Saturday, August 18, 2012

Healing, Forgiveness, and Banana Cream Cake

Well, hello there! Heads up--this post is a bit wordy. If you're looking for food, then you should scroll down until you hit food pics (an updated banana cake recipe!). If you'd like to know more about me, besides knowing that I'm way too excited about food, then continue reading... :)

The topics of healing and forgiveness have been on my mind lately, for various reasons. As a ministry coordinator and seminary student, these are frequent topics of discussion. As a human being however, I'm pretty terrible at forgiving others and allowing my heart to heal. (Side note: This is the point where many can say, "Ah-ha! She's a hypocrite!" You're absolutely right. No argument from me. However, the beauty of my faith is that I don't have to do everything correctly all of the time. Though I am a hypocrite, I am still saved and loved by Jesus.)

Back to the subject of my inability to forgive and heal...Two years ago, I wrote a couple cryptic posts. You can read them here and here. Then, I never talked about it again. It wasn't just that I didn't share my business with the internet...I refused to talk about it with many of my friends and family. Or, if I did share, it was in spurts, without full details. I began ignoring people when they would ask me how I was doing, or I would gloss over my pain, because I felt that sharing would mean unloading my burden onto someone else. However, this post is not about laying out that time of my life in detail. Simply put, a man that I loved and shared my life with for almost 10 years...was sharing himself with other people. Now, for those who know me well, you will know that I am a control freak (I think the polite term is "micro-manager"). For once, I could not control what was happening with my heart, with my love, and especially not what he did. It was frightening, and it was devastating. I cried a lot. I baked a lot. I ate a LOT of cake. So. Much. Cake. Then, I would work out a lot to release frustration. I ate lots of cake, and then worked out. I looked fantastic!

Though I would love to report that I am fully healed, and have learned to fully forgive, and am so super into the dating scene, I can't. I haven't really dated much, and I don't really want to venture into the hot mess that is the dating world. I'm not devastated anymore, but I'm not fully free from pain. There is a very specific feeling of grief that comes when you have named your future children with someone. At the end of that relationship, you lose your partner, but you also lose those children that you had already begun to love. That doesn't disappear quickly.

Still, that was a turning moment in my life. When I felt super sad and confused, I was able to turn to Jesus. My faith became stronger. Though I hate what happened to me, I know that if it hadn't, I wouldn't have become involved in ministry. I certainly never would have joined seminary if my life was spent trying to make an unloving husband happy. I am not fully healed, and I haven't fully forgiven him for hurting me, but I'm working on it. 

I don't know why this has been on my mind, really. It's nothing really new to me, but maybe it's new to you. Or maybe it was just finally time to get this part of my life out there, and it's another step towards healing. I don't really know. I'm happy, though--even happier than before. In moments when I'm feeling especially sorry for myself, this thought pops into my head: If I can trust no one or nothing else (including myself), I know that I can trust in Him. That has made all the difference in my life. 

Banana Cream Cake
Now, onto the banana cake recipe. Though it is similar to my previous banana buttermilk cupcakes post, I have adapted the recipe to suit my personal tastes. There's less sugar, because I felt like bananas are already very sweet. The original recipe calls for 2 1/8 cups of white sugar, I use 1 cup brown sugar. Also, I loved the cream cheese frosting, but the cake itself is dense, so I wanted a lighter topping. Thus, banana cream cake was born. This cake is great for big gatherings, as it's a sheet cake recipe. Though I've tried, it doesn't make the prettiest layer cake (probably because it's so dense). 
Banana Cream Cake (adapted recipe by Chau, original recipe here)
1 1/2 cups super ripe bananas, mashed
2 teaspoons lemon juice
3 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup salted butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups buttermilk

Preheat oven to 275° (yes, 275°!). Grease and flour a 9” x 13” pan. In a small bowl, mix mashed banana with the lemon juice; set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking soda and salt; set aside.

In a large bowl, cream 3/4 cup butter, then add 1 cup brown sugar. Cream together until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, then stir in vanilla. Beat in the flour mixture alternately with the buttermilk. Stir in
banana mixture until completely blended.

