Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

Bananas are a frequently requested fruit in this house…..for a day or two! Which always leaves me with a bunch of overripe bananas to use up. I still didn’t have a banana muffin recipe I loved, so decided to play with some ingredients and see what happened. The result was a sweet, moist and super delicious muffin that the kids gobbled up! This recipe makes approximately 12-14 muffins.

Ingredients

6 Overripe Bananas

1/2C Packed Brown Sugar

1/3C Oil

1 Egg

1/4 tsp Salt

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp Cinnamon

1/2 tsp Nutmeg

1 3/4C Flour

1/2C Chocolate Chips

Directions

I like to keep dishes to a minimum and make baking simple when I can. I also LOVE my Kitchen Aid mixer to help keep recipes easy. Preheat the oven to 400F and start this recipe off by blending the bananas. Mash them up well, then add the brown sugar. Mix until well blended. Add in the oil and egg and mix well. Next, add the baking powder, spices and salt and mix until well incorporated. Add the flour slowly, allowing it to be mixed in well. If you add the flour all at once it can leave bigger clumps, making it harder to absorb well. This will also help over mixing, which can make for a tougher muffin. Once those ingredients are mixed together, add the chocolate chips and mix until just blended in.

I love silicone baking cups as they are reusable and muffins pop out easily. Line your muffin tray with paper or silicone cups and fill just below the top.

Full and ready to bake

Bake the muffins at 400F for 15 – 18 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool. These can easily be frozen in a tightly sealed container or ziploc bag. Enjoy!

Fluffy, moist and delicious!

Easy Artichoke Bread Bowl Dip

Sometimes I love creating a dip from scratch and other times I take the easy way out and use store bought! This quick recipe is all about simplicity. Artichoke and Asiago dip topped with cheese and warmed in a sourdough bread bowl. A twist on the classic spinach dip in pumpernickel. By carving out the sourdough loaf you make the bread cubes to dip and can finish every last bit of the dip by ripping the bread bowl into pieces once done and eating it too! Warm and gooey, with an easy prep this appetizer is a family favourite.

Ingredients

1 Sourdough Loaf

1 454g container Artichoke and Asiago dip (I love the PC one!)

1 C loosely grated mozzarella cheese

2 oz freshly grated parmesan cheese

1/4 C olive oil (I use a garlic infused one which is incredible!)

Directions

Start by preheating the oven to 400F

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper

Using a breadknife, carve out the centre of your sourdough loaf. Insert the knife at an angle where it will get most of the inner part of the bread, without cutting all the way through

All Carved!

Take the carved out portion of the loaf and slice it into cubes. Place the loaf and the cubes on the parchment paper covered baking tray. Drizzle the oil on both the loaf and the pieces to help toast the bread.

Drizzled with oil and ready to toast.

Place in the oven at 400F for 5 minutes until lightly toasted. Remove the bread cubes and set aside. Scoop the Artichoke and Asiago dip into the bread bowl. Sprinkle both the mozzarella and parmesan cheese on top. Lightly cover with foil and place back in the oven.

Ready to bake!

Leave the bread bowl in the oven, covered for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and turn the oven to broil on 400F for 1-2 minutes until the cheese is lightly browned. Place the bread bowl on a serving tray, place the toasted bread cubes around the bowl and enjoy! Depending on how generous or light your dipping audience is, you can also use crackers or chips to scoop the dip. Once the dip has been almost fully eaten, you can tear apart the bread bowl to finish every last bit of the appetizer!

Easy Pot Pie

When the weather gets colder, it’s all about the comfort food. Pot pie is one of our favourites because it is quick and easy to make and tastes so simple and delicious!

I make this after we have had a roasted chicken or turkey. I’ll cut up the leftover meat into cubes and freeze in a tightly sealed freezer bag. I love when I can make a bigger meal and turn it into two (or more!) easy meals after. This recipe will have variations as I tend to use what is on hand for simplicity.

