Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Baked Alaska Day


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By Diane Forrest,

Cake, Ice Cream, Meringue, Fire...what a great way to end a meal!  Of course, I’m talking about Baked Alaska.  When I was younger I was a waitress for this great hotel downtown.  It is the oldest one here, and it is on the National Registry of Historic Places.  While the hotel has a fascinating history in itself, Liz Taylor and Patrick Swayze were some of its famous guests; it also boasts a fantastic menu as well.  One night I was asked to assist with the R.O.T.C. ball.  It was such a beautiful occasion, the girls all wore long dresses and corsages, and the young men all wore their uniforms and white gloves.  The tables were decorated with fine linens and china, with beautiful flower arrangements.  The food looked and smelled delicious, but after the main course was finished, the lights were turned down low, and in came the waiters carrying these flaming trays.  You could hear the gasps from the room before everyone broke out in a round of applause.
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I knew that it was called a Baked Alaska, but I never knew until now what the ingredients were.  A Baked Alaska consists of a base of sponge cake, covered with a mound of ice cream, then topped with meringue.  It is then placed in a very hot oven just until the meringue is browned, then served immediately.  For the dramatic effect, dark rum is poured over the mound, then flambéed.  I am including a basic recipe for you to try, however you can substitute the base for brownies or a cookie crust, and you can also use any variety of ice cream you choose.  The main requirement however that is you make sure the entire area is covered with the meringue.
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Today is Baked Alaska day, so why not surprise your family with this exotic and tasty dessert.

Baked Alaska

Ingredients
  • 2 quarts vanilla ice cream, softened
  • 1 (18.25 ounce) package white cake mix (or any flavor)
  • 4 to 8 egg whites
  • 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup white sugar

Directions
  1. Line the bottom and sides of an 8-inch round mixing bowl or deep 8-inch square container with foil. Spread ice cream in container, packing firmly. Cover and freeze 8 hours or until firm.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour an 8x8 inch pan.
  3. Prepare cake mix as directed. Pour into prepared pan.
  4. Bake in preheated oven according to package instructions, until center of cake springs back when lightly touched.
  5. Beat egg whites with cream of tartar, salt and sugar until stiff peaks form.
  6. Line a baking sheet with parchment or heavy brown paper. Place cake in center. Turn molded ice cream out onto cake. Quickly and prettily spread meringue over cake and ice cream, all the way to paper to seal. Return to freezer 2 hours.
  7. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C).
  8. Bake the Alaska on the lowest shelf, 8 to 10 minutes, or until meringue is lightly browned. Serve at once.

Monday, January 30, 2012

National Brandy Alexander Day


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By Diane Forrest,

If you are visiting our site for the first time today, you may not know of my affection for chocolate.  We have covered so many things chocolate, from ants to éclairs and everything in between.  Of course I do extensive testing to make sure you have the most up to date information possible.  Today I have discovered a new treat with chocolate.  It is a drink called Brandy Alexander.
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A Brandy Alexander was first invented in 1922 for the wedding celebration of Princess Mary and Lord Lassalle’s in London.  It was a sensation, and it wasn't too long before it became a household name...or should I say drink.  In fact, on the Mary Tyler Moore show, Mary Richards asked for one during her job interview.
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I'm pretty sure the boss wouldn't want me drinking on the job, so I will have to give this one a try later, since today is National Brandy Alexander day, why don't you try one too?  The easy recipe is listed below.

Brandy Alexander

1 1/2 oz brandy
1 oz dark creme de cacao
1 oz half-and-half
1/4 tspgrated nutmeg

In a shaker half-filled with ice cubes, combine the brandy, crème de cacao, and half-and-half. Shake well. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with the nutmeg.

Celebrate National Braille Literacy Month


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By Akindman,

January was chosen for this celebration because it is the birth month of Louis Braille, the inventor of the system of raised dots that made it possible for people who are blind to read and write for themselves with independence and freedom.

Louis Braille was born on January 4, 1809. He became blind in an accident when he was three years old according to a biography at the American Foundation for the Blind. At that time, there were books with raised letters but these were difficult to produce and cumbersome to use. In 1821, Braille was introduced to ‘night writing,’ a code of twelve dots that a former soldier, Charles Barbier, had invented for soldiers to use to share information on the battlefield. Braille created a system that used only six dots and published the first book in Braille in 1829.

