Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Speaking of bananas...

Going along with the banana theme, just wanted to share a few photos of Little E wearing a onesie that my sister created...

The banana is not really related to the pugs, but it's a banana on a butt. What could be cuter.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Banana Bread

Who doesn't love a good banana bread?  I guess someone who doesn't like bananas. But besides those people, who doesn't love a good banana bread? Such a comforting food, and so easy to make.

My sister and I both recently made this banana bread from Bon Appetit and it is absolutely delicious. It's probably the high sugar content, but the outside gets super caramelized and brown (or at least, mine did).


1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup mashed ripe bananas (about 2 large)
3/4 cup vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Coat a 9 x 5 x 3 inch loaf pan with nonstick spray.

Whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.  In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, sugar, bananas and oil until smooth.  Use really ripe bananas--lots of brown spots are good.  Sometimes if I have a bunch of bananas that are too ripe for eating, I freeze them, and then thaw them when I want to use them for baking.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture and stir until just combined (don't overdo it).  

Pour batter into loaf pan.

Bake until a toothpick/knife inserted into the center comes out clean.  The original recipe says 60-70 minutes, but my oven is funky and it took longer.  Around the 60-minute mark, I loosely covered the bread with foil so that it wouldn't brown too much.

Transfer pan to a wire rack to cool for about 15 minutes.  Run a knife around the edge to loosen the bread, and turn pan over to release the bread.  Turn bread right side up on rack and let cool complete.

I couldn't resist taking a bite before shooting a photo.  Here, let me try again.

Doh! Well, it's just that delicious.  Ta-da!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Garlic Shrimp with White Beans

We don't cook much seafood in o...

Why did I say "We".

I don't cook much seafood in our apartment.  I've mentioned this before, but a lot of seafood recipes require pan sauteeing that, with our lack of ventilation, leaves an unholy and stubborn fishy smell in our apartment for days.  Also, I'm not a fan of reheating seafood for leftovers--the texture and flavor get all funky on me.  But when I see a recipe that calls for roasting or broiling seafood, I perk up because the smell factor is not as much of an issue (still somewhat of an issue but not too bad), and I particularly perk up when the recipe is one where the cooking of the seafood can be quickly done and separately from the rest of the dish. That way, I can cook only the portion of seafood that we will be eating that night--the rest I can cook the next night instead of microwaving already cooked seafood.

I guess it's easier to explain by going through an actual recipe, like this one for garlic shrimp and white beans from Bon Appetit.  You make the full batch of beans, and leftovers can be reheated the next time you eat it.  For the shrimp, I cooked half of it the first night we ate it, and then the other half the second night we ate this dish.

Overall this was a quick, easy recipe that I liked, even if it wasn't uh-mazing.

6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
3 garlic cloves, minced, divided
2 dried chiles de árbol (if you can't find this, you could try adding a 1/4 tsp of cayenne or perhaps 1 tsp of paprika--I'm not sure about those, but I am sure that I had a bitch of a time finding chiles de arbol)
1 bay leaf, preferably fresh (yeah right--I used dried)
1 1/4 cups chopped tomato (about 8 ounces) (since it's winter, I used a drained 14 oz can of diced tomatoes)
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 15-ounce cans white beans (such as cannellini), rinsed, drained
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley (I didn't do this)
Grilled bread (optional)

Preheat broiler.  Heat 2 TBS olive oil in ovenproof skillet over medium heat.  Add in 1 minced garlic clove, the chiles, and bay leaf.  Stir constantly for about 1-2 minutes, until garlic is a light golden brown (but be careful because the garlic can burn quickly).

I have burned garlic one too many times, so usually wimp out and only wait till the garlic has gotten past the pure albino stage.

Add in the tomatoes and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes.  Add in the tomato paste and cook, again with the stirring, for about 3 to 4 minutes.

Add in the beans and chicken broth.

Bring to a simmer and let reduce--the recipe said 3 to 4 minutes, mine took more like 10 minutes. Lying bastards.

In a medium bowl, combine the shrimp with remaining olive oil, garlic, paprika, salt and pepper.  Since I was only cooking half the shrimp the first night, I halved the oil, garlic, paprika, and s&p.  The next night, instead of getting my cutting board dirty for one measly garlic clove, I put in a pinch of garlic powder.  Anyway, spread the shrimp over the beans in a single layer.

