Our humble yellow friend the banana is one of nature’s most handy and healthful snacks that packs a hefty dose of vitamins and nutrients in a convenient mobile package. One of the first foods that many babies eat in this country, bananas are so omnipresent that they can be overlooked in favor of trendier fruits like lychees or pomegranates.
But look again - there are many uses for the banana that you could be missing! Most of these ideas work best with bananas that are ripe but not too ripe, with very little green and a few brown spots. And of course, buy organic bananas whenever possible.
- Freeze it. Slice a banana in half and insert a popsicle stick in each flat end. Drizzle chocolate syrup or honey over each and cover with chopped nuts or granola. Wrap each piece of banana in wax paper and freeze for several hours, then unwrap and enjoy your homemade banana-sicle!
- Dip it. Chocolate-covered strawberries may get all the attention, but the banana-chocolate combo is one that’s very hard to beat. For a real dessert treat, heat your favorite chocolate fondue recipe (or just use chocolate pudding) and serve with sliced bananas. Dip each banana slice in the chocolate and then roll in flaked coconut for a delicious take on dessert fondue.
- Mash it. Adding mashed banana to baking dough makes it a moist sensation. The next time you’re cooking pancakes, throw a mashed banana in with your dough (just smash it on a plate with a fork). Blend well, then pour onto the griddle. Nut lovers can sprinkle a few chopped walnuts or pecans onto the face of the pancake before flipping it over, which will roast the nuts slightly. Serve with maple syrup to smiling faces.
- Flambé it. Most people don’t cook their bananas, but paired with vanilla ice cream, bananas flambé is a five-star dessert. Heat one tablespoon of sunflower oil in a small skillet. Slice a banana lengthwise, then cook for five minutes on each side. Add two tablespoons of sugar and ¼ cup white rum to the pan; light on fire immediately and flambé your banana until most of the liquor has been consumed. Squeeze a touch of lime juice on top and serve to your impressed friends.
- Wear it. The fruit acids in a banana help to slough off dead skin and brighten the complexion. To make a mask, mash one banana with one teaspoon of honey. Apply to face and neck, avoiding the eye area. Leave on for fifteen minutes then wash away with warm water.
- Yonana it. A new gizmo called Yonanas whips frozen bananas into a dairy-free, ice cream-y treat whose texture will make you swear you’re eating the real thing – but without all the added sugar, fat and calories of ice cream. The countertop gadget goes for $50 and will make a believer out of you!
- Blend it. Anytime you have a banana that is about to go bad, peel it and break it into chunks before freezing it in a plastic baggie. The next time you want a smoothie, you will be a splash of juice and a handful of fruit away from a cheap and filling banana shake.
- Pudding it. Banana pudding is a star player on dessert tables in the South, and it’s very simple to make, using your favorite vanilla pudding. Line a bowl or pan with one layer of vanilla wafer cookies (like Country Choice Organic Vanilla Wafers), then follow that with a layer of banana slices and a layer of pudding. Repeat these three layers until the bowl is full, ending with a layer of pudding. Decorate the top with extra cookies if you prefer, then let the dish refrigerate for at least an hour before eating – the cookies will become soft, and the layers of pudding keep the banana fresh for days. Everyone will love this dessert!
- Lunch it. You’ve been saving money by taking your lunch to work, but are a little bored with PB&J. Try a PB&B – peanut butter and banana – sandwich, reputed to be Elvis’ favorite. A PB&B is always a hit with the youngsters and goes down best with a glass of organic milk.
- Grill it. Slice an unpeeled banana lengthwise, not cutting through the other side as to make a pocket. Stuff with chopped nuts, chocolate chips, pieces of butterscotch, coconut flakes or anything else that floats your banana boat. Put them on a hot grill over indirect heat and cook until the skins are black and the banana is soft inside. Enjoy!