Caramelized Banana Pudding

There were 8 super dark bananas staring at me for a few days. I like to keep sweets around for the afternoon pick me up. I couldn’t make more banana muffins or a banana cake, and then pudding came across my mind. I can’t remember the last time I made a pudding but let’s go.

  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 quart (4 cups) half-and-half
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 8 bananas, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon, plus more for serving
  • 1 (11-ounce) box vanilla wafers, plus more for serving
  •  Unsweetened whipped cream, for serving (optional)

Again, this came from the NYTimes food app which is far superior to any other product for recipes. I followed it to the letter.

In a medium saucepan, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch and salt. Add the half-and-half and egg yolks, and whisk to combine. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until thickened and pudding-like, 10 to 12 minutes. It was pretty thick at 7 minutes but I went with it and just kept whisking the entire time until I got to ten minutes. Do not ever stop whisking. Remove from heat and stir in 2 tablespoons butter and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. This stops the pudding from cooking anymore.

In a large saucepan or skillet over medium heat, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Add bananas, brown sugar, cinnamon and remaining 1 teaspoon vanilla. Cook, stirring frequently, until well combined, about 2 minutes. Fold the bananas gently over and over.

Layer half the vanilla wafers in a 9-by-13 baking or trifle dish. Top with half the caramelized bananas then half the pudding. Repeat procedure with remaining wafers, bananas and pudding.

Chill for 4 to 6 hours, or up to overnight. Garnish with crumbled vanilla wafers and sprinkle with additional cinnamon before serving. The cinnamon is really nice on top but whipped cream is not necessary. This dessert is so decadent and rich but wow, what a treat.

A New Day, A New Direction

I remember the mall growing up.  It was an entire afternoon or day activity.  Then came changes in the culture.  Arts, cities, e-commerce, social media, and YouTube, but the malls’ owners didn’t change.  The stores in them might have changed, but their business plans remained the same. They held on to their golden handcuffs, thinking it would be ok. We would return to what made them successful. We never did.

Sure, people still need to buy things, but they do not have to go to stores. Now, most chains are holding on for dear life with the debt they have negotiated. They are placing all their eggs in the same basket, hoping to get cash from the same banks that gave them cash before to create roughly the same business models.  It’s the endless shake hands, wink wink, backroom negotiations that have made it impossible for change.  It is patriarchal, which makes this behavior even more unattractive. Enough already. 

What comes next?  When we are all vaccinated and receive our get out of jail free card, what will happen?  Will the economy take off?  What will the street-fronts of retail look like? What will malls become that have been empty for over a year with empty stores that have chosen to walk away from their leases?  We are not going back. 

Technology has pushed us forward, but a large part of this country is still living in the boom of the years past.  Our infrastructure is shit.  Our cities haven’t changed as they have overseas.  Our needs and the way we live our lives have changed, but the infrastructure around us is old and creaky. 

Please, Joe.  Restucture our country. Move us into the future.  Put money into education and infrastructure, deal with our foreign policy thru laws and deals, not more nuclear weapons. Take care of those who have been ignored for so long with the best public housing and amazing social programs. Support the arts. Change our jail system. Trickle-down doesn’t work. Let’s all move forward.  Show the world that we care about all of our people and we are cutting edge. It’s better for our country and it will be better for the world.

Documentaries

I have been on a documentary roll. I have also been on a film roll. Documentaries examine facts—information for your brain. Movies tell creative stories.

I watched a few films this past weekend showing at the Jewish Film Festival at Lincoln Center. Watching films that tell stories that are about relationships yet in different countries is so eye-opening. Different cultures are the only thing that separates us. Everyone should see films that open your eyes to the other parts of the world.

The one documentary that I keep thinking about is Crazy Not Insane. It isn’t easy to watch, but Dr. Dorothy Lewis has spent her entire career examining people that society would just like to cross out. She is an expert in serial killers. What is clear is that nobody is born evil. Evil happens to people who are placed in circumstances that are out of their hands.

You can hold people accountable for the crime they committed, but you can’t always hold them accountable for the person they are.  Everyone’s makeup is different.  Being tortured daily, sexually abused, living in a drug den, eating no food, and having a drug addict as a parent.  These are real things that impact each individual so differently, and it happens. We should rethink our system. We can add Death Row to that. It is inhumane. It is time.

