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Monthly Archives: February 2012

Going Bananas

The people in my life would probably be shocked to hear this, but… I’m not a big banana fan. I mean, don’t get me wrong–I do eat them, but I’m very, very picky about how I’ll eat them: they need to be just slightly under-ripe, before they get sickly sweet, which really only gives you a very narrow window of time to eat them.

Why is this so surprising? Because I’ve somehow become known for the banana bread I make. I get requests for it quite often, and it’s served me well indeed: it’s my go-to fundraising tactic whenever I fundraise for Team In Training (my banana bread sales have been known to bring in about 1/3 of my fundraising :)). I’ll share the recipe for it in a future blog post, but today, I’ll instead share a new recipe I tried for the first time this afternoon: banana cupcakes with maple peanut butter frosting.

I haven’t actually taste tested these yet, but I’m hoping they taste as good as they sound, because I’ll be taking them into work tomorrow. My boss has told me that banana cupcakes are his favorite, so I have a high bar to meet ;).

Banana cupcakes

Do I have a winner on my hands? I shall find out tomorrow, after they make their debut...

Banana Cupcakes with Maple Peanut Butter Frosting (adapted from Martha Stewart’s recipe; makes 12 cupcakes)

Ingredients:

For the cupcakes:

  • 1 1/2 cup unbleached cake flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon (plus more for garnish)
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
  • 4 ripe bananas (frozen, and then defrosted and mashed)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

For the frosting:

  • 8 oz (1 package) cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tsp maple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon

Directions:

Pre-heat oven at 350 degrees. Line a muffin pan with paper liners.

Combine dry ingredients (flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon) in a bowl and whisk until incorporated.

In a separate bowl, whisk the sugar, butter, eggs, and vanilla. Add the bananas. Add the flour, 1/3 of the mixture at a time, and mix until just incorporated (as usual, be careful not to overmix, or you’ll end up with rock-hard cupcakes!). Pour into the pan and bake for 20-25 minutes. Check it at 20 minutes, using the toothpick test–mine were done early, so I took them out of the oven at the 20 minute mark.

Cool on a wire rack.

In the meantime, prepare the frosting. Put all of the ingredients into a stand mixer and using a wire whisk attachment, beat until very fluffy. Refrigerate for an hour or so, then when the cupcakes are completely cool, spread the frosting or, if you’re skilled with a pastry bag (I, unfortunately, am not), pipe the frosting onto the cupcakes.

Sprinkle with cinnamon for garnish.

Other things you might want to try: add walnuts and/or chocolate chips (I love, love, LOVE the addition of chocolate chips in banana bread, so I bet they’d be great in cupcakes, too; and I love nuts in my baked goods, so I like to add them if I know it won’t offend my eaters ;)).

Maple peanut butter frosting

Maple peanut butter frosting... I'm not a frosting fan, but I have to admit, this was pretty yummy 🙂

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The great avocado debate

When I came to this country at the age of 9 and saw guacamole for the first time, I must admit, I was puzzled. Maybe even a bit grossed out. You see, I had grown up eating avocado sweet–yes, sweet–and the thought of eating it in a savory dish was just unfathomable to me.

It took me years to even try guacamole, and even longer to like it. Now I LOVE the stuff, but to this day, my favorite way to eat it is still the way I grew up eating it: in a milkshake. Technically, it’s more like a pudding (you eat it with a spoon, not a straw), but for some reason, Filipinos call it an “avocado shake,” so that’s what I called it growing up, too.

I know, I know–unless you grew up in the Philippines (or elsewhere in Southeast Asia), you probably just made a face when you read that. And I get it. That was pretty much the same reaction I had when I first saw guacamole (“Wrong!! That’s the wrong way to eat it!”). But I promise you, if you just give it a chance, you’ll discover it’s one of the most wonderful things you’ve ever tasted.

