Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Bananas and Pumpkins

Remember that cute pumpkin planter picture I posted the other day?  Well, the assistant teacher in the Girl's class had a birthday on Tuesday, and I had the planter in my mind so I picked up an extra pumpkin and some flowers at the store and Monday night set out to make a pumpkin planter.  I was at Whole Foods and they were trying mightily to get rid of their last pumpkins, so they were on sale and they also had fairly large pots of pansies for $4.99.  Everyone always bashes Whole Foods for being so expensive and I'm sure I could have found some flowers and a pumpkin for a bit cheaper elsewhere.  BUT, I would have had to drive around and go to different stores (wasting gas and creating greenhouse gases) and what if, after all my driving the prices weren't that much lower than at Whole Foods and then I've wasted my entire morning driving around on a fool's errand and I should have just bought the stuff at WF to begin with.  Y'all, I can talk myself into an impulse buy and justify it as helping the environment.

Along with photography, spacial relationships are not my strong point, but I did attempt to find a pumpkin that I thought would be big enough to contain the large pot of pansies.  I sat them next to each other, measured out the bases and was reasonably confident that it would work.  After dinner the children and I adjourned to the backyard and I got to my carving.  First, I will give myself credit.  I did a good job carving the top out of the pumpkin.  I found a bunch of mini screwdrivers and poked little holes all around the top of the pumpkin where I wanted to go back and cut.  Then I took one of our kitchen knives and managed to do a decent job cutting a hole in the top of the pumpkin.

Our neighbors, E and Em and their son, Sidekick H were all in the yard, too, providing moral support and helpful suggestions.  It was pretty evident that the circumference of the first hole was too small to accommodate the pansy pot.  So, I made another swipe around to make the hole bigger.  I managed to then jam the pot into the pumpkin, but about two inches of the top of the pot stuck out.  The Girl suggested that we take the pansies out of the pot, which would have worked, but also would have left the poor teacher with a deteriorating container full of dirt and flowers that she would have to deal with sooner rather than later.  Nothing like a gift that keeps on taking!

Em suggested that we tie some ribbon around the top of the pot to hide it and we went into our respective houses to scare up some ribbon.  While I was rooting around in our wrapping paper, I found some cellophane from years ago.  Necessity is the mother of invention, y'all!  After some tugging, I got the pansy pot out of the pumpkin, cut a big piece of cellophane and forced the pot back into the pumpkin.  Here is the finished product:

You can barely tell that the plant is stuffed into the pumpkin because all you notice is the insane amount of cellophane.  Well, if you can't do it exactly right, just distract everyone with cellophane, I always say.  Here's a picture of what a truly slipshod job I did on this:

Next time I do this I will not get a potted plant.  That is just asking for trouble.  Loose flowers would have worked much better, but the bouquets were more expensive than the pansy and pumpkin combined!  Perhaps she would have liked a bouquet better, but that's not the point.  Oh, maybe it is the point, but then I wouldn't have these pictures to demonstrate what NOT to do when doing this project.

Yesterday I mentioned banana bread and when you see this picture, you'll understand why:

Let me explain.  The baby was the snack leader last week at school and had seemed agreeable in principle to bringing bananas.  However, when the time came, she was all, "No bananas, Mommy!"  So, I was stuck with about 24 bananas.  I know!  I was able to get rid of, I mean donate, some to the Girls on the Run team as a post-run snack, but I was still left with about 14 bananas.  While I waited for them to ripen, I bought some disposable loaf pans at Publix.

Yesterday, the baby and I made three banana breads and I still have enough bananas to make three more today.  If you find a random loaf of banana bread in your mailbox, you'll know where it came from!

Here is the recipe for the best banana bread.  It's (fittingly) from The Best Recipe cookbook, which is by the Editors of Cooks Illustrated.

Banana Bread


2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups toasted walnuts, chopped coarse
3 very ripe, soft, darkly speckled large bananas, mashed well
1/4 cup plan yogurt (Greek yogurt works fine)
2 large eggs, beaten lightly
6 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1.  Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour the bottom only of a nonstick loaf pan that measures nine inches log, five inches across, and three inches deep; set aside.
2.  Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and walnuts together in a large bowl; set aside.
3.  Mix mashed bananas, yogurt, eggs, butter, and vanilla with wooden spoon in medium bowl.  Lightly fold banana mixture into dry ingredients with rubber spatula until just combined and batter looks thick and chunky.  Scrape batter into prepared loaf pan; bake until loaf is golden brown and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 55 minutes.  Cool in pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack.

So, the main thing I changed from the above recipe was that I didn't use the walnuts.  So many people are allergic to nuts (Mom included) that I just tend not to use them if it doesn't matter.  I've made it with and without nuts and it's good both ways.  The other thing that I changed is that the loaf pans I bought are smaller than the size stated in the recipe.  Since my main goal of this exercise was to rid myself of as many bananas as possible, I doubled the recipe and filled three of the smaller loaf pans and cooked them for about 50 minutes. It worked just fine.  

Banana bread (or this kind, anyway) freezes really well, so my original plan was to freeze it and give them as holiday gifts.  But, my wonky spacial sense was failing me again and after some consultation with the children and the K, I realized that we couldn't fit anything else in our freezer if we had six frozen banana breads in there, so I decided we should give away this first batch.  Today each of the kids trotted off to school with a banana bread for his or her teacher.  

Yesterday was exercise, today food!  That's the way it works around here, folks, I'm trying to mix things up a little bit.  Let me know if you try the recipe.  Have a great day!


1 comment:

  1. The coveted banana bread recipe! A has attested to its yumminess. I think your arrangement looks lovely. And it *IS* the thought that counts!