Thursday, August 20, 2009

Chocolate chip banana cake

I am not a Tuesday's with Dorie member, mostly b/c I don't like a bunch of the recipes in her cookbook. But occasionally, there is a recipe here or there I am interested in trying. This past week we just so happened to have 10 bananas that were forgotten about. Sad... So they were super brown, nearly black and I was going to freeze them for when I had a craving for something banana-y when I saw the Classic Banana Bundt cake recipe all over And all of a sudden, I had a craving :)

So Saturday morning, I took my yiayia to church in the morning for the celebration of the Dormition of the Theotokos (Virgin Mary), then we visited my papou at the cemetery b/c his birthday was yesterday (Happy Birthday Papou! I still miss you!) and we went to put a new candle in the holder and add some more pretty flowers. We went to lunch at Moondance Diner on Ogden Ave in Westmont (really good, pretty healthy food, check them out!). By the time I got home, I was pooped and didn't want to do ANYTHING!

But I knew I had these bananas and I knew I wanted to make this cake... So I did. My only beef with it is how long it baked for! It felt like FOREVER! But that's only cuz I really wanted to get over to Mike's house and I had to bring him some, so the longer the cake took, the longer till I got to see him.

It's a REALLY good cake. I mean really, really good cake.

Classic Banana Bundt Cake
adapted from Dorie Greenspan

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups brown sugar***
1/2 cup white granulated sugar***
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, preferably at room temperature
About 4 very ripe bananas, mashed (you should have 1 1/2 - 1 3/4 cups)
1 cup vanilla yogurt***
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips***

Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F.

Spray your bundt pan with cooking spray w/ flour (I use Crisco brand w/ Pillsbury flour)
Don’t place the pan on a baking sheet - you want the oven’s heat to circulate through the Bundt’s inner tube.

Whisk the flour, baking soda and salt together.

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter until creamy.

Add the sugar and beat at medium speed until pale and fluffy (won't be as pale since the addition of the brown sugar makes it more speckled w/ brown). Beat in the vanilla, then add the eggs one at a time, beating for about 1 minute after each egg goes in.

Reduce the mixer speed to low and mix in the bananas.

Finally, mix in half the dry ingredients, all theyogurt and then the rest of the flour mixture.

Scrape the batter into the pan and smooth the top.

Bake for 60 minutes***, or until a thin knife inserted deep into the center of the cake comes out with little crumbs stuck to it, but not wet. Check the cake after about 30 minutes - if it is browning too quickly, cover it loosely with a foil tent.

Transfer the cake to a rack and cool for 10 minutes before unmolding onto the rack to cool to room temperature.

If you've got the time, wrap the cooled cake in plastic and allow it to sit on the counter overnight before serving - it's better the next day.

*** Okay, so the original recipe uses 2 cups of white granulated sugar and there is no brown sugar whatsoever in it. I personally believe that brown sugar makes everything better, so I subbed it. The first time I made the cake, I used 1 cup light brown sugar and 1 cup regular granulated sugar. The pictures below show that cake. It was definitely good, but I wanted to know what the difference would be with more brown sugar... So the second cake I made for work had the measurements above. I think next time, I am going to try it w/ all brown sugar. Maybe one day I'll try it w/ only regular granulated sugar. It seems that all the bloggers loved it just the way it was w/ the white sugar, so it can't be that bad. I just love the deeper, almost carmelized taste the brown sugar gives.
Also as for the yogurt. The recipe says 1 cup of sour cream or 1 cup of plain yogurt. I used vanilla yogurt b/c I'd rather have the sweet vanilla taste rather than a tangy taste. Just my preference...
And I added the chips for fun, but it would taste AMAZING w/out them too. Although I think I'd use mini chocolate chips next time, if I did chips again.
And the original recipe said to bake 65-75 minutes. I only baked it for 60 and it was prefect!

