August 9, 2009

the ultimate healthy banana bread

Let me start off by saying, yesterday afternoon was a perfect Sunday afternoon. Saw family and friends, baked bread, drank some wine, did laundry, saw a movie with the man... And best of all, listened to the rain fall--for the first time in months. 
But let's get on with it, shall we? Lately, things have been changing around here. Doing the laundry and the dishes is starting to look a little different these days.

Since Ryan and I have both been making efforts to live healthier (we're eating better, he's pumping iron, and I'm training for a triathlon), we're watching more and more workout clothes go through the wash... And there are always at least three water bottles in use at any given time, meaning they're making a cycle through the dishwasher a couple of times a week.

When I started Sustainable Diet, I had every intention of foodie stardom a la Julie Powell or Molly Wizenberg: I wanted this to be a platform to try new recipes and, hopefully, someday, incite a publisher to ask me to, you know, write a book.

And don't get me wrong, I still want that (in fact, I have a new recipe to share with you today, so publishers take note!).

But here's the thing: sustainability does not stop at a diet. That's not to say that I'm changing my focus here; food is my green agenda VIP. Everything we eat is scrutinized, and more so by the day. Is it organic? Is it local? Is it ethically and sustainably produced?

Sustaining a healthy diet (for our bodies and for the earth) isn't just about cooking with whole wheat flour and replacing fats and eating pesticide-free produce. It's also about maintaining a healthy outlook on life. Which is where this whole exercise part comes in.

Yes, I'm advocating exercise. And lots of it.

As my training has "progressed" this summer (we'll go ahead and call it that), I'm finding that more and more, I'm enjoying the act of following up what I eat with doing something else good for my body.

So here we are. I'm off my soapbox and you're ready for a recipe.
With that in mind (and a swim clinic under my belt and three over-ripe bananas in the fridge), I set out to make a breakfast pastry I could feel good about. The catch? No fats and no sugar. Like any drunk-on-a-rain-shower home cook would do, using a few good proportions, I came up with my own recipe.

And it's actually good.

Instead of fats and sugar, I used a combination of low-fat organic vanilla yogurt, local honey, and organic unsweetened applesauce:
And to be sure we got plenty of whole grains with each bite, I used organic whole-wheat bread flour:
The Ultimate Healthy Banana Bread

1 1/2 cups whole-wheat bread flour (or all purpose, or spelt, or something)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/3 cup low-fat vanilla or plain yogurt
1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/3 cup honey or maple syrup
3/4 tsp lemon zest
2 large eggs, beaten
2-3 very ripe bananas, mashed

Preheat the oven to 350. Prepare an 8x5 loaf pan or muffin tins. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. With a standing mixer or in a large bowl, beat together the yogurt, applesauce, and honey until combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, making sure to beat well after each addition. Add in the mashed bananas and beat until combined. In thirds, add the flour mixture.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan or tins and bake for one hour (loaf) or 35-40 minutes (muffins), or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Cool completely before slicing.

Unless you're like us and MUST try a bite before it's cooled at all. Hence the missing piece:

I'll admit, even I was skeptical at first. But this is a low-fat, low-sugar alternative to a breakfast muffin and you wanna know what else? It's delicious. Topped with a little bit of jam, or a side of berries, this is the perfect way to start the day, guilt-free.

The texture is a little different (not bad, just different), but I'm not a food science whiz so I'm not sure whether that's because of the substituted ingredients or some other reason (maybe it needed to bake just 5 more minutes, but we had a movie to get to)... But it's tasty nonetheless. The tang of the lemon zest is evident but not overwhelming, and the cinnamon adds just a faint spice to the bread. Next time I think I'll add some oat flour to the mix and see what happens.


Roy said...

I've been following your blog for awhile and frequently use it for cooking inspiration. I agree with your approach to cooking and ingredients. I've been making similar choices for living healthier (with small attempts at sustainability).

I'm curious about what kind of changes you (both of you) have made as a result of incorporating exercise. Fairly recently, I also took up exercise in addition to healthier eating. I've found that along with semi-daily running and weight training (especially the weights), I've had to drastically change how much and what types of food I eat. For example, I've found that I need much, much, much more protein in proportion to carbs & fats. As a result, I've had to eat more meat. Beans and other high protein vegetables are good, but aren't enough by themselves.

Have you or Ryan had to choose different foods in order to keep up energy with your training, prevent muscle wasting, etc?

amber said...

Roy, thanks for reading first of all!

And yes, we have been eating a little differently to accommodate for the extra work our bodies are doing. I have found that one extra high-protein snack per day is enough; Ryan is on a stricter diet and is doing salads at lunch and lean proteins at dinner, with snacks of organic protein bars (like Clif) and almonds throughout the day.

I stick with a vegetarian diet during the day, getting protein from legumes, or Odwalla or Luna bars/drinks and homemade stuff (yogurt, granola, etc.), but don't actually consume too many more calories than normal. Evenings I normally partake in the same lean proteins, etc. And plenty of cheese, because I could not live without it.

I think everyone just has to find their own balance. I've found it helpful to track calories with an app on my iPhone, but by no means necessary. It's a lot of listening to your body and following through. If I'm feeling weak or lightheaded, I have learned what kind of food can help ease that feeling and I go for it.

But the best part is we feel like we can splurge on weekends a little bit: not so much guilt when we reach for that organic grass-fed burger! :)

I'll try to do a post about this same type of stuff to explore it some more.

Zoe said...

Your baked bread looks fabulous! Sounds like a wonderful sunday.

John said...

Hey, this is John from Barnes & Noble.

I'm going to have to make that bread as soon as possible! It sounds and looks delicious. I love baking but feel bad because so much of the time, my thoughts lean toward "I'm going to have to ignore how much butter/sugar/oil/whatever went into this..." and then I feel bad because I end up eating too much.

I'm also jealous of that rain, because it did not rain up in my area.