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arts, sciences, & banana muffins

15 Jun

I’ve never considered myself to be all that creative. Sure, hand me some kind of problem and I’ll probably come up with some “out-of-the-box” solution (remember my “oven mitt”?). But set a canvas and some paints in front of me and I’ll agonize for years and possibly come up with some deep philosophical justification about the blankness of my soul as portrayed on the blank canvas rather than paint anything. Or I’ll put smiley faces and hearts.

Even photography, which I do enjoy, can be a struggle when I have to fabricate some sort of scene or idea. Candids? Sure. Staged artistic pieces? Not so much. I tend to like working with something that already exists rather than “creating from nothing.”

Enter baking. Combining some semi-scientifically-precise amount of fat, flour, & leavening to yield hopefully-delicious results. Certainly not all of my flavor combinations are unconventional or unique, but there’s still something decidedly gratifying about making up a recipe on a whim and having it work perfectly. Obviously the actual writing of recipes is not exactly creative in and of itself; there are only so many ways to write “bake at 350 until lightly golden”.

So when I was feeling an itch to get a little creative, I found my way into the kitchen and started grabbing things. Banana. Almond extract. Sliced almonds. Whatever I could find in my pantry. The result? Not a particularly outstandingly unique concoction, but decidedly delicious nonetheless, and the perfect marriage of art, science, & sugar. Just my kind of mixture.

Banana-Almond Muffins
Created by moi :)
Makes 6 muffins 

1 over-ripe banana
1/3 cup almond milk
1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons canola oil
1/4 teaspoon almond extract (more if desired)
3/4 cup flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3-4 tablespoons sliced almond (divided)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease a muffin tin (if using a 12-cup tin, put a little bit of water in the empty tins to prevent warping)

In a medium bowl, mash banana and combine with almond milk, oil, almond extract, and sugar. In a separate bowl sift together dry ingredients (except almonds). Make a well in the center and pour in wet ingredients; stir until just mixed. Gently stir in 2-3 tablespoons of sliced almonds. Divide batter between 6 muffin tins and top with remaining almonds.

Bake for 15-18 minutes or until lightly golden on the edges and a toothpick inserted in the center of the muffin comes out clean.

Enjoy!

What’s your favorite form of creativity? 

banana pancakes.

16 May

Pretend like it’s the weekend…

I wish. I also wish it were summer and I were at home where these photos were taken oh-so-long ago.

This week kind of sucks for me. I have 2.5 tests (one’s a “quiz”), 1 review session to plan, 1 small paper, and 1 big paper I really need to get working on. So do excuse me if I’m a little more absent(minded) than usual.

So in lieu of intelligent posts, I will ply you full of photos of treats I made long ago while I stuff myself full of more dietary fiber than a cow probably eats in a day (when I’m stressed, I binge-eat vegetables. It’s perfectly normal, I swear).

And we’ll both look longingly at the pictures & I will hopefully stop looking at them long enough to study…

But fear not, I will be back in full force soon. 13 days of classes left, 24 days of the quarter left, & then I will be free!

This recipe comes from Peanut Butter Boy… check him out if for no other reason than he apparently loves peanut butter a whole hell of a lot which gives us a lot in common. It’s definitely healthy-tasting and is more of a protein pancake than a typically fluffy, light, comforting pancake, but I rather enjoyed them, though I’d be curious to see how a pinch of baking powder would work… and I definitely want to whip up some completely nutritionally devoid banana pancakes in the near future.

Possibly while listening to Jack Johnson. Just for kicks.

Banana Cottage-Cheese Pancakes
from here

1/2 cup oats
1/2 cup nonfat cottage cheese
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons egg white/egg substitute
1 overripe banana, divided
(possible addition: 1/4-1/2 teaspoon baking powder?)
blueberries, chocolate chips, or desired mix-ins (optional)

Blend together oats, cottage cheese, egg substitute, and half of banana until well mixed; if it’s too thick, add a little bit of milk or water and mix until it reaches the desired consistency. Slice other half of banana into thin slices to put on top of pancakes.

Heat a large skillet and spray with cooking spray (or use butter/oil). Drop about 1/4-cup-fuls of batter and flatten if necessary; press banana slices in gently. Cook for 1-2 minutes or until the top starts to set, then flip and cook on other side for about a minute.

Spread with peanut butter, drizzle with maple syrup, coat with chocolate chips, or eat them however you want.

And definitely pretend like it’s the weekend.

What do you eat when you’re stressed?

Any Jack Johnson fans? :) I have a really distinct memory of listening to him on the car ride to crew practice after school… Combo of his crooning + the heat of the car made it VERY difficult to get out of the car and out onto the cold water though!!!

