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Every morning, my dad wakes up and makes a pot of oatmeal for my mom and himself. Well, not this week, because my mom and I are on a no-simple-carbs kick, but in general, that’s what my dad does. BIIIIG bowl of oatmeal, half an apple, half a banana, handful of raisins, yogurt, milk, and some normal dry cereal for crunch. I keep telling him he’s eating a good half-day of calories in one bowl, but he just laughs at me and walks away.

Every morning, my dad wakes up and makes a pot of oatmeal for my mom and himself. And he leaves half an apple and half a banana on the counter every morning. Sometimes it gets eaten later in the day. Sometimes it gets eaten the next morning. But we go through a lot of bananas. And most of the time, I am saved the gag-reflex of the brown bananas (can you tell I’m not a fan?), but occasionally, like this weekend, there are a few that get forgotten and turn from yellow, to yellow-and-brown-spotted, to black.

Of course, yucky as I think overripe bananas are, I think they are wonderful in brown bread form. My mom has a recipe for banana bread that she swears by…I think it’s dry and kind of boring, but maybe it’s because I grew up with it. So for kicks, and partly because we have a bunch of buttermilk hanging out in the fridge, I tried a new recipe. Rocking the whole wheat flour this time around (no-simple-carb-kick I might be on…but whole wheat makes it better, right? Right?!), and the buttermilk makes the bread suuuuuuper fluffy. I think it could do with a little less butter and a little more flour, but I’ll let you be the judge of that.

Speaking of bananas, has anyone ever seen the skit Demetri Martin does on bananas?

Banana Bread

  • 2 c. flour (I did half white/half whole wheat)
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 stick of softened butter
  • 1/4 c. walnut oil (Walnut oil, my new baby). I guess you could use canola, grapeseed, coconut, or avocado.
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 c. buttermilk
  • 3 suuuuuuuuuuper ripe bananas
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F and grease two loaf pans.
  2. Mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  3. Beat the butter, oil, and sugar together for a few bit.
  4. Add the eggs, vanilla, and buttermilk until the batter is mostly mixed, but not completely.
  5. Mash the bananas with a fork.
  6. Add the dry ingredients, then the bananas. Don’t over-mix the batter. (I did this part by hand *gasp*)
  7. Pour the batter into the pans. Bake 30 minutes and then check the center. You can increase the time to 45 minutes if needed, but be careful you don’t end up with crumbly banana bread.

Well kiddies, it’s Monday, which, as we all know, means: School, Responsibility, Homework, Work, No Fun. Well, at least until Tuesday, since that’s when I’m done for the week. Ahh, a hard life I do lead.

Now that I have my bragging quota filled for the day, I’d like to share with you an accomplishment of mine, which was fulfilled last week Thursday at approximately 5:30pm Amsterdam time. Okay okay, I lied, I didn’t fill my bragging quota, but this certainly will help. This girl, this lone, twenty-two year old, only child, small family, in over her head girl celebrated Thanksgiving. A full Thanksgiving, with enough food to feed 15 people. Which it did. A big thanks to Emily for the eggnog and mashed potatoes. A massive thank you to Sonia “Christine” who did the gravy, green bean casserole, and provided the cooking tunes and fabulous conversation. And a HUGE resounding thank you to my mom, who taught me how to make all the dishes and from whom I get my talent – tiny though it may be – for cooking.

So, to explain the epicness of this Thanksgiving Dinner, I will list each item that found its way to the table.

  • Biscuits
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Mashed Potatoes
  • Potato Salad
  • Red Cabbage with Bacon
  • Red Cabbage (vegetarian)
  • Lemon Brussel Sprouts
  • Cranberry Sauce
  • Stuffing
  • Gravy
  • Green Bean Casserole
  • Turkey (aka Chicken because Turkey is expensive in Europe)
  • Eggnog
  • Poffertjes
  • Cherry Vlaai
  • Apple Vlaai
  • Pumpkin Pie

All in all, the night was spectacular. I haven’t had that much fun cooking in a very very long time and to have so many people show up was even for amazing. I have never spent Thanksgiving with so many people, nor have I ever spent Thanksgiving away from home. My friends, you made my Thanksgiving still feel like a holiday, even though my mom and dad, Jo and Erica, my puppy, my car, etc are far away. I’ll see them soon, but for now, thank you thank you thank you to my adoptive family here in Holland. I couldn’t have had a better night and I love all of you from the bottom of my heart.

HHHOOOOOKAY! Now that the cheesy stuff is out of the way, who wants a recipe?! So, which should I share? My pumpkin pie recipe? The secret of my red cabbage? My stuffing discoveries? Ah, I know. The hit of the night, though the easiest part of the whole feast. All that was missing was some honey. Try these at home. Trust me, you’ll die of happiness, provided you eat them RIGHT.OUT.OF.THE.OVEN. Like cookies. Only better. Yeah, you heard me. Better.

