Pistachio Smoothie [v.]

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The weeks are flying by at a terrifying pace. As a senior in college, right now is when I’m supposed to be figuring out my future by applying to graduate school or finding a job. Lately, every conversation I have seems to comes back around to, “so what are you planning to do after graduation?”

Meanwhile, I’m trying to remain calm, and continue on with my schoolwork and extracurriculars. Calmness is vibrant pistachio smoothies and warm bowls of oatmeal with blueberries and granola. It’s listening to my Discover Weekly playlist in the morning as I sip hot coffee. I hope that you try out this recipe, and it brings you the boost it brings me.

pistachio3The latest non-dairy milk I’ve been enjoying is pistachio milk. Oddly, rather than tasting like pistachios, it’s super almond-y, way more than any almond milk I’ve tried. For this reason, I’m willing to bet any nut milk plus a tiny dash of almond extract would produce the same overall taste.

This smoothie is perfectly sweet and creamy, has an extra nutritional punch thanks to leafy greens, and can be made in literally any blender (I use a 14 dollar blender from amazon). Feel free to add a little extra nut milk if the smoothie seems too thick, and if you’re a granola fiend like me, definitely sprinkle some on top and eat with a spoon.

Pistachio Smoothie

  • 1 cup pistachio milk or any nut milk + 1/8 tsp almond extract
  • 1/4 cup packed spinach leaves (be generous, you won’t taste spinach I promise)
  • 1 sliced and frozen banana
  • 1 tbs coconut flour
  • optional: 2 tbs soy protein powder or 2 tbs cashew butter

Blend all the ingredients until smooth. Enjoy! Oolala.

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Banana Crumb Cake

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One of the first things I ever baked successfully was banana bread.

It was this recipe, and for once I didn’t venture off into impulsive ingredient substitutions and additions like I tended to. I think my parents were more relieved than anything when the end result was a basic loaf of quick bread that they didn’t have to pretend to enjoy like my other kitchen “creations”.

Since then I’ve tried many banana bread recipes, even posting about one here, and another super yummy one here, but the recipe I keep returning to is Flour Cookbook’s recipe by Joanne Chang. It’s the best banana bread I’ve tasted. Fragrant, soft, dense, and flavorful. Depending on how well I mash the bananas, it can be almost custardy (for this reason I recommend leaving some larger chunks, or if you’re like me and love bananas, fold in a diced banana at the end).

I recently brought this cake into my internship’s office for a co-worker’s birthday, and let me tell you, I felt like royalty for the rest of the day from all the compliments I received.

Try out this recipe and let me know what you think! If you love the taste of bananas, I think you’ll be a fan of this variation.

Other than that, college has resumed and all I have is a microwave and no ingredients to cook with. I’ll try to post if I end up baking any food with friends, but I’m anticipating a bit of a dry spell. Hang tight, friends.

My Favorite Banana Bread/Cake*

Recipe from Flour by Joanne Chang.

  • 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour [210 g]
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar [230 g]
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 3 1/2 bananas, very ripe, mashed [340 g]  + 1 banana, diced [~90 g]
  • 2 tablespoons creme fraiche or sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Whip the eggs and sugar until light and fluffy, about 10 minutes.
  2. Stir in the oil, 3 1/2 mashed bananas, creme fraiche or sour cream, and vanilla.
  3. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.
  4. Fold the dry ingredients into the mashed banana mixture.
  5. Fold in the diced banana. Pour half the batter in a loaf pan or a 8 inch springform pan. Sprinkle 1/2 recipe crumb topping (recipe below) on top, and spread remaining batter over. Sprinkle the rest of the crumb topping  on top.
  6. Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minuters.

Oatmeal Crumb Topping

I’ve tried to proportion this recipe to be only what you need for 1 loaf of banana bread, but any extra crumb topping can easily be frozen and used in another recipe.

  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup quick oats
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup [4 tbs] butter
  • optional: 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  1. Mix together the flour, quick oats, brown sugar, salt, and cinnamon.
  2. Cut in the butter until the mixture forms coarse crumbs and there are no large pieces of butter.

*Traditionally cakes are less dense and have a finer crumb than quick breads, but carrot cake defies this stereotype so I usually define cake vs bread by whether I bake it in a loaf or round pan, or something by whether I top it with frosting. If you’re more picky about this distinction, this is technically banana bread.

Hummingbird Cupcakes

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Baking in college is surprisingly convenient.

If I’m at home and and I realize I’m out of butter, I have to either get up and go to the store myself (and I’m much too lazy for that) or call my mom to pick up some and wait until she has time.

Here, I can scoop up butterballs at our dining hall and store them in the kitchen until I need them.

Out of eggs? I just have to ask (although I still try to buy eggs when I can). 8 ounces of cream cheese is 8 little portion cups, and milk and yogurt is plentiful.

