Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cranberry Oat Bars

Um, yeah, it's the day after Labor Day, the unofficial end of summer, and it's currently a sweltering 93 degrees Fahrenheit here along the coast in Orange County.  Wahhhh!  So hot!  (I commend those of you who live in normally-warm temperatures.  I'm a wimp-wimp.)  But, I cannot wait for autumn to start--the cooler temperatures, the dark and early evenings, the pumpkin EVERYTHING!

What's been new since my last post a million months ago?  Not too many classes as I did finish up my MS courses.  I taught (and graded) a lot as I was a teaching assistant for two quarters.  I started my dietetic internship this summer, the summer of the HUMIDITY.  I learned lots this summer through the different experiences that I had, met and worked with lots of fantastic people, and I'm incredibly excited to be starting my clinical rotation in two weeks!  EEK!  

I remember the last time I was on a very good schedule with my blog posting--when I was at UCI.  I'd be writing and editing posts sitting there in BC's Commons in-between classes.  I am SO going to be on a schedule this next year since I'll be in my rotations.  Thus, I'm hoping to get back into a groove with my writing and sharing posts with you.  Ooh, just one more year!  Hopefully, this time next year I'll have the initials "MS, RD" after my name.  Woot-woot!

Now, onto the good stuff.  I'm excited about this recipe because it's super scrumptious, so easy to make with hardly any cooking at all, and great to eat when you're on-the-go.  It's a no-bake granola bar, which is definitely a plus when you don't want to fire up the oven!  OMG, so hot :-(  

These bars are definitely great to have on hand if you're going to be sitting in traffic for awhile, too!  One of the most delightful bits about this is that you can add in anything you want.  You can add nuts, dried cherries, chopped banana chips, dried strawberries, use almond butter or cashew butter, whatever your heart desires.  I used peanut butter, dark chocolate chips, dried cranberries, soaked dates, quick-cooking oats (really not sure why I had these on hand instead of old-fashioned rolled oats but they worked just fine), and ground flaxseed.  I have a boatload of flaxseed.  Why?  Well, one day, I was at the store and saw it, remembering that I had used up what I had left on my banana bread, so I bought it.  A few weeks later, I was at Sprouts and saw that ground flaxseed was on sale, and you know me and sales.  I go to put it away in my cupboard and hmm, there's already bag in there that looks awfully familiar.  Now, I'm holding in my two hands two bags of unused Bob's Red Mill Ground Flaxseed.  D'oh!  

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cranberry Oat Bars

Thank you to Daisy at Simplicity Relished for this recipe.  You won't regret it.  The basics of it are:

1. In a small saucepan, heat together your peanut/almond/cashew butter with the honey.  Brown rice syrup and agave nectar would work, as well.

2. Pulverize your moist dates (I had to soak mine in hot water for about 10 minutes) in a food processor until it becomes a paste.

3. Add the oats into your mixing bowl and then add the warm liquid mixture as well as your date paste.  Mix it around using a paddle attachment or work those muscles of yours using a wooden spoon.

4. I like to add the fixings in the bowl because I like them dispersed throughout and not just on top.  Make sure everything is thoroughly combined; it'll probably be a touch on the sticky side.

5. Place parchment paper in the quadrilateral pan of your choice.  I used a 9" x 13" having doubled the recipe.  If you're going to follow the recipe as is, an 8" x 8" should be just peachy.  Make sure the paper extends beyond the pan and that it is pushed into all the edges.

6. Scoop out your entire granola mixture onto the prepared pan and using wet hands/fingers (just moistened with water is fine), pat it into an even layer.  Now would be the time to smush extra ingredients into the top if you'd like!

7. Refrigerate for at least one hour (I did it for 24 hours) and then lift the paper out and simply cut into your desired size of granola bar.  

