Going Bananas This Summer

Officially, summer has arrived. It’s certainly felt that way for the past month, but at least the weather and the calendar are finally in agreement. Longer days, warmer nights, and of course, cooler eats are here at last. While some people live for the winter holidays, I’d make a strong case for classifying this fleeting moment as the best time of year.

Beautiful weather beckons, teasing me out of the house early in the day, tempting me away from work and towards play. The last thing I want is to be stuck in a hot, stuffy kitchen. I’d much rather reach for any easy treat like Voortman wafer cookies and be on my way. They make so many flavors that there’s always something to suit the season. Made with real fruit, nothing artificial, the flavors are all stunningly fresh.

The light, crisp wafers give way to soft creme filling, both crunchy and smooth, satisfying with every bite. Right now, the banana wafer cookies occupy that prime spot in my snacking routine. Evoking memories of crunchy banana candies of bygone childhood delights, the real magic happens when they’re stored in the fridge. Chilled, they suddenly taste like a fruit smoothie in stick form. That serendipitous discovery happened quite accidentally, stemming from an urge to clear overflowing counters with no shelf space remaining. Into the fridge the package of cookies went, and out came a brand new treat.

Of course, I couldn’t leave well enough alone right there. Obviously, what’s great alone could be spectacular with just a bit more finesse. No-churn banana ice cream, enlightened with a dollop of tangy dairy-free yogurt, perches temptingly on these edible sticks, every bite as satisfying and wholly refreshing as the last.

Chill out, enjoy the heat of summer, but don’t let the opportunity to indulge in more whimsical sweet pleasures melt away.

Continue reading “Going Bananas This Summer”

Wave of the Future

If you can blend it, you can milk it. Once defined and dominated by soybeans alone, the very nature of non-dairy drinks is hotly debated by enthusiasts and detractors alike, struggling to find commonalities that might link that vast array of plant-based sources crowding out the antiquated plastic jugs of cow juice. It’s not just the sales figures that are booming, but the unparalleled variety and access that consumers can now enjoy, just as easily opting for an almond, hemp, or oat mustache instead. New blends are still popping up rapidly, before you can even empty your first frothy glass. Now, along with those nutty and beany staples, the lactose intolerant can stock their fridges with banana milk.

Banana Wave presents itself as a game changer seeking to disrupt the industry, but the whole truth is less likely to make real waves. Built upon a foundation of bananas, soymilk, and gluten-free oats, in that order, it’s more like a thin blended smoothie than a true dairy substitute, bearing a viscosity similar to a simple protein shake.

Surprisingly subdued in flavor, the initial impact was less sweet and potent than anticipated, perhaps to placate drinkers that might not be entirely on board with a fruity intrusion. Flax oil, though a welcome change of pace from lower quality canola or safflower, contributes a discordant note and slightly mineral aftertaste. An impressive battery of vitamins and minerals bolster the nutritional profile, proving that it has more to offer than the average watery mammalian formula. Undeniably smooth and creamy, it certain still has its charm. I could see this being a great grab-and-go snack, if only it was packaged in single-serving cartons. Overall, it’s a great concept that hasn’t yet realized its own full potential. I’m looking forward to the day when I see Banana Wave on the shelf, right alongside the heavyweights battling it out for non-dairy dominance, but I don’t think it’s quite ready to roll with the punches just yet.

Simply Bananas

Does the internet need another recipe for banana bread? It’s a reasonable question, given the millions, if not billions, of hits that Google will pull up from the most cursory of searches, and one that I grappled with when deciding to share today’s post. By the strength of sheer facts and numbers, I would have to reason that one more dissertation on the blue and black / white and gold dress would probably be more innovative than yet another darned loaf of baked banana puree, and yet here I am, quick bread in hand.

Statistics don’t tell the full story of the banana bread, as far as I’m concerned. There are easily hundreds of solid, superlative formulas out there that have stood the test of time, but the rest of those recipes? Redundant, untested, or simply repugnant. So I suppose I must clarify and say that the internet definitely doesn’t need any more crappy banana bread recipes.

Packed with soft chunks of whole banana and crunchy pecans, this particular rendition relies more on the inherent sweetness of the fruit itself than additional sugar. Some may look at that crumb and cry out that it’s under-baked, criminally banded with a sad streak almost as thick as the slices themselves, but that’s exactly what I look for in a good banana bread. If it’s not dense and moist to a fault, it’s not a recipe worth keeping. So for all the fellow banana bread lovers looking for a genuinely reliable formula that offers a bit more banana goodness than the norm, this one’s for you.

Yield: Makes 1 Loaf; 8 - 10 Servings

Simply Banana Bread

Simply Banana Bread

Packed with soft chunks of whole banana and crunchy pecans, this particular rendition relies more on the inherent sweetness of the fruit itself than additional sugar. Some may look at that crumb and cry out that it’s under-baked, criminally banded with a sad streak almost as thick as the slices themselves, but that’s exactly what I crave in a good banana bread.

