Frosted Banana Bars

How many of you have had bananas sitting on the counter, slowly going black, knowing you’ll never eat them before they go really bad? Probably everyone who’s reading this, I imagine.

Of course, this happened to me for the umpteenth time not long ago, but I was armed and ready with a recipe that sounded very promising.

These bars (really they are banana bread… in bar form) got rave reviews over at the Taste of Home website, and I’d been waiting for the opportunity to have a go at them for quite some time.

When I finally made them, it literally only took one bite to know that I had stumbled on one of the best things ever baked in my kitchen.

You can imagine that I was shaking my head in disgust for having waited so long to make them!

As per usual, I made a few modifications from the original recipe, but nothing major. For the batter, I reduced the sugar and added walnuts, then I cut back a bit on the frosting and used half the called-for amount of cream cheese (not a big fan). OK, so perhaps that’s a fair amount of tweaking! Feel free to go with the original over at TOH and decide which one sounds best to you. Whichever you choose, I’m sure it will not disappoint :)
IMG_172
INGREDIENTS:
BARS:
1/2 cup butter, room temp.
1 1/2 cups organic cane sugar
3 eggs
3 mashed ripe bananas
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

FROSTING:
4 oz. cream cheese
1/2 cup butter
3 cups icing sugar
1/2 tsp. almond extract
1 to 2 Tbs. milk

METHOD:
Preheat oven to 350°F, grease, or line with parchment paper, a 13×9″ baking pan and set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, bananas and vanilla. Whisk together flour, baking soda and salt; add to butter mixture along with the walnuts and mix just until blended. Do not overmix! Transfer to the prepared pan and bake 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack. In the meantime prepare the frosting. Beat the cream cheese and butter until fluffy. Add icing sugar and almond extract; beat until smooth, adding milk as needed to make a spreadable frosting. Frost the bars once they have cooled to room temperature. Cut into bars and store in an airtight container… IF they ever make it to the container!! Yields 2 dozen delectable bars.

NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION:
Calories: 265
Fat: 11.3g
– Saturated Fat: 6.1g
– Cholesterol: 52.3mg
Sodium: 106.4mg
Carbohydrates: 39.3g
– Sugars: 28.5g
– Fibre: 0.9g
Protein: 3g

Running News

I ran my first event of the year on the 9th and I did exceptionally well; setting a new personal best for a 10K by over 6 minutes, and with a very sore knee at that!

Did I mention they handed out medals this year? No? Well, they most certainly did!

Did I mention they handed out medals this year? No? Well, they most certainly did!

While I am no stranger to participating in these events, I have never credited myself as truly “racing” in any of them. Because I have, what I believe to be, exercise-induced asthma, I run races with the same intensity (or lack thereof) as my training runs to avoid that terrifying feeling of suffocating. Last Saturday, however, I can honestly say that I pushed myself a lot harder than ever before, and maybe more than I should have…

The pain in my knee has worsened to the point where running has been out of the question for the better part of the week.

And the timing couldn’t be worse.

I was finally signed up for the half marathon that I have wanted to run for years.

The Royal Canadian Air Force run was the first road race that caught my attention many, many years ago and was the catalyst that made me take up running on a more serious level. This is also the first year that I have been in good enough running condition to even consider participating.

The optimist in me says that I still have two weeks until race day, and there’s a good chance that I will be good to go by the 31st.

A week after the half marathon, I will be doing a 5K fun run (my second time participating) and I’m really looking forward to this well-organized event!

In other news…

brookspurecadence– I had to return the New Balance Minimus shoes that I purchased. I made the mistake of purchasing them without first testing them on the store’s treadmill and later found that they were blisters waiting to happen. So I exchanged them for a pair of Brooks PureCadence (shown above) and you can bet these were put through their paces beforehand! But I am not 100% happy with these either (sigh, is there even such a thing as “the perfect shoe?”) Even though Brooks calls these “minimalist” shoes, they are, in reality, far too cushioned, rigid, and heavy to ever be considered a true minimalist shoe. But, they don’t rub anywhere and are fast, so they are keepers ;)

– I have not attended any meets with the run club that I was interested in joining and I’m not all that confident that it will ever happen. Reasons, 1) I am not a particularly social individual, 2) I really don’t see any added benefits, and, even more importantly, 3) without access to a vehicle, I have no convenient way of making it to the meets even if I wanted to take part.

That’s it for this month. Stay tuned for more running news in June when I hope to deliver some good news in regards to the upcoming half marathon!

POST #100! Spaghetti Sauce… with a twist!

100To celebrate my 100th blog post, I am having a pre-race pasta party!

Yes, tomorrow morning is my first race of the year – a 10K – and, thanks to a knee that has been bothering me all week, my one and only goal is to actually finish the run without causing any further damage!

I will provide details about said race in next week’s post. For now, let’s talk about this rather unusual sauce!