If you noticed this was vegan, you would be correct.  I've been digging the vegan fare for awhiles now and am always enjoying the experimentation process.  These bars are packed with fiber, omega-3 fatty acids (thank you, flaxseed), and even antioxidants from the dark chocolate chips I used.  Another plus is that they're gluten-free.  Just make sure to buy gluten-free oats if you're making it for someone with Celiac!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

How-To: Homemade Pasta

I was returning something at HomeGoods the other day and the lady helping me said, "Can you believe it's already the Fourth of July tomorrow?!?!  It seemed like just yesterday that 2014 started.  Pretty soon, it's going to be September and next month will already be back-to-school shopping."  

Crazy, right?  I mean, I have already gone through 20 weeks of school this year.  I'm currently on summer vacation and it is much needed.  However, I haven't really had much of a vacation since school ended because I have been doing lots of work around the house.  Now that the new sectional is in, I'm hoping that I will be able to focus my attention elsewhere, including here on The Chef Doc!

I made homemade pasta the week after school ended and this time, I decided to document the entire process.  I took pictures and even started editing them.  It wasn't until today that I decided I should get back to it and as I was going through the pictures, I was wondering if I had written down my recipe!  Whew!  I did!  Apparently, I typed it out that night and for you, that's a good thing!

It is so incredibly easy to make and I must say that there is a lovely satisfaction with making your own pasta.  The texture and flavor is beyond.  Homemade pasta also always tastes so much lighter!  If you are one of those people who feels guilty for eating pasta (WHY?!?!), eating the homemade stuff will make you feel much better about it.

I hope these photos will help you out a lot.  It's kind of a pain to be in the process of making pasta and then stopping and taking pictures.  My hand towel definitely went through a lot that day!  But, it was all worth it.  Pair your homemade pasta up with a lovely bolognese, easy meatballs and marinara, lasagna, or even an olive oil and garlic sauce.  I decided to add it to a rapini and sausage mixture that I whipped up.  It was so good!  Let me know how yours turns out :-)

Happy summer!

Homemade Pasta
Full recipe:
Makes approximately 8-10 servings
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups semolina
  • 4 teaspoons Kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 6 eggs
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons water
Half recipe:
Makes approximately 4 servings
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup semolina
  • 2 teaspoons Kosher  salt
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons water
1. In a mixing bowl, combine together all the dry ingredients.

2. Add the eggs and oil into the dry ingredients.  Slowly combine the mixture.  If mixture is too dry, add some water.

3. When it comes together into a crumbly dough, dump it out onto a clean surface.  Knead the pasta dough into a ball.  If it feels tacky, add a smidge of flour.  If it is not coming together, add a little bit of water; I simply dip a few fingers in water and that's all I will use at a time.

4. Continue kneading the dough for eight to 12 minutes.  The finished product should be springy when you press your thumb into it.  The ball of dough should feel completely smooth and supple.

5. Pat it into a round disk and wrap tightly with plastic wrap.  If you are using the full recipe, cut that large ball of dough into two, make round disks, and wrap with plastic.  Let it rest for 30 minutes to an hour.

6. Set up your pasta maker/machine whether it is an old-fashioned crank machine, your Kitchen Aid mixer, or a rolling pin.  *Note: using a rolling pin will take a bit of muscle and time to roll your pasta out thin enough, or to your desired thickness.*

7. Unwrap your pasta dough and cut it into quarters.  Take one quarter and cover up the rest so that they do not dry out.  

8. Pound out your pasta dough to make it flat (I use my hand) and sprinkle it with semolina.  On the lowest setting (#1), put your pasta dough through the machine.  

9. Change the setting to #2 and run the dough through.  If you should find the dough is getting tacky or sticking, sprinkle semolina on it and run it through the machine.  

10. Continue running your dough through to the #3 setting and then #4.  At this point, I like to cut my long (it's long by now) sheet of pasta in half and work with it in halves.  Depending on what shape you are trying to accomplish, you might want to fold this pasta in half (pick the direction you want) and run it through the #4 setting to either make it skinny and long or perhaps wide and long.  

11. Run your pasta through the #5 setting and then cut it into strips.  I usually cut them by hand as I prefer the rustic look.  I find that #5 will give a wonderful little bite and chew when you eat the cooked pasta; it also reheats beautifully.  If you want a super-thin pasta, continue on to #6.

