Heart Healthy Chocolate Chunk Banana Bread (vegan optional)

Banana Bread flecked with chocolate chunks and walnuts
Banana Bread flecked with chocolate chunks and walnuts
I often find myself with extra bananas past their eating prime, over ripe and brown, which is why I have so many different recipes for baking with super ripe bananas, like these muffins and these cookies or I’ll add them into the daily smoothie that 5 year old Evan often asks for/demands.  But, one of my favorite ways to use extra ripe bananas is, in what else, but banana bread. A slice of banana bread There are a million banana bread recipes out there, but of all I’ve tried, this one is my family’s favorite.  Aside from being super moist, flecked with chocolate chunks and often walnuts, it is lower in fat than many recipes and filled with so many heart healthy ingredients.  I love using bittersweet dark chocolate and even if I use chips I like to chop up the chocolate so you get different size bits with a few chunks.  Honestly, I think even without the chocolate this banana bread would be delicious, but why not indulge a little with chunks of dark chocolate, after all chocolate is a super food too.

Chopped Dark Chocolate

Adapted from Heidi Swanson’s Lemony Olive Oil Banana Bread. Heidi’s recipe calls for a lemony glaze poured over the top of the finished banana bread and while I love the addition of lemon in so many recipes I am not a huge fan of sweet glazes, and I think in this case the banana bread with the addition of great chunks of chocolate and chopped walnuts really stands on its own with no need for an added glaze.  Dry mix for Heart Healthy Banana Bread
Avocado and Olive Oil

The base recipe is fantastic with olive oil and aside from eliminating the glaze I’ve amped up the heart health with the addition of oat bran, avocado and flax.  And if you add in the optional walnuts, you get even more heart healthy benefits since walnuts are a great source of Omega 3’s, aside from adding in a little yummy crunch.  I like the mix of avocado and olive oil, just be sure to really mash the avocado well, but if a few tiny flecks of green remain it’s no big deal. I also like using a combo of one egg plus one “flax egg”.  Egg substitutes are easy to make using 1 Tablespoon of ground flax with about 2 ½ Tablespoons of water per egg.  Mix up the flax and water at the start of putting together the recipe, to allow time for the water to be fully absorbed and gel up a bit.   Again if you prefer, you can always use 2 eggs or go full out doubling the flax and skip the egg altogether. Either way, the banana bread turns out moist and delicious.  Super healthy, Super yummy, what more could you ask for! 
Slices of Heart Healthy Banana Bread with chocolate chunks and walnuts, yum!
Slices of Heart Healthy Banana Bread with chocolate chunks and walnuts, yum!

 

Heart Healthy Chocolate Chunk Banana Bread 

Author: Sweet Green Kitchen’s Jen Jones
Adapted from: Heidi Swanson’s Lemony Olive Oil Banana Bread
Ingredients:
1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour – I use whole wheat pastry flour
¼ cup oat bran
¾ cup brown sugar
¾ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup coarsely chopped bittersweet chocolate – from about 2, 3-4 ounce bars or use chips
½ avocado – well mashed
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 X-large egg (or make it vegan, by doubling the flax and water)
1 Tablespoon ground flax with 2 ½ Tablespoons water (double, if leaving out the egg)
3 very ripe mashed bananas
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Optional (but really good!) ½ cup chopped walnuts
Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease a standard loaf pan, I use olive oil spray or coconut oil.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flax meal and water, set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, oat bran, sugar, baking soda, salt.  Mix in the chocolate chunks.
Once the flax has absorbed the water, add in mashed avocado, olive oil, egg.  Add in mashed banana, and vanilla.  Mix well.
Add the banana mixture into the flour mix, stir until just combined.  If using, mix in walnuts. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan.  Place in the center of your oven and bake for about 50 minutes.  Let cool at least 10 minutes before removing from loaf pan.  Slice up, serve and Enjoy!   
Heart Healthy Chocolate Chunk Banana Bread

Beans & Greens Soup – White & Pinto with Kale & Wheat Berries

white beans, pinto beans with veggies in soup
We were hoodwinked, tricked, fooled!  For a few days, the sun was shining, the temp warmed up, the crocuses were in bloom…I even convinced Evan, who’s 5 and very attached to things staying the same, that it was time to switch from the winter jacket to a nice springy fleece (not an easy task!). Then everything changed. Overnight it became damp, dreary, dark and SO cold again, and to top it all off, Skyler had her first track meet of the Spring season, outside, sitting on metal bleachers for hours! What else could I do, but make soup.  Of course, it’s warmed up a bit in the last day or two, but this soup is yummy no matter what the weather outside is. 
 Beans and Greens Soup with white and pinto beans, wheat berries and kale
Here’s another version of one of our family favorites…beans and greens soup, warming and delicious.  In this version, I’ve used a combination of white beans and pinto beans and a big pile of fresh chopped kale.  I also add in some wheat berries, which I adore in soups like this. The wheat berries cook up nice and al dente, holding up well as leftovers, unlike pasta which continues to absorb broth and turn to mush after a day or two in the fridge. The wheat berries do take a bit of time to cook though. When I have the time or for thought, I like to soak the wheat berries in a bowl of water for a few hours before draining and adding to the soup.  Soaking the wheat berries, will speed up the cooking time and is said to aid in digestibility.  

