Monday, August 26, 2013

Cream Cheese Banana Nut Bread

Banana Cream Cheese Bread

Last week marked the end of my very short summer with having to return to graduate school. Because I took a summer class, I had only three weeks between classes. :-( Not only did I feel like I didn't have a break, my summer class was a 16-week graduate level class condensed into 8-weeks... 4 papers and a midterm and all of the insane amounts of reading! Talk about burnout. So, what did I do in order to skip having to take a summer class next year? I decided to take 3(!!!) graduate level classes this semester instead of my usual two classes, all while working full-time. And one of the classes is on Saturday mornings. Now, I don't know if this is the greatest idea but if I get through this semester, I won't have to take a summer class and still be on track to graduate Spring 2015. After this semester, I will be halfway through my Masters. :-)

While I'm going to try and keep up with the blog, postings may be just as sporadic or more so depending on my semester. I do have some great recipes that I want to document and share with you, so please keep checking for new posts! You can also follow the blog on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram-- I post to those frequently with some fun pictures of new things I am making or things I try at various restaurants or places.

 Today I am sharing with you a different version of your usual banana bread recipe. Banana bread is one thing I absolutely adore, and I love trying (eating and baking!) new types of banana breads. When I came across this Cream Cheese Banana Nut Bread on Pinterest, I knew I had to make it. I also liked that it uses pecans instead of walnuts. Do others think that walnuts sometimes taste like dirt???

I wasn't too sure what to entirely expect with this bread-- would it taste like cream cheese, would it not be as sweet, etc. This banana bread came out absolutely wonderful! The texture of the bread was a little different than other banana bread we may be used to; it was a little denser and had a little bit of some heft to it. The bread, however, was incredibly moist and had wonderful flavor that you expect from banana bread. And no cream cheese taste if that's what you were expecting. (You can probably add in some small cubes of cream cheese to the batter if that's the flavor that you're going for.)

The density and texture of the bread will change depending on how many bananas you use. If you use less banana, the bread will come out a little more dense but still good. It may not have as much of the banana flavor, but it will still be very good! Also, this bread freezes very well-- wrap one of the loaves in aluminum foil, then place is a plastic freezer bag, and remove all the air-- it will last for several months.

So if you're looking to try a little bit of a different banana bread without getting too crazy, this is a great one to try.

Cream Cheese Banana Nut Bread
From Sugar and Spice by Celeste, originally from Southern Living Magazine

3/4 c. butter, softened
1 (8 oz.) pkg. cream cheese, softened
2 c. sugar
2 large eggs
3 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 c. mashed bananas (about 4 medium bananas)
1 c. roughly chopped pecans, toasted
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Using an electric mixer, cream together the butter and cream cheese. Add the sugar gradually, and beat mixture until light and fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until blended after each addition.

Combine flour with baking powder, baking soda, and salt; gradually add to butter mixture, beating at low speed just until blended. Stir in bananas, pecans, and vanilla. Spoon batter into 2 greased and floured 8x4 inch loaf pans.

Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour or until a long wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean and sides pull away from pan, shielding with aluminum foil last 15 minutes to prevent browning, if necessary. Cool bread in pans on wire racks for 10 minutes. Remove from pans, and cool 30 minutes on wire racks before slicing.

Makes 2 loaves

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Trip to San Francisco, Napa, and Half Moon Bay!

I recently went to San Francisco and Napa for a birthday celebration with my mom. Our trip not only was for sightseeing and wine tours, but also dining at some incredible restaurants! I've neglected documenting all the incredible food I've had on my past vacations, so I took extra care to document all the wonderful places and meals that we had on our trip. If you ever are in the Bay Area, these are some wonderful suggestions for you! This is a very long post that is also really picture-heavy, but you're in for a special treat!

R&G Lounge (631 Kearny St  San Francisco, CA 94108)

This is one of my family's all-time favorite places! My uncle Alan introduced my brother and me to this place nearly seven years ago and it's a place that he and his family like to take visitors from out-of-town. He's introduced my other cousins to this place as well. R&G's specialty is the salt and pepper crab, which is a whole crab battered in special spices and deep fried. The batter is one of the best parts of this crab and there's no way to eat this without making a mess! This restaurant is a necessity whenever we go to San Francisco! It's located in Chinatown, so you can stroll through the tiny shops before and after your meal! Click here for R&G's website.

Salito's Crab House (1200 Bridgeway, Sausalito, CA 94965)

My mom and I took the ferry over to Sausalito to do some shopping and lunch. I found an awesome necklace and a scarf with skulls. :-) For lunch, we headed over to Salito's Crab House which specializes in dungeness that's served in their special garlic sauce. The crab was messy, buttery, and garlicky... my crab cracking skills have also improved tremendously! I also ordered a bowl of crab chowder... I love clam chowder (which is another must when I'm in town!), so I thought I'd try this one out... good, but I still prefer clam chowder! Click here to visit Salito's website!

Roy's San Francisco (575 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94105)

For a special birthday meal, my uncle Alan and auntie Linda suggested going to Roy's San Francisco. The original Roy's is in Hawaii and they've been wanting to try the new location in San Francisco. My auntie Linda has a recipe that is supposed to be Roy's ribs recipe, so we ordered the ribs as an appetizer so that they could compare-- the ribs were so delicious (sadly, I forgot to take a picture) but from what I hear my aunt's version is better. ;-)

I ordered the margarita (strong but yummy!) and the macadamia nut crusted mahi mahi. My mom ordered the filet and lobster, my aunt ordered the shellfish sampler, and my uncle ordered a Korean glazed ribeye. I think we all enjoyed our meals and were very pleased with our experience.

