Banana bread is a fall staple in our house. There's something soothing about the warmth of fresh bread on a chilly day. This recipe puts a healthy twist on your everyday banana bread recipe. Not only is it quite tasty, but you can feel good about the ingredients. Enjoy!
Healthy Flax and Bran Banana Bread
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup wheat bran
1/4 cup ground flax seed
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups mashed ripe banana
3/4 cup plain yogurt
2 tablesoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup dark chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9x5 loaf pan with cooking spray.
In a large bowl, combine flour, wheat bran, flax seed, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.
In a medium bowl, whisk together bananas, yogurt, eggs, butter and vanilla. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir until just moistened. Fold in chocolate chips.
Spoon batter into pan. Bake for about 50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
Cool in pan for a few minutes before cooling completely on a rack.
“They call that the Golden Dome,” I told my 3-year-old son, Theo, pointing toward the shining roof of the Statehouse as we cruised into Montpelier.
“Let’s go there!” he said excitedly.
I promised Theo we’d check it out later in the day. First, we had several other spots to visit in the state capital.
Our first destination was Birchgrove Baking, a cute-as-a-button bakery and café on the edge of town. I ordered a latte and shared a pear tart and a sweet, eggy breakfast cake coated with sesame seeds with Theo. While we ate, we marveled at an elaborate gingerbread haunted house on display and flipped through some photo books, oohing and ahhing at the bakery’s gorgeous birthday and wedding cakes.
A three-minute drive from the bakery is North Branch Nature Center, a 28-acre reserve along the north branch of the Winooski River. The narrow trails snaking through grassy fields are completely out in the open and easy to navigate — perfect for a mom who is prone to getting lost and a boy who likes to run ahead.
One trail led us up to a natural playground with a wooden swing hanging from a branch, a yellow plastic slide burrowed into the side of a steep, leafy bank and a felled tree trunk perfect for walking across. When Theo insisted we start off on opposite sides of the trunk and meet in the middle for a “balance beam hug,” I was happy to oblige.
Nearby, a muddy area with cast-off baking tins and kitchen utensils beckoned to Theo, but we had neglected to bring his boots. Luckily, I was able to pull him out of the muck before his sneakers soaked through.
A bridge brought us over the river and into North Branch River Park. Back on the other side, we blazed a trail down to the water so Theo could get his hands wet and throw in some sticks for good measure.
When we had our fill of the great outdoors, we headed back to the capital and snagged a parking spot directly in front of the Statehouse. Theo wasn’t intimidated by the imposing structure. He sprinted ahead of me, ascending the steps Rocky-style and crinkling his face into a fierce warrior expression when he reached the huge cannons flanking the building.
“The Statue of Liberty!” he said proudly, upon seeing a larger-than-life marble sculpture of a figure with a hand raised next to the building’s front door.
“Nope, that’s Ethan Allen,” I corrected. “He was the leader of the Green Mountain Boys…”
But Theo wasn’t listening. He had spotted a dangerously high stone platform to jump from and was running toward it.
My foot was barely in the door of Chef Contos Kitchen & Store in Shelburne, and my inner foodie was already aflutter. Warmth and character filled the quaint store, where Chef Courtney Contos sells a lovely variety of kitchen must-haves and local wares. My son, Charlie, and I walked to the back of the store to a kitchen, ready for a culinary adventure.
"Today we are making empanadas!” enthused Chef Contos. “Does anyone know what country empanadas are from?"
Cooking together has become a new hobby for Charlie and me. For our latest escapade, we spent an afternoon at one of Chef Contos’ kids cooking classes. Contos is a highly trained chef with lots of impressive teaching experience — she was executive chef/instructor for Cook Academy at the Essex Resort & Spa. I would have been happy just to watch and learn myself, but I tried to remember that this lesson was for the kids.
Making empanadas was a fully hands-on endeavor for them. Covered in flour and sporting smiles, the kids were clearly having fun. Chef Contos taught her students how to make the dough and stuff it full — but not too full — with a variety of local, organic ingredients (which pleased this locavore-loving mom).
