Category Archives: fruit

Chocolate Swirled Peanut Butter Banana Bread

When you were a kid, did your parents ever tell you that TV would rot your brain? I can’t remember if mine did or not – does that mean my brain has already rotted? Either way, I watched more TV than I should have as a child, and (most days) my brain works alright.

A few years ago, I made the decision to go without a TV.  Criticized by many and understood by few, it was the right thing for me at the time.  Truthfully, I haven’t really missed it, with the exception of a few odd times.  Besides, I always told myself that if I really wanted to watch TV, I could just go to the gym.

Let’s just say I haven’t watched much TV since my days of “Who’s The Boss?” and my gym membership has remained mostly unused since 2007.

The other day, I made a grave mistake: I plugged my TV into the wall, and – lo and behold – I have cable. Who knew?!?!

Naturally, I did what any good Martha-wannabe would do and I turned it to the Food Network.  “Recipe for Riches” was on – have you heard of it? I hadn’t, but it is a reality show of sorts.  Contestants were competing for the best cake in Canada, and the winner will have their product reproduced under the Presidents Choice Brand.  They also win $25,00o in prize money, if you’re into that kind of thing.

One of the final 2 contestants made this cake called Banana Chocolate WOW cake, or something to that effect.  It was a banana cake with a chocolate filling, and a white chocolate cream cheese icing.  One of the judges commented that her cake was good because it wasn’t as dense as banana breads usually are (clearly, banana cake shouldn’t be as dense), and I’ll admit that while at the end of the episode neither she or the cake WOW’d me (or the judges; she lost so you can save yourself the hour it would take to watch the episode), it made me decide to share my version of banana bread with you sooner rather than later.

What are your thoughts on banana bread? Mine are that it is usually too dense, too greasy, too light, or not enough banana flavour.  I know, I’m so fickle! Don’t you agree though? Many quick breads suffer from the same ailment, but many have not yet achieved the perfect flavour/texture balance.

Until now that is.  Enter my new love – chocolate swirled peanut butter banana bread.  Because really, isn’t everything better with peanut butter and chocolate? 

Oil (canola or grapeseed), buttermilk, bananas, brown sugar, peanut butter (I like natural), vanilla, AP flour, WW flour, eggs, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cocoa powder, chocolate chips.

In a large bowl, mash 3 large bananas.

Add 3/4 c brown sugar, 1/3 c oil, 1/3 c buttermilk, 1/3 c peanut butter, 2 eggs, and 1.5 t vanilla, and beat until everything is well acquainted.

In a separate bowl, stir 1 c AP flour, 1 c ww flour, 3/4 t baking powder, 3/4 t baking soda, and 1/2 t salt together.

Stir the dry ingredients in by hand until everything is just barely incorporated.

No one will eat your banana bread if you don’t.

Wondering when the chocolate joins the party? Grab yourself about 1 c of batter in a separate bowl, and sift in 2 -3 T of cocoa powder.

That, my friends, is why we sift. Use a spoon to smoosh the cocoa pebbles (is that a cereal? I was deprived as a child so I’m not sure) through the sieve, then use the spoon to do a little QC on the batter.

But wait! There’s more:

In this instance, “more” refers to about 1/3 c of chocolate chunks.  Did I measure? Ya right.

Stir the batter together, and set it aside.

Grease and flour 2 loaf pans (I doubled the recipe when I took pictures – this bread is in high demand – so please don’t stretch this 4 ways unless you have a hidden talent for multiplying banana bread), and pour about 2/3 of the regular batter in.

Dallop most of the chocolate batter on top…

Top it off with the rest of the regular batter, and whatever you left in the chocolate bowl.  Unless of course you thought the rest of the chocolate batter was for sampling, in which case you go right ahead.

Gently swirl the two batters together.  Make sure you use a clean skewer for each pan so the swirls are equally distinct.

Bake at 350-degrees for about 40-50 minutes.  These babies took exactly 42 minutes in mine.  Aren’t you proud Mom? I used a timer!

In the pan, they smell delicious.

But once I sliced into them?

To me, this is the quintessential banana bread – not too light, not too dense, hints of peanut butter, and a rich chocolate swirl.

Claimed by some to be the best banana bread they’ve ever had, all I can say is WOW.

