Crazed In the Kitchen: May 2012   

Sunday, May 27, 2012

How to Make "The World's Easiest Banana Bread"--the Hard Way

Recently I learned how to make the “World’s Easiest Banana Bread.” Then I learned how to make it the hard way:

Let your four-year-old help you.
 (Photo: Steve Hopson,

We had three bananas getting brown on the counter, which is a rarity around here. We are serious about our bananas, and they never last long. If my husband or I are at a grocery store—even if the only things on the list are tampons and light bulbs—we will always buy bananas because, well, we always need them or are about to need them.

So. Somehow, these three bananas had been allowed to exist long enough to get a little brown. And the only thing I hate more than mushy bananas is throwing out food, so I decided we would make banana bread. According to the clock we had just under 2 hours until we had to leave for Matthew’s T-ball “practice” (have you ever seen 3- and 4-year-olds play T-ball? If so, you get the need for quotes just there). I figured we had lots of time. No problem, right?


I Googled “banana bread recipe” and got about 1,000 recipes for banana bread that all included goofy ingredients like buttermilk or rum that would require a trip to the store. Taking two kids to the grocery store was NOT what I had in mind when I imagined making banana bread. (Taking two kids to the grocery store is pretty much NEVER what I have in mind. Ever.) So I refined my search to “EASY banana bread recipe,” and I hit the jackpot. The very first hit, from, required only ingredients I already had! I hit “print” and headed for the kitchen.

I gathered my ingredients and my 4-year-old and soon realized how this was going to go. Matthew was interested ONLY in cracking the eggs. As I squinted at the recipe, he badgered me, “NOW do I crack the eggs? NOW? When, Mommy? Mommy, when? Mommy, WHEN DO I GET TO CRACK THE EGGS??”

I thought that smushing up bananas would be a good distraction, so I pulled a dining room chair up to the counter for him to stand on and told him to go for it. This was a special privilege because standing on chairs is usually not allowed. This is a tough rule for Matthew to follow. Pretty much every time I do something like, I don’t know, clean the cat box or go to the bathroom alone, I emerge to find him standing on a dining room chair. Not doing anything, usually, except gleefully breaking the we-do-not-stand-on-chairs rule. But today? Today he was being a stickler for the rules. And he refused to stand on that chair.

So, as Matthew attempted to mush bananas that he could not see because he was kneeling instead of standing on the chair, I got out some yogurt to substitute for the butter in the recipe. Why? I don’t know exactly. Yogurt is not in the original recipe, but someone in the comments had said that if you replace the butter with yogurt, the bread would be “healthier.” And since I had a feeling that I was going to be eating a LOT of this banana bread, I decided to blindly follow that advice. Now, measuring yogurt shouldn’t be hard. But measuring yogurt with a 4-year-old’s help is very hard. First the yogurt has to be spooned from its container into a measuring cup, then dumped from the measuring cup into a bowl. The result? Some yogurt in the bowl and lots of yogurt everywhere else.

A quick check of the clock told me this was taking a bit longer than planned, what with pleading with my kid to break rules and cleaning yogurt off of my shoes, but we should still have plenty of time to finish up and get it baked before T-ball. I mean, how long could making banana bread take?

Next was sugar.  Once again, I deviated from the original recipe, cutting the sugar down to ¾ cup and using brown sugar instead of white sugar. I couldn’t begin to tell you the difference between brown and white sugar (other than the obvious), but, again, someone in the recipe’s comments said it was a good idea, and who am I to argue with the internet? Though we still hadn’t cracked any eggs, the sight of sugar caught Matthew’s attention. He finally stood up on the chair and offered to help measure and pour, which went about as well as the yogurt. I turned away to grab a sponge to wipe up, and when I turned back I found Matthew, literally up to his elbows in brown sugar, licking his arm, hand, and fingers like a starving wild animal.

