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Monday, September 26, 2011

Simple Banana Bread

I rarely commit recipes to memory, but this one is so simple and delicious that I'm trying to make sure I never forget this one! I've made it three times in about a week and I can already recite it without a problem. Unfortunately, I didn't take any pictures (I was too busy eating), but I'm posting the recipe anyways. 

Don't forget add-ins: Chocolate Chips (my favorite choice), nuts (walnuts or pecans), nutella, raisins (if you really want to, just don't tell me about it)

Simple Banana Bread (from

3 or 4 ripe bananas, smashed
1/3 cup melted butter
1 cup sugar (can easily reduce to 3/4 cup)
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cloves & allspice
1 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour (all or a portion of whole wheat flour is good)


No need for a mixer for this recipe. Preheat the oven to 350°F. With a wooden spoon or potato masher, mix butter into the mashed bananas in a large mixing bowl (chunks are not a bad thing!). Mix in the sugar, egg, vanilla, and spices. Sprinkle the baking soda and salt over the mixture and mix in. Add the flour last, mix. Pour mixture into a buttered 4x8 inch loaf pan. Bake for 1 hour. Cool on a rack. Remove from pan and slice to serve.
You can also put the batter into a muffin tin (~12 muffins) or mini-muffin tin (~24-30). Cook regular muffins around 20 minutes and minis about 14 minutes.

I hope you all make this. Its really that simple, I know you have some overripe bananas on your counter.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Lemon Macarons

Until this spring I don't think I had ever tried a macaron. I don't mean the chew coconut mound macaroons. I mean French Macarons. Very different.

Check out the cute "feet" on these little guys!

My friend Karen went to Paris and brought back a box of macarons from the famous shop in Paris called Laduree. Laduree specializes in macarons. And wow, they are yummy!

French macarons are two almond cookies with some sort of yummy filling. Many times they're made in unique flavors such as lavender, rose, green tea, raspberry, etc. I wasn't quite that daring, but I thought lemon would be very nice. I searched around awhile and found a recipe.

Now, after a quick google of macarons I discovered that they're not the easiest thing to make. Every website had a detailed and extensive list of tips and tricks to get them to turn out right. The almonds had to be ground just right, sometimes dried in the oven. The egg whites had to be aged; some say on the counter overnight, other said a few days in the fridge. Some call for only powered sugar, other for granulated that is pulsed with the almonds. Most talked about drying the batter after pipping for an hour. And on and on like this. Needless to say, I was undeterred.

I found a recipe that looked fairly moderate and held the plethora of tricks in my mind as I went along. I never completely follow a recipe, even when baking tricky items, and this was no exception. Below I've given the recipe for the macaroons I found. My changes are in red.

And yes, you will need a good kitchen scale. No macaron recipe is in volume.

Meyer Lemon Macarons
slightly modified from Tartelette

110g blanched almonds (or buy almond flour. I would do that next time)
200g powdered sugar
1 meyer lemon, grated peel of (I used lemon extract, about 1/4 tsp)
100g egg whites, aged for day and brought to room temperature (I put a bowl of ~3 egg whites on the counter overnight)
50g sugar
2 drops yellow food coloring (optional)
lemon curd (I found a nice lemon curd near the jams and jellies at the grocery store)

Macarons: (If not using almond flour...) Pulse almonds in a food processor until finely ground (Sift with a find mesh. Then sift again and re-weigh). Add powdered sugar and lemon zest. Pulse until well-blended (I mixed with a wisk. I'm a rebel like that). In a small bowl, mix the sugar and food coloring together until well blended (i.e the sugar turns yellow). Whip the egg whites until foamy and gradually (or just dump it in.) add the granulated sugar while whipping until a shiny meringue forms (but not too dry). Add the almond mixture to the meringue and quickly incorporate the mixture into the meringue while taking care not to overbeat. You want to achieve a batter that flows and “ribbons” for at least 5 seconds (aka settles without bumps). Pour the batter into a piping bag fitted with a large plain piping tip (Ateco 809 or 807(?, I used a large star tip because I didn't have a large plain tip)) and pipe small rounds onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (Trust me, use the parchment or a silpat. I didn't and I had to wire mine off and about half broke). The rounds should be about 1 1/2 inches in diameter and at least an inch apart. Let the macarons sit for an hour to develop a hard shell. Preheat oven to 300°F and bake for 8-10 minutes (10 minutes for me). Remove from oven and let cool. Remove from parchment.

Assembly: Pipe a small daub of lemon curd (a little goes a long way) onto a macaron and sandwich with a second macaron. Makes about 2 dozen.

Sticky little bastards wouldn't come off!

