Bananas steal the show in our home. If it’s not banana oatmeal of some sort, it’s a banana chocolate shake or a decadent mini banana caramel cake. Although I would rarely consume a whole, fresh banana these days, they do manage to appear in something I eat everyday.
Full of potassium (which does a fine job at relieving muscle soreness) and packed with the exact carbohydrates and glycogen I like after exercise, bananas will never be shunned in our household, regardless of how many 5 Food To Never Eat ads are thrown my way..
Every so often we splurge on our favourite banana ‘icecream’. This concept blew our mind – instant icecream!? Made entirely from whole, natural, nutritious ingredients? It got us through the super hot, twentyfour-hour-sunlight summers in Norman Wells and will surely be a staple during Calgary’s hot summers.
This combination is inspired by the popular Ben & Jerry’s icecream flavour (Tip Top is yet to introduce this awesome combination) of banana, fudge chunks and walnuts. I’m a bit of a coconut fiend so threw in some toasted threaded coconut aswell.
Go and throw some bananas in your freezer. You’ll be thankful tomorrow night.
Nutritious Chunky Monkey ‘Icecream’
Inspired by Healthful Pursuit
2 large bananas, peeled, sliced and frozen
2 tbsp almond (or peanut) butter
2 tbsp unsweetened shredded coconut
dash milk (or almond ‘milk’)
1/4 cup raw walnuts
long threaded coconut
2 rows of dark chocolate from a good quality block (not optional)
Place bananas, almond butter and coconut in blender. Blend until smooth – add milk as required or leave to allow bananas to soften slightly.
Heat a skillet over moderate heat. Place walnuts and coconut onto dry skillet (no need for oil) and toast until golden on both sides.
Spoon banana ‘icecream’ into serving dishes and top with the cooled nuts and coconut along with coarsely chopped chocolate. If required, place in freezer to firm up before serving – it melts quickly!
A simple low fat, high protein meatloaf that tastes OUTSTANDING. Turkey and apple make for an excellent flavour combination, with the apple providing sweetness and ensuring moist meat. Being a bit of a meatloaf hater, this one definitely swayed me. It’s a simple, tasty solution to transporting flavour-packed protein to work for lunch – I like to slice the loaf into individual portions and freeze, ready to take to work alongside some roasted kumara and steamed greens.
Turkey & Apple Meatloaf
500g ground turkey (breast or dark meat)1 granny smith apple, grated
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp paprika (I prefer smoked, de La Vera)
1/3 cup egg whites
1/4 cut rolled oats
1/2 cup tomato sauce (aka ketchup)
1 granny smith apple
fresh herbs, chopped
Mix together turkey, onion, garlic, paprika, egg whites and rolled oats. Grate the apple and squeeze out most of the juices. Add the grated apple to the mix along with 1/4 cup ketchup. Press into a lined loaf pan (I managed to squeeze it into an 18x9cm tin). Combine the apple juice with the remaining ketchup and spread over the top of the meatloaf along with some fresh herbs.
Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and, if desired, brush with a little more ketchup. Return to oven for another 20 minutes, or until a thermometer inserted into the centre reads 165˚F (or 74˚C).
With such little time together these days (thanks to continuous overnighters from the Airline) Jesse and I bathe in our quality time together and shared meals. The joy we get from sitting down to an early evening glass of wine with some quality cheese..
Living in a gourmet-food-center of Calgary (Inglewood) we have a huge range of outstanding cheeses at our fingertips (with an extensive sales pitch and plenty of samples at the local groceteria to aid our decision). Sometimes, at these wine-and-cheese occasions, we include crackers, but only when we can get our hands on decent ones. Raincoast Crisps by Lesley Stowe (Vancouver) have become well popular in Canada. We first tried them at a dinner party in Norman Wells and, like the rest of the country, were pretty keen on them.
Because we are not ones to buy store bought anything (and because this blog is essentially called homemade in Spanish), I was stoked to find they are easily made at home.
With a stash of these on hand we are well equipped for an unscheduled sit down and catch up, for those rare occasions in which we find ourselves at the same place at the same time.
