Archive for the ‘cooking’ Category

Salvation of the car-nanas

February 13th, 2013
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I wouldn't be a real American if I didn't contract everything into its most monosyllabic possible combination. Case in point: Bennifer, JLo, etc.

Naturally, the logical shortening of the words "car bananas" is "car-nanas," our family's wonderfully efficient way of making fun of my latest ditziness, as detailed in the Car Bananas blog.

Carnanas: it refers to when I bought bananas and lost them in my little compact car for a week, and then couldn't figure out what the banana smell was every time I entered the car.

I know. How does this woman have a graduate degree?

Anyway, who's got the last laugh now? When life hands you overripe bananas, you make banana bread!

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Here's the great recipe I used from Chef Joanne Chang's recipe book, Flour:

1 1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

1 t. baking soda

1/4 t. ground cinnamon

1/2 t. kosher salt

1 c. + 2 T. sugar

2 eggs

1/2 c. canola oil

3 1/2 very ripe, medium bananas, peeled and mashed (1 1/2 c.= about 340 grams)

2 T. creme fraiche or sour cream

1 t. vanilla extract

3/4 c. walnut halves, toasted and chopped

Makes one 9" loaf.

Directions:

Put rack in center of oven, heat to 325 degrees F. Butter a 9x5" loaf pan (*though as you see in my photo, I used muffin tins and freelanced on the time!). In bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, salt. Set aside.

Using stand mixer with whip attachment, beat together sugar, eggs on medium speed, 5 minutes, or until light and fluffy. On low speed, slowly drizzle in oil. Should take about a minute.

Add bananas, creme fraiche, vanilla. Continue to mix on low speed until combined.

Using rubber spatula, fold in the flour mixture and nuts until combined. Pour into pan.

Bake 1 to 1 1/4 hours or until golden brown on top and center springs back when you press it. Cool in pan on wire rack for 30 minutes, then pop it out of the pan to finish cooling.

*I'm not a pro baker but I got lucky. I watched the muffins and used the finger test, so mine were ready after 22 minutes. I also substituted 1/2 c. bittersweet baking chips 60% cacao, because I live with chocoholics. It all turned out really well!

Enjoy... thank Chef Chang when you make this... and just know that you don't have to ripen your bananas in your car for a week. You could probably just let them sit on the kitchen counter! LOL

Cake pops

October 5th, 2012
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It is a natural fit for a cake decorator wanna-be to eventually discover cake pops. My friend Joy, who went with me to cake classes, gave me a recipe book by Bakerella on how to make this trendy treat.

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Naturally, Olivia was all over this. I was, too. The book made the cake lollipops look so good, I was interested in trying my hand at it.

Basically, you take a cake, crumble it up, roll it with frosting, and dip it in chocolate. It's not too hard to do. You could make all these fancy shapes, but I admit, I lose patience for the detail work.

Olivia was very excited to help me- er, correction. Olivia let me help her make the cake. I was just there to read directions and pick up heavy stuff, like the Kitchen Aid mixer.

Mixing in frosting to crumbled cake

Mixing in frosting to crumbled cake

After it was baked and cooled, she really enjoyed the crumbling process. "I'm good at destroying things. I'll do that," she said. Right she is.

She smashed the cake up into little bits and then took great pleasure in mooshing the buttercream frosting around with her little fingers. If you do this with your child, expect to be reminded every three minutes that they want to lick the beater/bowl/spoon/spatula.

By the time it came to rolling the balls, she lost interest and told me to finish up. So I rolled a sheet of balls and put it in the freezer for 15 minutes to firm up. You can put sticks to make it like a lollipop, or you can leave it alone and serve it as a ball. We did the latter.

Finally, I had some semi-sweet chocolate chips lying around and some extremely hot chili-chocolate that came from a speciality store in Portland. I cannot eat it. Nobody I know can eat it, even people who said they were accustomed to "very hot" spice. (I don't know true chili-heads.) I decided to use it up by mixing tiny amounts in with regular chocolate, so the chocolate in my cake balls was ultimately a tiny bit hot, but perfect for all the adults who tried it.

I let Olivia dip the balls into the melted chocolate, which was great fun for her. While the chocolate hardened in the refrigerator, Olivia enjoyed licking the spoon and bowl. She complained initially of the chili heat, but said she could tolerate it enough to finish cleaning the bowl of chocolate residue. When it was all clean, she downed two glasses of cold water in quick succession. That is what I call a trooper.

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It was decent fun to make and tasty to eat, but I'm not sure I'm going to make this too often. It's a great way to use up cake scraps from actual cake projects, but I personally am not interested in baking a cake just for this, only to rip it all apart.

Do you make cake pops?

Mint chocolate chip ice cream

June 27th, 2012
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This is an ode to my favorite ice cream, mint chocolate chip. I love coffee, green tea, dulce de leche too - actually I hardly ever turn down any flavor. I like ice cream.

When I eat at fancy restaurants that hire their own pastry chef, I still like to order ice cream for dessert. So simple.

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But mint chocolate chip: there's something wonderful about the light mint flavor, the chocolate, and most importantly, the color.

I've had this conversation many times over the years with other mint chocolate chip aficinados, so I'll ask it here to the wider group: does the color matter to you? It really is just coloring (right?) so why does my brain say it has to be that certain light green color to be perfect?