12. I place the cut pasta onto a large baking sheet and then toss them with semolina to prevent sticking.

13. Continue with the other half, run it through #5, cut your pasta, place it on the baking sheet, and toss with semolina.  Continue these steps (8 through 12) until you have finished cutting all the dough.

14. When the pasta is all ready to go, bring a large pot of water to boil.  *I actually do not recommend adding any salt to the water since there is plenty of salt in the pasta dough.*

15. When the water is boiling, drop the fresh pasta in handfuls at a time.  It will only take a few minutes to cook.  They will usually be floating at the top when they are done.  Take a small bite to check that it is al dente.  Remove the pasta with a spider (or a large pasta grabber/scooper which has drainage) and toss it with your favorite sauce.  *Don't worry about the semolina--it sinks to the bottom when you drop the pasta in the boiling water.*

I always believe in having all my ingredients ready to go.
Once the dry ingredients are well-mixed, add the eggs and oil.
I used a dough hook to combine everything together.  I think a paddle attachment would work fine, too.  You can be incredibly authentic and do this all on a clean flat surface by making a well in the middle of your dry ingredients and adding the eggs and oil in the middle.  I usually do that but it would have been really messy on my camera to take pictures with sticky fingers.
I had to add a little water to this.  After that, it was kneading away!
I formed the above mound into this ball of dough.  You can see it is rough and at the beginning stages of becoming yummy pasta.
After about eight minutes of kneading (for me), this is what formed: a ball of dough that was supple, smooth, and ready to move on.  Don't worry about the cracks--they do not harm the pasta-making process.
Since I had made the full recipe, I cut it in half.  You can see that this is going to be a wonderful product.
Wrap it up in plastic wrap and let it rest.  This helps let the gluten proteins relax.  You've been kneading it for 10 minutes, after all!
This is part of the pasta machine that my mom bought me for Christmas many years ago.  Right now, I have it set at #1.  You can see there is a large gap for the dough to roll through.
This was a 1/4 of one of those disks of dough.  Sprinkled all over is semolina. 
Going through the #1 setting. 
Going through the #5 setting.
I do not bother to do much trimming or exacting when I cut my noodles.  If I was making ravioli or sheets for lasagna, I would definitely trim.
This is how much a half recipe will yield.  This is PLENTY of pasta for four people
This was the full recipe.  Talk about a lot of noodles!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Blogoversary 4: Spicy Lentil Soup

Well, HELLO THERE! Today is my 4th anniversary for The Chef Doc.  Four years.  That's an entire high school career, some people's collegiate career... four years.  A lot has happened in four years.  I remember during those first couple of years I would write my weekly posts sitting in B.C.'s Tavern in-between classes at UCI.  Golly, those were the days. 

Unfortunately, I don't feel like I have that sort of freedom anymore, if that makes sense.  A lot has happened in the last six months, of which you will notice a sad absence on here.  Will you believe it if I told you that school took over my life?  No joke, it did.  However, I am happy to report that I've been receiving straight A's and slowly rediscovering all things not related to academics.  

I am currently in Spring Quarter of my second year of grad school.  I am hoping that it will be fairly easy-peasy and relatively stress-free.  Last quarter was definitely not like that.  It was the most stressful quarter I have ever experienced in my life.  On top of taking 13 units--racked up with projects, presentations, volunteering, group work, and tests galore--I was applying to dietetic internships.  Now that in of itself is a stressful process of sending transcripts, obtaining writers for letters of recommendations, waiting for the letters to be written and uploaded, personal statement writing, supplemental applications, and most importantly--meeting the deadlines!  Add schoolwork to that and you have a nutty quarter.  I'm happy to say that I survived it and today is actually the day that we find out if we have been matched.  I'm crossing my fingers!

Throughout this crazy time I have been cooking some.  Not as much as I would have liked but some, nonetheless.  And lentil soup has become my thing!  I've never been a fan of soups that are straight-up liquid; I need "stuff" in my soups.  And all the lentil soups I have ever had were just liquid or made me go, "Where are the lentils?"  Thus, I created a soup that has chunks of wonderful ingredients and you know that you are eating lentils!  