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake in preheated oven for one hour or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in fridge to make more moist, or on counter. 

Gwen Stefani references are terrible. This cake is not.
Topping: You can use whipped cream as a topping. I just normally don't have heavy cream on hand. I do usually have Cool Whip in my freezer, however!
1 sm. pkg of instant pudding mix ( I used vanilla)
1 c. cold milk
1 8 oz. tub of Cool Whip

Whisk the milk and pudding for 2 min. Mix pudding into the Cool Whip. Refrigerate for about 30 min, or until the cake is thoroughly cooled. Frost cake. Eat!

Some notes: 
1. Make sure the bananas are very ripe--brown ones have the best flavor. 
2. You can substitute white vinegar for lemon juice. 
3. If you don't have buttermilk, add some vinegar/lemon juice to milk to make sour milk. It's a good substitute for buttermilk. Just measure out 1 1/2 cups of milk, minus 2 tbsp of milk. Add 2 tbsp of vinegar/lemon juice. Mix and let it sit for 5 min. It will curdle a bit, but it's okay! 
4. Walnuts go really well with this cake
5. Eat this cake!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Split Pea Soup

3 posts in one week? I know. Very surprising. Now before I disappear for another 6 months, I wanted to post about split pea soup. It's green. It can be gross looking. It reminds me of "The Exorcist." However, I recently tried it for the first time, and I loved the flavor! The following recipe contains chunks of ham, carrots, celery, and onions to make it a bit heartier. The best part about it? It's a slow-cooker recipe, so all you have to do is layer the ingredients in your cooker, set it on low, take an 8 hour nap (or 4-5 hours if you set the cooker on high), wake up, and eat. Amazing.

 This recipe comes from Diana Rattray over at (this recipe came up when I googled split pea soup). The original recipe is here, but I made a few changes based on what was available in my kitchen, and personal preferences. 

Slow Cooker Split Pea Soup, adapted from Diana Rattray's recipe
  • 1 (16 oz.) pkg. dried green split peas, rinsed
  • 2-3 cups diced ham (I like more ham, because it adds heft)
  • 3 carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 2 ribs of celery plus leaves, chopped
  • 3 or 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tbsp. salt (or to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp. fresh pepper
  • 1 1/2 qts. hot water
  • 1 15 oz. can sweet peas, with juice (orig. doesn't call for this, but I like the extra sweetness and heartiness it adds)
Layer ingredients in slow cooker in the order given; pour in water. Do not stir ingredients. Cover and cook on HIGH 4 to 5 hours or on low 8 to 10 hours until peas are very soft.. Remove bay leaf. Mash peas to thicken more, if desired. Serve garnished with croutons, or with a side of crusty bread.

Friday, June 1, 2012

How to Cook Bacon

Bacon. It goes great with eggs for breakfast, in a BLT (or BLTA--bacon lettuce tomato with avocado) for lunch, or a cheddar bacon onion tart for dinner. It. Is. Awesome. 

Bacon seems to take very little thought as far as the cooking process goes. Heat skillet, put bacon in skillet, cook until brown. My problem with bacon though, is that I would frequently over-cook it in my quest for crispiness. So often, it would look like this: 
Artist's rendering

See how burnt bacon makes me sad? Then, America's Test Kitchen (ATK), my favorite show and cooking guide, came out with a video called, "Make the Most Perfect Bacon Ever." Ever? Pretty much.

Over high heat, place bacon in skillet, and then cover with enough water to cover. When water boils, turn heat down to medium.

Once water simmers and evaporates, turn heat to medium-low. Cook until crispy and brown.

Crispity, crunchity, bacony.
It seems counter-intuitive to add water for crispy bacon, and I was hesitant about the process. However, ATK has never done me wrong, and I'm happy to report that it worked! 

Edit: My cousin asked if the water method would reduce the flavor of the bacon (it does not), and mentioned that she just cooks bacon in the oven. Though I agree that baking in the oven works great, I don't always want to heat up my oven to cook a few strips of bacon. If I were cooking for a large group, then the oven method would work best. For 3 strips of bacon, I would recommend this water & skillet method.

