Monday, October 1, 2018

More banana bread!

Today's story starts with helping a friend move. If your vehicle has a noteworthy amount of space in the back, people will inevitably ask you to help them as their possessions migrate to a new home, preferably one where the management hasn't ignored the growing roach infestation. This time, we at A Book of Cookrye ended up spending a lot of time moving someone who repairs electronics. Besides the gasoline and food, we got.... this!
I restrung it myself.

Not sure what you're looking at? This likely makes it clearer.
Notice the desoldering gun hovering over it in the back.

When you are offered a vintage stereo for free, it's perfectly fine that some repairwork may be required. Especially if you've been semi-secretly wanting to have a crack at electronics repairs for yourself. At any rate, said friend later noted "You know, we haven't broken in the oven yet..."
I asked "Well, what do you want to put in it?"
Which brings us to.... banana bread!

Banana Bread
½ c butter
1 c brown sugar
2 eggs
3 bananas (about 1 c mashed)
2 c flour
1 tsp baking soda
Dash of salt
Dash of cinnamon (enough to alter the flavor, but not quite enough to be recognized)

Heat oven to 350°. Grease a loaf or 9x13 pan.
Mix butter and brown sugar. Beat in the eggs, then add the bananas. Stir in the salt, cinnamon, and baking soda, then mix in the flour.
Pour into the pan and bake. A loaf pan will take about 40-50 minutes, a 9x13 pan will be done in 20 or so.

Favorite Recipes of America: Desserts, 1968

This brings us to a rare experience here on A Book of Cookrye- baking in the houses of people who practically never cook!
While we often like to cook with friends, said friends tend to at least occasionally make themselves a pot of spaghetti. Their kitchens generally contain the more basic cooking things. But hey, we all have different lifestyles- I get surprised when someone doesn't cook, other people look at me funny when they find out I never learned to parallel park. (This is not a joke. The last few times I had to parallel park, I have made a few attempts to back into the space before asking some random nearby person on the sidewalk to park the vehicle for me.)
Anyway, the reason we point this out is that we were once again working in a kitchen with very few kitchen things in the cabinets (or more realistically, in the piles of boxes. Again, he only just moved in).

We at A Book of Cookrye, of course, are no strangers to making things happen in under-supplied kitchens. However, oddly enough, we have never actually made banana bread without an electric mixer to pulverize the bananas with. I realize that quite a lot of people will have at the bananas with a fork until mashed, but (to my own surprise when I thought about it) this was the first time I ever did so myself.

A note to people who like multipurpose devices: stewpots do indeed make excellent mixing bowls. However, at first the ingredients will run away from each other instead of mixing together.

However, all you need to do is think of what Our Heroine of Cookrye, Fanny Cradock, would say: think of someone you've never really liked but you're too well-bred to say anything, so instead you take it out on the innocent bowl of things!

As things simply skid to the side of the pot instead of actually mixing together, simply bash them about harder and they will eventually turn into... this!

The bananas may look like someone was unfortunately sick in the bowl, but that seems to happen a lot with banana recipes. Besides, those are hand-mashed bananas- which hopefully adds prestige.

Looks good enough to eat, doesn't it? We were excited. And indeed, it is time to introduce these to the oven!
But wait-- we've never used this oven. Remember when we irreparably burnt a batch of cinnamon rolls when attempting to inaugurate Marcus' oven? My friend, despite having not so much as a mixing bowl, actually had an oven thermometer! Furthermore, he had what may be the most expensive oven thermometer I've ever seen!

I should have stepped back a bit so you could really see what's going on here. Here's an artist's impression:
Anyone who works with electronics is probably laughing right now.

It is very difficult, when baking, to operate a multimeter without getting batter on it. Incidentally, the oven was correctly calibrated, but varies way too much.
Of course, if you think about it, if you set your oven to 350° (that's 180°ish for you Celsius folks), it will get a few degrees hotter every time the heat turns on, and that it will dip a bit below that before it cycles back on to heat up again. But it's not supposed to go 20 degrees off in each direction. Hoping that all would average out during the long baking time, we inserted the loaf into the oven. It... sort of worked. I mean, we did end up with a loaf of banana bread and not a cinder.

However, sharp-eyed bakers will notice that the top of this loaf is not slightly curved but looks like an upturned C. The oven got so hot every time the heating element cycled on that the sides of it baked hard before it had time to rise, while the batter in the center baked a lot more nicely (see? I have learned things in my baking class!). But at least it wasn't burnt and dead at the edges.

Indeed, aside from being a teensy bit dense at the edges, this banana bread was everything you'd expect it to be!
And so, as a (honestly rather extravagant) present for helping a friend move, we got to take home... this!
It was fully assembled by the time we got it home.

