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The Easiest Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

The Easiest Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

Easie

I’m not feeling imaginative in the cooking and baking departments these days. Maybe it’s the hungry gap, maybe I’m just sick of thinking up meals three times a day. Whatever it is, these simple banana chocolate chip muffins are quick to make and satisfying to a horde of kindergarteners despite the lack of sugar (choc chips aside, obviously). The browner the bananas, the sweeter the muffins, so leave them as long as you can.

Super easy banana chocolate chip muffins
Makes 12 muffins

  • 4 large ripe bananas
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cups wholewheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°. Prepare a 12 cup muffin pan with spray oil or muffin cups.

Mix the bananas and other wet ingredients until the mixture is mostly smooth and only slightly chunky.

Add dry ingredients on top, gently mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients.

Fold in chocolate chips. Fill prepared tin with the mixture.

Bake at 350º for 20 minutes. Let cool on wire rack.

Adapted from mama papa bubba.

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Bike helmet hair, popsicle recipes, summer veggies, and dry shampoo

Bike helmet hair, popsicle recipes, summer veggies, and dry shampoo

railspur alley

Oh it is hot here, my friends. And summer camps never seem to last long enough for me to finish a thought AND get food for dinner, so here are some things I’m finding pretty indispensable right now.

Five great bike helmet hair ideas from Refinery29.

I may have an entire Pinterest board dedicated to popsicle recipes.

Have an overload of summer vegetables? Oh My Veggies has a recipe (or six) for you.

Seven great dry shampoos and how to use them from BC Living.

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Lamb balti burgers

Lamb balti burgers

balti lamb burger

Our first flat in London was in Spitalfields, a short walk from Brick Lane.

Ten years ago, Brick Lane was the land of arty hipsters, a few of the last fabric scrap merchants, endless Boxfresh sample sale pop-ups, old train bridges, smelly shops under the train bridges,  authentic bagels and salt beef, and many, many Indian restaurants.

Each restaurant would send a man or two outside to convince you the best curry in London was to be had inside this particular place (or the cheapest pint of Cobra, depending on how much of a drunkard you looked I suppose). Multiply this by 20 restaurants in a three-block stretch, and you can see why some people found this overwhelming. Personally, after spending time in Jamaica, I just found it kind of sweet. I mean, no one is locking your luggage in the trunk of their car, what’s there to complain about?

So once we settled into our flat, my husband and I decided to just say yes to the first tout who approached us and see how the food was. Lo and behold, a nice young man in a purple dress shirt came up to us about a block away from Brick Lane. Twenty seconds into his schpiel we said sure, and he looked like he wasn’t sure what to do next. I’m not sure how many people actually agreed to come along. And as he led us past Brick Lane, I admit I had a moment of doubt – did we just agree to be stripped of all our belongings in the narrow streets back here?

But no, he led us to the door of Cafe Raj, which would be our curry place of choice for the next four years, and where we headed every Friday after work. We became such regulars that the staff started inviting us to weddings, discussing immigration paperwork, and offering up sublets of various flats around East London.

So, when I made these lamb burgers a few years later, then living in West London, I had a moment of missing my bonkers Spitalfields neighbourhood. And if you happen to be in London, I wouldn’t bother checking out our old local, as it were, as it’s changed hands now – but for an incredible curry head to Tayyabs, also in East London, down in Whitechapel.

I’ve suggested here to use a curry sauce from delicious magazine, and it’s well worth having in your freezer. It will have much less sodium than any jarred version, and taste much fresher. One batch will make several meals.

Balti lamb burgers with quick cucumber raita

Makes about 5 burgers

For the burgers

1/2 medium onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 quantity basic curry sauce, defrosted

1 tsp garam masala (a balti one if you can find it)

500g good quality lamb mince

Canola or groundnut oil

For the cucumber raita

(These quantities are approximate, taste as you go)

plain Greek yoghurt

cumin seeds

cucumber

Pita breads and halved cherry tomatoes to serve

1. Add the onions, garlic, curry sauce and garam masala balti into a bowl and mix it with your hands until it’s well combined. Form into 5 burgers and leave on a plate to settle down. Put a grill pan on high heat, or alternatively heat up the barbecue.

