Simple Homemade Banana Bread

Lily and Grandma make this simple homemade banana bread, a classic, no-frills, traditional recipe that has been around for years in my family!

Simple Homemade Banana Bread

 

4 ripe bananas

⅓ cup milk

3 tbsp butter, melted

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla

½ cup granulated sugar

½ cup brown sugar

2½ cups flour

3½ tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

 

Preheat the oven to 350℉.

Grease bottom only of a loaf pan, 9x5x3 inches, or 2 loaf pans, 8½x4½x2 ½ inches.

Peel bananas and place in a blender cup.  Add milk, butter, egg and vanilla.  Blend until smooth.  Add sugars and blend again until smooth.

Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.  Add banana mixture and mix with a hand or stand mixer until well blended.

Pour mixture into loaf pan(s) and bake until the internal temperature reaches 200℉ or until a toothpick inserted in middle comes out clean, 55 – 65 minutes (55 – 60 minutes for 8” loaves).

Cool for 5 minutes.  Loosen sides of the bread from the pan and turn onto a cooling rack.

Allow to cool completely before slicing.

 

8 servings, 475 calories per serving

Hack:  Tightly wrap leftovers and store them in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or freeze for up to 3 months.

Hack:  To see more videos from Lily-Rose and her friends, check out our YouTube channel!  Don’t forget to like, subscribe and press that notification button so you won’t miss any new videos!

 

Flourless Oatmeal Bars

These gluten-free flourless oatmeal bars are made with chickpeas instead of flour! Chickpeas are low in fat, high in fiber and rich in antioxidants.

Flourless Oatmeal Bars
(Published by Pampered Chef)

 

1 can (15-16 oz or 398 mL) chickpeas, drained and rinsed

2   eggs

½ cup (125 mL) reduced-fat creamy peanut butter

1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla extract

⅔ cup (150 mL) white chocolate morsels, divided

½ cup (125 mL) quick-cooking oats

⅓ cup (75 mL) dried cranberries

⅓ cup (75 mL) packed brown sugar

½ tsp (2 mL) baking soda

¼ tsp (1 mL) salt

 

Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Lightly spray the wells of a Brownie Pan with nonstick cooking spray.

Place chickpeas and eggs in the Manual Food Processor and process until they’re well blended.

Carefully remove the blade from the processor bowl, and transfer the chickpea mixture to the Classic Batter Bowl. Add the peanut butter and vanilla, then mix well with a Small Mix ‘N Scraper®. Add ⅓ cup (75 mL) of the morsels, oats, cranberries, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt. Mix until combined.

Using a Small Scoop, divide the mixture evenly into the wells of the pan. Gently spread the mixture with the back of the Scoop. Bake for 16–18 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the centers comes out clean.

Place the remaining ⅓-cup (75-mL) morsels in a 1-cup (250-mL) Prep Bowl and microwave on HIGH for 1 minute, stirring every 15 seconds or until melted. Transfer the morsels to a small resealable plastic bag (see cook’s tips).

Move the pan from the oven to the Stackable Cooling Rack, and let cool for 5 minutes. Trim a small corner off the bag, and drizzle chocolate evenly over the tops of the bars. Serve with Mini Nylon Serving Spatula.

12  servings

Calories 190, Total Fat 8 g, Saturated Fat 3 g, Cholesterol 35 mg, Sodium 270 mg, Carbohydrate 25 g, Fiber 2 g, Sugar 16 g, Protein 6 g

Cook’s Tips:
To fill the plastic bag with melted chocolate, place a small resealable plastic bag over the rim of the Mini Measure-All® Cup with one corner pointing into the cup. Pour melted chocolate into the bag. Remove bag and twist top.

Hack:  To see more videos from Lily-Rose and her friends, check out our YouTube channel!  Don’t forget to like, subscribe and press that notification button so you won’t miss any new videos!

Hack: Read my review of the KitchenAid Artisan Series 5 Quart Tilt-Head Stand Mixer here.

 

Homemade Hot and Sour Soup

Homemade hot and sour soup is a staple of Chinese cuisine and Yuhong is here to show us how to make it! Don’t forget to subscribe so you won’t miss new videos!

Homemade Hot and Sour Soup

 

2 dry mushrooms (optional)

½ carrot

1 tomato

1” knob of ginger

2 mushrooms

2 green onion

8 oz tofu

1 teaspoon white pepper (or to taste)

3 tbsp Chinese (black) vinegar

1 tbsp cornstarch

6 cups plus 1 tbsp water, divided

2 eggs

3-4 tbsp vegetable oil

2 tbsp soy sauce

Salt to taste

 

If you’re using dried mushrooms, soak them for two hours before using them.

Cut the carrot into 1” matchsticks.  Soak tomato in boiling water for 2 minutes and then drain and peel the skin off.  Cut into small cubes.  Cut the ginger and mushrooms into matchsticks.  Thinly slice green onion and cube tofu.

