Coconut Banana Bread

I bought an oven thermometer to help me gauge the ineffectiveness of my current oven, but have not yet tried another quick bread (after the zucchini bread fail). I’m determined to make that recipe of zucchini bread again, because it was really delicious. I just had to toast it so as to “cook” thoroughly the bottom layer. So this recipe is definitely not from my new kitchen. I made it the week of moving, for the same reason that everyone makes quick breads: to use up ingredients and to snack on all week. I improvised a bit again, as obviously I was low on pantry stock, but this banana bread turned out amazing. Slightly sweetened, soft, the perfect balance between dense and fluffy. I ate the whole loaf in a few days. I wish I had another right now as I’m still alternating by cooking nice, healthy meals and eating cereal for more than one meal a day. Still in the throws of setting up my apartment and refinishing furniture, I could really go for this snack.

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Coconut Banana Bread

Makes 1 9 in. loaf

2 1/2 cups flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 cup shredded coconut, unsweetened

4 tbsp. melted butter

4 tbsp. melted coconut oil

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

3 mashed bananas

1/2 cup Greek yogurt

2 eggs

1 tsp. vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a loaf pan with butter or coconut oil and line with parchment paper.

In a large mixing bowl, stir together the dry ingredients (flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, coconut).

In  a large measuring cup, or other microwave safe bowl, melt the butter and coconut oil. Add the sugar and brown sugar and mix thoroughly. Add the mashed bananas, Greek yogurt, eggs, and vanilla, and whisk together.

Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and stir lightly and fold, using a rubber spatula. Don’t over-mix the batter; stir until all the flour is moistened (there may be a few dry patches). Add the batter to the greased loaf pan. Eat said batter out of the bowl and off the rubber spatula. Place in the oven and bake at 350 for 60-70 minutes, checking for doneness with a toothpick.

As I mentioned, this banana bread isn’t overly sweet, and is nice and subtlely coconutty. It was most delicious with a spread of peanut butter. Sigh. I need to buy flour…

Glazed Tofu Banh Mi

When you’re living in a big city, you without intention are exposed to new ideas and cultures and references on an almost daily basis (depending on how much you go outside). One of the fantastic things about Chicago is its diversity, and the fact that the variability in culture penetrates even the most “gentrified” neighborhoods. Because even though I live in a high-rise full of more-often-than-not wealthy-ish older white people, I’m also steps from 4 Asian fusion, 1 upscale Mexican, 1 classic American, 1 Swedish brunch, 3 chain, and countless other restaurants. One of these includes a Vietnamese sandwich shop, known most for their banh mi sandwich. I coincidentally lived very near a Vietnamese sandwich place last year as well, so I’ve essentially passed by this delicious delicacy on an almost daily occasion for 2 years now. I don’t know why, but I’ll say it: I’ve never had a classic banh mi sandwich. Cue shame.

Now, in actuality, banh mi refers to a type of bread, not a specific sandwich. But in the westernized United States, it almost always refers to a baguette-type sandwich with roasted pork, pickled vegetables, chili sauce and/or mayonnaise, and cilantro. Variations come off of this base model, usually exchanging the pork for other meats or, in this case, vegetarian soy products (tofu!). Basically, this sandwich is a dream of beautifully combined products that promise to sooth and challenge all parts of your palate. But, probably, you’ve been passing it by, either literally or figuratively, without knowledge of its potential power over your sandwich cravings. I’m here to remedy that problem, by offering up a means to make this sandwich at home. I promise it is worth the (marginal) trouble to prepare each component, as it really takes about 45 minutes of time and is worth every second of the 2 minutes you’ll spend wolfing it down. Again, this is a tofu variety, which is quite easy to prepare, but you could certainly go traditional by preparing some pork or chicken (the same marinade can apply).

