Strong Arms for Kids


I have a confession to make...I have no idea what buttermilk is, or for that matter, what it would be in Japanese, or even if it exists here.  It definitely didn't exist in the last place I lived (Nicaragua), so I started using yogurt in place of buttermilk, when its called for in recipes.  It sounds much healthier, as well.  I also have another confession, most of the time that I bake something, I don't taste it, so have no idea about the outcome of most of my baking recipes, except for what other people tell me.  There is, at least, always one person who will be blatantly honest with me about my baking (if it isn't completely obvious that it was a disaster).  My host mom in Nicaragua was an excellent critic.  She may have never tasted any of the treats that I used to make, before in her life, but that never stopped her from giving her honest opinions about my food, and of course, always adding her advice on how to make it better next time.  Thanks Maritza.  I wish I had a digital camera then, to document all the fun of baking in huge adobe ovens.  Well I have graduated to a convection oven now, which is tricky in its own way, also.  But, I am getting better.  This banana bread looked beautiful, but my third and final confession for this entry is that this bread is not at all good for you, so I didn't taste it.  Everyone seemed to enjoy, though.  And that's what really matters. Most people aren't a freak, like I am.  I got the basic recipe for this banana bread from an amazing baking blog called: The Knead for Bread but made some changes of my own.  This is a great website for all sorts of different breads.  I also made her Kiwi Banana Bread, which my new food critic told me was better than this Chocolate Banana Bread.  So you may want to check that one out, as well.


  • 4 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup soft butter
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 cup yogurt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 6 ripe bananas
  • 1/2 cup powdered cocoa
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • extra 1/4 cup of yogurt
Prep all your ingredients ahead of time, this will help to make sure you have everything you need and to make things move faster. In a large bowl combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Using a wire whisk mix the dry ingredients together. In a separate bowl peel and mash your very ripe bananas. Add in the eggs, butter, vanilla and 1 cup of yogurt. Mix together with a wire whisk till well blended. Add in the white and brown sugar to the liquid mixture; stir till well blended. Now, separate the flour mixture into two bowls (make sure there are equal amounts in each bowl, use a measuring cup to separate). In one of the bowls add in cocoa powder and blend with a wire whisk. Take the banana mixture and separate into two bowls again (make sure there are equal amounts, use a measuring cup to separate). In the bowl that is going into the chocolate flour mixture add an extra 1/4 cup of yogurt and stir. Add the banana mixture into each bowl of flour. Now, mix each bowl just till blended. Add the chocolate chips into the chocolate bowl. Prepare into 5x9 loaf pans with a little shortening. Add a little of each mixture into pans being sure to alternate each mixture. Before putting in the oven, slice some fresh banana slices and put them on top of the loaves.  Bake in a preheated 350F oven for 55-60 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. If you are using a heat thermometer you want it to read between 180F to 185F. Allow to cool in the loaf pans for 10 minutes before removing and cooling on a wire rack.


$5 for a mango!!! What a deal!!! Ishigaki is exploding with mangoes this year.  And now that I have lived here for two years, I honestly believe that $5 is super cheap for mangoes (yes, that is the price for just one mango).  But luckily, I also have great friends, and was gifted a bunch of mangoes.  So now with a surplus of mangoes, I can't let them go bad, so I tried out a few different recipe ideas using mangoes.  Normally, I feel like mangoes are a perfect food, and are only ruined by changing them in any way, but honestly, most of the mangoes here lack flavor (don't get me wrong they are still delicious) but I don't feel as bad putting them in recipes.  Here are two different mango desserts, I have made in the past week.  Both are good for you, but once I start eating them, I have a problem stopping and unfortunately, even though they are healthy for you, they both have a lot of calories.

Avocado Mango Mousse w/ chopped Pistachios

Next time I would use less avocado and more mango.  But besides that, this was a really delicious dessert.

1 avocado, diced
1 mango, diced
1 block silken tofu
2 tbsp honey
½ tsp cardamom
1 tsp vanilla

Add all the ingredients to a blender.  Blend until smooth.  Put in the refrigerator and chill for 1 hour.  Serve with chopped pistachios.

Chocolate Mousse with Avocado and Mango

For this mousse, I probably would have not added any tofu, and only used the mango and avocado, but since I had some tofu to use up, I had no choice but to add it.  Its still good and gives it some extra protein, but I would have liked a stronger mango flavor in the mousse.  So the choice is yours.

1 large mango
1 small avocado
1 block silken tofu (optional)
2 tbsp honey
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cocoa powder

Put all ingredients in the blender.  Blend until smooth.  Let chill for at least 30 minutes.

So, I have been enjoying, so much, writing all about my adventures in cooking and keeping track of all my recipes in the RECIPES section of my website, that I want to start an actual food blog.  Everyday, I spend so much time checking out what's new on my favorite food blogs (I have quite a list by now).  I really don't know why I didn't start this sooner...well yeah I do...I really don't enjoy spending so much time working on a computer but what motivated me to start today was this the absolutely delicious Mango and Avocado Quinoa salad I made last night for dinner, which I didn't eat until 9pm last night, because I was riding my bike all over creation looking for a ripe avocado to go with my mangoes that are on the verge of becoming too ripe.  And God forbid, even one mango goes bad at a price of at least, $6 a mango, my heart would be broken for days.  When living on a small island, its seriously a wild goose chase trying to find all the ingredients you need to complete a recipe, so more times than not your final product ends up completely different than the recipe you were prepared to follow.  Sometimes my dinners are an absolute disaster and I eat them as fast as possible, in order not to taste them, and other times they are a masterpiece, like last nights salad.  This Mango Avocado Salad has it all.  Its got tons of protein, good fats, vitamins C, vitamin A...the list goes on.  And of course, it has the flavor to match.  The mango matches nicely with the cumin and turmeric, while the cilantro and lime give it an extra layer of flavor, I love the extra crunch you get from the almonds, while avocado just tastes good in everything.  I was able to enjoy some corn on the cob as a side, which is an absolute luxury in this place.  Literally only about once a year, they have actual corn on the cob in the supermarkets ( I am still too nervous to buy the shrink wrapped corn I see all the time, really what were they thinking.)  Oh so back to my point, the reason I started this blog entry today, was...I thought the best way to get into actual food blogging would be to share this amazing salad with the people in "No Croutons Required", which is a monthly food blogging contest. This month's theme is grains.  I love this contest and have found so many more wonderfully addicting food blogs to follow from it.  So here is my first entry to my food blog and my first entry in the "No Croutons Required" food blog contest hosted by Lisa of

Mango and Avocado Quinoa Salad

1 cup quinoa

1 avocado, diced
1 mango, diced
1 cucumber, diced
½ cup almonds, chopped
½ cup pumpkin seeds
½ tsp turmeric
1 tsp cumin

cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 lime
1 tbsp cilantro
salt and pepper
green onions

Soak quinoa for 10 minutes in hot water and then drain.  Boil fresh water and once boiling, add quinoa.  Cook until all the water is gone, about 10 minutes.  Let it sit and soak up the water.  Then fluff with a fork.

Dice up avocado, mango, and cucumber and put in a bowl.  Add almonds and pumpkin seeds.  Then heat olive oil in a pan.  Add the nuts, and mango mixture to the pan.  Add turmeric and cumin.  Saute for 30 seconds and return to bowl.  Add the quartered tomatoes to the bowl.  Squeeze the juice from a whole lime onto the mixture.  Then add the cilantro and salt and pepper.  Mix all together.  Then add the quinoa to the mixture and finally add the green onions.


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