WIAW: a weary wednesday [with banana-chia-pudding!]

27 Apr

So… I got about 3 hours of sleep. I couldn’t fall asleep because I was too busy humming in my brain about a variety of drugs (only one of which I was consuming… thank you caffeine… not gonna tell you the mechanism coz the test is over now!).

But here’s my rather tired little post because I cannot resist doing WIAW. :)

Breakfast

Banana-Chia-Pudding

1/2 banana, mashed
3/4 cup almond milk
2-3 tablespoons chia seeds
sweetener to taste
cinnamon

Combine all ingredients and stir well then put in fridge, covered or uncovered. Wake up and devour in the morning, with a spoonful of peanut butter on the side. ;)

Lunch

I’ve been feeling a little sick so I had Coconut Lentil Soup from the cafeteria… which means I didn’t photograph it. But it was delicious!

Dinner

More soup… I bought this at our cellar market. I didn’t like it at first but it definitely grew on me. But I prefer soup with actual bits to bite, and this was just “broth” (though a thick broth!). I did add some frozen veggies + nooch.

And I definitley forgot to take a picture of it in the bowl! Oops.

And some of these crackers. They’re kind of super addicting (and not bad nutritionally, it’s got a decent amount of protein and fiber and not a whole lot of ingredients!). I also snacked on these with some hummus in addition to other snacks. :)

Weather

Upper 60s and sunny! I broke the shorts out.

I definitely didnt want to post this picture because I’m feeling exceptionally self-conscious about my body and showing it, since I’m pretty sure I gained some weight… Confidence is kind of shot recently. But I’m posting it in an effort to just accept the way my body looks.  And on that note, the wisdom!

Angela over at Oh She Glows wrote an absolutely beautiful post about learning to accept your body and yourself just the way you are and learning to love it. I would comment on it but I think she about covered it… Definitely something I need to work on… Click here. Seriously. Read it.

And this is my tired-face… please excuse my unkempt appearance!

Hopefully I’ll be back tomorrow with a few more words and a few more brain cells that are actually awake. ;)

Any tips for self-confidence/body acceptance? Tell me your tips for self-confidence. I’m kind of hitting a slump.

On a lighter note… Do you function without sleep? Because I clearly don’t. At all. It’s kind of humorous actually…

tgif: monkey edition.

8 Apr

Firstly: If my face looked kind of big in those photos yesterday it’s probably because you guys compliment me too much and it’s going to my head. ;)

Secondly: Thank GOODNESS it’s Friday. Granted, I still have a neuro test to study for alllll weekend, but at least I won’t have classes.

Anyways, about that cookie dough

I stumbled upon this recipe for peanut butter-banana-chocolate chunk cookies. And let’s be honest my favorite flavor combination in the world is peanut butter + bananas + chocolate (I may be part monkey). Or perhaps cinnamon & chocolate. Or coffee & chocolate (side note: I just gave up caffeine and it’s killing me). I think I see a theme…

Made according to the original recipe, these are quite healthy. I modified them only slightly and added a little bit of ground flax to make sure it held together, as well as a couple of tablespoons of flour to make them a little denser. If you use bitter chocolate instead of regular chocolate chips, they’re sugar free; without the flour and with gluten-free oats, they’re pretty easily gluten-free.

Innards. Yum.

I also went ahead and continued with my dough-ball obsession and tried to make them more ball-like. To half of my half-batch, I added some powdered sugar and peanut flour to further enhance the peanuttiness and to make it a little denser. It sort of worked, but not quite how I wanted it. Meaning I will probably tweak this recipe further, but it was pretty good anyways so I’m sharing. :)

Healthy Monkey Cookies
Makes ~30
Adapted from here.

3 large, very ripe bananas
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup canola oil
1 tablespoon ground flaxseed
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups oatmeal
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup powdered sugar (optional)*
1/2 cup peanut flour (optional)*
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 – 1 cup chopped dark chocolate or chocolate chips

* Totally optional, creates a denser but also less healthy cookie.

Preheat oven to 350F.
In a large bowl mash the bananas with the peanut butter, oil and vanilla. Mix in flaxseeds and let sit for a few minutes (I even microwaved this a little, mostly because my bananas were frozen…). In a separate bowl combine dry ingredients (except chocolate chips). Mix dry into wet and stir until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips.

Bake for 11-13 minutes or until just set.

Share with your favorite monkey. Or someone whose genetic make-up is more than 95% monkey.

Yep, I’m talking to you.

What’s your favorite flavor combination?

Do you drink coffee/caffeine regularly? I am absolutely dying. I want it sooo bad… I think it’s mostly the taste, but my headache says otherwise… I refuse to admit my addiction. Sigh.

wiaw: weekend waffles.