For dessert, we ordered the melting hot chocolate souffle. It was like a lava cake, but better! Another great thing was, as we were leaving, they had little recipe cards for the souffle!!! I cannot wait to make this-- just need to buy souffle rings... Also, because it was a birthday celebration, Roy's gave me a special lemon tart dessert which was creamy, lemony, and so very delicious! Click here to visit Roy's San Francisco website!

Brenda's French Soul Food (652 Polk St., San Francisco, CA 94109 )‎

My friend and co-worker, Elizabeth, has been telling me about Brenda's for years! It's one of her favorite restaurants to visit when she goes to San Francisco, so this time around I made sure that we went there. She suggested the beignet flight, which has four different beignets: crawfish, apple cinnamon, chocolate, and original. They were all very delicious and they were HUGE!

I ordered the shrimp and grits, which was absolutely amazing! It was cheesy and garlicky and had a tomato-bacon gravy which was heavenly. I didn't even need the shrimp, this dish was so good! My mom got the pancakes and we each got a fried piece of chicken. You can't pass up a piece of fried chicken!! We ordered WAY too much food, but we wanted to try everything and everything was delicious. We were happy and relieved that the couple next to us ordered just as much food as we did! My auntie Linda and uncle Alan just recently went here after we told them about our meals. :-) Click here to visit Brenda's French Soul Food website!

Scala's Bistro (432 Powell St., San Francisco, CA 94102)

One of the restaurants my mom was the most excited to have me try is Scala's Bistro, which was right by our hotel. She had gone there before with her co-workers on a business trip and wanted to go back there for dinner. We split a bottle of wine and a cheese and sliced meat appetizer. I ordered a steak and frites for my meal, which was delicious. Tim Nugent is the executive pastry chef at Scala's and he really outdid himself with this menu! For dessert, my mom ordered their Boston cream pie and I ordered the salted caramel panna cotta. The panna cotta was a delightful surprise! The menu said it had a chocolate ganache and candied popcorn but I definitely wasn't expecting what I received! This is possibly one of the cutest desserts I've ever had! The lighting in the restaurant was a little too dark, most of my photos didn't come out. Click here to visit Scala's Bistro website!

The Habit Burger Grill

This is a fast food chain that I've never heard of until now. I was very impressed with this place that I thought I'd share for anyone who hasn't heard of them and runs across these restaurants. The workers were all helpful and joyful! The food was fresh. The onion rings were superb and the ranch was made in-house. I don't know of many fast food chains that make their own ranch. Psst... I like this place better than In-N-Out... Click here to visit the Habit Burger Grill's website!

Morimoto Napa (610 Main St  Napa, CA 94559)

Morimoto's was one of the restaurants that I was the most excited to try! This is Iron Chef Morimoto's restaurant in Napa. The menu is very diverse and eclectic as well as very centered around Asian cuisine and fish/seafood.

For our appetizer, we ordered the pork gyoza. If you're familiar with potstickers, gyoza is the Japanese version of potstickers. When the gyoza came out, it looked like one huge gyoza and were a little confused about how to eat it. It was actually five pieces that you separate, then you scoop some tomato paste on it as well as some bacon foam. Yes, bacon foam. It sounds so odd, but all the flavors complemented each other so well. One of my favorite dishes of the trip!

For our entrees, I ordered the angry chicken and my mom ordered the yellow tail buri bop. I didn't really know what angry chicken was, but it was a half chicken baked in East Indian spices. The chicken was moist and flavorful, I loved this dish. (You can also find a recipe for this dish online, which I'm planning on trying out soon!) My mom's buri bop was prepared in a hot stone bowl at the table, which was really fun to watch.

For dessert, we both ordered our own desserts. Because of the beignets at Brenda's, my mom was craving the doughnuts. The doughnuts came with a variety of dipping sauces and sugars though my mom preferred the sugar. I ordered the ice cream sandwiches-- yes, plural! I didn't realize this was plural at the time and was so surprised with all the dessert that came to the table! These are probably the most original ice cream sandwiches that I've ever had-- a green tea cookie with white chocolate ice cream, sesame cookie with chocolate ice cream (didn't like it at first but it ended up being my favorite), and chocolate cookie with cardamom ice cream (not a fan of this one).

Click here to go to Morimoto Napa's website!

Sam's Chowder House (4210 Cabrillo Hwy N  Half Moon Bay, CA 94019)

I spent my last day with my Uncle Alan, Auntie Linda, and cousin Denise. We drove down to Half Moon Bay for lunch before I had to catch my flight that afternoon. One of the places that my aunt suggested was Sam's Chowder House because they're known for their lobster rolls... now being a New Mexico girl, I've never had a real lobster roll, so that helped in our decision to go there!

It turns out that Sam's Lobster Roll was chosen as The Today's Show top five sandwiches in America! The lobster roll is rich and buttery and has huge chunks of lobster-- a great treat for lobster lovers! The roll is also soft and buttery and goes so well with the lobster!

This is a popular place, so make sure you get there early! But you still might have to park down the road... ;-) Click here to go to Sam's Chowder House's website!

Denica's Cafe (6058 Dougherty Rd  Dublin, CA 94568)

I actually didn't go to Denica's this time around, but this is one of my Uncle Alan's favorite bakeries and he picked up some cookies for us! These cookies are massive and so delicious! I may or may not have some cookies stored in the freezer... nope, I didn't share these babies... ;-) This bakery is definitely worth the stop if you're nearby... you might find my uncle and his buddies there! Click here to visit Denica's website!

Thank you for sharing my vacation and dining experience with me! I hope all these incredible foods made you salivate and slightly envious, haha. These are some incredible places for you to visit if you're ever in the Bay Area; I highly suggest them.

(Congratulations for making through my longest post to date!)


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