Tuesday, March 1, 2011


As I said in my previous blog posting, I have no idea where this recipe originated.  I just found it in a file and made the (delicious) cake last night.  For all of you who, like me, don't give a damn about calories and sugar . . here it is.

Banana Chocolate Chip Upside-Down Cake

If you live somewhere where sour cream isn't available, you can use buttermilk, plain whole milk yogurt, or fromage blanc.

For the topping:

1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons (100 g) packed dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons butter; cubed, at room temperature
3-4 ripe medium bananas
a few drops of lemon juice

For the cake:

1 1/2 cups (210 g) flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 cup (150 g) granulated sugar

2 tablespoons (30 g) melted butter, salted or unsalted
2 large eggs
1 cup (250 g) banana puree (about 2 bananas)
1/2 cup (120 g) sour cream, regular or low-fat
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup (80 g) chocolate chips or chopped bittersweet or semisweet chocolate

1. To make the topping, place the brown sugar and butter in an 8-inch (20 cm) square cake pan. Warm the pan directly on the stovetop over low heat, stirring until the sugar is thoroughly moistened.   Stir until the sugar is moist and bubbling, then remove from heat. (It won't melt completely smooth, and there may be a few bare spots, which is normal.) Let cool to room temperature.

2. Peel and slice the bananas in 1/4-inch (1 cm) slices. Arrange them in slightly overlapping rows over the melted brown sugar. Sprinkle with a few drops of lemon juice.

3. Preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC).

4. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon in a large bowl, making sure there are no lumps. (note from Catalyst: you will notice there is no salt in the list of ingredients.  I considered this for awhile, then threw in about half a teaspoon.)  Mix in the granulated sugar.

5. In a small bowl, mix together the butter, eggs, banana puree, sour cream, and vanilla.

6. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and stir in the wet ingredients until almost combined. Do not overmix. Gently fold in the chocolate pieces.

7. Scrape the batter into the pan over the bananas, then use a spatula to carefully spread the batter over the sliced fruit.

8. Bake for 40 minutes, or until the cake feels just set in the center when you touch it.

9. Cool the cake for about 20 minutes, then run a knife along the edges of the cake to help it release from the pan. Invert the cake onto a serving platter.  It should look something like this:

There's a picture of my whole cake in my previous blog posting.

Serving: The cake is best served warm with whipped cream, vanilla ice cream, or by itself as a snack. If made an hour or so in advance, it can be inverted on the serving platter, and left with the cake pan over it, to keep it warm. Otherwise it can be rewarmed in a low oven, covered with foil. Or enjoyed at room temperature.

Storage: The cake can be made up to two days in advance, although it is best the day it's made. To freeze it, wrap it securely in plastic wrap; it can be frozen for one to two months.

Bon appetit!

Monday, February 28, 2011


I don't know where I found this recipe.  It just turned up in a file when I was looking for something else and tonight I made it.  It's a Banana Chocolate Chip Upside-Down Cake and it's delicious.  Especially warm with some whipped cream.  Yum!

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

Now for something less sweet.

It seems like the news is full of total bull goose loonies these days.  On ABC, Christiane Amanpour interviewed Libyan strongman Moammar Gaddafi today and he laughed!  Repeatedly.  When she asked him about his forces killing protesters he absolutely denied it and said there are no protesters, that everyone in the country loves him.  And on and on.  The U.S. government says Gaddafi is delusional and he certainly seems it.

Then there's Charlie Sheen, who seems like he's just visiting from some alien planet.  Piers Morgan is interviewing him on CNN as I'm writing this and he has said that Charlie should be able to act out his life however he likes as long as he shows up for work on time and does his job.  There are some questions by reliable people about his conduct, whether he's on drugs, whether he's got a mental problem of some kind or just what the heck is wrong with him.  I just can't figure it out.

And finally there was a report today that Ponzi specialist Bernard Madoff made a collect telephone call to a New York magazine writer to tell him that he's discovered he's a good person through prison psychiatry sessions.  Madoff, you may remember, swindled thousands of investors out of billions of dollars but he doesn't seem to have any guilt about it.

What is going on?  Is there something in the water? 

Maybe these guys all need some of my Banana Chocolate Chip Upside-Down Cake.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Will this snow ever end?????

My front yard in Arizona on February 27th, 2011. This may be the last snowfall of this winter.  But in this strange year, never say never.

This snow piled up on a railing in the back yard is about as deep as we've had it this year.  But it's dry and fluffy.

