Sugar-Free, Guilt-Free Banana Bread

The Breakfast-Worthy Banana Bread recipe is now viewable in a new post for you to trial!

With a couple of over-ripe bananas beckoning from the counter, I knew it was time to take some baking action.  Luckily, blogging buddy Ricki reminded me of the “Breakfast-Worthy Banana Bread” in Go Dairy Free. Though I was a banana shy of a full loaf, the recipe could easily be halved to make 2 mini loaves! (The original recipe will make 4 mini loaves or 1 9×5-inch loaf) 

About a year ago, I found myself a bit lost when faced with yet another mound of darkening bananas. With piles of cookies and sugary treats lingering in our house, a sweet banana loaf was the last thing we needed.  But then, I began to wonder what a quick bread would turn out like with no sugar at all.  After all, aren’t overripe bananas sweet enough on their own?  As it turns out, the bananas add just a hint of sweetness to the bread making it perfect to enjoy with jam in the morning, or any time of day really … and best of all, it is virtually guilt-free … no added sugars AND made with whole grain flour (the one pictured below is 100% spelt)!

Of course, you can add a pinch of stevia or some sugar if you please, but I recommend just a tablespoon or two, and certainly no more than 1/4 cup for the whole recipe.  It isn’t intended to be a dessert, but rather a nutricious quick bread that you can enjoy anytime of day, topped with jam, honey, or your favorite spread.

So, for those of you who have my book, the mini loaves seem to take 22-24 minutes at 350º to bake to perfection. I was out of vanilla extract (I know, and I call myself a baker!), so I subbed in almond extract (about 3/4 teaspoon), topped each little loaf with a generous tablespoon of sliced almonds, and slathered my first slice with … I am a bit predictable aren’t I? … almond butter!

Mini Sugar-Free, Spelt Banana Bread Loaf

Whether you use my recipe, or prefer to tinker with your own banana bread recipe, try cutting way back on the sugar for banana bread that isn’t made for gifting, but rather for a quick, tasty, and healthy breakfast or snack!

FREE Culinary E-Magazine

It really doesn’t get much better than free … okay, it does … add in a little instantaneous gratification and you have something magical!  I have been “subscribing” to the Vegan Culinary Experience since it first began, and I am impressed with how professional and nice it is for such an affordable ($0.00) price tag.

Each month, Chef Jason Wyrick sends  out an email announcing the release of that month’s magazine download (you can sign up for his email list to get the announcement, or just check back here or on www.godairyfree.org, I will update).  Every month he follows a new theme, and fills it with loads of original recipes, while tossing in some product / restaurant reviews and interviews for a well-rounded publication.  Whether or not you are vegan, we are talking free recipes by a top chef here. 

Visit the Vegan Culinary Experience Website for more info, or click this big image of this January’s cover for a little of that instantaneous gratification …

“Gold Coins” for Good Fortune and Health

If I were to guess the one thing most people are wishing for in 2009, I would have to go with good fortune.  Tough economic times have taken hold, and while hard work perseveres, a little good luck and some well wishes never hurt!  Having read quite a bit about traditional foods of good fortune consumed during the Chinese New Year, I was curious if we Westerners had any traditions of our own. Too my pleasant surprise, I discovered quite a few. Leafy greens signify, you guessed it, the almighty (or not so might, depending on the day) dollar, and black-eyed peas arose as a symbol of prosperity from a Civil War legend. Pork symbolizes progress and pushing forward; something that we could use a little of too. You will find many delicious New Year’s day recipes using these foods (see some of my suggestions below), but something seemed to be missing in my mind … the coins! …

Brilliant in color and packed with nutrients, these carrot and parsnip coins could not only be considered a symbol of good fortune and prosperity, but also of health and well being for the New Year.  Really, what more could we wish for?

Glazed Carrot and Parsnip “Coins”
Adapted from Recipezaar
These coins are lightly sweetened to help enhance their natural flavors.  Feel free to increase or decrease the amount of honey used, depending on your desired taste, and how sweet your carrots and parsnips are to start with. Though I haven’t tested it, you could always substitute maple syrup or agave nectar in place of the honey if you wish to make the dish vegan.

