Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Goodbye 2014

“I grasped two things: I wasn't as happy as I could be, and my life wasn't going to change unless I made it change.” 
― Gretchen Rubin, The Happiness Project

As we head into 2015 I invite you to join me in our own Happiness Project. We're using the book by Gretchen Rubin as a guide, but really, this is our project, the happiness that you and I and the other members of the group create for ourselves. It's a closed group, but if you'd like an invite, let me know in the comments below.

In prepping for this, I updated my google calendar based menu. It's 20 days of meal prompts loosely based around the following themes:

  • meatless Monday 
  • Taco Tuesday aka international cuisine 
  • Wacky Wednesday aka new recipes 
  • Thrifty Thursday aka leftovers 
  • Friendly Fridays - invite people over or go out 
  • Saturday is Noodle Night (any ideas for something alliterative with Pasta? Yeah, me either) 
  • Sunday is Homemade Pizza Night
We do hot breakfasts most days of the school year around here, but at Oh Dark Thirty it can be hard for me to think of what to make. I've found it helps tremendously if I can prep a little the night before and then just fry the eggs or bake or present the muffins the next morning. 

BTW, there's a good read on meal planning strategies at

So, goodbye 2014. You were an interesting year, I said final goodbyes to too many people near and dear to my heart and "Until We Meet Again" to pretty much everyone else I knew in the world. On the plus side I spent October, November, and December meeting old friends for the very first time. 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Variations... aka life as usual in Suva

A couple days back I posted a recipe for Fiji Rum PawPaw Cake. And then I somehow came home from the market with a kilo of fresh bananas only to see that my neighbor had dropped off another kilo of bananas from her tree.

What to do with 5 pounds of bananas?!

Well, things have been a little crazy here this last week, so I threw all the insanity in a mixing bowl and came up with (drum roll please)

Fijian Banana Bread with Cognac Raisins 
(made in a bundt cake pan so I don't stress about the middle not cooking)

Fruit topping
1 cup dried fruit (get the box of mixed fruit at New World. Every time I get one it's a different mix)
Mixed Fruit from New World Grocery in Damodar City
.5 cup cognac (find the glass that your husband poured and then forgot because we had to pick the kid up from a program but is too good to pour out)

Add directly to the prepared bundt cake pan:
4 tablespoons butter
.75 cup brown sugar

Cake Mix
2 cups mashed bananas
2 tablespoons lime juice (see lime is pretty much all I buy. You might have lemons, but lemons don't go as well with tequila, so I don't usually buy them)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
5 teaspoons baking powder
.75 cup butter, diced
4 eggs
.5 cup coconut cream
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon lime zest (lemon, lime, orange, whatever you've got on hand)
1 cup dessicated coconut

I skip this next part, not sure why I keep leaving it on the recipe, but hey, here you go:
Boozy Glaze
.5 cup butter, melted
1 cup granulated sugar
.5 cup liquor


Two tanks, in case one runs out while you're baking a cake. All you do is turn the switch to the full tank What, they're both empty? You don't say! 
Preheat your oven to 325°F/165°C. Or, if your oven isn't warming up fast enough, check to see if you need to switch to the other Fiji Gas cylinder. If both cylinders are empty, go get a new Fiji gas cylinder. But before you leave, soak the mixed dried fruit in the cognac. It shoudl soak for at least half an hour... but overnight...or a week is still ok. You know what, you need liquor soaked fruit. Just get a cup of dried fruit and soak it in your favorite rum or vodka or brandy. Just do it. We'll find a use for it down the road.

Oven warming up? Good. Now spray a large 12 cup bundt pan with cooking spray and add 4 tbs melted butter and .75 cup brown sugar to the bottom of the prepared pan. Add your cognac/fruit mixture to the sugar mixture in the bottom of the cake pan.

In a bowl, mash the bananas with the lime juice.

Cream your sugar and butter together, add your eggs one at a time, the coconut cream, vanilla and mashed bananas/lime juice. Slowly add in the dry ingredients, lime zest, and coconut, occasionally scraping the bowl, until well mixed. Add in anything you forgot. What? You didn't forget anything? Wow, you're reading the wrong blog. It's ok, we can still be friends, but no banana bread for you.

Pour the batter into the bundt pan and bake in a preheated oven at 325°F/165°C for 1 hour. Check for doneness with a wooden pick after 60 minutes. Remove from oven and invert onto a serving dish. You might need to tap the bundt pan to loosen the sugar sauce and marinated fruit from the bottom now top of the pan. Or, if you're going to add the boozy glaze go to the next step.

Boozy Glaze: Let cake cool for at least 10 minutes. In a small pan on the stove, mix butter, brown sugar and cognac and bring just to a boil. Spoon the glaze onto the cake until it is completely absorbed. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit overnight. Before turning out the cake onto a serving platter, warm it in a 325°F/165°C oven for 10 minutes to loosen the sugar mixture at the bottom of the pan. The cake will be very delicate.

Hey look, I got a picture this time.
Amerika's Fijian Banana Cake with Cognac Soaked Raisins
So, all's well that ends well. And this is kind of my story so far in Suva. It's not quite what I expected, there are unexpected stops and detours, but it's pretty good, especially with an occasional cup of booze thrown in.

3 December Update: Hub took the cake to a friend's house after work last night  (I had Fijian class). It didn't come back. I guess I'll never know how it turned out  (but I bet it was awesome)