Raise the signal flags, the enemy advances

To know your Enemy, you must become your Enemy.”
― Sun Tzu

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There I was mindlessly staring out the basement window, sweat rolling down my brow into my eyes, giving new meaning to salt solution, Bono blasting out of my iPhone– “I’m not invisible”– when suddenly at 11:00 (as in off to my left oh so slightly) something of a raw sienna tone is indeed no longer invisible.

The enemy has emerged from the thicket, just over the barbed wire fence.
Oh the stealthy one. . .
Grabbing the music blaring iPhone, I try to get a picture while precariously balancing whilst still working the elliptical.

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“Back on the ol elliptical eh?” You ask in that condescending tone.
Yes, as a matter of fact, I am—during the two week wedding hiatus, there were miles and miles of brisk heat consumed walking but not the consistent fat burn of my basement nemesis. You saw me in that dress–You and I both know that there is still much work to be done–and oh, by the way, Publix has brought in a new butter.

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A new butter” you muse.
“How can there be “new” butter?
Prèsident–a french butter made in Normandy—with real flakes of tasty sea salt—ummmm.
Fleur de sel, the caviar of salt, is only found in the salt flats of Normandy—which has been harvested for centuries.
Chefs love to finish a dish with a light sprinkle of the flour de sel.

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“But I thought Normandy was only good for D Day celebrations and that apple brandy of theirs. . .” you ask quizzically.
Ahhh yes. . . Calvados.
Nothing like a sweet potato soufflé spiked with a good dose of Calvados.
But no, they do more than war memorials and apples—they do salt and they do butter.
Does it get any better than that???

Oh dear Lord, the thought of butter has sent me spiraling off track.

So there I was sweating like a pig, watching this 4 legged enemy at the far end of the yard, opposite my garden, aka, the deer salad bowl, advance. I careened my neck out about as far as I could, as my legs in tandem seemed to excelerate, just so I could see a portion of the garden to my extreme right. Was this doe sent in as a distraction while the others made haste to the tender beans?

I continued watching this doe nibbling on the blackberry bush.
And as suddenly as she appeared out of the brush—one blink, or one sweat blob in the ol eye, and she was gone. . .for now. . .

Fast forward to twilight.
We decided to go check the garden after supper.

Just as we stepped out the back door, I heard it.
SHUUU SHUUUU
The unmistakable snorting sound a deer makes as a warning.
As fast as I looked up to scan the area, there they were. . .two white tails hopping and darting
away, back into the dense venation at the edge of the woods.

Oh they are testing me to be sure.
I may need to go cut more Irish Spring.
Maybe another scare crow?
And those deer b gone granules…hummmm
Why do I fret so and work as I do. . .
All for this–the first basket load of goodies.

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Stayed tuned–the battle wages on. . .

Chickens, Appearances and bums…yes, bums…

People that seem so glorious are all show; underneath they are like everyone else.
Euripides

Humility is the foundation of all the other virtues hence, in the soul in which this virtue does not exist there cannot be any other virtue except in mere appearance.
Saint Augustine

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***ok so yesterday’s pilgrimage did not go so well– perhaps it was more like a disaster. You, we, I don’t want to talk about that today— let’s swing toward something a bit more, uplifting, shall we. . .we’ll talk about the disastrous pilgrimage later, once we recoup and attempt to regroup. On to better things, or maybe, in this case, not exactly better. . .*****

Do you suppose the other chickens get a bit jealous of those chickens in the coop with the prettier feathers, the fancier combs, the fluffier feet or the more garish head feathers? Do the more showy chickens somehow perceive that they are prettier than their coop mates? Do the other chickens who are not as festive, not a pretty, gravitate to the more fancy chickens, wanting to rub wings as it were, with these more glamorous birds?

I think we can be safe in assuming that a chicken is a chicken is a chicken—regardless of the extra fluff and puff. They all scratch, cluck, eat, poop, sleep, and the layers lay and the others, well, they wait to star in Sunday’s Supper.