15 FACTS TO SHARE DURING BRAILLE LITERACY MONTH (from http://www.onlinecolleges.net/2012/01/17/15-facts-share-braille-literacy-month/):

  1. Braille is not a language;
  2. Lessons in Braille begin with tactile exercises;
  3. Louis Braille developed his eponymous system at age 15;
  4. At 20, he published the first complete book about the Braille system;
  5. The Missouri School for the Blind was the first American educational institution to accept Braille;
  6. Six-dot Braille cells have 63 possible combinations;
  7. There are three different “grades” of Braille;
  8. “Braille for feet” exists;
  9. Most legally blind children in the United States do not use Braille resources;
  10. At least 27 states hold legislation requiring that legally blind children have access to Braille resources;
  11. Visually impaired readers who learned on Braille have a lower unemployment rate than their print counterparts;
  12. The vast majority of legally blind students attend schools where the teachers do not know Braille;
  13. Braille users write with a slate and stylus;
  14. Braille and sign language are not interchangeable; and
  15. Most legally blind people can read print.

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(From Lighthouse for the visually impaired and blind) There is a literacy crisis among the blind in America. Literacy is defined as the ability to read and write. For many persons with total or profound vision loss, the only way they can effectively read and write is by using Braille, a system of raised dots invented by a blind Louis Braille.

Being literate is essential to succeed in life. While the rate of unemployment for persons who are blind is extremely high (70%), it is interesting to note that 90% of blind individuals who are employed are Braille readers. The NFB, the oldest and largest organization of blind persons in the U.S., has been the champion of Braille literacy for decades. They have initiated a campaign to double the number of Braille readers by 2015.

The Annual Braille Challenge, also, promotes Braille literacy and competency. It is a national academic competition open to all blind students up to grade 12.  The Challenge stresses reading comprehension, spelling, Braille speed and accuracy, proofreading and the reading of tactile charts and graphs.

For more information, please check out these links:



Saturday, January 28, 2012

Mentoring Matters


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By Akindman,

National Mentoring Month is a campaign held each January to promote youth mentoring in the United States. It was inaugurated in 2002,[2] and is spearheaded by the Harvard School of Public Health, MENTOR, and the Corporation for National and Community Service.
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Participants in the National Mentoring Month campaign include leading nonprofit organizations and numerous governors and mayors. Designated nonprofit and governmental agencies are responsible for coordinating local campaign activities in communities across the country, including media outreach and volunteer recruitment. Local lead partners include state and local affiliates of MENTOR/National Mentoring Partnership, Corporation for National and Community Service, Points of Light Foundation and Volunteer Center National Network, America's Promise Alliance, Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, Communities in Schools, and United Way of America.
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January 24 and 25, 2012 was the 2012 National Mentoring Summit held in Washington, DC “Invest in the Future: Mentor a Child Supporting Youth through Mentoring”.
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National Mentoring Month (www.nationalmentoringmonth.org) is an excellent web site to start your own journey in becoming or refreshing your skills as a mentor.
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Mentor National Mentoring Partnership (www.mentoring.org) is another excellent site to visit and get involved.
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National Clean Up Your Computer Month

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By Akindman,
10 Ways to Clean Up Your PC and Digital Life:

  • Sort your computer files by year;
  • Find the bottom of your inbox;
  • Change the passwords for your bank accounts, email accounts, and computer;
  • Dump Your Cache;
  • Delete Unnecessary Files;
  • Offload Some Files (Back Up and Delete);
  • Tune Up;
  • Kill off or consolidate old email addresses;
  • Update your profile picture; and
  • Turn on the date, time, and location features for your cameras.
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For more details, please visit http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2398164,00.asp.  Or you can do what I have done.  I have hired a computer guy to make on-site visits twice a year and do some remote work as necessary.


