Feeling Good (Dried Persimmon Granola)

As a newly graduated high school alumnus, I could say that I’m feeling pretty good.

Not only that, but I’ve got a new job at a bakery and more time to cook at home, so, my fellow readers, you’ll be seeing “New Post” much more often this summer.

Now, what will make you feel really good is looking at–and more importantly, baking–this recipe for dried persimmon granola. What will make you feel even better is knowing that this granola has absolutely no sugar added to the mix, but does have yummy, yummy powdered sugar.

Wait, say wha? No sugar added, but there is powdered sugar?

My friends, I give you the dried persimmon:

It’s covered with the stuff. Dried persimmons undergo a (typically) month-long drying process, through which they shrink in size, intensify in flavor, and develop a fine coating of natural powdered sugar. Under the snowy-white exterior lies that bright orange flesh that you saw three pictures above, and boy, does it taste incredible. The flavor is of a fruit you’ve never tasted before, somewhere between a candied apple and a pear. In a word, it tastes like fall. Now, what is fall without cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves? Well, a very bland fall, I can tell you that much.

Even though fall is over 3 months away, you can have fall in a jar whenever you make this–and trust me, when you see the ingredient list, you’ll be feeling good when you eat this stuff.

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Convenience (Rice Cooker Coconut Oatmeal)

Putting great amounts of time, love, and effort into cooking a great meal is always great, but sometimes you really just don’t have that time and effort to make some food in a hurry.

I love to create recipes which allow me to create great flavor with minimal effort, and this is definitely one of them. Using your handy-dandy rice cooker, you can create fluffy, warm, and scrumptious oatmeal in no time! There are basically 4 steps: Pour, pour, press, and scoop. It’s just a great recipe for any student, parent, or worker on the go. Read more to see the recipe and to learn why it is so darn simple!

Also, before you do that, big news: I start my internship at a local bakery tomorrow! 🙂 I will be blogging about my experience there for the next two weeks and will try to get a new post up every day about the bakery or about a new recipe. Now, onwards to the recipe!

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Happiness (Angel Food French Toast with Strawberry-Ginger Sauce)

It’s nice when you can say that you are truly happy. At this moment, I can definitely say that I am.

Everything in life seems to just be falling into place. First off, I just got an internship at Big Sugar Bakeshop for my two-week senior project at the end of the school year, something that I am incredibly excited about. Working in a restaurant as a cashier and barista is one thing, but being able to work behind the scenes and BAKE ( 🙂 ) is going to be awesome.

Second, all my college acceptances, declines, and wait-list notifications have come through, and I’m happy to say that I’m going to Columbia, my first choice college. I couldn’t be more ecstatic about my future four years in New York; don’t worry, this blog will still be up and running as I travel from the west coast to the east coast! (Also, the fact that the above two things happened on the same day was an awesome double whammy :D)

Angel Food French Toast, pre-sauceification

Third, I’ve got awesome friends, Girlfriend, and Mom. I’m always happy about that. Enough said.

What could make me happier than all of this? Well…probably cake for breakfast. But that’s unreasonable…

Or is it?

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Writer’s Block? Not So Much (Ultimate Breakfast Muffins)

Everyone knows about writer’s block. Everyone has probably faced it some time or another. I don’t know if it has anything to do with being a senior nearing the end of my high school career, but that intangible blockade has been attempting to impede me quite a bit lately.

Whenever that happens, though, a quote from Kathleen Norris (an essayist and poet, I have discovered, though I know nothing about her past that) often comes to mind:

“All writing is difficult. The most you can hope for is a day when it goes reasonably easily. Plumbers don’t get plumber’s block, and doctors don’t get doctor’s block; why should writers be the only profession that gives a special name to the difficulty of working, and then expects sympathy for it?”

I laugh a bit and suddenly I am able to move on and write more, whether it be a personal rendition of T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land for my AP Literature course or, well, this blog post that I’m writing now.

Who knew muffins were also stackable? But I digress.

Does this have anything to do with food, though? Why, yes–this is a food blog after all, people! 😉

I think writer’s block–whether Kathleen Norris thinks it exists or not–manifests itself when the body is simply not prepared or in good shape. Lack of sleep, exhaustion, and hunger have hardly ever been good things to write on (except when I wrote that stream of consciousness piece about my hunger…but I digress). These muffins, however, can take care of that last variable for you.

