Monday, May 31, 2010

Monkey see, Monkey pitch a hissy fit, Monkey do the dishes

It was a lazy Sunday morning, and I was feeling well rested, benevolent, practical, and hungry.   As I slouched into my comfiest pants and headed for the kitchen, these impulses combined into what I considered to be an excellent idea:  I would make a big breakfast for my beloved family. 

The benevolent part:
My dear husband was out running his little butt off in 85 degree heat for god know how many miles.   My growing son needed sustenance for a full day of preparing for his upcoming final exams.

And my darling daughter had recently returned from a three day camping trip with her class, sunburned, exhausted, and sporting a wicked head of matted frizz.

They deserved a home cooked meal, and damn it, I was going to give it to them.

The practical part:
I had a tub full of egg whites leftover from the Lemon Icebox Squares AND several tubes of refrigerated biscuits that my Mom had bought when they were on special at Ralph's (buy one, get one free, plus a coupon!)  I wouldn't even have to go to the store.

This translated into the following menu*:
  • Egg white frittata with pancetta, scallions, crimini mushrooms and freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Crispy smoked bacon
  • Monkey Bread with cream cheese frosting
Almost bursting with the amount of goodwill I would be generating, I set to work.   My son strolls through a few minutes later.

Him (still in his pajamas at 10 am):  What are we doing today?
Me:  Um, how about studying?
Him (opening fridge door between us in clear sign that my answer is of negligible interest to him): We're out of grapes.  You need to buy some more grapes.

He leaves the room having grabbed the sports section and a handful of pretzels, leaving the open bag on the counter and the rest of the paper on the carpet.

I am slightly less delighted with my plan at this point, but still feeling mildly cheerful.   Then my daughter stomps into the kitchen.

Me:  Good morning, honey!  How did you sleep?
Her:  (mumble grumble mumble grumble snarl)
Me:  Well, that's nice.
Her  (Spying the cinnamon sugar and perking up immediately): What are you making?  Are you making cinnamon rolls?  Oh my god! (She is now screaming and jumping up and down) Mom's making THE CINNAMON ROLLS!!!

She runs into the other room, shrieking at her startled brother and grabbing him in a frenzied dance of glee.  He runs into the kitchen after her, and they both start yelling incomprehensibly at me in unison.

Me (maintaining a semblance of calm in the midst of my growing irritation):  No.  I am not making the cinnamon rolls.  They take too long.  I am making Monkey Bread.  It's really good.  You're going to love it, trust me.   Would either of you like to help me make it? 

Their faces fall.  His is almost comically disappointed, like someone stole his puppy.  Hers, however, is a red mask of fury.

Him (pleadingly): Can you at least make the ones like Grandma makes?  Those are easy, aren't they?
Her (almost blue in the face): It's not FAIR that we aren't having cinnamon rolls!  I HATE monkey bread!   WHY are you DOING this to me?!?**

I am completely bewildered about how I became the bad guy here, when I am, in fact, the benevolent, practical adult in the room.  I respond accordingly.

Me:  OK. Fine!  I will eat every last bite of the monkey bread myself, and give a little piece to Daddy.  You get NONE!  Now, GO AWAY!

They retreat.  I am now quite put out.   

After a few cleansing breaths, I continue snipping the dough and shaking the bag of cinnamon sugar energetically.  My daughter begins to hover around the periphery.

Her (now all sweetness and light): Can I help?
Me:  No.
Her:  Can I have a piece of the dough?
Me:  No.
Her: I'm sorry I yelled at you.
Me:  Still no.

I put the bread into the oven, and begin frying the bacon.  My son comes into the kitchen, takes a piece of bacon, and goes away again.

Me:  I saw that!

My husband comes back from his run.   He takes the ear buds out of his ears, grabs two pieces of bacon, sweats on the counter, and leaves.

Me:  I saw that!
My daughter:  Can I have some bacon?
Me:  No.

I start whipping the cream cheese frosting.  My daughter has set the table, fed the dog and the guinea pigs, and poured me a Diet Coke.

Her: Now can I help?
Me:  No.

The monkey bread comes out of the oven.   My husband emerges freshly showered and takes another slice of bacon.

Me:  I saw that!

I put the frittata in the oven to finish, turn the bread out, and glop on an enormous amount of frosting.  I am now being openly worshiped by everyone.  My sense of well-being and equanimity is fully restored.  Our family is gathered around the table, and I smile kindly upon them all.  Still, I make them wait an extra couple of minutes while I take a few photos.  Then I relent.

Me:  Go ahead.  And it's OK to eat with your fingers.  In fact, it's better that way.  And young lady?
Her (mouth full to bursting, and grinning at the same time);  Yesph?
Me:  You can help with the dishes.  While your brother does his math.

Monkey Bread
Adapted with awe from a recipe found by google search at this website.

1/2 c. sugar
2-3 Tbs. cinnamon
3 large or 4 small packages of refrigerated biscuits
1 c. packed brown sugar
3/4 cups (1 1/2 sticks) butter

Butter a large bundt or tube pan, and preheat the oven to 350.  Combine sugar and cinnamon in a large plastic bag and set aside.  Cut each biscuit into quarters, and drop 8-10 pieces at a time into the bag of cinnamon sugar.  Shake until well coated, then layer the pieces in the prepared pan.  Repeat with all of the biscuit pieces.  Set the pan aside.   Put the brown sugar and the butter into a small saucepan, and place over medium heat.  Stir as butter melts until combined, then boil mixture for one minute.   Allow to cool for another minute, then slowly pour over the biscuits in the pan.    Bake at 350 for 35 minutes, or until puffed up and golden brown on top.    Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then invert onto a serving plate.    Top with cream cheese frosting, if desired.***

Cream Cheese Frosting

1/2 c. (1 stick) butter, softened
4 oz. (1/2 package) cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 c. powdered sugar
1-2 Tbs. milk or cream
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Combine butter and cream cheese with an electric mixture until well blended.  Add the powdered sugar and mix well.  Stir in the vanilla, and enough milk to make the frosting easily spreadable.   Drop by spoonfuls onto the warm bread.   Allow it to melt into the bread and add to the gooey goodness.  

* Hence, the hungry part.
** Pre-teen hormones are not our friend.  For example, I'd never even made Monkey Bread before, so how does she know she hates it? 
*** You know you desire it, so go ahead.

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