Ingredients

3-4C Cooked, Cubed Chicken or Turkey 3-4C Frozen, Mixed Vegetables 2 Cans Campbell’s Mushroom Soup (Or 1 Can Mushroom soup and equivalent of 1 Can poultry gravy) 1 Package defrosted Tenderflake Puff Pastry (They come in 2’s, so break and defrost one per dish)

Directions

Start by preheating your oven to 400F. I use a 2.5 qt casserole dish to make and bake this in. If I’m not making this dish within 3-4 days after I have roasted my chicken or turkey, I will cube and freeze the poultry for later use. You can mix this dish with either refrigerated or frozen poultry.

Take the poultry and spread it out in the casserole dish. Then add your frozen vegetables. Top with your soup or soup/gravy combination. Stir it all together. I use a heavy wooden spoon to mix well. Mix until everything is fully covered.

Take the defrosted puff pastry and gently press it out on a floured surface, or stretch it out gently in your hands until it reaches the size of the dish you’re using. It can tear, so be gentle. If you are pressing it out on a floured surface, I recommend using a piece of wax paper with flour on it to make it easier to lift off the counter and onto your dish.

Cover the dish and place in the preheated oven for 20 minutes. Remove the cover and cook for another 10-20 minutes. The pastry will turn a golden brown and sauce will be bubbling at the edges. Covering it will help anything frozen to steam and cook well inside. The pastry does need to be cooked without a cover to give it that light, crispiness for the perfect finish.

Once cooked, remove, let cool for 5-10 minutes and serve. It will be hot as the pastry traps heat, so be careful before taking that first bite!

I often make two of these at once and freeze the second for an easy pull and cook meal. Make sure you freeze in a tightly sealed casserole dish that is safe for the freezer and oven. I will let it sit on the counter for 10 minutes first or pop it in as the oven heats so it’s not such a temperature difference for the dish. If you choose to do this, the cooking time will be greater as everything will be quite frozen. Add another 15-20 minutes to the initial covered cooking time, then remove the cover as directed above.

Refrigerate any leftovers and consume within 3-4 days. Enjoy!

Apple Spice Cake

I want to bake everything pumpkin and apple in the fall, not surprising, right? I have made many different versions of muffins, loaves, cakes, etc. over the years but I wanted to try a different recipe for an apple loaf. I have a rich, dense pumpkin loaf I love. This time I wanted an apple loaf that that fluffy, light and full of fall spices. Instead of reading recipes, altering and combining to find what I wanted, I decided to make something up on the spot and hope for the best. The results? An airy, apple filled loaf, with just a touch of sweetness and exactly what I was looking for. I brought the loaf into work to test on staff and hear their thoughts. It barely lasted long enough for me to get a piece, so I decided this recipe was a keeper! This recipe made 2 loaves.

Ingredients

1C Butter (softened)

3/4C Sugar

1/2C Brown sugar

1C Milk

2 Eggs

4 tsp Baking powder

1 tsp Baking Soda

2 tsp Cinnamon

1/2 tsp Nutmeg

1/4 tsp Allspice

3C Flour

1C Skor pieces, walnuts or pecan (optional)

2 Medium Apples (I used MacIntosh)

1 tsp Cinnamon

1/4 tsp Nutmeg

2 Tbsp Brown Sugar

Directions

Preheat oven to 350F.

Start by peeling, coring and dicing the apples. Put into a bowl with 1 tsp Cinnamon, 1/4 tsp Nutmeg and 2 Tsbp brown Sugar. Set aside.

Mix softened butter until it’s smoother. Add both sugars and mix until light and fluffy. Add in your eggs and combine. Then slowly add the milk and mix. Add in the baking powder and baking soda, then your spices, mixing throughout. Slowly add in the flour, combining each cup before adding the next. Once all the ingredients are well combined, add in your skor bits or nuts and gently mix until combined. Fold in the diced apples. Be careful to mix well while not overdoing it as over mixing the flour will cause your loaf to be more dense and hard then fluffy.

