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Summer Banana Pudding

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This weekend Dan and I went to North Carolina for a family reunion.  It was three days of whole smoked pigs, enjoying the marsh breeze, lots of wine, and my southern accent coming out with a vengeance.  I can’t help it, when I’m surrounded by that many southerners I just twang.  It was a great time, and it was reassuring to see that I come by my crazy naturally.

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The reunion took place in Morehead City, and about 40 Rosemond descendants flocked to the area to celebrate our heritage.  My dad rents a double wide (Casa Tortuga) in MHC that he uses as a business hub and as a place for some of his dive clients to crash.  As a rule, divers are cheap, and it’s good for business for him to have accommodations.  Because so many people were here and staying in the Swamp House, we ended up staying in what my step mom has dubbed the “modular home.”  As far as double wides go it’s adequate, but it’s kind of a man-cave.

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My dad’s thought is that if he stocks the kitchen with, you know, dishes, people will be encouraged to cook and therefore will make a mess.  So, in order to make the pudding I had to beg, borrow, and steal what I needed.  What ensued was typical- it all failed miserably.  I have a theory that my recipes work best when I cook them at home for nobody but myself and Dan.  I’m not sure if it’s a combination of stagefright and bad luck or if I just don’t cook well under pressure, but it seems my biggest failures always have audiences.  And I was already nervous about bringing a banana pudding to a group of picky southerners, failure was not really an option.

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Not like that made a difference.  I made the vanilla pudding on Friday, hoping that it would have more than enough time to set before the official reunion festivities on Saturday.  I did not, however, account for the fact that the refrigerator would remain barely cooler than room temperature.  Not that it’s a great refrigerator to start, but the fact that it was overloaded (with beer, mostly) and that it was being opened every 10 minutes (and being held open by whichever (male) family member was grazing for 10 more minutes) meant that my pudding didn’t set.  Not ever.  I thought, after a few hours, that putting it in the freezer might help.  It just crystallized around the edges.  I thought that it just needed time.  It didn’t.  I’m not sure if I missed the window on setting pudding, or if the stars aligned just right to humiliate me, but when I woke up Saturday morning it was liquid.

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Naturally, my pudding anxiety woke me up at 6am.  After checking that my pudding was, in fact, still liquid, I tried to pass time until Dan woke up.  An hour of checking facebook and reading the news later, I decided that 7 was plenty late to wake him up if I suggested a consolation trip to Bojangles for breakfast.  Grumpy though he may have been, nobody can say no to Bojangles, so by 8.30 I had made a box of replacement vanilla pudding.  I know, box pudding is a huge cop-out, but I couldn’t show up to the reunion sans banana pudding and I was out of time to try it again, so I folded under pressure.  I’m not proud of it, but at least the final product was a big success.  Everyone loved it, which may have been partially due to the fact that my Uncle Everett wouldn’t allow a wine glass to sit empty for long.

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second generation cousins (they all share grandparents on the rosemond side)

Summer Banana Pudding

1 box vanilla wafers

4 cups vanilla pudding (recipe here)

6 bananas

1 pint whipped cream

1/4 cup sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

Begin by making your pudding.  It will need to set for at least 3 hours, so allow time for that.

When your pudding is set, pull out your serving dish.  Banana pudding in the summertime does not bake, so it can be a decorative bowl.  Begin your layers with a layer of wafers.

Slice your bananas into thin slices and layer on top of wafers.  Cover with a thin layer of pudding.  There are two secrets to a successful banana pudding.  One is that it needs to sit for at least 4 hours so that the wafers can absorb the flavor and moisture, and the second is that the edges need to be sealed to lock in the moisture.  No wafer should be left dry!  So, as your spreading on your pudding, make sure that the pudding touches the edge of the dish.

Add another layer of wafers, followed by bananas and the remaining pudding.

In a medium sized bowl, whip cream until it begins to thicken.  Add sugar and vanilla.  Continue to whip until it holds soft peaks.  For banana pudding I like my whipped cream to be a little soft because it blends with the pudding so well.  By no means should it still be liquid, it just doesn’t need to be too firm.

Finish the layers with a thick layer of whipped cream.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

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my brother reid doing cartwheels off the tortuga


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Chocolate Dipped Cookie Dough Bites

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I am that person that lives out of her purse.  I lean towards oversized carry-all purses that can hold so many things at once that I often lose my hand in their depths.  As someone perpetually on the go, this habit is a life saver.  Need a pen?  Check.  Need a some propel mix for my water?  Check.  Need a water bottle for that water?  Check.  Need a book about Andrew Jackson?  Check.  Some iphone cords?  Check.  Three pairs of headphones, two of which are broken?  Check.  Every receipt from the past three months?  Check.  Okay, maybe it’s half a life saver and half a bottomless pit of junk.

