This Bread is Bananas

Banana bread – one of the easiest things to bake and so delicious. Last night, having an abundance of ripe bananas in our house, I decided to make a loaf for dessert and work snacks. Nothing beats a fresh-out-of-the-oven, still warm, buttered piece of banana bread.

banana bread

 

Blue Ribbon* Banana Bread:

Ingredients:

4 ripe bananas

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (or whole wheat, if you’re looking to get healthy)

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup sugar

1/3 cup melted butter

1 tsp baking soda

mixing it up

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Mash bananas with a wooden spoon in a large bowl. Mix in melted butter.

3. Add vanilla. sugar, egg and baking powder and stir well.

4. Add flour and mix until fully coated and thick.

5. Pour mixture into a buttered loaf pan and place in oven. Let bake for one hour.

There you have it! Super simple and delicious. Plus a good way to use up those bananas that are maybe just a little too brown for anything else.

 

 

*ok so it hasn’t actually won any awards…but the alliteration was too good to pass up.

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Poppa-corn

Summer time is movie time. This seems a bit counterintuitive, because it’s the nice time of year where there isn’t snow or blistering cold winds or layers upon layers of clothing that still isn’t warm enough. We should all be outside, enjoying every last morsel of sun, but summertime also happens to be the time for blockbuster movies. While I’m a huge movie fan, I think for me, going to the cinema is mostly about the experience rather than the picture itself. And a large part of that experience is the popcorn.

popcorn

But here’s the deal with cinema popcorn – as amazing as it tastes (especially if you do like I do and double – sometimes triple – layer butter on it), it’s pretty much as far away from a healthy snack as you can get. So knowing that I’m trying to be (a little) healthier and that my metabolism is just nearing that age where it’s about to give up on me completely, I scoured around for some make-it-at-home popcorn recipes that hit the spot without all the badness. These recipes you can take with you, or enjoy when you’re catching up on something from the comfort of your own couch on a rainy Sunday. Also, in the move we gave up having a microwave so I have to find a replacement for the 1 minute, 15 seconds land of popcorn readiness.

– First, the popcorn: if you really want to be a purist and are absolutely dying to make popcorn that isn’t Jiffy Pop, this recipe from Simply Recipes seems to do the trick. Old school, stove-top, deliciously crunchy popcorn.

– Then, the flavour: if you’re going to do it, do it right and don’t just add butter. I love this recipe for spicy caramel popcorn from Smitten Kitchen because you get the flavour as you cook the popcorn. For something a little more savoury, this garlic, thyme and parmesan recipe sounds like it hits the spot – cheesy popcorn is the best. And, of course, there’s the salty popcorn, which takes a twist with this recipe that adds honey to it for a perfect mix of sweet and salty. 

– Finally, have some fun: popcorn’s great and all but it’s even better in ball form. Kind of like rice crispy squares, popcorn balls just make something great that much greater. Here’s a traditional popcorn ball recipe c/o Martha Stewart – but you can add your own twist to it by seasoning the popcorn, adding caramel, chocolate, or anything else your heart desires.

popcorn balls

 

Perfect Summer Snack? Chips and Guac.

Maybe it’s because of the fact that Cinco de Mayo was yesterday, or maybe it’s just because of the fact that the warm weather means spring is officially here, but I’ve had a serious craving for chips and guacamole all weekend! I didn’t get to indulge, but I am planning on making some this week. Guacamole is so easy to make and almost requires no recipe – just some basic ingredients and your own flair.

My Take on Guacamole:

Ingredients

Avocados (3-4, ripe)

Lime juice (fresh squeezed, or you can use this Lime Juice that they sell in grocery stores)

Corn (canned)

1 ripe tomato, diced

Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

1. Cut the avocados in half and scoop out the insides into a bowl.

2. Mash the avocados using a fork until you reach your desired level of chunkiness (I prefer it a bit chunky, but it’s a complete “to taste” thing)

3. Add about 2 teaspoons of the lime juice, and a handful of the corn and diced tomato

4. Mix together, adding salt and pepper to taste

5. Enjoy!

Normally I would just crack out some store-bought chips to go with that delicious guac, but I recently found a recipe that I can’t wait to try out for homemade, bistro-style chips! The thing I like about this recipe is that it uses simple ingredients, and you can fry it or bake it (if you’re going for an extra-healthy option). These chips remind me of the kind you’d get in Mexico proper – crispy, tortilla-y and so perfect for scooping!

These go great with a refreshing cerveza, like maybe a Corona.

An experiment in Kale

Kale. A simple vegetable from the cabbage family that has suddenly taken on a lot more prominence. Like other leafy green veggies, it has some awesome benefits – it’s chock-full of all those good vitamins (like C and K). In my ongoing quest for healthy snacks, I recently had my first try at kale chips.

