Banana Bonanza

I have always enjoyed bananas.  Growing up Dad taught us to eat a bite of banana with a Cheezit.  Don’t ask me why, but it works and I like to eat them that way even today.  My granny always made banana pudding too for the holidays or just because I asked for it.  I don’t make it often as just Dad and I really eat it, but I think of her every time I put it together.  These days though, I eat bananas in all forms from cupcakes and bread to smoothies and ice cream to just plain or covered in chocolate.  

Bananas are a bit complicated.  They are technically a fruit of the berry family, but grow as an herbaceous plant.  The fruit varies in size, color, and firmness, but is usually elongated and curved, with soft flesh rich in starch covered with a rind, which may be green, yellow, red, purple, or brown when ripe just to name a few.  They grow in clusters at the top of the plant.  Most bananas are actually seedless.  Look it up- the seeds in bananas are large and hard and would make it difficult to eat the fruit.  Bananas are grown in about 135 countries with India and China leading the production according to FAO.org.  The main use for bananas is in eating the fruit, but they are also grown and used to make fiber, banana beer and wine and as ornamental plants. 

Bananas have many nutrients.  Potassium is important for heart health especially when it comes to blood pressure levels.  One banana has about 9% of the recommended daily intake (RDI) of potassium.  Bananas are rich in pectin which is a form of fiber and also gives the banana is spongy form.  This pectin aides in slow digestion which helps keep blood sugars from spiking after eating.  A single banana also contains about 33% of the RDI of Vitamin B6.  Our bodies cannot naturally produce this and we must take it in by way of our foods or supplements.  B6 is essential for metabolism and red blood cell production.  Bananas contain Vitamin C which is believed to help heart health when it comes to cholesterol levels and blood pressure just to start with.  Vitamin C is also important for skin health and wound healing.  It helps boost your immune system, improves your memory and aids in iron absorption.  

There are believed to be over 1,000 different types of bananas.  Plantains are popular bananas.  They are not as sweet though and are used more as a vegetable than as a fruit. Some of the most unique bananas are Blue Java, aka the Ice Cream banana, so named for its blue skin and creamy, ice cream-like texture and taste; the Macabu, which is black when fully ripe with a sweet pulp; the Niño, which is mild and finger-sized, and the Burro banana, which has squared sides and a lemon flavor when ripe; Red Bananas have red peels with orange flesh; the Apple Banana is shorter than normal bananas but is more unusual for its taste-when eaten raw it tastes like apple, but when cooked it tastes like strawberry!  Too bad we don’t live in a region where bananas are grown locally so we can try some of these varieties out!

The peel is also useful in many ways.  They can be eaten.  Use the peel to make tea or candy.  You can even make pickles with the peel.  Not sure about that one.  Leave the peel on when making a smoothie and use the whole banana other than the stem.  Ferment the peels and they form a type of vinegar.  Use banana peel on a splinter to help get it out and aid in healing the wound.  Use a peel on a scratched DVD or CD to fill the scratch without damaging the plastic finish.  Use a banana peel directly on your skin to remove ink stains or soothe itchy insect bites, remove acne or under eye puffiness or even help with the appearance of scars.  They can even whiten your teeth or remove a wart if you give it enough time.  You can use banana peels to polish your shoes or silver or add some shine to houseplants.  Banana peels are great compost for the garden.  Use them to attract butterflies and, at the same time, repel aphids.  Grind dehydrated peels or make a liquid ‘tea’ out of the peels to fertilize the garden. So many uses!

Bananas are versatile and good for you to boot.  Enjoy the flesh and use the peel in numerous ways!  Pick up some bananas this week and meet me in the kitchen for a banana bonanza!

Banana Pudding Ice Cream

1 ½ cups half and half

½ cup packed brown sugar

½ cup white sugar

1/8 tsp salt

2 eggs, beaten

1 cup heavy whipping cream

2 tsp vanilla bean paste

2 very ripe bananas, mashed

1 cup crushed Nilla wafers

In saucepan over medium-low heat, combine half and half, brown sugar, white sugar, and salt. Stir until sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes.  Take saucepan off heat. Place eggs in a medium bowl. While whisking, gradually (to not curdle eggs) add about half the sugar mixture to eggs.  Pour egg mixture back into saucepan with remaining half and half mixture.  Stir in cream.  Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon. About 5-10 minutes.  Take saucepan off heat and stir in vanilla paste. Pour mixture through a fine-meshed sieve into a bowl and let cool to room temperature.  Once cooled, stir in mashed banana and pour into ice cream maker. Use manufacturer's directions to freeze. Add Nilla wafers about 5 minutes before end of freezing time.  If ice cream is too soft for your liking at this point, place in freezer for about 1 hour.

