Food & Drink

Chocolate Banana Bread

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What’s better than banana bread?  Chocolate banana bread, of course!  This is also a one bowl recipe, which is a huge plus.  Although this is probably better as a dessert, I have managed to convince myself that this is perfectly acceptable as breakfast.

Chocolate Banana Bread

  • Servings: 4-6
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Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter
  • 4 large ripe bananas
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp instant espresso powder
  • 1/3 cup chocolate chips

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.  Butter a 9×5 loaf pan and set aside.
  2. In a large glass mixing bowl, melt butter in microwave (or double boiler).  Remove from heat.  Add the bananas and use a fork or potato masher, mash the bananas until no large lumps remain.  Add egg, yogurt, and sugar, using the fork to incorporate.  Add the remaining ingredients and mix thoroughly.  Pour mixture into prepared loaf pan.
  3. Bake for 50-60 minutes.
Adapted from Simply Recipes

Food & Drink

Crispy Waffles

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Has this ever happened to you?  You get up in the morning and you are pumped to make a batch of waffles.  But by the time you’ve finished making them, they’re all soggy and soft.  BOO!  I recently had a Bob Ross moment where I discovered a “happy accident” when I was making waffles but ran out of milk.  I had some heavy cream on hand to use and omg, it was the crispiest waffles I’ve ever had.  Who would’ve thunk more fat can make waffles crispy? (lol)

Crispy Waffles

  • Servings: 4-6
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Ingredients

  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tb granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 Tb & 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp almond extract
  • Optional: 3/4 cup of add-ins (chocolate chips, blueberries, etc.)

Method

  1. Preheat waffle iron.  In a large bowl, beat eggs until light and fluffy.  Beat in the remaining ingredients (except for add-ins) for 2 minutes.  Fold in add-ins, if desired.
  2. In preheated waffle iron, pour mix in and cook until ready.  (In a standard waffle iron, it is about 1/3 cup mix per waffle).
  3. Place finished waffles on a cooling rack to release steam or on a baking sheet and place in an oven set at 200°F.

Food & Drink

Taiwanese Breakfast Crêpes

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Who else likes breakfast for dinner?  Growing up in Taiwan, a lot of times, we would go out for breakfast on weekends and busy mornings.  Taiwanese breakfast joints are not like the swanky brunch places where you’d have a glass of mimosa.  On the contrary, they are often hole-in-the-wall places where you run in, devour your food in less than 5 minutes, and hop on your moped and be on your way.

I absolutely love all Taiwanese breakfast choices, but the one that I love the most is called dan bing 蛋餅, which roughly translates to egg-pastry.  The closest thing that resembles a dan bing is probably the crêpe, although dan bing has a little bit more chewiness in the batter.  The process for making dan bing is also very similar to a crêpe as well.  The batter is very liquidy, and you pour it on a skillet and then top with the toppings.  In this case, the toppings is an egg mixture that resembles an omelette.  This comes together so quickly that I find myself making this as emergency meals.

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Taiwanese Breakfast Crêpes

  • Servings: 3-4
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Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 6 large eggs
  • 3 stalks scallions, thinly chopped
  • Oil for cooking

Method

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch, water, and 1/2 tsp salt.  Set aside.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs, scallions, and remaining 1/2 tsp salt.
  3. In a nonstick skillet, heat a tsp of oil over medium heat.  Pour about 1/2 cup of crêpe batter and swirl on the skillet until it coats the bottom of the skillet in a thin layer.  When the tops look set, gently flip the crêpe over.  Pour 1/4 cup of egg mixture on top of the crêpe and swirl the pan to coat the egg mixture all over the base.  When the egg mixture has adhered, flip the whole thing over and cook for approximately 30 seconds, or until the egg is cooked through.
  4. Roll up the crêpe and repeat with remaining batter.  Drizzle with soy paste and top with scallions to garnish, if desired.

Recipe notes:

  • Soy paste is a type of soy sauce that is thicker, less salty, and quite sweet.  You should be able to find it in your Asian grocery aisle.  If you don’t have it, soy sauce is a fine substitute, just use it sparingly.

