Banana Pudding

Banana-pudding_600_1

I lived in New York City right when the cupcake craze began. The time where Magnolia Bakery was the queen of all cupcakes and people stood in lines that wrapped around the block in order to get their hands on a cupcake. Don’t get me wrong, Magnolia cupcakes are delicious (especially that frosting) but I was standing in that loooong line just to get their banana pudding. Layers of creamy vanilla pudding mixed with bananas and Nila wafers  – it is close to being the perfect dessert. Since I live a long way from Magnolia bakery these days and only get to NY a couple times of year, I have developed my own recipe for this nostalgic dessert that (dare I say) might just be better than the real thing.

Banana-pudding_600_3

The key to this banana pudding is the Nila wafers. Don’t get imitation vanilla wafers, make sure to get the Nabisco Nila Wafers. I tried it once with the Whole Foods 365 brand of vanilla wafers and it was a little off. There is something in the original Nila wafers that screams banana pudding. The smell, the texture and the taste of those vanilla wafers are what makes this dessert. This is also one of the few desserts that actually get better as it sits. The wafers get all soggy and infused with the banana and pudding flavors. Delicious. I could eat it straight out of the bowl in heaping spoonfuls.

Banana-pudding_600_2

The below recipe calls for making your own pudding from scratch. But if that is not your jam, then feel free to buy instant pudding and use that instead. One box should be all you need.

Enjoy!

Banana Wafer Pudding
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 vanilla bean, split in half and seeds removed
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup cold heavy cream
  • Approximately ½ box Nila Wafers
  • 2 ripe bananas, thinly sliced
  • ½ cup salted caramel (optional)

Make pudding:

In a medium saucepan, add the milk. Place the vanilla bean on a work surface. Using a small, sharp knife, cut the bean in half lengthwise. Using the knife tip, scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean, then add the seeds and bean halves to the milk. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Remove from the heat, cover and let stand for 10 to 15 minutes. Strain and discard vanilla bean.

In a medium size bowl, whisk the egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Whisk in ½ cup warm milk mixture into the egg mixture. Once the bottom of the bowl is warm, slowly whisk in the remaining warm milk. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and whisk constantly over medium-low heat until it thickens and becomes a pudding texture, about 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer the pudding back to the bowl and whisk in butter. Press a piece of plastic wrap onto the surface of the pudding to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate for 4 hours or until pudding is cool.

Assemble dish:

In the bowl of a stand mixer, whip heavy cream until stiff peaks form. Fold in ¾ of whipped cream into pudding. Set aside remaining whipped cream.

In a large bowl or trifle dish, assemble the banana pudding by adding a layer of Nila wafers, followed by ¼ of pudding mixture. Top pudding mixture with a layer of banana slices and a drizzle of salted caramel (if using). Repeat layers 3 more times. Top dish with one layer of Nila wafers, remaining whipped cream and garnish with crushed Nila wafers.

http://www.alifewelllivedblog.com/2015/05/28/banana-pudding/

Spring Salad with Fava Beans

Spring-Salad_600_1

Spring has officially sprung and I can’t help myself from eating all of the vegetables I missed during the colder months, especially fava beans. Fava beans or broad beans are super seasonal vegetables that arrive in April and are usually gone by May. Because favas are a little time intensive to shuck the easiest way to eat them is to roast them in the oven (or on the grill) whole with a little olive oil for about 5 – 7 minutes until soft. But if you have the time, they are delicious and gorgeous in a light and fresh spring salad.

Spring-Salad_600_2

The best way to shuck favas is to remove them from the pods, blanch them for a couple seconds in boiling water, plunge in ice water, then pop them out of their skins. They are time intensive but totally worth it, I promise.

In this salad I mixed the favas with some quinoa, sugar snap peas, red onion, mint and feta cheese. It is the perfect salad to welcome in the warmer weather and longer days. Plus I am sharing my all time favorite salad dressing with this recipe. The secret is in the honey and a large pinch of salt.

If you can’t find favas you can swap in English peas or even de-frosted frozen edamame.

Head on over to my column on Sacramento Street to get the recipe. 

