banana

banana & peanut butter granola clusters

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I’m back with another granola recipe. Of course.

This granola could be expressed as a logical syllogism:

All granola recipes need a sweetener.

Some bananas are (very) sweet.

∴ Some bananas can be granola sweeteners.

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That’s how my thinking regarding this granola went. I’m occasionally alarmed – though usually I don’t let it bother me – at the vast quantities of agave syrup, brown rice syrup, maple syrup, and honey that are consumed by the batches and batches of granola I make. So, in an attempt to escape from the cauldron of semi-processed liquid sweetener into which I had fallen, I decided to experiment with just using fruit as a sweetener.IMG_5394

Mid-way through last semester I conducted my first experiments with granola sweetened with blueberry and strawberry purees, respectively. They were an utter failure. I could neither taste the blueberry or strawberry flavor nor detect any sweetness. In the end I was forced to add brown sugar to my already baked granola, and during the rest of the semester I made it palatable by mixing it in with my other, far more tasty granola varieties.

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Over spring break I tried again, this time with bananas. Success! Lightly sweetened granola sans liquid sweetener! Granted, the actual banana flavor is mostly masked by the peanut butter and nutmeg, but that’s because I like peanut butter. If you want more banana flavor, I’d say reduce the peanut butter and cut out some of the nutmeg, which may or may not work. Regardless, using the ripest, sweetest bananas it tantamount. Got bananas covered in black spots? Use those. Mostly blackened bananas you stuck in the freezer to save for banana bread? Those ones.

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Riper bananas are sweeter bananas.

Sweeter bananas make sweeter granola.

Sweeter granola is better granola.

∴ The riper the bananas, the sweeter the granola.

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This granola is marvelously crunchy and full of big clusters. It is just a good a snack as it is a breakfast cereal. Believe me, I know. In a fit of snackishness, I went through a good fourth (third?) of a batch in one evening. That was a delicious mistake. Now I’m stranded here at school, carefully rationing out my granola and raiding the dining hall for pumpkin seeds and peanuts to use as filler to bolster my stock. If I’m careful, I think I may just make it through the last three weeks of classes. Maybe.

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Banana & Peanut Butter Granola Clusters

  • 4 cups oats
  • 1/4 cup flax meal (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 very ripe bananas (should be ~1 cup pureed)
  • 1/4 cup natural peanut butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup roasted peanuts
  • 3/4 cup golden raisins

Preheat oven to 300°F.

Toss the bananas, peanut butter, and vanilla into a food processor and blend until smooth.  In a large bowl stir together the oats, flax, salt, and nutmeg. Add the banana puree and stir until all of the oats are evenly coated.

Spread the granola on a cookie sheet or two and bake for 60 to 75 minutes at 300°F, until crunchy and slightly golden. Add the roasted peanuts and golden raisins. Enjoy with milk, on yogurt, or by the handful!

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blackberry banana bread

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For a brief space of time earlier this summer we were overrun with blackberries from our surprisingly productive brambles. It was a happy problem, short-lived though it was. The inability of our blackberry bushes to present berries of a decent size and flavor free of undeveloped drupelets never ceases to astound me. Of course my disgust with our bushes’ performance is never assuaged by my annual week-long stay at Grandma M’s house – that’s a marvelous tale of summer fun worth a post or three – that frequently coincides with the peak of blackberry season. Her thornless blackberry patch produces blackberries like a Tuscan vineyard produces grapes! Berries hang in dark purple clusters waiting to be plucked off the drooping canes in handfuls by violet-stained fingers. Uniformly large, perfectly sweet, and delectably succulent, these blackberries are the best in the world. Really. I’ve never had finer.

That is that standard against which I measure our berries, which of course pale in comparison. However, during this strange week or so our berries came as close as they ever have come. And there were lots of them. Maybe half a gallon bucket! Never mind that my cousins and I can pick four or five times that many in 15 minutes in Grandma’s garden.

With blackberries in such abundance and more tasty blueberries still to be eaten in preference, I needed to utilize some of the former. Banana bread, the perfect canvas for every flavor, offered the solution. Therefore: blackberry banana bread – a super-moist but oil-free and naturally-sweetened loaf full purple berry bursts.

Start with some basic whole wheat banana bread batter. Add a couple cups of fresh blackberries.

Pour it into a pan, bake it, and slice it!

Blackberry Banana Bread

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 very ripe bananas
  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • 1/2 cup brown rice syrup or other liquid sweetener
  • 2 cups fresh blackberries

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Beat the eggs. Mash the bananas well. In a small bowl combine the bananas, eggs, applesauce, brown rice syrup, and vanilla. In a large bowl mix together the dry ingredients. Stir the wet ingredients into the flour mixture. Carefully fold the blackberries into the batter. Pour batter into a greased, 9×5 loaf pan.

Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until bread has browned lightly and tests done when poked with a toothpick. Enjoy warm, obviously.

[100th post! Good grief. Took long enough.]

grilled bananas + coffee caramel sauce

The same night I made millet pancakes for supper, I decided we needed dessert, too. I have no idea why. It was a strange, strange, sugary evening. We were bouncing off the walls on a sugar high after dinner. Not really, but we should have been.

Most everything is better grilled. There’s nothing quite like that delicious, slightly singed, carcinogenic grill flavor to perfect any sort of cooked fruit or vegetable.

Between grilling and roasting and the wonderful tastes both methods produce on any sort of food, sometimes I wonder why I eat raw vegetables. Except tomatoes, of course. Tomatoes are excellent in any form.

Back to the bananas. And the sauce. Oh, the sauce. It’s very, very delicious. After I drowned my bananas in it, I poured it on my pancakes, ate it on toast, scooped it up with apple slices, and shoveled it into my mouth with a spoon.

Since it’s made with coconut milk rather than cream, there is an added dimension to the sauce; beyond even the coffee flavor, there is a hint of coconut. Bonus: it’s vegan.

Don’t worry, the bananas are vegan, too. Grilled, their texture changes from firm but smashable to tender and soft. Their sweetness compounds with their banana flavor and morphs into a super banana – ultra sweet and über banana-y. It’s good.

Combine the coconut coffee caramel sauce with the succulent grilled bananas? Perfectly delectable.

Grilled Bananas + Coffee Caramel Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 1 + 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 + 1/4 cup full fat coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons instant coffee granules
  • 6 bananas
  • canola oil

For the sauce: Bring water and sugar to a boil in a small saucepan. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes or so, until sugar has entirely dissolved and solution has thickened. Stir in coconut milk. Simmer for 15 minutes more, until sauce begins to brown slightly and has thickened – stir frequently. Add instant coffee granules and stir until completely dissolved. If desired thickness has been reached, remove from heat; if not, simmer until sauce has thickened to your liking. Let cool a bit before serving.

For the bananas: Slice bananas in half lengthwise. Brush both skin and flesh of bananas with oil. Heat grill to medium heat. Grill bananas about 5 minutes per side, until soft, slightly caramelized, and grill-marked.

Serve bananas warm still in skin with flesh side up, drizzled with caramel sauce. Enjoy!

[Store extra caramel sauce in the fridge, and reheat it slightly before using to liquefy any crystallization.]

our spartan kitchen: tuesday scones

Tuesdays are homeschool co-op days. Tuesdays are pizza for supper days. Tuesdays are running at the beach days.

Tuesdays are scones for breakfast days.

Not too long ago on a Tuesday in mid-March as something of a challenge, I arose around 6am and, working by the the faint light of  late winter dawn, mixed together some yogurt scones. Despite my best attempts at complete silence and stealth, my early-rising father emerged from his room, wondering who was, as he thought, eating breakfast at the unusual hour. In a stroke of daybreak brilliance he turned on the faint light of the microwave over the stovetop for me. Having baked the scones, I left them for my mother and youngest brother, who had just begun to stir, and for Dad, for breakfast, hopped in the nearest car, and rattled down our gravel driveway, heading out to the beach. The loop, which is not actually located on the beach itself, is a popular 3ish-mile elipse that crosses over the intracoastal waterway twice and is extremely popular with everyone in general: walkers, baby stroller-pushers, runners, dog exercisers, joggers, miscreant cyclists, et cetera. Running this wonderful oval of breezy, partially live oak-shaded sidewalk is most enjoyable before it become congested with other enthusiasts; therefore, my arrival with the sun allowed me to take full advantage of both the cool temperatures and temporarily sparse population of the cement. I love it.

Since then, it has become a Tuesday routine for me: get up, bake scones, go run, and return to eat the last scone. Alas, extenuating circumstances – namely, catering lunch for 18 and 28 people on two separate occasions! – forced me to temporarily abandon my scone making on two Tuesdays. Also, now that Mom and the boys’ co-op is finished for the year, I am uncertain as to whether I shall continue to make scones on Tuesday. I should. But I probably won’t.

All that to say, I tried to concoct a different scone every Tuesday, and, excepting one tragic lapse of photographical awareness, I snapped a quick picture or two of all of them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yogurt Banana Scones with Walnuts and Dates

Ingredients:

  • 2-⅓ cups whole wheat flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 2-½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ cups + 2 tablespoons brown sugar, divided
  • 2 whole very ripe bananas, mashed
  • ¼ cup chopped walnuts
  • ¼ cup chopped pitted dates
  • 1 cup plain yogurt

Preheat oven to 400ºF.