30 Mar

Glad you all enjoyed my randomness yesterday… we will continue with a variation on that theme with my random eats last Saturday for the next installment of What I Ate Wednesday.

“Brunch” (What happens when you wake up at noon…)

Actually, I’m probably going to cheat a bit and pretty much just focus on breakfast. For which I made waffles… Probably the first time I’ve had waffles in months, actually (though my school does have a belgian waffle maker thing… I’ve never actually gotten it, not entirely sure why!).

I remember when I first got my waffle iron. I think I used it every day for a solid week. Lately it’s been rusting, needing so much more than dusting, needing exercise, a chance to use its skills… (If you know what Disney movie I just quoted you earn 20 brownie points, just sayin’).

This batch of waffles was also because I had half a banana laying around and I wanted something healthy. It wasn’t exactly light; the oats and wheat bran gave it a heartier texture, and the lack of fat meant it wasn’t quite as crisp (a bout in the oven would probably have helped solve this but I am notoriously impatient). At any rate, it scored pretty high on the nutrition factor and when topped with some frozen berries and sugar-free syrup was a delightfully easy, ever-so-slightly decadent, and wonderful breakfast. I adapted the recipe from one on Fitting It All In, a really fun blog, go check her out! :)

Whole Wheat, Vegan, Sugar-Free Banana Waffles
Adapted from here.

1/2 tablespoon ground flax + 3 tablespoons hot water (or 2-3 tablespoons liquid egg substitute)
1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
2 tablespoons wheat bran
2 tablespoons oatmeal
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 packet stevia, or to taste
1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk or nondairy milk of choice
additional water as needed

Preheat your waffle maker according to instructions.

In a small bowl or measuring cup, mix together flax and water and let sit until thickened. In a separate bowl, mix together dry ingredients. Stir in almond milk and “egg” until just combined. If the batter seems too thick, add a tablespoon or two of water (this may also change the texture of the waffle). Add extra sweetener to taste, but make sure not to over-mix your batter!

Spray waffle maker with nonstick spray and cook waffle according to instructions.

Put some berries on it, or some syrup, or some chocolate, or some peanut butter, or whatever your little heart desires.

Without toppings, this has 264 calories, 10 grams of protein, 7 grams of fiber. Not too shabby.

Dinner

I kind of snacked for awhile so dinner was low-key. And by low-key I mean I ate half of a butternut squash because it was my last day at home. The pictures aren’t the best and I put too much salt so I didn’t get the delightful sweetness, but that’s okay. It was still butternutty and delicious. ;)

I also put some of it in a wrap, because I’m minorly obsessed with wraps. In case you didn’t remember.

And because I was in a sweets-loving mood I had a late-night snack of pancakes. Again not super photogenic. But that’s okay.

Eat anything good lately? What’s your favorite waffle topping?

Can you guess the Disney movie? It’s my favorite ;)

you know you’re a psych major when…

11 Mar

Freud is mentioned at least once a week in everyday conversation.

You meet people, hear about their family, and instantly start trying to figure out their parents’ attachment style.

You look at money left on the ground and wonder if it’s there for a psychology experiment.

You toss around words like “validity,” “reliability,” and “operational definition.”

You can discuss said words for hours on end.

When someone reads aloud the title of an article claiming that Facebook increases self-esteem, you want to know if the study it refers to was experimental in design or correlational, because correlation does not imply causation.

When you interact with children, you start labeling their different types of play, as well as their developmental stage according to Piaget.

You have an uncanny knack for finishing people’s sentences, because they’re predictable.

But the worst thing you do?

You turn baking into an experiment.

Just the beginning…

You see, I was redoing my granola bar recipe. And I knew I wanted to try some without sugar, and some with, to see how it would alter both the consistency and the taste. I also knew I wanted to do some with raisins and some with chocolate chips. Originally, I figured I’d make the sugary ones have chocolate chips, so the raisin ones would have no added, processed sugars.

But wait! Changing two different independent variables?! That creates a confounding variable! And we can’t have that. Because then we would never know if it was the presence of chocolate chips increasing the deliciousness, or the addition of sugar to the actual batter.

So we run a two-independent-variables experiment. And make four different bars. On one cookie sheet.

Yeah, don’t date a psych major. We’re crazy. And we can label exactly what kind of crazy too…

These are the same bars I tried a few weeks ago, but they still aren’t perfect; I’m working out some of the flavor issues. They’re very very grainy and without sugar aren’t terribly sweet, but I kind of like them like that. I will say that the chocolate chips are an almost-necessary addition and really make them delicious. The raisins… eh, so-so. I will continue tweaking, but I wanted to give some semblance of a recipe!