Finished product!

In the end, they came out alright. I'd say a 7 out of 10. They were really yummy, had a nice crispy shell and chewy interior, good feet, and the lemon curd was great. But you can see the almond pieces in the shell (it should be smooth), I didn't fold the batter long enough (notice the peaks in the picture) and they stuck like crazy to the baking sheet.

But I didn't get any complaints on their taste. And in the end, that's what counts!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Busy Weekend Part 2: Skyline Chili

Its a tradition in our house (apartment, whatever) that at the beginning of the football season and/or for big games, I made skyline (Cincinnati style) chili. I make a big pot and we pig out on it all weekend. This tradition goes back to my college days when Erin's family friend gave us a big ziplock bag full of the chili and we'd eat it for the Michigan Game. Good times.

Here is the recipe. Its super easy!


·         1 quart cold water
·         2 lbs ground beef
·         2 cups crushed tomato
·         2 yellow onions, diced
·         4 garlic cloves, minced
·         1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
·         1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa
·         1/4 cup chili powder
·         1 tsp cayenne
·         1 tsp ground cumin
·         2 tbsp cider vinegar
·         1 whole bay leaf
·         1/4 tsp ground cloves
·         1 tsp cinnamon
·         1 1/2 tsp salt
-    sharp finely shredded cheddar cheese
·         cooked spaghetti, hot dogs and buns to serve chili over
-    oyster crackers
-    pinto beans (optional)

1.     Add beef and water to a 4-quart pot. Bring to a simmer while stirring until the ground beef is in very small pieces. Simmer for 30 minutes and add all the rest of the ingredients.
2.     Simmer on low, uncovered, for 3 hours. Add water as needed if the chili becomes to thick.
3.     Refrigerated the chili overnight, and the next day remove the layer of fat from top before reheating and serving.
The Cincinnati "Skyline" Chili Ordering Code

1-way: just the chili

2-way: chili served over spaghetti (or a hot dog)

3-way: chili, spaghetti (or a hot dog), and grated Cheddar cheese

4-way: chili, spaghetti (or a hot dog), cheese, and onions

5-way: chili, spaghetti (or a hot dog), cheese, onions, and beans

All "ways" are served with oyster crackers.

Also excellent with fritos and m&ms

These are some old photos from the dorm.  I don't know where my new photos of my chili are...

Busy Weekend Part 1: Hibiscus Tea

So it was a busy weekend in my kitchen...

I don't know where exactly I first got it in my head to make hibiscus tea, but I did. After some quick internet research I learned that I could buy dried hibiscus flowers online or in certain food stores. So on Friday night, I ventured out to the oriental market. They didn't have them. Then I went to the global market and buffet down the street. They had them (from Lebanon). Then, while I was at publix later, I found them there too. At publix, they were in the Jamaican/Haitian section (in S. FL we have a Jamaican/Haitian section next to the Asian foods).

Hibiscus flowers taste like a cross between citrus, berry, pomegranate flavors. It supposedly has some great health benefits, such as lowering blood pressure and tons of vitamin C.

To make the tea, just take about 2 cups of the dried flowers and 1/2 cup of brown sugar, and steep in 4 cups of boiling water for 10 minutes. Add another 4 cups of cold water and chill. You can also add some sliced oranges and cinnamon (many of the traditional recipes call for cinnamon sticks to be steeped with the flowers).


This tea is pretty strong, but its also good mixed with one cup of plain green tea or cut simply with water.

Monday, September 5, 2011


Pie crust has a fickle bitch of a girlfriend and her name is fillo dough. This stuff is something you don't want to touch unless you're in a very zen mood or have just taken a mood stabilizer. Trust me.

The first thing you need to know about fillo dough is that it has the texture of tissue paper but much more delicate. When you touch fillo dough, it tends to fall apart and it makes your finger feel thick and clumsy. 

Second, is that you have to work fast. It tends to dry out quickly so you have to put a damp cloth (I use paper towel) over it so that it doesn't dry up and get brittle. It also can't be too wet or it sticks to itself, causing it to tear. 

Also, never try to unroll the package (I'll assume you've purchased your dough, not made it from scratch. That'd be crazy) before its fully defrosted otherwise it will break into a million little piece. Been there, done that. Had to go to publix and buy another package and then wait patiently for it to thaw all the way.

Other than that (and the time factor) baklava is a joy. Well, not to make, but to eat. And wow, this stuff is good.

I got this recipe from Alton Brown's Good Eats collection after seeing his episode about how to make baklava. It was a huge help when it came to making this recipe. If you've never worked with fillo dough before, make sure you either have someone experienced at your side or watch the episode first. I'm sure you can find it on youtube.

