My relationship with bananas
So far, I’ve had mixed feelings about bananas, starting with gratefulness, switching to indifference, then to dismissal and finally emerging to an absolute devotion. During my early childhood, I had the feeling that bananas were quite scarce where I was living (or maybe mum didn’t use to buy them often), and therefore I remember perceiving the first banana I recall enjoying as some sort of luxurious treat. However, as a teenager, I disregarded the importance of eating fruits, so ignored bananas completely for a while. I rediscovered them when I became more health conscious and sought to substitute unhealthy snacks with gloriously good fruits. However, whilst following a slimming diet, claims that bananas can be fattening discouraged me from buying them. And so, later on, when I found myself surrounded by fruits at my workplace, the instant sense of fullness from eating a banana often made me to resist them.
Journey of (re)discovery
So, my appreciation for bananas arose rather recently at a time when I was inspired to take my diet to the highest level of healthiness, by increasing my consumption of plant-based foods to substitute meat and dairy. Since then, bananas have become a staple in my diet and I love how versatile they are. I now consume bananas in so many different ways, that it’s hard sometimes to limit my consumption to one a day. Here are my favourite favourite to indulge at different times during the day.
During the week, I often don’t have time to eat breakfast at home, so I take a banana and nuts with me and kind of make my own breakfast bar on the go. It’s so easy to pierce the centre of a banana with nuts, as I eat it, thus getting a wonderful combination of vitamins and minerals from the banana and protein from the nuts. The inside of a ripe banana is often slightly sticky, so once I've bitten it, I also use it to pick the nuts from my carrier box.
At weekends, I take the luxury of enjoying my breakfast on the couch (usually after a morning run, to feel that I’ve earned it for good!).
When I decided to take my diet to the peak of healthy, I discovered the amazing combination between the creamy texture of bananas and the rich consistency of nut butters. To me, bananas and nuts are perfect companions. This “awakening” was a direct result of my playful mind coming up with the idea of using bananas as a toast base. Eventually, my all-time favourite breakfast has become baked bananas with homemade nut butter. And I was impressed to learn that one of my favourite athletes, Novak Djokovic, also enjoys bananas with cashew nut butter for breakfast.
While on holiday, my imagination led me to conceive what has become my all-time favourite hot drink: my gloriously good banana milkshake. I literally couldn’t wait to come back from holiday to try it out. To prepare it, simply warm up a cup of milk, then blend it with a banana, vanilla, cinnamon, baobab sprinkle and a handful of cashews (or cashew nut butter). For extra sweetness, add a few dates and dried mulberries. If you are in a rush in the morning and want to make a quick breakfast out of this amazing drink, add a handful of oats to the blend. This will keep you fuller for longer and bursting with energy.
Bananas are a great addition to smoothies, providing a rich texture and consistency. They perfectly complement any fruits, particularly berries, so feel free to get creative by blending your bananas with blueberries, raspberries, blackberries for a smoothie packed with antioxidants and pure goodness. If you are craving a sweeter smoothie, blend bananas with grapes and pears. Alternatively, if you are following a detox programme or just keen to incorporate more greens in your diet, then blending a banana with spinach, kale and celery will take your green smoothie to the highest level of deliciousness.
Use bananas to create simple and delicious flapjacks at home. Simply, mash a banana with a couple of tablespoons of homemade granola (for this you only need to toss the oats with coconut oil, nuts, dried fruit and honey), then shape it in a rectangular form with a spatula and bake for 10-15 minutes. The tender texture of bananas will hold the oats together perfectly. Store in the fridge and enjoy on the go as a brekkie or snack.
5. Any-time-of-the-day snack
What I love about bananas is that you can enjoy them any time of the day, including in the evenings. Common health advice says that we should refrain from eating fruits in the evenings as they are too acidic and difficult to digest. However, bananas are exempt from this rule, and are actually recommended if you are experiencing difficulties falling asleep (read further below to see why bananas help with relaxation).
Thus, if I am in the mood for a quick snack, I indulge in banana-nut-butter rolls or a full banana-nut-butter sandwich! In the first case, I take the time to cut my lovely banana into round pieces and put my homemade nut butter in between them. In the second case, I simply slice a banana in half lengthwise and spread my favourite nut butter in the middle. This is my ultimate comfort food. If I have time, I bake it for a few minutes before I devour it :-). Or, if I am craving a more dessert(y) type of snack, then I also add some cacao powder and coconut flakes on top of the nut butter.
If I don’t have any nut butter, then I make my own dry chocolate fountain, by sinking a banana in some cacao powder or sprinkling it with cinnamon or superfood acai berry powder before consuming it. The sweetness of the bananas contrasts perfectly with the intense taste of cacao, and this quick snack is a wonderful source of antioxidants, vitamins and fibre.
6. Addition to meals
Realising that bananas can be my any-time-of-the-day snack has made me try adding them to meals, too. Sundays are generally my experimental days, so one Sunday evening I made a quirky meal, by baking brown rice pasta with ground walnut, cacao powder and honey. It was delicious on its own, but I decided to take it to the next level by topping it with a few banana slices. I’m still daydreaming about this indulgence.
7. Desserts in their own right
My favourite quick dessert is frozen “lolly” banana. This is so easy to make and so delicious. Simply, peel a banana, put it in a container and freeze it for a few hours. Then pierce it with a toothpick and enjoy it as a lolly. Once frozen, the banana has a completely different taste and texture – it is a lot sweeter and so moreish (as you can’t taste the fibre as much).
Or you can take advantage of banana’s natural sweetness and creaminess by making your own ice-cream. Simply, puree the banana before putting it into in the freezer or blend frozen banana pieces and enjoy an all-natural, fresh banana ice-cream made by you.
Other desserts that I am so fond of are the healthy versions of Banana Bread and Bannoffe Pie. You can prepare healthy banana bread by substituting white flour, butter and sugar with buckwheat flour and almonds.
Also, you can make a healthy raw bannoffe pie, without using condensed milk, biscuits or cream. Make the most of nature’s goodness, by creating the crunchy layer using blended pecans and almonds, honey and pitted dates. Top this nutty goodness with a layer of banana cream, made by adding 2 ripe bananas and 2 tablespoons of almond butter to the food processor. Then, add a layer of plain banana slices. Freeze this wonderful assortment, while you create the creamy layer – really easy to make in the food processor, by combining 6 dates, 4 tablespoons of almond butter, 4 tablespoons of water and 1 over-ripe banana. Remove the first part of the pie from the freezer and add more banana slices before serving it.
8. Toppings for desserts
While I used to think that dessert was the ultimate indulgence, I now think that no dessert is complete without some banana slices topped over it. In particular, I really enjoy adding banana slices to my cupcakes and brownies, for extra creaminess and sweetness, occasionally topped with coconut flakes and cinnamon for an enhanced deliciousness.