Out here in cyberspace, there are countless recipes for spaghetti sauce, no matter the individual preferences, there is going to be one to suit just about any tastes. Some are not much more than an herbed tomato sauce, others contain a plethora of garden veggies, while others are a meat lovers’ delight. This one is all of the above plus something you wouldn’t ordinarily find in an Italian dish.

A touch of heat! In the form of paprika, chili powder, and even ground cayenne.

I’ve no idea who invented this recipe or what made them add a little Mexican flair to a decidedly Italian dish, but it actually works.

Aside from using this as a traditional topping for hot, cooked spaghetti, we absolutely love this in lasagna. Of course, that’s simply our personal tastes talking, but if you like a little kick to your food, give this a shot to see what you think :)
IMG_177

This recipe makes a boatload and freezes exceptionally well.

INGREDIENTS
2 Tbs. olive oil
5 lb. ground beef
1 medium onion, finely diced
2 medium carrots, finely diced
2 stalks celery, finely diced
2 green bell peppers, finely diced
2 red bell peppers, finely diced
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1, 798ml can diced tomatoes
2, 295ml cans tomato soup
1, 295ml can tomato paste
1 Tbs. Italian seasoning
1 Tbs. crushed fennel seed
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground black pepper
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper

METHOD:
In a large stockpot, brown the ground beef in oil over medium high heat until no longer pink. Drain, return beef to pot, add onion, carrot, celery and peppers. Cook until crisp-tender. Add remaining ingredients and simmer, stirring occasionally, approximately 2 hours. Yields roughly 20 cups!

7-Layer Dinner

Today marks the closing date for the little contest I held, and it failed miserably with zero recipe submissions. Sigh. Oh well, I tried!

This week’s post features a classic casserole that has been served on our dinner table for decades. While most casseroles of this type utilizes ground beef or crumbled sausage for the top layer, my family has always used sliced wieners. I am not exactly fond of using processed foods, so I am going to experiment by finding a meat that really compliments the dish and also a substitute for the tomato soup. But for now, here is our original recipe for 7-Layer Dinner.
IMG_170
INGREDIENTS:
3 medium potatoes, cooked and thinly sliced
3 cups cooked brown rice
1 small onion, thinly sliced
4 cups frozen mixed vegetables (carrots, peas & corn)
6 all-beef wieners, sliced (we like Harvest brand)
2, 10 oz. cans condensed tomato soup mixed with equal amount water
Salt & pepper to taste

METHOD:
Preheat oven to 400°F. Layer potatoes, rice, onion, veggies and wieners in a large casserole dish. Whisk together soup, water, salt and pepper; pour over the casserole. Cover and bake until mixture begins to bubble. Lower temperature to 350°F and continue to bake for approximately 30 minutes longer. Yields 6 to 8 servings.

Nutritional Information
Calories (per 1/6 of a recipe): 415
Fat: 10.5g
– Saturated Fat: 3.4g
– Cholesterol: 0mg
Sodium: 933mg
Carbohydrates: 68.7g
– Fibre: 6.7g
– Sugars: 6.6g
Protein: 13.3g

Black Bean & Brown Rice Casserole

While most of my [favourite] recipes are a tad on the rich and heavy side, this one, chock full of veggies and protein, promises to deliver a light, flavourful, and nutritious meal.

The original recipe calls for Swiss cheese, and I did use it the first time around but I was not impressed. I felt that the cheese overpowered the flavours of the other ingredients. Later, I experimented with cheddar and mozzarella cheese and I would have to say that mozzarella gave the best results. Feel free to use your favourite :)IMG_0049Adapted from www.allrecipes.com

INGREDIENTS:
1/3 cup brown rice, uncooked
1 cup vegetable broth (I just use lightly salted water)
1 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup chopped onion
2 green peppers, julienned
2 carrots, shredded
3 medium zucchini, thinly sliced
2 chicken breasts, cooked and diced
1/2 cup mushrooms, sliced
1 can black beans, drained
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 tsp. cumin
Salt, pepper and cayenne pepper to taste

METHOD:
In a medium saucepan, bring the broth to a boil; add rice and cook until tender. Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 3 quart casserole dish; set aside. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat, add onion and cook until translucent. Add peppers, zucchini, cooked chicken, mushrooms, and 1 cup of cheese. Season with cumin, salt, pepper, and cayenne. Cook, stirring often, until vegetables are crisp-tender. Transfer to the prepared casserole dish. Stir in the cooked rice and beans; mix well. Top with remaining cheese, cover and bake 30 minutes. Uncover and continue baking 10 minutes, or until cheese is bubbly and lightly browned. Yields 8 servings.