I put a stop to the sugar feast, handed him a wooden spoon, and told him to stir. Matthew went for it with gusto, though his speed at mixing far exceeded his effectiveness. “Look at me! I’m an agitator in a washing machine!” he yelled. Before I could ask him where exactly he learned that, he went on, “I’m a tornado! A mixing tornado!” He paused long enough to grab the second spoon that I was holding, stuck it in the sugary, yogurt-y banana goo and yelled, “DOUBLE AGITATOR!”

Apparently, all that sugar was kicking in.

Finally, FINALLY, it was time to crack the egg. Just one, it turns out, which was lucky because that’s all we had. I gave it to Matthew and stood back. Matthew has a strange method of cracking eggs that absolutely demolishes the egg, but somehow lands very little shell in the bowl. There’s also a whole stab-the-yolk-until-it-“pops” thing that can be kind of disturbing if you think about it too much. Once all that was done, it was back to the agitator-tornado for more stirring, and we moved on through the recipe.

When it was time for the flour, I knew I had to proceed with caution. Flour is a pain in the butt to clean up, and we didn’t have a lot of extra time. But of course it went everywhere, leading Matthew to tell me triumphantly, “Mommy! I have flour on my nipples!” (Yes, he was wearing nothing but underpants, his favorite outfit.) The situation didn’t improve as he began his crazy stirring again, which somehow didn’t incorporate the flour into the batter at all but did manage to incorporate it into his hair.

I looked at the clock with dread. At this point, we would be late to T-ball if the bread took a full hour to cook, so I did some damage control. I gave Matthew a spoon to lick while I quickly mixed in the flour, poured the batter into the pan, and put it into the oven. The kitchen was a mess, and I knew that I should enlist Matthew’s help in cleaning it up—you know, teach him that cleaning up is part of the process of baking and all that—but I still had to get us both dressed and sunscreened and get a snack together. So I did what any parent would do (right? RIGHT?). I turned on “Yo Gabba Gabba.”

And then, as I tried to clean brown sugar and flour out of the fruit bowl, the dish drainer, the silverware drawer (???), I heard a question that I would hear at least 40 more times in the next 50 minutes: “Is the banana bread done yet?”

We were NOT going to make it to T-ball on time.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Like A Herd of Turtles

“Off like a herd of turtles” is what my dad always used to say as my family climbed into our green Dodge Dart and headed off to wherever we were going. I always just assumed it was some annoying things grownups say—until I had kids. And tried to go somewhere.

I’m not sure what it is about kids that makes it so HARD to get out the freakin’ door everyday. They could whine all morning about wanting to go to the park, but when it’s actually time to GO TO THE PARK, they turn into, well, a herd of turtles.

Here’s what happened one day this week when we decided to go to the park:

Me: “OK, guys! Time to go to the park!”

Boys: (nothing. Suddenly playing happily with matchbox cars, even though they had spent the last 40 minutes arguing and writhing around on the floor complaining of acute boredom).

Getting out of the house should be easy. I have a simple mental checklist to follow, and once it’s all done, we’re on our way. Here it is:

·      Diaper/Potty
·      Clothes
·      Shoes
·      Sunscreen
·      Bag(s)
·      Out the door

It’s really not much. It really should be quick. Sure, at times there are complications—like the 5 days a year that it rains, for example, when we’ll need umbrellas—but it’s not like I’m putting these kids in snow pants and boots and mittens and all that. (I’m pretty sure if we lived somewhere with snow we wouldn’t leave the house all winter. We would try, but we’d spend all our time putting on and taking off our winter gear instead.)

So, here’s how it went the other day:

Now THIS turtle knows how to get places.
Diaper/Potty: I cornered William and carried him like a football toward the bedroom. Over his loud protests (“NO DIAPER! NO DIAPER! NOOOOOO!”), I told Matthew to go potty. But just hearing the word “potty” set off some 4-year-old obsession with all things toilet-related, and he began stomping around the living room chanting, “You are a poopy stinky butt! You are a poopy stinky butt!” I decided to assume that he’d find his way to the potty eventually and focused on the task at hand—the diaper change.

Sometimes changing William is easy. And sometimes it’s like wrestling an angry alligator. Generally, if I’m trying to get out of the house, it’s ‘gator time. Since reasoning with a two-year-old is only somewhat more effective than reasoning with a houseplant, I resorted to the usual: I pinned him down with one elbow and strapped that diaper on as fast as possible. The results weren’t pretty, but it would do the job.

