Food: basic but not boring – banana bread

Every single coffee shop offers this. BANANA BREAD has to be one of the all time comfort loaves to accompany afternoon tea.  It’s not quite a cake, not quite a bread and not really considered a conventional dessert but it’s always reliably satisfying and somewhat healthy as far as sweet things go.  Make sure you use ripe bananas – it makes all the difference.

So here’s a great classic to start withWhat you need:               

 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour

2 tsp. baking powder

¼ tsp. baking soda

½ tsp. salt

1/3 cup of unsalted butter at room temp.

2/3 cup sugar (I use organic cane)

2 eggs, well beaten

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 cup mashed ripe bananas (roughly 3)

1 tsp. or more of lemon zest


Heat oven to 350F

Sift first 4 ingredients (flour, baking powder, soda and salt)

In separate bowl beat butter (adding a bit of the egg will make it easier to blend), add sugar a bit at a time beating after each addition.  Beat in the rest of the eggs.

Slowly add flour mixture, alternately with banana beating smooth after each addition.

Turn into greased 9” x 5” X 3” loaf pan.  Bake in moderate oven of 350 approx. 1 hour 10 min. or until done and toothpick inserted comes out clean.


You can vary this recipe by using a bit less banana and adding some fruit like raspberries or blueberries.

Or; you can omit the lemon zest and add 1/2 cup of chocolate chips.

with dark chocolate chips, candied ginger & almond – my favourite.

Try chopped up candied ginger chopped almonds and/or some organic almond extract with the chocolate.

It freezes well and is always a good thing to have on hand for unexpected guests.

Simple & Satisfying – Red Chile Sauce

Basic Red Chile Sauce is one of the staple dishes of New Mexican Cuisine and can be used on lots of different dishes like enchiladas, burritos, tamales, chile sauce  You can use it to season beef, chicken or fish for soft tacos or even in homemade chili.

This is from the Santa Fe School of Cooking.

1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup finely diced onion
2-3 t minced garlic
2 T all purpose flour
1/2 cup pure ground New Mexican red chile powder
2 1/2 cups water or chicken stock
1 t Mexican oregano
1/2 t freshly ground cumin seed
salt to taste
Heat the oil in a medium saucepan and saute the onion for 3 to 4 minutes, until softened. Add the garlic and saute 2 minutes more. Stir in the flour, the chile and slowly add the water (chicken stock), whisking to break up any lumps in the chile. Add the oregano and the cumin, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the mixture has thickened slightly. Season with salt to taste. Optional: freshly ground coriander seed. Makes about 3 cups
*you can find Mexican Oregano (a little different than regular) at your local specialty market like Granville Island, etc.
For the best authentic Mexican food – Guadalajara Grill (today for lunch):
I had the grilled wild caught salmon with grilled veggies, rice, + guacamole. Homemade corn tortillas on the side.
I had the spicy grilled wild caught salmon with perfectly grilled veggies, rice + guacamole. Homemade soft corn tortillas on the side.  Excellent.
Don ordered the grilled whole Tilapia.
Don ordered the grilled whole Tilapia.  The best since having it in Africa.  Skins for JiaJia.

Simply Satisfying – Orange Cranberry Breakfast Cake

Orange Cranberry  breakfast cake slicedAs soon as I saw this recipe on a food blog I knew that it would turn out wonderful.  Especially since I had orange flavored cranberries at home.  I didn’t have brandy but substituted with over proof rum.  Okay, so it was a little bit stronger but nonetheless tasted excellent.


1 cup of dried cranberries

½ cup of brandy (I used overproof Rum)

½ cup (1 stick) of unsalted butter, room temperature

2/3 cup of sugar

zest of 1 orange

1 egg, room temperature

1 tsp. vanilla extract

½ cup of milk, room temperature

juice of 1 orange (mine rendered 1/3 cup)

2 cups of all-purpose flour

2 tsp. of baking powder

1 tsp. salt

turbinado sugar to sprinkle on top


 Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease a 9-ince square baking pan.

In a small sauce pan add cranberries and brandy (or rum).  Warm through over medium heat, about 5 minutes.  The brandy should evaporate. Turn off heat and set it aside to cool.

Using a standing mixer, cream butter, sugar and orange zest until light and fluffy.  Add egg and vanilla extract and beat until combined.  Then add in milk and orange juice and continue mixing until combined.

In a medium bowl whisk flour, baking powder and salt until combined.  Slowly add in the flour mixture into the wet ingredients.  The batter will be thick.  Fold in ¾ of the boozy cranberries into the batter and spread it evenly into the greased pan.  Sprinkle the remaining ¼ of the cranberries on top.  Then sprinkle some turbinado sugar evenly on top of everything else (batter and cranberries).

Bake for 30-40 minutes or until toothpick/tester inserted into the center comes out clean.  Let the breakfast cake cool in the pan on the cooling rack.

