Image

Super Simple Banana Bread

My workplace has a “health and wellness” program, that includes providing the staff with a box of fruit each week (to encourage us to eat healthily and not rely on the coffee van for cakes, muffins and sweets).  Inevitably, there is some fruit left at the end of each week, especially now that we have a lot less staff to eat it all.  So, I have been taking the leftovers home and making various baked goods with it.  I can’t stand the waste otherwise.  It might as well get eaten and not just thrown in the bin, right?

This week I had a few bananas that were overripe and needed using, so I made banana bread for my brother to take to his workplace for morning tea.  From one workplace to another – I don’t care who eats it, as long as someone does!

Here is my very easy-to-make, simple banana bread recipe.  It takes no time at all to whip up and is very flavourful, even if you only have a couple of small bananas to put in to it.  It slices nicely and is equally good served at room temperature, or toasted up and spread with a little butter.  Keeps well and can be frozen.

Super Simple Banana Bread

2-3 overripe bananas, mashed
1/2 cup soft brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
1/3 cup melted butter or margarine
1 1/2 cups self-raising flour, sifted
Pinch of salt
1 egg, beaten lightly

In a large mixing bowl, combine the mashed banana, sugar, vanilla essence and melted butter.  Add the beaten egg and mix well.  Add the sifted flour and salt.  Stir until combined.  The mixture will be quite thick.

Put the batter in a loaf tin, lined with baking paper (or sprayed with non-stick spray, depending on the non-stick-ness of your tin!) and bake at 180 C for approx 30-50 minutes.
(NB : I have found that this cake takes very different amounts of time to bake depending on the amount of banana in it and whether or not you have a decent oven!
Check it after 30 mins, but be prepared that it may take longer).

Have a look every now and then to make sure it is not burning – it has a fairly high sugar content – cake is ready when it is just firm to the touch.  Allow to cool slightly in tin and turn out onto a rack.  Serve sliced, warm, with butter if you like.

That’s it – told you it was simple 🙂  It’s kind of a no-fail recipe and a good one to have in your arsenal of “what can I bake for afternoon tea/unannounced guests/school bake sale?” ideas.  Everybody likes banana bread, right?

Thanks for stopping by x

IMG_7219

Image

Salted Butterscotch Cookies

Tonight, I was craving cookies.  This is not uncommon for me, which is why I do not keep them in the house.  Otherwise I would be eating them all the time.  But, tonight, I NEEDED a cookie.  Or several cookies.  Ok, a whole batch of cookies.  These little beauties satisfied that need and took no time at all to make.  Even less time to eat.

The secret is to use salted butter – this definitely gives them that extra little edge.  I usually bake with unsalted butter (I have to watch my sodium intake because of my kidneys) but these cookies really need that little savoury kick.  Trust me.  The golden syrup is also essential – don’t leave it out or substitute it with honey or some such nonsense.  It must be golden syrup to get that real butterscotch flavour.  You wouldn’t think that one little tablespoon would make a difference, but it really does.

I think these would make excellent ice cream sandwiches.  Just imagine some peanut butter gelato or a nice scoop of vanilla in between two of these – heaven!

SALTED BUTTERSCOTCH COOKIES

125g salted butter, softened
1 tbs golden syrup
1/2 cup soft brown sugar
1 1/4 cup self-raising flour, sifted

Cream sugar, butter and golden syrup until well combined.  Add sifted flour and mix to form a dough (you might need to mix the final bit of flour through with your hands).

Roll spoonfuls of the mixture into small balls and place onto a baking sheet.  Flatten slightly with a fork.

Bake at 180 c for approx 15 minutes.  Keep an eye on them as they can burn quickly.

Let them cool on a wire rack.

Demolish.

IMG_6846.JPG
Salted Butterscotch Cookies

Happy Munching! 🙂

Image

Strawberry Muffins

We’re having a little lunch at work this week to sort-of-farewell my library volunteer who is taking some time off to manage some family issues for the next couple of months.  She’s the loveliest person ever and always spoils me with home-cooked meals (which make me feel very guilty but not so guilty that I don’t go home and gobble them up, ha ha) and helps me out in the library and basically supports me more than she knows.  I didn’t know what to bring and didn’t have a lot of ingredients in my pantry to make anything very exciting so I did a quick panicked look through my cookbooks to find something I could bake.  I had some strawberries in the fridge that were a bit past it but still fine to eat so I wanted to incorporate them.