As I let William go, I could hear from the THREE successive flushes that something—maybe potty, I hoped it was potty—was going on in the bathroom. By the time I poked my head in, Matthew was at the sink, pumping hand soap all over the counter and finger painting with it (or, as he calls it, “washing his hands”). I got him back on track and moved on to…

Clothes: I had managed to wrestle William into his clothes during the diaper fight so I headed for Matthew, who was wearing his favorite outfit: just underpants. I got his pants on, but in the time it took me to lean over and pick up his shirt he wandered off declaring, “I’m going to touch the cat’s eyes!” I rescued the cat (again) and got Matthew’s shirt on. Great. Now it’s time for…

Shoes: I scooped William into my lap and got started. Matthew looked at us, saw an easy target, and before I could stop him hit William gently on the head yelling, “BOP!” William laughed, but I was getting annoyed at this point (WHY WHY WHY was it taking so long to get ready??!! WHY???) so I ordered Matthew to time out. “But Mommy!” he whined. “I didn’t hit him! I bopped him! You never said no bopping!” I’m not proud of it, but then I did that thing where you get crazy eyes and hiss/whisper dire threats through clenched teeth, and he grumbled his way into time out.

Couldn't help it. I just love this.
As he sat there, I decided to move on to…

Sunscreen: I hate this part. My husband and I have been known to fight over who has to do it. I will put my kids in long-sleeved shirts in 80-degree weather just so there is less skin to protect with the evil lotion. Why do kids hate sunscreen so much? Why do they act like you are trying to spread acid all over their faces? Is it because they know I will bribe them into doing it peacefully?

So. Time out finished, sunscreen applied, bribes delivered, we moved on to finding our…

Bags: I grabbed my diaper bag and leaned over to grab the monstrous bag of sand toys we bring to the park. As I did, Matthew yelled, “Show off your tushie! Time for stickers!” and I felt several little pokes to my rear end. I sighed, knowing that my hands were too full to remove the stickers he had just placed there and that I would inevitably forget about them and spend the rest of the day with motivational sayings like “Gr8 job!” and “Way 2 go!” all over my butt.

But that was ok, because we were about to make it…

Out the door: The easiest step, right? Just walk out the door and to the car parked right there in the driveway. Ten glorious feet, and then both kids would be strapped into their car seats, unable to poke, hit, or bop each other for 5-10 glorious minutes. Easy-peasy.

You would think.

Instead, Matthew opened the screen door, took one step out onto the porch and stopped to check out the neighborhood, I guess. I’m not sure exactly what he was doing, but there he stood. Just behind him in the doorway stood William, his tiny fingers placed in the exact spot where they would get pinched if I let the screen door close. One step behind him was me, looking like a hobo Irish step dancer as I juggled my two bags and did a crazy jig designed to keep the cats from darting out to the lawn to eat grass, which they would then just barf up inside the house.

Trying to stay positive (we are SO CLOSE), I chirped, “OK! Let’s go to the car!” No one moved except the cat, who tried to slip between my feet. I danced a little faster and said (not quite so chirpy this time), “COME ON, boys! Let’s start walking to the car!” They were frozen in place. WHAT WERE THEY WAITING FOR? WHAT WERE THEY LOOKING AT?? The cat feinted left and my jig turned into more of a drunken ju-jitsu thing. I dropped all pretense of friendliness. “GO GET IN THAT CAR RIGHT NOW OR SO HELP ME I WILL LOSE. MY. FREAKIN. MIND!” I yelled. They both looked at me like I’d already lost it, then ambled over to the car while I tackled the cat and threw, I mean, placed him in the house and slammed the door. I smiled and waved at my lovely and childless neighbor, who was obviously thinking she made the right decision at that point. I gathered the sand toys from where they landed all over the porch (why I even bothered I don’t know—they only like to play with the old empty yogurt cups I threw in there once).

And we were off. Like a herd of turtles.