Banana Chocolate Blueberry Muffins

Banana Chocolate Blueberry Muffins

Everyone likes blueberry muffins, almost as much as they do banana chocolate muffins. So combining the two seems like a bit of a no brainer. Banana chocolate blueberry muffins you say? It’s may be a mouthful, but a ridiculously delicious one at that. Complete with not just any blueberries, or any chocolate, but rather Marich chocolate covered blueberries, they’ve got just enough fruit in them to qualify as breakfast, and just enough chocolate to make for a satisfying dessert. That’s all the convincing you need right there.

Banana Chocolate Blueberry Muffins
 
Prep time
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Author:
Serves: 6 large muffins
Ingredients
  • 1 cup AP flour
  • ¾ tsp. baking powder
  • ¾ tsp. baking soda
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 2 very ripe bananas
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ cup neutral oil (like canola or grapeseed)
  • ¾ cup Marich chocolate covered blueberries, roughly chopped
  • granola, to garnish (optional)
Instructions
  1. Mash up the bananas until there aren't any lumps remaining.
  2. Stir in the brown sugar and egg, mixing until incorporated.
  3. Gently fold in the remaining dry ingredients until there are no longer any bits of flour visible. Do not over-mix or you run the risk of the muffins becoming tough and tunnelled.
  4. Pour the batter into lined muffin cups and sprinkle the tops of granola.
  5. Bake at 350F for about 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of them comes out clean.
  6. Cool and enjoy!

**The chocolate used in this recipe was graciously provided by Marich chocolates, however the opinions are my own.

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Granola babka with brown sugar and walnut butter

Granola babka with brown sugar and walnut butter

I don’t eat a lot of bread, but when I do, it tends to be the focus of the meal. Enter this granola babka, the perfect breakfast treat. I was lucky to be gifted some Oatbox granola over the holidays. Inspired by their recipe for cinnamon rolls, I decided to use the granola in a same-same-but-different form, babka. Who can’t get on board with sweet, swirled bread dough?

Now the kicker here is that this dough isn’t swirled with just anything. Babka is typically filled with chocolate, but this one rather has layers of walnut butter, brown sugar, and granola. The granola is key because it adds a much-needed element of crispy, crunchy texture. As I mentioned, said granola comes from a Montreal-based company called Oatbox. They are basically a “granola of the month” club. Monthly subscriptions cost $20 and get you two bags of granola. Flavours change from month to month. I used their banana molasses variety in this granola babka. The two flavours for January are buckwheat, almond, and honey, and matcha, coconut, and mulberries. An Oatbox subscription is a great idea for the New Year to help ensure you always have some healthy breakfast (and baking!) options on hand.

As for this granola babka, it’s surprisingly good for you despite its apparent decadence. Walnut butter replaces the butter you’d find in traditional cinnamon rolls. Given the sweetness in the nut butter and the granola, there’s not a ton of extra brown sugar. Otherwise, it’s just a basic white bread dough. You could totally use whole wheat flour instead or throw some bran in if you’re looking for the extra fibre. Pureed dates would also make a great substitution for the brown sugar in the filling.

Whether you need to feed a crowd of people for a holiday gathering, or just want to treat yourself on a cold winter morning, this granola babka will warm you up from the inside out!

*Oatbox supplied the granola for this post but the words and recipe here are my own.

Granola babka with brown sugar and walnut butter
 
Prep time
Cook time
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It's easiest to prep this recipe the night before you want to eat the babka. It's a great breakfast treat for the holidays!
Author:
Serves: 1 loaf
Ingredients
  • ½ package dry active yeast (just over 1 tsp. or about 4 grams)
  • ½ cup warm water
  • 1 tbsp. brown sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ tsp. fine salt
  • 2 tbsp. oil (neutral-flavoured)
  • ⅓ cup walnut butter (or other nut butter of your choice)
  • ⅓ cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup banana molasses Oatbox granola
Instructions
  1. Bloom the yeast with ¼ cup of warm water and 1 tbsp. of brown sugar.
  2. Once it has activated, add in the remaining ¼ cup of water, flour, salt, and oil.
  3. Mix in a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment or by hand, kneading until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 5-10 minutes depending on what method you use.
  4. Let the dough rest for about 15-20 minutes.
  5. Roll it out into a rectangle about ¼ inch thick.
  6. Smear the walnut butter evenly over the rolled dough and sprinkle on layers of both brown sugar and granola.
  7. Roll the dough up tightly into a log, as if you were making cinnamon buns.
  8. Slice the roll longitudinally right down the middle, dividing it into two even halves.
  9. Twist these halves together, forming a spiralled loaf.
  10. Place the babka into a well-oiled loaf pan, cover, and rest it in the fridge overnight. Alternately, if you want to move ahead with baking it right away, leave it at room temperature and let it rise until doubled.
  11. Once the loaf has risen (whether that was in the fridge overnight or at room temperature for about an hour) bake at 350F for about 30 minutes. It should be golden and slightly crusty.
  12. Cool slightly and enjoy. Fresh bread is always best eaten warm!

