Recipe Thursday: Obsessed with Bananas

It may be because I can’t really get bananas right now, and when I do, I specifically get organic because the certification helps assess the Cavendish banana tree health and plantation soil health, which is in detrimental decline (the Cavendish being the kind that Americans typically eat, though there are many other worldwide kinds, and even cultivars of Cavendish – but undergoing some sort of fungal pathogen blight, and I get organic because other bananas aren’t sprayed but are wrapped in chemical bags to deter friends and artificially ripen – anything we do to lessen monocropping/monoculture of our food and soil, the better). Our friend apparently has a banana tree growing in his yard here in Maine which excites me greatly! I wish that banana tree very much luck and growth and future bananas! It is an amazing rhizomatic plant that grows essentially as layers of leaves with a shooting flower stalk that could (unlikely here in Maine unless inside, in a greenhouse) bloom and then fruit into a little bunch of bananas that look (to many of our ignorant eyes) upside down!

Bananas are a tricky bit for me, though. I am particular about its stage of texture – I prefer just ripe (still firm with bright flavor) but I can deal with them ripe (mostly because I feel they are good for me so I just get them into my body). Eventually, one escapes the morning routine and gets past its prime. You can freeze them (cut into thick rounds, freeze on tray before bagging up – use later for banana bread or desserts or smoothies), and even if they are dark – their flavor and nutritional content are the same, they have just reacted to the air (not as attractive but still usable!).

We used to go on dates (obviously before parenting – ha! Parents who still get to go on dates are blessed, you have no idea how blessed you are…) just for dessert. Way back when in our Burlington days, we would go out to find the best desserts in town (and it was such a good food town, yet still up and coming…). One of them that we remember fondly was a Mexican restaurant on lower Church St (Cactus Cafe, I think) with Talavera tiles and delicious food. And this dessert pleased us so much, we started making a version of it at home.

This other recipe I’m throwing in because I keep coming across it (from ‘fit foodie’), and I want to make it – I’m having banana cravings. And if we do lose the Cavendish, I think these recipes will do just fine with other bananas. Here’s to cravings!

Bananas (mmm) rollson
Serves 4

  • 4 ripe to really ripe Bananas, peeled and cut in half lengthwise
  • 1 can whole Coconut Milk (shake well or open and stir vigorously, working the cream back into the milk before using)
  • 2 tsp ground Ginger
  • 3 Tbsp Dark Brown Sugar (or 2 Tbsp Cane Sugar and 1 Tbsp Molasses
  • 1 ‘brick’ Graham Crackers (a full stack of grahams, or to taste)
  • Vanilla Ice Cream/Frozen Yogurt/Frozen Coconut Milk, etc.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place Bananas in small casserole and cover with Coconut Milk, sprinkle with Ginger and Brown Sugar. Bake until bubbly and thick (about 20-25min). Serve over Graham Crackers and/or Vanilla Ice Cream.

Peanut Butter/ Chocolate Chip/Banana Nice Cream
Serves 6ish

  • 4 cups of frozen Banana slices (lay on parchment covered tray and place in freezer, then bag if left over or for later)
  • 1/4 all natural Peanut Butter (or Sunflower, Almond, Cashew, etc)
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup unsweetened Almond Milk (or other happy creamy product, Oat, Soy, Dairy, Nut, etc)
  • 1/3 cup mini Chocolate (or Carob) Chips, optional

Place frozen banana slices, peanut butter, and 1/2 cup almond milk into a food processor or high-speed blender. Blend on high until a smooth consistency has formed. If things are too thick, add a little bit more almond milk.

Add in mini chocolate chips and pulse to combine.

Option to eat immediately for a “soft-serve-like” consistency or to transfer into a parchment-lined bread pan to freeze for a more “ice cream-like” consistency. Freeze for about 2 hours. If you freeze for longer, it will become solid and hard to scoop, so you will need to thaw!

Serve with more chocolate chips and a drizzle of peanut butter and honey, if feeling decadent.

Duendesday from Duende

{life with a curious and crazy 10 yr old}



Tuesday – What’s Happening?

Hmmm, what happened to the rest of the days since last Thursday? Not sure – my blog for last Thursday’s recipe *poof* disappeared into the ether…and well, the other days are just touch and go. Sometime the stories and inspirations have to come from other places. But here we are – Tuesday again.