In a small bowl, mix vinegar and Chinese vinegar.

Mix cornstarch with water in another small bowl.  Add a few drops more water if needed to create a smooth slurry.  Beat eggs in a third bowl.

Bring two cups of water to a simmer on the stovetop in a large saucepan.  Add dried mushrooms, fresh mushrooms and carrots. Simmer for 2 minutes and remove vegetables from the water.

Place a large saute pan or wok on the stovetop over high heat and add 3 tbsp vegetable oil.  When the oil is hot, add ginger and cook until fragrant, 2-3 minutes.  Add tomato and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes.

Pour 4 cups of water into the saute pan and bring to boil.  Add carrots and mushrooms. Cook for 5-6 minutes or to desired softness.  Gently stir in tofu and allow to heat through.

Add vinegar and white pepper* then stir in cornstarch slurry and allow to thicken for 1-2 minutes.  Add soy sauce and salt.

Turn heat to medium-high.  Pour in eggs, slowly streaming the mixture over the surface of the soup and stir it gently to cook eggs.

Sprinkle green onion over the bottom of a large serving bowl or divide over 6 single-serving bowls.  Add soup and serve immediately.

*The hot, spicy flavor of this soup comes from the white pepper so adjust the amount according to how spicy you want it.  You’ll be able to add more before serving if you wish.

6 servings, 170 calories per serving

 

Hack:  Pork or chicken can be used in place of tofu.

Hack:  Dehydrated vegetables can be used in this recipe.

Hack:  Soup can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or frozen in serving-sized containers for up to 3 months.

Hack: Matchstick carrots can be found in the packaged section of the produce department.  Freeze any leftover carrots for use in cooking.

Hack:  Chop leftover green onions and freeze in a sealable freezer bag or container for future use. While they won’t retain the crispness that would make them suitable for salads or garnish, they will be fine for cooking.

Hack:  Look (or ask the produce clerk) for loose items such as carrots and mushrooms so you will only have to buy what you need for a particular recipe.  You can also shop the salad bar if you just need a small amount of an item that you don’t think you’ll use again before it “goes over”.

Hack:  For more instructional videos for making traditional Chinese cuisine, visit Yuhong’s Country Kitchen on YouTube! 

Are All Processed Foods Bad?

Are All Processed Foods Bad?
Are All Processed Foods Bad?

What is processed food?  Are all processed foods bad?  Can processed foods ever be healthy?  Where do we draw the line?  These are questions we ask ourselves every day.

Many people see processed foods as a bad thing but foods are neither good nor bad, black or white.  Like everything else in life, there are shades of gray.  And here’s the truth:  Everything we eat is processed.

The key is to educate ourselves on what processed foods we can introduce into a healthy diet and which ones we should stay away from.  It’s easier than you think.

First, let’s take a look at the different categories of processed foods.

Categories of Processed Foods

Categories of Processed Foods
Categories of Processed Foods

What we typically think of as unprocessed foods are actually “processed” in the regard that they are slightly altered from their natural state for the sake of consumer convenience and/or the purpose of preservation.  These include foods that are picked from the vine, cleaned, pasteurized, refrigerated, frozen and/or vacuum-sealed. Examples of this would be fresh or frozen whole produce, milk, fresh herbs and eggs.

Minimally processed foods have been manipulated in some way.  They have had inedible/unwanted parts removed, been pressed, dried, ground, cooked, milled and/or packaged. This category includes meat cut by a butcher, seafood, bagged salads, roasted nuts, grains, legumes, oils and whole-grain flours.

Foods can be further processed when they are modified from their original state to become something else.  This includes butter, sour cream, hummus, salt, sugar, pickled and fermented foods.

Now we move onto the next level of processed foods.  These are foods processed in a factory and come to us canned, jarred or otherwise packaged.  This is where we must begin to be vigilant.  

Highly Processed Food

Highly Processed Food
Highly Processed Food

Many highly processed foods appear to be healthy on the surface.  Let’s take these granola bars, for example.  The label shouts that it’s made with 100% WHOLE GRAINS!  No high fructose corn syrup! No artificial flavors!  No added color! 100 calories or less per serving!

But there’s a rude awakening when we look at the nutrition label.

Whole grains?  They may be whole but there certainly aren’t many of ‘em in there…1 gram (or less, depending on the flavor) of fiber per serving

No high fructose corn syrup?  That’s true, but each bar is chock-a-block full of other sugars:  Cane sugar, brown sugar, invert sugar, corn syrup and corn syrup solids.  At 7 grams per serving, that’s more than 25% of the recommended daily allowance for children.  As for the high fructose corn syrup argument?  Studies show that, although it’s metabolized differently from other sweeteners, all added sugars have the same metabolic effects on the body and can lead to the same health consequences.

