Maple Pecan Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

This is a winner right here, ladies and gentlemen.



Is there any greater blessing to a baker than that of overripe bananas? I don’t happen to think so. I rescued these bananas from a dire situation in which my father was about to toss them in the compost heap. It took a fair bit of convincing on my part for my dad to believe that these bananas were of actual value and that no, they would not make him sick.


The chocolate pecan topping on his bread is what makes it oh-so-delightful, staring at it just makes my mouth water! The bananas help make this bread incredibly moist whilst using maple syrup as a sweetener enhances the flavour as it pairs so well with the pecans. For extra flavour points, roast the pecans on the stove or in a hot oven for 10 minutes or until fragrant. That’s a one way ticket to bliss!

Maple Pecan Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

Ingredients

  • 2 ripe bananas, peeled
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup milk of your choice (I used soy)
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1+½ cups cake flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • a pinch of salt
  • 4 ounces dark chocolate, chopped roughly
  • 50g chopped pecans

Method 

  1. Preheat your oven to 180°C/350°F. Grease a standard loaf and pan and line with parchment paper.
  2. Add the ripe bananas, egg, milk, maple syrup and vegetable oil to a blender. Blend until combined, about 2 minutes. Separately, add the cake flour, baking powder and cinnamon and salt to a large bowl and stir to combine. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and use a rubber spatula to fold the dry ingredients into the wet.
  3. Throw in the chocolate and pecans, making sure to reserve some for the top of the cake. Stir with a rubber spatula to distribute the nuts. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle the nuts and chocolate over the top. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out with a few crumbs. Allow to cool before serving, enjoy!

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Almond Caramel Apple Shortcakes

Today’s post is proudly inspired by Mary Berry.


If you’ve never heard of her, firstly, do you live under a rock? Secondly, I’d like you to Google the Great British Bake-Off. I’ll give you a moment to catch up with the rest of the world before coming back to this post. Are we all on the same page now? Good, let’s continue.



Last week my mum and I were watching her cooking show, Mary Berry Cooks, this particular episode being about summer entertaining and afternoon tea. In case you missed it: last week I hosted a Wimbledon afternoon tea party that included this cake. I opted to make one large strawberry shortcake but Mary Berry chose to make several smaller scones to make serving (and thus eating and clean-up) easier. As someone who had heaps of cream dropped over the table, chairs and floor next week, I can testify that making individual shortcakes is a superior method- plus they still look just as appetising.




I paid tribute to Wimbledon with the classic strawberries and cream last week, so I decided that this week would belong to a different combination- apples, cinnamon and caramel. Trust me, it will not disappoint you.



What are some of your favourite flavour combinations? I’m looking to be more adventurous in my recipe testing and I’d love to hear from some of you!

Almond Caramel Apple Shortcakes

Ingredients

For the scones:

  • 2 cups self-raising flour
  • 2 tbsp granulated sugar + extra for dusting the scones
  • 2 tsp baking powder*
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 cup (8 tbsp) cold butter, grated like cheese or cut into small cubes
  • ¾ cup buttermilk, cold
  • 1 egg (optional, the recipe still works well without it)
  • a handful of crushed slivered almonds, optional

For the apples:

  • 2 large Granny Smith apples, sliced thinly
  • 4 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ cup whipped cream
  • 2 tsp icing sugar, optional

For the caramel sauce: 

  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp fresh cream
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • ½ tsp vanilla essence