Incidentally, ever wonder what lights these things up? Or thought it was something like panel of tiny LEDs or the like? It turns out... it's just extremely industrial-looking incandescent Christmas lights.
Recapped and restrung by me. I only accidentally put two capacitors in backwards.

As a final food-related note, it turns out this stuff does not go stale. My friend left it out the counter for a week for sporadic snacking, and it was only barely a little worse than fresh. Even the cut surface hadn't gone hard on the outside.

And that is the closest we've gotten to A Book of Cookrye Miracle in a long time!

Saturday, September 29, 2018

The Emergency Tacos

Today,we at a Book of Cookrye would like to dedicate a short post to our wonderful friends! Today, this post starts with...

You may wonder why we're showing you a lime, but then you will see that it still has pieces of tree attached to it. Remember how I got my brother's wedding blender? Well, he's still married, and my sister planted a lime tree in front of their house. A large bag of them made their way to my house, which can only mean one thing.... tacos!
And so, with a bag of limes, I visited myself upon friends at around 3 in the morning. What could be found to throw together tacos at that ungodly (for most people) hour?
Well, if you're fine with cabbage instead of lettuce, we had almost everything.
Sauteed, naturally, in I Can't Believe It's Not Butter.

Sometimes, at 3 in the morning, this is the best sight on Earth.
See? It has vegetables. Vegetables are good for you.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Pieathlon the Fifth: Cool Mint Cookie Pie

Guess what today is!

Indeed, this is the fifth(!) Pieathlon! A big salute to Yinzerella of Dinner is Served 1972, without whom this would not happen. And so, let's see what we got this year!

Today's recipe comes to us from Vintage Recipe Cards. Believe it or not, we got one of her recipes two Pieathlons ago. To review, that pie was supposed to be a gelatin mold in a pie pan, but ended up looking like this.
Incidentally, this was also a diet recipe.

This year, we have yet another diet recipe! Hopefully this one will actually turn into a pie. You know, something that you slice and lift out of the pan instead of pouring out and claiming that you did exactly what the recipe said. The recipe writers for bonus points for adding gratuitous dieting tips under the heading "How to be a Happy Loser." Actually, they give some very common-sense advice, so I can't get annoyed. We've seen harsher diet advice in unexpected places. The 1928 Woman's Club of Fort Worth Cook Book has this grim page at the very end which tells you to avoid eating any of the many luscious recipes the ladies of the club submitted.
I'd like to point out that this doctor's parents named him Arvel.

To give further indignity, this is the chapter illustration that goes with the diet. Naturally, they put the diet and calorie counts right after the party menus.
Woman's Club of Fort Worth Cook Book, 1928

Speaking of being on a diet,we cancelled out this recipe's calorie avoidance with the pie we submitted. Retro Mimi got to make the pie I sent in, which is an unapologetic diabetes-bomb of butter and sugar. Since she currently writes about salads and previously made original Weight Watchers recipes from the 1970s, I know she will appreciate this thing landing in her kitchen.
All right, back to today's pie! To the recipe writers' credit, they didn't try to make me eat egg whites mixed with saccharin. So at the very least, we won't have a "pie" that has an unnerving metallic taste in it from fake sugar. Though to be honest, this looks less like a pie and more like something that in the Midwest would be passed off as a salad. Except it's in a pie pan.
This recipe, like so many diet recipes, follows the notion that if you put something in a pie pan it's automatically a pie. Since the crust is always a calorie bomb, diet recipes tend to omit it. To be fair, a lot of people I know will leave the pie crusts on their plates, especially if they taste bad. So simply not bothering to make a pie crust at all is actually fairly reasonable. Also, this means that we at A Book of Cookrye need not spend an excessively long time getting flour off of the counter when it comes time to clean.
Well, let's get on with it, shall we? First, I must note that this recipe works out really well for my cheap self because it uses a lot of things that were lurking forgotten in various corners of the kitchen, such as... these!

The frozen egg whites are left over from some dessert recipe that involved a lot of egg yolks. These are the last two.

The food coloring has dwelled among my kitchen so long I could announce that this pie contains antique ingredients.
The shelf life of food coloring is nothing short of amazing.

