Tag Archives: bananas

Peanut Butter-Banana Cookies

I went to a concert with a good friend last night. I bought tickets a few months ago, knowing that I would need to force myself out of the house during the month of November. Music has always been restorative for me; it makes me feel more intensely. I tend to intellectualize emotions instead of just feeling them. Towards the end of the show, I saw two elderly women singing along to the music and dancing in their seats. They were living in the moment and so full of joy. It made me smile. Whenever I witness someone saying or doing something that makes me feel the warm fuzzies I think, “That’s the kind of person I want to be.” I want to attend concerts and sing along to the lyrics when I am a senior citizen! Watching these women sing along to the music jolted me out of my despair. It was a good reminder that I am still alive, even if my sister isn’t. In a way, I am living life for both of us now. And singing along at a concert is definitely something my sister would have continued to do well into her eighties.

Growing up, I didn’t have a lot of positive examples of the type of adult I wanted to become. I did have a mother who was, and is, very kind, and I knew I wanted to be like her in that regard. I also had some good teachers along the way, who awakened my curiosity to the world. But I also had a lot of bad examples of adulthood–adults who were selfish, angry, fearful of the world, and cruel to other people. There’s the old adage about relationships that says you may not always know what you want, but you find out along the way what you don’t want.

For most of my youth, I had so much anger inside of me, and I was fearful of becoming an angry, resentful adult. It took many years to learn how to express my feelings in a healthy way. It took me even longer to learn that I have the ability to be the kind of person I want to be, regardless of my upbringing. I have a magnet on my refrigerator that reads, “I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.” It’s a great daily reminder. Even so, there are many ways I fall short of being the best version of me. But I hope I never stop striving.

I created this recipe four years ago when I wanted a sugar-free cookie that was fairly healthy but every bit as delicious as a “normal” cookie. I have fallen so in love with these cookies over the years that I now make sure that I always have a bag of these in the freezer. As soon as I see that I am down to one or two cookies, I make another batch. Obviously, I love the trifecta of banana-peanut butter-chocolate, but even if it’s not your favorite, I think you will like these. Because they are on the wetter side, I keep mine in the refrigerator. If you don’t want a wet cookie, feel free to add more oats to the recipe. Because they have oatmeal and bananas in them, I often eat these cookies for breakfast!

Peanut Butter-Banana Cookies

Yield: 16 cookies

3 bananas, smashed
1/2 cup natural peanut butter (if you use sweetened peanut butter, only use 2 bananas)
1 cup quick-cooking oats*
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place parchment paper onto a baking sheet.
2. Mix smashed bananas and peanut butter in a medium-sized mixing bowl with a whisk
until fully incorporated.
3. Add oats, vanilla extract, sea salt, and chocolate chips to bowl. Mix thoroughly. Mixture will be very wet.
4. Using a 1″ cookie scoop, scoop batter onto baking sheet, making a total of 12 cookies per sheet.
5. Bake for 12-15 minutes. Wait 5 minutes before transferring cookies onto a cooking rack.
6. Store in refrigerator for up to 1 week, or in freezer for up to 3 months.

*If you prefer less wet cookies, add another 1/4-1/2 cup oats.

Peanut Butter Fudge Cookies

L1050494A few years ago, I turned a corner and started enjoying going to the gym. Like a lot of people, I used to dread it. Now, I actually feel better on the days when I’ve gone to the gym. Sadly, I don’t think I’m in much better shape than I used to be (damn you peri-menopause!) but my mental health has improved, thanks to my regular workouts. I love starting my day by pushing myself physically and increasing the dopamine that my 40-year-old brain produces.
L1050483I’m in week 4 of my food regimen, and so far it’s going pretty well. I haven’t felt too terribly deprived, despite the fact that I work at a bakery and smell cakes and cupcakes all day long. I really enjoy creating healthier versions of some of my favorite sweets. That definitely helps ease the pain of not being able to eat sugar. These cookies are a new favorite of mine, and I think most people would be surprised to learn that they are sugar-free, grain-free, and made with just a few simple healthy ingredients.
L1050499Peanut Butter Fudge Cookies

Yield: 16 cookies

3 ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 cup all-natural peanut butter (no sugar added)
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Pinch of sea salt

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Place mashed bananas in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Add peanut butter, cocoa powder, vanilla extract and sea salt. Mix until well incorporated.
3. Using a medium-sized cookie scoop, place 1″ rounds of batter onto lined baking sheet.
4. Bake for 10 minutes.
5. Let cookies cool completely. Can be refrigerated up to one week or stored in freezer.