But, it’s low in calories, right?  Unfortunately, the nutrition label shows that there is no notable nutrition being added to your diet when you eat this bar.  It’s empty calories.  It’s adding nothing to your body except calories and sugar.  (Yes, just like a candy bar). In my opinion, this is the most overlooked aspect of these highly processed foods.

When you swap out the granola bars for this homemade fruit nut granola, you’ll be gaining 3.5 grams of fiber, 4 grams of protein and a wide variety of vitamins and minerals per serving.  And while there is honey added to the mix, it’s partially offset by the fiber and protein content and the added nutrition found in this natural sweetener.

Can You Judge A Book By Its Cover?

Can You Judge A Book By Its Cover?
Can You Judge A Book By Its Cover?

So are there any highly processed foods that we can eat?  How can we know which ones to choose?  I’m here to tell you this:  You, without a doubt, CAN judge a book by its cover.

Any food that’s considered processed must have a nutrition label, which lists ingredients as well as calories, fat, added sugars, fiber and nutritional values. It takes less than a minute to decide if any particular item should be added to your shopping cart.

Take a look at the ingredients.  Everything you see there should be something that you can find in your own kitchen. If there are any ingredients you can’t pronounce, don’t know what it is or wouldn’t be able to buy it on the grocery store shelf, put that package right back and move on.

You should also keep in mind that less is more.  Look for items with only a few simple ingredients.  Just like you would make it at home.

Now look at the nutrition section and ask yourself these questions.  How many servings are in this container?  How many servings would you eat in one sitting?  How much sodium, fat and sugar would you be ingesting in that one sitting?  Is there any protein, fiber, vitamins or minerals that would nourish your body?

For more information on understanding this information, check out this article from the FDA.

How To Make Good Choices

How To Make Good Choices
How To Make Good Choices

Shelf-stable grocery items do have a valid place in every kitchen.  Things like canned tuna, canned or dried fruits/vegetables and legumes remain edible for a long time, much longer than fresh.  They also retain the same level of nutrition for their entire shelf life.

Dry pasta, whole grain flours, granulated sugar and rolled oats are convenient to use and have a long shelf life.  Nuts, nut butter and dried meats need no preparation and can be eaten directly from the container.

Having said that, we cannot assume that all these products are created equal.  In general, most “flavored” items such as honey roasted nuts and tuna packets have added sugar and/or sodium.  So do many nut butters.

Do you know that a single serving size container of many flavored yogurts can contain (or even exceed) your RDA of sugar?  Just as delicious (and much healthier) is unflavored yogurt with a few drops of honey and vanilla and/or fresh fruit.

I hate to be a nag but I’m going to say it again and ask you to take a few seconds to read those nutrition facts.  I guarantee you’ll be surprised at what you see from one brand to the next! 

It’s All About The Balance

It’s All About The Balance
It’s All About The Balance

You may wonder why I’m telling you this.  I’m the one who’s always preaching about cooking fresh, whole foods, thinking ahead, saving leftovers, yada, yada, yada.

Right?

Because cooking from scratch is not always in the cards.  I get busy, I get tired, my plans change. Sometimes I’m just too lazy to cook.  Sometimes I want a shortcut and that’s ok.

It’s all about the balance in life so go ahead and make things easier by picking up a few cans or boxes.  Just don’t forget to read those labels!

All my best,

Cynthia
cynthia@cynthiaeats.com

Stewed Beef with Egg Noodles

Stewed Beef with Egg Noodles is an easy, nutritious and satisfying meal. Serve it with hearty bread, over egg noodles, potatoes or rice!

Stewed Beef with Egg Noodles
Stewed Beef with Egg Noodles

Stewed Beef with Egg Noodles

 

6 oz beef, cut into 1” cubes

2 tbsp flour

2 tbsp olive oil

½ cup red wine (non-alcoholic or regular)

1½  cups beef broth

1 clove garlic, minced (1 tsp)

1 cup chopped onion

1 green bell pepper, chopped

1 carrot, chopped

1 celery stalk, chopped

¾ cup fresh mushrooms, sliced (5 oz)

1 tbsp cornstarch

¼ cup water

2 cups uncooked egg noodles

 

Sprinkle flour over beef cubes and toss to coat.

Heat olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat.  Add beef and stir gently until browned, about 5 minutes.  Add wine and beef broth.

Add garlic, onion, pepper, carrot, celery, and mushrooms.  Bring to boil.

Turn the heat down to low and simmer for 2½ hours.

Dissolve cornstarch in water and stir into pan.  Simmer, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 2 minutes.

Cook egg noodles according to package directions and serve covered with stewed beef.

 

3 servings, 505 calories per serving

 

Hack:  Store leftover stewed beef and egg noodles separately to avoid soggy egg noodles.

Hack:  Store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or freeze for up to 6 months.

Hack: Although egg noodles can be frozen, they are better cooked fresh.  If possible, only cook what you’ll be using within 5 days.

Hack:  Frozen or dehydrated vegetables will work well in this recipe