These muffins are a 1-2-3 punch to stave off hunger! Ha! See what I did? There's 3 muffins lined up in the picture...oh, I'm just on a roll today.

Girlfriend loves the contrast of the soft, pillowy, almost savory muffin with the crunchy and sweet crumble on top. Eat one of these with some fruit or a smoothie, and your day is set! Don’t blame me if one isn’t enough to satisfy you, though. 🙂

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Fudge in the Restaurant Business (Orange Banana Bread)

After reading this blog, you probably understand that being a full-time student takes up a lot of my life—I typically spend, including rehearsal time and extracurricular activities, 45-55 hours a week at school. Even with all that, I manage to work on the weekends at the restaurant down the street from my school as a host and cashier.

Yeah, I know, it still doesn’t even make sense to me how that all goes down, but it does, so I just roll with it.

The walnuts are just spilled around for the photo–I’m not that messy when I bake, people.

I love working in the restaurant business as a teenager. I get to develop great people skills by meeting all kinds of customers, customers ranging from the super nice and absolutely polite to the quirky crack-ups to the…well, we’ve all seen those certain kinds of patrons at restaurants, so I’ll just leave up that up to your imagination.

All jokes aside, though, my restaurant is great. My waiter, cashier, and host co-workers and I are like a big family. We’ve got the motherly waiter who always bakes and takes care of the rest of the staff, the kooky uncle-cashier who you always want to hang out with, and the rest of the clan, all ending up with me: the little kid of the whole bunch :). I think that spirit that patrons see is what keeps them coming back for more. Well, other than the scrumptious food, that is.

One side zesty orange, the other sweet and wholesome banana.

One perk of working in a restaurant? The cooks sometimes give me the old bananas from the week to take home! They’re overwhelmingly brown and black on the outside and mushy on the inside, but I think they’re beautiful. Do you know why?

Well, I can make this out of them:

This bread has your name all over it, people.

Old bananas are the best bananas to use for baking bread, I’ve found. The peels are brown and unattractive, but the inside is mostly in tact, so by no means are the bananas inedible. Since the bananas have over-ripened, I can cut down on the sugar in the recipe I use them in while replacing the lost sugar with the natural sugars that are present in the ripe bananas, making what could have been packed with empty calories into a healthy snack or part of a healthy breakfast.

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My Love-Hate Relationship with Costco (Strawberry Banana Muffins)

I love Costco. My family loves Costco. Everyone and their mother loves Costco. I’m pretty sure my dog knows full well what Costco is and loves it.

Loving Costco means two things, though. First, my family buys a lot of produce in bulk for hardly any money. Second, a lot of that produce sadly ends up going down the disposal when it gets old and moldy after we have only had a chance to use half of it. I can’t tell you how much I hate when uneaten food goes down the sink or in trash; I always think of wasted food as lost opportunities to make a dish.

The Aftermath

I’ve developed ways of combating this waste, usually by freezing the fruit we buy and steaming the heck out of a pound of baby spinach on a weekly basis (what family of three needs a pound of spinach per week, especially when I’m usually the only one that uses?). However, I think I may have found my new favorite method for my mounds of fruits: bake with them!

It is not an infrequent sight to see bananas of varying shades of yellow-brown sitting on the countertop in the kitchen, but making bread out of these bananas has never really crossed my mind (I know, how could it not have crossed my mind beforehand?). What with the newly purchased…pound (again, a pound for a family of three?)…of strawberries from Costco, I knew this would be the perfect opportunity to prevent those luscious berries and, well, those not-as-luscious-looking-but-still-delicious bananas from going down the black hole that is the kitchen sink.

Don’t judge a banana by its peel, people.

The Aftermath, Pt. 2

To all my high school readers: this takes almost no time to make! Sure, this will technically takes about an hour to make, but remember that most of that time is baking time. I whipped up the batter in about 5 or 10 minutes and stuck these puppies in the oven while I was studying for Chemistry (an apt combination, Chemistry and Cooking), took them out a little while later, and had tasty homemade muffins for the rest of the week! Cooking and baking aren’t daunting tasks, guys; great food is only a bit of time and effort away!

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