And if you feel like the cake is going to overflow (my second one did, just a wee bit), take like a cup of the batter out and make a couple of muffins/cupcakes. That way, if you have to save the cake for something like work the next day or a party, you get to savor some of it all by yourself... :)

So the cream cheese frosting. Looks kinda gross doesn't it? Wait till you see the picture below... I was impatient. Remember how I wanted to go to Mike's and the cake was taking forever? Well, I made the frosting while the cake was baking and I took the cake out of the bundt after 10 mins and waited another 30 mins at least before putting the frosting on it... Okay, maybe more like 15 mins. Like I said, I was impatient. Well, it melted right off the top and pooled in the middle. It still tasted good, but it looked soooo gross.
I just mixed a brick of cream cheese, 3/4 stick of softened butter, 1 tsp of vanilla and added powdered sugar until it had the taste and consistency I liked. (Start w/ a 1/2 cup and add more slowly from there, if you'd like).

The first cake I made, of course I had a piece like right after the frosting stopped spilling over the sides... It was so soft and fluffy and light and moist and omg, it was sooooooo good. It was delicate and airy and just wonderful. I sliced three more pieces to take to Mike. He devoured the first piece in like a second. He loved it, which always makes me feel good.
I had read in one of the TWD blogs that the cake had such a different texture the next day, and I had to put it in the fridge b/c of the frosting, so I was a bit scared how it woudl turn out. It was very dense and heavy, more of a pound cake consistency. I thought it dry out a bit, even though it was covered, but not at all! Just as moist as the first day. My mom liked it, my dad liked it (but thought it could do with the chips since he doesn't like chocolate chips), my cousin liked it, my sister liked it.

When I made it for work, I knew it would be good for them b/c so many people like banana bread/cake. When people were asking for the recipe and my boss said that it reminded him of his granmother's banana bread that he hasn't had in so long, I knew it was a success.

This cake will definitely be made over and over and over again. I think I'll make it into a layered cake next time w/ the cream cheese frosting... But I think I would make the cake layers the night before and then frost it after it is COMPLETELY cooled and has had a chance to thicken up and be a bit sturdier to frost!

I recently learned some new tricks to taking pictures for the blog, but I have not yet used them. Primarily b/c I was in a super hurry on Saturday and I forgot my camera at home so I couldn't take any at work yesterday. So the pictures aren't as pretty as I would have liked. But next round, I'm sure it'll be better!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

I need a break!!!

I need a break. Just like the title says. I almost had a break at the end of July, but things fell through b/c my boyfriend just had to go buy a house! Okay, so the house is way more important, but I was sooo looking forward to that weekend trip. :(

You see, I've had a medically stressful year. I started (literally) the new year w/ a horrible eye pain and vision loss that turned out to be optic neuritis and was in the hosp for a few days, on heavy doses of steroids and ibuprofen and had to take additional medicine for the heartburn the meds were giving me. I ended up w/ bronchitis a few days later and was given antibiotics and cough medicine. I spent most of January on at least 3 different medicines at the same time...

A couple months goes by and no major issues. In March, I got a tattoo on my foot and when the tattoo healed, the swelling didn't go down. After four months (yes, FOUR MONTHS) the second podiatrist I saw diagnosed me with severe tendonitis in my right foot. I am stuck in gym shoes (that cost me $140, but they are awesome New Balance shoes, so hopefully worth it) and compression socks for the next couple of weeks (btw, I work in a business dress environment, which means NO GYM SHOES! My boss is not thrilled...) After the swelling has reduced enough to his satisfaction, I am out of the gym shoes and compression socks (which, btw, are costing me $60 a pair since they are not covered by health insurance) but then I am in flat comfort shoes w/ orthotics that are being made special for my feet. Those, thankfully, are covered by my insurance at 100% (I hope, cuz they told me the compression socks were covered too!). Did I also mention that at night I have to wear leg splints that will be keeping my feet at a proper angle or whatever so that I can quit getting leg cramps in the middle of the night that are so bad I am screaming in pain while my dad has to rub them out cuz I can't move? My doc thinks they are caused by the lack of Vitamin B-12 in my system. Not that it has been confirmed, but maybe I'll find out soon enough.

So onto the newest unknown. I guess it's not really a new unknown, per se, but I've finally decided that it is bothersome enough to find out what is going on.

