French Toast with Grilled Bananas

Sunday BrunchWhen I got into the kitchen to cook brunch this morning, I still had no idea what I was going to cook.  I had eggs, bacon, cheese – all the usual stuff – and knew that I could make cheese grits or spoon bread and no one would complain.  But I wanted to do something different and post the recipe so I began taking stock of what was laying around.  I spied a bag of ripe bananas we’d picked up on sale at the store yesterday, and thought “Hmmm…banana bread” before I realized I had no baking soda.  Then I thought about the white bread sitting on the counter and remembered I had some honey in the pantry as well as some maple syrup.

So we had grilled bananas over French toast.  It’s hard to believe that anyone could be lukewarm about this dish, but – you guessed it – The Young One managed to be.  He refused the bananas and syrup and ate the toast plain.  The nice thing about this French toast, though, is that it’s pretty good plain or with just a dusting of powdered sugar.  Topped with the grilled bananas and just a drizzle of pure maple syrup and accompanied by some crisp bacon, it’s simply sublime.

French Toast with Grilled Bananas

serves 3 as a main dish or 6 as a side dish

Grilled Bananas

2 – 3 large ripe bananas

3 – 4 tablespoons honey

Ground cinnamon, optional

Peel the bananas and cut into long, diagonal slices.  Heat the honey in the microwave or small saucepan until very fluid.  Toss the bananas with the honey in a shallow bowl until all of the slices are coasted (this can be done 1 to 2 hours in advance).  Heat a cast-iron skillet (preferably a ridged one) over high heat until very hot but not smoking.  Quickly lay coated banana slices in a single layer in the pan and sprinkle with the cinnamon, if desired.  Grill about 1 minute on each side, cooking in batches if necessary; transfer to a plate and keep warm.

French Toast

2/3 cups half and half

4 large eggs

2 tablespoons pure maple syrup, or granulated sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/4 teaspoon salt

6 slices white bread, with or without crusts

Thoroughly whisk together all of the ingredients except the bread in a large, shallow bowl.  Heat a large skillet or griddle over medium heat and melt enough butter to coat the surface.  Dip the bread, one slice at a time, into the egg mixture, turning until thoroughly saturated but not falling apart.  Add as many slices of bread to the skillet or griddle as will fit without crowding and cook until the underside is golden brown.  Turn the bread and cook until the second side is golden.  Keep warm until all the toast has been cooked.

Top with grilled bananas and drizzle with maple syrup, if desired.

TGIF and Hooray for a Three Day Weekend

‘Cause this getting up at the crack of absurd every morning?  It’s for the birds.  Actually, birds aren’t even up yet when I drag my creaky, puffy carcass out of bed every day to make sure The Young One is up and properly fed and watered before he slumps off to the hallowed halls of middle school.

More good news is Beloved came home last night at a reasonable hour, so we were able to eat dinner and lay in bed while we watched Barack Obama’s acceptance speech for the Democratic nomination.

**WARNING:  Completely uncharacteristic and absolutely subjective political opinion ahead**

Whether or not you agree with his politics, you have to admit the man is charismatic as hell.  And while this middle-aged babe will be voting for Bob Barr come November, I believe I watched the man who will be the next President of the United States.  It will be interesting to watch John McCain next week when he gives his acceptance speech; how he will respond, and what promises he will make.  (C’mon, Mr. Obama – we’ll be entirely free of our dependence on foreigh oil in ten years and it will only cost $150 billion?  I’m really, really interested to hear the details of that little plan.)

**END:  Competely uncharacteristic and absolutely subjective political opinion**

Anyhoo, no sooner had we had time to raise a skeptical eyebrow or two, chuckle at Jon Stewart’s coverage of the convention, indulge in a little – ahem – cuddle time and catch 25 or 30 winks (because it sure as hell wasn’t 40), when Beloved jumped in the car and headed to Pittsburgh for the day.  I, myself, am making the pretense of working from home today and tried like hell to get him to stay home, too, even to the point of bribery with some more cuddle time this morning.  (Do you hear that, men who are commenting over on Twenty Four at Heart‘s wonderfully amusing gender gap posts this week?)  But like most men, he just turned over and went to sleep got in the car and drove to see a client in Pittsburgh.

I feel so cheap.  Good, but cheap.

And how am I repaying his desertion?  Well, with dessert, actually.  I’m making his favorite, Boston Cream Pie.  From scratch.  Because nothing says “I love you, you cuddle-and-run bastard” like a dessert that calls for a pound of butter and 10 egg yolks.  (I can’t post the recipe because the cake and chocolate glaze are from Rose Levy Beranbaum’s The Cake Bible, but I will post pictures once it’s done.)

