Cream cheese strawberry banana bread

Strawberry banana bread

I don’t consider myself much of a baker, but as soon as someone finds out I like to cook, they assume I can whip up a batch of chocolate soufflés like I’m the spawn of Julia Child. Because of this preconceived notion, I’ve been working on my baking skills, and I must say, I’m getting pretty damn good.

The other day, I ran across a bushel of neglected bananas at my boyfriend’s and went into a banana bread-making frenzy. I tested a variety of recipes, and this was hands down the best. It tastes as if a pound cake, a loaf of banana bread, and a strawberry shortcake had a ménage à trois and gave birth to the most sinfully sweet dessert/bread you’ve ever laid eyes on. 

The cream cheese is definitely a game changer. It gives the bread a dense, moist texture while adding a creamy richness to it. The tart strawberries balance out the richness and give the bread a bright pop of color. Sexy and sweet. 

I let the bread rest overnight before cutting into it, which really helped keep it moist and soft. I cut out half a cup of flour from the original recipe (originally 3 cups) because the dough seemed a little too dry. I was surprised it turned out so well because I always try to manipulate dessert recipes thinking I know what I’m doing and it usually ends up being a fiasco. But, hey—look at me now! Ms. Betty Crocker. 

Shout out to my boyfriend for the beautiful photography, and for patiently waiting until after the photoshoot to try the bread—can’t say the same for myself!

Enjoy. 

Ingredients

  • 2 large bananas, mashed 
  • 2 cups fresh strawberries, chopped 
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened 
  • 2 eggs 
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two loaf pans with non-stick baking spray. 

Mash bananas with a fork and set aside. Roughly chop strawberries and set aside.

With an electric mixer, cream the butter, sugar, and cream cheese together in a large bowl. Add eggs and vanilla and mix. Add mashed bananas and mix again. 

In a separate bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together. Gradually add dry mixture to wet mixture while mixing on medium speed until completely incorporated. 

Gently fold strawberries into batter with a spatula. 

Divide batter evenly between the two pans and bake for 45-60 mins or until toothpick comes out clean from the center. 

Lest rest 30 mins to overnight before slicing. 

Green tea “ice cream”

Green tea ice creamThe first time I tried green tea ice cream was at an all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet in Small Town, Wisconsin. I remember choosing it from the ice cream cooler because of its bright green color—I was a child, ok? When I took my first bite, I was surprised at the flavor—I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t know if I liked it either. I took a few more bites, and a couple more, and then one or five more and realized I was crazy about it.

The earthy, almost savory yet slightly sweet notes from the green tea are a match made it heaven with the rich, creaminess of the ice cream. I was never a fan of super sweet treats, so this was right up my alley.

Since I was in college, I’ve been making 2-ingredient “ice cream,” which is just frozen bananas blended in a food processor with a little milk. Genius. Plus, bananas are super good for you! Thanks to Rick Moranis in Honey, We Shrunk Ourselves circa 1997, I will forever remember they are a great source of potassium. But, there a bunch of other benefits—check them all out in this Well-Being Secrets article, 24 Science-Backed Health Benefits of Bananas.  It’s actually amazing how similar the texture and richness is to actual ice cream considering how healthy it is. And, you can doctor it up with anything you like—chocolate, peanut butter, preserves, and even matcha! As I mentioned in my post Matcha green tea chia pudding, I have recently been experimenting with matcha powder, so I decided this was the perfect time to recreate the green tea ice cream I had in my youth.

It’s quick, simple, and deceivingly sinful. So dig in, guilt free!

Enjoy.

Ingredients

  • 3 ripe bananas
  • coconut milk (or whole, rice, almond, sweetened condensed, etc.)
  • honey or agave
  • 2 tsp matcha powder

Instructions

Cut bananas into small pieces and freeze for three hours to overnight. Put frozen bananas in a food processor and pulse until smoothish (there will still be small chunks). You may have to use a spatula to scrape down the sides during this process.