Old School Biscuits

Preheat oven to 450

Stir together:

  • 1 3/4 C flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 Tsp baking powder (NOT soda)

Cut into the flour with pastry blender or two knives until like coarse cornmeal:

  • 4-6 T chilled butter or lard or both

Make a well and add all at once:

  • 3/4 C cold milk

Stir until fairly free of bowl. Turn onto floured surface and GENTLY knead, making 5-6 folds. Roll out to 1/2 inch thickness. Cut with biscuit cutter, cut into squares, or roll into individual balls.

Bake 12-15 minutes on ungreased sheet.

The key to good biscuits is to handle minimally. Stir only to moisten, knead gently.

Today has just been one of those days.  The kind that sort of slink by peering at you from out of the corner of their eye.  I just looked up and it was gone.  The weather was beautiful, though, with bright sunshine and fall colored leaves starting to peak out on the mountains.

Not wanting to waste such a stunning sight, I made my way to the public library after work.  And did something very naughty.  I found the cooking section, sat down and went to town.  I would have brought almost 7 of those recipe books back home with me but I had a tiny purse and plans to scour Smith’s baking aisle on the way home to stock up on a few necessary items.  As it is I brought home two baking books, Ratio (one I’ve heard rave reviews on) and Artisan Breads (one with these breathtaking pictures of stunningly crusty and rich loaves), and one other, The Lightness of Being.

I’m stoked about the Artisan Breads book, mainly because I’ve got this crazy need for bread making in my life right now.  A few days ago I completed my first experiment with sourdough bread, and it has only bolstered my need to explore the world of bread even more.  This loaf is soft and tangy on the inside with a chewy crust on the outside.  The boule ( the French term for bowl is merely a round loaf), however, was about the size of a “wagon wheel” (per Texas Joe) so next time I’m definitely going to go for baguettes or rolls.  The bread is also amazing with the spinach, walnut and roasted garlic pesto I made last weekend.

Sourdough Bread

From How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman

*Note, this first part is the recipe for the starter.  This takes about 2 days to get the “sour” for the sourdough bread, so start it about 48 hours before you really want to get started.  To maintain the starter, take half out (like for the bread loaf) and mix in 3/4 cup flour and 1/2 cup water into the remaining starter.  Do this every week and starter will maintain itself “forever.”

1 1/2 cups flour

1/8 teaspoon yeast

1 cup warm water

  1. Mix the flour, yeast  and water together in a bowl. Cover loosely and place in an out of the way place (the recipe suggests the top of the refrigerator).   Stir every 8 to 12 hours; the mixture will eventually bubble and start to smell sour.  If the kitchen is warm this can take as little as 24 hours (mine took the full 48 hours and its about 70 degrees Fahrenheit).

3 1/2 cups flour

1/4 teaspoon yeast

1 1/3 cup water

2 teaspoons salt

  1. The night before you plan to bake, put half of the starter in the mixer (the recipe uses the food processor, but I just used my hand mixer) and add the additional flour, salt, and yeast.  As the mixer is going pour in the water and process until a sticky dough is formed.  It will be a little too sticky to knead by hand.
  2. Put the dough in a large bowl, cover and let sit for a few hours at room temperature or overnight in the refrigerator.
  3. For a boule: Sprinkle a small amount of flour on the counter and dump dough out of bowl. Start to shape into a ball by “tucking in” the dough towards the bottom center, rotating, and repeating to create a surface tension on the top. (I didn’t use the counter much for this.  I just held it in my hands and worked the dough over the counter.) Pinch the seam that will form on the bottom of the loaf together.
  4. Place dough ball on a well floured clean kitchen towel in a colander or round basket seam side up.  Cover with towel and let rise 2 to 6 hours.
  5. Preheat oven about 30 minutes before baking to 450 degrees F.  Turn dough out onto baking sheet and cut the top of the loaf a few times.  Spray the inside of the oven with water to create steam and then slide baking sheet into oven.
  6. Bake at 450 degrees F for 20 minutes (spray the inside of the oven with water 2 or 3 times in the first 10 minutes) then turn oven down to 350 degrees F and bake 25 more minutes.  Loaf should have a golden brown crust.  Remove and cool on a wire rack.

Spinach, Walnut and Roasted Garlic Pesto

*Note: These measurements are all estimates considering I just sort of threw this together. Also this is the easiest in the food processor.

4 cups spinach

1/2 to 3/4 cup toasted walnuts

1/2 head roasted garlic

1/4 cup olive oil (more might be needed)

1/3 cup parmesan

  1. Place walnuts, parmesan, and roasted garlic in food processor.  Process until chunky.  Add spinach in batches, using olive oil when necessary to keep things going smoothly.