Going Bananas...

A bowl of diced banana with half cup of milk, sweetened with a teaspoon sugar awaited us everyday after school. After school snack was very simple when I was growing. “Did you not get bored eating that everyday”, my twelve-year old daughter gasped!

“Not really” I smiled, “Sometimes I would sneak in an extra spoon of sugar or two, when my mother was not looking”. I never dared to complain about having the same snack everyday, because I knew what my mother would have said, “Stay hungry till dinner then”

Hygienically packed in its thick soft skin, full of nutrition, easy to digest, Bananas are one of nature's ideal snacks. It is perhaps the cheapest and the most extensively eaten fruit. Rich and poor, young and old alike relish the humble banana.

This humble fruit is a powerhouse of nutrition and good health. Cooked or ripe bananas are very well digested and the nutrients are absorbed well. This fruit is a fair source of B vitamins and calcium. It contains appreciable amounts of many trace minerals as well as fiber. Apart from this, the fruit has many important acids, enzymes and physiologically important chemical compounds. Banana is a good source of potassium, which is a vital mineral for muscle and nerve functions. Potassium also helps to regulate blood pressure. They also contain a high level of natural sugar in both their fresh and dried form, which they release quickly into the blood stream. This explains why many athletes, especially tennis players, often eat banana before and in between competition.

Bananas should be stored at room temperature for ripening purpose. Do not keep it in the fridge as it prevents ripening of the fruit.

My late father would say that the banana flavor is at its peak when it develops small black dots on them. But once the banana has ripened, it cannot be kept for long as it spoils easily. Very often I land up with a couple of very ripe bananas, which no one in my family enjoys. I have found various ways to enjoy very ripe bananas. They taste great in banana milk shake, or smoothies. But by far the best way to enjoy over ripe banana is banana bread.

My friend Sarita Chugh bakes the most divine Banana-Date cake with cocoa. It has moistness of banana with mellow sweetness from dates and the perfect crunch on top of the cake with Chocolate chips and nuts. By far this is the best tasting cake I have ever eaten and it has healthy ingredients too. So go ahead eat without any guilt!

Simply Divine Banana Cake

1 cup dates, finely chopped
1 ½ cups water, boiling
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ cup unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup ripe banana pulp
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 ½ cup all purpose flour
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1 teaspoon salt
6 ounces chocolate chips
½ cup walnuts or almonds

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour 9 inch square pan. Keep aside.Mix dates and water, bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Cool, then stir in soda.

In mixing bowl, cream together butter and 1 cup of the sugar. Add eggs and vanilla and blend until smooth. Mix flour, cocoa, and salt. Add flour mixture and dates to creamed mixture and beat together until blended. Pour batter into prepared pan.

Mix together the remaining 1/2 cup sugar, chocolate chips and walnuts. Sprinkle over top of cake.

Bake for 55 minutes, or until cake tests done.