
A month or so ago when I was in Clare, Caroline introduced me to her home made yogurt. And it was divine... all she did was add a little vanilla to it... now that is thinking. I enjoyed the flavor very much.. and I am not sure if its because I have eaten fat free no sugar for so long that I can now enjoy the plain sour crap now.. or the flavor of it has greatly improved in the past 20 years... So, I am back to making my own yogurt and although its not as good as Carolyn's.. it improves with each batch!

How to make yogurt at home...

Take 1 or 2 litres of milk (what ever fat content you want) I used 2%
Bring to a boil on the stove stirring constantly
Boil for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. If you like using a thermometer, the temp you should be reaching is 180 (according to a couple of YouTube videos).
Once the three minutes is up, take it off the heat and let cool to body temperature which takes about an hour if you use 2 litres of milk. ( I used 1 litre of milk the last time and it took far less time to cool)

Once it has cooled to 98 to 100 degrees you can now add the yogurt culture. I have used 2% plain yogurt (and it must say "Live culture" on the container). I have also used "Balkan" style yogurt which makes a thicker yogurt and although its absolutely yummy, it is too high in fat for me. Add in about a quarter of a cup of yogurt to your milk... stir and then put in the oven with the oven light on for about 4 hours.
I happen to have a "proof" selection on my oven which keeps the oven at 100 degrees. But, just in the oven for 4 hours with the light on is fine too.
After 4 hours... ta da!!!! Yogurt. I have made it 5 times now, and I truly enjoy the taste of the yogurt. I had cereal and nuts, blueberries and other fruit. I have made several loaves and banana muffins with it and I have made 2 litres at a time, and 1 litre at a time.
Thanks Carolyn for introducing me to homemade yogurt again!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Dinner guests

There is nothing like sharing chocolate ice cream with your friends. Sandra, I know these pictures will make your skin crawl... so don't look!!
Paralax is quite the moocher.. and she has taken up the habit of sitting on the back of my chair while I am having tea after supper. She seems to sense when there is ice cream up for grabs...

The inspection.
A little loving rub... her way of "begging" for a bite!
She isn't above trying any snack that seems to be going around.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Spring is right around the corner

The weekend just past was glorious. On Sunday afternoon, not only was FACEBOOK full of accalates about the sun, the warmth, the spring like conditions, but so was my heart. After a light lunch, Terry and I donned our garden gloves, dug out the rakes and moved outside to enjoy the sun.
The winter was hard on our big oak trees, leaving so much tree litter on the lawn that we filled our green bin to the top, with just little twigs. We raked, and talked, and smiled, waving at all the walkers going by.
I unburied little crocus's ready to come up.. and was amazed to see our iris peeking through the leaves too.
I was shocked to see all the garden ornaments that have slowly been unearthed from the snow.
Oops.. we forgot to put a few of them away for the winter.
It felt good to me to be outside, and you can't imagine how good it felt for Paralax to come outside too. She was throughly disappointed all winter long to look out the door and see snow and rain. Sunday afternoon... was... heaven...
She was out the entire two hours we were out... exploring every blade of grass, every acorn, every moving leaf. She didn't stray very far, but I think we may be in for a long summer of trying to keep her in the yard. She is getting braver and braver.

Monday, March 8, 2010

International Day of Women

Did you know that today is the International Day of Women....

Its doesn't seem very celebrated, really. I looked up this day on "Google" and found some cool articles. Today was established 99 years ago... and its a global day celebrating the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future. In some places like China, Russia, Vietnam and Bulgaria, IWD is a national holiday.

In the 1960's, when I was very young, it was said that women were repressed, didn't have equal rights, and were considered second class. I must say, I didn't know this. I was raised by a very strong woman, who never let us think that we, as girls, couldn't do anything that anyone else could do. My mom was a business woman in the 50's, managing a cigar store in Quebec City when she was just 25.

She had very little education but could do math in her head faster than anyone I know. She was highly organized and a tireless worker. My dad supported her independence, and he shared in housework and cooking well beyond the norm for that time.
(taken in Quebec, my Aunt Therese was "training" dad to be a good husband)

Her first language was french but she learned english on her own, after being totally immersed in an english community in Manitoba and married to a totally english hubby. Her years in Manitoba (1957-64) were tough years for her, never being a "stay home" mom before, being french with not great english, in a french hating community, thousands of miles from her family (for the first time), with winters harder than she had ever thought possible. This was all during the "Cuban Missile" era, and my military dad seemed to be gone all the time. She took on the challenge and we never knew how hard those years were. She never let on... Later, in discussing the hardships of being a military wife (meaning me ... whining), did she share her many challenges when we were young.
Once we moved away from there, she became a working mom with two young daughters and later a baby.... and the only working mom that I knew. Not one single solitary friend of mine had a mom that worked. Sometimes it was embarrassing for me, that my mom worked... because she was not "like the other moms"... but I never thought it was wrong. In my teen years she managed a department store, while running social organizations, heading up the CWL of our Church and this was all just par for the course. She taught us to be independent and that we had to work hard if we wanted to get ahead.
So, like I said.. I didn't grow up thinking women were ever less than anyone else. I truly am proud to say that my mom taught us always know that we are strong and proud ... we can do anything ...

Seems sort of fitting that today... the International Day for Women... I remember with love and gratitude... my mom.. who died 17 years ago this morning...