Saturday, March 22, 2014

Coconut Banana Bread

There's some sort of banana gene that runs in my family on my dad's side.  My dad, my sisters, my nephew, and I all love bananas and eat them regularly.  To see the amount of bananas that my mom buys for my dad and my sister buys for herself and her son on a weekly basis, you would think they worked at a zoo or lived with Curious George.

While I love bananas, I don't always manage to eat them all before they start browning (and I'm not talking about some slight browning and freckling - I actually love bananas when the peels are a bit brown because that means it'll be sweeter and soft inside).  I wish I had taken a picture of the bananas I used for this recipe so you could see how far gone they were.  So even if you think your bananas are too brown and mushy for use, have no fear, they'll just be easier to mash and will make your bread even more banana-y in flavor!

As I've mentioned in previous posts, I'm a coconut addict and I have a huge bag of shredded coconut sitting in my pantry that was just asking to be used in this recipe.  Bananas and coconut = yum!  If I'd had coconut milk I might have considered using that instead of regular milk to intensify the coconut flavor, although maybe that would overwhelm the banana flavor.

Banana bread also freezes very well, so there's never a good reason to throw out your brown bananas. Make some banana bread and then eat it or freeze it for later!  Nothing better than freshly baked bananas and some coffee (or in my case and with the warmer days approaching, iced coffee).

Servings: 1 loaf made in a 9x5 loaf pan.

Ingredients:
1/2 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup granulated white sugar
2 large eggs
2-3 medium very ripe bananas
1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 cup shredded coconut (plus some extra for topping the loaf)
Cooking spray (I used a coconut oil spray from Trader Joe's)

Instructions:

  • Preheat oven at 350 degrees. For ease of removal later, line the loaf pan with parchment paper, letting the edges stick out over the sides so  you can grab onto them later. Spray the pan and paper. 
    • (I have a love/hate relationship with parchment paper - love its nonstick properties but trying to keep the curling paper straight and out of the way was a pain. If you don't have any parchment paper, just make sure to grease the pan well.)
  • Melt 1/2 cup butter in the microwave over low heat and then whisk together the butter with 3/4 cup white sugar in a large bowl until combined.
  • Add 2 large eggs to the batter and whisk until smooth.
  • Add 2-3 bananas to the batter and mash with the whisk or a fork (or, if you don't want any banana lumps, mash the bananas in a separate small bowl and then add the mush into the batter).
    • If your bananas are very brown then the banana flavor will be stronger and you can get away with 2 bananas. If they are just a little brown and freckly, maybe consider going up to 3. I used 2 since my bananas were completely brown. 
  • Add 2 cups flour, 1 tsp baking soda, 1/2 tsp salt to the batter and, using a spatula, stir everything together until just mixed and there is no more dry flour visible.
  • Fold in 1/2 cup shredded coconut (this is the stage where you can add other ingredients based on preference (e.g., nuts, chocolate)).
  • Pour batter evenly into the pan and smooth the top.  
  • Optional: sprinkle the top of the loaf with some extra shredded coconut. I did this mainly to look nice with some toasted coconut on top, but then afterwards when cutting the bread it was kinda a pain crumbling all over the place (which Rosy LOVED cleaning up).
  • Bake for 50-65 minutes, depending on your oven. Start checking at 50 minutes and then every five minutes after until the loaf is dark brown and cracked on top. Toothpick inserted in the middle should come out clean.
  • Place pan on a cooling rack and let the loaf cool in the pan for 10 minutes.
  • After the first cooling period, remove bread from pan (if you used the parchment paper method, simply lift the bread out by grabbing onto the paper's edges) and cool another 10 minutes before slicing.
  • Keep bread covered  for several days (if the loaf lasts that long!) or wrap in plastic wrap and aluminum foil and keep in freezer for up to 3 months.

And now time for the pictures!

