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Carribbean, North America

salted caramel Creole banana cake

So, I’m definitely not much of a baker.  I don’t really have a sweet tooth, I’ve always had more of a salt tooth instead.  My husband is quite polite about all this and doesn’t complain about the lack of desserts. However, I’ve noticed when there are sweets around, or it’s the rare occasion that I’ve baked something, he acts really happy.  I was reading through my Share cookbook the other day and I saw this recipe for “Magic Banana Creole Cake”. I didn’t have enough bananas but that doesn’t usually stop me.  This is why I usually can’t bake. I need to improvise because I never want to go to the store! Luckily my improvisations worked here.  I cut the recipe in half.  I also used store-bought salted caramel sauce instead of making the syrup from sugar and water. So good.

I’ve also been experimenting with essential oils in my cooking so I decided to add a drop each of ginger and clove; both flavors that I knew would compliment this cake.  I took a cue from Mid-West banana bread and added a super overly ripe banana to the batter.  My husband thought it was a little strange when I yelled “yes!” as I found what looked like to him a rotten banana in our freezer.

salted caramel Creole banana cake- adapted from the recipe “Magical banana Creole Cake” by Najat Kaanache, found in the “Share” cookbook by Women for Women International

serves 8

ingredients:

1/4 cup oil such as olive or avocado

1 tablespoon coconut oil

8-10 ounces salted caramel sauce

1 super overly ripe banana

2 very ripe bananas (sliced)

1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour

2 teaspoons cornstarch

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 large eggs, separated

1/2 cup milk

1 tablespoon plain yogurt

1 drop each clove and ginger essential oils* (optional)

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup maple syrup

1 cup half and half (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread the 1 tablespoon of coconut oil in the bottom of a 9 inch round cake pan (I used a springform pan). Spread the jar of salted caramel sauce over that. Arrange the banana slices evenly over the caramel.

Mix together the dry ingredients: flour, cornstarch, baking powder and baking soda. Add the salt and set aside. Whisk the egg yolks with the 1/4 cup of oil and brown sugar. It should be creamy and foamy. Stir in the yogurt and maple syrup. Gradually fold in the dry ingredients, alternating with milk. Stir in the super overly ripe banana (we’re talking a frozen, liquidy one) If you’re using the essential oils, add them now.

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until soft peaks foam (ow, my arm!). This takes a minute and if you have the upper body strength of a T-Rex, like I do, your arm will be tired. Gently fold in the egg whites to the batter. You want everything to be mixed but if you overmix, it will make the cake kind of tough. Pour the batter over the top of the caramel sauce and bananas. Bake in the oven for about 40 minutes.

Remove the cake from the oven and let it stand for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, heat up your half and half over medium-low heat.  Be careful that it doesn’t scorch. Now, place a large plate on the top of the cake and turn over your pan so now the plate is on the bottom.

Lift off the pan. Voila! Now the caramelly bananas are exposed!

Serve the cake in a bowl and pour the warm half and half over the top. Gooey, creamy, good.

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monday musings

My chihuahua is pretty chill. Here we are snowmobiling in Maine.

Did you like the chill chihuahua? Last night, I made it for some friends and I accidentally grabbed the bottle of triple sec instead of tequila. Wowza! And yikes. It was quite the tart and sweeeet drink. It turns out that cocktails named after dog breeds is a thing!

On Thursday, I posted a recipe for japchae. The recipe I used called for bean thread noodles, but after research, I found that sweet potato starch noodles are the actual Korean japchae noodle.  This article clears most all your Asian noodle questions up!

Saturday’s post has tahini as the shining star ingredient. I use Woodstock Tahini, but evidently, I could be using several other more artisanal brands. Last year was the year of tahini.  I’m hoping tahini trend will continue in 2017.  I have a food scientist friend who works with companies to develop new products. I picked his brain for a bit the other day about 2017 food trends.  He said peppercorns are a big thing right now paired with sweets, such as pink peppercorns with chocolate.  Sounds like the new salted caramel?  He also said something about a cloudberry that has the texture of yogurt on the inside? Yes please!

I’ll leave you with a few more pictures of my chill chihuahua.

