Desserts

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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Ice Cream Cupcakes

Baking can be a pain sometimes. The measurements have to be exact, technique should be on point and timing is everything. But sometimes all you wanna do is throw some stuff together and expect it to be magical -- no tireless measuring, no worries about over or under baking, just a straightforward recipe with no tricks and gimmicks. Enter: Ice Cream Cupcakes. 
My discovery of Rose Water happened while visiting a Lebanese bakery right down the street from our home called Fadia’s (who also have the best Baklava in town HANDS DOWN) -- and have been adding it to everything ever since. A few droplets in tea, a couple sprinkles on a fruit salad, and now used as the perfect compliment for this dreamy cupcake.
I made them miniature because they make me feel dainty and because it’s easier to reason with yourself about eating 4 miniature cupcakes instead of 4 regular cupcakes. But by all means, feel free to make them standard size -- simply just double the ice cream and number of vanilla wafers to 2 per cupcake and add a capful of rosewater to each cupcake until the wafers are almost thoroughly soaked.
-----------serving size: 24 miniature raspberry ice cream cupcakes or 12 standard sized cupcakes

  • 24 1 1/2 inch diameter foil lined cupcake liners
  • 24 vanilla wafers (round)
  • 1 bottle rose water (10 oz)
  • 2 pints vanilla bean ice cream
  • 1 pint fresh raspberries (set aside 12 for garnish)
  • 1 8 oz package cream cheese
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • ⅛ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ cups heavy whipping cream

The recipe is easy: line each mini cupcake liner with a vanilla wafer and add half a capful of rose water or until the wafer is thoroughly soaked. Place a couple of fresh raspberries in each liner then using a 1-TB scooper or a small spoon, fill each liner with a scoop of vanilla ice cream -- about ¾ full. Smooth out the surface using the back of a spoon and place in the freezer for at least an hour. Meanwhile, make the frosting. When ready to serve, simply frost using either a ziplock bag or icing bag and garnish with cookie crumbs and fresh raspberries.

For the frosting: In a small bowl beat the whipping cream until stiff peaks form. You can use an electric beater or by hand using a whisk. In a large bowl combine cream cheese, sugar, salt and vanilla. Beat until smooth and gradually mix with the whipped cream by gently folding a little at a time until mixed thoroughly. Place into either a ziplock bag or a regular pastry bag -- you can be creative with your designs by using different tips. I was lazy and didn't use one at all :)

**I recommend using double lined cupcake cups as they can get a little messy when eating :) Here are the ones that I used.

**It's easier to let your ice cream slightly soften before placing into cupcake liners. That way it's easier to add the raspberries and flatten out the surface.

Ice Cream Cupcakes
Recipe Type: Dessert
Prep time: 15 mins
Cook time: 75 mins
Total time: 1 hour 30 mins
Serves: 10
Ice Cream Cupcakes with fresh Raspberries, vanilla bean ice cream, a rose water crust and whipped cream cheese frosting.
Ingredients
  • 24 1.5 -inch diameter foil lined cupcake liners
  • 24 vanilla wafers (round)
  • 1 bottle rose water (10 oz)
  • 2 pints vanilla bean ice cream
  • 1 pint fresh raspberries (set aside 12 for garnish)
  • 1 8 oz package cream cheese
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • ⅛ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ cups heavy whipping cream
Instructions
  1. The recipe is easy: line each mini cupcake liner with a vanilla wafer and add half a capful of rose water or until the wafer is thoroughly soaked. Place a couple of fresh raspberries in each liner then using a 1-TB scooper or a small spoon, fill each liner with a scoop of vanilla ice cream -- about ¾ full. Smooth out the surface using the back of a spoon and place in the freezer for at least an hour. Meanwhile, make the frosting. When ready to serve, simply frost using either a ziplock bag or icing bag and garnish with cookie crumbs and fresh raspberries.
  2. For the frosting: In a small bowl beat the whipping cream until stiff peaks form. You can use an electric beater or by hand using a whisk. In a large bowl combine cream cheese, sugar, salt and vanilla. Beat until smooth and gradually mix with the whipped cream by gently folding a little at a time until mixed thoroughly. Place into either a ziplock bag or a regular pastry bag -- you can be creative with your designs by using different tips. I was lazy and didn't use one at all :)
  3. **I recommend using double lined cupcake cups as they can get a little messy when eating :) Here are the ones that I used.