Here's ATK's video explaining the process...

Monday, May 28, 2012

Buttermilk Chocolate Cookies

It has been a very, very long time since my last post. Rather than discuss why I've been absent for so long, let's instead celebrate my first post of 2012. Yay!!!

Let's also celebrate these cookies:
Buttermilk Chocolate Cookies
  These buttermilk chocolate cookies were so easy to make, and super tasty. Melted butter, and my addition of brown sugar added chewiness to the texture of the cookie. If you don't have buttermilk, remember that you can make sour milk by replacing 1-2 tsp of milk with equal amount of vinegar/lemon juice.

Recipe (adapted from Baking Bites' version; my changes are in parentheses):
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup cocoa powder
 2 cups sugar (I did 1 cup white, 1 cup light brown sugar)
1 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup buttermilk (I used sour milk)
2 cups chocolate chips (I did 1 cup bittersweet chips & 1 cup white chips)

Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt.
Melt the butter in a small, microwave safe bowl.
In a large bowl, combine the melted butter (still warm) with cocoa powder and whisk until very smooth. Whisk in sugar, vanilla extract and buttermilk. Gradually stir in the flour mixture until no streaks of flour remain. Stir in the chocolate chips.
Drop dough in 1-inch balls into prepared baking sheet, leaving about two inches between cookies to allow for spread.
Bake for 10-12 minutes, until cookies are set around the edges.
Cool for 2-3 minutes on a baking sheet, then transfer to a wire rack with a spatula to cool completely.
Makes about 4 dozen cookies.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Banana buttermilk cupcakes

Banana Buttermilk Cupcakes
This past week, our older sister and brother (plus his family) have been visiting from Tampa, FL. We have had amazing food. In addition to my sister's famous gumbo, we've enjoyed German food from Leavenworth, WA, some vendor foods from Pike's Place Market in Seattle, and various foods from the International District in Seattle. I don't think I've been hungry since Christmas Day, but I haven't stopped eating since then. Plus, I've barely cooked!

Tomorrow for New Year's Eve, I plan on making a Nutella Brownie Pie, but my siblings also requested a cake for tonight's dessert. "You're always posting photos of cakes on Facebook, but you haven't made us any dessert yet!" Wah, wah, wahhhh. Wanting to try something a little different, I thought of a cake that my friend Celia wrote about over at her blog, The Adventures of Cecelia Bedelia. Coincidentally, I had some ripe bananas sitting on the counter. Kismet.

Fresh out of the oven. Simmer down now! (SNL reference. Anyone?)
Though it is a tiny bit denser than a regular cake, these cupcakes are not like the texture of banana bread. They were super moist and sooooo tasty. I topped them with cream cheese frosting and walnuts, which elevated their level from delicious to "punch a baby in the face" scrumptious. I ate two cupcakes. TWO. I should be ashamed, but I'm just too darned happy with these little cakes! 

Tomorrow's dinner includes: roast turkey with sausage stuffing and gravy, prime rib with mashed potatoes and green bean casserole, steamed lobster, roasted oysters, strawberry rhubarb pie, and Nutella brownie pie. Then death from overeating. Next week, I will only eat chao/lugaw/rice porridge.

Happy New Year! Many blessings to you.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Peppermint Ice Cream Cake

Hello there! My first semester of seminary is over! After finals yesterday, I cried a little (a lot), and had a long shower (tall drink), and am feeling much better today!

Peppermint Ice Cream Cake. Photo: Elizabeth P.

Last week, two of my friends threw a Christmas/White Elephant party. Along with a white elephant gift, we were asked to either bring a drink/cocktail or food. I brought sorbet & champagne cocktails and a peppermint ice cream cake.

First, I'd just like to say that Martha Stewart's SORBET & CHAMPAGNE COCKTAILS ARE MY NEW FAVORITE DRINK. Also, I am sorry to say that I don't have a photo of one from the party to post here. We happily drank them up, and didn't think to photograph it. It's super easy to make, though. Literally, you spoon some sorbet into a glass (we used raspberry sorbet), and then fill the glass with champagne. The next morning, I received a text from my friend, "Girl! Those champagne cocktails did me in!!!" I think that's the best review it could possibly get.