Grease or line your loaf pans with parchment paper. Equally fill both pans. I like to sprinkle some skor bits on top if I didn’t put in the batter. It gives an incredible crust. Place the pans in the oven and cook for 45-55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Remove from the oven and let cool fully before slicing. Cutting too soon will make this loaf fall apart because it is so soft and fluffy. This loaf can be frozen and defrosted for future use. You can freeze as a whole loaf, or slice first and portion into smaller containers. Enjoy!

Homemade Granola

I love making granola! It is so versatile, easy and delicious! I often use whatever seeds and nuts I have on hand to keep it simple or use up items that have been sitting for a bit. Add a little cinnamon, nutmeg and you have a quick snack or addition to yogurt for a more filling breakfast. This recipe can be altered for how many or little you like of different nuts and seeds, but keep the honey the same or it will lead to too dry or too sticky granola. The amounts listed made one larger baking sheet of granola.

Ingredients

5C large flake Oats

1/2C unsalted sunflower seeds

1/2C pumpkin seeds

1/2C chopped pecans

1C slivered almonds

1C honey

2tsp cinnamon

Directions

Preheat oven to 400F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Place all ingredients, except honey into a bowl. Stir together. Add the honey and using a silicone spatula stir until everything is well coated in honey. Once fully covered, pour out onto baking sheet and spread out evenly.

Place baking sheet into oven. Bake for 20 min, turning half way through. If the mixture starts to look dark brown remove before 20 min is up. Let the granola cool. The mixture will harden as it cools. Store in an airtight jar in the cupboard for up to 2 weeks, or freeze in an airtight container or bag for longer.

You can add grains, puffed quinoa, different nuts to add more fiber or protein based on what your nutritional goal is. Granola can be great sprinkled on bananas or apple slices with peanut butter or honey for the stickiness. You can add it to yogurt with fruit for a parfait. Grab handfuls for a healthier, filling snack, or put it into a bowl, add milk and eat like a cereal. However you decide to enjoy it, once you start making your own, there is no going back to store bought!

Peach Blueberry Muffins

This time of year there is so much local, fresh produce I can’t help but want to buy it all. It’s the first thing I see when I go into the grocery store, or farmer’s market and I want all the juicy peaches, plums, cherries, pears and more! This always leads to having way more on hand than we can consume before the fruits start to ripen too much and go bad. The perfect solution? Baking! This week we had somehow accumulated an abundance of blueberries. I had a basket of peaches just on the cusp of being too soft and school is back in. A soft, sweet, fruit filled muffin was exactly what I needed to make.

I knew the flavours I wanted to bring out, and started searching through my recipes and online for new inspiration. I couldn’t quite find the exact recipe I wanted to work with ingredients I had on hand, so decided to experiment using a base to create one more in line with what I was looking for. I love a crumble on fruit muffins. It gives that sweet crunch on top. I wanted brown and white sugar in the muffin as brown sugar adds a bit more depth of flavour, along with cinnamon and nutmeg to compliment the fruit just so. Last but not least, if I’m making a fruit muffin, I want it FILLED with fruit. Not a little in each bite, I want to taste the fruit as the main feature. The changes turned out fantastic and I had to put some muffins in the freezer so my family wouldn’t eat them all up in a couple days! I hope you enjoy them as much as we did!

Ingredients

Muffins

3/4C Softened Butter

1C White Sugar

1/2C Brown Sugar

2 Eggs

1/2 Tsp Vanilla

2/3C Milk (I used 2%)

2 1/2 Tsp Baking Powder

3C Flour

1/2 Tsp Cinnamon

1/4 Tsp Nutmeg

1 1/2 C each Blueberries and Diced Peaches

Crumble Topping

1/4C Cold Butter

1/4C Each Brown and White Sugar

2/3C Flour

1 Tsp Cinnamon

Directions

This recipe makes approximately 24 muffins.

Start by rinsing and drying your blueberries, then peeling, and dicing your peaches. Set aside. Preheat your oven to 400F.