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Super Simple Kale Salad

Simply dressed kale with olive oil and flaky sea salt, topped with orange segments and almonds

Simply dressed kale with olive oil and flaky sea salt, topped with orange segments and almonds

Super Simple Kale Salad
Author: Sweet Green Kitchen’s Jen Jones
 Ingredients:
1 bunch Kale – cut or torn into bite size pieces
A drizzle of Olive Oil – Use your most flavorful Extra Virgin / or even a nice lemon infused
A sprinkle of Flaked Sea Salt
Directions:
This is the simplest salad you’ll ever make, just 3 ingredients and you’re done.  For the kale, I really like a nice curly or Red Russian variety of kale here.  Pull out the center rib and then just tear off the leaves into bite size pieces, it’s that easy.  Next, drizzle with your most flavorful olive oil, not too little and not too much, just a drizzle.  Now here’s the fun part and perhaps the most time consuming of this super simple recipe, massage the olive oil into the kale leaves until every leaf is glistening.  Top with a sprinkling of flaky sea salt and you’re done!Kale
Oranges and Flaky Sea Salt
Orange segments and slivered almondsNote:  For the most part, I am a big believer in adding acid to my salads, I tend to like most dressings with a higher ratio of acid to oil, but in this case the olive oil and salt speak for themselves, no acid needed.
I like topping this easy salad with some roasted squash or sweet potatoes and maybe some chick peas too if I’m in the mood for a great vegan main dish.  This would also be delicious topped with your favorite protein whether it be, grilled salmon, shrimp or chicken or my simple pan fried tofu or even a dollop of goat cheese or shaved pecorino, or as I’ve done here with my Maple Orange Tempeh, topped with a few clementines and almonds.  Enjoy! 

 

Super Simple Kale Salad with Maple Orange Tempeh

Super Simple Kale Salad with Maple Orange Tempeh

Maple Orange Tempeh

Maple Orange Tempeh over Kale Salad
 Hands down, this is my new favorite way to prepare and eat tempeh, and lime is now my new favorite citrus (I know, shocking, since lemon seems to star in so many of my other recipes!). maple orange tempeh marinade
Cubes of tempeh are marinated in a mix of orange juice, maple syrup, soy sauce and sriracha, with a little squeeze of lime for acidity.  tempeh in maple orange marinademarinating tempeh
After marinating, the tempeh is then cooked to a golden brown and then glazed in the sticky, sweet and slightly spicy marinade, making it both the marinade and sauce. cooking tempeh
caramelized tempeh cooking in marinade
Quick, easy, and delicious!  If tempeh is not your thing, don’t despair, I imagine the marinade/glaze would be equally delicious on your protein of choice; tofu, shrimp, chicken, etc. 
I serve this tempeh with a side of greens and black rice or aside spicy peanut noodles, or as I have it here as a topping for Super Simple Kale Salad with Orange & Almonds. Also delicious with my Kale Salad with Creamy Cashew Dressing or Raw Root Asian Slaw. It’s delicious any way you choose!

 

Maple Orange Tempeh
Author: Sweet Green Kitchen’s Jen Jones
Adapted from “Salad Samurai” by Terry Hope Romero
Ingredients:
1 pound Tempeh – 2 packages
¾ cup Orange Juice
3 Tablespoons lite Soy Sauce (Organic or non GMO)
2 Tablespoons Maple Syrup
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 ½ teaspoons Sriracha Sauce
Zest & Juice of ½ Lime
Plus Coconut Oil for cooking

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Citrus, Black Bean and Avocado Salad

Sweet, juicy and delicious citrus tossed with creamy black beans and avocado

Sweet, juicy and delicious citrus tossed with creamy black beans and avocado

It’s been a very long, cold and snowy winter here in New York and many other parts of the country and I’m happy to feel Spring poking it’s head out of all the winter white with some 40 degree weather this week!  I also love to get a little taste of sunshine this time of year with a bite of in season citrus fruits.  Oranges, clementines, grapefruits are all in season now and add a nice refreshing twist to this winter salad.   

Citrus Black Bean and Avocado Salad

There’s citrus in the salad along with black beans and creamy avocados and citrus in the dressing with a little extra freshness from chopped cilantro.

sweet and juicy citrus dressing

sweet and juicy citrus dressing

citrus dressing with black beans

citrus dressing with black beans

This bright, colorful, fruity salad is simple and delicious.  I like to eat this atop some crunchy Romaine leaves alongside cheesy quesadillas, or top with your protein of choice for a nice light main dish salad.

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