This lentil soup is so easy to make and it's nutritious, healthy, simple, affordable, and super-duper delicious with a little kick.  I add spicy hot Italian sausage to mine, but you do not have to.  This recipe can be easily made vegetarian by omitting the meat as well as the chicken broth, which can be substituted with vegetable broth or plain water just fine.  I have made a few different versions of this soup, but I think I like this one the best.  In others I have added diced potatoes as well as fresh thyme.  You can't go wrong with any of them ;-)

I'm looking forward to posting more delicious, scrumptious, and chatty posts for you in the near future :-)  In the last six months, lots of birthday cakes have been made (a few of them smash cakes), as well as perfecting recipes.  Ooh, I am so excited to share these with you! 

Spicy Lentil Soup
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cups diced carrots
  • 4 to 5 stalks celery, diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 package hot Italian or hot turkey sausage (usually five in a pack)
  • 2 cups (1 pound) green lentils, rinsed
  • 8 cups (2 quarts) chicken broth
  • 3 to 5 cups water
  • 1 bay leaf
  • a few shakes of dried basil
  • a few shakes of dried oregano
  • salt and pepper
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • Optional:
    • Cayenne pepper
1. In a large pot, add a few swirls of olive oil and turn the heat onto medium-high.  Remove the sausages from their casings and add to the pot.  Break apart the sausage into bite-size pieces and cook until no longer raw.  Remove the sausage and save the oil.

2. Add the onions and carrots along with a large pinch of salt and lots of black pepper.  Cook until the onions are slightly softened.  

3. Next, add your celery and garlic.  Then, add the lentils.  Mix everything around and add your chicken broth and three cups of water.

4. Add the bay leaf, dried basil, and dried oregano.  Bring pot to boil and then reduce to simmer.  Place a lid on top, leaving a little opening, and cook until lentils are fully cooked.  

5. If the soup is getting to thick on you, add another cup or two of water.  *Personally, I prefer it more soupy than stewy.*

6. When the lentils are finished cooking, mix the meat back into the soup.  Taste the soup and add salt and pepper, if necessary.  At this point, if it isn't spicy enough, add a shake or two of cayenne pepper.  Fish out the bay leaf and discard.

7. Serve warm!  

*As the lentil soup sits, it will thicken some more, especially the next day.  I simply add a little water to thin it back down to the consistency that I like.*

Break up the meat into bite-size pieces.
Save this now-seasoned oil for the rest of the cooking.
Onions, carrots, celery, and garlic = DELICIOUS!
I use the regular green lentils that you can find in any store.  I've yet to try the other kinds of lentils but am excited to!
The dried herbs.
I'm not kidding when I say bring it to a boil.
After cooking for awhile, you will notice the soup level has gone down and the lentils have plumped up a little bit.  They shouldn't have any sort of a bite when you try them, i.e., no al dente here!
Do not add any seasonings until after the meat is mixed back in since you want to see what flavors the meat imparts to the soup.
Enjoy this bowl of comforting and delicious spicy lentil soup!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Weekend Recap

'Tis the beginning of another week and I am looking forward to seeing what wonderful things are going to happen.  Hear that optimism?  Ooh, I need it as I've been studying on and off for my first big exam tomorrow afternoon.  

Friday was a major studying day and then Saturday I felt a little burned out so I decided to make some homemade pappardelle pasta.  Here was the dilemma: I had a pound of Sweet Italian Sausage in the refrigerator and had made a turkey and artichoke lasagna during the week.  I didn't want soup and I didn't want pasta again.  However, my feelings about homemade pasta are different.  So, there I stood at the counter kneading away at the pasta dough for some time before I went out to get some other ingredients, like the rapini.  

Rapini is a great green!  It is also known as broccoli rabe and this was the first time I cooked with it.  I'm not sure why it took me this long because it's great!  It's slightly bitter but I think that's one its great qualities.  Chock full of vitamins and minerals, it's healthy for you and is wonderful in sautés, soups, or even purees.  Ooh, now I'm thinking of it stuffed in a ravioli.  Lightbulb moment!  Anyway, doesn't that dish look spectacular?  Nothing beats homemade pasta.

