Banana bread bake-off

bananabreadbakeoffWhat do you do when you have too many over-ripe bananas and not enough time to eat them? A banana bread bake-off of course! And that’s just what we had at our office last week. Andrea and Steve rolled up their sleeves and baked their respective bests for the office to try.

The two banana wares could not be more different. Andrea’s was the health conscious’ dream. Her Supercharged banana nut and oat muffins were the guilt-free banana bread (or rather, muffin) option – with a simple variation that was vegan-friendly. Steve baked in the wee hours of the morning before coming into work – the loaf was still warm! His was a flavour-packed traditional banana loaf with all the stops.

The result: we had a happy office with full bellies and a great start to the day. Me, most of all. And the verdict? A universal draw across the board by all judges. Don’t believe us? You may just have to make them to find out for yourself.

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Liquid Sunshine

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With the first day of summer officially starting today, this Canadian heart skips a little. 17 hours of daylight paired with a bowl of rose-tinted liquid sunshine – what better way to celebrate?

Often passed over in favour of its flashier neighbours, rhubarb is the unsung hero of spring and early summer. Don’t let this humble-looking plant fool you. It’s tart with a lot of spunk and packs quite the punch especially when eaten raw. Dull or disappointing are not words that I would use to describe this hardy vegetable. Served warm or chilled, my favourite rhubarb fix comes in the form of a simple compote. Nothing says summer like a generous spoonful (or spoonfuls!) over yogourt, oatmeal, your morning smoothie or a little midnight ice cream. You can even sneak it in as a dressing in a mixed green salad (yes, it even tames the bitterest of greens!). So with this salute to one of my favourite plants, I give you my recipe for a summer solstice rhubarb compote:

  • 4 rhubarb stalks (leaves removed)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 6 sprigs lemon thyme
  • zest of 1/2 lemon
  • squeeze of lemon (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)

Trim the ends of the rhubarb and cut into 1 1/4-inch rounds. Pour the water in a wide frying pan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Add the rhubarb to the pan, sprinkle in the sugar, add the lemon thyme, lemon zest, and give the lemon a quick squeeze over the rhubarb. Stir to combine and heat the mixture for 10 minutes on medium-high heat or until almost all of the liquid has evaporated and the rhubarb is tender. Allow the mixture to cool slightly before stirring in the vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract). Enjoy immediately or leave in the refrigerator to chill. Serves 4 or yields a healthy portion for one!

Peach vanilla panna cotta

PannaCottaOne of my favourite desserts is the classic Italian panna cotta. It’s a great dessert that’s light in texture and rich in flavour. I never feel heavy after eating it, making it my kind of dessert. The best part, it’s very easy to make and the prep time is fast. That said, it does require a longer time in the fridge for the gelatin to set, so if you’re making it to serve for dinner – it’s best to make it either the day before or early enough in the day for the dessert to set.

Ingredients: (serves 6)

Fruit jelly top:

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 peaches (or other fruit – see below for portions), halved or sliced and pitted
  • 1 packet of gelatine powder (equivalent of 1 tablespoon)

Panna Cotta layer

  • 1/3 cup water
  • 3-3/4 cream
  • 1 cup icing sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 packets of gelatin powder (equivalent of 2 tablespoons)

Preparation: 