Stupid parchment paper. Hate trimming it to fit the pan while it's curling all over the place and getting in the way. But gotta love the benefits of using it while baking!
Since I had 4 super duper ripe bananas, I simply doubled the recipe above and made two loaves.

Love that crack!
Peek-a-boo, I see you!
Anytime I bake anything, Sunny is never intrigued and just stays on the couch or her bed. But Rosy loooves baked goods and sweets! She came trotting over as soon as I opened the oven and my apartment was filled with delicious banana bread smells!
"Excuse me, are you sure you don't need a taste tester? I'd gladly offer up my services!"
Sunny finally realized something was going on in the kitchen and came to join us after the cooling periods were over. She didn't necessarily want any crumbs, she was just hoping that all this kitchen activity meant I'd open the fridge so she could wedge herself in there and beg for her beloved carrots.
Slicing into the loaf!
Rosy's totally focused on the bread! Sunny's in her own little world, probably dreaming of carrots.
When it was time to sample the bread I decided to enjoy my afternoon snack with some iced coffee. I used to only drink my coffee black, but my sister has ruined me by introducing me to fun flavored non-dairy creamers, like Girl Scouts cookie-flavored creamers! Now I can't stop! Today I used the Samoa flavored creamer (I also have a Thin Mint flavored one). Sunny and Rosy got REALLY close to the bread for some good sniffs. 
Look at Rosy's begging shiny eyes!
Hope you enjoy!

Adapted from The Kitchn.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Pancakes/Waffles with Dark Chocolate and Coconut Pudding Filling (Taiyaki/Bungeoppang)

Snow day, snow day!  Woohoo!  Sunny and Rosy are thrilled to have me home for the day but they're not so thrilled with the snow.  Unfortunately I still have some conference calls to dial into, but at least I can make something fun at home like these taiyaki/bungeoppang!  Taiyaki is the Japanese version and Bungeoppang is the Korean version, and it's essentially a crisp pancake-y/waffle-y dough with some sort of fun filling inside.  Sweet red bean paste is the common and traditional filling, but there are all sorts of different fillings nowadays including different kinds of puddings, nutella, mashed sweet potatoes, custards, and even savory fillings like cheese or breakfast sandwichy kind of things.  In Japan and Korean it's common to find street vendors cooking these up fresh and serving them piping hot on cold wintry days.  While they now come in different molds, the fish one is the one that I remember growing up and it's the traditional shape oddly enough.

To make these fun little fish, first you need this bad boy

I got mine from Amazon but I bet you could find it way cheaper at an Asian market/store.

I almost didn't post this because there's no real recipe here and it involves a special type of pan, but something about these lil fish-shaped pancakes just make me happy and me and my family love these!  And snow days are just begging for something fun to make and eat!  While I like sweet red bean paste ok, it's not necessarily my favorite and I didn't have any red beans handy so instead I made something I'd like better - dark chocolate and coconut pudding!  Oh yeah.

These are best eaten fresh and hot, but I've frozen them and reheated them ok in the toaster oven.  Sometimes the filling doesn't heat up all the way, but in a way I actually like that even better!  You get the hot and crisp waffle-y texture on the outside and then an ice cream-y pudding inside!

[Update 2/15/14: I think next time I make these I'll add a tablespoon of sugar to the batter to sweeten it up.  If you use a pre-made pancake/waffle mix and you may want to add something to sweeten it up a bit.]

Servings: Depends on how much batter and filling you make.  You need a lot more batter than filling and you can cook two fish at a time.