On a somewhat related note, now that The Young One has returned to school, Beloved’s traveling is becoming more manageable and we’re all back on somethng that resembles a schedule, The Sunday Brunch will be back on a regular basis as of this weekend.  I don’t know what it will be yet, but there will be a recipe of something.

I hope you all have a marvelous holiday weekend.  I don’t know what we’re doing Monday, although it will probably involve baby back ribs, sweet potato salad and homemade biscuits, but Beloved has promised me a trip down to Yoder Miller’s Authentic Amish Fruit and Vegetable Tourist Trap tomorrow.  I’ll take my camera along, because it’s a fun drive through beautiful countryside and an interesting experience (I can’t promise pictures of the Amish themselves – they don’t like tourists to take their pictures, but their horses and buggies don’t seem to mind).  Lehman’s Hardware store is always fun, and while I doubt I’ll be able to, I’ll try to get him to drive to downtown Berlin; crowded on any Saturday, it will likely be a madhouse on a holiday weekend.  But there is a shop there that sells the most beautiful, intricate, Amish-made quilts.  I’ve been lusting after one for years, but they’re not cheap; one that would fit our California King bed will run anywhere from $1,200 to $2,000.  If I can pester talk him in to taking me there, I’ll see if they’ll let me take pictures of the place – some of the quilts are simply stunning.

Happy Labor Day, y’all.

Puh-LEEZE – I’m Trying To EAT Here

There are many things I love about The Young One, not the least of which is that he is the last kid left at home.  He’s just a sweet person and we get along very well, but he is still a 13-year-old boy and our conversational gambits aren’t always on the same wavelength.

Last night we sat down to dinner (alone – Beloved is out of town AGAIN) and were talking about his first day at school when he lifted his arm, pointed to the region around his elbow and said enthusiastically:

“OH MOM – I saw a picture of a camel spider bite today and it was – ”

“Stop!  No descriptions of camel spider bites at the dinner table, please!” I interrupted.

“But, Mom – ”

“No!  None!  Don’t want to hear it!”

“But – ”

“NO!!”

But it was spewing rainbows and butterflies and pretty flowers while ‘All You Need is Love’ by the Beatles played in the background.”

It was kind of hard to miss the sarcasm.

Smartass kid always has to have the last word.  I have no idea where he gets that from.  Honestly.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I’d like to give a shout out to Words of Wisdom from a Smart Mouth Broad, the newest addition to my Midlife Blogroll, and a woman who would probably get along with The Young One just fine.  You have to admire a woman who would attend an Iron Bodies class at her gym and live to tell about it.  I think I’ll wait for a Play-Doh Bodies class to roll around.

They’ll probably ask me to teach it.

Fahrenheit 45…and a Half

Despite my fascination with them and their Geico commercials, I’d make a lousy cave man (or woman, as the case may be), if for no other reason than I cannot start a fire. It simply dumbfounds me that someone can set fire to the entire state of Colorado with a carelessly thrown cigarette butt when I can’t light two lousy logs with a blow torch and a half gallon of kerosene.

I remained ignorant of my inability to burn anything – besides dinner – for better than 40 years. When I finally lived somewhere that had a fireplace, I also lived with a man who’d been a boy scout in his youth and could set fire to water if he wanted to. Then, in the winter of 2003, I found myself on my own in a duplex with a lovely, double-sided fireplace separating the living room from the dining area that just begged for a fire. So, I ran down to the corner supermarket and bought 4 logs (for $20), along with everything for s’mores.

It soon became painfully obvious that if my kids had to depend on me to keep them warm, they’d freeze to death. Three hours and one Sunday edition of the Dallas Morning News, three issues of Cosmo and an old pizza box later, I sat in front of my cold fireplace with it’s pristine logs, feebly tossing in cigarette butts and pathetically sobbing “Why? Why??

The point is, I don’t know WHY. At first I thought it was perhaps that I lacked a Y chromosome. Then it occurred to me that Tough Yankee Broad can start a fire without a gas can and a stick of dynamite; of course, Tough Yankee Broad can also operate a wood chipper, correctly gap a spark plug and grout tile, none of which I can do.

Ah, well…I suppose it’s all really a moot point. I’ve got the erstwhile boy scout back in my fire-challenged clutches and a 13-year-old son who is anxious to be promoted from “fire wood hauler” to “fire starter” so I suppose we won’t freeze to death anytime soon. Besides, in approximately 1,638 days the 13-year-old will be old enough to leave home, and I’m moving to Hawaii to become a professional beach bum.