Healthy Gingerbread Muffins

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI recently learned that my cholesterol is dangerously high.  In lieu of going on medication, I decided to actively try and cut out a decent amount of sugar from my diet.  Of course, there will still be plenty of dark chocolate.  I mean, I haven’t lost my mind.  There will ALWAYS be dark chocolate in my life.  What’s more, I have a huge sweet tooth.  Therefore, dessert will always be a part of my life as well, but I needed to find some recipes that incorporate sugar substitutions.   Turns out, there is a lot out there.  For the most part, bananas and dates are the healthiest options when substituting sugar in a recipe.  Although they still contain a decent amount of sugar– like fruit– they also contain fiber, which slows down the rate at which the body absorbs the sugars from the fruit.  Therefore, I have been making A LOT of (healthier) desserts lately to try and figure out what works and what doesn’t work.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOne of my favorite things to eat around the holidays is gingerbread-flavored anything.   I love the spices, along with the deep, complex flavor of molasses.  I had a deliciously spicy slice of gingerbread loaf last week from a bakery in Manhattan.  It inspired me to try and give gingerbread muffins a go, but with no sugar (other than the molasses, which I made an exception for).  They turned out really well.  My only complaint is that they are not quite spicy enough.  Therefore, if you really want that bite that you get from a gingersnap cookie, feel free to double the amount of ginger in this recipe.  If you are ok with a milder flavor, these will be perfect for you.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHealthy Gingerbread Muffins
Adapted from Pinch of Yum

Yield:  22 Mini-muffins

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup molasses
1 egg
2 ripe bananas, mashed
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup Greek yogurt
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
1 tablespoon fresh ginger (sub 1 teaspoon ground ginger)
11/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
11/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cloves
Candied ginger, roughly chopped

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease a muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray or butter.  In a small bowl, whisk the olive oil with the molasses.
  2. In a mixing bowl, whisk the eggs, mashed bananas, sour cream, yogurt, milk, ginger, vanilla extract, and orange zest.
  3. Add the olive oil and molasses from step one.
  4. Add the flours, baking soda, salt, and dry spices. Stir a few times until just combined. Scoop into a mini-muffin tin and place a piece of candied ginger on top of each muffin. Bake for 10-12 minutes (if making full-size muffins, bake for 17-20 minutes) or until the tops are puffy and firm to the touch. Cool for a few minutes before serving.

Banana French Toast With Streusel Topping

DSC_4409It was inevitable.  I finally contracted the winter cold/flu that’s been going around.  I forgot how much an illness can really put you out of commission.  I might actually make it out of my pajamas today, but don’t hold me to it.  Besides the usual muscle aches, chills, and runny nose, I’ve also had a nice low-grade headache for the past few days.  It’s all very manageable as long as I allow myself to lay down every few hours and regroup.  The one plus side to all this is that I’ve noticed my brain has cut me some slack.  Things appear to have slowed down the last few days.  My anxiety has quietly tiptoed out the door for the time being, and I don’t feel nearly as distracted as I usually do.  Have you ever juiced or fasted for several days?  If I remember correctly, the same feeling envelops you when you partake in a multi-day cleanse; it’s almost trance-like.  Of course, I’m also very low energy, so there’s that.  But this illness-induced-Zen-state feels kind of refreshing (if you don’t count the constant nose-blowing).  Being as that January is my least favorite month, this isn’t a bad way to go out.  But let’s not kid ourselves, I eagerly await February’s arrival.
DSC_4390I’m not nearly as obsessed with French toast as I am with pancakes However, I do still enjoy French toast, albeit usually stuffed or topped with something.  In other words, it needs a lot of bells and whistles in order for me to enjoy it.  I once made a cranberry cream cheese-stuffed French toast on Christmas morning.  It was rich and decadent, and received my stamp of approval.  I dug around for a recipe that was similar to the phenomenal banana-stuffed French toast I used to always order at Zoë in SoHo.  The restaurant is long gone, but that French toast would cause me to roll my eyes and moan with every bite.
DSC_4398Of course, you can swap out the bananas for your favorite fruit, but I think bananas pair really well with French toast.  And the caramelization that you get on the bananas is key.  If you’re feeling festive, add a splash of rum to the bananas when you caramelize them.  This will enhance the flavor.  Likewise, if you don’t have almonds on hand, you can always use pecans, hazelnuts, etc.  In fact, I think pecans might be a better pairing with this dish.  Let me know if you try it!
DSC_4400Banana French Toast With Streusel Topping
Adapted from Bon Appétit

Yield:  6 servings

2 tablespoons plus 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
2 tablespoons plus 1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons water
2 large ripe bananas, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch-thick rounds
1 1-pound unsliced loaf egg bread, ends trimmed, bread cut into 6 slices (each about 1-1/2 inches thick)
2 cups milk (do not use low-fat or nonfat)
6 large eggs
2-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1-1/2 cups thinly sliced almonds, toasted
1/4 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
1/4 cup quick-cooking oats
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1.  Melt 2 tablespoons butter in heavy large skillet over medium heat.  Add 2 tablespoons sugar and 2 tablespoons water and stir until sugar dissolves.  Continue stirring until mixture is foamy, about 2 minutes.
2.  Add bananas; cook until tender, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes.  Transfer to small bowl; cool.  (Can be prepared 4 hours ahead.  Cover and chill.)
3.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Whisk milk, eggs, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, vanilla and 1/2 cup sugar in large bowl to blend.
4.  Pour into large glass baking dish.  Place bread in egg mixture; let soak 10 minutes, turning occasionally.
5.  Place almonds in shallow bowl.  Carefully remove bread from egg mixture and coat both sides with almonds.  Place bread on heavy large baking sheet.
6.  Place cooled, sliced bananas on top of bread slices.
7.  Mix brown sugar, oats, flour and remaining 2 teaspoons cinnamon in medium bowl.  Add remaining 1/4 cup butter and rub in, using fingertips, until moist clumps form.  Sprinkle topping over bread.
8.  Bake French toast until topping is golden brown and filling is hot, about 25 minutes.  Transfer toast to plates.  Serve hot with maple syrup.