My Yogurt Lunch

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Here is one of my favorite lunches to have at home:

  • Greatest Granola in the Universe (see link below)
  • Plain Greek yogurt
  • Strawberries
  • Blueberries
  • Banana
  • Flaxseed meal
  • Chia seeds

Combine the ingredients and enjoy!

Greatest Granola in the Universe: https://thelabyrinthguide.wordpress.com/2015/03/06/greatest-granola-in-the-universe/

 

Healthy Marble Banana Bread

Healthy Marble Banana Bread

Healthy Marble Banana Bread

Imagine the benefits of a fruit and a vegetable combined into a delicious tasting treat.  One of our family’s favorite breakfast/snack/dessert breads is Marble Banana Bread. It has banana, a great source of natural energy, coupled with the antioxidants of chocolate.  And yes, chocolate is a vegetable in my house.

I came across the original recipe in a Cooking Light cookbook. However, I combined that recipe with a “Healthy Banana Bread” recipe I found online, and made some changes of my own. Many banana bread recipes are high in sugar. I have reduced the sugar amount without compromising taste. I also use canola oil instead of butter. Where some recipes call for sour cream or crème fraiche, I use non-fat or low-fat yogurt.

So why not whip up a loaf and feel good about enjoying a warm slice of marble banana bread.

 Ingredients

  • 2 cups of Flour – I sometimes use all whole wheat flour, or combine 1 cup of whole wheat flour with 1 cup of all-purpose white flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 ½ cups mashed ripe bananas (about 3 bananas)
  • 2 eggs (or the equivalent of egg substitute)
  • ¾ cup sugar (I like to mix half of brown sugar with regular sugar)
  • ¾ cup non-fat vanilla yogurt, plain, or Greek yogurt
  • ¼ cup canola oil
  • ½  – ¾ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (go for dark chocolate)

Preparation

  • Preheat oven to 350° Fahrenheit or about 180° Celsius.
  • Prepare a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan with cooking spray.
  • Combine first 4 ingredients in a bowl (dry ingredients).
  • Combine next 5 ingredients in a bowl (everything else but the chocolate chips)
  • Mix wet and dry ingredients by hand.
  • Place chocolate chips in a medium microwave bowl.
  • Microwave chocolate for about 1 minute at High. I like to do this in 20 to 30 second intervals and check in between. Once the chocolate is melted stir until smooth and let it cool slightly.
  • Add about 1 ½ cup of the batter to the melted chocolate and mix well.
  • Pour some of the regular batter on the bottom of the pan, and alternate with the chocolate batter, until all the batter is in the pan.
  • Swirl the batters together with a knife.
  • Bake at 350°F for approximately one hour. I start checking at 50 minutes by inserting a toothpick. If it comes out clean then the loaf is ready. Otherwise I keep baking and checking in intervals of 5 minutes. If the loaf is not ready but is looking very done on the top, cover it loosely with a piece of aluminum foil wrap. After it’s done cool on a rack for 10 minutes and then remove from the pan.

For further reading on the benefits of bananas and chocolate:

http://www.lifescript.com/food/articles/0/14_banana_health_benefits_you_might_not_know_about.aspx

http://longevity.about.com/od/lifelongnutrition/p/chocolate.htm

Pancakes Made Without Bisquick?

I was at a Costco in London with a friend the other day. I am somewhat nosy and love to see what others have in their carts. It’s a fun way to get ideas of new things to try. However, on that afternoon, I gave a disappointing nod to my friend’s box of Bisquick*. I said to her, “You don’t need this, I will give you an easy recipe”. And deep inside, she knew already that these pre-made mixes contain a lot of unnecessary ingredients. She gently acquiesced and returned the box.

Many years ago I too loved ready-made mixes. I was under the illusion that it was so much easier and faster to make things. Then a mainstream awareness of nutrition labels came into being and we started to question ingredients in these pre-packaged boxes.  I do have to say one of my culinary inspirations have been our friends who live in Acton, MA. Nothing was ever too challenging or complicated for them to make from scratch. It was during a weekend visit up to their place that they threw together a pancake batter mix without even following a recipe. They mixed together different kinds of flours. They even ground some quick oats on the spot to add to the batter. And the best part of it was that my children, ages 8 & 7 at the time, who normally did not like pancakes, loved our friends’ pancakes. Maybe the chocolate chips had something to do with it. However, when I got home I decided to do the same. We have never looked back.

