Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Spring is coming!

One of the hardest things about living in China is the Winter. Even here, in the relative south, the winters can be brutal! It is really hard to explain why it is so hard. If I tell folks how cold it gets here, it doesn't really sound that bad, but let me tell you, it sure seems like it. I have already written about how cold it can feel here, so I won't do that now. Instead I will announce that it is almost SPRING!
We will have some cold days, but I am nearly positive the bitter cold is gone for the year! All around us we are seeing signs that Spring is really here (or coming). Soon we will be packing our thermals away. It won't be long until we will sweat every where we go, but for now, I will rejoice that it is another day that I do not have long johns on my legs!

Hangzhou is a beautiful place. Spring is one of the best times to live (or visit) here. Soon I will post about many of the gorgeous blooms here. For now, I will leave you some pics of the signs of spring.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Banana Pudding

If you were to list typical Southern desserts I am sure that banana pudding will be at the top of the list.  Seldom do you have a church fellowship meal (in the South) without at least one bowl of banana pudding.  I LOVE banana pudding, but I am a banana pudding snob.  In my mind, real banana pudding can not be made with instant pudding!  If you make that kind, I am sorry. 

When I was real young (5-9 yrs old) we lived in Key West, FL.  The church was a small and close-knit  group.  Whenever we had a fellowship meal, my mom would make a double batch of banana pudding.  She always put it in the same orange Tupperware bowl. And there was NEVER any leftovers.  I think they thought they could not have a meal without "Debbie's banana pudding". 

I remember helping my mom make it.  She did not have a recipe written down.  It was kind of a joke that it was a secret family recipe.  My Nanny used to make banana pudding too.  The first time I ever tasted it still warm was at my Nanny;s.  Mmmmmm....I thought it was good cold, but when it is warm...it is like heaven.

My mother only used Nilla Wafers to make banana pudding.  No other brand would do. 

After Jon and I married, I made banana pudding for a fellowship meal at the small country church we attended.  In my mind that is what you made for fellowship meals. 

Basically our banana pudding is a vanilla custard poured over the layered vanilla wafers and sliced bananas.  It takes time and patience to make the custard.  I won't give  the exact recipe here, but it has lots of sugar, eggs, butter, and milk.  When I was a kid, I would stir this mixture for what seemed like forever.  It is important to keep stirring so that it does not stick and scotch.  My mom would have me stir (and stir, and stir) until it started to get thick.  I remember stirring and thinking that it must be getting thick, but really my arm was just getting tired.

They sell these little tiny cookies here that look a lot like vanilla wafers.  They taste a little like them too. You can buy them by the jin (about a pound). Ever since I discovered these, I have been wanting to try my hand at banana pudding.  I have not made banana pudding in years and years.

My mom always used evaporated milk when she made this.  I actually had a can of evaporated milk.  However, when I started to open the can I notice that it was really expired and the inside REALLY did not look right.  So I made it with regular milk instead.

I have discovered that I can use my wok to make sauces easier than my thin sauce pan.  I can control the temperature easier with the wok.

Yesterday afternoon, Eryn and I made banana pudding.  She helped me layer the cookies and bananas.  She watched me while I cooked the custard.  When the pudding started to thicken, I got so excited.  It was almost like magic.

 My Nanny died a little over a year ago, and my mom died 9 years ago next week, but the tradition of this "secret recipe" lives on.

I know they would both be "tickled" that I cooked it in a wok.  It was delicious!