Banana Cake

Tired of dry, crumbly, somewhat flavorless allergy-friendly desserts which really aren’t that worth eating? Stop right there and make my Banana Cake. It’s soft, moist without being gooey, rich, and sweet. Definitely a cake, not a bread. The tender crumb and mouth-feel of this cake is on-par with a traditional cake made with wheat – hard to recreate without typical baking ingredients since alternatives always behave differently!

The green banana flour and cassava flour form the base of the cake. The two flours mixed together gives a better texture and taste than either one would on their own. Palm shortening replaces butter and helps give an airy lift to the cake. Flax-eggs replace chicken eggs. And coconut milk plus a little lemon juice replaces buttermilk. Typically I shy away from using coconut milk in baked goods, since coconut can be such a dominating flavor. Here, however, it is well hidden, and what hint of coconut you may detect goes well with banana anyway.

I took a shortcut with frosting and used Simple Mills Vanilla Frosting, topped with a handful of chopped walnuts as garnish. Feel free to use your own homemade frosting recipe if you prefer. Or even leave it plain. To make this cake nut-free, you could easily omit the walnuts and instead garnish with a sprinkle of cinnamon, sliced bananas, crushed banana chips, or just leave it plain and call it good.

Follow the steps exactly as written. It does make a difference if you alternate adding dry ingredients and wet ingredients in multiple small additions rather than adding each all at once. Also, don’t bypass the step of popping the cake into the freezer as soon as it is removed from the oven. It helps the cake set and cool, making frosting the cake easier. Baking this cake is easy, and you’ll have the best results if you make sure to do these couple of steps. Your patience will be rewarded! Last important step: keep a knife handy. We can’t help but cut off a little piece each time we walk by – so yummy! Happy baking!

Banana Cake

Rich, moist, decadent and scrumptious frosted banana cake. Great make-ahead recipe for serving at a party or brunch, or enjoy it all yourself! (Gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, egg-free, nightshade-free, nut-free option, paleo option)
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time1 hr 15 mins
Freezing Time1 hr
Total Time2 hrs 35 mins
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Servings: 12 slices

Ingredients

  • 2 ripe bananas, peeled and mashed
  • 1-1/2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 cup green banana flour
  • 1 cup cassava flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup palm shortening
  • 2 Tbsp ground flaxseed
  • 5 Tbsp water
  • 1-1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 can Simple Mills Vanilla Frosting - OR frosting of your choice
  • 1/4 cup walnuts, chopped

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 275 degrees Fahrenheit (no, this is not a typo). Thoroughly mash bananas and 1-1/2 tsp lemon juice in a bowl and set aside. In a small cup or bowl, mix the flaxseed and water. Allow to sit for several minutes until thickened. In a liquid measuring cup, combine coconut milk and 1 tsp lemon juice. Give it a quick stir, then let sit for several minutes.
  • Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, cream palm shortening and sugar. Then add the "flax eggs" and vanilla, then combine. Mix green banana flour, cassava flour, salt, and baking soda in another bowl. Alternate flour mixture and coconut milk, adding 1/3 at a time, mixing into the palm shortening-sugar mixture. Stir in bananas. 
  • Pour cake batter into a 9x9 baking pan (my glass pan didn't need to be oiled/floured to avoid sticking). Bake at 275 degrees for 1hr and 15 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Then remove from oven and place into the freezer for 1 hour or until cool enough to frost.
  • Remove from freezer, frost with frosting. Top with chopped walnuts.