I ended up finding this recipe at Food.com and it worked a treat.  I adapted it slightly, but it was so easy and the muffins are very tasty.  I’m not actually a huge muffin fan, but I wolfed down a few of these – purely as a taste-testing exercise, you understand.  They were delicious.  And they’re a one-bowl wonder which is always good.  No butter to beat or anything fiddly or fussy.  A good standby recipe to have when you’ve got people coming over and have nothing to serve them.  This recipe took less than 30 minutes – from making to baking and then eating.  So quick!  This would be a good recipe for kids (and first-time cooks) to have a  go at.  You could substitute any fruit in the recipe so give them a try with raspberries or blueberries, apple or even pineapple.

Strawberry Muffins

Ingredients

1 2/3 cup strawberries, chopped
2 eggs
2/3 cup caster sugar
1/3 cup vegetable oil (I used sunflower)
1 1/2 cup plain flour
2 tbs milk
1/2 teaspoon bicarb soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch salt

Method

  1. Heat oven to 180 c
  2. Put a paper baking cup in each of 12 regular-size muffin cups, or grease just the bottoms of 12 muffin cups.
  3. Slightly smash strawberries in large bowl, using fork.
  4. Stir in sugar, oil and eggs and milk until mixed.
  5. Stir in other ingredients just until moistened.
  6. Spoon batter into muffin cups.
  7. Bake 15 to 18 minutes or until light golden brown or toothpick poked in center comes out clean.
  8. Sprinkle with a little bit of sugar, if desired
  9. Cool 5 minutes.
  10. Makes 12 muffins.

Enjoy! (Best eaten the day you make them)

img_4366

Image

Tuna Loaf

As I have stated before, I am a bad vegetarian.  For 90% of the time, I eat a vegetarian diet.  But then for the other 10%, all hell breaks loose and I eat fish. I don’t feel good about it and I don’t make any excuses for it, other than the fact I have a really restrictive renal diet and so can’t eat all the proteins a vego would normally have in large quantities eg chickpeas, lentils, baked beans, nuts etc.

So I eat fish sometimes.  Which makes me a pescatarian I suppose.  Sorry, fishies.

Which brings us to today’s recipe, Tuna Loaf.  Not the most appetising of titles, I agree, but the proof is in the pudding, right?  Or, in this case, the loaf.  Tuna Pudding sounds even more gross, so let’s stick with loaf.  It’s an easy-to-make, cheap and delicious dish that tastes just as nice cold the next day.  It’s got a lovely, slightly crispy outer edge and it’s soft and moist in the centre.  The little pieces of gherkin add extra crunch and sweetness.  You can also make it with tinned salmon, which is really yummy (but I can’t have salmon so I have to stick to it’s poorer cousin, the humble tuna).  Try and always buy the sustainably fished tuna if you can.  Make up for some of that pesky pescatarian guilt!

img_4157

Tuna Loaf 

Ingredients

425g tin of tuna in springwater, drained
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
2 eggs, lightly beaten
5 spring onions, chopped fairly finely
1/4 cup milk
2 tablespoons tomato sauce plus extra for glazing
1/2 cup chopped gherkins
Salt and Pepper

Method

Preheat oven to 350 degrees C.

Line a loaf tin with baking paper.

Mix all ingredients together.

Press into the tin and press down with a fork.  Squirt or brush some tomato sauce over the top – in a fancy pattern or just haphazardly, I won’t judge.

Bake for approx 35- 40 minutes until top is golden and loaf feels firm.

Cut in to slices to serve.

Voila!

If you’re smart, you will argue for the end piece because it is crunchier and tastier and just the best bit.  You made it, you get first dibs.  It’s like a law or something.

Enjoy with a side salad or whatever vegies you like.  As I said, it’s nice cold too, and perfect for lunchboxes as it holds its shape quite well.

Hope you enjoy 🙂

PS  Yes, that is a ‘Moby Dick” plate in the photo.

Image

Savoury Porridge

I am trying to improve myself this year. I have failed miserably for most of 2016 (mostly because, through one thing or another, I’ve been a bit miserable, to be honest!) and haven’t really achieved anything. I’m sleeping badly (or not at all), I’m eating badly (or, again, not at all) and exercise has completely left the building – or, at least, it would have done if hadn’t just collapsed into a lazy lump on the couch. Basically, I have fallen in to a bit of a slump. A schlump, if you will. It’s not good, and I know it.

