Tag Archives: banana

“Caramelized” Banana Berry Breakfast Bowl

Santa Monica Pier

I’m about to go off to college in a new state. I realized the other day that now was the best time to appreciate my hometown, Santa Monica. We all tend to take our home town for granted, but I know mine has a lot to offer. So when I visited the pier recently, I took my camera along to capture every moment.

view from Santa Monica Pier

I kind of felt like a tourist, taking pictures of everything. But that was my way of experiencing my city in its full glory.

view off Santa Monica Pier

Another thing I’ll miss about being home is being able to cook more often than I expect to in college. To fully enjoy my current kitchen privileges, I made this dish this morning for breakfast.

breakfast caramelized banana berry craisin bowl

Bananas and berries go together like a match made in heaven. This easy cheat to a “caramelized” banana pairs it with blueberry Greek yogurt, fresh strawberries, and dried cranberries for a fruity fiesta! Enjoy this balanced breakfast of fiber, protein and just the right dose of sweetness.

“Caramelized” Banana Berry Breakfast Bowl

serves one


  • 1 large banana
  • 1 tbs honey
  • 6-8 fresh strawberries
  • one container of Greek blueberry yogurt
  • one single-serving box of Craisins


Freeze yogurt until it has a soft frozen consistency (about 30 minutes.)

Wash and cut up strawberries. Arrange in serving bowl.

Spray a medium pan with nonstick cooking spray. Cut banana into two to three pieces, and place on pan.

Turn heat to medium. Drizzle honey over banana pieces. Turn over when slightly browned, and brown the other side.

Remove from heat. Place banana in serving bowl. Scoop frozen yogurt on top, and sprinkle with Craisins.


caramelized banana berry breakfast yogurt bowl

Featured Ingredient: Barney Butter Smooth Almond Butter

Today I’m going to share a great product, the reasons I highly recommend it, and a recipe to use it creatively rather than just guzzling it by the spoonful out of the jar! I have not been paid or in any way incentivized to write this review, I just really love this product. Said product, in case you haven’t guessed from the title, is Barney Butter Smooth Almond Butter.

Almond butter is a healthier alternative to peanut butter, providing healthy fats without so much saturated fat. It also naturally packs more Vitamin E and magnesium. Vitamin E can help raise immunity and reduce risk of disease from high cholesterol, according to Newsmax.com. As for magnesium, Medical News Today explains that it aids in metabolizing food and synthesizing proteins and fatty acids, and so it is a necessary nutrient. Magnesium deficiency can lead to diseases.


Are you ready to try replacing your peanut butter with almond butter? To some hard-core peanut butter fans, this may sound dire. But really, the first time I tried Barney Butter Smooth Almond Butter I was kind of surprised it wasn’t peanut butter. That isn’t to say it tastes exactly like peanut butter. It is delicious in its own right: rich and creamy like the best aspects of peanut butter, but with its own nutty flavor that blends well with a variety of different ingredients. The texture is incredibly smooth (as can be expected, given the name) and it is easy to spread.


I like to support the company of Barney Butter because it hopes to move to 100% sustainable palm oil soon, according to the Assistant to the CEO. If you read this blog post, you know how Barney Butter is working to help save the orangutans! I hope to see a label soon on Barney Butter products advertising the amazing achievement this would be.

I have been using Barney butter in sandwiches and swirled into yogurt parfaits. Today, I tried a different use that was a bit more unique. It’s a sweet breakfast burrito, made with almond butter, fresh fruit, and jam. Feel free to switch up the type(s) of fruit and flavor of jam used. I hope you enjoy!

The ABJ Wrap – Featuring Barney Butter Smooth Almond Butter

serves one

sweet breakfast burrito with almond butter, banana, jam


  • one whole wheat tortilla
  • 0.6 oz Barney Butter Smooth Almond Butter (about a generous spoonful)
  • one extra large banana
  • a spoonful of your favorite flavor jam (I used cherry)


Warm the tortilla slightly in the microwave. Spread Barney Butter Smooth Almond Butter across the center. Add banana slices mostly to the middle of the tortilla, on top of the almond butter. Spoon jam on top. Roll up wrap. Bon appetit!

almond butter banana cherry jam whole wheat wrapAlmond images from Wikipedia

Breakfast Banana Split with “Caramelized” Banana

breakfast banana split coconut vanilla strawberry chocolate pudding caramelized banana cranberry cherry

I have never tried a conventional, ice cream shop banana split. However, I was once attracted to a certain recipe in a kids’ recipe book I had years ago, claiming it held the key to discovering “Breakfast Banana Splits.” However, upon reading over the ingredients, I was disgusted to find that this recipe claiming to be a dessert-like breakfast, was full of gross “health food” such as cottage cheese in place of ice cream. Really, who would be satisfied with lumpy regurgitated yogurt instead of a creamy vanilla frozen concoction? So I never made that recipe.

breakfast banana split with caramelized banana

Still, the idea of a banana split that was healthy enough for breakfast was tempting. While this one I made recently strives to include only healthy ingredients that one might eat for breakfast (pudding being the only questionable one here) there is no cottage cheese to be found. In other words, it strikes the proper balance between great taste and texture, and great nutrition packed with protein and calcium. The banana is “fried” in pure, organic honey for a cheater’s “caramelization” method that’s easier and less fat than the traditional butter and sugar.

I found the flavor of this dish to be classically delicious, however to vary things up a little I might suggest adding crunchy cereal as a topping, trying pineapple chunks instead of/as well as strawberries, and maybe trying chocolate yogurt instead of pudding for a possible sugar reduction.

