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Dairy-free banana bread

I didn’t realise how much I used bananas in cooking until I started writing this blog! There’s banana muffins,ย  banana teething biscuits, banana chips, banana icecream, banana pikelets, banana and butternut squash loaf, and they’re also my ‘secret’ sweetener in my sugar-free flapjacks. And these are just the recipes I’ve blogged!

Banana is commonly one of the first solid foods a baby experiences, and I think I probably just tried different things with them as Nicholas always loves them.ย  I also pretty much constantly have some very ripe ones in the freezer waiting to be turned into something yummy.

I’ve tried many banana bread recipes over the years with varying degrees of success. Most of the time I prefer mine to be light and fluffy like a sponge, rather than heavy and moist. And while I adore cream cheese frosting, for me this banana bread is much better without it distracting your taste buds. It also means I feel less guilt when eating it for breakfast.

dairy-free banana bread

Banana bread recipes are quite similar overall with a different tweak here and there. My recipe isn’t anything new, but it’s evolved from combining recipes I’ve come across and experimenting until I was happy.

One thing you might want to experiment with is the texture of the mashed banana. Some cooks puree it with a blender while others leave it quite chunky. Supposedly pureeing it gives a richer banana flavour to the finished product. I mash my bananas with a fork, but mash about half of them until they’re very smooth and the remainder I only mash a little so you find the occasional chunk in the finished bread.

There’s quite a bit of banana in this recipe, but you can easily get away with less; even two smallish bananas would work fine (you want at least 175g of it unpeeled).

DAIRY-FREE BANANA BREAD

Prep time: 10-15 mins
Cook time: 40-45 mins
Freezable

175g self-raising flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
175g golden caster sugar
2 eggs
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 1/2 medium bananas, mashed
50g walnuts (or pecans), chopped

Preheat the oven to 160C. Line a loaf tin with baking paper.

Whisk the sugar, eggs and oil together at a medium speed using a handheld beater or in an electric mixer. Whisk for a few minutes until it’s pale and fluffy.

Sift in the flour and baking powder, add the mashed banana, and mix until combined using a low speed. Gently stir through the walnuts.

Pour into your prepared tin and bake for 40-45 minutes until a skewer comes out clean.

Variations:

  • Make individual muffins instead of a loaf (easier to freeze if you’re not going to eat all of it)
  • Dust with icing sugar
  • Top with cream cheese frosting for a more decadent loaf

dairy-free banana breadI’m linking up this recipe to the One Ingredient Challenge hosted by Franglais Kitchen and How to Cook Good Food. Why not enter your own banana recipe and join the linky party? Read the rules here.

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Spiced carrot muffins

spiced carrot muffins

Nicholas loves making and eating ‘muffles’ (that’s muffins to you and I!). I’m not sure he understands that what he’s stuffing into his mouth are the fruits of his zealous stirring and pouring, but that doesn’t matter; we both like eating them.

While these muffins aren’t sugar-free, I have reduced the sugar a lot. With the healthy carrot, seeds and sweet raisins inside, as well as some wholemeal flour, I think the amount of sugar is ok. And adding a pinch of extra sugar on the top makes them seem much sweeter than they are ๐Ÿ˜‰

You can easily leave out the seeds, but I like the different texture they add to the muffins. I also like sprinking a few more over the tops before baking.

SPICED CARROT MUFFINS

Prep time: 10-15 mins
Cook time: 18-20 mins
Makes 12 regular-sized muffins
Freezable

150g white self-raising flour
100g wholemeal self-raising flour
75g golden caster sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp nutmeg
30g raisins
20g pumpkin seeds
20g sunflower seeds
125ml vegetable oil
125ml milk
1 egg
1 large carrot, grated
Extra golden caster sugar for sprinkling

Preheat theย  oven to 180C and grease your muffin tin with a little oil or cooking spray (or line your tin with paper cases to avoid washing the tin).

In a medium-sized bowl, mix the white and wholemeal flours, the caster sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg. Stir in the raisins, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds, until evenly distributed.

In a jug or another bowl, whisk the oil, milk and egg together. Squeeze the excess liquid from the grated carrot and stir it through the milk mixture.