Even Indeed runs an ad of a company hiring someone who has been incarcerated.  It is a great ad and a real first. We can do better.  Some people can never leave jail, while some crimes should not send people to jail.  We need to stop just throwing people in jail but figuring out how we can keep them out of jail. It is time to change our system by putting money into social systems and safety nets that help everyone live to their full potential.

There has to be a better way of helping underserved or abused people who haven’t had the good fortune to live in a safe society.  We really need to take a much more humane approach to people who have been damaged. How many people who are in jail are harmful to society? How come we have got to the point where it just easier to throw away the key on someone’s life?

The movie is a worthy watch. Thinking about this topic is something we should all do.

MLK 2021

It took until 2000 for all the states to recognize a day to observe and remember MLK. Reagan signed MLK Day into law in 1983. The difference of 17 years for all to recognize the day speaks to itself.

King’s activism for Civil Rights created a foundation for any of us to bring people together for non-violent movements. The power of seeing people from all walks of life get together to march against one right, although subtle, speaks volumes. Black Lives Matters, Women’s Rights, Anti-Guns, etc. Not just in the US but globally, the surge of non-violent protests from public fury packs a powerful punch seeking change and transformation.

If only the people who have attempted to overthrow our Government on January 6th came to Washington to march in peace. To show their frustration instead of rioting the capital with guns, knives, and ropes with the desire to create havoc and spread hate.

As an eternal optimist, I believe we have got to a place in our country where we are finally coming to a reckoning with our history, especially our dirty history. It took Covid and Trump to get us there, but there are always silver linings.

Joe Biden has put together his top team of 25 people with a myriad of faces, and 12 of them are women, and his VP is a Black Indian woman. This is game-changing.

I want to believe that finally, MLK would be happy in the direction we are finally heading.

Chickpea Stew with Orzo and Greens

Lunch the next day with grilled cheese

Another winner from the NYTimes. What is great about this recipe is it takes less than 30 minutes to make. It gets better over time. Two lunches later, the soup is done!

  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 small fennel bulb or 2 celery stalks (I used fennel)
  • 1 medium onion
  • Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2cups chicken or vegetable broth (or water, but the broth is better)
  • 1(15-ounce) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • ¾ cup roughly chopped cherry or grape tomatoes
  • ½ cup whole-wheat or regular orzo
  • 1quart loosely packed baby mustard greens or spinach (about 5 ounces)
  • ¼ cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, more as needed

In a large pot saute the onions, carrot, fennel and red pepper flakes. I usually put the olive oil on the bottom of the pan, then add the red pepper flakes and some salt before adding in the vegetables. Cook until soft.

Add the broth plus an additional 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil. Then add the orzo, tomatoes, and chickpeas. Bring down to simmer. Cover with a lid for ten minutes.

Add the greens and stir until soft and incorporated.

Serve. You can put a drop of olive oil over the top or some chopped scallions, but the key is really the cheese.

Future Homes, Cities, Neighborhoods

We have all spent a ridiculous amount of time these past 10 months in our homes. We have created small communities for ourselves due to the pandemic. Our cities have struggled. Many have picked up and made moves to the suburbs or exurbs. How will all of these changes look when we get our get out of jail card?

The open homes don’t work so well during a pandemic. People need separation. Will architects start to think differently about how we live. A dedicated home office will become essential. Outdoor space is much needed just to breathe. Will the open kitchen, dining room, living room become more essential as a place where we all congregate? Will our bedrooms become places where we can retreat to for more than just sleeping? Have our homes become outdated in a year?

Neighborhoods can be anywhere, rural or urban; it doesn’t matter. In cities, there are thousands of neighborhoods. Communities are connected around those neighborhoods and Main street. Ecommerce is great, but there are certain things that you need to do and have an interaction with another human, like getting your shoes repaired. I don’t see myself sending that overnight to someone to get repaired, and then they send it back when the shoes are fixed. Although I am sure, someone tried to start a company around it. The numbers don’t work as many of the gig economy businesses we enjoy. Don’t fret; they will all be held afloat with public markets for quite a while.

We have an opportunity to rebuild our cities and neighborhoods which in turn create communities. We have changed our behavior during the past year. People can work from home and don’t need to be in the city all the time or even live there. Can’t say that for myself but I get it. What is the key to making suburban life better? Stores, restaurants, access to more art and culture…what?

Almost every other aspect of our lives has been propelled into the 21st century from the pandemic forcing us to use technological advancements that has not only helped our businesses but have filled the void for the needs of our society. The way we live has changed. We should all asking ourselves what is it we want from our homes, cities, and neighborhoods.

