Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Chocolate banana muffins

Have you ever had your banana so overripe and blackened that no one in the house wouldn`t touch it? Well. I have. In fact, many times. And it felt as if I was the most horrible person on earth when I decided to threw them away as I used to consider them as "ugly and non-edible" food. Guilty!
But it`s different now. In a good way. Thanks to Nigella, again, there are good recipes in her Nigella Kitchen book that transform these bad-looking banana into something more appetizing. One of the recipes was this chocolate banana muffins. I made some changes with the original recipe, which were less banana (as I only had one left),  less sugar, and less oil. Oh, and I added choc bar.

So, speaking of bad, how bad did my banana look like?
This bad. Sad, right? I feel sad just looking at it.

No worries, though, as we`re about to do some magic here. Ready with your magic wand whisk?
Peel off the skin, put the banana in a mixing bowl, and mash it up with a whisk. If your banana is ripe enough, or overripe like mine was, mashing it up would be very very easy, although  using a whisk will probably leave a bit of texture.

Whisk in vegetable oil (I used olive oil, regular one) and few drops of vanilla oil. And love potion too, if you have it.

Beat in eggs...

...brown sugar...

...then chocolate bars broken - or torn, as they were already melting out in my hot kitchen - into small chunks.

Note 1: The original recipe calls for cocoa powder mixed with flour to be added later on, but I wanted to use the chocolate bars that had been sitting for ages in my kitchen. 
Note 2: If you omit the chocolate, you`d better add more sugar because with the amount of sugar I used here (see Ingredients), the muffin itself  doesn`t taste sweet enough. 

Fold in sifted flour and baking soda.

And spoon the mixture into muffin tin lined with parchment paper or muffin cups.
Bake for 15 mins at 200 C.

Here they are, puffing up delightfully! Not so ugly anymore, huh?
My muffins came out in irregular shapes of course. I can`t remember if I`ve ever made something neatly.

So let me show you again what the magic did. 
From this:

To this:

And you can totally smell the banana aroma coming out from these fluffy muffins filled with heavenly oozes of dark chocolate.

My husband is not big on some particular fruits and banana are one of them. He also tends to freak out whenever we had blackened banana in our house. Even so, he already ate three (three!) muffins while I am typing this. Wonderful day. 
So this is my Wednesday resolution: I will never, ever, throw away my banana, again.

Ingredients (adapted from Nigella Kitchen):
Makes for 12 muffins
1 overripe banana
100 ml olive oil
2 whole eggs
80 g brown sugar
Vanilla oil
80 g dark chocolate
200 g cake flour
1 tsp baking powder

Bake at 200 C for 15 min

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Typhoon potato

What a (weird) name. I know. I`m just having trouble with the naming. 
Anyway, yesterday a typhoon came from the south and we had an unbelievably cold raining day as the temperature suddenly dropped from 33 to 21 C. So, for the cold evening, I made this potato dish  (hence the name is) with boil-and-saute technique, which I learned from Jamie`s 30 minute meals. His clever and quick methods to prepare everything within 30 mins might not be applicable in my kitchen that only has a single stove, but still I really love learning about his recipes and watching how quick he moves!

First, boil washed potatoes in enough water. You can peel the skin first before or after boiling later, but I just left it as it is.

While waiting potatoes boiled, chop up some shiitake mushrooms...

...and garlic too. Sauté them altogether with a bit of olive oil. 

Keep sautéing until the mushroom get wilted and the smells of garlic and mushrooms combine beautifully.

Remember the potatoes? Try poke them in in with a fork to check if they are tender enough.  If they are, drain and put them in together with the garlic and mushrooms. And by tender enough, I mean according to your preference.

Chop the potatoes up with your spatula. This is easy to do if the potatoes are soft enough. 

 Keep chopping up until the potatoes turned into smaller chunks.

Add parmesan cheese (generously, if you`re a cheese lover) and season with nutmeg, thyme, cayenne pepper, salt, and pepper and stir until all the potatoes are well coated. 

The potatoes are ready, but I added chervil to dress them up a bit.

Yum yum yum! Let`s dig in!

P.S. If you make this as a side dish, you might want to consider making this spicy wings too to get the party started.  Enjoy!

Parmesan cheese
Cayenne pepper

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The unplanned green trip to Akiu waterfall

I`m never a spontaneous person when it comes to trips, but last weekend I apparently turned into one.  And this is why. We were actually planning to make a different trip, but my carelessness (ah!) in checking out the bus schedule has made us cancel the trip. Feeling reluctant to go home or go around the city, we headed to the tourism information center at the central station and got a bunch of pamphlets there to see other goable places.
Then, considering the transportation possibility, we found another good destination, which was Akiu waterfall  that locates about 1.5 hours by bus from where we live. Although this scenic spot is famously known for its beauty during the autumn with the red-yellow-orange colored leaves surrounding the already gorgeous waterfall, I don`t think seeing there all in green is a deal breaker at all.
Anyway, after fueled up with lunch, we hopped on the bus feeling both excited and nervous about our trip.

And we finally got there! The gate and the gargoyles. Welcome!

Oh wait, I was so sleepy after the long bus riding I needed the caffeine boost first.

And we`re back entering the complex and soon finding this shrine.

The walkway down to the waterfall area. I could  hear the water splash already from here.