With all of this chicken business racing through my mind, I am attempting to take stock of what I see staring back at me in the mirror.
Hummmm. . .
Maybe the chickens are looking a little more puffy and preened than what it is that I’m seeing in this mirror.
Geesss. . .
I don’t think February is a good time of year to study one’s physique in a large mirror– this while a pasty white overtly dry body stares back.

So there is this wedding thingie I’ve been alluding to, on and off for a while now. As in I’m the mother of the groom. . . in just a mere 4 months.
Hummm.
My husband walks into the bathroom while I’m precariously perched on the side of the tub turned around backwards with a mirror in one hand while trying to see over my shoulder as to what in the heck is the view from behind, as in my behind.

“What in the world are you doing?? Have you lost your mind? You’re going to break your neck!”
“Look at that” I exclaim!
“Look at what?” mr. gallant asks.
“Look at that, something’s wrong, it’s, it’s not symmetrical”
“What do you mean it’s not symmetrical?
This as he heads to the closest to gather whatever it is he came to gather when he walked in on my moment of taking stock.
“My, uh my, uh,uh, my butt, look at the right side, it’s like part of it has lost it’s “umph” and gave way”
“Maybe I need to go to see a doctor. . . maybe it’s some sort of mass or lump blocking the view of my butt”
“Are you crazy” mr. gallant smirks from the closet, eventually coming out to where I remain perched on the side of the tub, mirror in hand, head cocked around almost backwards, like an owl, peering over the shoulder.
“You don’t need to see a doctor, you’re perfectly fine. You’ve just gotten older and things just— fall.”
“WHAT!!!!!”
“Did you just say I’m old and that my butt fell?!
“No”
“Yes, you just said that I’m old and that my butt fell because I’m old”
“No, that is not what I said” as I note the slight curl upwards around the corners of his mouth.
“Oh my God, I can’t believe you just called me old and fat”
“I did not call you old and I never said fat”
“Look, all I’m saying is that age has a way of shifting things around”
This as mr. gallant makes a very poor attempt at logic.
A woman standing on the side of bathtub, taking stock of a pasty white dry aging body, is in no mood for logic!

“You may speak for yourself, thank you very much” I smugly retort.
This as I’m debating whether to say something about a delicate subject. . .about seeing more head than hair. . .when suddenly mr. gallant spouts out his now marvelous thought of a solution.
“I’ve got just what you need—
Duct tape!”
“What?!”
“We’ll just tape things back into place. . . you’ll be good as new!”

May I just say that he is very very lucky that he is still walking around with all appendages in tact.
Duct tape. . .I mean really.

Hear my cries. . .is my time on that blasted elliptical all in vain?!
“Where are the results?” I seem to constantly scream as I step from the scales.
Maybe it’s the elliptical’s fault my butt fell off in the first place. And anyway, who’s bum looks as if its fallen off in the first place?
How do I tell the doctor I think something is wrong with my behind? How do I tell her it looks like part of it just gave way, sort of like some sort of mini avalanche. . .hummm. . . .

30 minutes every morning on the elliptical.
Check.
Incline on.
Check.
Level 15, one of the more difficult levels.
Check.
Cardio workout.
Check
up, down, up down . . .all to a very swift pace.
This while my “workout music” echoes throughout the basement.

Next, it’s time for the protein smoothie– every morning.
Who says spinach and ground flax seed doesn’t mix with cranberries, strawberries, frozen cherries and peaches?
Add a scoop of protein powder, a little coconut milk, voila.
When did I start drinking coconut milk?!
Just like a milkshake. . . a brown throw-up looking milkshake. . .mmmmm. . . good, I think.
No bread, no sweets, no butter. . .
Ah ha!!
That’s it!!
This is all Julia’s fault!
Julia?
Yes, Julia.
And no, not me Julia, Julia Child, Julia!!
Julia and that blasted affinity of butter and cream of hers!!!
Julia could carry a love of fat on that 6 foot frame of hers and get away with it—- at 5’3″ (it was 5’4.5″ but then the osteoporosis kicked in. . .let’s not talk about that) I sadly cannot!
UGH. . .

