Triple B – Black Bean Brownies

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Ever since my husband has gotten on board with this lifestyle, we’ve been looking for acceptable desserts. The chocolate ice cream I posted about is good, but it’s very very rich and you have to microwave it for a bit before you can eat it. We like “Outshine” yogurt bars, but they are too high in carbohydrate for me personally. Lately my go-to has been berries and whipped cream as well as a single square of Ghirardelli 86 chocolate. It’s good, it makes you feel like you’re having something sweet at the end of the day but it can get a bit repetative.

I found this recipe online today and thought I’d try it out. These are awesome high fiber, high protein, low net carb brownies (one brownie has 4g of net carbs, 2g of fiber, 3g of protein and only 55 calories!). The secret is making them with black beans. I have to admit, I was pretty dubious when I first cracked open that can of black beans and smelled it. How was I going to turn something that smelled like that into delicious chocolate brownies?

By the time I’d finished the batter though it looked and tasted like brownie batter. The finished product also looks and tastes just like a brownie. They are cakey, perhaps next time I’ll add less baking powder to get a more fudgy consistancy. They are husband and kid approved! I’m so glad that the kids like them because it’s just another thing to add to the list of treats I feel good about them eating.

 

Black Bean Brownies

 

Servings per recipe: 16

Calories: 55

Fat: 3.5g

Carb: 6g

Fiber: 2g

Protein: 3g

 

Ingrediants

1 can of black beans

3 tablespoons of unsalted butter or coconut oil, softened

3 large eggs or 3/4 cup egg substitute

1 tsp vanilla extract

3/4 cup sucralose or xylitol

1/4 cup cocoa powder

1/4 cup natural peanut butter

1/2 tsp baking powder

2 tbsp dark or semisweet chocolate chips

 

Optional: More chocolate chips or nuts to sprinkle on top

 

Method

– Thoroughly rinse and drain your beans, then put them in a paper towel and get them dry.

– Pulse the beans in a food processor until smooth.

– Add your peanut butter, pulse until it’s mixed in.

– Add your eggs, butter and vanilla and pulse again until smooth.

– Add your sugar substitute, cocoa powder and baking powder. Pulse until smooth.

– Carefully fold in your chocolate chips.

– Spoon into an 8 x 8 inch baking pan, bake at 350 F for 30 minutes.

Sugar Free Ice Cream ~ No Ice Cream Machine Required!

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Consistant with my recent push toward simplicity, I’ve started making my own ice cream. I do not own an ice cream machine so I had to experiment with a couple of different recipes and methods before I actually found something that works. That isn’t to say this recipe can’t be made in an ice cream machine, it most certainly can, it just works in the freezer as well! Today was my first attempt at chocolate, it turned out rich and decadent. I probably added too much chocolate powder but I was getting to the end of the container and figured why not. I can taste bitterness on the back end of it, perhaps I’ll add less next time. My kids and husband gave it a positive review anyway!

 

Sugar Free Ice Cream

Nutritional Information per 1/2 cup serving:

Calories: 250 (275 if chocolate)

Fat: 25g

Carbohydrate: 8g  (10 if chocolate)

Protein: 3.5g (5.8 if chocolate)

 

Ingrediants:

2 cups of whole milk

2 cups of heavy whipping cream

2 egg yolks

1 cup of Splenda (or other sucralose)

2 teaspoons of vanilla

pinch of salt

Cocoa powder to taste if making chocolate, I used 1 cup of it.

 

Method:

– Mix your milk, cream and 1/2 a cup of sucralose in a heavy bottomed saucepan.

– Heat this mixture until nearly boiling, stirring constantly. I like to alternate a rubber spatula and a wire wisk. Wisk it with the wisk, stopping to occasionally scrape the bottom and sides of the saucepan with the spatula. That keeps the mixture from scorching.

– Mix your egg yolks, salt, vanilla and the other 1/2 cup of sucralose in a large glass bowl.

– When your milk mixture is nearly boiling, turn the heat off and take about a cup of the mixture to temper the egg yolks with. Slowly drizzle the milk mixture into the egg yolk mixture, whisking furiously while you do so. The aim here is to heat the egg yolks up but you don’t want to heat them too quickly or you’ll end up with scrambeled egg.