For the last few months, food has been making me sick. You know that full feeling you get after you know you have eaten WAY too much? The feeling that you've eaten so much so fast that it is backed up in your chest and throat, waiting for the rest of it to digest so it can go down? Okay, maybe you haven't ever felt like that, and for those of you looking at the computer funny right now- you are so lucky... I get that feeling every single time I eat. At first, it was only once in a while. Then more often, and now it seems that I am lucky to have finish a rare meal that I don't feel sick afterwards. It's like a heavy full feeling, causing cramps in my stomach and that nauseous feeling in my chest and throat, but it's an empty feeling too. Almost like I'm hungry sick. But the smell of food, the intake of food, even the thought of food makes me break out in a nauseous sweat.

So a few of the ideas have been either that I have ulcers, which wouldn't be too far off since my dad had them pretty bad, so bad they ruptured (or something like that, I was pretty young whe he was in the hospital for it). The inside of my stomach lining could be corroded from the mass quantities of medicines that have been passing through my system in the last 8 months. Someone mentioned Crohn's disease. Someone else said acid reflux, but I don't have the pain they were describing.

Anyways, I finally decide to call my PCP and he is on vacay until next Monday. Blah. So I wait...

Until then... I bake!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Whole Wheat Rotini w/ 5 cheeses

I think I must be on a cheese kick. Either that, or I really don't want to waste the $30 in cheese I bought so it goes on everything. :)

Btw, quick side note. Those fresh saver containers that keep food fresher longer, yep, those work wonderfully. Especially w/ month old cheeses... I grated all of my expensive fresh cheeses and mixed them all together in one of those and they've lasted forever so far!

Anyways, I am constantly hearing how great Ina Garten's recipes are. Honestly, I watch her show, it's not like I feel about her like I feel about Semi-Homemade... But I've never really looked at something she's made and gone, OMG I HAVE TO EAT THAT NOW!!! Although I have looked at some stuff and gone, Hmmm.... that'd be good if I took that out, or added this or whatever.

Well, I was on the food network site the other day looking for another recipe for cheese. I found this and saw the bazillion raving reviews and thought, eh, why not?

So I have to say, not bad. I did make a few changes...

Whole Wheat Rotini with 5 cheeses
adapted from Penne with Five Cheeses by Ina Garten


  • Sea Salt
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup crushed tomatoes in thick tomato puree
  • 1/2 cup shredded Gruyere
  • 1/2 cup shredded Asiago
  • 1/4 cup shredded Mozzarella
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parrano Uniekas Dutch cheese
  • 2 tablespoons ricotta cheese
  • 6 fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • 4 smashed cloves of garlic
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 pound whole wheat rotini
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Bring 5 quarts of salted water to a boil in a stockpot.

Combine all the ingredients except the penne and butter in a large mixing bowl. Mix well.

Drop the penne into the boiling water and parboil for 4 minutes (only!!!). Drain well in a colander and add to the ingredients in the mixing bowl, tossing to combine.

Pour the prepared pasta mixture in a 13 X 9 glass or ceramic dish. Dot with the butter and bake until bubbly and brown on top, about 10 minutes.

Most of the sauce automatically dropped to the bottom of the casserole dish. It was very liquidy, not very thick at all. At least, not until it cooked. It had an awesome flavor, especially w/ the addition of the garlic and cayenne pepper. I like a little kick, but the cayenne didn't add any real heat to the dish, which was why I used it. When you dished it into the bowl, it wasn't as liquidy as before, it definitely thickened up enough to not had to worry about watery drops from your fork when you were moving it to your fork. :)

I used a whole wheat pasta here b/c (1) it's better for you, especially since you are using lots of cheese and heavy cream in this!!! and (2) I like the heartier texture and taste when you are eating it. I think it adds something to the pasta. Plus, it's super hard to overcook!!! You definitely have to cook it longer than regular pasta, but that's ok. The original recipe has this parboiling for only 4 minutes and I didn't change that b/c I left the pasta in the oven a bit longer since I put it in one large casserole dish rather than separate ramekins.
The pasta I have been using mostly is Ronzoni b/c it is super hearty and really fresh tasting, despite it being a boxed pasta. And a blend of 7 grains? So good! And it holds up awesomly to reheating the pasta the next day... and the next... and the next... Maybe I wouldn't have had to eat so much if my parents would have tried it! Wimps. I'm actually a little disappointed in my father who eats nearly everything. I told him to try some and it's not like he doesn't like my cooking. I know he does. Oh well...

