Friday, May 31, 2013

Turkey-Cranberry Enchiladas

We are still slowly working through our freezer full of turkeys leftover from those great Thanksgiving sales. Four turkeys down, two to go!

Actually, the excess turkey meat in the house has been great! Because it means we are able to try out some unusual sounding combinations. Like these turkey enchiladas. The sauce and enchilada filling incorporate two Thanksgiving flavors: turkey meat and cranberry sauce. Weird, right? Believe me...this is a brilliant recipe. Especially if you use a chipotle salsa. Chipotle compliments sweet, fruity flavors very well and in this particular recipe the smoky flavors of the chipotle pepper create an explosive combination when mixed with the sweet cranberry sauce. Simply amazing. We enjoyed this dish so much that Paul requested that I make it TWICE in one week. That never happens.

Turkey-Cranberry Enchiladas
adapted from Pink Parsley

2 1/2 cups shredded turkey (or chicken)
1 (16 ounce) can whole-berry cranberry sauce
1 (15 ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 1/2 cups roasted chipotle salsa
1 1/2 cups shredded pepperjack cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
1 small bunch scallions, chopped
1/4 cup lightly-packed chopped cilantro
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon chipotle chile powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
10-12 (8-inch) flour tortillas
1 tsp hot sauce

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine the turkey, 1 cup of the cranberry sauce, the beans, sour cream, 3/4 cup cheese, 1/2 cup of the salsa, green onions, cilantro, cumin, chipotle powder, salt, and pepper.

Spoon filling evenly into each tortilla, and roll tightly.  Place seam-side down in the baking dish.

In a medium bowl, combine the remaining cranberry sauce, 1 cup of salsa, and the hot sauce.  Stir to combine and pour over the enchiladas.  Cover the dish with foil and bake for 45 minutes.  Remove foil, sprinkle with remaining 3/4 cup cheese, and continue to bake, uncovered, an additional 10 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbly.  Sprinkle with additional cilantro and scallions, and serve.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Five Favorites: Baby Emma Edition

I decided to start a series on this blog highlighting the favorite things of each family member. This is just a fun way to tell a few interesting facts about each person in an attempt to help you, dear readers, get to know each of us a little better.

I will be linking up with other bloggers sharing their five favorites over at Moxie Wife.

Today, I want to start with the youngest member of the family: Baby Emma! Currently, Baby Emma's five favorite things are...

1) Ceiling Fans. She cannot get enough of them. If you ever want to get some work done around the house, you simply lie her down on the bed and turn the ceiling fan on for her to stare at, laugh at, and study away to her heart's content. If you really want her to get excited, you could turn it up to the highest setting. Paaarty!

2) Our Ergo Baby Carrier. What's better than being cozily smashed up against Mom for the duration of a long hike or a quick trip to the grocery store? In this baby girl's opinion, being carted around in this thing is an optimal time to take a snooze.

3) The Great Outdoors. If Ms. Emma is ever being super fussy, taking her for a stroll outside instantly calms her nerves and melts away any previous anxiety. She loves to look at the bright colors and feel the warm breeze. She also likes to try to look at the sun (AHH NO!), but luckily we have a handy pair of baby sunglasses for her to wear.

4) Bathtime. When Matthew was a baby, bathtime was cause for great weeping, flailing, and torturous screaming.  Emma, on the other hand, laughs whenever she is being bathed. She loves the feeling of the wet washcloth running through her hair. Crazy, crazy little girl.

5) Her Daddy. Whenever Emma hears Paul's voice, she instantly whips around in an attempt to see him. As soon as his face pops into view, she always gives him the biggest smiles and loudest coos (even if she had just been screaming her head off!). Her biggest smiles are always for him. It's so not fair. He did not birth her...Mommy can't even distract her from the beloved ceiling fan (see #1).

Friday, May 24, 2013

Count It All Joy

The past two weeks have been a lesson in patience, perseverance, and love. The monotony of my everyday life has been weighing heavily. Even if the weather is gorgeous outside, I am forced to spend a fair amount of time indoors feeding the baby, cleaning the house, and making sure that Matthew makes it to the potty when the urge strikes.

