Banana Pudding with Vanilla Wafers

Is winter hitting below the belt? Are your superpowers being sapped by the slushy snow and frigid winds?

Well, I have a suggestion. Make a homemade pudding. Its simple. It’s delicious. And I guarantee all who come near will eagerly tie a cape around your shoulders.

Pudding that gives you powers.

Pudding power.

Banana Pudding with Vanilla Wafers

*Shamelessly inspired/adapted from Smitten Kitchen.

Custard

  • 3⁄4 cup (150 grams) sugar (I prefer coconut sugar)
  • 1⁄4 cup (35 grams) cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine salt
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 3 1⁄2 cups (830 ml) milk, preferably whole
  • 2 tablespoons (30 grams) butter, diced
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) spiced rum
  1. Combine sugar, cornstarch, salt and yolks together. Whisk in milk.
  2. Heat, stirring often until simmering. Continue simmering/stirring until custard has thickened.
  3. Remove from heat and stir in butter, vanilla and rum.
  4. Chill in fridge for a few hours to overnight.

Wafers

  • 1 cup (200 grams) coconut sugar
  • Seeds from a fresh vanilla bean
  • 1/2 cup (115 grams) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) vanilla extract
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 1/3 cups (176 grams) all-purpose flour
  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Combine sugar and vanilla bean. Beat in butter using mixer until creamed together. Add eggs and vanilla. Add baking powder and salt. Finally, add all purpose flour. Mix until all combined.
  3. Scoop teaspoon-sized balls of dough onto cookie sheet. Bake 10-11 minutes.
  4. Let cookies cool.

Topping

  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons coconut sugar
  • As much banana as you desire
  1. Combine cream and sugar.
  2. Whisk until soft peaks form. I use a stand mixer cuz lazy.
  3. Slice banana.

 

Assemble pudding, wafers, banana and whipped cream in small glasses. Half-pint mason jars work really well and screw lids allow for easy transportation.

 

 

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The Concrete Block Smokehouse – a DIY approach

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As befits the American Way, when choosing to buy something new, we’re barraged with options, everything from the nearly disposable to the insanely expensive. Meat smokers are no exception. On one end of the spectrum, I could spend a few hundred dollars and get a barrel smoker, or a few hundred more for an electric smoker. As a renter, both sound awesome, but the price point was really out of reach; I was adamant that I save my dollars for purchasing more meat instead.

I’m in the middle of reading Stanley Marianski’s excellent Home Production of Quality Meats and Sausages, a true classic of the sausage making world. Marianski’s book details a number of “backwoods” style smokehouses that seemed ideal for my budget. Included was the Concrete Block Smokehouse

image credit: http://www.meatsandsausages.com/

image credit: http://www.meatsandsausages.com/

image credit: http://www.meatsandsausages.com/

image credit: http://www.meatsandsausages.com/

The Concrete Block Smokehouse

Built with 16x16x8 standard concrete blocks, this DIY smokehouse is about as simple as it gets. Think adult legos.

First I needed to clear away the grass and make sure that my foundation area was more-or-less level.smokehouse groundwork

Then, you start building the walls of the smokehouse.

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Note that all blocks are stacked with the hollow sections facing up except for one block on the bottom. This one block will be the intake for the smoke, allowing the draw to enter and exit up the smoker.

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Continue stacking, alternating configuration so blocks overlap.

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Marianski’s plan calls for 6 levels of block, but I didn’t have enough loading capacity when buying block to get 6 more, so I made do with stacking 5 high. After finishing the Chimeny, its time to build the fire chute.

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The chute extends out from the single sideways block. Stack the sides so that smooth facing block sides are on the inside, channeling smoke into the chimney. The small broken concrete pieces are where I will build my fire.

The Concrete Block plans allow for two methods for hanging. Method one, you tie your meat onto sticks that you then lay across the top blocks. This is how I intend to use the smoker at first. Later I’ll experiment with staggering the blocks so a lip is created and I can insert a screen on grill grate.

Finally, a smokehouse isn’t complete until you give it a roof. I just used to old boards lying around our yard. They don’t make a very tight seal, which is exactly what I want, ensuring a great draft up through the chimney.

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More details of my first smoke to come, but for now rest assured, this thing really works! Excellent draw and heat is generated by this simple, affordable design.

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A peak inside the smoker. Flames are roaring through from the fireplace. The haze in this picture is due to all of the smoke.

 

 

Saturdays are better – Stuffed French Toast

I dunno about you, but I like starting my saturday mornings off with a special breakfast. We just had a mason jar of Chèvre sitting in the fridge thanks to Morgan’s trading acumen at a food swap, and delicious homemade jams gracing the counter. To me, these things mean stuffed french toast!

Finished French Toast

Stuffed French Toast

  • 4, one-inch-thick slices of bread
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 eggs
  • dash of vanilla
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • sweet and/or creamy spreads for filling (Jam, Jelly, Chèvre, Creme Fraiche, etc)
Sliced thick so you can stuff it.

Sliced thick so you can stuff it.

Step One. Cut 4 slices of one-inch-thick bread. Challah and Brioche are divine, and stale bread is better than fresh bread, but we had neither and weren’t deterred. Take each piece and slice horizontally, stop 1-half-inch before end, creating a bread pocket.

Aren't my knife skills pretty amazing? Cutting the pocket for the stuffing.

Aren’t my knife skills pretty amazing? Cutting the pocket for the stuffing.

Step Two. Take your filling, ideally something creamy, sweet or delicious. Goat cheese, icings, Creme Fraiche, jam, jelly, marmalade, compote, the list can go on and on. Spread your filling into the pocket and press shut. Resist stuffing it too full, as you don’t want filling leaking out in the pan.

Loaded with Peach Ginger Jam and Chèvre Cheese.

Loaded with Peach Ginger Jam and Chèvre Cheese.

Step Three. Beat together 2 eggs, 1 cup of milk, a tbsp of sugar, and a dash of vanilla. Place stuffed slices in a shallow baking dish and pour custard mixture over top. Soak for 15 minutes, flipping halfway through.

Soaking the stuffed bread in custard.

Soaking the stuffed bread in custard.

Step Four. Add a tbsp of Coconut Oil, Ghee or Vegetable Oil to a nonstick pan. Heat until you see ripples/waves in the oil. Fry french toast until brown on each side. Sprinkle with a little powdered sugar and serve with Maple syrup or whatever other syrup you’ve got.

After soaking, fry it up!

After soaking, fry it up!

 

Homemade Jam by my wonderful wife.

Homemade Jam by my wonderful wife.

Chèvre from Morgan's food swap.

Chèvre from Morgan’s food swap.

Rather than Maple Syrup, we topped our French toast with this buttermilk syrup.

Rather than Maple Syrup, we topped our French toast with this buttermilk syrup.

I always have an audience when cooking.

I always have an audience when cooking.

Lesson learned: Stuffed French toast doesn't last long.

Lesson learned: Stuffed French toast doesn’t last long.