Cooking with Braddy: Banana Pancakes (with a Side of Scrambled Eggs)

Typically, I don’t share the recipes I make, choosing instead to link to the recipe or to the cookbook on Amazon. I like people to rewarded for their creative endeavors, even if those endeavors are simply compiling a collection of recipes. That said, the source of the pancake recipe is a book I got through work for healthy meals and is not commercially available, so here we go:

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 medium ripe banana, mashed
  • 1 cup low or nonfat milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp. oil
  • 1 tsp. vanilla

Typical assembly instructions apply: combine the dry ingredients in one bowl, the wet in another (bananas are wet, in this case). Mix the wet into the dry, cook on a griddle or in a hot skillet. These don’t make the sweetest, fluffiest pancakes, but a serving of 2 cakes contains about 20% of your daily recommended allowance of fiber, so your guts will likely thank you!

The eggs are even easier to make:

  • 2 large eggs
  • Too much butter
  • Some cheese
  • Veggies, maybe. Like, I dunno, peppers?
  • Are mushrooms veggies? Probably?
  • Shoot, I’m out of ham

Try to make an omelet. Fail. Have scrambled eggs instead.

Braddy Reads/Cooking with Braddy: Dry Curry from Sweetness and Lightning

So stick with me. This one get weird. There’s this Japanese comic out there about a high school girl who has a crush on her teacher…

Wait! Come back! Let me try again.

One of my favorite genres of fiction is the “lonely single guy has to take care of a charming young girl” genre. Yes, there are enough of these stories (particularly in manga/anime) that I feel pretty secure in calling it a genre.

Another thing I really like? Cooking.

So imagine that there’s a comic book that combines the carnal pleasure of eating with the emotional manipulation of watching a reclusive, broken young man learning how to love again thanks to the precocious antics of his young ward. That’s Sweetness and Lightningin a nutshell. And it’s really wonderful.

Sweetness and Lightning is the story of Kohei Inazuka, a young schoolteacher still reeling from the loss of hi wife just a short time ago. He now finds himself raising his young daughter, Tsumugi, all by himself. And neither of them, it seems, have really dealt with their grief from losing a loved one. However, a chance encounter with a student from Kohei’s class leads to the two of them learning to reconnect, as well as really deal with life’s myriad challenges, by making some of the dishes their wife and mother had made for them before she dies.

…Okay, yes, there is this ongoing subplot about Kotori Iida, the teenager who maybe has a crush on Kohei? It’s a bit awkward, and it totally smacks of unhealthy wish-fulfillment fantasy. But she’s not simply some manic dream waifu. She’s a pretty well-realized character in her own right, who uses her cooking sessions with Kohei to feel closer to her own mother, an accomplished chef who taught Kotori how to cook before more or less disappearing completely from her life.

The central theme of Sweetness and Lightning is on family, and how important it is to break bread with those we love. Good food and good company don’t simply have to be hedonistic rooms or momentary distractions. The bonds we forge over a bowl of soup or a plate of homemade donuts can actually make us more emotionally resilient after we leave the dining room. It reminds me of something I swear I heard Alton Brown say in a podcast or something once about how the most important bit of kitchen hardware for a young family to buy is a kitchen table… but I couldn’t actually find that quote. So you get this one instead:

“You know we fixate on the food so much itself: “Oh, the ultimate brownie or the ultimate this or that” — well, let me tell you something: It’s all poop in about 12 hours, okay? The real power that food has is its ability to connect human beings to each other — that’s the stuff right there and, to me, everything else is secondary to that.”

Of course, we still want our food to taste good. One of the neat tricks Sweetness and Lightning pulls is that it ends each chapter with the recipe for whatever dish Kohei attempted during that part of the story. And so, it was with a great deal of excitement and only a little trepidation that I decided to attempt one of the recipes from this Japanese comic book.

I’m basically trying to be the Binging with Babish of weaboos, I guess.

So I made a few judgment calls. I chose to replace the boullion with vegetable stock in an attempt to control the sodium. I replaced the Japanese eggplants with a single conventional American (?) eggplant, although I suspect two eggplants might have been a better choice. Lastly, I replaced the brown rice in the picture below with burned rice that I threw away, because I’ve been cooking for how long and I STILL can’t cook rice without burning it?!

Frankly, the veggies themselves were so colorful and tasty-looking that I could have probably just added some salt and pepper and walk away with a pretty satisfying meal:

But I persevered. I added everything to the pot that the recipe called for. The recipe took a few curious turns. The addition of grated apple reminded me of a pie filling recipe I made with my mom once, where the drained flesh of an apple was added to a berry mixture as a sort of naturally-occurring pectin meant to help the filling set up. I suspected that the apple here served a similar purpose, but I didn’t notice the sauce getting especially thick.