  1. Heat up water and sugar in a saucepan until the sugar is dissolved.
  2. Add peach halves (or other fruit) and simmer on medium-low heat until the fruit is soft.
  3. Remove the peaches (or other fruit), remove the skins (keep the fruit water).
  4. Take 1/4 of the peach water and add the tablespoon of gelatin in gradually while stirring to avoid clumps. Set the gelatin mixture aside for about 5 minutes – it will thicken.
  5. Pour the gelatin mixture into the rest of the fruit water on low heat and mix until it’s dissolved.
  6. Grease a baking pan and place your peach halves or slices (or other fruit) into the bottom of the pan. I like using a silicone loaf pan. The silicone is flexible, making it incredibly easy to pop the panna cotta out of the pan once it’s set. If you’re using peaches, plums, or pears, place them cut side facing up (uncut side down on the pan) – it makes for a better looking panna cotta when you’re done.
  7. Pour the fruit water over it. Place the pan into the fridge for it to start setting.
  8. Stir in the 2 tablespoons of gelatin powder into the 1/3 cup of water gradually (so it also doesn’t clump) and set it aside for around 5 minutes to set.
  9. Heat up the cream and sugar on medium-low heat and bring it to a simmer. Add the vanilla extract and stir to mix it in.
  10. Add the gelatin-water mixture and stir until it’s all dissolved.
  11. Cool the mixture in the fridge for around 15-20 minutes or until it’s cooled to about room temperature.
  12. Check to make sure the first layer has set. When it has, pour the panna cotta mixture into your baking pan over the fruity layer.
  13. Put the pan back in the fridge to set. It will take around 6 hours to set fully.
  14. Once the panna cotta has set, it’s ready to serve. Tip your baking pan upside down on a serving dish. It should pop out fairly easily.

Note, if you prefer to use canned fruit instead of fresh fruit, use the syrupy water from the can and add water to it until it reaches 1 cup. No need for the 1/2 cup of sugar at the start of the recipe. Just set the fruit aside and pour the syrup-water mixture into a saucepan and let it simmer for 1 minute. Follow the rest of the recipe from step 4.

Enjoy!

Other fruit options:

  • 3 plums, halved or sliced and pitted
  • 2 apples, sliced and cored
  • 2 pears, halved or sliced and cored
  • 1/4 pineapple, sliced
  • 1/2 cup of raspberries
  • 1/2 cup of blueberries
  • 5-6 strawberries, halved or sliced

Recipe adapted from Donna Hay.

Mod: Vegan chocolate molten lava cakes + vegan chocolate frosting

lava cakesAs part of a vegan dinner we were hosting, I wanted to make a molten lava chocolate cake version of the vegan chocolate cake we’ve made before. I couldn’t find any vegan chocolate, so had to get creative and use a slightly modified vegan chocolate icing recipe I have. The result was great. The centre wasn’t quite as luscious as if I had used a dark chocolate, but still turned out well.

Ingredients: (makes 8 small ramekin servings)

Cake:

  • 1-1/2 cups flour (regular all-purpose flour is fine)
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil (or canola oil)
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  • 1 cup water

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If you could taste summer, it’d taste like this

On our way out to a local lavender festival a few weeks ago, my hubby-to-be, his momma, and I stopped for a picnic in the park. The highlight: her famous strawberry pie. It’s always been a favorite for his family, and now I can say that it’s definitely one of mine too. In a phrase, if you were to personify “summer” in a dish – this would be it. Fresh, sweet, slightly tart, and incredibly simple – this homemade strawberry pie is summer on a plate, and to die for.

Here’s my version of her incredible pie.

Ingredients:

Shortbread pie crust (prepared in advance):

  • 2 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons of caster sugar
  • 150g of cold butter, chopped
  • 2-3 tablespoons of iced water

Filling:

  • 6-8 cups (1.5-2 quarts) of fresh strawberries
  • 1 cup of white sugar
  • 3 tablespoons of cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons of water
  • 1.5 cups of whipping cream

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V for Vegan chocolate cake

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, what better time for a delicious, yet simple, chocolate cake that anyone can enjoy? Apart from being incredibly simple to make, what’s best about this cake is that the ingredients are probably things you already have in your pantry.

  • 3 cups flour (regular all-purpose flour is fine)
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 cup white sugar
  • 2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil (or canola oil)
  • 2 teaspoon white vinegar
  • 2 cup water

Optional

  • 2 tablespoons of maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup of chocolate chips or chocolate chunks

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Tiramisu made easy

Before trying my hand at this dessert, I always had it in my mind that it was a daunting task that came with a disclaimer. Everyone had a different version: only egg whites, no eggs, heavy cream… and the list goes on. Where to start?

This is my quick version (of many!) that has been a lifesaver when I’ve needed a sweet fix:

  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 container (275 g) mascarpone
  • 24 savoiardi (ladyfingers)
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups brewed coffee
  • shaved dark chocolate, for garnish

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