And the blue skies south toward Phoenix indicates the storm has passed and the melting will soon begin.

Actually, as I write this a couple of hours later we have bright blue, sunny skies and the snow is rapidly melting.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Friday night

I made a loaf of bread yesterday.  Buttermilk Honey Wheat Bread.  It looks o.k.

And it tasted fantastic.

But . . . the top kind of collapsed.  And the bread, while very tasty . . . was very light.  No body to it.  SWMBO said "look at the troubleshooting area of your bread machine manual."

So I did.  There wasn't really anything there.  But then . . I found a page in the very end of the book.  It was about baking at elevations higher than 3,000 feet.  Well!  We're at about 5,100 feet.  And one paragraph had SWMBO's very own asterisk (*) alongside it.  It said:  "The bread rises faster at higher elevations.  Increase the salt in your recipes by 25 percent!"  Well, hell!  I'd seen that before but had forgotten or ignored it.  So . . the next loaf will have more salt.  And we'll see what happens.

Stay tuned.


Now on to the serious stuff.  Sunday night is Oscar night.  SWMBO is always invited to a "girls only" party that night at the home of our longtime friend - DK - in Flagstaff.  I stay home, alone, bereft.  BUT I get a steak and a potato and enjoy myself.  Well, wouldn't you believe it?  Weather has taken a stand and a big snowstorm is moving into northern Arizona late Saturday and through Sunday.  The forecasters are backing off on the extent of it but still say Flagstaff could get a foot to two feet of snow.  Well, SWMBO stays overnight but that would mean struggling through more snow than is reasonable to get home Monday.  And she has to get home Monday because Monday evening is the BRD's dinner, which SWMBO promised her as a Christmas gift.  Totally prepared and delivered for four people - - Beef Bourguinon, egg noodles, green salad with raspberry vinaigrette, french bread, and for dessert chocolate mousse crepes with warm Creme Anglais sauce.  It's all delivered ahead of time.  All the BRD has to do is warm up the necessary stuff and serve it.  They have to provide their own wine.  The four guests can not include SWMBO or me.

She got the idea of the gift from the BRD remembering before Christmas some time that a similar dinner had been provided for her and a different boyfriend as a yuletide gift some 35 years ago and she still remembered it with joy and a bit of a tear in the eye.  She's looking forward to Monday night so you can see why SWMBO couldn't take a chance on the snow.

Now . . . to what I really set out to tell you about: my Oscar predictions.  They are as follows:

Best Movie - True Grit.  (I believe the Social Network and the King's Speech will knock each other out.)

Best Director - Joel and Ethan Coen for True Grit.  (But I'm probably wrong about this.)

Best Actor - Colin Firth (He's a lock.)

Best Supporting Actor - Geoffrey Rush (I love him but Christian Bale in The Fighter is probably going to beat him.)

Best Actress - Natalie Portman (I haven't seen Black Swan but have heard great things about her and I've seen her in a couple of movies lately in which she is fantastic.)

Best Supporting Actress - Hailee Steinfeld (I thought she was fantastic in True Grit.  But I know Melissa Leo is a favorite for The Fighter.  I haven't seen the movie but would have picked her until she started getting bad publicity for campaigning hard for the award.)

That's as far as my predictions go.  Sunday night should be fun and I'll get to share it firsthand with my SWMBO, even if I don't get my steak.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


I'm still trying to get my pizza right. I baked it a bit longer last night so the crust was firm but I didn't notice any special flavor in it to indicate the Italian seasoning and Parmesan cheese I had added to it. Of course, it was covered with sauce and pepperoni and mozzarella cheese so probably I wouldn't have noticed.  But it was a good pizza which SWMBO and I demolished at one sitting.

Tonight, I think will just be some leftover jerk chicken and rice.

I'm beginning to realize, after only a couple of weeks of this, why SWMBO tired of cooking, after 50 years or so.

So . . on to another subject.

The bridge construction continues in my neighborhood and today we found out what those tall cylindrical columns of rebar were used for.  They were guides for the forms into which cement was poured.  One of them was hardened enough for the forms to be removed today and you can see the columns for the bridge coming into being.

I don't know if any of you are as fascinated by this as I seem to be but I'll probably continue reporting on it simply because I drive through the construction zone a couple or more times a day.  Humor me.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Don't be a jerk!

