Sunday, November 30, 2014

Banana Maple Nut Bread (Muffin)!

Nothing like attending your high school reunion to make you feel old. Of course as the years go by, there's a number of clues that start to rear its ugly head anyways...

Here's a just a small list of helpful examples: 
  • Floppy disks - found some in my old desk drawer the other day... its unfortunate you can't even play frizzbee with them as they are square. 
  • VHS tapes - We have so many of these stored somewhere we can probably built a fort out of them. Oh the good times when someone watches a video and its the most annoying thing ever when they didn't rewind the tape so you get to sit there and wait while the tape gets rewound.
  • Tape Rewinders - I thought those were the most awesome machines ever known to man at the time! It rewinds your VHS tapes and it was separate from the VCR so you could watch something else while the tape rewinds
  • VCRs - I bet kids now don't know what theses are
  • Recorder players/CD players/Walkmans - the hippest things one could own for playing music... that wasn't even 10 years ago...poor things lost their titles so fast. 
  • Cell phones were just mobile phones you can carry around to make calls and certainly only a select few own these. As far as I can remember, my uncle had one of the first: that thing was as big as your shoe. Then I was introduced to my first cell phone the Nokia 3310, one model up from the original Nokia 6110... back in those days Snake was the most exciting thing you could do on it. Texting was definitely foreign... you can send messages like mini emails...what??!
  • Computers that weight a ton and had approximately 50MB of memory...I'm so glad its evolved. 
Crazy all how technology has changed and how its affected our very way of living. Seeing my old high school for the first time in the last ten years has really brought this realization full circle.

I remember having to write essays, homework, test taking all by hand but now everything is on the computer/online. Instead of having ancient chalkboards/white boards, they have this thing called 'Smart Boards' which basically serves as a large screened tablet. Move aside overhead projectors! Heck technology has made it so it was almost unnecessary to even have a 10 year reunion. Every moment is a reunion with things like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram around. You know exactly what old classmates are up with a click of a button (or a tap of the screen, that certainly wasn't around until recent years). 

Personally I only went because I wanted to walk the halls again. I actually enjoyed my high school years. Though not the most exciting years of my life, I've certainly made some lifelong friends there. I'm pretty sure I was one of the nerdy kids, college bound and on the fast track, we loaded ourselves up with honors and AP classes, club activities, and even the tennis team. Its funny looking back, even with all of that we managed to still have so much random time to do random projects. Did I mention I use to make plush dolls and knit scarves? Not just one, but loads. Just thinking about all that makes me tired, oh how I miss that energy.

While there's been number of renovations, some things never change... for example: my old high school chemistry class. Walked passed it and remembered it like it was yesterday! I could go on for a while longer making me feel even more old, so I'm going to stop.


Back to present time, I present you: banana maple nut bread! I just felt like banana bread and so I made some, life is good. It was delicious and I was content. I also learned an interesting fact about making banana breads/muffins, apparently you can mash as many bananas as you want into it. Well from reading a few other blogs, perhaps no more than 3-4 although one blogger went up to 6. Notes on that experiment was that it was very banana-y and dense. I'd imagine anything past that point, you might as well just eat the banana on its own.

Banana Maple Nut Bread
adapted from Better Homes Cookbook: Banana Muffin

Ingredients:
  • 1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup mashed banana
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/4 cup cooking oil
  • 4 tbsp maple flakes (or maple syrup is fine too)
  • 1/4 cup of ricotta cheese or Greek yogurt (optional: I have no tried this yet, should make this more moist)
For Streusel topping:
  •  3 tbsp flour
  • 3 tbsp packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp chopped walnuts
Procedures:
  1. For streusel, mix all the ingredients together until it becomes crumbly, set aside
  2. In a large mixing bowl, mix together all the dry ingredients, make a well in the center of the flour mixture, set aside.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix together the rest of the ingredients (egg, milk, oil, mashed banana, ricotta/yogurt). Stir wet ingredients into the flour mix along with the chopped walnut and stir until just mixed. Batter should be lumpy. 
  4. Spoon mix into a loaf pan (since this recipe is originally meant for making muffins, muffin pans can be used as well). Top with streusel topping from earlier. Bake at 400 F degrees for 25-35 minutes. Insert toothpick into the loaf, baking is complete once the toothpick comes out clean. 
  5. Best served warm.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Double Layer Pumpkin Pie!

Happy (post) Thanksgiving! Hope everyone had a wonderful holiday and if you're anything like me who have been looking forward to this long holiday weekend like crazy, this is most certainly one of the things I am thankful, time off to rest! It is everything I'd imagine it to be! Absolutely nothingness at its glory. Well perhaps not absolutely nothing, there's been a few items I've failed to give attention to that I am catching up on but its nice being able to do that on my own time and not rushing my way through.

So first things first, yay, I have returned to the world of blogging and this time I'm pretty sure I have returned. I know I said I have returned a few months ago... but work and grapes and the glamorous thing known as harvest at a winery means you have zero life. Its been a bit crazy the last few months. My life was pretty much sleep, eat, work, and repeat 6 days a week and whatever time I managed to get off was to make sure sleep and eat can happen for the on coming days... anyways enough about that, harvest has thankfully come to an end for this season so until next year, see you later!
Coming out of crazy work mode has been quite the treat. At first I wasn't sure what to do with myself, not only did I have hours of free time, I had days! Luckily with the holidays right around the corner, there are plenty of fun things to distract myself with. This time of year is my ultimate favorite: the holidays bringing people together, stores and streets are filled with colors and music, its warming to the heart! Lets not forget the most important part of all, the perfect excuse to make loads of holiday treats! Yum! January hits and everyone is on a diet but during the holidays, that is when people loosen their belts just ever so slightly. This means I can have at it with baking all sort of goodies. 

