This post is bananas

Incidentally, this post is also nuts. Well, chock full of nuts. I’ve gone bananas for nuts? (Thank you, thank you. I’ll see myself out.)

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I love bananas in every stage of ripeness, but there is a certain magic quality that brown bananas have, full of sweetness and possibility. My favorite use for ripe bananas has always been banana bread, mostly because there are so many different recipes out there to try and they’re all fairly adaptable.

With bananas going brown on the counter, I popped onto the siggi’s website hoping that my new favorite yogurt would have a suggestion for my perpetual favorite baked good. Much to my delight, they did!

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The recipe calls for their vanilla filmjölk, which is a very unique pourable yogurt that is similar to kefir. It’s slightly tangy and is often used in place of buttermilk to lighten up recipes. I like to pour it over muesli for breakfast, but I’d never cooked with it before so this was a welcome experiment.

The only adjustment I made to the recipe was replacing the chopped walnuts with chopped peanuts. This was because of an allergy in our house, but I must say that I think the banana bread tastes even better with peanuts in it. I’ve mentioned their site before, but I love having pre-chopped peanuts from Nuts.com in the pantry for days like this. All I had to do was measure and pour, which made the baking process a snap.

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Per usual, I didn’t really measure the amount of spices and probably gave my banana bread a heartier dose of cinnamon than is called for. If you’re feeling punchy you could add a bit of ground ginger as well, or even your favorite mix of pumpkin pie spice.

For me it came out perfectly after 50 minutes of cooking and was delicious both warm the night I made it and also the next day slathered in peanut butter for breakfast. Because obviously I needed even more peanut-y goodness.

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Originally, this was meant to be the end of my post. But in delaying my writing by a week I ended up having a few more bananas go brown on me. In fact, these seemed to beg to be baked, going directly from green to brown overnight.

For those who are new to working with exceptionally ripe bananas, I wanted to take this photo to show you that they are not nearly as unappealing on the inside as they may seem on the outside. However, the peels will be rather… odorous, so it’s best to either put them in an outside trashcan or at least in an extra bag within your kitchen trash.

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Recipe for 4-Ingredient Banana Oat Bars

The great thing about these oat bars is that, provided you use certified oats, they are completely gluten free and also dairy free. I have made them in the past with different combinations of dried fruits and nuts, but this time I went with chopped dates and the same peanuts I used in the banana bread.

The recipe is from the kitchn, and I would recommend you head over to her site and follow the instructions exactly. The only change I made was adding about 1-2 tsp of honey for just a little bit more sweetness. I included the vanilla and the salt, and put cinnamon both in the batter and sprinkled on top.

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Because I used three bananas instead of two (waste not, want not) my bars came out slightly more thick than hers. I’ve made them in the past with fewer bananas and they come out thinner and crispy on the edges. That being said, I actually like these thicker bars. It makes them feel more like an anytime dessert rather than a snack bar. Since mine by nature have more moisture I decided to store them in the fridge rather than the pantry.

I currently have a new batch of bananas ripening in the fruit bowl, and something tells me I’ll probably have at least two brown ones again in the next week. So if you have a favorite recipe for very ripe bananas, I’m all ears! Let me know in the comments and I’d love to try out something different for a follow-up post.

Happy baking!

 

Quick and easy cornbread

We’re now entering my absolute favorite (part of a) season – the second half of autumn. Mornings and evenings are extra crisp, and the days are just cool enough to necessitate a sweatshirt. There’s something invigorating about weather that gives you goosebumps but stops short of making you shiver. And being the vampire that I am, it’s also quite enjoyable to have the sun’s intensity dialed down.

With hibernation on the horizon, it’s nice to have a comfort food recipe on hand that’s easy enough to make on a weeknight and also healthy enough to complement the inactivity of all-day Netflix marathons. (Speaking of marathons, I undertook a massive one last weekend, the result of which will be heading your way soon.)

The ingredient that makes my cornbread both fluffy and healthy is yogurt. And lots of it. Yogurt is a great substitute for butter or oil when you’re making quick breads, of which cornbread is my favorite. In the past I’ve used regular plain yogurt, but this time around I used siggi’s plain skyr and the result was magical.

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For starters, it’s very thick and ridiculously creamy. It’s also fat free, and the 1 cup needed to make the cornbread adds an impressive 23 grams of protein to the batch. When you consider the additional protein from the egg and the cornmeal, this means that there’s about 5 grams per piece. (Not exact nutritional science, but a good approximation.)