One thing I have been relying on too much is sugar. I went for years not having much sugar at all and now I have not only fallen off the wagon but completely lost sight of it as it hurtles away, possibly with a wheel missing and the rest of it on fire. I worry about getting diabetes and weight gain and other health issues that the sweet little demon causes. So I need to stop. And really stop – no cheating, missy!

I’m never going to be one of those people who avoids sugar altogether – let’s just be realistic here for a moment – but I should try and cut down and limit it to a healthy amount. So it’s more of a treat than a daily indulgence.

One thing I have always found a bit difficult, in regards to avoiding sugar, is the whole breakfast scenario. I love cereal – I could eat it for every meal. Give me a bowl of muesli and I am a happy girl. Cheerios? Yep – love ’em! (but have recently weaned myself off them). I eat porridge a lot too and try to add as little sugar as possible, but it’s still SUGAR. I could have toast for breakfast or an egg, but I don’t want to have those things everyday. In the old days I would have happily scarfed down a bowl of baked beans, but I can’t have them regularly now, because of my kidneys.

So, what’s a girl to do? She tries savoury porridge, that’s what she, um, do. And, let me tell you, it’s delicious. Satisfying and warming and yummy. Easy to make and you can make a batch and then reheat it later, or the next day. I actually look forward to getting up in the morning now. Well, sort of. Porridge can only work so many miracles, after all.

Savoury Porridge is a bit trendy at the moment, but that’s ok. It might be nice for me to be on trend for once, and I think this particular option might be one I stick with for a while, because it’s versatile and adaptable and doesn’t require me to have a whole bunch of ingredients on hand. I can have it for breakfast, lunch or dinner and not feel guilty about it at any time of day. If I want to amp up the decadent factor, I can add cheese or something fancy like truffle oil (note to self : buy truffle oil!) or I can leave it plain and not muck about with it too much.  A poached egg on top is divine
(as is anything topped with a poached egg, to be fair).

The recipe I am using here is Mark Bittman‘s Savoury Oatmeal with Scallions and Soy Sauce from Serious Eats.  Ok, so we call scallions spring onions over here and we say porridge instead of oatmeal…big deal.   Still tastes yummo-licious.  Give it a try – it really does make a nice change and it is healthy and super quick to make, even if you’re like me and hopeless in the mornings.  I added some flakes of nori to my porridge, but you can leave that out if you like.  It just adds some extra umami flavour and interest.

Ingredients

1 Cup Rolled Oats
2 Cups Water
2 Teaspoons Soy Sauce
1 Tablespoon Chopped Spring Onion + 1 Teaspoon Chopped for Garnish
Sprinkle of Sea Salt
1 Teaspoon Nori Flakes

Combine oats, water and salt in a medium saucepan.
Bring to boil and then turn down to low.
Cook until water almost absorbed.
Turn off heat, add spring onions and soy sauce (and nori flakes if adding).

Serve with extra spring  onion as garnish.

Enjoy! 🙂

IMG_3917

Image

Baked Apples and Custard

I love custard.  Sometimes you just want something warm, nourishing, sweet, and just a little bit childish.  It’s total comfort food.  It makes the world a much nicer place and improves just about any dessert.

But, I am ashamed to admit, I usually rely on custard powder to make my custard.  I just figured it’s easier and less likely to fail.  I never bothered to actually make the real stuff, from scratch.  Mostly because I thought I would do a bad job of it and end up with a burnt saucepan and me weeping over the stove.

Tonight I wanted to make something warm and luscious for dessert.  My diet at the moment is terrible;  I am comfort-eating like a crazy person, and today was no exception.  Stress and emotional turmoil make me want to stuff food in my face until the world goes away.  The world doesn’t, however, go away, and I just get fat and fed up with myself.  But, nevertheless, I wanted to make dessert tonight.

I had some apples that were looking a bit sad, and I didn’t want to waste them, so I decided to bake them.  And add custard, of course.  A search through the cupboard resulted in the discovery that I didn’t have any custard powder (I seem to remember similar searches in the past – every time resulting in “no custard powder”.  But do I remember to buy any?  No, I do not) so I decided to bite the bullet and make my own.

It was so easy.  Like, EASY!  In fact, it was easier and less labour intensive than using the powdered variety.  Tasted better too, as you would imagine.  It wasn’t that evil, bright yellow colour that you get from the instant stuff either.  Just custardy-coloured.  I used the recipe and method from the Stay at Home Mum website.