My cooking adventures continue.  Last night I made Jerk Chicken.  It was very easy.  Bought a bottle of jerk marinade at the store, marinaded the chicken pieces for a couple of hours in a plastic bag, dumped it all into a glass dish and baked it in the oven for about 40 minutes.  SWMBO introduced us to jerk chicken but she used to make her own marinade.  Mine was just as good, I thought.  However, the curried green bananas I fixed to accompany the chicken didn't have the proper sweet flavor to go with the hot.  We sprinkled them with a bit of sugar which helped but SWMBO said she thought the bananas were "too" green and therefore not sweet enough.  White rice and a tossed salad accompanied the entree.

Forgot to take any pictures.  I suppose I could take a picture of my full mid-section.  Naaaaahhhh.  Wouldn't be prudent, as George H.W. Bush used to say.

I just finished making a couple of balls of pizza dough.  This time I added some Italian seasoning and some Parmesan cheese to the flour so I'll see how that turns out.  It looks good so far.

And the beat goes on.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Why I'm staying inside today!

Sunday, Sunday, and Baby It's Cold Outside.  Either song could describe mid-day in my town, Arizona.

Do you see that white stuff on the branches of our mimosa tree?  That's snow!

The little evergreen closer to the ground seems huddled under a white blanket.

We could go for a drive, if the windshield wipers aren't frozen in place.

Hmmm, maybe a backyard picnic lunch?

Oh, sure, just take a seat!

And honey, this honeysuckle vine seems like it's shivering.

Ah well, tomorrow is another day.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Chinee food!

O.K. I know I'm going to offend someone with that title.  But it goes way back, decades, to my Charlie Chan days on television.  Maybe even before.

But . . . I made some egg drop soup tonight for SWMBO and I.  It was easy.  It was delicious.  The recipe came from the internets.  Again, can I say: it was easy, it was delicious.

That was a preview to my Kung Pao Chicken.  My Kung Pao Chicken.  I do exaggerate.  It came in a frozen bag from the supermarket.  Heat it up in a large non-stick frying pan, throw in the bag of peanuts, toss in the bag of sauce.  Combine it all with the microwaved bag of rice.  It's dinner!

It's amazing what they can do with frozen food these days. 

But, by gawd, my egg drop soup was made from scratch.  And it was good.  And there's enough left for tomorrow.

Snow again

Well, I've done it again - bragged about our wonderful, balmy, warm Arizona weather to all of my friends in much colder and snowier climes.  And this is what I get for it.

The weatherman says we may have 4 inches or more by tomorrow but the temperature is forecast to go up to the 50's by Monday so this will not last.

The worst part is that the wet, sticky snow messes up my television reception because it sticks to the satellite dish and blocks the signal from coming through.  I've been up on a ladder brushing it off and even sprayed the dish with silicone spray but so far that's not working.  Next up: cooking spray.  Or maybe WD-40.  That's supposed to fix everything.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Bridge progress . . and weather

Here's the latest update on the bridge construction on Highway 89-A over Viewpoint Road in Prescott Valley.  Concrete on both sides of the road now.  First the north side.

 Then the south side.

Then the weather.  It's getting breezy and the temperature is dropping.  There's a prediction of rain and snow for about the next week.  We don't expect much, if any, snow here but perhaps in the upper elevations to the north and the east.  But . . . in 1996, SWMBO and I opened a bookstore here on March 3rd.  The weather up until then had been dry and mostly warm.  But during the night before our grand opening, a snowstorm hit and the big day dawned with a lot of snow.  SWMBO said "I'm staying home," but I was determined to open the store on schedule.  I think we had about three customers all day.  It definitely wasn't worth it.  The only thing good about late snowfalls here is that it never lasts long.  Within a day or two all the snow had melted away and the sunshine was back.  Now that we're retired (mostly) we can just stay inside at home and watch the weather through a window.  So, I say . . . "bring it on!"

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


The weather is changing.  There's a cold breeze out there tonight.  Possible rain, possible snow is on the way.  The moon is 98 percent full tonight but shrouded in clouds.

It's a Sherlock Holmes kind of night.  One could imagine hearing the howling of the hounds on the moors.  If one had hounds.  And moors.

What could protect me against the terrors of the night?  There's only one hope.

My faithful companion.  Blackwell.  The blackest of cats.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


O.K.  This is my second.  I'm kind of proud of it.

It's actually round!  Well, mostly.  My first one was shaped sort of like an infected kidney.  But I figured out how to roll one out with a rolling pin and made this one mostly round.  I also doped it with a lot of sauce, a lot of cheese and a lot of pepperoni.  And a lot of Italian seasoning.

My second one was a lot better than the first one.  I should have baked this one a little longer to firm up the crust a bit but I'm learning.

