Best Ever Healthy Banana Bread

Wholemeal spelt banana bread

Healthy Banana Bread

This is such an easy loaf to make and is perfect for a new year treat that won’t send your sugar levels soaring. I used my husband and children to do the ‘taste test-drive’ on this. They are huge fans of my usual butter & sugar laden version, so this recipe needed their approval. Their opinions are easily swayed so I decided not to tell them them I had changed the recipe. It got the thumbs up from all with an added quip from my other half about how light it was. Perfect, there is now no going back to my usual recipe unless of course my cholesterol levels drop dangerously low!! Fat chance of that happening…..

It is very straight forward to make, uses maple syrup to sweeten instead of sugar and wholemeal spelt instead of white flour. It will make a great addition to our healthy lunch box tomorrow for the start of the new school term.

Ingredients:

3 medium ripe bananas (the riper the better!!)

2  organic eggs beaten

4 tablespoons of melted coconut oil or you could use a good quality cold pressed oil such as vegetable (neutral taste) or olive (more savoury flavour).

6 tablespoons of maple syrup (runny honey will also do)

250g Wholemeal Spelt Flour

1 tsp of baking soda

1 tsp of vanilla extract

1/2 tsp of cinnamon

60ml of water

A good pinch of salt.

 

Method:

Preheat your over to 165degrees celsius or 325 degrees fahrenheit.

Grease an line a 9 x 5 ” loaf tin.

In a large bowl, add the spelt flour and baking soda.

In a separate pot melt the coconut oil. Once melted turn off the heat and add the maple syrup, cinnamon and vanilla extract. Now pour in the water and mix.

In a separate bowl add the beaten egg. Mash up the bananas until they are almost liquid. Add theses to the egg and mix well together.

The next step is to add the wet ingredients to the dry and fold the mixture carefully until everything is just combined and has formed a batter. There is no need to over mix this mixture.

Now pour into your tin, lightly dust with cinnamon  and place in the middle of the oven for 55 mins. Leave it to cool for a while in the tin before turning out.

This banana bread is wonderfully moist and should keep for up to 3 days in a bread bin, 3 days or so longer if kept in the fridge. It freezes well and should keep for up to 3 months.

Enjoy with a hot cup of tea! 

 

 

 

 

 

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30 minute ‘Gourmet’ wild mushroom soup

The above title may sound like a contradiction. Surely ‘gourmet’ can’t be achieved in 30 minutes?! Wrong.
Yes it can and my gourmet tasting, wild mushroom soup can be made by even the culinary inept among us.

Of all of the soups I make, this is the one that is the crowd pleaser. My ‘picky eater’ middle child despite a hatred of mushrooms will always ask for seconds and I can find no better way to fool my children into eating vegetables than this. But the really great thing about this soup is that it tastes so impressive it makes a delicious way to start a dinner party or Supper for guests.

My mantra as an embracer of a ‘greener’ life is “less is more” and that extends to spending less time cooking. Cooking from scratch can be time consuming so I am always on the hunt for delicious tasting, nutrition packed ways of speeding this up. This soup is a perfect example. Mushrooms are low in calories, fat-free, cholesterol-free, gluten-free, and very low in sodium, yet they provide important nutrients, including selenium, potassium, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin D and are a good source of B vitamins.
Leeks are a good source of folic acid and vitamin A and are also a good source of fibre but having said all of that this soup definitely does not taste of leeks which is a god-send to my leek phobic children!