Knowing yesterday was going to be my last full day of studying, I decided to make myself breakfast.  Trader Joe's never fails with their turkey bacon.  I'm not a bacon person but I am a fan of theirs.  So, I cooked up some turkey bacon and had it alongside this ridiculously awesome frittata!  I started with sliced potatoes and then added some caramelized balsamic onions I had made for burgers one night.  Add in large handfuls of arugula and then top the whole mix with goat cheese?  Yeah, you know what I'm having for breakfast in a few minutes!  It's wonderful.  Who doesn't like frittatas?

My friend, Christina, asked me if I'd made pumpkin spice bread before and I have, but I couldn't find the recipe I used.  So, I scoured the internet for recipes that seemed tasty.  After reading so much about them I decided that I wanted to whip something up myself.  I tried the recipe from Taste of Home and what I liked about it was that it was so easy to put together.  It was a two-bowl operation.  You mix everything together, bake the loaves, remove them to cool, and you're done.  It was the first pumpkin-anything of the season that I made and you know it won't be my last.  The result was a dense bread, with lots of pumpkin flavor and the spices that you associate with pumpkin goods--cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and ground cloves.  However, I felt it was a touch on the dry side and a little on the sweet side.  This was me following the recipe to the T except for bumping up the spices.  I'll definitely be experimenting more when I have the time.

Oh, since my weekend begins on Fridays, I can't forget my new neighborhood coffeeshop!  It's an Italian espresso bar in Huntington Beach and it just reminds me of my time in Italy.  It's called Caffe Caldo and I discovered it last weekend.  They serve awesome coffees and I have to say that my favorite one so far has been the pumpkin latte--so smooth and tasty.  Nothing acrid or bitter.  I love it!  They serve some breakfast dishes like lox and bagels, frittatas, and some pastries.  You'll see I had the almond croissant, which was okay... not the best I've ever had.  That honor goes to a bakery that I purchased from at the Palo Alto Farmers Market.  I'm so sad I don't remember their name!

And so, that was my weekend.  Quite tasty, don't you think?  You're wondering how there was studying involved with all these good eats but trust me, there was.  I hope it was a good one for you, too!  Now, bring it on, Week 3!  Have a great week, everyone!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Semi-Sweet Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies with Coconut Flakes

This is my 150th post!  One day shy of three years and six months, I cannot believe that I have written this many posts.  It has been a true pleasure to share my recipes and musings with all of you.  I really appreciate those of you that pop over here to see what scrumdiddlyumptious offerings The Chef Doc has to share.  

School has finally started!  I just completed my first full week of school and well, let's say this--let the studying commence!  It is back to a life of commuting, traffic, early alarms (5:30am equals yucky), paper bag lunches and snacks, textbook reading, desperate wants for naps, fitting in workouts, and trying to make homemade meals as much as I can.  And let me vent about this--the weather blows!  Literally!  For those of you who have never been graced with the presence of Santa Ana winds, consider yourself lucky.  It is super dry out and ridiculously warm for October.  However, I guess for So Cal, it is quite normal.  

I think of nothing cozy or fuzzy.  I think of shorts and tank tops and the beach.  In fact, I was at the beach this morning and it was crowded with beachgoers and especially surfers, who were catching awesome waves due to winds.  Yes, it is basically a dry summer day for us here in So Cal.  For those of you who are currently experiencing it with me this weekend, please stay moisturized and try to keep a positive outlook, okay? 

Now, onto that sweet and long title you see at the top.  These cookies came as an inspiration to one-up Pepperidge Farms' Sausalito cookies.  I hadn't eaten them in a decade or so?  How long have they been out?  I really do not remember but it's been a good long while.  Well, last weekend I was hit with the desire to purchase them because I remembered enjoying them when I was younger.  Now, you know that I do not buy cookies anymore.  I can't recall when I last bought cookies.  Perusing this website, you know I am a fan of homemade cookies and enjoy the homemade flavors, textures, and even the process of making them.  