Food & Drink

Japanese Milk Bread

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A good friend of mine is a health nut.  So much so that he weighs all his food that he consumes on a regular basis.  I distinctively remember one time going to an Asian bakery with him, and he picks up a loaf of bread and tells me that he’ll eat the loaf in the next 2 days.  I was shocked, and I told him that’s an entire loaf of bread!  He explained that he needed to eat certain grams of carbs and if he sticks to Sara Lee loaves of bread he’d need to eat 2-3 loaves to get the same weight.  I picked up the loaf and I was surprised.  I never really thought of Asian bread as “dense” or “heavy”, just because the insides are so soft and pillowy.  Asian bread is deceptively compact and rich.  When you tear apart a piece of bread, you can see all the strands showing gluten development.

My favorite kind of bread is hands down milk bread.  In Taiwan, we call them Hokkaido Milk Bread or Japanese Milk Bread.  Upon further research, some speculations on the origin involve the “milk” originating from Hokkaido and the recipe perfected in Tokyo.  No matter the origin, what makes this bread so special is using a water roux as the starter.  This roux is called tangzhong.  Basically, we start off with the water roux and we mix it into the bread mixture as we go along.  This step is crucial as it is the key to creating the soft and pillowy texture.

This recipe uses a stand mixer to do the hard work for us.  The majority of the time is hands-off or waiting.  If you feel like kneading by hand, this recipe will work, but it might take more time.

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Japanese Milk Bread

  • Servings: 4-6
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Ingredients

Tangzhong

  • 1/3 cup bread flour
  • 1/2 cup water

Milk Bread

  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3 1/4 cups bread flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 Tb unsalted butter, softened

Egg Wash

  • 1 large egg
  • 2 Tb water

Method

  1. In a saucepan, whisk together the bread flour and water for the tangzhong starter over medium-low heat.  Continue to stir until you reach a custard-like consistency, about 3-5 minutes.  When you can do simple patterns like squiggle or lines in the mixture, it is ready.  Cool to room temperature while you work on the dough.
  2. In a small bowl, microwave the milk until it is warm to the touch.  Mix in yeast and 1 tsp of the sugar.  Let stand for 10 minutes while the yeast blooms.
  3. In a large stand mixer with a dough hook attachment, mix together flour, sugar, and salt.  Add in yeast mixture, tangzhong roux, and egg and run the stand mixer on low until it forms a soft ball with no visible flour.  This process will take anywhere from 8-10 minutes.
  4. Add the softened butter to the mixer and mix for another 10-15 minutes.  At this point, do the windowpane test to see if the dough is ready.  To do the windowpane test, grab a piece of the dough and stretch it as thin as possible.  Hold it up against a newspaper and you should be able to see through the dough and see the newspaper.
  5. Oil a large bowl and place the dough in the bowl and cover.  Let dough sit in room temperature and proof for 1 hour, or until it has doubled in size.
  6. Punch down dough and divide into four pieces.  Shape them into balls and rest them on a floured surface.  Cover with a dishcloth and let it rest for another 10 minutes.
  7. Butter or line a loaf pan.  Take each dough ball and roll it into a large oval.  Fold into thirds (lengthwise), gently flatten with a rolling pin, and roll it up.  Place the seam side down on the prepared loaf pan.  Repeat with remaining three dough balls.  Cover and proof for a third time, for about 30 minutes.
  8. Preheat oven to 350°F.  Whisk together egg wash ingredients and brush on the tops of the bread.  Bake in preheated oven for 25-35 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown.

Food & Drink

Instant Pot Yogurt

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I’m such a huuuuuge fan of yogurt, I eat it almost daily.  Whether it’s in a parfait or using it to bake or to make dressings & dips, I always have a jar handy.  Going through as much yogurt as I do, making it keeps costs down, and I truly enjoy the unique flavor and texture that only comes with homemade yogurt.

The main reason I jumped on the Instant Pot train was that I could make yogurt.  It’s so easy, and requires very little hands-on time.  The end result is a lightly tangy yogurt, and the texture is a good happy medium between regular yogurt and greek yogurt.  It’s got a certain viscosity and thickness.

My favorite way of eating this?  With lots of fresh berries and my homemade granola!

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Instant Pot Yogurt

  • Servings: 4 cups
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Ingredients

  • 1 qt (4 cups) whole milk (2%, 1%, and non-fat are also fine)
  • 1/4 cup yogurt starter

Method

  1. Sterilize the Instant Pot by pouring 2 cups of water in the pot.  Sealing the lid, press STEAM for 3 minutes.  Quick release the Instant Pot and give it a good rinse.
  2. Pour milk into the pot.  Press the YOGURT button and adjust until the screen reads BOIL.  This process will boil and pasteurize the milk.  It will beep once done.
  3. Remove the lid and let the milk come to 110-115°F (if you don’t have a thermometer, it should be warm to the touch but not scalding).  Add yogurt starter and whisk to incorporate.
  4. Press the YOGURT button and adjust the time to 10:00.  When it is done, refrigerate immediately.

