Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Anna Sultana’s Easy Banana Ice Cream & Frozen Bananas Treats

A few weeks ago there was a quirky little story floating around the internet.

Seems an 87-year-old woman had left a unique legacy for her grandchildren - a refrigerator full of bananas. 
To be exact: 3,400 bananas.

Poor old Mrs. Gibson had always meant to make a loaf or two of banana bread, and, well, she died regretting that she never got around to doing the deed.
Time just flew and well, she was busy with other things. It happens.
Hopefully her heirs, duly named in her will, would enjoy the fruits of her labour.


Okay… it was a joke. Just a little something to give us all a giggle.
But it reminded me of a quick little dessert Ma threw together every so often.


It really is hard to figure out how much to buy for a family of seven. 
I mean, you don’t want food to go bad, but then you don’t want run short, especially of something as healthy as fresh fruit.
Picture it… seven people reaching for a banana and there are only six in the bowl. 
It could get ugly.

So, Ma bought extra and sometimes she had the opposite problem - bananas which had turned from gold to freckled to brown. 
And they changed so quickly when it got hot in the summer!

Well, Ma wasn’t one to throw away food, so she went from plan A, serving fresh, as is, to plan B, using it as an ingredient in a recipe. Hopefully an easy quick recipe. Same as there was a limit to the fresh fruit’s life span, there was a limit to her energy and time.

Of course Ma knew that past their prime bananas were great for making banana bread and cakes: 
Her breads and cakes were terrific desserts during the winter. 
In the summer, not so much.
Summer is the time for something cold, like ice cream.
The mushy, spotty bananas had lost their je ne sais quoi for serving in a banana split.
But they were just perfect for Ma to use to make a quick ice cream.


Some market chains regularly bag a couple of pounds of over ripe bananas and sell them for a dollar.
Next time you see them grab yourself one or two to make yourself some ice cream.
It’s easy and doesn’t need an ice cream maker or other ingredients.
Unless you want to get creative… and super delicious.


Hints:

The banana chunks will keep in the freezer for at least a week.

One large banana will make about a cup of ice cream.

Some addition ideas:
A Tablespoon of peanut butter
A drizzle of honey
A half Cup of chocolate chips
Berries
Chopped almonds or pecans or walnuts or peanuts or any kind of nut
A Tablespoon of Nutella
A Tablespoon of cocoa powder
Half a teaspoon of cinnamon, cardamom, or ginger
A few drops of peppermint oil and some chocolate chips
A few drops of vanilla and a few frozen cherries (chocolate is good in this, too)
A Tablespoon or two of cocoa powder and some unsweetened coconut
A Tablespoon or two of peanut butter with a half Cup of raisins

You could make a big batch of ice cream in advance. Set out an assortment of additions and let your guests add their favourites to their own servings.


You can also make a Banana Fruit Smoothie. 
Just place a few chunks of frozen banana, along with any other fruits you’d like, in a blender. Add a spoon of honey and a cup of milk or yogurt. Blend until smooth.

The smoothie mixture could also be placed in a popsicle tray. 
Add sticks, allow to freeze a few hours, and you’ll have a frozen treat for the kiddies.


                        Banana Ice Cream

Peel the ripe bananas and cut them into 1/2 inch chunks.
Place the chunks in a plastic freezer bag or container to freeze at least two hours until solid (overnight is better).
Place about a cup of banana chunks in the blender or food processor and pulse or blend until smooth. Occasionally scrape down so that all chunks are used.
You want a smooth and creamy frozen dessert, like soft serve ice cream, so don’t over-process or you’ll melt the ice cream.
Add your favourite additions (optional - see Hints) and pulse for a few seconds.
If you’re not adding anything, blend for a few more seconds to aerate the ice cream.

You can eat the ice cream immediately, but it will be quite soft.
It can be stored in an airtight container in the freezer for a firmer dessert.


If you don’t want to mess a blender, you could make 

                        Chocolate, Nut-Covered Frozen Bananas Treats

Melt chocolate (dark, semi-sweet or milk) in a bowl over boiling water or in the microwave, stirring occasionally and scraping the sides of the bowl.