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Ingredients:
250g wild mushrooms (chestnuts are a good substitute too)
30g dried porcini (lidl sell great quality dried porcini for under €3!)
2 good sized leeks,
cleaned & finely sliced
1 onion, diced
1.2 litres of stock
2 tablespoons of olive oil
15g butter
Freshly ground black pepper
Fresh thyme or parsley to garnish

Method:
First of all place the porcini in a shallow Pyrex dish and pour over 100ml of freshly boils water. Leave to soak.
Next, gently heat the oil and butter in a heavy bottomed pot.
Once the butter has melted and has started to foam add the sliced leeks and onions. Stir and cook over a gentle heat until the onions and leeks have become translucent. Stir frequently to avoid burning or sticking to the base of the pot.
Now combine the sliced mushrooms, again stirring to avoid sticking. Place a lid on top and allow to cook gently for 5 minutes. It is time to add the litre of hot stock and half of the porcini. Allow the mixture to simmer gently for another 10 mins before blending with a hand held blender. Finely chop the remainder of the porcini and stir through along with the liquid. Heat through for another 2 to 3 minutes before serving, garnished with flat leaf parsley.
Enjoy. Foolproof, healthy and utterly scrumptious.

Tip: add 150ml of fresh cream if you are looking for something a little more luxurious but trust me, it’s great without it!

My ‘Eco’ Irish Soda Bread

In keeping with trying to be a little ‘Greener’ in my day-to-day life, one of my favourite ways is to bake bread.  I’ve done it for years and am happy to use many different methods and styles. I have a bread machine and use that a lot, particularly when I want to wake-up to fresh bread.The delicious smell permeates around the house and gets me out of bed quicker than any alarm. The timer mode is a life saver. Having said that it’s tough to get Bread Machine recipes for wholemeal or high fibre flour so one of my daily staples is Soda Bread, made in the old-fashioned way by hand. It is so easy, quick, cheap and damn it’s good for you. I’m not a fan of cutting carbs and this high fibre bread makes a fantastic breakfast with scrambled eggs and smoked salmon. It’s delicious on its own with butter and can only make a good soup even better.

Let me talk you through baking a 1lb loaf of Irish bread that is yeast free and so easy a child can make it. If you haven’t made bread before you’ll wonder why it’s taken you so long. It’s strength and taste lies in it’s simplicity.

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Heat your oven to 200 degrees celcius/Gas mark 6.

Ingredients:

450g/1lb of Wheatmeal Flour

2 level teaspoons of Bread Soda

1 level teaspoon of salt

2 level teaspoons of Cream of Tartar

275 – 425 ml/ 1/2 – 3/4 pint of milk

(The Cream of Tartar can be omitted if you choose to use Buttermilk instead of fresh milk)

1LB Loaf tin greased and floured

 

Place the Wheatmeal flour into a large bowl. Sieve the bread soda, cream of tartar and salt and mix well with the flour. Make a well in the centre and add enough milk to make a soft dough adding a little by little until you feel the  consistency is right. Turn out onto a lightly floured bowl and knead until smooth. If you feel the mixture is too wet add a little more flour.  Now put into the prepared loaf tin and using a knife, score a cross on the top.

Place in the middle of a the oven for Approx 45 minutes. It should be risen and cooked through. Turn out from the tin, wrap in a clean tea cloth and leave on a wired tray to cool. Enjoy.

This bread freezes well so I often make two at the same time so I can freeze one for later. Also, a handful of sunflower seeds thrown in with the dry and ingredients at the start, is a delicious addition.

 

 

 

Friday Night Pizza

Aahhh Friday, the best day of the week. Game over.

As soon as I was properly aware of the days of the week, Friday was always the business. School frames the week and puts Friday clearly in poll position. Saturday mornings are clearly good but they lack the structure of a Friday and the tinge of expectation that the best has yet to come. As a kid, Fridays meant, no homework, fridge full of goodies after the weekly shop and Channel 4’s The Tube ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JUePUyzY_5A ) . Life was good, very good.

By the time I hit Uni at 17, Friday’s meant blatant underage drinking on Campus and the joys & heartbreak that came with South side Boys.