Add matcha and a drizzle of honey and blend. Add in milk little by little until you get the consistency of soft serve.

Eat immediately or place in the freezer for an hour for a harder consistency.

Matcha green tea chia pudding

Matcha green tea pudding2My parents came to LA in March to visit me and my brother, and they really wanted to explore a variety of ethnic markets while they were here. My dad has a vast range of knowledge about global cuisine and cooking, but doesn’t always have the means of getting specialty ingredients because of where he lives (rural Wisconsin). We took them to Galleria in Koreatown and they had a field day—we were there for hours. H O U R S.

I had a lot of fun too, exploring the isles and trying samples of food I couldn’t pronounce. And while I didn’t take home any of the dried fish parts I tried (just no), I did find a few ingredients that struck my fancy. One of them was matcha—a powder derived from green tea leaves. I’ve always been interested in matcha, having seen it used in different recipes on Pinterest, but had no idea where to get it.

Turns out you can buy it online, but just be wary of the quality. Sometimes places will sell a matcha powder mix containing ingredients such as sugar and powdered milk, similar to hot chocolate. Look for culinary grade matcha. It’s pretty expensive, but that’s usually a sign it’s good quality—so don’t go for the cheap stuff!

Let’s talk health. Matcha has a ton of health benefits! Because it’s derived from whole  tea leaves, it’s a more potent source of nutrients (and caffeine!), than steeped green tea. It has a lot of heart disease and cancer fighting antioxidants that also help with blood pressure reduction, anti-aging, and boosting your metabolism. Did I mention the caffeine?? A teaspoon of match mixed with hot water can have up to 3x the caffeine as a cup of steeped green tea.

But the best part about matcha is how versatile it is. It has a grass-like flavor, which bodes well for savory dishes, but you can sweeten it up with sugar, agave, honey, or different extracts like I did with this pudding.

I absolutely love chia pudding. I think it’s because I was obsessed with tapioca Snack Packs when I was little, and it has a similar texture. It’s a great on-the-go breakfast because it’s super easy to make—just toss your ingredients in a mason jar, shake it up, and leave it overnight in the fridge. I love to top it with fresh berries and nuts, but you could top it with anything from coconut flakes to chocolate chips.

Enjoy.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup coconut milk (or milk of choice)
  • 1/4 tsp almond extract
  • 1/4 cup chia seeds
  • 1/2 tsp matcha powder
  • drizzle of honey (to taste)

Toppings

  • mixed berries
  • pistachios

Instructions

Put all ingredients in a mason jar and put the lid on. Shake well until everything is combined. Store in the fridge for 3 hours to overnight.

Top with fruit and nuts or any other toppings you like!

* Recipe makes 1–2 servings. 

Mixed berry peach breakfast toast

Coconut almond butter fruit toast

I go through a lot of “breakfast go-to” phases. Most of the time it’s savory, but every once in a while I get a major sweet tooth in la mañana. Lately, it’s been toast with coconut almond butter (my new fav nut butter) and a medley of fresh fruit. It’s like a grown up PB&J that’s good for you!

Lots of fruit is in season with summer just around the corner, so it’s the perfect time to take advantage of local farmers markets. I’m trying to make it a point this summer to get more of my produce from the farmers market instead of the grocery store. It’s a great way to support local businesses and the community. Yay local!

OK—back to the toast.

I know that breakfast is often skipped because people are in a rush and don’t have time to eat in the morning. If you are one of these people, this toast is for you.  It’s super quick and surprisingly filling. The sweet fruit complements the nutty almond butter, and the toast gives it some substance to fill you up. Plus, you can use whatever fruit/nut butter/bread you have on hand. The possibilities are endless, and I can guarantee any combination is going to taste great. It only takes a few minutes, so no excuses! Eat some damn breakfast.

Enjoy.

