buttermilk banana bread with coconut palm sugar

Truthfully I can’t remember where or when I first heard about coconut palm sugar, even though it was very recently, but when I saw some at the local market and it wasn’t ridiculously expensive I decided to try it. Coconut palm sugar is made by harvesting the nutrient-rich juice from the coconut palm tree flower and evaporating the liquid out in a kettle drum. It has the same number of calories as regular sugar, but it’s got a low glycemic index, meaning that the sugar is released much more slowly and doesn’t spike your blood glucose levels (I read that it raises your blood sugar about as much as milk or cooked carrots). It’s also completely natural and unrefined (read the label though, as I’ve heard of some non-organic brands trying to mix it with regular sugar to make it cheaper), and has the added bonus of containing Vitamins B1, B2, B3, and B6, and potassium, magnesium, zinc, and iron. Now I’m not calling any sugar a health food, but if you’re going to cook or bake with it, why not use a healthiER sugar?

So yesterday I made a banana bread because there were three over-ripe (at least by my standards!) bananas lying around, as well as buttermilk left over from last week’s homemade ricotta experiment. I combined the bananas with 2 eggs, 1/3 cup buttermilk, about 2/3 cup applesauce (instead of oil or butter), and 1/4 tsp vanilla extract. Then I mixed the dry ingredients separately and then added them to the wet mixture: 1 1/2 cups coconut palm sugar, 1 cup white flour & 1 cup whole wheat flour, 1 tsp baking soda, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp ground cloves, 1/8 tsp nutmeg (spices are optional – I like them). At the end I stirred in some Ghiradelli dark chocolate chips (optional, again, or you could add nuts) and baked it at 325 for about an hour and 35 minutes. Between the whole wheat flour and the dark color of the coconut sugar, you will get a very dark looking loaf, but the taste is rich and caramel-y. Good for breakfast, dessert, a snack…. you get the idea…

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coconut avocado brownies

So at the beginning of this semester, I spent several weeks writing a proposal for my food science class on avocado as a fat-replacer to make healthier brownies, only to have it deemed not worthy of being tested out for real in the lab! (Only 6% of recipes were chosen, but still. Bitter.) So I figured since I’d put all that work into the idea, I might as well test it out at home. But if you’re going to get experimental with brownies, why not get really experimental?

Those of you who know me know that I hate wasting anything. I had a bag of shredded coconut in the fridge left over from cookies I made in February, and it had gotten all dry. I didn’t know if there was anything I could do with dried-out coconut, so I decided to throw it into the spice grinder and see if I could make coconut “flour.” Well, I wouldn’t call the consistency of what came out “flour” exactly, but for this it seemed to serve its purpose. I also used agave nectar instead of refined sugar and tried egg whites instead of eggs. Also, many of these amounts were sort of eyeballed, so I apologize if you have to adjust. Precision isn’t exactly my thing. (Hmm, why didn’t my recipe didn’t get picked in food science class?). So here’s what I did: In a big bowl, mix the following with a hand blender (or you could puree in a food processor): 1 small/medium avocado, 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, 1/2 cup coconut “flour,” 1/3 cup light agave nectar (you could use honey instead), 3/4 tsp baking powder, tiny pinch of salt, 1/3 cup egg whites (if you’re vegan, as I’m sure you know, you can make flax eggs) and 1 tsp vanilla. Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes or until a knife comes out clean.
Warning: these will be fudgy. Almost non-brownie-like, and they don’t rise very much at all! The flavor was good but this batch came out a bit salty, so in this recipe above I already adjusted for that, which hopefully fixes the problem. Try it! And feel free to change things and give me feedback. You pretty much have nothing to lose when playing with chocolate.

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