Recipe: The Perfect, Healthy Banana Bread

I can still remember the first time I had banana bread. It was in 2007 and I was on vacation in Goa, a quaint little beach town in Western India. We were staying at a luxury hotel (Taj Exotica) and the breakfast buffet there is what dreams are made of. The lavish spread included banana bread. I remember the enticing smell and the melt-in-your-mouth texture and I also remember not having it again till last week simply because I was sure making something that amazing would be unimaginably complicated. But, boy, was I wrong?

 Like most people, I starting looking for a banana-based recipe because I had a few overripe ones. That’s when I found a super quick and easy no-butter banana bread recipe and it just so happened that I had all the ingredients that it asked for.  I made it on a rainy afternoon. The day turned even more perfect when my husband, who was down with a bad cold, woke up to the smell of freshly-baked banana bread. 

However, I soon realized that if I wanted to make this on a regular basis, I had to find a healthier version. That’s when I found this other recipe that I’ve made twice in the past four days. It is just as easy to make and comes with a lot less guilt. Again, it uses oil instead of butter and has a few other adjustments and substitutions that make it more healthy and it is just as moist and scrumptious as the regular version.

Whole wheat banana bread

Ingredients:

Whole wheat flour – 1 1/2 cup
Overripe bananas (mashed) – 2 to 4
Sugar or honey – 1/2 cup
Egg whites – 2
Canola or vegetable oil – 1/3 cup
Vanilla extract – 1 tsp
Baking soda – 1 tsp
Salt – 1/4 tsp
Toasted walnuts – 1/2 cup (optional)
Makes one, 9×5 loaf 

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. 
  2. In a large bowl, whip together the oil and sugar or honey. Once blended well, add the eggs and mix well. 
  3. Add the mashed bananas and vanilla extract. 
  4. Next, add the salt and flour. Mix well and let rest for 10 minutes. 
  5. Dissolve the baking soda in half a cup of hot water and add to the batter. Fold in the toasted walnuts. 
  6. Grease a bread pan with a little bit of oil and pour in the batter. Bake for 25 minutes or till a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. 
  7. Let the bread cool for 15 mins and serve. 

Banana bread slices

Tips: 

This batter also works well for making muffins. 
I use egg whites to cut down on cholesterol. You can use the yolk and it doesn’t affect the taste at all. 
Use this to make baked french toast. 

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Food Blog Essentials: Part 2

After having spent hours on numerous food blogs, I have come to realize that I am more likely to follow ones that have perfectly-composed and beautiful photos of the final product. So, I am here to share with you some tips to create great pictures like a pro food blogger on a low budget. After all, your money is better spent on exotic ingredients. 

Tips:

  1. The first is as easy as a spare plank of dark wood (as seen here). It provides great texture to the photo and adds a rustic look. 
  2. Serve food in simple white plates or bowls and place them in brightly-colored trays. Image
  3. Place a jar of sauce, a piece of fruit or garnish by the side of the dish
  4. Place the dish on a colorful placemat or piece of cloth
  5. Bring in a little bit of nature by putting a flower in a small vase in the background. 
  6. Use these clear dishes as serve ware. These are especially useful for colorful salads and vibrant soups as the neutral colors make the food stand out. 

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Do try these tips and give your blog an instant upswing! 

Food Blog Essentials: Part 1

I love food blogs. And if you’re remotely interested in food – cooking or eating – you probably have blogs that make you hungry just looking at them. Thanks to some very creative, talented and hard-working bloggers and home-cooks, most popular ones can give a professional food-related website a run for their money. The gorgeous photographs of delectable food are so good they can inspire anyone to cook and come back for more. And isn’t that one of the main aims of every blogger – to get visitors to come back?

But, if you’re a young blogger, just starting out, having a professional-looking blog might seem unattainable, and also, extremely expensive. After all, you don’t have the resources to have a perfectly color-coordinated kitchen and you can’t buy an array of gorgeous cookware and serve-ware to display everything you whip up in your tiny kitchen.

So, I plowed through the Internet to find some cooking essentials that are under $15 and will give your food photographs and videos an upmarket, chic look.