This recipe makes a lot, so I might suggest sharing with some friends!

Breakfast Banana Split with “Caramelized” Banana

serves 1-4

caramelized honey banana split


  • one medium-large banana
  • 1 tbs honey
  • 1 container Greek vanilla yogurt (I used Dannon Light & Fit Toasted Coconut Vanilla yogurt)
  • 1 single serve container chocolate pudding
  • 8 fresh strawberries
  • 1 tbs chocolate nut butter of choice
  • 1 tbs cherry jam
  • 1 tbs sweetened flaked coconut
  • 1 tbs dried cranberries


Freeze the yogurt and pudding for 30-60 minutes.

Once yogurt and pudding are frozen, but still somewhat soft, prepare all ingredients: wash strawberries and remove stems and leaves, then cut them into small pieces; peel banana and cut in half lengthwise, then cut each piece in half if desired; measure out/prepare all other toppings.

Spray a pan with nonstick cooking spray. Place banana on pan. Heat to medium. Spread some honey on one side of each banana piece. Rotate and spread honey on the other side. Rotate again after cooking a few minutes. When both sides of each banana piece have browned, remove from heat.

Place bananas in bowl/bowls. Scoop frozen yogurt and pudding on top. Add strawberry pieces. Top with a drizzle of honey, a swirl of chocolate nut butter, a spoonful of cherry jam in lieu of maraschino cherries, and a sprinkling each of coconut and cranberries. (Note: imaginative topping or yogurt/pudding flavor variations welcomed!)

Grab your family for a satisfying and balanced dessert/breakfast/hot day refreshment!

Banana Coffee-Cocoa Swirl Muffins

instant coffee muffins banana chocolate coffee maple oatmeal

I imagine almost everyone in the world has some acquaintance with coffee. It’s so prevalent, sold in every restaurant, grocery store, and of course blaringly advertised from the storefronts of such global giants as Starbucks. And if that two-tailed mermaid isn’t burned into the mind’s eye of some rural inhabitant of a faraway land not yet conquered by the large corporations, surely that innocent soul has been exposed to a small, local mom-and-pop store hand-brewing the bitter brown substance for the grateful townspeople. In certain places, coffee means beans and hard labor; in others it means surviving endless piles of work. In one or two very authentic locations in Italy, perhaps it means culture and enjoyment. Most everyone I know is addicted to it. However, everyone has a unique relationship with it, ranging from loathing its necessity to savoring every sip.

chocolate chip banana muffins coffee swirl


My cat likes to taste beverages people leave on the kitchen table (whether or not we give her permission,) and once she licked a drop of coffee that had spilled out of my dad’s unattended mug. Ever since then, we’ve had to keep an eye on her to make sure she doesn’t overdose on the concoction she craves like catnip. One of my teachers in school will only take coffee diluted with cream and sugar and crowned with so many sweet toppings that barely any trace of the bitter bean survives to penetrate his taste buds. My mom doesn’t go that far in smothering her energy-sustaining substance in sweetness, but she does enjoy a good nonfat decaf soy mocha once every couple days or so. My dad, on the other hand, couldn’t go a day (or even an hour) without coffee. That’s why he jumps on every opportunity to go to a given coffee-carrying outlet to grab a cup, and why we always have a substantial stash of instant coffee in our house: caffeinated Starbucks Via for my dad, to satisfy his round-the-clock needs, and occasionally some decaf Starbucks Via for my mom’s intermittent desires.

banana maple oatmeal muffins chocolate chip coffee chocolate swirl

I have no desire to put caffeine in my body, as substantial research has implicated it for having negative health effects, and it is known to be addictive. In my view, any dependence on a substance is limiting and unhealthy, so I avoid coffee if I can… but I conceded to use some decaf in this recipe. I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to create some amazing muffins, encapsulated in one of my mom’s boxes of decaf Starbucks Via. The hearty banana muffin base is enhanced with a chocolatey swirl laced with coffee flavor for a deep, intriguing taste. My mom described these muffins as being complex and interesting – she didn’t guess the coffee taste until I told her, but said it tasted interesting and with each bite she felt like she was discovering something new.

banana coffee swirl chocolate chip muffins


This phenomenon keeps anyone tasting these muffins hanging onto every bite, wanting to explore more deeply into the center of the dense, chunky muffin oozing melty chocolate chips on top – perhaps they do retain some slight level of addictiveness from the coffee! But they make up for it with health benefits galore – made with two whole fresh bananas, whole wheat flour, oatmeal, and Greek yogurt, they abound with fiber and potassium while cutting most of the fat found in traditional muffins. The sole sweeteners here are the lower sugar oatmeal, natural sugars in the bananas, and in the chocolate swirl, a bit of Truvia baking blend, a blend of sugar and the natural sweetness of Erythritol and stevia leaf extract. Chocolate chips on top can be any brand – use vegan, sustainable, or replace with cacao nibs or chocolate covered espresso beans if desired.

A note on the recipe: if I would change anything, it might be to add a bit more lightness to the texture, which my mom liked but I found even a bit too hearty and dense. Maybe using whole wheat pastry flour would help lighten things up – but with whole wheat it’s good too, just in a different way!

