Monday, August 4, 2014

A Newer Healthier Banana Bread

Many people, when hearing "healthier", may scoff. On the other hand, many millions look for less calories, less gluten, less sugar, less.....something. 

I have often been in the first camp, scoffing at healthier. Not because I am averse to being healthy. I want to be as healthy as I can possibly be. I have been on many diets in the past, but they can be so restrictive they are impossible to follow when going out to eat. Other diets or diet foods use too many fake ingredients to try and trick the body into "enjoying" losing weight, while actually being far less "good" for you than a smaller amount of the real food they mimic. I no longer believe that anything with less or no fat is "good" for health. Often, in order to lower fat, sugar is increased. Most types of margarine have hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils. I prefer to use butter, a natural product, even if I must use less of it. Likewise, I look for better sugar options. I like stevia, if I am going to replace sugar. But it doesn't quite do the trick in every instance. I know sugar is sugar is sugar. If I use it in a "diet" application, I try to use the real thing in smaller amounts. 
Banana Bread Light

It's Not What You Eat...

At this point in my life, I have come to believe that health is all about moderation. Moderate portions and moderate weight. Moderate exercise keeps one limber and uses calories. And most of all, I believe that if you love yourself, all the rest will sort itself out and regulate to good health and proper weight. The difficulty comes because too many of us hate ourselves, hate our bodies, hate what we are. What you hate most will always be there, staring back. 

I am not averse to trying new things, or old things in new ways. An acquaintance at the office where my husband works asked me if I knew of a recipe for banana bread that would work with Weight Watchers. I was on Weight Watchers back in the late 1980s, but that is a long time ago. I have heard nowadays that WW does things differently, but i have no clue how the points system works. I asked the woman if she could give me any parameters to work with? She said she would have to look it up, but certainly low fat.

I had a couple of WW cookbooks back in the day. I have considered getting rid of them, but they are still hanging around. One is Weight Watchers Desserts, a very old book. It counts the ingredients in the old way, but I have none of my old literature to know how to calculate. Still, for an idea, they did have a recipe for Banana Bread. I looked it through, then went online for other possible recipes. I found two others under "WW compliant Banana Bread recipes", and took note of those also, checking for use of fats, sugars and eggs, mainly. All used very little fat. One tablespoon in a recipe where I usually use a whole stick of butter is a REALLY small amount. Some recipes used 1/4 cup of sugar and others up to 1/2 cup of sugar. Some used rolled oats, some not. Some used nuts, some not. My acquaintance said no nuts, so I left that idea out. 

Banana Bread, just out of the pans
One website talked of how to use some of these ingredients in a better way, citing that bananas, plenty sweet on their own, can be increased in a recipe and fat or sugar lessened with little to no ill effect in the outcome. I had 4 bananas to work with. In another website I took note of something I had seen before but not used: Flax seed can be used to substitute for eggs. One tablespoon of whole flax seeds, ground and mixed with 3 tablespoons of water and left for 10 minutes, will turn to a gel-like, gooey consistency, slippery and acting a bit like raw egg whites. In a recipe, this gel works similarly to eggs. I opted to use one real egg and one flax seed "egg". Flax seed is so easy to find these days, and so healthy, I figured anyone can get hold of it to use.

With all this information, I sat down and tried to decide where to splurge and where to skimp, and how much skimping did I need? I put together a recipe of my own, taking ideas from all over. The result? A very delicious banana bread that I could thoroughly enjoy. My recipe made 2 small loaves. I cut the loaves into 12 slices each. The slices are small, something like the size of a half slice from a really large loaf. Still, when one looks at a "whole" slice, it makes one feel better than seeing a half slice and feeling deprived, somehow. I would certainly make this recipe again, when I have bananas around. And, for any calorie counters, one slice equaled only 76 calories! If you choose to cut the loaves into 10 slices apiece instead, the calories for one slice turned out to 91. Still most excellent. 

If desired, use 2 whole eggs instead of one egg and the flax egg substitute, or instead use double the amount of flax seed and water egg-substitute instead of real eggs. The flax option cuts out half the calories of the eggs and there is no cholesterol in the flax option.

Banana Bread Light

makes two loaves, 10 or 12 slices per loaf
Banana Bread Light

1 tablespoon flax seed, ground, mixed with
     3 tablespoons water
4 bananas, mashed (2 cups)
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup 1% buttermilk
1 tablespoon cooking oil of choice
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
1/2 cup old fashioned rolled oats

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg 

Mix the ground flax and water and set aside for 10 minutes. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees (300 on Convection Bake). Spray two 8 x 4 1/2 loaf pans with cooking spray and set aside.

In a mixing bowl, combine and beat well the first set of ingredients. In a separate bowl, sift or whisk together the dry ingredients, then pour them into the wet ingredients, mixing only until completely combined. Divide the batter equally between the two prepared loaf pans. Bake the loaves for about 35 to 45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes away with a few crumbs attached. Set the pans to rest 5 minutes before turning out the loaves to cool on a rack.

I carefully calculated all the calories, proteins, fats, cholesterol, carbs, fiber and sodium for all the ingredients. I divided the total into two, for the two separate loaves, then divided each loaf worth by 12 to find the calories for each slice. Here is the breakdown per slice:

Based on 12 slices per loaf, 1 slice equals: 76 calories, 2 g protein, 1 g fat, 9 mg cholesterol, 17 g carbs, <1 g fiber, 120 mg sodium.

Based on 10 slices per loaf, 1 slice equals: 91 calories, 2 g protein, 1.5 g fat, 10 mg cholesterol, 20 g carbs, 1 g fiber, 143 mg sodium.

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.