FoodBlog

  1. Measuring spoons: An item that is used in all kinds of cooking, whether you bake a cake or prepare a simple, stew. A classic, stainless steel set of measuring spoons looks great in pictures and shows modern, minimalistic taste.
  2. Multi-colored bowls: Another essential in the kitchen. These bowls occupy less space in the kitchen and will be great of keeping larger quantities of ingredients and can even be used for serving a wide variety of food. Their vibrant colors will also pop in pictures.
  3. Prep bowls: These are great for small ingredients, spices and seasoning. They also come in handy for keeping all the ingredient ready before you start cooking. The clear glass makes the colors of spices stand out and appear vibrant.
  4. Glass jars: Perfect for having flour, sugar or rice easily accessible. Or you can just store brightly-colored candy in these and place them on your counter or table to make a nice backdrop for your pictures or video.
  5. Mixing bowl: A large, stainless steel mixing bowl is another kitchen essential for all chefs. This one’s great because it has a non-skid base and will prove great for mixing batter or making a dough.
  6. Wooden spoons: I love wooden spoons because of their versatility. They work with all kinds of cookware and are great to look at.

Stay tuned for Part II, where I’ll list some great tips and tricks to serve your food like a pro food blogger.

Give your food blog a cheap, but effective makeover with these inexpensive tools. Happy cooking and happy blogging!

Homemade Strawberry Milk

Strawberry Milk

For as long as I can remember, I have been a strong believer in buying fruits and vegetables only when they’re in season. I think it stems from having grown up in India in the 80s and 90s, long before advances in genetics and farming practices enabled us to have whatever produce we desired when we desired it. In my mom’s kitchen, dishes were seasonal – sauteed peas, tomato soup and spinach and carrots will only be had during winters and the aroma of mangos and freshness of cucumber will only grace the dining table in the sweltering summers.

Now, being in the US, I wait all year for it to get warm enough for all the wonderful summer fruits to make an appearance at the farmers’ market. Even though J and I are not huge fans of strawberry fruit, we love the flavor in breakfast and dessert. But, all of us who have bought the juicy, red, picture-perfect jewels know how quickly they perish.

Chopped Strawberries

This was why I started looking for a quick and easy recipe for strawberry milk that doesn’t require too many ingredients or fancy kitchen gadgets. It lets you enjoy the wonderful flavor without setting a deadline for you to finish a pound of fruit and is makes for a great solution if you end up with a batch of tart strawberries. My search for the recipe ended here.

I had to boil the liquid for close to 20 minutes to bring it to the desired consistency and I blended the mixture before straining it since I didn’t want to waste the fruit and pulp.

Strawberry Milk 2

The end result was every bit as delicious as it looked. Give it a try and share your experience with me.

 

Quick and easy!

I am constantly looking for simple recipes for lunch. And by simple, I mean simple enough to make at 7 in the morning since J likes to take lunch from home a couple of times a week, rather than eating out every day.

While usually we make salads, today I wanted to do something different and whipped up a sandwich. It’s really easy to make and has basic ingredients that all of us will have at home.

Ingredients

Eight slices of wheat bread
Carrots (grated) – 1/2 cup
Lettuce (grated) – 1/4 cup
Roasted peanuts (crushed) – 2 tablespoons
Mayonnaise – 3 tablespoons
Lemon juice – 1 tablespoon
Salt and black pepper to taste 

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Use as a spread to make a sandwich.

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The spread tastes better if you refrigerate it for a couple of hours. You can also make it the night before and prepare the sandwiches in the morning.

I crush peanuts using a mortar & pestel because I like to have that crunch and texture in the spread. A blender will grind them too fine.

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You can also substitute the mayonnaise with hung curd to make a healthier sandwich.

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Try this recipe and let me know what you think.

Valentine’s Day Cake

I have been married for just about a month now. And my husband, J, and I both agree that Valentine’s Day is a little bit too cheesy for us. However, since it was our first V-Day together and was just a day before our one-month anniversary, I wanted to do something special. J isn’t too fond of chocolate, so the conventional chocolate cakes and desserts were out. This Tropical Coconut Cake recipe fit the bill perfectly.

Tropical Coconut Cake

I used Betty Crocker’s Vanilla Cake mix and turned it into a two-layer cake. I also roasted the coconut flakes to add a little bit of crunch and texture. I couldn’t find Coconut Cream at our local grocery stores, so made it from a can of coconut milk (here’s how). One can yielded just about two tablespoons of cream so my cake didn’t have a strong coconutty flavor.

The cake really does taste best when served cold. You can leave out step 4 if you don’t want it to be too sweet.

In all, it made the perfect romantic surprise for someone who doesn’t believe in traditional symbols of romance.