going bananas

My seventh grade social studies teacher once said that baklava was the food of the gods. And I don’t know whether it was the intense fuchsia of her nails as she waved her hands around for emphasis or the faraway look in her eyes, but that sentiment ended up sticking¬†with me‚ÄĒuntil I actually tried baklava. I’ll admit, there is an undeniable beauty in the delicate art of assembling the pastry, but I ended up with a raging sugar headache the first time I tried it. Perhaps, as a part of this whole blogging/risk-taking situation, I’ll give it another try. But for now, here is the food of the lazy, ain’t-got-no-time-for-phyllo, to-heck-with-calories gods.

So, I’ve never been the biggest fan of bananas. They are soft and gushy, brown over time, and sometimes are just a pain to get that first puncture through before the peeling. (Am I the only one? Okay.) However, if the nutritionist angel on your shoulder is calling for you to get a good dose of potassium and the self-indulgent devil on the other side is nudging¬†you toward the tub of vanilla pudding in your fridge (because everyone has that…), you can toss this recipe into their little hands (and watch it float to the ground because they’re an angel and devil, for goodness’ sake) because here’s the perfect compromise: banana pudding. Well, it’s preetty perfect, bordering just a little more on the indulgent side, so stagger these servings in¬†appropriate intervals. (I’ll let your shoulder’s angel figure that out for you.)

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Yep, take a good look at that, while¬†all that’s left of my health-conscious self wilts away for the rest of this post. Condensed milk, vanilla pudding mix, Nilla Wafers, heavy whipping cream… I banished away my cringy side for this because, sometimes, life just calls for that little cup of occasional unapologetic goodness, right? ¬†I mean, there is always the option to lessen the amount of the condensed milk so the actual pudding part isn’t so sweet. That counts for something, right? *insert single sweat emoji*

Now, how on earth did this recipe wander into my household without alerting my mom’s ever-wandering eye and the broccoli security guards she has stationed by all points of¬†entry, you ask? (Oreos very rarely even make it into the shopping cart.) Well, funnily enough, she had tried it at a friend’s party and, entranced by the ‘nana goodness, asked the host to forward the recipe to me. Needless to say, I was bowled over in surprise¬†when I opened that email and viewed its contents, specifically the ingredient list. Still in shock, I then¬†proceeded to zombie-walk toward my printer to collect the recipe. Whatever was happening to my world I was not complaining about.

So naturally, by the time we made it to the supermarket and my mother had finally seen the collection of banana pudding goodies in the cart, it was too late; I was far too emotionally involved and curious about the final outcome to be forced to quit. (I think her pudding deja vu was too good for her to deny the prospect of a tasty round two anyway.)

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The recipe, though simple, is probably patience’s worst enemy. Once the pudding mixture is in the fridge, it’s basically a long stretch of waiting until anything else can happen. Cut the bananas? No, they’ll oxidize. Whip the cream? Welp, won’t want to risk it deflating over the course of at least three hours. You can bet I had a timer counting down those three hours.¬†The urge to open the fridge every twenty¬†minutes¬†to jiggle the pudding and obsessively check that I hadn’t forgotten to start the timer was¬†very much present.¬†‚ÄĒWhat? I was basically working¬†against the sunset and hoping my lighting would stay consistent for the most part… (That’s my alternate defense for my impatience. Just go with it.)

Thankfully, this recurring scrambling-before-the-sun-sets issue¬†will hopefully soon be resolved, as my lights have finally arrived in the mail. They’ll definitely need some experimenting with, but the goal is that y’all won’t be able to tell whether I’m cooking in daylight or in the dark of night…Nothing like my mom returning from her trip to two gigantic umbrella lights…Ha ha ha ha.

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Much love for the¬†banana that decided it didn’t want to stay whole while I was peeling it.

