Monday, January 10, 2011

Easing Back Into Life

Having a baking blog is tricky in January. For my readers, all of the baking, partying, and indulging that went on in December suddenly catches up in January and it's a month of lean deprivation, trying to atone for past dietary sins with trips to the gym, nasty weight-loss shakes, and dinners of clear soup and a plateful of kale. The last thing needed is the temptation of luscious brownies, cupcakes, and cookies, so common sense says to just stay away from baking blogs.

But as the month wears on and the resolutions wear down, instead of giving up totally and letting the pounds settle where they may, might I suggest a gentler solution? Give in, just a little bit, once in a while, in a way that's better for you. Instead of caving in to temptation at the grocery store checkout line and buying a candy bar, how about baking some bars? Whole grains, bananas, nuts. Have I got your attention yet? And, of course, chocolate, because we all know that chocolate is necessary for good health and mental well-being.

So splurge just a tiny bit. You'll enjoy the reprieve from diet purgatory, plus with a whole pan full, you'll have plenty to share with your gym buddies! And because they've got bananas in them, they just keep getting moister and better as they sit, so you don't feel like you have to gobble them all the day they're made.

Live a little! Life's too short to drink your meals from a can. Besides, have you ever read the ingredients list on those? Ugh. Read these ingredients and I think you'll agree that it's not such a bad thing after all.

Whole Grain Chocolate Chip Banana Squares
- adapted from King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking

3/4 cup (1-1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
1-1/4 cups packed light or dark brown sugar
3 very ripe medium bananas (about 1 cup), mashed
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
r2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
1 large egg
1-3/4 cups whole spelt flour
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped walnuts*

1- Preheat oven to 350 deg. F with a rack in the center of the oven. Lightly grease a 9 x 13-inch pan.

2- In a medium mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar till smooth. Beat in the bananas, lemon juice, vanilla, baking powder, salt, and spices, scraping the bowl as needed. Add the egg. Beat till smooth, scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl again.

3- Sir in the flour, mixing thoroughly. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan. Let the batter sit for 15 minutes; the batter will thicken as it rests.

4- Sprinkle the chocolate chips and nuts on top of the batter.

5- Bake until the center is no longer liquid, but still moist, about 35 to 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool on a rack. For best texture, cover the cooled pan and let the bars rest overnight before cutting and serving.

*Note - if the slightly bitter taste of walnuts bothers you, try soaking them for about 4 hours in salted water. Drain, rinse, and dry in a food dehydrator or oven set on it's lowest setting till they are crisp (10 hours, or so). This also makes them more digestible, so they don't leave a heavy feeling in your tummy.


Fallon said...

We have many ripe bananas in the kitchen and I definitely wanted to try something different from the usual banana bread. Thanks for sharing this recipe just in time!

The Cutting Edge of Ordinary said...

I struggle with January bloggin too, for many of the same reasons, then I remember I have a house full of teenagers, all the time, who are always hungry and neighbors who will wonder what the heck is up if they don't see treats at least one a week!

kickpleat said...

My husband would be all over these bars!

Aimée said...

Yes, you have my attention, Lynn, even though I hang around in January just to torture myself. (Kale- have you been spying in my fridge?!)

Love the sound of these. Adding them to my link love next week!

lena said...

hi, first time here. I'm impressed with all your bakes and am going to bookmark that peanut butter with banana muffins first!

LyB said...

I totally agree with you Lynn! Life IS too short and is meant to be enjoyed. This recipe is so going on the list of "things to make with all those ripe bananas"!

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We Are Not Martha said...

This is the perfect little treat when you don't want to totally splurge. And I'm always looking for things to do with those leftover bananas!


grace said...

me? i'm all about the splurging. splurge. even the word itself is great. :)

CaSaundraLeigh said...

I agree--trying to completely avoid one group of foods, in your case, baked goods, just ends up in a complete binge anyway. Moderation is key, not deprivation :-)

eatme_delicious said...

I love that these use spelt flour (of which I have a big bag in the fridge)! They look like the perfect balance between wholesome and indulgent.