A Slice of Paradise: Hawaiian Banana Bread

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Banana bread, like Zucchini Bread, is basically an excuse to eat cake for breakfast. Because of the addition of fruit, a slice of this bread can be justified at any time of day.

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I completely overlooked this article about Julia’s Banana Bread in the March issue of Bon Appétit until I saw it pop up on fellow hapa foodie Erica’s blog Cannella Vita. After reading her post, I rummaged through the magazine and read the article and was convinced to attempt the recipe.

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My family is from Maui and the first time we visited Hawai’i we made the trek down the road to Hana. I remember seeing this green shack, but didn’t know that it hid delicious treats. Next time I go to Maui (for my honeymoon!), I’ll be sure to stop by Julia’s to try some banana bread. My hometown, Pai’a, is the “last stop” on the way to Hana, so I have absolutely no excuse.

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This banana bread is a great slice of comfort in the cold, chilly mornings of Winter (when the recipe was originally posted in Bon Appétit), but it works equally as well on the sticky summer days we’ve been having recently.

I sprinkled the top of the bread with some raw sugar I picked up the last time I was in Hawai’i and added in some whole wheat flour to boost the healthiness so that it’s even easier to justify that second slice. The bread looks even more inviting on this tie-died, honu printed sarong I picked up from Pai’a when we were there last.

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Homemade Ume Shu (Plum Liqueur)

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Sorry for the long lapse in posts, things have been crazy here recently! Not only did a take a long (and well deserved) vacation to Montréal (more  on that later), but I recently got engaged! If you care to see all of my wedding-related inspiration, you can hop on over to my “Wedding Ponderings” board on Pinterest.

The perfect drink for a celebration, and for the summer is ume shu (梅酒). Translated as plum wine or plum liqueur, this drink can be served on its own as a cordial, on the rocks, or used more like a syrup and mixed with soda water. Ume shu is one of my favorite drinks because it reminds me of my time spent in Japan as a student, and later a teacher. It was the prefect drink to cool off with during the hot, muggy summers at the end of a long day. Even the cheap ume shu in Japan seemed to taste better than whatever I could find here, so I would always stock up when I was there. Now that I know I can make my own for less than the baggage overage-fees, I’ll be on the lookout for ume in the store constantly.

7898_10100987043368986_2069828772_n If you can find ume (green plums) in your local supermarket, it’s not that hard to make your own ume shu–all you need is soju/shochu, rock sugar, and ume plums. The hardest thing is waiting 3 months for your concoction to be ready!

If you want to buy plum wine, it’s pretty affordable and readily available in stores. My favorite is Hakutsuru, but a good backup is Takara or Kinsen. Those are both a bit hard to find, but I know Choya and even Gekkeikan are available at wine shops, Cost Plus World Market, and Asian groceries.

The recipe I used is from Kitchn, but other bloggers such as Miss Mochi have their own tutorials as well. I had already made my ume shu by the time I saw this video, but it’s also a great way to learn too.

Rhubarb Ginger Crumble Bars

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Have you ever tried rhubarb? I’ve met many people who had never tried it, and of those that have tasted it, it seems people have a love/hate relationship with it. If I had to describe rhubarb, I’d have to say it’s as if strawberry and celery had a child. It goes well in baked recipes paired with sweet berries, or in this case, zingy ginger.

This week at my office we’re having a bake sale and holding raffles for Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure®, ending with attendance at the race in DC. I’m thinking I might take a risk and make these rhubarb crumble bars. They’re pink and festive for breast cancer awareness, but will anyone buy them? Or maybe I’m secretly hoping no one buys them so I can eat them all.

You can use this recipe as a base and swap out any fruit you like. I prefer it with a touch of cardamom in the crumb topping, but you can swap it out with a different spice or omit it altogether. Pink peppercorn would go nicely and be extra-festive.

Matcha Green Tea Cupcakes for St. Patrick’s Day ♣

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I usually don’t do anything for St. Patrick’s Day other than wear something green to avoid being pinched. This year, the holiday fell on a weekend and a delicious recipe popped up in my RSS Feed – these Matcha Green Tea Cupcakes from Oishii Treats.

I’ve been wanting to make green tea cupcakes for a while, but have been a bit wary. Green Tea is an acquired taste and I was worried how these would go over with my taste testers.

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I replaced half of the flour the recipe called for with whole wheat flour, which went well with the earthiness of the matcha, though it probably kept the cake from being more green. I also used almond milk instead of regular milk. Since green tea is an acquired taste, I opted to swirl the frosting so that it’d be half matcha and half regular cream cheese frosting. This kept the cupcake from being a matcha-overload while adding a nice flair.

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The best thing about these cupcakes are the smell. I love the way they smelled coming out of the oven and when I opened my carrier up to bring them in to the office. You’ll definitely want to use a nice quality matcha since they’re the star ingredient here. And, this is the way that you’re getting a dose of green, naturally!

Mini Blueberry Cheesecakes with Trefoils™ Cookie Crust

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The baking with Girl Scout Cookies® saga continues! Trefoils™ are sometimes seen as the plain, boring cookies that you always have extra boxes of after a booth sale. My sister had an extra box of Trefoils™ from last year and gave them to me on the condition that I bake something with them. Also, did you know that February 8th is National Girl Scout Cookie Day?

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I was a little burned out on chocolate, as crazy as that may sound, so I wanted to make something for my office for Valentine’s Day that was decadent, but lighter. I made my Mini Blackberry Cheesecakes recipe and replaced the blackberries with blueberries. I also replaced the vanilla wafer cookies with the buttery, fragrant Trefoils™ and added some almonds in too (omitting the almond extract in the original).

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It was easy to convince my office-mates to try these treats. The fruit on top makes it “healthy”; they’re bite-sized; they have Girl Scout Cookies® in them, which makes them “limited edition”. The crust on these are delicious and it goes well with the tanginess of the cheesecake and the tart berries.

Feel free to sub your favorite fruit on top or replace the cookies with what you have on hand. I had some extra filling and crust and swirled in some chocolate chips and crunchy cookie butter for a rich Valentine’s treat.

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