Monday, 20 May 2013

Birds and Seals and skinny bread....oh my!

Seal Show
Mary, the Sun Bear

View of city from Zoo

Sumatran Tigers
Last Sunday, May 12, was Mother's Day in Australia. It was also the Mother's Day in the US. Living in a different country, I'm still getting use to celebrating holidays. We have many of the same holidays and then there's the new ones - Boxing Day (Dec 26, a good excuse to extend Christmas), Australia Day (Jan 26, similar to 4th of July), ANZAC Day (April 25, similar to Veteran's Day), and the Queen's Birthday (June 10 similar to ? and not even celebrated on her actual birth date = amusing). Father's Day is celebrated in June in the US but in September in Australia. Lucky American ex-pat Dads getting two Father's Days! I think this is lost on them as most US ex-pat men I know, don't seem to care. What a waste! This is like how most men need less sleep yet the wives are exhausted and up all night with their babies. I definitely would appreciate and milk an extra Mother's Day.

My request for Mother's Day this year was to go to the Taronga Zoo and then out for dinner. Some people thought the Zoo was a strange request, one that my kids wanted. It was quite the opposite - I love Taronga Zoo and my daughters hate it since their Mom (me) sent them to too many zoo camps during summer break. For me, it's a  great excuse to take a long walk and watch animals of all different shapes and sizes in action. It is also quite a sensory experience to see and hear (but not smell) the animals. Their colours, textures, and behaviours fascinate me. Taronga Zoo is almost 100 years old, sits on 52 acres, and houses 2600 animals. It is a 15 minute ferry ride from the city and boasts amazing views of the city, Opera House and Harbour Bridge. Tourists go to see all the native Australian animals ( a short, happy chappy video with upbeat music) and there is an area where you can walk amongst the kangaroos, wallabies, emus and other marsupials. For zoo nerds (like me), there are endangered animals including Sumatran tigers, Kodiak bears, baby elephants, and rare birds. My favourite activities at the zoo are the free bird show ( seal show ( Note, this blogging is time intensive - lol! I watched many zoo videos on You Tube and carefully selected the links above so if you are ever bored or have some free time, they're worth a look. Besides the shows, my highlight was Mary, the Sun Bear, who is pictured above. She deserved an extra vat of honey for her tree acrobatics, digging in the dirt skills, and I'm-just-not-into-you theatrics with the male bear. After her entertaining activities, she sat as close as possible to the gathered crowd, watching us as if to say, 'What? You.....looking at me?!"

I was trying to think of a recipe that could somehow be related to the zoo. Hm mm, monkeys = bananas =  banana bread - perfect! Banana Bread is an everyday recipe that I've been baking for years. It's also appropriate for this blog since banana bread is very popular in Sydney. It is a mainstay at most cafes where it is served plain, toasted, or deliciously grilled. You can also buy a loaf of at local grocery stores and upscale markets, all at crazy prices - $8-$12 for a large loaf.  I buy a bunch of bananas every week for our house and sometimes a few end up too speckled and overripe to eat. I peel them, seal them in a plastic bag, and freeze them to use later in this recipe. Banana bread tastes great toasted with butter, peanut butter and/or Nutella spread and it's a healthier, homemade snack for school lunchboxes.Over the years, I have tried different recipes and through experimentation, I have come up with a healthy version which is lower in sugar in fat.

Skinny Banana Bread

3/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup (57g) butter, room temperature

1 tsp vanilla extract/essence

1/2 cup applesauce

2 eggs

3-4 medium, very ripe bananas, mashed

1/2 cup plain, low-fat Greek yogurt OR low-fat, vanilla yogurt

2.5 cups of plain flour

1.5 tsps baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp cinnamon ( well if using nuts or dried apricots as an add-in) 

Add-ins: chopped dried apricots, chopped walnuts, chocolate chips, raisins, dates

1) Heat oven to 350F/175C

2) Put sugar and butter in mixer and beat until light and creamy. Add vanilla extract/essence.

3) Add additional wet ingredients - applesauce, eggs, mashed bananas (*see note below*), yogurt. Beat until blended and combined.

4) Add dry ingredients - flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon (optional) until just blended. Do not over beat as your bread will end up rubbery.

5) Fold in by hand any add-ins if using and pour into loaf pan.

6) Cook for 1hr and see if bread is done. It may need 10-15 minutes more.


- Bananas - do not throw over ripe bananas away! The more speckled and black, the sweeter and better.  Either make banana bread right away or *peel* banana and store in sandwich bag in freezer. Bananas take about 1 hour to defrost. If you leave them out too long, they will start to liquefy. They must be mashed well *before* adding to Banana Bread batter.

- Do not make UNLESS bananas are super ripe. Solid yellow bananas are not sweet enough & you'll need to add more sugar. Only use over ripe, speckled and blackish bananas.


  1. Oh you lucky lady with the food processor!!! I had a professional chef's kitchen aid in the US but I sold it! Now I do everything by hand. It builds character right?

  2. Hi Lauren! Thank you for reading my blog; I appreciate it. I am new to blogging so feel free to pass this blog on. Yes, I purchased a Breville mixer last year. I have a Kitchen Aid mixer and high end espresso maker just collecting dust in the basement of our rented house. I wish I could use them but with the different voltage, I am afraid they'll blow. We've blow some appliances already, even with a transformer. I use to have an electric handheld beaters. They were reasonably priced and worked quite well.


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