Posts tagged ‘bananas’

Good Morning

In the same way that I follow a recipe, I follow a certain schedule in the morning. I don’t watch the clock and record how long I take to brush my teeth, but I have a couple things that I always do in the same order. Unfortunately, I usually spend too long doing some things. The very last thing I do before I run out the door is eat breakfast, but it often gets compromised for the sake of time. I brush my hair, pack my backpack, and suddenly my ride is at the door.

Some days I throw a handful of dry cereal into a Ziploc bag and hurriedly pour some soymilk into a travel cup, and then I eat the cereal on the go. Other days I’ll swipe an apple from the counter and eat it during first period. And some days – this is worst of all – I simply go without breakfast. Besides dessert, breakfast is my favorite meal, so those are the days to watch out for my grouchiness.

On the weekends, though, I like to savor breakfast. I love to wake up to the comforting weight of a dog at the foot of my bed, and the sound of the heater gently creaking. I walk down the hallway in my still-warm cotton pajamas and fluffy pink socks to find the kitchen bathed in petal-soft light, and I appreciate how still and how refreshing the winter mornings can be.

My parents wait for me to wake up on my own before starting to cook. Mom starts the coffee and I begin slicing oranges for fresh juice. We plan our breakfast. Our favorites are bagels with cream cheese and lox, pork chops, or eggs (sunny-side up and just a little bit runny, please.) But somehow, inevitably, we frequently end up at pancakes. Pancakes used to always fall to me the way that scones and muffins are considered my territory. But nobody is foolish enough to let me make the pancakes anymore.

There is a special place in my heart for pancakes, but they seem to hate me the most. In fact, my ineptitude at pancake-making is famous in my house. Some recipes are more forgiving than others, but pancakes have no sympathy for me. I’ve made whole-wheat pancakes that ended up a soggy clump on what I thought was a nonstick pan. I’ve burned and undercooked pancakes of all flavors and sizes.

Hands down the worst pancakes I’ve ever made were these blueberry-corn pancakes, and I don’t really have the heart to relive that particular story. I even felt sorry for our trash can as I scraped the curiously gritty and soggy pancakes into the garbage.

Like the determined teenage baker I am, I’ve never stopped trying. I always offer to make the batter and cook the pancakes. But my parents steer me to the table, ask me to set out the plates, or try to distract me with gems like “Why don’t you just relax?” and “Wouldn’t you rather have some bacon?”

You know they’re just trying to keep me from destroying breakfast for everyone. I guess you can’t blame them.

Now my mother is the one who makes the pancakes in my house, and they are far superior to mine. Whatever I am doing wrong, she avoids those pitfalls, and her pancakes end up light and fluffy.

With several overly ripe bananas browning on the counter, we decided to have banana pancakes for breakfast one Sunday. I was allowed to pick out a banana pancake recipe, but after that my mother took over. I juiced tangerines and then, unable to help myself, made a Triple Berry Maple Syrup with some frozen berries still in our freezer from summer.

I sneaked surreptitious glances at my mother as we worked, trying to uncover her pancake secret. At one point she commented, “The batter is a little thick,” but before I could stick in my nose she had fixed the problem, and I went back to simmering the maple syrup.

Ten minutes later I set the table and arranged the plates of food. The orange juice was tart and satisfying, the bacon still sizzling, and the maple syrup a deep, rich purple. We stacked our plates three pancakes tall, poured the maple syrup, and took the first triple-layered bite.

With a thick drizzle of Triple Berry Maple Syrup and small, sweet bits of banana, there was no denying that the pancakes were delicious. They weren’t dense – they were fluffy – but they were deceptively filling. I was halfway through my pancakes and was surprised by how full I was feeling. The banana flavor was also much more pronounced than I’d expected, though not in a bad way. They were just intensely banana-y, in a way that I couldn’t imagine a recipe intending.

I glanced over at Dad, who seemed to be having the same thoughts. We looked at Mom at the same time.

“How many bananas did this recipe call for?” He asked.

She took a moment to remember, then furrowed her forehead. “We didn’t have enough bananas, so I had to halve the amount it called for.”

“…Halve the amount?” I couldn’t even fathom what pancakes with double the banana would be like.

“Yeah. The recipe called for 3-4 cups of banana, and we only had 3 large bananas, which was 1 1/2 cups.”


I picked up the recipe still on the counter, scanned the ingredients, and then began to giggle. “Mom,” I managed. “Not 3-4 cups. Just 3/4 cup of banana – you doubled the amount!”

