Moist & Delicious Banana Bread

Everybody family has a favourite banana bread, but you may want to give this one a try!  So moist and delicious, and to seal the deal, it is super easy and quick.  If you are in a hurry, just make the recipe into muffins and they will be ready in 20 minutes.


  1. 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
  2. 1/2 cup white sugar
  3. 1/2 cup brown sugar
  4. 2 eggs,  lightly beaten
  5. 1 tsp vanilla
  6. 3 bananas, mashed (4 if they are small)
  7. 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  8. 1 tsp baking soda  
  9. 1/2 tsp salt
  10. 1/2 tsp cinnamon



  1. Preheat oven to 350º.
  2. Cream together butter and sugar.
  3. Add eggs, vanilla and crushed bananas.
  4. Combine well.
  5. Sift together flour, cinnamon, soda and salt. Add to creamed mixture.
  6. Mix just until combined. Do not overmix.
  7. Pour into greased and floured loaf pan.
  8. Sprinkle raw sugar mixed with cinnamon over top.
  9. Bake at 350 degrees for 55 minutes.

Variations:  (add at the end)

chopped walnuts, or chocolate chips, or (even better) a few chocolate chips and a few Skor bits

Orange Gingerbread Cookies

The first time I tasted these orange ginger cookies, I knew we needed the recipe!  Thanks Courtney for supplying that courtesy of Nana Patti Collins ….. just wait until you try these.

Orange Ginger 1

Preheat oven to 365 F.

  • 1 cup soft butter
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 4 tsp orange peel
  • 2 tbsp corn syrup
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cloves

Cream butter & sugar until light and fluffy, add egg, orange peel & corn syrup.

Sift dry ingredients together and add gradually to creamed mixture.

Orange Ginger 2

Wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Orange Ginger 3

Roll between sheets of parchment paper (to 1/4″ thickness”) and cut.  (or form into a log and chill to slice and bake) These cookies do spread out quite a bit so leave lots of room between each one.

Bake at 365 for 9 minutes.

Cornbread Muffins

I’ve tried a few corn muffins or corn bread, but so often they turn out a little dry or too grainy.  These were absolutely perfect, so moist and delicious with the taste of the corn.  I found the recipe on “Once Upon a Chef” and for the first time, didn’t tweak a thing!

corn muffins 2

Light and fluffy, moist and delicious – what more could you want from a cornbread muffin?


  • 3/4 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour, spooned into measuring cup and leveled-off
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 3/4 cup milk (preferably whole but low-fat works too)
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, melted and cooled


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°Fdegrees. Line a muffin pan with paper liners or spray with non-stick cooking spray. (I prefer to use non-stick cooking spray so the muffins get nice and crisp on the edges.)
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, sugar and salt.
  3. In a separate bowl, break up the eggs with a whisk. Whisk in the honey and then the milk. Add the milk mixture and melted butter to the dry ingredients. Stir until just blended. Do not overmix; it’s okay if there are a few lumps. Spoon the batter evenly into the prepared muffin pan, filling each cup almost full. Bake for 17-20 minutes, or until the tops are set and golden. Cool the muffins for a few minutes in the pan, then serve warm.
corn muffins 1

I served these with a slightly spicy chipotle beef stew, so I didn’t want any extra spice here, but next time I might try mixing in a little jalapeño and gouda cheese …… yum.

Apple Pie Cookie Bars

apple pie bars 5

Combine an apple pie with shortbread bars and you have this winner!  I found this recipe in my latest Food Network magazine, from Ina Garden, and I’ve already made it twice.  The first time without the nuts so that the kids can take it in school lunches.

  • For the Crust
  • 1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
apple pie bars 4

Make sure your little helper has fun!  Stella loves working in the kitchen with Nana…

  • For the Apple Filling
  • 1½ pounds Granny Smith apples, peeled, quartered, cored, and sliced 1/8 inch thick (3 large)
  • 1½ pounds Golden Delicious apples, peeled, quartered, cored, and sliced 1/8 inch thick (3 large)
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter

Apple pie bars 1

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

For the crust, place the butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium speed for 2 minutes, until light and creamy. Sift the flour and salt together and, with the mixer on low, slowly add to the butter-sugar mixture, beating until combined. Scatter two-thirds of the dough in clumps in a 9 × 13-inch baking pan and press it lightly with floured hands on the bottom and ½ inch up the sides. Refrigerate for 20 minutes. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, until the crust is golden brown, and set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, put the mixing bowl with the remaining dough back on the mixer, add the walnuts and cinnamon, and mix on low speed to combine. Set aside.

Reduce the oven to 350 degrees.