Kale chips threw me off. On the one hand, they’re chips which is a total win. On the other hand, they’re chips made out of what is essentially lettuce. On the face of it, that does not sound too tempting. I wasn’t too impressed after trying some store bought ones that I only sort of liked, but then my friend Eszter served up some homemade ones the last time I was over. It was one of the best snacks I’ve ever had – not only do they taste delicious, but they’re so healthy that I didn’t feel the least bit guilt about munching on them all night long.

Because I have to keep my condo in pristine (read: smell-free) shape for the next little while, I wasn’t able to make this recipe at home for this post. But I wanted to share with you what I promise will be a new party favour.

Mmmm kale chips, via Gimme Some Oven

Mmmm kale chips, via Gimme Some Oven

“I can’t believe how easy and fast that was” Homemade Kale Chips

Ingredients

A bunch of fresh Kale
2 tbsp Olive Oil or Olive Oil Spray
Coarse sea salt
Any other spices you want: paprika, sesame seeds, cayenne…

  1. Wash and dry the kale (I use my trusty salad spinner)
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
  3. Chop or tear kale into bite sized (about 1″) pieces
  4. In a bowl, drizzle kale with olive oil, rubbing it into the kale with your hands
  5. Place the kale evenly on a parchment-paper lined baking sheet and sprinkle with the salt (and any other spices)
  6. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until the kale is dark green and crispy (careful! you need to watch this carefully…kale can quickly go from crunchy to burnt)

You can store these in an airtight container for up to a week but, if you’re anything like me, they’ll likely be gone in one sitting.

Quinoa is the new rice

Over the last year or so, quinoa has made its way into most home pantries. This ancient grain is also becoming quite popular among the foodie crowd, appearing on the menu at a lot of restaurants within the city. Another feat of this super food? It happens to be one of my favourite things to eat these days.

You can’t go wrong with quinoa – it’s easy to make (20 minutes on the stove top), has awesome nutritional value (protein, iron, magnesium, calcium…oh my), and tastes so good! It’s a great substitute for rice or potatoes and is very versatile. Quinoa can act as breakfast, lunch, dinner or even dessert…pretty impressive.

For a quick and easy brown bag work lunch, I just take my favourite ingredients (read: whatever is left in my fridge), mix it with freshly cooked quinoa (The Kitchn offers good tips for how to make it fluffy) and let it cool in the fridge overnight. It’s a delicious and no-time-spent way to get a healthy mid-day meal.

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Some other great quinoa recipes:

– For breakfast, use it as a substitute for oatmeal in this sweet and delicious dish from Martha Stewart (you can’t go wrong with cinnamon, brown sugar and blueberries for breakfast)

– As a side dish, this quinoa pilaf from the Food Network is delicious (pine nuts are another favourite food of mine). Only thing I would alter? Add some parmesan cheese to the mix.

– A quinoa and chicken stir fry (via Epicurious) is a delicious twist on regular stir fry.

– And for dessert? This quinoa pudding looks pretty interesting. It has pomegranate (a super fruit! or so they tell me) and reminds me of my days eating Kozy Shack rice pudding as a child. This will most definitely be made in the near future.

An Apple a Day…

I have a sweet tooth like no other. Dessert is, to me, as important a part of dinner as the main dish. I have had ice cream for breakfast in the past. I can tell you how good a restaurant is based on its molten chocolate lava cake (it’s my version of the Big Mac Index or the Gold Standard). But as time goes on, I’m trying to be more discerning in my quest to quell my desire for sweets. I know it will be a useless endeavour to try to stop snacking altogether, but that doesn’t mean I can’t snack right.

One thing I’ve always loved has been fruit chips and crisps. Banana, mango, apple – they all taste great crisped up. Problem is that all the store bought versions of these chips are loaded with fattening oils, sugar and all sorts of preservatives that take away any nutritional value the fruits may have had. So why not go the healthier, homemade route? You can make as much or as little as you want and you know what’s going into your snack. With that, here is my simple, step by step recipe for making to-die-for Homemade Apple Crisps.

Step 1: Preheat the oven to 250F and get your ingredients ready.

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Step 2: Slice the apples into paper-thin round strips (I used a knife, but for a more accurate and even slice, I suggest a mandoline). You can either core the apple beforehand or you can cut as-is, making sure you remove any seeds.

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Step 3: Place apple slices on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper, making sure that the apple slices don’t overlap.

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Step 4: Mix the cinnamon and sugar together and lightly dust the apple slices on both sides. I rub the mixture into each apple slice in order to ensure it sticks.

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Step 5: Place baking sheet in oven for 1 hour. After the hour, remove from oven, turn the apple slices over and put back in the over for another 50 minutes – 1 hour.

Step 6: Remove from oven, let cool (this is where they crisp up!) and enjoy!!

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