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Archive for Desserts

RECIPE: Sautéed Bananas

Whenever we’re at a Chinese restaurant, we order fried banana for dessert. Whether plain, with whipped cream or ice cream, it’s a sweet and creamy treat.

Eating a serving of it recently, we reflected on what we loved about it. The answer wasn’t the breading or the deep-fat frying or the even the whipped cream. Even the superior “banana tempura” found at some Japanese restaurants, covered in crunchy panko, wasn’t the answer.

It was the fruit itself: soft, warm banana.

The next day we started to experiment with a bunch of ripe bananas in our kitchen, and were satisfied with the results. Instead of fried bananas with caramel or chocolate sauce, we made sautéed bananas—“fried bananas lite.”

We loved the butter flavor so much that we ended up using half oil, half butter, for an extra hit of flavor.


Sautéed bananas as a garnish for a chocolate tart. Photo courtesy Arch Rock Fish | Santa Barbara.


Ingredients For 2 Portions

  • 2 medium bananas, cut vertically into ½ inch thick slices or in spears (halved and halved again, as in the photo)
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon oil (or butter or combination)
  • Optional garnish: 1 tablespoon agave nectar, honey or maple syrup
  • Optional garnish: 2 tablespoons chopped pecans, pistachios or walnuts
  • Optional garnish: two tablespoons vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt

    1. HEAT oil in a small nonstick pan over medium heat.

    2. ADD banana slices and cook on one side for a 2-3 minutes. Flip, sprinkle with brown sugar and heat for another 1-2 minutes until evenly coated. The bananas should be softened yet hold their shape.

    3. REMOVE from heat, plate and top with optional syrup, ice cream and nuts.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Pocky Biscuit Sticks

    One day we were squeezed against the crowded bar at David Burke Townhouse (when it first opened, as David Burke & Donatella). It seemed as if the entire, hyper New York foodie crowd was trying to get in the door. There was a 45-minute wait for our table. We consoled ourself with the bar snack: bacon wrapped around a delicious, slender breadstick.

    We couldn’t get enough of them, and the bartender told us the breadstick was actually Pocky Pretz, a Japanese snack.

    The first Pocky flavor, launched in 1966, was biscuit sticks coated in chocolate. The name derives from the Japanese word for crunchy (pokkin).

    Since then, as many flavors of Pocky have appeared as you can shake a biscuit stick at. Most are frosted in sweet flavors: almond, banana, coconut, milk chocolate, green tea, honey, strawberry and so forth.


    Some Pocky varieties are filled, this one with chocolate cream. Photo courtesy Glico.


    Hugely popular in Asia, they’re a fun snack and delicious with a glass of milk or a cup of coffee or tea. The success has spawned imitators: Lucky, Pepero and Toppo, among and others.

    There’s even a “Pocky Day” celebrated in Japan on November 11 (because 11-11 looks like four Pocky sticks).

    There’s plenty of Pocky in the U.S. You can find them in the international section of many large supermarkets, Walmart and other retailers, in addition to Asian food stores. And of course, there’s a big selection on


    How great is this! See how to do it at
    Utry.It. Photo courtesy, which has
    gorgeous recipes.



    You can garnish just about any dessert with Pocky and enjoy the visual appearance as well as the crunch and flavor. Just a few ideas:

  • Decorate cupcakes
  • Decorate cakes (see photo)
  • Dip in fondue
  • Enjoy with yogurt
  • Substitute for ladyfingers on a charlotte or mousse cake
  • Serve in a vase or small pitcher for snacking
  • Serve with hot chocolate
  • Use instead of birthday candles

    You can also send a gift box of six assorted Pocky flavors.

    How do you like to use Pocky?



    RECIPE: Candy Cane Whipped Cream, Egg Nog Whipped Cream

    Garnish your holiday desserts and beverages with a festive dollop of peppermint-flavored, candy cane-swirled whipped cream. It’s especially delicious on chocolate cake, pound cake and angel cake.


    Ingredients For 16 Servings

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure peppermint extract
  • 4 drops red food color


    Peppermint whipped cream is an exhilarating topping for chocolate cake. Photo courtesy McCormick.