 

 

His name is Papo
Here is he with my husband and niece

 

 He met a man a couple of years ago that had just had his 107!! birthday! They really liked each other.
Middle East

roasted butternut squash with tahini yogurt sauce

I love tahini. Tahini is to sesame seeds as peanut butter is to peanuts. It is the second ingredient in good hummus after garbanzo beans. In fact, this sauce is like really good, authentic hummus with yogurt instead of garbanzo beans. Tahini yogurt sauce is very simple and flavorful; creamy, salty, lemony.  In this recipe, I roasted a whole butternut squash then topped it with this sauce.  It’s a delicious and pretty side dish or a wonderful vegetarian meal on its own. Plenty of fiber and protein!

roasted butternut squash with tahini yogurt sauce

serves 2

ingredients:

1 small butternut squash

yogurt tahini sauce:

8 ounces 2% or whole milk greek yogurt

1/4 cup tahini

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

juice of 1 lemon

2 cloves garlic- finely grated with a micro plane grater. I have this one and I use it all the time.

1/8-1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper or smoked paprika (optional)

good salt like kosher and fresh ground pepper

garnish:

1 thinly sliced hot pepper such as fresno or red serrano

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

drizzle of extra virgin olive oil

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Slice the squash in half the long way. Scoop out all of the seeds. Drizzle with a tablespoon of the olive oil and season with plenty of salt and pepper. Roast the squash, cut side up, in the oven for 45 minutes. You want it to be really soft so it may take up to an hour, especially if you don’t use a small squash. Don’t rush this part because you’ll regret it if you do.

Meanwhile, combine the yogurt, tahini, lemon juice, grated garlic cloves, and cayenne or paprika. Mix well. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil a little bit at a time until it’s all mixed in.  Taste it and add a little or lots of salt and pepper.  You want it to be a little on the salty side. At least I always do!

Take out the roasted squash. Fill in the hole of the squash with plenty of the sauce.  Garnish with chopped cilantro and sliced hot peppers and drizzle with more olive oil. Enjoy!

ps- tahini yogurt sauce is good with so many things such as any roasted vegetable or as a veggie or chip dip. I love it with roasted beef or lamb too.

Anywhere and Everywhere, Mexico, North America

chill chihuahua


I recently had the most fantastic lavender greyhound cocktail at the Arvada Tavern in Arvada, CO. I’ve always been a fan of greyhounds. Both the dog and the cocktail. The cocktail of course is very simple and allows the grapefruit juice shine. Adding lavender adds this super mellow, relaxing quality. I went to recreate this cocktail at home but I didn’t have any vodka. I discovered that tequila was an easy alternative. I made a simple syrup with just one drop of lavender essential oil. Only use an essential oil that has been labeled safe for ingestion. I use Young Living’s Vitality line. I use a sugar rim to add to the easy going nature of this drink. It’s just a shot of lavender syrup, the juice of a red grapefruit, and a shot of tequila. And I’m pretty sure this combo produces its own shot of dopamine. I can’t can’t wait for you to try it and see what I mean! 

chill chihuahua

serves 1

ingredients:

1 1/2 oz. (1 shot) tequila blanco

1 red or pink grapefruit, juiced or 4-6 ounces grapefruit juice. 

1 1/2 oz. lavender simple syrup 

First make the lavender simple syrup. Combine 1 cup of sugar with 1 cup water in a sauce pan over medium-high heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves and the syrup starts to get a little bubbly. Remove from heat and let it cool for a few minutes. While the syrup is chilling, use a juicer to juice your grapefruit. You could certainly use store bought juice here but try to get the really fresh kind (not from concentrate). Transfer the syrup to a jar that uses a screw top lid. Add one drop of lavender essential oil. Be careful to just add one drop. If you add more, it may taste a little soapy. Screw the lid on the jar and shake it up. In a martinit shaker, combine the juice, 1 1/2 oz. syrup, 1 1/2 oz tequila, and ice cubes. After that, find a little plate to put some sugar on for you sugar rim. Take a short cocktail glass and spread some of the simple syrup on the rim and side of the glass with you finger. Carefully roll that part in the sugar for a sugar rim and side. Place a large whiskey ice cube in your glass. Shake up the contents in the martini shaker and pour it into your glass. Dont try to pour the cocktail in before the sugar rim. You’ll feel real dumb. Sip. Mmmm…isn’t it lovely? 