Recipe notes:

  • If you like greek yogurt consistency, after the yogurt is done, strain the yogurt over a cheesecloth until desired consistency.
  • Yogurt starter can be store-bought yogurt.  Just make sure the label says it has active cultures.  In my experience, Fage and Oui make excellent starters.
  • When the yogurt is done, I like to scoop out some yogurt to freeze as my starter for my next batch.
  • You can adjust the time, but I personally like it at 10 hours.  Make sure you let it incubate for at least 8 hours.  The longer it’s incubating, the more tangy and thicker the yogurt will be.

Food & Drink

Overnight Chia Pudding

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Spring is official here!  For me, my breakfast choices change according to the seasons.  In the summer, I enjoy yogurt parfaits and fruit bowls.  In the fall, I tend to eat a lot of egg scrambled with squash and veggies.  In the winter, I hibernate with bowls of oatmeal.  In the springtime, I like chia pudding.

There’s something very refreshing about eating chia pudding for breakfast.  One thing I like is how deceptively filling it actually is.  I usually have about 1/2 cup of chia pudding with fresh berries.  It fills me up like crazy and I’m good until lunchtime.

My method for making chia pudding is very easy.  I just follow a 1:4 ratio of chia seeds to liquid.  It might seem like a lot of liquid at first, but in my experience, since this is sitting overnight, it ends up absorbing the liquid beautifully and it creates a very rich chia pudding.

I like topping mine with blackberries and sweeten it with maple syrup.  But the one thing I like about chia pudding is that the taste is so simple that it can be the perfect base to pretty much any toppings you can imagine.

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Overnight Chia Pudding

  • Servings: 4
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Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup chia seeds
  • 2 cups milk (or dairy-free alternative)
  • Sweetener (maple syrup, honey, agave)
  • Fruits, for topping

Method

  1. In a quart-size mason jar, pour in chia seeds and milk.  Close the lid and shake for 10 seconds.  Refrigerate overnight.
  2. Before serving, add sweetener to taste and top with fruits.

Recipe notes

  • Don’t have a mason jar?  No problem.  In a large bowl, whisk together chia seeds and milk.  Cover and refrigerate!

Food & Drink

3-Ingredient Strawberry Jam

I was watching Friends the other day, and in the episode, Monica had just broken up with Richard.  With her apartment taken over by the hoard of fresh berries and fruit, she said, “I’m sick and tired of being depressed about Richard. I needed a plan. A plan to get over my man! And what’s the opposite of man? Jam!”

Not going to lie, but every time I watch that episode, I get a craving … for jam.

I’ve been making my own jam for a few years now.  I like to keep jam making super simple  – one pot, three ingredients.  A lot of jam recipes out there require pectin, which is a natural natural fiber found in a lot of fruits.  It acts as a preservative and thickener for your jams and jellies.  I typically will use pectin for fruits that have a harder time jelling on their own – like peaches and apricots.  But berries have loads of pectin and can create a fabulous jam on their own.  So I typically don’t use pectin in my berry jams.

You can use canning methods to make big batch of this jam.  For me and husband, we will go through this jam in about 2 months.  I usually split the jam into two 8-oz mason jars.  I will freeze one jar and use up the other jar first.  Since I am not using the hot water bath to can these jams, they will begin to go bad after a month or so.

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Yield: 1 pint

Ingredients
– 1 lb fresh strawberries
– 1 cup sugar
– 2 tbs lemon juice

Method
1. Remove stems from strawberries, dice into small pieces.
2. In a medium saucepan, add the strawberries, sugar, and lemon juice.  Bring to a gentle boil over low heat.  Then bring the heat up to medium for a rolling boil.  Cook until the jam can pass the plate test or to 220F.
3. If you prefer jams with fruit pieces, you can use a large fork and press down on the larger strawberry pieces until your desired consistency.  If you prefer a smoother jam, you can use an immersion blender and blend the mixture.

Plate test:  Before you start making the jam, put a freezer-safe plate in the freezer.  When testing the jam, spoon out a small amount on the chilled plate and wait 30 seconds.  Tilt the plate.  If the jam is moving like slow lava, it is ready.  If it is runny and thin, continue cooking.