Recipe adapted from spicysouthernkitchen.com.

 

Banana Pancakes

Bonus: this recipe is gluten-free for those who need it. Also, this is a small batch.  If you want several pancakes, increase the recipe.

2 extra large eggs

1 medium banana

½ Tbsp. cinnamon

½ Tbsp. unsalted sweet cream butter

½ cup strawberries, sliced

Honey, for topping

Mix eggs, banana, and cinnamon until well combined.  Heat a sauté pan or griddle over medium heat and add butter.  Spoon pancake mixture into pan to form pancakes as per desired size.  Cook for 2-3 minutes per side until nicely browned and cooked through. Repeat with remaining batter.  Chop strawberries and use to top pancakes. Drizzle with honey and enjoy!

Recipe from eatthismuch.com

 

Banana Split Smoothie

1 large banana

1 cup almond milk 

8-12 strawberries, depending on size and how much you like strawberries, hulled and halved

2 Tbsps. honey, or you can use sugar to taste

2 Tbsps. cocoa powder or chocolate syrup for drizzling.

2-5 ice cubes

Whipped cream and a cherry for topping if desired

Add almond milk, banana, strawberries and honey to blender.  The chocolate can be done two ways.  To have a strong chocolate flavor, add 2 tablespoons cocoa powder to blender.  Blend until all ingredients are liquefied.  Add ice and pulse until desired consistency.  Pour into glasses and add whipped cream and a cherry if desired.  If you want the lighter chocolate taste, add a drizzle of syrup to sides of glass then add smoothie and toppings and add a small drizzle of chocolate over the top.

Note: for traditional banana split, you also can add pineapple. I don’t like pineapple so I always leave it out.  Feel free to add it if you would like.

 

Plantain Chips

2 green plantains, the green ones have no sweetness to them at all.  The riper they get, the sweeter they will be.

1 ½ Tbsps. olive oil

Taco seasoning, Head Country, Ranch dressing mix or other seasoning of your choice

Preheat oven to 400°F.  Peel plantain, a sharp knife may be necessary. Slice plantains thinly with a mandolin or knife.  In medium bowl, combine plantain slices, olive oil, and seasonings. Stir gently to coat plantain chips.  Place parchment paper on baking sheet. Place single layer of plantains on parchment paper.  Place cookie sheet in oven for 16 to 20 minutes. Turn plantains after 8 minutes.  Plantain chips are done when they start to brown around the edges. Watch them closely towards the end.  They burn quickly.  Remove from oven and serve.  Chips are best served warm. You can also cool plantain chips on a baking rack lined with paper towels to soak up any extra oil, and serve them at room temperature. Plantain chips keep for about one day.

 

Banana Stir Fry

Sauce:

2 fresh or frozen bananas, peeled and chopped

1 clove of garlic

¼ cup fresh ginger, diced

1 tbsp. rice vinegar

2 tsp. curry powder

1 tsp. agave nectar

1 tsp. onion powder

1 tsp. coconut oil

¾ cup unsweetened almond milk

Stir Fry Vegetables:

2 Tbsps. avocado oil

1 cup broccoli

1 cup matchstick sliced carrots

1 yellow onion

1 cup baby corn

1 cup sugar snap peas

1 cup water chestnuts

1 medium yellow pepper

1 cup green onion

Place all sauce ingredients in a high speed blender and blend to a smooth texture.  In large skillet, heat oil over medium high heat.  Add carrots, broccoli and yellow onion to skillet and sauté for 3-5 minutes or until they begin to soften.  Add baby corn, snap peas, water chestnuts and green onion to skillet and sauté for another 3-5 minutes.  The important thing here is to remember is these vegetables cook at different times so pay attention or your stir fry will end up soft.  Before vegetables are completely cooked add stir fry sauce to skillet.  Cook until sauce has thickened and is heated through, about 3-5 minutes more. 

Note: these are my favorite stir fry veggies.  Feel free to add or change to adjust it to what you like.  You do want at least 6-8 cups of veggies for the sauce though.  

Sauce recipe adapted from runplantbased.com