Potty training has been the ultimate focus of the past few weeks and while Matthew is doing fairly well with it, he is not quite to the point where he will automatically stop all activities and run to the bathroom. I have to remind him - and he will go, happily stripping off every piece of clothing he is wearing and skipping naked into the bathroom in order to do so. This would be all fine and dandy, except that he is terrible at dressing himself. A given outfit normally takes him around 15-20 minutes to assemble correctly. Since I have been reminding him to try to use the potty every 30 minutes or so, by the time he has finished getting dressed from his latest stripping, it is nearly time for me usher him into the bathroom for another try. I'm really hoping that the potty concept takes and that he also learns how to get dressed faster. I tried letting him just run around naked, but my dainty little boy freaks out whenever he does not have a shirt or bottoms on! And that's fine with me. I personally do not want his naked little butt touching my leather couches (Mom of the year? I think so!).

The weekend provides a nice reprieve because Paul is home and having an extra set of hands around certainly does give me a bit more freedom to either go shopping, hiking, or biking. However, come Monday morning, I sigh heavily at the thought of once more facing my glamorous role as a mother to two young children for another five straight days alone.

However, let's be honest. I really need to stop whining.

When I do get a moment alone to catch up on the news with a much-needed cup of coffee, I get an immediate reality check of how good my life really is. Most recently, the coverage of the aftermath of the deadly tornadoes in Oklahoma and the havoc they wreaked on the lives of hundreds of people has been weighing heavily on my mind. Individual lives were lost, homes were destroyed, and many families now find themselves without their precious heirlooms, memories, and homes. Their lives changed dramatically in a matter of a few short, terrifying minutes. And what do I really have to complain about? Spending a little too much time helping my precious son learn how to use the potty? Nursing my daughter for hours on end? The temperature in our home being a teeny bit too warm at night because our air conditioning isn't functioning as efficiently? (The following quote from Friends comes to mind: "My wallet's too small for my fifties and my diamond shoes are too tight!")

All my complaints are ridiculous compared to all the suffering of others throughout the world. I am able to hold, kiss, and spend quality time with my babies. I have plenty of food to eat and water to drink. I have a roof over my head and a comfortable bed to sleep in. I have been blessed in my vocation as a wife and mother and should be thanking God constantly for the time he has given me and for the two precious little angels he has entrusted to my care. None of us knows how much time we have to spend here on earth, so every moment should be an opportunity to be ever joyful, thankful, and loving. It's a simple concept, but one that I am in constant need of reminding. I need to transform my mundane tasks into moments of prayer and thanksgiving. They are golden opportunities for spiritual growth disguised in ordinary, dull, and sometimes smelly packages.

Now, please excuse me...duty calls. I believe Emma just blew a hole through her diaper.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Carrot-Ginger Soup

We have had four days in a row with temperatures soaring above 80 degrees. It's been beautiful, gorgeous Summer-ish weather. And of course now is the perfect time to post a soup recipe on this here blog!

Okay, in reality, I know that it is not AT ALL soup weather, but I happened to have a gazillion carrots lying at the bottom of my fridge (I buy them in 10 pound bags from the farmer's market) and a ton of ginger leftover from our latest Indian-themed dinner. Waste not, want not...the only option was to make a delicious Carrot-Ginger soup.

This recipe makes a ton of soup. Perfect for an easy, quick dinner the next evening! Easy meals means more time to snuggle with Baby Emma!

This is one soup that I will gladly eat year-round. It is slightly sweet from the carrots and coconut milk with a mild amount of spice from the addition of cayenne, curry, and ginger. It is warm, comforting, and has a wonderfully smooth texture thanks to a little bit of time in the blender. It's great eaten straight with a dollop of sour cream or spooned over a piping-hot helping of jasmine rice. This is one of my all-time favorite soups!

Carrot-Ginger Soup

2 tablespoons butter
2 onions, peeled and chopped
6 cups chicken broth
2 pounds carrots, peeled and sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
2 teaspoons yellow curry powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1 canned coconut milk, well shaken
Salt and white pepper
Sour cream or yogurt, for serving
Hot Rice (optional)

Melt butter in large dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook, stirring often, until translucent. Add the carrots, ginger, and garlic and stir for 30 seconds or until fragrant. Slowly pour in the chicken broth and stir. Bring to a boil and then cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 20-30 minutes, or until the carrots are tender.