Ingredients

  • Sliced bread—wheat, sourdough, rye, ezekiel, Wonder, pumpernickel, etc.
  • Fruit—blueberries, strawberries, peaches OR any fruit you like/have
  • Coconut almond butter OR any nut butter you like/have

Instructions

Toast bread. Slather on your nut butter of choice. Top with fruit. Chow.

Pumpkin cheesecake milkshake (using leftover dessert)


pp milkshake 5
Well, now that Thanksgiving is dead and gone, we’re all racking our brains on how to use up the leftovers stuffed into every nook and cranny of the fridge. The obvious ones come to mind—”day after” sandwiches and a variety of turkey themed soups and casseroles—but what about those desserts?

We made a huge pan of pumpkin cheesecake bars for Turkey Day and even after I pawned them off on friends and co-workers, I still had a ton left over. Eating bar after bar of pumpkin, on cheesecake, on buttery graham crackers began to feel more like a chore than a treat, so I needed an upgrade. I remembered the leftover ice cream I had in the freezer and decided it was time for a trip down Dairy Queen lane.

I dumped everything in a blender, gave it a whir, and voila! A pumpkin cheesecake milkshake was born. I drank it in 32 seconds flat and had a sugar buzz for the next three hours, but I regret nothing—so delicious.

I got the recipe for the pumpkin cheesecake bars from Roxana’s Home Baking blog, but you can do this with pretty much any dessert you have left over from the holidays—pumpkin pie, pecan pie, cheesecake, even apple crisp or brownies (OMG). Get creative!

Enjoy.

Ingredients

Instructions

Dump equal portions of the pumpkin cheesecake bars and ice cream into a blender and start blending. Slowly add milk until you get a thickness and consistency you like. Pour in a glass, pop in a straw, pretend you’re six, and chug it as fast as you can.

Pumpkin spice latte (in a blender)

PSL_1

So I know I’ve said I’m not a fan of the ever popular PSL, but I’m retracting that statement because I figured out how to make a yummy, homemade version that doesn’t make me feel like a 5-year-old after eating his entire stash of Halloween candy. Sayonara, Starbucks.

The best part about this drink, is that you don’t even need an espresso maker to do it! All you need is a blender. And a coffee maker. But just a regular coffee maker. It may not be as rich and sweet as Starbucks’ version (which is why I like it), but it still has all those warm pumpkin spice flavors.

I experimented with a couple different methods, which turned out very similar, but decided this one produced the best consistency. At the bottom of the page, I’ll explain my alternative method in case you’d like to test it out.

Basically, the only difference is mixing the spices into the actual coffee grounds before brewing the coffee, rather than tossing them in the blender at the end. I found with the latter, it made the drink somewhat gritty, whereas the former gave off the flavor of the spices without the unwanted texture. I actually saw pumpkin pie spice extract at the store, which would be even more ideal for this recipe as it’s a liquid, and you could keep adding more if the flavor didn’t stand out enough. Don’t be afraid to experiment a little, find what works best for you!

Enjoy.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup strong coffee (espresso)
  • 3/4 cup coconut milk (or milk of your choice)
  • 2 tbsp pumpkin puree
  • 2 tbsp pumpkin pie spice (for 4 cups coffee)
  • 1 tsp raw sugar (or brown sugar)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Instructions

Start by brewing the coffee. Espresso is basically just very concentrated coffee, so you can do this using your regular coffee maker by doubling the amount of coffee grounds you normally would use.

Example: I usually use 4-5 tbsp coffee grounds for 4 cups coffee (I like my coffee strong). Instead I used 8 tbsp. 

Add the pumpkin pie spice in with the grounds and stir before brewing. While the coffee is brewing, heat up the milk on the stove or in the microwave until hot, but not boiling.

In a blender mix all ingredients and blend on a high speed until super frothy.

*ALTERNATIVE METHOD: Omit adding pumpkin pie spice in with the grounds before brewing coffee. Instead, add 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice into the blender with all other ingredients before blending.  