Fruit diced and ready to go

Mix your butter until it is light and smooth. Add in both sugars and mix until fluffy. Add in the eggs one at a time, vanilla, then the milk. Once combined, add in the baking powder. Add the flour one cup at a time, allowing it to mix in before adding the next cup. Finish with the spices. Let everything blend well, remembering the scrape the sides of your bowl. Don’t over mix once the flour has been added or it will make your muffins too dense. Once all the ingredients are blended together, add your fruit, and fold into the batter. The easiest way to fold your fruit in is to use a spatula and gently scoop the batter from the bottom of the bowl and fold it over top of the fruit. Do this a few times until the fruit is covered in batter. This method will help avoid breaking and bruising the fruit, keeping the pieces intact for big flavour bites.

So much fruit! Fold and cover by the batter

Make your crumble by using a fork to break apart the cold butter. Then add your flour, sugars and cinnamon. Still using the fork, alternate between stirring and slicing the mixture to help it form a sand like composition. The butter needs to be well broken up so there are no big clumps, but the mixture will not be perfectly smooth.

Line your muffin pans with muffin cups or grease the muffin pan. I use both paper and silicone liners to make life simple. These muffins are cooked at a high temperature and are fairly compact so I was able to fill the cups to just under the top. Once filled, take a spoon and gently spread the crumble topping on the batter.

Crumble topping added

Place the pans in the preheated oven at 400F for 15-20 minutes, until you can insert a toothpick and it comes out clean. Let the muffins cool and enjoy! They can be frozen in a freezer bag or tightly sealed container. To defrost, remove from freezer as needed and let sit at room temperature until fully defrosted. I can pull a muffin in the morning, put it in a container and it’s often ready to eat by the time my kids’ morning snack time rolls around. Super easy!

School Years Storage

Every parent reaches that point; do I keep the craft, hide it, throw it away? How do you deal with the never ending crafts, poems, colouring pages, paintings? When your kids are younger you want to keep it all! You feel so guilty not holding onto something your beautiful child created. As the years go by, the stash of crafts gets bigger and bigger before you have no idea what you will do with everything. It is ok to let some items go. As the adult, think about the childhood momentos you held on to. What was your reaction? One day your child will be you. Let go of the guilt, and the clutter and get organized!

My kids are older now at 11 and 13. The crafts have definitely slowed as have the finger paintings! Neither of them look at their collections and ask where a specific art piece is. I promise, as parents we are much harder on ourselves than our kids are. I started minimizing and sorting their artwork years ago. This is a system that keeps things under control, but also allows for memories and storage solutions.

I started with an accordion file folder. Each section has a year and that is all the space the year gets.

Each year is labeled so it makes for easier storage and sorting. I put the crafts that come home up on our big cork board. Each piece is named by the child and dated as it is put up. This makes sorting so much easier as some years it was hard to tell who did what!

Whatever fits in that year in the file is what they get to keep. They can look back at years past and see how they have grown. By keeping all the items in one simple folder it means less clutter, easy to find and organized! Bonus, the files have a handle so the kids can take their old art pieces with them when they move out!

Fudgy Chocolate Brownies

These brownies are perfection! Crispy outer edge, soft, fudgy center perfect on their own or as the base of the most awesome sundae. Such a simple recipe to make and they bake perfectly every time. This recipe involves a lot of butter, eggs and sugar but it is so worth it! This recipe makes a 9×9 pan or ~48 mini muffin cup size brownies.

Ingredients

1C Butter

2C Sugar

4 Eggs

2 tsp Vanilla*

2/3C Cocoa

1C Flour

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp baking soda

*I will do 1 tsp vanilla 1 tsp peppermint extract for mint brownies

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350F. Melt the butter. Pour into a mixing bowl. Add in the sugar and stir. Add in the eggs. Stir until all three are well incorporated. Mixing the sugar in well will help with the final product. Add the vanilla (and peppermint extract if making mint brownies). As usual I prefer less dishes and one bowl baking. If you prefer traditional methods, mix your dry ingredients in a separate bowl. If one bowl baking, add the cocoa to the mixing bowl. Once incorporated, add the salt followed by the baking powder. Last, add the flour slowly so it can mix in without clumps. If mixing dry ingredients in a separate bowl, gently whisk them together then add slowly until fully incorporated. Scrape the sides of the bowl once to ensure all ingredients are blended together.

