Sweet Treat or Workout Fuel? Vegan, Oil-Free Banana Bread

banana-bread

Note from Matt: This recipe post comes courtesy of Stepfanie Romine, co-author of The No Meat Athlete Cookbook. (And don’t forget, today is the last day to get our upcoming video series on oil-free, microwave-free cooking as a bonus when you pre-order the cookbook! Details here.)


One of the great things about being an endurance athlete is that you have a great excuse to eat sweet baked goods by calling it fuel.

But despite my love of cooking (and yummy baked goods), I’m not much of a baker.

There are a few exceptions, however, guided mostly by my husband’s sweet tooth and need for high-carbohydrate, real food snacks to gear up for long bike rides. (He even sometimes brings some, like this one, along with him.)

I make big batches of Miyoko Schinner’s whole-grain waffles (from her book, The Homemade Vegan Pantry), scones from the forthcoming The No Meat Athlete Cookbook, and banana bread — my preferred sweet treat.

Growing up, we had cakes on birthdays and cookies during the holidays, but it was banana bread that always popped up on a regular basis. My stepmom’s version was classic: white flour and lots of white sugar, butter and eggs.

Though she made the recipe every few weeks for years, she would always dig out the weathered index card from her recipe box before she started baking, reading over each line, and by the time I was in high school, I was often the one poring over that note card to whip up a loaf for the family.

Once finished, we’d slather thick slices still warm from the oven with margarine — yes, margarine from a giant beige tub. Ah, the 90s.

A loaf rarely lasted more than a couple of days.

Banana bread isn’t a glamorous dessert, but nor is it a particularly challenging one to make. It makes use of overly ripe bananas that would otherwise be destined for the compost pile. Those humble roots make me love banana bread even more.

In this crazy, mixed-up world of unicorn toast and tie-dye bagels, I’ll take a hearty slice of banana bread any day.

My Vegan and Oil-Free Version of the Humble Banana Bread

For years, I didn’t have my “own” banana bread recipe. I experimented with different versions: with vegan “butter” and later coconut oil; with and without add-ins like nuts and chocolate; in muffin, loaf and even cake form.

Finally, this year, I set out to create a version that satisfied my cravings as well as my desire for a nutrient-packed banana bread. This one is nothing like the one from my childhood, and I like it even more.

It takes 45 minutes to bake and only 15 minutes (tops) to prepare. There’s not much mess, so there’s one less factor that typically deters me from baking. All in all, it’s a perfect recipe to integrate into your weekly meal planning routine.

Best of all? It’s oil-free. When it comes to banana bread, that doesn’t happen much.

This banana bread is slightly sweet — there’s just ¼ cup sugar plus the bananas (and whatever sweetener is in the chocolate chips you choose to use) — and it’s surprisingly light despite using a combo of oats and whole-wheat flour. I bake one batch every week to 10 days, whenever we have a half-dozen extra-ripe bananas in the house.

This recipe yields up to 24 slices, and we eat it just as often for breakfast and snacks as we do for “dessert.” And, since it holds together nicely on the go, Sam takes this on bike rides and I pack it on hikes. Just wrap a slice or two in parchment, then tuck into a plastic bag or reusable one.

My standard recipe uses chocolate chips or cacao nibs for sweetness plus walnuts for crunch (and more nutrition), but the beauty of this recipe is its versatility. I’ve listed several options below, but you can get creative.

Ready to give it a try? Here’s the recipe:

Oil-Free Vegan Banana Bread Recipe

Oil-Free Vegan Banana Bread
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 1 loaf
 