**For a richer flavor, you can use whole milk or half and half. And to make it sweeter, add more sugar. Just an FYI in case you misplaced your noggin. 

Coconut water fruit popsicles

Coconut water popsicles with fruit

Today officially marks the first day of fall, and to some parts of the country this means chilly nights, cute scarves, and pumpkin flavored everything. To Los Angelonians, not the case. We’re currently enduring an extremely obnoxious heat wave. Over the last couple months, I can’t remember a single day it was below 80 degrees, and I remember way too many days nearing 100. So as I sweat my ass off in my air conditioned(less) studio apartment, the mere thought of a pumpkin spice latte makes me nauseous—and not just because they’re actually not very good (sorry).

In lieu of the heat, I present you with a frozen treat to keep cool (for like 5 minutes). I spotted these popsicle molds at the store, and it immediately brought me back to making homemade Kool-Aid pops as a kid during the summer.

My version steps up the homemade popsicle game a bit by using real fruit and the ever trendy coconut water, which is known for its hydration capabilities—crucial for surviving a heat wave. These frozen pops are super easy to make, and surprisingly tasty for how healthy and simple they are. The natural sweetness of the coconut water compliments the bright and tangy flavors of the fruit, perfect for a cool treat that’s not overly sweet.

Enjoy.

Ingredients

  • coconut water
  • fruit of your choice, such as:
    • kiwi
    • mango
    • pineapple
    • strawberries
    • raspberries
    • blueberries
    • dingleberries

Instructions

Chop up all the fruit into small pieces. Fill the molds halfway with coconut water, and drop the fruit in. Add more water/fruit to the mold until it is evenly filled to the top. Insert the sticks and put in the freezer for 2 hours or until frozen.

You may need to run a little hot water over the mold to loosen the pops.

*Currently taking donations for an AC unit. Cash accepted. Make checks payable to Lauren Regnier. 

Peanut butter banana oatmeal muffins (gluten free)

Peanut butter banana oatmeal muffins

Peanut butter banana oatmeal muffins

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again (and again, and again), baking and I do not get along. We are like that annoying couple who hate each other, but keep trying to work it out as if things are going to change. Every time I get it in my head that baking is a good idea, I immediately regret it when I’m choking on flour as if I’m in a dust storm at Coachella.

Pretty sure the only time I’ve ever been really proud of my baking was when I was going to college in Minneapolis, I made this amazing loaf of banana bread. It had that perfectly moist texture where the top was almost sticky. I was so pumped to have my roommates try it to prove that I could actually bake, but before anyone got home my roommate’s dog jumped on the counter and ate the whole thing. All of it. Gone. You better have enjoyed that, Trooper!

Anyway, I’m not going to give up on baking. I mean, did Shaq give up basketball just because he couldn’t make a single free throw? No.

A while back I decided to try my hand at making banana muffins. I looked up a few recipes and landed on one that used ground up rolled oats instead of flour. The recipe said to grind the oats in a food processor to form a flour-like powder. Easy, right? Well, not if you don’t have a food processor. I thought, no problem, I’ll use my extremely cheap blender instead. Long story short, I’m an idiot. It is possible to use a blender for this process, but it took a long time and I ended up having to mix the rest of the batter by hand while my blender laughed at me for relying on it to do anything productive. Moral of the story, invest in a food processor.

I wanted to change up the recipe a bit to make it my own, so I threw in some peanut butter, not really knowing what would happen to the composition of the muffin–I have about zero scientific knowledge about what makes baked goods do their thing. To my surprise, they turned out quite well, fluffy with a nice, subtle peanut butter flavor. I would’ve liked them to be a touch more moist, so if anybody has any suggestions on that, I’d be happy to hear them! I only put peanut butter in half the mixture to see which ones tasted better, and hands down PB won. But feel free to omit it, if you are boring.

Enjoy.

