Saturday, January 16, 2016

Light & Healthier Banana Bread

For years, I searched high and low for banana bread recipes but couldn't find the one that tasted just right for my personal preference. Some people may like their banana bread very sweet, dense and heavy but I like mine less sweet and lighter in texture. I tried several recipes but all of them resulted in a very dense texture and tasted way to sweet for my liking until I experimented something different. Ever since I started eating more fruits in the past 3 yeas, I notice that I do not crave sugary stuff as much as I used to. Banana itself has natural sweetness and I feel it is sweet as is. Hence no need to add a cup of sugar on top of that.
So perhaps banana muffins would produce the texture that I wanted. Voila, my prayer had been answered! I got mine banana bread exactly how I wanted. I must really like this banana bread so much because I have made this 3 times in one month. I significantly altered from the original recipe to suit my preference. If you like a dense, heavy and very sweet banana bread, this recipe may not be right for you.
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1 cup Spelt Flour
1/2 cup All Purpose Flour
1/4 tsp Baking Soda
1/4 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Cinnamon Powder
3 tbsp Unsalted Butter (melted)
1/2 cup Yogurt (Plain Greek Yogurt will work too)
1 Egg
1/8 cup Brown Sugar (if you want it to taste sweeter, add more)
3 Banana (Mashed)
A few drops of Vanilla Extract (optional)
1/2 - 1 tbsp Brown Sugar A handful of raw walnuts
A handful of raw sliced almonds with skin 1/2 tsp
Cinnamon Powder
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Heat an oven to 375F. Mix dry ingredients together
Whisk egg and brown sugar together, add butter and yogurt. Mix well.
Mash banana then add the mashed banana to the wet ingredient. Mix well.
Add dry ingredients to the wet and gently fold. Do not over mix. Pour into a prepared baking pan.
Prepare the topping.
I felt like adding chocolate this time so I sprinkled some Cocoa Nibs.
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Sprinkle the topping on top. Bake for 30 mins. After 20 minutes or so, the aroma filled my entire house.
Voila! Here is the final result. Moist, light, fluffy and delicious!
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Thursday, January 14, 2016

Random moments from Thailand

These are some of the pictures I took out of 500+ pictures from the trip last year. I miss home already. Be it my family members, home, food, city and the list goes on.
Way of life in Bangkok: Street food vendors are the common scenes that can be found in every corner of the city. You will never go hungry.
Thai Airways International: the national airline of Thailand.
No matter how much I try, food just never tastes as authentic as what I have at home. The flavors are in the soil, the water, the ingredients and the air.
Steamed Shrimp dumplings and dipping sauce: one of my favorite Chinese fare.
No one can beat my dad's home cooked green curry. Hot and spicy, it will put your mouth on fire.
City vibe: high rises continue to pop us more and more around town. No room for the green zone.
The famous Dhara Dhevi macarons: sooooo good I want them now.
Fishing boats sit and wait for water to rise and take them to the adventure in the deep sea.
Time to sit back, relax and let your thoughts wander. It is the best time ever.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Park Hotel Tokyo Review

