If you want a quick fix for flagging energy levels, there’s no better snack than a banana. Containing three natural sugars – sucrose, fructose and glucose – as well as fibre, a banana gives an instant, sustained and substantial boost of energy.
Research has proven that just two bananas provide enough energy for a strenuous, 90-minute workout. No wonder the banana is the number 1 fruit among the world’s leading athletes. But energy isn’t the only way a banana can help us keep fit.
This is because bananas contain tryptophan, a type of protein that the body converts into serotonin, which is known to make you relax, improve your mood and generally make you feel happier.
GOLDEN BANANA CAKE
A good way to use up overripe bananas, this cake is delicious served warm with vanilla ice cream, although it probably won’t last long enough to get cool. It’s simple to make, moist and not too sweet. A plus for the busy mother, short on time but wanting to bake treats for the family.
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 tsp. baking powder
pinch of baking soda
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 tbsp. olive oil
3/4 cup sugar
4 large eggs
1 extra-ripe medium banana, peeled and mashed
1 cup chopped pecans, optional
Preheat the oven to 325. Butter an 8-1/2×4-1/2×2-1/2-in. loaf pan. Dust the pan with flour, tapping out the excess.
Sift together the flour, baking powder and baking soda. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix together the butter, olive oil and sugar at low speed.
Increase the speed to medium and add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in the mashed banana. Add the flour mixture and mix just until combined. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top with a spatula. Bake the cake for 55 to 60 minutes, until the top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean.
Cool the cake in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Unmould the cake and cool completely on the rack. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for 3 days, 1 week refrigerated or 2 months frozen. Makes 8 servings.
BANANA-STUFFED FRENCH TOAST WITH STREUSEL TOPPING
Wow! This recipe is rich and decadent, but definitely worth the extra trips to the gym. The banana stuffing portion of the recipe will become a staple in your kitchen. It’s wonderful to sweeten oatmeal, for example. Great for a weeknight dinner. Delicious even without the streusel topping.
2 tbsp. plus 1/4 cup unsalted butter
2 tbsp. plus 1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp. water
2 large ripe bananas, peeled, cut into 1/2-in.-thick rounds
1 1-lb. unsliced loaf challah, ends trimmed, bread cut into 6 slices (each about 1-1/2 in. thick)
2 cups milk (do not use low-fat or nonfat)
6 large eggs
2 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups thinly sliced almonds, toasted
1/4 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
1/4 cup quick-cooking oats
2 tbsp. all purpose flour
Melt 2 tbsp. butter in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add 2 tbsp. sugar and 2 tbsp. water and stir until sugar dissolves. Continue stirring until mixture is foamy, about 2 minutes. Add bananas, cook until tender, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Transfer to small bowl; cool. (Can be prepared 4 hours ahead. Cover and chill.)
Preheat oven to 350. Using small sharp knife, cut 2-in. long slit in 1 side of each bread slice, cutting 3/4 of way through bread and creating pocket that leaves 3 sides of bread intact. Divide banana mixture equally among pockets in bread. Whisk milk, eggs, 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, vanilla and 1/2 cup sugar in large bowl to blend. Pour into large glass baking dish. Place bread in egg mixture and let soak 10 minutes, turning occasionally.
Place almonds in shallow bowl. Carefully remove bread from egg mixture and coat both sides with almonds. Place bread on heavy large baking sheet. Mix brown sugar, oats, flour and remaining 2 tsp. cinnamon in medium bowl. Add remaining 1/4 cup butter and rub in, using fingertips, until moist clumps form. Sprinkle topping over bread.
Bake french toast until topping is golden brown and filling is hot, about 25 minutes. Transfer toast to plates. Serve hot with maple syrup. Makes 6 servings.