First, the group made savory bean-and-cheese empanadas. Next, Chef Contos announced, "We're going to fill our sweet empanadas with these local apples! What should we add to them?"
"Cinnamon!" Charlie suggested eagerly. As those empanadas baked, the kids shook up fresh whipped cream in chilled glass jars.
On the drive home, Charlie informed me that our afternoon with Chef Contos was "the best cooking class I've ever been to." As a mere drooling bystander, I may need to sign up for one of her adult cooking classes so I can see for myself.
Chef Contos offers a variety of classes for kids and adults. Find out more at chefcontos.com or stop by the store at 65 Falls Rd. in Shelburne.
Tasha Lehman is a regular contributor to Kids VT. She lives in Vermont with her husband, Matt, and their three sons.
These quintessentially fall pumpkin doughnuts are baked, not fried — which means we can almost call them healthy, right? For this family treat, I used a King Arthur Flour recipe — outstanding on its own — and added a little burst of maple for fun.
Baked Pumpkin Doughnuts
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups pumpkin purée (canned pumpkin)
1 teaspoon maple extract
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease two standard doughnut pans.
Beat together the oil, eggs, sugar, pumpkin purée, maple extract, spices, salt and baking powder until smooth. Add the flour, stirring just until smooth. Fill the wells of the doughnut pans about 3/4 full; use a scant 1/4 cup of batter in each well.
Bake the doughnuts for 15-18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of one comes out clean.
Remove the doughnuts from the oven. After about 5 minutes, loosen their edges and transfer them to a rack to cool.
The original recipe calls for these doughnuts to be dipped in cinnamon sugar — which sounds delightful — but I chose to serve them warm from the oven with just a sprinkle of powdered sugar.
Check out the original recipe for King Arthur Flour's Pumpkin Cake Doughnuts for more details on making the perfect pumpkin doughnut and if you want to add the cinnamon-sugar coating.
Monday morning was dark and gray, and my mood was equally stormy. My 3-year-old son, Theo, was channeling his boundless energy in all the wrong ways — dipping the TV remote in milk, taking the lid off the toilet and barricading me in the bathroom with a pile of pillows.
I knew my best bet was to get my turbocharged boy out of the house and into a wide-open space, but I feared the impending rain would put a wrench in the plan.
I decided it was worth the risk. We loaded Theo’s pink, streamered hand-me-down bike into the trunk of the car and headed for the Stowe Recreation Path.
Despite the cloudy skies, the 50-minute drive was a gorgeous tableau of autumn colors. We arrived in Stowe Village a little before 10 a.m. and decided to hit Black Cap Coffee to fuel up before the bike ride. With a latte (me) and cinnamon twist (Theo) in hand, we strolled down Main Street, mingling with the leaf-peeping tourists.
The sun had started shining through the clouds and Theo and I soon noticed outdoor sculptures sprinkled through town — they’re part of the temporary “Exposed” exhibit sponsored by Stowe’s Helen Day Art Center. Theo loved interacting with “Box of Courage,” a huge, primary-colored, plywood box dotted with holes that he could pop his head out of and climb through.
To our delight, the outdoor sculptures extended into the first stretch of the bike path. Clusters of pastel balls spread across fallen dead trees like Easter egg fungus begged to be touched. Upon closer examination, Theo and I realized they were made from fabric.
A little farther down, several trees had hot-pink plastic cable ties wrapped around their trunks, which gave them a whimsical, Seussian feel.
Theo glided along the path on his training wheels for about 25 minutes, with me walking and running beside him, before fatigue and hunger set in. The 5.3-mile recreation path has 10 wooden bridges; we made it across three of them and probably traveled about one mile.
After a snack break on one of the many benches lining the path, we headed back, stopping occasionally to examine mushrooms and caterpillars.
By the time Theo crossed the wooden bridge that marked the entrance to the path, my disposition was decidedly sunnier and Theo’s maniacal morning energy had dissipated. It was proof that sometimes a change of mood is only a bike ride away.
Kids I brought had a good time. USA today writer very good. Now to put…
Thank you for these posts. I'm a mom of three dreaming of relocating to Vermont,…
so great and i could see the entire scene perfectly . so proud of you…