Place wax paper over a baking sheet for easier clean up.
Push a popsicle stick inside each banana.
Dip the bananas in the melted chocolate, and carefully place them on the wax paper.
Sprinkle your freshly dipped bananas with chopped peanuts, pecan, walnuts, etc. 
Your choice to have nuts or not.
Freeze for at least an hour or until frozen.


About the sky this week and next, thanks to the folks at The Farmers' Almanac…

July 20 - Look to the eastern horizon about an hour before sunrise to see Venus and the waning crescent Moon.

July 21 - The waning crescent Moon will be at perigee, its closest point to the Earth. 
An easy way to remember: Apogee has an “A” = Away, so Perigee = closest.

July 23 - New Moon at 5:46 a.m.  Take my word for it. You can’t see it.

July 24 - Almost due south at around 11 p.m. is Sagittarius, the archer. Some people see a teapot here. If you search this area with binoculars on a dark, moonless night, you’ll be rewarded with a night filled with discoveries — you can find at least 15 Messier objects, including M8 (Lagoon); M17, (Omega); M20, (Trifid).

July 28 - Look to the southwest at dusk to find the Moon, Jupiter, and Spica, the brightest start in the constellation Virgo the Maiden, forming a trio in the night sky.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Slurpees and Flapper Pie - Summer on the Prairies

Summer’s just zipping along.

Just a reminder...
Tomorrow is Free Slurpee Day here in Canada!
We Winnipeggers have a reputation to maintain as the Slurpee Capital of Canada and must do our patriotic duty.
As we all know, a brain freeze headache never killed anyone; it just helps to prepare us for our -40º C winters.
And, as we also all know, a slurpee tastes better when it’s free!


Free Slurpee Day is just a fun summer tradition, especially here on the prairies.
Another prairie tradition - great any time of year - is enjoying a slice of Flapper Pie.

Haven’t tasted Flapper Pie? Goodness… you’re in for a treat.
Flapper Pie has a graham cracker crust with a creamy custard filling, topped by a huge meringue and a sprinkling of graham cracker crumbs.
Well, some folks in Saskatchewan top the custard with whipped cream, but they still call it Flapper Pie. It's a free country, after all.
Some prairie women like to guild the lily and add a generous layer of whipped cream on top of the meringue.
As the saying goes: too much of a good thing is just... too much of a good thing!


The recipe became popular when it was on the Paulin’s Graham Wafer box in the 1950s. Paulin’s products were produced here in Winnipeg.

Flapper Pie was made regularly in the winter because homemakers didn’t always have fruit on hand for a filling but they always had eggs, milk, butter and sugar.
Flapper Pie used to be staple at Box Socials and Fall Suppers and could be found on the menus of nearly every small town prairie cafe and restaurant.

For the full experience one should have hamburgers with cooked onions followed by a generous serving of Flapper Pie.
The Salisbury House Restaurant, known for their burgers with fried onions - which they called ‘Nips’ - included it as Wafer Pie on their menus.
Hey, even the folks at Salisbury knew the best recipes come from food boxes.


Another prairie tradition is eating it warm, straight from the oven, for breakfast.
Think of it as a very, very fancy quiche.


Hints:

This pie is best made the day you serve it, but the crust can be made in advance.

The recipe on the box has the crust unbaked. It’s easier to cut this way.
If you prefer, bake the crust for 8 minutes at 350º F before adding the filling.
Let the pie cool on the counter for 3 hours, then add the meringue and bake.

Not into making custards? Some women have used boxed vanilla pudding.
They would bake the crust for 7 minutes, then let it cool completely in the refrigerator. Then they’d add the custard and meringue or whipped cream topping.

If you’d like a softer custard, instead of 1/4 Cup cornstarch use 
1 1/2 Tablespoons flour and 3 Tablespoons cornstarch.

Feeding a crowd? Use a 9 x 13 cake pan with triple the filling and meringue amounts.

If you’d like a stronger cinnamon taste you can add a bit more in the crust and also add 1/4 teaspoon (or more) to the custard.