For the filling, combine the Granny Smith and Golden Delicious apples and lemon juice in a very large bowl. Add the granulated sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg and mix well. Melt the butter in a large (10-inch-diameter) pot, add the apples, and simmer over medium to medium-low heat, stirring often, for 12 to 15 minutes, until the apples are tender and the liquid has mostly evaporated. Spread the apples evenly over the crust, leaving a ½-inch border.

apple pie bars 3

Pinch medium pieces of the remaining dough with your fingers and drop them evenly on top of the apples (they will not be covered).

apple pie bars 2

Make sure you taste …….. Stella already knows this, here she decided to add a few oats and more cinnamon to the topping mix ….. it was a hit!

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the topping is browned. Cool completely and cut into bars.

Puerto Escondido feels like home!

We’ve spent a lot of time in beach towns along the Pacific Coast of Mexico, and I think we’ve come to realize that Puerto Escondido provides everything we love about relaxing along the coast.  There is a bay to visit for whatever your activity; from calm waters to surfing the waves.  We’ve discovered Rinconada is our favourite area, quiet and calm, most residential and great restaurants.  Not only that, it is a great walk to Playa Bacocho.


Playa Bacocho, 2 km long and a fantastic morning walk.  These waves and undertow can be treacherous, so watch the waves for 10 minutes or so before getting in.  We enjoyed swimming and bobbing in the waves every day here.


Playa Carazalillo is perfect for playing in the water – safe and entertaining with snorkelling around the rocky areas, where turtles are often spotted.  This is also a great place for learning to surf or boogie boarding.  A popular spot with both locals and tourists, the entire bay is lined with palapa restaurants.


It is difficult to figure out when it is going to be a “day off” in Mexico, but when it is the beaches are full of locals.  It is so much fun to watch the families arrive by the bus load, or truck bed, carting food and drink, swimming in clothes and generally having a fantastic time.  They laugh as they bob in the waves and their joy is contagious.  Who wouldn’t love to be hanging out on this beach?


La Punta ….. a great beach for watching surfers, boogie boarding or body surfing.  Not for the faint of heart or weak swimmers.  Find a nice shaded palapa and relax with some guacamole or tacos while you are scanning the horizon for dolphins or whales.  We were treated to quite an amazing dolphin show here, with them leaping out of the water and playing for an hour or so.  I so wish either my camera or my skills had been able to capture that!


Zicatela is the primary surf beach, and on a high surf day the waves will be packed with surfboards.


dsc03459Our home in Puerto Escondido was amazing.  We loved staying at this small 6 unit complex with truly magnificient ocean views.

Take a peek at those ladders between our pool and the beach view …… The “ladder rep” wandered the streets with this push cart selling ladders.  Seems unlikely, but we watched that ladder carrier go from maximum capacity to these few over 2 days!


Right across from our gate at Las Turquezas was a path winding down to the beach at Playa Bacocho, every day started with a trip down that path for a morning walk and bobbing in the waves.



Okay, well maybe we didn’t manage to get Vivi out of her hammock EVERY day …


Going local …. we had use of a wash machine so instead of taking our clothes to the lavanderia we washed them and hung them on the rooftop clothes line.  Now, that is my idea of laundry heaven.


Sunsets were amazing here, so colourful and while the colours lasted for a while, it is always surprising how quickly that sun goes from just above the ocean to dropping off out of sight.




Puerto Escondido is a prime growing area for sesame seeds, peanuts and mango to name of few of the crops.  I’ve never seen how sesame seeds grow before so that was fun!


Gina, the “information goddess” has a tourist information booth in Puerto Escondido, and she can organize pretty much any tour you’d like to take.  We did go on an agricultural tour with her, and while it was informative and entertaining, it was probably a bit overpriced at 600 pesos per person.

Loved the plants here, such vivid colour everywhere you look.


One of the people we met on our tour is Gallo …. He runs a sanctuary for critters, everything from iguanas to turtles, to crocodiles and birds.  It was amazingly clean and well organized.  For years he did this on his own, from his own pocketbook, but is now partially subsidized.  Here he is, explaining that the reason he looks like Zapata is because that was his great uncle … or great great great uncle …. some things get lost in translation!

Once you leave the interior of Mexico, often the best food is also left behind, but not here!  We had some amazing meals here and can hardly wait to go back.  We usually mix things up quite a bit when we are away, cooking at home with local ingredients and eating out as well.  This time, I’ll admit, we ate out more than not, but it was an easy decision with such good restaurants within walking distance.


Almoraduz Cocina Mexicana de Autor – OMG …… we ate here twice it was so good.  last year I also had back ribs here that I still dream about.


