Beyond basic banana bread

Cool the banana bread

Everyone has their own favorite banana bread recipe, it seems, and the Internet has plenty so what am I doing adding another? Well, when I looked for a recipe to make banana bread a few weeks ago, I didn’t find one that I loved. Either they called for ingredients I didn’t have on hand, or they seemed too simple and I wanted to add a bit more flavor to them.

I ended up turning to a basic recipe. I added almond flour and almond extract as well as a few spices, and substituted brown sugar for about 75% of the white sugar. I’m still getting the hang of recipe development, and don’t trust myself to create a baking recipe without some sort of framework. But I wish I knew how bakers do that. Some of the home bakers on Great British Baking Show don’t even seem to measure their ingredients. It’s incredible.

Spices and flourLiquid batter

I thought about calling this nutty no-nut banana bread but that would be confusing and slightly inaccurate. You see, it has a nutty taste from the almond flour and almond extract but it doesn’t have any crushed or chopped nuts like some banana breads.

I came up with that “nutty tasting, yet without big pieces of nuts” idea a few weeks ago and then saw that one of my favorite food bloggers had the same train of thought. Robyn of Sweetish.co made cinnamon buns with GRAIN flour and said something similar about the flavor of them on Instagram. I guess great minds think alike.Beyond basic banana bread

Adapted from Julia’s Best Banana Bread on Bon Appetit

Beyond basic banana bread

Nonstick vegetable oil spray
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup almond flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
3 large eggs
3/4 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 cup mashed ripe bananas (about 2 large)
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon almond extract

Preheat oven to 350°. Coat a 9x5x3” loaf pan with nonstick spray.

Whisk flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg in a medium bowl. Whisk eggs, sugar, bananas, oil and almond extract in a large bowl until smooth.

Add dry ingredients to banana mixture and stir just until combined. Scrape batter into prepared pan and smooth top.

Bake until a tester inserted into the center of bread comes out clean, 60–70 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack; let bread cool in pan for 15 minutes. Run a knife around inside of pan to release the bread. Turn out onto rack and let cool completely.

Banana bread can be made 3 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.

Baby shower playlist

Hello Kitty DJ

In about 5 weeks, it’s my baby’s due date. It’s finally the home stretch! I can hardly believe it. Except, I can because pregnancy is long and although I may never feel totally ready for the baby, I’m ready enough.

I still haven’t said anything on here about my baby’s name or sex, but I might as well tell you now. It’s no secret. I was just trying to decide when and how to tell people.

Paul and I found out at the last ultrasound that we’re having a baby girl. We’re naming her Margaret Esme Rosales. Margaret is after my Aunt Peggy (her birth name was Margaret), who died earlier this year. We’re calling her Maggie for short. Esme is a middle name I found after looking through a lot of baby name lists online. It means beloved in French, which makes it perfect.

To celebrate Maggie, my family and Paul’s family threw us a baby shower. My mom, two sisters, his sister, and my mom all did an amazing job. It was so sweet.

The theme was Peter Rabbit. I wanted that theme because I have fond memories of my dad telling me the Peter Rabbit story by heart and when I worked at an early childcare center in the infant room I would read a story board book version to the babies.

For my part, I wanted to make a short playlist for the party. My family parties don’t usually have music. I’m not sure why exactly but that’s just how I grew up. Maybe it helped us talk to each other more than otherwise. I like music for parties though, so I made a baby shower playlist for the quieter parts of the party.

The thing is, I totally forgot to play it! Not until the guests had left did I remember that I forgot about the playlist. I had even just been listening to it and editing it that morning.

This playlist is a mix of songs from my childhood that my dad used to play, songs I listed to as I grew older, and newer family-friendly songs that compliment the rest.

It’s hard for me to pick my favorite songs on the playlist. A few are my favorite songs of all time. Others are songs by my favorite artist, although not my favorite by that artist. The standout songs are Chelsea Morning, At the Zoo, Who’s My Pretty Baby, and Home.

What do you think of this playlist? What are your favorite family and kid-friendly songs?

If I’m being honest, I have played some songs with unfit lyrics for Maggie while she’s been in the womb. She kicks the most while hip hop or rock and roll are playing, particularly Missy Elliott. She also has a favorite song off her dad’s new album that he’s been working on. (You can listen to some of his music here.)

Image via untitledba on Tumblr.