 Don’t have any lavender essential oil that is safe for ingestion? Send me your email or go to my essential oils page to buy some! 

Asia, Korea

japchae

Japchae with egg omelet and green onion garnish

When I was in college and visiting my parents on a break, I found a recipe in one of my Mom’s Cooking Light magazines. The feature was on a Korean American woman who I think was also a cook (the details are blurry). She recalled all of her favorite Korean dishes she had growing up.  One of the dishes was “chapchae” or “japchae”.  It sounded so good! I took the magazine to the library to make copies of it and all the other Korean recipes.  Mind you, I was 21 years old in 2003, and this was my first experience with Korean food. I had to rely on these recipes alone having zero background knowledge on the cuisine. Lucky for me, the recipe author was really good at explaining the process.   I went back to my college apartment after the break and made all these Korean dishes.  My favorite was the japchae! This recipe is super fun to eat because of the unique texture of the noodles.  The ingredients are very easy to find.  I know because I could find them all at the Hy-Vee in Iowa in 2001 so I know you can find them wherever you are too. You can find the more authentic Korean sweet potato starch noodles in Asian grocery stores or you can use bean thread noodles which are found in the Asian section of most all grocery stores.

I’m not able to give the recipe author proper credit because her (it was a she) name isn’t on the copies I made.  I’ve made just a few tweaks such as less beef because I like a heavy noodle to beef ratio.

Japchae

serves 4

ingredients:

beef:

1teaspoon cornstarch

6 ounces round steak or sirloin, trimmed and thinly sliced into matchsticks

1 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce

1 1/2 teaspoons minced peeled fresh ginger (get the fresh stuff, don’t cheat!)

2 teaspoons sambal oelek plus a teaspoon of gochujang. The original recipe recommends the red Thai chile paste.  I used this back in college and it was really, really good.

1/2 teaspoon dark sesame oil

noodles:

1- 3.75 ounce package sweet poato starch noodles (aka jap chae, chap chae, Korean glass noodles) or (mung) bean threads (aka cellophane noodles)

vegetables:

1 teaspoon dark sesame oil

1 teaspoon vegetable oil

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper

5 garlic cloves, minced

3 cups sliced shiitake mushroom caps (about 6 ounces), you can use white button mushrooms instead

1 cup (2 inch) julienne-cut carrot

1 cup (2 inch) diagonally sliced green onions

1 (10 ounce) bag fresh spinach

remaining ingredients:

1/3 cup low-sodium soy sauce

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

1 tablespoon dark sesame oil

1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted ( I really enjoyed Eden Shake instead of just sesame seeds)

  1. To prepare beef, sprinkle cornstarch over beef; sprinkle cornstarch over beef; toss to combine. Add 1 tablespoon soy sauce and next 4 ingredients (1 tablespoon soy sauce through 3 garlic cloves); toss well to coat. Cover and refrigerate 30 minutes to 1 hour.
  2. Heat a large nonstick skillet or wok with a little oil over medium-high heat. Add beef mixture; stir-fry 3 minutes or until done. Remove mixture from pan. Cover and keep warm.
  3. To prepare noodles, pour boiling water over noodles; let stand 10 minutes or until tender. Drain and rinse with cold water. Drain. Snip noodles several times with kitchen shears.
  4. To prepare vegetables, wipe skillet or wok clean with paper towels. Heat 1 teaspoons sesame oil and vegetable oil in the pan over medium-high heat. Add half of spinach; stir-fry 2 minutes or until spinach wilts.
  5. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add beef mixture and noodles to pan, stirring well to combine. Combine 1/3 cup soy sauce, brown sugar, vinegar, and 1 tablespoon sesame oil, stirring with a whisk. Drizzle over noodle mixture; stir well to combine. Cook over medium-low heat 3 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. I also garnished mine with an egg than I beat with a little water and fried into a little omelet that I cut into slices. For the green onions you see in the picture, take a very sharp chef’s knife and cut into thin strips.  I was trying to be like Ivan Orkin.

