Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Chai Banana Bread, Two Ways

This bread recipe has been sitting in my "Recipes I Want to Try" list since May. Now that I have cardamom, I could finally make it!

I took most of the bread to share at work but saved myself a couple thicker pieces for the express purpose of making them into French toast. I'm glad I was selfish with those two slices, because this bread did well in its second life.

If you have trouble slicing bananas for the topping, you should get one of these handy banana slicers. (Just kidding, but the reviews on this product are hysterical! A few are a bit off-color, so just be forewarned.)

Both recipes are below!

Chai Banana Bread

Adapted from Cooking Light
Yield: 1 loaf pan

1-1/2 cups mashed ripe banana
1/3 cup plain fat-free Greek yogurt
5 Tbsp. butter, melted
2 large eggs
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1-1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. ground cardamom
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground allspice (or substitute 1/8 tsp. each cinnamon and nutmeg)

Preheat oven to 350. Spray a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan with cooking spray.

Combine first four ingredients in a bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed just until blended. Add sugars and vanilla; beat at medium just until blended.

Combine remaining ingredients (flour through allspice). Add flour mixture to banana mixture; beat just until blended.

Pour batter into prepared loaf pan. Bake at 350 for 65 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in pan on wire rack. Remove from pan; cool.

  • This bread was tasty! Be prepared that it's very cardamom-y. I liked it; my coworkers liked it; I hope you'll like it.
  • The original recipe said that 3 bananas would do. However, the three (very!) shriveled bananas from my freezer only measured 1/2 cup, so I was stuck substituting applesauce for a full cup of banana measurement. As a result, the bread was a bit less sweet and obviously had less of a banana flavor, unfortunately. I think more banana would have stood up to the spices better than the applesauce did, but it was still good.

Chai Banana Bread French Toast

Created by me
Yield: 1 serving

2 thick slices Chai Banana Bread
1 egg
1/4 cup light coconut milk (or other milk of choice)
1/2 tsp. vanilla
Dash of cinnamon
1 banana, sliced
1 scant tsp. coconut oil, melted (or butter)
1-2 tsp. brown sugar
Honey or maple syrup (optional)

In a wide, shallow bowl whisk together the egg, coconut milk, vanilla, and a dash of cinnamon. In another bowl, toss the bananas with coconut oil, brown sugar, and another dash of cinnamon.

Heat a medium skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Dip the bread in the egg mixture, coating/soaking both sides well. Place in the medium skillet. Cook for 3-5 minutes on each side, until nicely browned.

Heat a small skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Spread the banana slices in a single layer in the skillet. Cook for 3-5 minutes, resisting the urge to stir them. About the time you flip the bread slices, turn each banana slice over and cook for another 3 minutes or so. (Note: Some coconut oil has a low burning point, so check yours to see how hot it can be. My jar of coconut oil says, "For medium high heat," right on the front of the jar.)

To serve, pour/arrange banana slices over the top of the French toast. If you like, add a drizzle of honey or maple syrup.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Women of Valor

Recently I've been moved by ways that some women who are very dear to me have been invited to use their voices to enrich the church and to honor God.

One of my friends led singing for the first time in her life a couple weeks ago. God has given her a beautiful voice and a heart for the church, and in this act of leading the gathered congregation in worship, these two gifts got to work together. Not segregated to using her voice outside the church in musical theatre and using her ministry heart behind the scenes in a church . . . but to share her voice with us--the church--in leading hymns and songs of worship.

Another friend was asked to read a Scripture and lead a prayer in front of a different church-like gathering. Only within the last month or two have women been permitted to serve in these ways in that particular context! Many of us are guilty of treating public prayer almost flippantly, wandering up to a podium to spit out a laundry list of requests for health and safety and the like, with little to no forethought about what we'll say to God on behalf of the congregation. This friend spent days thinking about what to pray in that moment, feeling the weight of the responsibility to approach God on behalf of a crowd of people, and considering the impact her words might have on people--both because it was a prayer and because it was a prayer being spoken by a woman. It was a joy to witness the intentionality with which she approached this opportunity.