As it inches closer to the Equinox, I am dreaming of wood land flora/fauna cookie making. Nothing says celebration like baking, apparently – ha! I also dream of a family nature loom, something cooked in the fire, harvesting something lovely (like the grapes or even medicinal flowers for tea – or a foraging trip in the woods – yessss!), and pressing apples. The celebration day falls early in the week this year so it is likely I can milk the entire weekend before as part and parcel. I love a long celebration! Any big plans?

Normally we would head to the Common Ground Fair – it’s a nice way to kick off the season. We have favorite bits like the animal barns – who doesn’t love to see the fancy chickens, pet the bunny, watch the angora fur lady make yarn, watch goat milking or the center shows (Duende loves the herding demonstrations). We catch the Shave Ice booth on the way to cardboard hill, stop by the kid’s area to get some facepaint, somewhere in there we’ve picked up our cover crop from the Fedco tent, walked through the apple trees, checked out all the spinning wheels, and wish we could go to the herb or iron works or forestry workshops (but what would we do with our wonderful child? we’ve yet to go to any of the seminars during the fair). Eventually we settle on some lunch (if we can afford it, I also bring snacks), find the Revolution tent so I can peruse the Nearing books, pass the Taproot tent wistfully wishing I could afford another subscription, and out the same way we came in (which is technically the wrong gate for homeskoolers but we do it anyway, it’s not as crazy and they don’t seem to mind) but we wait to enjoy this section until it’s time to leave – the used book tent/the Chelsea Green tent, the smokey bourbon maple syrup, and a couple of actual farm market booths where I see how much change I have left to get as many lovely delicious vegetables to make dinner with for a full Common Ground Fair celebration meal. Last year we were up there just a couple of weeks later for the Apple Fair and Josh caught a couple of seminars then. If this were a normal year, it is likely we would do that again, but perhaps next year.

What is actually happening now around here? Marvelous things are still growing – white pumpkins, spaghetti squash, the beans are drying on the vine and plant (soon to be brought in and shelled), the corn bed is being prepared for the garlic to go in soon, and a makeshift greenhouse is being made out of the (now empty – thank you beautiful Ginger Broilers, you were lovely) chicken tractor to extend the heirloom tomatoes and plant some kale. 3 more rows of potatoes are set to dig up in another week, and the fruit plants will be mulched for the Fall/Winter. First frost is coming up soon (I think it is technically next week, seems probable), it will be light but is a good reminder to get things rolling. The fruit trees will be mulched and caged, and many herbs will be cut and dried.

And there will be some ordering changes for our wonderful regular customers – new order forms, and weekly products, as well as some surprises and monthly goodies. We’re excited about the changes as they help to streamline but highlight some of our favorite things to make.

Happy Almost Fall!

Duendesday Wednesday

{life with a curious and crazy 10 yr old}

She’s a maker, a doer, a shaker, a dancer, a marvelous wood sprite with magickal powers to amuse and amaze! She’s been hard at work playing lately – making all manner of craziness and discovery. She’s been playing badminton and board games, drawing on her outdoor chalkboard, shooting stick arrows from her wooden bow, invoking rituals all over the property (and making corn dolls, I think these things go together even if she doesn’t see the connection yet), riding her bike over hill and dale, and reading Roald Dahl (The Twits), and Dog Man

…and we finally got her a betta – it wasn’t the goal of the big fancy birthday fish tank to get a betta but all the other fish so far have died and they are pretty tough. So we will use the betta to get the bacterial strength of the tank up to speed before we consider other fish (not with the betta – he would then move to his bowl) – Duende is very excited, she named the fish ‘Raya’ (after the last betta Ray, and because of both of their ‘rays of color’).

And Duende has been on chicken-duty a lot lately – we lost one gal to (likely and immature) hawk, so D has been making a good presence up by the coop. Since they don’t have a rooster, they need a little more direction and care until they figure it out. And we are trying to introduce a new girl to the flock (she came with the meatbirds but is so lovely and sweet, and smaller) but that is proving to be a trial. She has til the end of the week to figure it out! D is a big help with that process. She’s been a good help in the garden this Summer, too. She harvests calendula every other day for me, and helped to dig up potatoes. And inside she’s more of an official ‘taste tester’ of new recipes (like Josh’s new Blackberry Hand Pies, and Parmesan bread, and all kinds of pickles).