Method

  1. Start by baking the scones. Preheat your oven to 180°C/350F°. Grease a large rimless baking sheet and like with parchment paper.
  2. Sieve the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into a large bowl and toss to combine. Add the butter to the dry mixture and use our hands to rub the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles a dry coarse sand.
  3. Whisk the buttermilk and egg (if using)  together in a large measuring cup or a small bowl, making sure there are no streaks of egg yolk remaining. Reserve about a tablespoon of this mixture for brushing the scones.
  4. Pour the buttermilk mixture into the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Be careful not to overmix. The dough should be slightly wet but not so much that it is sticking to your hands. If the dough is too wet then add flour, one tablespoon at a time until it holds together.
  5. Turn the dough onto a floured surface and use your hands to press it into a large circle, about 2 cm/¾ inch thick. Use a cookie cutter or a small glass to cut the dough into scones. Gather any remaining scraps of dough and mould them together to make one huge scone.
  6. Add the cut scones and your scrap-scone to the prepared baking sheet. Brush with the reserved egg/buttermilk mixture before topping with the granulated sugar and almonds. Bake in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes or until the tops are just starting to turn golden brown. Allow to cool at room temperature before serving.

Prepare the filling:

  1. Whilst the scones are baking, core the apples and cut into thin slices. In a large bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, sugar and cinnamon. Toss with the apples, making sure to coat them in the lemon juice. Allow to sit for at least 10 minutes.
  2. Prepare the caramel. Add the brown sugar to a small saucepan on medium-low heat. Allow the sugar to melt, stirring occasionally with a rubber spatula to prevent it from burning. Once the sugar has melted completely and you have a smooth dark brown liquid, pour in the fresh cream. The mixture will sputter and spurt and that’s okay. Cut the butter into the hot brown sugar and stir until it’s completely melted. You should have a smooth, golden brown caramel. Stir in the vanilla essence and a pinch of salt, if desired.
  3. Once the scones have cooled, cut them in half. Layer first with sliced apple, followed by whipped cream and finally topping with warm caramel. If desired, you may dust with icing sugar. Enjoy!

Vegan Lemon Coconut Cream Pie

I’ve been dying to try out a vegan dessert that isn’t based on soaked cashews and this is THE ONE.


When I was thinking about this one, I came across a couple of obstacles. #1 being how does one make pastry vegan? Figure that one out and all problems would magically disappear. Shortcrust pastry is basically flour, butter, salt and water; the only non-vegan ingredient in the equation being the butter. Well butter is desired here for it’s fatty content, right? So what else is rich in fats but does not come from an animal? Spoiler alert: vegetable oil. As it’s already liquid, this completely eliminates the need for us to include water.


The second thing I had to think about here was the filling. My traditional lemon curd recipe used egg yolks to thicken it, but that was not an option here. Next best thing was cornflour. I was a bit worried about the cornflour drastically altering the flavour but thankfully it remained just as lemon-coconutty as ever.


Despite my many fears when making this (Will it set? Will the pastry fall apart? Will it taste good?) this dessert turned out to be a delight. Now that I can add this notch to my belt, I’m ever more motivated to try out more vegan desserts!


Vegan Lemon Coconut Cream Pie

For the crust:

  • 2 cups plain flour
  • ¼ cup dessicated coconut
  • ¼ cup icing/powdered sugar
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ cup neutral vegetable oil e.g. sunflower, canola

For the filling: 

  • 1 and ½ cups lemon juice
  • 1× 14 oz can coconut milk
  • ½ cup castor (granulated) sugar
  • 2 tbsp grated lemon rind
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • ½ cup cornflour + ¾ cup water
  • 2 drops yellow food colouring (optional)

For the topping: 

  • 1 cup coconut cream (or 1 cup aquafaba)
  • 2 tbsp icing sugar
  • 1 tbsp grated lemon rind
  • 1 tbsp dessicated coconut

