Wednesday, January 25, 2012

my mom's banana bread

Can a boy live on banana bread alone?

Elan is testing this theory.

My mom (aka Nana) bravely volunteered for 10 days of post-tonsillectomy hell recovery without really knowing what she was getting into (along with my dad, who was here for the first few days and then had to go back to work). My mom left on Saturday and has since been replaced by my equally brave mother-in-law. Getting through Elan's tonsillectomy recovery is a family affair!

Nana and Emry, December 2011

My mom has made this banana bread all of my life. When Elan was refusing nearly all foods, my mom came up with the idea to try banana bread, which he does normally love. Thankfully it was a hit, and now he has consumed FOUR entire banana breads in the last week. Which is probably the only reason his pants are staying up at all, since my little guy has lost several pounds off his already-lean frame since the surgery.

I have modified my mom's original recipe in several different ways over the years, reducing the sugar and adding different flour options. What I like about this recipe is that it's quite flexible and I can vary the content of the flour depending on my mood, what I have in the house and who will be eating it. It's also very kid-friendly (though beware, the crumbs WILL get ground into your carpet mercilessly if said kid eats while wandering the house, as mine is inclined to do). You could probably even add in wild things like vegetable purees. Maybe I should try that for Loaf #5.

Tip: You want ripe bananas for this recipe, over-ripe is even better. Whenever I've got a banana in my fruit basket that's too over the hill to eat, I peel it and throw it in a plastic bag in my freezer. That way I always have a stock for banana bread. Just put your frozen bananas in a bowl and microwave briefly to unfreeze them enough that you can mash them. They will probably turn brown in color, but they taste just fine in banana bread.

Another tip: Spoon the batter into muffin cups (I love the silicone ones), reduce the baking time to 20-30 minutes, and you've got great banana muffins (which my son loves even more than banana bread).

My Mom's Banana Bread (modified version)

3 ripe bananas
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/4 cup flaxseed meal and/or oats (quick-cook or rolled) - optional

2 cups flour (You can use 2 cups of white flour or vary the flour content. I often use 1 cup of white flour plus 1 cup of a combination of whole-wheat flour, almond meal, quinoa flour, whatever interesting kinds of flour I have in the house. If you use more of the heartier flours, you might need to add more liquid (milk, or applesauce works well) to the dough at the end of mixing or reduce the baking time in order to not have a dry loaf.)
1 t baking soda
1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt

3 T milk
1 t vanilla
2-3 T applesauce - optional

Preheat the oven to 350.

In a large bowl, mash the bananas with a masher. Add vegetable oil and sugar and mix well. Beat eggs and add to wet mixture. Add flaxseed meal or oats. If you'd like to use both, you can substitute for an equal amount of flour or add a few tablespoons of applesauce to keep the mixture wet enough.

In another bowl, combine the flour(s), baking soda, baking powder and salt. Stir well. I like to use a wire whisk to stir my dry ingredients; it distributes the baking soda and baking powder nice and evenly.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients (this keeps you from having 2 very dirty bowls).

Add the milk and vanilla and stir. The batter will be bumpy because of banana lumps - this is fine. It should be thick enough to spoon out of the bowl, but liquid enough to pour fairly well. If it seems too thick, add a little more milk. Or you could add applesauce or veggie purees at this point for extra nutrition and/or to add more liquid to the batter.

Spoon the batter into muffin cups or pour into a greased loaf pan.

Bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes (muffins) 40-60 minutes (bread loaf). Check by inserting toothpick. Toothpick should come out clean. Cool before cutting (unless you just can't resist).

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