I found my original recipe in my Cordon Bleu cook book and over time have made my own modifications to it. I am not claiming this recipe to be fat-free or egg-free. However, the beauty of any recipe is that you can make whatever changes you need or want and make it your own. What I can say about making things from scratch is that you know exactly what you are feeding your family. I must confess that I am not a purist with everything I eat and serve to my family. I bow my head in shame and guilt to admit that I do like Pop-Tarts and so do my kids (not my husband). And you don’t find me making Oreos from scratch. I will say though, that recently I tasted my first ever homemade equivalent of a Twinkie and it was divine. I knew the homemade version was definitely not low in calories and that it would not survive a nuclear explosion, but I felt that it was more wholesome than the original ones.

Homemade Pancakes

Serving Size: Pancakes for 4 people. This recipe can be doubled.

Ingredients:

I like to measure my ingredients on a kitchen scale, so the measurements are in both weight and volume.

  • 8 oz.  or 1½ cup: flour (You can mix whatever ratio you prefer of whole wheat, white all-purpose, and oat flours)
  • 1 oz. or 2 Tbs.: sugar (This is optional, you can lower the amount as you please or use a substitute)
  • 1 Tbs.: baking powder
  • ½ tsp.: salt
  • 12 to 14 oz. or 1½ to 2 cups: low-fat or skim milk (You can use milk substitutes like lactose-free or soy milk. The amount of milk you use will depend on how thick you like your batter. Experiment a couple of ways until you find your preference. We like thick batters.)
  • 2 oz. or ¼ cup of oil: Canola or Sunflower oil (You can lower this amount if you’d like, you can also substitute some oil with some melted butter, for enhanced flavoring)
  • 2 eggs (You can use egg-beaters)

Optional toppings:

  • Chocolate chips
  • Peanut Butter Chips
  • Blueberries
  • Banana Slices
  • Cooked Apples
  • Toasted Crushed Walnuts
  • Nutella
  • Maple Syrup

Steps:

  1. Heat your pan or grill (medium heat). Grease your pan or grill lightly.  You’ll want the grill to be hot.
  2. Sift together dry ingredients. If in the UK, you will find that the whole-wheat flour is courser and may not go through a sifter easily. I don’t sift in the UK.
  3. Combine milk, oil, and eggs.
  4. Mix dry and wet ingredients and let batter rest for a few minutes.
  5. Ladle batter onto hot grill. Add toppings like chocolate chips, bananas, or blueberries at this time.
  6. Watch pancake cook, as small holes appear, flip over. WARNING: DO NOT FLATTEN PANCAKE OUT WITH SPATULA. This removes the air from it. You want to keep you pancake fluffy.

    Courtesy of Clara Petrucelli

  7. Finish cooking second side and serve.

Additional Tips:

  • If making blueberry pancakes cook at a lower temperature. If the blueberries are large they can sometimes stick out too far, making it difficult to cook the second side. And although you’ll still flip the pancake, most of the cooking is done on the original side. If the grill temperature is not as high, the pancake will cook through at a lower temperature without burning.
  • Wipe the grill clean between pancakes. Fruit and chocolate & peanut butter chips can leave a residue behind that can start burning. I use doubled-up paper towels to wipe the grill. Please be careful to not burn yourself.
  • We cook to order, one pancake per person at a time. There’s nothing yummier than a pancake fresh and hot off the grill.
  • My children like their pancakes with chocolate and peanut butter chips mixed together. I don’t overdo the amount of chips. They don’t add maple syrup to these pancakes. The sweetness and flavor of the chocolate and peanut butter chips are sufficient and delicious on their own.
  •  I like a little maple syrup on the fruit filled pancakes.
  •  I love to top my pancakes with toasted walnuts cut into small pieces.
  • A special treat in our family is to have breakfast for dinner. I’ll enhance the nutritional content by making eggs and bacon.
  • The batter can keep in the refrigerator for about 2 – 3  days. It may turn slightly grey, simply re-stir.
  • Buttermilk Pancake Variation: I’ll begin by saying that I find buttermilk in the UK to be different to buttermilk in the US. My children liked buttermilk pancakes in the US but they don’t like the UK version. If you choose to try the buttermilk variation you’ll need to do the following: Substitute the milk for buttermilk and lower the baking powder from 1 Tbs to 1 tsp.

And there you have it homemade pancakes.

* For some of my international readers who may not know what Bisquick is, it is a store bought pre-mixed product for making pancakes and other things.