    1. BEAT cream, confectioners’ sugar and extracts in medium bowl with electric mixer on high speed until stiff peaks form.

    2. MAKE candy cane swirls: Remove 1/2 cup of the whipped cream to small bowl. Gently stir in red food color. Swirl into remaining whipped cream. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.


    Egg nog whipped cream, flecked with
    nutmeg. Photo courtesy McCormick.



    This is delicious on most cakes, apple pie and pecan pie.

    Ingredients For 16 Servings

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, ground
  • 1/4 teaspoon rum extract

    1. BEAT cream, confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, nutmeg and rum extract in medium bowl with electric mixer on high speed, until stiff peaks form.


    2. COVER and refrigerate until ready to serve.

    See our other flavored whipped cream recipes, including Bourbon Whipped Cream, Salted Caramel Whipped Cream and Spiced Whipped Cream.



    HOLIDAY: Family Favorite Jell-O Molds

    Mom’s Lime Gelatin Mold with sour cream
    and pineapple. Photo courtesy


    Mom’s recipe for a Pineapple-Lime Gelatin Mold has been part of our holiday for decades. The recipe arrived way back in the 1960s, on a box of lime Jell-O (we think). Made in a fluted mold, it became a family favorite at Christmas and Easter.

    Mom served it as a side with the turkey or ham; we enjoyed the leftovers as a sweet snack or dessert. And as simple as it is, it’s a favorite of our foodie friends, who invariably ask for the recipe.

    Alas, we didn’t have time to make it and shoot Mom’s recipe, so we’re grateful for the use of this photo from the blog Please Be Seated. It’s actually a different recipe—a cucumber lime mold—but it looks close enough. You can even use the cucumber slices and parsley as shown.

    Here’s the cucumber-lime mold recipe.

    We’ve also included a related recipe for a cranberry gelatin mold. Both are made in a six-cup fluted mold (or substitute any six cup mold you have).


    Ingredients For 10-12 Servings

  • 2 packages (3 ounces each) lime gelatin
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 1 can (20 ounces) crushed pineapple, undrained
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • Optional garnish: clementine/tangerine segments, cucumber slices, grapes, kumquats, mint, parsley, whole cranberries

    1. DISSOLVE gelatin in water a large bowl. Stir in pineapple; cover and refrigerate until syrupy.

    2. WHISK in sour cream; add pecans. Transfer to a 6-cup ring mold coated with cooking spray. Cover and refrigerate until firm. Unmold onto a serving plate.

    3. BRING to table plain or filled with optional garnish.



    Ingredients For 10-12 Servings

  • 2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries, coarsely ground
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 can (11 ounces) mandarin oranges
  • 1 can (8 ounces) sliced pineapple
  • 2 envelopes unflavored gelatin
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
  • Optional garnish: clementine/tangerine segments, grapes, kumquats, mint, parsley, whole cranberries

    Cranbrosia: cranberries, oranges, pineapple and sour cream. Photo and recipe courtesy Taste Of Home.


    1. COMBINE combine cranberries and sugar in a bowl. Let stand for 30 minutes or until sugar is dissolved, stirring occasionally.

    2. DRAIN juice from oranges and pineapple, reserving 3/4 cup juice. Cut pineapple into small pieces. Set fruit aside.

    3. SPRINKLE gelatin over reserved juice in a small saucepan; let stand for 1 minute. Cook and stir over low heat until gelatin is dissolved, about 2 minutes. Add to cranberry mixture; stir in the oranges and pineapple. Fold in sour cream.

    4. BEAT cream until in a small bowl until it begins to thicken. Add confectioners’ sugar; beat until soft peaks form. Fold into fruit mixture. Pour into a 6-cup ring mold or 12 individual molds lightly coated with cooking spray. Refrigerate until set. Unmold before serving.

    Thanks to Taste Of Home for this yummy recipe.



    TIP: Apple Pie With Salted Caramel Ice Cream

    Apple crisp with Salted Caramel Gelato.
    Photo courtesy Talenti Gelato & Sorbetto.


    Most people serve their apple pie or pecan pie à la mode with vanilla ice cream. That’s the classic, but we’ve always preferred Rum Raisin, a festive holiday flavor.