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I’d say this build-a-pudding assembly line pretty much blows out all those crazy Industrial Revolution ones out of the park in terms of yumminess. Nilla, ‘nana, pudding, r-r-repeat. Nananaaaa…

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Banana Pudding (Courtesy of Lily. Hi, Lily!)

INGREDIENTS: (makes approximately 12-14 servings in small/medium cups)

  • 1 1/2 cups of ice cold water
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 package Jello instant vanilla pudding
  • 3 cups heavy whipping cream
  • ~5 ripe bananas
  • 1 box of Nilla wafers

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Whisk sweetened condensed milk into water until fully blended.
  2. Sprinkle in the instant vanilla pudding mix while whisking to avoid clumps and continue until mixture is fully incorporated.
  3. Set this aside in the fridge overnight or 3 hours (as I did, if the patience is running low.) Continue onto step 4 whenever the pudding is finished chilling.
  4. Slice the bananas into slices, as thinly or thickly as you prefer! (I opted with a Goldilocks right in the middle situation.) I also recommend slicing more on a diagonal so the slice can cover more surface area.
  5. Cover with plastic wrap so they don’t oxidize and turn funky colors!
  6. Pour the whipping cream into a bowl and whip until stiff peaks form. (Careful not to over-whip!)
  7. Remove the pudding from the fridge, tip¬†it¬†into the whipping cream, and gently fold until fully incorporated with no more pudding streaks. (Don’t stir like crazy and knock all the fluffy air out!)
  8. Assembly time! Arrange your pudding into your serving container (cups, mason jars, or a baking dish family-style) in the following order: Nilla wafers, bananas, pudding/cream mixture.
  9. Ta-da! All done. Enjoy!¬†‚ėļ

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just chili out

Ricky Martin is playing in the background (La Copa de la Vida Ricky, that is) while the fragrant signature smells of chili waft up from the gurgling pot at the stove. There are the notes of garlic in the air and tomato…Oh, wait. That is not exactly how my Saturday went.

As much as Ricky Martin would have been a delightful addition to my¬†5pm Saturday kitchen ambience, with the sun setting outside way too quickly (don’t go, natural lighting), I settled instead with abusing the little speakers on my cell phone by blaring Pandora¬†and awkwardly skipping songs with the one part of my pinky that wasn’t touched by garlicy remnants or coated with spices.

Alright, okay. So, let me start at the beginning. I know I spoke about taking risks in my first post, but I confess this was a recipe I tried earlier that week during¬†my school’s cooking class. Look‚ÄĒmy sister and dad were dinnerless (and dangerously teetering toward the hangry stage), and I didn’t yet possess the nerve¬†to whip up a totally new and foreign recipe¬†that might have potentially reaped¬†disastrous results. So! Chili it was.

I proceeded to power¬†through the shopping list of things I¬†didn’t have at the crowded Whole Foods like a madwoman, only pausing once to marvel at a gigantic basket spilling¬†with adorable little bunny finger puppets. (There were so. Many.) I made a straight beeline for the “serrano” peppers which I snatched up, and I say “serrano” because they were quite unlabeled, and there was neither any employees around nor cell phone service for me to confirm the identity of these peppers. (Yaaay, risk taking…Impulsive mystery pepper buying…I do not condone this. ‚ėļ)¬†In my defense, they really looked close enough.

Once home, madwoman phase two kicked in, and I speed chopped everything‚ÄĒ¬†almost everything. Note the minimally chopped onion in the picture below, which I asked¬†my dad to dice¬†up because my eyes are painfully sensitive. (Like, mini-twin-Nile-Rivers-running-down-my-face sensitive.) I sliced the zucchini into rounds instead of dicing it because¬†it softens up so nicely without breaking apart and adds a great¬†shape variety in the chili. Also, as tablespoony as the minced garlic looks, there was an extra secret stash off-screen because garlic is wonderful and just puts the g in fla(g)vored-packed. (Aka¬†I halved the recipe but¬†kept forgetting to look at the modified quantities…)

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So after a whirlwind of an hour and a half of standing over the stove/cooking rice while frantically chewing on gum (to ward off the remaining onion smells) and dealing with the faint burn in my fingers from cutting the peppers with my bare hands (pro tip: wear plastic gloves!), the chili was finally done. What a satisfying feeling it is to heft a steaming pot of homemade chili around. Sniffing the deliciousness while I teetered over it on a stool with a camera in hand…Well, that was just a wee bit¬†torturous.