We took our son and his fiancé out to dinner the other evening.
“So”, Abby begins, “Did you find the workout song you were wanting?”
“Oh yes! I first start out with a little U2, switching then to Bruno Mars. . .”
“MOTHER, you listen to Bruno Mars!?
I suddenly feel the eyes rolling.
“Yes Brenton.” I continue. ..
“Perfect music, with a great beat, for working out.”
“Oh, and I also like that Macklemore group, that’s great music with a beat to huff and puff to.”
“WHAT! Mother when did you start listening to Macklemore?”
I feel the eyes rolling again.
“When I started working out” I triumphantly reply over my shoulder to the back seat that holds my incredulous son whose eyes are now popping out of his head.

And so it goes.
No support from the males in my house.
One wants to duct tape me and the other one wants to sensor me.
GREAT!
My aunt is always exclaiming “it’s hell getting old”
So yes, whereas it may be hell getting older, all I know it that I’m going to give it hell right back! Plus demand the return of my, uh, derrière!!

I may be pasty white, a little out of shape and no longer symmetrical, but come June, I will be a lean mean fighting machine marching down an aisle!!

Resolutions

When you rise in the morning, form a resolution to make the day a happy one for a fellow creature.”
― Sydney Smith

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Ok, so I originally wrote today’s post wising to discuss my new healthy purchase. I veered off the subject as usual, verging on a rant regarding our Society’s obsession with beauty, über health, thinness and of our obsessive fear of aging. Things got too wordy, albeit all correct, plus my intent has never for my little blog to be stage for ranting, although there is a great deal I could rant about–Now that being said, this sacred space is reserved for that of a retired Yoda’s musings—plus I was certainly not on topic with that of my new little blender–so he is now the abbreviated version.

I’m not one to make resolutions for the New Year. I just think that we should all try our best, each and every day, without needing some sort of mile marker pointing us in the right direction year after year–those “resolutions” are the things which should be determined each morning as we open our eyes—a daily sort of quest of determination to do right and do better by not only ourselves but our kinsmen as well. Isn’t that a novel concept.

And so it was on the Monday to the new week to the new year—no more sweets, no more fats, back to my little weight lifting regime, loose this excess of weight, get that elliptical machine for the basement, get healthy, get lean. . .hummm. . .
have I ever been lean?

Remember, I’ve got a wedding in June.
“Wedding?”
No silly, not my wedding, my son’s wedding.
“Ahhh, mother of the groom eh?”
Yes and I want to look nice and I want to be able to fit into a dress.
“But no one will be looking at you, they’ll be looking at the bride.”
So you say.
I’ve been to those weddings and you have too– as they escort the mothers in you turn and whisper to you friend, “She surly has aged. Wow she’s gained weight since the retirement. I don’t remember her being so grey. . .” and the litany goes on.

As I take stock of myself in the mirror, wondering what it is that I need do in order to get into “the mother of the groom” sort of shape, I’m noticing that I can no longer tell whether or not I have eye lids, my mouth has more lines around it than a road map and those things that are supposed to be up on my chest, the things that I think folks refer to as breasts, now seem in a position closer to my navel. Hummmm…

I suppose I should start with not only some exercise but perhaps a bit of monitoring of my diet.

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(Please note the word “fiber” in the lower left corner–NO MORE FIBER PLEASE!!!)

I’m certain it comes as no surprise to you that the new trendy super vegetable is Kale. Every time you open a current cooking magazine or search the web’s plethora of foodie sites the once humble green is now all the rage. This simple prolific winter crop of greens which has kept many an Irishman happy as he ate a hearty bowl of Colcannon is now the darling of health food. Funny how the lowly collard and turnip green, along with cousin kale, have taken the eating healthy stage by storm. I’ve been eating such for years—of course the southern style–simmered in chicken broth, a little hot sauce a piece of bacon, or for those hard core southerners, fat back. That my friend is the South on a plate.

Not to be left out of the latest food craze I too have fresh kale on hand. But as far as those kale salads and kale chips are concerned, I’m good. I’ll stick to my spinach and mesclun lettuce for salad and the only chip, as far as I’m concerned, is a potato. I don’t buy potato chips, as I do try to watch what I put in my mouth, I at least know where they are if I need them–right there on the chip aisle–not the kale chip aisle.