    Yet some people like neither rum nor raisins. The emergence of Salt Caramel ice cream and gelato over the past few years has provided another perfect pairing with apple pie or apple crisp.

    So today’s tip is: Serve Salted Caramel ice cream with your apple or pecan pie.

    While salted caramels, the candy, have been made in France for hundreds of years, we thought Salted Caramel ice cream was a 21st century San Francisco phenomenon (we first had it at Bi-Rite Creamery there).


    According to Graeter’s, the Cinncinnati-based ice cream emporium, their Salted Caramel flavor has been sold in Graeter’s stores for more than 100 years. Pints of it are now available in the premium ice cream freezer section at food stores across the country.

    Talenti Gelato & Sorbetto
    suggests their Sea Salt Caramel Gelato with apple pie or apple crisp. Here’s their recipe:



    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 6 medium tart apples, sliced
  • 1-1/2 cups brown sugar, packed
  • 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 2-1/4 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice*
  • Salted Caramel Gelato
    *PUMPKIN PIE SPICE RECIPE: Combine 4 tablespoons ground cinnamon, 4 teaspoons ground nutmeg, 4 teaspoons ground ginger and 3 teaspoons ground allspice. If you don’t need the 8 tablespoons this produces, cut it down accordingly: 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/3 teaspoons each nutmeg and ginger and 1/2 teaspoon allspice.


    Waiting for some apple crisp. Photo courtesy Talenti.



    1. PREHEAT oven to 375°F. Grease an 8″x11″ pan with cooking spray or shortening.

    2. TOSS apple slices with 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon and 1/4 cup brown sugar. Spread apples in pan.

    3. STIR remaining ingredients together in a medium bowl; spread over apples.

    4. BAKE for 30 minutes, until apples are golden brown and tender. Serve warm with a scoop of Sea Salt Caramel gelato or ice cream.

    For more inspiration visit



    TIP OF THE DAY: Christmas Strawberries

    If you typically bake a cake or cookies to bring along as a house gift, how about a better-for-you alternative: chocolate dipped strawberries?

    We were inspired by these festive Holiday Chocolate Dipped Strawberries from Harry and David ($39.95 + shipping) to make our own.

    And all you need to do is melt chocolate and dip! Just as you need tasty fruit, quality counts with the chocolate. While strawberries with their leaves are particularly pretty, you can substitute any other fruits, including seedless orange slices and dried apricots.

    Note that even if you prefer milk chocolate, dark chocolate provides a better flavor contrast with the berries. Dark chocolate lovers: For similar reasons, no matter how bittersweet you like your chocolate, keep the cacao content in the 50% to 70% cacao range.


    Chocolate covered strawberries with a holiday embellishment. Photo courtesy Harry And David.


    It’s best to make these on the same day as they will be consumed. If you don’t feel up to piping red and green decoration, serve them plain: Everyone will love them just as much.



  • 1 pound strawberries with attractive green leaves and stems
  • 8 ounces dark chocolate
  • Christmas Garnish: piped red and green royal icing or colored white chocolate, green and red sprinkles or sanding sugar, silver or gold dragées
  • Hanukkah Garnish: piped blue and white royal icing or colored white chocolate, blue and white sprinkles or sanding sugar, silver or gold dragées


    1. PURCHASE strawberries on the day of preparation, if possible, so leaves will remain perky. Buy the largest berries you can find. If you can’t find berries with fresh leaves, default to orange segments or dried apricot slices.

    2. CAREFULLY WASH the strawberries and pat them dry with a paper towel, leaving the stems intact.

    3. CHOP the chocolate and melt in a double boiler, or in a small bowl placed over a saucepan of gently simmering water. Take care that the chocolate does not get too hot. Remove from the heat. You can also microwave the chocolate at 30-second intervals, stirring in-between.

    4. DIP the berries into the chocolate, holding the stems very gently. Place onto sheets of baking parchment or waxed paper to cool and set.

    5. KEEP the berries in a cool place (but not the fridge, or the chocolate may bloom) until ready to serve.



    RECIPE: Pumpkin Pie Yogurt Sundae

    Make your own pumpkin yogurt at home.
    Photo courtesy Pinkberry.