Start by preheating your oven to 375°F and spraying an 8 inch round baking pan with nonstick spray. I prefer to use the baking spray that has a bit of flour in it, but if you want to make sure this is gluten free just grease your pan however you please.

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In a large bowl mix together 1 cup cornmeal1 tsp baking powder1/2 tsp baking soda, and 1/2 tsp salt. Even though I’ve made this bread so many times I don’t need to consult the recipe, I somehow always get paranoid that I’ve mixed up the amounts of baking powder and baking soda and end up triple-checking my recipe notes anyway. Feel free to skip the paranoia.

In a smaller bowl, combine 1 cup plain yogurt1 egg, and 1/3 cup coconut palm sugar. The sweetener you use is also adaptable. Coconut sugar has a deeper flavor, closer to molasses, and will give the cornbread a much darker caramel color. The reason I like to use it is because coconut sugar is a natural sweetener that purportedly has a lower glycemic index than white sugar, though I have yet to read a scientific study that proves that to be absolutely true. From personal experience, I can say that it seems to me to be more slowly digested.

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If you want your cornbread to have that familiar bright yellow color and just a hint of sweetness, I’ve successfully made this recipe before with both regular granulated sugar and Splenda. The bread does seem to come out just a bit more dry if you use Splenda, so keep a close eye on the cooking time.

Fold your wet ingredients into your dry ingredients, and mix thoroughly so that there are no dry pockets. Pour the batter into your prepared pan and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until it passes the toothpick test. The cooking time will depend mostly on your oven, but also on your choice of sweetener. Splenda tends to be closer to the 15 minute mark for me, while this batch with the coconut sugar took the full 20 minutes to bake.

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If you’re anxious to dig in you can cut this right away, but it’s less likely to crumble if you can hold your horses and wait five minutes. Trust me when I say I know there are some days where waiting is just not going to happen, and that’s ok. Cut the cornbread into 8 wedges to serve, and since there’s no butter in the mix I feel good about putting a little bit on top.

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If for some reason all the wedges do not get eaten immediately I store leftovers in the refrigerator. Leftover wedges can be reheated to eat on their own, or I find they’re great for dipping into hot stew or chili straight from the fridge.

The Return of the Cereal Killer

Last summer I wrote about replacing my morning cereal with a tasty mix of raw nuts and seeds. While it’s filling (and easy to mix up a different batch day to day), I’ll admit that the base of coconut flakes exponentially increased the amount of time I spent chewing in the morning. Like, an insane amount of chewing. Delicious chewing, but time-consuming.

So, I started adding a few oatmeal mornings into the rotation. I prefer to make overnight oats, for the same reason I like pre-mixing my faux cereal the night before. It’s nice to just walk into the kitchen in the morning, grab breakfast out of the fridge, and be on your way.

Grain-free granola

On one of my recent treks to Wegmans to stock up on siggi’s, I decided to poke around their specialty food aisles to see if there were any other non-cereal (but still cereal-esque) breakfast options available. It turns out LÄRABAR, despite having kind of a ridiculous name, makes a new granola product that is gluten free, grain free and totally awesome. I’ve tried all three flavors and I’d have to say my favorite is the Cinnamon Nut because it pairs well with pretty much anything.

siggi's yogurt and grain free granola

In honor of this new discovery, I figured it only made sense to (as I did previously) take a look at some more recent cereal television ads. While the previous spate of commercials seemed intent to cash in on adults remembering what it was like to be a kid, the ads I’ve been seeing for the past few months focus more on actual adulthood.

Lucky Charms seems to have a very specific demographic in mind here, namely creepy roommates and the people who room with them. Dude just wants to wake up and make himself a tasty(?) bowl of styrofoam puffs, but it seems his roommate has other plans. Never mind how much effort it must have taken to paint himself to the exact specifications needed to blend into the bookshelf, Kyle would also have to know his roomie’s morning schedule and gotten up early to be in place before someone saw him. Which is damned creepy, when you think about it.

Oh, Cheerios. I know you’re trying to be hip and all, but there is a time and a place for Usher’s seduction and the breakfast table is not that place. I mean, I guess it could be that place, but I don’t think you intended to make me picture Usher sweeping away cereal bowls in a fit of passion. Or maybe you did, because you chose a song that is literally about how to achieve sex with a lady.

It’s a catchy song, but I’m going to go out on a limb here and say if your product is a honey “O” you should probably not advertise it with a lyric like “she came to give it to you”.