This review was from our trip in the summer of 2015 (see part 1, part 2, part 3 and part 4). Of course before we came down to this choice, we did the thorough reviews after reviews and thanks to Tripadvisor. To our amazements, all hotel reviews in Tokyo were good regardless of the class so literally you can't go wrong no matter where you stay. Park Hotel Tokyo was our final choice. Before reaching this decision we went back and forth due to some communication problem. We used United miles for the trip but the room that we wanted was not available so we made a phone call from the US to Park Hotel trying to see if we could upgrade to a different room. We were not quite sure the staff we spoke to really understand what we intended to do. We followed up with the email but still didn't get the right answer. We took a chance and just went with it.
As you may know, space is limited in Japan so a spacious hotel room is a rare find. The bed size is called differently as well so we was not sure if the room we booked would have enough space for all three of us (hence the reason we wanted to upgrade to one of the biggest rooms that they have). If you travel more than 2 people, you may want to double check. If it says "double occupied", believe them because it will not be comfortable to squeeze 3 people on the bed(s). Anyway, based on the positive reviews on Tripadvisor we decided to go with Park Hotel Tokyo (there are several other hotels that have the word "Park" so make sure you search for Park Hotel Tokyo.
What really drew us to this particular hotel was because we liked the modern/contemporary look of it. If you like arts, this hotel is for you. They showcase several modern arts there for art lovers. Its location is also interesting, it is not in the midst of tourist attractions but in the business district (Shidome). From our observation, most people who stay there are local and overseas business travelers and some tourists. Even though the location is not next to tourist attraction, you still get easy access to other parts of Tokyo.
One section of the lobby
Upon checking in, we were asked if we wanted to upgrade to a different room with 3 beds since we had a child. It was not a free upgrade but we gladly paid. At that point, we just wanted to be comfortable after a 13+ something hour flight. We got the corner room which was perfect for 3 travelers. The beds and pillows were just comfortable. The excitement of being in a new city/country kept us going for a little while longer but we crashed in no time after the little one kept falling asleep during dinner. I fell asleep just to wake up a few hours later (it was 2am something) due to a major jetlag...grrrr!!! The little one slept comfortably in her own bed. The room size was decent and it had everything we needed and more. It was super quiet too.
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Of course, we had to check the Japanese style toilet right? The bathroom was small but functional. I especially loved all the bathroom amenities that Japanese hotels have to offer. Even if you forget a toothbrush, they have it. So thoughtful and generous, this is the true customer service. Japanese hospitality will not disappoint you. It was very clean as well.
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These pictures were taken on our first morning in Tokyo. We thought it was 6am but it was 4am indeed!! Have you ever wondered why they refer Japan as the land of the rising sun? We got our answer there - unexpected, bright and super early! Yes, we were up at 4am almost every day (except me that had jet lag and woke up through out the night). Despite being one of the busiest cities in the world, morning time in Tokyo from these pictures actually looked pretty calm and serene (until you see the commuter trains during rush hour which we tried to avoid but ended up joining the fun! Will save that for another time).
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Then came the breakfast time, we had our breakfast every morning at the hotel. The selection of buffet was pretty decent in my opinion. They offer both western and Japanese style breakfast. We truly enjoyed everything. The mini Belgian waffles tasted so good. We were very satisfied and ready to start our adventure.
In conclusion, we enjoyed and loved our stay at the Park Hotel Tokyo very much to the point that we think we will stay here again when we return to Tokyo.
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Saturday, January 9, 2016

Easy but Very Impressive Fresh Fruit Tart

As promised from my Christmas post, I wanted to share this easy to make tart that doesn't require hours in the kitchen or master baking skills. I love fruit and any desserts that have fruit as ingredients. Of course, fruit tart is one of my most favorite desserts. This past Christmas I had to bring some dishes over the in-laws' house so I decided to make something light yet refreshing instead of heavy/filling desserts. The first recipe that I came across was from Paula Deen's.
To be honest, I had never made anything from Paula's recipe but based on 200+ positive reviews and the list of ingredients, I felt I couldn't go wrong. I didn't follow the recipe to the tee and my husband knows I am notorious about changing recipes to make it healthier. I first was going to use half cream cheese and half Greek yogurt but later decided to use all cream cheese because I was concerned it may become soggy since I made it the night before.
This tart is the bomb!! So good, light, refreshing and easy to make. This was my first time and I had a success. If I could do it, you could too.

Fresh Fruit Tart
(adapted from Paula Deen's recipe)
* 1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
* 1 cup Spelt flour + 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

* 1 stick unsalted butter, softened and sliced

* 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened

* 1/4 cup granulated sugar

* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
* fruit of your choice
(I skipped the glaze)

I bought the tart pan from Target with a removable bottom. It worked great.
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Add ingredients for the crust in a food processor. Hit pulse until the ingredients formed a dough.
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Push the crust. This was the difficult part for me because the crust turned out much thicker. Still needs practice but it tasted good. I baked for a total of 20-25 mins.
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While waiting for the crust to cool, beat the cream cheese, sugar and vanilla until smooth. When the crust is cool, spread the filling. ta1
Arrange fruit on top. Chill at least one hour. I did mine over night. It tasted amazing!
**Stay tuned for the Tokyo trip posts (that I owed you from last summer..meh)**