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Christmas was spent in Switzerland this year with my friend Rosa and her family. It’s been a lovely trip and everyone has made me feel so at home and welcome despite the fact that I tend on the side of awkward American from time to time. Mainly it’s just Rosa who gives me shit for those moments, which I expect, as it’s Rosa and she gives everyone shit, and I love her for it. Thanks for a lovely Christmas Holiday my love!

So, being here in Switzerland in this lovely house overlooking the lake, I had no idea how to thank the family for letting me come stay, so I have spent much of my visit helping in the kitchen. Rosa and May have been the principle cooks here, but I was given Christmas Eve dinner and made Cilantro Chicken and Pickled Tomato Avocado Salsa from Mattbites.com. Yum Yum. Worked out lovely.

And yesterday for Christmas dinner, Rosa and I went all out and made lots and lots of desserts. But alas, I must remind you of the title at this point because smart as I am, you will not believe what I managed to do yesterday. No, it’s worse than burning something, undercooking, or forgetting an ingredient. I mistook something. Both white. Both granulated. Both crytals. Ah, but 1 3/4 Cups of SALT makes a cake very different from a cake with 1 3/4 Cups SUGAR. Dump that one out and start over, eh?

Which I did. Thank god I eat cake batter like candy. But then another thing we must take from this cake following my sugar/salt debacle…brown sugar and white sugar are relatively interchangeable in cookies, but not in cakes. What a fail. What a chewy, sad, hard, ugly fail.

So I drown my sorrows in the chocolate cake I posted about last time, made with love by Rosa with my dark chili chocolate and a homemade Raspberry Sorbet. On the list for making next is Fillet Wellington, which we had for dinner last night and with which I happened to fall madly into lust. Tonight is Swiss Fondue. Looks as though it’s time to trek up the Swiss Alps for such a meal. I think that’s fair, don’t you?

Happy New Year friends! I love you all.

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It was 11:00 at night. I had been reading for hours. I was bored. And craving cookies. But alas, no cookies to be had. Not enough butter or sugar or eggs to MAKE cookies. Translation: I was grumpy.

I did, however, have 1 egg. Some milk. Flour. A bit of sugar. Vegetable oil. And a LOT of quickly-browning bananas. So, at 11:00 at night, I made fried bananas. Translation: I was no longer grumpy.   😀

Then yesterday I had a bunch of friends over for dinner and asked them if they would like me to make some more bananas for dessert, since I had a lot of leftover batter. They were skeptical but we cooked those pesky yellow fruits up anyway, and turns out, fried bananas are now a favorite!!!

This recipe is extremely easy and if you get the oil hot enough, only takes about one minute to get all the pieces cooked. Serve hot. Powdered sugar is a nice touch, though not needed since the bananas are plenty sweet on their own.

Fried Bananas

  • Preparation Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 5 minutes
  • Eat Time: 60 seconds
  • Serves: 1 – 8, depending on how many pieces you want
  • Wok for frying (deep and narrow bottom)

4 large or 6 small bananas (the firmer the better)
1/4 C milk
2 T sugar
6 T flour
1 egg
vegetable oil (peanut works well too)

The Steps!

  1. Pour the vegetable oil in the wok and turn to high heat. Use your best guess as to how much oil to use – you want to immerse the bananas at least half way. Full is better, but that’s a lot of oil in one go…
  2. Mix the egg, sugar, flour, and milk (the longer this sits, the better, but you can use it immediately)
  3. Peel the bananas and cut them in half length-wise. Cut each half into three pieces. Dip the pieces in the batter.
  4. When the oil is hot, carefully place each piece of banana in the oil. Once brown on the bottom, use a fork to turn the bananas over and cook the other side.
  5. Place in a wire sieve or on a paper towel for a few minutes, then serve!!!

Enjoy kids! This is officially my new go-to speedy dessert. Will it be yours?

So. I’m in Holland. Officially. Goodbye Utah, land of jello, SUVs, and Diet Coke. Hello Amsterdam, city of beer, pot, and bicycles. Life could not be more fun and exciting.

It’s rainy and cold outside today and I have many many pages of academic jargon to plow through for my classes on Monday, but I just can’t concentrate. I found a drool-worthy recipe for Nutella and Hazelnut Brownies last night (bell’alimento) and I’m dying to try them, but alas, I have no hazelnuts (not a suprise), no nutella (and yet I live in the land that eats it like candy), and no willpower to put on my rain gear and go pedalling to the grocery store to search for said items. And when I say search, I do not mean that metaphorically. I wanted to make chocolate chip cookies last week and COULD NOT find chocolate chips. So poor me, I had to cut up a bar of chocolate. And I threw in a bag of chocolate-covered hazelnuts (YUM). Sigh. Life is so hard.