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Glazed Tofu Banh Mi

Makes 4 sandwiches

2 small baguettes (I used take and bake varieties, which freeze well)

1 cucumber, sliced

4 stalks green onion, sliced

Cilantro, chopped

Glazed tofu:

  • 1 block extra firm tofu
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. red pepper flake
  • 1/4 tsp. smoked paprika

Pickled vegetables

  • 5 small carrots, julienned
  • 1 bell pepper, sliced thinly
  • 1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 3 tbsp. sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly cracked black pepper

Sriracha cilantro mayonnaise

  • 2 tbsp. mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp. sriracha
  • 2 tbsp. cilantro, chopped

First, press the block of tofu (per this post) for at least 20 minutes. Once the tofu has been pressed, slice the tofu thinly into 16, 1/4 inch slices (or, slice into quarters, then slice each quarter into 4 slices). Whisk together the tofu marinade, then dip each slice of tofu into the marinade and allow to marinate in a large pan for 15-20 minutes.

While the tofu is pressing, prepare the pickled vegetables. Thinly slice, or julienne, the carrots and bell pepper and place in a dish (ideally that can be covered for later). Bring the rice wine vinegar, water, sugar, and S&P to a boil, until sugar has dissolved in the liquid. Pour the pickling liquid over the vegetables and allow to rest in the liquid for at least 30 minutes. You can store the remaining vegetables in the pickling liquid for several days (if these sandwiches will be prepared as “leftovers” as well later… a good idea).

Next, prepare the sriracha cilantro mayonnaise by combining the ingredients in a small bowl and mixing well. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Next, heat a griddle to 375 degrees Fahrenheit or a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add 1 tbsp. oil and the tofu to the pan (if using a sauté pan, this may require two batches). Heat the tofu for 3-5 minutes, until the first side is crisped and brown. Flip, then sauté the second side for an additional 3 minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Now, time to prepare the sandwich! Split the baguette in half and then slice longitudinally to make 2 sandwiches. Spread about 1 tbsp. of sriracha cilantro mayo on one side. Top with 4 slices of glazed tofu. Pile on as much of the pickled veggies as you’d like, then top with fresh cucumber, green onion, and cilantro.

Eat the sandwich! Bits will certainly fall off as you eat, but relish in your unstable sandwich, should-be-take-out glory. I absolutely loved these sandwiches for lunch the next day, prepared the night before then eaten cold. Once all the components are prepared, it’s quite quick to put together. I’d imagine if you used meat you could just hold onto some extras for leftover sandwiches as well. Now I’m off to try the sandwich shop next door, just to compare…

 

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Chia Seed French Toast with Blood Orange Strawberry Syrup

So this was not my birthday breakfast (see this post), but this was a delicious breakfast from last weekend. Yes, I made French toast again. I wanted to experiment with healthifying French toast a little bit. Not too much; it still needs to be creamy yet crusted and delicious. But I figured the basics of French toast- egg, bread, milk- didn’t need to necessarily combine into an overly indulgent dish. In fact, it takes to these additional healthy ingredients and toppings very well, and I actually found this preparation more filling and satisfying. The blood orange strawberry syrup draws on this lingering-winter, almost-spring produce I’m noticing now, combining the acidic, thick-skinned winter fruits with the delicately sweet spring flora. They’re a match made in heaven; the perfect sweetly tangy topping to the more heavy toast below. I used chia seeds to amp up the nutritional profile, as chia seeds are a great source of omega-3 fats and other minerals. I also wanted to see if they’d add a bit of a crunch to the toast (spoiler: not too much, really). Regardless, this French toast was phenomenal, with way less added sugar than the typical preparation topped with maple syrup, and more nutritious as well. (But if you want something more indulgently custardy and traditional, use this recipe).

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Chia Seed French Toast with Blood Orange Strawberry Syrup

Serves 1

2 thick slices (about 1 inch) of country bread, preferably multi-grain or whole wheat

2 eggs

1/4 cup milk

1 tsp. honey

1/4 tsp. vanilla extract

1 tbsp. chia seeds

Blood Orange Strawberry Syrup, to serve:

  • 1 cup hulled and halved strawberries
  • 1 tsp. blood orange zest
  • 2 tbsp. blood orange juice, freshly squeezed (feel free to eat the remaining fruit)
  • 1/4 cup sugar

Start by preparing the blood orange strawberry syrup. Mix the syrup ingredients together in a small sauce pan over medium heat. Allow the mixture to come to a simmer, then reduce heat to medium low. Allow the syrup to simmer until the strawberries are broken down and it has reduced to about half the initial volume, about 15 minutes. The syrup will be thick with small strawberry chunks, but still pourable. Set aside to cool slightly.

