Banana Oat Blondies

Because there's only one (maybe two?) things to do when you see a bunch of overripe bananas on your counter: turn them into a delicious baked good! Freezing them is the second option, in case baking with them doesn't excite you. Well, I guess there is a third, most obvious option: eat them.
Banana bread seemed too mainstream. If you've been following me for a while now, you'll know that I mean this in the best of sentiments. My family and I are banana bread fanatics, and I've already made so many variations. It only seemed fair to give other treats a chance. Hence, these oat banana blondies were born. Quick confession time. These aren't your classic blondies, so don't expect them to be as such. They're more like a chewier, denser version of banana bread in blondie form. Not sure who wouldn't want that though! They're also easily made gluten free as long as you make sure to use gluten-free certified oats.

From my experience baking with oat flour, I've found it to be one of the most reliable flours - it always yields such delicious results. The texture is just right - crumbly, nutty and has a bite to it, yet is smooth, rich and oh-so-wonderfully wholesome.

These blondies are no different. They're soft, slightly chewy, filled with just the right amount of chocolate chips, moderately sweet and healthy to boot! You could even slice a large square in half and slather on some peanut or almond butter (or a cocoa hazelnut spread that's made from real ingredients - i.e. not Nutella).

1 1/2 cups baby oats, ground into a flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
1 1/2 tbsp almond butter
1/2 tbsp coconut oil
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup unrefined sugar
2 ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 170°C. Line a square baking dish (8 to 9 inches in side length) with parchment paper and set aside.  

Sift the dry ingredients, except sugar, together in a medium mixing bowl. Stir to combine.

In a separate, larger bowl, beat together the Greek yogurt, almond butter and coconut oil. Add the eggs one at a time and beat again until light and frothy. Add the sugar and vanilla extract and beat well again.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix until just combined. Fold in the mashed banana, then the chocolate chips.

Pour the batter into prepared baking pan and bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown on top and a toothpick inserted comes out clean. 

Let the blondies cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Enjoy anytime with drink of choice (milk, tea, coffee.... I guess wine works too?)!


Butternut Squash & Chickpea Salad

Aaand I'm back! This term has been one-of-a-kind. It's been so super special and amazing I don't even know how to describe it. It's also been a term filled with a lot of new experiences - I pulled my first all-nighters (three in a span of seven days....), I went for a couple of runs with one of my best friends and a former cross country runner, I traveled to them Amalfi coast and indulged in some amazing Italian food (and dessert because life without dessert is just..... not ok - for me, at least!).

I'm also back on the savory kick with this colorful and wholesome butternut squash and chickpea "salad". I say salad in quotations because salads tend to get bad rep for being a small bowl-full of limp lettuce leaves topped with flavourless tomatoes and some sort of dressing, but really, that's not what salads should be or are about. They're about taking a variety of fresh, delicious ingredients and putting them together in one gorgeous dish!
This salad is a variation on one of Deliciously Ella's (a lovely health food and wellness inspiration - do check her out if you haven't already!) recipes with a few variations here and there to make it more aligned with my tastebuds. It's a nourishing and satisfying lunch or equally great as a side dish! I find it absolutely perfect in the summertime when the weather is warm, the sun is shining, the days are long, the produce is fresh and the body craves something other than a piping hot meal. Can you tell I love summer? That said, it's great all year round - in fall due to the very autumn-y flavors and earthy combination, in winter because of the warming spices and the fact that this salad can be served warm and in spring because springtime is salad time!

The butternut squash roasts up beautiful and get just the slightest bit of crusty goodness on the outside. The chickpeas are also roasted in the oven with a wonderful blend of spices - I allow them to bake just enough so they're firm, but not completely dried out and crunchy like, say, toasted nuts. Instead of using already-roasted or sun-dried tomatoes, I prefer to do it myself and take sweet cherry tomatoes and roast them in the oven until they've shriveled and are juicy, but not completely dried. The salad comes together with a handful of sharp rocket leaves and a tart, yet sweet dressing that brightens the flavours and really brings out the sweetness of the squash.

If you don't have any butternut squash on hand, feel free to use pumpkin, another similar squash or even sweet potato - all would work just fine!

Serves 1 as a main dish

For the salad:
1 cup worth of large chunks of butternut squash, peeled
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp dried mixed herbs
salt and pepper, to taste
olive oil
1/2 cup dried chickpeas
1/2 tsp chili powder
large handful of rocket leaves (or arugula or rucola - whatever you call it!)
8-10 cherry tomatoes

For the dressing:
1 tsp olive oil
1/2 tsp honey
sprinkle of sea salt
juice of 1 lemon

Soak the dried beans the night before making the salad. If you forget to do this, soak them in boiling water for 1 hour. Cook as per instructions.

Preheat the oven to 200°C. 

Toss the squash with the herbs, paprika, olive oil and a dash of salt. Chop the cherry tomatoes in half.

Take the chunks of squash and tomato halves and place them side by side on a baking sheet. Bake for about 30-40 minutes until tomatoes are shriveled and have let out some juice and the butternut squash is tender and slightly charred on the outside.

Having placed the squash and tomato in the oven, toss the chickpeas in the chili powder and bake for around 20 minutes.

Mix the ingredients for the dressing together, adding salt and pepper as to your taste.

Once the squash, tomatoes and chickpeas are done and have cooled slightly, mix the squash, tomatoes, rocket and chickpeas. Add the dressing, toss once again and serve. Enjoy!