Sugar Free Banana Bread

A traditional favorite in most homes, banana bread is a great way to use up those overripe bananas, turning them into something delicious! I have tried a few banana bread recipes from the one my Mom makes to one from my roommates in university and all have been delicious. But when I discovered this banana bread recipe I was in heaven! It was the most moist and the best banana bread that I had ever had. Containing no sugar, sweetened with applesauce and honey, and a boost of flaxseed, this is one healthy, but extremely yummy banana bread.

When I make it at our house, it never lasts more than a day because the kids and I gobble it up 2 or 3 pieces at a time.

I use my own *applesauce and chocolate, both homemade and of which I usually have on hand. The twins enjoy applesauce and cinnamon each morning at breakfast and I make up plain chocolate pieces that I keep in the fridge or freezer for whenever we need our chocolate fix.

Though you may have a favorite banana bread recipe, give this one a try, you won’t be disappointed!

*to make the applesauce I simply slice and core 6 apples, boil them on the stove until soft, then drain the water and blend the apples in the blender until smooth. I do not peel the apples as the skin contains lots of vitamins that you lose when you peel them and blends up so small that you don’t  notice it in the sauce.

Banana Bread

1 1/2 c. whole wheat flour

flaxseed

1 1/4 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1 tbsp cinnamon

1 tbsp ground flaxseed

pinch of sea salt

3 ripe mashed bananas

2 egg whites

1/4 c. unsweetened applesauce

1/2 c. honey

1/4 c. flaxseed oil

1/3 c. chopped dark chocolate

chopped walnuts, optional

In a medium bowl combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, flaxseed and salt.

In a large bowl beat bananas until smooth. Add egg whites and mix. Gradually mix in applesauce, honey and flaxseed oil. Mix dry ingredients into banana mixture. Stir in chocolate.

Grease a 9×5 inch loaf pan with Earth Balance Vegan spread. Pour batter into pan and bake for 45 minutes or until cake tester when inserted comes out clean.

Fun Healthy Halloween Snacks

healthy halloween snacksGetting around the sugary treats at Halloween can be a challenge. But with a little creativity you’ll find that not only will your kids love the alternatives you provide but you will have a lot of fun making them.

Halloween is one of the best holidays to get creative! There is so much you can do, especially with your snacks! You can carve and shape your food into something gruesome! healthy (without all the sugar) and that the kids will enjoy.

Last year I planned a whole menu of healthy Halloween meals and snacks, starting with pumpkin pancakes for breakfast, pumpkin smoothies for afterschool snack and spooky mini pizzas with a veggie man for dinner. It was awesome and so much fun!

healthy halloween snacks

Matthew’s class also decided that they were going to have a Horribly Healthy Halloween, and as a group decided not to bring in sugary treats for the class party. So everyone who brought food had to make sure that it was sugar free. They had veggie trays, fruit, cheese and crackers. Our contribution of Witches Teeth and Boo-nanas were a big hit and the kids gobbled them up, with the Boo-nanas being the favorite!

I’ve found that it is really easy and fun to go healthy at Halloween if you choose to. And I have found that the kids will eat what is put in front of them and the things that look fun and cool are the ones that go first, regardless if it’s healthy.

 

Witches Teeth healthy halloween snacks

Apples

Slivered Almonds (if you can’t do nuts use shelled sunflower seeds)

Quarter and core an apple, cut a wedge from the skin side of each quarter, then press slivered almonds in place for teeth.

Tip – If you are not going to serve them right away, baste the apples with orange juice to keep them from browning.

 

Boo-nanas 

Bananas

healthy halloween snacksUnsweetened shredded coconut

Raisins

Orange juice

Popsicle sticks

Depending on the size of your banana, cut them in half or thirds. Dip peeled bananas in orange juice, then roll them in the shredded coconut. Add raisins for eyes. Insert a stick in the bottom to make them “float”. Can be served as is or frozen.

 

Tangerine Pumpkins

tangerine or mandarin oranges

stalk of celery with leaves – cut into small pieces

This is the easiest and fastest fun treat yet! Peel your orange, do not take it apart and section it, keep it together. Cut small piece of celery and stick it in the middle of your orange (there is a natural hole there). Use a celery leaf and stick that in beside your stem. Voila! Donehealthy halloween snacks

Spooky Drinks

Make your own juice ie. apple carrot and then add some carbonated water and a few peeled grapes. The kids will think it’s gruesome, but they will love it and likely squeal with glee!

Nina Manolson of Healthy Yummy Kids shares many healthy Halloween recipes such as Caramel Apples (my favorite!), Banana Candy and many more. They are easy to make with ingredients that you likely have and use in your home already; and your kids will love them!

Looking for more? There are lots of websites out there that have many ideas for healthy, fun, cool snacks and meals for Halloween. If you google “Healthy Halloween snacks for kids” you’ll have a plethora to choose from. Enjoy and have a spooky, fun and healthy Halloween!

