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

 

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!

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!

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

salmon lettuce wraps

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so good and good for you

We eat salmon at least once or twice a week and it’s usually pan fried to get a bit of a caramelized crust on the fish, seasoned with just a bit of salt & pepper.  This time instead of serving it alongside stir fried veggies, I decided to try it in a lettuce wrap. Creamy avocado, crunchy tangy cucumbers and carrots, and warm caramelized salmon, all wrapped up in a tender lettuce leaf – pretty delicious! I think this might be my new favourite!  Boston bib lettuce is not a lettuce I normally buy (it’s in a huge plastic clamshell and I always think it’s expensive!) – but it really does make a difference to use this type of lettuce because it is soft and pliable but still has a nice crunch along the middle stem part. It does make for a very nice vessel for the ingredients inside and holds up without ripping or tearing mid-bite.

If your kids are like mine, they like to see what they are eating! (Especially piepie, no mixing for her…) – this meal is easy for that and suits the kiddie divided plates perfectly.

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after seeing me take a picture of the above wrap…piepie reminds me “I don’t want mine all mixed up together mom”

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of course once piepie wanted it separate…so did boss…

You can definitely use store bought pickles or pickled veggies, but it honestly takes one minute to make your own quick pickled veggies and they still maintain a vibrant raw vegetable appearance. These homemade leftover pickled veggies are great to top off salads or other dishes for another day – it will stay good in the fridge for about a week.

prep: 15 min    cook: 15 min    yield: 4

what you need:

  • salmon filet (enough to serve 4, about 12 ounces)
  • grapeseed oil
  • 3 mini cucumbers
  • 1 small carrot
  • 1 cup or so white vinegar
  • 2 tsp white sugar
  • 1/2 jalapeno *optional
  • salt and pepper
  • small handful of cilantro
  • 1 green onion
  • 2 avocados
  • boston bibb lettuce
  • 1 lemon

what to do:

  1. Carefully remove one large lettuce leaf at a time, wash and allow to dry on a clean dish towel or paper towels.  Set aside.
  2. Wash carrots, cucumbers and jalapeno. Peel carrots, then cut all these veggies into bite size pieces. Remove seeds from jalapeno if you want it to be less spicy.
  3. Place carrots, cucumbers, and jalapeno slices into a mason jar and add vinegar and sugar, shaking it slightly until sugar crystals dissolve. There should be enough vinegar to cover almost all the veggies. 15 minutes should be enough time to get some pickled flavour into the veggies.
  4. Season salmon with salt and pepper.
  5. In a non-stick pan on medium heat, add 1/2 tbsp grape seed oil, then carefully place the salmon in the pan. Cover with a lid and fry for about 5-7 minutes – once the salmon is crusted and caramelized on the bottom side, flip it gently to cook on the other side – about another 5-7 minutes. (This will depend on the thickness of your fish. You can easily check the doneness by breaking it apart a bit at the thickest part of the fish and make sure it is solid pink and not opaque pink. Although some people prefer their salmon slightly medium or medium rare in the middle – it’s your preference).
  6. Remove salmon from pan and set on a serving dish to rest while you cut up your avocado into long slices.  The easiest way to do this is cut the avocado in half, remove the pit, then use a spoon and scoop out long lengthwise slices.
  7. Wash and roughly chop green onions and cilantro. Cut lemon into wedges (to squeeze on top of fish).
  8. Lay out all the ingredients and let your hungry eaters build their own wraps. Enjoy!