Thursday, October 24, 2013

Does the World Really Need Another Food Blog?

Probably not. Yet here I am.

I'm a college literature professor, and until two days ago, I was also a college student. For my entire adult life. I submitted my doctoral dissertation on the literature of Jane Austen, Catherine Gore, Charlotte Bronte, and George Eliot two days ago. My God, the relief! Want to know what I thought about in the last year of my PhD, while the yard was going to hell, dogs and rabbits were running amok, the family was eating whatever could be scavenged, and everyone was in danger of carrying on everyday life naked due to the severity of the laundry issue? COOKING. Every single day, I kept at the writing, dreaming of the day that I could spend time in my kitchen without a big, black cloud hanging over my head. And now I can!

However, I'm surprised about the letdown of this whole dissertation thing. It's a bit like giving birth and then dealing with all the crap hormones and messy lady bits that come after. Instead of pure, unmitigated relief and delight, I have a massive headache and unrelenting sense of restlessness. So I went into the kitchen. And I cooked.

In fact, I cooked this:
Which became this:

Tomato Jam, from Marisa McClellan's lovely canning blog, Food in Jars. I just made a tiny half batch with two pounds of Roma tomatoes. Here's the link to her recipe: Tomato Jam-Food in Jars. Making this jelly soothed the ravages of my processed-food tarnished little soul, let me tell you. I did add some nutmeg, balsamic vinegar, and garlic cloves to her recipe, and IT IS AMAZING.

The jam was so good, I enjoyed the whole process so much, and because I had two black bananas and some pear yogurt about to become science experiments in the fridge, that I decided to press on and make this:
 Banana-Yogurt Bread. I'll try to figure out the blogging magic of "after the jump" to include the recipe. So, gentle readers, I'll end the maiden post to this new (and maybe unnecessary to the world, but vital to me) blog. And leave you with this--at different times in my life, different things have saved me. After my divorce, it was a little white Chihuahua called Colonel Brandon. When I thought I might not ever finish my PhD and felt as though I was epically failing at life, I found roller derby. And now, when I'm feeling bruised, run-down, and more used up than, well, post-birth lady bits, I hope food and writing about food will do the same.

Banana-Yogurt Bread

Much to my embarrassment, I don't remember the original source from which I culled the bones of this recipe. However, I hope that I've monkeyed with it enough to not be absolutely plagiarizing someone else's work.
The original recipe called for 1/2 cup of sour cream, which turns out great. I've wondered how it would be with cream cheese. However, I love to add yogurt, mostly because I buy a lot of yogurt, thinking it's a good idea, but then rarely eat it all. I loathe tossing perfectly good food, so this bread has become my favorite vehicle for the aging fruit and yogurt in the fridge. BUT, the best part is that you can really play with the flavoring through the yogurt. In the picture, I've used Chibani Pear Yogurt, which has little fruit bits. The pear, banana, and almond extract worked really well together. So play with this a bit and find a combo you love!
1 stick of butter, softened (and more to grease the pan)
1 cup of sugar (when I'm feeling sassy, I do a 1/2 cup regular sugar and 1/2 cup brown sugar)
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups flour (all purpose)
1t baking soda
3/4t salt
2-3 mashed bananas (about 1 cup--don't stress if you have a bit more or less)
1t vanilla (however, today I discovered I was out of vanilla and used almond extract. It was pretty fab.)
1/2 cup (or one standard, single-serving container) of yogurt
1/2t cardamom
1/2t cinnamon
dash nutmeg
dash clove
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a bowl, combine flour, baking soda, salt, and spices. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whip butter. Add sugar and cream. Add eggs, one at a time, until well combined. Add mashed bananas. Your lovely mix will look like total crap at this point because when you add the bananas, it looks like a separated mess. Just go with it. Add the yogurt and mix well. 

Incorporate the flour in one batch until well combined. 

Pour mix into greased loaf pans until they're about 2/3 full. I usually get one full-size and one mini loaf out of this. 

Bake at 350 degrees for 35-ish minutes or until your knife comes out clean. I have to confess, I've not paid good attention to exactly how long this takes. The batch before this, I removed too early, and it had a sad, saggy, raw center. This time I waited until the knife was only a bit tacky, and then turned off the oven but left the bread in while I finished processing jam. It came out just right!