Blueberry Banana Bran Muffins

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I originally posted this recipe when I did a guest spot on my sister-in-law’s blog (click here for all your cloth diapering needs). She was nice enough to let me practice blogging, but now that I have my own site this muffin recipe deserves a repost. Not only is this recipe quick and easy to make but it’s also a great way to use up ripe bananas.  If you are anything like me, by the end of the week you likely have some bananas that are well past their prime. One handy tip, instead of throwing the whole banana into the freezer, try peeling and cutting them into bite sized pieces first.  Once cut they can be individually frozen on a cookie sheet then placed into freezer bags. This way you have frozen bananas on hand for banana bread, smoothies or these wonderful, not too sweet, blueberry banana bran muffins.
This recipe can be easily doubled (or tripled), so save yourself some time and make a large batch. They freeze well and can be defrosted quickly in the microwave. For an extra special treat I like to throw in some dark chocolate chips.
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Blueberry Banana Bran Muffins

makes 12 muffins.  Recipe by Kirsten

Ingredients:
1 cup of all purpose flour
1 cup of natural bran
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
½ cup of brown sugar
1 cup of mashed bananas (2-3 depending on size)
1/4 cup of vegetable oil
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 350F and line a muffin tin with paper liners.
  2. In a large bowl combine flour, bran, baking soda, and cinnamon.  Set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl whisk together brown sugar, mashed bananas, oil, and egg.  Beat until smooth.
  4. Toss the blueberries with the flour mixture, then make a well and add the banana mixture. Stir 10-12 times until flour is just combined – it’s ok if there are a few lumps.
  5.  Portion batter into muffin tins and place one blueberry on top of each muffin for decoration.  Bake for 15-20 minutes.
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Fish and Vegetable Stew in a Light Tomato Broth

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With the weather getting colder, soups and stews are starting to make their way back onto my weekly dinner rotation. There are so many different combinations of flavours and ingredients that you could make a different soup each night of the week and never get bored.  Whether you call it a soup or a stew, this rich tomato broth with tender chucks of fish and vegetables comes together quickly and makes a perfect weeknight meal.

Whenever a recipe calls for canned tomatoes I always add just a touch of sugar; this serves not only to neutralize the acidity from the tomatoes but also as a time saver to create a depth of flavour that is usually achieved by cooking tomatoes for a long period of time. The amount of sugar you will need depends on the sweetness of the tomatoes and your own personal preference. Remember the best tool in your kitchen is your sense of taste, so make sure you taste your food as you’re cooking.   It can mean the difference between a delicious meal and a bland disaster!

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Fish and Vegetable Stew in a Light Tomato Broth

Serves 4-6, recipe by Kirsten

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 medium onion, diced
3 large carrots, diced
2 stalks of celery, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
¼ cup white wine
1 28oz can diced tomatoes, juice included.
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (or to taste).
½ – 1 teaspoon sugar
2 filets or ~400g red snapper or other white fish, cut into 1 inch pieces.
2 cups of fresh spinach, chopped
¼ cup fresh parsley
¼ cup  fresh basil
salt and pepper to taste

Directions: 

  1. In a large soup pot sauté onions over medium heat until they become translucent but not brown, about 5 minutes. Add the carrots, celery and garlic and sauté for another 2-3 minutes.
  2. Stir in the white wine and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated.  Next add the diced tomatoes including liquid, red pepper flakes, and ½ teaspoon sugar.  Cook for 15-20 minutes.
  3. Taste broth and add salt and pepper to taste, if it’s too acidic at this point you can add another ½ teaspoon sugar.   I prefer my vegetables on the crunchy side but if you like your vegetables a little softer continue to cook for another 10 minutes.
  4. Right before you are ready to serve the stew add the fish and spinach, cook for 2-3 minutes. Stir in fresh herbs and serve immediately with a nice piece of crusty bread to soak up the tasty broth.

{Tip} You can make the tomato base ahead of time up until the point where you add the fish, then when you are ready to eat simply reheat and add the fish and spinach a few minutes before serving.

Kale Salad with Lemon Dijon Vinaigrette

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I love walking around a farmer’s market and seeing what’s fresh and in season. I always end up buying more produce than I can realistically use, but having too many vegetables is a challenge I am willing to accept! This simple salad was inspired by one of these occasions.

