No Sugar Added Banana Muffins


I really like banana bread. Like seriously, once I start I can most probably finish the whole loaf. But most banana loaf recipes (including my dear mom’s traditional recipe) have LOTS of sugar in. I have seen so many recipes that advertise as “sugar-free” only to include honey or coconut sugar, never mind the fact that it includes bananas which also have sugar of course. So this is NOT a sugar-free recipe as bananas have a relatively high sugar content, but there is no added sugar.

I try to avoid any added sugars where I can, including when drinking tea and coffee. As a food scientist, I know about all the hidden sugars that are in products we use every day.  And although I am no hater of processed foods (there are many products that make our lives easier), I try to reduce sugar and salt where it is under my control.

I was thinking of creating my own recipe, but then I stumbled upon this amazing recipe by Heather Disarro. It is one of those things where you feel like “man, why didn’t I think of that!”.

Her secret is the roasting of the bananas to increase the natural sweetness and get some caramelization going.

Bananas ready for roasting!
Once roasted, the bananas become sweet and syrupy.
The batter for this recipe is quite thick and dense, so don’t worry!


Preheat oven to 200°C. Slice 6 medium bananas in half and place them on a baking sheet lined with wax paper. Roast for 15-10 min until they start to caramelize (you will see the sugar syrup starts to ooze out of the bananas). Once they are cooled, mash them (together with the sugary syrup) and proceed.

Reduce oven heat to 165°C. Grease a 12-hole muffin pan and set aside.

In a bowl, whisk together 60 mL vegetable oil, mashed banana mixture, 2 eggs, ¾ t vanilla essence. Sift in 2 cups cake wheat flour, ¾ t baking soda (NOT baking powder), ½ t salt. Stir to combine.

Pour batter into muffin pan, bake at 165°C for about 40 min or until a cake skewer comes out clean.
These muffins seem to improve with time. They are amazing the day after they are baked!


For variety, you can add choc chips, nuts or even a pinch of cinnamon.
Let me know if you make this recipe and what you think!


Weekend at the Cederberg Mountains

Last year in December, Lucy Corne ran a competition on Twitter (#12DaysofBeermas) in which she gave away a beer-related prize every day. I was not planning on entering any of the competitions (there are so many big beer fans who I thought will appreciate it more), but when I saw that there was a Cederberg weekend up for grabs, I just had to enter. And I won!


Hubby and I planned to cash in our prize in the new year and in January (right in the middle of the heat wave) we packed our bags, looking forward to a weekend of peace and quiet…and no cell reception!

There is about a 60km gravel road to get to Kromrivier Holiday Farm and it is not long before your phone may give a last Whatsapp message notification before losing signal. Pure bliss!


The welcoming party…

We were booked into the Suikerberg  luxury cottage which have two rooms, each with its own bathroom and private space. Although it was just me and hubby, I do think that two couples can share the cottage and they would still have enough privacy. In the late afternoon, you can scale the giant boulder behind the cottage, for magnificent views. There is also an indoor braai which made the living space even more cosy.

IMG_1176IMG_1181 (2)IMG_1183

Of course after a long drive you need something to cool off and a swim in the river was just what we needed to break the heat. We took our bicycles with and it was quite fun exploring the farm. There are several mountain biking trails for bike enthusiasts but due to the heat wave we experienced, I opted for a rather casual ride to and from the river.

Early Saturday morning we decided to visit the nearby Matjiesrivier Nature Reserve to go and see the rock art on the Truitjieskraal route. In the Greater Cederberg area, there are more than 2500 sites of rock art, with those at the Truitjieskraal route dating back 5000 years ago. By the way, being Afrikaans, I thought that “Truijties” referred to a jersey, but it is actually an abbreviation for a lady’s name Gertruida who was believed to be a shepherd’s wife or girlfriend. Truijieskraal was thus thought to be an overnight stop that was named after her. Aaaawwww sweet!