But I digress. Moral of my longwinded sob story is that I have the baking bug again. So what to make? I landed on Apple Crisp, figuring that was a good route to take for three reasons: 1) I have a kilo of apples that NEED to be used; 2) I know the recipe by heart; and 3) because apple crisp is something my mom and I would make when it was yucky outside. Perfect.

Now, the only problem I encountered was yet another funny cultural cramp – the grocery stores close early here. We’re talking 8:00 at the latest. And yeah, I have all the ingredients for Apple Crisp, but it’s so much better with vanilla pudding (or dutch vla), ice cream, hell, even whipped cream. Of which I have, yep, none. Damn. So I made my own custard to go with. I’m so clever.

Apple Crisp

  • Feeds 4-6
  • Cook at 180 C/350 F
  • Time to prepare: 30 min.
  • Time to cook: 20-40 min. depending on altitude
  • a cake pan or pie plate work well for this recipe

1 1/4 C. flour

1/2 C. + 2 T brown sugar (I used dark sugar in the raw)

1/4 C. white sugar (the coarser the better)

1 stick of butter *

*if the butter isn’t salted, add a 1/2 tsp salt*

4-5 apples

1 tsp. vanilla

4 tsp Cinnamon

2 tsp nutmeg

a splash of lemon juice (optional)

The Steps!

  1. Wash, peel, and cut up the apples. You can slice or dice, or just take a knife and wing it. Keep it chunky and the pieces won’t stick together. Toss your apple pieces with lemon to keep them from going brown.
  2. Pour vanilla, 2 tsp Cinnamon, 1 tsp. nutmeg, and 2 T brown sugar onto apples and mix well. Pour the apples into the baking dish and spread them out so the bottom is covered.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix the flour, remaining spices, and sugar together. Cut the butter into chunks and using two dinner knives, cut the butter into the mixture (you could use your hands but keep in mind that your body heat will melt the butter slightly and the texture of your topping will change).
  4. Sprinkle the topping over the apples, covering everything as completely as possible. Cook!

Meanwhile, you can enjoy the lovely “baking apples” smell as you do the custard! This one is super easy, just don’t overheat.

Easy Vanilla Custard

  • feeds 4-6
  • time to make: 10 min.
  • time to cook: 5 min.

1 C. milk (skim, whole, soy, matters not)

1 T cornstarch

2 T sugar

2 tsp vanilla

2 egg yolks

The Steps!

  1. Mix the milk, cornstarch, vanilla, and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat until it starts to thicken.
  2. Cream the two egg yolks in a bowl, then pour a little of the milk mixture in, stir, pour more milk in, stir, repeat. (You do this to control how fast the eggs heat up. If you just pour them in, they’ll cook, and that’s icky in a custard)
  3. After you have successfully blended the eggs into the milk mixture, place back on the heat and cook for a minute or so. No boiling. Boiling is bad!   🙂

Serve the Apple Crisp hot, the custard can be served warm or chilled, whatever fits your fancy. Enjoy! I know I did (So did my flatmates)!

Remember how I said once I liked cookies more than anything else? Well, the reason why is this: since I was barely old enough to “help” in the kitchen, my mom bought me my very own apron and hot mit, baking set, and a stool so that I could stand at the counter and bake with her. We always made Chocolate Chip Drops from Joy of Cooking, but no matter how many times my mom and I have made them over the years, each batch turns out different. Proof that a plain old cookie can always surprise you.

But here’s the thing. Sure, we use a recipe from a cook book. Sure, the recipe itself is from the 1940s and obviously a tried and true cookie. But in my house, we break the rules. Bad. Sure, you could use crisco to make the cookies fluffy. Or butter to make them crunchy. But in my house, we break the rules. And I know once you read the ingredients you are going to wrinkle your nose and think I’m an awful excuse for a baker, but it’s kindof like eating fries with a Wendy’s frosty or eating peanut butter and butter together, hell, it’s like putting cheddar cheese in bread pudding (yum, btw), the tastes just blend, so trust me, okay?

And for the love of god, don’t think about how many calories you consume in piping hot cookies straight out of the oven…

Chocolate Chip Cookies
Joy of Cooking ft. Old School Ingredients

Preheat the oven to 375. Use 2 cookie sheets.

Whisk together:
1 cup plus 2 Tbs all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda

Beat in a large bowl until well-blended:

2/3 cup butter, softened
1/3 cup bacon fat. Yeah. You heard me.
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar

Add and beat until well combined:
1 large egg
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp vanilla

Stir in the flour mixture until well-blended and smooth. Stir in 1 cup chocolate chips.

Drop the dough in spoonfuls on the cookie sheets. (These cookies spread out, so don’t put too many on a sheet or you’ll get one big cookie. Much harder to share. Wait, why haven’t I done that yet?!) Bake, 1 sheet at a time, until the cookies are just slightly colored on top and the edges are brown, about 8 minutes. Let stand briefly, then remove to a rack to cool (or burn your fingers eating them, like I do).