Raw kale isn’t for everyone.  I’ve used different varieties of kale and found that I prefer the flatter black kale versus its curly relatives.   This salad has the perfect balance of flavours: acidity from the dressing, sweetness from the corn and tomatoes, earthiness from the greens, and saltiness from the feta.  If kale isn’t your cup of tea this salad works equally well with spinach or mixed greens.

One tip when making any kale salad is to massage the dressing into the kale leaves by hand.  Raw kale tends to have a very tough texture and massaging the leaves help to soften and tenderize them. We enjoyed this salad right away but the leftovers were even better the next day for lunch.

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Kale Salad with Lemon Dijon Vinaigrette

Serves 4, recipe by Kirsten

Dressing:
1 teaspoon Dijon Mustard
1 clove of garlic, minced
zest and juice of 1 medium lemon
2 teaspoons of maple syrup or honey
¼ cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Salad:
1 large bunch of kale, washed and dried.
1 pint of cherry tomatoes, sliced in half lengthwise
2 cobs of corn, cooked and kernels removed,  approx 1 cup.
¼ cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
¼ cup of crumbled feta

Directions:

  1. Prepare dressing by whisking all ingredients together, or as I prefer place ingredients in a small jar and shake to combine.
  2. Chop or tear the kale into bite-sized pieces, removing hard inner stem, and place in a large serving bowl.  Add half of the dressing and massage the leaves by hands, don’t worry about being too rough, the kale can take it.
  3. Add the tomatoes, corn, feta, basil and remaining dressing to the kale. Note: depending on the size of the bunch of kale, you may have more dressing than you need.
  4. Cover the salad and place in the fridge until ready to use.

Peach Crumble Pie with Salted Caramel Sauce

Peach Pie

With autumn just around the corner many people are mourning the end of summer. On the other hand, even though I love summer, I look forward to autumn each year; not only can I start wearing boots and scarves again but also my apartment finally cools down enough for me to use my oven! For those of you who are dreading the transition here is one of my favourite summer desserts to ease the pain.

This is not your ordinary peach pie. It has all the traditional components, but the addition of an oat crumble and salted caramel really elevates this dessert and makes it something truly special. For even more of an indulgence you could always add a scoop of vanilla ice cream. I mean what’s pie without ice cream?

This caramel recipe is by far the easiest version I have come across in my recipe travels. It doesn’t require a thermometer and you can use milk or cream with equal success. It’s delicious on freshly baked pies, ice cream or licked directly off the spoon. It’s also highly addictive so you’ve been warned…

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Peach Crumble Pie with Salted Caramel Sauce

Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart Everyday Food

Single Crust Pastry Dough:
1 ¼ cup flour
¼ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon sugar
½ cup chilled butter
3-5 tablespoons ice cold water

For the Filling:
6-8 large peaches, enough to make 8 cups of sliced peaches
2 tablespoons of brown sugar
3 tablespoons flour
½ teaspoon cinnamon

For the Crumble:
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup butter, room temperature
1/3 cup flour
1 1/2 cup old fashion rolled oats

Salted Caramel Sauce:
1 cup brown sugar
½ cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
¼ cup heavy cream or milk
1 teaspoon salt

Directions:

Make the Dough:
1. Mix together flour, salt, and sugar. Cut in butter either by hand or with a food processor.
2. Slowly add 3 tablespoons of water and stir until just combined; do not overwork the dough or you will end up with tough pastry. Once you’ve added the water squeeze a small amount of the dough to test whether it holds together in a ball. If not then add more water one tablespoon at a time.
3. Form pastry into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least one hour.

Make the Filling:
1. Slice pieces into ½ inch pieces and place in a large bowl.
2. Add flour, brown sugar , cinnamon. Stir until combined then set aside.

Make Crumble:
1. Cream together room temperature butter and brown sugar in a medium bowl.
2. Stir in flour and oats. Set aside.

Assemble the pie:
1. Preheat oven to 375F.
2. On a lightly floured surface roll out dough into a 12 inch circle. Place in a 9-inch deep pie plate leaving dough hanging over the rim. Crimp the edges.
3. Add peach filling then top evenly with crumb topping.
4. Bake for 60-75 minutes, allow to cool to room temperature before slicing.

Make the Caramel Sauce
1. While the pie cooks, combine all the ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat.
2. Cook, stirring constantly, until thickened to desired consistency.

If you are lucky to have leftover pie store it at room temperature for up to two days. Extra caramel sauce can be kept in the fridge for up to one week. Enjoy!