Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Banana, Macadamia Nut, Coconut Coffee Cake

Greetings, Dear Cook’s Tour Readers. 

Hope you are all doing OK.  Here in Puerto Rico we’re hunkered down like the rest of the world, trying to stay healthy and keep our anxieties at bay regarding Covid-19. 

As I’m sure you know (if you’ve read any of my posts), when I feel anxious or stressed, my go-to escape is baking. For me, it is a total disconnect from the daily blare of the news, everyday annoyances, or just the blahs. I put on some great tunes and get to work!

For the last few days, I’ve been eyeing the rapidly ripening bananas on my counter. I didn’t want to make a typical banana bread recipe, I wanted something a little more comforting and satisfying. And I found it in a Leite’s Culinaria recipe from 2018 that I had squirreled away in my EverNotes recipe file. The bonus was that I had all the ingredients in-house (a necessity nowadays). 


This cake was absolutely delicious, and was everything I was looking for in this #quarantinebaking moment. It was super moist, richly flavored thanks to the ripe bananas, shredded coconut, and a not overly sweet cinnamon-pecan topping, with a terrific texture that I can only describe as light and fluffy. 
The original recipe calls for macadamia nuts (which I didn’t have on hand) or pecans. It also calls for a dark rum or amaretto liqueur - I used Bacardi Ocho, purchased during a fun Bacardi factory tour a few months ago.

So many of us are feeling sad or overwhelmed right now. To pass the time & focus on other things, we’ve been watching alot (ALOT) of movies & TV series (Ozark, My Brilliant Friend, Bombshell, Richard Jewell, Homeland, and Madam CJ Walker, to name a few), reading, walking within our complex, and of course, cooking and baking. What are you doing during this #stayathome period to take care of yourself? 

I leave you with these words from the Italian Prime Minister that I found comforting & uplifting:

“Teniamoci distanti oggi per abbracciarci piรน forte domani.” “Let’s keep our distance today so we can hug each other more strongly tomorrow.”

Take good care of yourself and each other!

Banana, Macadamia Nut, and Coconut Coffee Cake (from Leite's Culinaria)

by Lou Seibert Pappas

Makes one 9-inch cake

Toasty, sweet macadamia nuts and cinnamon sugar top this flavorful banana cake laced with flaky coconut. It’s especially moist. Select well-ripened sugar-sweet bananas for best flavor.—Lou Seibert Pappas

A surefire way to recognize when the bananas are perfectly ripe is to look for a bunch that’s speckled with dark spots. If all you can find are neon green bunches, fear not. Simply let the bananas rest on the counter, not in the fridge. In a few days they’ll be ideal.—David Leite

Ingredients 
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 1/4 cups mashed bananas (about 2 1/2 large, ripe bananas)
2 large eggs
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil (choose a buttery, mild one) or canola oil
2 tablespoons dark rum or amaretto liqueur
1/2 cup sour cream
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup sweetened flaked coconut
1/2 cup (1 1/2 ounces) chopped macadamia nuts or pecan halves
1 tablespoon granulated sugar mixed with 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Butter and flour a 9-inch springform pan or round cake pan.
2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and brown sugar. Stir to blend. In a blender or food processor, combine the bananas, eggs, oil, rum or amaretto, sour cream, and vanilla and blend until smooth. Add the banana mixture to the dry ingredients and beat until smooth. Stir in the coconut.
3. Spread evenly in the prepared pan and sprinkle evenly with the nuts. Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar evenly over the batter.
4. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the cake is golden brown and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack, then remove the pan sides. Serve warm or at room temperature, cut into wedges.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Chia Fruit Breakfast Parfait

Morning in Puerto Rico
Greetings, Cook's Tour Readers!

Banana Bread (not ready for prime time)
I hope you are all doing OK during these stressful times. If you’re like me, you might be looking for new recipes to try while sequestered at home. During the last week, I’ve made a tried-and-true cookie, a brand new banana bread (that I wasn’t entirely happy with so I won’t share with you just yet), and this quick, easy, and tasty breakfast parfait. 
Chocolate Almond (GF) Shortbread Cookies

Before the corona virus pandemic, we were lucky enough to spend a week sailing the gorgeous British Virgin Islands. Our chef for the week (the Captain’s wife, Lesley) wowed us every day with fabulous meals, while Captain Mike steered the catamaran to various beautiful coves (and plied us with terrific cocktails in the evening) where we whiled away the day snorkeling, swimming, reading, or just relaxing. It was heavenly. 
Light lunch, day 1, aboard Exta-Sea
Tuna Poke with avocado, edamame, cucs, carrots
Good morning from Leinster Bay!

I absolutely loved the breakfast parfait she served one morning, and I couldn’t wait to reproduce it at home. I had never used chia seeds before but knew they supposedly had excellent health benefits. Here’s a reprint from Harvard with some great info on chia seeds. 

Now that I see the benefits and how easy they are to use, I will be exploring other ways to incorporate them into our diet. For now, I’m loving this parfait, topped with fresh pineapple, mango, blueberries, and bananas. 

I leave you with these thoughts: stay well, stay vigilant, practice “physical” distancing. Stay in touch with “your people,” help those that need it. As the great Maya Angelou said, “every storm runs out of rain.” We will get through this.
Chia Fruit Breakfast Parfait (Lesley Blanchard)

1 can coconut milk
1/4 cup chia seeds
1 tsp vanilla essence
sweetener of choice to taste (I use generous 1 TB honey)

Mix together and refrigerate overnight. 

Spoon some chia cream in the bottom of a glass, add fresh fruit of choice, top with another dollop of chia cream. Enjoy!