41 Arboriculture | Banana Day Dreamin’

64 Arts

From metal to trees? Sure, whatever you say, gurus!

41 Arboriculture, the Care of Trees
For the house or garden

(and for those who are paying attention and think we skipped 40, we didn’t–I just forgot to mention it was being combined with #38, I’ve since fixed that)

Folks, I might have it going on with the crafty things, but I pretty much suck at growing things. Black thumb of Calcutta level of death and destruction to houseplants and herb gardens. Seriously, I’ve killed Rosemary. Three times! And those of you who garden know just how bad you have to be to do that.

Still, I have a hunch that if I put my mind to it (and, by that, I mean my obsessive streak that has me researching anything and everything to do with a subject  to the exclusion of a lot else) I could manage not to kill everything green within a half-mile radius. But since I don’t have that much space in my head to spare at the moment, hows about I start with just one thing for now?

Last fall, while chatting with our new neighbors about the very prolific lemon tree that came along with the home they’d purchased they mentioned we’d soon have to start trading lemons for bananas.


Well I’ll be! We actually had bananas on our tree! (and, yes, I first shared this over on Nibbles back in October)

See, I thought I’d read (or maybe heard on NPR or some such) that banana trees in the US didn’t do so hot and couldn’t be pollinated. Guess I was very wrong, huh?

So that was late-September or so and I took to watching the bananas to see when they’d be ready to harvest. A few quick searches hadn’t yielded much info on North Florida banana-growing, but I did find that once the bananas filled out and lightened in color a bit, they could be brought in and let ripen in a warmish, dry place. Like the garage (didn’t want to bring them inside in case of bugs) or some such.

But then things too a turn for the weird. We had an usually cold spell in mid-to-late October (for our Halloween party it didn’t even get into the 50s!) and then a freak heat wave in January.

Still, we took in a hand or two of bananas in November, I think, to see what would happen. Not much, as it turns out, since that cold snap stunted the bananas growth (I found out later that if temperatures drop below 30F the bananas will stall). That said, we sort of forgot about the bunch we’d brought in and left it hanging in the garage well after we’d written them off.



Apparently that heat wave in January that coincided with our outdoor engagement shoot was just what 2 of our bitty bananas needed to ripen! How nice that Mother Nature gave us one apiece to try. They were delicious, too, and makes me more determined to make sure this year’s crop (if we get one) yields even more.

We’ve got quite a copse of trees in our side yard so even though we had 5 flower this year (and they only flower once in their life), we stand a good chance of some of the newer shoots producing some fruit. If so, I plan to watch the weather a bit more carefully than before and make sure we bring in any likely bunches sooner rather than later. Maybe even bring them inside if it gets that cold.

Maybe even string them up in the shower of our spare bathroom!

How are you with growing things? Trees especially?

AlcoHOLidays | Banana Cream Pie Day | Banana Cream-Tini


Banana Cream Pie-inspired Martini against a striped yellow background, copyright 2013 Jennifer "Scraps" Walker, Sips & Shots

You gotta love it when the holidays lend themselves so easily to a cocktail, right?

March 2 is Banana Cream Pie Day and I’m having trouble coming up with any objections to such a day existing. Banana pies and banana cream custards go back to the late-1800s, but the first written record specifically for the banana cream pie is found in 1906, courtesy of The Blue Ribbon Cook Book. Every pie maven surely has their own version of the pie these days, a favorite for pot lucks and spring holidays, and there are plenty of cocktail versions around, too.

Of course, I wanted to play around and come up with my own.

Banana Cream-Tini

2 oz Coconut Milk
1 oz Banana Liqueur
3/4 oz Vanilla Vodka
1/4 oz Butterscotch Schnapps

Combine all ingredients over ice and shake until rich and frothy. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and enjoy.

We’ve been using a lot of coconut milk in our house, lately, and had a hunch that it would give this drink a richer feel and flavor than regular milk without being as cloying as sweetened condensed milk or even Irish Cream would have been. My hunch proved correct and this is a delightful twist on the original. The coconut milk makes for a very opaque cocktail, of course, so this is a perfect candidate for serving in something decorative.

Garnish for a cocktail like this is tough. Banana would be the obvious choice but there’s little more unappealing (!) than a browning banana slice resting on the rim of your glass. While most banana cream pies are poured into a standard pastry crust that have been baked blind (unfilled), I suppose you could take a half-step to the left and rim your glass with graham cracker crumbs. Some demerara sugar might make a nice rim, too, come to think of it.

Bottom line, making a banana cream pie takes some effort. This cocktail? All the flavor and less than a minute of real work.

Not such a tough decision, is it?


Review & Recipes | Van Gogh Rich Dark Chocolate Vodka

Rich Dark Chocolate Vodka and 2 of its progency

Rich Dark Chocolate Vodka and 2 of its progency

One good review deserves another, doncha think?

At least it does when the product—in this case Van Gogh Rich Dark Chocolate Vodka—is as tasty as it looks and sounds.

First the basics: Van Gogh Rich Dark Chocolate Vodka definitely lives up to it’s name. It’s not a super-sweet milk chocolate flavor, you’re definitely getting serious cacao, here, and while the edges of such intense chocolate are there, it’s not as harsh as dark chocolate can be. I also found this flavor to be smoother than the PB&J vodka I sampled two weeks ago—just a rounder mouth feel overall.

