Banana Pancake Saturday

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It’s sunny and a cool 68F outside. I’m seriously debating doing the laundry today, but I prefer slow Saturdays — one of only two days when I can wake up whenever I want to. Still, I was roused at 7:30am. It must be the bright sun outside my window, peering through the almost black out but not quite black out curtains. I stayed in bed. Then a call from Manila came — I begged off. I wanted to enjoy more of the morning in bed, just staying under the sheets.

I eventually walked to the kitchen at around 10am or so. I suddenly remembered I had a new batch of bananas arrive with Monday’s grocery delivery. These days, I order them to make them overripe for the next loaf of banana bread. Bad news from the scales notwithstanding, I decided to make banana pancakes for breakfast. The banana bread can wait until later.

I do the complete mix like most everyone else, but I usually jazz it up with Parmesan cheese when I feel like making Pancake House-pretend cheese pancakes. Or I would sandwich slices of Kraft Caramel in between regular pancakes. For banana pancakes, I use the following ratio:

  • 2 portions pancake mix
  • 2 portions water
  • 1 portion banana

For this batch, since it was breakfast for one (the boy sticks to cereal and milk or pretzels when it’s too late in the day), my “portion” was 1/3 cup. So I did

  • 2/3 cup pancake mix
  • diluted with 2/3 cup water,
  • then added 1/3 cup mashed bananas (which is approximately 2/3rds of a good size banana or all of a small one)

Using 1/3 cup batter, I came up with 4 pancakes.

Banana pancakes Saturday

I don’t know about you, but I’m nuts about Banana Nutella Pancakes. I try to sneak in a sliver or two of butter between the first pair of pancakes, then dress up the top pancake with some delicious Nutella. Can’t do without the chopped almonds on top!

Banana pancakes Saturday

For some reason, I love pecans with my banana bread, but almonds for the pancakes. Maybe it’s the texture of the bread or medium the banana is mixed in with.. Others would add whipped cream, but I prefer my pancakes slathered with heavy cream. Sinfully delicious!

Banana pancakes Saturday

I didn’t even put any syrup anymore because the Nutella took care of that, and if you ate this with more banana as pictured, the ripe slices will add enough sweetness. But that’s just me.

Banana pancakes Saturday

Breakfasts like this are a weekend luxury. Back when I was commuting to work in the city, breakfast meant coffee — and an occasional treat of a slice of banana bread or a bread pudding muffin. (Hence, the quest to make both while sheltering in place.). But the fancy pancakes on weekends was a treat I looked forward to these days when I am allowed some “Me” time.

It’s almost noon and the boy is still asleep. No surprise there. And wonder of wonders, I’m about to publish my second post of the day.

I have two boxes to assemble heading home. Then there’s the sewing and hopefully some jewelry making. I am ready to take a stab at stringing this fancy labradorite necklace I had bought stones for a year ago. Not that I can wear them anywhere right now — but crafting has always been a very good form of relaxation for me.

Here’s to a quiet and relaxing weekend for everyone.. try some banana pancakes when you can.

Banana pancakes Saturday

Family dinner

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I used to rush home with dinner on my mind. What I served my son usually depended on how early or late I got home. 7:30 meant a regular meal, but anywhere after or closer to 8pm meant ordering out for the food to get there either before I arrive or as I walk in the door.

For the past few weeks, dinner while,sheltering in place has been a memorable time of bonding for my son and I. We sit together and choose a show we both like and watch as we eat dinner together. We used to eat in the living room, but mostly him eating as I sat to rest or prepare my dinner separately.

We used to order out for ribs, but I thought I’d give it a try a couple of weeks back. It was quite a success and I.m doing a second round today.