Adapted from “For the Love of Cooking” by and then by

Simple & Satisfying – Chocolate Soufflé

I’m declaring this NATIONAL CHOCOLATE WEEK  in preparation for Valentine’s Day.  Is there anything more satisfying than biting into a chocolate sensation?  I didn’t think so.  Follow this step by step guide to perfecting a scrumptious Chocolate Soufflé.  Trust me, you will LOVE this one and so will your guests.

Makes 6 individual servingschocolate souffle1

4 Tbsp. butter (or try a substitute from last Tuesday’s post)

½ cup sugar

3 Tbsp. flour

¾ cup of milk

¾ cup (170g) chopped best quality dark chocolate

4 egg yolks

4 egg whites

pinch of cream of tartar (not necessary but it makes the egg whites stiffer)

Use 2 Tbsp. butter and ¼ cup sugar to liberally coat the insides of 6 one-ounce ceramic soufflé cups (or something very similar).  Set aside.

In a saucepan, melt remaining 2 Tbsp. butter with flour.  Add milk and continue cooking until mixture thickens.  Remove from heat, add chocolate and stir until melted.

 Meanwhile, beat yolks until creamy, then begin blending in chocolate mixture.  Set aside.

Beat egg whites with a pinch of cream of tartar until soft peaks form (you can tell when you lift the beater and it sticks to the beater making a little peak).

Add remaining ¼ cup sugar, a small amount at a time.

Beat until stiff.

Fold half the whites into chocolate mixture.  Then fold chocolate mixture into remaining egg whites.  Transfer to soufflé cups.  Bake in preheated 350 degree F oven for about 25 minutes.  Serve immediately.

 **HINT: you can add a little icing sugar to the top before serving or fresh whipped cream and a mint sprig or raspberry/mint combo.  Below – soufflé a different way:

chocolate souffle2chocolate souffle3

Simple and Satisfying – Surprising Substitutes

Healthy Baking: Surprising Butter Substitutesbutter

By FitSugar | Healthy Living

baking2Baking calms the mind and feeds the soul, but all that buttery goodness can pack on the pounds. If looking to make healthier baked goods, omitting some or all of the butter from your favorite recipes greatly reduce the amount of calories, fat, and cholesterol in your sweet treats. There are countless ways to replace eggs in recipes, and here are healthier alternatives to using butter. These substitutes are great for vegan bakers velvet cake1

  • Applesauce: Often used to replace oil in recipes, applesauce can also be used as butter alternative, and works best in cake-like recipes. Replace half the amount of butter in your recipe with applesauce; if the recipe calls for one cup of butter, use half a cup of butter and half a cup of applesauce. If you don’t mind a denser, more moist bread, replace all the butter with applesauce to cut even more calories and fat.
  • Avocado: Substitute half the amount of butter in a baking recipe with mashed avocado (it works well with cookies); use the same method as you would when using applesauce. Using avocado not only lowers the calorie content but also creates a softer, chewier baked good, and is perfect if you want to omit the dairy.

Earth Balance: Replace all of the butter with Earth Balance to reduce saturated fat and cholesterol. Using Smart Balance rather than Earth Balance will also save some calories, but note that Original Smart Balance contains whey, so it’s not vegan.

  • Canola oil: In certain recipes, replacing butter with oil works well, especially if the recipe calls for melted butter. Fiddle with your favorite recipes to figure out when canola works instead of butter; when baking chocolate chip cookies, I’ve had success substituting half a cup of canola oil for half a cup of unsalted butter. Although slightly higher in calories, canola is much lower in saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium.
  • Greek yogurt: Replace half the amount of butter in your cookie recipes with half the amount of full-fat plain Greek yogurt. For example, if the recipe calls for one cup of butter, use half a cup of butter and one quarter cup of yogurt. You’ll reduce the calories and the saturated fat. Play around with using more yogurt and less butter to see if you still like the taste and consistency. Here are more ways to use Greek yogurt in baking recipes.
  • Prune purée: Often used to help little ones stay regular, prune purée also makes a low-calorie and low-fat alternative to butter. Whatever amount of butter the recipe calls for, replace it completely with store-bought baby food prune puree (unless you have time to make your own; just purée prunes in the food processor). This option works well in recipes that involve chocolate and cinnamon.

Follow my “Gusto” board on Pinterest at

Simple & Satisfying – Salad with Endive, Pear & Crumbled Stilton

Organic Greens, Endive and Pear Salad with Crumbled Stilton

I was recently taken out for dinner to La Cigale French Bistro where a friend ordered a starter of endive salad with walnuts and crumbled blue cheese that tasted divine.  Unfortunately for this friend three of us dove into his plate & attacked the salad….then decided to order one for ourselves.endive_pear_salad

Did not ask for the recipe but I do know that….

Cioppino’s Mediterranean Grill has had a very similar salad on the menu since it opened in 1999.

My birthday dinner there a few years back was very memorable and owner/chef Pino Posterero made a visit to our table to check on our meal.  He says the secret to the success of this salad is in the vinaigrette which is simple to make, yet has a complex flavour.