Rounding out the ingredients, the mint extract has been lurking in the cabinet for a few Christmases now. The powdered milk was not much of a stretch to purchase. No one drinks milk here, so for baking purposes we use the powder anyway. We still had part of a bottle of lemon juice from the pumpkin chips. One might argue that the bottled stuff can never match the glorious flavor of fresh-squeezed lemons, but would you really notice the difference in this recipe? But let's move on to the one thing that was really annoying to find: the stupid pillow mints. I made my way through multiple supermarkets trying to find these things, but apparently people don't like them anymore. I even thought I'd have to dig out a recipe and make them myself. Peculiarly, the one store that had them only had store-brand. There were no name-brand pillow mints at all.

I thought a little girl and dog walking over a rainbow of candy was an odd choice to print on the bag, but apparently Kroger really believes in this young child and her dog. They even printed a little story about them on the back.
Incidentally, I must note that there were a lot of college athletes at the grocery I went to. This is not unusual as there is a college nearby. What is strange is that about a fourth of them had insanely red hair. Is the University breeding redheaded sports players and sending them to grocery stores? Does the University extensively advertise itself in Ireland? Can I get one of these guys to bring over a brother my age?
Whatever. I always liked these little mints a lot. There was this one end-of-year banquet I went to where they filled plastic margarita glasses with these mints and used them as centerpieces. Some friends and I shared a glass between us and ate them like popcorn during the inevitable speeches. This drew some irked glances as we kept having to get yet another glass from someone else's table.
I did not know that they are in fact two-piece mints. Did you also think they were made of some solid mixture with different colors in it? If so, you are wrong.
The pastel coating is a lie!

Well, that's all the stuff purchased! Let's have a group photo of everything going into today's pie recipe!
I would just like to say that yes, that is a pineapple top growing in a sour cream carton. It has managed to stay alive for 2 months so far.

Much like the very first time we did a Pieathlon, we have very few ingredients to work with. But at least this time it looks like the only thing we have to do is dump things in a bowl and turn on an electric mixer. If we're going to end up eating a diet recipe from the 1970s, at least it's not one that you spend forever working on, following a tedious series of steps to turn powdered milk and a few Sweet'n Low packets into a cake (or cake-shaped object) only to eat something that tastes disappointing and bland.
Let's check in on our egg whites, which have defrosted into snot.

You should know that (as our ice maker is broken and therefore ice must be purchased) after I'd poured the iced water through a strainer I put the half-melted ice cubes back in the freezer.

All right, let's have a look at what will supposedly turn into a pie!

This is a very... monochromatic recipe, isn't it? I'm surprised at how white this is. It seems most older diet recipes incline toward beige, but this is an utterly blank canvas waiting for green food coloring.  Incidentally, I've seen a lot of diet recipe books claim you can make a passable whipped cream substitute with powdered milk and iced water. However, even the people I know who are on the strictest of diets will mutter under the breath that this never works no matter how hard you beat it. However, this does also have egg whites in it. Maybe the whites will make this stuff whip up?

....Hwell. I was not expecting it to work quite that well. It's like a low-budget version of Cool Whip, isn't it? If you didn't actually taste it, you'd think it was a big bowl of luscious whipped cream. I actually had to switch bowls. I didn't expect less than half an inch of stuff to rise over the edge of the bowl.

See? We're all the way up to the rim. Let's get a closeup in case anyone doubts me. I couldn't get over how astonishingly creamy this looked. I was expecting something that looked a lot more pathetic.

Looks like a big bowl of shaving cream, doesn't it?

At this point we're supposed to start adding what honestly seems like a tiny allowance of sugar. Though I really should not whine about this recipe- it's unusually good for a diet. As we all know, vintage diet dessert recipes did not exist to satisfy one's desire for sweets. They existed to punish you for wanting dessert. Each recipe was its own special kind of terrible. This one looks relatively benign. Instead of tasting metallic from having multiple packets of Sweet'n Low dumped in, it's merely going to be bland and empty. Perhaps because this is a diet recipe, adding the sugar made it look just a bit like cottage cheese. We all know that everyone on a 1970s diet ate ungodly amounts of cottage cheese, so now this pie recipe looks like their refrigerated friend.

Right, this is where the "pie" magic  happens. With just a few drops of food coloring and a spoon of mint extract, this will hopefully turn into a delightful pan of mint-green deliciousness!

I do so love how the mixer always makes stripes with the coloring at first. This brief sense of wonder made up for the unnerving way the mint extract fizzed on contact with the diet foam.

And indeed, we have a lovely looking mint-green pie! Note that I merely said lovely looking. We make no promises about whether this will taste any good. But every diet recipe tends to have at least one baffling addition, and this recipe is no exception. And so, let us finish this off by dumping in... these!

It's not a diet recipe unless you add something that looks utterly wrong. I double-checked the instructions to see if I wasn't supposed to whack these with a mallet or something. But no, these things apparently are meant to be stirred in quite intact. Given that these things are nearly pure sugar anyway, I would have gone mini marshmallows instead. They even come in the same colors, and have the significant advantage of not hardening in the freezer.