Because I think her prayer was so beautiful and wonderful, I'd like to share it with you, along with the Scripture she read before the prayer:
From Psalm 36:
But your loyal love, LORD, extends to the skies;
your faithfulness reaches the clouds.
Your righteousness is like the strongest mountains;
your justice is like the deepest sea.
LORD, you save both humans and animals.
Your faithful love is priceless, God!
Humanity finds refuge in the shadow of your wings.
They feast on the bounty of your house;
you let them drink from your river of pure joy.
Within you is the spring of life.
In your light, we see light. 
God our father, God our mother, today we drink from your river of pure joy.
You, who saves us.
You, the loyal, the faithful, the righteous, the just.
Fill us with the joy and peace of your refuge.
Pour into us the spring of life so that, just as people look at my daughter and see my face, people will look at us and see your face.
Thank you, God, for your mercy. Thank you, God, for your sacrifice. Thank you, God, for Jesus.
Several hours before actually leading this prayer, she circulated what she'd written to a handful of friends and colleagues, asking for our feedback. Two of the women (myself included) suggested she take out the "God our mother" phrase, for fear that it would be too shocking to some and would distract them from the rest of the prayer. (Though both of us are big believers that God is both Mother and Father.) Two of the men, though, encouraged her to keep that phrase in the prayer and leave it up to the congregation to decide for themselves how to react to it. I'm so used to language and efforts like this being suppressed, that it was so unbelievably refreshing to see these two people defend this depiction of God so adamantly.

Somewhere in the midst of my friends leading in these amazing ways, I came across this article on When We Need Women behind the Pulpits on my Facebook mini-feed. I appreciated and identified with many things in the post, and here are some favorite tidbits:
  • Put a woman behind the pulpit so I can hear the words of God in a new voice.
  • Put a woman behind the pulpit so I can hear what it’s like for Mama Mary to watch her Son bleed.
  • Put a woman behind the pulpit so I can hear He is risen! in the tone it was first shouted.
  • Put a woman behind the pulpit so I can see that the kingdom of God is bigger than my expectations.
  • Put a woman behind the pulpit so I can know that this long line of Faith handed-down came from Mothers and Fathers.
While reading these exhortations, I couldn't help but think about these two friends of mine--and the many female friends I have who are exceptionally gifted in public ministry. I couldn't help but think of the ways they intone God differently than my male friends (not necessarily better, just different; I'm not hatin' on the guys here!). I couldn't help but think about the ways that they, as mothers who cherish their children, provide glimpses of the way God mothers me.

I'm glad to see them at the front of a church, leading the congregation in song and prayer. I appreciate getting to hear a voice like mine from the pulpit. I'm grateful for the opportunity to glimpse in each them another little piece of God. 

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Quinoa-Stuffed Carnival Squash with Cranberries and Pear

I'm sad to say that I actually forgot about this meal until pulling pictures off my camera not too long ago. This dish was part of my Thanksgiving Week of Deliciousness, and I drew inspiration from several recipes like these three.

Somewhere I read that you can roast squash whole, then scoop out the insides after everything is tender and easy to scoop. For the life of me, I can't remember (or find) whether that was in Cooking Light, Real Simple, or on one of the many food blogs I read. But I gave it a shot for this recipe.

I initially planned to use acorn squash for this recipe, but the carnival squash were so pretty in the store, and I'd never tried carnival squash before. I remember being underwhelmed by the squash part of this dish, but I'm not sure if 1) carnival squash isn't great, 2) it normally is but this particular one wasn't, or 3) the roasting method was to blame.

Isn't she a beauty?
But the filling was great! A nice variety of colors, flavors, and textures, and cozy and cool-weather-appropriate. The cranberries were a bit too tart, so I'd recommend sprinkling them with a bit of sugar and/or roasting them for a few minutes.

Quinoa-Stuffed Carnival Squash with 
Cranberries and Pear

Yield: 2 servings

1 carnival or acorn squash
1/4 lb. ground turkey sausage
1/3 to 1/2 yellow onion, chopped
1/3 cup quinoa
Olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup walnuts, chopped and toasted
1/4 cup fresh cranberries, chopped
1/2 pear, chopped
1/8 tsp. dried sage
1/4 tsp. dried thyme
1-2 Tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped
2 Tbsp. shredded Parmesan cheese
2 Tbsp. shredded pepper Jack cheese
Salt and pepper
1 egg white

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Wash the squash and place the whole thing--no cuts or anything--into the oven. You can place it directly on the rack. Roast for 25 minutes, until softened. When it's finished, remove from the oven, and cut in half (stem to belly button) and allow to cool for a few minutes before scooping out seeds and stringy insides.