I think today we’ll make some ice cream and she’s got an Atlas crate on Indonesia and a Tinker Crate on Stereoscopy waiting for her…Happy Duendesday!

Rock Bottom Happenings

Not much changes in a mere week around here – snail changes. The blackberries might have one more dedicated pick in them, juniper berries are ripening (we found a cute little patch in the back), our apples are few this year but tell us it is time to go ‘country apple picking’ (finding random apple trees with the back of the pick up and a tarp that need a good shake), the potatoes are being dug up little by little (3 more rows to go!), the late tomatoes are still growing, as well as the Summer squash, the Marfax/Kenearly/Black beans are drying, the garlic is curing, the calendula and sunflowers are still blooming, and the chicken harvest is Friday. Meanwhile, I’m drying herbs and flowers for Winter teas, Josh is canning pickles of every shape/size/color and making jams, and we’re eating late Summer corn around here like it’s going out of style!

I hear the Monarch’s are making more of a show in other places so that is good, but here they are far and few between – we normally have a good milkweed patch and we nurse a few caterpillars indoors, but this year, though I saw a few in the beginning of the season, I haven’t seen anyone since. The milkweed never really came up in its patch (though there seems to be more random milkweed this year) so I will try and reseed for next. Our hummingbird family came – they like to live in the Willow tree and eat from the copious red bee balm in the front drive. We’ve had a lot of leopard frog visitors and garden snakes, and voles (that the dog likes to hunt; he sounds like a truffle pig but looking for voles). We lost one poor beautiful chicken to a bird of prey (likely an immature hawk) which was sad, but the other gals seem to be doing just fine – they are a fine flock who will hopefully be laying some eggs soon.

Right now I’m dreaming of a built-in hillside root cellar and the outdoor bread oven, growing a big patch of breadseed poppies and hyssop. Until then, enjoy the rest of the Summer.

Monday’s Musing

This is what you shall do: Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body.

~ Walt Whitman

Recipe Thursday: Moroccan Chicken with Preserved Lemons and Olives

This week’s recipe is by request. I like to have a variety of types of dishes in this blog so I had been putting this one off until we got a little more going on but not only did we make this just the other day but then, like I said, it was requested. I promise next week for something sweet. We don’t eat a lot of sweet bits around here but when we do, we have some favorites – should it be peanut butter based? Pie oriented? GF? What are your sweet needs?

Back to this dish – there are many variations, mine is long adapted from the marvelous Paula Wolfert – I’ve been making this for years and trying it out on unsuspecting dinner guests (it’s how we know if you’re our kind of people- ha!). Preserved lemons are key – don’t let anyone tell you that you can substitute – there is no substitute, and they take a month to set/preserve so either plan in advance, or buy them from me (Whole Foods has been known to carry them, too, but honestly – they are not as good as mine. I think they use Meyers lemons or something firmer/a little bitter, but they are good in a pinch), you can ‘almost’ quick preserve lemons (boil lemon rinds in salted water until essentially all water boils away, rinse, then use – or boil in salted water and let sit 3 hours in the hot water) but again, not as good as the real thing. They really impart a rich and addictive flavor.

And some people use rosy brown Nicoise olives, some Kalamata, but we prefer the flavor (with the preserved lemons) of green – something like Cerignola or Picholine – what you want are green cracked olives, which sometimes you can get true Manzanilla or some other fun underripe firm olive (Cracked means with the pit, and whacked with a heavy blade knife – we like the communal aspect of this dish and picking through olive pits and chicken bones is par for the course, however, in a pinch – pitted are fine, right now I can only get mine through Thrive so pitted are our option).

