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

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Colombian Kheema Matar

 

Kheema Matar – Ground (Minced) Meat and Peas

A Story of Food, Friendship, and Finicky Eaters

When we lived in Westport, CT one of our dearest and closest friends were from India. We spent countless evenings talking, laughing, dancing, drinking, and mainly eating. Some gatherings were planned and others were very spontaneous. We would telephone each other and the next thing we knew we would have planned a feast of Indian, Colombian, and/or American foods with whatever ingredients were in our houses. The beauty of having friends from different cultures is that as we get to know each other we come to the realization that we have much more in common than we think. As my girlfriend and I cooked together we realized how similar Colombian and Indian food was. Sure, there were differences, but more often than not, she would identify a Colombian dish I’d make with an equivalent Indian dish and visa versa.

My children were finicky eaters when they were young. There was a New York Times Article in 2007 that explained how being a picky eater was a “genetic” trait. My children took after my husband who had also been a picky eater as a child and had outgrown this trait. At the time, my children’s main diet consisted of pasta with white sauce (no red sauce), chicken nuggets, and mac-n-cheese with a limited selection of vegetables. Being the foodies and cooks that both my husband and I are, we made countless attempts to try to get the children to sample new foods and to eat what we cooked for the adults at home but these efforts were in vain. Then one day my friend made Kheema matar, which is an Indian ground meat and pea dish. It is typically made with ground lamb but she had used ground beef that evening. She used beef because she knew I was not very fond of lamb. (who’s the finicky eater now!) The dish is beautifully seasoned with onion, garlic, ginger, hot pepper, cumin, ground coriander, cayenne pepper, and garam masala (more on this later).

Coriander, Cumin & Cayenne

To my surprise, my children ate the Kheema at her house that night. I don’t know why they ate it since it was so different to what they typically liked, was it that food always tastes better at other people’s houses, were they being polite and obedient and doing as they were told, or was it the magic combination of flavors that woke up their taste buds. Whatever it was, that Kheema dish was a turning point for our family. It marked the beginning of the changes in our home cooking and my children’s eating habits. I looked up my Madhur Jaffrey Indian cook book, made some adjustments to her Kheema Matar recipe, and made it a family staple. It opened up a whole new world of adventurous eating for my children and a gradual farewell to their culinary finickiness. It also made my life easier. I could now cook one meal for the whole family. And as many of you know, this is HUGE!! Sure, I initially hid some of the ingredients by blending or food processing them, something I no longer need to do. But even today, I have kept some of these techniques out of convenience. I prefer to food process a bunch of onion, garlic, and ginger than dice it.

We moved from Westport, CT to West Chester, PA and missed our friends terribly. We have visited each other over the years. We now live in London so it’s even harder to get together. The thing we missed the most was the spontaneity of our gatherings and the culinary experiences we shared.

So below I share my version of Kheema Matar. It is a recipe of delicious comfort food that brings back wonderful memories of our friends in Westport. It is a recipe of a meal that marked a pivotal moment for our family cooking and of the triumphant accomplishment of a mother who finally got her children to move beyond “white pasta”. Today, our 14 and 13-year-old children are foodies-in-training developing amazingly sophisticated palates. This makes my husband and I very happy because now the whole family can share and enjoy exciting culinary adventures together.

Kheema Matar by a Colombian

My cooking technique reflects more of an American/Colombian style. This dish is relatively mild but you can add more spice and more heat as you like. If you have never cooked “Indian”, this is a great introductory recipe.

Ingredients

Serves 6 – 8 (great as left overs)

  • ½ Large Onion (4 – 6 oz)
  • 7 – 8 garlic cloves
  • 1” – 1 ½“ of fresh ginger, peeled cut  into 4 pieces
  • ½  to 1 hot green or red pepper
  • 2 oz. of water
  • 2 Tbs Canola Oil
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • ⅛ to ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
  • 4 oz. of water
  • 2 lbs of Ground Meat (you can mix ground beef with ground chicken or turkey)
  • 10 oz. frozen peas defrosted ( I like to be generous with the peas)
  • ½ cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1 – 2 lemons juiced (or limes if that is all you have)

Method 

  • Begin by making a paste with the first five ingredients.

Make a Paste with:
Onion, Garlic, Ginger, Hot Red Pepper, and Water

  • Then heat the oil, and stir fry the paste for 2 – 3 minutes.
  • Add the ground coriander, cumin, cayenne pepper, and sauté for 1 -2 minutes.
  • Add the additional 4 oz. of water and the ground meat.  Stir, bring to a boil, lower the temperature, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes.

The Paste with Ground Meat

  • Add the remaining ingredients, stir, and simmer for 10 more minutes.

Add peas, cilantro, garam masala, and salt.

Add the Lemon Juice

  • Adjust salt if needed.
  • Serve with white or Basmati rice.

Extra Tips

GingerI like to buy fresh ginger. With the skin on I cut the ginger into 1 ½ “ pieces. I wrap the individual pieces in plastic wrap, I place the pieces in a small freezer plastic bag and freeze them. When I am ready to use, I pull out however many pieces I need, I defrost them for a couple of minutes, peel, and prepare as needed. I always have fresh ginger available for use.

Cilantro: I buy a fresh bouquet of cilantro. I place it in a container with water as soon as I get home. I store it in the refrigerator. It keeps for up to two weeks. Remember to check the water level in the container.

SeasoningsYou should be able to find ground cumin, cayenne pepper, and ground coriander at a regular food store. However, garam masala is a special indian blend of spices that you may only find in an Indian store or specialty store. There are many types of garam masalas. A typical garam masala is a blend of spices like cardamom, cinnamon, cumin seeds, cloves, peppercorns, and nutmeg.  If you live in a big city you’ll have ample access to these more exotic ingredients. But do not fret, if you live in the US you can order spices from Penzey’s online.  http://www.penzeys.com/

RiceWe eat a lot of rice in our home. I love to use a rice cooker because I get perfect rice each time. I put the rice in the pot, add water, and salt and program the cooker for when I need my rice.

About picky eaters being a genetic trait:

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/10/dining/10pick.html?pagewanted=all          

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.