Banana Coffee-Cocoa Swirl Muffins

Based on recipes from The Perfect Pantry and Food.com

makes 12 regular-size muffins

banana chocolate coffee swirl muffins with maple oatmeal


muffin batter

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 packet Quaker brand Lower Sugar Instant Oatmeal, Maple & Brown Sugar flavor
  • generous splash of cinnamon (I mean very generous, if you want to be accurate to my inaugural attempt to control the new cinnamon shaker I got)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 container Dannon brand Light & Fit Greek yogurt, Banana Cream flavor
  • 2 large bananas, separated
  • 1/4 cup hot water

coffee-cocoa swirl

  • 2 tbs Starbucks Via Ready Brew Decaf Italian Roast Dark Instant Coffee
  • 2 tbs Hershey’s natural unsweetened cocoa
  • 1/4 cup Truvia baking blend


  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips


Preheat oven to 325 Fahrenheit. Line a standard-sized muffin tin with 12 muffin liners.

For Coffee-Cocoa Swirl: In a small bowl, combine instant coffee, cocoa, and Truvia baking blend. Mix thoroughly. Set aside.

For Muffin Batter: In a medium bowl, combine the flour, oatmeal, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt. Stir.

In a large bowl, combine the eggs and yogurt. Using a hand mixer, beat on medium speed. Add 1.5 of the bananas in little pieces, and beat until mushed together.

Alternate pouring hot water and dry batter mixture into wet batter mixture, mixing well after each addition.

Slice the reserved 1/2 a banana, and cut the round slices into semicircles. Add these to the batter and gently stir.

Put it all together: Spoon about 1/2 the muffin batter into prepared muffin liners, distributing evenly. Add 1/2 the coffee-cocoa mixture. Top with the remaining muffin batter, then add the remaining coffee-cocoa mixture. Use a spoon or butter knife to gently swirl some of the coffee mixture down into the banana batter.

Bake at 325 Fahrenheit for a total of 17-20 minutes, removing muffins from oven after 10 minutes to top with chocolate chips before returning to oven to finish baking.

Serve warm… with coffee if you must. 🙂

coffee chocolate chip muffins banana oatmeal maple

Flourless Chocolate Cinnamon Cake with Caramelized Banana


Wow, it feels like it’s been forever since I last blogged! I never wanted to be one of those bloggers apologizing to my readers for a prolonged hiatus due to putting other elements of my life first…but, sorry, all you readers out there, I’ve been focusing on other things for the past several months. Nothing particularly interesting, mostly staying caught up with schoolwork (barely) and dealing with dental problems (let’s not have an extended discourse about that fascinating topic.) Oh, yeah, and I spent some time doing schoolwork too.

While it may seem like it’s been a long time since I last blogged, Passover is here again after what doesn’t seem like a whole year since its last dreaded appearance on the calendar. Don’t get me wrong – I love Passover, but don’t really like the aspects such as cleaning the house and sitting at a long nighttime seder and then eating matzo for eight days…

DON’T eat matzo for eight days! You will probably die a humiliating death of constipation, as well as be denying your tastebuds the deliciousness of more interesting options. Take this flourless chocolate cake I made yesterday.


Dense and fudgey, not too sweet, and laced with the subtle kiss of caramel and a swirl of cinnamon, your tongue will dance with joy for the liberation from boring Passover food. Furthermore, with a greatly reduced fat content and more fiber and Vitamin C than most Passover cakes, it will set your health conscience free from worries. The cake can also be made gluten-free quite easily by making sure the cocoa and any other questionable ingredients are certified gluten-free, so a wider audience can benefit from its nutrition and decadence!

It’s true that the Israelites only had 18 minutes to bake their bread before the Exodus, whereas this cake takes considerably longer what with all that beating of eggs and thorough mixing of ingredients. But if you can spare an hour or two out of your day, it is more than worth making – whether or not you observe the dietary restrictions of Passover.

flourless chocolate cake kosher for passover cranberry caramelized banana cinnamon chocolate

When I first tried a piece of this cake, I was unsure if non-health-fanatics would like it, since it wasn’t very sweet at all. My mom, a standard test subject for my cuisine, and not the biggest fan of health-ified desserts, took a tentative half a piece. She tasted it and grabbed the other half as well. Success!

I intended to follow the “Mexican Chocolate Cinnamon” flavor trend, but the cinnamon swirl I added was very subtle – I might suggest doubling that part of the ingredients. (Ingredients listed below are amounts I used.) Other than that, I wouldn’t change anything about this recipe. Enjoy!

Flourless Chocolate Cinnamon Cake with Caramelized Banana

makes about 8 servings

chocolate cinnamon flourless cake caramelized banana caramel frozen yogurt


for cinnamon swirl (I recommend doubling these three ingredients)

  • 2 tbs Earth Balance Original Buttery Spread
  • 1 tbs Truvia Baking Blend
  • generous shake or two of cinnamon

for cake

  • 6 eggs, separated
  • 12 tbs Truvia Baking Blend, separated
  • 1-1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Hershey’s)
  • 4 oz/113 grams Tree Top brand cinnamon flavored applesauce (I used one of their single-serving units)
  • 1/2 cup plain almond milk (or other milk of choice)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbs chocolate hazelnut spread (I used Safeway brand)
  • 1 single-serving pouch of Weight Watcher’s by Whitman’s candies brand bite-size caramels

for topping

  • 1 banana
  • 1 tbs Earth Balance Original Buttery Spread
  • 1 tbs Truvia Baking Blend
  • dash cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries


For Cinnamon Swirl: Place Earth Balance in a microwave-safe bowl. Heat for 25 seconds or until melted. Mix in the Truvia and cinnamon thoroughly. Set aside until ready to swirl into cake batter just before baking.

