Friday, September 12, 2008

Light Banana Bread: I Think I Got It

Cooking Light Magazine has been a consistent, usually reliable resource for the recipes on this site. With a few flagrant exceptions, their dishes have ranged from edible to outstanding – especially the desserts, the flavors of which are oases of indulgence in the arid, dusty landscape of my (many) diet(s).

Here’s the thing, though: CL’s portion sizes? Can be pretty ridiculous sometimes. In order to make a dish seem lighter, they’ll often increase the number of cake wedges, lemon bars, and cobbler scoops one can pull from a standard-issue baking pan. In other words, instead of eight medium-sized, 333-calorie slices of pumpkin pie, you get 12 tiny, 222-calorie slices. It’s kind of cheating.

Don’t get me wrong. I understand part of healthy eating is portion control. We (especially us Americans) have to learn to identify human-appropriate slabs of food, as opposed to those large enough to feed a sperm whale. But still - it’s unreasonable to ask for 16 individual brownies out of an 8x8 dish. Dieters won’t be pleased, and non-dieters will burn you for sacrilege.

Take Mom’s Banana Bread f’r instance. According to 132 reviewers, there’s no arguing with the taste. They claim it’s moist, banana-y, and delicious, and even better with spices and walnuts. Here’s the catch, though: CL tells us to cut a 9-inch loaf into 20 pieces. Sure, the calories will be reduced, but each slice will be less than 1/2-inch thick - barely enough to keep it from falling apart.

Still, the reviews for the MBB are so glowing, I wanted to see if I could lighten it further without sacrificing the flavor. And you know what? I think I got it. With these revisions, each loaf can be cut into 12 pieces at 164 calories and 2.7 grams of fat each (or, for you WW folks out there, 3 points). And? AND? It will still taste like normal, unaltered banana bread. Whee!

Ultimately, I dig Cooking Light and won’t stop frequenting the website, but’d love to see them address the portion issue. It’d attract more viewers, I think, or at least be less frustrating for their current ones. Readers? Opinions?

P.S. Here’re the changes, just in case you wanna compare. To bring down the calorie count, I:
  • reduced the sugar from 1 cup to 2/3rds of a cup, saving about 260 calories.
  • reduced the butter from ¼ cup to 2-1/2 tablespoons, saving about 150 calories and 17 grams of fat
  • reduced the sour cream by a tablespoon, and switched it from low-fat to non-fat, saving 45 calories and 6 grams of fat
  • reduced the skim milk by a tablespoon, saving … okay, only about 8 calories.
  • added cinnamon, nutmeg, and a dash of vanilla extract.
Banana Bread
Makes 12 servings
Adapted from Cooking Light.

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
2/3 cup sugar
2-1/2 T butter, softened
1 1/2 cups mashed ripe banana (about 4 bananas)
3 T skim milk
3 T fat-free sour cream or vanilla yogurt
2 large egg whites
½ t vanilla extract
Cooking spray

1) Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat loaf pan with cooking spray.

2) In a large bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Set aside.

3) In a different large mixing bowl OR stand mixer bowl, combine sugar and butter. "Beat at medium speed of a mixer until well-blended." Stop beater. Add banana, milk, sour cream, and egg whites. Resume beating until well combined.

4) Pour flour mixture into banana mixture and beat until everything is well-blended.

5) Pour batter into loaf pan. Bake 60 or 70 minutes, or until loaf passes the toothpick test. (Insert a toothpick in the middle of the bread. If it comes out clean, you're golden.) Remove from oven. Let sit for 10 minutes on a wire rack. Pry bread from pan and let it cool totally on that same wire rack. For best flavor, wrap in tin foil and let sit overnight.

Approximate Calories, Fat, and Price Per Serving
164 calories, 2.7 g fat, $0.17

2/3 cup sugar: 515 calories, 0 g fat, $0.21
2-1/2 T butter, softened: 255 calories, 28.8 g fat, $0.15
1 2/3 cups mashed ripe banana (about 4 bananas): 200 calories, 0.7 g fat, $0.96
3 T skim milk: 18 calories, 0.2 g fat, $0.05
3 T fat-free sour cream or vanilla yogurt: 31 calories, 0 g fat, $0.14
2 large egg whites: 34 calories, 0.1 g fat, $0.22
½ t vanilla extract: 1 calorie, 0 g fat, $0.06
2 cups all-purpose flour: 910 calories, 2.5 g fat, $0.18
1 teaspoon baking soda: negligible calories and fat, $0.01
1/2 teaspoon salt: negligible calories and fat, $0.01
½ teaspoon cinnamon: 3 calories, 0 g fat, $0.02
¼ teaspoon nutmeg: 3 calories, 0.2 g fat, $0.01
TOTAL: 1970 calories, 32.5 g fat, $2.02
PER SERVING (TOTAL/12): 164 calories, 2.7 g fat, $0.17

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suzannah said...

i hear ya on CL's diminutive portions. i am gonna try this out tonight--thanks!

Toni said...

Hmm, all my life I have cut my 8x8 pan of brownies into 16 portions, even before I started watching my weight. I do love your blog though! Just thought I'd mention that might not be all that strange to everybody. :-)

Slendarella said...

This sounds wonderful. I'm gonna try it! Cher

Daniel Koontz said...

Totally agree. And not just with inflated portion data. There's nothing I hate more than spending an hour making a recipe that claims to involve 20 minutes of prep time (and I'm a fast cook). Or making a recipe that supposedly "serves 4" and my wife and I go back for seconds and find nothing left.