(Note: Recipe adapted from the wonderful Julie.)

Love (aka Cranberry-Lime) Muffins

You may or may not be aware of this, but today is Valentines Day.

Today is also Monday.

And it’s raining.

Are you thinking what I’m thinking?!?!

Yes, we should make muffins. I think that’s the best idea I’ve had all day.

Next dilemma: what type of muffins?  I make a batch almost every week, but I haven’t told you about them for a while because I feel like they’re too common most of the time…and well, let’s face it – banana-blueberry-bran-oatmeal muffins are good, but sometimes you need to shake things up a bit.

A few months ago, I came across a recipe compliments of the lovely Joy that jumped out at me because while I often make blueberry-lemon muffins, I’ve never tried cranberry-lime. I filed the recipe away for a rainy day, and went about my business.

Today was that day, folks. The day where the muffins were made. Since I have an inability to follow a recipe exactly as printed,  I changed a few things from Joy’s original recipe but the result was quite good so I wanted to share them with you.

Unsalted butter, milk, eggs, vanilla, lime, AP flour, spelt flour, cane sugar, baking powder, salt, and cranberries.

Measure out the dry ingredients, and set them aside:

3/4 c AP flour, 3/4 c spelt flour, 3/4 c cane sugar, 1/2 T baking powder, 3/4 t salt.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients:

1/3 c milk, 2 eggs, 1 t vanilla, and the zest of 1 lime.

Set it aside while the butter works its magic…and not only on my hips.

Seriously my friends, I believe the secret to these muffins is the browned butter.  Most muffins use either oil or softened butter, but browning it first takes things to a whole other dimension of flavour.

Curious? Here’s what you do:

To start, melt 7T of butter in a small pot over medium heat.

I suggest you keep an eye on the butter, and not walk away to check your voicemail with people declaring their undying love for you.

I consider it my job to save you from burning your butter.

It’s a responsibility I take very seriously.

Once it melts, keep cooking the butter until it separates and turns light brown…almost like its being toasted.  Resist the urge to stick your finger in to confirm that it doesn’t taste burnt.

Whisking constantly, pour the browned butter in a steady stream into the wet ingredients.  If you don’t whisk constantly, you might end up with scrambled eggs or coagulated butter so be careful!

Add the wet to the dry ingredients, and stir gently to combine.

Fold in 1 1/2 c of fresh or frozen cranberries.  Raspberries would also be delicious – yum!

Portion into muffin tins – Joy says the recipe makes 12 muffins, but I only got 10 out of it.  I suggest you live on the edge and make 11, just for the fun of it.

Sprinkle the tops of the muffins with some extra cane sugar…or raw sugar…or cinnamon sugar…

But whatever you do, since it’s Valentines Day and all, don’t skimp on the sugar.

Please and thank you.

Bake the muffins until they’re golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean…this will take about 18 – 24 minutes at 350-degrees.

Let them cool in the pan for about 15 minutes while you find a use for the (naked) lime sitting on your counter.

(I made a bean salad with cilantro, red onion, garlic, and peppers with a lime-cumin vinaigrette if you’re curious.  Please don’t ask me for the recipe though, because you should know by now that there isn’t one.)

Muffins are ready!

Don’t be shy, let’s dig in together.

These muffins are light, fluffy, sweet, and tart all at the same time.

Love, love, love!

Until we meet again…



Strawberry And White Chocolate Stuffed Eggnog French Toast

(I hereby give myself an award for the blog post with the longest title – oy vey!)

I am not a fan of breakfast.

There – I said it. I don’t know if it’s the fact that 95% of the time I’d rather be sleeping or if I have a legitimate distaste for the traditional breakfast foods, but the idea of steel-cut oats just doesn’t get me out of bed in the morning.  Or cereal, I’ve never been a fan of cereal.  Soggy grains in milk? No thanks, I’ll pass. In the summer I’ll whip up a quick smoothie, but when I look outside and see snow that is just about as appealing as spending 3 continuous hours on the StairMaster, followed by running a marathon.  Besides, I hate feeling rushed in the morning, and if I actually make myself a “real” breakfast I tend to be more rushed than normal.  Not quite the best way to start my day, if you know what I mean.