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Friday, January 27, 2012

Pancakes with Blueberries – Yum



They look wonderful
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By Akindman,

It’s National Blueberry Pancake Day! Blueberry pancakes are a wonderful treat to enjoy anytime of the day. They are nutritious enough to eat for breakfast, tasty enough for a mid-day snack, and easy enough to make for dinner.  This is one of my favorite meals that I try to have a couple times a month.  Along with couple of egg whites, crispy bacon with a little butter and maple syrup.  I just might have that for breakfast this Saturday morning – both because it is good for me and to help celebrate this special day.
Are you ready to dig in?
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To make blueberry pancakes, mix up a batch of your favorite plain pancake batter. Wash the blueberries, pat them dry, and keep them in a separate bowl. Once you've poured the batter onto the griddle, drop a few blueberries on top. This will ensure that your blueberries aren’t bruised during the cooking process and will be perfect bursts of flavor when you bite into your pancake.

Heart Healthy
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Thursday, January 26, 2012

National Chocolate Cake Day


Mouth watering...Yum

By Diane Forrest,

When my husband and I would go to our state capital, we would always eat at the same restaurant.  I would love to eat there because they had chicken and dumplins just like my grandmother used to make and it’s the only place I could get them.  We would always get dessert, but since we would be too full after dinner, we would get it to go. 
How was it?
On one of our trips to the restaurant they had a special dessert, a Coca Cola cake.  It sounded good, and my husband worked for Coke...so we thought we would give it a try.  We ordered it to go, so they just put it in a bag for us, and we never even got a look at it.  A few hours later when we returned home we decided it was time for our sugar fix, and pulled out the boxes of cake.  What we discovered was the most perfect piece of chocolate cake we had ever seen, or tasted.  The cake was moist and delicious, with an icing that was not too hard, not too thin, but just right.  While I wanted to gobble it all up, I took small slow bites, savoring eat crumb.  A few months later the restaurant decided to make that cake part of their normal menu, I guess I’m not the only one who fell in love with it.  When my son was coming home from college, he passed the restaurant, so I asked him to pick me up some dumplings and cake, and I would call ahead and order and pay for it.  I anxiously waited for my son's arrival, of course I was excited to see him, and I couldn't wait to get my mouth around that cake.

What I was not aware of was when my son went to pick up my order, they could not find it, did not have it ready, so instead of calling, he just ordered something to go and came on home.  You cannot imagine my disappointment when I was expecting a whole delicious cake, I only got 1 piece!
Last slice...

Chocolate cake is one of my all-time favorite cakes, and it is also my father's favorite.  I have always wanted to make him a perfect cake, like the one you see on the picture of the cake mix box.  Try as I might I could never get that cake mastered.  The cake would be too dry, or the icing too hard.   Last summer a friend of mine gave me this recipe for a chocolate cake that is really quite delicious.  I made it for my mother's birthday, and you can see it pictured above.
Short on time...
Today is National Chocolate Cake Day, so why not try your hand at baking a wonderful cake, or if all else fails, you can stop by and get a little Debbie’s snack cake.  Any chocolate cake is a great way to spend the day.

Fudge Cake

Ingredients

  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 sticks butter
  • 1/3 cup cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cup pecans
  • 1 jar marshmallow cream
  •  

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Beat eggs; add sugar, flour and vanilla.  Melt butter and cocoa in a boiler and add to mixture.  Beat until well mixed and add nuts.  Bake 25 to 30 minutes in a greased 8 x 11 pan.  Spread marshmallow cream over cake while hot.  Cool and frost

Frosting

Ingredients

1 stick butter
1/3 cup cocoa
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 box powdered sugar

Directions

Mix all ingredients together and gradually add 2 to 4 tablespoon of evaporated or regular milk, spread on cake.

International Quality of Life Month


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By Diane Forrest, RN, Caregiver

There is a saying, I complained because I had no shoes, then I met a man who had no feet.  That tells me that no matter how bad you have it, things could be worse.  At times my husband would become depressed over his situation.  He was hurt on the job, paralyzed, then later bedridden.  That was enough to depress anyone, and it was a constant struggle to give him a positive outlook.  I had to remind him that he had a home, with a roof over his head, friends and family to talk to, and all the television channels that the cable company provided.  Our life was not great, but it wasn't the worst either, it just depends on how you few things.

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Today is International Quality of Life Month.  There are many factors used to determine your quality of life.  These include:

  • Healthiness
  • Family life
  • Community life
  • Material well being
  • Political stability and security
  • Climate and geography
  • Job security
  • Political freedom
  • Gender equality


This month, take a look at your life, and the things around you and determine how your quality of life is, ways you can make it better, and make a change.  Only you have the power to change your life to live it to the fullest. 

