An allergy-friendly version of a classic Eastern European dessert and snack perfect for celebrations.
Happy New Year! Yeah, I know we are halfway into January already but it’s been a busy start to the year. I’m not one to make resolutions because, let’s be honest, they are just going to be broken. I’m more realistic than to think I’m going to eat better the entire year or go to the gym 5 days every week. I do, however, make some goals to hit throughout the year.
Goal 1: Be better about avoiding ALL my allergens, which means ditching my beloved ketchup and cutting out alcohol as much as possible. That may be a confusing sentence but several of my food allergens cause stomach issues, not eat-it-and-die issues. With that said, it is not fun to regularly have stomach pains just because I want to eat what everyone else is eating.
Goal 2: Spend more time with family. This should be an easy one but most of my family is either in Ohio or Chicago and I don’t make it to either often enough. We are fortunate to see Scott’s parents often because they come to the city a few times a year and now that his sister and her family have moved just across the river we’ll get to see them a lot, too.
Goal 3: Be more dedicated to this blog. When life gets busy the first thing put to the side is this blog. It is meant to be a resource to help and guide others struggling with food allergies and I have TONS of ideas and things I want to get involved in, so it’s time to start treating this like the job it is supposed to be.
Now back to food. I buy bananas all the time to add to smoothies but some [most] mornings I really do not want a smoothie and then the bananas start to go bad. Before they get completely disgusting I either cut them up and freeze them or make banana bread. This has caused banana bread to be a very common food in our house which is only disappointing in that it’s not really the healthiest breakfast and/or lunch and/or snack. (I’ve definitely eaten three slices in one day……)
When I had to omit butter and eggs in my banana bread recipe it took awhile to recreate it so that it was just as tasty and had a good texture. I relied on eating a lot of vegan banana bread at cafés and restaurants, many of which were barely edible, and a few that were shockingly delicious. Thanks to their secrets and some research on my own, I’ve come up with what is a barely noticeable difference. As in, if I didn’t tell you this banana bread was vegan you’d probably have no idea. When it’s a special occasion I’ll load it up with walnuts and chocolate, but one or both can be left out without harming the final product.
Allergy note: this recipe is DAIRY-, EGG-, SOY-, PEANUT-, and YEAST-free with an easy option to also be TREENUT-free. It is not gluten-free but GF flour substitutes could be used with varying degrees of success (texturally I’m not sure how each will turn out).
I like to use my bananas when they get to the level of brown speckling shown in the photo above. The sugars have really come out in them and made them extra sweet but they haven’t yet turned into slimy mush.
I highly suggest using three bananas on the larger side for this recipe. If you only have two bananas left in your bunch you’re not going to have as moist of a bread (unless they are giant bananas) and if you have four bananas it could be too much moisture so that your bread never fully seems to be cooked through (unless they are small bananas). How to solve this conundrum? If you have 2, add some applesauce for moisture, and if you have 4, freeze one, use the rest.
Aside from the bananas, you need: flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, grapeseed oil, coconut or almond milk, cane sugar, vanilla, fresh lemon juice, plus your optional add-ins: walnuts and chocolate.
Mix together all of your dry ingredients (except sugar) on one bowl and your wet ingredients (including sugar) in another bowl or large liquid measuring cup. Add the wet ingredients to dry and gently mix until everything is just combined. If you over mix the bread will get dense so pay close attention. In a separate shallow dish, mash your bananas (I use a potato masher for ease) then add it to the mixture along with your other add-ins, walnuts and/or chopped allergy-friendly chocolate. Ever so gently fold these ingredients into the batter until just mixed. Again, no one likes dense bread.
A note about mashing: I do not like to have chunks of banana in my banana bread. My stepmother once made banana bread when I was young, like 8 or 9, and left the bananas chunky. I think I almost threw up on the table while chewing. I pulverize mine until they are pretty smooth. If you like chunks you probably should not use a potato masher, stick with a fork.
When your batter is ready, transfer it to a loaf pan that has been greased and floured, smooth it out, sprinkle the top with crushed walnuts, if using, then toss it in the oven for 50-60 minutes at 350F. I begin to check my bread at the 50 minute mark but almost always need the full 60 and sometimes a little longer even. The top should be nice and browned and the walnuts nearly burnt. If you’ve burnt the walnuts, no worries, the bread will still taste delicious. Just pick off the worst of the walnuts so they don’t overpower the flavor of the bread.
Once the bread is done, loosen it from the pan by taking a knife around the sides then transfer it to a cooling rack for 10 minutes or so before serving. The bread will keep, wrapped, in the refrigerator for 4-5 days. You can also freeze it in individual slices to be reheated in the oven or toaster oven.