The makings of a peppermint ice cream cake
The peppermint ice cream cake was also incredibly easy to make, and I think everyone enjoyed it. At least, I really enjoyed making and eating it. It had soft chocolate cake, layered with minty ice cream, whipped topping, and crunchy candy cake sprinkles. It's a great seasonal dessert, and can be adjusted with different ice cream flavors, depending on your preference or the season.

Look at all that food in the background! Yet, only the pigs in a blanket are gone. Photo: Elizabeth P.

Chau's Super Easy Peppermint Ice Cream Cake 
(Makes one 9x13 cake)

1 box chocolate/devil's food cake mix, divided
eggs, oil, and water called for in the cake recipe (I substitute coffee for water to enhance choco flavor)
1 container of peppermint ice cream (1 container usually has 1.5 qts)
1 - 8 oz of your favorite whipped topping (I was lazy, I used Cool Whip)
3 candy canes or a bunch of peppermint candies, crushed to make "sprinkles"
1 - 9x13 pan
nonstick spray

  1. Preheat oven according to cake mix directions. I was using a shiny aluminum pan, so I reduced oven heat by 25 degrees Farenheit.
  2. Do your best to divide the dry cake mix in half. (About 1 3/4 c. from 18 oz box of mix).
  3. For the eggs, oil, and water/coffee, here's how I broke it down: 2 eggs (my cake mix recipe called for 3 eggs for full cake); half the amount of oil (half of 1/3 c. for me); a little less than half of the amount of liquid called (a full cake mix called for 1 1/4 c, so I used 1/2 c. for the half cake. Remember, you have 2 eggs, so it's okay to use less than half the liquid).
  4.  Mix it all together! 
  5. Pour it in the pan sprayed with nonstick spray! 
  6. Bake it for about 10-15 min, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean!
  7. Once fully baked, allow cake to cool for 1-2 hours, until fully cooled. 
  8. After cake has cooled, let ice cream sit on counter to soften (about 20 min). You'll know it's soft when you can use a spoon or spatula to mix the ice cream. NOTE: If you can't find peppermint ice cream, you could mix crushed candy canes into softened vanilla ice cream.
  9. Remember, cake should be cooled. Spoon ice cream onto the cake, and spread it out evenly over the cake. 
  10. Top with whipped topping and crushed candy canes/peppermint candies. Freeze for about 1-2 hours.
  11. Eat that jank.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Nutella Brownie Pie, revisited

Since my initial post about Nutella Brownie pie, I've made it again twice. Once for a church pie auction (it sold for $85!), and recently for a friend's birthday party.

Ding dang delicious.

The previous recipe I had was fine. However, I've made some changes that I think might improve your pie making experience.

Nutella Brownie Pie (revised)
1 pie crust, 9 inches (Whatever pie crust you use is fine. I recently used a store bought graham cracker crust that saved time, and tasted great with the filling)
2 batches of Nutella brownie recipe by Abby Dodge (3 batches took a longer cooking time, and the edges of the pie tended to overcook. Still delicious, but 2 batch maximum is best.)
Top with whipped cream, whipped topping, or Dream Whip. Lots of it.
  1. If making your own, prepare the crust ahead of time.
  2. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
  3. Make the batter by whisking eggs and Nutella in a bowl until smooth.
  4. Add flour, and whisk until blended.
  5. Pour batter into your pie crust. Bake for 20-30 min. You don't want to thoroughly cook this pie, so that it gets soft, gooey, and fudgy in the middle. Place on cooling rack.
  6. After pie has cooled for about 2 hours, top with whipped cream. (Just make sure the pie is not warm so that the cream doesn't melt!)
  7. You can also melt a tbsp of Nutella with 1/4 of chocolate chips in a Ziploc sandwich bag, snip a small corner of the bag, and then drizzle melted chocolate on top of the whipped cream. 
  8. Note: To make this even more chocolate-y, add chocolate chips to the batter.
 The holidays are here, so that provides a good excuse for you to make this pie...Not that you really need an excuse to try this!