Polka Dot Matriarch, Penelope Swells & Zucchini Banana Bread

La Grand Dame of ear polka dots, Ms. Lola Banana, presents her deliciously butterscotch colored ear spots for your viewing pleasure —

Rumor has it that, just like a Pug, she smells faintly of scented kleenex, in addition to having soft, downy, double coated fur.

I was planning on sharing a nice post about some lovely UK dogs, but their owner never got back to me with permission to publish their photos. C’est la vie. If you’re showing Frenchies in the UK, send me a note and some photos, and I’ll write a blog post in which I blather on about how cuuuuuute your dogs are.

Seriously, I’d love to know how things are over there — Frenchies in North America are getting more and more group placings, and more Best in Shows than I’d have believed possible just ten years ago. Has the same happened in the UK?

Penelope is swelling up like a zeppelin. She can’t seem to lie on her tummy anymore – she has to lie on her side, or flat on her back, with all four legs waving in the air. She looks like a beached manatee.

Tula is carrying her weight low, but Penelope is carrying hers wide – she’s swelling out on the sides. Some days, it looks like she’s going to explode. As you can tell from her expression, she’s un thrilled about impending motherhood.

That crust on her nose is because I let her lick the spoon after I made a batch of zucchini banana bread. Yes, yes, bad me for spoiling her, but it was just a spoon, and she seemed to deserve a treat. She’d said what she’d really prefer is a surrogate mommy Rottweiler. Since that isn’t happening, I’m going to feel free to let her have the occasional treat.

The zucchini banana bread is pretty good, by the way — but I skipped the cranberries, and added chocolate chips in half the batch. Health food – yum!

Here’s the recipe, just in case you are also swamped with zucchini, and are running out of things to do with it.

Banana-Zucchini Bread
Submitted by: heather duncan
Rated: 4 out of 5 by 28 members
Prep Time: 15 Minutes
Cook Time: 50 Minutes
Ready In: 1 Hour 5 Minutes
Yields: 20 servings
“This moist and delicious breakfast bread is a blend of two all-time favorites. The flavors of banana and zucchini intensify when the bread is cooled. Serve this walnut and cranberry studded bread with sweet cream butter or your favorite jam.”
3 eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
1 cup grated zucchini
2 bananas, mashed
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Grease and flour two 8×4 inch bread loaf pans.
2. In a large bowl, beat eggs until light yellow and frothy. Add oil, brown sugar, white sugar, grated zucchini, bananas, and vanilla; blend together until well combined. Stir in the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix in the cranberries and nuts. Divide the batter evenly between the two prepared loaf pans.
3. Bake in the preheated oven until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 50 minutes. Allow to cool in the loaf pans on a wire rack before removing and serving.

In which I try to kill us both

There are a lot of risks in surfing the internet, as almost anyone can tell you. One minute, you’re clicking along all innocently, looking at dog supplies and reading blogs, and the next thing you know, you stumble onto something obscene… something unspeakable… something tempting.

Yes, you’ve discovered porn – food porn.

Glossy websites jam packed full of artfully lit shots of chipotle cinnamon chocolate cupcakes, salted caramel ice cream, and pan seared polenta. Blogs detailing the author’s adventures in creating the perfect butter cream frosting. Recipes for booze soaked french toast. My hips widened just taking it all in.

Fried chicken, corn bread, sweet potato fries and garlic green beans

But, I’m weak, so I ended up drifting over to a few sites about southern cooking, and was overwhelmed with the urge to make some fried chicken. Seeing as how I live north of the Mason Dixon line – waaaay north – I suppose I shouldn’t be ashamed to admit that I’ve never in my life fried chicken before. Nope, not ever. I’m not hopeless, though, as I can (and frequently do) make a wicked bourbon ribs with collard greens. I also do some pretty amazing Jamaican oxtail with fried plantain, but that’s another story.

I decided to make corn bread, fried chicken and green beans. Sean then decided that, since the frying pan was going to be full of hot oil, and we were both already going to carb purgatory, we might as well make sweet potato fries. I topped his suggestion with a remark about aioli, and he countered with ‘white gravy’. It was all pretty much down hill from there.

That’s the finished project over in the photo, and it all turned out pretty good. In case you’d also like to try killing off your loved ones via deep frying, here are the recipes.

Oven Fried Chicken

I combined Ina Garten’s recipe for oven fried buttermilk chicken with the seasonings from the recipe on Simply Recipes. I like the Barefoot Contessa’s cooking method, but her seasonings seemed insipid, so this was a pretty good compromise.


1 (3 pound) fryer, cut into pieces
2 cups buttermilk
1 large onion, sliced
1/4 cup chopped mixed fresh herbs (parsley, tarragon, thyme) or a teaspoon each of the dried herbs.
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1/2 teaspoon onion salt
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper
2 cups grapeseed oil, or other high smoke-point oil such as canola oil, or peanut oil

Soak chicken overnight (at least 8 hours and up to two days) in buttermilk with onions, herbs, paprika, and cayenne pepper.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Drain in chicken in colander, leaving some herbs on chicken. In a large paper or plastic (sturdy) bag, mix flour with seasonings. Meanwhile, heat 2 cups oil in a large, heavy-bottomed skillet (cast iron, stainless steel, or anodized aluminum – something that can take the heat) on medium high heat until a pinch of flour starts to sizzle when dropped in the hot oil (but not so hot that the pan is smoking). Remember when working with hot oil, always have a pan lid close by.

Working in batches, carefully place several pieces of chicken in the oil and fry for about 3 minutes on each side until the coating is a light golden brown (it will continue to brown in the oven). Don’t crowd the pieces. Remove the chicken from the oil and place each piece on a metal baking rack set on a sheet pan. Allow the oil to return to 360 degrees F before frying the next batch.

When all the chicken is fried, bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the chicken is no longer pink inside.

Buttermilk Cornbread Recipe

This is what I guess you’d call ‘northern’ style cornbread – sweeter and more cake like than a true southern corn bread is. It also makes a nice muffin, if you’re so inclined. I’ve added all kinds of stuff to this recipe – grated sharp cheese, canned corn, chopped serrano peppers, diced canned jalapenos. Go nuts.


* 1/2 cup canola oil or softened butter
* 3 tablespoons honey or natural maple syrup
* 2 large eggs
* 1/8 cup chopped chives or green onions
* 1 cup buttermilk
* 1/2 cup yellow corn meal
* 1  1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
* 1 tsp. baking soda
* 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
* pinch cayenne pepper


1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Spray an 8-inch square baking pan or a cast iron skillet with nonstick cooking spray.
2. Stir together dry ingredients in large mixing bowl. Beat together all wet ingredients in separate bowl. Fold wet into dry using a wooden spoon. Don’t over mix.
3. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake 35  minutes, or until the bread is golden brown. Cut the corn bread into squares and serve warm with butter.

(note: if you like a crispy crust outside your cornbread, pre heat the pan for about ten minutes, then add the batter to the hot pan before baking)