For Cake: Preheat oven to 350 Fahrenheit. Line an 8″ square pan with aluminum foil, and spray the foil generously with nonstick spray.

In a large bowl, combine the cocoa, applesauce, and almond milk. Mix well.

In a medium bowl, use a hand mixer to beat the egg yolks with 6 tbs of Truvia Baking Blend, as well as the vanilla extract and chocolate hazelnut spread.

Add the egg yolk mixture in with the chocolate mixture, and mix well.

In another medium bowl, use hand mixer to beat the egg whites with the remaining 6 tbs of Truvia Baking Blend until stiff-ish white peaks form (this takes longer than you’d think.)

Fold egg white mixture into chocolate mixture, 1/4 at a time, until completely combined.

Pour cake batter into pan. Swirl cinnamon mixture into batter. Break up caramel candies by hand and drop the pieces into the batter, gently swirling them in.

Bake at 350 Fahrenheit for a total of 33-35 minutes, pausing after 20 minutes to add the caramelized bananas…

For Caramelized Bananas: Cut one whole banana into circular slices of medium thickness.

Place 1 tbs Earth Balance in a nonstick pan. Heat to medium, melting the Earth Balance to coat the pan.

Add the banana slices. Cook until one side is slightly browned. Then flip over and sprinkle with Truvia and cinnamon. When other sides of banana slices have browned, flip once more to coat with Truvia and cinnamon and cook until both sides are golden brown. (Slightly burnt-looking is okay.)

After cake has baked for about 20 minutes, remove from oven and distribute caramelized banana slices evenly across the top. Sprinkle with dried cranberries.

Return cake to oven for another 13-15 minutes (it should bake for 33-35 minutes total.)

Serve warm or chilled in the fridge. I recommend topping your slice with Healthy Choice brand Greek Frozen Yogurt, Caramel Swirl Flavor!

Bon appetit and happy spring holidays!

Recipe adapted from the following sources:

cake base: http://www.ingredientsofafitchick.com/2012/05/07/flourless-chocolate-cake/

caramelized bananas: http://www.lovefoodeat.com/caramelized-bananas-topped-with-roasted-cashew-nuts/

cinnamon swirl: http://www.food.com/recipe/cinnamon-swirl-coffee-cake-47134

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Israeli Frankenstein Parfait

osem bamba peanut snack yogurt parfait peanut butter banana strawberry vanilla caramel chocolate

If you’ve been to the “Kosher Foods” section of your local Vons lately, you may have noticed some newcomers. Alongside the year-round stocks of matzoh that we only use for seven days in April once a year and the matzoh ball soup in a can/box (gee, we Jews must practically live on matzoh!) there have lately been some interesting snacks popular in Israel. One that I am happy about the grocery store picking up on is Bamba, peanut butter puffs made by Osem. According to Osem’s website, 90% of Israeli families regularly add Bamba to their shopping carts, and once you taste the simple but addictive snack it’s easy to see why.

Osem Bamba peanut snack

While I really like the ones filled with flavorful creams such as hazelnut, the plain flavor can be okay – if eaten with something super sweet. That’s why I created this super-indulgent parfait, complete with chocolatey-caramel pudding, light vanilla yogurt, succulent strawberries, sweet banana slices, creamy smooth peanut butter… and of course the featured ingredient, Bamba Peanut Snack. I used the individual serving bag found in my grocery store, and it was plenty to create a nice salty crunch to this parfait.

yogurt pudding parfait with osem bamba peanut snack strawberry banana chocolate vanilla caramel

The only problem: as I was assembling this I kind of felt like a foodie frankenstein, as the cylindrical peanut puffs reminded me more and more of fingers. It’s the wrong time of year for creepy Halloween food! I just tried to put that image aside and enjoy this parfait which tasted quite good despite the unfortunate resemblance. So if you’re faint-hearted, don’t try this recipe. If you love Halloween and Israeli snacks on the other hand, give it a try!

Peanut Butter Strawberry Banana Vanilla Chocolate Parfait Featuring Bamba

makes one generous serving

strawberry banana peanut butter yogurt parfait featuring osem bamba peanut snack


  • 1 oz (28 g) Osem brand Bamba Peanut Snack
  • 1 Greek nonfat vanilla yogurt
  • 1 chocolate/caramel flavored pudding snack
  • 6-8 strawberries, sliced
  • 1/2 banana, sliced
  • 1 tbs creamy peanut butter

Directions: Layer Bamba, yogurt, pudding, and fruit in tall glass. Swirl in a spoonful of peanut butter throughout or on top as desired. Enjoy!

Banana Bread Oatmeal Cookies

chocolate chunk banana walnut bread oatmeal cookies

There’s a “no eating” rule in my first period class. Even so, everyone brings food. One girl who sits near me always has banana bread from some off-brand bakery, dressed to impress in a pretty paper bag. That smell drifts over to my desk and gets me reminiscing about my childhood days, when Grandma would pull a fresh loaf of chocolate-chip banana bread out of the oven and we’d all stab the tender, warm creation with forks and knives until no melty chocolate morsel or crunchy walnut had escaped our ravenousness… I really shouldn’t be thinking about banana bread during class.

