Vegan, no sugar added brownies that will knock your socks off.This is why I need almond butter so bad!
We have made Banff brownies twice in Nila Girl’s galley.Once on our passage to Jamaica (please reference Day 3 blog post) and once while my brother, Corey, came to visit.I am not much of a baker, never have been but I will admit that if you really want to make someone feel truly happy, special, have a big dish of warm homemade brownies waiting for them.These are the sentiments I want to impart to both Ren and Corey, which is why I have made brownies for both of them.Homemade brownies does not mean you’ve opened a box, added water and baked them in your oven.Homemade means you have dirtied at least four different utensils during the measuring and mixing process.And in the case of these brownies, you have used more than three ingredients.Besides, Banff brownies do not come in a box at the store.In fact the vegan, no sugar added recipe is the brainchild of the ever inspiring Banff Luther of Pavana.
These brownies mix up wet.Even after baking they are a moist, sticky mound of black pleasure (why is it that the brownie description is already sounding like the preface of a porn novel?).The brownies are so dense that your fingers get lost in them as they sink deep into the gooey food while you are just trying to hold one of them (again, maybe I should omit the words “Banff brownies” change them to “Chuck Longwood” and send this article to Hustler).
Banff always had a fresh supply of these brownies made up.If he had a vice, this was certainly it.He was not ashamed to turn us all into brownie seeking zombies searching for our next fix.So here we are, in the Bahamas addicted to Banff brownies but there is a serious problem.Bahamians cannot bake brownies.They can do bread.Their fresh, warm coconut bread is unrivaled.They can also make a sort of tart, so I have heard, I never tried one myself though.Why would I?The tart does not have chocolate in it.But they make brownies in the fashion of their English brethren, dry, bland and wholly unsatisfying.Like a little square of dry chocolate cake, crumbly and bad.Banff brownies are in the sharpest contrast to these abominations of chocolate.Remember folks, we cannot all be good at everything.Bahamians, stick to bread.By the way, you owe me $1.75 for the crappy little confection you misnamed “brownie” that I bought in Governor’s Harbor.Yes, I ate it anyway but not because I wanted to.Only because I am compelled to finish everything on my plate.This is in thanks to my half Italian heritage, I am sure. I have got to learn when to say, “Basta!”
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
1 cup white wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup Hershey’s extra dark cocoa
1/4 cup regular cocoa (we used carib powder)
1 teaspoon sea salt
2.5 tablespoons vanilla (we are pirates now so we used rum which is a perfect vanilla substitute)
1/4 cup water (we used rum…just joking)
1 cup agave nectar
3/4 cup safflower oil (we used olive oil which we do not mind but it’s a lot stronger than safflower oil and affects the flavor slightly)
3/4 tub almond butter (we used peanut butter because we ran out of almond butter a long time ago and my brother brought us Nutella instead of the almond butter we requested…FAIL)
Mix all ingredients by hand until smooth and pour into any baking dish.Bake at 350 degrees for 22 minutes until the middle is loose but tooth pick pulls out clean.Baking times may vary depending on size of the baking dish or maximum temperature of your oven, which in our case, Nila Girl’s only reaches 300 degrees.
When done, let cool 10-15 minutes for settling before cutting.
NOTE: The ratios above are copied from a recipe I got from Banff himself.All substitutions areunauthorized but work!
A journalized account of our non-stop sail through the Windward Passage from Long Island, Bahamas to Port Antonio, Jamaica.
My A.M. shift ends at 7:00.I have been at the wheel since around 2:30am and have done my fair share of hand steering.Usually we just set Duane the Wind Vane and he steers for us.This frees up our bodies and minds.Having to hand steer takes a lot of mental fortitude.Looking ahead a the deep blue nothing, staying on course, occasionally fighting oncoming waves, staying awake…for hours.
A cockpit shave job. Only the best for Ren!
Ren took over at 7:00am and I went straight back to bed.Before my morning nap I had slept one hour the previous night.My nap tacked on almost four additional hours of sleep.Usually we get eight to ten hours of sleep per night, uninterrupted.Change this healthy pattern to maybe five hours per twenty four hour period, not a consecutive five either.Five hours taken in one to two hour increments, not healthy.We are both extremely tired.The lethargy can be blamed partially on the oppressive sun.