Now, if I could just be a little more patient with my photography . . .

Old Time Rock 'n' Roll

I heard a piece on National Public Radio a few minutes ago about a young couple and the music played at their wedding reception.  She had a favorite song, he said it wasn't right.  Sometime during the reception, she talked to the band and the result was . . .

I love this song, too.

For some reason it reminds me of a disk jockey I once worked with in Bismarck, North Dakota.  His name was Jack Fisher and he was known as The Old Reb on the air.  But previously he had worked a morning show at a station in Minneapolis which was sponsored by, of all companies, a beer maker.  He called his show the Beer Bash and used to say (at 8 or 9 in the morning), "Hey, ladies, wouldn't a nice cold beer taste good right now?"  Ah, those were the days.

Update: One of my readers is a colleague from my earliest days in radio.  He has a real name but I have always called him Danny Bananas and by that name he shall be known here.  He sends occasional comments by e-mail and I have just received one from him.  He says the d.j. I mentioned was not the Old Reb, he was the Ol Reb.  I stand corrected.  And I just remembered the name he used on his Beer Bash.  It was Throckmorton.  Throckmorton and the Beer Bash.  Those were the days!

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Valentine's Day Massacre

The St. Valentine's Day Massacre in Chicago, Illinois, occurred a mere 82 years ago, in 1929.  Al Capone was in Florida but his gunsels lined up 7 rival gangsters from the Bugs Moran gang and machine-gunned them.  Capone later went to prison on evasion of income tax charges.  He died in 1947 of cardiac arrest at his home in Miami Beach.   Moran died of lung cancer in Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary in 1957.

All of which is to wish you all a happy St. Valentine's Day.  It was a little calmer around our home.  I fixed a Shrimp Scampi bake, Fettucini Alfredo, a salad, a freshly-baked loaf of French bread and we tested out a couple of straight-from-the-supermarket cheesecake samples for dessert.  Oh, and a bottle of Chardonnay.  I meant to take pictures but everything was getting done at the same time and in the excitement I forgot.  So this is the only one I got, after the cheesecakes.

The BRD communicated by e-mail this afternoon and told me of her menu for herself and her Beau Jack: Brie en croute, shrimp cocktails, lobster bisque with salad, Red Velvet cake and champagne.

Sounds like all four of us did pretty good today.  I hope your day (and eating) went just as well.

Friday, February 11, 2011

The anxiety dream

I used to be a television news producer.  Local television station in Phoenix.  But I decided what stories would run in the newscast, in what order they would run, which anchor would read each story, rode herd on the reporters who did the stories, and usually wrote much of the rest of the newscast, including the idiotic "teases" for the next segment.  I also used to start my job by writing: "Good evening, I'm _______________ (and) Good evening, I'm _________________."  I always used to say that if I didn't include that page in the script the anchors would forget to introduce themselves.

Well, those days are long in my past now and I don't think any of the current anchors would forget to mention their names at the top of the newscast.

I left television news in 1985.  That's 26 years ago.  But I have had a recurrent dream over the years.  In it, I am still producing newscasts but with one major difference.  I never get it done.  Problems develop throughout the day, usually of my own doing and procrastination.  Suddenly it is time for the newscast to go on the air and I have . . . NOTHING . . . prepared!  No script, no video, no pictures, nothing!  I usually go running down the stairs to the studio and hand the anchors a wadded handful of wire copy and  . . . then . . . I wake up in a cold sweat.

This is my anxiety dream.  I have learned from talking to people over the years that everyone has one.  For instance, SWMBO's anxiety dream usually involves moving her home and packing boxes and never being ready, never getting it all done.  She has, thanks to me and others, had to go through the "moving experience" a number of times in her life.  Once, we moved out of her large house to an apartment 20 miles or so away and when she came back to do the last run-through of the house, she found her son (who supposedly was far away starting a new life) sleeping on a bare floor in his previous room.  He didn't know we were moving, we didn't know he was returning to "his home."  But, you can see why SWMBO would have a "moving" anxiety dream.

All of this is to explain that last night, I had my "producer dream" again.  And it was great!  Everything went well all day, I had a script to hand each of the anchors at newstime, the reporter tape "packages" were ready to go and the newscast went beautifully.  I told SWMBO about it today and she said "So are you finally released?"  I said "I think so.  I hope so."

We all have anxieties, most of them hidden in our psyches.  They tend to come out and plague us in our dreams.  I really do hope mine are gone.

