Saturday, April 10, 2010

Banana Benefits

The appearance of spotty, super-ripe bananas will always equal one of two things in a household: delight or anathema. If you have the time to devote to baking up one of the trillions of banana breads out there, and the mouths to feed it to, then all's well and good. But then there are those days - you know, the ones that have you rushing in the door at 8PM after a 5AM start, unfed, kids screaming, dishes unwashed... yeah, those days. Becoming a creative wizard is probably not in the cards.

You could of course freeze all the blackening bananas - and believe me, I do that frequently, peeling and wrapping them in groups of 3 (as called for in my go-to recipe for banana bread) - hence why I have a rather large cache that spills out of the freezer when I pull it open! Eventually something has to give, and since I have not had anyone knocking down my door lately looking for 20 loaves of banana bread, I've decided to switch it up. Forget loaves for now. Muffins are where it's at these days as a use-up plan (including how I powered through a donor box of past-their-primes at the Club!). Portable, definitely office and school friendly, and something that is infinitely variable. Check the pantry if you don't believe me. See something you like? In! In! In!

I started off the banana free-for-all with these miniature bites of spice drenched goodness. The recipe is one I adapted from Nicole over at Baking Bites, who made a loaf - and there is no shortage of flavour in them, not to mention they're unlike any banana muffin you've ever had. Really.

Banana Spice Minicakes
Makes 32 Mini-Muffins
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 large bananas, mashed
2 tbsp fresh grated ginger
1/4 cup dark molasses
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup oil (I used a light olive oil)
  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease a mini-muffin pan.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices.
  3. In another bowl, beat together brown sugar, banana, fresh ginger, molasses, maple syrup, buttermilk and oil.
  4. Pour into the dry ingredients and stir until just combined.
  5. Bake 15 minutes, turn out immediately and cool on a rack.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 78.2
Total Fat: 1.9 g
Cholesterol: 0.2 mg
Sodium: 7.4 mg
Total Carbs: 15.9 g
Dietary Fiber: 0.8 g
Protein: 1.2 g

If nutty banana muffins are more your style, these babies will fit the bill for sure. I couldn't bring them in to the Club for tasting, since they're a nut-free facility, but the moist, fruit and white chocolate treats I made with an adapted mix from VegWeb found good - if not too good - homes with the office crew. 

Studded Peanut Butter Banana Muffins
Makes 18
2 ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup skim milk
2 tbsp fat-free vanilla yogurt
3/4 cup smooth peanut butter (not natural)
1/3 cup oil (I used a light olive oil)
1/2 tbsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/3 cup white chocolate chips
2/3 cup dried cranberries
  1. Preheat oven to 350F, grease a muffin tin.
  2. In a large bowl, beat together bananas, sugars, milk, yogurt, peanut butter, oil and vanilla until well blended.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together flours, baking powder and nutmeg.
  4. Add the dry ingredients to the banana mixture and stir until almost blended.
  5. Add chocolate chips and cranberries, folding in quickly but gently.
  6. Bake for 18 minutes, until the tops spring back when touched and they test done with a toothpick.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 250.3
Total Fat: 10.5 g
Cholesterol: 0.7 mg
Sodium: 64.1 mg
Total Carbs: 38.4 g
Dietary Fiber: 2.4 g
Protein: 5.5 g

With a completely whole-wheat base, and a touch less fat than the original recipe of Elise's I used, I had to go whole-hog with my additions and chuck in a whole cup of a Bulk Barn impulse buy of late - another trail mix! This one is called "Cranberry Classic", and has cashews, peanuts and pumpkin seeds along with the cranberries and golden raisins.

Trail Mix Banana Muffins
Makes 12
4 large, over-ripe bananas, mashed
1/3 cup soft low-fat margarine (I used Becel Light)
2/3 cup Demerara sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 tbsp vanilla
1 tsp maple extract
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
pinch salt
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup trail mix
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F and grease a muffin tin.
  2. In a large bowl, mix bananas, margarine, sugar, egg, vanilla and maple extract until well blended.
  3. In another bowl whisk together baking powder, baking soda, salt and flour.
  4. Add to the wet mixture, mixing until it is just incorporated. Fold in the trail mix.
  5. Bake for 28 minutes, remove immediately from tin and cool on a rack.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 242.6
Total Fat: 7.9 g
Cholesterol: 17.7 mg
Sodium: 71.0 mg
Total Carbs: 28.5 g
Dietary Fiber: 3.7 g
Protein: 5.6 g

It was this recipe from Maple and Cornbread, though, that I first brought to the Boys and Girls Club when the donation box of bananas rolled in. Between the glut of fruit, and my goal to consolidate as much of the stuff in the community kitchen's pantry as I could (would you believe we had 4 jars of mustard, or 3 boxes of salt open? Not to mention 20 bags of croutons we would never use?), the graham cracker streusel mixture became an unexpected delight for the staff come coffee-break. The two that were left over at the end of my shift I bagged and squirreled away to my dad and Martha to have with some of the soup I did for my mom (and will eventually post!).

Super - Banana Muffins with Graham Cracker Streusel
Makes 12
1/4 cup unrefined coconut oil
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup light sour cream
1 egg
1 tbsp vanilla
5 large, over-ripe bananas, mashed
2 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tbsp ground cinnamon

2 tbsp melted butter
1/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup oats
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F and line a 12 cup muffin tin.
  2. In a large bowl, beat the coconut oil, sugar, sour cream, egg and vanilla until smooth.
  3. Add bananas and beat well
  4. In a seperate bowl, whisk dry ingredients.
  5. Stir into the creamed mixture just until moistened.
  6. Spoon into the muffin tins.
  7. Mix the streusel topping together and sprinkle generously over the batter.
  8. Bake for 25 minutes.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 317.0
Total Fat: 9.1 g
Cholesterol: 26.7 mg
Sodium: 55.8 mg
Total Carbs: 61.4 g
Dietary Fiber: 4.3 g
Protein: 4.9 g

What's your favourite use-up trick for bananas? Come to think of it, now that I've come into posession of 5 1/4 lbs ricotta, 4 3/4 lbs cream cheese, 500mL of sour cream and a litre of whipping cream, any ideas (short of a trillion cheesecakes) for using the cheese in particular? Portability / versatility is a bonus - then they can go into the office!

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