Valentine’s Day Nachos (but not really)

I received a request from a friend to do a Valentine’s Day themed blog post; something romantic or sweet that reflected the spirit of the holiday.  I thought about what Valentine’s Day means to the people I care about and how they might enjoy celebrating.

So here it is, Nachos for One.

Nah, not really.  That’s more bleak than I care to be.

I normally wouldn’t give a crap about Valentine’s Day, but what the hell, it’s not a terrible day outside; I’m on an upswing from a string of several stressful days, and I’ve got the Ethiopians playing in the background.  Time to bust out some sweetheart recipe.

Sweet Potato Banana Bread

This quick bread is fairly healthy and pretty simple to make, although I would have let mine sit in the oven for a bit longer so it fluffed up properly.  You will need:

  • 1 small sweet potato (about a cup’s worth), mashed
  • 2 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 2 eggs (I didn’t have enough, but you can use ¼ cup of applesauce for each egg, so ½ cup for this recipe)
  • ¼ cup of vegetable oil
  • 1 cup of flour (I used half all-purpose and half whole wheat)
  • 1 teaspoon of baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon of baking powder
  • ½ cup of sugar (which I replaced with ¼ cup of agave nectar
  • A hand full of dark chocolate chips (I used about 1/3 cup)

Yield: 1 loaf

So, preheat your oven to 350°F.  Mash the bananas while you prepare your sweet potato.  I just put min in the microwave for about six minutes and let it cool enough to handle.  In a large bowl, blend together your bananas, sweet potato, eggs (or egg replacers), sugar, and oil.  Mix until it’s well incorporated.

In a smaller bowl, mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon.  Combine them well, and then stir it into the bowl with the banana-sweet potato mixture.  Fold in the chocolate chips.

  

Lightly grease a baking pan (I used an 8×8, but you can use a loaf pan if you prefer).  Add your batter and place in the oven for about 40 minutes, or until you can remove a toothpick cleanly.

This isn’t exactly what you might consider typical Valentine’s fare, but I think most typical Valentine’s fare sucks.  There is only so much candy you can eat (or should eat); those little hearts are chalky and it eludes me why we still buy them if general consensus is that they’re awful (although I have the same question about fruitcake around Christmas); and big, romantic dinners tend to be heavy on the meat, fat, and cholesterol.  This bread is sweet, and the bananas and sweet potatoes are actually heart-healthy foods, which seems more appropriate for this kind of holiday.  And if you’re worried that it doesn’t quite seem to fit the Valentine’s Day bill, here’s how I presented it to my sweetheart:

(The food on this blog won’t kill you, but you might get diabetes from how sappy I can get)

Happy Valentine’s Day to you!

(yes, you!)

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In Baltimore, this would be called “Duhry-Free” (Banana Ice Cream)

Maybe you’re a vegan and you don’t eat any animal products.  Maybe you’re lactose intolerant and have a hard time digesting dairy.  Maybe you had an uncomfortable experience with the guy who drives the ice cream that comes around your neighborhood and just lost the taste for soft serve ice cream.

Hey, we’ve all been there.  Luckily, you don’t have to be any of the above to enjoy this recipe.  It’s quick, it fits a wide range of diets, and it’s super healthy.

An interesting thing about bananas: I used to not eat them.  Seriously, since I was maybe five until this past summer, I wouldn’t eat straight bananas.  I would eat food that was made with bananas (banana bread, banana pancakes, etc.) but I had a hard time getting around the texture.  This past summer, I decided to bite the bullet (I was going to say ‘bite the banana’, but you jerks wouldn’t let that one go).  I was surprised.  Really surprised.

I stopped eating bananas after that for several months because they gave me an AWFUL case of the runs, but I felt proud in getting past a bizarre phobia.

When I started getting back into exercising regularly, and especially after starting my new job, I decided that it would be worth trying bananas again.  Turns out, they’ve been a great addition to my diet (with no side effects).  Just about every workout blog or fitness website will recommend adding bananas to your diet, either as a handfruit or part of a shake.  Bananas are an excellent source of potassium and dietary fiber, which help lower the risk of high blood pressure, hypertension, and heart disease.  Potassium also helps reduce bone thinning from urinary calcium loss.  Bananas also provide a strong level of vitamin B6 and a moderate level of vitamin C, B2, and foliate.  Bananas also have carbohydrates that are converted to sugars during digestion and then transferred throughout your bloodstream to provide energy to the rest of your system; eating a banana an hour or so before a workout provides a good powerhouse of energy without needed to eat a big meal (bananas are a great post-workout recovery snack, too).

Using bananas as the base for dairy-free ice cream is a fun way to get the benefits of the fruit.  Plus, this is a dessert you can eat at any time of day, and who doesn’t want ice cream in the morning, sometimes?

You will need:

  • 2 ripe medium bananas, peeled
  • 2-3 tablespoons of your favorite creamy nut butter (I used almond here)
  • Honey (if honey is not part of your veganism, feel free to use maple syrup or agave nectar

Yield: 1serving

Cut the peeled bananas into coins and space them out onto a baking tray.  Put the tray into  the freezer for 1-1½ hours.  They should be firm but not frozen solid.

Mash the bananas until they reach a texture similar to custard or pudding.  I didn’t have a blender so I used a potato masher and a fork, which was fine.

When the bananas are well blended, mix in the nut butter and honey well, until everything is uniform.  I added no measurements to the sweetener because I didn’t bother measuring it when I tried this out the first time; a few teaspoons or a healthy squirt from the bottle is a good rough measurement.  Place the mixture in a freezer-safe container and let it sit maybe 30-40 minutes.  Remove and enjoy.  If the mixture starts to go soft, simply refreeze for a few minutes and continue eating.

*note: “Healthy Squirt” is a good or awful band name.

This is just one approach to banana ice cream; feel free to experiment with other ingredients.  Try seasonal berries, nut butter and a trickle of jam, cocoa powder, vanilla extract, fresh coconut and com pureed canned pineapple…you’re really only limited by your imagination.  Please keep in mind that the banana taste is not terribly over-powering, it’s still there, so something like mint or coffee might not pair as well.  Try this next time you’re entertaining some vegan guests, or as a refreshing breakfast treat in the summer.