two-bite banana chocolate brownies

 

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rich and dark, but not heavy

Remember how I said we go through banana bread quite often…well it recently came to a point when we needed a change (when you find yourself saying to your kids “don’t you want banana bread? there’s chocolate chiiiips!” and they say no thanks…and ask for graham crackers instead? yup it’s time for a baking change!). But I still had all these bananas in my freezer!  Not to mention I love using bananas as the sweetness in baking…so I tried making two bite brownies with bananas (you know those ones that are so good from the grocery store that you can’t resist eating one…or two when they are around). This version is made with coconut oil so has a slight hint of coconut flavour, has more of a cake-like texture and are definitely much healthier than the store-bought ones! But they totally hit the chocolate spot if you’re having a craving! And they don’t have any flour in them – making them pretty much gluten free.  Also school-safe to bring as a snack.  The kids really enjoyed them today after their swim lessons, and even Ryan liked them (he normally doesn’t like coconut-ish things).

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chocolate chocolate chocolate

prep time:   10 min    bake time: 15 min    yield: 24 mini muffin sized brownies

what you need:

  • 2 eggs
  • 3 large super ripe bananas
  • 1 cup dutch process cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 1/3 cup chocolate chips (semisweet) – melted
  • 1/3 cup chocolate chips (semisweet)
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • extra coconut oil (about 1 tbsp melted) to grease muffin tin

what to do:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F and lightly oil mini muffin tray with a brush.
  2. In a large bowl, use a large fork to mash bananas really really well (you can also use a stand mixer or electric beaters).
  3. Add eggs and vanilla, mix in well.
  4. In a separate bowl, mix ingredients together. (not the chocolate chips)
  5. Stir honey into melted coconut oil, then add to banana mixture and mix well.
  6. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix well. Add in melted chocolate (best way to melt chocolate is with a double broiler to ensure it doesn’t burn. You can also melt it 20 seconds at a time in a microwave, stirring after each 20 seconds).
  7. Stir in remaining chocolate chips.
  8. Fill muffin tins and bake in the centre rack for 12-15 minutes, once toothpick comes out almost clean take the tray out! You can slightly under-bake them so that they are soft in the centre and don’t dry out. They do continue to bake when they are in the pan out of the oven, and since they are small they can over-bake quickly.
  9. Once cool enough to handle, place them on a cooling rack to cool completely. Enjoy!
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almond & apricot granola

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crunchy, chewy, filling and good for you

We were getting in a rut of eating toast and eggs for breakfast. Don’t get me wrong I love toast and eggs (especially because we get local fresh eggs from a dedicated amazing 12 year old egg farmer!). To change things up a bit, I recently purchased some granola from Farm Boy – a small little package on sale for $4.99.  $4.99 is better than $5.99 but that is still really quite expensive when you think about what it in the store-bought stuff…a few cranberries, tiny tiny slivers of almonds (maybe 2 tbsp!) and a whole lot of oats and brown rice syrup (the first two ingredients listed on the back of the package).

I actually really enjoy making my own granola but just haven’t done so in awhile. You get to put whatever you feel like in it and you can control the sweetness.  This time I used what I had in the pantry and I loved the combo – apricots and almonds (and I had to use up about 10 pecans so if you’re eyeing my pictures carefully that’s the other nut you see!). The apricots are super dark because I bought the unsulfured kind. They are actually really soft, sweet and really delicious.

Homemade granola is a great snack on its own, over yogurt, or can act as cereal with any kind of milk (2%, almond, soy, etc).  You can play around with the ratios a bit but you need the fat (I used coconut oil but you could use melted butter) and you need some liquid sweetness (like honey or maple syrup) so that your granola forms some clusters.  I like loading mine with mostly nuts and fruit, unlike the packaged stuff which is mostly oats. It’s definitely a better bang for your buck, and super easy and quick to make. It stores really well for at least 2 weeks in an airtight container (and even longer if you have it in the fridge).  It’s also a much more guilt-less snack when you’re craving something to munch on later in the evening once the kiddos are in bed!

what you need:

  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 2 cups of whole raw almonds
  • 1 generous cup of dried apricots (I used organic unsulfured)
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup melted coconut oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt

what to do:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F and line cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Place almonds in a large ziplock bag and roughly crush them with a rolling pin.IMG_8048.JPG
  3. Place almonds and oats in a large bowl. Add cinnamon, salt, honey and melted coconut oil. Stir to coat and mix evenly.
  4. Spread mixture out on parchment lined cookie sheet and bake for about 10-15 minutes – carefully stirring once halfway into cooking time – until golden brown (I have a convection oven which bakes faster).
  5. While almonds are baking roughly chop apricots into small pieces.
  6. Remove from oven and allow to cool – combine apricots and almond mixture, & enjoy!
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store in an airtight container

 

sweet potato bits dusted with cinnamon & sugar

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a little sweet bite after school

Piepie comes home from school starving! It’s always so close to dinner time that I hate having her snack on too much but making her wait an hour and a half or two for dinner to be ready is just unfair and mean. I’m always trying to think of healthier fun snacks (other than quick grabs like fishies or crackers). Today’s little sweet potato bits dusted with cinnamon & sugar were a hit.

what you need:

  • 1 large sweet potato
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp oil (I use grape seed oil)
  • 1 tbsp butter, melted
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp sugar (I used organic cane sugar)

what to do:

  1. Wash sweet potato well. I left the skin on so I made sure to really scrub the outside!
  2. Preheat oven to 425 F. Line cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  3. Cut into small little cubes (mine were about 1 cm x 1cm).
  4. In a large bowl, toss together cubed sweet potatoes, oil and salt.
  5. Bake in the middle rack for about 5 – 8 minutes (I used convection so it was faster) – then use a wooden spoon to move them around / flip them so that all sides get browned.
  6. Bake for another 5 – 8 minutes, until golden brown on the outsides and tender.
  7. Remove sheet from oven and brush hot sweet potato bits with melted butter, sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar mixture. Fold up the parchment paper at all corners to lightly toss. IMG_7869.JPG
  8. Spread them back out into one layer on the sheet to cool with their new cinnamon and sugar coat. It’s important not to pile them onto a plate / bowl when warm or it will become soggy and you lose the sugar crunch.
  9. Serve and enjoy!

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    once cooled you can pile them up!

banana mini muffins

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cute, fun and school safe

I think I’ve mentioned this before; banana bread is a staple in our house and I make it probably almost biweekly (sometimes even weekly!). It’s one of those recipes that I can make with my eyes closed and it’s always a hit with the kids. Especially when there are some chocolate chips in it!  I always buy extra bananas (and even the bananas that are for quick sale at the grocery store because they are very spotty – just pop them in the freezer!) so that I always have them on hand at home.

I have 2 or 3 versions that are my go to’s but today as boss and I mixed the batter I decided to switch it up from a loaf pan to mini muffins. My mini muffin pan has been at the bottom of my cupboard and quite neglected. The kids loved the look of mini muffins and a bonus is that they take way less baking time (good for the gas bill!). They make for easy storage and pack nicely for lunches.

Be sure to butter or spray your muffin tray really well (or you can line the tray with mini muffin cups) or else your batter will stick and then it’s annoying to clean.

prep: 10 min   bake:  15 min     yield: 24 mini muffins

what you need:

  • 3 large very ripe bananas
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup plain greek yogurt
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 tbsp or more of melted butter (to grease muffin tray)

what to do:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. In a large bowl, mash bananas with a large fork until mushy. Add egg and mix well into the bananas (using the fork is fine).
  3. Add vanilla, maple syrup and butter and mix well with fork again.
  4. In a separate bowl, combine salt, flour, oats and baking soda.
  5. Add dry ingredients to banana mixture. Mix with fork until just incorporated – do not over mix or you will have dense muffins.
  6. Fold in greek yogurt, just until incorporated.
  7. Fold in chocolate chips.
  8. Grease muffin tray with melted butter, using a brush, making sure to grease the bottom and sides.
  9. Fill each muffin cup to the top. They will rise as they bake, making the classic muffin top.
  10. Bake in the centre rack for ~15 minutes. I used convection so if you have a regular oven it may take a bit longer. For the last 2 minutes I turned the oven to broil high to get a golden brown top (if you’re doing this keep a close eye because depending on how hot your oven gets they can burn quickly!). They are done when a toothpick comes out just clean (not wet but little bits of batter can be present).
  11. Remove from oven, and then after a few minutes when they are cool enough to handle, transfer each individual muffin to cooling rack to cool completely. Enjoy!
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hot out of the oven

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broil for a minute or two for golden brown tops

chicken & broccoli stir fry

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veggies & chicken glazed in a sweet & savoury asian sauce – yum!