Ingredients:
Favorite pancake/waffle mix/recipe
14 oz can of coconut milk, divided
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt (coarse or sea salt, otherwise you might want to use a little less)
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 tablespoons cornstarch
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
5 ounces (a little more than 1/2 cup) of dark chocolate, chips or coarse chunks

Instructions:

First we have to make the pudding so that it has time to chill.
  • Shake the can of coconut milk well and then in a medium saucepan or pot heat over low heat half the can of the coconut milk, 1/4 cup sugar and 1/2 tsp salt.  Heat slowly and don't let the mixture boil.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together the remaining coconut milk, 3 tbsps cornstarch, and 3 tbsps of cocoa powder.
  • Slowly add the cornstarch mixture to the saucepan/pot while stirring everything together well. Continue to whisk over low heat for a few minutes until the mixture starts to thicken and resemble a pudding texture.
  • Remove the saucepan/pot from heat and stir in 5 oz (approximately 1/2 cup) of dark chocolate and 1 tsp vanilla.  Continue stirring until all of the chocolate is melted and mixed in and the mixture is smooth and pudding-like.  
  • Pour pudding into a bowl, cover, and put in the refrigerator to chill for at least 2 hours.  If you want to avoid a skin forming at the top, you can press a plastic wrap against the top of the pudding.
Now it's time to make the taiyaki/bungeoppang!

  • There are more traditional recipes for the batter that use cake flour, but if you're lazy like me, just use your favorite pancake/waffle mix.  I used Bob's Red Mill 10-grain pancake/waffle mix in an effort to try to make these a little healthier (ha!) and followed the waffle instructions.
  • Oil the pan and heat it over low heat to warm it up.
  • Pour some batter into the fish molds so that they're about halfway filled.  You don't have to worry about getting the fin so much because as the batter heats up it'll spread, but the tail is a bit trickier so you may need to add a few dribbles there. 
  • Take your pudding (or favorite filling) and spoon it into the middle of the batter.  This will also spread when heated up so be careful to not overfill.  I found that about 1 tbsp was the right amount for me.
  • Then pour some more batter on top to cover the filling.  It's ok if you don't cover it completely but try to do as best as you can without overfilling the molds.  See my crappy attempt below (notice how I had to go back and fill in the bald spots in the tail, and I still had more to fill in the left one).


  • Shut the lid of the pan and then vigorously flip over the pan and heat the other side.  Flipping the pan with some force helps to dislodge the batter from the other side of the pan.
  • Continue cooking for a few minutes, flipping every minute or so until the fish are golden brown.  You can lift up the lid a bit to peek and make sure they're cooked all the way. 


  • If you overfilled then there will be some crunchy extras along the fish that you can remove with kitchen scissors, knife, or fingers.
  • Eat them quickly while they're still hot!  They'll start to get soggy if you let them sit out so if you don't plan on eating them soon consider freezing them so that you can reheat them later.
And now some pictures featuring my kitchen "helpers"!
 
Sniff the fish!
Rosy's moving to a better begging spot.
Sorry none for you girls, but if you pose nicely I'll give you a special dog treat!
Ok now time to test one of these out...
It's so hard to resist Sunny's begging when she puts on her saddest face and dances around on her back paws!  But no, this is most definitely not a dog-friendly treat!
Pudding-licious!
And lest you think that all my fish were well shaped and browned on my first attempt, here's a plate of my rejects.
Sunny and Rosy offered to help me get rid of these rejects.  But I put them in the trash instead.  And by trash, I mean my stomach.
Chocolate pudding recipe adapted from The Kitchn.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Salsa Verde Chicken Soup

There are so many fantastic recipes I come across on the internet but I find that the ones I actually make and repeat are the ones that are user friendly and quick and easy to make. I usually try to do as much prepping for my recipes over the weekend and so having something that doesn't take too long to make after I come home from a long day of work is a definite plus! These dishes may not have the beautiful nuanced layers of flavors that longer and more complicated dishes may have, but they pack a tasty punch for the amount of time and effort I put into them. This is one of those dishes! A great weeknight soup that you can eat with some extra tortilla chips. There's something wonderful about a dinner where you just throw everything into one pot. Especially if you're as bad at cleaning up all your dishes afterwards as I am.