Take your pan and if using a metal or glass pan, line with parchment paper or grease and flour. I used a silicone pan for the batch pictured and it turned out fantastic. Spread the batter evenly in the pan. Place in the oven for 25-30 min.

Test the brownies with a toothpick in the center to check for doneness. Once fully cooked, remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes. Gently remove from pan and let continue cooling on a cooling rack if you have one.

These brownies can be sliced and eaten, or frozen for a treat at a later date. I love to add the mint for a different flavour, especially at Christmas! They make wonderful one bite treats when baked in a mini muffin tin. I add a squeeze of icing and a Hershey kiss on top for a simple baking exchange item. This is such a quick and simple recipe it’s enjoyed all year round!

Vinaigrette Potato Salad

My husband tried this style of salad at a friend’s house and loved it, so requested I try my hand at it. He had a general idea of the ingredients, so I guessed portions and found a balance we like. It is super easy to make, tastes best after it has sat at least overnight to absorb the flavours and because it’s not dairy based, you can easily serve it in warm weather without worrying about it spoiling as fast. It’s full of fresh flavour and light, so you don’t feel as heavy after eating it.

This is based on a smaller portion as we didn’t want many leftovers, so if you are preparing it for a bigger crowd, double, or triple the size.

Ingredients

680g Bag of Mini Potatoes

1/8C Olive Oil

1/8C White Vinegar or White Wine Vinegar

1/4C Fresh Dill

1/3 Yellow onion diced

Salt and Pepper to taste

Directions

Start by boiling the potatoes. Once fully cooked, strain the pot and fill with cold water to cool the potatoes faster. I usually leave the tap running a bit for the first few minutes as the heat from the potatoes will warm the water. Leaving it running help keep the water cool.

Once cooled enough to touch, cut the potatoes in half and place in a container you can seal. This is where I love the anchor dishes as they have a tight seal but also with the clean glass are great for serving.

Pour the rest of the ingredients over the potatoes and mix until each potato is well covered. You cna use less or more for the dill, depending on your tastes. Store in the fridge overnight and enjoy! It’s THAT simple.

English Muffin Pizzas

I usually start my posts off with a picture of the finished meal. This time, I featured a picture of the Chef! This week we started having our daughters each pick, prep and cook dinner once per week. They are 11 and almost 13 now and becoming quite adept in the kitchen. We wanted to increase their cooking knowledge and give them a better appreciation for all the work that goes into getting dinner on the table each night. So starts the “Kids Cook” blog posts.

This week my eldest chose English Muffin pizzas with Caesar Salad. She used; English Muffins, Tomato Sauce, Pepperoni, Marble Cheese, Roma Tomatoes and Red Peppers. Preheat your oven to 400F. She started by cutting the tomatoes and peppers for toppings. Then she grated the cheese. Next, she cut english muffins in half and laid them on a baking sheet. I suggest using parchment paper on the baking sheet as it is much easier to clean if any cheese or sauce gets spilled.

Take a soup spoon and scoop one spoonful of tomato or pasta sauce onto the english muffin. Using the back of the spoon, spread the sauce to the outer edge by moving it in small, gentle circles. Next, sprinkle the cheese over the sauce. Now, time to add your toppings! You can add whatever you like, whether it’s as simple as plain cheese or fully loaded, the best part is each person can choose what they like!

Once the pizzas are ready, place the sheet in the oven for 10-15 minutes, until the cheese is melted and just about to bubble. Remove from the oven and let cool before eating. These are the perfect size crust for kids and they love that they can create their own pizzas by choosing their own toppings. Easy for lunch or dinner, these are a hit every time!