Virtuous banana bread

This morning it became clear to me that I probably wasn't going to go for a run as (at the at the risk of sounding like a broken record) it's raining here in Seattle. (To be fair, this is an it’s-still-dark-inside-at-10-o’clock kind of rain, a ‘legitimate’ reason to postpone a much-needed training run). So instead I changed out of my running clothes and waded to a coffee shop to tell you about banana bread before I head off on my (third and final) trip of October - this time to my 10 (!) year college reunion. 

It’s about time I publicly aired my grievances with quick breads. Here’s the thing: they’re not breads at all. Rather, they’re thinly veiled cakes that have traded in their round pans for rectangular ones and swapped the dessert-y, special-occasion-only title ‘cake’ for a more-socially-acceptable-to-eat-everyday-for-breakfast title of 'bread.' I put them in the same category as chocolate muffins and virgin piña coladas, all members of the stop-trying-to-be-something-you’re-not food support group.

Last weekend my friend Spencer hosted a going-away brunch at his house (he’s doing the ‘going’, not me), complete with cheesy eggs, potatoes, bacon, and sausage made from pigs he helped slaughter (we’re nothing if not farm-to-table obsessed here in the Northwest). In between bad puns (A copy of “The Pun Also Rises” resides proudly on his bookshelf) and watching an adorable one and a half year old “raise the roof,” someone casually mentioned banana bread. 

Banana bread. 

Do you ever have those all encompassing food-craving moments (no, I’m not pregnant) where you hear of something you haven’t eaten in a while and you just want a thick, warm slice of it, sooner, rather than later? Well, that’s how I ended up heading home to bake some banana bread. 

I am on a self-assigned mission to make those-baked-goods-we-love-to-eat-but-really-aren’t-that-good-for-us healthier (without making them taste like cardboard). Sometimes I’m more successful than others. This was one of those times. In general, I try to replace white flour with whole wheat versions, or even swap out some wheat flour for more nutrient packed varieties like almond, coconut, or oat flour. I usually reduce the sweetener dramatically and replace refined sugar with honey, apple sauce, or raw versions like turbinado or rapadura. I dial back the oil and either add more eggs or plain yogurt to help hold things together. I sneak in olive or coconut oil in place of what ever is called for. Then I try to pack in other good-for-you ingredients: fruits like grated apple or smashed banana or veggies like shredded carrot or sweet potato puree. I add nuts to balance the carb-bomb-ness with some slower-to-digest protein. Whole oats or wheat bran sometimes sneak in. Coconut flakes or cacao nibs make an appearance on occasion. Eventually I hope to end up with a muffin/bread/pancake/etc. that I can eat with abandon yet still feel virtuous (and avoid crashing from a sugar high).

I’ve eaten almost the entire loaf of this “bread” since Sunday…and my angelic halo is still shining. 

Virtuous Banana Bread
(lightly inspired by Moosewood)

Be forewarned: this does not taste like cake as most quick breads do. However, it doesn’t taste like cardboard either. In fact, it tastes pretty darn good. You can ratchet up the sweetener if you want it more cake-like. You could even mix in chocolate chips if you wanted to. I added cacao nibs to mine which were pretty good, too. 

Ingredients:
Dry:
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup almond flour
1/2 cup oats, processed into a flour in a food processor
1/2 t salt
1/2 t baking soda
2 t baking powder
1 t cinnamon

Wet:
1/2 cup honey
1/2 t vanilla
2 T coconut oil
1/4 cup yogurt
1/4 cup apple sauce
1 c mashed bananas
2 eggs

Optional
Mix-in:
1/3 c cacao nibs
or
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
or
1/3 cup coconut flakes

Mix together dry ingredients in a large bowl.

In a separate mixing bowl, whisk the eggs and mash in the bananas. Then add the remaining wet ingredients and stir.

Combine dry and wet into large bowl and stir until just mixed. (If using any of the additional mix-ins, now is the time to stir them into the batter). 

Generously oil a loaf pan and fill with 

Cook at 350 for 45-50 minutes, until a sharp knife stuck in the middle of the loaf comes out clean.

Let cool slightly before serving. (Entire loaf can be wrapped and frozen to defrost at a later date. I also wrap and freeze individual slices for future breakfasts.)