I only really need to buy cocoa, flour, baking soda/powder, chocolate chips, and vanilla to make mostly anything.

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Obtaining ingredients is the easy part, actually cooking is harder.

For one, we have approximately one whisk and one mixing bowl in our entire kitchen. Also, I’ve seen approximately 2 measuring cups (and lately I’ve only found 1).

Also, it’s hard to find enough cake pans. But hey, when I can’t find large cupcake trays I can always make mini cupcakes, and those are arguably even better.

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I made these cupcakes last saturday morning because I woke up and wanted to bake something. I really had no reason other than an impulsive need to make something – anything, and at breakfast there was canned pineapples so I settled on hummingbird cupcakes.

These are fun little cupcakes, made with applesauce, cinnamon, pineapples and bananas, and topped with cinnamon cream cheese frosting (I still have some I have to use up in the fridge ahhh).

They’re really easy to make, though I do advise you don’t be like me and do it to avoid actual responsibilities like homework, because you’ll probably regret it (like I did) later. Still, it’s hard to feel much regret when you have plates of cupcakes in your room.

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Oh, and another great part of college? Always someone willing to lend a hand and eat baked goods. It’s great because at home there are inevitably some leftovers that go in the trash, but here that’s not a problem.

Anyway, I should probably go and finish my essay at some point…

Hummingbird Cupcakes 

Recipe here.

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • ½ teaspoon  salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup natural applesauce
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 8 ounces crushed pineapple, with juice
  • 1 cup pecans (I omited because nut allergies)
  • 2 large bananas, diced

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Toast pecans in oven for 5 minutes, then remove and chop into small pieces.

Whisk together flour, sugar, salt, baking soda and cinnamon.

In another bowl, mix the eggs, applesauce, oil and vanilla.

Combine the wet and dry ingredients and stir until no streaks of flour remain (be careful not to overmix).

Add pineapple, chopped pecans, and banana pieces and gently stir.

Pour batter into paper-lined cupcake tins. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes for large cupcakes and around 10-15 minutes for mini cupcakes.

Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • ¼ c. (½ stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream
  • powdered sugar, to taste
  • 1 t. pure vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon

Whip cream cheese and butter together. Add sour cream and whip until fluffy.

Gradually beat in powdered sugar to taste, then add vanilla and cinnamon.

Update

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I’ve been at college for over two months now.

My most accurate way to describe it would be busy, busy, busy, but incredibly cool.

I’ve made a few desserts since I’ve arrived, but it’s hard to carve out time to take pictures. (And on a side note – there’s always someone to eat your desserts. It’s great!)

I’ll definitely keep posting, but expect my posts to be less frequent than before (although, not that I was particularly reliable before college).

Until my next post, enjoy a slice of banana bread! The recipe can be found here.

Costa Rican Banana Cake

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I’ve been to Costa Rica twice.

The first time was in 2009, when a past Spanish teacher invited some of his other former students to join a group of his current students on a trip there. Most of former students (the people I knew) couldn’t go, which left just my friend Sonia and me.

By that point, even though I had taken Spanish for three years, I would still fumble during simple conversations. My parents allowed me to go on the conditions that I would speak solely in Spanish, but considering I was there with 20 other teens and a close friend, none of whom could speak much better than I, that didn’t happen.

Instead I spent close to a week making new friends (in English) and having fun, not a total waste I think! (Though, if you ask my mom and dad, they grumble and say, “Yeah, yeah.”)

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Me and Sonia in Costa Rica!

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This summer, I lived with a Costa Rican family for three weeks. My days were divided between community service and Spanish lessons, with the occasional excursion on the weekends.

Since I visited with my friend and her sister, I wasn’t completely immersed and did speak some English, but with twenty hours of Spanish classes a week, I definitely improved my conversational skills and learned a lot.

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When I’m at home, I tend to cook most of my meals myself, mostly because I’m impatient and can’t bear the lag between asking for food and actually receiving it.

In Costa Rica, my host mother generously set out plates of food for me three times a day, and for three weeks I happily ate black beans, flavored rice, cabbage salad, and vegetables, with the occasional caramel candy or slice of cake.

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During one of the excursions, I bought a Costa Rican cookbook from a giftshop, already dreading a life without homemade rice and beans at every meal. It’s filled with recipes for savory and sweet dishes, and all the recipes I’ve tried so far have been successes.

I’ll post recipes for rice and beans soon, but they were both devoured before I could take pictures. Luckily, I snapped some shots of this banana cake in time.

This cake is denser than most banana cakes I’ve had, and the recipe called for cloves and nutmeg rather than cinnamon, but it was still delicious.

Costa Rican Banana Cake [Queque de banano]

EDIT: Looking back at this recipe, I’m realizing how crazy its ratio for liquid vs dry ingredients is. I’m not sure how it baked up properly when I made it, but I’ve edited it to reflect this highly regarded recipe, and kept the spices so that it still has that traditional Costa-Rican™

taste.