You have to try this one! It’s so good. Make a side of rice or noodles that will be your bed to soak up the sauce from this delicious stir-fry.

The other day I was staring at my fridge (after I had already taken out a whole chicken out of the freezer to defrost) and I knew I had to use up my broccoli before the florets started to turn into that yellowy colour (not very edible). I was thinking some sort of stir-fry to combine everything in one pan. Less mess!

So, obviously, I’m asian. Taiwanese, to be exact. And I can make a good stir-fry. But I was kind of tired of my usual go to combos (1. garlic, soy sauce, sugar or 2. ginger, sesame oil, green onions) and really wanted something that felt like take out but not greasy and unhealthy like take out (it always tastes so good in the moment but then you feel so terribly thirsty at night because of all the salt!).

I googled “broccoli and chicken” and came across “Little Spice Jar“.  Her “ginger chicken stir-fry with broccoli” looked simple and inviting, but I didn’t have the exact ingredients. I also wanted to make one dish for the whole family (we have piepie who’s 5 years old and boss who’s 3 years old) so I couldn’t make it spicy at all. Sometimes I make the effort to make two separate pots or pans of a dish so that Ryan and I can enjoy our spice (yum chillies!) but this was one of those days where a one pot dish was going to keep my sanity. And we always have sriracha in the fridge anways:).

We all loved this dish and the kids ate it up – broccoli and all. The leftovers were awesome for lunch.  So if you’re craving a little Chinese food, take out style, you have to try this one!

prep time: 15 minutes    cook time: 15 minutes    yield: 4-6 servings

what you need:

  • 1 head of broccoli
  • chicken (your choice skin on or off)
    • you can use 2 chicken breasts
    • OR
    • 2 chicken thighs and 1 chicken breast
  • 1 large carrot
  • 1 red onion
  • cooking oil (I use grape seed oil)

for the sauce:

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons cane sugar (or any sugar)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons grated ginger
  • 5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil

what to do:

  1. Combine sauce ingredients in a bowl and mix well, no clumps.
  2. Wash and cut broccoli into bite size pieces.
  3. Wash and peel carrot, then slice lengthwise in half. Thinly slice on a diagonal.
  4. Peel onion and cut into bite size pieces.
  5. Cut chicken (remove from bone if bone-in) into bite size pieces (about 1″ cubes). Season lightly with black pepper.
  6. Heat up a large skillet (I used cast iron…you can use non stick pan as well) on medium – high heat. Add 1 tbsp cooking oil, then add chicken pieces (might have to do it in batches, don’t overcrowd the pan or they won’t brown nicely). Once they are browned on all sides, remove from pan into a bowl.
  7. Turn heat to medium.  In the same pan after all chicken is browned and removed, add another 1 tbsp cooking oil. Add broccoli, onions, and carrots. Use a wooden spoon to stir occasionally, tossing everything together and cooking until broccoli turns bright green. It will take about 3-4 minutes. Turn the heat to medium low.
  8. Add sauce mixture to pan and stir to coat – the sauce will thicken quickly. Add in the chicken and stir to finish cooking the chicken and coat everything evenly with the sauce.
  9. Remove from heat and serve on top of rice or noodles. Enjoy!

fresh & spicy saucy spaghetti

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ready in 15 and bursting with flavour

When you’ve worked all day and everyone comes home starving, being able to make dinner in a short amount of time (and minimal effort!) is key.  It drives me crazy when my family is so hungry they start grabbing snacks (crackers, cheese, etc) and it’s like…wait – I’m making dinner, just wait! You know how it is…if there’s snacking, then no one is actually hungry for dinner, so then they don’t eat very much at dinner…but then they’re hungry an hour later when it’s bedtime and want more snacks! I am guilty of this too – I remember doing this to my mom as a kid.