10 Months and Counting

I have always been looking over my shoulder. Over the years, I have come to understand myself better so I get it. I have managed to keep that desire to give a peek and run at full speed tempered. I now take more time, go through several processes in my head, before really making sure that any new directions make sense.

This past year is so fucking strange is it hard to make any decisions. I have got excited about a few things but as I spend time doing a reality check, I am not sure if any decisions or major changes should take place during a pandemic.

I want to get out of the malaise. I want to jump into something new. I want to also travel the second I can. I want to walk free and have dinner with my friends, indoors. I want to go to a museum, go to a movie, go to a gallery, go to a store and not freak out being around other humans. We all have our wishes when we are vaccinated.

I find myself doing Zooms, business projects, jigsaw puzzles, reading books, and making meals in the same environment every day.

It is hard not to contain myself from jumping into something feet first when I realize what I really want to do is engage in something else besides living through a pandemic. The worst is the social void.

There is definitely a light beaming at the end of the tunnel. I feel like it is burning a little brighter every day. Fingers crossed.

The Terminator…and now what?

Hats off to @Schwarzenegger for this speech. If you haven’t seen it, watch.

I keep thinking about the terrorist at the Capital wearing the Auschwitz Camp sweatshirt. You don’t want to believe that kind of thought process still exists, but sadly it does. Think about Germany. Merkel has been an incredible leader, but will we ever look at Germany without thinking about the Nazis? If you are Jewish, you won’t.

We elected someone who has brain-washed a huge segment of the American public, similar to a cult. Why? What is it that makes people glom on to lies? Are there any similarities between us and Germany when we put someone like Trump in the most powerful seat in the world? We should understand this so as a nation we can figure out how it never happens again.

The real question is “should America prosecute their ex-Presidents?” It is a slippery slope. There are too many countries that elect, prosecute, elect, prosecute. It isn’t pretty and doesn’t help nations move forward.  But what has taken place over the past four years and certainly the past week, I don’t think we have a choice if we never want this to happen again.

Charles Blow wrote “Now we have to ask a very serious question: What do we do now as a society and as a body politic? Do we simply turn the page and hope for a better day, let bygones be bygones? Or do we seek some form of justice, to hold people accountable for taking this country to the brink?

I say that we must prosecute all people who have committed crimes and punish all those who have broken rules. The rule of law can’t simply be for the common man; it must also be for the exalted man. Because only then will the ideas of fairness and justice have meaning.

Unfortunately, I agree.  We can’t just turn the page and move forward without shining a light on illegal, destructive, and dangerous behavior.  It is a sad turn of events in our country, but people must be held accountable for last week’s actions (and more) no matter what seat they sit in.

After the Pandemic Ends

We came back out east after a hot second in the city.  We have a cadence, and it works.  We leave at around 845am to drive back to the city, and it takes only two hours. On the way out, we leave at 1130am and stop at Katz’s to get a turkey sandwich to split.  Sometimes we go wild and have pastrami, but honestly, we can’t do that often at this point in life.  

On the way out yesterday, I saw something that chilled me to the bone.  If you have been driving or even walking around NYC, you see more homeless and street people over the past year.  When you drive, some people approach the cars asking for money at the stoplights. In the ’80s, many would clean your windshield for some cash. 

Yesterday I saw a young man who had nice clean worn clothes that had a sense of style like he could have been a hipster at a tech company or ran the front of house in a restaurant.  He could have been a friend of our kids. He was walking through the cars, just begging with his hands.  The look in his eyes frightened me.  He was definitely having a mental breakdown and was thoroughly lost.  Who knows how he got there.  After all, we are living in a pandemic in an insanely wealthy country created by the financial industry for themselves with zero safety net. 

The light changed, and we were in the middle of the lanes, so I couldn’t do anything.  We just drove on, but I can’t get his face out of my head.  It wasn’t good.  We need to amplify how we spend our tax money on mental health and housing. This pandemic is ten months deep.  Everyone is dealing in their own ways. This young man had obviously lost it.  It is upsetting to see anyone in these circumstances, but this young man chilled me to my core.

How many more people are in the same boat?  When the tide pulled out, we saw how many companies were naked. How many people were living hand to mouth. Unfortunately, we won’t find out how many more people got to the place this young man obviously has until the tide returns.