Natural Sugar Substitutes

It’s been over a year now since we have completely eliminated sugar from our home. We did so because our oldest son, Matthew required it. We found that the effects of sugar on his body were too extreme, leaving him moody, angry and disruptive and it was also affecting his sleep at night. He would go to bed at a reasonable time, and I know it was reasonable because I checked around with other parents and experts, and it would take him almost an hour or more to fall asleep at night. Now as an adult I find it very frustrating when I go to bed and it takes me a while to fall asleep. I can only imagine my son’s frustrations around this.

It was a huge learning curve discovering what I could use instead of sugar and products that did not contain it. Because as we began our journey we discovered very quickly that sugar is in almost everything.

The biggest challenge was finding yummy alternatives for Matthew that equated to what the other kids were having, and all the foods that he enjoyed and was used to, such as chocolate, cake, pies and muffins. With diligence I rolled up my sleeves and have been able to find replacements for all these things, as you have seen with some of the recipes on my blog in previous posts. It was just a matter of learning what the natural sugar substitutes were that he could have and how to easily substitute them in a recipe. Once I started looking I found that there were many to choose from and I had a lot of them already in my home.

Here is what I have learned/ discovered to be great substitutes for sugar in recipes. What you choose as the substitute will depend on your recipe as well as personal preference. Many of these natural sweeteners also have great health benefits as well, such as being rich in vitamins and minerals or aiding in the prevention of certain ailments and diseases.

Honey

Honey -choose a honey that is local to you. It has been shown that local honey provides immunity for you against environmental illnesses because the bees are local to your area. Honey has many other health benefits as well such as being a natural energy booster and remedy for many ailments. I use honey as a sugar substitute in crumble and muffins as well as in my bread recipes.

Agave nectar – simply the nectar from the agave plant. Make sure you get a good quality brand as some agaves are more processed with more additives. Ojio agave by Ulitmate Superfoods is a good quality one. When substituting agave for sugar use 3/4 to 1/2 the amount as agave is 25% sweeter than sugar. You also reduce your liquids in your recipe because the agave is a liquid itself, by 1/4 cup. Agave is great in anything but I use it mostly in cakes, muffins and pies.

Maple Syrup

Maple syrup – use 100% pure. If you are using the processed kind then it is not a natural sweetener and you might as well use sugar. This is great in icing, marinades and glazes.

Stevia – is a strong leaf powder that is very sweet, also found in a liquid form. It is considerably sweeter than sugar so you use 1 tsp. stevia to 1 cup of sugar when substituting. It also has many health benefits such as reduced blood pressure and aids in digestion. Stevia is great in cakes and muffins, but also for your coffee, tea, or to sweeten other drinks.

Coconut sugar -comes from the nectar of the flowers of a coconut tree, and is available in a granulated or liquid form. Rich in vitamins such as potassium, zinc and iron. Coconut sugar is great because it melts like brown sugar, so I find that this works well in crumbles, on oatmeal or things like apple cinnamons when you want to create a syrupy texture.

Date Sugar

Date sugar -is made from dried dates and adds a rich sweetness to recipes. It does not melt or dissolve in liquids. When using date sugar substitute 2/3 cup to 1 cup of the sugar, as it is sweeter than sugar. I use date sugar in some bread recipes, muffins, pancakes or waffles.

Yacon syrup -sweetener extracted from the roots of the yacon plant. Some of yacon’s health qualities are strengthening the immune system and calcium absorption. Use 3/4 cup of yacon to 1 cup of sugar.

Barley Malt – is a wonderful replacement for molasses and is made from sprouted or malted barley. I use this in some cookie recipes, and my homemade baked beans. Yum!

Coconut Nectar

Coconut nectar – naturally sweet, nutrient rich “sap” from coconut tree blossoms. High in amino acids, minerals and vitamin C. It can be used just like agave or maple syrup in recipes instead of sugar. I have only used it so far in cookies and they have turned out delicious!

Fruit is also a great natural sweetener, using apples (applesauce, make sure there is not sugar added) or bananas can add the sweetness you desire.

The best thing to do is experiment with these sweeteners, determine which ones work best in your recipes and which flavors you prefer. It can be fun to experiment in the kitchen as long as you are prepared to ‘let it go’ if one doesn’t turn out so well 🙂 Personally I have had success with my substitutions and if you follow these guidelines you’ll have no trouble whatsoever and soon it will become second nature, just like it is for me!