Almond, Cranberry & Rosemary Raincoast Crisps
Barely adapted recipe from fellow Calgary blog, Dinner with Julie
These freeze well, both before and after baking. I like to make two loaves, slice one and bake into crackers, and freeze the other. Alternatively I’ll make all the crackers and freeze half of them – both methods work great. The slight sweetness of the crackers mean they are great on their own too. Note: The loaves are much easier to slice thinly when very cold. I recommend cooling overnight, then freezing for 30 minutes or so before attempting to slice.
1 cup wholewheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups buttermilk (or milk with a dash vinegar)
1/4 cup raw sugar
1/4 cup honey
1 cup craisins (dried cranberries)
1/2 cup chopped almonds
1/2 cup roasted pumpkin seeds (optional)
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1/4 cup flax seed, ground
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary
Preheat oven to 350° F.
In a large bowl, stir together the flours, baking soda and salt. Add the buttermilk, sugar and honey and stir. Add the craisins, almonds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, flax seed and rosemary and mix until blended.
Pour the batter into two 8”x4” loaf pans that have been sprayed with nonstick spray. Bake for about 35 – 40 minutes, until golden and springy to the touch. Remove from the pans and cool on a wire rack.
Slice the loaves as thin as you can and place the slices in a single layer on an ungreased cookie sheet. Reduce the oven heat to 300° F and bake them for about 15 minutes, then flip them over and bake for another 10 minutes, until crisp and deep golden.
On this particular occasion, instead of buying our usual soft (or blue) cheese, we worked with what we had. Which happened to be a 600g tub of dry curd cottage cheese (has anyone else made the mistake of buying this for its outrageous protein content and non-existant fat/sugar content, only to find it’s horrible on its own and barely purees without becoming gritty? No? Apparently I’m not the only one.). Eager to find a use for this, I simply whizzed it with a splash of natural yogurt, a few springs of cilantro, a squeeze of lemon juice, a handful of baby spinach and some chopped spring onions. Quite an impressive hit of protein before even starting on the meal.
Like most working couples, dinner in our household is more about meeting the need for quick and easy, wholesome meals than it is about cooking a decent and ‘blog worthy’ dish.
More often than not it’s a matter of clearing out the fridge. A soggy potato starting to discolour combined with a fresh bulb of fennel can really make for a cracker meal. A scoop of natural yogurt (always, always in supply in our fridge) easily transforms into a tzatziki for beef wraps, raita for curry or a creamy dressing for latkes.
While we’re not ashamed to admit to the occasional pancake dinner, I’m adamant that these are a step up, and therefore surely blog-worthy. Latkes are a Jewish fried potato pancake, commonly part of a traditional Hannukah feast. The addition of fennel lends a lovely aromatic, licorice flavour to the traditional potato latke, combined with chunks of salty feta and a smattering of plump sweet raisins. Inspired by the common orange-fennel salad, a splash of fresh orange juice turns yogurt into the perfect dressing. These are super quick to whip up and clean up, and definitely fill the void for some hearty fried food this winter*.
*New years resolutions, say what?
Fennel & Feta Latkes with Raisins & Orange Yogurt Dressing
Serves 2 (makes 4 latkes)
1 large (or two medium) potatoes, peeled
1/2 fennel bulb, cleaned
1/3 cup egg whites (or 1 egg)
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 Tbsp raisins soaked in boiling water (optional)
2 Tbsp feta, crumbled
1/4 cup dry breadcrumbs (or flour)
pinch salt & freshly ground pepper
Heat a large frying pan over medium/high heat.
Using a box grater, grate potato and fennel. Place in a sieve lined with paper towels and leave to drain. Meanwhile, whisk together egg whites (or egg), garlic, raisins, feta and breadcrumbs. Squeeze out as much liquid from potato as possible, and transfer to bowl with remaining ingredients. Mix together and season well. Pour 2 Tbsp sunflower oil into pan and heat (until it splatters when flicked with a little water). Pour in about 1/3 cup mixture and arrange into a pancake. Continue with batter, as many as fits on a pan. Cook until golden on each side. Remove from pan and let drain on paper towel.