Strawberry Mascarpone Tarts

Strawberry-Tarts-600_2

One of my first food memories as a kid is picking strawberries. I grew up in South Florida where strawberry and tomato farms flourished (not to mention citrus groves as well). I remember long rows of strawberry plants and racing around picking as many as possible, at the same time shoving an equal amount in my mouth. Although I haven’t been strawberry picking in a long time, I still get excited when I start to see strawberries make their appearance at my local farmer’s market. So in honor of these gorgeous berries I thought I would share one of my favorite ways to eat them, on a tart with mascarpone cheese, honey and pistachios.

Strawberry-Tarts-600_1

This seems to be my go-to desert, especially in the spring and summer when fruit is in season and is the perfect thing to eat when it is warm and sunny out. Any seasonal fruit would work but strawberries are always my favorite.

Another great part about this recipe is that the crust is a cinch – it is ground up pretzels with a little melted butter and brown sugar. That is all. Totally easy and totally delicious.

Strawberry-Tarts-600_4

So the next time you see some gorgeous strawberries at the store or local market (or even pick them yourself) serve them in this easy tart that is perfect for the warmer weather that is headed our way.

 Head on over to my column on Sacramento Street to get the recipe.

Shrimp Tacos

Shrimp_Tacos_10

I have a serious love of Mexican food. I could eat it morning, noon and night and never get sick of it. Especially tacos – I love a good taco. For me, a taco is all about well-seasoned filling and lots of garnishes. Traditionally the meat in tacos has been braised or can take a while to cook, but my shrimp tacos can be ready in under 10 minutes, which might make it the world’s perfect taco.

The key to my shrimp tacos is the spice rub, as well as good quality corn tortillas. For the spice rub, the recipe below will give you more than you will need, but save it with your other spices and use it the next time you make these tacos or any type of fish or chicken. Think of it as a magical flavor dust with all its tasty seasoning

Shrimp_Tacos_5

The best part of all, these tacos are seriously healthy. Gluten-free because I found all corn tortillas, as well as pan seared the shrimp. They are so good, it is totally ok to eat two, three, or four at a time. Because honestly, who can eat just one taco?

If you don’t like shrimp, feel free to swap in a flaky white fish like cod or use chicken. Store bought garnishes make these tacos even easier.

Enjoy!

Shrimp Tacos
  • 1 Tbs. paprika
  • ½ Tbs. cumin
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. onion powder
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • ½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 8 6" corn tortillas, warmed
  • Garnish: lime wedges, pickled vegetables, radish, Cotija cheese, sour cream and cilantro.
  • Serve with your favorite hot sauce.

Combine the first 9 ingredients in a small bowl. Toss 2 to 3 tablespoons of the spice mixture with shrimp and coat shrimp well. Reserve any remaining spice mixture for another use.

In a large sauté pan, preferably non-stick, sauté the shrimp for about 2 to 3 minutes or until shrimp is pink and firm to touch . While you are sautéing the shrimp place the corn tortillas, wrapped in a damp paper towel, in a warm oven for a minute or two to soften.

When shrimp are done, fill tortillas. Garnish with pickled vegetables, Cotija cheese, sour cream, radish and cilantro. Squeeze fresh lime wedges over tacos and serve with favorite hot sauce.

Serves 2 to 4

http://www.alifewelllivedblog.com/2015/04/23/shrimp-tacos/

Dutch Baby

Dutchbaby_1_600

I love entertaining; having people over to my house to eat is one of my favorite pastimes. I think that is why I became a cook, because I love feeding people. Over the years I have figured out tips and tricks to make it easier on me and more delicious for my guests. One of the best tips is to have people over for brunch rather than dinner. Brunch is always a little more laid back and relaxed and I love serving recipes that can be done the day before. Enter the Dutch baby.

Dutchbaby_2_600

A Dutch baby is a mix between a pancake and a crepe that is baked in the oven and comes out deliciously fluffy, puffy, crispy and a little gooey. It is also the perfect brunch food – not only is it a crowd pleaser with the height that it rises in the pan but it is also supper easy to make. The night before brunch, you add all the ingredients to a blender and blend really well. Refrigerate overnight and when you are almost ready to eat, pour the batter into a pan, bake and about 20 minutes later, you have a gorgeous Dutch baby. This is the kind of recipe that looks really hard but is super simple.

