Archive for the ‘Nuts’ Category

We went to a once a month market that sold clothes and other knick-knacks this past weekend and at the back were the food sellers (majority selling baked goods) and this young man had a stall piled with very attractive-looking, rustic and authentic items such as croissants, pannetone and banana bread.  But much to our surprise, a whole loaf of banana bread was going for $25!  Mind you, it was a very sexy and large banana bread but I thought…”wow!”  At home, I whip up banana bread so fast that I couldn’t imagine any banana bread being worth that much money.  Now I wish that I had bought a slice of it to see how good it was…next month perhaps.

I always keep bananas in my freezer ready to defrost and make into banana bread.  It started out one year with a market stallholder selling me 10 kilos (22 pounds) of bananas for $2AUD at the end of the day!!  We put two in a snack Ziploc bag and froze them – over a year later, we’re still eating them!

My standby foolproof banana bread recipe is an adaptation from the American Sunset magazines classic cookbook first published in 1963 called “Breads”.  It takes me less than an hour and a half from the prep to the baking and it tastes divine toasted under the grill with lashings of butter.  My recent find has been ground nut meals at the Wayville Sunday market and have been topping my banana bread with ground walnut meal as well as in the batter. The extra oils and texture add an extra dimension and crunch.

This was the first time I put chocolate chips on...

This was the first time I put chocolate chips on...

Foolproof Banana Bread

2 cups flour OR 1 2/3 cup flour and 1/3 cup walnut meal

1 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp each baking soda & salt

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

3/4 cup mashed ripe bananas (about 2 bananas)

1/2 cup milk

1 egg

1/4 cup butter, melted

Chocolate chips are optional

In a bowl, stir together flour, nut meal (if using) baking powder, baking soda, salt, sugar and nuts until thoroughly blended.  In a separate bowl, combine bananas, milk, egg and butter; stir into dry ingredients just until well blended.  Pour batter into a greased 4 1/2 x 8 1/2 inch (10 x 20 cm) loaf pan.  Sprinkle top of loaf generously with walnut meal and/or chocolate chips if desired.

Bake in a preheated 350°F (175°C) oven for 1 1/4 hrs or until bread begins to pull away from sides of pan and a knife inserted in center comes out clean.  Let cool in pan for 10 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.  Makes one large loaf.



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Homemade Granola

While I compile stories to write from my trip back home to Hawaii, I wanted to share my granola breakfast cereal that I make for my husband (aka crab accomplice) since it’s been a little while since my last post. As some of you may remember in the previous post “Funny Husband”, me and my husband were brought up very differently and what we eat for breakfast is definitely one of our differences. I like cereal as a snack (either w/milk or dry) but my husband eats cereal just about every morning. Buying a lot of cereal can get expensive if it’s not on sale – Hawaii in particular has some of the highest cereal prices in the US. In Australia, with the drought affecting so many farmers and the rise in petrol prices, food costs are also on the rise. Price is not the only reason why I decided to create this cereal – the main reason is so that I know what ingredients go into making it and that I can control the quality of the ingredients and alter the contents on a whim without buying numerous boxes. I honestly feel that the extra stuff I put into my granola makes it much more nutritious than the pre-made store-bought kind.

Homemade Granola


2 c. Rolled Oats

2 c. Rice Puffs (or Buckwheat, Millet, or any other puffed grain)

1 c. Amaranth (optional)

1/2 c. Wheat bran

1/2 c. LSA** (Linseed, Sunflower & Almond mixture)

1/2 c. Sunflower seeds

1/2 c. Pumpkin seeds (pepitas)

1/2 to 1 c. Whole almonds (with skin on)

1/2 to 1 c. Walnut halves (broken into smaller pieces)

1/4 to 1/3 c. Macadamia nut oil

1/4 to 1/3 c. Tahini

1/4 to 1/2 c. Honey

Dried fruit of choice – I use raisins, cranberries, blueberries, apricots, dates and shredded coconut.

Corn or Wheat Flakes (optional)

**You may just leave this raw and eat it like traditional European Müesli (omitting the oil, honey and tahini) but if you want it like crunchy granola, follow the directions below.