We had a good laugh, but since the pancakes were delicious anyway, we didn’t dwell on the mishap. I only have two thoughts on the whole thing – first, it’s a good thing that this family loves bananas. Second, how unfair is it that I somehow manage to ruin any pancake I touch simply by following the recipe, but my mom can double an ingredient and end up with delicious pancakes? The mysteries of life.

And in all honesty, when we make these pancakes again, we will probably double the banana to 1 1/2 cups. They were just so good.


December 16, 2009 at 9:16 pm 28 comments

Mini Cocoa and Banana Pavlovas and a whole lotta trouble

Pavlova. The word rolls off of your tongue, all at once light and alluring, heavenly and undeniably delicious. Pavlova.

I decided to make it for three reasons. First, it looked gorgeous and I was curious to try it. Second, I wanted to make it chocolate and submit it to Poornima’s “For the Love of Chocolate” event. And finally, I was meeting my Grandma to celebrate her birthday and this seemed perfect. Like me, my mother had never heard of it before. “How do you spell it?” she asked.


Pavlova is not entirely difficult. It’s a meringue base, with a thin crisp outer crust and a chewy, marshmallowy inside. The meringue nest is topped with freshly whipped cream and fresh fruit. The whole thing melts in your mouth, and the sweetness of the meringue is cut by the fruit and the cream, if unsweetened. So why did this little dessert give me such a hard time?

Right off the bat, I broke 18 eggs. I was opening the fridge to take out the four eggs needed for the pavlovas. One moment, I was talking, with the four eggs in my hand. The next moment, my mother had pushed me all the way over to the cabinets in an attempt to stop me, but alas – the empty container slid guiltily on the floor and sacrificed every egg along the way. While my four egg whites came to room temperature, I wiped up the floor and tried to keep the dogs from licking the splattered raw yolk.

But it was about to get much, much more embarrassing.


April 7, 2009 at 2:59 am 18 comments

Heathy Banana Apple Muffins – when life throws you bananas

Sitting beside your newly-driving 16 year old daughter as she backs out of a Costco parking space is not for the faint of heart. The kids running by, the impatiently waiting car with flashing lights, my mom in the passenger seat, instinctively pushing her foot on an imaginary brake – not the most relaxing day. The solution is to take frequent, stress-free breaks. Which is how we ended up at the farmer’s market.

Hours later, we stand in the kitchen, looking at the 25 or so nearly over-ripe bananas on the counter. It was just too good to pass up: $1 for all the nearly-rotting bananas you could carry. Naturally, we grabbed as many as we could hold without a second thought. But now we have two dozen old bananas that need to be used right away. There couldn’t be a better excuse to make healthy banana apple muffins.


August 26, 2008 at 1:48 am 34 comments

Banana Bread and procrastination

My summer reading book this year is Gulliver’s Travels. It’s a classic, full of satire and adventure and fantasy. At least, according to Cliff Notes. I can’t seem to focus on poor Gulliver and his compelling travels when it’s a gorgeous summer day and we have ripe bananas. No, I think I’ll make banana bread instead.

Unlike most people, I don’t make banana bread when unsightly brown splotches bloom all over our bananas. Honestly, I like banana bread so much that I can never wait for them to become overripe. I end up stashing them in a paper bag and waiting about a day, hoping they’ll be aged enough by the next day. I’ve even been known to use perfectly firm, yellow bananas for my bread, just mashing them extra soft with a fork. I know it compromises flavor. I can’t help it.

So like most people, I’ve tried a fair share of banana bread recipes. I’ve teetered from the traditional path a few times – chocolate chips, cocoa powder, nuts and no nuts, dried fruit, coconut – but when it comes down to it, plain and simple banana bread is what I really like. My dad has made banana bread on occasion for as long as I can remember, his favorite being Martha’s recipe (with half cake flour). Me, I still haven’t found The One. But this one came pretty close. It comes from Elise at Simply Recipes. I followed her recipe to a T (except that I sprinkled quick cooking oats over the top) and before long the house smelled like warm bananas. Mmmm. Definitely more enthralling than Gulliver’s Travels.

August 12, 2008 at 12:07 am 21 comments

Elissa Bernstein

I'm Elissa: a 17 (now 21) year old baker in Seattle Boston juggling creative nonfiction workshops, subway maps, and my passions for writing, baking, and photography. Photo above © Michelle Moore

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