How to deal with this distraction? Do I insist that the teacher enforce the “no eating” rule? Nah, I don’t want to be a goody-good. Maybe if I go home and make the goody for myself, it’ll stop tempting me in class.

banana walnut oatmeal cookies currant chocolate maple

But I didn’t want to settle for the same old boring banana bread I’ve had a million times. I wanted to infuse the recipe with my own twist, as usual. So I decided on banana bread cookies, to capture the softness and the wonderful crispy baked edges of the best banana bread in a few succinct bites. When I found this recipe on Sally’s Baking Addiction, I decided to make them oatmeal cookies. And that’s how this recipe was born.

It’s pretty simple, not too many ingredients – just throw it together, chill the dough, and bake! You can feel good about every bite of these soft and chewy cookies: creamy peanut butter and crunchy chopped walnuts provide all healthy fats, while potassium-rich banana and a touch of pure maple syrup are the sole sweeteners. Since the recipe is flourless, it can easily be made gluten free with the use of gluten free oats. So this recipe is sure to be an all-around winner for the health-conscious crowd.

oatmeal banana bread chocolate walnut cookie

If I were to make these again, the only thing I might change is to add a bit more sweetener, perhaps from brown sugar or Truvia. My mom liked that the cookies weren’t too sweet, and said they were just right, but my opinion differed, so I guess it’s a matter of personal taste. Overall, though, they were lovely and I totally recommend them for a holiday table treat or just an anytime indulgence you can feel good about!

Banana Bread Oatmeal Cookies

based on recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction

makes about 17 cookies

oatmeal chocolate chunk cookies banana bread currant walnut maple


  • 2/3 cup quick cooking or old fashioned oats (if making gluten free, use certified gluten free oats!)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • dash each of cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger
  • 1 egg
  • 1 medium banana
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 2 tbs pure maple syrup
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup Sun Maid brand Natural California Zante Currants
  • 2 tbs chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 bar Endangered Species brand Natural Dark Chocolate with 88% Cocoa
  • Directions:

In a medium bowl, combine oats, baking soda and spices. Mix.

In another medium bowl, beat the egg. Add banana and mash into the egg. Add peanut butter, maple syrup, and vanilla, and mix well.

Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and mix thoroughly. Add currants and walnuts. Stir.

Chop chocolate bar into chunks. Pour into cookie dough. Stir.

Chill dough for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 Fahrenheit.

Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil. Spray generously with nonstick spray.

Drop small balls of cookie dough onto aluminum, spaced out from each other as much as possible. Do not flatten balls.

Bake at 350 Fahrenheit for 9-12 minutes.


banana walnut chocolate chunk currant cookies oatmeal

Homemade Ice Cream Sundae Cones – Two Ways!

One of the most omnipresent fast foods in Israel – besides falafel of course – is ice cream. From the little concession stands with Nestle ice cream that can be found every few feet of every street of every commercial area, to the specialty gelato shops where you can pay 50 shekels for a cone of frozen dessert in any flavor under the sun, it’s obvious the hot, dry country loves its ice cream.

ice cream concession stand in Israel

Above: a wide variety of Magnum ice cream on a random street corner in Israel: I never expected to see the same products halfway across the world from where I usually buy them, but I guess that’s globalization for you. And after all, Nestle is based in Switzerland, isn’t it?

inside Aldo's Israel

Above: interior of Aldo’s, a posh Israeli ice cream chain.

By the way, just a shout out to the dairy cows who bear the burden of producing all that milk to be turned into ice cream to meet the incredible demand from us humans. I saw them at work in a kibbutz, and I must say that milking machine looks kinda scary! I wished I could take a picture of that smell… but it’s just as well you can’t smell it because this is a food blog, right? And that stench was pretty unappetizing.

dairy cows in kibbutz Israel

I thought after leaving that farm area I’d never want to eat dairy again! But as soon as we were removed from the stink and back in the relentless sun, I forgot any thought of swearing off ice cream. In fact, I jotted down some ideas for creative ice cream flavors to make once I got back to my home kitchen in the States.

While these two ice cream sundae cone recipes aren’t Israeli in any way, their frozen deliciousness takes me back to my month in Israel when anything frozen was welcomed by all of our sweltering tongues. Wherever you are, if you need to beat the summer heat, give one of these ice cream cone mix-ups a try.

banana peanut butter cookie dough m&m ice cream cones

The first is a recipe for strawberry shortcake cones, the second for m&m peanut butter cookie dough banana chocolate almond butter cones with vanilla ice cream (the flavor is longer than the ice cream cone!) I tried to make innovative combinations that aren’t typically available in stores. For both sets of cones I used Dreyer’s Yogurt Blends in Vanilla flavor. The fact that “Yogurt Blends” isn’t really yogurt, but doesn’t seem to be ice cream either freaked me out at first, but I guess I just accepted it as another mutt processed food we enjoy nowadays, no weirder than m&m’s which my brother claims are coated in a color coating containing insect cocoons. I’m choosing to disregard that notion… insects aren’t listed in the ingredients, just a bunch of artificial colors and flavors, so we should be fine!

I’d say that each one of these ice cream cones fits a different lifestyle or desire. The strawberry shortcake cones are more of a healthy indulgence, as they are made with wholesome Teddy Grahams and a significant portion of real, fresh fruit (unlike most commercial brands of “strawberry ice cream” that might include a microscopic drop of real fruit amid all the artificial sweeteners and food coloring.) This light treat is for the health-conscious individual in their everyday life who wants to satisfy their sweet tooth without going overboard.

mnm peanut butter cookie dough ice cream cone

The other side of the coin are these m&m peanut butter cookie dough cones, which pile on the decadence with rich peanut butter infused in delightful, soft frozen cookie dough, generously scooped in with the vanilla yogurt blend that is emblazoned with m&m candies, and every bite from the decadent banana topping to the last scrumptious morsel of chocolate in the tip of the cone is sinfully sweet. But even these devilish delights can be enjoyed as a special treat without inducing too too much guilt: they are topped off with real banana slices and drizzled with chocolate hazelnut butter, which contributes a bit more fiber, protein, and calcium than is found in plain chocolate sauce. And they are only about 260 calories each, a dwarf compared to most ice cream available in stores.