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 1/3 cup mashed ripe bananas
  • ½ cup butter, melted & cooled
  • ¾ cups sugar (the recipe called for twice as much. I think ¾ cup should be fine)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and spices.
  2. In another bowl mash the bananas.
  3. Add the butter, sugar, eggs milk, and vanilla.
  4. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients.
  5. Bake in a greased 9×13 pan for about 40-50 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.

Three Ingredient Banana Cookies

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These are quite possibly the easiest cookies to make, ever.

They are vegan, gluten free, and sugar free, yet still taste great and are fun to eat. I added some cinnamon and chocolate to make them even more fun.

When it comes to baking on school nights, I’m super lazy, so these were an easy way to use up ripe bananas. Plus, my dad was able to try them, something he isn’t usually able to do because he’s still on his raw food + fish (+ chocolate ice cream, but he’d deny it if you asked) diet.

If you have bananas and want an easy recipe to try, make these cookies. They’re not thick and buttery like most cookies, but they’re still delicious! I ate them with ice cream and melted chocolate – just because.

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Three Ingredient Banana Cookies

  • ½ cup mashed bananas
  • ¾ cup old fashion oats
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

Optional Ingredients (I added all):

  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/8 cup chocolate chips
  1. Mash the bananas.
  2. Add ½ cup oats.
  3. Grind the remaining ¼ cup oats in a blender or food processor to create a fine powder, then add. OR, simply add the remaining ¼ cups whole.
  4. *OPTIONAL* Add in the vanilla extract and chocolate chips.
  5. Let the batter sit for 30 minutes.
  6. Scoop into round balls onto a baking sheet, flatten with your fingers, and bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes.

Classic Banana Bread

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Last week I came home to six overripe bananas. They were sitting on the counter: mushy, with outsides spotted brown, and no one wanted to eat them.

So I did what anyone would do; I made banana bread. I used a really simple recipe (normally I use one that calls for creme fraiche among other specialty ingredients), and surprisingly, the results were really good!

I topped slices with strawberries and chocolate ganache, and wow, it was delicious!

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Classic Banana Bread

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 ½ cups mashed bananas
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.
  2. In another bowl, beat together the oil, sugar, and vanilla.
  3. Whisk in the eggs, one at a time.
  4. Stir in the mashed bananas.
  5. Add fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, stirring until barely mixed.
  6. Fold in the chocolate chips.
  7. Bake in a greased loaf pan at 350 degrees, for about 45 minutes to an hour.

Oatmeal Pancakes with Brown Sugar Banana Syrup

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School has begun once again, and I’m quite frankly overwhelmed by the idea of entering junior year, and also desperately missing the friends I made the summer.  Traveling to Mexico and going to an SAT camp this summer was so fun, but I had to say goodbye to countless new friends.  Luckily, I can see all my old friends now that school has started, but it’s not the same when there’s stress and schoolwork and extracurriculars.  In Mexico, time was told by human instinct, I could eat when I was hungry, and sleep when I was tired.  Now I have to resume life during the school year, which is hectic (although to keeps me entertained!) and structured.

Probably what I miss most about the summer, is being able to wake up whenever I wanted.  I could wake up at nine, and spend hours cooking breakfast for myself, making breakfasts such as the pancakes above.  Now, I’m not say that these pancakes take hours to make, nah, but these definitely are best to make for a relaxing “weekend breakfast.”  Eating them is like a short escape from the stress of school life, a way to relive that wonderful summer mindset.

Recipe for oatmeal pancakes with banana syrup copied from here.

Oatmeal Pancakes with Banana Syrup
Banana-Walnut Syrup

  • 2 tablespoons butter or margarine
  • ¼ cup chopped walnuts
  • 2 bananas, sliced
  • 1 cup maple-flavored syrup

Pancakes

  • 2 cups Original Bisquick® mix
  • 1/2 cup old-fashioned or quick-cooking oats
  • 2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups milk
  • 2 eggs
  1. In 1 ½-quart saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add walnuts; cook, stirring occasionally, just until walnuts and butter begin to brown. Add bananas; stir to coat with butter. Stir in syrup. Reduce heat to low; cook until warm. Keep warm while making pancakes.
  2. Heat griddle or skillet over medium heat or to 375°F. Grease griddle with vegetable oil if necessary (or spray with cooking spray before heating). In medium bowl, stir all pancake ingredients with spoon until blended.
  3. For each pancake, pour ¼ cup batter onto hot griddle. Cook until edges are dry. Turn; cook other sides until golden. Serve with warm syrup.

My alterations:

  • Used almonds instead of walnuts
  • Used a homemade bisquick mix (recipe from this book, similar recipe here)
  • Made my own pancake syrup (recipe here)