December 4, 2016: Hola everyone! Winter has arrived in Milwaukee and there are snow flurries today. Despite several hard freezes remarkably my "spikes" in two of my patio planters have absolutely refused to die. The rosemary and thyme plants I nursed inside the house through last winter spent the summer in their pot outside next to the side stoop off the driveway, where they get plenty of sunshine all day long. I transplanted them into a cozy sheltered spot right next to the stoop in October and they are still green and growing, too! With the delay in getting the drywall patching done in the relatively minor "reconstruction" work I had done in my kitchen, I am way behind my time in getting the house decorated. But yesterday I got my wreath decked out with extra lights and dressed the front door of the house, and my battery-operated traditional candles were put up on the window sills all around the house Friday evening. It becomes a ritual to go around at dusk and turn the tops to the right to turn the candles "on" and at bedtime to go around and turn the tops to the left to turn the candles "off." Today I put some "glittery" throw pillow covers purchased new last month from H&M on three of my sofa pillows to glam things up a bit in the living room and add some sparkle. Later on, after I sufficiently fuel myself up with wine and snacks and probably to distract myself while I listen to the Packers game on the radio, I will huff and puff and pull my artificial tree up from storage in the basement. I will decorate it simply this year. Every year I say that, and every year I end up throwing just about everything except the kitchen sink on the tree. I am very proud of myself this year, though. I did not buy a single new ornament or Christmas doo-dad for the house (throw pillow covers don't count!!!) Happy Holidays to all, with hope and fervent prayers for 2017. I've a feeling we're all going to need a lot of help from Goddess in the coming year. Jan

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Baking Up Banana Bread Fiasco!

[This post was started the night of the big snow fall, but not completed until this morning.]

Hola darlings!

Well, I knew sooner or later we'd get clobbered with a major winter storm with SNOW rather than rain and wind.  After all, I do live in SE WI.  Damn!  Today was the day.  What a mess out there.  It's wet, heavy snow, the kind I absolutely won't even attempt to shovel, heeding heart doctor #2's dire warnings and yes, hearing on the news at least one or two unfortunate souls seem to pass away during every bad snowstorm here after over-doing it snow shoveling (as I was wont to do in my wicked past).  Unfortunately, I forgot to call the "snow man" whose name I got yesterday from a friend, and I figured calling him today would be a day late/dollar short, har :)

Fortunately, the temperatures will not be plunging into the Arctic range any time soon!  Hooray for small blessings!  That means once the snow is over there's a good chance that if we get any sunshine at all a lot of this stuff will melt.  Also, there is no wind to speak of, so this is not a blizzard, thank goodness!  It's soooo pretty, wish I could capture the beauty but I"m no photographer, that's for sure.  Still, I tried:



Oh look!  I caught a bunny in the pic above, LOL!  See him (or her), just to the left of the bird bath.  I set my camera on "scene"so it flashes a lot and goes real slow.  So you can see the dots of snow in front of the lens and the streaks of snow as the flakes blew past the lens as it was slllooowwwllllyyyy closing (or something like that, I think).  All those blobby "dents" in this snow cover in my backyard are caused from gobs of snow periodically falling down from my trees.


Here's another look at the backyard, but this one unfortunately shaky-handed.  Oh well.  Damn, I caught the overhead AT&T wires and WE power lines above -- rather ruin the ambiance, heh?  My trees are beautiful, though.

I figure by the time it is over I will have perhaps 7 to 9 inches of this parked in my driveway, which is my only route of entrance/exit to/from my house, as my front stoop opens to a curved portion of the driveway -- no separate front walk.  Also, in this subdivision, there are no sidewalks, so I don't have to worry about clearing walks.  Nope - we all walk in the roads around here, once they're plowed, that is. 

It is beautiful out there tonight, I have to say.  The snow is the wet sticky kind and so all the trees are coated.  .  The temperature will only drop to around 25 F tonight, very mild.  For part of the day it was hovering around 32-33 and so we got some rain/sleet, and the snow.  It's still snowing quite heavily out there now, and won't stop until midnight.