Servings: 4 (so that means 2 for me)

Ingredients:
12-oz jar salsa verde
15-oz can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
15-oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
3 cups cooked chicken, shredded
4-5 cups chicken broth
1 cup corn
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon jalapeno, chopped (optional)
Shredded cheese (optional for topping)
Lime wedges (optional for topping)
Sour cream (optional for topping)
Green onions, chopped (optional for topping)
Tortilla chips, crumbled (optional for topping)
Salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions:

  • Heat 12 oz salsa verde in a pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat for 2 minutes.
  • Add 3 cups shredded chicken, 1 can of cannellini beans, 1 can of black beans, 4-5 cups of chicken broth, 1 tsp cumin, 1 cup corn, 1 tbsp chopped jalapeno (optional). Bring to a boil, and then lower heat and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • For serving, top each bowl with salt and pepper to taste, shredded cheese, squirt of lime juice, dollop of sour cream, a sprinkling of green onions, and/or crumbled tortilla chips. I added all of the above and it was delicious!
And now pictures!

Oops excuse the stray flip flops in the corner. Didn't see those before! I don't even know why they're out since it's crazy freezing here lately. Clearly, I'm as good at cleaning my stuff as I am at washing dishes right after eating. 
It was a race to take enough photos before the sour cream dollop melted!
Ack the lighting in today's photos wasn't the best.
Lip smacking good! Don't feel too bad for Sunny and Rosy. They didn't get any soup but they may have gotten a little bit of extra shredded cheese!

Adapted from My Recipes.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Dijon Chicken Stew with Potatoes and Kale

Snow day, snow day! Yippee!

I'm always torn between wanting a lot of pretty snow with a day off from work and having to battle dog walks with two stubborn pugs. Well for now I'm happy to have spent an extra day with my lazy girls lazing on the couch, catching up on household chores, and making this yummy Dijon chicken stew! A cold, snowy day always calls for a hot and hearty dish for dinner to eat as you watch the snow blowing by your window.

Servings: 6 servings (for me this is 2-3 meals)

Ingredients:
2 cups sweet onions (or leeks), sliced
4 garlic cloves, minced
12-16 oz chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces
5 ounces chopped kale, swiss chard or collard greens (stems removed)
10 oz baby bella mushrooms, sliced
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon black pepper, divided
1 cup dry white wine
4 cups chicken broth, divided
1/3 cup and 1 tablespoon flour, divided
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 medium/large potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)
Olive oil or cooking spray
Extra salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper to taste

Instructions:

  • Pour 1 tsp of olive oil in a Dutch oven or use a cooking spray/oil diffuser and heat over medium-high heat. 
  • Add 2 cups chopped sweet onions and 10 oz sliced mushrooms and cook for 6 minutes, stirring frequently.
  • Add 4 minced garlic cloves and cook for 1 minute, stirring frequently. Spoon the mixture into a large bowl and set aside.
  • Place 1/3 cup flour, 1/4 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp black pepper into a shallow bowl. Dunk the 12-16 oz chopped chicken pieces (I used chicken breasts, but you can use dark meat if that's your preference) in the flour and shake off any excess.
  • Heat another tsp of olive oil in the Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Cook chicken for about 6 minutes, browning it on all sides. To help the browning, it's best to cook this in two batches. Set aside the cooked chicken with the onions and mushrooms.
  • Add 1 cup white wine to the Dutch oven and scrape up the browned bits. Continue until the wine has reduced by about half.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together 1 cup chicken broth with 1 tablespoon flour until smooth. Add this to the Dutch oven, along with 3 cups of chicken broth, and 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard. Bring to a boil.
  • Add back in the chicken, mushrooms, and onions, and add 1/4 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp black pepper, 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper, and 1 tsp thyme. Stir everything together and then cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 30 minutes.
  • Add 2 chopped potatoes and 5 oz kale. Cover and cook for an additional 30 minutes.
  • Season to taste your bowl with additional salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper (I like mine spicy!).
Ok enough with all the words. Now the pictures!