Pour the milk mixture into the dry ingredients and mix until just combined (mixing too much will make your muffins heavy and dense).

Pour into prepared tin and bake for 18-20 mins until golden on top and cooked through when tested with a skewer.

spiced carrot muffins

Variations:

  • add chopped walnuts or pecans instead of the pumpkin and sunflower seeds

Tip: soak the raisins in hot water for about 10 minutes beforehand to become plumper and avoid them drying out while cooking.

Baby oat cakes

My regular readers will know by now that I always need inspiration for breakfast. So when I came across Laura’s microwave raspberry oat cakes, I woke up the next morning with a spring in my step, eager to try them.

I’m a big fan of porridge for little ones as there are so many variations you can do, and this is a brilliant different way to use porridge oats. It’s also super quick and open to variations.

These mini oat cakes would be perfect for baby-led weaning, ideal finger food for a toddler snack, and I even made another for my afternoon tea!

Laura makes hers with frozen raspberries. I first tried frozen strawberries and then some raisins I’d soaked in warm water (if giving to a baby, it’s important to first soak any dry fruit to avoid any possible choking hazard). Try to use a banana that’s as ripe as possible as it will be sweeter (actually this is another great recipe for using up overripe bananas).

They were a great success with Nicholas who called them biscuits and dunked them in milk. He said ‘yum’ in English and Italian as well as signing it, interspersed with requests for ‘more!’. I couldn’t have been happier ๐Ÿ™‚

Check out more of Laura’s budget-friendly family recipes on her blog Small Wallet Big Appetite.

BABY OAT CAKES

Prep time: 3 mins
Cook time: 4 mins
Makes 1 oat cake

1/2 medium banana
1/4 cup (20g) raw porridge oats
A pinch of cinnamon
4-5 pieces of chopped frozen strawberry

Mash the banana in a small microwave-safe bowl (I used one that was about 10cm across at the bottom).

Add the cinnamon and oats, mixing well so all the oats are covered in banana.

Gently mix through the frozen pieces of strawberry.

Press the mixture down firmly into the bottom of the bowl and cook in the microwave on high for 3-4 minutes until it turns into a firm little cake.

Tip the mini cake out. Once cooled, cut it into wedges.

Variations:

  • use other frozen berries instead of strawberries
  • use dried fruit (raisins, chopped apricots, etc) instead of strawberry, but soak them beforehand if giving to a baby

World Porridge Day

World Porridge Day was actually yesterday and while we ate porridge, I didn’t get around to posting about it. However, as cupcakes and chocolate get a whole week in the UK, I figured the humble and nutritious porridge’s day needs to be extended, especially thinking about the reason behind it.

World Porridge Day was started to raise awareness of and money for Mary’s Meals, a Scottish charity feeding starving children in Africa. Mary’s Meals provides daily servings of likuni phala, a nutritious, vitamin-enriched maize porridge to more than half a million children in 16 of the poorest countries in the world. But they don’t just give them nourishment. The porridge is served in schools, encouraging children to go and learn. Each child also has the responsibility of looking after their plastic mug which is filled with porridge. By serving one simple meal, Mary’s Meals is doing a lot more than just filling bellies.

Mary’s Meals are also an amazingly efficient charity. How much do you think it costs to feed a child porridge for a whole year? How much do you think you spend on your family breakfasts over a year?

It costs just ยฃ6.15 (about โ‚ฌ7.20 or $10) to feed a child for a year.
Less than ยฃ7 for a whole year!

I’ll let you absorb that fact while I move on to some porridge flavours and variations your munchkins (and you) might like. I’ll leave you to cook your porridge the way you prefer (I like the microwave to avoid having pots to clean) as I’m certainly not a porridge-cooking expert!

PORRIDGE FLAVOURS AND VARIATIONS

While traditionally porridge is made from oats, water and salt, I always use milk for its calcium content and some kind of sweetener, usually fruit or a little bit of honey (for when babies are more than a year old).

Babies:

To make a smoother porridge, more palatable for babies, either grind up the oats before cooking, or blend your finished porridge until it’s smooth enough.