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Either way, one time that this obsession with shoulder-hung space is handy is the movie theater.  When I was in high school there was a place right next to the movie theater that made the most amazing kung pao chicken over noodles.  I would get it to go, hide it in my purse strategically under other objects, and enjoy it during the movie.  Over the years I’ve snuck everything from the expected Twizzlers to oversized burritos into movie theaters, all with the same result- one happy viewer.

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One of Dan’s favorite snacks to bring to movies are chocolate dipped cookie dough bites.  They sell them at the movie theater and in drug stores, and they’re pretty neat little snacks.  While I prefer Sour Patch Kids and popcorn over something chocolatey, I will on occasion swap him for one of these dough balls.  They’re tasty and I mean, seriously, who doesn’t like cookie dough?  So, as a method of cheering him up midweek between two emotionally draining family vacations, I made him chocolate dipped chocolate chip cookie dough bites.  And they are fabulous.  As a resident of the wild side, I used real egg in my dough.  If you prefer to play it safe, there’s a pretty good list of substitutes for egg in baking here.  Once you’ve solved the basic question, to egg or not to egg, the recipe is easy and straight forward.  I halved a standard cookie dough recipe, melted two bars of semisweet dark chocolate and went from there.  I may even smuggle some of these in to the special foodbloggers screening of Julie & Julia next week (more on that to come!)

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Chocolate Dipped Cookie Dough Bites

2 bars semisweet dark chocolate

Dough:

2 cups flour

1/3 cup sugar

1/3 cup brown sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 egg

1 stick butter, softened

Mix together butter, egg, sugar, and vanilla.  Stir in flour and baking soda.  Stir in chips.

Cover a baking sheet with wax paper.  Spoon out teaspoon sized dollops.  Don’t worry about them being too ball-shaped right now, you can form them later.  Refrigerate 1 hour.

About 20 minutes before your dough is finished cooling, break the chocolate into chunks and melt in a double boiler.  When it is melted, pour into a bowl.

Remove your dough from the fridge.  Spread out a second sheet of wax paper.  Form each piece of dough into a small ball.  Dip into the chocolate using forks (it’s too hot for fingers!!), tongs, spoons, or whatever tool you have accessible.  Coat the ball entirely and then place on the wax paper.

Refrigerate 2-3 hours, then serve.

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Baking with Flax Seed

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I’m the first person to stand up and protest when my favorite foods are butchered in the name of diets.  When I’m trying to be health-conscious, I opt to have a larger salad and a lean piece of meat.  I’d rather have a smaller piece of pie with no ice cream than a large piece of pie whose integrity has been degraded by whole wheat crusts or sugar substitutes.  There are certain foods, however, that I think work really well once they’ve been healthed-up.

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When Dan and I travel to visit people, we try and tailor the food we bring with us to their tastes.  I always try and remember who would prefer the banana cream pie and who would rather the pumpkin muffins.  When we’re going to be in a mixed crowd, we like to bring a variety of foods that all can enjoy, no matter their taste or health requirements.  This week we visited West Virginia (and parts of western Maryland) with Dan’s parents, his sister, her husband, and their daughter.  I brought my bourbon white peach pie and an array of bagels.  I decided to make our personal favorite, jalapeño.  I also decided to make flax seed bagels.

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image courtesy of wikipedia

Adding flax seed to baked goods does a few things.  For one, the health benefits of flax seeds are incredible.  Flax seeds benefit the heart, fight cancer, and for all the good press they get, they probably fight crime.  Flax is also a good substitute for shortening, eggs, and other oils.  According to some of the research I did, adding flax requires a little extra water, the ratio being 1:3, so for each tablespoon of flax seed you add three tablespoons of water.  When you add flax to a baked good, you should lower the baking time and potentially increase the proofing process.  Everything I read suggested that the changes will vary depending on what you’re making, and that you really just have to experiment.  For the bagels, the one notable difference was that the dough became really sticky, which was a little harder to handle.  However, they tasted great and everyone appreciated the heart-healthy breakfast option.

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Dan and I tandem biking on the Rails to Bike Trail in Hanover, Maryland.

Here are some great reference articles:

ameriflax

fresh food perspectives

ehow

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