And on a personal note, I'm pretty sure this is the first time I ever worked with fillo dough and didn't end up in a fit of swears. I'm telling you, I was zen today!

Here is the recipe (my notes are in parenthesis):


Recipe courtesy Alton Brown, 2008
  • For the filling:
  • 1 (5-inch piece) cinnamon stick, broken into 2 to 3 pieces or 2 teaspoons ground
  • 15 to 20 whole allspice berries (~1-2 tsp)
  • 6 ounces blanched almonds
  • 6 ounces raw or roasted walnuts
  • 6 ounces raw or roasted pistachio
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon rose water (found this at Whole Foods, in the cosmetics area... look for the one that says edible... please)
  • 1 pound phyllo dough, thawed
  • 8 ounces clarified unsalted butter, melted (I needed another .25 of a stick)

For the syrup:

  • 1 1/4 cups honey
  • 1 1/4 cups water
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick (1 tsp. I also added a little sprinkle of cloves)
  • 1 (2-inch) piece fresh orange peel


Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Place the cinnamon stick and whole allspice into a spice grinder and grind.
Place the almonds, walnuts, pistachios, sugar and freshly ground spices into the bowl of a food processorand pulse until finely chopped, but not pasty or powdery, approximately 15 quick pulses. Set aside.
Combine the water and rose water in a small spritz bottle and set aside.
Trim the sheets of phyllo to fit the bottom of a 13 by 9 by 2-inch metal pan. Brush the bottom and sides of the pan with butter; lay down a sheet of phyllo and brush with butter (the first sheet of dough will never be good, just come to terms with it). Repeat this step 9 more times for a total of 10 sheets of phyllo. Top with 1/3 of the nut mixture and spread thinly.
 Spritz thoroughly with the rose water. Layer 6 more sheets of phyllo with butter in between each of them, followed by another third of the nuts and spritz with rose water. Repeat with another 6 sheets of phyllo, butter, remaining nuts, and rose water. Top with 8 sheets of phyllo brushing with butter in between each sheet. Brush the top generously with butter. Place in the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Remove pan from the oven and cut into 28 squares. Return pan to the oven and continue to bake for another 30 minutes. Remove pan from the oven, place on a cooling rack, and cool for 2 hours before adding the syrup.

Make the syrup during the last 30 minutes of cooling. Combine the honey, water, sugar, cinnamon stick and orange peel in a 4-quart saucepan and set over high heat. Stir occasionally until the sugar has dissolved. Once boiling, boil for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally (careful, this will want to boil over). Remove from the heat and discard the orange peel and cinnamon stick.
After the baklava has cooled for 2 hours, re-cut the entire pan following the same lines as before. Pour the hot syrup evenly over the top of the baklava, allowing it to run into the cuts and around the edges of the pan. Allow the pan to sit, uncovered until completely cool. Cover and store at room temperature for at least 8 hours and up to overnight before serving. Store, covered, at room temperature for up to 5 days. 

This was right after I poured the syrup on

Look at all the yummy syrup (this is after it sat for ~4 hours)

Look at that sticky awesomeness!

Pay no attention to the underlining and the red text... I'm having difficulty formatting on this thing tonight.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Nutella Marshmallow Turnovers

After making the huge batch of marshmallows, I needed something to do with them. Then I came across this recipe. NUTELLA + MARSHMALLOWS + PUFF PASTRY!!! OMG.

So I made them.

And they are amazing.

All you need for this recipe is a package of puff pastry, some marshmallows, a jar of nutella and an egg for the egg wash.

I used an Israeli version of nutella (more cocoa, less hazelnut) that was donated by Karin.
I killed the kosher-ness by adding marshmallows. 

First, take the defrosted puff pastry, unfold it and slice it into squares (either 4 or 9 per sheet). Place a nice dollop of nutella in the middle, plop a marshmallow down, then fold the pastry over. Use a fork to press down on the edges. Don't worry about making it pretty, you won't see the crimping after they bake. Mix the egg with a tablespoon of water (no need to be precise... you just have to be able to spread it) and brush it onto the outside of the turnover. I sprinkled mine with cinnamon and sugar, but plain sugar works well too. Bake at 350 for 18-22 minutes until puffy and golden. Let them cool, then dig in. Or cover in caramel sauce and dig in. Either way.

Before baking. They got a little messy as I used "too much" nutella (which is really impossible to do. It was just a little more than my puff pastry could handle).

After baking. They oozed greatness

Here is the finished product. Covered in caramel. Where did the caramel come from, you ask? Here:

Hell yeah. That's a caramel cake. And also another post.