– Once the egg yolks are tempered, add them back into the milk mixture.

– Turn the heat on low and return to whisking / scraping for another ten minutes or so until the mixture has started to thicken. If you’re adding cocoa, now is the time to add it.

 

Now you have your ice cream base. If you have an ice cream machine, make your ice cream according to the machine’s instructions. If you don’t have a machine, this next section is for  you!

– If you don’t have an ice cream machine, take a large shallow pan, preferably metal (I use a 9 x 13 baking pan) and put it in the freezer before you begin cooking.

– When you have your ice cream base made, put it straight into your chilled pan and back into the freezer.

– Set a timer for 15-20 minutes.

– Return to your ice cream and scrape all along the sides of the pan with a spoon, then furiously beat it with a wire wisk. Put the pan back in the freezer.

– Repeat this process every 20 minutes or so until your ice cream is the consistancy of soft serve.

– Put your ice cream in a container, then put it back in the freezer.

 

As you can see from my photograph, I’ve used little “frozen dessert” containers. I like these because you can measure out a serving, then there’s no guess work when you come to eat your ice cream.

I hope you enjoy this delicious, lower carbohydrate treat. It’s great for cheat day, kids love it and I love it for kids because I know what’s in it! Thank goodness that middle-kid seems to be over his dairy issue now.

The benefits of baking your own bread

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A recent venture for me has been baking my own bread. Every Saturday, I start early and get a nice hunk of dough rising in the cupboard. I also make a couple of quick breads. Due to the season, it’s been zucchini bread. Why? Because I was getting sick of reading the packages of store bread in a futile attempt to find the “best” one.

It’s very difficult to find bread in the bread aisle without high fructose corn syrup in it. Even more so to find bread that’s not been loaded with preservatives. I get it, bread is a hard thing to keep shelf stable for a long time. If you get fresh baked bread from a baker it’ll go off within a couple of days unless you refrigerate or freeze it. That, obviously, is bad for profits. But is it good for us?

I’m not an eater of bread any more, but my kids and husband are. I decided to start baking for them. I try to feed my family well. I’m not a staunch buyer of organic produce, you won’t find kale quinoa goat cheese bites anywhere in my house but I feel like we’ve found a decent balance of fresh, healthy and low cost. They eat hot dogs, but they’re locally made and I know what’s in them. They eat a lot of fruits and steamable veggie bags from the freezer aisle. We get our eggs from the farm next door (and soon our own chickens). Bread was the next logical step. I feel better about giving my kids this bread because I know exactly what’s in it. It keeps in the fridge for a week (well, likely longer than week but it’s never lasted that long), toasts well and freezes for up to 3 months.

I enjoy the process of bread making. I used to do it a lot in high school but it had been years. The first time I tried went badly, it didn’t rise, it sort of looked like a sad French stick. I discovered that yeast could expire. Every time I’ve been making it it’s been improving though. Today, I added flax meal and I’ll be making a cinnamon raisin loaf just for fun.

Here’s the recipe that I’ve been using with some slight tweaks. I’ll post the raw recipe first

– 3 cups of warm water (110 degrees)

– 2 (.25 oz) packets of dry active yeast

– 1/3 cup honey

– 5 cups bread flour

– 3 tablespoons melted butter

– 1/3 cup honey

– 1 tablespoon of salt

– 3 1/2 cups whole wheat flour

– additional butter for greasing things with

 

 

  • In a large bowl, mix warm water, yeast, and 1/3 cup honey. Add 5 cups white bread flour, and stir to combine. Let set for 30 minutes, or until big and bubbly.
  • Mix in 3 tablespoons melted butter, 1/3 cup honey, and salt. Stir in 2 cups whole wheat flour. Flour a flat surface and knead with whole wheat flour until not real sticky – just pulling away from the counter, but still sticky to touch. This may take an additional 2 to 4 cups of whole wheat flour. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to coat the surface of the dough. Cover with a dishtowel. Let rise in a warm place until doubled.
  • Punch down, and divide into 3 loaves. Place in greased 9 x 5 inch loaf pans, and allow to rise until dough has topped the pans by one inch.
  • Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 25 to 30 minutes; do not overbake. Lightly brush the tops of loaves with 2 tablespoons melted butter or margarine when done to prevent crust from getting hard. Cool completely

http://allrecipes.com/recipe/simple-whole-wheat-bread/

 

Now: Here are the modifications I’ve played around with

– Using warm milk instead of warm water just for that little bit of extra taste / nutrition

– Not putting the second 1/3 cup of honey in. I feel like it tastes too sweet, so I only used the first 1/3 cup of honey to activate the yeast.