Kale “Funyun” chips

Kale Funyun chips baked

One day earlier this year when I was in the break room at the child care center I was working at, I was snacking on a leftover container of kale chips. Another teacher looked at it and said, “What is that? Weed chips?” She seemed genuinely weirded out. I was a bit put off by her question. It must have been a joke, but we weren’t friends and din’t work in the same room, so I felt embarrassed. I guess baked kale looks like weed. But of course that wasn’t what I was eating while on break at a school where I took care of infants and toddlers.

I didn’t eat kale chips at work again after that. I didn’t try that brand of store bought kale chips again because they weren’t that good any way and it’s so easy to make them from scratch. I don’t even remember the name of that brand because I only bought it a few times. It made me want to try to make them at home, and better.

Kale Funyun chips

Kale Funyun chips ingredients

Usually when I make kale chips or when I saute kale on the stove, I just coat the leaves in a bit of olive oil and season them with salt and black pepper. That’s easy and good. But I switched things up on a whim a few weeks ago when I sauted kale for dinner and loved it. Only difference? I replaced the black pepper with onion powder.

My husband has feelings about onions. Maybe you know someone like that. I know quite a few people like that. Unlike some people, though, he doesn’t hate the flavor of onions, more so just the texture. If they’re cut up small enough, say in a taco, he will still eat them.

I didn’t tell him what was different about the kale and had him guess. He guessed onion powder and said he liked it. What a win. Paul said it reminded him of the taste of Frito-Lays Funyun chips.

As far as kale chips go, these are very easy to make and taste great. The onion flavoring is apparent without being overwhelming.

Baked kale Funyun chips

Kale “Funyun” chips

1 10-ounce package kale
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon onion powder

Wash kale and remove leaves from stems. Discard stems. Dry kale as much as possible. You can use a salad spinner, put dry with paper towels, or dab with a clean tea towel.

Place kale in mixing bowl. Combine with olive oil, kosher salt, and onion powder. Toss until kale is evenly coated.

Heat in 325 oven for 10 minutes. Turn leaves over and bake for another 15 minutes.

Fried rice

Fried rice with pork

As promised, I’m sharing my mom’s fried rice recipe with you. It goes great with the orange chicken I posted on Monday.

Fried rice is a great way to use up leftover white rice. This recipe is one that my mom used when I was growing up.

I made this for my husband Paul and me for dinner and he said, “This tastes like takeout. Better than takeout!”

Fried rice with space for egg

Fried rice egg cooking

Easy fried rice

According to the recipe, it serves 5 to 6 people.

When I made this on Tuesday and followed the recipe for 3 cups cooked rice, I served it with two pork chops. As a main dish with the meat added, it was 3 servings for us. I think 5 to 6 servings is if it is a side dish.

Sometimes I want to make fried but only 2 servings, or about 1 cup cooked rice. I’m just cooking for myself and my husband and don’t always intend for leftovers. In that case, I still look to this recipe as a basic template.

Fried rice

Fried rice

2 tablespoons chopped onion
2 tablespoons oil
3 cups cooked rice
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 eggs, well-beaten
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley, or 2 tablespoons dry parsley
1/8 teaspoon pepper

In medium skillet, cook onion in oil until tender. Add rice and soy sauce. Cook over low heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally with a fork.

Move the rice to the sides of the pan and put the eggs in the center. Cook over low heat 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. After the egg is cooked, stir the rice into it. Add the parsley and pepper.

If desired, serve with additional soy sauce. Add chicken or other meat to make it a main dish. Or, serve with weeknight orange chicken. It also goes great with stir-fry vegetables. It’s easy to add in frozen mixed vegetables and have them heat up along with the rice, before adding the eggs. Or, you can keep it traditional and add fresh, diced carrots and peas.

Note: Parsley, as suggested in the recipe, makes a good decorative topping. I had cilantro on hand, so I used that instead. It’s what’s in the photos. It has a different taste, but similar look.

Weeknight orange chicken

Orange chicken

It took me about 45 minutes to make the orange chicken from start to finish, and that includes stopping to take photos here and there. You may be able to have it done in 30 minutes or less.

If you’re part of my family on my mom’s side and reading this, you may recognize this recipe because it’s in the Carpenter Cookbook.

Chicken thighs and sauce
Chicken thighs cooking
Chicken simmering in sauce

The orange chicken goes great with vegetable fried rice. I served it with Trader Joe’s frozen vegetable fried rice. I would have made fried rice from scratch to go with this meal, but I didn’t have enough white rice in my pantry and when I went to the Trader Joe’s for more, they were sold out.

In the next few weeks, I’ll share a great recipe of my mom’s for homemade fried rice. If you’re a Carpenter, you can find that in the family cookbook too.

Update: Here is my mom’s orange chicken recipe.

