15 minute meals

Frozen Dark Chocolate Banana Bites with Toasted Pecans

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How many times have you bought bananas to only have them turn into a pitiful brown by the end of the week? For awhile there, I'd just toss them in the trash and never gave them a second thought but the beauty of internet has paved the way to a brand new world of recipes featuring the overly ripened fruit. 

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You could use them to make muffins and breads or even as an egg replacement, freeze them for smoothies, or ice cream and my favorite way of enjoying them is frozen and dipped in dark chocolate. 

Fun fact for the day: Did you know you're suppose to peel your banana from the stemless end? If you ever want to be the life of the party, here's 9 ways to peel a banana

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I usually like to peel the ripened bananas, slice them and lay them out in a baking sheet lined with wax paper. This way makes cutting painless and when you dip them in the dark chocolate, the chocolate will immediately harden. However, bananas do melt quickly, so you have to work quickly and in smaller batches. If the bananas start to soften, simply return them to the freezer and dip once they are hardened again. 

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This recipe is simple and uses only 3 ingredients: bananas, dark chocolate and toasted pecans. Also if you don't want as much chocolate on your bananas or you're short on time, take the melted chocolate (make sure it's not piping hot) and place it in a ziplock bag. Squeeze the chocolate to one of the bottom corners and cut the tip and drizzle the chocolate all over the frozen bananas pieces and top with pecans. Omit pecans if you're not a nutty kinda guy. 

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Ingredients:

serves 1-2; yields about 30-40 pieces (printable recipe)

  • 3 ripened bananas, peeled sliced into 1" thick pieces and frozen
  • 1 dark chocolate bar (3.5 oz each ) I used a 70% cacao bar but milk chocolate can be used as well
  • 1 1/2 T coconut oil, melted
  • 1 cup toasted pecans, chopped

Peel bananas and slice into 1" pieces. Place onto large pan lined with wax paper. Place into freezer for at least 1 hour.

Chop dark chocolate bar into small pieces and place into a small glass bowl. Microwave for 30 sec and then in 10 sec intervals (stirring in between) until chocolate is fully melted. Add melted coconut oil and mix thoroughly.

Find some wooden skewers or fondue skewers to make the dipping process easier, if you have neither you can also use  2 small forks. Remove bananas from freezer and pierce banana pieces using the skewers and slowly allow the excess chocolate to drip off. Place onto reserved wax paper and top with pecan pieces. Set aside.

If you are using two forks, drop the banana pieces one at a time into the chocolate and use the forks to lift them, allowing any excess chocolate to drip off the sides. Place onto parchment and top with pecan pieces. Continue with the rest of the batch. 

Eat immediately or place back into the freezer until ready to eat. If the bites are too hard, simply leave on the counter for a couple minutes and they will soften a little. 

If the chocolate hardens while you are dipping, simply place back into the microwave for 5-10 sec to soften again.

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Tomato Recipes

One of my favorite things to do for friends is pampering them with food. It's always been my way of saying "Hey dude, I really love you, thanks for always being so great." Plus it's a great opportunity for me to play around with new recipes and challenge myself to create something memorable. I cooked this particular (tomato themed) dinner for my dear friend Eric, who travels a lot and what does a traveler want the most upon returning home? A home-cooked meal.

No problemo homie.

We started off with a nice Summery (virgin) cocktail but please feel free to add a splash of Hendrick's Gin as my husband chose to do so -- it tastes reminiscent to a dreamsicle except without the creaminess and ends with a nice hint of fennel.

 Yellow Tomato Gazpacho was next on the list -- it took me awhile to get use to the concept of "cold soups" but this one is fabulous. I used mostly yellow teardrops for my soup and the sweetness was phenomenal! It's a great recipe to make ahead and it can also be served as an amuse bouche at parties.

Next came a simple salad topped with toasted pecans, goat cheese, and heirloom tomatoes drizzled with some Italian olive oil a dear friend brought back for me and a sprinkle of kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Feel free to squeeze a little lemon for an extra acid kick. Simple, healthy, delicious -- I know, I'm a baus.

You can also serve the salad in a bowl if plates aren't your thing. Or maybe because you ran out of plates. You get the idea.

This was probably my favorite, well after the main course that is. I took some sourdough, toasted it and melted it with some smoked gruyere and topped it with spicy tomato jam (I added a habanero in mine to give it a super kick), avocado slices and arugula.

 

The smokiness of the gruyere really paired nicely with the sweet and spicy jam -- the jam is also a great dipping sauce for meatballs or even better on top of some cheese and crackers.

