Cherry Chocolate Banana Pops

banana cherry choc #voracious

So, we’ve all talked about the amazing phenomenon that is frozen banana or one-ingredient “ice cream”, right? I mean, it’s like an internet sensation. It’s been pinterested all over town.

These pops are that.

With chunks of dark chocolate and some of summer’s last cherries. They’ve got sweetness, creaminess, crunch and chew. And only three ingredients.

I’ll be real. I think I deserve dessert every single day. Sometimes I deserve a fruit-based dessert more than an ice cream-based dessert. But this here, is a compromise.

A much-needed compromise, since Fabes and I just discovered the liter-sized takeaway tub at our favorite gelato shop. Having Sydney’s best gelato in your freezer and not in the shop that’s a 30 minute bus ride away is a dangerous thing, friends.

At the risk of touting something as “guilt-free” (obnoxious?), I threw in a handful of chocolate chunks. For balance. Chocolatey balance.

You can add whatever you want to your banana mixture – I’m thinking mango or peach might be next up, along with some toasted coconut flakes.

But just so we’re clear: dark chocolate chunks are never a bad idea. And neither is that gelato takeaway tub from time to time.

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12 Things I Learned in This Past Year of Life and a Birthday Cookie Cake

SO! I had a birthday last week.

This sort of thing doesn’t usually get me all introspective, but the past couple of years were pretty big for me… so I feel like I should have something to say for myself.

I lived my dream of quitting my job and traveling Europe with my favorite guy. And at the end of all that, we settled in sunny Australia – very very far from my home, my city and my people.

And while I am not even close to having much of anything figured out…I think I’ve learned a few important (and some unimportant) things this year.

1. I can live in Australia without melting into a puddle of homesickness and tears.

2. Feeling homesick can be really frustrating and tough. Be nice to yourself.

3. A mustache tattoo on one’s index finger is a good omen.

4. I need a dog.

5. Sometimes gelato is an acceptable Saturday lunch.

6. Buy the fancy butter and salt. You won’t regret it.

7. Don’t throw house parties with white carpets and people you don’t know.

8. Magpies are evil winged creatures that are out to get you.

9. I can successfully make a souffle, pulled pork and pavlova.

10. Travel is amazing, but nesting can feel just as rewarding.

11. Regularly counting the small things you’re thankful for can make a big difference.

12. It’s totally OK to make your own birthday cake.

For my birthday this year, I decided to make myself a blondie/cookie cake studded with some of my favorite things: dark chocolate, coconut, banana and pecans bound together with brown sugar and butter. Not a traditional birthday cake, but I couldn’t think of anything more perfect.

Unfortunately final product photos didn’t happen due to late-night overzealous cake consumption. Forgive me, it was my b-day, and I was being selfish.

I was inspired by Joy the Baker’s Banana, Walnut & Chocolate Cookie Cake – she’s got the good looking cookie-cake pics going on too, if that’s something you’re into. Which you probably are. I hope.

Banana, Pecan, Coconut & Chocolate Cookie Cake
(makes 1 8-inch cake)
adapted from Joy the Baker

– 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
– 1 cup brown sugar, packed
– 1 large egg
– 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
– 1 ripe banana (mashed)
– 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
– 1 cup all-purpose flour
– 1 cup spelt flour
– 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
– 1/2 teaspoon salt
– 1/2 cup dark chocolate chunks
– 1/2 cup large coconut flakes
– 1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans
– a pinch of sea salt flakes

Place a rack in the upper third of the oven and heat oven to 350 F/175 C.

Melt butter in an 8-inch cast iron skillet over medium-low heat.  Stir in sugar  and vanilla extract and remove from heat.  Whisk until thoroughly combined.  Allow mixture to stand and cool for about 5 minutes.  The mixture should not be super hot when the eggs goes in, or the egg will cook.

Add the egg and whisk together until smooth.  The mixture will be glossy and no longer greasy.  Add banana and cinnamon and stir to combine.

Add the flour, baking soda, and salt.  Stir carefully until all of the dry ingredients are incorporated.  Add the chocolate, coconut and pecans and fold together.

Spread mixture across the pan creating a somewhat smooth top. Sprinkle with a few flakes of sea salt. Place in the oven.

Bake for 15 to 18 minutes until mixture is dry on top, but still slightly soft in the center. Under-cooking this cake is where it’s at! Think over-sized gooey cookie.

Remove from oven and allow to cool for 15 minutes.  Top with ice cream and serve warm.

Here’s to another excellent year of life!

Tropical Quinoa Breakfast Bowl

Guess what? I live in Australia.

If you know me in real life or have taken the time to read my About Me page, you’re probably all, “well duh.”

But I have to remind myself of this fact all. the. time. Walking down my street is the best time for this.

For months it has smelled like vacation on my street. Ok, that sounds weird. But someone is always barbequing, I swear. And the scent of foreign plants and flowers reminds me of my first visit to this country. So sometimes when I’m walking home I like to take a deep breath and say gently to myself (in my head), “hey girl, you live here. That’s kind of cool.”

But despite people saying ‘mate’ all the time and other obvious and personal reminders, I still can’t seem to fully internalize my location.

I know I’m to blame.  My, ahem, voracious consumption of food blogs is a major factor. Many of my favorites are based in the US, or else in the Northern Hemisphere. I inevitably end up reading about a slow-braised meat dish here, and a roasted root vegetable there, and before I know it I am aching to turn on the oven for hours on a hot summer afternoon. Like a crazy person.

I must tell myself to wait…be patient…put these recipes on the list – or PIN them (btw, thank you Pinterest for making me a less frenzied recipe collector.)

One warming, cold-weather food I refuse to put on hold is hot cereal. I love the blank canvas that oatmeal or a multi-grain cereal gives me.  Sweet, savory, seed-studded, cream-laced, peanut butter-topped, or with a big pile of fruit – I find it hard to tire of.

One of the many great things about Australia is the fresh fruits and vegetables. We have access to tropical-type produce that normally has to travel a long way to reach me in New York. But now, things like bananas grow only a state away. And passion fruit? If ever there were a nectar of the gods! For serious.

To keep me in check but satiate my need for a warm breakfast, I made a tropical version of my normal oats. I used light coconut milk, swapped oats for the more exotic-sounding quinoa, and topped it with kiwi, banana, toasted coconut and almonds.

The real key to making this “tropical” is the coconut milk with a little vanilla – it’s just dreamy. The rest of the components can be negotiated based on where ever you happen to be in the world.

I like to combine a mixed-grain cereal (I like Bob’s Red Mill 6-Grain Hot Cereal with flaxseed) with something more structured like traditional rolled oats or quinoa to add extra creaminess but still maintain a good texture. But you could make this using just one type of cereal or grain.

Tropical Breakfast Quinoa
Serves 2

– 1/2 cup quinoa
– 1/4 cup mixed grain cereal
– 1/2 cup coconut milk
– 1 1/2 cup water
– 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
– 1-2 tablespoons honey or maple syrup
– 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
– pinch of salt

Put quinoa, cereal, coconut milk, water and pinch of salt in a saucepan and bring to a boil.

Stir in vanilla, honey, cinnamon and cover. Bring down to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add a little more coconut milk towards the end, if desired. Serve with the toppings of your choice. (Toasted coconut is highly recommended.)

To toast coconut: sprinkle a layer of coconut in a dry pan over a low heat for 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally until golden and fragrant.

Garnish options:
– toasted coconut
– toasted almonds
– toasted cashews
– banana
– kiwi
– pineapple
– mango
– passion fruit  pulp
– papaya

BOOM! Tropical up in here.