Combine all of the ingredients, except for the 2 tablespoons brown sugar, to make a moist but minimally sticky dough. If the dough is too sticky to work with, add more flour, a tablespoon at a time. On a floured surface form dough into a disk 8 inches in diameter. Cut the dough into 8 triangles. Place on a baking stone or lightly greased baking sheet and sprinkle with remaining brown sugar. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until the scones have browned and test done. Enjoy!

I snarfed down the last of the strawberry scones before it ever occurred to me to take a picture.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Simple Strawberry Scones

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 2-½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ cups + 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
  • 3/4 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 cup strawberries, chopped

Preheat oven to 400ºF.

Combine all of the ingredients, except for the 2 tablespoons sugar, to make a moist but minimally sticky dough. If the dough is too sticky to work with, add more flour, a tablespoon at a time. On a floured surface form dough into a disk 8 inches in diameter. Cut the dough into 8 triangles. Place on a baking stone or lightly greased baking sheet and sprinkle with remaining brown sugar. Bake for 18 to 25 minutes until the scones have browned and test done. Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Specialty Dark Double Chocolate Scones

Ingredients:

  • 2-3/4 cups whole wheat flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 2-½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup specialty dark cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup specialty dark chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup walnuts (optional)
  • 3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
  • 1-3/4 cups plain yogurt
Preheat oven to 400ºF.
Combine all of the ingredients, except for the 2 tablespoons sugar, to make a moist but minimally sticky dough. If the dough is too sticky to work with, add more flour, a tablespoon at a time. On a floured surface form dough into a disk 8 inches in diameter. Cut the dough into 8 triangles. Place on a baking stone or lightly greased baking sheet and sprinkle with remaining brown sugar. Bake for 18 to 25 minutes until the scones have browned and test done. Enjoy!
Perhaps you are starting to get the idea that the baking instructions for these scones are nearly identical. It’s not just you. They are.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dried Cranberry Orange Scones

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 1/3 cup + 2 tablespoons, divided
  • 2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • zest of one orange
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
Preheat oven to 400ºF.
Combine all of the ingredients, except for the 2 tablespoons sugar, to make a moist but minimally sticky dough. If the dough is too sticky to work with, add more flour, a tablespoon at a time. On a floured surface form dough into a disk 8 inches in diameter. Cut the dough into 8 triangles. Place on a baking stone or lightly greased baking sheet and sprinkle with remaining brown sugar. Bake for 18 to 25 minutes until the scones have browned and test done. Enjoy!
There you have it: scones ad nauseum.

our spartan kitchen: chocolate banana freeze


I like to think that I have been on some sort of pseudo-healthy desserts kick recently. In reality I have only tried two pudding-like recipes, both of which pleased me immensely. So, I decided to create my own. Somewhere in my recipe browsing I had noted the idea of throwing frozen bananas in a food processor to create an instant ice cream-like dessert. I liked the concept, but it seemed a bit dull. Naturally, I turned to chocolate, the solution to all the world’s problems, including that of bland bananas. I am very much my father’s daughter. For that matter, I am also my grandmother’s granddaughter; the blood on that side of my family runs thick with chocolate and olive oil. Anyway, I did not satisfy myself with that typical weak and pathetic cocoa powder of that color reminiscent of the brown haze of distant air pollution. No, no! I knew from the aforementioned puddings that the average brown dust would produce a flavor and color akin that of chocolate milk: one just chocolatey enough to compound a passing fancy for something chocolatey and transform it into a profound need for rich, dark chocolate. No, I used the dark variety, the true, pure chocolateness of 100% specialty dark cocoa powder.

I tossed 4 or so frozen bananas in our food processor. Happily for me, we keep a ready supply of super-sweet, overripe bananas in our freezer. I just thawed them slightly, peeled them, and refroze them.

I added 4 tablespoons of milk (almond in this case; that’s another kick I’ve been on), so the food processor had some liquid to work with, and 3 tablespoons of the magical, wonderful dark cocoa powder (which looks less dramatically deep in hue in my picture).

After blending it until the bananas, chocolate, and milk melded together in smooth creaminess, I carefully spatula’d as much of the soft ice cream-like freeze into two cups as humanly possible before finishing my cleaning of the food processor container with a spoon. Waste not want not!

The sweetness of the banana is perfectly proportionate to the slight bitterness of the chocolate, just as balance  of banana and chocolate flavors is just as it should be. Yum.