Whisk together the egg, milk, honey, and vanilla extract. Pour the egg mixture into a shallow pan (I use a pyrex baking dish) and toss the chia seeds throughout the mixture. Soak the bread in the eggs, making sure to evenly distribute the chia seeds through the batter on the toast. Allow to soak for 2 minutes, then flip to soak the other side.

Heat a griddle to 350 and lightly grease with butter. Add the French toast and cook for 4-5 minutes. Flip then cook the opposite side for another 4-5 minutes.

Plate the French toast and top with the blood orange strawberry syrup.

 

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Enjoy for a filling yet healthier weekend breakfast.

 

Buffalo Quinoa Burgers

So this is a new experienxe, blogging on my phone from a coffee shop (my favorite- Ipsento in Bucktown). I forgot my iPad, so it’s especially inconvenient. But I have this Nutella Mocha here, and I’m not thinking it’s so bad. I made these burgers for the first time a few weeks ago, and actually made them as “bites,” which was directed according to the recipe I was following. They were absolutely delicious, served atop a bed of butter lettuce and other salad accoutrements (Is that possibly spelled correctly? Will spell check function appropriately on my phone?). However, these quinoa bites were kind of unproportionately inconvenient to prepare and make, requiring three rounds of pan sautéing and individual dips into buffalo sauce. I thought to myself: hey, this would be way easier as a patty, still served with ranch and crispy greens, but also with a delicious toasted bun!?! And it was so. I tweaked the general recipe some, adjusted the buffalo sauce proportions, and improvised my own “ranch” dressing (quotes because I’m not sure if it’s real ranch without mayonnaise or buttermilk). These burgers turned out phenomenal- perfectly crisped edges, wonderfully buffalo-sauced, and cooled just a touch by the ranch on top. To be honest, while I ate these all week simply with sauce and arugula, my favorite serving style was with a buttered, toasted bun and a runny egg on top. But, in all fairness, that’s always the best way to serve anything.

These are a great spin on a classic weeknight meal, and, I think, tastier than buffalo chicken. The quinoa just absorbs the flavor better. Top as you like, always with a fresh roll (toasted).

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Buffalo Quinoa Burgers

Based off of this recipe

Serves 6

Homemade buffalo sauce

  • 1/3 cup hot sauce of choice (I’ve used Frank’s and Cholula)
  • 2 tbsp. butter, melted
  • 2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne
  • Dash of red chili flake

Quinoa burgers

  • 2 cups cooked quinoa
  • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1 cup cannellini (or other white) beans
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup homemade buffalo sauce

Homemade ranch dressing

  • 1/2 cup greek yogurt
  • 1 tbsp. lemon juice (about 1/2 a lemon, squeezed)
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. Italian seasoning (or a mixture of dried thyme, oregano, and parsley)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

2 tbsp. olive oil

Soft, fluffy buns

Arugula or other greens to serve

To prepare the ranch dressing, add all ingredients to a blender, mason jar, or bowl. Blend, shake, or whisk accordingly until all ingredients are combined. Place in the refrigerator to cool until ready to use.

To prepare the buffalo sauce, melt butter in a large bowl. Whisk together with extra virgin olive oil. Whisk in the hot sauce and spices. Set aside for later use.

To prepare the buffalo quinoa burgers, first prepare 2 cups of cooked quinoa. To make approximately 2 cups of cooked quinoa, heat 1 cup of water to boiling in a medium pot. Add 1/2 cup of dried quinoa to the boiling water, reduce the heat to low, cover the pot, and simmer. Simmer quinoa for 10-15 minutes until opened and soft.

In a large bowl, mix the two cups of quinoa with 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs. In a food processor, blend the cannellini beans to a puree. Add the pureed beans to the bowl with the bread crumbs and quinoa. Add the egg, whisked, and 1/4 cup of the prepared buffalo sauce. Stir thoroughly to combine until the mixture is wet but firms into clumps in your hand (think hamburger patty consistency). Add more bread crumbs or buffalo sauce as needed to get it right.

