Counter Action: Banana–maple granola

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Yes, it’s still Sugar-Free January.

Yes, I know maple sugar is technically a sugar. My dad’s a diabetic, and people are forever coming up to him at church potlucks and saying, “I know you’re diabetic, so I made these cookies especially for you. They have no sugar, just maple syrup.”

Pro tip? Don’t be that person. Google is your friend.

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Further pro tip: Do be the kind of person who thinks ahead in December, and specifically resolves to give up all refined sugars in January except for maple syrup.

See, I’m taking care of you. We all need a little diet-cheating now and again, and if that cheat is all-natural and comes from a tree, all the better.

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This was the break room today — arrgh, so tempting.

This granola will make your house small aaahhh-mazing. It’ll make your boyfriend’s (or girlfriend’s) nose twitch and heart soften. You’ll sit down to hot bowls of granola, straight out of the oven, and wonder how you both got so lucky.

Granola: It’s what’s for dinner.

Banana–maple granola

(Modified for Sugar-Free January from Minimalist Baker)

Ingredients:

  • 3 c. old-fashioned rolled oats (not the quick kind)
  • 1 c. chopped nuts (whatever you have on hand; I used a mix of walnuts and pecans, but sunflower seeds or honey-roasted peanuts would be nifty too)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 T. cinnamon
  • 1/4 c. olive oil
  • 1/3 c. maple syrup
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 overripe banana, smashed

Directions:

  1. Combine all ingredients in large bowl.
  2. Turn out onto baking sheet (lined with parchment paper if you’re like me and don’t like doing the dishes). Spread evenly over baking sheet.
  3. Bake at 350 degrees F 25–30 minutes, or until golden brown, stirring once or twice to break up clumps. (Unless you like clumps. Clumps can be good too.)
  4. Serve straight out of the oven with milk and fruit, or room-temperature with the same. Enjoy!
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Browned butter banana bread with toasted pecans

Do you remember meeting your significant other’s family for the first time?

Do you remember what you wore? How nervous you were? Whether your significant other gave you hope, or reasons to fear?

(“Aunt Jeannie will be there. She … um. Well. You’ll see.”)

I just met my boyfriend’s parents and brother last month, and now that Christmas is here, I’m slowly meeting everyone else. The aunts. The uncles. The best friends and their girlfriends/fiancées/wives.

It’s been interesting. They’re all fiercely protective of my boyfriend, as well they should be. They’re all lovely, sweet, welcoming people, but I’ve been doing some serious PR work on my own behalf, let me tell you.

Fortunately, part of my strategy is baking, and everyone loves baked goods. For my first visit, I took apple crisp, which swifly disappeared. For this visit, I took banana bread. I accidentally left the eggs out, but you know, the bread still hangs together pretty well.

Just like this relationship will, I hope. Just like my relationships with this family will, going forward.

Here’s hoping.

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Browned butter banana bread with toasted pecans

Ingredients:

7 overripe bananas, mashed

1/2 c. buttermilk

2 tsp. vanilla extract

1 c. butter, browned

4 c. flour

1-1/4 c. sugar

2 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 c. chopped pecans, toasted

Directions:

  1. Dice butter into small saucepan. Cook over low heat until just barely nutty-brown. Remove immediately from heat.
  2. Combine butter, mashed bananas, vanilla, and buttermilk.
  3. Toast pecans over medium heat in medium saucepan, stirring frequently. Remove when toasted, and combine with flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.
  4. Fold dry ingredients into wet ingredients, and stir to combine. Pour into two loaf pans.
  5. Bake 60 minutes at 350 degrees. Let cool before removing from pan and enjoying.

Counter Action: Chocolate-chip zucchini bread

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I have only two photos of this zucchini bread. Like Sasquatch, it disappeared before better documentation could occur. Unlike Sasquatch, its appearance at a party will incur oohs, aahs, and offers of friendship.

I guess Sasquatch might do that too, at a very specific kind of party.

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Or any day in Seattle.

When it comes to baked goods, I have to keep a firm eye on myself. I have a sweet tooth the size of Manhattan, and if I’m not careful, my production of sweet baked things will quickly outpace my creation of … you know … anything based on vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. Earlier this month, I was a steady stream of praises for Joy the Baker’s amazingly moist vegan pumpkin–walnut bread. The week after that, I was reveling in this healthy(ish) chocolate cake (zucchini, applesauce, and whole-wheat flour, folks!) from Yammie’s Noshery. Last week I made a gingersnap apple crisp for a potluck, and while I didn’t get any in the end, it sure smelled good in the oven. Now the only thing holding me back from these zucchini bread bars with browned butter frosting is the lack of powdered sugar in the house. That’s probably best for everyone, I think.

If Mrs. Weasley can have a clock to keep track of her family, I see no reason why I can't have a clock that tells me when to eat biscuits.

This is my version of the Weasley family clock. “What time is it? Twelve minutes late for biscuits.”

I’ve halved the sugar in this zucchini bread, as I often do in my baked goods. Sugar and butter are too often used to cover up deficiencies in flavour and texture, and while this bread is pretty simple, it does have some great features that deserve to be shown off. The zucchini makes it moist and a little colourful, the crumb is firm yet tender, and the chocolate chips make it a little more festive. This would be a great bread for a shower or a special brunch — or as dessert at a low-pressure, no-frills dinner.

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Chocolate chip–zucchini bread

(based on Paula Deen’s recipe)

Ingredients:

  • 3 c. flour
  • ½ tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. cinnamon
  • ½ tsp. nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 1 c. vegetable oil
  • 2 c. grated zucchini (about 1½ small zucchini)
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2/3 c. dark chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. Sift together flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and baking soda.
  2. Beat together eggs, sugar, and oil. Add vanilla and zucchini.
  3. Combine dry and wet ingredients.
  4. Fold in chocolate chips.
  5. Pour into two greased loaf pans. Bake at 350°F for about 50 minutes. Keep in sealed container at room temperature for 3–4 days.

Ideas for variations:

  • Substitute 1 c. pumpkin puree for the zucchini.
  • Swap out 1 c. flour for 1 c. whole-wheat flour.
  • Add ½ c. toasted chopped almonds at step 4.
  • Substitute browned butter for the vegetable oil.
  • Add the zest of 1 orange at step 2.
  • To add a little extra greenness, replace the oil with 1 c. mashed avocado.
  • Replace half the sugar with maple syrup, replace the zucchini with applesauce, and use maple chips instead of chocolate chips. (For bonus points, drizzle with a simple maple glaze like this one from Taste of Home — or go all-out and use the Pioneer Woman’s maple frosting.)

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Photo credits: Sasquatch from Wikimedia Commons; clock from PublicDomainPictures on Pixabay.