So, here are the recipes for both custard and apples.  Easy to make, even easier to eat.  Make them tonight.  Feel comforted 🙂

Baked Apples

Ingredients (for 2 Serves)

2 large cooking apples
6 dried dates, chopped finely
1 tbs brown sugar
1 tbs crunchy peanut butter
Tbs butter
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 cup boiling water

Method

Preheat oven to 190 degrees celsius

Using a small knife (or an apple corer if you have such a thing…
note to self : buy an apple corer), carefully cut out the core and seeds, making a hole in the centre of the apple, about an inch or so wide.

In a small bowl, combine the dates, spice, sugar and peanut butter.  Fill the cavities in the apples with this mixture.  Dot 1/2 the butter on the top of each apple.

Pour the boiling water into an oven-proof dish.  Place the apples into the dish.

Bake for approximately 45 minutes, or until apple is tender.  You can baste with some juices from the pan, if you wish.

Serve with warm custard.

Custard

Ingredients (for 2 serves)

2 egg yolks (room temperature)
2 tsp cornflour
1 cup milk
1 tbs sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla essence

In a jug,

In a jug whisk together the egg yolks, cornflour and sugar until well combined.

In a saucepan gently heat the milk and vanilla until warm (not hot!), remove from the heat and add the milk to the egg mixture.

Tip it back into the saucepan and whisk constantly until boiling.  Take off the heat and whisk until the custard is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon (if mixture isn’t thickening, gently heat again).

Serve hot or cold.  If serving cold – add a layer of plastic wrap to the surface of the custard to prevent a skin forming.

IMG_3914

Image

Chocolate Cheesecake Brownies

We had a morning tea at work this week, to farewell one of our longest-serving staff members.  For twenty three years TM has worked diligently and cheerfully, always going the extra mile and making sure everything and everyone is organised and looked after.  I have only been at the organisation for just over three years, but in that time she has been such a support to me and I will miss her terribly.  I don’t even want to think about her not being there when I arrive in the mornings.  The place will seem very empty without her presence – even on the days she’s not there, she’s still THERE, you know?

So, as is mandatory for all morning teas, cakes, biscuits, quiches and slices were baked and brought in for everyone to share.  I made my Date & Almond Slice, and also tried a new recipe for Chocolate Cheesecake Brownies, which I hadn’t made before.  They turned out really well.  Very moist and moreish and easy to make.  Everyone enjoyed them so I am glad I tried something new, and will make them again.  I tend to make things I shouldn’t really eat (ie things with chocolate or nuts in) – my theory being that I won’t indulge too much myself.  This is a fallacy.  I eat half the batter before it even goes in the tin and then keep taste-testing the baked product.  Pathetic.  I’m sure my kidneys hate me.

Anyway, the brownies were delicious – I did modify the original recipe slightly as I felt it had too much sugar in it (I left out about a 1/3 cup from the chocolate batter, but I am giving you the original amounts here).  The recipe comes from Baking Bites – a lovely foody blog with lots of yummy recipes, baking advice, kitchen gadgets and more.
Please do visit their site – you’ll find lots of inspiration 🙂

IMG_3840


INGREDIENTS

Brownie Batter
1/2 cup butter
2-oz dark chocolate, chopped
3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt

Cheesecake Batter
8-oz ricotta cheese (I used smooth)
1/3 cup sugar
1 tbsp all purpose flour
1 large egg, room temperature
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350F. Line an 8×8-inch square baking pan with baking paper.
Prepare brownie batter: In a small, heatproof bowl, melt butter and chocolate together in the microwave. Stir with a fork until very smooth. Stir in cocoa powder until well-incorporated. Set aside to cool for a few minutes.

In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, eggs and vanilla extract. Whisking steadily, pour chocolate mixture into sugar mixture. Stir until smooth. Stir in flour and salt, mixing until ingredients are just combined and no streaks of dry ingredients remain.
Pour into prepared pan and set aside.

Prepare cheesecake batter: In a medium bowl, beat ricotta cheese, sugar, flour, egg and vanilla extract until smooth. Drop in dollops onto prepared brownie batter. Gently swirl two batters with a butter knife.

Bake for 30-35 minutes, until brownies and cheesecake are set. A sharp knife inserted into the cheesecake mixture should come out clean and the edges will be lightly browned.
Cool in the pan completely, then refrigerate until ready to serve. Cut into small squares (or large squares if you’re a piggy ha ha)

IMG_3846

Brownies can be refrigerated, covered, for several days.

Enjoy!

And to TM, I say a fond farewell – you will be missed more than I can say x