Place skillet under broiler and cook through--mine took about 5-6  minutes although the recipe said 3-4. Honestly, I don't think they know how to tell time.

Serve with bread.


Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Cauliflower and Herb Barley Salad

My big announcement, circa Little E at 6 weeks old: I managed to cook something! I managed to cook something!!! (Perhaps you were thinking that E rolled over or started reciting Shakespeare--sorry to disappoint you, but we aim low in this household.)

Up until a few days ago, Kevin and I were subsisting on the kindness and efforts of my sister and both our mothers.  We have a freezer filled to the brim with food that has lasted for weeks. It has been a godsend, and I don't know how to thank them properly (as usual).

I've also discovered the joy of Trader Joe's prepared food. I know I'm seriously behind the curve here, but their pre-cut and pre-washed bags of greens, like swiss chard and kale, save so much time. As do their artichoke ravioli and pesto sauce. Did you know this?  Of course you did.  I don't care that these things cost almost twice as much as if I prepared them myself, I just don't give a damn.

Still, at some point I had to start cooking again. Oh haha you think it's because of some joy or love of cooking that couldn't keep me away...hahaha no it's more because our freezer stash is running out.

These days I am engaging in some very serious and scholarly reading, namely in the form of magazines, including Bon Appetit. They have a great feature dedicated to fast and fresh dishes.  This warm cauliflower and herbed barley salad is right up our alley.  I served it as a side to the aforementioned artichoke ravioli, but it can be a light meal on its own.


  • 1/2 cup pearled barley
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 1 15-ounce can gigante, corona, or butter beans, rinsed (I used butter beans because my sister happened to find them at Trader Joe's (or was it Whole Foods), but you can use cannellini or garbanzo beans, I don't think you need to kill yourself trying to find these more unusual beans)
  • 1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 2 tablespoons fresh tarragon leaves (if you want to simplify your life, just use parsley--I now have a bunch of tarragon that will probably go to waste)

  • Place barley in small or medium saucepan with enough water to cover by 2 inches.  I threw in a couple of chicken bouillon cubes to enhance the flavor (or you could just chicken broth).  Season with salt (unless you're using a salted cooking liquid/bouillon cubes). Bring to boil, lower to gentle boil, and cook until barley is tender---the recipe said 25-30 minutes, but mine took more like 20-25 minutes.

    To make the dressing, whisk together the lemon zest, lemon juice, mayonnaise, mustard, and 5 TBS olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper.

    In a large skillet or saute pan, heat the remaining 1 TBS oil over medium heat.  Add the cauliflower, spreading them out in an even layer.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until cauliflower is browned in spots, about 10-12 minutes--it partly depends on the size of your cauliflower florets, I cut min pretty small to try and ensure a shorter cooking time and as many browned spots as possible.  Add 2 TBS water, and cook and cover for 1-2 minutes, until cauliflower is just tender. Not mushy!

    This is pre-water.

    In a large bowl, combine the cauliflower, barley, beans, parsley, tarragon and dressing.

    Stir before serving to make sure the dressing is well distributed.  I thought this was delicious and highly recommend it.


    Monday, March 4, 2013

    Brother and Sisters

    Before Little E was born, I wondered how the pugs would adjust, particularly Rikki.  Rikki is quite a needy pug, loving nothing more than to be pet continuously, even if you are sleeping, unconscious, or dead. If you have two hands, you'd best be using them to rub her belly.  One of your hands is amputated? Then get one of your feet off its lazy sole and put it to work.  In short, she wants to be pet. One of her signature moves is to wedge herself between Bunni and any human, regardless of whether the space can accommodate her--if need be, she'll plant half her ass on the ground and the other on Bunni's face in order to gain prime position for petting ("PPP").

    With all this neediness, I worried that she might resent little E and eat him (although the latter was less of a concern because she hardly has any bottom teeth).

    The first night we brought E home, the pugs were on high alert and barked with high-pitched persistence every fucking time E cried. And that happened a lot. The next morning, I demanded that Kevin find and hire some type of very expensive dog whisperer to train them.

    Luckily, those voracious reactions quickly died down, probably because the pugs were just too exhausted to care anymore.