Other than that, there aren’t many ingredients – onions/cilantro/parsley/garlic/chicken/olives/preserved lemons and spices…it’s just all about the breaking down of the onions and the braising of the chickens (all at once, in a big magickal pot of deliciousness). The whole dish takes about an hour and a half (or so), and is best served over Rice or Sardinian (Fregola, Israeli, Pearl, etc) Couscous or Orzo, or even just a crusty (but not fussy) Bread (like a French Soft Loaf). This is a very streamlined version (the original marinating the chicken overnight, thickening the sauce with mashed livers, boiling the olives, and adding in the onions at stages) – which is pretty fantastic in a cast iron Dutch oven in a campfire, on the stovetop, or in the oven. I admit I am more heavy handed with the spices in this dish – if you like it rich, heavy hand them yourself (I double the amounts).

As I mentioned above (and as with most Moroccan dishes) this meal is meant to be served communally. I have a lovely Safi platter that works great – layer the couscous (or what have you, if using) on the bottom, ladle a little gravy/olives/lemons, then the chicken – whole or torn apart a bit, then ladled with more gravy/olives/lemons – served with lemon wedges around the edge. Everyone chooses their ‘corner’ and stays in their ‘area’ (you get adept at undermining areas so that choice chicken or olives fall into your ‘area’ – ha!). If using olives with pits and chickens with bones, provide a ‘bone bowl’ for discards.

Moroccan Chicken with Preserved Lemons & Olives

Serves 4

  • 1 whole Chicken (3-5lbs, depending on how many people, this recipe is easily doubled/tripled, etc, can also easily be made with boneless chicken though I would definitely then use the livers and a bit more olive oil, and reduce all cooking times by 10 minutes at least) [additional chicken livers if desired, 2 for every chicken]
  • 4 whole cloves of Garlic (halved into fat chunks if necessary)
  • 1 tsp ground Ginger
  • 1 tsp ground Paprika
  • 1/2 tsp ground Cumin
  • 1/4 tsp ground Black Pepper
  • Sea Salt to taste
  • 1/4 tsp crushed Saffron
  • 3 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 2 1/2 cups Yellow or Vidalia Onion (2 cups chopped small, 1/2 cup grated)
  • 1/2 cup mixed chopped Parsley & Cilantro (I have made this with just 1/2cup Parsley when Cilantro has not been available and it was delicious)
  • 1 1/2 cups Green Cracked Olives (see description on olives above), rinsed in hot water a few times, set aside
  • 2 Preserved Lemons (you will want the equivalent of the skins of 2 lemons – rinse and scrape out the pulp and the veiny strands leaving the rind/meat of the rind), cut into long strips and set aside
  • 2 Fresh Lemons (or 2 Tbsp Lemon Juice)
  • Pearl Couscous, Rice (White or Brown), Orzo, or French Bread to Serve

In a Large heavy bottom pot (Dutch oven or Roaster), stir chopped Onions, Garlic, Herbs, Spices and 2 Tbsp Olive Oil together [and chicken livers, if desired]. Place whole chicken on top of veg/spices and rub down with remaining Olive Oil and a bit of Sea Salt. Add 2 cups of water around chicken and either bring to a boil on the stovetop/cover/and simmer 30 minutes OR cover and Roast at 425 degrees or cook near hot coals in an outdoor fire (if using fire, make sure to rotate Dutch oven frequently). Be sure to turn chickens once or twice during this cooking time.

After 30 minutes, remove livers if using – mash – and return to pot with grated onion, add water if necessary (do not let onions burn – you are essentially making a thick sauce with them) – if stovetop, continue cooking 20 minutes, partially covered, if oven or fire – return lid and cook another 15 minutes. Meanwhile, cook rice or couscous/orzo according to directions.

After the 15-20 minutes, add Preserved Lemons and Olives to pot and cook another 10 minutes (if stovetop, do this uncovered, if oven or fire, return cover). Chicken should be falling off the bone at this point. If gravy is ‘loose’, remove chicken and reduce sauce to half over a moderate boil (add fresh lemon juice when to desired thickness or save until the end, see below). Salt to taste (though I doubt you will need to with the olives and the lemons).

In a Large platter, pile the rice/couscous/orzo, ladle some of the onion/olives/lemon gravy over, place chicken on top, ladle more gravy – and either squeeze a little lemon overtop, place lemon wedges around edge for guests to treat their own, or sprinkle lemon juice over dish before serving. (Can also add a few sprigs of cilantro or parsley for garnish). See above for communal etiquette – enjoy!