Meanwhile, the raisins actually somewhat reconstituted in the liquid. Nearly whole grapes seemed like a curious addition to a savory dish like this, but they were sweet and delightful and absolutely worthy of inclusion. I wound up saving the raisins for last, because they were just so good.

So, yeah, this recipe turned out really well. One of the best things I’ve made in recent memory. Who knew one could get such good culinary advice from the back of a Japanese comic book?

…REALLY could have used some rice, though.

Chewy Ginger(less) Snaps


So, yeah, you might remember that I’ve said before that, as much as I like cooking, I tend to have trouble with baked goods.  Anything even slightly more complicated than basic white bread usually doesn’t work out.  Still, when you need something to make on a Sunday afternoon, you don’t want to go to the store, and you have some molasses and ginger to use up, you do what you gotta do.

And I gotta say:  These actually turned out okay.  I haven’t really tried to make cookies much.  There’s not much to them.  Throw the wet stuff in one bowl, the dry stuff in another, mix ’em together, and then put them in the oven just long enough to make them a bit nervous.  Not bad.

In fact, these turned out so well that I bragged to my mother about making them the next day.

“Really?” she said.  “Did you use fresh ginger or powdered?”

I opened my mouth to respond.  Then I thought about the bottle of ginger powder sitting on my kitchen counter.  Unopened.

Okay, yeah, I forgot the ginger in my ginger snaps.  But you know what?  I remade them a few days later WITH the ginger, and I could barely taste the difference.  Maybe a recipe that lets the molasses overpower the ginger is the best recipe, but I’d eat these chewy molasses cookies again any day.

The Noodles that Changed My Life


I haven’t always been the paragon of taste and sophistication that I am today.  As a child, I detested any sort of foodstuff that couldn’t be purchased on a stick at a baseball game, and all of my parents’ attempts to broaden my horizons were met with indifferent shrugs followed by demands for pudding.  Even after I began to allow my palate to develop (by which I mean “I stopped picking the onions out of everything”) I still resisted any attempt to convert me to one cuisine in particular: Chinese food.  All the slimy, greasy noodles and mystery meats mixed with alien veggies and wrapped in bland pastry wraps caused me to reflexively hurl my plate out the window like it had spontaneously caught on fire.

Ah, how backward the me of 2013 was.

During that summer, my father brought his truck around to help me pack up and move stuff from a rat-hole apartment to a much nicer though significantly cozier one.  As we talked in front of the building, I noticed that he had a carton of leftover restaurant food sitting on the front seat.

“Wht’s that from?” I asked.

“It’s some leftover Singapore noodles from this great new Chinese restaurant your mother and I tried.”

“Ugh, no thank you,” I sneered.

Of course, my father always knew what was best for me, so he shoved the styrofoam box in my hand, marched me up to the microwave, and told me to scarf the noodles down like they were cheeky gummy bears that had just insulted my pants.  I looked at the pile of alleged “food” in front of me and shuddered.  Between the curiously yellow noodles were all sorts of foreign objects I generally don’t allow past my gums:  green onions, bits of scrambled egg, shrimp…

Actually, I quite like shrimp, other than the fact that shrimp can be kind of a bully that forcibly enrolls me in the “Twenty-Yard Toilet Dash” event from time to time.

Anyway, since the alternative was proving to my dad I actually am every bit the disappointment he pretends I’m not, I decided to slip a slip a big salty spork-full into my mouth, and the moment I did it was like a choir of angels suddenly appeared and tangoed on my tongue.  The flavor was incredible – all those spices commingling made me want to hug the world with my lips.  Suddenly, I realized that just because I ddin’t like a particular ingredient on its own didn’t mean I couldn’t find a place for it in some other dish.

So, yeah, the Singapore noodle – the recipe so undeniably delicious that I finally gave Chinese food a shot.  I’ve even tried to recreate the experience, using a recipe that my parents found on America’s Test Kitchen, but it’s not quite the same.  Also, making the noodles at home dirtied every dish and level surface in my entire house, which is why the hpoto above is me holding the plate in wone hand while I’m balancing the iPad against my upper arm in the other.  Now that I’ve finally conquered my prejudice against Chinese food, there’s just one major culinary obstacle standing between me and true enlightenment.

Who wants to treat me to sushi?

Flavored Oil Flavored Ice Cream

  
So I walk into the Mountain Town Olive Oil Company (which is totally a thing) and… well, I don’t know what I was expecting, but it sure is a shop full of different kinds of olive oil.

“Let me show you our best sellers,” the clerk said, and she led me over to a row of vats, all full of olive oil. “Why don’t you try some?”

“What, you mean, like, drink it?”

In response, she motioned to a stack of tiny paper cups.

So, yeah, I spent the next ten minutes drinking a bunch of different kinds of olive oil. Blood orange. Tropical lime. And when I got sick of the oils, I chased it down with a few tiny cups of balsamic vinegar.