Other variations include:
  • using brown sugar instead of white
  • using lemon pie filling (Yes, that’s basically a Lemon Meringue Pie)
  • adding chocolate to the custard
  • adding 2 Tablespoons butter to the hot custard after it’s been removed from the heat
  • adding a layer of banana (mashed or slices) underneath the custard
  • adding finely cut coconut to the crust 
  • adding coconut to the custard and sprinkling coconut on top of the meringue or whipped cream topping (This was called a Gigolo Pie)
  • not adding the meringue or whipped cream topping, but serving a slice with a dollop of whipped cream and sliced strawberries 

Do you remember a recipe that used Zwieback crumbs instead of graham cracker crumbs and was served in a deep sided pyrex casserole dish?
That was called a Cream Torte.


                        Flapper Pie

For the Crust

Melt 
1/4 Cup butter

In a medium bowl combine
1 1/4 Cups graham cracker crumbs
1/2 Cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Add the melted butter and combine well.
Setting aside about 3 tablespoons to sprinkle on top of the meringue, pour the remaining crumb mixture into a 10 inch pie plate.
Press the crumbs across the bottom and up the sides of the plate.
Refrigerate or bake 8 minutes at 350º F (see hints).


For the Filling   

In a medium bowl mix together 
1/4 Cup white sugar
1/4 Cup cornstarch
pinch of salt
Whisk in
3 egg yolks
Mix until well combined.

Combine in a medium saucepan
2 1/2 Cups milk
1/4 Cup sugar
Cook over medium heat, stirring until it just starts to simmer and sugar is dissolved.

Temper the yolks by spooning a small amount of hot milk into the yolk mixture while continuously whisking.
Continue adding a small amount of milk into the eggs until the temperature of the eggs feels about the same as the temperature of the milk. Whisk in the remaining milk. 

Pour the egg / milk mixture back into the saucepan and place it over medium heat. 
Whisk constantly until the mixture starts to thicken, then lower temperature slightly.
Continue whisking until the mixture begins to bubble. Cook for 1 1/2 minutes.

Take the saucepan off the heat and whisk until smooth. 
Whisk in 
2 teaspoons vanilla
Pour the hot custard into the cooled crust and and spread over the crust.
Allow the pie to chill in the fridge at least an hour.


For the Meringue Topping

Preheat the oven to 350º F

Place in a medium mixer bowl
3 egg whites, room temperature
Beat at medium speed until stiff peaks are formed.
Add gradually, beating constantly
1/4 cup of sugar
1/4 tsp of cream of tartar
With mixer on high speed, beat egg white / sugar mixture for 5 minutes, until the meringue forms very stiff peaks.

Pour the filling into the crust and cover with the meringue, making sure to reach the crust edges. Don’t smooth it - you want the pointy bits so that they will get extra brown when it’s in the oven.

Sprinkle the remaining crumbs over the top of the meringue and slide into the oven.
Bake until the meringue browns, about 5 minutes. Keep an eye on it - ovens vary.
Remove and serve immediately.

Slice with a sharp chef’s knife that has been dipped into hot water and dried.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Enjoy BeaverTails during Canada’s 150th Birthday / Watch the Delta Aquarids Meteor Shower

I first tried BeaverTails when we went to Ottawa for our fortieth anniversary back in 2012. 
They are a Canadian treat, a flattened piece of dough that’s fried then sprinkled with cinnamon sugar. 
That’s the classic version.

But they’ve gone very creative withe the toppings and you can enjoy yours topped with anything from chocolate or caramel sauce to fresh fruit.

We also enjoyed BeaverTails when we vacationed in Quebec City last Fall and here in Winnipeg during Festival du Voyageur last February.

BeaverTails are truly a Canadian favourite!


Angel Wing Cookies - Polish Chrusciki - is another doughnut recipe. 
They are delicate, perfect with a cup of tea, and were a great favourite at gatherings at St. Fidelis Church. When Ma saw us going for seconds - and thirds - she asked a neighbour for the recipe.

A Maltese doughnut recipe - Imqaret (Deep-fried Date Slices) - has a bit of heft to it, more like a jelly doughnut. Imqaret is fried with the filling, made from dates, already in it. There isn't any yeast in the dough.