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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

National Peanut Brittle Day


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By Diane Forrest,

The other day I told you about peanut butter, and how peanuts are from the America’s.  What I didn't tell you was that during the Civil war, the soldiers lived off of peanuts to survive.  Once George Washington Carver began to reveal how many ways peanuts could be used in 1903, their popularity exploded, especially in the American South.

The first recipe for peanut brittle was discovered in books in the 19th century.  Of course this is about the same time recipes for other candy was also placed in recipe books, so I’m pretty certain that this was the time the first recipe book was written.  Peanut Brittle is a flat hard candy made from sugar or molasses, and broken into pieces.
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Perhaps due to the Southern connection, the history of peanut brittle is tied to Tony Beaver, a lumberjack folk hero. In the story, Tony Beaver creates peanut brittle when he stops a flood using peanuts and molasses. Not only does he save a town, but he also gives them a terrific snack.

Brittle can be made using any type of nut, however since it is National Peanut Brittle Day, I am going to share a Peanut Brittle Recipe with you.  Be sure to use a large pan to cook it in, because once you add the baking soda it will double in size.

Peanut Brittle

Ingredients
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 cup peanuts
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda


Directions
  1. Grease a large cookie sheet. Set aside.
  2. In a heavy 2 quart saucepan, over medium heat, bring to a boil sugar, corn syrup, salt, and water. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Stir in peanuts. Set candy thermometer in place, and continue cooking. Stir frequently until temperature reaches 300 degrees F (150 degrees C), or until a small amount of mixture dropped into very cold water separates into hard and brittle threads.
  3. Remove from heat; immediately stir in butter and baking soda; pour at once onto cookie sheet. With 2 forks, lift and pull peanut mixture into rectangle about 14x12 inches; cool. Snap candy into pieces.
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Dress Your Pet Day


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By Diane Forrest,

I never played with dolls when I was growing up, so I never even thought about dressing up my dogs.   In fact I never knew clothes for animals existed until a few years ago.  I love the movie Legally Blonde with Reese Witherspoon.  In the movie she has a little Chihuahua that she dresses in several outfit’s to match her own.  Then I began seeing where other stars had small dogs that they would dress.  Brittney Spears and Nicole Richie and Paris Hilton to name a few.
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I have seen many pictures of dogs dressed in Halloween costumes, but not too many dress every day.  I wonder what these pets think about that.  They already have a fur coat on, well most of them.  There was another movie, Beverly Hills Chihuahua that featured several animals wearing various outfits.  In fact, the story line is the little dog got lost, and was found through the help of her lost clothing.  There was even a dog in a bowtie at the Golden Globes last Sunday.
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I have only had one occasion to dress my own dog.  Here in the South it is usually quite warm.  Last December I took my dog, Snoopy, to get his hair cut.  Well wouldn’t you know it the temperature dropped so low he started to shiver.  Luckily it was Christmas time, and the store had cute little dog sweaters.  I found a cute plaid one for him and put it on.  He never complained or tried to remove it, so I guess he liked having it on to keep him warm.
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Today is dress your pet day.  If you have a cute little outfit for your pet, why not spruce him/her up.  If you don't have any little doggie clothes, you can always tie a little bandana around its neck like snoopy is modeling for you here.
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Just remember when choosing clothes for your pet, make sure they fit well, do not restrict movement, and that it will not choke.

I totally agree!!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Macintosh Computer Day

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By Akindman,

I am a long time Apple Computer and other products owner and user.

The Commercial
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I sincerely hope each and every reader will follow this link to “The 1984 Apple Commercial – The Making of a Legend (http://www.curtsmedia.com/cine/1984.html) and watch both the 60 and 30 second commercials.
Fond Memories
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On January 22, 1984, the controversial commercial aired to an audience of 96 million early in the third quarter of Super Bowl XVIII, in which the Los Angeles Raiders defeated the Washington Redskins 38 to 9 in Tampa Stadium.
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It is a very good read, recap and excellent behind the scenes view.