I settled on the lemon-flavored olive oil. “Do you think this would make good ice cream?” I asked.

I’m reasonably certain nobody had ever asked her that question before.

Well, guess what? It makes DELICIOUS ice cream. Next time, I’m grabbing the blood orange.

Ah, Brownies… My Old Nemeses


A few years ago, I attempted to make brownies.  Not just plain chocolate brownies, though.  I’d found a recipe for Cinnamon Clove Brownies in a fancy little cookbook.  I set out to make them, and the experience was… an unmitigated disaster.

The directions say “bake until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean.”

So I did… and, about an hour later, I had dry, inedible cocoa powder bars.

Bleagh.

So, years have passed, and I’d like to think that I’ve gotten better at baking.  So I whipped up another batch, incorporating the exact right amount of fancy demerara sugar, blending everything in my high-tech food processor… and I wound up with undercooked, butter-fattened sludge.

Back in high school, chemistry was one of my best subjects, until you put me in front of a Bunsen burner.  On paper, chemistry makes a ton of sense to me, but in practice, it completely baffles me.  And baking… yeah, that’s a lot like chemistry.

Chocolate is delicious.  Cinnamon and cloves are delicious.  Butter is delicious.  Put them together, and you should get… I dunno.  Deliciousness cubed.

Curse you, brownies.  You made me believe that you would be tasty, and then you went and broke my heart.  I don’t know that I can forgive you for that.

The Eight-Hour Lasagna

 

You know what I love?  Making food.

What I could do with a little less of?  Making ingredients.

For example, one of my favorite things to make are cake pops.  I’m not a big fan of cake by itself, though, so rather than taking a long time to perfect a cake recipe to turn into cake pops, I just use cake mix.  It’s quick, simple, and the end result is still pretty tasty.

I culled this recipe from a cookbook collecting dishes from that one Bobby Flay show (not Flay’s recipe, bee tee dubs). The thing that attracted me to the recipe was the first step – making your own meatballs.  The only pasta sauce I’ve ever made comes from canned tomato paste with a few spices thrown in.  The idea of actually making my own seasoned meatballs really appealed to me.

…but then I just had to crumble the balls up so that they’d fit between the layers of lasagna noodles.

Hey, don’t get me wrong – this is real good lasagna.  It just, you know, takes for-bleedin’-ever.  Next time, I’mma just make spaghetti and meatballs.

Vegan Chocolate Ice Cream

 

One of my goals for 2016, which I hope will ward off the ever-encroaching fear of my own uselessness as time continues its relentless march to that end we all deny but must inevitably face, is to cook more.

Because what better way is there to avoid thinking of our own mortality than blatant hedonism?

Seriously, though, the idea is to use a bit of money from every paycheck to buy the ingredients to make a new dish, so that by the end of the year I should have a whole new repertoire of recipes under my belt. That’s cool, right?

So I’ve actually started a little early. I’ve been invited to a vegan dinner this week, and I was tasked with bringing the dessert. I broke out my ice cream maker, purchased a variety of non-vegan milks, and whipped up the above concoction, misleadingly titled “Vegan Ice Cream.”

Fun fact: it’s not actually ice cream.  The texture’s not quite right, and it doesn’t have the same fatty coating that makes ice cream so tasty.  It IS delicious, though. 

One big question I had going in was, without all of that delicious milk fat to whip up, how would vegan ice cream be able to successfully replicate the creamy texture dairy ice cream has? Now, I’m no food scientist, but I think the heaping wad of coconut oil contributes. I’d never used coconut oil before: it’s got the consistency of Crisco, but it’s allegedly much healthier.

Raw cashews were the most intriguing ingredient in this concoction. I soaked them for three hours, drained them, and then threw them into the blender with the the rest of the ingredients. They added a bit of a grittier texture  the finished product, and I think they lent some body to the (for the lack of a better word) custard that went into the freezer.

So, yeah, vegan ice cream was a delicious treat. Surprisingly easy to make: throw all the stuff in the blender and then freeze. It may not have all the delicious dairy fat that traditional ice cream has, but for those being a bit more health conscious, it’s worth the effort.

It’s just, you know, not really ice cream.

—*****—

Now, recipes, especially those contained in cookbooks, strike me as being a form of intellectual property, so I tend not to share them online. This particular recipe, however, was given to me by a friend, and all measurements were approximated from her mother’s experimentation, so I feel okay sharing it:

  • One cup raw cashews, soaked for three hours in water and drained
  • One 13.5 ounce can coconut milk
  • Two cups almond milk
  • One ripe banana
  • One-half cup coconut oil
  • One-quarter cup cocoa powder
  • One-half cup brown sugar
  • One teaspoon vanilla
  • One-half cup peanut butter (optional)

Blend all ingredients until smooth, then freeze per your ice cream maker’s instructions.