We also had a taste of the Nieuw Brew collection. The Nieuwoudt family started the first brewery and actually use the water flowing from the Cederberg Mountains. Although I am not a avid beer drinker, I did gain a appreciation for the art of beer making after my final year studying Food Science. We had to develop a new product and we brewed a new type of beer. It is there that I realised how much science goes behind it! Melanie Nieuwoudt (who is part of the family operated micro-brewery) completed her PhD in Food Science in the same department where I did my BSc, so I was rather excited to give it a taste!

We were not even home yet and already we were planning a second trip!



To book accomodation:

For more info on Matjiesrivier Reserve and Truitjieskraal:

All about the beer:


{Review} Victorian Garden

Just before the winter I received some amazing Victorian Garden goodies to try! :) Victorian Garden stays one of my favourite green brands. They were the first brand I used when I started going green, and after almost 4years, I still use the same shampoo (Rosemary & Vanilla) and the same cleanser (Rosemary & Lavender Cleansing Milk). So it is safe to say that I am one happy customer. I am always excited when they have new products coming out, so when I received these in the post, I was eager to try them.

Bergamot & Lavender Bath Milk


This bath milk smells delicious! Bergamot is really one of my favourites scents. It is so fresh and uplifting…it’s just a “happy smell”! The bath milk formula is like a thin, watery liquid but a little goes a long way! It makes the water slight oily, so your skin also feels nourished afterwards. Definitely came in handy this winter. But you can use it for summer as well, as I think the fragrance might be a nice pick-up after a long hot day.

Argan & Vanilla Hair Conditioner


Argan is all the rage right now! It is said to tame frizz and also hydrate dry hair. Usually I use the Olive & Vanilla conditioner, and was keen to try this one out. For me there was no major difference. Both of them work very good and keeps my hair looking healthy.

Pomegranate & Lemon Exfoliating Facial Polish


I like to exfoliate at least once a week and usually use the Apricot & Walnut scrub (also from Victorian Garden) but heard that some people find the kernels to abrasive for their face. I did not experience the same effect, but for those who do, the Pomegranate & Lemon Exfoliating Facial Polish is for you. The bamboo particles are much finer that those found in other scrubs, so it gives gentle but effective polishing!

Facebook: The Victorian Garden Organic Skincare Company

Twitter: @Victorian_Tweet


I’m back!

So you might have noticed (or not) that I haven’t blogged in a while. The reason is, I started studying this year! I don’t know if that is a valid excuse, because I know most of the other bloggers have jobs or are studying as well. Anyways, I am studying B.Sc Food Science with my major subjects being Microbiology and Biochemistry and I am enjoying it a lot! When the semester is in full swing, I focus mainly on my studies, not reading books, scrapbooking or blogging, but it has paid off so far! So although for a few months, it seems like all I do is study, it is nice to see the results of hard work!

I do not want to stop my blog, so during holidays I will still try and blog regularly! To those that do read my blog, I would like to know: did you study, or are you studying? And if so, what degree are you working towards?

Thanks for the following!


Clarens Beer Festival – who’s going?

It might be a bit weird that I will be going to the Beer Fest….I don’t drink at all! But hey, apparently there will be lots of delicious food there, so hopefully I won’t be bored. Maybe they have some non-alcoholic beers…who knows!

clarens beer fest

Featuring the passion and commitment of 17 of the countries top dedicated micro brewers and their very own hand crafted brews.

 Come out and meet the brewers, enjoy fresh craft brew, a wide selection of gourmet foods and be entertained by the awesome lineup of top South African bands.

 The festival has also extended it’s hours with a concert on Friday night just to set the tone for the weekend.

 See you on the 21st and 22nd of February!

{Valentine’s day) Outdoor Acitivities to do

Make Valentine’s Day extra special by spending it in NATURE! Here are a few attractions:



Visit The Two Oceans Aquarium at the V&A Waterfront.

