Pie, Actually

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The first time I had heard the words “Banoffee Pie” were when Keira Knightley’s character, Juliet muttered them in the 2003 film, Love Actually. 

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“Banoffee pie?” she asked.

“No, thanks.” said Mark.

“Thank god. You would’ve broken my heart,” she sighed.

Such irony in that scene, as he was so secretly in love with her.

After watching the movie for the first time in 2004, I immediately investigated this “banoffee pie.” Ban (banana) offee (toffee). What I discovered, a British treat with a crisp, buttery crust, tender bites of banana and dulce de leche, and a soft, pillowy whipped cream topping. The combination is all too irresistible.

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Banoffee Pie
Recipe slightly adapted from Jamie Oliver
Serves 4-8

INGREDIENTS
4.1 ounces butter, melted
8.1 ounces Speculoos cookies (or digestive cookies), crushed into fine crumbs
1 can (10.5 ounces) condensed milk
1 1/2 cups whipping cream
2 large bananas, sliced 1 1/2 inches thick, on a bias
pinch salt
1 small bar of dark chocolate, finely chopped

METHOD
Make the dulce de leche. First, remove the label on the can. Take the upopened can and place into deep pot and completely immerse the can in water. The can must be completely submerged in the water or it will explode.

Turn the heat on the stove to medium-high. Cover the pot and once the water begins to boil, turn down to a gentle simmer. Set a timer for 1.5 hours, checking frequently to make sure the can is completely covered in water, and pouring in more water if needed.

After 1.5 hours, using a long pair of tongs, carefully flip the can upside-down and return back to the simmering water. Add more water to the pot if needed. Set another timer for 45 minutes. When done, carefully remove the can from the water and allow to cool in room temperature for about 30 minutes before opening. Set aside.

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Mix the melted butter with the cookie crumbs in a bowl. Place the mixture into a pie tin, pressing down to ensure the crust is evenly distributed. Place into the refrigerator for 1 hour.

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While the crust sets, whip the cream in a mixing bowl with a whisk till soft peaks form. Don’t over-mix. Set aside.

After the crust has set for 1 hour, spread the dulce de leche over the base of the crust evenly.

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Layer on the sliced bananas. Add a pinch of salt to the bananas.

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Then frost the top with the whipped cream.

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Sprinkle the top of the pie with the chopped chocolate. Place into the refrigerator to set for at least an hour. Serve.

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(Editor’s Note: All movie screenshots in this story are property of Universal Pictures.)

Midnight Macaroons

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Chocolate-Covered Hazelnut Macaroons
Slightly adapted from Martha Stewart
Yields about 8 cookies

INGREDIENTS
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
2 large egg whites
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/4 cup hazelnuts, toasted, skinned and finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Pinch of sea salt
1/4 cup bittersweet chocolate chips

METHOD
Fill a sauce pot with water and heat to boil. Once boiling, lower the heat to just simmering. Fill a large metal (or heat-resistant) mixing bowl with the chocolate chips and place over the hot water bath. Allow to melt, stirring with a spatula every few minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the sugar and egg white. Stir in the remaining ingredients. Form the dough into eight, 2 tablespoon mounds and drop each onto the sheet pan about 2-inches apart.

Bake the macaroons until golden brown on the edges, about 15 minutes. Allow to sit for about 5 minutes then transfer to wire racks to cool. Using a spoon, drizzle the melted chocolate over the cooled macaroons. Serve.

Macaroons will keep in a sealed container for up to one week.

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(Editor’s Note: All movie screenshots in this story are property of Sony Pictures.)

Cookie Mom-ster

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For this Mother’s Day I wanted to dedicate this post to my mom. She is an amazing, smart, strong, beautiful, hard-working, loving, and resilient woman. I like to think (and hope) that I inherited all of those beautiful qualities from her.  Happy Mother’s Day, mama!

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Unlike me, my mom is very particular when it comes to sweets. She loves desserts with fruit, whereas I love rich desserts with chocolate. Remember this post? But one of the desserts my mom and me can agree on are Oatmeal Raisin Cookies. They’re her favorite cookie because they have a form of fruit in them, I imagine.

So when my parents came up to visit me a couple months ago, I asked my mom what kind of snack she wanted me to make for their trip back home. She mentioned oatmeal raisin cookies, so I put this recipe together that I thought she would love. I had a bottle of rum on hand from a rum cake recipe I always make for her, and decided to use it to rehydrate the raisins. I love the rich, caramel-like flavor the rum gives after they’ve been soaking with the raisins, so I added them to the dough. The recipe isn’t too sweet, so I also rolled the dough in sugar to create a pretty sugary crust. The end result is a not-too-sweet, spicy, (a bit boozy) oatmeal raisin cookie with a great depth of flavor.

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Snacks intended for their voyage back home, my parents confessed to me that the cookies were all gone way before they even got home. Apparently, my dad was a fan of them, too!

What are your favorite cookie flavors? What recipe reminds you most of your mom? Share your stories in the comments below; I’d love to read them!

==

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Mom’s Favorite Oatmeal Rum Raisin Sugar Cookies
Yields 1 dozen medium-sized cookies

INGREDIENTS 
1/3 cup dark rum, more if needed
1/3 cup raisins
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup sugar, for dusting

METHOD
To rehydrate the raisins, place them  into a small bowl and pour the rum into the bowl. The raisins should be completely immersed in the liquid. Add more if needed. Set aside.

Using a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugars on medium-speed till incorporated. Add the egg and vanilla and mix till combined.

Drain the excess rum from the rehydrated raisins, reserving the rum. Set raisins aside. Fold in the rum into the mixture. Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl to ensure all ingredients are mixed well.