That said, this is a liquor, not a liqueur, so it’s not as unctuous or rich as you would get from, say, a Godiva chocolate liqueur.

They sent along some suggested recipes to try and, after the PB&J Frappe last time, I was all about the Banana Parfait this time.

Van Gogh Chocolate Banana Parfait
Created by The Cocktail Guru, Jonathan Pogash

2 oz Van Gogh Rich Dark Chocolate Vodka
2 scoops Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
1 cup Milk
1 Banana

Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Pour into a parfait glass and garish with whipped cream, cocoa powder, and sliced bananas.

As you can see, I went with one of my red wine goblets instead of a parfait glass—there’s just something so awesome about a wine goblet filled with smoothie that I can hardly put it into words. I also opted for some vodka-spiked chocolate whipped cream I had on the bar. It was a nice contrast though it weighed the top of the “parfait” down so much it started to overflow even the bounty of my glass.

Outtake: the overflowing parfait cocktail--delicious and messy!

Outtake: the overflowing parfait cocktail–delicious and messy!

Comparing the two, I still side with the PB&J Frappe, but this was still an excellent dessert smoothie. I’d say it could easily serve two; I did share a bit with Todd but I admit, I downed most of this one on my own.

Too much? All things in moderation, folks, even moderation!

Milky Way Martini

2 oz Van Gogh Rich Dark Chocolate Vodka
1 oz Butterscotch Schnapps
½ oz Van Gogh Vanilla Vodka

Combine all ingredients into a shaker with ice. Shake vigorously and pour into a chilled martini glass.

This is a lot like the candy bar shots we would make with chocolate liqueur back in the day, but as a martini it’s a bit… lacking? Generally speaking you stir cocktails comprised of all alcoholic ingredients, so I did stir this one per the usual custom (I’m such a recipe rebel, right?). Once I tasted it, though, it needed something, something like milk, so I’d suggest you add 1-1 ½ oz cold milk to the ingredients and then, yes, shake it to your hearts delight and you’ll likely be much happier with the end result.

Y’all know I’m a sucker for good packaging and the Van Gogh bottles are gorgeous works of functional art, so extra points for that. All in all I enjoyed the Rich Dark Chocolate Vodka and look forward to playing with it in future recipes.


I was provided a bottle of Van Gogh Rich Dark Chocolate Vodka for the purpose of review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Accidental Bananas


Who knew you could grow bananas in the Florida Panhandle?

Both houses Todd and I have shared, so far, have had banana trees somewhere on the premises, but they’ve never bloomed and I thought I’d read or heard something them being purely ornamental in all but the most tropical of locations.

Imagine my surprise, then, when the new neighbors joked that we’d need to trade bananas for lemons (their home has a massive lemon tree at the side–did you know lemon trees have thorns?) and there they were, little green bananas hanging down in several places in our little rain forest just off the porch.

From what I can tell, once the individual “hands” have filled out and have turned slightly more yellow-green than pure green (and definitely before the first frost) its time to cut them down and hang them someplace cool. Which will probably be the garage. And, then, once they’ve all been harvested it’ll be time to cut down the stalks that flowered this year, as they only produce once (but the little shoots that pop up just as the old ones die could).

I’ll be sure to keep you posted if we actually get any edible bananas from this year’s “crop.” Since I had nothing to do with their planting, and they seem pretty self-sufficient to have gotten this far, I hope my notorious black thumb won’t prove their downfall, now that I’ve noticed them!

Rich is Relative


So is difficulty, for that matter.

Crepes are something usually reserved for special occasions, Sunday brunch, or times you want to impress. To the uninitiated, they seem terribly complex when, if anything, they’re a little tedious but not at all difficult. Want to make it even easier on yourself? Buy the crepes pre-made and just whip up this scrumptious Banana Crepe filling.

Banana Crepes

Ingredients for the banana crepe filling4 Tbsp Unsalted Butter
2 Bananas, sliced
1/2 cup Brown Sugar
1 Tbsp Brandy
6-8 Crepes (about 6-8 inches in diameter)
Optional: Creme Anglaise

1. Over medium heat, melt the butter in a small saucepan until slightly foamy.

2. Add in the bananas and stir to coat with the butter.

3. Stir in the brown sugar and cook, stirring occasionally, until the bananas have broken up a bit and the butter and brown sugar have thickened.

4. Stir in the brandy, reduce the heat to low and let sit until needed.

5. Make the crepes according to your favorite recipe or warm purchased crepes to make them pliable.

6. Place a line of the filling in the center of the warm crepe and fold each side over. Transfer to a plate and, if desired, drizzle with the topping of your choice.

Filling is enough for 6-8 crepes.

Row of banana crepes on a plate, drizzled with sauce

Variations: Spread a little Nutella in the middle of the crepe before adding the banana filling. No brandy at hand? Try cognac or even a spiced rum for a similarly delicious finish.

They may be rich, but they were a perfect companion to a light supper we recently shared with friends. Best served with ice-cold milk or hot coffee.