Everyone is screaming for kale and I’m still in wonderment over my butter making jar. Now that’s something truly special—butter. And I say all of this as I type under the watchful eye of the placard hanging in my kitchen— “If you’re afraid of butter, use cream” Those immortally wise words of Julia Child.

But let’s get to my point shall we—I bought a Bullet.
A what you ask?
I had not heard of it either but it seems to be a most popular little device.

What started this new little move to health was actually founded in a bit of guilty indulgence. Monday, I decided that I would make chocolate pudding. My poor husband has felt quite deprived since the new year’s healthiness began. Pudding would be okay. But then I saw a fun recipe by the pioneering red head, Ree Drummond for Pots de Creme, which sounded quick and easy. Put the chocolate chips in a blender along with eggs, grind, then add the hot coffee. I did as instructed and as the chips began “grinding” , suddenly my very nice Kitchen Aid blender stopped. I thought the chips were stuck to the blade–but as luck would have it, the chips killed the blender. Who knew?!

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Obviously I had to get a new blender. It was suggested that I try a NurtiBullet, as in a magic bullet to health, which will enable me to make those wonderful healthy smoothies which are now all the rage. Really? I want to do that? Who says I want to do that? Blenders are for fun little cocktails, and the blending of the bases of various soups. . . milkshakes, yes, smoothies, ok—but what’s this healthy business?

I proudly bring my new Bullet in the house and unpack it. Looks easy enough. It’s smaller than a traditional blender and it even has a nice little recipe book.

As it is lunch time and I am a tad hungry, I immediately pack the blender cup with the suggested items–peaches, blueberries and kale, filling it with water. I used frozen peaches and blueberries hoping to eliminate the need for ice as I don’t like a smoothie full of hunks of ice. Pop that puppy up on the base, plug it in, and ZIP—within seconds a beautifully deep purple, dotted with little specks of green, smoothie. “This looks really good,” I’m thinking as I bring the cup to my lips. Big sip. . .
AAAGGGHHHHHHHH—eeeoooo, gag–cough, cough

Oh my Lord, I’m drinking grass! All I can taste is the raw kale–no sweet peaches, no tangy blueberries. Honey, I know, it needs some honey!!
Let’s just say that honey will not blend into something very cold, it stays a clumpy cold mass–so now I have a cup full of purple raw greens with a wad of honey hiding within.

Ok, I do see some potential here, but I’ve got to think this through— rather than just throwing any healthy thing in a cup thinking I can blend it up into a palatable concoction, there must be balance. Back to the grocery store I go. More fruits. Some Greek yogurt, some frozen yogurt, add some dashes of perhaps protein powder, this new rage of flax seed meal, some chai and gogi crap. I can do this.

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I am now armed with an arsenal of “additives”–all in the name of health. Do you know what excessive fiber can do to your system if you are not use to such. Let’s just say it’s not pretty nor comfortable as a smoothie is pretty much cold raw fiber in a cup. And this is what I wanted?? Hummm

Now on day 3 it’s gotten a tad better. Peaches, strawberries, a banana for texture and potassium, some Greek yogurt, a little coconut milk, cinnamon, a tad of honey—ZIP again, voila, pretty smoothie and one that is much more palatable. Next, blackberries, frozen peaches, pineapples, frozen yogurt, cinnamon, almond milk and a sprinkling of Qia—What in the heck is Qia?? Some sort of magical mix of super seeds—ZIP it up again and I now have a pretty crunchy smoothie. Hummm—I don’t like the seeds, I doubt my intestines like the seeds. No more seeds
At least however, there are possibilities. It’s easy to use and clean–I can give it a try for a while. I wonder if the yogurt, peaches and almond milk would enjoy a shot of Amaretto? I think I would. Oh, this is breakfast, I forgot, nix the alcohol.

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This will definitely take some playing around with in order to appreciate the full potential–ratios and combinations are certainly coming into play. And yet, I’m still drawn back to the pudding. So much smoother–such a wonderful feel in the mouth–none of this stick in the teeth seed business. Chocolate and creme–a thing of beauty in the mouth–and what’s more these two would appreciate a shot of Amaretto, Rum, Bourbon, you name it!!
Oh what would Julia say?