Aaaah main course: Maryland Crabcake with Israeli Couscous in a Spicy Tomato Broth. It's amazing how generous you can be with the size of your crabcakes when you make them at home, I even had an extra dish of crab meat left over which I used for an omelet the next morning.

I made the broth from tomato juice, dashi and some thai chiles, which is the same liquid I cooked my couscous in. The Maryland crab cake recipe I used can be found here. As a Chef once told me "It's all about that Old Bay Seasoning." Amen to that Chef! I loved the light breading for this style of crab cake, it really gave the perfect texture I was looking for.

 

Unfortunately, there was no tomato themed dessert. Instead I just made some chocolate chip cookies and scooped some vanilla bean ice cream on top. All tummies were satisfied :).

As you can see, I kept all these recipes pretty simple. It's nice to not be stuck in the kitchen the whole time and be able to sit down and enjoy the meal with friends so make things easy on yourself: prep ahead of time, pick recipes with simple execution and have fun with it!

 

Share the love today and make your loved ones something home cooked -- not only does it replenish the belly but it renews the soul. Now get off that katoosh and get in that kitchen!

 

Yellow Tomato Gazpacho

With another year under the belt, life continues to serve unexpected surprises. The Age of Question seems to only deepen with time as I find myself slowly inching towards 30. Does anyone know when it becomes the Age of Answers? Summer has been kind to us here in Texas. With mild temperatures and ample rain, we've had an abundant harvest this year. Especially our tomatoes: Teardrops, Green Zebras, Brandywine and assorted Heirlooms -- Nature has been very kind and giving this season.

There's something intrinsically magical and pure about growing your own food -- though it takes countless hours of work, sweat and patience -- the pay off seems to nourish in more ways than one. You can literally find the beauty of life in a tomato.

To think what once laid as a dormant seed, given water, soil and light, it awakens and sprouts. And with time, care and a little homemade compost -- it grows into a healthy plant that flowers and ultimately produces the lusciously juicy fruit.

We often forget to appreciate these tiny miracles but they are constantly around us: growing, thriving, living as the World intended.

As with all great ingredients, I allow them the spotlight -- to showcase their wonder without all the flare and masking.

 

We'll start with a yellow tomato gazpacho which I adapted from Bon Appetit. Topped with creamy avocado chunks, thinly sliced purple onions, dotted with meaty cubes of heirloom and drizzled with a bright and bold cilantro oil -- this Summer soup celebrates the beauty of the season.

The best part is, this soup can be made ahead and would serve as the perfect starter for any Summer party. Feel free to serve in shot glasses or tiny bowls and always make sure you serve this soup ICE COLD. Your guests will thank you :)

If yellow tomatoes are not available to you, feel free to use red tear drops -- though the color will be different the flavors will still be wonderful. For those who aren't a fan of heat, leave out the chile but being the thrill-seeker that I am, I put a yellow thai chili from our garden and rest assured, it did the job.

As chiles vary in heat, always be sure to taste the spiciness level and adjust accordingly.

Yellow Tomato Gazpacho
Recipe Type: Appetizer
Prep time: 15 mins
Cook time: 5 mins
Total time: 20 mins
Serves: 6
A chilled Summer soup that will leave you wanting more...
Ingredients
  • 1 3/4 pounds yellow tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cup chopped seeded peeled cucumber
  • 1 cup chopped yellow bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons Champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 medium jalapeño chili with seeds, chopped (about 1 tablespoon)
  • Garnish with cubes of avocado, thinly shaved onion and meaty cubes of heirloom tomato.
  • Cilantro Oil
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 1 medium jalapeño chili with seeds, chopped (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/4 cup water
Instructions
  1. Squeeze tomato juices and seeds into strainer set over bowl. Press on seeds to extract all juice. Chop tomatoes. Set aside 1/2 cup chopped tomatoes, 1/4 cup cucumber, and 1/4 cup bell pepper.
  2. Combine remaining tomatoes, cucumber, and bell pepper in processor. Add tomato juices, onion, orange juice, oil, vinegar, garlic, and jalapeño; process until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer soup to bowl; add reserved vegetables. Cover and chill overnight.
  3. Divide soup among 6 bowls. Garnish and drizzle with cilantro oil.
  4. Cilantro Oil
  5. Combine all ingredients except water in processor. Puree until almost smooth. Transfer puree to fine strainer set over bowl. Using rubber spatula, press on solids to extract as much liquid as possible; discard solids in strainer. Whisk 1/4 cup water into mixture in bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Rewhisk before using.