Except - - - now I find myself thinking about my problems with cooking!

 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

On another topic entirely.  The BRD and her Beau Jack went to the Grand Canyon today with his son and the son's fiancee.  A picture was snapped at the rim.

I told her it should be captioned "The Silver Foxes".  She said it would be lovely and true.  So here they are.  The Silver Foxes.  Damned good looking couple, don't you think?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Homemade bread

You may recall that I've taken over much of the cooking in my house.  Some of it has been good, some of it just o.k. and some of it has been pretty bad.

A couple of days ago I dragged out our old, hardly ever used bread machine to see what I could do.

My first loaf suffered because I forgot to use warm liquid.  That was pretty much a short little hockey puck.  The second loaf was a potato bread that turned out a lot better.  But my healthy diet conscious wife said "why don't you try something with whole wheat flour."  (I knew that was coming and had already considered it.) 

In the meantime, I had bought a quart of buttermilk because I thought I'd seen a recipe that looked interesting.  I made buttermilk/banana pancakes this morning.  Now neither of us is fond of pancakes but we got through them and I thought they were pretty good.  But I still had quite a bit of buttermilk and was wondering how to use it before it went bad.  (Which brings to mind the old line - How do you tell if your buttermilk has gone bad, anyway?  But that's beside the point here.)

SWMBO to the rescue!  She found a recipe on the Internet for Buttermilk Honey Wheat Bread made in a bread machine.  The recipe said it would only take 55 minutes.  Now, I know how long my bread machine takes just to knead the dough and let it rise and bake it and I seriously doubted that.  But I went ahead, tossed it together and turned on the machine.  It's clock told me it would be all ready in . . . . . 3 hours and 45 minutes!  But hey, I'm retired, I've got nothing but time. 

It finally got done, we tasted it and loved it.  Wonderful!

It's a small loaf but there are only the two of us and we can always make more.

If you're so inclined, you can find the recipe here.  Just don't trust it when it says it only takes 55 minutes.

The new Blackwell

Frequent readers of this blog may remember a scrawny, scarred-up, underfed cat that began hanging around my residence after I began feeding him in the garage.  He had, at that time, been dubbed "Blackie Detroit."

But he kept getting into fights and coming around more and more scarred up.  So we took him to the Humane Society, had him neutered and brought him home to become an "inside cat."  He's gotten out a couple of times and explored a bit but doesn't seem to get into any more fights.  What he does do a lot of is eat!  And eat and eat and eat.  That little kitten has grown into quite a heavyweight cat.
And he's my buddy now.  He lets me pet him, scratch his head and back, even his tummy now and then.  And when I'm not using it, he takes up residence on my bed.  Last night I found him acting nearly human, taking a snooze using a pillow to rest his head.

As you can see, he's become quite a home cat.  And when we brought him in he acquired a new name.  He is the much more sophisticated "Blackwell" now.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Tumbleweed Junction

Out here in the wild (South)West, spring brings a plethora of nasty plants which go by the name of tumbleweeds.  They're called that because when the plant dies and dries, it breaks off and the large, sort of round top part tumbles across the deserts with the wind.  Where I live, in the high desert, there are thousands of them on pastureland and vacant lots.

Barbed wire (or as it's called down South "bob wire") fences catch a lot of them and I saw some town work crews out gathering them up and hauling them away this morning.

But the fences don't get all of them and frequently they are encountered on streets and highways.  They can get caught under one's car but usually they just kind of explode and scatter when they're hit.

Now if you've ever watched an old Western movie, you've no doubt seen tumbleweeds.  And there's even a great old song about them.

And yes, that fellow who came down the stairs and stopped to listen was the "King of the Cowboys" - Roy Rogers.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

A musical interlude

Here's a neat song from those round-the-world musicians at Playing for Change.  In honor of Bob Marley.  I like the work of the two brothers(?) from Italy, Simone and Roberto Luti.

(Thanks to my buddy, Jeff, for tipping me to it.)

Monday, February 7, 2011

Monday update

As I wrote to my friend, Phil, he can wear his "cheesehead" proudly now that the Lombardi trophy has been returned to Green Bay with the Packers' win over the Steelers in yesterday's Super Bowl.


Progress continues to be made on the Highway 89-A overpass at Viewpoint Road in north Prescott Valley.  The north side now has concrete in place.

The south side looks like it's getting ready to match it.

Traffic is still moving normally through the intersection while heavy equipment continues to roll on the project.

I think the entire project is supposed to be done in the fall of this year.  I'll keep you posted.