Given how well the green foam covers the mints, I got to serve this with a creepy smile and say "Guess the secret ingredient!" Now, the recipe says that this thing should be frozen for an hour or so. I've always found freezing times in recipes to be very optimistic. Sure enough, the pie needed about twice as long to freeze solid. You should know that this thing gave off a powerful smell in the freezer every time I checked to see if it was hard yet. It was like getting blasted with mouthwash fumes every time I opened the freezer door.
 However, that does not detract from the fact that (excluding time spent finding all the ingredients and stopping to take pictures) this thing only took 15 minutes to make. And so, we at A Book of Cookrye took this pie out into public to feast with friends! Now, the recipe takes to take one chocolate wafer and pulverize it on top. They probably meant one of these:

But we at A Book of Cookrye didn't want to buy those. In fact, we've only ever seen them in that recipe where you basically layer them with whipped cream and refrigerate it overnight. They don't even try to show the cookies by themselves on the box, but encased in something white and with sprinkles on top. The grocery store near me sells them in the baking aisle instead of with the cookies, further suggesting that most people don't open a box and commence eating them. Instead of using a single isolated Famous Wafer, we did this.
Surprisingly, neither myself nor my friends even had Oreos on hand. We had to buy them just for this recipe.

Indeed, that is one half of an Oreo with the filling scraped off. I know the recipe card says I'm supposed to be a happy loser and therefore probably throw the rest of the Oreo away, but we all know that I ate it instead. Actually, as I was describing the recipe to my increasingly apprehensive friends, I found myself repeatedly pointing out that even if this pie is terrible, we have a bag or Oreos to eat. My friends were less than impressed with this attempted consolation as they'd been the ones to go out and buy the cookies for me.

Doesn't look so bad, does it? I have to tell you, this pie melts really quickly. After a short drive from my kitchen to the house of my complicit victims (in which I wrapped the pie in multiple cloths because it was warm outside), it got so melty that we had to rush it into the freezer to resolidify before attempting to eat it.
But enough blathering. Let's get to eating!

"You put whole mints in this, didn't you?"

"It tastes like ice cream!"
A second (and more camera-averse) person said "My mouth feels so clean now! It's like mouthwash! Like, if you don't have time to brush your teeth in the morning, you just eat this and get dressed!"
Then I tried it. It's not so bad. Kind of like mouthwash, but surprisingly good. The sugar was almost enough to make it taste right. I'd expected it to basically taste like frozen milk powder, but the recipe works surprisingly well. Then I bit into one of the pillow mints, which had frozen into a tooth-breaking rock.
I hope you all like my hair's photographic proof of how humid it's been lately.

As you can see, it does in fact lift very nicely off the pie pan. I did not think we'd actually be able to slice and serve this thing. I was dead certain we'd be scooping it out of the pan.
To my own surprise, this is surprisingly close to a competent recipe. But (aside from maybe another quarter cup of sugar) it was missing... something. Maybe a little vanilla to mellow out the harsh mintiness and make it taste less like dessert Listerine? Definitely a pinch of salt.
However, one must note that you have like ten minutes to eat the pie before this happens.

If you take out the pillow mints (or at least pulverize them first), this would actually be a pretty decent ice cream. It's right up there with the diet desserts one finds in the freezer aisle today. Though there is no point in even trying to pretend this is a pie.
However, let us at A Book of Cookrye point out that this recipe is not necessarily as diet-friendly as it may seem. Yes, if you strictly followed the directions, you have a "pie" with less than 100 calories per serving in the freezer. But you also have a box of chocolate cookies (minus the one you crumbled on top) and most of a bag of pillow mints in your cabinets. They will be staring at you, tempting you, and reminding you that if your diet gets too terrible, they are waiting for you. Perhaps you could gradually use the cookies one "pie" at a time, but making that many dessert pies seems counterproductive to being the happy loser this recipe card wants you to be.
However, this pie is not nearly as bad as I feared it would be. I left the rest of it in my friend's freezer. Two days later, I got  this screencap:
That's my friend in blue, and a complete stranger in gray.

I don't know who this person is at all, so they have no reason to try to lie and make me feel better. So not only did my friend keep the pie instead of throwing it out (or letting it melt down the sink), but this pie also visited even more people's houses! And they gladly received it!
Happy Pieathlon everybody! I never thought I'd say this, but I'm a little disappointed I got off so easy this year. But who knows what awful food the future will bring!
Be sure to see what everyone else made!