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We picked the first of the new season’s macadamias yesterday. It’s a bit earlier than usual, but the warm wet weather seems to have been bringing them on, and they are starting to drop and be got by the creatures. I don’t mind the creatures getting some of them. Because they are a native to this region, we’ve included seedling trees in all the riparian native plantings.  But we also have some grafted varieties that were planted for human food, and I want some harvest from them! The first of the season nuts are so sweet.

Macadamia and fruit nut butters are one of my favourite recipes. I’ve posted Macadamia and Pear Butter and Turmeric and Mandarin Nut Butter, before, but the idea works with just about any sweet juicy fruit, and  Banana Macadamia Butter is one of the favourites.

Fresh nuts in season, unprocessed and in their shell, are one of the things that don’t seem to get appreciated enough to make it into the weekly fresh food shopping. With my family’s history of heart disease, I really like it that macas work as well as the “clinically proven to lower cholesterol” margarines that taste fake.  Their fats are the “good” kind  and they are also high in protein, fibre,  B vitamins, minerals and and antioxidants. Put it on Oat and Linseed Sourdough, and I feel so virtuous as well as happy.

The Recipe:

Dry roast a good handful of macadamia kernels in a heavy frypan over a medium heat for a couple of minutes, shaking the pan, till they just start to colour.

Tip them into a blender or food processor with a banana. Blend the mixture till smooth. Taste and add a little salt, or honey, or both.

Slather onto your favourite bread, toasted, and eat.

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Banana season peaks in February in this part of the world (northern NSW).  Most of our bananas go towards fattening up bush turkeys – my only consolation is how succulent the turkeys are going to be when the real food shortage hits! But although this time of the year, even with the help of possums, flying foxes, and king parrots, the turkeys can’t get through them all, in the wake of Cyclone Yasi banana prices are likely to skyrocket, so you might have to get in quick.

Bananas are a great breakfast food.  They’re contain both fast and slow carbohydrates, so they give an instant energy boost with a good, low GI afterburn to keep you feeling clear-headed and energetic through to lunch time.  They are very filling for the amount of calories they have, and they contain good levels of potassium, fibre, and a range of of vitamins.

The recipe also contains a couple of eggs  – a good source of  protein along with B12 and choline which is important for brain function. And the other star of the recipe is rolled oats – a low calorie,  low GI carbohydrate, with good amounts of B vitamins and several minerals, and a kind of fibre that is really effective at stopping cholesterol being deposited in your arteries.

The Recipe:

Makes about 9 oatcakes – breakfast for two or three people.  Double the recipe if you want more.

As soon as you get up, pour half a cup of milk and half a cup of plain, old fashioned rolled oats (not quick oats) into a bowl. Let it soak for a few minutes.  It doesn’t need long – 10 minutes is enough.

Mix in

  • 2 beaten eggs
  • 2 roughly mashed bananas
  • 2 dessertspoons of sultanas
  • a good teaspoon of cinnamon
  • a scant teaspoon of baking powder
  • a dessertspoon of wholemeal self raising flour

A squeeze of lemon juice is good in it, but not essential.  If you have super-sweet tooths you might add a teaspoon of honey, but I find it sweet enough without.

Heat a (very)  little butter or mild flavoured oil (eg macadamia or grapeseed or canola oil) in a heavy pan.  Over a medium heat, fry desssertspoons of mixture for a few minutes on each side till set and golden.

Eat hot straight out of the pan and avoid the washing up.

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This is an adaption of a classic recipe that is usually a bit too sweet and gooey to be suitable for lunchboxes. It is a moist, spicy cake, based on very healthy whole fruit, (pineapple and bananas) and nuts. I’ve made it a more suitable for lunch boxes by reducing the sugar and changing the frosting into a much more healthy filling. It’s a bit sweeter than my usual for the Muesli Bar Challenge, but it works out at only a teaspoon or so of sugar per slice, so it is still within the rules.

Pineapples and bananas are both in season, (but getting towards the end of it). I’ve used pecans as the nuts in the recipe, just because they’re also in season and our tree is so loaded (and close to the house) that the white cockatoos have left all the lower branches un-stripped.

