Banana Appeal

Go beyond the banana split with our potassium-rich, heart-healthy recipes for Roasted Banana Buckwheat Pancakes and Banana Toffee Chocolate Bites
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Roasted Banana Buckwheat Pancakes
Makes 12 3-inch pancakes

Kids and adults will quickly devour these moist breakfast treats. Garnish with walnuts and fresh banana slices.

2 ripe medium bananas, unpeeled

2 large organic eggs

2 Tbs. canola oil

1/2 tsp. almond extract

1 1/4 cups organic 2% milk

3/4 cup buckwheat pancake mix (such as Hodgson Mill)

Maple syrup, for drizzling

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Place unpeeled bananas on baking sheet. Roast in oven until blackened and soft, about 10 minutes. Cool until bananas can be handled. Slice peels open, and squeeze cooked bananas into small bowl. Reduce oven heat to 175°F to keep pancakes warm.
  3. Whisk together eggs, oil, and almond extract in medium bowl. Whisk in milk, then pancake mix, then bananas. Let batter sit at least 5 minutes.
  4. Spray large nonstick skillet with canola oil cooking spray, and place over medium heat. Make pancakes in batches, using scant ¼ cup batter for each pancake. Transfer cooked pancakes to platter in oven as you go. Serve with warm maple syrup on side.

PER SERVING: 88 CAL; 3 G PROT; 4 G TOTAL FAT (1 G SAT FAT); 11 G CARB; 38 MG CHOL; 112 MG SOD; 1 G FIBER; 4 G SUGARS

DID YOU KNOW?

Bananas are the No. 2 most popular fruit in the world, only second to the apple.

Imagine yourself in the Garden of Eden. You see Eve standing uncomfortably beneath the broad-leafed greenery, and there's the sly serpent whispering into her ear, "Go ahead, taste it, it's deliciousssss..." She hesitantly reaches up and plucks-a banana?

The Koran, in fact, states that the forbidden fruit was indeed a banana. And some historians claim it may very well be the oldest cultivated fruit in the world. Though native to Southeast Asia, evidence suggests bananas were first tended in Papua New Guinea as many as 10,000 years ago. Their introduction to the New World, where they would eventually become a dominant commercial crop, was accomplished by Portuguese traders who brought them from Africa to Santo Domingo in the early 1500s.

Whether you're enjoying your banana in an elegant dessert or fried up with a goat stew, you're getting a serious nutritional boost. Potassium and fiber are two nutrients here, but lesser lights include vitamins C and B6, calcium, and magnesium. The massive dose of potassium-467 milligrams in a single medium banana-combined with a nearly nonexistent 1 milligram of sodium, helps to prevent high blood pressure and atherosclerosis. It also contributes to bone health by improving the body's ability to absorb calcium. And the 3 gramsof dietary fiber make a substantial contribution to cardiovascular health.

The efficacy of bananas in protecting against stomach ulcers, promoting kidney health, and improving digestive processes has been unassailably demonstrated in numerous studies. And the fruit is popular with athletes, especially runners, as it provides an instant and substantial boost of energy; this is because no other fruit contains more digestible carbohydrates, which burn quickly and easily.

Despite their sturdy appearance, bananas are actually quite fragile. For this reason, they are picked unripe for shipping, and often ripened with ethylene gas upon arriving at their destination. If you plan to consume your bananas right away, choose ones that are all yellow, with a few black speckles; if you don't need them right away, a green tinge is fine. Store bananas at room temperature-refrigeration will arrest the ripening process. If you need them ripened in a hurry, place bananas in a paper sack with an apple. Once ripe, bananas can be stored in the fridge for a few days; the skins will turn black, but the flesh will be just fine.

Banana Toffee Chocolate BitesMakes 24 pieces

Keep these insanely good treats in your freezer to enjoy anytime, but be careful-they're seriously addictive!

3 ripe large bananas

6 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped

4 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped

1 Tbs. canola oil

1/2 cup toffee bits

  1. Peel bananas, and cut into 1-inch slices (can also be cut into larger pieces, as shown at left). Place on baking sheet, and freeze 30 minutes.
  2. Melt bittersweet and semisweet chocolates with oil in bowl over simmering water, stirring often. Remove from heat, and stir in toffee bits; allow to cool slightly.
  3. Remove bananas from freezer. Dip each slice into chocolate mixture, allowing excess chocolate to drip off. Return coated bananas to wax paper-lined baking sheet.
  4. Return baking sheet to freezer for several hours, until bananas are frozen. Transfer frozen treats to airtight container, and keep in freezer until serving.

PER SERVING: 105 CAL; 1 G PROT; 6 G TOTAL FAT (3 G SAT FAT); 14 G CARB; 2 MG CHOL; 21 MG SOD; 1 G FIBER; 10 G SUGARS

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