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The Vision
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National Volunteer Blood Donor Month


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By Diane Forrest, RN

When I was in high school, the United Blood Drive came to my school to get donations.  You had to be 17 to donate, and of course everyone wanted to donate, because that would mean getting out of class for the period you went.  When it was my turn to go I was a little nervous.  What I expected to be a simple procedure ended up being more complicated than I could have imagined.  It started off simple enough, filling out the required paperwork and answering all the questions.  Then they did a finger prick to determine my blood type.  Next it was time to be stuck with the needle.  It was then that I learned I had no veins.  It took all of the blood drive employees to examine my arms for a suitable vein.  I was told that I had surface veins, and they could not be used. 

Finally after being stuck for the third time a return of blood flow was awarded.  You would have thought they struck oil!  Their elation soon ended when then flow of blood turned into a trickle, then a drop.  The well had gone dry, and I had only filled half of the bag.  They were very disappointed, however not nearly as disappointed as me.  Not only was I sent back to class without a rest time, but I didn't even get any juice or cookies.  The blood could not be used, and had to be discarded.  I failed at donating blood, but that doesn't mean that you can't donate.
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I later learned from my father, that when I was a baby, I dehydrated, and they couldn't find any veins at that time either.  They had to make an incision on my ankle to find a vein to place an IV in so that I could get fluids.

January is National Volunteer Blood Donor Month.  January was chosen because it is the hardest month to recruit volunteers.  Changing weather, busy holiday schedules, increased cold and flu symptoms and even the winter blues can keep the most dedicated blood donors from making or keeping an appointment to give. Yet winter weather can lead to more traumatic injuries on icy roads and may increase the need for blood.  Donating blood is a simple, painless task that not only makes you feel good about helping your fellow man, but also 1 pint of blood can save up to 3 lives.

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For more information about donating blood visit this site: http://www.americasblood.org/
Then call your local blood bank and schedule your appointment to give the gift of life.

Monday, January 23, 2012

National Peanut Butter Day


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By Diane Forrest,

When I was a kid I took my lunch to school.  I went to a small school, and they didn't have a cafeteria.   I never had to wonder what was going to be in my lunch, it would be a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  Then my brother got the idea that he liked it stirred up together, and so that’s how I got mine too.  I didn’t like it that way, and haven't eaten many peanut butter and jelly sandwiches since.  However, my uncle, who will be 73 this year, still has one every day for lunch.  Even Elvis liked peanut butter sandwiches.  Only he put banana on it then fried them in bacon grease.

Peanut butter is a wonderful food. I love opening up a brand new jar and taking the first whiff.  You would think peanut butter has been around for a while, but actually, it has only been in existence since 1884.  Peanuts are native to the Americas, and were first mashed up by the native Aztec Indians.  George Washington Carver is often credited with the invention of peanut butter, but actually, Marcellus Edson from Canada received the first patent in 1884.  In 1903 a doctor in St. Louis, Dr. Straub, invented a peanut butter making machine in able to provide protein to the elderly who had no teeth.
Cookies!!
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Peanut butter is full of protein and vitamins and fiber.  There are many products you can eat that contain peanut butter.  Crackers, cookies, candy, ice cream, pies, cakes, are but a few.  My husband used to order peanut butter milkshakes even, and I wasn't so sure about those.  I always imagined the peanut butter would clog up the straw.

I love homemade peanut butter cookies though, and did some research about why you make the cris cross shapes on the top.  That was mainly done so people could tell what type of cookie it was.

Today is National Peanut Butter Day.  Why not pack your lunch with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, or fry up a peanut butter and banana sandwich, or even bake a batch of peanut butter cookies.  Anyway you try it, have a peanut buttery day.

PB & Banana
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Elvis Presley's Peanut butter and banana sandwich:

Ingredients
  • 2 slices of white bread
  • 2 tablespoons of smooth peanut butter
  • 1 small ripe banana mashed
  • 2 tablespoons butter


Instructions
Spread the peanut butter on one slice of bread and the mashed banana on the other. Press the slices gently together. Melt the butter (or to be truly Elvis-like, melt bacon fat!), over low heat in a small frying pan. Place the sandwich in the pan and fry until golden brown on both sides. Eat it with a glass of buttermilk. Please note: Elvis tended to eat 12-15 sandwiches a sitting! So belly up!