just make mine vanilla

Love ice cream.
I let myself have that about once a week.
Vanilla.

Tim Tebow


(three old shots from back in 2013 when I was first making my vanilia extract–the longer it sits,
the better it gets…just add a new bean or two over time and top off with the sprit of choice)

I like to cook.
This much we know to be true.

I use to post a good bit about my cooking exploits but over time I’ve obviously shifted my
focus and attention to issues I find more pressing…
issues like those concerning Christianity
and the practicing of our faith in a post-modern, post-Christian era.

However, I will still raise the battle cry over other issues I think pertinent to this good fight
we call life…

Take today for instance…(or yesterday if you’re reading this on Saturday)

I ran to the grocery store to pick up a few items.
I needed some cat food and Grapeseed oil so while I was over in the cooking oil aisle,
I decided I needed to check out the spices.
I needed to peruse the spice area as there seemed to be a mental list somewhere nagging
in my brain, begging me to remember something from this particular section that I needed…

I grabbed some Adobo chili powder.
I’ve never used it before but I’d seen a recipe for slow-simmered chicken…a recipe for chicken tacos…remember, I’m trying to reduce the iron content while looking for foods that will avert the absorption—spicey things supposedly help.

While still perusing, my eyes stopped on a bottle of Vanilla beans.

Ahhh, the mental alarm clock sounded.

Yep, I needed some more beans as I’d used the last two I had in the recently poached pear recipe.
(also a tasty recipe I once posted)

I grabbed the bottle.
There were two measly beans in the bottle.
Vanilla beans are a precious commodity.
But why companies are so chintzy I’ve never figured it out.

I looked at the price—they are usually costly as I’ve paid almost 10 bucks a bottle before,
but I was wondering just how high they might be now.
I do prefer ordering my beans in bulk as it’s cheaper but I needed to have at least two on hand.
One never knows when an unctuous creme brulee is calling…

What to my wandering eyes did appear but a 2 and a 5 joined together…as in
25 dollars for the bottle!!!!!!

WHAT?????

Is this a misprint??? my panicky brain wonders.
I march myself, with the bottle in hand, over to a gal at a register.
“Is this price correct” I practically screamed at the unsuspecting cashier.
She scanned the bottle.
“Oh my gosh” she practically screams back.
“25 dollars for Vanilia beans???? she nervously screams again.

“That’s what I thought” I reply almost exhausted from our heightened sense of distraughment.

I use vanilla beans a lot.

I’ve actually made my own vanilla and bourbon vanilla extracts, a recipe in which
I’ve shared in prior posts from back in 2013.
A homemade vanilla extract is the best of the best!! And it lasts forever.

Making the extract required my having to buy a bunch of beans…
beans I had actually ordered from Amazon–
I used Tahitian and Madagascar beans as each offers a different floral warm scent and taste.

Once home from the store, I decided to go check out the Amazon site,
just to see what they were currently selling my bulk bag of beans for as I was going to order
a new batch just to store for when I needed them—

Immediately I see that 5 beans, just 5 little beans, were going for a whopping 27 bucks.
Which did, however, beat the grocery store’s two beans for 25 bucks.
My regular ordered batch of shrink-wrapped beans was going for…
sit down before I tell you…
1/4 of a pound of beans at $115.00 while a full pound of beans listed for $400!!!!!!!!

For a batch of homemade vanilla extract, you need a good 15 to 20 beans…
of which maturate in a bottle that is large enough to contain them with enough vodka or
bourbon poured over to cover…as they are left to steep until a deep rich brown color
appears and the heady spicy aroma of delicious warmth wafts from the uncorked bottle.

WHAT IN THE WORLD IS GOING ON????? I practically wail.

I immediately race to the trusty all-knowing Google to type in ‘vanilla bean prices’
and sure enough, I found many articles and news stories regarding the exponentially
skyrocketing prices

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/vanilla-bean-shortage-madagascar-drives-up-us-prices/

A precarious commodity that is a fragile commodity.
A product that is prone to drought, fickled growing seasons, poaching, farmers who don’t
allow the pods to fully mature in a race to get the pods to a demanding market and finally
it is simply a matter of time…for it takes three long years for a plant to produce a pod.

According to Wikipedia, vanilla is the second most expensive spice coming in right
behind saffron.
And gathering a ready pod is extremely labor intensive because these pods of
this particular species of the orchid family are each hand pollinated…pod per pod.

Vanilla, just plain old vanilla.

Consider its humble base taste…it is often the brunt of those who refer to things as
just being average..as in vanilla, as in plain jane, as in generic, as in nothing special,
as in the bottom of the list.

Yet vanilla is a great building base—a needed and important humble building block.
Imagine Chocolate chip cookies without that added splash of vanilla.
Think vanilla bean ice-cream, sour cream pound cake, pannacotta, rice pudding,
milkshakes, protein shakes, puddings, eclairs, cookies, candy, yogurt, chewing gum,
cosmetics, perfumes, aromatherapies…the list is nearly endless….
all without their needed vanilla.

There are four main types of vanilla beans used in our consumption: Tahitian, Indonesian,
Mexican and Madagascar

http://www.foodandwine.com/blogs/4-kinds-vanilla-beans-know

There are however those purists out there who do indeed favor the unadulterated flavor
of that simple, smokey, sweet, floral flavor of just plain old fashioned vanilla.
No swirls of caramel, no colorful sprinkles, not bits of cookie or peppermint or toffee,
or chocolate syrup or diced fruit…just simple, plain old vanilla.

So I suppose I might just have a little problem…a little expensive problem…
As we might all just have a largely flavorless problem…

Here’s to hoping the current growing crop thrives…
hopefully in time for this summer’s long-awaited and even yearned for home-churned ice cream…
because it just won’t be summer without a bowl of fresh homemade vanilla ice cream!!!

There is gold and abundance of costly stones, but the lips of knowledge are
a precious jewel.

Proverbs 20:15

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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