If you can eat some version of cream cheese, this is the best topping option in my opinion. After that I’d go with butter of some sort (I like the Olivio Coconut Spread…it’s also the only butter alternative I can eat but I promise it is soooo good). If you are in dire straights, nut butter pairs nicely. I often end up with almond butter on mine because it is impossible to find said Olivio Coconut Spread in Manhattan. I have an Amazon alert on for when it becomes available through them again. I asked for it for Christmas. No one could find it. I emailed Olivio asking them to ship me some with shipping costs on me even. No response. PLEASE FIND ME THIS SPREAD.
Anyway, make this, top it with delicious things, fool your friends into thinking it’s not vegan, eat an entire loaf in one day, it’s completely acceptable.
- 3 large ripe bananas
- ¼ cup grapeseed oil
- ½ cup cane sugar
- ½ cup coconut or almond milk
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 tsp fresh lemon juice
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- ½ tsp baking soda
- ½ tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 cup + ¼ cup walnuts pieces (optional)
- 3-4 ounces vegan and allergy-friendly chocolate, chopped (optional)
- Preheat your oven to 350F. Grease and flour your loaf pan then set aside.
- Whisk together oil, sugar, milk, vanilla and lemon juice in a small bowl or large liquid measuring cup until fully incorporated. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Pour in the wet ingredients and mix until just combined.
- Using a potato masher or fork, mash bananas in a shallow dish. Immediately add to the batter along with one cup of walnuts and chopped chocolate and fold in. Be careful not to overmix so that your bread doesn't end up dense!
- Pour the batter into your prepared loaf pan and sprinkle with remaining ¼ cup walnut pieces, if using.
- Bake for 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean and the top is browned.
*To make this gluten free, sub in your favorite gf flour mixture. I haven't tried any so can't comment as to how it will turn out but it should work fine!
*If you do not have grapeseed oil on hand, use another flavorless oil in it's place, like canola oil or refined coconut oil.
*If you do not have a fresh lemon on hand, apple cider vinegar can replace it, though I recommend avoiding that if you are allergic to or have a yeast sensitivity.
Let me know if you’ve tried this recipe! Comment below or post a photo to Instagram and tag me @champagneandfrites #champagneandfrites.
Back in September I mentioned I would post my guides to Paris. We had just gotten back from a wonderful ten days in my favorite city and I was on such a high. I took SO MANY photos, explored new neighborhoods and restaurants we had never been to before and went back to a bunch of our favorites. As soon as we got home, though, I began to feel under the weather. Then I was immediately back and forth to Ohio for family events, which accelerated and exacerbated my sickness thanks to all the flights and the massive weather changes. I got the worst sinus infection I’ve had in years which then turned into acute bronchitis and left me feeling awful and lethargic for nearly a month. I didn’t do much of anything other than sleep, pour through a stack of books, watch ridiculous amounts of tv, and sleep some more.
(Some people can work through sinus infections like they are no big deal. I am not one of those people. They wreck havoc on my body leaving me semi-lifeless and miserable for days. My temperature spikes 3-4 degrees, my sinus cavities pound so hard that my entire face hurts not only to touch but just to be, breathing becomes difficult, sleeping becomes difficult even though it’s all I want to do, I get a horrible rash, focusing my mind on anything for more then 5 minutes is a struggle…you get the picture. I’m no fun at all.)
Now that I’m healthy again and through the craziness that is Thanksgiving prep and cooking, I’ve revisited all my photos and notes from Paris. I came to realize that there are a ton of places I want to share with you so instead of cramming everything into one monstrous post, I’ll be breaking it down over the next two weeks into five categories:
Cafes and Bistros
The Essentials: A 48-hr Guide to Paris
I’m considering doing a final post about my favorite places to stay, shop, and hang out but I’m not sure yet, so let me know your thoughts!
For now, here are some of my favorite snaps from around the City of Light.
One of my favorite summer time foods is squash blossoms. They aren’t in season for very long and they can be very finicky, but damn are they delicious. When I start to see them pop up in the farmers market I tend to go overboard and put them in just about everything.
The first time I ate squash blossoms was at a restaurant in New York City. They were stuffed with a ricotta and herb mix then fried to a perfect golden brown. It was one of those bites of food that makes your eyes bulge open and your arms flail around while still having a mouth full of food as you attempt to make everyone understand just how good it is. Every bite thereafter was the more normal eyes closed, chew slowly, enjoy the incredible flavor as long as possible while shooing away every hand trying to get a piece. For awhile, before my food allergies got worse and multiplied, I would order them everywhere I saw them. Last year I had maybe the most insane version that was stuffed with ricotta, mint, lemon and drizzled with honey at a small tapas bar in London called Twist. We ordered 3 plates of it…for 4 people. This dish is such a rockstar that it is still on their menu over a year later.