 

Bananas, Bananas and More Bananas

We go through a lot of bananas at our house. We basically use them in smoothies and general eating but we make a lot of smoothies. In the morning, I make 2 smoothies for myself, a green smoothie of some sort and a fruit one for later in the day. Then I make a peanut butter smoothie for Matthew and the babies usually have a banana each for breakfast. These all include bananas so by the time breakfast is over we have had at least 5 or 6. Then in the afternoon I will make more smoothies for the kids, a green smoothie of some kind, or more like a chocolate smoothie with greens in it. Believe me this is a great way to get greens into the kids! I find the twins especially are more apt to drink their green smoothie than eat the vegetables off of their plate. But I digress, we go through a lot of bananas. We are out at least twice a week buying 12-15 so that we have enough for a few days but not too many that they go brown before we eat them.

Bananas are a great source of potassium, vitamins C and B6, as well as a source of iron. As a result they help increase strength and reduce stress and is an instant source of energy. This makes them a great nutritious snack and natural sweetener (often you can use banana to sweeten muffins or cakes instead of using sugar). Plus they are a great ‘grab and go’ snack.

Though we eat a lot of bananas sometimes we do find that they go brown before we eat them all, and personally once a banana is too soft or ripe I cannot eat it. I don’t like the texture, it’s too mushy. So as a result I use them in recipes, like banana bread and banana muffins. And when I have too many brown bananas I toss them in the freezer to use later.

I have always loved banana bread, it is one of my favorite treats and I recently found an excellent sugar free recipe in the Clean Eating magazine. It uses flax seed and flax oil as well as other tasty ingredients. It is dairy free too; so I tried it out. It was the best banana bread that I have ever tasted! It was so moist and delicious, it melts in your mouth.

I also really enjoy banana muffins as they taste just like banana bread, and have a great recipe from my mother. I have been able to adjust the recipe to meet our new dietary requirements of no sugar or dairy and they taste delicious. The first time I made them I used date sugar as the sugar replacement and though they were very good, they were even better when I tried the  recipe using agave nectar instead. Mhmmm, they turned out so moist and fluffy! They turned out so well that I made them again within a week, not because I had leftover bananas that I needed to use, but because they were such a hit.

So I am sharing with you the banana muffin recipe with agave nectar (the banana bread recipe will come soon). Give it a whirl and try not to eat them all in one sitting! This sugar and dairy free recipe is sure to please everyone in the family!

 

Banana Muffins

1 1/2 c. flour

1/2 c. agave nectar

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

3 large bananas

1 egg

1/3 c. melted Earth Balance

Mash bananas. Add agave nectar and slightly beaten egg. Then add melted Earth Balance. Mix in dry ingredients and mix but do not beat.

Bake at 375 F for 20 minutes.

Makes 12 muffins

Summer Treats -Grasshopper Popsicles

Sharing their first popsicle

Summer time is a great time of year when the days are long and lazy, the kids are off and you are often out playing and enjoying the summer sunshine. With summer comes all the summer treats that we enjoy like ice cream and popsicles.

Luke and Chloe had their first popsicle the other day and loved it! They shared it. It was so cute to watch them licking and biting it, getting it all over their faces and clothes, even though I did have the forethought to put bibs on them.

Anticipating her next bite

I have always made my own popsicles but now with our need to be sugar and dairy free it is even more important for us to do so. I have found the challenge with this change has been to still provide the ‘treats’ that kids are used to and enjoy without the sugar in them. Many store bought brands are full of sugar, artificial colors and flavorings, so in order to enjoy popsicles we have to make them ourselves. Traditionally I have made popsicles using apple or orange juice, or even sometimes juice from the juicer; but I have recently discovered some new, healthy and really yummy recipes for popsicles. The favorite, and the one that Luke and Chloe thoroughly enjoyed the other day, is Grasshopper popsicles. They have banana, blackberries and spinach in them. Yes spinach! What a great way to get those greens in.

I discovered this recipe when I bought my Vitamix this winter. The Vitamix came with a recipe book full of all kinds of sauces, beverages, dips, etc. that I could make with raw organic and sugar free ingredients.

Making your own popsicles is very easy. You can buy popsicle molds at most stores and they are fairly inexpensive. Choosing whatever ‘flavour’ you want you just fill them up, put in the stick and put them in the freezer. Voila! Cool yummy treat!

All done!

So as we enjoy our warm sunny days, where popsicles will become more in demand, I would suggest giving this recipe a whirl. It’s fast and easy -and if you don’t tell your kids what is in it, they probably won’t ask or know the difference. Even when they do find out what is in it, it doesn’t matter to them because they ate it and enjoyed it!

Grasshopper Popsicles – Vitamix

1 c. watergrasshopper popsicles

1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice

2 pitted medjool dates

2 c. spinach

2 c. fresh or frozen blackberries

2 bananas, peeled

Place all ingredients in the Vitamix in the order listed. Select variable 1. Turn the machine on slowly increasing the speed to 10 and then to High. Blend for 30-45 seconds using the tamper if needed to press ingredients into the blades. Pour into popsicle molds and freeze.