Preheat oven to 325F / 160C. Combine all dried ingredients EXCEPT the fruit and mix through. Pour the oil, tahini and honey evenly over the dry mixture and use your hands (get dirty!) to evenly distribute and coat the sticky liquid throughout the dry ingredients. It is important that there are no lumps of honey or tahini left or else it may burn in the oven quite easily. Spread the mixture on two baking sheets and place in the oven. After about 10 minutes, take the trays out and stir the granola so that the browned edges get mixed into the middle to even out the browning. When putting trays back into the oven, rotate what rack you return the trays back onto (so if one was on the top rack, return it onto the bottom rack for the next 10 min). It takes about 20 minutes or so for the granola to become golden brown. Make sure you do not stray too far from it because it can burn quite easily (sort of like caramel does). Once golden brown, remove from oven to cool. Once cooled, add your dried fruit and/or coconut and corn or wheat flakes for added texture. Place in sealed plastic containers.

**LSA – It’s a mixture that is used commonly in Australia that consists of linseed (flaxseed), sunflower seeds and almonds ground together. The usual way to make LSA is with a 3/2/1 formula – 3 parts linseed, 2 parts sunflower and 1 part almond. For example, approximately 100 g. linseed, 70 g. sunflower, 35 g. almond. Put mixture through a food processor until ground finely. Linseed is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids and cannot be absorbed by your body unless it is ground up. If eaten whole, the outer husk is so thick that it will simple just pass through you.

I like using organic oats and tahini and whatever else I can find that is organic but that is entirely up to your budget or availability. If you don’t like tahini, use peanut, cashew or almond butters. Macadamia nut oil is my favourite for flavour and because it is good for you but you are welcome to try hazelnut, walnut, plain canola, or other oils that will impart a mild or nutty flavour. Amaranth may be hard to get for some but I like to add it for extra protein. You may substitute brown sugar for honey but I think honey gives it an extra complexity (try to buy local honey if possible). Try to experiment with different flavours and nuts and fruits. You can even split the granola batch in half and add different fruits to each half at the end to suit different people in the family.

P.S. I actually ended up burning my batch of granola as I was writing this.  My kitchen is pretty far from my office so I couldn’t smell it!  I have made this a million times but because I wasn’t paying full attention to what I was doing, it burned!

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Fresh Pistachio Nuts

Fresh Pistachios Pistachios Dissected

I remember when I first saw fresh pistachio nuts at a farmer’s market here in Adelaide last year, I had never seen them in its unadulterated state before and it made me giddy to try one of my favourite nuts fresh and without all the extra salt that the roasted ones are often coated with. When I was a kid in the USA, I often remember roasted and salted pistachios that were dyed red (though they are becoming less common now) and I could NEVER understand why there was any need to dye them at all but according to Micheal Moyer, Jill C. Shomer, Trevor Thieme and Bob Sillery on http://www.popsci.com:

Until the mid-1970s, all pistachios sold in the United States were imported, mainly from the Middle East. The traditional growing and harvesting methods used by pistachio farmers in countries such as Iran, Syria, and Greece often left blemishes on the outer shell, which American importers would mask with a red vegetable dye. But with the growth of the domestic pistachio industry, the days of the red pistachio may be numbered. About 96 percent of the pistachios currently sold in the United States are grown in California. These nuts are harvested without blemishes, which makes the red dyes moot.

Very interesting…anyway, back to the fresh ones. Fresh pistachios to me are such an amazing treat and because they are seasonal (end of summer), I get so excited when I see them come to the markets every year. I get home and eat them over a few days (usually in front of the television) which is why I have yet to actually cook with them. Being an ex-pastry chef, I naturally think about all the sweet dessert that would work well but I know that pistachios can be used in many savoury ways as well. I personally love pistachios, pears and cardamom together as a combination and I ADORE pistachio ice cream/gelato (I always ordered pistachio gelato at every gelato stand I went to in Italy).

Fresh pistachios have this beautifully pink and white outer “skin” which feels a bit like a thick flower petal – that needs to be peeled off. Then you quietly hope that the shell you are about to open is already slightly split because it’s a darn sight easier to get the nut out than if it is completely shut. If shut (which many are), either pop them into your mouth and crunch on them with your molars and hope that you don’t knock an old filling out OR you could get a nut cracker and open it in a more civilised way (I am usually too lazy to get a nut cracker)! The nut is very moist, sweet with a grassy, fresh undertone and has a brilliant green colour on the outside and creamy yellow on the inside. If you ever encounter them at your local market, try to choose ones that don’t look bruised and that have no black spots on the outer skin. If you love pistachios as much as I do, your first mouthful will be absolute heaven!

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