I woke from my nap sweating.The waves have turned into a lake and the wind is non-existent.Not even a breath of it to dry my sweaty body.We have resigned ourselves to firing up the ol’ “Iron Jib.”We hate to do this because running the engine both wastes fuel and costs money.However, we cannot spend the day going nowhere either.I have a flight to catch from Montego Bay to Fort Lauderdale in a couple of days to try to hustle us some money teaching freediving.Also, let’s look at the numbers.Since we have left North Carolina we have only had to purchase fifty nine gallons of diesel.Fifty nine gallons and we run the engine whenever we need to.This means, we have not been exceptionally frugal with our fuel.Back home, Ren’s F-250 Ford diesel pickup held thirty eight gallons of fuel.He would burn a whole tank of fuel per week on average, running around town.This does not account for out of town trips, the diesel for his tractor, or the diesel for my car.Our little Perkins is nice and efficient.Today she will run to keep us on track.She is currently running 6.3 knots with some help from the mainsail and spinnaker with only one hundred and forty four nautical miles to go to get to Port Antonio.
The wind is so calm that we had to take down the spinnaker to keep it from flapping around.The engine is making sure that we maintain a respectable speed.Today is really going to affect our overall trip average which stinks because we made such great time the first couple of days.Besides the breathold tables and arm workout I will do later, when it is cooler, my goal is to dry out a bunch of my cold weather gear that got soaked during the more turbulent weather of the last couple of days.Nila Girl still has some leaks, a problem I am hoping we can completely eradicate this summer.When water leaks into the boat usually when we are heeled over pretty far or taking waves over the bow, it leaks mostly in the v-berth area.This means that our freshly laundered sheets and some of our clothes have become tainted with sea water.The tainted items will never dry.The salt in the sea water hold water in, keeping things feeling damp.I can hang the affected items out and get them crispy in the sun but there are still two problems:
1. Salty, crispy clothes itch.
2.When the items contact moisture again, even just the humidity, they feel as wet as when you first found them doused in saltwater.
We will have to rewash everything when we get to Jamaica.
A beautiful end to a beautifully calm day.We just ate supper in the cockpit under the nearly full moon.I seared up a piece of mahi for Ren and made a cold pasta and pea dish.My belly was craving something without a lot of seasoning and I wasn’t in the mood for any meat tonight.Oreo had fish and cheese.
Speaking of Oreo, his spirits were exceptionally high today, as were mine and Ren’s.Since the seas was so calm and the winds were down we had to run the engine through the entire day (it is actually still running now).This means that we had a calm day on the ocean.The kind of day where we were afforded the opportunity to accomplish some goals.I dried out all of the salt tainted clothes and bedding described before.Ren re-glued pieces of our dinghy that were causing air to leak.I made Banff Brownies, a recipe passed on to us from Banff on Pavana (see earlier blog entries for Banff description).The brownies are sugar free, for all of you athletes in training out there.Oreo walked all over the boat, going out on the gunnels anytime he wanted.We relaxed and enjoyed the calm.I was able to do another breathold table and stretching session today.My arms are really sore from the workout yesterday,I love the feeling of soreness earned through physical exertion.It is good for the mind to push the body to hurt.
We still have not seen anything notable in the water.No turtles, dolphins or anything, except the beautiful fish we caught.We are now only ninety eight miles from Jamaica.I am looking forward to exploring a strange new world.I am also looking forward to the trip back to Fort Lauderdale.It will be sobering to see some old friends again.I also look forward to the prospect of making a bit of money.It feels good to line the pockets with a bit of cash.
Pizza made with a mahi Banff harvested baked in Pavana’s oven,served with a salad on the side.