Nuts in general are in season though. There are an amazing lot of public trees around with nuts just dropping unharvested, or you could look out for them at farmers markets. They are a good source of protein, Vitamin E, and minerals. Pecans are are also loaded with antioxidants.

The Recipe

Start with the filling because it needs to sit for a while.

Put a strainer over a bowl and line it with a piece of cheesecloth or one of those kitchen wipes like blue cheesecloth (a clean one of course.)

Put into it 4 desertspoons of low fat plain yoghurt and 4 desertspoons of low fat cottage cheese. Let it sit like that while you make the cake. It will drain out about 8 desertspoonfuls of almost clear liquid, and still leave 8 spoonfuls of thickened yoghurt-cheese.  (If you have enough presence of mind to do so, it is even better left like this in the fridge overnight),

To make the cake:

Blend together 2 eggs, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 4 desertspoons of brown sugar, and 1/3 cup mild flavoured vegetable oil (I like grape-seed or canola, or substitute melted butter and leave out the salt below). Mash 2 large ripe bananas and ¾ cup chopped fresh pineapple and stir them in. Or alternatively add them to the food processor and just pulse briefly to chop them in but not blend them. Stir in half a cup of chopped pecans.

Sift together 1½ cups wholemeal plain flour, 1 scant teaspoon cinnamon, ½ teaspoon bicarb soda and ½ teaspoon salt. Add to the wet mix and stir just enough to combine.

Butter a small baking tray (or two 20cm  shallow round cake pans) and line with greaseproof paper. Spread the mixture evenly in it. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the cake springs back and a skewer comes out clean.

Cool in the pan. If you used a baking tray, cut the cake in half and turn it out.

Back to the Filling

Now go back to the filling. Gently squeeze the cloth to get out the last of the liquid. Blend the yoghurt-cottage cheese mix with 2 desertspoons of icing sugar and one large banana, till the mix is very smooth. You need the icing sugar not just to sweeten, but also to make the mixture thicken a bit. Stir in another half a cup of chopped pecans.

Spread the filling over one half of the cake and sandwich with the other half. Keep the cake cool and it will be even better the next day.  Makes about 9 to 12 slices.

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Bananas are in season, and although the turkeys are getting most of mine, I thought I would feature a banana based lunch box baking recipe. These are called “Long Live Elvis Biscuits”. They’re based on the Elvis-inspired taste sensation combination of bananas and peanut butter. But I’m going for a much longer-lived Elvis!

Bananas are super healthy, with good levels of potassium, fibre, and low GI carbohydrate. Nut butters are high protein, high fibre, and although they have lots of calories, their fat is unsaturated and they have a lot of nutrients, including vitamin E, folic acid, calcium, zinc, antioxidants, and pro-biotics. I made this batch half with peanut butter and half with tahini, (so my reviewers can tell you which they prefer), but you could also go for macadamia nut butter.

The recipe makes about 24 cookies so the sugar works out at about half a teaspoon full per biscuit. And a small amount of chocolate is rich in antioxidants and actually good for you! The Ethical Consumer Guide is a good way to check for free trade brands of Australian chocolate. So though they look (and taste) very decadent, they actually fit the rules of the challenge – which are that the challenger must be within the Witches Kitchen definition of healthy and ethical, and the school age reviewers (who range from Year 1 to Year 11) must rate it preferable to the junk food marketed as “muesli bars”. Oh, and it has to be super easy.

Long Live Elvis Biscuits

Makes about 24.

Blend together 2 small ripe bananas, four good desertspoons of peanut butter or tahini or macadamia paste, a good desertspoon of butter, a small teaspoon of vanilla essence, and a scant half cup of brown sugar.

Mix a cup of wholemeal plain flour with 2 desertspoons of cocoa powder, half a teaspoon of baking soda and a pinch of salt. Stir into the banana mix.

Finely dice another banana and fold it gently into the mix along with a good desertspoon of choc chips.

You should end up with a mix that is sticky but that it is possible to roll between your palms into balls a bit smaller than a ping pong ball. Place the balls on a greased baking tray giving them some room to expand and flatten them with a fork.

Bake in a medium oven for around 30 minutes. You will have to watch them during the last bit of the cooking time as the brown colour makes it a bit difficult to pick when they are cooked.

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