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When Life Gives You Bananas …

January 8, 2016


… you make banana nut bread, ok? If you want my story, read on. If you want to skip to this rather easy and delicious recipe from Mennonite Recipes of the Shenandoah Valley, (Phyllis Pellman Good and Kate Good, Good Books), scroll down.

This is a story of travel and bananas and guilt and not throwing out $2.00 worth of perfectly decent food that traveled 1822 miles to get to your home in North America. The average American household wastes $640 worth of food a year.  I think I’ve read other sources that puts the waste at over $1000 a year. My father was a great preacher on food waste and practiced what he preached, as I wrote about previously, here.

Ever since I read Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life (published 2007) and learned about eating more locally, I’ve felt guilty about my banana habit. We just about always have them on hand, or I panic. I’m afraid I taught my daughters if they get a headache in the middle of the night and need to take something, to eat at least half a banana so the meds don’t upset their tummies. Sometimes for me, just eating the banana makes the headache go away. For real, or maybe it’s in my head, I don’t care as long as it works. That’s why the panic.

My father had to have a banana every day and even if they went brown and mushy, he’d pile his banana on his cornflakes and just eat it like they were fresh off the tree.

Then my sister spent a semester in Tegucigalpa, Honduras through Goshen College’s early SST program, where she rhapsodized over the thrill of walking out of her home there to eat bananas right off the tree, and how wonderful they were, perfectly ripened and ate fresh and not shipped 1822 miles. (That’s the distance from Tegucigalpa to Washington D.C., by the way, which is just 110 miles from me.) She also put on about 10 pounds that semester, and she blamed the bananas and of course her “madre’s” wonderful Central American cooking. Believe me, her nanas didn’t look like this.


Back to how I ended up with four dreadful looking bananas and what I did with them. I had purchased a couple of bananas right before we went on a trip to visit my mother for New Year because I always like to travel with bananas because, you know, the headache issue. Mother had bought bananas for my husband and I because she thought my husband had to have bananas with his cereal like her husband always did. Not true, but you know how that goes too! Well, he’s cutting back on them because of sugar content (although I’d argue they’re quite ok in moderation), so he didn’t eat the overload of bananas either. I know Mom would worry about what to do with her bananas if I didn’t take them off her hand, so we headed home with some of these. And then I found another in my fridge at home wasting away, and I thought, banana nut bread time.

Which I took to the office for the post-holiday enjoyment of all. End of story. Next time I’ll shave 1/4 sugar off this recipe and I’m sure it will still be delish. It could probably handle some whole wheat flour or oatmeal in it, too. Honestly, the hardest thing about this bread is getting it out of the pan, so pay attention to the instructions at the end.

Banana Nut Bread

1 cup sugar
1/3 cup butter, softened
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups mashed bananas (3-4 medium sized bananas, can be overripe)
1/3 cup water
1 2/3 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 cup chopped nuts

  1. Cream together sugar and butter. Stir in eggs until well blended.
  2. Add bananas and water. Beat 30 seconds.
  3. Stir in flour, baking soda, salt and baking powder, mixing just until moistened.
  4. Fold in nuts.
  5. Pour into loaf pan which has been greased only on the bottom. Bake at 350 for 55-60 minutes, until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.
  6. Cool 5 minutes in pan. Loosen edges of loaf from pan, then remove from pan. Cool completely before slicing. This recipe made one large loaf and one mini-loaf for sampling!

Recipe  by Jessica Babkirk, of Harrisonburg, Va.


I’m trying to waste less food this year. How about you? What food do you have to throw away most frequently? What is your best “save” for food past its prime?


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  1. Your reflection on bananas hit home. I hate to waste food and if something goes bad because it was pushed to the back of the fridge or if bananas get over-ripe, I feel guilty (terribly guilty) throwing anything away . . . the PA Dutch in me, Mennonite frugality, whatever.

    Like your sister, I’d love to pick bananas right off the tree. Then I could choose one just a wee bit under-ripe. I used to make banana bread regularly. I don’t much anymore.

    I believe I read Barbara Kingsolver’s book some time ago. Nicely researched post, Melodie. 😉

  2. I like my bananas on the under-ripe side as well. Actually, this is only the 2nd time I made banana bread I think, my husband is not a huge fan. And even as overripe as these bananas looked (I did cut out some pure brown mushy spots) they truly worked for the bread. I heard you can also freeze bananas for uses like this.

    I’m limping by without our normal online hook up at home due to a snafu, so … until then, not posting a lot!! Thanks for always checking in, Marian.

  3. Margaret Weir permalink

    I freeze over-ripe bananas, and have found that they make the best banana bread because they’re just a puddle of banana goop when they thaw out. A few year ago, I started adding chocolate chips to the mix, and it’s positively decadent. Nobody here likes nuts in things, so I’ve never added them.

  4. Glad to know that freezing them actually works, and removes the need to mash them. Mine were soft enough for this batch that I just put them in with all the ingredients in my big stand mixer and didn’t need to mash them either. Interesting switch up of choc chips for nuts. I’m kinda nutty that way. But families and people are different! Thanks for chiming in, Margaret.

  5. I made banana muffins over Christmas, Melodie, and this was the recipe my mom also had always used. It was the best way to use very ripe bananas, and occasionally she’d toss in a cupful of fresh blueberries and then sprinkle almond slivers on the top (my dad didn’t like bananas to start with, and overripe ones, absolutely not, so she disguised them.) 🙂

    • We had very different dads!! Thanks for adding her twist:–the blueberries and almond slivers. I add almond slivers to my cereal almost every morning. The added nutrition of the blueberries and almonds in the banana bread is wonderful! So now we’ve got choc chips, pecans, blueberries, and almonds in there …. hmmm, I’ll have to give them another whirl. 🙂

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