Orange Yogurt Dressing:
1/4 cup natural yogurt
an orange half, squeezed
fennel fronds, finely chopped
salt & pepper
Mix together all ingredients and serve alongside latkes.
Despite fall being long since over (it’s snowing a storm out there), there are some seasonal flavours that never pass, like tangy green apples spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg. It’s one (of the many) combinations our household has no resistance for. Combined with salted caramel and toasted walnuts, these are some killer crumble bars suitable for any season.
Oh, and happy christmas! Our second Christmas outside of NZ and our first white one. Although we don’t have much in the way of family or tradition here in Canada, we more than make up for that with friends. Jesse and I enjoyed a relaxed day of endless cups of tea and quality time, a long leisurely walk, and a superb evening of perfectly cooked turkey (and in true Canadian spirit, sweet potato marshmellow casserole!) with some new friends. As per tradition (oh, turns out we did bring one with us), our festive meal was made complete with Jamie Oliver’s Chocolate Tart – this time served with a berry compote rather than the fresh berry, melon salad typical of the NZ summer Christmas.
Caramel Apple Crumble Bars
Recipe from Annies-Eats
Makes about 16 bars
These are straight from Annies-Eats, bar one or two minor tweaks. I used mostly wholewheat flour and only one type of sugar (raw cane). I also had a can of dulce de leche remaining from making the chocolate turtles which, when mixed with a dash of sea salt and heated until smooth enough to pour, worked great in place of melted caramels.
For the filling:
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
4 apples, peeled and sliced
3 tbsp sugar
¾ tsp ground cinnamon
Dash of grated nutmeg
For the caramel:
9 oz. caramel candies, unwrapped
2 tbsp. heavy cream
270g salted dulce de leche, warmed until pourable
For the dough:
1 cup wholewheat flour
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 cup old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup raw sugar
¾ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
170g cold butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ cup toasted walnuts
Preheat the oven to 375˚ F. Line a 9 x 9-inch baking pan with foil or parchment paper. To make the filling, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir in the apple slices, sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the apples are golden brown and caramelized, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat.
Meanwhile, prepare the dough. In a food processor, pulse together the flour, oats, sugar, baking powder and cinnamon. Add in the butter pieces and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add in the egg yolk and vanilla and pulse a few times just until a crumbly dough comes together. Transfer about two thirds of the dough mixture to the prepared baking pan and press down into an even layer. Bake until light golden, about 12-14 minutes. Add the walnuts to remaining dough in processor and pulse a few more times to incorporate and roughly chop the nuts.
If making caramel from candies and cream (rather than dulce de leche), combine the caramels and cream in a medium saucepan set over medium heat. Melt the caramels, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is totally smooth. Remove from the heat. Once the base layer is baked, pour the caramel over the top. Layer with the cooked apple slices and crumble the remaining dough over the top.
Bake about 22-25 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool. Let cool completely before slicing and serving.
In terms of restaurants, Calgary is full of some real charms. Last weekend we spent an evening on 17th Avenue – the trendy street lined with top notch restaurants and yuppie bars. We faked it pretty good – dressing up in style and pretending to be the young professional business couple we are not. Despite being a little out of place we enjoyed an incredible meal – one of those few meals where each bite is followed by silence. And moans of pleasure. Ox & Angela, I recommend to fellow Calgarians seeking a gourmet evening of outstanding, unique tapas and an extensive (and worldly) wine and beer list.
We couldn’t resist reading the menus of other 17th Ave restaurants on our way home – and were tempted to return the next morning for brunch. Instead, we jotted down some ideas for inspiration and hit the supermarket for a late night shop. A loaf of rye, a punnet of ricotta, some organic blueberries, a fresh orange and the inspiration for an indulgent Sunday breakfast of blueberry & orange ricotta French toast with a sticky maple orange sauce.
French toast is simple to make, yet easy to make badly. A little research will ensure french-toast-perfection. Check out this article on Bon Appetit for the 7 most common mistakes.
