Strawberry Cream Pie

Strawberry Cream Pie

I have some friends who declare that they “don’t bake”.  And I get that, not everyone enjoys baking but that doesn’t mean that they can’t enjoy homemade treats, specially not these days when ingredients that are normally baked can be bought inexpensively at most grocery stores.

You can buy things like pie and tart shells, puff pastry and bread dough inexpensively and they sure cut your baking time almost in half.  At times it’s more cost effective to buy these things frozen than it is to make them from scratch.  Not only that they actually taste good!  And of course you don’t have to tell anyone that the pie crust was frozen; let them think you made it from scratch!

So for those of you who love desserts but don’t like to bake here’s a super easy Strawberry Cream Pie!  You can actually use any fruit, yes even canned pie filling, for this pie, but I love strawberries and these days you can pretty much get fresh strawberries year round.

Strawberry Cream Pie
Ingredients:

1 Graham Cracker Pie Crust

1 Pkg. Whipped Cream Cheese

1/2 Tsp. Vanilla

1/2 Cup Powdered Sugar

1 Pkg. Cool Whip

1 Basket Fresh Strawberries cleaned and hulled

For Glaze:

3/4 Cup Juice any type

1/4 Cup Sugar

2 Tbs. Cornstarch

2 Tbs. Corn Syrup

Directions:

Beat cream cheese in mixer until smooth.

Add vanilla and powdered sugar.

Fold in Cool Whip.

Pour into pie crust and smooth top.

Chill in refrigerator for 1-2 hours.

Meanwhile dissolve corn starch into 1/4 cup of juice.

In small saucepan whisk together remaining juice and sugar.

Cook over low heat to boiling.

Stir in dissolved corn starch and cook until thickened.

Remove from heat and stir in corn syrup.

Set aside to cool.

Once pie filling is set and chilled arrange strawberries on top.

Gently pour thickened glaze over strawberries.

Refrigerate until ready to serve.


Strawberry Cream Pie
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The Best Banana Pudding Recipe

The Best Banana Pudding Recipe

If you’ve never had good old fashioned Banana Pudding then you are seriously missing out!  This creamy dessert is so popular that there’s even a 2 day festival in hour of it.  I kid you not; there’s a National Banana Pudding Festival the first week of October in Centerville, Tennessee!

It’s generally associated with the Southern part of the United States but it’s popular in all parts of the country.  It’s not really known exactly how the dessert became a Southern Icon but it’s been a Southern specialty since the 1940’s if not longer.

Old Fashioned Banana Pudding is pretty similar to the English Trifle in that it’s layers of creamy custard, fruit, and a soft spongy cookie which can be topped if desired with a dollop of whipped cream, or in some homes meringue.

This iconic dessert was further popularized by the Nabisco company when it published the recipe on the box of every Nabisco brand Nilla Wafers, which of course is featured as Wone of the key ingredients.

So back to the beginning, if  you’ve never had good Old Fashioned Banana Pudding you’re missing out.  So to rectify that here’s  a recipe for this yummy dessert.  And no instant Banana Pudding from a box doesn’t count!

Old Fashioned Banana Pudding

Ingredients:

1 Tbs. Flour

1 Cup Sugar

1/4 Tsp. Salt

4 Cups Whole Milk

4 Egg Yolks

1 Tsp. Vanilla

4-5 Ripe Bananas

1 Box Vanilla Wafers (the Nabisco brand are called Nilla Wafers)

Directions:

Whisk flour, sugar, salt, milk, egg yolks, and vanilla in a saucepan.

Cook on medium heat about 15 – 20 minutes or until thick.  Keep stirring mixture as it cooks so it won’t scorch and stick to the pan.

Remove from  heat.

Layer vanilla wafers in the bottom of a dish or bowl.

Add a layer of banana slices, one on each wager works well.

Pour 1/2 of  pudding over the layers.

Repeat a layer of wafers and bananas on top of the pudding layer.

Pour the other half of the pudding over that new layer.

Top with crushed wafers if desired.

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.

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Banana Cupcakes with Chantilly Icing

Banana Cupcakes with Chantilly Icing

I recently found myself with several over ripe bananas and leftover Buttermilk.  I know over ripe bananas usually mean a batch or two of Banana Bread, but I still had a few loaves in the freezer.  Besides I wasn’t in the mood for Banana Bread.

