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.

 

Snickerdoodles

It's a common belief that only children tend to be awkward, many times introverts and apparently always selfish.  Well whoever said that was obviously jealous- speaking from personal experience being the only child was pretty freaking awesome.

Sure I'm weird (I prefer quirky), and on some days I'm definitely one of the most introverted people you'll ever meet and when it comes to food, you bet I'm selfish -- DONT YOU BE TOUCHIN MY BROWNIES. Don't get me wrong, there were plenty of days when I'd feel so painfully lonely -- until the age of 7 most of my friends came in stuffed animal form.  Laugh it up chuckles but it really forced me to explore my creative side as a result. Plus it was nice to be king like all the time and to this day I love nothing more than spending time alone by myself, with my books, my words and my imagination.  It's a beautiful thing folks, that is until your life is turned upside down and suddenly the 2 people you love most in the world sadly drift apart.

It was hard.  My parents' divorce that is.  And at the time when it happened (I was 18) I remembered feeling my heart had been torn in half.  To make matters worse, I go off to college and the first Summer back both my parents had moved on and SURPRISE!  I suddenly had a new mom, a new dad AND a younger sister?  NOW HOLD ON A MINUTE.  I do not share my throne of greatness and especially not with this weird little bugger that was 9 years younger than me.  What the hell does a 18 year old and a 9 year old have in common?  Oh right.  Nothing.

It was awkward.  Everything felt all out of whack.  I'd hang out with mom and her new beau and then have to switch to dad and his new family.  Trust me, I wasn't amused.  I've never felt so uncomfortable and out of place.  It's as if they both started brand new lives but without me.  *Enter pity party here*

But with time, comes change and eventually acceptance.  I now had 2 moms, 2 dads and a little sister TT.  In my mind I was convinced she was evil.  Out to steal my reign as the favorite and eventually my awesomeness would be replaced by this little bugger with beady eyes, I'm on to you TT don't think I don't see your tricks! Yet no matter how hard I'd resist, year after year she'd grow on me.  She made me this really sweet card for my birthday this one time and would climb into bed to cuddle with me in the mornings.  Trying to tug on my heart strings I see, well played TT, well played.

Then something strange happened.  I found myself actually enjoying having a sister.  What once was a foreign and uncomfortable feeling morphed into something bigger and definitely better and you know, it's pretty awesome.  I finally have someone I can put make up on, take shopping, go out to eat, give boy advice to and my favorite, bake cookies with.

Most importantly, life didn't feel as lonely anymore.  It was nice to have a partner-in-crime, someone to snicker with when the parents were being silly, someone to talk to when you were feeling a little sad and someone to love and accept whole heartedly and unconditionally.  Man, I should start writing Hallmark cards.

Plus being a big sister means I can boss her around anywhere anytime any day, AM I RIGHT?

Before TT started her last year of high school she came up to Dallas to visit.  We ate at Fearing's, Marquee Grill, Royal Sichuan.  I gave her $100 bucks and taught her the art of "bargain shopping" (she bought 3 dresses, jeans and a top) and I showed her some simple recipes that'd be perfect for her when she went off to college.  My mother in law gave me an antique cookbook from the 1930s where there was a recipe for Snickerdoodles.  Since cookies are one of the easiest things to make I opted to teach TT that one. 

These cookies are spectacular, with crispy edges and chewy centers it's one of those cookies that fill your tummy with warm fuzzies.  And what better way to bond with friends and family than with a large plate of freshly baked cookies washed down with tall glasses of cold milk?  Plus I told TT if you want a boy to fall for you hard and take you out on an epic date, these are the cookies that'll tug on his heart strings. :) Happy baking folks, until next time...

Snickerdoodles
 
Recipe Type: Dessert
Prep time: 20 mins
Cook time: 10 mins
Total time: 30 mins
Crispy edges and a chewy center, these Snickerdoodles will be a hit with any crowd!
Ingredients
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
  2. Cream together butter, 1 1/2 cups sugar, the eggs and the vanilla. Blend in the flour, cream of tartar, soda and salt. Shape dough by rounded spoonfuls into balls.
  3. Mix the 2 tablespoons sugar and the cinnamon. Roll balls of dough in mixture. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets.
  4. Bake 8 to 10 minutes, or until set but not too hard. Remove immediately from baking sheets.