Nutritional Information:
Calories: 420
Fat: 11.3g
– Saturated Fat: 4.5g
– Cholesterol: 53mg
Sodium: 325mg
Carbs: 46.2g
– Fibre: 10.2g
– Sugars: 4.2g
Protein: 34.5g

BBQ Sauce

Just a quick reminder, there is still plenty of time to submit your all time favourite recipe to be the feature of my 100th post! I have not received a single submission as of yet and I’m about to resort to begging.

OK, I will spare you the theatrics and simply move on to today’s recipe!

As is the case with so many other condiments, and store bought foods in general, I was appalled by the ingredients found in bottled sauces. It wasn’t long before I decided to try my hand at a homemade sauce and began to search online. But I had some trouble finding exactly what I was looking for, whether they contained ingredients that I never purchase or was in combinations that sounded weird! So I finally picked out the best elements of several recipes and came up with this one.

That's a whole lot of ingredients!

That’s a whole lot of ingredients!

Though I have used this sauce very successfully on a variety of foods – such as steak, hamburgers, grilled chicken breast, BBQ chicken pizza, and even use it to drizzle on the beef casserole featured in last week’s post – I believe it is best suited to chicken and ribs due to the sweetness. If you prefer a bolder tasting sauce or will use it exclusively for steaks, reduce the sugar and honey slightly, increase the vinegar, and substitute mesquite smoke for the hickory. Just play around with amounts until you achieve the taste you’re looking for and make it your own!IMG_0156
INGREDIENTS:
1 cup ketchup
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
2 Tbs. honey
3 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
4 tsp. chili powder
4 tsp. hickory liquid smoke
2 tsp. paprika
2 tsp. ground mustard powder
2 tsp. sea salt
2 tsp. ground black pepper
1 tsp. granulated garlic
1/2 tsp. onion powder

METHOD:
In a medium skillet over medium-high heat, combine all ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring constantly, 15 minutes until reduced and thickened to desired consistency. NOTE: Sauce will thicken considerably as it cools. Let cool to room temperature before pouring into glass bottle or jar. Yields 2 cups.

Beef Noodle Casserole, and a contest… of sorts!

As I am fast nearing my 100th post (this one makes 96!) I have decided to get all of you involved in helping me celebrate! I am inviting everyone to submit their all-time favourite recipe – dessert or otherwise – for a chance to be the subject of said 100th post!

To participate: If you have a blog and your favourite recipe is already posted, simply email me the link to the post. If you do not have a blog, email the recipe along with a little write up telling me what you love about it, its history in your family, a photo of the finished recipe – if you have one, and the source. A link to the source would be great, but isn’t necessary, particularly if it was drawn from a book or is an original idea. Ideally, your submission should resemble a brief blog post.

The winning recipe will be the one that “speaks to me” the most, in other words, has me scrambling to the kitchen to whip up and devour!

Submissions will be accepted until midnight April 24th, with the winning post going live at 6:00 pm (central) on May 1st.

Good luck to you all!

In the meantime, let’s have a peak at today’s recipe.


Back in my younger [not-so-smart] days, I absolutely loved the boxed beef noodle dinner. Eventually I got clued in as to how unhealthy processed foods were and began eliminating as much of it as I could. And that included my much-loved beef noodle. Pout

It didn’t take long before I found myself eyeing those boxes on grocery store shelves, wondering if it would be so bad to buy one, just this once. However, the cravings were quickly silenced once I looked over the ingredient list.

I simply couldn’t justify putting that garbage into my system.

So what’s a girl to do?

Scour the ‘net for a scratch-made version, of course!

As usual, I found exactly what I was looking for!

And here it is, the recipe to give your hamburger a helping hand!
IMG_0140Adapted from: Cook Book Fixation

INGREDIENTS:
227g uncooked egg noodles
1 Tbs. olive oil
1/4 cup diced onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb. extra lean ground beef
2 tsp. Bragg Liquid Soy Seasoning (a non-GMO soy sauce)
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1 Tbs. flour
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth (honestly, I just use water and can’t tell that anything is missing.)
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

METHOD:
Cook egg noodles according to package directions. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet, sauté onion 1 to 2 minutes. Add garlic and cook another 30 seconds or so. Add beef; cook until no longer pink. Drain off any fat and return to skillet. Add seasonings, liquid soy, and Worcestershire sauce. Stir in chicken broth (or water), flour and cheese. Cook, stirring often, until cheese is melted and liquid has thickened somewhat. Drain the cooked noodles and stir into the beef mixture. Simmer 5 to 10 minutes. Yields 4 Servings.

**I enjoy this topped with homemade BBQ sauce (recipe coming soon!) or even ketchup.**

NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION:
(Calculated using water in place of broth)
Calories: 610
Fat: 28.6g
– Saturated: 12g
– Cholesterol: 96.3mg
Sodium: 1,134mg
Carbohydrates: 41.7g
– Fibre: 3g
– Sugars: 1.9g
Protein: 45.9g