I was however in the mood for cake!  So why not bake some banana cupcakes?  Then I remember that a local bakery sold this yummy banana cake with Chantilly Icing.  I think Chantilly icing must a a local Hawaii favorite because the recipe isn’t too easy to come by.

You might be wondering what Chantilly Icing is.  Well it’s sort of hard to describe, it’s sweet, creamy, and buttery; kind of but not quite like the frosting on a German Chocolate cake.

In Hawaii Chantilly icing is used on Chantilly Cake which is very similar to a German Chocolate Cake but with macadamia nuts instead of coconut flakes.  It’s also used to top Liliha Bakery’s Coco Puffs, those delectable chocolate cream filled puffs. It’s also used on Banana Cake!

So to make these really yummy Banana Cupcakes with Chantilly Icing I used 2 different recipes.  The Banana Cake recipe and a recipe for that delicious Chantilly Frosting.  The frosting I made was more than enough to ice the cupcakes.  I refrigerated the leftover frosting and used them on a chocolate cake a few days later.

Banana Cupcakes

Ingredients:

3/4 Cup Butter, softened to room temperature

2 Cups Sugar

3 Eggs

1 Tsp. Vanilla

1/2 Tsp. Ground Cinnamon

2 Very Ripe Bananas, mashed

2 Tsp. Lemon Juice

3 Cups Flour

1 1/2 Tsp. Baking Soda

1/4 Tsp. Salt

1 1/2 Cup Buttermilk

Directions:

Preheat Oven to 325 degrees

Line Cupcake tins with cupcake wrappers

Cream together butter and sugar.  Beat in eggs one at a time.

Beat in vanilla and cinnamon.

Add lemon juice to mashed bananas and stir until smooth.

Add to butter mixture.

Sift flour, baking soda, and salt together.

Alternately add flour mixture and buttermilk to the butter mixture.

Mix well.

Pour batter into cupcake wraps about 3/4 full.

Smooth tops.

Bake for about 50-60 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Remove from oven and cool.

Frost when completely cooled.

Chantilly Icing

Ingredients:

1 2/3 Cup Butter

1 1/2 Cup Evaporated Milk

1 1/2 Cup Baker’s or Caster Sugar

2 Tsp. Vannilla

2 Eggs

2 Egg Yolks

2 Tbs. Corn Starch

Directions:

Melt Butter in saucepan over medium low heat.

Remove from heat and cool slightly.

Whisk in milk, sugar, and vanilla.

Then whisk in eggs and yolks one at a time.

Cook on medium hear until it comes to s low boil.  Whisking is it intermittently.

Once it boils cook for another 2 minutes continuing to whisk intermittently.

Remove from heat then quickly sift in cornstarch while whisking.  Whisk cornstarch quickly and hard to prevent it from lumping.

Pour into a shallow bowl and cool to room temp.

Cover and refrigerate about 3 hours or until it’s in a spreadable consistency.

Frost cooled  cupcakes.


Banana Cupcakes with Chantilly Icing
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Almond Float Recipe

Almond Float Recipe

I remember my dad taking me to a new Chinese Buffet restaurant in NYC in 1975.  It was a new “thing” back then; it was also the first time I had Almond Float.

I’ve loved this simple refreshing Asian dessert ever since.  Imagine my delight when we moved to Hawaii later that same year and discovered Almond Float was popular and readily available at all the local Chinese restaurants.

Almond Float are cubes of milky almond flavored gelatin that’s usually added to  fresh or canned fruits.  In restaurants it’s usually found floating in a bowl of canned fruit salad with bits of canned lychee mixed in; hence the name Almond Float.  It’s a delightfully mild flavored and very refreshing, specially on hot summer days.

I liked it so much I just had to make it at home.  This didn’t happen until I was married with kids and finally learned how to cook.  It was one of the first things I learned how to make.  I mean seriously it’s just like making Jello, no cooking skill required as long as you know how to boil water.  Back then it became a staple of many birthday parties simply because it was so easy and everyone loved it.   These days I make it in the summer using whatever fresh fruit I have around, trust me it’s delicious with fresh lychee and mango!

You can easily make Almond Float to add to your favorite fruits.  It gives fruit salad a delicious almond flavor!

If you have milk allergies you can substitute the milk with Soy, Almond, or Coconut milk.  You can also use low fat milk if you prefer.