– Kneading in flax meal. You can also knead in oats or well anything you like!

 

When life gives you snow, make taffy!

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Like most of the East coast right now, we are being dumped on. Maybe not as bad as Boston but traversing the driveway has definitely been an adventure. My kids love the snow. For them, it’s like God threw playdoh all over the ground. They’ll play until their faces are red and come tromping in all out of breath and ready for some hot cocoa and a snack. One of their favorite snow day treats is a classic recipe I learned to make in my youth of Canadian winters. We had a friend who had a maple tree forest and a sugar shack, I still remember the way it smelled.

All you need for maple snow taffy is maple syrup, fresh snow and a candy thermometer. Well, I suppose you don’t really need a candy thermometer. We use our probe thermometer and it works out fine.

Stage 1: Task your kids with collecting some fresh snow. It was easy today, all they did was leave the pan outside.

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Stage 2: Set your maple syrup on the stove

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What you’re looking for is the soft ball stage, or 235 – 240 degrees F. Keep an eye on it because it happens quickly with high heat.

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Stage 3: Pour your maple syrup over the snow. You can pour it in any shape you want. Last time we made long sticks, today the kids wanted to see what would happen if we poured it straight down. the taffy came out shaped like little bowls.

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Stage 6: Eat immediately! This stuff has to go straight from snow to mouth otherwise it becomes gooey and difficult to manage. It has a unique chewy-melty texture and, of course, tastes of maple.

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Maple snow taffy is a great little science demonstration as well, you can discuss the stages of candy making and how sugar turns into candy.

 

Chia Seed Pudding

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On my adventure to living well the hardest road block for me to conquer so far has been breakfast. You’d think breakfast would be the easiest one, but I have some requirements for breakfast that complicate things. First of all, I shouldn’t have to cook it. Or if I cook it there should be minimal amounts of cooking involved. I’d much prefer a breakfast that you can take out of the fridge, assemble maybe and eat. This is because I’m also serving three kids, two dogs, sorting out who has what lunch for today, making sure homework was completed and reading a daily devotional at breakfast time. That rules out eggs unless we are counting egg muffins, which I like alright but which can also get repetitive very fast.

I’m also not a big breakfast eater, if I eat a lot of volume at breakfast I feel weird. So I prefer something small with a lot of satiety factor. Again, egg comes to mind but that requires a lot of prep.

I had been eating Greek yogurt, but I ran out of it and forgot to pick some up during the weekly shop. Besides, Greek yogurt also gets boring day after day after day.

I had heard about the merits of chia seeds in the past but sort of dismissed them as the next quinoa. Quinoa is  good but too much of it can mess you up. Then I found out what they do in liquid. They gel into a tapioca pudding type texture. I love tapioca pudding but it was something I’d pretty much written off. With that new information I decided to give chia seed pudding a try. I followed a vegan recipe but substituted whole cow’s milk for almond milk because I just can’t get over all the various chemical additives in most non dairy milk. This pudding boasts about 9 net carbs per 1/2 cup serving (less if you use non dairy milk), fiber, omega 3, protein, calcium and a ton of other nutrients.

The basic ratio of chia seeds to liquid is 3 tablespoons per cup. I chose maple syrup as my sweetener because, while it isn’t a 0 carb sweetener it’s again minimally processed and has a lower glycemic index than sugar (54 vs 65). Honey also has a lower glycemic index at 50 but, of course, isn’t vegan.

 

Vanilla Chia Seed Pudding

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: No cooking but it sits in the fridge for as long as possible

 

Raw chia seeds: 3/4 cup

Maple syrup or honey: 2 tablespoons

Liquid: 4 cups

Vanilla: 2 beans or 2 teaspoons

 

– Combine liquid, vanilla and sweetener until smooth. You may want to do this in a blender.