Blueberry & Orange Ricotta French Toast
Only one orange is needed. Zest it first (to be used in ricotta) before squeezing. A wee bit of the juice is used in the custard and the rest in the orange maple syrup.
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon maple syrup
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed orange
Whisk together thoroughly.
4 slices (about 1 inch) of day old rye bread
blueberry jam (we like the organic Crofters sweetened with cane juice)
3/4 cup ricotta
1 orange, zested
Beat ricotta and orange zest until smooth. Spread two slices of bread with orange ricotta and the other two with blueberry jam.
Press together and place in a roasting pan or shallow dish (a leak-proof cake tin works for those with as limited kitchenware as us). Pour over the egg mix and leave to soak for a couple of minutes until saturated.
Heat a cast iron (or non stick) frying pan over medium high heat. Spray lightly with baking spray and add a dab of butter. Once butter has bubbled, turn heat down and place both saturated sandwiches on the pan. Fry for 4 minutes or until golden brown and crispy. Turn and cook until golden brown.
Orange Maple Sauce
1/4 cup maple syrup
remaining freshly squeezed orange juice (about 1/4 cup)
Heat together in saucepan until hot and turned slightly syrupy. Pour over french toast and serve with fresh blueberries.
A couple of years back I posted on ‘how to bake in tin cans‘ as a means to put to use the many tin cans we seemed to be sending to the recycling depot. The focus was on the tin can, and the recipe an afterthought. The gingerbread – a soft, rich and very dark cake studded with candied ginger, waiting to be toasted and smeared with lemon glaze – was outstanding however, and deserved to be made again and the recipe shared (I have since updated that post to include the recipe).
This year, we’re doing terracotta pots.
Terracotta pots are cheap, and easy to pick up at craft stores. I found a pack of three for two dollars at Dollarama – in a smaller city you might have better luck at a gardening store.
Before the pots can be used for baking, they will need to be seasoned – the repetitive process of oiling and baking the pots.
Wash pots in soapy water. Dry well (ideally let dry overnight). Pour a good tablespoon of oil into each pot and rub into the terracotta until well coated. Leave to allow oil to be absorbed. Once the oil has dried up, repeat until no more oil will be absorbed by the terracotta, then place pots in a cold oven. Heat to 400˚F then turn off oven, leaving pots inside to cool down. Once cool, rub liberally with oil and return to cold oven. Heat once again then let cool fully.
Pots are now seasoned and ready to be baked in.
Gingerbread Loaf in Pots
Recipe from Your Home & Garden magazine
This makes a very rich, dark gingerbread. Using golden (or maple) syrup instead of molasses will lighten it up. The batter is light and fizzy, from the baking soda activation, and is quite a treat on the tongue. This is one of those recipes where the batter is almost better than the cake…
220g dark cane sugar
½ cup each: golden syrup and treacle (molasses works too)
2 eggs lightly beaten
1 cup buttermilk (or scant 1 cup milk with 1 teaspoon vinegar, stand until kinda thickens)
2 tsp baking soda dissolved in 1 tbsp water
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp cinnamon, nutmeg, mixed spice
100g candied ginger coarsely chopped (optional)
First, prepare the terracotta pots as above. Line with large squares of baking paper that rise above the edges of the pot.
Preheat the oven to 350˚F (180˚C). Melt butter, sugar and syrups in saucepan. In a separate bowl beat together the eggs and buttermilk. To this add baking soda dissolved in water. Mix into the melted butter and sugar mix. Sift in flour and spices. Fold in the chopped ginger, reserving some for the top. Carefully pour into terracotta pots, filling to two-thirds only. Don’t be tempted to overfill as they WILL rise a lot in the oven! Arrange a couple slices of ginger on top of each pot.
Bake for 30 – 35 minutes. It really will depend on how much you fill the pots and the size of pots being used. Test with a cake tester. If still gooey, return to oven for 4 minute stints. Leave in pots to cool. Wrap and decorate as appropriate.
Optional: Make a lemon glaze of icing sugar and fresh lemon juice and smear on each cake just before serving. (If gifting the cakes, attach a little note with recommendation for the glaze.)