Now brunch, on the other hand, is a completely different animal.  I can handle brunch.  In fact, I quite enjoy it!  I think brunch is the new coffee date, and I’m embracing it wholeheartedly.  I love lingering over brunch with a good friend (or 5), catching up, and not feeling any time pressure to be anywhere or do anything else.  Brunch feels special, since those types of days don’t happen super often.

As you may have picked up on by now, one of my favourite things to do is to open up the pantry and/or fridge and just start combining.  After all, it’s how I first learned how to cook and it is what comes most naturally to me.  On top of this innate desire to play, I also hate to waste food.  What can I say – I’m Scottish!

(It all makes sense now, doesn’t it?!)

Unfortunately (or is it?), I get bored pretty easily and so leftovers are often abandoned in favour of their newer, more exciting cousins.  So…when I looked out the window and saw 2″ of snow (which, by Vancouver standards, is enough to paralyze the entire city…CRAZY I know), opened up my fridge and saw eggnog that was begging for one last chance to shine before being dumped down the drain, and a hunk of french bread on the counter I knew what had to be done.

Brunch on a snow day? Yes please!

Eggnog, egg, vanilla, salt, pumpkin pie spice, nutmeg, strawberries, white chocolate, bread.

In a shallow dish, whisk together 3/4 c eggnog, 1 egg, 1/2 t vanilla, 1/2 t pumpkin pie spice, 1/4 t nutmeg, and a pinch of salt.

Bonus points if you can find your nutmeg in the abyss of your pantry and grate it fresh.  If you can’t…while, you’ll just have to make this 3x as penance.

Now, I’d like to provide you with a little MDM-style disclaimer: I am fully aware that it’s January, and that in January most people make resolutions to cut back on their fat and sugar consumptions.  I thought about showing you something healthy and delicious…but when I saw the snow all of my logic went out the window and I started for looking for ways to add more fat and sugar to an already-rich dish.

I’m twisted, I know.  I also know that many of you live vicariously through me, so please don’t send me hate mail.

So I thought to myself, while regular eggnog French Toast is good, why not stuff it with chocolate? So I did.  But I added strawberries too, just for good measure.

Since strawberries that are in the grocery stores taste like cardboard aren’t seasonal, I quickly pureed some frozen ones.

One of the most beautiful aspects of French Toast is that it turns out better when it’s made with stale bread.  Love that!  You could use whatever type of bread you have lying around, but I had the last of a loaf of French bread to play with. I sliced it into thick slices, and then made a pocket in each slice.  Don’t cut all the way or the filling will escape!

Put a spoonful of the strawberry puree into the pocket…

And then stuff some good-quality white chocolate in there too.

And please remember, if you wouldn’t eat the chocolate as-is, DO NOT USE IT FOR COOKING!

I’m sorry for yelling, but I feel very strongly about this.

If you had eaten the same melting wafer that I did, you would understand.

Repeat the bread-stuffing process until you run out of bread, filling, or get bored.

Dip the (stuffed) bread into the eggnog mixture, one side at a time.

And then place each slice into a hot skillet.  Not too hot though – the trick with French Toast is that you want it to brown on the exterior, but also to not taste like raw egg (nog) when you take your first bite.

After a few minutes, gently flip each piece.  Looking good!

When you’re ready to eat, dust each piece with some icing sugar.  This is brunch after all, we might as well get a little bit fancy!

Dip in the leftover strawberry puree, if you feel so inclined.

Or maple syrup.  Up to you.  This is pretty rich, but a nice change of pace from your basic French Toast.  Whatever you do, if only for today, please linger and enjoy.  If there’s one thing that I know for sure, it’s that snow day brunches are a very good thing.

Love and best dishes!


P.S. Don’t be surprised to see a mango-coconut French Toast in the future…or a blueberry-cream cheese one…or peanut butter and chocolate filled…

P.P.S.  Have more eggnog than you know what to do with? Try these scones – they’re delicious, I promise!

Peaches & Cream (aka Peach Crisp with Maple Cream Sauce)

In an ideal world, my style of cooking would rather simple: go to the market/butcher/fish monger daily, find what looks fresh, and build around it.  Naturally, I would have strong relationships with all vendors so they would save the pick of the day for me.  I think know I’m meant to be European.  Is it too late to be adopted?