And there it was, the Akiu waterfall. It wasn`t as big as what we`ve expected, but it`s simply beautiful.

Daydreaming at the viewing deck.

We then took a forest walk. His idea, of course. My first time. Ever. And I was a total chicken there. Please don`t mock me.

Oh, there is a small soba and udon restaurant at the entrance of the forest. Love all the colors here!

Alright, to the forest. I held my camera tight while trying to forget my fears and to concentrate more on enjoying all the beauties.

Like this, don`t you call this as a beauty? I felt like I was pulled inside a painting.


Although I finally enjoyed taking pictures in the all-green-and-brown forest, I couldn`t help feeling relieved when we finally made our way out  and reached the main road again. The normal road, only packed with lots of greens.

Beware of bears, it says. But he just grabbed my hand and pulled me to keep walking with him. We`re lucky we didn`t meet any throughout the way!

Peeping down from the walkway, there it was the basin. With a girl posing like a mermaid on a rock.

After walked and walked and walked, we were finally there!
Getting distracted with the lady? Just think of her as the part of the nature then. And as a matter of fact, she really is! By the way, I somehow still insist that this is a different waterfall considering the height, but the sign indicates the same name and all the info I could get mentioning only one waterfall here. Weird. Or maybe I`m the one who is weird.

The picture above and this one below are actually his shots. L-O-V-E!!!

The other side of the basin. Very calm and relaxing.

With the waterfall and the forest, and not to mention the sore legs from all the walk, I felt like a real hiker. But a trip is not a trip without buying some souvenirs. That`s just my nature and I shouldn`t fight it.

He bought these luckycharm keyholders (our favorite animals: cat for him, cow for me) for each of us. His charm wishes the good luck to come and the bad luck to go away. Mine wishes I can spend my days happily and cheerfully. I`m neither a believer nor a superstitious person, but I do think this kind of stuff represents a very nice gesture as you wish all the good things for the person you gave.

And, the souvenirs include FOOD. So I got these fresh blueberries! Yippie!

The popular summer treat in Japan: soft (ice) cream. Not a real souvenir, though, since he finished it up like in 5 mins after he got it.

We`re deeply exhausted, but totally satisfied and happy with the wonderful adventure. Time to go home.

But since the bus hasn`t arrived yet, let me devour the other kind of beauty on earth.

Hope you enjoyed this exhaustively long post!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Easy peasy spicy wings

Now, how many of my posts have "spicy" word in them? Not sure, but definitely a lot. And how many with "easy" word? A lot too. Maybe my cooking journey is all about easy and spicy. 
Anyway, if you`ve never cooked anything in your life before, try this one. You`ll impress your guests. But there`s a good chance that you finish the whole batch yourself before you can even invite anyone over. Alright, I`m exaggerating here, but you should try this first to get the truth out.

Put chicken wings in a bowl and get all the spices in your pantry. I`m 30% kidding and 90% serious. I know that doesn`t sound mathematically correct. But you must know that I`m terrible at math. And other than that, that`s how badly I want the wings to be spicy. Real hot and spicy. In the middle of this scorching summer.
The dry ingredients I used were: chili, cayenne pepper, white pepper, ginger, garlic, coriander, cloves, and cardamon, and salt. Go generous with the spices, but control your self with the salt.
The wet ones were: olive oil, chili-infused sesame oil, soy sauce and fish sauce.

Rub the whole spices, oil, and sauces until the wings are well coated. I use my bare hands, but you can always use gloves if you want. Tongs? Well, not as good as our hands, but you should try them out if you`re curious.

Wrap the bowl with a plastic wrap, or transfer the whole content into a storage bag, and keep the wings in the fridge for at least 2 hours. To be honest, I do sometimes bake them right away. Results were not bad at all, but from what I`ve noticed, letting them rest in the fridge for a couple of hours do help give better flavors.

So while the wings were meditating in my fridge, we decided to take a short ride on our beloved Booboo up to the hill in our city and get some fresh(er) air.

It was almost sunset when we got there. And as what I`ve expected, it wasn`t hot at all up there! This is the only picture I`ve got that has trees, but if only you could come with us, you`d see that this place is almost practically an upland forest. And some of our campuses are located here too!

And far down there, standing proudly the concrete kingdom. Sure it has trees, but mostly are buildings. With heat.

And when I started to wonder what people were having for their dinner, I remembered how I missed my chicken wings. Time to go home!

Oh..there you are...all red and sexy. 
Bake them at 200 C for 15 to 20 mins. Hungry!

Alright, all cooked now. They might not look quite attractive now, but let`s dress them up a bit. 

Mix soy sauce and chili-infused sesame oil in a bowl and then lightly coat the roasted wings with the sauce mix. This will make the wings glossy, moist, and more rich in flavor.

You can sprinkle sesame seeds to give an edge and serve it with some vegetables to lessen the guilt like I did. Don`t forget to prepare a box of tissue paper. To clean your fingers when you`re done. And to wipe off your tears because of the chili and the happiness.

Have fun with the spice experiment and enjoy flying with the wings!

Chicken wings
Cayenne pepper
White pepper
Olive oil
Chili-infused sesame oil
Soy sauce
Fish sauce

Bake at 200 C for 15 to 20 mins