– Add chia seeds and stir.

– Allow to sit in the fridge over night.

2015 and Operation “Get Healthy”

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On January the 1st this year I did something that I don’t usually do, I made a New Year’s resolution. I don’t normally do them because I feel like they are pointless, nobody ever keeps them anyway so why bother. I wasn’t going to make one unless I was actually going to keep it. This year I’ve decided to do just that. My resolution started out with the end goal of 150 lbs, I would need to lose 60.

I’ve had an obsession with sugar, especially chocolate, for too long. I found myself buying a big bag of of those little individual squares “for my son to take to school” then keeping it in the cupboard. I was counting out 5 chocolates at the beginning of the week to set aside for school, then slowly eating all the rest of them. Every time I passed the cupboard, I’d grab a couple of squares. They’re just small, I figured, can’t do much harm. It’s not like I’m eating big bars of it.

The truth of the matter was that was exactly what it was like. All those little squares throughout the day would add up to a full bar, sometimes two bars. On top of that I’d have hot chocolate, nutella, a dessert after supper which usually consisted of a big bowl of ice cream (a habit held over from gestational diabetes) and a chocolate bar every time I went through the check out line at a store. Add to that all the diet soda I was drinking and fast food I was eating, it’s a wonder that I wasn’t heavier than I was. I think the thing keeping my weight stable was the fact that I’m breastfeeding.

They tell you not to “diet” while breastfeeding. That a decrease in caloric intake will decrease your milk supply. I took this as licence to eat whatever the heck I wanted, or sometimes stuff I didn’t want that was just in front of me anyway.

So at the beginning of the year I said enough was enough. I was calling it “Operation: Stop being such a fatass” but a revelation hit me the other day. It isn’t about what I look like or how much I weigh, it’s about how I feel. It started with eliminating all chocolate and soda. I instantly felt better. I like the taste of soda, I like the way the bubbles feel but it makes my body retain water. When I cut it out I lost 10 pounds of water weight very quickly.

Next came eliminating most other sources of simple sugar and all complex carbohydrates. What this means in practice is using lettuce instead of bread for burgers and tacos, using apples instead of bread as peanut butter vehicles, replacing potatoes and pasta with more vegetables and replacing rice with cauliflower rice. Most of that has been relatively straightforward, the thing I am having the hardest time with is pasta. I love pasta, I love how it’s a vehicle for deliciousness. I refuse, however, to buy myself low-carb alternative pasta. To me, moving from one processed thing to another processed thing just won’t solve the problem. I’ve been eating a lot of meat accompanied by mountains of veg for dinner. It’s a good thing that I like veg!

Notice what I did NOT cut out: Animal fat, plant fat (coconut oil / olive oil / peanut butter) and salt. I never cooked with much salt to begin with so salt really isn’t an issue. I will eat cold cuts and bacon still, not every day, maybe a couple times a week. Fat isn’t even on my radar. Without complex carbs I need my calories to come from somewhere, I need to keep my calories up in order to provide milk for my son. Fat is the most calorie dense substance, you get a lot of “bang for your buck”. So fat stays, whole milk and heavy cream and olive oil and butter stay. I’m also taking a multivitamin and calcium every day.

The final stage was to get back on my bike. I have a love / hate relationship with my exercise bike. The darned thing was bought maybe 4 or 5 years ago and two houses ago. It followed us through two moves. The seat is breaking, it’s missing bits, the handlebars have split and I had to ziptie them back together, the display no longer works because the kids stole the cords for it… but it does it’s job. It gets me sweating once a day for about half an hour.

I started out 20 minutes every other day, I’ve moved it up to half an hour a day. I don’t feel like I’m ready to return to the HIIT that I was doing before I got pregnant with my little one but that’s OK. I’m not looking for rapid, dramatic weight loss. I’m looking for a slow, steady discovery of health. I can’t say “return” to health because I have never been healthy. Even as a kid I wasn’t. I used to walk a lot but I also ate and drank like crap.