Well this dish won’t make them wait long at all – you can get it done in 15 minutes!  It’s super simple and very flavourful, even my husband who isn’t a big fan of pasta enjoyed it. The trick is timing – to get everything done within 15 minutes you have to multitask a little bit. But I’ve written it all out for you to follow step by step, I promise you can do it! Give it a try and share with me how it goes!

I was lucky enough to have all local fresh ingredients from the farmer’s market or my garden, which made everything taste really extra special. If you can find your ingredients locally, try it!

prep: 5 min      cook: 12 min       yield: 2-3 servings

what you need:

  • 2 generous cups of grape tomatoes (or cherry or any small tomatoes)
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 handful of chives
  • 2 banana peppers (or you can use cubanelle or anaheim peppers)
  • about 1/2 cup crumbled feta
  • spaghetti (dry, about 1/4 of 500g package)
  • cooking oil (I use grape seed oil)
  • basil leaves (optional)

what to do:

  1. Fill up a kettle to max and turn it on.
  2. Get a large pot, fill it with 1″ of water, lid on, on high heat.
  3. Rinse tomatoes and cut in half. (Fastest way is to have them sandwiched between two bottoms of two plates and slice all at the same time).
  4. Smash garlic and remove skin – chop finely.
  5. Wash peppers, remove top and seeds then slice into bite size strips or chunks.
  6. By now the kettle should be boiled – add the water to your large pot. Add one tbsp of salt to the water.  Put the lid back on.
  7. In a large non-stick pan on medium, add 1 tbsp cooking oil. Add peppers, garlic and tomatoes, stirring occasionally, for about 1-2 minutes. Once you smell the garlic and the tomatoes start to release their liquid, add a pinch of salt and pepper. Cover with lid and turn the heat down to low.
  8. Add dry pasta to boiling water – cook for about 8-9 minutes (each package / brand may differ slightly).
  9. At about 4 minutes into cooking your pasta, turn off the heat for the tomatoes.
  10. At this time you can wash and roughly chop the chives.
  11. Once the pasta is al dente, save a little bit of the pasta water (about 1/4 cup) and drain the rest.
  12. Toss pasta and tomato mixture in a large serving dish. Top with crumbled feta and chives, then toss to combine everything. If it seems dry, add 1 tbsp of pasta cooking liquid at a time to moisten. Top with fresh basil leaves if desired.
  13. Serve warm and enjoy!

walnut, white chocolate & cherry cookies

These cookies hit the spot! Sweet, a little nutty, a hint of sour, and crispy on the outside with a chewy centre. I have made them in the past sans walnuts, but I think the walnuts add good texture and another layer of flavour to the cookies. If you are going nut-free, of course eliminate the walnuts (making it school-safe too). #Piepie and #boss will be so delighted to try these this afternoon!

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perfect with your coffee or tea, or a giant class of milk!

prep: 15 min    bake: 10-12 min    yield: 24 cookies

what you need:

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter (room temp)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries
  • 3/4 cup roughly chopped white chocolate discs
  • 3/4 cup roughly chopped walnuts *optional

what to do:

  1. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 325 F convection (or     350 F regular baking).
  2. In a large bowl, beat butter and sugars until fluffy. Add egg and beat until smooth.
  3. In another bowl, combine flour, oats, baking soda and salt. Add to butter mixture and beat just until everything is mixed.
  4. Add cherries, chocolate, and walnuts into the mixture. Mix just until evenly incorporated. (Do not over mix cookie dough!)
  5. Drop spoonfuls of dough (about 6-8 per sheet) onto cookie sheets. The size I used were just slightly smaller than a golf ball.
  6. Bake in the middle rack for 10 min then check, it really depends on your oven. (And if you have a convection oven and you’re using it…you really have to play around for the first batch because I burnt the bottom of my first tray of cookies. Convection ovens cook faster and it’s great but it takes some time to get used to it!).
  7. Remove once the cookies are slightly golden brown, it’s okay if they are a little soft in the middle (better slightly underdone than overdone).
  8. Once they have rested a few minutes on the sheet, they will be cool enough to transfer onto a cooking rack. Enjoy!IMG_3872.JPG