Please, Cooking Light Magazine, since I know you’re reading this, tell us who was the recipe author! Thank you:-)

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monday musings

I’m right in the middle of Chef’s Table season 3(Oh! this trailer is so good!). This week I watched Nancy Silverton , Osteria Mozza, (Los Angeles, CA) and Ivan Orkin, Ivan Ramen, (New York, NY).  The theme I loved the most with these two was the obsession. Pure obsession with every detail until it was right. Oh and hey!  He uses oven roasted tomatoes to achieve umami perfection in his ramen broth. With the episode and this article, I found a certain affinity to Ivan’s story. It got me thinking about this.

So, currently I teach 1st grade and have taught elementary school for the past 12 years. I’ll be making a change next year so I’m learning new things and rediscovering my hobbies. From time to time my husband passes on articles to me. He sent me an article today entitled: 30 Lessons Leonardo Da Vinci has taught me about photography, art, and life. Number 11 was an “ah-ha”.

And when I’m not cooking or teaching, I’m loving on my pets and foster pets. I’ll leave you with this sweet photo of my late Great Dane getting a little too close to the blueberry pancakes.

 

I miss my counter surfer!

 

 

 

Brazil, South America

chilled soup with mango, yogurt, and serrano peppers

 

I loved styling these in my great grandma’s Depression glass sherbet dishes.

One of our favorite restaurants is a North Denver staple, Cafe Brazil. It’s consistently good and always busy but not too busy. The first dish of theirs that I fell in love with was the chilled yogurt soup. It has mango, cucumber, red onions, and slices of serrano pepper. It’s such a unique flavor and the perfect palette perk to start your meal. I actually have no idea if this is an actual Brazilian soup or if it’s an original creation from the chef at Cafe Brazil. The internet offered no help. I’ll be asking next time I visit.  I recreated this soup for the first time when I was visiting my sister because I knew she would love it.  She went nuts over it and I hope you do, too.

Super quick and easy recipe with not too many ingredients!

chilled soup with mango, yogurt, and serrano peppers

ingredients:

serves 8 as a starter

1 cup of ripe mango, cut into chunks

1 small red onion, cut into four pieces and then sliced about 1/8 inch thick

1 seedless English cucumber

24 oz. plain, whole milk yogurt (not Greek style)

1 cup water

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon white vinegar

1 serrano pepper, thinly sliced

1 teaspoon sugar

1 1/2 teaspoon salt (I used Real Salt Brand)

fresh ground black pepper

Peel and slice your onion.  Transfer to a bowl and pour in the red wine and white vinegar along with 1/2 teaspoon of the salt all of the sugar.  Set aside to quick pickle for about 10-15 minutes. No need to peel your English cucumber. Slice it in half the long way and then slice into 1/8 thick half moons.  Peel the mango and cut into chunks. The pre-sliced kind makes this easy. Thinly slice the serrano pepper and set aside.

 


Combine the 2 cups of yogurt and 1 cup of cold water into a deep bowl. Add the mango chunks.  Use the immersion blender you bought to blend the yogurt, water, and mango. You could also just as easily use a blender. Blend. You want it mostly smooth with a few small chunks left over.

Add the sliced cucumber, half of the serrano pepper (leave the rest to garnish), about 1/2-1 teaspoon of salt, freshly ground black pepper and the quick-pickled red onion.  Stir together. Let it sit in the fridge at least one hour before serving to let the flavors mingle and improve. Serve garnished with the serrano pepper slices and the fresh ground black pepper.

 

Italy

oven roasted tomatoes

I’ll admit that I’m a little late to the oven roasted tomato scene. I’m sure this has been popular for a while but I didn’t try it until about 2 months ago. I had some kumato tomatoes and decided to try oven roasting. Fantastic. It’s that umami flavor that I love. They were so good that I couldn’t wait to get home when I was away from them. Slow roasting takes away the excess water and intensifies the flavor. Intensely tomato.  Oven roasted tomatoes are amazing spread on toast, in pasta, salads, and just on their own.  Kumato tomatoes are already quite an intense tomato flavor and sometimes the best choice when all other tomato varieties are flavorless in February.  Oven roasting tomatoes is really best in the summer if you have a garden with an excess of tomatoes.  Keep them in a jar covered in olive oil and they will keep for a couple of week in the fridge. My recipe is simple and with limited ingredients.  You can add chopped garlic if you like or fresh herbs such as thyme or oregano.

oven roasted tomatoes

ingredients:

12 medium sized tomatoes such as kumatos or plums

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

course salt for sprinkling such as kosher or course ground Himalayan salt.