This year’s resolution is one I’m determined to keep. I want to be around for as long as possible for my kids, grand kids and, who knows, great grand kids maybe.

A very mason jar Christmas

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I’ll be the first to admit that my plans don’t always pan out. This spring I bought a bunch of mason jars with every intention of canning the best of summer fruits and veggies. I had it all worked out, and then watched as season after season passed me by and not a thing was canned. I felt pretty guilty because I had spent a good amount of money on the jars and had nothing to show for it.

Redemption came in the form of me wondering what in the world I was going to do for Christmas presents this year. We are on a budget right now as we’re trying to sell the house we moved out of in October of 2013. I knew that I was going to do something hand made this year, but what? Those mason jars sitting in my garage started calling to me. I knew I’d seen cute mason jar hot chocolate mixes online before. I started looking.

So far I’ve got five different jars made up. The smaller jars have hot chocolate mix with and without crushed peppermint candies (I personally love peppermint, but I know not everyone does). The large jars left to right have m&m cookie mix, oatmeal scotchies and triple chocolate brownies. The layered sand art look they have to them is very pretty!

I’ll also be doing cute little things like different bath products in jars and maybe a little crafting kit for someone I know who loves to craft.

I’m sharing with you the transcribed recipes here and I’ll link them as well because the site for the baked goods has cute cards you can print out and attach to the jars. I haven’t gotten around to that part yet.

 

M&M Cookies in a Jar – makes 2 and 1/2 dozen cookies

1 wide mouth quart (4 cup) canning jar

3/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup granulated sugar

2 cups sifted all purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1 and 1/4 cup m&m’s candies

 

– Sift the flour. You’re going to want to measure out 2 cups after sifting, not before. Sifting will add air to it.

– Add the baking soda and baking powder to your measured flour.

– Layer your jar in this order: Brown sugar, granulated sugar, flour mixture, m&m’s.

 

Instructions:

– Empty the contents of the jar into a bowl, mix thoroughly.

– Add 1/2 cup of softened butter or margarine, 1 beaten egg, 1 teaspoon of vanilla.

– Roll into 1 inch balls, place 2 inches apart on an ungreased baking sheet.

– Bake at 375 degrees F until lightly browned, about 12 to 14 minutes.

– Cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to wire racks.

http://christmas.organizedhome.com/crafts/gifts-in-a-jar/m-and-m-cookies.

 

Oatmeal Scotchies in a Jar – makes 3 dozen cookies

1 wide mouth quart (4 cup) canning jar

3/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup granulated sugar

3/4 cup butterscotch baking chips

2 cups rolled oats

1 cup sifted all purpose flour

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

 

– Sift the flour. You’re going to want to measure out 1 cup after sifting, not before. Sifting will add air to it.

– Add the cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda and salt to your measured flour.

– Layer your jar in this order: Brown sugar, granulated sugar, butterscotch chips, rolled oats, flour mixture

 

Note: This recipe needs serious tamping to get it to all fit in the jar. Press it down well.

 

Instructions

– Empty the contents of the jar into a large mixing bowl and mix well.

– Add 3/4 a cup of softened butter or margarine, 1 beaten egg and 1 teaspoon of vanilla.

– Form 1 inch balls and place 2 inches apart on an ungreased baking sheet.

– Bake at 350 degrees F until the edges are lightly browned, about 10 to 12 minutes.

– Cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to wire racks.

http://christmas.organizedhome.com/crafts/gifts-in-a-jar/oatmeal-scotchies

 

Triple Chocolate brownies in a Jar (this recipe has been modified slightly. I did not have peanutbutter chips so I used white chocolate chips instead) – makes 16 bars

1 wide mouth quart (4 cup) canning jar

1 cup sifted all purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 cup white chocolate chips

1/2 cup milk or semisweet chocolate chips

 

– Sift the flour. You’re going to want to measure out 1 cup after sifting, not before. Sifting will add air to it.

– Add the baking powder and salt to your measured flour.

– Layer your jar in this order: Granulated sugar, cocoa, flour mixture, white chocolate chips, milk or semisweet chocolate chips.

 

Instructions

– Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.

