Banana bread boost

Last year, I wrote a post on date paste as a healthy alternative to white sugar. As you may know, lowering your white sugar intake can protect you from developing Type-2 diabetes, obesity or other conditions that lead to heart disease.

I’m not diabetic and I’m not overweight, but I am concerned by the high amount of sugar in processed foods and drinks. I also know that eating healthy is fundamental to good health and preventing disease. When it comes to sugar, we can’t eliminate it completely, but there are ways to consume less of it and still satisfy a sweet tooth.

When I bake or cook, I use little or no sugar. White sugar and other artificial sweeteners have no nutritional value—they offer nothing but empty calories. For years, I’ve been substituting white sugar with healthy alternatives, such as, dates, pure maple syrup, pure maple sugar or pure sugar cane. Here are some recipes:

Having reduced my white sugar intake for some time, I don’t crave sweet tasting foods like I used to. Maybe I’m getting old and I can’t tolerate the sugary foods that I once enjoyed or maybe my tastebuds underwent some sort of detox or rehabilitation. As I read more about this, I think that the latter is far more convincing than the former. I’m not getting older; I’m just changing. That’s all. I’m getting better.

As Dr. David Katz points out: “Taste buds are adaptable little fellas. When they can’t be with foods they love, they learn to love the foods they’re with”. I agree. Our tastebuds can go through the motions—they can adapt and change over time. We can find pleasure and comfort if we stick to new recipes or new foods for a while, regardless of our age.

Speaking of pleasure and comfort without the added white sugar, here’s a wholesome and moist banana bread that’s naturally sweetened with almond cream. The almond cream is easy to make. All you do is blend together a mixture of softened almonds, water, dates and maple syrup. And voilà! There’s no need for sugar or fatty butter in this bread.

You can enjoy this healthful bread as part of your breakfast, dessert or as a mid-day snack. It’s chock full of raw ingredients including walnuts which contain those fatty acids that promote health. I call this bread “banana bread boost” because that’s exactly what it does. It will give you a boost. I like to have a slice before going for a run or to the gym. Vegans and non-vegans alike love it.

Bon appétit!

Banana bread boost

Preheat oven at 350 °F / 180°C

One loaf pan (26X8 cm -or- 10X3 inch), oiled and floured

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons (tbsp) whole chia seeds + 1/3 cup warm water
  • 1¼ cups (200 grams) almonds (with skins) + 1 cup water * (see note)
  • 6 medjool dates, pitted
  • ½ cup pure maple syrup
  • 3-4 very ripe bananas — to make 1 full cup mashed banana (measure this exactly)
  • ¼ teaspoon (tsp) pure vanilla powder -or- 1 tsp liquid vanilla extract
  • 2 cups wholewheat pastry flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup (130 grams) walnuts, chopped small
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

* If you don’t want to use a microwave or don’t have one, you can also substitute the almonds with 1¼ cup ground almonds (almond meal) and add 1 cup of boiled water and then proceed with the recipe as is.

Procedure

In a small bowl, combine the chia seeds with warm water and chill in fridge for 15 minutes or so. It will form a gel.

Rinse almonds under running water. In microwaveable bowl, add the almonds and 1 cup of water and microwave on high with a cover on for 4 minutes. Take out and add the pitted dates to the hot almond and water mixture (press dates into the mixture). Put cover back on and set aside to soften for a few minutes.

Meanwhile, in a big bowl, mash the bananas and add the vanilla. Mix well. Set aside.

Pour the hot almond, date and water mixture into a blender and blend on low. Add the maple syrup and blend on low, gradually increasing to high. Blend on high for 2-3 minutes or until thick and smooth, scraping down the sides of the blender as needed. Blend until the dates are small specks. Some almonds will remain as miniature granules, that is fine.

Pour the almond cream mixture into the banana mixture. With electric beaters, mix until well combined. Add the chia seed gel and mix again. Then add the flour and baking soda and mix with beaters again. Add the walnuts and beat (don’t put the walnuts in whole; not chopping them changes the texture of the bread). Add the balsamic vinegar and beat until well combined.

Pour into a loaf pan.

With aluminum foil, make a tent that loosely covers the loaf and bake on middle rack for 35 minutes. Take foil off and bake uncovered for another 35 minutes. Total baking time is 1 hour and 10 minutes or longer: until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean and cracks on the top of the bread are not wet.

Remove from oven. Let the bread cool completely before serving.

Cover leftover bread with foil or use a container. I like to store it in fridge. Tastes amazing the next day and the days after. Wonderful for breakfast or as a quick snack before a workout. It also freezes well.

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Julie Zimmer

Julie has extensive experience in nursing practice and education in a wide range of fields from intensive/coronary care, to medical-surgical to community and public health. Julie has Bachelor Degrees in Psychology and Nursing, and a Master’s Degree in Community Health Nursing Education. She has taught in faculties of nursing and in various communities in Toronto, Canada and in Geneva, Switzerland, and is a consultant to the International Council of Nurses (ICN). Julie also has years of experience teaching English as a foreign language (EFL) in addition to coordinating an English department in a Swiss private school.

6 thoughts on “Banana bread boost

  1. Hi Julie,
    Congrats on your recipe in Thrive magazine. I have enjoyed a couple of your recipes so I wasn’t surprised to learn that your recipe was selected.
    I have a few overripe bananas and was about to try your banana bread boost recipe but see I need to microwave the almonds. I am probably the only person who doesn’t own a microwave so I’m wondering if I substitute with ground almonds (almondes moules) would that work? How much should I substitute? Any advice you might have would be most appreciated.
    Thanks.

    1. Thanks Joanne! Give it a go with 1 1/4 cups of ground almonds and add 1 cup of boiling water to the almonds and then proceed with the recipe where you add the pitted dates.I wanted to work with fresh almonds with skins on to make it very fresh (and it’s quick and simple with the microwave too!), but heck…if you don’t have a microwave, then the ground almonds should, fingers crossed, do the trick. I hope you get the same results as I do. Let me know how it turns out. Cheers.

    1. I’ve read that in some recipes you can replace 1 cup of almonds with 1 cup of almond meal. So it can be a 1 to 1 ratio. However, looking at what more people have already done, some say that it may be better to use a little less almond meal, say 3/4 cup instead of 1. So, in this recipe, you can try with 1 cup almond meal instead of 1 1/4 cups. I am not completely sure if that would give you better results. You would have to experiment and see.

  2. Thanks for your help Julie.
    In the end I did the 1 to 1 ratio and it turned out wonderfully.
    Very moist and very tasty.
    We taste tested and I will freeze the remainder to take to a breakfast next Sunday.
    Many thanks again for a great recipe. I have been searching for a vegan banana bread for ages for my vegan step-daughter. This is the first one that worked out!

    1. Hi Joanne, I’m happy that it all worked out and that your step-daughter can enjoy it. And thank you for raising the question about the almond meal and testing it. I will include that in the recipe as an option. Enjoy your breakfast next Sunday!

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