The Aquarium is a window on the ocean, offering glimpses of the diverse life found off the South African coastline. The Aquarium allows you to view over 3000 living animals, including fishes, invertebrates, mammals, reptiles and birds in this spectacular underwater nature reserve. Don’t miss the daily feeding at 15h30 of the fishes in the I&J Predator Exhibit. The Two Oceans Aquarium is open every day of the year from 09h30 until 18h00. Your ticket is valid for the entire day. Have your hand stamped at the entrance turnstile in the foyer if you want to visit again on the same day. Cost: R85.00 – R88.00 per adult

Take a cruise

Morning Cruise from the V&A Waterfront. If you are an early bird or just like the fresh morning air, this cruise is the ideal start to your day. Watch the mother city come to life from afar before returning to join the rat race. Morning cruises from 11:30 to 13:00. Telephone: 021 425-6354. Where? Departs from Quay 5 at the V&A waterfront. Book at Shop 08, Quay 5. Cost: R100.00 per adult

World Of Birds. (they have made extensive renovations over the last few years and it is definitely a must-see)

The largest bird park in Africa and one of the few large bird parks in the World. Over 3 000 birds (and small animals) of 400 different species are uniquely presented in more than 100 spacious landscaped walk through aviaries, allowing you the most intimate closeness with nature. Enjoy a fascinating glimpse into the private lives of birds. Get a close-up view of them as they feed, sing, display, socialise, build nests, incubate eggs and feed chicks right before your eyes – an unforgettable experience. The World of Birds is in Valley Road, Hout Bay. Telephone: Tel: 021 790-2730. See: World Of Birds Cost: Adults: R55.00.

Boulders Beach.

Spend a restful day at Boulders Beach. The water is warm (Indian Ocean), white sandy beach and penguins as beach mates! Entrance R10.00

Enjoy the gardens at Kirstenbosch

Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden is world-renowned for the beauty and diversity of the Cape flora it displays and for the magnificence of its setting against the eastern slopes of Table Mountain. Kirstenbosch grows only indigenous South African plants. The estate covers 528 hectares and supports a diverse fynbos flora and natural forest. The cultivated garden (36 hectares) displays collections of South African plants, particularly those from the winter rainfall region of the country. You can explore the Gardens, take photographs, have a picnic on the lawn, lie on the lawns and stare at the sky…

Walk or Climb to the top of Table Mountain

Climb or walk to the top of Table Mountain, Cape Town’s famous icon. The views from the top are simply stunning and make it all worth while. There are some 350 recognised paths to the summit, some undemanding and some are extremely difficult. It is not advisable to climb the mountain without someone experienced who knows the route well. One of the most popular routes to the top is to start off at Kirstenbosch and walk up either Nursery Ravine or Skeleton Gorge. These trails demand a minimal level of fitness – the top can normally be reached in about 6 hours. Visitors should always contact the Mountain Club of South Africa before embarking on a hike or climb. Contact: 021 465-3412.

More things to do in Cape town:



Golden Gate Highlands National Park

Nestled in the rolling foothills of the Maluti Mountains of the north eastern Free State lies the Golden Gate Highlands National Park. This 11 600 hectares of unique environment is true highland habitat, providing home to a variety of mammals – black wildebeest, eland, blesbok, oribi, springbok and Burchell’s zebra – and birds, including the rare bearded vulture (lammergeier) and the equally rare bald ibis, which breed on the ledges in the sandstone cliffs. Ribbokkop, the highest point in the park, reveals a breathtaking tapestry of red, yellow and purple hues as its warm shades merge with the cool mountain shadows towards evening.

Free State Botanical Gardens

This garden, on the outskirts of Bloemfontein, spans a valley between picturesque dolerite koppies. The natural vegetation comprises tall grassland and woodland, dominated by magnificent wild olive and karee trees. The harmony of the Garden has been achieved by retaining and highlighting the best elements of the natural landscape. From November to March, most of the plants in the Garden are in full leaf and from March to June the colourful autumn shades of yellow and red dominate. The natural areas of the Garden are a haven for wildlife, including 144 bird species, 54 reptile species and about 32 mammal species.