Method

  1. Start by making the crust. Sift the flour, coconut, sugar and salt in a large bowl and shake to combine. Make a well in the centre and pour in the oil. Use a wooden spoon to mix until it comes together. Shape into a ball, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, prepare the filling. In a large saucepan on medium high heat, combine the lemon juice, coconut milk, sugar, lemon rind and vanilla. Whisk to combine and bring to a boil. Dissolve the cornflour in the water and stir well to ensure there are no lumps. Pour the cornflour into the lemon coconut mixture and whisk vigorously to prevent lumps from forming. Reduce the heat to low and stir continuously until the mixture has thickened considerably and coats the back of a spoon. If you find that the colour is too pale, add the food colouring drop by drop until you’re happy with the colour. Remove from heat and set aside
  3. Preheat your oven to 180°C. Remove the pastry from the fridge and roll out into a 10 inch circle. Grease a non stick 9 inch springform pan. Line the bottom and sides of the pan evenly with the pastry, using any scraps to go around the sides. Top the pastry with some parchment paper and pastry weights (you can use dry unsoaked beans in this case) and blind bake the pastry for 25-30 minutes or until it is golden brown. Set aside to cool before filling.
  4. Spoon the lemon coconut filling into the baked pastry case and level off with a spoon. Refrigerate for about 2 hours to set.
  5. Add the coconut cream and icing sugar to a small bowl and whisk until thickened and fluffy. Use this to top the pie once set. Decorate with lemon rind and dessicated coconut. Serve chilled and enjoy! Will keep for 3 days in the fridge.

Spinach and Feta Pesto Muffins

This recipe was originally posted on the 9th August 2016, but was updated with new photos and reposted on the 10th of May 2017. For the original photos, scroll to the bottom of this blog post. 

Killer combos: balsamic vinegar + honey, pasta + pesto, spinach + feta

Today, I decided to get you back onto the healthy wagon having tempted you with these killer chocolate chunk cookies, heavenly rich thick milkshakes and perfectly cooked French fries. We’re going to try and be healthy, okay? I’d also like to debunk this myth that healthy and tasty are mutually exclusive. These spinach and feta pesto muffins are everything you could ever want: an extremely light crumb, bursting with flavour in every bite and extremely filling. Loaded with the super food spinach, these could not be any healthier. It just happened to be a coincidence that these muffins are also sugar-free.


Let me dress down this superior vegetable just so you can see how amazing it is.

1. It turns Popeye into a superhuman.

Are you hoping to increase your gains in the gym? They say that abs are built in the kitchen and not the gym, so look no further than this lean green muscle building machine! Spinach: taking Popeye from 0-100 in 0.4 seconds since 1929.

Meal planning tip: make these muffins on a Sunday and freeze them. Defrost as needed for a grab and go breakfast.

2. It’s loaded with all sorts of great things such as iron, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Vitamin B2 and folic acid. What that means for you: increased energy, stronger bones and lower blood pressure.

3. It can be used to make these bomb-ass muffins


The only thing I can fault spinach for is how much it shrinks. Uncooked spinach is roughly 25% water. That explains why this happens whilst making these muffins. I used my Simple Spinach and Parmesan pesto  to give these muffins that lovely dark green colour. It only takes 5 minutes to prepare the pesto, but if you’re seriously short on time then you don’t have to make it.


Spinach and Feta Pesto Muffins                                                               makes 10-12 muffins

Ingredients

  • 2 and ½ cups self-raising flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp paprika
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup chopped fresh spinach or 1 cup frozen spinach, thawed and drained
  • ½ cup parmesan cheese
  • 2 tbsp spinach pesto, homemade or store bought (optional)
  • ¾ cup feta cheese, cut into cubes

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Grease 12 muffin cups, you can also line them with parchment paper to give it a more fancy look. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and paprika.
  2. Add the milk, oil and eggs to a separate smaller bowl and whisk until combined. If you’re using fresh spinach, add it to a colander and pour boiling water over the spinach until reduced in size by about 50%. Now squeeze the spinach to get all the water out. By the time you’re done squeezing, the ball of spinach you’ll be left with will be no bigger than a child’s fist. Carefully add the reduced spinach to the egg mixture and stir until the spinach is incorporated. Add the parmesan cheese.
  3. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour the egg mixture into the middle. Use a rubber spatula to mix the two together to obtain a thick batter. Drop the tablespoons of pesto into the batter and gently stir it in to yield a dark green colour. Don’t be tempted to mix the pesto completely in, it’s okay if there are streaks of it in the batter.
  4. Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool at room temperature for about 10 minutes before consuming warm. These can also be eaten at room temperature. Store in a cool dry place for up to a week, or in the freezer for up to a month. To reheat, microwave on high for 40 seconds or place in a warm oven at 200°C for 5 minutes.