It seems that of all the foods we crave while adventuring on Nila Girl, which are many, pizza is at the top of the list.It’s hard to find descent pizza in the Bahamas and if you do, it’s not likely to be worth the pretty penny you would spend on it.Ren and I crave Antonio’s Commentatore pie from back home.Lots of sauce, garlic, eggplant, basil and two cheeses perfectly melted on top with just the right amount of cheese grease drip when you fold a slice in half.We miss ordering out a Commentatore and drinking one beer each while we wait for the pizza to be ready for pick up.We pick up the pie and eat it with lots of crushed red pepper while taking in a movie projected on a king sized sheet in our old living room.Next year, we’re bringing the projector with us on our cruise.
As Banff of Pavana, Ren and I perused the grocery aisles in Spanish Wells, Eleuthera, we brainstormed about the night’s supper.Within minutes, and almost jokingly, Ren sighed, “Pizza would be good.”I groaned and immediately started pouting, knowing that this wasn’t an option until Banff, a beacon of light on our grim pizza situation, said, “Alright, let’s do the pizza thing.”Banff already had the whole wheat flour and yeast needed to make the dough, which was really the only limiting factor.Pavana was also adequately overstocked with everything we would need for the top of the pizza or anything else your culinary heart desired.In short, Pavana was like a floating grocery store, but not Food Lion.Pavana was a Whole Foods or Fresh Market, complete with organic selections and vegan options.I think I spent a total of $40 shopping at ‘Groceries a la Pavana’.Anyway, Banff already had pizza sauce, soy cheese, jalapenos and mahi to be grilled and added to the top.Nila Girl isn’t exactly shabbily stocked herself.She was to contribute fresh parmesan, straight off the block (thanks to a little Italian ancestry) and a nice big salad with all the fixings.We picked up some mushrooms to add to the top, payed out and met Oreo at the grocery store sliding doors where he was keeping a close eye on the golf cart we rented.
Eager to get back to the boat and start the dough, we finished our uneventful self-guided golf cart tour of Spanish Wells and hopped back into Banff’s dinghy to head back to the strong ships…
Spanish Wells was uneventful if you consider I stayed up half the night researching the small island and it’s history of inbreeding.It is safe to say that I became momentarily obsessed with the history of Spanish Wells, which includes Anglo-Saxon settlers, racial pride, and a long line of inbreeding.I searched the internet for pictures of the people and family trees with branches intertwining like the trunk of a ficus.Needless to say, I was disappointed when we got there.First, the long history of inbreeding was not readily apparent in the people.They looked normal, just with a backwoods sense of style.Second, the place reminded me of my hometown of Richlands, NC but Richlands about 30 years ago.Industrious people with a big red streak in a mostly white town.Nothing unusual about Spanish Wells if you are already from the rural south.
We needed to shower, feed Oreo and pack our “supper time bag” (a waterproof bag made of recycled sailcloth by Ella Vicker’s Recycled Sailcloth Collection, perfect for keeping food items dry on the wet floor of a dinghy) for Pavana.Snapping photos of the locals while heading out of the harbor area, I spotted something strikingly red floating in the water.so red, it reminded me of that scene from the book, The Giver, where the young giver gets his first glimpse of color in an otherwise black and white world.The color he saw was red and the imagery was powerful.We approached the bobbing red objects with caution until…holy geez!The floating red balls were bright ripe tomatoes with the occasional red bell pepper sprinkled in.Apparently a box of fresh tomatoes and peppers had fallen off the dock right into the dinghy’s path, and nobody was claiming them.Guess what goes surprisingly great on pizza…yep!Tomatoes and red bell peppers.
Banff weaved in and out of the crimson gates as Ren and I stretched to retrieve very piece of valuable food we could.Trust me, if retrieving floating food with a dinghy was an olympic sport, we would be representing Team USA.A local, who was working on his boat engine nearby (I told you they were industrious people), noticed us scrambling and joined in on the aqua-harvest.He relinquished his bounty to us poor sailors and we greedily grabbed the goodies.Besides being on a budget, we were Team USA of the Aqua-Harvest event, not him.He should check himself!Ah but the pizza was looking better and better.We wiped the drool from our mouths with our sleeves and continued on to the boats.