  • 2 cups vegetable broth (or more as needed; can sub water)
  • 1 lb carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch rounds
  • 1 lb parsnips, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch rounds
  • 1 tablespoon oil or margarine (I used coconut oil – goes beautifully with root veggies!)
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1 small onion, sliced into thin wedges
  • salt and pepper, to taste (I used about 1/8 teaspoon salt, no pepper)

In a medium-sized saucepan, bring the broth to a boil.  Add the carrots and parsnips and allow them to cook for 10 to 12 minutes, or until just tender.  Drain the vegetables and set them aside, but make sure to keep the liquid for another use;  You have just created double strength broth!

Heat the oil or margarine in a large skillet over medium-low heat, add the onions and suate until tender and translucent, about 3 to 5 minutes.  Add the honey and the carrots and parsnips. Saute for just a minute or two, until the vegetables are glazed and heated through.  If desired, season with salt and/or pepper.

Yields 4 Servings

More Prosperous New Year’s Recipes

Foodie Words of New Year Warning

All good symbols can be counteracted by an evil one.  Try to hold out on those cravings for luxurious lobster (if not simply for the ridiculous price tag!) – since they travel backward this symbolizes setbacks when consumed for New Year’s – we certainly don’t need more of those!  Also, for you frugal foodies, take a day break from chicken; they scratch backwards, which can cause dwelling in the past.  In fact, all “winged” fowl could cause good luck to “fly away.” Not that I am superstitious or anything : )

Happy New Year!!!

Best Wishes from the Dairy-Free and Frugal Foodie (aka Alisa)

Gifts from the Kitchen: Gingerbread Granola

The baking bug hit me this weekend, so I decided to prepare some treats to give to friends this holiday season.  I was a bit torn on what to make since I would be shipping some of the items, when the weekly email from Meatout Mondays arrived suggesting holiday granola.  Brilliance!  Unable to stop with one flavor, I baked three different kinds, and while those were in the oven, I whipped up some truffles too!  It was an all-day venture for the amounts produced, but relaxing and fun. Now, onto the granola and a recipe …

Granola Flavor #1: I made my tried and true Home Baked Granola from Go Dairy Free, my cookbook/guide; it is a maple, cinnamon, raisin type flavor.  I stayed faithful to my recipe but opted to go all walnuts for the nuts.

Granola Flavor #2: Some slight modifications to my original recipe produced a delightful Vanilla Cranberry Almond Granola.  For those of you who have Go Dairy Free, simply increase the oats in the Home Baked Granola by 1/2 cup (to 4 cups) and use 1 1/2 cups of sliced almonds for all of the nuts.  Then, swap the maple syrup for honey (I did try agave nectar, but both my husband and I agreed it tasted a bit “off” in this recipe), increase the vanilla extract to 1 tablespoon, and substitute 1/2 t ground nutmeg for the cinnamon (or you can stick with the cinnamon if you like) and dried sweetened cranberries for the raisins.

Granola Flavor #3: My husband is not a ginger fan, so I have kept my desires for a ginger granola locked away in a vault. But, with the holidays upon us (and some ginger-loving friends), it seemed like the perfect opportunity for me to break loose and finally create that Gingerbread Granola I had been dying to try out!  This really is an all new recipe, quite different from my traditional one, so I am very happy to share it here (recipe below).  Thus far, from us ginger lovers, it has received 2 thumbs up, and the smell is awesome when it is baking!

Gingerbread Granola

This recipe is Vegan, Dairy-Free, Egg-Free, Soy-Free, Peanut-Free, and Wheat-Free. You can make it Nut-Free by using your favorite seeds in place of the cashews and Gluten-Free by using those trusty Gluten-Free Oats, if they work for you.