A lowdown on life and a recipe for chocolate pecan pie

A lowdown on life and a recipe for chocolate pecan pie

Why hello there! What’s happening? I figured since I have a couple days off school it would be a good time to catch up over here on this blog that I seem to forget about 99% of the time. Oops. So what’s going on? Well the November issue of Culinaire is out and I’ve got my usual Tips and Tricks article in it. This month is all about working with spices and you can read about it here (pages 16-17). I’ve also written another food/psychology piece for Eat North, which can be found here. Oh and if you missed all of my exciting ramblings on Facebook, I was on the news! I did a short segment on baking and cooking with apples which was a ton of fun and something I would love to do again. I am one of those crazy people who enjoys public speaking in any and all forms. Well as long as I know what I am talking about that is. There is nothing worse than giving a presentation on a topic you aren’t comfortable and confident speaking about. That being said, when it comes to cooking, I could go on forever.

Outside of food writing, I’m being kept well occupied with grad school applications. It’s a daunting process planning this next phase of my life, especially when the admission rates for clinical psychology are somewhere around 5%. That’s right, it’s easier to get into med school than it is to gain acceptance into a clinical psyc program. All I can say is I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

School itself is good as well. I’m plugging away at my Honours thesis and recently ran participant #19. Only 41 more to go between now and April! It’s hard to believe that after this semester, I only have 3 courses left before I’m finished my degree. Time flies.

Despite all of my food writing, I actually haven’t spent much time experimenting in the kitchen lately. So when Green & Black’s Organic Chocolate sent me some  holiday recipes to share, I was pretty happy to use them as an excuse not to come up with my own material. Sad, I know. But seriously though, how good does this chocolate pecan pie look? Too good not to share, that’s for sure. With the Christmas fast approaching, I cannot think of a better way to end a holiday meal. I’m in the midst of helping to plan a work Christmas party and this pie is definitely going on the menu.

That’s it from me for now. Have fun out there! PS. if you bake this chocolate pecan pie, let me know how it turns out. It’s on my to-do list to try it in the very near future!

Chocolate pecan pie
Photo courtesy of Green & Black’s Organic Chocolate

Chocolate Pecan Pie
 
Take your pecan pie to the next level with this chocolate pecan pie, perfect for the holidays!
Author:
Serves: 8
Ingredients
  • 255g (9 oz) Ready-made sweet short crust pastry
  • 85g (3 oz) Green & Black’s Organic Dark 70% Chocolate (finely chopped)
  • 5 tbsp. Unsalted butter
  • 2 Large free-range eggs
  • ⅓ cup Superfine sugar (white granulated sugar will work if you cannot find superfine)
  • ½ cup Corn syrup
  • 1 tsp. Vanilla extract
  • 100g (3 ½ oz) Pecans (finely chopped)
  • 100g (3 ½ oz) Pecan halves (to decorate)
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place a baking sheet in the oven to heat up.
  2. Lightly dust the work surface with flour and roll out the shortcrust pastry to the thickness of a quarter. Use it to line an eight inch loose-bottomed quiche pan with 1 ¼ inch straight-edged sides but do not trim off the excess. Chill until needed.
  3. Melt the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl over a pan of barely simmering water, making sure the bowl doesn’t touch the water. Cool slightly.
  4. Place the eggs, sugar, corn syrup, vanilla extract, and cooled chocolate mixture in a large bowl and beat together until smooth. Fold in the chopped pecans, then pour into the pastry. Trim the pastry to ½ an inch above the filling. Decorate the surface with the pecan halves.
  5. Transfer the pie to the hot baking sheet in the oven and bake for 40 to 45 minutes until just set.

