The best remedy for a lonely kitchen is a new project

Homemade Chinese BBQ Pork Loin

Homemade Chinese BBQ Pork Loin

My kitchen has been feeling neglected lately. With all the craziness of the holidays, it’s been weeks since I’ve had the time or energy to contemplate a cooking project, let alone actually accomplish one. This is probably why my list of resolutions is basically a list of foods to make!

To get back into the groove, I decided to start the new year with a two-part project: making Chinese BBQ pork and then using it as a stuffing in Chinese steamed buns (Char Siu Bao). Steamed buns are one of my favorite dim sum treats and since I hadn’t ever made them before, I thought it was about time to check them off my list of missions to accomplish.

For the steamed buns, I used a Fine Cooking recipe that I found online more than a year ago. The link can be found here. In that recipe there is a sub recipe for the BBQ pork so I started there. While I could have purchased the prepared meat from a Chinese grocer, I think there’s something infinitely more fun about a project if it’s all made from scratch.

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Keeping my word would be easier if it was February 31st

Spicy edamame hummus

Spicy edamame hummus

Remember last month in January when I said I was going to dedicate a post each month to trying a recipe made by a fellow WordPress blogger? High off my bacon-onion marmalade success, I had all the confidence in the world for February. And then my birthday happened. I spent one weekend in Tacoma with family, one weekend (my actual birthday) with a few close friends and the third weekend was my big blow-out party.

So basically I would just like all of us to pretend that February is not a short month and that I haven’t already failed at my resolution. Everyone in agreement? Excellent!

Mr Wonderful White Cake

Mr Wonderful White Cake

For February, I wanted to tackle a recipe from one of my longest standing blogging buddies, Liz from food for fun and deLizious Food Communications. I actually made a recipe from her blog last summer, the Mr. Wonderful White Cake, for a family reunion potluck. And it was, in fact, just as delicious as she had promised. It was also incredibly easy to whip up which was good because I was on such a time crunch that I almost bought a cake mix. This was ten times better!

But this post needed to be new stuff and since I was already late, I figured I’d try out two of Liz’s recipes to make up for being a slacker. The first one was super quick, I whipped it up in 10 minutes: spicy edamame hummus with lime and jalapeño.

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Things I learned from the BA Food Lover’s Cleanse!

Banana, Almond and Spinach Smoothie = YUM!

Banana, Almond and Spinach Smoothie = YUM!

I’m officially done with the Food Lover’s Cleanse. It was two weeks of post-holiday diet detox and it did my body good. And hey, I even learned a few things about myself:

1. I really do like quinoa. Sometimes I forget how much I like it so I never buy it. But then I eat it and remember it’s delicious. I now have a five-pound bag of red quinoa in my cupboard.

2. That my cravings for Mexican food actually rivaled my cravings for Italian food. As a lifelong pasta addict, this totally surprised me. My first post-cleanse meal involved tacos, a tamale and queso fundido. And soooo many tortillas. And a few margaritas. It was fabulous.

Smoked Brisket Tamale at La Taq

Smoked Brisket Tamale at La Taq

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A tropical breakfast to warm up the chilliest of winter mornings

10-grain cereal with pineapple, coconut and cashews

10-grain cereal with pineapple, coconut and cashews

I’m still going strong on the Bon Appetit Food Lovers Cleanse and I have to say that the best part has been breaking out of my breakfast rut. For the past year my weekday breakfast has involved the same routine: a whole grain English muffin, toasted, slathered with peanut butter and a bit of honey. And it’s done me well — it’s a nice mix of protein, carbs and sweetness to get my day started.

But over the last 10 days, not being able to indulge in refined flours, I’ve had to mix things up.

My first experience with a breakfast from the cleanse resulted in the awesome discovery of quinoatmeal. After I polished off the last of that, I moved onto a new porridge in the form of Bob’s Red Mill 10-grain cereal. This is a blend of everything from millet and barley to brown rice and oat bran. It all cooks happily together in a matter of ten minutes or so.

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Quinoatmeal: A protein powerhouse of a breakfast

Apple Pecan Quinoatmeal

Apple Pecan Quinoatmeal with Almond Milk and Cinnamon

As far as cleanses go, the Bon Appetit Food Lover’s Cleanse is an easy one for me to follow. They know their audience well — the 14-day eating plan allows for four cocktails a week and gives the exception for a morning cup of coffee. Which is good news for me because two weeks without caffeine would lead me into a deep dark place that even sprouted lentils couldn’t save me from.

I’m also very thankful that the recipes that Bon Appetit included in the cleanse are (so far) very good. I made this lovely and filling quinoa-oatmeal for Day 4 and was incredibly happy with how it turned out.

The quinoa is rinsed and left to soak overnight with steel-cut oats, reducing the morning cooking time. The next day, the mixture is brought to a boil. Add in some almond milk, cinnamon and salt and after 10 minutes, breakfast is ready! I topped my bowl (as recommended) with toasted pecans and half a cup of shredded apple for sweetness.

Apple Pecan Quinoatmeal with Almond Milk

Apple Pecan Quinoatmeal with Almond Milk

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Happy Dance Muffins: The Browner the Banana the Better it Bakes

A muffin among friends

A muffin among friends

I buy a lot of bananas — way more than I could ever hope to eat. Sometimes it happens on accident (I buy some the same day my husband does) and other times it’s intentionally on a whim (damn you, Costco), but the outcome is still the same — a corner of my counter is constantly piled high with bananas in various stages of ripeness. The good news is that I am always happy when I have a few extra bunches hanging out.

One reason is because they are a healthy snack — nutritious, full of potassium and excellent in both my morning oatmeal and my after-work smoothie.

Another reason is because I love to make this cake:

Slice of heaven

Slice of Heaven — Upside Down Caramel Walnut Banana Cake

Clearly, these two reasons are at odds with each other.

And the first week of the new year, after I have finally polished off the last of the Christmas cookies, seemed like a terrible (albeit still tempting) time to make this cake. After all, while I was sitting at the bar on New Year’s Eve, waiting for my husband to get off work, he made this for me to snack on:

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