BANANA MACADAMIA BREAD

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I found these colorful vintage clickers on ebay.  Clickers, according to Wikipedia, consist of a thin piece of metal or plastic “held in a casing so that the metal is slightly torqued; depressing one end of the metal causes it to pop out of alignment and releasing it causes it to pop back into alignment, each time making a sharp click” — kind of like TMJ.  During WWII, clickers known as Airborne Crickets, were used by paratroopers of the 101st Airborne to covertly distinguish between friend and foe during the invasion of Normandy.  Soldiers would click their cricket once, and receiving two clicks in return signaled friendly troops.

Clickers should not be confused with Clackers, the deadly toy popular in the 1960s and 1970s.

Clackers

Clackers

According to Wikipedia, “Clackers were discontinued when reports came out of children becoming injured while playing with them. Fairly heavy and fast-moving, and made of hard acrylic plastic, the balls would occasionally shatter upon striking each other.”  Well, duh.

As toys, clickers are cheery and fun — for about a minute.  After that, the sound and the child become really annoying.  If you ever find yourself with one of those guests who doesn’t know when to go home, just sit a kid next to them with a clicker or two and see how long it takes for them to hightail it out of there.

Of the three clickers, the monkey is my favorite, and the inspiration for today’s recipe.  Did you ever sing the “monkey see, monkey do” song with your kids?  It went like this:

musical notes

When you clap clap clap your hands,

The monkey clap clap claps his hands

Monkey see, monkey do,

Monkey does the same as you.

The song is repeated with other actions such as stamp your feet, turn around, and jump up high, until you can stand it no longer, which happens pretty quickly.  I think the person who wrote the lyrics, however, probably never saw a monkey at the zoo, for if he had, the refrain would probably be something more like the one I used to sing with the kids:

musical notes

Monkey see, monkey do,

Monkey flings his poo at you.

Another version, popularized by Michael Scott on The Office, ends with “Monkey pees all over you.”  Keepin’ it real.

Monkeys like bananas, right?  Actually, monkeys enjoy most fruits, and those who live in banana-growing climates certainly enjoy bananas.  I like bananas too, but they tend to blacken faster than we eat them.  Whenever I have blackened bananas I think, “Oh, cool, I’ll make banana bread,” and then I never get around to it and soon the fruit flies appear.  Gross.  Remember ant farms, the gift you hoped your kids would never receive?  I think this year I’ll slip a “fruit fly farm” in the kids’ stockings — they’ll be so excited!

banana

Do it yourself “fruit fly farm”

Inspired by the monkey clicker, and the blackening bananas in my fruit bowl, I finally made  Banana Macadamia Bread.  The recipe is adapted from one I originally saw on Essence of Emeril, back before he “bammed” his way to celebrity chef status.  Judging from the number of 4-star reviews the original recipe received, I’m not the only one who loves it.  You can alter the amount of bananas and nuts, but I highly recommend using butter instead of shortening for a truly delicious bread.

BANANA MACADAMIA BREAD
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Recipe type: Breads and Muffins
Author:
Ingredients
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup mashed ripe bananas (approximately 3 small bananas)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1-1/2 cups flour
  • ½ cup macadamia nuts, coarsely chopped
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9x5x3-inch loaf pan with cooking spray.
  2. Place butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl, and using an electric mixer, beat until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Beat in the bananas. Add the baking soda, salt, flour, and cinnamon, and mix thoroughly. Stir in macadamia nuts.
  3. Pour the dough into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a spatula. Bake until top is browned and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, approximately 1 hour. Allow to cool in pan before removing. To remove, place a plate over pan, invert and gently remove pan.

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Ready for the oven 

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 Cooling before being removed from the pan

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 Filling the house with its wonderful aroma

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 Monkey see, monkey do

Monkey eats banana bread with you.

EASY APRICOT CHEESE KOLACHES

Recently, kolaches have been receiving a lot of attention.  In fact, just last week, the New York Times ran an article entitled “The Kolache:  Czech, Texan, or All-American? (All Three).”  Kolaches are Czech pastries, made with a yeast dough and most often topped with a sweetened cream cheese or fruit filling.  Here in Texas, kolaches are hugely popular.  There’s a strip of highway in south-central Texas known as the Czech Belt, where numerous bakeries and roadside stops sell homemade kolaches, and for many travelers, stopping and buying kolaches is the highlight of any road trip.  Our personal favorite is Weikel’s Bakery (“ We Gotcha Kolache”), and I might add that their apple strudel and mega-sized Rice Krispie squares with pecans are pretty awesome, too.  My kids have been eating sausage kolaches from the Kolache Factory, a chain with locations all over Texas, since they first cut teeth.

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 Offerings at the Kolache Factory

An article in the Houston Chronicle about a woman named Victoria Rittinger who hosts kolache parties using a recipe passed on to her from her aunt (which is shared in the article), had me salivating as I read about some of the artisanal fillings she uses — regional charcuterie, seasonal fruits, chiles, and herbs.  Doesn’t goat cheese and fig preserves with bay leaf sound intriguing?  Or boudin from Louisiana?

If you are like me, and by that I mean being neither Czech nor inclined to wake up early enough to mix up yeast dough in time to serve kolaches hot out of the oven to my impatient family (and they really are best hot out of the oven — the kolaches, that is, not my family), here is an easy way to quickly satisfy any kolache cravings or curiosity.  By using Pillsbury refrigerated thin crust pizza dough, you can save yourself a LOT of time and still serve up delicious, tender, hot kolaches.  I’ve used apricot jam here, but feel free to go wild and use that fig jam with bay leaf that has been sitting in your pantry for years.

EASY APRICOT CHEESE KOLACHES
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Recipe type: Breads and Muffins
Author:
Ingredients
  • 11-ounce can Pillsbury Refrigerated Thin Pizza Crust (do not use other varieties, or your kolaches will be too doughy)
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 4 tablespoons sugar, divided use
  • 3-1/2 tablespoons flour, divided use
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 2 tablespoons butter, divided use
  • ¼ cup Apricot Preserves
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Prepare cheese filling: Place cream cheese, 2 tablespoons sugar, 1-1/2 tablespoons flour, and egg yolk in a medium bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat until smooth and creamy.
  3. Prepare crumb topping: Place 2 tablespoons flour, 2 tablespoons sugar, and 1 tablespoon butter in a mini chopper and process until crumbly.
  4. To assemble kolaches, unroll pizza dough, and cut into 6 equal pieces. Using your hands, shape pieces into rounds. Place 1 round in the center of a 9-inch pie plate, and surround with remaining 5 rounds. Gently press rounds together to cover bottom of pie plate. Melt remaining 1 tablespoon of butter by placing in a small dish and microwaving on high for 20 seconds. Using a pastry brush, brush melted butter over dough. Using the back of a tablespoon, create an indentation in each kolache. Fill with 1 tablespoon cheese filling. Top cheese filling on each kolache with 2 teaspoons apricot jam. Sprinkle crumb topping evenly over kolaches.
  5. Bake until lightly golden and cheese filling is set, approximately 18 minutes. Allow to cool briefly in pan. Use a spatula to remove kolaches and transfer to serving plates.

001The timesaving shortcut — be sure it’s thin crust

(other varieties will not achieve desired results)

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Nestled in baking dish, waiting for filling

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First comes the cheese filling . . . 

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 And then the jewel-like fruit filling

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A sprinkling of streusel (known as “posipka”)

010Hot out of the oven 

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Czech it out!

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Těšit!

(which, according to Google Translate, means “Enjoy” in Czech)