Tuesday Happenings

Our lazy lollygagging ways soon catch up with us – the hurricanes have turned our weather quickly toward Fall and with it a sense of urgency (it’s not too urgent, don’t think we are running around like crazy – that’s just not us – ha!). The meatbirds have less than 2 weeks to grace us with their early adolescent crowing and then we can turn the chicken tractor into a greenhouse to lengthen our tomato season in the garden. There is seedsaving, late Summer foraging, and lots of ‘putting up’ still going on. The wood is already stacked. The baker is trying out new things lately (with the new oven and the transition, he has some experimentation time)- rye breads, mini boules, and sourdough pretzels. We’ve also been trying out the pizza dough in other ways – as focaccia, wrapped around hot dogs as pigs in blanket style buns, stromboli and calzone. And we’re developing a hand-pie line (superyum) and a medicinal tea option. I’m hoping for sourdough chocolate chip cookies today.

Every Sunday we’ve been trying to cook with fire (either grill or in the firepit) – we recently got a large Dutch Oven for this endeavor. This past Sunday we made Moroccan Chicken with Olives and Preserved Lemons – it was stunning, just the way it was meant to be made. I’ve been setting up country flower wine’s this Summer, too – Dandelion, Red Clover, and recently Goldenrod.

Before Winter the sugarshack will have to be set up (because it is hard to get it together in February, and we are always finessing the process), and some Fall tree pruning, garlic planting, chicken coop painting, kitchen floor installing (and laundry closet plumbed and ready, with the old laundry room converted to full pantry storage) and then apple procurement. Since we will not be having a Harvest Party this year, we may do a little ‘ugly’ work around here and rip up some of the gardens and rebuild our foundational yard structures and remove a few trees/stumps (rent a Skid-steer for a day, maybe a Bush-hog, too). Build some new arbors and bridges.

And meanwhile me teaching a class this Fall semester (starting in a few weeks), tutoring, and writing my dissertation, Josh still learning and designing the outdoor Bread Oven, and D doing whatever it is she does (she’s currently writing a movie script, learning Geography, making many (many) corn husk dolls, dressing up the Squash family, and is excited about seed saving). I have this fantasy someday that in the dead of Winter, we all cozy up and just pass Calvin & Hobbes comics back and forth – the other night was almost as good. We all ‘went to bed’ early, cozied up together in the big bed – D reading ‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid’ and ‘All About Cats’, Josh reading Ray Bradbury, and me catching up on Aeschylus – nearly perfect.

May you find some perfect moments ~

Monday’s Muse

I was thinking this morning of art that has really struck me – not monumental art like Picasso’s Guernica or Botticelli’s La Primavera (which have certainly struck me and are amazing) but something a little more accessible. I remembered (Josh doesn’t, even though I remember him being moved, too) an art show we went to way back when in Burlington, VT at this little gallery (that last I saw as an upscale shoe store; so goes the way of retail shops) on Cherry Street. It was a series of painting of chimps and apes and I want to say that they were all deceased but that the painter had met or studied or maybe just admired. They were portraits – some full body, some in repose, in blacks with streaks of red and blue, bright highlights that really lit up their expressions.

The goal of the show was to make the audience feel that these animals had a conscience, had cognizant abilities, personalities, and feelings. It was mesmerizing. And to know that they had all passed and were being remembered brought those little hidden tears at the corner of our eyes (that you wipe away without anyone really seeing, maybe making an excuse about the dust in your eye, etc) – they were stunning paintings. Though my description makes them sound sentimental, it wasn’t that way at all. It was like seeing portraits of friends that you didn’t get to say goodbye to – or family that you were grateful to and wouldn’t get to know them. The artist was going to show the paintings in a few locations for a short time and then destroy them (I can’t remember if she was going to burn or bury them). Apparently it wasn’t even the artist I was taken by – as I can’t remember who they were or find any information – but the stories and the stunning faces they had interpreted for us.

Jane Goodall has critiqued on the lack of human ability to negotiate the world, “We’re destroying our home. That’s not a bit successful. Chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans have been living for hundreds of thousands of years in their forest, living fantastic lives, never overpopulating, never destroying the forest. I would say that they have been in a way more successful than us as far as being in harmony with the environment.”

How do we find our way through?