Despite my dreams and best intentions, the reality is that I end up at the market about 3-4 times a week, the fish monger thinks my name is Caroline, and I have the duke it out with the best of them to get the last of the local produce. Sometimes I go with a list in hand, other times I go to wander and be creative, but I always walk out with more inspiration than I had when I got there.  I suppose it all does even out in the end.

During a quick jaunt to the market yesterday, I spotted some lovely looking peaches.  They were perfectly ripe, which meant they had to come home with me.  I picked the best 6 in the bin, gingerly placing them one by one into my basket.  The only question that remained was how to eat them?

Now, truth be told, I love me some peaches so its no hardship to have them in my fridge – especially when they’re local and in season.  I eat them plain most of the time, but I have been known carmelize them, grill them, bake with them…you name it, and I’ll probably find it delicious.   As I picked up a peach and twirled it around, I pondered all that is right in the world the final destiny of these beauties.  A while ago I had stumbled upon an idea for a peach crisp with a maple sauce, and so that became my starting point.

Won’t you join me on this delicious journey?

That would be…peaches, whipping cream, half & half, maple syrup, flour, brown sugar, white sugar, butter, cinnamon, nutmeg, oatmeal, pecans, flax seeds, corn or pancake syrup, maple extract, and salt.

I wanted the maple cream sauce to be served cold, so I made it first.  I’m glad I did.

Can you say “appetizer”? Good.

Pour 1 c of whipping cream and 1/2 c of half & half into a large saucepan (more on this in a bit).  You could use all whipping cream, but I wasn’t about to make another trip to the grocery store so I used what was in the fridge.

I don’t suggest you see how sharp your knives are when cutting butter and slice the tip of your thumb. Ouch.

Add 1/4 c of pure maple syrup and 3T of either corn or pancake syrup to the creams. Why both, I hear you ask? The pure maple syrup will give us the flavour we want, and the corn or pancake syrup will help thicken things up.  At least, that’s my theory and I’m sticking to it.

Give it all a stir and gently warm over medium heat.

The idea is that we want the sauce to thicken up a bit, so stir frequently until it reduces by about 1/3.

And when it boils over in your (too small) saucepan, you know you should have listened to me about making this in a large one.

Let’s just say it wasn’t only my hips that took one for the team this time.

After about 15 minutes, I got impatient the sauce was sufficiently reduced (and not only due to that lost in splatter), so I took it off the heat and added about 1t of maple extract to bump up the maple flavour even more.

Get yourself a straw and drink up! I mean…transfer the sauce to a bowl and let it chill in the fridge while the crisp bakes.

Normally when I make crisps, I just mix a few spoonfuls of sugar, flour, and oats together, and then add enough butter to make it crumbly.  I thought I’d measure though, so here goes nothing:

You’re looking at 1/2 c AP flour, 1/2 c whole-wheat flour, 1/2 c brown sugar, 1/2 c white sugar, 1/2 c of pecans (chopped), 1 c of oatmeal, and 1/4 c of flax seed.  Oh, and a dash of salt I think.

Give it a stir, and add 1 stick (or 1/2 c) of cold butter.  Sometimes I grate my butter in, but this time I mixed it in by hand until it was crumbly.

Truthfully, this could have probably used a tad more butter but I was too lazy to add more.

No, I’m not sure what’s gotten into me either.

Turns out that by measuring I made way too much topping.  It wasn’t in vain though, because now I have a full sandwich-size Ziploc bag of topping in the fridge waiting for me next time I need a dessert in a hurry.  What a problem to have!

Next, the peaches  – they are somewhat important in a peach crisp after all.

Peel 6 peaches (or not…just remove the stickers first) and remove the pits.  Some people suggest dropping the peaches in boiling water and then plunging them in ice cold water to remove the peel, but I’ve always found that to be substantially more work than just using my regular vegetable peeler.  I think my next blog should be called the lazy gourmet.  Except I’m not really all that gourmet.

There goes that idea.

Cut the peaches into chunks, and toss them with 2T of pure maple syrup, 1/2 t cinnamon, 1/2 t nutmeg, and a dash of salt.  If you’re feeling particularly rebellious, go ahead and add the zest and juice of 1/2 lemon to brighten things up.  However, if you forget like me, it will still be good.