– Combine 1/2 cup (1 stick) of melted and cooled butter and 2 slightly beaten eggs in a large bowl.

– Add the contents of the jar and gently mix.

– Spread in a pan, bake for 35 minutes.

– Cool in pan, cut into bars.

http://christmas.organizedhome.com/crafts/gifts-in-a-jar/brownies

 

Alton Brown’s Hot Cocoa

2 cups powdered sugar

1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

2 1/2 cups instant powdered milk

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons corn starch

Optional: A pinch of cayenne pepper, more to taste.

 

– Combine ingredients thoroughly in a bowl.

– Place mixture into pint sized jars, top with marshmallows or crushed peppermint candies.

 

Instructions

– Fill a cup half way with mixture.

– Add hot milk or water.

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/hot-cocoa-recipe.html

Super simple beer chili

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When it’s cold outside there are few things I like more than a nice bowl of hot chili. The great thing about it is that it’s so versatile. You can eat it as a side or a main dish, it freezes well if you have leftovers and it always tastes better the next day.

The recipe that I use has been adapted from a recipe that I learned from my mother, who was fond of making chili out of spaghetti sauce. I used to make it out of spaghetti sauce as well until one instance where we really wanted chili but were out of spaghetti sauce. Several adaptations later and I believe I’ve finally settled upon a recipe. It’s easy to make and is a big hit with guests.

 

Super Simple Beer Chili (Serves 4)

Prep time: 30 minutes

Cooking time: 1-3 hours

 

2 cloves of garlic

1/2 an onion

1 lb ground beef

1 large can or 2 regular cans of diced tomatoes

1 can of red kidney beans

1 beer

1 package of frozen corn

Paprika, cumin, chili powder, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper

 

– Saute the garlic and onion in a little bit of oil until they are translucent

– Add in the ground beef and brown it off. At this point if I want to make the chili “atomic” I will add in one or more habanero peppers and cook it with the beef.

– As the beef is browning season it with the spices, the salt and the pepper. I didn’t put measures on any of the spices because I’m kind of from the Rachel Ray camp of spice measuring in this recipe. It’s about a teaspoon and a half each, maybe more or less depending on who you’re serving and what their tastes are. If you want it spicy add more red pepper flakes, if you want it very savory amp up the cumin and paprika.

If you haven’t got any fresh garlic or onion now is the time to add your garlic and onion powders too. I tend to use a lot of onion powder.

– Just dump in everything else. Tomatoes, beans with their liquid (it will thicken the chili), beer, corn.

– If you don’t want to use beer, fill the bean can up with water and dump it in. If you’re using water instead of beer I recommend adding a bit of tomato paste and Worcestershire sauce to deepen the flavor. You can still do that with beer if you want but if you’re using beer it likely doesn’t need it.

– Season the chili a second time, just like you did when you were browning off the beef. This time omit the salt.

– Bring the chili to a boil then reduce it to a simmer.

– Simmer it for at least an hour, preferably more than three hours.

 

Serving suggestions:

My husband really likes his chili with a lot of crackers in it, I prefer mine over rice with cheese, sour cream and green onions or chives for a little green on top.

 

Freezing:

Put left over room temperature or fridge cold chili in a large freezer bag and squeeze all the air out. It will keep in the freezer for 6 months. It’s a great freezer meal for new moms!

Saturday baking: No butter? No oil? No problem!

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This Saturday I bring you fat free banana bread. My middle kid has been having tummy issues lately that my husband and I suspect may be do to lactose intolerance. We’ve decided to try a couple of weeks dairy free to see if that helps him. Baking dairy free is a challenge for me because I’m kind of a fat purist. We pretty much only use butter, olive oil and on occasion coconut oil. As we were doing the  grocery shopping yesterday I picked up a tub of good ol’ Country Crock. You know, the stuff that was on pretty much every dining room table when we were kids. I thought to myself “I know this doesn’t have dairy in it” as I turned the small, brown tub around in my hand to view the ingredients.

I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t bring myself to put something so laden with suspect and unpronounceable stuff in my cart. As I mentioned a few posts ago though my little local grocery store doesn’t offer the hugest selection. There aren’t many butter alternatives that aren’t yellow butter like substances. If it turns out that my middle does have issues with dairy I’ll have to make the occasional special trip to get him some coconut oil I think.

