My Commonplace Blog

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ice cream

It Bears Repeating

Again! Again! The little girl says as she spins the revolving door in the TV commercial. The joy of repetition of a joyful thing. Mostly.

Twice last week I made desserts with a long, dependable history. Both reminded me of the tension-filled joy of cooking. It’s all in the details.

Banana cake

The hubs went off-list at the grocery store. I remembered that you said you wanted bananas, so I bought bananas! He said. Two rules of buying bananas: No more than four, and on the green side. I eat only half at a time (the end of the other half protected with a food hugger), and less-than-ripe bananas have some nutrition stuff that’s really good for you. I remembered the smart thing to do, not the specifics. . . .

Six almost fully ripe bananas were a problem waiting to happen. I dug up an old favorite recipe for banana cake which is actually a blend of two recipes. Here’s what I saw.

Banana cake recipes

I haven’t made this in a long time. First, I accidentally followed the cake recipe, thereby putting in too much flour. Then I proceeded to just guess — reduced the sugar a bit, went generous on the salt and baking soda, added less oatmeal. It worked! Loved the outcome but doubt I could repeat it.

That leads us to the ice cream.

ice cream soft

As per my stated goal, we are eating only homemade ice cream this summer — aside from a moment of weakness brought on by a sale of Eskimo Pie Ice Cream Sandwiches.

To trim the calories a little, I substituted 2 percent milk and low-fat cream cheese. The mix was thinner while cooking and for some reason I didn’t simmer it as exuberantly as usual. Chilled it for about 3 hours, anxious to see how it was going to turn out. It churned completely differently than previously — still not super thick after 30 minutes. (This is close to the 20 minute mark; even that is longer than standard.)

ice cream soft mix

After a good freeze, the ice cream turned out much softer but still nicely set. No need to let it warm for a few minutes before serving. The hubs said it was perfect, preferred this. Do it again, again! I would, but I don’t know what exactly caused this consistency. So I proceeded to revert to the old method to see what happened. Harder simmer on the mix, super-cooled overnight. Let it sit at room temp for about 20 minutes before churning. It’s softer than usual, but not the texture of the first batch.

I guess that’s the problem with us creative types — we just hate doing anything the same way twice.


Food Pass-Fail 5, the Trifecta

Wrapping up with Pass, Fail, and Incomplete.

My relationship with complexity pegs the extremes. The idea of immersing myself in a difficult task is so deeply appealing. The reality of doing so, meh, not always so much.

Cooking is a prime example.

Ice cream


The ice cream is a sure and solid A; missed an A+ for flavor strength.

The plan is to serve up only homemade ice cream summer. For ease I used Vanilla Bean Paste from the ab-fab local spice shop Allspice). Guessed at the amount and went too light. Easy enough to improve next time.

Even did a by-chance science experiment. Chilled one cooling tub in the upstairs freezer (not as cold) and one in the chest freezer downstairs (deep freeze). The churning took at least 5 minutes less in the super-chilled tub. But the less-cold tub added more volume with the extra time and has a lighter feel. Also, colder-tub batch chilled about 4 hours; the other batch chilled overnight before putting it in the ice cream maker.

Overall, worth the time and effort.

Rye bread. Incomplete.

Caraway seed

Finding the right flour required visits to several stores, and not sure what I bought is the best choice. For a first go, ordering a big bag off the interwebs seems folly.

Then the weather went chilly so starting the starter in a cold house seemed an exercise in futility. Mission temporarily scrubbed.

But a bowl is on the counter so that qualifies for an incomplete.

I’ll end this project on a glorious, uncomplicated fail:

Chip shelf

Lest anyone mistake us for food purists of any stripe,  please note the above. Our love of Tostitos chips knows no bounds. The only thing we’re fussy about is the variety: Restaurant style, please! Whenever they go on sale (3 for $10 or the ever-coveted, rarely seen 3 for $9), we stock up. Clearly there was a recent sale, so the hubs added a shelf in the basement specifically to hold the bounty. Even considering unfailingly regular consumption, this perfect corporate concoction of oil, salt, and probably a touch of sugar does not lose its appeal. And it comes in Party Size — Cheers!

Three Signs of Spring


The chives survived the winter, first shoots ready to cut.


This year’s spinach crop is up, also table-ready.

Ice cream

And the first batch of home-made ice cream is in the freezer.

There has to be some reward for eating all that spinach!

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