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 .)


    Thursday, January 10, 2013

    Nursery Reveal

    I am 38 weeks pregnant.  Are we ready? I'm not sure if anyone can ever really be ready for a baby and the extreme life change to come, and besides, the answer in our case is a definitive "no".  Oh you think I'm joking.  While having your nursery all set up is not necessarily indicative of how prepared people are to raise a baby, it's a nice benchmark that shows that you've...well, put thought and effort into the endeavor.  At some point, during one of my haphazard and aimless wanderings into the nursery, I completely abandoned the notion that we would be ready in this regard.

    Admittedly, I have been organizing and making lists of things that need to get done (like learn how to strap a baby into the carseat).  Some may call this "nesting". I don't think so. It's more like "basic shit needs to get done so why don't you finish eating that cookie and get to work".

    So here are pics of our nursery, the state of which directly correlates to and quite accurately depicts my frame of mind and preparedness for the impending baby.

    Hallway leading into nursery.  At some point, I'm guessing soon, this table, which will be used as a diaper changing table, will need to move into the actual nursery, although there isn't room for it now because of the following...

    Some people put up wall art, bookshelves, and mobiles in their nursery.  We have decided that "boxes" is a fine theme for decor.

    Kevin did set up the crib. This is the crowning achievement of our nursery.  It's the Gulliver crib from Ikea.  Like you care--this isn't exactly the type of nursery from which pinterest posts and inspiration are derived.

    This is what the baby will be looking at from the crib.  We want our baby's first word to be "clutter" or "junk".  That crib railing there? That was the defective one that I managed to get Ikea to replace after a cumulative 1.5 hours on the phone (99% of it on hold). Behind it is a shipping box for 12 bottles of wine. We thought that was appropriate for a nursery.

    And there you have it.  I hope this post makes you feel better about your life.

    Oh, and here's a picture of me last week at 37 weeks.

    Monday, January 7, 2013

    2012 Cookie Tins

    You get a double dose of recipes today--cookie recipes, to be specific.  And you thought today was going to be like any old day. I realize that by making that comment, I am taking the slight risk that I overestimate the impact of this blog post on your life. I'm not a Leo for nothing. Please don't burst my bubble, because I'll just come up with another delusion to make myself feel better.

    Hm, after all that, I looked back at my blog and realized that I already shared one of the cookie recipes with you. So, it is just a single dose of recipe today. I imagine you are devastated.  If not, please see above note about keeping me in ignorance.

    Anyway, a few years ago I got in the "habit" (if doing something two years in a row counts as a "habit") of making cookie tins for some family members.  The first year I made 5 different kinds of cookies.  The next year, I made 3.  This year, I trimmed it to a very sleek and slim 2 varieties.  I highly recommend this to myself for any future cookie tins.

    I made molasses spice cookies again, and rugelach.  Both cookie recipes are from Dorie Greenspan, and can be found on the internet or in Dorie's Baking: From My Home to Yours.

    I love rugelach--so tasty, and so festive in appearance.  Perfect for a cookie tin.

    I made this recipe twice.  The first time I followed the recipe as is, putting all the filling ingredients into each cookie.  The second time, I made half with the jam, cinnamon sugar, currants and nuts, and the other half with a brush of egg wash, cinnamon sugar, chocolate chips and nuts. You can play around with this recipe.


    For the Dough
    4 ounces cold cream cheese, cut into 4 pieces
    1 stick (8 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
    1 cup all-purpose flour
    1/4 teaspoon salt

    For the Filling
    2/3 cup raspberry jam, apricot jam or marmalade
    2 tablespoons sugar
    1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    1/4 cup chopped nuts (I generally use pecans for any baking that calls for nuts, unless the recipe calls for peanuts, in which case I use peanuts--I won't get into this now)
    1/4 cup plump, moist dried currants
    2/3 cup mini chocolate chips (or 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped, but the mini chips are so much easier)

    For the Glaze

    1 large egg
    1 teaspoon cold water
    2 tablespoons sugar, preferably decorating (coarse) sugar (I forgot this)

    Notes: I like to make the dough, form the cookies, and freeze them at least a day beforehand just to break things up. If you freeze your cookies before baking, add a few minutes to the baking time (no need to defrost).

    To make the dough, place the flour, salt, butter and cream cheese in a food processor.  

    Dorie says to pulse the dough 6 to 10 times, scraping down the sides as you go, then processing continuously until large curds form. I didn't scrape the sides down, just pulsed and then processed. I think it turned out okay. You don't want to process it so that it forms into a big ball--that's going too far and bad things will happen. Divide the dough in half, form each half into a disk, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 1 day (or freeze for up to 2 months).

    When ready to form the rugelach, take out 1 disk of dough and let rest on the counter for about 10 minutes. Mix the cinnamon and sugar together.

    On a lightly floured surface, roll out the disk into a 11 to 12-inch diameter circle.  Thinly spread half of the jam onto the dough circle.

    Then sprinkle half the cinnamon-sugar mixture, currants, nuts and chocolate over the dough.  Take a piece of wax paper (or plastic wrap) and gently press the filling ingredients down into the dough.

    Rugelach pizza!  Using a sharp knife or a pizze cutter, divide the disk into 16 wedges (start by quartering the pizza, then halving each quadrant into 8 pieces, and then halving each piece for a total of 16).  Starting from the outside of each wedge, roll up tightly, ending with the tip tucked under the bottom.

    The one on the right rebelled against the whole "tip under the bottom" instruction.

    Place the formed rugelach onto a greased baking sheet (a greased/nonstick surface is important because some of the jam will seep out) and place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes (or, you can freeze them, lightly covered, for up to 2 months).  

    Repeat with the second disk of dough.

    Whenever you are ready to bake the rugelach, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix together the egg and water, and brush the tops of each cookie with the egg wash.  If you remember (which I didn't), sprinkle the 2 TBS sugar over the cookies.

    Bake the rugelach for 20 to 25 minutes, rotating the baking sheets from top to bottom and front to back midway through, until the rugelach are golden. 

    Remove each rugelach to a cooling rack.

    Cameo by molasses spice cookies.

    For packing the cookie tins, I bought some red and green packing filler from World Market and placed it at the bottom of the tin, and then nestled the cookies into muffin wrappers.  For the larger molasses spice cookies, I flattened out the muffin wrappers into disks.  I covered the whole thing with parchment paper before putting the lid on and sending the tins on their way.

    Hail the cookie tin! Ta-da!