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

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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

carrot & apple slaw

Remember my post about having lots and lots of carrots…well this is another great way to use them!  I am pretty sure this is going to become a summer staple in our household. We had it alongside BBQ ribs and chicken at the cottage over the long weekend.  It’s a fresh and light bite against the smokey meat.

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sweet and tangy

And it’s easy for the kids to eat because it’s not too hard to chew and the apples provide an inviting sweetness. Be sure to make lots of extra vinaigrette so that you can keep it available in your fridge for other salads!

prep time: 15 min        yield: serves 6

what you need:

  • 4 large carrots
  • 2 apples (firmer variety, like gala)
  • 1 green onion
  • 1 small handful cilantro *optional

apple cider vinaigrette (we like it pretty tangy – if you think it’s too acidic, add 1 tsp of oil at a time to adjust):

  • 1/2 cup grape seed oil (or light tasting oil)
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp raw honey
  • pinch of salt and pepper
  • squeeze of lemon *optional

what to do:

  1. Mix vinaigrette ingredients together in a mason jar and shake well.
  2. Wash and peel carrots and apples. (I left the skin on the apples)
  3. Grate carrots and apples.
  4. Wash green onion and cilantro, chop finely.
  5. In a large bowl, toss together carrots, apples, green onions and cilantro. Dress lightly and toss to coat everything.  Taste, and add more dressing if needed. Rest for 10 minutes or so before serving. Enjoy!

heavenly icing

This is currently my favourite icing. It’s CRAZY good. And all you need is eggs, water and brown sugar. It’s light yet creamy, sweet but not cloying, and it holds it’s volume/shape. There is no butter or cream in it! It’s crazy good. Yup I said it twice!

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perfect for cake layers

The recipe came from a client of mine – we were chatting about her Easter weekend and she mentioned that she made a chocolate cake with boiled icing. I had to stop her and ask, what is boiled icing?! She said it was a recipe that was given to her from a sister in law’s mother in law (thank you, whoever you are!). As she described it (boiling sugar with water, adding it to stiff peak egg whites) – I just couldn’t quite imagine it! So I had to try it; and boy am I glad I did. I made it for my brother’s 30th birthday and it was loved by all. My mom usually scrapes off the icing when she eats cake but she didn’t this time! It has a pillowy marshmallow like texture and is very spreadable and holds it’s form really well. I left it out at room temperature for the whole day on the cake before serving! And it was fine the next day too. I used to make buttercream icing all the time for cupcakes and cakes, but I am definitely going to be using this one more often now because it’s not as heavy and tastes heavenly.

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on vanilla cake

You might be concerned about the egg whites being raw…I thought about this too. However, the sugar is really really hot when you add it to the egg whites. I think the heat must cook them and stabilize them, because it really doesn’t lose volume at all.

what you need:

  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 egg whites

what to do:

  1. Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form.
  2. In a pot on medium heat, boil sugar and water until it is thickened and “threads”. Not quite as thick as caramel but just before it turns to that. Use a wooden spoon to spoon the sugar mixture – it is ready when it isn’t running off the spoon quickly. This will take about 12 minutes but keep an eye on it so that your sugar doesn’t burn.
  3. Slowly add the hot sugar (be careful it’s super hot!) to the eggs whites while continuously beating them on medium speed. Beat for another 5 minutes or so, until the mixture is firm enough to spread. Enjoy!
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    hot sugar drizzling into egg whites

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    ready to spread

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    layered

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    the best part!

carrot soup kissed with ginger & turmeric

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mild ginger warmth balances out the sweetness of the carrots

What do you do with the most ridiculously humongous bag of carrots from Costco? (I can hear a few family members and friends snickering as they read this! Before I moved back to Ottawa, Kanata I had sworn I would never get a membership)

Make carrot soup! It’s so good.

My friend was over for a playdate and brought over some curried carrot soup she made – so bright, beautiful and healthy! And the sweetness from the carrots make it very kid-friendly. We had soup and sandwiches for lunch, a classic combo.

Here is my version of it!

what you need:

  • 5 large carrots
  • 2 large cloves of garlic
  • 1 small cooking onion
  • 1 tbsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 1 1/2 tbsp chopped fresh ginger
  • some chicken bones (I used 5 drumsticks worth of bones)
    • this is optional!
  • 6 cups of water (or you can use veggie stock or chicken stock)
  • cooking oil (I use grape seed oil)

what to do:

  1. Wash and peel carrots. Roughly chop into chunks.
  2. Peel onion and garlic, roughly chop.
  3. In a large pot on medium heat, add 2 tbsp cooking oil, then chopped onions, garlic, and ginger. Stir until fragrant, and onions are slightly translucent.
  4. Add turmeric and curry powder, toasting the spices until the aromas come out.
  5. Add chopped carrots, stirring as much as you can to allow the carrot pieces to meet the heat. Add water and then turn the heat up to high.
  6. Bring to a boil then add chicken bones. Bring to a boil again then once it boils, turn it down to medium low to simmer for about 45 minutes. *If you are not using bones, just turn the heat down from boil the first time to simmer.
  7. Remove chicken bones and then once the soup is not scalding hot, use an immersion blender to blend until smooth. *If you don’t have an immersion blender, be sure to wait until the soup is cooled enough to add to a blender.
  8. Enjoy!IMG_3049.JPG