Almond Float

Ingredients:

2 Envelopes Knox Unflavored Gelatin

2 Cups Water

2 Cups Whole Milk

1 Cup Sugar

1 1/2 Tsp. Almond Extract

Directions:

Dissolve unflavored gelatin in 1 cup of water, set aside.

Bring remaining 1 Cup of water to boil.

Reduce heat to medium and stir in milk and sugar.

Stir until sugar dissolves.

Slowly stir in unflavored gelatin mixture.

Stir until gelatin is dissolved and evenly distributed.

Remove from heat and stir in almond extract.

Pour into lightly oiled 9×13 pan and refrigerate until firm.  3-4 hours.

Cut into bite sized cubes and add to a bowl of canned or fresh fruit.

Store in refrigerator  until ready to serve.

Serve cold.

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Homemade Steamed Bao Buns

Homemade Steamed Bao Buns

Bao, bau, baozi, mantou, bakpoa, paoare, siopao, or humbow; you probably know them best as Steamed Buns or Boa Buns.  They’re those soft fluffy white pockets filled with a sweet or savory filling.

Baos or whatever you call them originated in Northern China where wheat instead of rice is widely grown.  They’ve been around for hundreds of years.  Legend has it that Baos originated during the Three Kingdom Period when a Chinese general needed to cross a raging river with his army.  To ensure safe crossing the people on the other side of the river demanded that the general sever the head of 50 men; instead the general used large meat filled dough balls which satisfied the demand.

Meat filled bao buns have always been a favorite in the Philippines where they are called Siopao, they’re also popular in Hawaii where they’re known as Manapua.  Both places have a large Chinese  population who introduced this delicacy many years ago.  In fact many countries with large Chinese communities have a version of this popular food.  Recently their popularity has increased worldwide.

Baos can be shaped into balls, as they were in the legend, or they can be folded like taco shells.  They can be filled with your favorite savory meats such as char siu or sweet roast pork, pork belly, and chicken curry; or they can be filled with sweets such as black bean paste, taro, or custard.

One of my favorite bao fillings is  Korean Fried Chicken, crispy fried chicken bites dipped in a sweet and spicy sauce garnished with fresh chopped cilantro, sliced onions, and cucumbers.

Click here for the Korean Fried Chicken recipe!

Another favorite filling is Boneless Kalbi Short Ribs, thin slices of beef short ribs marinated in a sweet and salty sauce.  Then grilled and garnished with fresh green onions and sesame seeds.

Click here for the Boneless Kalbi Short Ribs recipe! 

 

But first things first, before you can fill steamed buns you must make them.  To make homemade buns you will need a steamer, I use bamboo steamer baskets, but you can use whatever you have on hand.  Other than that making steamed buns are pretty easy using ingredients that are readily available if you don’t already have them in your kitchen.

So let’s make bao buns, then you can fill them with just about anything you desire.

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Bao Buns – Steamed Buns

Ingredients:

3 3/4 Cups flour

2 Tbs. Sugar

2 Tsp. Instant Yeast

3 Tbs. Milk

3/4 Warm water

3 Tbs. Butter – softened

1 Tbs. Olive Oil

Directions:

Mix together flour, sugar, salt, and yeast in the bowl of your standing mixer or a large bowl if kneading by hand.

Place warm water and milk in a separate bowl, stir in butter until it melts.

Using the dough hook of your mixer gradually stir liquid into flour mixtures.

Knead for 10 minutes either in your mixer or by hand.

Turn dough into an oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap or towel.  Leave in a warm spot until dough doubles in size, about 2 hours.

Once dough has doubled in size turn out onto a floured surface.  Gently knead dough for a couple of minutes then cut into 20 pieces which you will roll into balls.

Roll each ball with a rolling pin into an oval shape about 2 1/2″ x 3 1/2″.

Place on parchment paper while  you roll the rest of the balls.

Brush dough ovals with olive oil.

Place a chopstick in the middle of the dough oval and fold over.  It should now be shaped like a taco shell with a space in the fold where the chopstick is.  The oiled surface should be inside of the fold.

Slip chopstick out, place on a sheet pan covered with parchment paper, and fold the rest of the ovals.

Cover pan with plastic wrap or towel making sure plastic doesn’t touch the dough as it will stick.

Leave to rise for another hour.

When dough has risen bring water in large pot or wok to a boil.  Place about 3-4 buns into a steamer basket and steam for 10 minutes.

Remove steamed buns from steamer basket and keep it on a plate in the oven to keep warm.

Fill and serve!


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