The Many Lives of Bananas

Banana Bread as Comfort Food I remember as a kid, the prize for browning,  bruised and aged bananas was Banana Bread.  This was a very simple sweet treat that everyone seemed to enjoy being served, a true comfort food. ...

Banana Bread as Comfort Food
Banana Bread as Comfort Food

I remember as a kid, the prize for browning,  bruised and aged bananas was Banana Bread.  This was a very simple sweet treat that everyone seemed to enjoy being served, a true comfort food.  My grandmother would always brew a pot of fresh coffee and would slather butter on slices as the best way to serve and enjoy this sweet bread.   A petite little lady, she would often enjoy two slices at one sitting.  My move to the South found cream cheese and jellies as regular toppings to this sweet bread.

Ripe Bananas
Ripe Bananas

As a kid, I never remember freezing these bananas for later uses as I do now.  My neighbor peels her bananas, fills baggies and notes the contents.  I just toss my bananas in the freezer, peel and all, as my freezing method.  When I am ready to use, I allow the bananas to sit at room temperature about 20 minutes or so before I attempt to peel.  WARNING:  DO NOT MICROWAVE, as the banana fibers often catch on fire! When I moved to the South, I was also introduced to the regional secret ingredients in Banana Bread, and that was cream cheese and pecans!  The recipe that follows was one that a former neighbor shared and credited Southern Living as the source, but this recipe is scribed on a hand-written note card and noted as her own creation.

Before and After – Browned bananas transformed into Banana Bread
Before and After – Browned bananas transformed into Banana Bread

Cream Cheese Banana Nut Bread

–  recipe adapted from Southern Living Ingredients:

    • ¾ cup butter, softened

    • 8 ounces of cream cheese, softened

    • 2 cups sugar

    • 2 large eggs

    • 3 cups flour

    • ½ teaspoon baking soda

    • ½ teaspoon baking powder

    • ½ teaspoon salt

    • 1 ½ cups mashed extra over-ripe bananas (this is about 4 medium bananas)

    • 1 cup chopped pecans, toasted

    • 1 teaspoon vanilla

    Directions:

      • Beat butter and cream cheese with an electric mixer until creamy.

      • Gradually add sugar, beating until light and fluffy.

      • Add eggs, one at a time, beating just until blended.

      • Combine flour, baking soda and power, and salt in a separate bowl.

      • Gradually add in the dry ingredients, beating at a low speed until blended.

      • Stir in the mashed bananas, pecans and vanilla as the final step.

      • Spoon batter into two loaf pans that have been buttered and floured.  Two 8 x 4 loaf pans will work best.

      • Bake at 350 degrees for one hour or until a long wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean.  The sides of the loaf should also be pulling away from the pan.

      • After 45 minutes, check to see if you might want to add a foil tent to prevent these loaves from browning too much.  You know your oven best.

      • Cool the bread in the loaf pans for 10 – 12 minutes before removing the breads from the pans.

      • Cool on wire rack at least 30 minutes before slicing.  ( if you can wait that long…)

      • Cut slices with an electric knife or a serrated knife.

      • Enjoy with a pot of fresh brewed coffee and a friend!

      Given the richness and the tang of the cream cheese, this recipe does not need any butter, but in memory of my grandmother I have been known to butter this sweet bread!

      Here is another great idea for aged bananas, a fruit smoothie you can create at home.

      Breakfast Smoothie

      Ingredients:

        • ¾ cup unsweetened almond milk

        • ½ cup frozen or fresh berries,

        • 1 tablespoon almond butter

        • 1 medium banana

        Directions:

          • Blend together all ingredients.

          • Substitute any fruit if berries are not available.  Peaches and mangos are great alternatives.

          • Enjoy this easy and nutritious breakfast or snack idea.

          What is your favorite use for “aged” bananas?