Whichever flavor is your preference, I’m sure making these homemade sundae cones will be a fun and yummy experience for you to enjoy this summer! Give it a try.

Strawberry Shortcake Cones

makes three small-medium sundae cones

strawberry shortcake ice cream cones


  • 3 sugar cones (I used Let’s Do… brand gluten free sugar cones)
  • 1 cup vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt (I used Dreyer’s brand Vanilla Yogurt Blends)
  • 6 fresh strawberries, diced into small pieces
  • 9 honey flavored Teddy Grahams, crushed
  • 1 tbs white chocolate chips
  • 1/2 tsp water


Position sugar cones in cups so they stay upright. Begin by scooping some yogurt into each cone and pushing it down to the tip (I found it easiest to work with the yogurt blend when it was just slightly softened). Layer strawberry pieces and crushed Teddy Grahams on top of this, with more layers of yogurt over that, until each cone is filled to brimming.

Place cones in freezer in upright position to harden for a few minutes. Meanwhile, make white chocolate sauce by heating an inch of water in a saucepan covered with a bowl. Place white chocolate chips and water in bowl and stir constantly until chocolate has melted and mixed into the water. Remove from heat.

Drizzle chocolate sauce over each cone. Then return cones to freezer. Allow them to freeze for several hours (a day is best) before eating for maximum frozen goodness!

M&M Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Cones with Banana and Chocolate Hazelnut Butter

makes 5 small-medium sundae cones

mnm peanut butter banana cookie dough vanilla ice cream cone


  • 5 sugar cones (I used Let’s Do… brand gluten free sugar cones)
  • 25 semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt (I used Dreyer’s brand Vanilla Yogurt Blends)
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 2 tbs Truvia baking blend
  • pinch salt
  • 2 tbs creamy peanut butter
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1.5 tbs water
  • one small packet milk chocolate m&m’s
  • one small banana
  • 1 tbs chocolate hazelnut butter


First make the cookie dough by mixing together the flour, Truvia, and salt. Then mix in the peanut butter, vanilla and water until thoroughly blended.

Soften the yogurt blends by removing it from freezer for several minutes.

Position sugar cones in cups so they stand upright.

Melt semisweet chocolate chips. Spoon a bit into the inside tip of each cone.

In a medium bowl, combine cookie dough, m&m’s, and softened ice cream. Blend gently with a spoon.

Working quickly so the yogurt blends does not melt, spoon this mixture into each cone, filling up to the top or almost to the top.

Place cones in freezer in upright position. Allow to freeze for several hours or until yogurt/ice cream has hardened.

For topping: Slice banana into thin rounds. Place these rounds on top of hardened yogurt blends on each cone. Then drizzle a bit of chocolate hazelnut butter on each stack of banana slices.

Return cones to freezer for several hours or until banana slices have frozen and chocolate hazelnut butter has hardened.

Bon appetit!

P.S.: like the nails in my strawberry shortcake cone pic? They’re rainbow sherbet nails and a full tutorial can be found on my new nail art blog, Nail Art Lab. As of June 2014 I have stopped posting nail pictures on My Nail Art Gallery on this site, and begun a new blog dedicated to nails, so if that’s your thing, please do stop by and check it out!

rainbow sherbet nails with strawberry shortcake ice cream yogurt blends cone

Hidden Treasures

Often the best, most interesting and wonderful things in life are also the hardest to find. True friends and soul mates are hard to find; likewise, buried treasure, and exotic species are quite elusive, and can avoid discovery for generations. But as hard as these entities are to allocate, they are all the more valuable once found.

Recently I read about the po’ouli bird, a species likely related to a honeycreeper that was first discovered by University of Hawaii students in 1973. Here’s a pic:

po'ouli bird

The po’ouli is structurally dissimilar to any other living bird species, and nests in the rainforest in trees with a name so hard to pronounce I won’t even try, (though I’m sure it sounds beautiful in the native language) and dines on pesky creepy-crawlies such as spiders (go, po’ouli birds!) When it was discovered, the species was already endangered. Despite efforts to conserve and regrow the existing population, it continued to dwindle until there were only three known individuals alive in 1997. Desperate attempts to get these lonely survivors to produce offspring were made, but to no avail.

Today, there are only two males left, and the chances of expanding the population using tissue samples or some other artificial method are slim, as no females are left. Due to habitat loss, disease, loss of prey species, and other factors likely highly influenced by humans, the po’ouli bird is now practically extinct. This rare and beautiful creature has been like a fleeting dream fluttering across the stage of human knowledge between its discovery so late and its disappearance too soon.

po'ouli bird in tree

I imagine it was very exciting for those University of Hawaii students to come upon an undiscovered species quietly existing in the heart of the forest right by their school. All life is a treasure, but a scientific and historical treasure indeed was the discovery of this understated bird. And to let the population dwindle to a measly few individuals keeping the species of po’ouli alive, hanging on by a thread to the earth as it turns away, led by the rope of human ignorance, this sad occurrence is akin to a pirate’s lifetime of gold and jewels being devoured by a black sea wave and buried under thousands of leagues of murky scum. A treasure, first unknown, then under-appreciated, now lost if we do not act at once. The most valuable treasure is the one that is taken for granted until it is gone.