 

Maple Marinated Beets and a recipe for Cranberry Vinaigrette

Maple Marinated Beets
Did you all survive Christmas? Cooking up a storm, then cleaning up a storm? You should have seen the bottom of my roaster from the pomegranate molasses glaze I tried to put on the ham. It honestly looked volcanic. I let it soak, then I scrubbed. Soaked some more, scrubbed some more. I did the baking soda and vinegar thing at least 3 times to try to lift off the hardened lava. There are still a few black flecks at the bottom but I think I did pretty well short of just throwing it in the garbage.
Ok so that was the one direction I was not planning on going in. Story of my life. Get it? I make myself laugh. Sometimes I’m the only one but that’s the fun of it. Clearly I need more sleep after going to bed past midnight and waking up at the crack of dawn to take my sister Boxing Day shopping (that was yesterday, I’ve gotten some more sleep now). Thanks bud, thanks.
Anyways what were we talking about? Christmas cooking, my burned pan, One Direction, ahh yes now for some post Christmas recipes. To be truthful, I made both of these dishes for Christmas dinner. But they are healthy. I compensate for the amount of dessert I know is coming by making sides that are actually good for you. I think ahead, I know.
First we’ve got some maple marinated beets. Super simple, super quick. Other than the fact that beets take forever to cook but that time is almost entirely unattended so we’re good. In my family, we are all beet-aholics. We eat them raw, pickled, cooked, it really doesn’t matter when it comes to beets. I love to bring out their inherent sweetness by pairing them with honey or in this case, good old Canadian maple syrup. Like I said, simple, simple, simple.
Next up, cranberry vinaigrette. Why I cooked 2 full bags of cranberries to make sauce for this, I have no frickin’ idea. All I know now is that I have to find a way to use up about 15 hundred cups of cranberry sauce. Well probably only 3 cups but that’s virtually the same thing. My recipe for the vinaigrette really morphed into the entire salad recipe I made, although I never keep track of measurements so I have given you the rough estimates. It’s all about the techniques really. That being said, feel free to add whatever fruits/vegetables/garnishes your little heart desires. Actually the beets would be really good tossed in the vinaigrette too.
Did I mention my mom got us all an ice cream maker for Christmas? Oh by the way, I have also clearly developed ADHD. No but seriously, there will be ice cream coming. How soon, I don’t know. But it is in the works! And before we go back to eating more sugar, let’s indulge in some salads, shall we?
Winter Salad with Cranberry Vinaigrette
Maple Marinated Beets
Maple Marinated Beets
Serves 6-8 as a side dish
Ingredients
5-7 medium to large beets
2 tbsp. dijon mustard
3 tbsp. maple syrup
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste
pumpkin seeds, to garnish

Instructions:

1. Start by roasting off your beets. Depending on how big they are, slice them in half or in quarters (leave the skin on). Wrap them in tin foil, put them on a sheet and stick them in the oven at 350-400F for at least an hour. They are done when you can easily insert a knife into them with little resistance. Allow them to cool slightly before peeling and cutting the beets into bite-sized chunks.
2. Make the vinaigrette by whisking together the mustard and maple syrup in the bottom of a large bowl. Whisk in the balsamic vinegar, followed by the oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
3. Toss the cooked beets in the vinaigrette, allowing them to marinate for at least an hour or two, but preferably overnight. Garnish with pumpkin seeds before serving chilled or at room temperature.

Winter Salad with Cranberry Vinaigrette
Cranberry Vinaigrette
Makes about 3/4 cup
Ingredients
1/4 cup cooked and cooled homemade cranberry sauce
2 tbsp. grainy mustard
1 tbsp. dijon mustard
1 tbsp. honey (if your cranberry sauce is really sweet, feel free to omit this)
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp. canola oil (or other neutral flavoured oil)
salt and pepper, to taste
Instructions
1. Using an immersion blender (or normal blender/food processor), puree the cranberry sauce, grainy mustard, dijon mustard and honey.
2. Once it is relatively smooth, blend in the vinegar and then the oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
3. Because the dressing is thicker, I suggest serving it with a heartier green like romaine. Arugula or spring mix would be too delicate. I garnished the salad with pomegranate seeds, goat cheese (which I flavoured with some poppy seeds and good balsamic vinegar) and cashew brittle.
The brittle isn’t as much a recipe as it is a technique. All you have to do is caramelize about 1 cup of sugar (I start it with a splash of water to help the sugar dissolve), swirling occasionally to promote even browning. Once it is golden, add roughly 1 teaspoon of baking soda. Do this off the heat as it will foam up and make sure you stir so that it gets evenly incorporated. Then throw in a couple handfuls of cashews or whatever nuts you like. Pour it onto a parchment lined pan and garnish with finishing salt (I used a Hawaiian black lava salt). Let it cool before chopping. There you have it, a gorgeous winter salad.