More recently, I had an entirely allergy friendly version at Table 22 in Cannes, France, that reminded me how much I love these delicate flowers. I had given them up since they are best stuffed with cheese and other goodies I can’t eat (isn’t everything best that way?) and rarely appear otherwise on menus. But after eating this tower of lightly battered and fried squash blossoms at Table 22 I decided I would have to recreate the dish at home.
For me, cleaning squash blossoms is very annoying. The petals are so delicate you have to be extremely gentle which in turn means more time devoted to prep work. All blossoms, regardless of their gender, need their stamen removed (it’s not edible!). Since female flowers are connected directly to squash, the rest is edible, so you just have to check for bugs, rinse off dirt and remove the stamen. Male flowers, however, grow separately and their stems are not edible. You need to clean them just as a female flower but you also need to pop off the stem OR remember not to eat it after you’ve cooked it. I find it is much easier to cook them with stem on so I just eat down to where the stem begins and discard the inedible part. I do like to remove the little green leaf-like pieces around the base of the flower, though.
Since squash blossoms are flowers and, by the time you see them in the market, have been picked off their life source, they need to be used immediately. If you buy them, I suggest cooking them the same day. If you are growing them, obviously pick them right before you are going to prepare them. If life gets in the way, I’ve found you can wash and dry them then put them in a ziplock with a paper towel to absorb extra moisture for a day. They will wilt a little but they won’t be bad.
But back to cleaning the blossoms. Really check thoroughly for bugs, like two or three times. The petals are the perfect hiding place and they will cling to them. I like to soak the blossoms in a bowl of cold water then run a very gentle stream of water over each one to help release any remaining dirt and wash away the bugs that clung on for their life while soaking. I always end up finding at least one more bug. You also want to get the blossoms as dry as possible so lay them out on a paper towel and let them air dry for an hour or two. Once they are dry you can gently pull the petals apart to remove the stamen in the center.
Now we’re ready to cook! Be prepared: you will not want to share any of your fried squash blossoms so you may want to double this recipe if you are planning a meal for more than just yourself…. Anyway, all you need is some flour, salt, seltzer water and coconut oil. Yes, it’s that simple. The plain tempura batter really lets the flavor of the squash blossoms shine while the coconut oil gives a clean fry without any heavy oil aftertaste like olive oil. Plus, if you use coconut oil it means it’s healthy right? Healthy fried food? Ok, maybe not but let’s just pretend because I want to eat these every night of the week.
Combine the flour and salt into medium bowl then add in seltzer and gently stir together. Be careful not to over mix: you want the batter to look chunky, similar to pancake batter.
Next heat up your coconut oil in a deep cast iron pot or dutch oven over medium heat. You want the oil to be between 1/4in and 1/2in deep. The actual amount of oil needed will vary depending on your pot so don’t bother with measurements, just eyeball it. Once the oil is hot enough (when a drop of the batter sizzles), carefully dip a squash blossom in the batter to coat it. To avoid getting batter inside the petals, gently twist them together before dipping.
Place the battered squash blossom gently into the oil. Repeat with two or three more blossoms at a time, however many can comfortably fit without crowding. After 2-3 minutes, flip the blossoms using tongs and cook for another 2-3 minutes, until both sides are golden brown.
Remove the blossoms and place on a paper towel lined cooling rack. Repeat these steps until all of your squash blossoms are fried. Sprinkle the blossoms with some sea salt and fresh ground pepper (optional) and serve immediately or transfer to a baking sheet and place in a 200F oven to stay warm until it’s time to eat. (Or eat them as you cook, like I do!)
- 10-12 squash blossoms
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- ⅛ tsp salt
- 10 oz seltzer (plain)
- coconut oil
- Clean and remove the stamen from each squash blossom.
- Mix together flour and salt in a medium bowl. Gently stir in seltzer until batter resembles pancake mix (a little bit chunky).
- Heat ¼in to ½in coconut oil in a dutch oven over medium heat. Once hot, dip a squash blossom into the batter, let excess run off then gently place into the hot oil. Repeat with a few more blossoms until the dutch oven is comfortably full.
- Fry for 2-3 minutes then flip with tongs and fry the other side for another 2-3 minutes, until golden brown.
- Remove from oil and place on a paper towel lined wire rack to cool.
- Repeat until all squash blossoms are fried.
- Sprinkle with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and serve immediately.
Let me know if you’ve tried this recipe! Comment below or post a photo to instagram and tag me @champagneandfrites!