Now, onto a cheerier discussion of a much different type of elusive treasure…the legendary perfect crumb muffin! You know, that delicious-yet-super-fattening muffin with the brown sugar/cinnamon crumble on top that fills your mouth with sugar and brightens your whole day yet simultaneously causes you to feel extremely guilty for eating the soft, moist baked treat covered in sinful streusel? I have tried several times to make a healthier version of crumb-topped baked goods at home, but I can never get it just right the way they do in bakeries…either the crumbs roll right off the muffin, or they sink into the batter while baking heretofore losing the delightful texture of grainy crumbly bits. They just don’t want to stay put on top of the muffin!!! As you might imagine, these repeated failures have frustrated me to the point that I’ve vowed to myself never to try and make a crumb muffin again, lest I suffer the annoyance of misbehaving crumb topping on yet another occasion. Yet the inexplicable call of the crumb muffin beckons me to the kitchen, over and over throughout the years, armed with a new recipe or technique, somehow sure this time will be different, this time I will conquer the great and terrible crumb muffin and pull something magical out of the oven. This time the crumbs will neither sink into the batter, nor roll away.

Needless to say, this different, special day has not arrived yet. But like a scientist whiling away his life searching for a new species, like a pirate traversing the world ocean in search of mythical treasure, I have some sort of irrepressible urge to continue trying, until the day I prevail. Or the day my oven breaks, whichever comes first. That’s what drove me to make these crumb muffins last week. An image of banana blueberry muffins with that impossible, magical cinnamon crumble topping popped into my head, and I simply could not get rid of it. The only thing to do was bake the muffins, and hope that this time would be different. I mixed up the batter with banana, blueberry, steel-cut oats, tart yogurt and cream cheese, and other good stuff. I popped them in the oven, took them out around halfway through the baking process to gingerly adorn each one with a sprinkling of my crumble topping, placed them back in the oven, then crossed my fingers and hoped for the best. Maybe this batch would be my perfect crumb muffins, my treasure.

When the timer shrieked I whisked the muffins out of the oven and saw at once that treasure…these were not. At least, in terms of looks. The all-important crumble wasn’t looking so crumb-y: it had sunken a bit into the center of each muffin, making them look more like little depressed volcanoes than chipper crumb muffins. Glumly I snapped a few pictures on the off-chance they’d taste all right, though I already knew they weren’t the treasure muffins I was hoping for.

banana blueberry crumb muffin steel cut oats

As it turned out, they tasted marvelous! The tart flavor of the yogurt and cream cheese came through only faintly, I was hoping for a bit more tart flavor, but they still tasted great, mostly like delicious banana, flavorful blueberries, nourishing whole grains and oats, and a nice, melty layer of sugar and spice on top. My mom said they tasted “healthy, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.” Maybe I’m used to things tasting “healthy,” but personally I prefer the hearty texture of a homemade healthy muffin to a light, buttery bakery one made heavy with guilt. When served warm, with the not-so-“crumb”-y topping rolling down the sides and melting in your mouth, these muffins are the perfect breakfast treat! Even if they don’t look perfect, they are a true treasure for the tastebuds. And a treasure in terms of nutrition as well: the batter is packed with real fruit and whole grains, and they are low in fat and calories – one filling muffin is less than 200! Since they have steel cut oats and whole wheat pastry flour, instead of just finely ground white flour, their glycemic index is lower than that of many traditionally-baked muffins.

blueberry banana crumb muffins

The take-away? Looks aren’t everything. Look carefully at your trash and you may find treasure where you least expect it. Protect your treasure well, whether it be in the form of gold, endangered animals, or a muffin on your plate that you don’t want anyone to steal!

Here’s the recipe I used. If you know a better technique for baking perfect crumb muffins, please do let me know in the comments!

Banana Blueberry Crumb Muffins

Based on recipe from babylovingmama.com

Makes 12 regular size muffins

blueberry banana cinnamon sugar crumb muffin


muffin batter

  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 cup dry steel cut oats
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • dash cinnamon
  • 2 large bananas
  • 1 egg (I used 3 tbs Lucerne brand egg substitute)
  • 2 tbs organic light agave syrup
  • 2 Laughing Cow brand Smooth Sensations cinnamon cream cheese spread
  • 1 Chobani brand  strawberry banana flavored 2% milkfat Greek yogurt (or use your favorite brand of lowfat or nonfat Greek yogurt.)
  • 3 tbs skim milk
  • 1 1/2 cups blueberries

“crumb” topping

  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tbs whole wheat pastry flour
  • pinch cinnamon
  • 1 tbs Earth Balance Whipped Buttery Spread (or use original; we just happened to have whipped in the house)
  • 1/2 tsp organic light agave syrup
  • 1 to 2 tsp water


Preheat oven to 375 Fahrenheit. Line a regular-sized muffin tin with 12 paper liners, or spray with nonstick spray.

For Muffins: In a large bowl, combine the flour, steel cut oats, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Mix.

Place the bananas in another large bowl, and mash them a bit with a fork. Then add the egg substitute, 2 tbs agave, and 2 Laughing Cow cheese wedges. Combine using an electric mixer until all the ingredients are pretty well incorporated (my mixture was still somewhat lumpy.)