 

 

 

Elotes

There's something wonderful about Elotes -- the refreshing aromas of lime and cilantro, the smokiness from the slight char, the sweetness of the kernels...it's like this happy awesome party in your mouth and everyone is invited! Now traditionally, Elotesare a staple in Mexican street food -- served on the cob, in a cup, topped with various toppings like chili powder, cheese, butter, sour cream, seasoned salt, lemon pepper...

With corn in season and our garden in full bloom, I wanted to utilize seasonal ingredients with whatever was affluent in our garden -- currently it's lots of chard, carrots, onion and KALE. But we'll get to that in a minute...

 

Traditional Elotes is usually smothered in generous amounts of butter and mayo (my favorite) but seeing that Summer is right around the corner, I am trying to keep my thighs in check. With that being said, I simply just brushed the corn with melted butter for a slight buttery flavor and let the other flavors be carried out through the fresh lime and spices.

 

And I got lazy. And didn't want to bug my husband to fire up the grill so I could grill two ears of corn.  So being the good wife that I am, I used the broiler to save him the pain :).

 

Now what do you do if you made a crap ton of Elotes and now you have a bunch left over?? Never you fret my pet. Why not use them for some healthy lettuce wraps? Since I had Tuscan Kale growing in the garden, I made some "vegan" lettuce wraps and topped it with some creamy avocado chunks. I even tossed in a habanero to the left over mixture to give it a nice kick. Feel free to use any type of lettuce in place of kale.

 

Eating healthy aint all bad y'all! You can also use your leftovers and use it as a corn salsa or put it on top of a salad or protein. I actually used it as breakfast -- I simply chopped up some kale, tossed it in lime and honey and salt, topped it with a fried egg, avocado slices and corn and VOILA -- breakfast of champions.

 

This would be a great recipe for Cinco de Mayo this weekend, be sure to share the love! Have a great weekend folks...

 

 

 

 

 

Soba Noodles with Fried Egg

As this New Year begins, I reflect on the goals I hope to accomplish this year. The certain milestones I should aim for. And improvements and lessons learned from wrong turns and experiences. I plan on renewing my imagination.

Develop a stronger focus.

Reveal a better me, a stronger me, a wiser me.

 

I want to make cooking easier.

Less daunting.

Fun.

Because being connected to our food, makes us feel alive.

It allows us to take some time out of our day to enjoy the simpler joys in life.

So let's start this year together.

Let's get back into the kitchen and start with the basics.

Honor ourselves with consciousness and respect.

These soba noodles should do the trick. Buckwheat noodles, fried egg, crunchy carrots and toasted sesame seeds -- what's not to like?

 

Try it a few times and you'll find your rhythm and before you know it, a healthful, soulful dinner awaits you in just a blink of an eye...

 

Eat well. Eat consciously. Eat to nourish.

 

Let's make 2012 a fabulous year together, shall we?

 

Soba Noodles with Fried Egg
Recipe Type: Main
Author: Joy Zhang
Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 15 mins
Total time: 25 mins
Serves: 2
Buckwheat Noodles tossed in a Soy Lime Sesame dressing with Crunchy Carrots and Fresh Herbs.
Ingredients
  • Handful of buckwheat soba noodles
  • 1/2 lime, squeezed
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 1/2 carrot, shredded
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
  • small handful of cilantro, cleaned and chopped
  • 1 tip of a green onion, cleaned and chopped
  • 1 teaspoon oil
  • 2 eggs
Instructions
  1. In a medium pot fill with water and bring to boil. Drop noodles in and cook for 4 minutes at medium heat at a gentle boil.
  2. Rinse carrots and herbs and pat dry. Shred carrot and set aside. Finely chop cilantro and green onion and mix with shredded carrots.
  3. Test to see if noodles are semi firm, if so turn heat off immediately. Allow pasta to further cook in the hot water for an additional 2 minutes. Meanwhile prepare the dressing.
  4. In a bowl combine lime juice, soy sauce, honey, sesame oil and sesame seeds. Whisk well and set aside.
  5. Test noodles for preferred firmness/softness and strain. Return noodles to pot and mix in carrots, herbs and dressing.
  6. ----
  7. In a medium pan, heat oil over medium high heat. Crack egg(s) carefully into pan and fry until edges are browned and whites are set (sunny side up). Flip over and cook for about 1 minute for over easy, ~ 2 minutes for over medium, ~3 minutes for over hard.
  8. ---
  9. To serve: Place noodles in a bowl and top with fried eggs. Feel free to add a dash of chile powder or chile sauce for an extra punch!

 

On a side note, I received an unexpected surprise.  As I was reading Food & Wine's Top Chef Magazine I found one of my photos I took of Tre Wilcox in there for the Restaurant Wars article!  Can anyone find something funny about the photo?

 

Winner gets a prize :)