Working in batches, puree the soup in a blender. Be careful to hold the top down because the steam could cause an explosion! Return the pureed soup to the pot and add salt and pepper to taste. Add the coconut milk and gently warm the soup over medium-low heat. Serve with a dollop of sour cream or yogurt. If desired, spoon over hot cooked rice.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Thai-Style Quinoa Salad

Lunch is the single most difficult meal for me to prepare and eat during any given day. Around lunchtime, Emma typically has one of her fussy periods and Matthew is super demanding because he is hungry, tired, and cranky. You can normally find me bouncing a wailing Emma on one hip while trying to spread peanut butter as quickly as I can onto a slice of bread for Matthew while he sits at the table telling me over and over and over again: "I'm hungry Mommy! Soooo hungry!" And nine times out of 10 that stupid slice of bread will begin to rip apart from my vigorous attempts to spread the peanut butter evenly resulting in the most mangled sandwich ever. Matthew normally sends me a look of confusion when I place the sandwich in front of him and I don't blame him. It literally looks like I picked something out of the garbage can and threw it on a plate for him to eat.

Yes, lunchtime is difficult. And if I want to eat anything semi-nutritious, it had better be prepared and readily accessible to grab from the fridge. I normally end up eating lunch straight from the plastic Tupperware dish (again, while either bouncing or feeding the baby). I normally try to make a large batch of some type of healthful dish at the beginning of the week that I can eat for lunch for several days afterwards. I love quinoa salads for this reason (I know, I know...I wax poetic about quinoa A LOT!). They keep well, are very healthy and filling, and are pretty limitless when it comes to the different combinations of fruits, vegetables, and vinaigrette.

This Thai-Style Quinoa Salad has been my favorite lunch staple for a while now. The sauce is composed of items that I already have in my fridge or in the cupboard. The salad is packed full of healthy vegetables and protein-filled quinoa to keep my energy levels up. I've been really obsessed with Thai food for the past several months and the Thai flavors in this vinaigrette really help satisfy that craving! I don't really stick to any particular type of vegetables when making this salad - I tend to just throw in whatever I have on hand from the Farmer's market (except for edamame - I aways toss a bunch of it in because I LOVE it!!). Occasionally, I'll even throw in a frozen medley of Asian vegetables. That option not only tastes great, but is also super economical! If you have some leftover chicken from dinner, throw that in as well! The possibilities are endless

Thai-Style Quinoa Salad
adapted from How Sweet Eats

Note: Use whatever combination of veggies/meat you want! The listed ingredients are simply suggestions!

For the Salad:
1 1/2 cups uncooked quinoa, rinsed well
2 cups cooked chicken or shrimp
1/2 cup chopped carrots
1/2 cup snow peas
1/2 green beans
1/2 cup shelled edamame
1/2 cup chopped red pepper
4 green onions, chopped
1/2 cup chopped roasted peanuts (optional)
1/2 cup freshly chopped cilantro
Salt and pepper to taste

For the Sauce:
4 tablespoons sweet chili sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons canned coconut milk
1 tablespoon packed light brown sugar
2 teaspoons creamy peanut butter
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 lime juiced, about 2 tablespoons
Pinch of ground ginger

Prepare quinoa according to package directions using chicken broth. The ratio is normally 1 1/2 cups of liquid for every 1 cup quinoa.

While quinoa is cooking, combine all of the sauce ingredients together in a liquid measure and whisk to combine. When the quinoa finishes cooking, scoop it into a large bowl. Stir in the sauce and mix well. Stir in the carrots, edamame, red pepper, green onions, green beans, snow peas and cilantro. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm, room temperature or chilled.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Hawaiian Macaroni Salad and An Ode to My Mother

Happy Mother's Day to my friend, my hero, my role beautiful mother.

I know I was not the easiest child in the world to raise. I was stubborn, strong-willed, and hated taking direction from anyone. Not to mention, I had full-blown anxiety issues about pretty much everything beginning when I was just a toddler. We're talking major emotional breakdowns about EVERYTHING. I was scared of boats after reading about the Titanic. I was scared to travel to California after seeing the news coverage of the 1994 Los Angeles earthquake. After seeing Jaws, I was not only terrified of the ocean but also lakes, streams, rivers, the public pool, and some very large puddles.