My messy stew. I kinda ruined my Dutch oven with this recipe as I wasn't paying close attention to the onions at first and then I compounded that with the browning of the chicken. That's ok, I'm letting it soak now in some hot water and baking soda.
The girls were relaxing on the couch but as soon as I started spooning the stew into my bowl they jumped down and ran to the kitchen. They know they get a little treat if they pose nicely for photos!
As you can tell I like to add lots of black pepper and crushed red pepper to my bowls! My brother-in-law thinks me and my sisters have completely warped our taste buds because we're all heavy pepper users.
Sniff test!
Rosy knows by know that she never gets what's in the bowl so she doesn't even try to eat what's inside (unless it's something she really loves, like cheese) and just waits for me to give her the doggy-safe treat.
Spot the pug below?
Adapted from My Recipes.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Grapefruit Pound Cake

Ever since I started cooking a few years ago, I always try to bake something special for the holidays. I always bake my snowball cookies and dark chocolate cookies, due to the demands of various family members, but I like to try something new for the big dessert after dinner. This year I found one that everyone loved! Well, all the grownups loved it but the kids found the icing too sweetly tart. The icing is a love it or hate it kind of thing because that's where the cake gets a lot of its grapefruit flavor and some might think it's either too tart or too sweet. Personally I think the icing and the cake have to go together and so did all the grownup members of my family! Some of us don't even love grapefruit, but we all thoroughly enjoyed the cake. So if grapefruit isn't your thing normally, still give this cake a try! I mean who doesn't love a nice, dense pound cake? A great alternative from the usual pies this season or a heavy chocolatey dessert!

Servings: Hm hard to say. I cooked mine in a 9-inch pan and 7 of us had slices and we ate a little more than half the cake so maybe 12-16 servings depending on the size of the slices.

Ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour (lightly spooned into measuring cups and leveled with knife)
1 teaspoon baking powder
5/8 teaspoon salt, divided
1 2/3 cup granulated sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
8 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese, softened
2 large eggs, room temperature
1/4 cup canola oil
2 tablespoons grapefruit rind, grated
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup 2% reduced fat milk
1/2 cup grapefruit juice
1 cup powdered sugar
Baking spray or butter/oil for pan and dusting of flour

Instructions:

Cake:

  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  • Coat pan with baking spray, butter, or oil and lightly dust with flour.
    • Pound cake should normally be cooked in a tube pan (the original recipe called for a 10-inch tube pan) as that type of pan helps to ensure the cake is evenly cooked, but since I didn't have one and didn't want to buy one for this cake I used my regular 9x2 cake pan and that worked pretty well. I lined the bottom with parchment paper to help ease removal from pan later. You can also use two loaf pans for this instead. Pound cake rises a lot so make sure you pick a big enough pan with enough height so you don't risk overflow.
  • Mix together 2 cups flour, 1 tsp baking powder, and 1/2 tsp salt together in a medium bowl and set aside.
  • In a large bowl add 1 2/3 cup granulated sugar, 6 tbsps butter, and 8 oz cream cheese. Using a mixer beat at high speed until the mixture is light and fluffy.
  • Add 2 large eggs to the mixture, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  • Beat in 1/4 cup canola oil, 2 tbsps grapefruit rind, and 1/2 tsp vanilla.
  • Alternate adding the flour mixture and the milk to the batter, starting and ending with the flour mixture. The batter should be smooth and thick at the end.
  • Pour or spoon the batter into the pan and bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes. If you insert a toothpick in the center it should come out mostly clean with moist crumbs on it. 
  • Cool in pan on a rack for 10 minutes then remove cake from pan and cool completely on rack.
Icing:
  • Bring 1/2 cup grapefruit juice to boil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Continue cooking for a few minutes until the grapefruit juice is reduced to about 3-4 tablespoons.
  • Stir in 1 cup powdered sugar, and 1/8 tsp salt until the icing is thick and smooth. 
  • Either drizzle over cake or you can do what I did was to use a knife to evenly spread the icing on top of the cake.
Now enjoy! And here are some photos! 

