There are really only three things you need to know about this Bananas Foster Coffee Cake:
1. It contains the holy trinity of The Baking B’s*–Bananas, Butter and Booze.
2. If you put the word “coffee” in front of “cake”, then said cake becomes perfectly acceptable for breakfast.
3. Taking into consideration the aforementioned items, you now have a totally legit reason to have liquor first thing in the morning. You’re welcome.
The time is upon us: It’s just about fall, y’all! Soups and stews are about to be all up in my area on the regular. It’s about dang time. To celebrate, I want to share with you the ultimate carb-y accompaniment that is my new obsession. Pretzel Rolls. Like the perfect shopping mall/ballpark soft pretzel, in a totally different form. You’ve never met a more addictive dinner roll, I’m telling you.
It feels like approximately 50 years ago, but once upon a time I had a job as a makeup artist for a very fancy, stylish cosmetic line. I would travel around to upscale department stores like Saks and Neiman Marcus where I ordinarily would have no business being, and design new makeup looks for ladies of all shapes, sizes and colors and promote the brand. It was a pretty rad job, I have to say. But my favorite days were the ones in my hometown of Chicago, when I visited what used to be the historical Marshall Field’s on State Street (which is now a flippin’ Macy’s, DON’T EVEN GET ME STARTED). It was a beautiful store with fun clientele and a gorgeous cosmetics department. But what I really loved was my lunch break there, because the top floor had a café with floor-to-ceiling windows, a stunning city view, and a place that had the most glorious seasonal salads, all served with a moan-inducing pretzel roll. Deeply golden with a chewy crust, smattered with crunchy coarse salt. Huminuh.
I know you’re probably all up in the long holiday weekend, what with your grilling and beer-ing and what not. But this savory tart went down in my kitchen last night and just about blew my dang mind. And because we are friends, I just had to tell you all about it on the ASAP. Bacon and Caramelized Onion Tart, darlings. Have yourself a super-fancy Labor Day weekend, won’t you?
I know we’ve talked about how I’m a sucker for savory baking. It makes me feel extra capable and fills the house with a fragrance that rivals that of baking brownies. Also, savory baked goods are a more logical pairing with wine. (That last sentence is sort of my gauge of what’s worth doing in life.) Now, this is not to say that I haven’t (often) paired cake with a chilly glass of Champers, but sometimes it’s just nice to do things a little more predictably. It makes me feel like I’ve got my act together. It’s the little things.
After the debacle of last week, I’ve reprogrammed a bit. Which is to say that I’ve done a lot of organizing, de-cluttering, and otherwise simplifying. And not to sound all woo-woo or anything, but has anyone else out there felt a sort of cosmic shift recently? Maybe it has to do with that August-becoming-September thing and Little C turning three any second now (three!!). Or maybe it has to do with pulling the trigger on officially sending my crazy cookbook off to the printers, after which I experienced a most interesting sensation, not unlike that of impending childbirth, teetering the line between crying and barfing. Come to think of it, finishing my first book just as my first baby is turning three must mean something, right? Let’s just say it means that everyone can stop asking me about “baby number twoooo??” in a creepy sing-songy voice, because hey, people, I did just sort of give birth again.
Anyway, all of this to say that I just can get enough of paring down these days as a way to take a breather. It’s getting intense, guys. I’ve been wearing only my bathrobe for quite some time after showering. I am reading an actual book in my downtime. Listening to a lot of Iron and Wine. Lighting pretty candles just for the heck of it. The other day for lunch, I had some white beans mixed with tuna in a lovely antique bowl, dressed simply with a bit of avocado oil and lemon. As I chewed, I thought, This must be how Gwyneth Paltrow feels ALL THE TIME. It’s kind of magical, and for the ten more minutes that this phase lasts, I’m really going to enjoy myself.
But I haven’t completely gone off the deep end. I definitely have been eating dessert, and a dang good one at that. And it fits fantastically into my less-is-more vacation. Come along, won’t you?
So, I’m from Illinois, remember? Growing up, the biggest fruit picking thing we ever did was apple picking in the fall, and maybe a first grade school field trip to the pumpkin patch, which was really only exciting because we all got to wear jeans instead of our school uniforms and could count on Capri Sun juice packs in our brown bag lunches. Because of my limited childhood fruit picking experiences, it never ceases to blow my mind that I’m raising a child in California–not only can we pick apples and pumpkins in the fall, but crazy things that I only ever ate on rare occasions as a kid, and strictly from the supermarket. Strawberries! Blackberries! Citrus! Kiwi fruit, for crying out loud! All for the public picking at little farms tucked away up and down the coast. Unreal!
California kids don’t know how good they’ve got it. You take them strawberry picking, and they slam your sofa into your front window and bust a whole section of it. These kids, I tell ya.
Oh, yes! Didn’t I tell you? Little C totally shattered the front window. It was epic. The sort of thing that makes a mother curl up in her closet with a bowl of Strawberry Sour Cream Ice Cream and a bottle of Wild Turkey. Or something.
Lest you think that my family subsists on cookies and cake alone, I need to share something very special with you. And not “special” in the complicated sense, either. Nay, I am here to offer you not only something savory (!!), but also the kind of recipe that does that magical job of making everyone think you are a freaking genius, when in actuality it was really quite simple. The sort of thing that requires a smattering of lightly dressed greens and a glass of wine and nothing else. I live for this kind of recipe.
Maybe you’ve heard of Jennifer Perillo through her phenomenal work as a food writer, blogger and recipe developer. Maybe, like me, you follow her work to get inspiration for your own writing, and sometimes to marvel at the fearless way she tackles her life as a working mom and how she manages to weave her love of food into every moment with her beloved family. Or perhaps you’ve only just heard of Jennie in the past week, when the sudden death of her husband Mikey has been the focus of the food blogging community. I am betting that if you’re in the last category, you’ve been touched by her story, and have seen the outpouring of sympathy from people like me, who can barely even be categorized as acquaintances of Jennie’s.
I suppose it’s because I’m a mother to a little girl myself, and close to Jennie’s age; the past few days I’ve had her in my thoughts almost constantly, a flurry of questions and what ifs that I just can’t seem to shake. It’s the sort of tragedy that I can only imagine to a certain point before my mind literally won’t let me think any further. It’s a terrible reality for so many women, and one that the average person is not equipped to handle with sanity, let alone strength and grace.
But Jennie is not your average woman. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of enjoying her straightforward, evocative writing style, this much is clear. Just days after her world changed, she managed to reach out to her dedicated fans and virtual friends who were asking what could be done for her and her girls. Jennie asked for just one simple thing: that we all might put together one of her husband’s favorite desserts today, and enjoy it with our families in Mikey’s memory.
And so tonight my husband, Little C and I will be doing just that. Gathered at our little dinner table, chatting about the week, dragging our spoons through a pile of dreamy peanut butter mousse and a chocolate-slicked cookie crust. Thankful to be loved, to be alive, to be present with each other. A sweet start to a weekend spent as one lucky, lucky family.
If you’d like to make a Peanut Butter Pie of your own in Mikey’s honor and send Jennie and her girls your love and support, you can find the recipe on her website here.
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