120g (4 oz) Organic Salad Greens (including watercress or arugula)

16 leaves of Belgian Endive

1 ripe Bosc pear, skin on, cored and thinly sliced (ideally)

60 ml (2 oz) lemon shallot honey vinaigrette (see recipe blow)

Crumbled Stilton (preferably) or blue cheese (about 2-3 oz) or 80g.

Crumbled walnuts (this is not part of original recipe) but I think it would be a nice addition.

In a mixing bowl, combine salad greens, Belgian endive and pear.  Add vinaigrette and toss lightly.  To serve, divide the salad among four plates and sprinkle Stilton (& optional walnuts) on top.

Lemon Shallot Honey Vinaigrette

 150 ml (1/4 cup) fresh lemon juice

90 ml (5 ½ Tbsp) honey

50 ml (3 Tbsp) white wine vinegar

50 ml (3 Tbsp) Dijon mustard

50 g (2 oz) chopped shallots

80 ml (6 Tbsp) extra-virgin olive oil

pinch of sea salt, pepper

In a mixing bowl, combine lemon juice, honey, white wine vinegar, Dijon mustard and shallots.  Whisk in olive oil gradually until well emulsified.  Season with salt and pepper.

It will keep refrigerated in an airtight container or glass jar for up to one week.

Makes 500 ml.  Makes 4 servings.  This would make a beautiful side to fish, pasta or almost any dish.

Simple and Satisfying – Argentinian Chimichurri

Flavourful Chimmichuri
Flavorful Chimichurri Sauce

This FRESH HERB Chimichurri is what is commonly used for steak sauce in Argentina and there’s a good chance it may make you leave your regular one behind.

Make it in a blender, food processor or with a mortar.  But whatever you do don’t do as I once did camping where chopping everything up by hand with a not too sharp knife became very time consuming.  You can make this a few hours or even a day ahead so the flavors really start to meld.  To be enjoyed on steak, fish, chicken, macaroni even sandwiches.

½ cup chopped cilantro, packed

½ cup parsley, packed

¼ cup of olive oil

1-2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

½ tsp. salt

½ tsp. ground black pepper

3 tsp. best quality red wine vinegar

½ tsp. dried oregano

¼ tsp. crushed chillies

¼ cup onion, finely chopped

Cut all ingredients as small as humanly possible to make a nice rustic sauce, or better yet pulse in blender or food processor a few times. chimmi2 - Copy

Best served with grilled skirt steak.  Cut meat across the grain into thin slices and serve with sauce in between slices.

Here is an equally delicious smoky red version of same sauce:

1 small red onion, finely diced

3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

¼ cup of aged sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar

1 Tbsp. pureed chipotle in adobo (smoked chillies canned in red sauce)

1 Tbsp. smoked paprika

1 Cup of finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

2 Tbps. Finely chopped fresh oregano

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

Send me your feedback after you make it.

Check my Food Folder out on Pinterest –

Scene in the City – Merci Beaucoup….

The BEST so far
The BEST so far

FOR the most deliciously delectable peanut butter cookies I’ve ever tasted – oreo sandwich style with peanut butter in the middle and the cookie a shortbread like texture but not crunchy or too chewy – just perfect if you’re a connoisseur of peanut butter cookies.

I went on opening day but by the time I arrived by late afternoon there was nothing left except for some brownies and these peanut butter cookies.  They didn’t appeal to me at first but after tasting them I’m going to attempt to copy make them at home to see how they measure up.  I’ll start by making my normal batch and sandwiching peanut butter in between & get back to you later on it.  Because at $4.00 per cookie including tax (although worth it) I could go broke. 008

Beaucoup Bakery & Café                  at 2150 Fir St. in Vancouver

011FYI they sell other stuff like bread & coffee which could also become addictive.  Oui, Oui.

Simple & Satisfying – Put your print on a Christmas Cookie

thumbprint cookies 1

 Thumb Print Cookies

 These cookies are one of the easiest to make and everyone loves them.  They have a buttery shortbread like consistency and as cookies go….well they’re kind of a healthier version using walnuts which are a rich source of omega 3 fatty acids.  The combination of walnuts and jelly are rich and they just melt in your mouth.


1 Cup Butter

1 tsp. Vanilla

2 Eggs, separated

½ tsp. sea salt

2 cups of sifted flour

1 cup of walnuts, finely chopped in blender or food processor

½ cup of brown sugar

Any kind of jelly (raspberry, blackcurrant, etc.)  Use jam if you don’t have jelly

Assembling:  Cream butter with sugar and yolks, then add flour, vanilla and salt.             Roll into tiny balls.

Slightly beat egg whites and dip the balls in them, Then roll in finely chopped nuts.  Here’s the fun part: make a thumbprint indent on each cookie.  Bake on a greased sheet at 325 until done, about 10 minutes.  When cooled, top with jelly in the indent.

You can always sprinkle a little sanding sugar over top to make them more Christmasy.  Enjoy!thumbprint2