Give the peaches a stir, and dump them into a greased 8 x 8″ pan.

Cover with about 1/2 of the topping.

Cover the pan with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.  Uncover the pan (and rotate if you’re not using a convection oven) and bake for another 25 minutes until the top is lightly browned and the juices are bubbly.

Let the crisp cool for a few minutes while you do a little bit of quality control with the maple cream sauce.

I had to taste it twice to be sure I wouldn’t poison anyone who consumed the crisp.

It passed. Barely.

With that out-of-the-way, it was time to eat.  FINALLY!!!

Pour some of the sauce into your dish so that the peaches feel loved, dish up the crisp, and then top with a drizzle more of sauce.  And some mint, if you’re feeling fancy.

I won’t judge you if you’re not though.

I will judge you if you don’t make this peach crisp – its delicious and decadent and fabulous on a rainy (dare I say it?) late summer evening.  The sauce really is what makes it, so please don’t skip this step…it’s worth every last calorie.

Peaches & Cream has never been better, my friends!  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go find myself a straw…

Apple Galette

I don’t know about you, but there are just some days where dessert is non-negotiable.  Being hungry is not the issue; dessert simply needs to be eaten irregardless of the degree of fullness that exists. In an ideal world I would have an unlimited amount of time and an unlimited pantry to pull inspiration from – ok, and a personal pastry chef to cater to my every whim and fancy – but let’s be realistic for just a moment: time is money, and my “pantry” right now consists of a heap of plastic bags and Tupperware containers filled with odds and ends.  What’s a girl to do, then, when the craving strikes but resources are limited?

Make an apple galette, obviously!

I know all of you faithful (or brainwashed) bloggies will remember that a while ago we made pastry, but I have a very sad announcement to make: my favourite kitchen appliance, my trusty food processor, suffered a terrible accident whereby it fell onto the cement floor one fateful day.  I haven’t been brave enough to see if I can get it to work again, for fear of having to send it to appliance heaven forever.  My heart can’t handle it.  Thankfully, TenderFlake puff pastry offered to fill the void for the low investment of $3.99.

We should move on, before I start to cry.  It wouldn’t be pretty, and I wouldn’t want you to feel uncomfortable.

However, if you feel moved enough to buy me a new food processor as a way of demonstrating your undying love and affection, I will make you pastry for the rest of your life.

Moving on:

Core and slice up some apples – I used granny smith’s because I wanted something a little more tart, but you can use whatever you have.  I suppose I could have peeled the apples, but really, why is that necessary? I thought the green peel would look beautiful, but besides that, why should I waste more time getting dessert on the table by peeling an apple?  Get real; I take the dessert dilemma very seriously – just ask my hips; they are under strict oath to not lie to you.

Sprinkle the apple slices with cinnamon, and toss with brown sugar, the juice of half a lemon, and a pinch of salt. Please don’t get all technical on me and ask how much cinnamon or sugar to use – just do whatever feels good to you.  Don’t skimp, but don’t go overboard.

Sample a few slices, for quality control purposes.

Unwrap the puff pastry.  Mine was frozen, and broken, so my galette’s had to become rather rustic and free-form.  If you are more patient than me (which is naturally very hard to believe) you could either defrost your pastry in the fridge overnight, or on the counter for a few hours.

Since I was not going to be working with rectangular pieces of pastry, I decided to cut each block in half and roll them out instead. No need to make them perfect – that’s boring and predictable, and gives the impression of being store-bought.  “Rustic” is the new buzzword in the food industry, and I like it.  It gives me permission to not be exact and to be messy.

Can I get an amen???

I don’t think I’ve ever disclosed this on the blog before, but I have a weird quirk whereby when cutting or arranging things, I’ll do it different every time.  For example,when arranging the apples on top of the pastry, I didn’t repeat the same method twice.  Life’s too short to arrange your apples identically. What do you think this says about my personality?

Thanks for listening; I feel cleansed.

I also feel hungry, so let’s bake these babies!!!

Now, if it was up to me I would have just picked up the galette and eaten it straight up.  However, that would not have made a very pretty picture for the blog, and so I took one for the team and garnished.  With whipped cream.  It’s a tough job, but somebody has to do it.

Well, that hit the spot! Quick apple galette is a good thing alright.