Beginning of course, with some begging pugs.
I made the cake the night before so that on Christmas I had everything ready to go. I love my cake carrier. I can bring a cake with icing without having to worry about pug hairs flying into them when driving!
Come on lil pugs, off to grandma's we go!
Excuse the paper plates, we were trying to minimize clean-up afterwards and the dishwasher was already full and running!
Mmmmm. I may just have to make this again next year instead of searching around for a new recipe!


Adapted from My Recipes.

Cranberry Cake

When I was in kindergarten or first grade one of my classmate's mothers shared a cranberry bread recipe with the whole class. I took that little piece of paper with the recipe on it home and from that point on every year we made that cranberry bread at Thanksgiving and Christmas! That recipe has long since been lost so when I saw a recipe pop up for cranberry cake on one of my favorite food sites The Kitchn I was itching to try it out for my family on Christmas! This cranberry cake was soooo good, everyone agreed it was way better than the old cranberry bread recipe we used to make. One of my sisters even went so far as to say that she thinks this is the best thing I've ever baked, surpassing her old favorite of the Dark Chocolate Cookies. (She later amended this after trying my Grapefruit Pound Cake to say that this cranberry cake and the grapefruit pound cake are tied as her favorites). So now I'm officially entering this cranberry cake recipe to my "recipe box" here at Grubbin Pugs where I'll be sure to never lose it or forget it. And so a new tradition has begun and I foresee lots of this cranberry cake in future Thanksgivings and Christmases!

Servings: Made two low loaves in my 9x5 loaf pans. The Kitchn said that this could make one 10-inch springformm cake or four 4-cup loaves or 24-30 cupcakes.

Ingredients:
3 large eggs
2 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon orange rind, grated
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups cranberries (one 12-ounce bag)

Instructions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Grease pan(s) and dust with flour.
  • In a large bowl, use a stand or hand mixer to beat 3 large eggs and 2 cups sugar until the batter is very smooth and pale yellow, and has increased in volume. Since there is no leavening agent in this recipe, this is where the cake will get it's height from. By the end, the batter should have doubled in volume and should leave ribbons on top of the batter when you lift the beaters up.
  • Beat in 3/4 cup butter and 1 tsp vanilla for a couple minutes until butter is well incorporated into the batter.
  • Using a spatula or spoon, fold in 2 cups flour, 1 tsp salt, 2 1/2 cups cranberries, and 1 tsp grated orange rind. By the end the batter will be thick and the cranberries should be evenly distributed throughout. 
  • Spoon the batter into the pan(s) and even it out. 
  • Bake for 60-80 minutes for the springform. For smaller pans start checking at about 40 minutes. My two 9x5 loaves took a little over an hour to bake. Toothpick inserted in the middle should come out clean. 
  • Let cake(s) in pan(s) cool for 20 minutes on a rack. Then run a knife along the inside edge of the pan(s) and remove the cake(s). Cool completely for an hour before serving. This cake also keeps and freezes well!

And now the photos!
My cakes did crumble and slightly break apart underneath during removal from the pan, but nothing too serious. Just be careful when removing from the pan!
Do you like my four loaves? Two cranberry loaves and two pug loaves!
Look at how sad Sunny looks here!
Oh oops this slice just came right off! Guess I'll have to eat it!
I made this on Christmas Eve to eat on Christmas, and when I first tried it I thought it was pretty good but when I ate it again the next day it tasted sooooo much better! I think having the night for all the flavors to meld together helped or something.
I insisted that everyone try a little piece of the cranberry cake when I first arrived, and that quickly turned into one of the loaves being devoured in just minutes by everyone. (Excuse the paper plates as we were trying to minimize the amount of clean-up that day!)
Sorry Rosy, none for you! But don't worry, she got a lot of delicious treats during Christmas dinner!
Adapted from The Kitchn.