Big Green Monster

Ever since seeing Rene Russo blithely drink down glasses of a thick lumpy green liquid in the wonderful remake of The Thomas Crown Affair, I’ve wondered just what she was drinking. I looked around online, but couldn’t find out exactly what was in the movie. A friend of mine, however, turned me on to the Classic Green Monster. Which is green, but not lumpy or disgusting. According to the author she developed this recipe ten years after the movie came out, but I’ve got a good imagination so I can make myself a Big Green Monster in the morning and pretend I’m Rene Russo, the woman who single-handedly, with that one performance, made middle age look hot. (And I’m not talkin’ flashes, here.) 😉

I call my version a Big Green Monster both to distinguish it from the original and because it makes a lot—and I sometimes double the recipe. I didn’t pay any attention to the amount the recipe said so the first time I made it I was surprised when I filled one glass and had more left! (One regular batch makes at least 20 ozs!)

The changes I made in the recipe are:

I use 2% milk instead of almond milk. She’s a vegan; I’m a vegetarian. If you have problems with dairy, go with her choice.

I sometimes forget to peel and freeze the bananas. Not a problem. It’s fine if you make it with a room temperature banana. When I do freeze the bananas I break them into more or less equal pieces before freezing because it just seems like it would be better in the blender than a big frozen banana icicle. If you want to keep a stash of bananas in the freezer so you can make Monsters every day, this works out fine: use whatever number of pieces equal one banana (depending on how many pieces you slice or break the banana into before freezing). If part of a banana is bad, break off the bad part and add the remaining pieces as a bit of extra banana to future batches. Use ripe bananas. If the banana doesn’t have spots on the peel, it isn’t ripe. In my house, when I was growing up, we called those “sugar spots”. The more spots, the sweeter the flavor.

I usually use organic spinach instead of kale, but kale is good, too. My hands are small, so two handfuls for me may be less than you (or the original). It’s not brain surgery; don’t worry about exactly how much two handfuls are or what size bananas. You’ll have a tasty Monster anyway. I thoroughly rinse the whole bunch of spinach and keep it in a sealed bag or container in the fridge so I don’t have to wash spinach every time I make a Monster. Discard any leaves that look like they’re going bad.

I use smooth peanut butter for the nut butter. (Peanut butter and banana sort of go together. My mother loves peanut butter and banana sandwiches. So did Elvis. May be a southern thing.) I skip the chia or flax seeds —because I don’t keep these on hand (though that could change). For the protein power I use unflavored whey protein. The brand I use comes which a scoop and that’s more than one-third of the recommended daily allowance, so one scoop is adequate for me. Check your brand; your mileage may vary.The protein powder can be added at any point in the blending, even as a last ingredient. Blend well.

I usually add 2 ice cubes, but I use 4 ice cubes if the banana isn’t frozen — just to get a bit more “chill” in the drink. I also sometimes add 1/2 – 1 tsp ground ginger to the milk (depending on how much ginger kick you want your Monster to have). When fruits like dewberries, peaches, strawberries, and blueberries come into season, I’m going to try them and I’ll experiment with nutmeg and cinnamon, too. I’ve been hung up on the banana monster for several months and I’m ready to branch out. 😀 (I tried mixed summer berries and also dewberries and though the flavor is fine, the color is disgusting. If you use blueberries, raspberries, dewberries, blackberries, etc, omit the spinach because the green will push the color of the drink close to grey Ugh!.)

Occasionally I’ve added a few spoonfuls of nonfat unflavored Greek yogurt to the Monster when I’ve got a small amount of yogurt left over. In small amounts it doesn’t seem to affect either flavor or texture and it’s a good way to finish up that last little bit of yogurt in the container. 🙂

If you want, you can make a double batch. I do this sometimes so I have a ready-made Monster the next morning. If you do this, it’s a good idea to whip it in the blender again because it tends to get a bit sludgy in the fridge over time. I don’t notice this if I drink half a regular batch and then drink the other half later that day, but the texture does change after a day in the fridge. Running the blender again, makes it good as new. 🙂

I don’t think I’m quite carrying off the Rene Russo vibe with the kicky glasses (see below) I use for the Big Green Monster. Really, I’m more of a Scooby Doo kinda girl. 😉

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Granny’s Banana Bread

Banana bread in 9x13 pan, just out of the oven.

Banana bread in 9×13 pan, just out of the oven.

This was my maternal grandmother’s recipe. She used to bake it for me when I was a child. We had 2 huge pecan trees in the backyard which provided a ready source of pecans. Pecans freeze well, so we always had a supply on hand. If you don’t have pecans on hand this is still excellent without them. Something unusual about this recipe is that it has a very fluffy cake-like texture and so is not baked in a loaf pan, but a 9″ x 11″ pan, then cut into kid-sized squares which I ate warm, straight from the pan.

2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine
1 1/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 ripe bananas, smushed
1/4 cup pecans

Melt-in-your-mouth good, hot from the oven!

Melt-in-your-mouth good, hot from the oven!

Use ripe bananas! This means they will have black spots on them. In our household when I was growing up, we called them “sugar spots”. 🙂 No spots: they aren’t ripe and consequently aren’t as sweet. The more spots the sweeter the banana.

Sift the flour together with the salt and baking soda.

Cream together the butter (or margarine) and sugar.

Add the eggs one at a time and beat well after each one is added.

Add smushed bananas and pecans, then add the flour mixture.

Bake at 300-325° in greased and floured 9″ x 11″ pan for about 30 minutes or until a toothpick stuck in the center comes out clean. (I usually bake 325 degrees and just a couple minutes longer with my oven.) Bakes well in 9″ x 11″ pan, however more than one pan of a smaller size could be used. Reduce baking time if smaller pans are used.

Unlike my Granny’s cornbread recipe which was passed down through the generations orally, my mother did actually write this down on an index card, probably because there were more ingredients and measurements to remember and this wasn’t made as often as cornbread. I’ve rewritten the recipe slightly for the sake of clarity and ease of use, but made no changes.

My grandmother was born at the end of the 19th century and had a third grade education. She wrote letters occasionally with an uneven handwriting, but as far as I know she never wrote recipes down. Though she lived with us when I was a kid and did some of the cooking, the index box in the kitchen with neatly lettered recipes was my mother’s. This was a family recipe, probably originating with my grandmother, great-grandmother or my grandmother’s sister. If I had to date the recipe I’d guess early 20th century. (I recently stumbled onto a photo online of a vintage official Chiquita Banana recipe and advertisement which was nothing like this, which strengthens the idea that this recipe was something one of the family matriarchs came up with based on their general knowledge of baking.) Granny had one cookbook, Searchlight Recipe Book, which she may have consulted on occasion (it has a lot of cooking techniques, tips, measurement equivalents etc in it), but the only recipe that I know of which she made from it was the “Dark Fruit Cake” which my father liked (and was the only fruitcake he’d eat). My grandmother cooked good, simple, plain food, and for her that was mostly a matter of putting ingredients together either from memory or instinct. My culinary legacy from my grandmother who helped raise me was Banana Bread, Cornbread, Okra and Tomatoes, and an old (1949) Searchlight cookbook, pages now yellowed, with strange inexplicably stains on recipes that no one had ever made.