Consider the Dutch baby a blank canvas, like a crepe or a pancake and add different toppings and flavors to the batter. I like to top mine with crème fraiche and berries, but lemon zest in the batter would be delicious, as would apple slices.

Head on over to my column on Sacramento Street to check out the recipe.

Sriracha Deviled Eggs

Deviled-Eggs_1

If you have ever picked up a vintage cookbook there will undoubtedly be a recipe for deviled eggs. Deviled eggs have been around for years, even decades, and I don’t see them going anywhere. They are a classic appetizer that is perfect for entertaining or just plan snacking. They also are the perfect finger food. Although the classic recipe is delicious, I have updated my deviled eggs by adding some sriracha, curry powder and bacon. All three flavors come together to create a smooth, spicy and hearty deviled egg.

Deviled-Eggs_8

If you are unfamiliar with sriracha, it is a Thai chili paste that adds a touch of heat and lots of flavor to whatever you are cooking. Paired with a sweet curry powder and salty bacon, this is one amazing deviled egg.

So with Easter coming up and spring and summer outdoor parties in sight, whip up a batch of these delicious deviled eggs and remember why deviled eggs will always be the perfect appetizer.

Tip: There are a couple ways to get those pesky shells off the hard-boiled eggs—fresh eggs are harder to peel. Using slightly older eggs are easier to peel. I also crack the eggs gently after they have been boiled and let them sit in cold water overnight.

Enjoy!

Sriracha Deviled Eggs
  • 1/2 dozen large eggs
  • 3 – 4 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1/2 tablespoon Sriracha sauce
  • 1/4 cup chopped chives
  • 1 - 2 teaspoon curry powder
  • 2 strips bacon, cooked and crumbled

In a large pot or sauté pan, cover the eggs with cold water and bring to a boil. Remove the pot from the heat, cover, and let sit for exactly 14 minutes. Place the eggs into a bowl of ice water to cool. Gently tap the eggs with the back of a spoon and let the eggs sit in water for a couple hours or overnight to help loosen the shell. When ready to serve remove the shell.

Using a thin, sharp knife, cut the eggs in half lengthwise.

Remove the egg yolks into a medium bowl and mash with a fork. Stir in the mayonnaise, Sriracha, curry powder and 3 tablespoons of the chives, mixing until very smooth.

Transfer the yolk mixture to a pastry bag fitted with a star or plain tip, or a zip-top bag (with the corner cut off). Set the egg whites on a serving platter and pipe in the filling.

Just before serving, sprinkle the deviled eggs with bacon crumbles and remaining chives.

Makes 12 servings.

http://www.alifewelllivedblog.com/2015/04/03/sriracha-deviled-eggs/

Food Styling Workshop

Figs_with_marscapone_4

I am hosting a food styling workshop! I am really excited to team up with Fullosophie here in SF and teach a workshop on the basics of food styling, shooting pictures with your iPhone, as well as teach some easy Spring recipes.

If you are local or just want an excuse to come to SF – Here are the details:

When: Sunday April 12th from 10:30am  – 1:00pm

Where: Fullosophie headquarters (2860 Laguna St. San Francisco)

Why: Because who doesn’t love taking pictures of food!

Good Eggs is also joining in on the food styling fun and is supplying fresh produce and goodies for the workshop.

Hope to see you there!

Tortilla Soup

Tortilla-Soup_600_1

I have a serious love of Mexican food and could eat it food for days on end and be completely happy. There is a local Mexican restaurant near my house and I get take out from there way too much. I try and convince myself that is it healthy because of all the fresh flavors, but too much of a good thing might be a bad thing right? Maybe but hopefully not in this case. I don’t just limit my love of Mexican food and flavors to tacos and margaritas, but also braises, salads and soups. This tortilla soup has everything I love about Mexican food, bright flavors, fresh ingredients and delicious toppings.

Tortilla-Soup_600_2

Soups are so underrated sometimes. They are great make ahead meals that can be reheated and eaten a couple days after. Not to mention frozen and saved for future meals. I love this tortilla soup because it is easy, there is minimal prep, and it is delicious, healthy and satisfying. Plus I love any recipe that I can customize with some delicious toppings of my choice.

Tortilla-Soup_600_3

Head on over to my column on Sacramento Street to check out the recipe.