When I was five (or so), my earliest memory of eating ice cream was when my beloved grandfather bought me a sugar cone of mint chip from the Baskin Robbins store at Kamehameha Shopping Center. I remember dropping the scoop on the ground and feeling devastated. I hadn't even taken a lick! I remember the clerk kindly replacing it for free, and I was so incredibly happy.

Maybe it's my favorite flavor because I associate it with such a nice memory. In fact, I think the best mint flavor and texture is from Baskin Robbins. I love the lightness of their chocolate flecks, and the touch of mint that isn't too overpowering to the senses.

I always try a new brand of mint chip when I see it in the grocery store. I do not like the white ones. I actually think the white ice creams have too strong of a mint flavor. I also don't like when the chocolate flakes are too thick. Some brands make their ice cream too dark green.

I found one personality test online about what your flavor preferences say about you. For Mint Chocolate Chip: "If you indulge in Mint Chocolate Chip, you tend to be ambitious and confident yet skeptical about life. You prepare for the future, needing a plan to feel secure. While your stubbornness is a business asset, it can add challenges to your relationships. Even so, your loyalty, honesty and dependability create lasting friendships and close family ties."

Here's another test: "Mint chocolate chip: You are a survivalist! You are a rationalist who is more likely to keep a full stock of tinned foods before an inevitable heavy snow storm. This means you prepare and plan ahead for the future, feeling secure only after coming up with a solid realistic plan. You are mostly truthful, trusting, loyal and dependable which gives you a long lasting and ever-binding bond with your friends and family. On the other hand, you are a bit stubborn in relationships though you enjoy close family ties. Ideal partner: You are most compatible with other mint chocolate chip lovers!"

A so-so reading, but silly fun. I can tell you that Claus doesn't care for mint chip, but we're still very compatible!

So - if you like mint chocolate chip, do you agree with my ice cream analysis? And if you don't like mint chip, what is your favorite flavor?

Time travel, part 2

April 27th, 2012
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"I'm doing things with Claus I haven't done in six years!" I exclaimed to my guy friend on the phone, who asked what I have been up to.

"Wow! Good for Claus!" he replied.

"I didn't mean it like that," I laughed.

"I did," he said.

It's true. I got pregnant, had a baby, and life completely changed. The simple act of taking a walk alone or going to the beach without packing toys and floaties is now unthinkable to me. We have not had this kind of couples time since I got pregnant six years ago.  I scared a young couple with this information.

Day three of the staycation passed in much the same form as the previous two days; some exercise, lots of nothing, and an afternoon nap. I went three for three on this one, and I love it so much, I'm thinking of approaching my state legislator to sponsor a bill to make a daily siesta mandatory. That, or get myself re-enrolled in preschool.

I originally thought the mini-vacation served as a small reminder of what my life was before I had a child, but after the nap times, I am starting to think it also gives me a glimpse into my future as a retiree. Either way, I like.

So on the third day off, Claus started with a dawn bike ride for a couple hours, followed by an hour walk with me and the dog. He then had to stop in at work for a couple hours. That's the thing about being a manager. He had to go manage.

I also had to do a little bit of work, and did check the cell phone for e mails and messages every few hours. I like to work, but I forced myself to take a mental break. I think it's healthier, though that means I'll have a pile of e mails to return to upon my return.

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In the afternoon, we met up again for lunch at another new-to-us joint, Bella Mia in Kaimuki. It was very nice, and I would go again. The food was hearty, the service was friendly, the price was reasonable, and I like supporting small businesses.

I followed this up with a nap and a long walk around the block.

Very, very enjoyable. We love to travel and discover new places, but at this stage of life, this was the perfect type of vacation for us.

What's your vacation this year?

St. Patrick’s Day recipes

March 14th, 2012
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Someone sent me St. Patrick’s Day recipes for green smoothies. Sounds like a perfect opportunity to “sneak” some healthy greens into my daughter's diet- I"ll have to give these a try. If you do, let me know how it tastes!

They're from Omega Juicers - and no food coloring is necessary to make these drinks festive. 

The Leaping Leprechaun
1/2 cup strawberries
1 banana
1/2 cup of spinach leaves
1 cup water
Lucky Lucy
1 handful parsley
2 apples
1 handful spinach
1 cucumber
1 lemon
1-inch piece ginger
Sparkling Shamrock
1 cup fresh pineapple cubes
1/2 cup strawberries
1 banana
1/2 cup of spinach leaves
1 cup water
One to two drops of vanilla essence
One cup of yogurt and add a teaspoon or two of honey for sweetness (optional)
Irish Twist
3 cups fresh baby Spinach
1 Lime, 1 large Tomato
2-3 Carrots and 1/2 Carrot top bunch
1/2 bunch Parsley
1 stalk Celery
Green Morning
4-6 Carrots
4 stalks of Celery
1 Lemon
1 Macintosh or Yellow Apple
Combine all ingredients into a blender. Blend until really smooth, not still grainy or chunky or with bits of leaves floating about. It can be thick, as you can always thin with water, but it needs to be smooth.  This should take only a couple of minutes. Blend until the greens are so pulverized that they are no longer visible other than infusing your smoothie with a beautiful green color.