    Well, with an exception. Our little Rikki has taken her sister responsibilities very seriously and does alert us with a few mild barks when she hears E crying and doesn't think that we hear him.  There have been countless times in the dead of night where I wake up only because she jumps off the bed (the pugs sleep with us) and runs to the nursery with a bark or two when E cries.  It's her jumping off the bed that wakes me up, not E's cries (because my auditory nerves are a little slow to arouse).  We don't have a baby monitor--I know I would wake up eventually when his cries reached a certain decibel, but she lets me know as soon as it starts.  Then, after she sees me stumbling blindly to the nursery to check on him, she runs back to our bed. What a good little girl.

    Bunni is a little more aloof, which I could have predicted.  She sniffs him once in a while, particularly if he has milk smeared on his face or poop smeared his butt, but in general leaves him alone.

    Oh, Rikki still pulls the whole PPP wedge maneuver with E. It took her only a little over a month to sit on E's cheek in getting PPP.  Overall, though, the pugs have taken things very very well.  My favorite pictures of E so far are of him with his pug sisters.  I am so proud of how they have adjusted, and I can't wait for future days of E playing with the pugs, like this little guy.

    Wednesday, January 30, 2013

    All This Time... were growing in my belly, little one.  We are so glad and blessed that you are here.

    I anticipate many, many more moments like this. 

    Bunni and Rikki are dazed and exhausted, as you can see, since their 22-hour nap schedules have been disrupted.

    Little E arrived on January 17 at 8:12 p.m., weighing in at a hefty 8 lbs. Can you believe that? I'm 5'2". I blame his size squarely on Kevin, who's 6 feet tall.

    Tuesday, January 15, 2013

    Pork Chops Shepherd Style

    Pork! Whenever I think of the word "pork", I think of the movie Babe.  During one of the scene changes where three little mice say something irreverent, they squeak out "Pork is a good white meat--ahahahaHAHAHA..." in a somewhat maniacal chorus. It has stayed with me ever since.

    We had my parents over for dinner the other night and I made these pork chops, after seeing Lidia Bastianich making them on TV.  I adapted the recipe to serve 4 people instead of 6.  Even then, we had plenty of leftovers (these chops were hunky) and used them for sandwiches. Delicious.

    4 bone-in pork loin chops, about 1-inch thick, 6 to 8 ounces each
    salt and pepper
    1/4 cup all-purpose flour, for dredging
    2 TBS extra-virgin olive oil
    3 small or 2 medium onions, halved and thinly sliced (about 3 cups)
    2 plump garlic cloves, sliced
    4 oz hunk of provolone, sliced into 4 pieces
    3/4 cup white wine (optional)

    Note: the nice thing about this recipe is that you can brown the pork and cook the onions ahead of time, and then about 30-45 minutes before you're ready to serve, proceed with the rest of the recipe.

    Heat oil in an ovenproof 12-inch skillet over medium heat.  Generously season each side of the pork chops with salt and pepper.

    Dredge the pork chops in the flour, shake off the excess, and lay the pork chops in the skillet in a single layer.  Cook for about 4-5 minutes until the bottoms are light golden brown, then flip and brown the other side for another 4-5 minutes.

    Remove the pork chops to a plate.  Place the sliced onions and garlic into the skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are golden brown, about 15 minutes (the original recipe says to cover the skillet but I overlooked that).

    You can stop at this point.  When ready to continue (or if  you were motoring through to begin with), preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Push the onions over to one side of the skillet and place the pork chops back in the skillet.  Top each pork chop with onions, and lay the slices of provolone over the onions.

    Raise the heat to medium high, and when things are sizzling, pour the wine around (not on top of) the pork chops.  Let reduce for a minute or so.  Place the skillet into the oven for about 10-15 minutes, depending on the thickness of the pork chops and how you like them done.  I like them slightly pink in the center.  Foregoing the more accurate thermometer method to check for doneness, I did the good ol' method of hacking into one with a knife to see how pink it was.

    Remove to a platter, let rest for 5 minutes, and serve.  I made this broccoli rabe to go along with the pork. (Note about the broccoli rabe recipe: no need to get rid of the stems, they get soft with the long cooking time, and start checking your greens at 45 minutes or less because the 1 hour 15 minute cooking time in the recipe is a little nutso. Also, I ditched the garlic chip topping .)