My Mom never lost patience with me and my constant, never-ending panic attacks about everything. I must have woken her up dozens of times in the middle of the night just to tell her that I was scared that we were going to die in a car crash during our next family vacation by driving off a bridge, getting swept up by a tornado, or spontaneously bursting into flames. Mom would always calmly respond with the true but not-at-all-reassuring statement: "At least we will all be together!"

My Mom has always been my biggest advocate. When I was about five years old and attending a Vacation Bible School summer program, a pair of 10-year-old girls were making fun of me for choosing to color an entire picture with a hot-pink marker (an atrociously inartistic choice for sure!). My Mom immediately marched over to them and asked: "Are you making fun of her picture?" The terrified girls quickly shook their heads and skedaddled. I proudly took my artwork home where I'm sure my Mom saved it in her filing cabinet where she kept all the other pieces of evidence that none of her children would grow up to be the next Picasso. Years later, some of us kids went through the contents of that filing cabinet and wondered amongst ourselves: "Why the heck did Mom keep all this crap?"

Because she loves us.

As little kids, we always had a set routine of prayers we said at night with my Mom while being tucked into bed. I have taught my own son that same exact sequence of prayers and we recite it together every single night. And every single night, it reminds me of my Mom.

Whenever I rock my little Emma, I sing her the same song my Mom would sing to us when we were little:

Baby of Mine
Baby of Mine
Sweet Little, Cute Little, Baby of Mine
Sweet Little Child, sent from above
You'll always be
You'll always be
My Baby of Mine.

I have no idea whether that is an actual song or her own composition based on the melody of an actual song (my Mom has a knack for forgetting lyrics), but I will sing it to all my babies just as my Mom sang it to all of hers.

Even though I am now grown and raising a family of my own, I will never stop needing my Mom. Whenever I am scared, upset, or excited about something, my Mom is the first person I want to call. I miss her when I am unable to see her for awhile and sometimes long to hug her, laugh with her, or watch a Cary Grant movie with her (that man is a bona fide Adonis). I love how much my children love her and enjoy spending time with her. Matthew talks about "going to see Grandma" every single day. I usually tell him: "Oh Matthew, I want to go see Grandma too!"

I have no idea why Mom looks so oddly two dimensional in this picture!

On this Mother's Day, even though I am unable to spend the day with my Mom, I am thinking about her constantly. I could not have been blessed with a better Mother and hope that I can give my own children the same amount of love and support that my Mom always gave me.

Thank you, Mom, for everything. I love you!

The recipe I want to share is one that I promised to post for my Mom since it reminded her so much of a dish that her mother, my Grandma, used to prepare during the summertime. I prepared this Macaroni Salad as a side dish during the family gathering we hosted the weekend of Emma's Baptism mainly because I thought it would be cheap, easy, and economical. However, this was truly one fantastic macaroni salad. After one bite, my Mom declared that it was exactly like Grandma's macaroni salad - a dish that my Mom craves from time to time. Grandma passed away almost 17 years ago and I know that my Mom thinks about her and misses her constantly. Although I did not know her very well, I understand that she was an excellent cook and I was very proud to make something reminiscent of one of her dishes.

Hawaiian Macaroni Salad
from Entertaining Magazine

Note: Do not substitute lower fat milk or mayonnaise in the recipe. It will make the dressing too watery!

2 cups whole milk
2 cups full-fat mayonnaise
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
 Salt and Pepper
1 pound macaroni pasta
1/2 cup cider vinegar
4 scallions, sliced thin
1 large carrot, grated
1 celery rib, chopped fine

To make the dressing, whisk together 1 1/2 cups milk, 1 cup mayonnaise, brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 2 teaspoons pepper.

Bring 4 quarts water to boil in large pot. Add 1 tablespoon salt and pasta and cook until very soft, about 15 minutes. Drain pasta and return to pot.

Add vinegar to the hot pasta, and toss until absorbed. Transfer to a large bowl. Cool the pasta for 10 minutes.

Stir in the dressing until pasta is well coated. Let stand to cool completely to room temperature.