Chocolate Chai Quinoa Granola Bars

I’m falling in love with chai spice.


There’s something magical about this particular combination of spices. Whether it comes from their insane health benefits, how good they taste together or the fact that it can be applied to any dish and make it 100× better. Especially when there’s chocolate involved.


Enter: these granola bars. Easy grab on the go snacks. They’re perfect just before a workout, during a long road trip or whenever you need a pick-me-up. They’re also ridiculously easy to make. They’re easily customised, so you can add whatever takes your fancy here. I’m talking coconut chips, sunflower seeds, chocolate chips, dried fruit, whatever you like! Need a weekend project? These bars- RIGHT NOW!!!


Chocolate Chai Quinoa Granola Bars

Ingredients

  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup dry quinoa
  • ½ cup flaked almonds
  • 2 tbsp chia seeds
  • ½ tsp ground cardamom
  • ½ tsp ground black pepper
  • ½ tsp ground ginger
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¾ cup almond butter
  • ½ cup maple syrup
  • ½ tsp vanilla essence
  • 2 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
  • 2 tsp coconut oil

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 180°C/350°F. Line an 8×8 pan with parchment paper or aluminium foil, leaving an overhang so that you can remove the bars. In a large bowl, combine the oats, quinoa, almonds, chia seeds, cardamom, pepper, ginger and cinnamon. Mix with a wooden spoon until combined. Set aside.
  2. In a small bowl. combine the almond butter, maple syrup and vanilla essence. Microwave for 30 seconds before whisking to combine. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour the almond butter mixture into the centre. Use a wooden spoon to fold the wet ingredients into the dry.
  3. Dump the mixture into the square pan and press down into an even layer. Bake for 15 minutes or until set and remove to cool. Once the bars have cooled, use the parchment overhang to pull the bars out of the pan. Use a sharp knife to cut into 8 bars.
  4. Add the chocolate and coconut oil to a small bowl. Microwave in 20 second increments, whisking after each, until melted. Drizzle the chocolate over the sliced bars. Leave for 5 minutes to set before indulging. Enjoy!

Raw Avocado Lime Cheesecake Bites

When your dessert is made of avocados, you can eat as much as you’d like without feeling guilty #score.


Fair warning though: this dessert is not as sweet as my other vegan cheesecake recipes. If you’re looking for something on the sweeter side, look here for some golden caramel goodness and over here for a sweet passionfruit glaze. Everyone who’s up for a tangy dessert stay with me!


I finally found a use for the Weetbix biscuits that were taking up space in the pantry and that is ——–> the base for these lime cheesecake bars! At the end of last year, we ran a triathlon for women’s cancer and every team that competed won a box of Weetbix biscuits and a Snickers bar (you can guess which one I went for). Unfortunately that means the Weetbix has been at the back of the pantry, feeling lonely and ignored. To be honest with you, I hadn’t thought about it until I ran out of almonds to use for the crust and had to look to alternative methods. Needless to say, it worked out well! You can still go with almonds if you wish, it will still yield a delicious dessert!

 

Here’s to friends who come over to hand model food for you! 