The moral of this tale—make no big yearly resolutions, simply tell yourself each morning that you will make good daily choices for yourself and others— while always making room for a little added pudding.
Now I’m thinking I may just go back to my fig newtons for lunch–figs and whole grains—now that sounds healthy!

Plus Merveilleux or Butter Part II

“O wonderful, wonderful, and most wonderful wonderful! And yet again wonderful, and after that, out of all hooping.”
― William Shakespeare, As You Like It

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Part II to Presents of Purpose—from yesterday’s post:
As my students so irritatingly use to say when something grand took place—OMG! Now you and I are not phones so “text talk,” as I use to call it, has no place in face to face conversation or any sort of conversation, but try telling that to teenagers. However, at this moment, I suppose I must make an exception as what has transpired here is truly a wonderful marvel—a marvel indeed!!

BUTTER, we actually made butter!!!
The real deal! An amalgamation of an unctuous tongue coating sublime byproduct all from a cow– BUTTER!!
It worked!! The little shaker jar worked!! I must feel like Edison or Bell when their little tinkerings actually produced light and sound—amazed and elated all rolled into one.

But Julie, for Heaven’s sake, it’s just butter for crying out loud.
Just butter you say?!
Not just butter. . . but rather light, fresh, clean homemade wonder in a jar.
This little jar has produced something that I, until today, have only been able to procure from a store or vendor—never from my own kitchen.
The possibilities, imagine the possibilities. . .
The gears in the ol brain are turing now!!!. . .

This little gift, has in turn, given me not only joy and wonderment but tremendous possibilities for creativity as well as self satisfaction–and of course the added plus of tastebud pleasure. Who would have thought a little box with a little jar could bring such simple joy and pleasure?!

After the cream sat in the shaker jar for the specified 8 hours, and after I picked up my aunt from the side of interstate I-75, I came home to shake the jar as directed for about 3 minutes. At which point I strained off the resulting “buttermilk.” I was instructed to next add cold water to the jar and shake some more. After which I poured off the water while the resulting butter accumulated in the small ramekin attached at the bottom of the jar. Unscrewing the jar from the ramekin, I was amazed at what I beheld sitting before me. There amassed within the small white ramekin was a soft creamy off-white clump of spreadable butter. Sprinkle with a little salt, gently blending and VOLIA!!!

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And for my second act, I’m thinking herbs de Provence, or maybe honey cinnamon, or maybe red pepper, or maybe garlic, or maybe. . . mmmmmmmm so so good and so so wonderful!!!

Presents of purpose

“People who love to eat are always the best people.”
― Julia Child

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I’m so excited!!
Do you want to know what my son and his bride to be presented me Christmas morning?! It was a basket–but just not any ol’ basket. This basket full of Christmas cheer was actually full of fun little knick knacks–knick knacks especially for the kitchen–or rather, knick knacks to use while in the kitchen–as that is the place in which I spend the majority of my time on this earth.

Julia Child, who I have written about before, was one of my hero figures while growing up. I won’t rehash the stories from the previous posts (“Butter to my Bread” 10/4/13 and “Feast and Fellowship 3/19/13) but suffice knowing that it was tops on my bucket list to meet Julia—but alas, Julia finished her bucket list before I began ticking off mine.

To say that she was an inspiration would be putting it mildly. My generation grew up, watching with our mothers, the original episodes of the French Chef. She became a mainstay in my world as she was the user friendly chef. She was not pompous or arrogant but very real and she very much wanted real women, real American woman, to learn how to really cook really good food. Food that to mom’s such as mine, which had only been seen in magazines or dreamt about but not something ever thought attainable, was now possible due to Julia coming on the scene in the early 60s.

Most mom’s such as my mother were not world travelers who wined and dined in fancy restaurants in such worldly places as New York, Paris or Rome. My mom was a stay-at-home mom in the late 50’s and early 60’s who was busy raising her kids. Sadly I remember the day when my mom discovered the cooking bag, minute rice and hamburger helper. May we just say right here and now my mom was not meant to be nor did she care to be a culinary wizard by any stretch of the imagination.

