Saturday, November 30, 2013

Secret layer of deliciousness

This was my first time making banana cream pie. I did it for Thanksgiving for my auntie, who said it was her favorite. It turned out awesome! I was so excited when it got rave reviews. The success came because I made something called a black-bottom banana cream pie, which has a layer of chocolate right above the crust. Score! I don't think I could ever eat it any other way now.

I made my own custard, which isn't difficult at all. Any kind of crust will work, but I think the crunch of a chocolate or graham cracker crust is divine.


1 prebaked crust
3 eggs
1/2 c. sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
3 Tbsp. cornstarch
2 c. whole milk
3 Tbsp. butter
1 tsp. vanilla
2 oz. semisweet chocolate
1/4 c. cream
1 or 2 Tbsp. sugar
2 ripe but firm bananas
1/4 c. orange juice
2 c. sweetened whipped cream*

In a bowl, whisk together eggs, sugar and salt. Whisk in cornstarch thoroughly. In a saucepan over medium heat, warm milk until almost boiling, stirring frequently. Drizzle hot milk slowly into egg mixture, whisking the whole time. If you do this very patiently, you will temper your eggs gradually and prevent them from scrambling.

Return combined mixture to saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thick. Remove from heat and stir in butter and vanilla. Cool for a few minutes, then place plastic wrap directly onto custard to cool completely. The plastic will prevent the custard from forming a skin.

Combine chocolate, cream and sugar, and microwave in small increments until smooth. Let cool completely, then pour into pie crust. Refrigerate for 10 minutes.

Cut bananas into 1/4-inch slices. Toss with orange juice, then drain and pat dry with paper towels. Fold bananas into custard, then spread into pie crust. Pipe whipped cream on top as desired.

*Whipped cream doesn't hold up long, so if you need to make this pie in advance, or if you need it to hold up for a long time through a party or extended refrigeration, you should consider stabilizing your whipped cream. This way it will hold up for days. See recipe below.

Stabilized whipped cream:

4 tsp. cold water
1 tsp. unflavored gelatin (such as Knox)
1 c. heavy cream
2 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Place cold water in a small bowl. Sprinkle gelatin over top and mix in. Let stand for a minute to thicken. This process is called blooming. Microwave gelatin in small bursts, stirring each time, until melted into a translucent liquid.

Start beating cream, sugar and vanilla with mixer until cream starts to thicken. Pour in gelatin and continue beating until stiff peaks form. Makes 2 cups.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Ginger beef

My family can't get enough of this ginger beef. It is so fast and easy to make, and it tastes fantastic. It does have quite a bit of sugar, but the meat is intensely flavorful, so a small amount of it goes a long way over a large bed of rice.


1 Tbsp. sesame oil
1 lb. ground beef
3 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
1 tsp. fresh ginger*
1/2 c. soy sauce
1/2 c. brown sugar

Brown beef in sesame oil. Drain fat if necessary. Add remaining ingredients and mix thoroughly while cooking for a couple of minutes. Reduce heat to low and simmer about 30 minutes. Serve over rice.

*For convenience, I often use bottled ginger, found in the refrigerated produce section of the store.

Note: With the purchase of gluten-free soy sauce, this dish could easily be made gluten-free.