2. Chop the cucumber into small chunks and add to the plain yoghurt in another bowl. Dry fry the cumin seeds until they smell fragrant, tossing them often. Add cumin seeds to the yoghurt and cucumber.

3. Pour some groundnut oil into your palm and massage the burgers gently. Brush them if you’re squeamish about this kind of thing. Put them on the grill pan and leave them alone for a good 4 minutes. Flip once, leave them for another 3-4 minutes. Cooking time depends on the thickness of your burgers, so adjust as necessary.

4. Take the burgers off the heat and let them rest for a couple minutes, and use the flaming hot grill pan to heat up the pitta breads, push them down on the pan.

Serve with a pita per burger, with cherry tomatoes and the cucumber raita alongside.

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Finally, a decent jerk marinade in a bottle

Finally, a decent jerk marinade in a bottle

jerk pork

When I was young, several sticky bottles of sauce lived in our cupboard: Pickapeppa, Worchestershire, and various ones bearing the Grace brand.

I didn’t realize until high school that not everyone put Pickapeppa in their tuna salad. That actually, no one knew what Pickapeppa was. Not until I went to university and met some girls that also had Caribbean families. We shared my tin of guava jelly, and talked about the best place to get Jamaican food in Ottawa. In 1995, the answer was nowhere!

Vancouver has never been a hotbed of Caribbean food, and finding the ingredients to make a good jerk marinade is difficult. When Grace contacted me about trying their bottled jerk sauce and marinade, I jumped at the chance.

Grace is a Jamaican company, I remember drinking their sticky sweet pineapple soda when we’d go to the island to visit family. Everyone in the car would peer out the windows when we drove by the factory, looking at the squat building where so many of our sauces and drinks were made.

And I am pleased to say, their bottled jerk sauce is very, very good indeed. So if you need some barbecue ideas, grab bottles of Grace jerk marinade and sauce, you won’t be unhappy. Until I can track down my father’s recipe for jerk, I’ll be using this.

Some quick tips I’ve learned the hard way, and some slavish reading of Cooks Illustrated:

  • Brine your meat before you marinate for the best texture and moisture, it only takes 20 minutes and can make the difference between moist meat and cardboard
  • Wipe most of the marinade off before you put it on the grill, that way you don’t get burned bits everywhere, and minimize flare-ups
  • Dump your cooked meat into some sauce right after it comes off the grill

Oftentimes jerk equates the hottest spices. That shouldn’t really be the case. In Jamaica, your jerk chicken or pork comes quite dry, and you add sauce to it yourself. Yes it’s a bit spicy, but it should be very flavourful, with definite hits of thyme and allspice. If you’re still worried, serve it with a fruity salsa, or to be fully authentic, the deep-fried dumpling called festival, and rice and peas.

Pick up Grace sauces and marinades in Canada at Loblaws, Metro, Sobeys, Walmart, Food Basics, and Oceans.
Promo

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Camp stove charging station. Seriously.

Camp stove charging station. Seriously.

biolite campstove biolite campstove with grill

I don’t know if there’s a more Vancouveresque piece of camping kit than the BioLite CampStove System. What? You say it was developed in Brooklyn? Oh well. I think they all should move here, don’t you?

This sleek little unit is a portable wood-burning stove with optional kettle or folding grill, that can also charge your phone.

What I love about this whole project is it’s not just a neato 1% camping gadget, the people behind BioLite also develop the HomeStove, a properly useful stove for the half of the planet that still does most of their cooking over open fires. The HomeStove uses fuel more efficiently, reduces smoke and the related health problems, and allows for charging mobile phones and LED lights. This is critical in countries like Africa where the main access to the Internet services, and in some countries banking, is via mobile phones.

When we buy a CampStove (and we will), we’ll be helping BioLite build and refine HomeStoves.

And if you’re super quick, you can get one of their BaseCamp giant CampStoves through their Kickstarter campaign.

All images courtesy of BioLite.

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