Like every year, at least for the past few years anyways, its been a tradition of mine to make pumpkin pie. Every year I'd like to put a small twist to this traditional holiday favorite and this year is no different. As always, I'm talking about food when this awesome idea came to mind. My coworker was telling me a story about this pumpkin pie mousse he once had and sadly all I heard was "pumpkin pie mousse" because then my brain left and went to a whole new place. If there was a light bulb hanging over my head at that moment, I would've blown it out. Pumpkin pie mousse! That's genius and perfect! So perfect, I always have a tad of pumpkin pie batter leftover and every year I try to use it for something, mousse was the perfect solution! One step further: 2 layers! Crust, classic pumpkin pie, followed by (drum roll please) pumpkin pie mousse! Of course as all of this brain activity was happening I'm sure I looked like a crazy person laughing and muttering to herself. After I excitedly explained my genius new experiment to my coworker, I soon discovered that this awesome genius idea has already been done, it was the pie he was trying to describe to me 5 minutes ago expect I stopped listening after "pumpkin pie mousse." Oops. Apparently there's a restaurant somewhere called Coco's and they make a pie like that...well good for them. 

Since I've never heard of this place, making my own version sounds more exiting plus if it comes out great, I can have it whenever I want! Not to mention I had great plans for the crust... great plans...muwa ha ha... (a bit of leftover Halloween, I apologize). I've attempted a similar crust in past years but it didn't come out the way I want it to... I did not account for how runny my pumpkin pie batter can get so though it tasted great, it was a bit soggy. With this year's version, there will be new improvements! 

All I can say is, I'm not sure I how I can top this pie next year because this is gold! I'm not tooting my own horn here but I think it's got a winning chance at becoming the best pumpkin pie ever. The crust was perfect (graham cracker pecan), just enough crunch but soft. Classic pumpkin pie layer was flawless. The mousse, light, fluffy, and with a hint of pumpkin pie. Together, its magic. A happy Thanksgiving indeed. It looked so good, it almost looks store bought! I am quite happy, success!

Double Layer Pumpkin Pie
makes 2 pies 

Ingredients:
Pumpkin Pie:
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 2 tbsp flour (1 reg + 1 cake if possible)
  • 1 (150z) can pumpkin puree
  • 1 (12 oz) can of evaporated milk
Pumpkin Pie Mousse:
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cup of pumpkin pie batter (from above)
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 packet (approx 3 tsp) unflavored gelatin
  • 1 pint of whipping cream (473 ml....why its not sold in a 500 ml a container I don't know...)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
Pecan Graham Cracker Crust
  • 1 1/2 cup of pecans 
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 packet of crushed graham crackers...approx 1 1/2 cups
  • 1 stick of butter (1/2 stick will probably work)
  • 3/4 cup of flour
  • 1/2 cup of oats
Procedures:
Crust:
  1. Finely ground pecans into a a fine meal in a food processor or blender. 
  2. Do the same for graham crackers
  3. Mix together dry ingredients
  4. Melt butter in microwave for approx 30-45 seconds and then add to dry mixture. Mix until crumbly. 
  5. Press into pie tins/pans and bake at 325F degrees for 10 minutes
Pumpkin Pie:
  1. Mix dry ingredients together 
  2. Beat eggs together in a separate large mixing bowl, add in pumpkin puree, and then dry mixture. Mix well.
  3. Slowly and gradually stir in evaporated milk. Mix until well combined. Batter will be somewhat runny
  4. Reserve about 1 to 1 1/2 cup of batter.
  5. Distribute batter between 2 pie crusts.
  6. Bake at 425F degrees for 10 minutes then lower temp to 375F degrees and bake for another 5-10 minutes or until filling is set.
  7. Once baked, let it cool for about 30-45 minutes before starting on the mousse.
Pumpkin Pie Mousse:
  1. In a small sauce pan, heat batter over low-medium heat with milk until it reaches a soft boil or just before while constantly stirring so it doesn't over cook/heat/burn because there's eggs in the batter. Once the batter is hot enough, add in gelatin. Stir for a few minutes until gelatin is dissolved and batter has become custard like. 
  2. Remove from stove, strain the mixture into a bowl, and set aside to let cool. Stirring occasionally to prevent gelatin from setting.
  3. Once the pumpkin custard is cool enough, in a large mixing bowl, pour sugar into the whipping cream and whip until hard peaks form. Remove about 1 cup of the whipped cream and set aside/refrigerate (this can be used as additional topping for later).
  4. Slowly introduce the custard into the whipped cream giving the cream a quick whip to mix the two together. Continue until all the custard is thoroughly mixed in with the whipping cream. Be careful not to over whip the cream (it can turn grainy).
  5. Evenly distribute on top of the 2 pumpkin pies. This will create the second layer of the pies. Allow it to set for at least 2 hours in the refrigerator before eating.