Horseriding in Clarens

Horse Riding on Schaapplaats on quality horses and ponies from Ashgar Connemara Stud. Game viewing on horseback is as exciting experience – you get close to the black wildebeest who snort and prance around you, and you stalk the zebra, the Blesbok, and the springbok. You  follow  the old wagon trail to get here, the horses’ hooves clip-clopping over the rocks in the grooves of the wheels. R300.00 for ± 2 hours

Sterkfontein Dam Nature Reserve, Free State

The Sterkfontein Dam Nature Reserve is a water wonder in the Eastern Free State, offering wildlife, birding, windsurfing and flyfishing with a magnificent view over the Drakensberg. After a day on the water or exploring the reserve, there is little to beat putting a few coals on the braai and then sitting back and watching the twilight dance between the water and the mountains. Sterkfontein Dam Nature Reserve for bookings
Tel: +27 (0)58 622 3520/1093/3892



 Kenneth Stainbank Nature Reserve

The Kenneth Stainbank Nature Reserve, situated in the Durban South suburb of Yellowwood Park, was proclaimed in 1963 and is considered to be one of the finest reserves in the Durban area. The land on which the reserve is situated was settled by the Stainbank family in 1857, and was used as farmland. The reserve is open between the hours of 6:00am – 18:00pm. An entrance fee is charged at the entrance gate where visitors can obtain maps and plant and animal lists from the field ranger.

uShaka Sea World

Sea World is a part of uShaka Marine World, a unique marine theme park, located in Durban on the east coast of South Africa. Including Sea World, the Wet ‘n Wild Water Park and the uShaka Village Walk shopping centre, this unique destination is a premier tourist attraction that offers something for everyone.

Japanese Gardens, Durban North

The Japanese Garden at Durban North is the most recently developed of the larger parks. Water gardens with Japanese stuctures are features in this pleasant park.  Laid out in a traditional style, the Japanese Garden ponds attract a variety of water birds. There are picnic areas and a playground. The gardens are open seven days a week and entrance is free. Contact 031 563 1333 for more information.


Where will you be spending Valentine’s Day?

Sunumbra Sunscreen Review, Vitamin D and Sun Tips

Recently I bought Sunumbra Kids SPF40 Sunscreen from Faithful-to-Nature. I bought the Kids one and not the regular as it had more positive reviews, so I decided to try it out. First of all, I should say, I am not a fan of sunscreen….there I said it! It is sticky, makes me sweat more, and I am always afraid it damages my clothes. Now before you think I am one of those frying away in the sun, I actually prefer doing my few minutes of Vitamin D every day, and then covering up. But when I am on holiday, I do apply it, albeit reluctantly. Organic sunscreen is a bit more expensive than regular store-bought sunscreens, but if you take a look at the ingredient list of the ones you regularly buy, it is definitely worth it!

The first thing I noticed about Sunumbra is the smell. It does not have that “tropical” smell that all other sunscreens seem to have (you know the type of smell that immediately reminds you of your holiday when you apply it again!), it smells more like a type of clay. It is quite thick when you apply it, but it does not leave white marks at all. I used it when I spent the afternoon in the pool, and no sunburn! So far, I like the product very much! IT is a bit sticky, but not more than the normal sunscreen you are used to.

Sunumbra Sunkids is a dermatologically tested natural sunscreen containing organic ingredients.


    5 Star rating (UVA)


High protection full spectrum

40 Minute water resistance

Effective, stable, high level protection from free radical damage and atmospheric toxins

Active natural nutrients to reverse the effects of radiation damage

pH balanced; accommodates the higher alkalinity of children’s skin

Blocks UVA exposure to reduce melanoma risk

Maximises UVB, without burning, to maximise vitamin D

Dermatologically tested and approved.

It is currently on special at Faithful-to-Nature:

Remember that vitamin D is necessary to absorb calcium and promote bone growth. Here is how to make sure you get your Sunshine Vitamin!


  • The time of day – your skin produces more vitamin D if you expose it during the middle of the day.
  • Where you live – the closer to the equator you live, the easier it is for you to produce vitamin D from sunlight all year round.
  • The color of your skin – pale skins make vitamin D more quickly than darker skins.
  • The amount of skin you expose – the more skin your expose the more vitamin D your body will produce.
  • The amount of skin you expose. The more skin you expose, the more vitamin D you can produce.
  • How old you are. As you get older, your skin has a harder time producing vitamin D.
  • Whether you’re wearing sunscreen. Sunscreen blocks a lot of vitamin D production.
  • The altitude you’re at. The sun is more intense on top of a mountain than at the beach. This means you make more vitamin D the higher up you are (at higher altitudes).
  • Whether it is cloudy. Less UVB reaches your skin on a cloudy day and your skin makes less vitamin D.
  • Air pollution. Polluted air soaks up UVB or reflects it back into space. This means that if you live somewhere where there is lots of pollution, your skin makes less vitamin D.
  • Being behind glass. Glass blocks all UVB, so you can’t make vitamin D if you’re in sunlight, but behind glass.