Avocado

The incredible, versatile fruit

Avocado Pudding (also known as “Filipino Avocado Shake”; makes 1 serving)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 an avocado (simply scoop out the flesh)
  • 1 tsp sugar, or to taste (start with a tsp and gradually add a tsp at a time, if it’s still not sweet enough to your liking)

Directions:

Throw everything into a blender. Blend. Pour into a bowl and eat with a spoon :).

If you prefer more of a smoothie or a shake (as its original name implies), decrease the amount of avocado to 1/4 of an avocado and pour into a glass instead of a bowl. Easy peasy!

Avocado shake

Try it. You know you wanna.

You don’t know squash

If pumpkin is my idea of heaven, then its cousin, butternut squash, is not far off.

I didn’t discover butternut squash until a few years ago, when I decided to try butternut squash ravioli at a restaurant. It was love at first bite. Ever since then, I’ve taken to cooking it–a lot–and one of my favorite recipes is one that Giada De Laurentiis had on Giada At Home a few seasons ago.

At first, I had to wrinkle my nose at goat cheese being added to the mix. I was used to eating butternut squash with warm, sweet flavors (cinnamon, nutmeg, butter, etc.), but tangy goat cheese? Eh? I decided to give it a go anyway, because I’d made plenty of Giada’s recipes and they always seemed to turn out delish.

Guess what? This one was no different. It was FANTASTIC. And just because I’m a sucker for trying to get in as many veggies as I can, I adapted it to include one more veggie: another squash cousin (and actually, my favorite of them all), zucchini.

This one’s great for packing on a picnic (or to work) because it’s just as delicious at room temperature as it is warm and fresh off the stove. I do have an ever-so-slight preference for it fresh off the stove, but trust me, it’s still great at room temperature–in fact, that’s how I’ll be eating it later today, when my family and I go to Monterey for a day trip to celebrate my mother’s birthday tomorrow.

Penne With Butternut Squash, Zucchini, & Goat Cheese (adapted from Giada de Laurentiis recipe; serves 1)

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz. uncooked whole wheat penne (or regular penne, if you prefer; I like the whole grain variety :))
  • 1 cup cubed butternut squash
  • 1 medium zucchini, cubed
  • 1/2 small red onion, sliced
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • Salt & pepper, to taste (plus more salt for cooking the pasta)
  • 1 oz. soft goat cheese
  • 1/2 tbsp grated parmesan (I do splurge on Parmegiano Reggiano for this; the flavor is hard to duplicate with the other kinds of parmesan)
  • 1/2 tbsp grated pecorino romano
Preheat oven at 400 degrees.
Prep your veggies by tossing them in oil, salt, and pepper. Lay them flat on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silpat. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown and caramelized.
In the meantime, bring a small pot of water to a boil. Toss in a tablespoon or so of salt, then put in the whole wheat penne. It will take about 10 minutes for whole wheat penne to cook (7-8 minutes for regular penne), so just keep an eye on it so that you don’t overcook it. You’ll want it to have a bit of a bite still (“al dente”).
While the pasta is cooking, put the goat cheese, grated parmesan, and grated pecorino in a bowl. Once the penne is ready, use a slotted spoon to take the penne out and toss with the cheeses. Don’t throw away the pasta water. You will need these in a bit, to thin out the cheese sauce a little.
By now, your veggies will be ready. Take them out of the oven, and toss them with the pasta and the cheeses. Your goat cheese will have melted into a gooey delight, but the sauce will be fairly thick. If you’re ok with the thickness, you’re now done (and ready to eat :)). If you’d like a little bit of a thinner sauce, use some of the pasta water (spoon in a tablespoon at a time) to thin it out, until it’s the consistency you’d like.
And there you go! If you want to add just a bit more “pizzaz” to it, sprinkle with a few toasted walnuts on the top for garnish (and healthy crunch), and fry up a few sage leaves in butter. The buttered sage is divine and will add even more depth to the already wonderful flavors of the dish.
Penne with butternut squash and zucchini

Butternut squash, zucchini, and three different kinds of cheeses--how can you go wrong?