But not yesterday. Yesterday we had errands to run, hair that needed to be cut and Taekwondo pictures to take.

So what was I to do without my butter?! Butter is usually the base of anything I bake. That or cream. What a dilemma!

The answer came in the form of the 6 brown bananas I had sitting on the counter. Banana bread! This recipe uses applesauce instead of oil or butter. It’s awesome. I was dubious at first. I’ve used applesauce like this in the past in a brownie recipe but they didn’t come out as rich as I’d have liked. This banana bread, however, came out exactly like one would expect banana bread to come out. It’s got a dark brown crust and a moist, spongy texture. It was a big hit all around and definitely a keeper.

 

Applesauce Banana Bread

 

3 Ripe Bananas

1 cup sugar (brown or white)

1/2 cup applesauce

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups flour

 

– Put the bananas in your stand mixer and throw the sugar in with them, let them mix until smooth. Alternatively you can just take a good old potato masher to them. Let this all sit for 15 minutes once the mixture is smooth.

– Add the applesauce followed by the baking soda, baking powder, salt and vanilla. Beat the mixture until it’s fluffy. I was surprised by how much it foamed up!

– Slowly add the flour about a quarter cup at a time, fully incorporating after each addition.

– Pour the batter into a greased 9 x 5 loaf pan.

– Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Mine needed a little longer than 45 minutes.

Lunchbox breakdown

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On Thursdays I have lunch and recess duty at my kids’ school. We watch my first grader’s class and the other 1-6th grade kids at recess then we all go back to the classroom for lunch. My preschooler loves it because he gets to pretend to be a first grader for a couple of hours and the baby is over the moon with all the attention the big kids give him. For me, it’s been an exercise in creativity because, in addition to my 6 year old’s lunch I also have to pack two other lunches for mini appetites.

My 4 year old usually wants everything that his brother has in his lunch box but he doesn’t have a Planetbox yet so fitting “most” of it into a Lunchbot is always interesting. Yesterday we did peanutbutter on whole wheat, hard boiled eggs, carrots and grapes as the “main” items. No carrots for the baby because they are too hard for him to eat raw.

Allow me to highlight the lunchboxes that we use.

The large one you see here is a Planetbox rover (which can be found here http://planetbox.com/). My six year old loves his planetbox and all of the kids in his classroom think that it’s super cool. He chose the space ship magnets and the blue carrying bag. I like the fact that there is little to no waste in his lunch and it’s all contained in one neat, tidy package. The stainless steel goes in the dishwasher and always comes out sparkling. It’s easy to pack because of the separate compartments. My child knows what each one is for and will tell me what he wants for his fruit, vegetable and protein most days. The big compartment I have a little licence with to surprise him at least.

One of the major cons of the Planetbox is that it’s not water tight. If you want to send something wet you can send it in the separate round container (not pictured) or the “little dipper” container (pictured). You can also use press and seal wrap or a plastic baggie but that kind of defeats the no waste aim of the lunchbox. So far the “no wet stuff” rule hasn’t really bothered us that much. I use the large round container for his snack, it fits perfectly in the pocket on the front of the Planetbox bag. The little dipper usually has either a dip or ketchup in it. One time I sent yogurt and that seemed like a hit so I may do that again.

 

The two smaller containers you see are Lunchbots (found here http://www.lunchbots.com/). Lunchbots were actually my introduction to the world of stainless steel lunch systems and I happened upon them quite by accident. I found them in my local grocery store and picked them up two years ago for summer camp. Yep, you heard right. Those containers in the pictures are two years old and still like new. They’ve been toted everywhere by preschoolers, dropped repeatedly and are still in good shape. I put them in a Skip Hop lunch bag (http://www.skiphop.com/) – the frog in case you’re curious – and that makes sure the lids stay securely closed. The Lunchbots are the perfect size for my preschooler and toddler’s smaller appetites but still lets them feel like big kids by bringing their lunch in on Thursdays.

I highly recommend both the Planetbox and the Lunchbots. When my preschooler goes to first grade he’ll be getting his very own Planetbox.