After you have exposed your skin for half the time it takes for you to turn pink, cover up with clothing and go into the shade. Using sunscreen is not as recommended as using shade and clothing to protect your skin, because it hasn’t consistently been shown to prevent all types of skin cancers. But if you do want to use sunscreen, use a sunscreen that blocks both UVA light and UVB light.


More interesting info about Vitamin D:

Important note: Just because you applied sunscreen, does not make you safe for the rest of the day. Remember to reapply, and cover up. Like they say on alcohol adverts: Enjoy responsibly!

{Aromatherapy} Natural Insect Repellent

So it is that  time again where the heat is turned up on a permanent high and all the bugs are thriving! And here in the Free State we have some mean mozzies (don’t ask me how they survive here, it is so dry!)

Fun mosquito

Why should you use natural repellent?

An August, 2009, study from France found that DEET may have a toxic effect on the nervous systems of mammals as well as insects. This disturbing discovery calls into question the presumed safety of DEET, the world’s most widely used insect repellent.

Picaridin is another conventional insect repellent; after years of successful use in Europe and Australia, it was introduced into the U.S. in 2005. Highly effective and widely recognized as safe, picaridin is the active ingredient in Cutter Advanced Insect Repellent and Avon Skin-So-Soft Bug Guard Plus Picaridin.

Both picaridin and DEET are believed to have negligible effects on the natural environment. One advantage these two chemical compounds have over some plant-based insect repellents is their effectiveness at repelling ticks, including those that carry Lyme disease.

DIY Natural Repellent

The bugs react differently to essential oils, so what may work for mosquitoes, may not work for fleas, for instance.

10-25 drops (total) of essential oils

2 tablespoons (30ml) of a carrier oil or alcohol (Alcohol will work great for a spray!)

The essential oils that work well against biting insects (mosquitoes, flies, ticks, fleas) are:

cinnamon oil (mosquitoes)

lemon eucalyptus or regular eucalyptus oil (mosquitoes, ticks, and lice)

citronella oil (mosquitoes and biting flies) – This is a well known oil for insects!

orange oil (fleas)

rose geranium (ticks and lice)

Safe carrier oils and alcohols include:

olive oil

sunflower oil

any other cooking oil

witch hazel



Mix the essential oil with the carrier oil or alcohol. Rub or spray the natural insect repellent onto skin or clothing, using care to avoid the sensitive eye area. You’ll need to re-apply the natural product after about an hour or after swimming or exercise. Unused natural insect repellent may be stored in a dark bottle, away from heat or sunlight. If you wish, you may combine the oil with aloe vera gel to change the consistency of the product.

Other Ways to Ward off the BUGS!

Wear long-sleeved shirts, pants instead of shorts, and shoes instead of sandals. Though these don’t seem like great options in hot summer weather, thin, loose-fitting clothes are often just as comfortable and have the double benefit of helping you avoid sunburn and UV skin damage. Another sun-smart fashion tip — a broad-brimmed hat — works well at keeping bugs away from your head.

“Try using a fan to ward off mosquitoes — they can’t stand a breeze — and stay indoors during peak mosquito hours, usually twilight hours through early morning. Also, avoid using perfume, scented soaps or cologne, as these send out the “All You Can Eat Buffet” signal to mosquitoes and other biting insects — even scented fabric softeners and dryer sheets have been implicated as bug magnets.” (Maybe this is why the mosquitoes can’t leave me alone, I smell too nice! ;) )

How are you beating the bugs this summer?

Ryman, D. (2007) Secrets of Youth & Beauty: Aromatherapy for Natural Rejuvenation. Rodale: London