Raw Avocado Lime Cheesecake Bites

Ingredients

  • about 10 Weetbix biscuits, crushed (may substitute 2 cups sliced almonds)
  • 8 medjool dates, soaked in hot water and deseeded
  • 3 ripe medium avocados
  • 1 cup cashews, soaked overnight
  • ½ cup freshly squeezed lime juice
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • 1 cup cold water (may need more)
  • 2 ounces chocolate, melted

Method

  1. Line a standard loaf pan with parchment paper. Combine the crushed Weetbix biscuits and dates in a food processor and blend until it forms a sticky dough. Press the dough into the bottom of the loaf pan in an even layer. Freeze whilst you prepare the filling.
  2. Rinse out the food processor and proceed to blend together the avocados, cashews, lime juice, syrup and water. If the mixture is too thick to pulse, add more water 2 tbsp at a time until the machine can smoothly process it. Pulse for 2 minutes or until smooth and creamy.
  3. Spread the mixture in an even layer on top of the base. The mixture should be very thick. Freeze for 1 hour or until solid. Store in the fridge, do not freeze after it has set. Let sit at room temperature for 10 minutes before slicing and serving. Drizzle with melted chocolate and enjoy!

Cosy Winter Vegetable Pot Pie

My mother needed an excuse to make puff pastry, and as my head is already set in the ‘Winter Dishes’ mood, I decided that a cosy pot pie was in order.


With only 3 months left before I depart for the University of Pennsylvania, my mother is desperately trying to gauge my culinary knowledge before she’s left alone in the kitchen. So this weekend she came up with a proposition: for me to teach her how to make puff pastry. Alors, we spent all of Sunday afternoon rolling and making pastry turns until our arms got tired. But hey, it yielded this wonderfully flaky pastry, didn’t she do a good job?


My brother is a huge fan of pot pies. Whenever we go out for dinner, that is his go-to order unless there are ribs on the menu of course. As a vegetarian, I couldn’t grant his wish for sticky barbecue ribs but I was able to deliver with these steaming flavourful pot pies. For a fancy dinner-party worthy dish, these are incredibly easy to prepare. 

As we in Zimbabwe are preparing for winter, I’ll be whipping up a big batch of puff pastry with my mother just so we can have these pies as and when we please!


Cosy Winter Vegetable Pot Pie                                                                             serves 4-6

Ingredients

  • 1 white onion, diced
  • 250g white button mushrooms, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 medium carrots, roughly chopped into bite sized pieces
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 5 cups vegetable broth
  • ¾ cup dry brown/red lentils (I used a mixture)
  • ¾ cup split green peas
  • ½ tsp dried oregano
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp dried thyme
  • some salt and pepper to season
  • 1 sheet puff pastry

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 180°C/350°F. Heat a large cast iron pot on high and fry the onions until translucent, about 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms, garlic and carrots and cook until the vegetables are tender and the garlic is fragrant, stirring occasionally to prevent the garlic from burning, for 5-7 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.
  2. Add another splash of vegetable oil with the flour and toss until the vegetables are coated in flour and you have a thick paste, as if you’re making a roux for Bechamel sauce. Pour the vegetable stock into the pot and stir to dissolve the flour in the stock. Once dissolved, add the lentils and split green peas and stir to distribute. Add the oregano, cinnamon, thyme and some S&P to taste.
  3. Bring the mixture to a boil before reducing the heat to low. Simmer for 15-20 minutes or until the lentils and peas are soft and cooked through. You’re going to want to watch the pot very carefully here as the mixture will thicken considerably and will burn if left for too long. If the mixture seems very thick and the pulses haven’t cooked as yet, add a cup of water to the pot. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Grease a 9×13 dish (bear in mind the pastry will only cover the top of the dish if you use this) or an 8 inch pie dish (will cover bottom and top) or 4 different 5 inch pie dishes (will cover top and bottom). Roll the puff pastry out to the desired size then trim to fit your chosen vessel. If not using the 9×13 dish, the fit the puff pastry in the bottom and sides of the dish.
  5. Once the filling has cooked distribute it evenly amongst the serving plates. Cover with the remaining puff pastry. If you have scrap puff pastry, you can use a cookie cutter to cut shapes into it and use it as a topping like what I did with these stars. Bake in the preheated oven for 37-40 minutes or until the pastry is deep golden brown. Let rest for 5 minutes at room temperature before serving. Leftovers will keep sealed tightly in the fridge for up to 3 days. Enjoy!