I think cooking publications (and blogs) have an ethical obligation to make sure the data on their recipes is at least remotely accurate.

But as for the 8x8 pan of brownies... heck that's only four pieces in my book. :)

Casual Kitchen

Emily said...

LOL, I just came across your blog and I absolutely agree with you. My husband and I subscribe to CL and aboslutely dore it..BUT, the portion sizes are a bit on the ridiculous side. Hubby is 6'4, 217 and in the Army..after a long day a mini brownie is not what he wants!

Anonymous said...

Gotta disagree with you on the brownies - 2x2" seems entirely reasonable to me, and is the way I've seen most people cut them. If it's not enough, have another, but if it is you won't finish the "other half" of the brownie just because it's there.

It's only at restaurants and coffee shops that I've seen the giant better-save-room-for-dessert portions of cake, brownies, and cookies.

cherie said...

5yo Clara and I made your banana bread yesterday - don't even ask how the egg separating went with my 'fine motor challenged' 5yo LOL - and it was a huge hit - we used the yogurt rather than sour cream as it's what we had on hand and I think I had more banana than needed [I used 3 - and it was WAY too much LOL - some went into the smoothie stockpile in the freezer bt it was still more than 1.5 c and fine] The baking time was on the money too which is quite unusual for banana bread recipes and my oven for some reason - thanks for a great adaptation!

suzannah said...

thanks for a great recipe! i used yogurt, too, and loved the crust. delicious.

Jana said...

Thanks! I've been making lots of banana bread lately, since I can't deal w/throwing overripe bananas out with today's food prices. This one is probably a lot better for me than the normal one I make that's laden with sour cream and butter. Especially since I usually end up eating it with cream cheese or peanut butter. Yum! Yay for healthy things!

serenader said...

I made this yesterday and it turned out great. As someone who normally doesn't keep butter around the house, but uses lower-fat spreads for bagels/toast and olive oil for frying and such, can the butter be substituted with something like olive oil?

Kris said...

Serenader, I'm so glad you liked it. I would hesitate to sub in olive oil for the butter, but there might be a suitable spread. (Smart Balance maybe? Applesauce?)

If you'd like to try oil, I'd go with a veggie over olive variety.

Kristi said...

I made this for my family, who visited over Thanksgiving, and everyone loved it! Both my picky husband and my grandmother, who was her own tried and true (fat and sugar laden) recipe, went back for seconds.

And there is no way an 8x8 pan makes 16 servings...I mean seriously, pictures someone setting out a plate of 1 square inch brownies. It would look ridiculous! I'm not saying it wouldn't be better for you, but just in my book that is a bite not a brownie... :)

Anonymous said...

hey. thanks for the tip on the banana bread. Is it possible to replace the sugar with Splenda or something similar? same quantity?

and the butter... with something 'lighter'..?


Kris said...

Hi Anon - You might be able to swap in Splenda, but I'd leave the butter as-is. There's so little, and it's really needed for taste. Let us know how it goes if you try.

mgaltier said...

Thank you for this recipe!! We ALWAYS end up with overripe bananas in my house, and I'm always on the lookout for recipe that presents a healthful way to use them up. A batch of this bread is baking right now, and my house smells fantabulous!

moush said...

If you're not ready to bake at the moment you realize you'd better use your bananas "or else," just pop the overripe bananas into the freezer as is--whole and unpeeled. On baking day, defrost what you need and just squeeze the bananas out of their peels into your bowl. "Bad bananas make good banana bread."

Michele said...

Hi! I made your version of the recipe and I'll be posting it on my blog with a link to yours and credit to you of course! I think I will post it tomorrow or friday. If you'd like to see it, my blog is


Darlene said...

I'm so happy I stumbled upon your blog as I always love trying new recipes and enjoy keeping things on the healthier side since my significant other has a major sweet tooth and will eat pretty much any and all junk food he can find. This is the first recipe I have tried so far and am anxiously awaiting the results (although it smells yummy!). I had way too many bananas, so I added an extra 50% of everything. I didn't see the vanilla though since I had my little helper reading off the step by step instructions and the vanilla wasn't mentioned there! Hopefully the results will still be delicious. :)

caseynjason said...

I have some cooking right now! My sister brought our family some chocolate chip banana bread, but at 280 cals a slice, I won't go near it on my diet, but now I am desperately craving it! I added 3T of cocoa to make it chocolate banana bread, and it only adds 3 calories a slice!

Mirya said...

I just made these, but I made them into muffins. So, so good and lots of crispy edges. Quicker, also, as they only needed to bake for 22 minutes.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know what the Dietary Fiber would be for this bread?

kgill said...

made this recipe a couple of weeks ago for myself and grand kids and it was a huge hit. They are waiting anxiously for me to make it again today! Great!

Ebroe said...

We cannot eat our bananas fast enough these days, so I have been making lots of banana bread in the past few weeks. Tried this recipe, as I was not happy with other "healthy" versions and this was a winner! Good banana flavor, just the right sweetness level and tender. I used 1/2 whole wheat flour and 1/2 white flour for a tad more fiber. Great!

mimi said...

Do you gut have any ligth fudge recepies ??

Anonymous said...

The bread tasted like pumpkin bread. Mabe it's partially because I forgot the vanilla, but in the future I will definitely omit the nutmeg. Also, I baked for 75 minutes and the texture is too moist. Is there an easy way to make it slightly drier?