I really really really like this Shredded Wheat commercial. It’s actually pretty rare to see an ad aimed at people over the age of 50 that has some genuine humor in it. I chuckle every time I see her start to wolf down that bowl of cereal, then a little more when she tells her husband to “eat up”. I also appreciate that not once does Post claim that Shredded Wheat is worth eating for the taste. They’re basically admitting that they know it tastes like carpet fibers, so instead of trying to sell you on the flavor they’re promising more lifetime years of sex. And while they’re not doing it subtly, they are doing it without Usher’s gyrations, which takes some real skill.

I’m still going to stick to my faux-nola, though. For now.

Healthy snack hack – Fruity frozen yogurt bites

About a month ago, I discovered an incredible yogurt. I know this doesn’t sound like a terribly exciting event, but I take life’s joys where I find them. The brand is siggi’s, and what they make (among other products) is an Icelandic-style yogurt called skyr. Jammed with protein like Greek yogurt, it also goes a step further on the awesome scale by being strained to the most silken texture I’ve ever encountered in a dairy product.

What I find particularly great about siggi’s is that they really care about what goes into their food (and what doesn’t). The ingredient list is short, free of any artificial flavors or sweeteners, and generally light on sugar. This means the end product is packed full of flavor and deliciously tart.

While I’m perfectly content to just spoon it directly into my mouth, I thought I’d try out one of the recipes they have on their site. I tweaked it just a little bit, and the end result was a quick and simple frozen treat.

yogurt-ingredients

All you need is 1/4 cup chopped fruit (I used strawberries), 1/4 cup coconut milk (full-fat, from a can) and one 5.3 oz container of siggi’s (my choice was coconut, in keeping with the theme). Mix all the ingredients together in a glass or ceramic bowl. This is an important distinction, because no matter how well you wash plastic bowls they are still porous and absorb all sorts of things. Using glass or ceramic ensures that no flavor ghosts from recipes past make their way into your tasty yogurt.

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After the ingredients are well combined, spoon the mixture into a decorative candy mold or ice cube tray. I went with a nautical mold, because why not. My mix filled about 1.5 trays, and I’d say the trays I used were for relatively small pieces. With larger shapes, it would likely just fill one tray.

Then all you need to do is find a nice level spot in the freezer for these little guys to set. They’ll be soft set in about 30 minutes, and more solidly set after two hours. I find it’s best to let them defrost ever-so-slightly before eating them (for maybe just two or three minutes) so that they’re easier to bite into.

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Aside from the tastiness, a great reason to make something like this is to help with portion control. When you want a little treat, you can take a few yogurt bites out of the freezer to satiate your craving without any guilt. Add to that the fact that siggi’s is certified kosher and gluten free, plus they only use milk from grass-fed cows, and you have yourself a healthy snack that you can feel good about eating.

While it’s not available in every store, siggi’s is still pretty easy to find. Just in case you’re not sure where to look, you can pop your zip code into their store locator.

As an added bonus, when I emailed siggi’s to tell them how much I loved their yogurt (yes, this is totally a thing that I do) they sent me an adorable packet complete with measurement swaps for cooking and a bunch of coupons. I think the best way to spread the love is to pass some of it along to you, so I’ll send a coupon for a free container of siggi’s to the first five people who comment on this post.

Happy eating!

Happiness is a warm bun

In this case it’s actually a warm cake, but it didn’t sound quite as snappy.  I realize that I’m very quickly turning this space into a cooking blog, although I get the feeling that most people don’t mind at all.  Considering the four feet of snow and the crankiness and the general hibernating instinct to stuff my face with all manner of deliciousness, cooking is a simple (if not fabulously literal) way to get my spoonful of sugar.

Since it involves both fruit and yogurt, I actually made this cake a few weeks ago for my regular Thursday night romp with Laura and Ryan as way to pretend we were eating a healthy dessert.  I found this recipe for grapefruit yogurt cake at the Smitten Kitchen, which is one of my absolutely favorite cooking websites.  Their food photography alone is luscious enough to cause spontaneous weight gain.  Per usual, I used half sugar and half Splenda and I added lime zest and lime juice because I had some ultra-ripe limes that were practically begging to be juiced.

My favorite element of this cake is the sugar-juice cocktail that you pour over the finished loaf as it cools.  The cake soaks up every last drop of the sweet elixir, resulting in an incredibly moist slice of citrus magic when it is served.  There is an optional glaze, which I’m sure would also be delightful, but since I was pretending to be good it seemed like sugar overkill.  The end result was so tasty, I almost put the leftovers back in my bag to take home.  Of course I didn’t actually do it, because I’m a very polite house guest, but that should tell you just how amazing this cake is.

Check out the original recipe at the Smitten Kitchen, and see for yourself just how scrumptious winter fruit can be!