Well, I had a Sausalito cookie on Sunday night as I was settling into the season premiere of Once Upon A Time.  Oh... my... gosh.  Palates change as you grow older and well, I don't know what mine was thinking of years ago when I liked these cookies.  It was terrible!  They're super-dry, very crispy, and have some sort of artificial flavor going on.  Uh uh, no thank you.  Any of my cookies taste better than this.  I think I am a cookie snob.

So, I set out to create my own version.  One word: scrumptious!  Fabulous!  Amazing!  Okay, three words.  These are packed full of macadamia nuts and accompanied by semi-sweet chocolate chips and the beloved chewiness of shredded coconut flakes.  You know, another thing that bothers me is when some food products are skimpy on the main ingredients.  It feels like a total ripoff.  You know what I am talking about.  These aren't a ripoff at all and the flavors all work together wonderfully--the slightly bitter chocolate with the buttery macadamia nut and the sweetened coconut?  Divine.

These cookies are loaded with the star ingredients and have a crisp exterior and a soft interior.  That's how I like my cookies and usually how I develop my recipes; it's the best of both worlds!  It took me so many years of experimenting over and over to develop a recipe where I could achieve that.  Well, I finally have and applied it to this recipe.  It takes some time to make these because there is a waiting period.  Patience is a virtue, okay?  Yours and others' tastebuds will thank me for it.  The cookie dough must be refrigerated for 36 hours.  This cooling time helps create that beautiful texture!  

Um, yeah... what are you waiting for?  You have to make these now.  

Semi-Sweet Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies with Coconut Flakes
Yield: more than four dozen

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups light brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs (large or extra large)
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups macadamia nuts, roughly chunked (still fairly large)
  • 1 1/4 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup shredded coconut flakes, sweetened
1. In a large bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour, Kosher salt, baking soda and powder, and set aside.

2. In a mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugars together until light in color and fluffy in texture (at least five minutes).  With a rubber or silicone spatula, scrape down the sides and bottom and mix again.

3. Next, add your eggs one at a time to the mixture.  Then, add the pure vanilla extract.  Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and mix again.

4. On low speed, pour in a third of the dry mix.  Add the coconut flakes.  Pour in another third of the flour mix.  Add the macadamia nuts.  

5. Finally, pour in the last third of dry ingredients as well as the chocolate chips.  Mix until the flour is fully incorporated.  If there are any areas that do not look like the ingredients are evenly distributed, use your spatula to mix through.  

6. Refrigerate the dough for 36 hours.  No less than 36 hours and no more than 48 hours.  *Don't freak out that the dough will become crumbly and a little dry; that is normal.*

7. When ready to bake, remove the cookie dough from refrigerator and preheat the oven to 350F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Using a #40 disher (can be bought at your local restaurant supply shop), scoop 12 balls of cookie dough onto the parchment-lined baking sheet.

8. Bake for 11 to 12 minutes, when cookies may be a little white in the middle, which is totally fine because there is carryover baking when you remove them from the oven.

9. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and and let the cookies cool for five minutes as is.  

10. With a flat, heat-proof spatula, transfer the cookies onto a wire rack and cool completely.

11. Store in an airtight container and see how long they will last :-)

The #40 disher makes the perfect-sized cookie!
Who knew cookie images could be so comforting?
Mmm mmm mmm.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Happy Autumn!

Happy Autumn!  I just couldn't help myself and this morning I made a cake to celebrate one of my favorite seasons of the year.  

For this particular banana cake, I made a fairly traditional cream cheese frosting but used much less powdered sugar and the key--cold cream cheese.  The softened butter, powdered sugar, vanilla extract, and a pinch of salt were all blended together and then the cold cream cheese was added.  I'm telling you that this made a stiff cream cheese frosting and it was a beauty to work with.  Granted, I did stick the cake in the freezer to set the crumb coat as well as the frosting before doing the piping.  But, I must say I'm fairly proud of myself for figuring this out.  