And maybe that is why I gravitated to the kitchen. Maybe it was the art teacher in me wanting to try the hand of creativity at an early age. Maybe it was the adoption thing (remember, it all comes back to the adoption–as in I am pretty certain that I am the missing love child of Sophia Loren–despite the fact she does not know she has a missing secret love child, but then I digress)—maybe it was simply my being named Julia too—but only after my grandmother, not the grandame of cooking.

Whatever the reason, I found my way to the kitchen and have enjoyed being there ever since. But it must be stated, for the record books however, that I am not some blingy accomplished little food blogger. I just love to cook–cooking for friends and family. . . and as Julia so aptly reminds us, for people who love to eat, as they are indeed the best kind of people. Indeed!!

And so it was on Christmas morning, to my delight, digging through the basket of kitchen knick knacks, that I pulled out the box for the DYI butter kit. OOoooooooo butter!! (do see that previous post won’t you regarding Butter to my Bread).

Now it should be noted that simple things, such as butter, are the mainstays, as well as success, to many a recipe and that any recipe is only as good as the ingredients involved–just as butter is as good as it’s ingredients—which is pretty much a good grade of organic, grass fed, cow’s milk / cream. Throw in a little sea salt and life just doesn’t get much better.

I couldn’t wait to try my hand at this marvel of transformation in a box. The taking of simple dairy cream, pouring it into the special little jar, and for this recipe, waiting 8 hours then proceeding to shake, shake, shake– pouring off the remaining “butter milk”, which leaves behind a ball of “fresh butter”—or so that is how it works in theory.

Now I did try something similar last year–a similar kit from William Sonoma. The WS kit, however called for non pasteurized cream–a commodity that I simple could not locate in my community without having to track down a dairy farmer. Something about the pasteurized cream not being able to totally transform from the liquid to the solid as readily as the non-pasteurized.

Maybe the sitting out at room temperature for the specified 6 to 8 hours helps this store bought pasteurized cream do its thing. Only time will tell.

First, however, I must go meet my aunt who has hitched a ride north from South Florida with a friend who is going to visit her daughter north of Atlanta. I’m driving a ways south to the interstate in order to find my aunt sitting on the side of the road with suitcase in hand. . . or so that’s what she fearfully thinks–(remember this is the aunt who is my world wide travel partner so a little jaunt 10 hours up the interstate for a rendezvous should be a piece of cake!) We are actually meeting at a service station at a specified exit. So as I journey south, then back north, my cream will have plenty of time to “sit”. I’ll shake this evening upon my return.

Stay tuned for Butter part II. . .

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Day-o, day-o, daylight come and me wan’ go home… or…Cooking with Cookie, again

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Day-o, day-o
Daylight come and me wan’ go home
Day, me say day, me say day, me say day
Me say day, me say day-o
Daylight come and me wan’ go home

Work all night on a drink a rum
Daylight come and me wan’ go home
Stack banana till the mornin’ come
Daylight come and me wan’ go home

Come, Mister tally man, tally me banana
Daylight come and me wan’ go home
Come, Mister tally man, tally me banana
Daylight come and me wan’ go home

Lift six foot, seven foot, eight foot bunch
Daylight come and me wan’ go home
Six foot, seven foot, eight foot bunch
Daylight come and me wan’ go home

Day, me say day-o
Daylight come and me wan’ go home

Day, me say day, me say day, me say day, me say day, me say day
(Daylight come and me wan’ go home)

A beautiful bunch, a ripe banana
(Daylight come and me wan’ go home)
Highly the deadly, black tarantula
(Daylight come and me wan’ go home)

Lift six foot, seven foot, eight foot bunch
Daylight come and me wan’ go home
Six foot, seven foot, eight foot bunch
Daylight come and me wan’ go home

Day, me say day-o
Daylight come and me wan’ go home

Day, me say day, me say day, me say day, me say day, me say day
(Daylight come and me wan’ go home)

Come, Mister tally man, tally me banana
Daylight come and me wan’ go home
Come, Mister tally man, tally me banana
Daylight come and me wan’ go home

Day-o, day-o,
Daylight come and me wan’ go home,

Day, me say day, me say day, me say day, me say day, me say day-o

Daylight come and me wan’ go home

Every time I hear Mr. Harry Belafonte belting out that most classic Jamaican ballad, I can’t help but think of one my favorite weird movies of all time…that most bizarre 1980’s Tim Burton classic flick, Beetlejuice. Maybe it was just so quirky. Maybe it was right up Salvador Dali’s ally. Maybe I can’t look at a banana any longer without hearing that tune echoing through my head…..