Another way of softening the oats is to soak them in some of the cooking liquid overnight.

Start with adding one simple flavour your baby is already used to, like banana. Once you think your munchkin is ready for some more complex flavours, add some warm spice like cinnamon or a dash of vanilla for extra sweetness or start combining flavours.

Flavour combinations:
The easiest and healthiest flavour to add to porridge for little ones is fruit, and then there’s no reason to add any sugar. Add it fresh or frozen. Mixing through frozen fruit has the advantage of cooling the porridge down (very important when your toddler is being impatient!). Here are some of our favourites.

  • Banana and cinnamon
    Mash some banana through cooked porridge and add a dash of cinnamon (which helps stimulate your metabolism)
  • Apple, raisin and nutmeg
    You can use raw apple (finely grated) or cooked apple (apple puree or unsweetened applesauce/stewed apple). Add raisins (soak them overnight if you want them to be plumper and less chewy) and a small pinch of nutmeg. You could also add some chopped dried apple.
  • Strawberry and vanilla
    Mix chopped strawberries (fresh or frozen) through cooked porridge and add a dash of vanilla.
  • Stewed fruit
    Any cooked fruit works great swirled through cooked porridge (peaches, plums, apricots, strawberries). I don’t add sugar while stewing the fruit, but check the taste of the porridge adding some vanilla for sweetness or honey. A small pinch of ground ginger also works well.
  • Pears and vanilla
    A lovely ripe uncooked pear mashes very easily into cooked porridge. Add a dash of vanilla.

Porridge in a hurry:

For mornings when you need to get ready fast, what takes even less time than mashing some fruit into cooked yogurt?

  • Fruit yogurt
    Stirring through some fruit yogurt also cools the porridge down (saves you blowing time!).
  • Fruit puree
    Any packaged fruit purees or purees you’ve made yourself mix through quickly.

Adult flavour combinations (or not so healthy additions):
Some mornings you just need a little indulgence to start the day happily.

  • Grated chocolate
    Any chocolate you have on hand grated over cooked porridge.
  • Chocolate spread
    Add some mashed banana as well to feel healthier.
  • Golden syrup and cream
    Maple syrup works just as well.
  • Jam and cream
    Who needs scones.
  • Chocolate-covered Katie’s Coffee Frappuccino Oatmeal
    Haven’t tried it, but it’s your morning coffee and breakfast all-in-one!

Toppings:
Once you’ve added your flavourings, why not also sprinkle or dollop something on top?

  • Seeds
    Pumpkin, sesame, flax/linseed, sunflower seeds, etc. For toddlers, grind up larger seeds and/or soak them overnight.
  • Coconut
    Shredded or desiccated.
  • Yogurt
    Fruit or plain.
  • Dried fruit
    Sultanas, raisins, cherries, apples, pineapple, mango, etc. Chop larger pieces up. Soak overnight for softer fruit.
  • Fresh fruit
    Slices of banana, strawberries, pear or whole blueberries are yummy.

Variations:

You can use other liquids to soak and/or cook your oats.

  • Juice
    Fresh apple and orange juice add another level of flavour to your porridge.
  • Coconut milk
    Feel like you’re in the tropics!

If you’re sick of the same old flavours, why not add something daring to your oats?

What do you like to add to your or your munchkin’s porridge? What do you do if you have porridge leftovers?

I hope I’ve given you some ideas to vary your bowls of porridge. But also remember how porridge is changing the lives of children in Africa thanks to Mary’s Meals, and how little you would need to donate to feed a child for a whole year.

Blueberry pancakes (sugar-free)

Hubby and I are following the Dukan diet to lose the spare tyres that have appeared over the years helped by us loving food and really not liking exercise. So far it’s working well and hasn’t been too hard to follow (you have foods you can eat, and you can eat as much as you like of them, and foods you can’t eat). You also have to eat oatbran and it’s easier to eat this in the morning (it also keeps your tummy full until lunchtime). I make Dukan’s galettes which always smell divine because of the cinnamon and vanilla I put in, but they taste very similar to cardboard!