Speaking of Jelly doughnuts, they were pretty popular when I was a kid in College Point. My German friends had plenty of jelly- or custard-filled doughnuts. They called the doughnuts bismarks, or Berliners, or long johns.
In Manitoba jelly doughnuts are called jam busters, while in Nova Scotia they are called Burlington buns.

Ah, doughnuts! who doesn’t love them!


Hints:

If you’re using a mixer you’ll need the dough hooks. 
If you don’t have the hooks, use a wooden spoon.

If you don't have a deep-frying thermometer, test the oil by slipping a bit of the dough into the oil.  It should sizzle and float to the surface in 1 minute.
You don’t want the oil too hot. If you see it smoking, take the pot off the heat to cool the oil before frying.

If you don’t want to deep fry, you can cook as you would pancakes, in a lightly greased pan. They will be a bit different, with a bumpy surface and unevenly brown colour, but you can add toppings to hide that.

If you want a bit of variety, you can also top with lemon and sugar, Nutella, maple syrup, melted chocolate, caramel sauce, toasted nuts, or jams or anything else that strikes your fancy.


                        BeaverTails

Makes 8 doughnuts

In a large mixer bowl place
1/4 cup warm water
1/2 Cup warm milk
1 teaspoon sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
Let stand about 10 minutes, until the mixture is foamy.

While the mixture is standing, melt
2 Tablespoons butter

Add
the melted butter
2 Tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 large egg
Beat at medium speed until just mixed.

Add
1 Cup flour
Mix the flour in - you’ll need the dough hook at this point.
Mix until the dough comes together and no longer sticks to the sides of the bowl.
Knead for about 6 minutes in the mixer
Turn out and knead the dough by hand for 10 minutes.
Use extra flour if the dough is sticky. You want it to be smooth, but not dry.

Lightly oil a bowl, then place the dough in it and cover with a damp towel.
Let the dough rest in a warm place for 1 hour, until doubled in size

Punch down the dough and it place on a lightly floured flat surface.
Cut the dough into eight equal sized pieces.

Using a rolling pin, roll out each piece of dough into an oval shape, about 1/4 inch thick.
Place the oval on a lightly floured baking sheet.
Repeat with remaining dough pieces.
Cover with a tea towel, until all the pieces have been rolled.
Keep the rolled out dough covered and leave to rise for 30 minutes or until doubled in size.

While the ovals are rising, make the Cinnamon Sugar Topping
Place in a medium bowl
1 Cup sugar
1 Tablespoon cinnamon
Mix well.

In a deep saucepan or deep fryer pour
2 inches vegetable oil
Heat to 350º F on a deep-fry thermometer or test with dough (see above).
Carefully slide 1 to 3 doughnuts into the hot oil.
You don’t want to crowd them and you want to be able to remove them as soon as they are done.

Fry on each side for 1 to 2 minutes, until each side is a light golden brown.
Remove the doughnut with a slotted spoon or a pair of tongs and drain on paper towels.
Dunk them in the cinnamon sugar topping and toss to coat (or see above)
Just before serving, sprinkle them with lemon juice (optional)
Best when fresh and warm.


About the sky this week and next, thanks to the folks at The Farmers' Almanac…

July 5 - Tonight, look to the south in the evening to spot star Antares and Saturn. You’ll be able to see them even though the Moon is nearly full. Antares is a star, so it will twinkle with a reddish hue, while Saturn, a planet, will glow with a steady golden light.

July 6 - The waxing gibbous Moon is at apogee, its farthest point from Earth in its orbit. An easy way to remember: Apogee has an “A” = Away.

July 7 - Look to the south right after sunset to see the waxing gibbous Moon, the planet Saturn and the Antares. They will be remain visible until well past midnight.

July 9 - Full Buck Moon at 12:07 a.m. The visible Moon is fully illuminated by direct sunlight. Learn how this Moon got its names.

July 12 to mid-August - Delta Aquarids meteor shower. On July 28-29 it peaks. Best viewing is looking to the south, after midnight until 3 a.m. This is a good year to view them at their peak as there won’t be any glare of the Moon! There’s a possibility of 10-15 meteors per hour. These showers cross paths with August’s Perseids.