See, (don't I always have a story?) most of the time when I make cream cheese frosting, I soften my cream cheese first.  I mean, it is sitting out for at least a couple of hours or even overnight.  Then, I will beat the cream cheese and softened butter and then add the powdered sugar last.  You know what I get?  A really soft, goopy frosting that is very hard to use when I want to pipe.  Sure, I can stick it in the refrigerator but that takes time and I'm usually on a schedule.  Thus, I share this tip with you--do not soften your cream cheese!

You know what I'm going to be doing tomorrow morning?  Grabbing myself a Pumpkin Spice Latte :-)  Have a great week!

The Chef Doc's Favorite Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 16 ounces (two blocks) cream cheese, straight out of the fridge
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) butter, softened
  • 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1. In a mixer, beat the butter until it is creamy.  Then, add the powdered sugar, salt, and vanilla extract.  Once fully mixed and there are no lumps, beat in your cream cheese until frosting is smooth.

Best Ever Banana Cake

Happy first day of Autumn!  The weather has turned and my brain just swells with happiness when I get a whiff of anything cinnamon, pumpkin, nutmeg, or apple.  I haven't made anything lately with these ingredients but worry not--I will definitely start soon!

In the meantime, I'd like to share with you a delicious cake that I made this weekend for a very special occasion.  My cousins' daughter turned two and I was privileged to be asked to make her birthday cake.  She has a thing for bananas and I knew this was the perfect recipe.  Now, I recently made this cake a few weeks ago because I was jonesing for a banana cake.  I found the recipe and was like, "Ooh, over 1,000 sparkling and raving reviews?  Yeah, I'll make this cake!"  And sure enough, it was absolutely scrumptious.  And... I've made it before.  

Um, what?  I've used this recipe before and I even posted about it!  Um, yeah.  Remember this cake and these cupcakes?  Yes, I used this recipe last year!  When I finally realized this I just shook my head.  It goes to show you how often I make banana cake, doesn't it?  Well, that was twice last year and I can tell you I've already made this five times... in the last three weeks.  Just think of all those lucky people who have been able to eat this cake.

Her party was a bubbles theme and it was a bubbly success!  Lots of bubbles galore and while I knew the color scheme was in the turquoise arena, I didn't imagine that the colors I'd create would perfectly match the decorations!  That was pretty awesome.  Great minds think alike, Emmy!

This cake is also fantastically delicious without any sort of frosting at all.  So... that's one way to cut some calories!  Reducing the amount of sugar is also another way to cut calories; I have made it with 1 3/4 cups of sugar and it is plenty sweet.  Moist, sweet, cake-y, banana-y, here again is the recipe and if you haven't made it yet, you're really behind the curve here.  Get to it :-)

Best Ever Banana Cake

Recipe adapted from Food.com

  • 1 1/2 cups mashed bananas
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) softened butter
  • 2 cups and 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1. Preheat oven to 300F.  Grease and flour two nine-inch round cake pans. 

2. Combine mashed bananas and lemon juice in a bowl and set aside.

3. In a bowl, sift together the dry ingredients and set aside.

4. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  This point occurs when it is no longer spinning around; it'll stick to the sides of the bowl.  

5. Slowly mix in the eggs, one at a time.  Add the vanilla extract.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix well.

6. On low mixing speed, alternately add the dry mixture and buttermilk into the wet mixture. Stop mixing and using a spatula, scrape up the bottom to make sure you won't get any globs of butter.  Next, fold in your bananas with a spatula.  

7. Split the cake batter evenly between the two pans and bake for an hour and 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, i.e., no batter sticking to it.

8. Remove the cake pans from the oven and cool on wire racks.  When the pans are no longer hot, invert the cakes onto the wire racks and cool completely.

9. Once the cakes are cooled, frost (if frosting) with your favorite cream cheese frosting recipe.  For this particular cake, I used this cream cheese whipped cream frosting recipe.  A simple vanilla frosting would also suffice. 

Emmy bought the aquamarine hard candy gems on Etsy; they are about the size of quarters.
Serving the cake chilled is the best way to eat it.  Placing hard objects on it might be a little difficult as the frosting might cause some slippage.  Well, now you know what to do with your overripe bananas!  Whoever eats this cake will be so happy that you made it because it is just... that... freaking... awesome.  Happy baking and happy eating!