4 Cups Rolled Oats
1/2 Cup Unsweetened Coconut (shredded or “chips”)
1 Cup (5 ounces) Raw Cashews, Coarsely Chopped
1/2 to 2/3 Cup Light or Dark Brown Sugar, Firmly Packed
1 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
1 Teaspoon Ground Ginger
1/2 Teaspoon Ground Allspice or Nutmeg
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Cloves
1/4 Cup Molasses
1/3 Cup Grapeseed, Extra-Light Olive, or melted Coconut Oil (or your baking oil of choice)
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1/4 Teaspoon Salt
1/3 Cup Finely Minced Crystalized Ginger (optional) – I actually used the “uncrstalized” ginger from Trader Joe’s, which is still sweetened and gummy-like, but doesn’t have sugar crystals coating it; I liked the uncrystalized version best 

Preheat your oven to 250ºF (120ºC). In a large bowl, combine the oats, coconut, cashews, brown sugar, and the spices, stirring everything together until well distributed. In a separate bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients, except for the crystalized/uncrystalized ginger. Stir this wet mixture into the oats and nuts, until everything is very well coated. Spread the mixture into one or two large, ungreased glass baking dishes (I use a 9 x 13-inch). Bake the granola for 60-75 minutes, checking in to give it a stir every 15 minutes. When done, transfer the granola to a large bowl and stir in the minced ginger, if using. Since the ginger will be a bit sticky, make sure you mix it up well to separate. Once cool, store it in an airtight container.

Nut-Free Option: Substitute the cashews with any combination of additional oats, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, soy nuts, and/or additional coconut.

My notes on baking time: I have tried turning up the heat to shorten the time, but without fail, it burns.  This slow bake process produces a better granola in my opinion, and you have much more control over the doneness.  If you use metal pans, I find that the granola browns much more quickly, so keep a sharp eye!

My notes on sugar: I use a very firmly packed 1/2 cup, but if you want a sweeter, more dessert-like granola, you can up it a bit.

As for the truffles, I made the Peanut Butter “Truffles” and the Bittersweet Truffles (vegan and soy-free too!), both recipes from Go Dairy Free. For the Bittersweet ones, I made a plain vanilla variety, some with chocolate coating and some with a dusting of both cocoa powder and powdered sugar.  But, I couldn’t resist making a “Hint O’ Mint” batch too.  I chocolate coated those and put candy cane bits on top to help identify them. If you want to try the mint version, I added 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons of mint extract (I can’t remember which! But you can taste-test to your desired amount) and 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract to the whole batch.

Note the bags of granola in the background … it was easy to get carried away!

Frugal Foodie Notes & Tips:

I am a big believer in homemade gifts, as that is what I would prefer to receive.  It just means so much more when you know the work and love that wen into it.  Of course, it also saves a bundle …

Granola Cost: Approximately $2.00 per 30-ounce batch

The granola made 3 10-ounce bags to give as gifts (or consume at home!).  I purchase the oats in bulk ($.99/lb for organic, $.69/lb for regular – I stock up on either when on sale), the coconut in bulk (usually $2/lb or less) and I get the cashews in a 1 lb bag (raw) from Fresh & Easy for $5 (I believe they are also a good price at Trader Joe’s). I then use a coupon at the store for $4 off $20 or $6 off $30 (often available on the Fresh & Easy website) to bring the overall cost of my shopping trip down a bit more. I do buy organic brown sugar at Trader Joe’s, as I find the taste to be far superior, and it comes in a ziploc bag, which is a must for the dry conditions here that immediately turn brown sugar into a rock. I stocked up on Grapeseed oil at Fresh & Easy when they were blowing out large bottles of it for just $3!  I also buy the spices in bulk and the vanilla at Trader Joe’s. I calculated the cost of each batch previously and it comes out to about $2 for the full 30 ounces, and trust me, home baked granola tastes way better (and way more fresh) than store bought!

Truffle Cost: Approximately $4.00 for 4 dozen truffles

As for the truffles, Fresh & Easy had a great discount on their big 1lb plus dark chocolate bars for $1.99 per bar (it is OEM’ed from Scharffenberger).  I made the entire batch of truffles (4 dozen!) for about $4 … and they were awesome!  Beat that Godiva!