Add scallions, carrot, celery, remaining milk, and remaining mayonnaise to pot with pasta mixture; stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to serving bowl and refrigerate, covered, for at least 1 hour or up to 2 days. Serve.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Vegan Oatmeal Cookies with White Chocolate and Coconut

The vegan diet seems to be gaining more popularity. In the grocery store, packaged foods normally have a sticker printed on the side indicating whether the product is "vegan friendly." Most restaurants will make an effort to provide a couple vegan options for entrees. Vegan recipes are taking over the internet! It has been quite the trendy diet particularly among those who are trying to make a conscientious effort to eat more whole foods. Now, eating a vegan-friendly diet does not seem incredibly difficult to me if we are talking strictly main dishes - just make food with lots of olive oil, fruits, veggies, and grains. I don't eat a lot of dairy anyway because of my lactose intolerance. Paul, on the other hand, would have a little more difficult time with it because he could never kiss his cheese fetish goodbye. Overall, I think a vegan diet would be fairly doable.

Until it comes to baking and desserts.

How can you bake without butter?! Eggs?!? Milk? Most forms of chocolate!????!

I envisioned just about every vegan baked good turning out about as hard and tasteless as a hockey puck.

One of my dearest friends from high school is a hard-core vegan. And you know what else? She also enjoys baking! In fact, when we have gathered together at various bridal and baby showers over the years, she normally brings some freshly baked vegan desserts. And they have always been moist and incredibly delicious! Ever since tasting some of her recipes, I have kept an eye out for vegan baking recipes for both her and I to test out. Obviously, vegan recipes are particularly tricky to execute well. You cannot simply substitute vegan-friendly ingredients for non-vegan ingredients and hope that it all works out for the best. The entire formula usually needs to be revamped in order to guarantee optimal taste and texture. So far, there have been some successful recipes and some very humbling failures. My attempts at a vegan challah were less than stellar. The bread pudding I tried to make with the salvaged remains was even worse. I'm going to guess that challah is just not challah without all those eggs.

One of my favorite vegan recipes thus far are for these oatmeal cookies. I actually whipped them up accidentally one day because I was babysitting for a bunch of kids and wanted to make them a snack, but did not have any butter in the house. I used it as an opportunity to try a vegan cookie recipe. The batter took no more than 7 minutes to whip up and another 20 minutes to bake in the oven. The results are a chewy, sweet cookie full of flavor from coconut, white chocolate (vegan white chocolate, of course), and brown sugar. Matthew loves these and Paul thought they were pretty fantastic too!

Oatmeal Cookies with White Chocolate and Coconut
adapted from Serious Eats

3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
2 tablespoons agave nectar (or honey)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon water
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup shredded coconut, toasted
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 cup vegan white chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Whisk together the sugar, oil, agave, salt, water, and vanilla in a medium bowl. In a larger bowl, combine the four, oats, coconut, and baking soda. Make a well in the center and pour in the wet ingredients. Mix well to combine. Stir in the white chocolate chips. You might have to use your hands to get everything to mesh well.

Press the mixture into the bottom of an 8-inch baking pan. Place on the middle rack in the oven and bake for 20-22 minutes, or until lightly browned and just set. Let cool completely on a wire rack before cutting into bars. Or, scoop out cobbler-style while still hot and enjoy with a large helping of of ice cream.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Coconut Tres Leches Cake

I enjoyed having a birthday to myself for all of two years. Then, on the day I turned three, my slightly bald, floppy-eared brother Raymond was born and I have had to share my birthday with him ever since. Luckily, we grew up sharing a mutual love of BBQ Ribs and Chinese Chicken Salad so one of those two dishes ended up being our birthday dinner while German Chocolate Cake was typically our choice for dessert. Actually, Raymond and I relished the fact that we were born on the same day. In fact, I was a fraternal twin at conception but my twin perished prior to birth. When Raymond came along, I always assumed that he was the reincarnation of my long-lost twin. And Raymond went along with that little theory until our parents delicately yet effectively squashed it by explaining that as Catholics reincarnation is not exactly a part of our theology.

Oh well, it was still cool to share a birthday together.

In fact, when I went off to college and Raymond and I were no longer able to celebrate together, my birthday always seemed slightly incomplete and lonely. It was weird to be the only person spitting across the cake in a desperate attempt to blow off all those candles. We always chatted on the phone and shared how we would each be celebrating, but it was never the same.