Turtle Bay Cafe was also a real winner, this sesame crusted tuna was out of this world, and so were the prawns with saffron aioli.


After day at the beach you just know you want a popsicle ….. we tried the lime, the strawberry with slices of kiwi and mango, and the fresh grated coconut popsicle, all were simply refreshingly perfect!


I know, I know, the crowds are quite bothersome …..


Thinking of this moment at home …. remembering the feel of the sun and the sound of the waves ….


The nightly crib match kept Grant and Wilson competitive right to the trip home.


Need a pick me up?  Juice water …. I love them all, from this pineapple water, to my all time favourite, green juice.


Normally we eat at Mexican places ….. but the aromas drifting out of El Sultan finally dragged us in, and we had their chicken schawarma pita twice!  They make their own pitas fresh daily (about 4 times a day!) and it was fantastic.

The ultimate moment of the time spent in Puerto Escondido, of many fabulous moments, was the trip out to swim with bioluminescent plankton.  This is a spot you should visit after dark, preferably really dark, or raining.  Anything to avoid a bright moon.  A short drive from Puerto Escondido and you reach Laguna de Manialtepec, where boats are waiting.  Originally  the plankton was thought to be a curse by the fisherman when their nets were illuminated enough by the bioluminescence that the fish avoided them.  Only a short ten years later they no longer think of it as a curse as 20% of their income is derived from tourists to see this phenomenon.  If you are brave enough, you jump off the boat in darkness …. I wasn’t, but Grant, Vivian and Wilson sure did.  Once in the water the movement is totally illuminated by the plankton, and it is like your body is covered in sparkly jewels.  A few nibbling fish too …..   Another moment where I wish I could have taken a photo.

In many areas of the Pacific coast this is the time of year turtles come ashore to lay their eggs in droves.  We’ve participated in helping at sanctuaries, when the baby turtles are ready to make their journey to the sea, but this is the first time we have been around when the turtles make their way onto shore to begin that process.  It is pure magic.  Just take a moment to sit and watch the waves, and a turtle will suddenly appear, then another, then another.


This entire beach is covered in mounds ….. how many turtle eggs are under those mounds is anybodies guess.  Each turtle lays between 80-150 eggs.


With a determined pace they make their way up the beach.



This same beach can see 2500 turtles appear on one night ….. and no, I didn’t take this particular photo, our driver had taken it on an earlier morning trip out there.  We went at dusk to watch them coming in.


These poor mama turtles work so hard to get  up the beach, dig the hole with their hind flippers, drop in their eggs, cover them back up with sand and tamp the sand down.  It was amazing for us to watch the whole process, and listen to the sound of the weight she uses to tamp it all down.



The eggs dropped out in singles and doubles until the hole was filled.  Once done, she makes her way back down the beach to return to the sea.




We are usually in Mexico for the Revolution day parades, and they are so entertaining!



Those dancers knew that Vivian and Wilson were tapping their feet, so they pulled them right into the street with them.



Ahh, Puerto Escondido ….. love these beaches, the sunshine, the amazing food and I just know we’ll be back.


Hasta la vista Puerto Escondido ……

Sloan’s apple pies

Sloan and I love to be baking in the kitchen together, and most days we would make our own pie dough, but for a little after school baking time, these individual frozen pie tart shells are fantastic. This amazing little granddaughter is only 6, but she did this totally on her own, with a little verbal guidance while I helped 3 year old Stella make biscuits, which believe me – takes all my attention!  Before I know it, this little one will be teaching Nana!


For 12 tarts:

  • 1 1/2 cups apple, chopped up quite small
  • 1 TBSP white sugar
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp corn starch
  • 1 TBSP grated butter

Mix everything together really well, and divide into each tart shell.  Sprinkle a little crumble topping over, and bake at 400 for 20 minutes, until golden brown.


Pumpkins Pumpkins Pumpkins



Pumpkins, anyone?????  It’s October and pumpkin season in the Okanagan.  These adorable little pumpkins are super for decorating, and make the best pumpkin flesh.  Roast up a few, and freeze it for using in the middle of winter when pumpkin season is just a memory.


I like oven roasting my pumpkins, seems to intensify the flavour and – not only that, super easy!

Cut pumpkins in half, scoop out seeds and turn upside down on roasting pan (I like to cover with parchment paper for easy clean up)


Set those yummy pumpkin seeds aside for another day …. roasted with some seasoning they are a great snack or addition to salads!


Once you scoop out the roasted pumpkin flesh, use an immersion blender to puree it all, then turn it into a heavy bottom pot and allow to reduce slightly …. (4 cups pumpkin flesh should reduce to 3).  Removing some of this water makes for more flavourful pumpkin flesh.