In my 20’s and early 30’s it was to start off the day with one thing in mind: Do everything in your power to not work late, even if it means going back in over the weekend. TV Post Production can be a hard task master and often I was unsuccessful but on the nights I escaped I soared like a bird out into the Soho night and found the ‘Nine to Fivers’. Fridays were a chance for me and my lifelong Mates to check-in with each other, to try to hang on to some semblance of an Irish brogue in our London accented life and drink and eat until we could do no more. The world was put to rights, career’s were planned, Waiters were flirted with and advice was doled out in large dollops. We talked over each other and ran outside for sneaky smokes and never thought it would be any other way. Yet, it is different now and I still love it.

Fridays are once again framed for me by the school week. My children occupy the slot that was once mine. They have no homework to do so I have none to check. There are no lunches to make for the following morning. I make sure our fridge is full of Goodies, play dates happen and movies are watched and best of all, Pizza is made by me and eaten by everyone under our roof. As with my Friday nights in Soho there is some preparation required but once your focus is right the work load is minimal. Get started with your sauce and then dough and make sure the fridge is full. Once these three steps have been adhered to the night is whatever you make of it.

Never let it be said that Pizza is unhealthy. Homemade pizza can taste as good (trust me) as any Italian Pizzeria and if you use good ingredients your body will respond accordingly.

Friday night Pizza:

Step 1: The Sauce. Method: Get a heavy bottomed pot.Throw in a generous glug of extra virgin olive oil and gently heat. Add three to four cloves of crushed garlic and cook gently but do not allow to burn as it will make the sauce bitter. after 2 minutes add 3 tins of peeled plum Tomatoes (not chopped as the skins are left on!). Add a good pinch of salt a teaspoon of brown sugar and some ground black pepper. Leave to simmer very gently for a few hours until the sauce has reduced a little. Now blend.

Step 2: The Dough. Pour a 7g sachet of dried fast acting yeast into a bowl with 1 teaspoon of brown sugar and 4 tablespoons of warm water. Set aside for 15 minutes until the mixture has brother and doubled in size.  Sift 9 ounces of strong flour or spelt. I love Dove’s Organic Farm white Spelt flour (https://www.dovesfarm.co.uk). I never use whole grain as it just doesn’t taste good. Plain flour will also do or self-raising flour if you like a lighter base. Spelt can be tricky to handle so if you are a virgin dough handler maybe use strong or plain flour until you are feeling comfortable with the dough making process. Make a well in the centre and pour in the yeast mixture, a good few glugs of Olive oil, a few generous splashes of warm water and a pinch of salt. Now mix it all together and if it is still too dry add some more water until it all comes together. Plop it out onto a floured board. Now begin kneading. This bit is very important so don’t hold back. Think of rolling Tuscan Hills and go for it. Once it feels elastic yet smooth it’s ready. Pop it back in the bowl. Brush some olive oil over it, cover with a tea cloth and leave in a warm spot to prove. usually about two hours. After this it is rphoto-2eady to be rolled out and put onto pizza trays ( I don’t like the ones with holes). I usually get three good sized crispy Piazzas from this recipe.

Step 3. Now add the cooled tomato sauce and top with whatever you fancy. We like things pretty plain at our house so Mozzarella, olives and maybe mushrooms is about as far as we go. Sometimes we add pine nuts if we are feeling frisky. I like to serve it with a mixed leaf salad with home-made balsamic dressing (a few gluts of olive oil to a good drizzle of balsamic vinegar) and top with toasted almonds and mixed seeds.

Friday night Pizza. The effort is small but you do need to engage a little planning. The response will be so great it will become part of your weekly ritual and you have absolutely minimal packaging to dispose of. The cost is low, even if using a good organic flour and three large pizzas will keep at least 4 little people and 2/3 Grownups happy and full and feeling utterly spoiled. Just as one feel should on a Friday.

I get at least two Fridays out of a 1kg bag of Spelt at €2.85 a bag. An 8 sachet box of Tesco branded Dried yeast is under €2 and will last for 8 Fridays. Lidl is great for the extra Virgin Olive oil €2.99, Light Mozzarella 57c x 2, jar of pitted olives c99 chestnut mushrooms €1.19 Assorted seeds and pine nuts about €1 each and will last for a few weeks.