I think Grandma saved this recipe from a food column in a local newspaper, perhaps the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, but I can’t remember for sure now.

Orange chicken two servings

Weeknight orange chicken

2/3 cup orange juice
1/3 cup orange marmalade
1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon crushed garlic
2 teaspoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 boneless, skinless chicken

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine the orange juice, marmalade, soy sauce, mustard, ginger, garlic, brown sugar and cornstarch. Stir or whisk to blend well. The marmalade will seem lumpy, but with enough stirring will combine well. Set aside.

Cut chicken breasts into nugget size pieces. Season lightly with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Heat oil in a 12-inch non stick skillet. Add chicken and cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until no longer pink, about 5 to 7 minutes.

Pour orange sauce into the pan, stir and bring to a boil. Boil chicken and sauce 1 to 2 minutes, stirring frequently; sauce will thicken. If it doesn’t seem thick enough, turn heat to low and simmer for about 5 minutes more.

A few notes:

  1. The original recipe didn’t call for sugar but I added it because the marmalade and the sauce overall tasted a bit bitter. Adjust according to your tastes and how sweet your brand of marmalade is. For reference, I used Trader Joe’s orange marmalade.
  2. The original recipe said to use chicken breast halves, but I like using thighs for this recipe. Thighs are more fatty. They’re generally not as healthy, but they taste more tender and juicy than chicken breast meat.
  3. I left out the crushed garlic because I didn’t have any. If you have it, use it.

Variations: Add 1 (11 to 15-ounce) can mandarin oranges, drained, to the pan once the chicken is done and the sauce is thickened. Add sliced carrots and celery into the pan to sauté with the chicken. Sprinkle salted cashews on top of the finished dish for added crunch. Sprinkle chopped green onion or chopped fresh parsley or cilantro on top of the finished dish for color and flavor. Add 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes to the sauce if your family likes a spicy dish. Add 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil to the olive oil if you like that flavor.

3 cold weather beauty problems + solutions

My favorite cold weather beauty products

As the weather cools and the air becomes less humid, I need to switch up my skincare and hair routine. If I’m not careful, my skin will become so dry it flakes or cracks and my scalp will get dry, especially when the Santa Ana winds are in full effect.

Over the years I’ve realized what typical problems come up for my skin and hair during the fall and winter months, and I’ve come up with a few solutions. I have some favorite products for dealing with dry skin, chapped lips and hat hair.

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Baked sweet carrot fries

Sweet carrot fries
Sweet carrot fries

Happy November, everyone! October seemed to go by fast, probably because I had so many events on my calendar from family gatherings like my aunt’s wedding to pregnancy related doctors appointments and tests.

The other day, my sister’s 4-year-old son asked “what’s next” after Halloween. He can be shy, but apparently he loves social events. It’s nice that he looks forward to those times and he may be thinking about when he will see his cousins next. Well, the day after Halloween is his uncle Paul’s birthday (my husband), then a baby shower, Thanksgiving, and another baby shower. Before we know it, Christmas Eve will be here. I’m very much excited for Christmas because my sister and brother who live out of the area will be visiting.

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Fall wedding guest look

It’s hard to believe that it’s already the end of October and the wedding I’ve been looking forward to all year has come and gone. My aunt married her sweetheart yesterday and it was so wonderful to witness. I cried a few happy tears during the ceremony and might have cried more if I wasn’t trying to avoid smearing my eyeliner.

It was nice to have so much family together too. All my aunt’s nieces and nephews were able to come. I don’t think my cousins and I had all been together for 10 years or so.

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Mom’s French apple pie

Mom's french apple pie

Today I was looking back through old blog posts and found this one from 2015 where I wrote that making apple pie with my mom’s recipes was one of my goals for before I turned 24. I totally forgot about that, but now I’m a few months away from 28 and I can say that I finally did it.

I made apple pie using my mom’s recipe for French apple pie this past Sunday for her birthday. We had a small gathering and it seemed that everyone loved it. I’m so glad it came out good, but how could it not?  Apple pie is the best. I’m sure using the amazing Jonagold apples my husband bought us in Oak Glen made it even more delicious.

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Teriyaki meatballs with udon noodles

Teriyaki meatballs with udon noodles

Hello, friends. I’ve been working on a few new recipes, but I want to test them out a few more times before sharing them with you. For today, I have an easy dinner idea that I have done a few different ways plenty of times over the past three years or so. It’s not really a recipe, but I hope you still get inspiration from it and try it out yourself.

I like having the ingredients on hand for an easy meal like this so I can have a healthy lunch or dinner on the table in under 30 minutes.

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