Turn Your Over Ripened Bananas into Healthy Snacks

I am completely guilty for always leaving the last few bananas sitting there one day too long and letting them turn into the wrong shade of brown. A perfectly ripened banana has a good firmness and it’s not too sweet. It is the perfect snack between meals or before you hit the gym as bananas are loaded with vitamins, antioxidants and minerals. They also keep your blood sugar level stable (which will make you feel less hungry between meals) and give you the energy for your workout.

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Before we get into different ways to use over-ripe bananas, let’s talk about some health benefits and reasons as to why you should include bananas in your diet. Bananas are rich in potassium, which is important as this mineral helps maintain fluid levels in the body and regulates the movement of nutrients and waste products in and out of our cells. This fruit is also very high in fibre, magnesium, vitamin C and B6 which aids in digestion and promotes heart health. Eating banana will improve your mood and reduce PMS symptoms because it regulates blood sugar and helps produce the “happy hormone” serotonin.

So let’s get into a few ways of using those over ripened bananas!

Bananas act as a healthy sweetener in a number of recipes, which means you can cut back on the sugar and feel good about your snack.

 Morning Banana & Mixed Berries Smoothie

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If you have one banana and a handful of berries, you are minutes away from a delicious and healthy breakfast. I usually put almond milk or soy milk into my smoothie but you can use milk as well as yoghurt. There are also many superfoods that you can add to your banana smoothie to turn it into a super shake to start your mornings such as chia seeds, flaxseeds and wheat germ. If you are like me who cannot start your day without coffee, but don’t want to drink so many things in the morning, try adding a shot of coffee into your banana smoothie. You’ll barely taste the coffee but still get your caffeine and energy boost all in one glass!

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Other flavour combinations with bananas: mango, peach, papaya, pineapple, raw nuts such as almonds or hazelnut. And feel free to add some honey to sweeten your smoothie.


Easy & Quick Banana Ice Cream

Chop up your ripe bananas and freeze them on a tray. Once they are frozen, put the bananas in a blender with 3 – 4 tablespoons of cold milk. Blitz away and you’ll get a frozen treat right away. No fancy ice-cream machine required! My favourite toppings to add to this delicious frozen dessert are drizzling of honey, chopped almonds, sliced strawberries, and if I feel indulgent, some chocolate chips or chocolate sauce. You may also add more milk and turn this into a cold frothy banana milkshake.


Banana Pancakes 

Making pancakes for breakfast is a great way to start a lazy and relaxing weekend. And of course, one of my favourite pancakes to make is banana pancakes. Instead of just slicing up the bananas and placing them on top of pancakes, try to intensify the sweet banana flavour by mashing them into the pancake batter. Bananas are already naturally sweet, therefore you can cut back on the sugar that you normally would add to your pancake batter. You will also probably end up using less syrup when eating the pancakes, making this breakfast dish much healthier.

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Here’s a recipe from DayDayCook for an easy and delicious banana pancake: http://www.daydaycook.com/daydaycook/hk/website/recipe/details.do?id=34151


Banana Bread 

And lastly, who could resist a moist and delicious slice of banana bread? I love making this whenever I have the chance as I love the aroma of freshly baked banana bread. To clarify, what I bake is not really a ‘bread’ but more of a cake. (They are just in the shape of a loaf of bread). There are so many different versions out there, so find a recipe that gives you the result you want. I prefer to use olive oil or coconut oil for my banana breads, but you can of course use butter if you wish.

Try out my healthier version of banana bread where I use olive oil (or coconut oil), honey as a natural sweetener and whole wheat flour. This is a moist banana bread so if you want to keep it longer, store it in air tight container in the fridge for a week or freeze it up to 3 months.