It wasn’t so much the recipe that I looked for but rather the method to cook the ribs in the oven, and I found this very helpful method reading “Easy, Fall-off-the-bone Oven Baked Ribs recipe”

Fall off the bone I’ve baked ribs

  • I like that this recipe taught me how to prepare the ribs by taking off the membrane at the back of the bones. I easily peeled it off from the corner of one end and gave it a tug towards the other end. This will make for a really tender rib by rib piece. You can cook the whole rack or cut it into two or three chunks.
  • The ribs will shed a lot of juice and fat while cooking, so use a deep pan. I made the mistake of using a cookie sheet covered with foil, and while the sheet held all the juice, I didn’t realize how much because it was covered with foil. Some of the juice ended up spilling into the oven as I pulled it out to remove the foil and put on the barbecue sauce.
  • After seasoning generously with salt and pepper, I let it cook in the oven for three hours, cooking covered with aluminum foil at 275F.
  • After taking the ribs out, I slathered both sides generously with my choice of barbecue sauce and broiled it on low for 30 minutes. I kept things simple and used the old reliable barbecue sauce from the grocery. Works well for my boy. There are a ton of recipes for dry rubs and barbecue sauces out there to try, but the picky eater prefers it simpler.

I plan our meals on a day to day basis based on a list of his preferred dishes, still asking him for his preference when he wakes up around noon. His repertoire has grown by half and any addition to the old reliables is a welcome alternative. He probably finds it weird that I watch him eat with gusto, but it flatters me no end to see him savoring each bite. His seal of approval at the end of the meal with a thank you and a simple “That was a good dinner, Mom,” makes all the effort worth it. I am heartened that even if I offer to order out, he prefers I cook him dinner instead.

This is one of the gifts of sheltering in place that I’ve come to appreciate despite all the other things that go with it. Being able to have the luxury of preparing long-cooking meals while working from home has been a plus. The regular meals, I cook after I shut down the laptop and rest a bit. I don’t miss the commute going home when I would usually be too tired that I would nap on the bus. Special meals no longer need to be reserved for the weekend.

We’ve pretty much settled into our routine, although I would prefer he woke up by noon. These days, I let him sleep as late as he wants. School will be over soon and he won’t have to go through the attendance and sign on routine of online learning. But the meals will continue… even when we go back to the routine of me rushing home from working in the city.

He makes his rice on the cooker and sets the table. I’m trying to train him to share in the meal preparation which is part of the whole routine of the family dinner. He chooses a show we will both watch only together, over the meal. It stops when dinner ends, to be continued the next time we sit down together. That, too, is a continuing conversation. We laugh and talk as we eat — sometimes I ask him for spoilers which he won’t give. He tells me to wait and see.

That’s our family dinner in the time of corona. The sheltering in place has given us a new routine — something we will continue as we move forward to whatever as close to normal we can get.

In my kitchen: Bread Pudding

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When I was a child, my mom used to dabble into baking and she made this delectable bread pudding. It was old bread and condensed milk and raisins — and I still remember how I enjoyed every slice whenever she got the chance to make it. That wasn’t often because she ran the family business. So those few items she did get the chance to spend time baking became happy memories of pudding and chocolate cake and upside down cake. Yum!

As I had shared here way back when, I never really knew I could cook until I landed here in New York. I would try baking occasionally, and while I had a lot of fun doing it and I was successful and quite happy with what came out of my oven most times, it took a lot of effort. Worse, the calories flashed like neon signs in front of my eyes.

Calories notwithstanding, this new staycation and work from home situation has given me a renewed vigor and interest in baking. I have always been a reluctant baker. I bought a mixer when my niece was here in 2018, and it remained in its box, unopened until March of this year. THAT reluctant.

On the whole, I had decided four to six weeks into this sheltering in place deal to make the most of the situation and be more forgiving of what I ate and how much of it I did. I even indulged in brewed coffee for the first few weeks until I gave it up, realizing it wasn’t helping with the difficulty drifting off to sleep at night. Even when we were in the office, I would grab a cup occasionally, but never after 12nn.

I still try to watch what I eat and know what triggers the uptick in my weighing scale, but I am trying to pace myself with the dieting. I know when it is futile to pretend when I am eating meals with my son, and trying out new dishes in the kitchen. Sometimes, I even end up eating a dish for days because they don’t pass the standards of the other person here at home. (I continue to try to offer new dishes to help provide variations to his meal repertoire.)