Finally, after three years apart, Raymond began his first year at Notre Dame while I began my final year. And that year, we celebrated our birthday in style - with food, friends, volleyball, and lots of cake and pie (my husband Paul actually orchestrated the whole thing).

Then, this happened.

And we moved away. I got pretty used to having my own cake for five years.

But this year, Raymond came to visit a few days before our birthdays and my family took full advantage of the opportunity to celebrate. Excited to be sharing a cake with my little brother once again, I really wanted to make something he liked. I asked Raymond what his current favorite dessert was and his reply was "anything with coconut."

One dessert my Mom makes often is Tres Leches Cake. I have actually never ever had it but my siblings have always praised it to no end. I decided to make a Coconut Tres Leches cake for Raymond. Basically, a simple, basic cake batter is whipped up, poured in a baking dish, and baked. After allowing it to cool, you poke the heck out of that poor little cake (I stabbed that cake for a good 10 minutes) and a mixture of cream of coconut, evaporated milk, and cream (tres leches!!) are poured over the top and allowed to soak into the cake. Now, when I poured my tres leches over the cake, it pooled over the top and looked like a disaster in the making. Paul walked by and sarcastically remarked: "yum!" My reply was: "Shut up! This is exactly how I want it to look."

But, in reality, I was worried.

So, the whole thing goes into the fridge for a rest period (I gave it a good 24 hours). And, magically, the milk does sink into the cake and it somehow is not at all soggy, but rather moist with the flavor of the milks permeating every crumb. Some sweetened whipped cream is quickly made using my handy-dandy stand mixer and carefully spread over the top. Garnished with sliced bananas and toasted coconut, the cake is ready to serve!

Paul threw some candles on our cake and our entire family gathered around to sing "Happy Birthday" to Raymond and I. As we prepared to lean over and blow out the candles, a small, impish child shot past us, clambered hastily up one of the kitchen chairs, and began blowing out our candles! Mr. Matthew has been very into birthdays lately and, since turning three, has assumed that every birthday cake is for him! Thankfully, he did not have a cold at the time because he showered that cake with saliva.

So, in the end, Raymond and I did not get to blow out those candles together. But, it was still great to be able to celebrate our birthdays together especially since we do not know how long it will be before we are able to do so again.

Coconut Tres Leches Cake
adapted from Cook's Illustrated and Mel's Kitchen Cafe

Note: I am sure as a shortcut, you could definitely just whip up a boxed cake per the packaged directions. Just let it cool, poke holes, and add the milk mixture.

For the Cake:
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1 cup whole milk
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla

For the milk mixture:
1 can evaporated milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 can Cream of Coconut (NOT Coconut Milk)
1 teaspoon vanilla

For the sweetened whipped cream:
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

For the garnish:
1 cup sweetened shredded coconut, toasted
1-2 large bananas, sliced

To make the cake: Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour a 13x9 inch baking pan.

Whisk flour, baking powder and salt together in a bowl. Heat butter and milk in small saucepan over low heat until butter is melted. Set aside.

Beat eggs in a large bowl for about 30 seconds on medium speed, then slowly add in the sugar until incorporated. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until mixture is thick and glossy, about 5-7 minutes. Reduce speed to low and slowly mix in the milk-butter mixture and vanilla. Add flour mixture in three additions, scraping down the bowl as needed and then mix on medium speed until fully incorporated, about 30 additional seconds. Using a rubber spatula, scrape batter into prepared pan and bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cake cool completely on a wire rack.

Meanwhile, combine all ingredients for the milk mixture in a blender and blend for 30-60 seconds until completely mixed.

Poke holes all over the cooled cake. I mean ALL over. We really want the milk mixture to saturate. Slowly pour the milk mixture over the cake in 5-6 additions. Let the mixture soak in a bit before adding the next. Once all the milk mixture has been poured over, refrigerate the cake for at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours.

When ready to serve, whisk the whipping cream in the bowl of a stand mixer until frothy. Add the powdered sugar and vanilla and continue to whisk until the cream has reached the consistency of whipped cream. Carefully spread the whipped cream over the surface of the cake, sprinkle the cake with the toasted coconut and banana slices, and serve!