Notes

May make 1 day in advance. Leftovers store well in the refrigerator for a few days. Leftovers also freeze well.
Nut-free option: omit walnuts
Paleo option: sub suitable solid, granulated sugar, such as maple sugar (flavor/texture may change depending on which sugar used)

Steak Tacos From Scratch

I wish you could have come over and shared dinner with us the night we made Steak Tacos. We could hardly wait to dig in and start assembling our tacos once the food was done. I barely had any time to snap pictures! My preschooler was busy gobbling up a fully loaded taco which had been self-assembled without any supervision while I grabbed the few pictures I did manage to take 🙂

Steak Tacos are one of our family favorites. We make them on slower weekends when we have time to cook more leisurely and want to spend the time in the kitchen. We also make these when entertaining, for date night at home, or for special dinners – we made these on New Year’s Eve last year, for example. The steak marinades for several hours, up to 24 hours, to soak up flavor, so this is definitely a meal which you’ll plan in advance.

While a lot of prep work goes into making these, much of the work (marinading the steak, pickling the onions, mashing up the guac, slicing garnishes) can be done in advance. Or, if you choose, shortcuts can be taken, so you can pick and choose what components of the tacos you’d like to make vs outsource to the store (ex – store bought guac or tortillas). I will say though, the results will be SO MUCH better if you make all of it from scratch – especially the tortillas!

My husband is the tortilla-making guru in our family. He takes care of making these while I prepare the steak and put the finishing touches on the toppings.

The tortilla contribution from my husband is not only exceptionally delicious, but also a huge help. For best results, the tortillas and the steak should be hot – and therefore, cooking at the same time. And there’s enough to do to keep two people occupied during crunch-time in the kitchen, making this is a great recipe to make with a friend or for a date night at home. Many of the steps are simple, so if your friend or date is less experienced in the kitchen, there are ways they can get involved without feeling overwhelmed.

The various toppings add layers of flavor on top of the juicy marinated steak. The warm smoky corn is satisfying. Pickled onions add tang with a little crunch. And the cool, rich and creamy guacamole tops it all off. Each topping plays off each other perfectly to make one seriously awesome steak taco you’ll be craving after they’re all gone! 

Now you could load up all this yumminess on a store-bought tortilla, which would be more efficient and still tasty, but you’d really be missing out on the homemade tortillas. Truly, store-bought vs home-made is as different as night and day, in this case. My husband’s tortillas have ever so much more rich corn flavor. They have a smoother, more airy texture overall, yet with crispy edges, and they taste fresh and authentic in a way that store-bought never will! One bite and you’ll be hooked! 

The tortilla making process will be made easier with some special equipment – a tortilla press and a griddle. However, neither are necessary. You could roll out your tortillas with a rolling pin. And instead of frying tortillas on a griddle, a heavy frying pan (preferably enameled cast iron) can serve as a stand-in.

Fresh pineapple or mango makes a refreshing side item. Refried beans would also be tasty and round out the meal in minutes. And don’t forget a mojito or some sparkling water with a spritz of lime juice and mint leaves to drink!

My mouth is starting to water just looking at this picture! Too bad we already ate all the Steak Tacos. Anyone want to come make some more with me?

Steak Tacos From Scratch

Mouth watering marinated steak strips on top of authentic corn tortillas. Topped with smoky corn salsa, pickled red onions, creamy guacamole, chopped cilantro and fresh lime juice. All homemade. (gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, egg-free, nut-free, nightshade-free)
Prep Time1 hr 15 mins
Cook Time45 mins
Marinade Time6 hrs
Total Time2 hrs
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Mexican
Servings: 6 servings

Ingredients

Marinated Sirloin Steak

  • 3 pounds sirloin steak
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 1 lime, juice of
  • 1-1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1-1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp oregano

Pickled Onions

  • 1 red onion, large, sliced thinly
  • 6 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • water, boiling

Smoky Corn Salsa

  • 16 ounces corn
  • 1 Tbsp lard or other cooking fat
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp dried minced onion
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • salt, to taste

Chunky Guacamole

  • 3 avocados, ripe, cubed
  • 3 Tbsp red onion, minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbsp cilantro, chopped
  • 1/4 lime, juice of
  • salt, to taste

