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.