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup plain greek yogurt
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 ripe bananas
  • 2-3 large spoonfuls peanut butter

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin tin with 12 liners.

In a food processor (or a blender, if you must) pulse oats til they form a powder. Add all remaining ingredients to food processor and blend til a smooth batter forms. If you do not have a food processor, add ground oats and all remaining ingredients to a large bowl and whisk (and whisk, and whisk) until you get the batter as smooth as possible.

Divide batter evenly between the muffin tins. Bake 15-20 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean when you insert it in the middle of a muffin.

BBQ chicken with avocado mango salsa

BBQ chicken

We can all agree that nothing says “summer” more than the smell of barbecue on the grill. But, why am I talking about summer in January? Well, because LA (or global warming) has graced us with 80-degree weather all week. After spending a couple wintry weeks in the midwest over the holidays, I was pleased with the warm welcome (literally) home. But, even if Jack Frost is nipping at your nose and summer seems like a figment of your imagination, you can still enjoy this dish–I’m looking at you, Wisconsin.

What makes this meal so bright and summery is the fresh avocado mango salsa, but the chicken can stand alone as the main protein for any meal. An outdoor grill is the best way to get that smoky barbecue flavor, but even I don’t have access to that. However, if you have a cast iron skillet or grill pan, you can get similar results. And if you don’t have that, just use any damn pan you want. To marinate the chicken, I used my homemade sweet and spicy BBQ sauce, but any store bought sauce will do. I love this dish because it packs big flavors with little fuss.

Enjoy.

Ingredients

For the chicken

For the salsa 

Instructions

If making homemade sauce, follow the instructions for my sweet and spicy BBQ sauce (above) and let cool. If using store bought sauce, uh, just open the bottle. Combine sauce with a drizzle of olive oil in a large ziplock bag and add chicken to marinate. Make sure chicken is completely coated and store in the fridge for 24 hours. I found that allowing the chicken to marinate for a day provides the most flavor, but you can do it for less time if you want.

While the chicken is marinating, make the mango avocado salsa (above). The longer you allow the flavors to meld, the tastier it will be. I usually allow at least an hour in the fridge.

Heat up your iron skillet (or grill pan, or whatever pan you own) and spray with non-stick spray. Add the chicken breast and brush occasionally with the sauce. Cook chicken until it’s opaque, with no pink in the center. I usually make a slit in the thickest part of the breast to check for this. Plate chicken and top with additional sauce and avocado mango salsa (optional).

*The sugars in the BBQ sauce can cause it to burn and smoke, so make sure to use a vent if you are cooking indoors. If not, you should probably unplug your fire alarms. 

Avocado mango salsa

Avocado mango salsa

Fact: Add avocado to anything and it makes it 10x more delicious. Same deal with salsa, specifically fruit salsa. The rich, creamy texture of the avocado pairs perfectly with the sweet mango, and bite-y red onion. And, the freshness you get with the cilantro and lime juice makes every bite taste like a treat yoself moment. Honestly, if you don’t like this, I don’t like you.

Enjoy.

Ingredients

  • avocado
  • mango
  • tomato
  • red onion
  • garlic
  • cilantro
  • lime juice
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

Cut up the avocado, tomato, and mango into fairly small, similar sized chunks and put in a bowl. If you have no idea how to cut a mango, watch my friend, Alton, show you how it’s done, here. Finely dice the red onion and garlic and add to the bowl. Squeeze in some fresh lime juice, using as much or as little as you want. If you’ve tried my guacamole you know how much I love citrus, so I tend to be a little heavy handed with this. Season with salt and pepper and mix well. Taste to make sure all the flavors are balanced–salty, sweet, tangy, etc. Make adjustments if you need to and refrigerate for at least a half an hour before serving to allow the flavors to meld.

Use as a dip with chips or a topping on fish, chicken, steak, quesadillas, spoons.. I used it on my homemade BBQ chicken.