Nicholas sees us eating our galettes and, of course, wants some too. For the moment he doesn’t realise that his galettes are usually banana pikelets or apple pikelets. My stocks in the freezer of these were running low so I thought I’d try a new flavour – blueberry.

I’m calling these pancakes, probably mini pancakes are a better description, because I left the blueberries whole and therefore made them thicker to surround the berries. Whether you call them pancakes, mini pancakes, pikelets, drop scones or dropped scones, make them, they’re yummy!

BLUEBERRY PANCAKES

Prep time: 5-10 mins
Cook time: 10-15 mins
Makes about 10 mini pancakes
Freezable

1 1/2 cups self-raising flour
1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
100g blueberries
1 tbsp honey
1 egg, beaten
1 cup milk
Small piece of butter, melted, to grease the pan

Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda and cinnamon into a medium- sized bowl.

Add the honey and egg then gradually pour in the milk mixing until you have a fairly thick batter (you might not need to use all the milk).

Gently mix in the blueberries.

Heat a large frying pan over a medium heat and brush with melted butter. Use a tablespoon to drop spoonfuls of mixture into the pan. Cook in batches, turning when bubbles appear on the surface (1-2 mins). Cook the other side until golden brown (about 1 min). Lift out and cover with a clean tea towel to keep warm.

Variations:

  • Use nutmeg or ginger instead of cinnamon
  • Add vanilla essence for more sweetness

Tip: Wipe your pan clean with a piece of paper towel after each batch and then brush with some more melted butter.

Spinach muffins

Yes, you read correctly, spinach muffins. And they’re sweet. I’ll let you have a minute to get your head around that.

Still can’t imagine what they’d taste like? Don’t worry, neither could I when I came across the recipe by Weelicious. I’m still on my mission to get more vegetables into Nicholas, so I thought I’d continue my attack from a sweet angle too.

I’ve made two batches of these now, modifying the original recipe both times. Honestly, they’re a strange taste sensation and I certainly won’t be waking up any time soon thinking ‘Mmmm, I fancy a spinach muffin.’ But I made them for Nicholas not me.

Reading the numerous comments for the original recipe, many people who’ve made them say you can’t taste the spinach and that they taste like plain vanilla muffins. For me the spinach taste is strong, and its metallic flavour in combination with the vanilla is probably what confuses my taste buds. But I made them for Nicholas not me.

The original recipe has applesauce and sugar. I replaced the sugar with honey to be healthier (I honestly can’t see the point in packing a muffin with spinach goodness if you then add sugar, sorry). I also left out the salt, as just reading that in the ingredient list made my taste buds apprehensive, and again why add it to your munchkin’s food if you probably don’t need to (after tasting them I think adding the salt would make the clash between sweet and savoury too much).

For my second batch I also left out the baking soda (bicarbonate of soda) as I really don’t like the taste of it in muffins. It didn’t affect the texture and the taste was better. Yes, for me, but I made them for Nicholas not me!

Nicholas has eaten them but without gusto, however he hasn’t been completely well this week. We’re going to the joint first birthday party of Nicholas’ best friend at the weekend. It’s a party with all the babies from his antenatal group, so I will go armed with my spinach muffins and see how they go down with a pack of one-year-olds.

SPINACH MUFFINS

Prep time: 5 mins
Cook time: 15 mins
Makes 12 small muffins
Freezable

1 cup fresh spinach, packed tightly
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce (apple puree)
1 egg
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp honey
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
Extra vegetable oil, for greasing muffin tin

Preheat oven to 175C and grease your muffin tin with a little vegetable oil.

Put the spinach, applesauce, egg, vanilla, honey and vegetable oil in a food processor, and puree until the spinach has broken up into small pieces and the mixture has combined.

Sift the flour and baking powder into a medium-sized bowl.

Pour the spinach mixture into a large bowl and carefully fold in the flour mixture, mixing just enough to combine the ingredients (mixing too much will make your muffins heavy).

Divide your mixture evenly between the 12 muffin holes.

Bake for 12-15 mins until a skewer comes out clean.

Back to school breakfasts

Here are a couple of teaser photos of my fun breakfast ideas over on Mindful Mum.