I was so excited to finally get to experiment with some of the fabulous things sent to me by Swanson Health Products. They sent me Chia seeds (which I haven’t played with yet!), Bob’s Red Mill ground flaxseed, wheat germ, tapioca flour, potato starch, and Vitamin D pills. This recipe incorporates the flaxseed and wheat germ, giving it a much more significant nutritional punch. I was given these products for free; if you’re interested in doing a review for them, they are an absolute breeze to work with and can be emailed at blogs@swansonvitamins.com

Flaxseed for dayyyyys…

All of the stuff shipped within a week and I was incredibly surprised at how soon it arrived in my little mailbox… I was also impressed with how low the prices were on their website, had I been actually paying for it! The huge bag of flaxseed I got would’ve cost me less than $5… More than 25% cheaper than retail price! Their website is also full of great products ranging from bars to vitamins and everything in-between. I’m looking forward to continuing to experiment with some of the items I got.

Now about those bars…

Crazy Lady Granola Bars
Makes about 20

2 ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 cup natural peanut butter (I like crunchy… and I might put more in the next round of tests)
2-4 tablespoons brown sugar (optional)
1/2 cup hot water + 1/4 cup ground flaxseed
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup peanut flour (or protein powder, or regular flour)
1/4 cup wheat germ
2 cups regular oats
2 packets stevia (or to taste)
~1/2 cup mix-in of choice (chocolate chips are delish!)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease a 9×13 baking pan.

In a small bowl, combine flaxseed and hot water. Let sit for a few minutes, or until it’s somewhat gelatinous.. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, mash banana (sometimes it helps to microwave it to make it loosen up all its delicious juices…). Add in peanut butter, flax mixture, and sugar (if using) and mix well. Add dry ingredients and stir until well combined; you may need to get your hands in there for a bit (if it’s way too dry, add liquid by the tablespoon). Fold in mix-in, then press the mixture into the baking pan.

Bake for anywhere from 20-30 minutes or until edges are lightly golden-brown. Remove from oven and let cool for 1-2 minutes, then cut while still warm. Allow to cool completely before removing from pan.

I would ask you to weigh in on whether or not I’m crazy but I’m pretty sure I know the answer. ;)

What’s your major/area of interest, and how are your quirks indicative of that?

going bananas [sugar-free banana bread]

22 Feb

Firstly: If you were not explicitly tagged in my last post please consider yourself formally tagged, because I’m kind of creepy and want to hear about everyone, so… Yes. Please share?

And now the main event…

I love bananas. Currently I’m hoarding two ever-blackening bananas in the corner of my dorm room. So pretty much half the room smells strongly of bananas… My roommate probably loves me right now.

This was over a week ago… They’re kind of black now. Oops?

There are just so many things you can do with them! Banana bread, banana muffins, banana pancakes, banana cookies, sugar-free peanut butter cookies… I could go on, I’m sure.

So when I was at aforementioned family friend’s house this past weekend and saw two spotted bananas on their counter looking rather sad, I decided to give them a home. Luckily this coincided with them having friends for a celebratory lunch (today is their daughter’s 16th birthday! Happy birthday Gaby!)

I decided on banana bread. The challenge, however, was to make it diabetic-friendly. Luckily, I had a little help in the form of Stevia in the Raw Cup-for-Cup sugar substitute. I also was mostly finding recipes that called for 3-4 bananas… which I did not have. After probably an hour of searching I finally decided on this recipe.

Here’s where things get “bananas”. Aka my reading comprehension skills fail me (and I’m paying how much for my college education?!). It clearly states to use 1/2 stick of butter. I read 1/2 cup. It’s okay though, I’m pretty sure it just made the bread more delicious… But you could use half the butter listed and it’d probably work, if you’re worrying about fat or anything.

Sugar-Free Banana Bread
Makes 12 slices… Adapted from here

1/2 cup butter (see note above!)
2 eggs
2 large, overripe bananas, mashed
1/2-2/3 cup Stevia in the Raw Cup-for-Cup
2 tbsp sugar (optional)
1 1/3 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease a standard loaf pan.

In a small bowl, mash banana well. There can be some very small chunks, but you pretty much want it entirely mashed. In a large bowl, beat together butter and sugar substitute until fluffy. Beat in banana and eggs until well mixed. In a separate bowl, mix together dry ingredients. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix until just combined. Gently stir in walnuts (don’t over mix! it’ll get tough!)

Bake for 40-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Share and enjoy!

Getting cozy with more cookies… That had the proper amount of butter. Recipe forthcoming…

Please tell me I’m not the only one whose life is one big “blonde moment”… Share your baking/life mishaps!