I’m a novice baker at best. That notwithstanding, I have always prided myself in being good with following instructions. These days, I try to minimize any adjustments in what is specified — and as much as possible, don’t substitute ingredients. Well, save for the bread. When I started eating bread again in March, I saved the ends of the loaf in the fridge, collecting them through the weeks with the very intention of making bread pudding. The first two recipes I tried used that old bread, and for the third, I followed the request to use challah bread. (Pronounced Ha-la).

Since these aren’t my recipes, I’m providing links here to the recipes I used, with a short review and a photo of my own pudding.

The first one I tried was this recipe for Simple Bread Pudding from the New York Times. I sliced my bread and came up with the six cups required. That really isn’t a lot of bread after cutting them into 1 inch cubes, and I was left with half my stash. Although most recipes discourage using whole wheat bread because of its lower absorption rate, half the bread in this pudding was whole wheat and I enjoyed it all the same.

Bread Pudding

Ingredients: Milk, bread, unsalted butter, salt, vanilla extract, sugar, eggs

Basic as can be, but as good a pudding as you can pull together. This is one recipe that you can alter to spice up with fruit later, sweeten it with sauce, or tweak the spices one way or the other. This is a good starter recipe if you’ve never made bread pudding, and it doesn’t require a whole lot of bread or ingredients.

For the second recipe, I decided to try allrecipe.com’s Bread Pudding II. (Yes, it had the “II’ and not just because it was my second recipe.). Still using my sliced bread, I altered the recipe a bit to use up all the bread I had. The recipe called for only 6 slices of day old bread, but that was clearly more than what the custard could soak. I adjusted the butter (recipe called for 2 and I used 3) and would’ve adjusted the raisins if I could for next time to just half. I used half a cup in was just a bit too much, even if I love raisins. I kept the ratio of the sugar to the eggs and milk as is, because I didn’t want to fiddle with the taste.

Bread Pudding

Ingredients: day old bread, butter, raisins, egg, milk, sugar, cinnamon, vanilla extract

This was a much sweeter custard which suits me just fine, because I have quite the sweet tooth. The assembly method also differed in that the butter was drizzled over the bread before the custard mix, and I could actually taste it in the portions it hit after the pudding was baked. The custard was poured into the pan instead of being mixed in, and you could just press the bread deep into the liquid with a fork. The raisin was drizzled on top, instead of mixed in, and the custard was sweet enough without it, but good with half the recommended portion.

I liked having this pudding with some heavy cream poured on top which might be too much for some, but it balanced out the sweetness beautifully.

For my third pan, I went to my fallback food recipe site these days, delish.com, and tried this Best-ever Bread Pudding recipe.

Bread puddiing

Ingredients: challah bread, egg, vanilla extract, nutmeg, kosher salt, whole milk, heavy cream, raisins

Yes, it was the best ever! I used challah bread as specified and did two separate mini ramekins just to test how it would crisp the edges that touched the dish. (I like parts of the pudding toasted, but not the entire top.). I tend to judge the pudding by the general taste instead of the texture and this was a good sweetness without overpowering your tastebuds. This recipe also, notably, did not use butter or cinnamon. It did use more milk and added cream which pumps it up with a lot of dairy. Of course, the challah bread which soaked in the custard mixture for 10 minutes did wonders for the entire pudding, and I loved the balance of bread, cream and sugar with every bite.

Of the three, this was the densest and came to a packed consistency. Easily my fave of all, inwould drift to this one– given that I would have the challah bread. It takes around 12 cups of sliced up bread to make up the challah loaf, so you will need more than the usual. Don’t be daunted by what seems to be a whole lot of bread, as the amount of liquid in the custard will give the bread a good soak reducing its bulk.

Having tried these 3 recipes, I will probably stick to one of the three if I make bread pudding a fourth time. I highly recommend hem all, with special mention going to the Best Ever Bread Pudding for those who want a really sweet version of the dish — this one hits the spot!

This is just one of the projects I have embarked on while sheltering in place. I’ve been more adventurous, striving to learn new things, even when confined to home. We have to learn to make the most of our situation and be grateful for what we can still do, despite all the restrictions and precaution against doing the things we were used to.

Three bread pudding recipes put to the test and counting.