In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, spices, salt, and rolled oats. Slowly add the flour mixture into the sugar/butter mixture on low till just combined. (Don’t over-mix.) Fold in the rehydrated raisins to the dough. The dough will be slightly sticky—that’s OK.

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Place the dough in the freezer for about 30 minutes, or until the dough is solidified. (Cook’s Note: If you’re making these a day ahead, wrap and place into the refrigerator overnight.)

While your dough chills, preheat your oven to 350F degrees. Place about a half-cup of sugar into a small bowl. Set aside.

Roll a small ice cream scoopful (or 2 Tablespoonfuls) of dough and place into the bowl of sugar and fully coat the cookie ball. Place the dough ball onto the sheet tray, leaving about 2 1/2 inches of space between each cookie.

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Bake for about 14-17 minutes or until lightly browned on the edges. When done, remove from the oven and allow to cool for about 10 minutes.

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Starting Over

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“You know what’s funny? This is the first time in my life there’s no one waiting at home for me. I don’t even have a home to come back to.” -Liz Gilbert in Eat Pray Love

After re-watching that scene, I can’t help but feel the jolt of goosebumps travel from my shoulders, down to my toes, and back up again. The feeling is eerily familiar. I had just experienced my own similar Eat Pray Love journey not too long ago. Liz was leaving behind everyone she loved; everything she knew. I, too, left behind everyone I loved and everything I knew.

I had reached a point in my life back in California, where nothing felt right. 

I began to feel the pangs of every decision I had made up to that point. Wasn’t this the life I had procured for myself? I (just like Liz) actively participated in creating this life, so why wasn’t I happy? I began to accept something I knew deep down inside for a very long time–I needed to start over. I wanted to move somewhere where I could become inspired again. I wanted to go to a place where I didn’t know a single person. After telling my story to a well known astrologer/medium in the Bay Area, she agreed and told me (as Ketut Liyer prophesied to Liz in Bali) that I needed to move and start over somewhere new. Together we consulted the spirits, and of all the cities and countries we examined, they (we) chose Portland. That was the moment I decided that I would have to figure out a way to move out of Oakland, and then save up enough money to make my way up North.

I didn’t have any housing planned, nor job lined up. Just the sheer determination and faith in the process that I would make it work. The only thing that had kept me in Oakland for as long as it did, were the friends I made within the four years I lived there. Saying goodbye to those friends truly was the hardest part; my friends are an extension of my family. After four years, I guess you can say I fell out of love with Oakland, as Liz fell out of love in her marriage. So she ended it. And I did as well.

I admit, it wasn’t an easy process, but thanks to my willingness to never give up, and meeting a group of truly amazing people (the new friends I’ve made here have been such a blessing and have helped me get through the many obstacles I encountered) I managed to set out and do exactly what I intended to do: start a brand-new life. The rush of being inspired again gives me goosebumps. The good kind. So while my journey here is far from over, I believe that I’ve started a new chapter in my own Eat Pray Love story.

Because it’s February (with the Hallmark holiday of Valentine’s Day just a few away) I thought I’d partake in the festivities and create a menu of Eat Pray Love-inspired recipes, featuring cuisines from the countries Liz visited.

I hope my story (or Liz’s) inspires you to partake in your own Eat Pray Love journey.

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ITALY:  Roasted Asparagus with Black Olives, Lemon Vinaigrette, Pecorino Romano and a Soft-Cooked Egg

INDIA: Butter Chicken with Rice and Homemade Naan

INDONESIA: Gemblong Sweet Rice Fritters with Coconut-Caramel Sauce

 

(Editor’s Note: All movie screenshots in this story are property of Columbia Pictures.)

A Holiday Tradition

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Just the other day at work, I was chatting with a newly single male co-worker who had recently (and reluctantly) joined a dating website. Since his divorce he hadn’t dated much, and hated the fact that online dating was the new way to meet fellow singles.

“Why can’t I just meet someone the old-fashioned way, like at the grocery store or something?”, he lamented.

I smiled and agreed, telling him he shouldn’t give up on that notion. That someday he’ll have his meet-cute.

“What’s a meet-cute?” he asked.

“A meet-cute is a way in which two characters in a story are introduced,” I explained.

“Are you talking about The Holiday?” immediately chimed another male co-worker.

I was shocked that this co-worker knew what I was talking about; it made me smile and giggle.

“My wife watches that movie a lot,” he huffed. “So that means, I’ve watched it… a lot.”

For the past 7 years, I’ve had this unofficial tradition of watching The Holiday around Christmastime. If you haven’t already seen it, the film is actually a great story with a stellar cast playing relatable, sympathetic characters. (Eli Wallach’s Arthur Abbott steals every scene he’s in. And you can’t help but sympathize with Kate Winslet’s character Iris Simpkins, who deals with the heartbreak that comes with loving a man who will never love you back.) The characters’ interwoven story lines, teamed with the sentimentality of the holiday season, are a joy to watch every year. But what’s also really great are the scenes where food is the common thread for comfort and togetherness during the holidays. Because of that, I was inspired to create a menu dedicated to the movie.

For the full recipes, click on the following links below.

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Amanda Woods’ Christmas Eve Toast with Proscuitto, Burrata, Hazelnuts, Balsamic Reduction

Christmas Chicken Fettuccine with Grana Padano and Fines Herbes

Adult Hot Chocolate with Peppermint Schnapps and Whipped Cream

Arthur Abbott’s Hanukkah Chocolate-Covered Hazelnut Macaroons

(Editor’s Note: All movie screenshots in this story are property of Sony Pictures.)