The four of us, Oreo was always welcomed on Pavana, met back up on Banff’s boat around 6:30 or 7:00, all freshly showered and hungry.Banff had already let the dough rise and it was time for the art to begin. Ren saddled up on the settee with a cold Budweiser and watched the magic happen.Oreo sat right between my feet and waited for me to drop some magic on the floor.Banff worked on shaping the whole wheat dough and grilling the fish while I threw together the salad and prepped the toppings for the pizza.Cucumbers, chopped spinach, grated parmesan, tomatoes, squash, zucchini and some basil colorfully lit up the stainless steel mixing bowl the salad was contained in.For a dressing, I mixed together olive oil and pear infused balsamic vinaigrette.Banff opted for Amy’s Goddess dressing (a noble choice).When the pizza dough was sculpted, Banff added jarred tomato sauce and swirled in spoonfuls of my Nannie’s homemade pesto, which I will be bringing a lot more of for our next cruise.Pesto is good for a lot more than just pizza and pasta, folks.The base of the pizza was painted perfectly with the sauces before flaked bits of lightly seasoned, grilled mahi were sprinkled in.The already radiant pizza required some more green so chopped spinach and jalapenos were thrown on top.The tomatoes and red bel peppers we found were sliced and delicately arranged on the bed of spinach, offsetting the green.A few sliced mushrooms, the yellow soy cheese and white parmesan…voila!The beauty of the meshing pizza ingredients made the raw colors palatable.
Banff popped our canvas into the oven and the three of us started giggling in anticipation.Oreo did not giggle.In fact, he was pretty pissed that I had prepared my share of the meal without dropping a single slice of anything.Don’t worry, he always gets his share of, well, everything that we cook.So that we didn’t start gnawing our fingers off, we passed the pizza cooking time in the most painless way possible.Ren and I cracked open a couple of beers and the crew settled in for two episodes of the hilarious TV series, 30 Rock.The laughter was the only thing strong enough to distract our appetites.Of course, we checked on the pizza no less than four times while watching.The hardest ten minutes of the evening came when the pizza was taken out of the oven and placed on the counter to cool.Who’s idea was it to let food cool anyway?We stared at the pie and suffered through the last ten minutes of our second episode.
Finally, the moment arrived.The pizza was judiciously served in even amounts to prevent WWIII.Since I am an athlete in training, i got a fair share of the pie too, despite being of the fairer sex.The salad was dispersed, a mere afterthought lying next to the pizza.A fluffy side dish to keep our slices comfortable before we devoured them.We ate, savoring every bite, while watching a third episode of 30 Rock.If you haven’t seen the show yet, you’re walking backwards.We shared a solitary tear when supper was finished and the dishes were licked clean.Banff took Nila Girl’s crew back to our boat and we said our goodbyes.You see, homemade pizza was the perfect last supper to share with our new friend on Pavana.We parted ways with a good taste left in our mouths, already eager for our next encounter with Banff.
Mahi Pizza (Pavana Style)
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
1 grilled Mahi steak, lightly seasoned
1 cup cheddar or cheese substitute
1/2 cup parmesan (NO substitutes)
1/2 cup canned pizza sauce
1/4 cup pesto
Our Pizza Toppings:
red bell peppers
*Get creative with your toppings.Include on your pizza anything that is on the verge of spoiling.This avoids food waste and makes the pizza interesting.
1 cup warm water
1/2 cup seawater
1 tblsp powdered yeast
1 tblsp sugar (we use agave nectar)
4 cups unbleached flour or wheat flour
Combine yeast warm water sugar and seawater and let stand 5 minutes.Mix in flour and let stand until dough doubles in volume.When dough has doubled, punch down and knead.Let rise again by 50%.Punch and knead again.Take out 1/3 of the dough for the pizza crust.Bake the rest as bread!
Mix “pizza herbs” into the dough (basil, parsley, etc). Spread the dough out on the cooking surface (foil works well on the boat).Cover the dough with pizza sauce and add half the cheese. Let the toppings begin.Add your toppings and cover with the remaining cheese to hold it all together.
Bake at 425 degrees for 25-30 minutes.Let thepizza cool on a cooling rack for at least 10minutes before cutting.
NOTE: I never measure amounts when I cook and guessed all the ratios in the recipe above.