Peaches and Cream

Ok, it’s not actually cream, it’s Greek yogurt sweetened with honey and a dash of vanilla extract. But that would be an awful title. I gotta be honest I’ve not always been the biggest peach fan. Maybe it’s the yankee in me (and by yankee I mean northerner, not the baseball team). But, when they are in season, super ripe, and sprinkled with a bit of maple sugar, they’re utterly divine.

I bought a bag of them at Trader Joe’s last week and forgot about them until just a few days ago. Nearing the overripe stage, I decided it would be best if I put them to use all at once. What better excuse to use butter. I took out my cast iron skillet, got it heating on the stove. I cored and sliced 4 medium peaches. Placed 1 tablespoon of butter in the pan and let it get melted and hot. I got the peaches in a pan in an even layer,  sprinkled 1 tablespoon of granulated sugar evenly over the top and let them ride. Once they were brown and syrupy on the bottom, I used my spatula to flip them over and do the same on the other side. Then it was into my bowl and topped with the aforementioned yogurt. A splendid breakfast.

Obviously my peaches were still pretty hot, hence why the yogurt got a bit soupy. Next time I’ll let them cool a bit. Still super yummy, though.

Quick and Sinful Caramelized Banana Pudding

Whilst in the throes of death and plague last week, I found myself at the clinic numerous times for various ailments. On one of my trips I asked the PA what kinds of foods I should be eating, since my appetite was pretty much gone. One of the first things she mentioned was pudding….pudding… dear god I don’t even remember the last time I had pudding. That cool, smooth, creamy concoction straight from the refrigerated plastic tub. It was settled. I would go get my prescriptions filled, get my hands on some vitamins, and purchase some vanilla pudding. Yes, vanilla – chocolate just doesn’t do it for me. Go figure. I had very little energy on this day, so I only made it to two stores before giving up. Neither had cold, ready-made vanilla pudding. Only chocolate and tapioca… ew. God bless my roommate, she had gone out later to grab dinner and had checked at another grocery store – still nothing.

Later that evening I was feeling feisty (me, feisty? never ;)) and irritated that I still had no pudding. So, I started searching for recipes to make it on my own and found a very promising recipe involving egg yolks, whole milk, and a whole vanilla bean. Totally over the top, but I was in a mood, so I decided to do it. I assembled the pudding and though it was tasty, I was disappointed to see that after it chilled in the fridge, it reverted to a soupy liquid, not a thick, rich pudding that I so craved. As I contemplated this vanilla soup, I saw I had a bunch of almost-too-ripe bananas on the counter. If there’s one thing I like more than vanilla pudding, it’s banana pudding… hmmm.. So I decided to saute the bananas in butter and sugar and blend them into my vanilla pudding base. With just a little more corn starch and a heap of crushed nilla wafters, I had me a sinfully rich and decadent banana pudding. I tried this on three friends and the feeling was mutual – completely ridiculous.

But, I realized that while this was a good recipe, it wasn’t really starving artist practical. I mean come on, heavy cream, vanilla bean, four egg yolks…. sure, it was a fun and a good little project to have when you’re sick, but it’s not something you could throw together on a whim (or on a budget). And besides, I still needed vanilla pudding! At the advice of my mother, I sought out the Jell-O instant vanilla pudding mix, a mere $1.39 that requires only two cups of milk. So I whipped it together and was astonished at how fast it came together. Once chilled, it was everything I was wanting. And the best part? It can also be used to make a quick and sinful caramelized banana pudding for a fraction of the cost and time. And I don’t even miss the yolks or the vanilla bean. Even in sickness, the starving artist still thinks creatively yet practically… and then collapses.

Caramelized Banana Pudding (Recipe PDF)

Maple Vanilla Fruit Salad

Well friends it looks like this is going to be Costco week. I’ve said it before I’ll say it again – I love Costco. Starving artist’s best friend. I went at the end of last week and ended up with quite a bounty of items. As you know, the point of Costco is bulk, and as you further know, the starving artist loves a bargain that he is able to morph into many diverse treats. First up – berries. I bought a gigantic bucket of gorgeous strawberries for $5 as well as a sizable container of blackberries for $4. Of course the majority of these beauties are destined for my juicer, but since I have SO many I thought what a perfect opportunity to make a fruit salad. But throwing fruit in a bowl is not good enough for the starving artist – no no. I need to use my pantry to make it sparkle. I immediately went for the maple sugar – I’m sure you remember me talking about it in my Maple Roasted Sweet Potato post.  I sliced 7 strawberries and placed them in a small bowl with a few handfuls of blackberries and some blueberries I got from Trader Joe’s for $2.99. I threw in about 3 tablespoons of maple sugar. two to three drops of vanilla extract, tossed it all together, and let it sit on the counter for a good 20 minutes (as long as an hour would be even better). When I was ready to eat it I sliced up a banana and tossed that into the mix along with a handful of sliced toasted almonds for crunch. Delicious.

If I really had it my way I would have used the innards of a vanilla bean instead of extract, but I’m the starving artist – there is no budget for such luxury. Also if you’re looking to make it completely over the top you can drizzle on a little maple syrup before you eat. And of course, this is fruit salad, which means you can put in whatever you want. Maple and vanilla are two of my favorite flavors on earth, and I love fresh berries, so this salad does it for me, but there are so many possible variations. Here are some ideas:

  • Top it with a dollop of your favorite honey-flavored greek yogurt
  • Use granola instead of almonds for added flavor and texture
  • Instead of maple, use plain sugar and toss in a few finely diced leaves of mint.
  • Almond extract would work well in this application, as would peppermint, just be careful – potent stuff
  • Use any combination of fruit you love – pineapple, grapes, mango, pear, apple, etc, etc.

Stay tuned for more treasures from Costco, including what to do with a huge tray of campari tomatoes and how you can put a bucket of cilantro lime shrimp to excellent use. God I love summer.