So, once I mushed my way home through ankle deep snow on unshoveled sidewalks (and Coldspring Road was in even worse shape, very unusual!), I lit my candles, fired-up the fireplace, turned on smooth jazz, and decided I was going to finally make that banana bread tonight that I've been ripening two bananas for all week!

This photo, taken about 10:15 p.m., shows the remains of my footprints which were made when I got home from work:


My footprints are disappearing!

One last winter scene.  Thought this was pretty, but my eyes can see it much better than I'm able to capture it on point-and-shoot:


This was taken looking out my front door -- my footprints from 6 p.m. look much more visible in this photo.  Wonder if they'll still be there in the morning...  Wish I could have captured the look of the snow falling in the streetlamp light.

Back to baking!  I pulled out my trusty old Better Homes and Gardens "New Cook Book" (Souvenir Edition) with the gold-covered hard back -- five ring binder.  This is the 9th Edition published in 1965 I believe, so it's not worth anything (unlike some editions of Better Homes and Garden cook books), but to me it's priceless because aside from what I learned by watching and listening to Grandma Newton and Mom, this book literally taught me how to cook! 



Per the recipe (for "Kona Banana Bread"), I prepared to make my "wet" ingredients and my "dry" ingredients.  I discovered I had absolutely no "shortening" on hand.  I hadn't made this recipe for awhile and forgot about the shortening! But I had plenty of butter, so I dumped that into my big mixing bowl.  It was taken from the fridge, though, so I did other things while the butter got to room temp.  I mushed up my bananas. I sprayed my wrong size square baking pan with nonstick spray.  It's the wrong size because it's 8 x8 x2 and the recipe calls for 9x9x2.  REALLY?  Then I mixed my dry ingredients, which called for 1 cup of sifted cake flour.  I don't think my Pick 'n Save carries such a thing as "cake flour" to begin with, and I don't own a sifter.  Oh well.

Then I went to get the sugar to cream into the butter and - no sugar.  Couldn't find it anywhere.  I was sure I had some sugar in the house, and I looked everywhere I thought I might have stashed it, as it was not in its usual place in the cabinet, but nope, no sugar.  So there I was - dry ingredients mixed in a bowl, mushed up bananas, mushed up room temperature butter -- and no sugar.  I was not about to walk to the Pick 'n Save and back in the snow storm, in the cold and the dark!

Well, what could I do?  A fat lot of nothing.  I wrapped up the dried ingredients, refrigerated the mushed up butter and the mushed up bananas, and went to the Pick 'n Save the next day after work to get some sugar.  Guess what - it seems 2 pound boxes of sugar have gone the way of the dinosaur!  I had to buy 5 frigging pounds of sugar.  Do you know how long 5 frigging pounds of sugar will last me?  Probably 20 years.  And why, oh why, did I buy more flour at the same time?  I have a TON of flour at home...

So, I go to put away the sugar and as I'm rummaging around at the top of the cabinet to make room for it, I find the sugar that I could NOT find the night before.  Several choice expletives later, I measured out less than 1 cup of sugar left in the tattered bag, so I didn't feel quite so stupid for buying new sugar.  No excuse for buying yet more flour, though.  I now have nearly 10 pounds of flour, and that will last me 40 years, probably.   As you have no doubt surmised by now, I sure ain't no baker! 

Out came all of the ingredients.  The bananas looked strange after having been refrigerated - they looked kind of like dark brown jelly, and the butter just did not want to cream with the sugar and it came out all lumpy, and I gave up trying to use the pastry cutter to do the creaming and went back to my old method of whipping things up with a fork.  In the end, the banana bread turned out well and I love it with my morning coffee:


And for one evening, at least, the house was filled with the delicious aroma of baking banana bread!

For anyone interested, here's the recipe for Kona Banana Bread:

1/2 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
3/4 cup mashed ripe banana
1 1/4 cups sifted cake flour
3/4 teaspoon soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Cream shortening and sugar until light.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each.  Stir in banana.  Stir together dry ingredients; add to banana mixture.  Mix till well blended.  Pour into greased 9x9x2 inch pan.  Bake at 350 degrees 30 to 35 minutes.  Cut into squares.

I always add chopped walnuts because I love them. 

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