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Ingredients:
80ml olive oil or coconut oil
115ml honey or maple syrup
2 eggs
2 large ripe bananas, mashed
60ml milk
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt
½ tsp ground cinnamon
200g white whole wheat flour or all purpose flour
Drizzle of chocolate sauce (optional)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 180C and grease a 9×5 inch loaf pan or 3 mini loaf pans
  2. In a large bowl, beat together oil and honey until well mixed. Add in the eggs, mashed bananas, vanilla and milk. Stir until combined
  3. In another bowl, mix together whole wheat flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Pour banana mixture into the flour mixture and mix with a big spoon or spatula until just combined. Don’t over mix, it is okay to have lumps.
  4. Pour batter into the greased loaf pan and bake in oven for 50 – 60 minutes (for the big loaf pan) or 30 minutes for the mini loaf pan or until a toothpick inserted into the center and comes out clean.
  5. Take out of oven. Let the loaf cool in the pan for 10 minutes before turning the loaf out and cool on a wire rack. Serve warm or room temperature.

 

If you want another version of the banana bread, stay tuned for my July video on Chocolate and Banana Bread on my Facebook page!

For more cooking tips, recipes and kitchen ideas, visit my Facebook page: www.facebook.com/charmainecooks

 

Baking Tips That Will Make You a Better Baker

I think baking is one of many people’s favourite things to do in the kitchen. I know a lot of my girl friends love to bake, whether it is homemade breads, 3-layer cakes or the simple breakfast muffins. I certainly started my cooking journey in the early days with baking. It was one of the first things they taught us in our home economics class – to bake.

Baking requires precision and for you to follow the recipes exactly. It is an art of science. Aside from being precise, here are a few tips that I’ve learned throughout the years that made me a better baker.

  1. Make sure your diary ingredients are at room temperature (unless the recipes stated otherwise). When your dairies and eggs are at room temperature, they will blend easier and also cook more evenly. If you did not plan ahead by taking the ingredients out of the fridge, you may try the follow tricks.

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  • Cold Butter: Put the measured amount in a ziplock bag and beat it with a rolling pin. This will help soften the butter and make it easier to blend.
  • Cold Eggs: Place the eggs in a bowl and cover them with warm water for 10 minutes to bring them up to room temperature.
  • Cold Cream Cheese: Leave the cream cheese in its foil packet and put it in a bowl and cover it with warm water for 10 minutes to bring it up to room temperature.
  1. Measure your ingredeints precisely. As mentioned above, being precise is very important in baking. So make sure you invest in proper measuring equipment, using liquid measuring cups to measure your liquids and dry measuring cups or electric scales for your dried ingredients. Sometimes the slightest difference in measurement can cause you a cake.

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  1. Mixing well. You should always mix your dry ingredients and wet ingredients separately first before combining them together. It is also easier to blend everything well together by stirring in your wet ingredients into your dry ingredients. And remember, do not over mix! It will make your baked goods very tough. Just stir until all the ingredients are well incorporated and then stop.
  2. Make sure your raising agents are active. By raising agents, I mean the most commonly used baking soda and baking powder. If you are not a regular baker, it is very easy to leave your baking soda and baking powder in your cupboards for too long and way pass their expiry dates. I know I am guilty of this. Once they are opened, their life span might be shorter than the date stated on the box. To check whether these 2 ingredients are still active and will make your cake and muffin rise, you can mix spoonful of baking soda with vinegar and a spoonful of baking powder with hot water. If both of these mixtures fizzes (i.e. you hear a fizz sound and see bubbles), then they are active. It is worth checking if these raising agents are still working, if not, your bake goods will not rise at all.

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These are simple tips that should help you to become a better baker. I hope this was helpful!

If you want to see more baking videos, leave me a comment down below.

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Sweetie Pie

This is a perfect make-ahead dessert for that special someone this weekend. Super quick and easy to make.

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Decadent and smooth
Taste of bittersweet and tang
You’ve got my soft spot
#foodmood #haiku #ediblemood #edibleletters

 

Ingredients:

For the Pastry

125g flour, plus extra for dusting
pinch of salt
65g cold butter
2 egg yolks
65g sugar
cold water (as needed)

For the Filling

200ml heavy cream
vanilla extract
50g sugar
200g dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa solids)
25g butter

Garnish
1 box x raspberries
Optionals:
White chocolate, melted
fresh mint sprigs
Icing sugar

 

Directions:

  1. For the pastry, mix all the ingredients together until the mixture comes together to form a dough. If the dough is too dry, you may add a splash of ice cold water to it. Wrap in plastic wrap and let it chill in the fridge for 30 minutes
  2. Preheat the oven to 200C. Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface until large enough to line a 6 – 8 inch tart tin. Place dough into tin and use fingers to gently press the dough down. Use a fork to prick the bottom of the pastry.
  3. Place in oven and bake for 12 – 15 minutes until lightly browned. Let cool completely.
  4. For the filling, heat up the heavy cream, vanilla extract and sugar in a pot.
  5. Break the dark chocolate into pieces and put them together with the butter in a large bowl. Pour over the hot cream mixture and whisk slowly until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth.
  6. Pour the chocolate mixture into the cooled tart shell and leave to cool. Place in the fridge to set for 2 hours.
  7. When tart is set, decorate with fresh raspberries. Melt some white chocolate and drizzle on top. Decorate with fresh mint and dusting of icing sugar.

 

Sudden Cravings

I had a sudden cravings for scones a couple days ago. Warm, buttery and moist scones, fresh out of the oven and nothing like those Starbucks stoney scones. Hong Kong is not a place for you to find really awesome baked goods. I don’t quite know what it is but all the muffins, scones and cakes here just don’t have the soft spongy texture and wholesome taste as those I have tried in North America and Europe.

I like to bake but not as much as I like to cook. Maybe because baking requires precision and I lack that in me. Every time I bake is up to chance and I’d have to say I usually have a 50/50 chance of getting it right. I have had plenty times where my chocolate chip cookies melted into a puddle of goo instead of nicely shaped separated chewy rounds. My cakes sometimes get super dense in the middle and have this rubbery outer crust to them even though I follow the exact same recipe as the last time I baked them, which turned out to be super moist and fluffy. My baking success depends on whether the baking angels were with me on that day.

They were with me on Tuesday after work. I decided to have my kind of happy hour – baking AND drinking at the same time. For the regular cook and baker, you should have all the basic ingredients you need to make yourself some comforting scones – flour, baking powder, sugar, salt and butter. And whatever you have in your pantry – nuts, blueberries, cinnamon, dried fruits –  you can throw them in. I had some frozen cranberries and lemons, so I made Cranberry and Lemon Scones with Lemon Glaze.

I don’t usually bake in big batches because I believe baked goods should only be savoured in small quantities or else you will not appreciate them. Here’s my recipe for 8 mini scones.

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Ingredients:

1cup + 2 Tbsp all purpose flour plus extra for dusting
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1/4 cup sugar (brown or white. I used a mixture of both)
zest of 1 lemon
6 Tbsp chilled unsalted butter (roughy 85 g)
1/4 cup milk 
1/2 cup frozen cranberries

Glaze: 1/2cup icing sugar + juice of half a lemon – whisk together until combined. 

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 180C. Line a baking tray with baking sheet / parchment paper.

2. Combine all the dry ingredients together in a big bowl, including the lemon zest. Stir to mix well. 

3. Cut the chilled butter into cubs and add to the dry ingredients. Rub the butter with your hands into the flour to make a sand-like crumble mixture. You should have some big and small pieces of butter throughout. 

4. Add the milk into the crumble mixture, bit by bit, forming a loose dough. Depending on the humidity of that day, you might not need to add in all the milk. Once the mixture comes together, tip it onto a floured board and gently form the dough into a ball. Pat it flat a bit and put frozen cranberries onto one side of the dough and fold the other half over. Gently knead the dough and work the cranberries in so that they are more or less evenly distributed. Sprinkle more flour on the board and dough if it starts to stick. 

5. Shape the dough into a flat round that is around 1 – 1.5 inches thick. Cut it into 8 triangular pieces. Place them on the baking sheet and brush lightly with milk.

6. Bake in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool on the baking try for 5 minutes before transferring the scones to a baking rack to further cool down. 

7. Let the scones to cool at least 20 minutes before you drizzle the lemon glaze on top. The glaze will set in about 30-45 minutes. Serve them warm with butter and fruit jam of your choice.

ps. I baked them for my boyfriend so he could take them to golfing the next day. But he never get to try any of the scones because my dad and his parents took them to golfing instead. At least these scones were eaten the way I intended them to. :p