Corn Tortillas

  • 3-1/2 cups masa harina
  • 1 cup + 1 Tbsp water
  • lard
  • salt

Taco Garnishes

  • 1 lime, sliced into wedges
  • 1 handfull cilantro, chopped

Instructions

Steps Which Must Be/May Be Done in Advance

  • Marinated Sirloin Steak: Add all ingredients for marinated sirloin steak, except the steak, to a large glass bowl or baking dish. Whisk to combine. Trim fat and bone off of steak. Nestle steak pieces into marinade, ensuring all surfaces of steak are coated. Cover dish with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for several hours, up to 24 hours for best results.
  • Pickled Onions: Add sliced onions to a glass jar along with apple cider vinegar, salt, sugar, pepper, and garlic powder. Pour in enough boiling water to fully cover the onions in the jar. Close lid tightly. Gently invert jar a few times to mix. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
  • Smoky Corn Salsa: Add all ingredients for smoky corn salsa, except salt, to a skillet over medium heat. Stir occasionally as corn cooks for 10 minutes. Add salt to taste, if needed. If making in advance, refrigerate until ready to eat, then reheat on stove over medium-low heat until hot.
  • Chunky Guacamole: add all ingredients for the guacamole, except salt, to a medium sized bowl. Using a spoon, gently stir to combine, taking care not to over-stir unless a smoother consistency is desired. Add salt to taste. Refrigerate until ready to eat.
  • Taco Garnishes: Set aside chopped limes and cilantro into serving cups/small bowls. Refrigerate until ready to eat.

Steps To Be Done Right Before Eating

  • Marinated Sirloin Steak: Remove steak from fridge. Drain off marinade. Grill steaks on outdoor grill or using a grill pan on the stove on medium-high heat.  Ensure grill/grill pan is hot before applying meat. Using a kitchen timer to keep track of time, turn or flip steaks every 90-120 seconds, depending on the thickness of your steaks, to achieve a classic criss-cross or "X" pattern on the meat on both sides and a medium done cook on the steak. Each steak should have two "cook times" on each side of the steak. When done, remove from heat. Cover with foil for 5 minutes to rest before slicing on an angle.
  • Corn Tortillas: Heat griddle or nonstick pan to 350-400 degrees Fahrenheit. By hand, mix masa harina and water in a bowl until a dough forms. Cover with a wet tea towel until ready to use. Pull off a ball of dough a little larger than the size of a golf ball for each tortilla. Roll in hands to create round balls. Line tortilla press with parchment paper for easy tortilla removal. Set a dough ball onto bottom of tortilla press and fold up the sides of the press, creating a classic tortilla shape. 
    When griddle is hot, add a marble-sized amount of lard where the tortilla will cook. Then place uncooked tortilla on top. Gently move/spin tortilla to cover roughly evenly with the lard. Then sprinkle lightly with salt. After a couple minutes, light brown spots will appear on the bottom of the tortillas. This indicates it's time to flip the tortillas. Again put a small amount of lard under the tortilla before it goes back on the griddle for the second side to cook for another couple of minutes. When the light brown patches start to show, remove the tortilla from the griddle. Cover with a damp tea towel until ready to eat. Repeat until all tortilla dough is used. Expect to make 15-16 tortillas.
  • Assemble tacos with a corn tortilla as the base, adding steak next, then pickled onions and corn salsa. Then a generous dollop of guacamole. Finishing with a sprinkle of fresh cilantro and a drizzle of lime juice.

Notes

Marinade meat for up to 24 hours.
If storing guacamole for any notable length of time (longer than an hour or so), press plastic wrap down onto the surface of the guacamole to minimize any contact of the food with air. This will prevent browning of the avocado.
Leftovers are tasty and last a few days in the refrigerator; except the pickled onions will keep much longer, a few weeks. Store each component separately, so the flavors/textures don't blend.
To reheat tortillas, wrap a tortilla loosely in a damp paper towel and microwave on high for (literally) a few seconds. Steak and corn salsa also reheat well in the microwave.
Leftovers make a slightly messy, but seriously satisfying lunch! Your coworkers will be jealous!