Honey Lavender Popsicles

My mother has been reiterating a message recently over our phone calls -- "Always take care of yourself. Your health is most important." I'm convinced my mother is Confucius in a disguise you see, she'll often repeat these deep life lessons in simple 1-2 sentence structure that are seemingly so simple yet deafeningly profound.

A few examples:

"Take care of your eyes. Sit too close to TV, read in dark, you go blind."

or

"Skin is most important on woman. You no take care of skin, you old very fast."

and certainly my favorite...

"You eat too much, you get fat."

 

It's easy to become caught up in the natural groove of things -- living in these modern busy lives of ours, we often set aside our health on the back burner. It takes a lot of time, discipline, and maintenance to eat healthy, exercise daily, and somewhere in between, to find free time for yourself.

But should it be that way?

The power of stress is often understated, yet it has become such a prominent part of our every day lives. We all owe ourselves the commitment to stay respectful towards our bodies -- be good to your body and it will be good to you. Sometimes things are just as simple as that.

The weather has been beautiful here in Texas. Our garden is in full bloom, including our lavender that served as inspiration for this recipe. Originally this was made as an ice cream but I decided to go with a lighter version in popsicle form and replaced the sugar and cream with honey and a bit of condensed milk. It's soothing and dreamy in every regard. Enjoy!

 

Honey Lavender Popsicles
Recipe Type: Desserts
Author: Joy Zhang
Prep time: 5 mins
Cook time: 15 mins
Total time: 20 mins
Serves: 6
A delightful mixture of honey and lavender makes this popsicle soothing and dreamy. Perfect for Summer!
Ingredients
  • 2 cups purified water
  • 1/4 cup dried lavender
  • 3 T organic condensed milk
  • 2 oz fresh honeycomb or honey
Instructions
  1. Place water in small pot over medium high heat and bring to boil. Add remaining ingredients and stir until dissolved. Remove from heat and steep for 15 minutes. If you want a stronger lavender flavor, steep for 20-30 minutes.
  2. Strain in a container with a lip to make pouring easier. Taste and adjust accordingly. Pour into molds and freeze. Because the mix is very light, the sticks may float. Simply hold them in place using foil and a little creativity. You can also wait 30 minutes or until semi frozen to put the sticks in place.

 

Brown Sugar Sage Panna Cotta with Spiced Candied Walnuts

I’ve eyed Food52 for awhile now – drooling over their recipes, fawning over their contests, so this week I figured what the hell, I’m going to go for it!

 

So this week the contest was Your Best Walnuts & Sage recipe. “Holidays behind us, we’re ready to return to the pure, clean flavors of winter. We want recipes highlighting the earthiness and muted hues of walnuts and sage – bonus points for thinking beyond pestos.”

 

Okay. I think I can do that!

 

 

Keeping pure, clean flavors of winter in mind, I opted to make one of my favorite healthy desserts – a yogurt panna cotta.  I used brown sugar for a bolder flavor to round out the strong perfumes of sage and used soy and 2% greek yogurt as my base.

To add an element of surprise I made Spiced Candied Walnuts for a nice crunch and playful bite at the end, how else are we supposed to keep warm during these cold winter months?

 

 

So there you have it – Enjoy this Brown Sugar Sage Panna Cotta with Spiced Candied Walnuts. This playful wintry dessert will leave you wishing for more.  Feel free to add honey comb and garnish with a fresh sage leaf for an extra touch of elegance.

 

You can make these a day ahead of time and they can stay stored in the fridge for up to 3 days. To assemble the dish as I have, make sure you layer the candied walnuts under the panna cotta as it serves as a nice crust to the dessert!