I¬†topped it off with buttery avocado, sour cream, which adds the perfect amount of tang, and a sprinkle of cheese‚ÄĒbecause chili just needs cheese, and it’s me. I also scooped some rice on the bottom, which will perhaps make itself onto a separate post. Wink, wink.

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I have to say, this chili is more preparation-based than anything, with the chopping of the produce and all, but otherwise, there’s just some¬†stirring and keeping tabs on the cooking process. So, it’s really perfect if you ever want to whip up some delicious¬†comfort food¬†and then portion out¬†some of it to keep in the fridge for a busy day some time down the week. Have someone help you with all the chopping if you’re making more. I promise, it’s a rather soothing process once you get into it, and there’s no better activity to start some conversation (or listen to Ricky Martin) to!

By the way, for my people who go to Indian restaurants and repeat “ALL MILD, PLEASE”¬†after every order, this chili isn’t the fan-your-mouth, eyes-watering kind of spice at all. It’s a tingly kind of warmness, which I love, so there’s no need to have a glass of cold milk at the ready, unless that’s your thing. I did remove¬†all of the seeds in the serrano, so¬†if you can handle the heat, however, leave some in!

So, whale, whale. That’s about it for my first official post after my first post. I found it quite fitting to pay homage to an old-school Food Network great, Emeril Lagasse, after all my FN fangirling. I hope you try this¬†recipe¬†out for yourself and totally floor your parents or S.O. with it. Or¬†just yourself. Because there’s absolutely no problem with that.

Until next time, go out there and, in the words of Emeril, “kick it up a notch!”

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Vegetarian Chili (Modified from Emeril Lagasse)

INGREDIENTS: *

  • 2 tablespoons sesame¬†oil (not toasted!)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 3/4 cup chopped yellow onions
  • 1/2 cup chopped red bell peppers
  • 2 to 3 serrano peppers, stemmed, seeded, and minced
  • 1 medium zucchini, cut into slices
  • 1 cup frozen corn (I let it sit out for ~30 minutes)
  • 1¬†tablespoon chili powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 5/8¬†teaspoons salt (eyeball this)
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
  • 2 large tomatoes seeded and chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked black beans, or canned beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 (8-ounce) can mini tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup vegetable stock, or water
  • 1/8 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • Cooked rice, accompaniment
  • Sour cream or strained plain yogurt, garnish
  • Diced avocado, garnish
  • Shredded¬†mozzarella

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Add the oil into a medium pot and heat up over medium-heat.
  2. Add the garlic and sauté for about thirty seconds. (Yes, all that fragrant and sizzly goodness.)
  3. Toss in the onions and bell peppers, stirring over the heat until softened.
  4. Add the zucchini and corn to the stove, stirring until the zucchini starts to wilt, and the moisture starts building up a bit (approximately six minutes).
  5. Mix the chili powder, cumin, salt, and cayenne together in a bowl before adding it to the pot and stirring until fully incorporated.
  6. Add the tomatoes. Stir. Then the beans, tomato sauce, and vegetable stock.
  7. Once the mixture is brought up to a boil, turn the heat down for medium-low (or medium, depending on your stove) and let simmer for twenty minutes.
  8. Voila! Pull off the heat and add cilantro or any additional seasoning to taste.
  9. (Optional) Top with a dollop of sour cream, diced avocados, and shredded mozzarella.

* Note: This recipe serves approximately three to four people, so feel free to double this or even triple it!