    We’ve been dropping by Pinkberry for an occasional pumpkin frozen yogurt. But you can make your own, either frozen or conventional yogurt, with this recipe adapted from Chobani.

    It’s great for breakfast, a snack, or dessert, try this pumpkin sundae.


    Ingredients For 1 Serving

  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt of frozen yogurt (plain or vanilla)
  • 1.5 tablespoons pumpkin pie purée*
  • 1.5 teaspoons maple syrup
  • 1.5 teaspoons dried cranberries
  • 1 teaspoon crushed ginger snaps
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
    *If using vanilla frozen yogurt, use pumpkin purée (unsweetened) instead of pumpkin pie filling.

  • Optional garnishes: 1 teaspoon toasted pecan pieces, crushed crystallized ginger, whipped cream, gingersnaps or graham crackers


    1. BLEND all ingredients.

    2. CHILL (or reharden, for frozen yogurt) for 15 minutes or longer.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Mini Pecan Pie Bites

    Mini pies have been trending, and might be a better choice for Thanksgiving, when you’re stuffed to the gills but still want dessert. But Lauryn Cohen, a.k.a. Bella Baker, has an even better idea: mini pecan pie bites.

    Mini Pecan Pie Bites are baked in a mini muffin tin, creating “just a bite” to end the meal. Like the idea? Make mini pumpkin pie bites, too.

    “These are quick, easy and a perfect choice to serve at a holiday party,” says Lauryn Cohen, a.k.a. Bella Baker. Here’s her recipe; there are many more special sweets to discover at


    Ingredients For 24 Bites

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chopped pecans

    Just a bite of pecan pie! Photo courtesy



    1. PREHEAT oven to 350°F and spray the cavities of a 24-cup muffin tin generously with nonstick spray.

    2. COMBINE the flour, sugar, butter and cream cheese with an electric mixture on medium/high speed until the dough comes together. One at a time, roll small balls of dough into the palm of your hand (about the size of a ping pong ball). Press each ball of dough into the muffin tin cavity, pressing dough up the sides to form a pie crust.

    3. WHISK together the egg, brown sugar, butter and vanilla extract. Switch to a rubber spatula and mix in the chopped pecans. Pour filling into each of the muffin tin cavities filled with pie crust.

    4. BAKE for 15 minutes, then reduce temperature to 300°F and bake for an additional 10-12 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before removing from muffin tins. If need be, run a knife around the perimeter of the mini pie bites to loosen them from the muffin tin.



    FOOD HOLIDAY: Gourmet Fig Recipes For National Fig Week

    Fresh black mission figs with foie gras and a
    frisée salad. Photo courtesy BLT Steak Atlanta.


    National Fig Week is the first week in November.

    One of the simplest desserts, enjoyed since early times, is figs with honey. It couldn’t be easier: just decide how many figs you want to serve to each person (we serve three or four, depending on size), and plate them with a drizzle of honey. Other decisions:

  • One variety of fig or three? Enhance the dessert with three different types of fig to each person—a black Mission fig, a green Adriatic fig, and a brown turkey fig, for example. You can garnish one with chopped hazelnuts, one with pistachios and one with almonds. If you have rectangular or even square plates, it makes a lovely presentation (see photo and recipe).
  • With or without cheese? Figs, honey and nuts—the components of the recipe above—are all excellent complements to cheese plates.

    So why not pass a cheese plate with figs, nuts and honeycomb? It’s one of the world’s great desserts, and you don’t have to cook a thing! Check out this simple recipe for Figs With Honey.

  • Not serving a separate cheese course? You can add an optional scoop of soft cheese to the center of a fresh fig, or a slice of goat cheese log or wedge of Brie next to it. Drizzle honey across the plate before plating the figs and cheese.
  • Dessert or Snack? Ripe, luscious figs can be served like other fresh fruit: at breakfast, lunch or dinner, or at midday tea/break.

    Here’s something you don’t see every day: fig panna cotta. The recipe is from Vic Rallo, host of the television show, Eat!Drink!Italy! With Vic Rallo.