In order to make the 6 patties, I try to level the quinoa mixture in the bowl with a spoon. Score the mixture with the spoon down the middle, then score 3 lines perpendicular to the first. Grab the scored area to form the patties.

Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the buffalo quinoa patties and cook for 5 minutes per side, covering the pan (except to flip). Remove from the pan and place on a cooling rack. Drizzle the remaining prepared buffalo sauce over the patties. The buffalo quinoa patties will easily keep in the refrigerator for 1 week. Alternatively, you could cool the patties then freeze.

To prepare your burger, toast the buns in butter on a sauté pan (or toast then butter). Add your buffalo quinoa patty and top with a good spoonful of ranch dressing and your greens. If you want to throw a fried, over-easy egg on there, I’ll applaud you for your good taste.

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Look at that egg, the yolk begging to drip all over the burger, the plate, and your face. If you like buffalo-style anything, I promise you’ll love these. And better, you can enjoy them all week… or anytime, really.

 

Greens, Eggs, and Pan

This may be my favorite savory breakfast, save the more indulgent rare quiches and restaurant-finds, and it’s one of my go-to “I don’t have anything for dinner” meals. I can’t count the number of times I topped toast and greens with eggs and called it dinner while in graduate school, starving mid-study session and short on the patience required to prepare a more “substantial” meal. But what’s odd is now I find myself craving it, kind of in the way breakfast for dinner or cereal nights are sometimes preferable to mindfully prepared dinners. And, beyond that, with the right bread, and the right greens, these ingredients genuinely blend perfectly together, the yolk coating the somewhat bitter greens and enhancing the buttered, yeasty bread below. So you’ll need to excuse my Dr. Seuss pun (it was too easy), as this is not some distasteful dish to run away from, but rather a delicious escape from time-intensive meals. And for anyone wondering, pan means bread in Spanish, and it was the only way to make this rhyme work.

I know some are wary of a runny yolk, but I have to insist you give it a try. I owe my own experience to my best friend and former roommate, who introduced me to the bread-in-drippy-yolk combo, which absolutely blew my mind.* There are eggs, scrambled or otherwise, on a whole spectrum of deliciousness. But an egg over easy, yolk loose and sauce-like, is just second to none. But, if you’re a first-timer, over medium may be a safe place to start. You’ll get a little runny yolk action, but mostly have a pretty firm egg. Just… don’t go straight for the scramble. So many lost eggs out there.

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Toasted Bread and Greens with Eggs Over-Easy

Serves 1

2 slices good bread (I used half of a demi-baguette, but sourdough or a seedy wheat would also be excellent)

1 tbsp. butter, divided

2 cups arugula or other green (spinach or a delicate spring mix work nicely)

2 large brown eggs (organic, free range preferably)

In a small sauté pan, melt 2 tsp. butter over medium heat in the shape of your bread slices. Place the bread flat-side down onto the pan, pressing firmly to coat the bread with melted butter. Heat the bread until toasted and just browning in butter, then remove from heat. Alternatively, if your bread is fresh and soft and perfect, just spread 1 tsp. softened butter on each slice.

Top the bread, toasted or otherwise, with the greens.

In the previously used sauté pan, melt the final teaspoon of butter over medium-low heat. Crack the eggs side by side into the pan, making sure to keep the yolk intact. Cook the eggs until the bottom of the egg-whites are set, about 2-3 minutes, then cover with a lid. Cook for an additional 2-3 minutes, until whites are fully set but the yolk is still runny (it should move loosely when you go to move the eggs with a spatula). If a more set yolk is desired, cook for a few more minutes covered, until the thin layer of whites surrounding the yolk are more opaque, and the egg is less mobile.

Gently, with a spatula, top the greens and toast with the eggs. Use a fork to break the yolk and allow to run all over. Eat with a fork or with your hands, whichever is more feasible and more messy. It’s more enjoyable that way.

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Finish the meal with a beautiful blood orange on the side. Dinner and dessert now complete. You are free to go about your scheduled evening activities.

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In tribute of the classic, buttered bagel dipped into 2 over easy yolks, whites scooped up with the bagel in hand. Also, this is a good example of a more “over-medium” egg.