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes

Ingredients

  • 5 Large, Very Ripe Bananas, Divided
  • 1/4 Cup Unsweetened Non-Dairy Milk
  • 1/4 Cup Light Agave Nectar or Maple Syrup
  • 1 Tablespoon Molasses
  • 1 1/2 Cups White Whole Wheat or All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 Tablespoon Whole Chia Seeds
  • 1 Teaspoon Baking Powder
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Salt
  • 1 Teaspoon Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1/3 Cup Olive Oil
  • 1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • 1/2 Cup Pecans, Toasted and Coarsely Chopped

Instructions

    1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease an 8- x 4-inch loaf pan; set aside.
    2. Toss four of the bananas into your blender along with the non-dairy milk, agave or maple syrup, and molasses. Thoroughly puree until completely smooth, and then transfer the liquid into a medium saucepan. Set over moderate heat and simmer, stirring frequently, for about 30 minutes. You may want to pull out your splatter shield if you have it, or keep the pot partially covered to help prevent splatter. Cook until the mixture has thickened and darkened to a toffee-like, amber brown hue. Remove from the heat and let cool.
    3. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, chia seeds, baking powder and soda, cinnamon, and salt. Make sure that all of the dry goods are equally distributed throughout the mixture before chopping the final banana into small chunks and tossing in the pieces. Coat the banana chunks evenly with flour to ensure that they won't just sink to the bottom of the loaf during baking.
    4. Mix the vinegar, oil, and vanilla into the banana puree before introducing all of the wet ingredients into the bowl of dry. Stir with a wide spatula just until the batter comes together. Add the pecans last, being careful not to over-mix.
    5. Transfer the batter to your prepared loaf and bake for 40 - 45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out cleanly.
    6. Let cool completely before turning out of the pan, slicing, and enjoying.

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Nutrition Information:

Yield:

10

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 339Total Fat: 12gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 10gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 223mgCarbohydrates: 54gFiber: 7gSugar: 16gProtein: 7g

All nutritional information presented within this site are intended for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and any nutritional information on BitterSweetBlog.com should only be used as a general guideline. This information is provided as a courtesy and there is no guarantee that the information will be completely accurate. Even though I try to provide accurate nutritional information to the best of my ability, these figures should still be considered estimates.

B-A-N-A-N-A-S

Like it or not, modern Honolulu is a rapidly changing world city, adapting local traditions to incoming waves of global inspiration. Although most are quick to take issue with bigger construction projects that are literally transforming and modifying the landscape as we know it, it’s a more positive and exciting proposition from a culinary standpoint. Every return visit turns up fresh eateries, new businesses, and inspiring young entrepreneurs eager to strike out on their own in paradise. It was pure luck that I caught wind of Banán, a tiny operation serving simple, sweet treats out of a stationary food truck, having opened right smack in the middle of my Oahu itinerary.

Quite simply, Banán is bananas. 100% banana soft serve treats in a variety of flavors, to be precise, and plenty of toppings to complement your fruity treats. The only things added to this refreshing base are either additional fruits or herbs for taste; no sugar nor dairy need apply. On a hot January day, there’s no better reward after a brisk hike up Diamond Head, which makes their nearby location on Monsarrat Ave. and accommodating hours ideal.

Unfalteringly generous with samples, the patient and kind scooper on duty successfully convinced me to order a flavor different from my intended pick- A considerable feat indeed. Basil sounds like a dubious pairing with banana, which is why I initially wrote it off as a trendy gimmick while perusing the options in advance. In reality though, this bright green blend sparkles with fresh, herbaceous flavor not unlike mint, regarded as a more conventional dessert addition.

Toppings are 50 cents each or 3 for $1.00, so go for broke and pile them on. The puffed quinoa in particular is a must, introducing both a satisfying crunch and nutty, toasted flavor to the mix. A study in contrasts, just a small sprinkle on top balances out any of the creamy concoctions with ease.

But perhaps I ordered too quickly. Hastily making my selection out of hunger and impatience, my companions quickly trumped my conventional order with custom requests. Combining two flavors in one bowl turned out to be no trouble at all, creating an even wider range of flavor sensations. Luckily, good friends that they are, everyone was more than happy to share the bounty. Ginger-Mint came in as a close second when I took stock of my favorites, but the berry notes of the Acai blend were quite appealing as well.

Upgrade your frozen confection further by trading in the classic cardboard waffle cone or cup for juicy, ripe papaya. Yes, another papaya boat worthy of your time, especially because these fruits are grown locally, and Banán takes the model of sustainability one step further by composting the discarded skins.

Banán sets itself apart from the pack by offering a genuinely healthy treat where few alternatives exist, but even more importantly, by fostering a sense of community by being so keenly aware of their impact. It’s the kind of small business we could truly use everywhere, but no matter how you slice it, this one is distinctly Hawaii grown, through and through.