And so it was yesterday morning when I noticed the three remaining bananas sitting in the bowl of fruit looking forlorn and forgotten…and mostly spotted……Day-o, day-o…

You must know that I am not a banana fan. Yes I realize that the banana has been in the running for Mother Nature’s best food—-it’s compact, travels relatively well, that is if you don’t mind the bruising, it’s healthy and very good for you—why do you think that muscle cramping athletes are force fed bananas…

If I eat bananas it must be when they are just barely ripe with a bit of a green tinge still remaining at the stem. If there is a single dark spot, out it goes. I do not like overtly ripe bananas as they are simply too mushy with both taste and smell exceedingly, well, bananaish.

So imagine my shigrin when I read about a recent study conducted on bananas by a Japanese University regarding the cancer fighting properties of overtly ripe bananas.
According to the latest Japanese Scientific Research, a full ripe banana with dark patches on the yellow skin produces a substance catted TNF (Tumor Necrosis Factor) which has the ability to combat abnormal cells. The more darker patches on a banana’s skin, the higher its immunity enhancement quality– Hence, the riper the banana the better the anti-cancer quality. A yellow skin banana, with dark spots on it, is 8x more effective in enhancing the property of white blood cells than a green skin version.

Now if we are prone to believe everything we see out there on the internet then I suppose this banana business has some merit. And yet this supposed study may be just a bit fishy…did Chiquita fund that little study, ehh? Either way, I do realize that there are indeed health benefits to eating not only bananas but a variety of fruits and vegetables.

So when I find that my barely ripe bananas have waited on me a day or two too long and have suddenly turned against me with their dark brown spots, overtly yellow soft skin and overpowering banana fragrance that’s when it’s time to make banana bread. But I’m not talking just any run of the mill banana bread—this recipe is special. It calls for dark brown sugar, oats, spices such a cinnamon, cardamon, nutmeg—this is some good stuff.

Cookie’s Spiced Banana Bread
You will need:
2-3 ripe bananas (those of the spotted variety)
1 cup uncooked oats (good ol Quaker)
1/2 milk (guess what, I use coconut milk–cup for cup it is the same)
1 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup butter (the real deal stuff–softened to room temp)
splash of vanilla (Cookie’s homemade vanilla— for the more exact minded–1 teaspoon–or more if you like that sort of thing)
2 eggs (room temp)
2 cups all purpose flour (I use King Arthur unbleached)
1 teaspoon Baking Powder
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
1 teaspoon salt (I just shake once)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg (I like to fresh grate my nutmeg)
1/2 teaspoon cardamon (optional)
1/2 teaspoon allspice (optional)
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger powder (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350ᵒ
–Spray a 9 x 3 loaf pan (or two smaller sized pans) with Bakers Joy
–In a small bowl mash the bananas
–In a med bowl mix the 2 cups of flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and spices together.
–In a small bowl mix the oats with the 1/2 milk (remember the coconut milk, think healthy)
–In a large bowl, cream butter, sugar and eggs with vanilla till smooth
–Beat bananas and remaining ingredients into the creamy mixture (I alternate between the oats and flour, ending with flour mixture)
–Pour into the pan
I then sprinkle the top with a bit more brown sugar and dried oats
–Pop into the preheated oven and bake for 1 hour.
test it at the hour’s end with a toothpick to see if it comes out clean–if not, allow 5 to 7 additional minutes.
allow to cool in pan for about 5 minutes and then carefully invert on a cooling rack.
I like to slice a piece while it’s still warm and spread with a little butter.