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Review of Luscious Layers and Hoosier Mama Pie Company

I'm not sure how I got the wrong address at first. But I did. I drove our happy butts all the way to the far far north side, damn close to Evanston only to discover the address I found online was wrong. Never use yahoo again.

Anyways, so I googled Hoosier Mama Pie Company on my phone and found out that it wasn't all that far away, so we trekked over to Luscious Layers and then Hoosier Mama Pie Company. Because of the way the pics loaded onto the page, I'm going to start with Hoosier Mama.

There are so many different varieties of pies there and you can get a small pie for $8, like I got, or large pies for $18-$20. There is also chicken pot pie that you can get in small, large, or just a slice of the large. I ended up leaving with 4 small pies, packaged all cute and country like.

This was the box for the chicken pot pie. She wrote out instructions for heating it so I wouldn't forget. :)

This was one awesome chicken pot pie. I had it for dinner that night.

Honestly, I didn't finish it, but I pushed myself to the max. Yes, I saved the leftovers. Are you kidding me? A little less than half was left over! I wasn't tossing that!
Yummy apple pie. Surprisingly no nutmeg in it. I was shocked. And very very pleased. :) I gave this one to dad, but he saved me a quarter of it to try. Yum.

Strawberry rhubarb pie. Delicious. I took this to work and had a quarter of it for lunch, then went home and then polished the rest off for dinner/dessert. So wrong, I know.

My mom's raspberry pie. She complained, of course. Said that she tasted cinnamon and said it was too tart. I'm not sure when my mom is going to realize that fresh raspberries tend to be more tart than sweet. Jam is only sweet as it is b/c of all the added sugar. Woman will never be happy...
But I had a bite, there definitely was something in there that didn't seem like it should be. Dad finished that one too :)

I would go back in a heartbeat. The chicken pot pie was the BEST chicken pot pie ever. The crust was phenomenal, the inside was amazing. I'm not a fan of thick creamy sauces, especially in pot pie. I think it makes the crust soggy and gross. The re-heating time was perfect b/c it didn't overcook the crust or insides, but it made it all bubbly warm. Let me tell you, I would so get a whole pot pie and try to pass it off as my own. It's that good.

Now onto Luscious Layers... The reason why I wanted to go here was b/c I heard they had $1 cupcakes. $1!!!
Amazing, right? I thought Sweet Honeybee's was cheap! Nope, this place definitely tops Sweet Honeybee's in price... But what about taste?
First off, they giver you free samples. They make little itsy bitsy cupcakes you can pop into your mouth to try. I tried a champagne cupcake and a gluten free cherry vanilla. Let me tell you, gluten free is DEFINITELY an acquired taste. I was not thrilled w/ it at all and the owner wasn't insulted, so I didn't feel quite as bad when I made the "ew" face. The champagne was good and I ended up getting that one as well as four others:

Chocolate devil's food with raspberry mousse and chocolate fudge frosting. This one was good. The cake was a bit dry, perhaps b/c I ate it a couple days later. The raspberry mousse definitely tasted like raspberry, so that was a plus. The frosting (like the rest) was hard on the outside, very little soft fudgy inside, so I ended up wiping it off.

Red Velvet with cream cheese buttercream. There was no way this frosting had cream cheese in it. No way. It was hard, had no flavor and was powdery when it crumbled. WAY TOO MUCH POWDERED SUGAR! The cake wasn't too bad, a bit dry, but again, it had been a couple days before I ate it.

The Champagne cupcake w/ strawberry mousse filling. Not a bad cupcake. My #2 fav. The frosting was wiped off like the first too, but the cake actually tasted like champagne. And there wasn't a tone of strawberry mousse to over power the cupcake. Def a yummy one. :)

Save the best for last... This was actually the last cupcake I had and the moistest one, even though a few days past. AND the strawberry buttercream was delicious. I hate buttercream, but this was very yummy. I pinched off some of the harder edges on the frosting, but there was definitely lots of soft frosting underneath the hard edges. The cake was moist and tasted like strawberries in white cake. Yum. Definitely a keeper.

All in all, it was a good trip out. It was worth the driving around and 1/4 tank of gas to get to all the places. If was I fixing for a cupcake, I'd probably headover to Sweet Honeybee's first. I'd pay $0.90 more for a guaranteed better cupcake.