Reduce oven temperature to 400 degrees.

Meanwhile, rinse quinoa and cook according to package directions. To toast the walnuts, place in a dry skillet over medium heat and cook, shaking occasionally, until toasted and fragrant.

Heat a bit of olive oil in a skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, 1-2 minutes. Add walnuts, cranberries, pear, sage, thyme, parsley, and cooked quinoa; cook until warmed through. Stir in cheeses and salt and pepper to taste. Stir in egg white.

Place the squash halves on a pan and fill with the quinoa mixture. Return to the oven and roast at 400 for about 20 minutes, until tops are toasted and egg is cooked.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Red Curry Lentils

Lentils. I'm determined to like them, and here are some reasons why:
  • They're versatile and go with (take on) a variety of flavors.
  • As dried legumes go, they cook fairly quickly (10-20 minutes without having to soak overnight like a lot of beans...which is why I buy canned beans, but I digress).
  • They are a great source of dietary fiber, folate, and manganese, and a good source of protein, iron, phosphorus, and copper, according to this website.
  • They're low calorie, low fat, and low sodium.
  • And if all that doesn't impress you, they're ridiculously cheap. How much do you think I paid for a bag that contained 13 servings? A whopping 88 cents. That's less than 7 cents per serving!
So I'm going to like them. 

If you are new to lentils like I am, let me suggest some resources to you.
  • Naturally Ella has an exceptional section on bulk bin ingredients, including a page each for red, brown, and green lentils. She talks about what kinds of dishes each one is good for, how to prepare them, and offers recipes for each kind. 
  • Pinch of Yum has a bit of a love affair with lentils, so she's posting yummy-sounding lentil recipes all the time. In fact, around the time that I was deciding to incorporate lentils into my diet this year, she wrote this post on her favorite lentil recipes.
  • If you become friends with my friend Amber, she might just let you borrow her awesome Pea and Lentil Cookbook that she got when she lived in the lentil capital of the world.
I tried out this Red Lentil Curry recipe, and it was okay, though not my favorite dish ever. I've come to realize that I don't care for tomato-based curries as much as non-tomatoey curries. Also I undercooked the lentils because I was too afraid of overcooking them. But if you like curry with tomatoes, and if you cook your lentils long enough, this could be a good recipe for you.

Amber assures me that it's actually pretty hard to overcook lentils. Noted!

This recipe calls for several spices that aren't staples in many American kitchens. If you have to buy all the spices specially for this dish, it could be pretty pricey, but if you accumulate spices bit by bit like I do, you may already have many of them. I'm happy to report that I didn't have to buy ANY spices especially for this recipe!

I have GOT to figure out a better light situation for evening photo shoots.

Red Curry Lentils

Ever-so-slightly adapted from Pinch of Yum
Yield: 6 servings

1-1/2 cups brown lentils, rinsed and picked over
1/2 large onion, diced
2 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. red curry paste
1/2 Tbsp. garam masala
1 tsp. curry powder
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. minced ginger
A few good shakes of cayenne pepper (more or less to taste)
1 (14-oz.) can tomato puree
1/4 to 1/2 cup coconut milk 
Cilantro for garnishing
Cooked rice for serving

Cook the lentils according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and saute for a few minutes until fragrant and golden. Add all the spices (curry paste, garam masala, curry powder, turmeric, cayenne, sugar, garlic, ginger) and stir fry for 1-2 minutes. Add the tomato sauce; stir and simmer until smooth.

Add the lentils and the coconut milk. Stir to combine and simmer for another 15-20 minutes (the longer, the better)! Serve over rice and garnish with cilantro.

Like I said, not my favorite, but I don't think it's a bad recipe--just didn't hit my sweet spot. I left out the cayenne, but my friend Lauren added cayenne to her plate. I'd recommend an aromatic rice like jasmine or basmati, possibly even cooked with some coconut milk. Don't leave out the cilantro.