Preheat your oven to 250 degrees. Wash the tomatoes and slice in half the long way.  This helps to keep the flavorful seeds and juice inside the tomato halves. Spread wax paper on a baking sheet and lay out the tomato halves, cut side up.  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Roast in the oven for 4-5 hours. Store in a container with a little more olive oil to help preserve them.

 

I tossed them with bucatini and fresh basil. How do you use them? 

Let me know if you make these, or have made these! Comment below and let me know what you think or share your favorite way to use oven roasted tomatoes.

 

Anywhere and Everywhere

breakfast avocado toast

 

Most days I use sprouted grain bread but on this day I was lucky enough to have oatmeal bread made by my mom.

This is my go-to breakfast: sprouted grain bread, toasted, smeared with smashed avocado, runny egg, salty bacon and fried tomato. It’s quick, healthy, and filling.  Every single time I cut into it and that yolk slowly oozes out, I’m forced to send a snapchat to all my closest friends. Because this is something that deserves their attention. I love to top this combo with good salt, pepper, and habanero sauce.  I like to use course sea salt. My favorite salt is fluer de sel .  The hot sauce I like is Trader Joe’s habanero sauce.

breakfast avocado toast

serves 1

ingredients:

1 slice sprouted grain bread such as Ezekiel bread, but I prefer Alvarado St bread because of it’s simple ingredient list

1/2 small, ripe avocado

1 plum tomato

1 slice of bacon (my favorite is Beeler’s bacon)

salt and pepper

hot sauce

In a small frying pan, fry the bacon over medium heat until crisp. Meanwhile, slice the tomatoes into 1/2 inch slices. Set the bacon aside on a paper towel-lined plate.   Leaving the bacon grease in the pan and the heat to medium, place the tomatoes in the frying pan and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Be sure to leave the tomato juice on the cutting board like this:

I heard on The Splendid Table podcast that most of a tomato’s flavor is in the seeds and membrain surrounding the seeds. 

You’ll use the juices to help break down and smash the avocado.  Rinse your avocado and slice it in half.  Scoop half the avocado onto the cutting board and sprinkle with salt.  Let set.  Turn your tomatoes over to fry on the other side. Now, you’ll crack your egg into the same pan while the tomatoes finish cooking.  Sprinkle your egg with salt and pepper. Place your slice of bread in the toaster but don’t push it down yet! Smash your avocado up with a fork. Then, flip your egg and put your bread down to be toasted. Turn OFF the heat on the frying pan.  You want your egg to be runny but not TOO runny.  Slow runny.  When the toast is toasted to your liking, put it on a plate, and spread on your smashed avocado.  Top with the bacon (cut in half), the tomato slices, and finally that perfectly cooked egg. Pour just a little habanero sauce over the top.  Cut into it, and take a picture. Enjoy!

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Monday Musings

We have friends in town and we were all craving some spaghetti and meatballs so I made Barefoot’s recipe. So, so good.  Watch the video in the link.  Ina is so cool, so confident.

we are pretty happy about all those meatballs

 

Food can be a very passionate topic for some.  This article sure grabbed my attention this morning: Why your Instagram photos of food may be racist . Check out the original article here.

I really love culture sensitivity articles.  This article on “American behavior” was quite enjoyable to me.

After the Oscars last night (um…wow), we decided to watch the first episode of season 3, Chef’s Table.  Amazing.  Jeong Kwan is an absolute joy and inspiration! The part that stuck with me most was how calm it was at the monastery.  Also, the vast amounts of bowls and barrels. This morning, we were discussing our Chef’s Table view and my friend brought up a good point. One always has to consider that with the attention that Chef’s Table brings, will it also bring tourists to the calm monastery?

Alright. Ok! I do like chicken breasts sometimes. Blue Apron used to include the airline chicken breast cut.  I loved that.  Bring it back Blue Apron! I also love chicken breasts that are pounded until thin, breaded and fried. So there!