    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 2 cups of heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup of fig purée
  • 2 tablespoons of sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 one-ounce packet of gelatin dissolved
  • 3 tablespoons of cold water

    A seasonal surprise: fig panna cotta. Photo courtesy Vic Rallo.


    1. DISSOLVE the gelatin in 3 tablespoons of cold water, for about 10 minutes.

    2. PLACE the cream, vanilla bean, vanilla extract, fig purée and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Remove from the heat. Add the gelatin to the pan, stirring constantly for about 30 seconds, or until the gelatin is well blended with the cream.

    3. POUR the cream mixture into molds, cover and refrigerate for 3 hours or until set.


    By the time of the Bible, figs had been cultivated for thousands of years. They may have been the first crop* cultivated—perhaps first in Egypt. From there they spread to Crete and around the 9th century B.C.E., to Greece, where they became a staple.

    The ancient Greeks loved figs so much that they enacted a law forbidding the export of the best quality figs (in the ancient world, at least 29 varieties of figs were cultivated).

    Figs spread throughout the Mediterranean. They arrived in the New World in the early 16th century, with Spaniards explorers. When Spanish missions were established in what is now southern California, the monks cultivated planted fig trees. Today, California is one of the largest producers of figs, along with Greece, Portugal, Spain and Turkey.

    *Agricultural historians believe the order of cultivation to be figs, wheat and barley, grapes, olives, sugar, tea, rice and sesame. Different historians have different orders; and archeological digs regularly reveal new information.



    TIP: Easy Coffee Dessert (Adults Only)

    Years ago, at our first visit to The French Laundry in Napa Valley, we ordered a dessert called Coffee and Donuts.

    What we got: coffee mousse served in a coffee cup, topped with real milk foam and served with a side of beignets, deep fried choux paste (think small fritters). It was a delicious and memorable sight gag.

    Because we gave up deep frying for the New Year, we never got around to recreating the recipe. But recently, we made a simpler version of it, thanks to inspiration from Patrón XO Cafe liqueur, Ciao Bella’s Triple Espresso Gelato and the donut maker at our local farmers market.

    If you want a smaller dessert, use an espresso cup instead of a coffee cup. And if you want to serve this to kids…depending on their age, they can taste a bit of liqueur. If not, leave it out of their portions. They’ll still get a kick from “coffee and donuts.”


    Scoop coffee ice cream into coffee cup and top with coffee liqueur. Photo courtesy Ciao Bella Gelato.


    Ingredients Per Serving

  • 1 cup coffee or espresso ice cream
  • Coffee liqueur
  • Optional: whipped cream
  • Miniature donuts or donut holes

    A less sweet and syrupy coffee liqueur. Photo courtesy The Patron Spirits Company.



    1. SOFTEN ice cream and swirl liqueur through it. If you’re going to add whipped cream, you can level the ice cream in the cup. Otherwise, return the softened ice cream to the freezer and then scoop it into the cup. Place ice cream-filled cup in freezer. (Alternative technique: Pour liqueur into the bottom of the cup, then add ice cream and pour more liqueur over the top.)

    When ready to serve…

    2. TOP with optional whipped cream and serve with a plate of donuts.



    With the popularity of the Espresso Martini (and don‘t forget the White Russian and other coffee cocktails), more coffee liqueurs have hit the market. Patrón uses its famous silver tequila a base for Patrón XO Cafe, although there’s no discernible tequila taste—perhaps a bit of agave on the finish.

    Beyond cocktails and adding to a cup of coffee at brunch or after dinner (you can also sip it straight from a liqueur glass, with or without the coffee), the sweetened bitter coffee flavor makes a great topping for a plain dish of ice cream—coffee, coffee chip, chocolate, chocolate chip, vanilla or a ball of three choices.

    At 70 proof, it is higher in alcohol than most coffee liqueurs. To some people that in of itself is a selling point. We like that the higher proof makes it less sweet and syrupy than other coffee liqueurs.

    Patrón XO Cafe has a brother, Patrón XO Cafe Dark Cocoa, which marries the flavors of chocolate and chocolate.

    Discover more on the Patron website, which has 40 cocktail recipes using the liqueur.



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