 

Brown Sugar Sage Panna Cotta with Spiced Candied Walnuts
Recipe Type: Dessert
Author: Joy Zhang
Prep time: 30 mins
Cook time: 3 hours
Total time: 3 hours 30 mins
Serves: 3-4
A yogurt and soy based panna cotta with scented with sage and topped with spicy candied walnuts
Ingredients
  • Brown Sugar Sage Panna Cotta
  • 2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
  • 1 Tablespoon water
  • 1 cup soy milk
  • 1 cup 2% Fage Greek Yogurt
  • 1/3 cup Brown Sugar
  • 1/3 cup Fresh Sage
  • Honeycomb, for garnish
  • 3-4 small fresh Sage leaves, for garnish
  • Spiced Candied Walnuts:
  • cup sugar
  • 1 cup raw walnut halves
  • teaspoon cayenne
  • teaspoon kosher salt
Instructions
  1. In a small bowl, mix the gelatin with the water and let stand until softened, about 5 minutes. In a small saucepan, bring the milk to a simmer with the sugar and cook until the sugar is dissolved, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat and stir in the softened gelatin until dissolved.
  2. Whisk in the yogurt until evenly mixed. Add fresh sage leaves. Steep for 10-15 minutes. If you prefer a stronger sage flavor, feel free to increase to 1/2 cup of sage. Strain mixture into a 1 quart measuring cup or large bowl. Divide the panna cotta mixture into 4 4-ounce ramekins and refrigerate until set, about 3 hours.
  3. To serve, sprinkle each ramekin with candied walnuts and garnish with honey comb and fresh sage if preferred.
  4. --------------------------------------
  5. In an oven or toaster oven preheat to 350°F. Lay walnuts evenly on baking sheet lined with foil. Bake for 5 minutes or until just toasted. Walnuts have high oil content so be careful to not overcook. Remove from oven and cool in a bowl.
  6. In a medium saucepan, pour sugar and cook over medium heat until it begins to melt. Once sugar is a light amber, pour in the nuts and add the cayenne . Stir with a wooden spoon, making sure all walnut pieces are evenly covered.
  7. Spread them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a Silpat mat if you have one. Use a fork to separate any pieces that are touching and sprinkle with a pinch of Kosher salt. Set aside and cool. Chop into small pieces and place in a small bowl.

 

Best Chocolate Chip Cookies

During the holidays, one of my favorite things to do is baking.  It's this beautiful meditation as baking takes a patient heart, a careful eye and most certainly a sweet tooth.  When the weather is cold outside, the kitchen becomes my favorite place of solace -- as it's always been my most sacred spot to relax.  I always believe that homemade gifts are the ones people remember, so what better way to spread the love than baked homemade gifts?  For years I've searched long and hard for the perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe, the kind that you can't stop eating, the ones with just the right about of crunch, chewiness and chocolate.  I've tasted some great chocolate chip cookies in my lifetime but never found a home recipe to match.  But ALAS, right in time for the holidays I've finally stumbled across the best chocolate chip cookie I've ever tasted.

Jacques Torres, Mr. Chocolate himself was kind enough to share his chocolate chip cookie recipe via the NY Times.  Thanks to the Master Pastry Chef, this recipe will now become a family tradition for me and I can hardly wait for the memories that'll surround these cookies.  I'm not sure if the magic lies in the combination of cake flour and bread flour in the dough, or that it HAS to be refrigerated for a solid 24 hours -- but whatever it is, don't change a thing.  I haven't tasted a better masterpiece.

(If preferred, you can add a whole vanilla bean in place of the extract as I've done.  Just simply scrape the seeds and mix into the dough!)

The best part about cookie dough is it's simple to make and you can portion ahead.  What I did was quadruple the recipe, freeze overnight, slightly defrost the next day and portioned out around 75-65 3 ounce cookie balls using a cookie scooper.  Then I refreezed for an hour and placed half a dozen to a dozen in individual ziplock bags.  Don't forget to write the date!  Then you can simply bake a batch whenever needed as they take only abou 10-12 minutes in the oven and VOILA!  The best chocolate chip cookies will be ready for delivery :).  Whether its for a party, a gift for family or friends -- this recipe will leave any loved one with a happy tummy and full heart.  Thank you Jacques Torres for the genius recipe and NY Times for sharing the love.  Happy Holidays!