Pour wet mixture into dry. Add the yogurt and 3 tbs skim milk. Stir just until combined. Add blueberries and mix gently.

Pour muffin batter evenly into muffin cups, filling each 3/4 full or more (these muffins are pretty big but don’t rise too much during baking.) Bake for about ten minutes before you add the crumb topping, and 6-8 minutes after (16-18 minutes total.)

For Crumb Topping: In a small bowl, combine brown sugar, 2 tbs whole wheat pastry flour, and cinnamon. Toss mixture. Cut in 1 tbs Earth Balance in little pieces. Mix with your fingers until mixture becomes crumbly. (Mine was way too dry so I added an extra 1/2 tsp agave and a few drops of water, which gave it more of a crumbly texture, so do this if needed.)

After muffins have baked at 375 Fahrenheit for 10 minutes, remove from oven and sprinkle the crumb topping evenly on top of each muffin. Return to oven for another 6-8 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.

Serve these muffins warm to those people you treasure in your life!

banana blueberry crumb muffins

Po’ouli bird photo credits: (in order of appearance)



Cartoon muffin pic from:


Take Revenge On All Your Obnoxious Teachers!

Are you sick and tired of tyrannical, corrupt teachers who set strict rules for the class – and then don’t even follow those rules? Are you ready for revenge? Here’s how you can exact your revenge on all the teachers who ever violated the age-old school policy of “No Eating in Class”, but wouldn’t let you, the students, do the same.

Well, okay, it’s not really revenge. Probably your teachers will never even know you did this, but you’ll know, and that counts for something…well, at any rate, you’ll get a super delicious muffin out of it. And that will help ease the pain of the corruption in the school system.

Seriously, is there anyone out there who has not had at least one teacher who told the class on the first day that “we don’t allow any food in class because it attracts ants/cockroaches/cookie monsters”, and then proceeded to open up a soda/candy bar/bag of chips? As if vermin are only attracted by the crumbs of students’ food, and not teachers! Not only is this policy hypocritical, it is gross because at some point, even the most dainty teacher will spill something, and then there is a gross mess and the possibility of attracting vermin.

There is a convenience store near my school that sells snacks and some pastries such as danishes and muffins wrapped in plastic. Lots of students and teachers go to that store before school or during a break to buy these pastries (the muffins are the most popular.) But of course, according to unwritten school policy, only teachers are allowed to eat the muffins in class. The students will have to wait until lunch, or risk having their muffin confiscated and eaten by the teacher.

I must say, I’ve gotten awfully fed up with the whole system of hypocrisy that allows teachers to disobey their own rules. It’s also kind of sad to see anyone lowering themselves to eating a store-bought muffin (at least for me as a loyal home baker.) Store-bought muffins are usually preserved with unnatural chemicals to keep them fresh, as well as being super high in sugar and pretty much void of any actual nutrients. Plus, fresh from your oven at home always tastes better. That’s my philosophy.

So I created this super-easy and healthy alternative to those muffins at the convenience store. This is my way of taking revenge on all the unfair teachers I’ve had in all my years at school who would eat in class – I’ve made something better, and enjoyed it all myself! And since I did this at home, no school rule could get in my way.

microwave muffin: banana walnut chocolate

Did I mention that this is a mug muffin? Meaning you make it in the microwave, heat for about a minute, and voila! It’s done. No need to go through all the trouble of a muffin tin, an oven, and finding a place to store a huge batch of muffins. You just do this whenever you feel like it, with no stress involved. The “no-stress” factor is another way to rebel against school, since in general everything involved with school is stressful.

This is one of the great microwave desserts in my history of having them. Some mug cakes can be dry, but this one is very moist, sweet, and delicious. I based it on the giant banana muffins they sell at the convenience store, but I guarantee this one is much healthier. It’s made with whole wheat flour, sweetened only naturally, and contains 3/4 of one whole banana in a serving. Don’t worry, though – it doesn’t just taste like microwaved banana. It tastes like a nice warm, moist, homestyle muffin straight from the oven. The chocolate chips provide just the right amount of naughtiness, in all their melty wonderfulness. The walnuts add a nice crunch. Even if this is not an effective rebellion against evil teachers, it sure is an effective yummy treat!

Banana Walnut Chocolate Chip Muffin in a Mug

serves 1

mug muffin: moist banana chocolate chip walnut


  • 3 tbls whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • scant 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 3/4 of a small-ish banana, mashed
  • 1 tbl organic raw agave syrup
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp Earth Balance Original Buttery Spread
  • 1 tbl + 2 tsps water
  • 1 tbl chopped walnuts
  • 1 tbl semi-sweet chocolate chips


In a mug, combine the flour, baking powder, and cinnamon and mix. Add the mashed banana, agave syrup, vanilla, and the Earth Balance (no need to melt it). Mix until all ingredients are thoroughly incorporated. Mix in some, but not all, of the walnuts and chocolate chips, reserving just a little of each for topping. Add the water; stir.

Microwave the mug with the muffin batter in it for 30 seconds. Remove from microwave to add the remaining walnuts and chocolate chips. Microwave for an additional 38 seconds, or until muffin looks done. (Microwave times do vary, so I recommend just microwaving for 5-10 seconds at a time and checking in between until it looks done.) Be sure not to overcook it so it remains moist.

Let cool for a minute or two, then exact your revenge! (With a spoon!)

moist banana nut chocolate muffin in a mug

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