This is a healthy banana! Day-o, Day-o, day light come and me wan’ go home…..

Here we are, fresh out of the oven….
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Now slice and add a touch of butter (you can use cream cheese but why would you?)
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Whoa, wait a minute, who took a bite?!
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Butter to my bread

“You are the butter to my bread, and the breath to my life”
― Julia Child
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(Photograph: fresh artisan loaves of bread from Rose Cottage Bakery / Pine Mt. Georgia / Julie Cook / 2013

When I retired last year from my life at school, I fretted about where I would turn my newly freed attentions. My dad was the given, as was helping out my husband with his business, but my son really didn’t need me anymore as he is basically a fine grown man… So what to do as far my passions and my energies were concerned was what had me worried.

Teaching is a fast paced, non stop sort of stress producing vocation that runs as a day in and day out event. Rarely does or can a teacher “turn it off”….Multiply all of that by 31, which in turn meant I was basically a top wound as tight as one could get. I had to constantly be on the ready for whatever came down the pike– being ready to always hit the ground running each and every day for 31 years.

Such is the life of a high school teacher—add the other duties acquired over 31 years…coaching, working with after school needs based kids, Department Chair, various committee chairs, team leader, mentoring, trainings, more schooling, summer trainings—throw in being wife, mom, daughter…and you are one overwhelmed individual.

The question begged where was I going to pour some of that energy. Where was I going to dump so much of that “constantness” until I could learn to decompress somewhat. I had lived life as a Pavlov dog, as anyone who has ever worked in education will testify…bells and clocks controlled my life. And seeing that I’ve been in a school setting since I was 5 years old, we are looking at almost 50 years in school—–that is entirely too long!!

So suddenly the idea of time standing somewhat still was exciting but yet also very frightening. I knew all about the importance of “transition” as that is a current educational buzz word. I knew I needed a seamless transition—or at least the best transition I could manage. “I know!!”– I exclaimed while attempting to convince myself that I had a really good idea, “I’ll bake bread”–I’m talking fresh from scratch artisan breads.

I’ve written a post on this before so I won’t rehash all of it again but just know that I bought all of the latest books, the special pans, the proofing bowls, the drying cloths, the special flours…I was going to do this and do it 110% to the best of my ability like any good teacher worth her salts, oh and I bought the good special salts too….

The start of school this past August marked my first complete year of retirement and
I have made all of two loaves of bread and one batch of decadent cinnamon rolls. What is wrong with this picture you ask….

They were wonderfully good–heavenly in fact–loaves, or actually rounds, of delicious bread and yeasty delicious cinnamon buns…..but they were laborious and time consuming. There’s that whole making, rising, punching, kneading, rising, kneading..on and on…. Flour was everywhere and not being as confident in baking as I am in cooking, I always fretted the loaves would never rise and I would have worked like a dog for flat hard hockey pucks…..

Plus I probably would be weighing as much as a freight train right about now if I churned out loaves as I had intended. We all know that there is nothing better than hot bread with cow cream fresh real deal butter—-yummmmmmmm!! I’ve got a post about that too—as there is, to me, nothing better than the real deal butter…..

I visited a bakery today whose job is to churn out the wonderful breads that I thought I should be making. It is their job, their life, their passion, their mission to make really good bread. And they do so very successfully as they take their breads from the sleepy little west Georgia town of Pine Mountain up to the big city of Atlanta to sell their breads at the various city markets to ravenous crowds.

My job and passion, and I suppose my bread and butter, for 31 years was kids….other people’s kids. My job and passion now is a different type of bread and butter, it is simply the components that make my life truly that, my life. I’m good knowing that I finished the one job, the job of school. Now I’m tending to the job of family and home which is equally deserving and needing of my time—I’ve learned that I don’t have to nervously find something, anything to “fill the gap” —Dad’s doing a pretty good job of that all by himself….which is all good—

So whereas it was initially my misguided angst filled need to think I needed to make real bread, it is now my joyous epiphany, what Julia so eloquently waxes poetically, that my life is now here for my dad, my stepmom, my husband, my son, my godparents, my dear friends, and even for you my blogging friend ….and that is indeed the butter to my bread……….