The End of Innocence, or How to Crush the Hope Out of Your Child In One Easy Lesson

In an attempt to distract myself from the fact that putting a Feedjit map on my site was probably a HUGE mistake (where is everyone?  why aren’t there more red dots??  I MUST HAVE MORE RED DOTS!!!), the embarrassing knowledge that I have absolutely no idea what the hell post-modernism is (thanks, Jane!) and the rant building in me brought on the by posts of a couple of other bloggers (just exactly what I think of that so-called “television show” The Biggest Loser and whether or not size-discrimination is a real issue), I figured I’d tackle another vitally important issue.

The Tooth Fairy.  And her assorted cohorts.

I ran across a post recently by a woman whose 10-year-old daughter still believes in the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus, et al.  This child found a container with one of her baby teeth and confronted her mother with the discovery.  The woman proceeded to lie like a rug and told her daughter the tooth was her own.  Depending on your status as a parent and/or disposition, you may find that silly, if not appalling, but I have the benefit of hindsight and can understand it completely.

Beloved and I have 5 kids between the two of us – their ages are 25, 21, 20, 16 and 13; the oldest and youngest are boys and the middle three are girls.  We’ve been through this, and while I can’t vouch for Beloved, the most traumatic of the “There is no Santa Claus” conversations for me have been the first and last…probably because they were the first and the last.

When Oldest Son was about 8 years old – maybe as young as seven – his father and I told him the truth about Santa Claus.  I don’t really remember why; perhaps he’d heard something from the kids at school, or maybe we’d just decided he was old enough to know the truth.  Telling Oldest Son anything has always produced one of two reactions – grave contemplation, characterized by a slight frown and furrowing of his brow, or complete skepticism, denoted by the downturn of one corner of his mouth and the raising of the opposite eyebrow.  (As a teenager he expanded on that repertoire with a completely blank stare that was surprising in its eloquence:  “Yeah, Mom – just keep yelling at me…it’s all going in one ear and right back out the other…”)  The Santa Claus Revelation produced the Grave Contemplation response, whereupon he immediately retreated to his video games to mull it all over.

Maybe two or three hours passed when he approached his father, and with a completely hopeless and dejected countenance, said, “Dad…the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy too?”  We felt absolutely awful until we found out that he turned right around and – you guessed it – spilled the beans to his 4-year-old sister.

It wasn’t anything, though, compared to that same discussion with his little brother.  Fast forward 12 or so years, and The Young One and I are in my car, driving from Euless, a suburb of Ft. Worth, to downtown Dallas to pick up Oldest Son and bring him back to our place for a couple of days (probably so he could do his laundry).  If I remember correctly, it was early October and the initial “Holiday Season” onslaught of toy commercials was just beginning.  The Young One was 9 years old, and happily chattering away, something he does exceedingly well to this day (both the “happy” and the “chattering”).  Before I knew it, the subject of what he wanted for Christmas came up and somewhere in there the words “I hope Santa Claus brings me” were uttered.

I was a little taken aback – somewhere, somehow, my middle-aged and over-tired brain dredged up an obviously false memory of having laid this subject to rest the year before.  I shot a quick glance at him as we bulleted down I-35 towards the Mix Master, and uneasily said, “Uh…dear?  You know there isn’t really any Santa Claus, don’t you?”

He turned a startled and stricken face to me.  “Huh?  What???”

“Honey, you know Santa Claus is really Mommies and Daddies, right?”

He gave me an incredulous stare for maybe five seconds and then burst into anguished, wracking tears.  I was at a complete loss – never in my wildest dreams had I thought I’d get such a reaction, no matter how wrong I was in my assumption or how disappointed he might be.  It took him a couple of minutes, but he finally calmed down enough for me to say, “Honey – I’m sorry!  I thought you knew!  Haven’t the other kids in school been telling you there isn’t any Santa Claus?” (He was, after all, in the fourth grade.)

“Yes – but I believed YOU!” he cried, and began sobbing uncontrollably again.  “I’ll NEVER be able to trust you ever AGAIN!”

I have to tell you – I’ve had people say some truly horrible and crushing things to me before (*cough*ex-husband*cough*), but nothing has ever made me feel as awful as that did.  I had visions of being dragged, against my will, on Oprah and having Dr. Phil declare me the most insensitive and unfit parent in recorded history while the audience beat me with copies of Dr. Spock’s Baby and Child Care.

Fortunately, Oldest Son and Darling Daughter have a marvelous relationship with The Young One, despite their age differences, and he adores and worships them both.  Once I had Oldest Son in the car, he was able to begin damage control and had The Young One calm enough for Darling Daughter (master of the “Let’s See How We Can Use This To Our Advantage” school of thought) to take over by the time we got home and really work on him (I’m sure it was she who pointed out to him that Parents are far more easily manipulated accessible than Santa Claus could ever be).

I think he even learned to trust me again.  Or at least wrangle an XBox out of me.