Ingredients
  • 6 ripe bananas
  • ¼ cup raw sugar (such as turbinado)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup full-fat coconut milk (see note)
  • 1 ½ cups oats
  • 2 ½ cups whole-wheat flour (see note)
  • ¼ cup ground flax seeds
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup chocolate chips or cacao nibs
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Line a 9-by-13-inch baking dish (or 2 loaf pans) with parchment or lightly grease with coconut oil. Set aside.
  3. Puree the bananas in a blender, then transfer to a large bowl.
  4. Add the sugar, vanilla and coconut milk to the banana puree, and stir well to combine. Stir in the oats, and set aside for 10 minutes. (This allows the oats to soften. If you skip this step, the bread will still turn out just fine, but the oats will stay slightly dry in the center. This will yield a tougher, drier loaf overall.)
  5. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, flax, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
  6. After the oats have soaked, use a sturdy wooden spoon to fold the dry ingredients into the wet a third or so at a time, until thoroughly mixed.
  7. Fold in the chocolate chips or cacao nibs and walnuts. Reserve a few for the top, if desired.
  8. Transfer to your prepared baking dish, using a spatula to smooth it to the edges. (The batter will only be about an inch deep.)
  9. Bake for 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. (If you use two loaf pans, start to check the bread after 40 minutes.)
  10. Remove from the oven and allow to cool before slicing using a serrated knife. If using a 9-by-13-inch baking dish, cut down the center lengthwise first. Cover tightly and consume within five days before best results. You can also freeze individual slices for up to three months. Wrap slices first in parchment, then place in an air-tight container.
  11. If your coconut milk has separated into solids and liquids, aim for about ⅔ solids and ⅓ liquids. I prefer whole-wheat pastry flour, which is finely ground, and produces a softer, less dense final product.
Notes
There are several variations to explore. You can swap chopped pecans or macadamia nuts for the walnuts, add dried cranberries, currants or raisins for the chocolate chips, or sprinkle toasted sesame seeds on top of the banana bread.. For a spicier version, stir in chopped candied or crystallized ginger, and for a creamier version, swirl in ¼ cup nut butter into the dough (don’t mix it in entirely so you can see it and taste it).

 

 

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Skip the Gravy: Simple Oil-Free Sauces for a Delicious Plant-Based Thanksgiving

thanksgiving-sauce

According to my husband, Sam, no meal is complete without a sauce. And from what I’ve gotten to know about Matt, Doug, and the rest of the NMA team over the past few years, they’re into sauces too.

So when Matt and I started planning the new No Meat Athlete Cookbook, for which I wrote many of the recipes, we made a point to include several sauce recipes.

A good sauce can turn an ordinary dish into something extraordinary. It can elevate each bite into a flavor-packed delight.

And on Thanksgiving, that’s especially true. Most of the dishes on our extended family’s dinner table are easily modified to be plant-based, but without the gravy, the meal can seem incomplete, and even a little dry.

I usually whip up a standard vegan gravy, but this year I’ve decided to lighten things up a bit and created two new plant-based sauces for our big feast.

They’re both oil-free, nut-free and gluten-free, and they’re less salty than vegan gravy. And don’t tell your kids, but as a bonus I even decided to sneak in a serving of vegetables for flavor and added nutrition.

These two sauces are super simple to make (and are both reheatable), so even if you’re planning a long ride or run before Thanksgiving dinner, you’ll love this quick addition to the meal.

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45 Tasty, Healthy Vegan Snacks

Roasted spicy chickpeas

Note from Doug: A lot has changed at No Meat Athlete since Susan Lacke wrote the original version of this post. Our content has shifted to be 100% vegan, and the team (along with our appetites) has more than doubled.

So we decided it was time to give our list of healthy vegan snacks an update. We’re tapping into the ideas from our growing team and nearly doubling the number of options.

If you’re already familiar with the original list, you can always skip down to the new section here:

But first, part 1, written by Susan Lacke:

When I was a kid, I always swore that when I grew up my days would be filled with snack time and recess.

Twenty years later, though I still won’t admit to being a grown-up, I will say I’ve managed to make my childhood dream come true: life as a triathlete provides me with plenty of time playing in the water, riding my bike, or running around.

And the best part? The active lifestyle is one which definitely favors lots of snacking.

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The Sauce System: 5 Staple Vegan Sauces for Endless Meal Options

Traditional thai spicy red curry

When I first started to care about what I ate, my cooking repertoire consisted of Kraft Mac & Cheese and pasta sauce à la jar.

If I added a vegetable into either dish, it was my attempt to impress a lady (smooth, I know).

So when I finally felt the need to learn how to cook, I did what most people do … I bought a cookbook.

I chose one writen by a famous TV chef, went to the kitchen, and made a shopping list. But it didn’t take long to realize that following detailed recipes is both time consuming and annoying, and I was quickly back to heating up jars of red sauce.

That’s the hangup for a lot of new vegans, vegetarians, or people who simply want to eat more whole foods. Planning for and cooking unfamiliar meals is just too darn hard to maintain.

Which is exactly why I love cooking formulas — like the Chipotle Method — that break cooking and planning into an adaptable process to save time, use what’s already in your fridge, and eliminate the hassle of following a recipe.

This summer, my wife Katie and I developed our own system for meal planning. Only instead of a traditional formula, we use sauces. And it has completely changed the way we cook.

The Sauce System for Simple Meal Planning

Matt is a big fan of single ingredient meal planning, where instead of starting with a cookbook, you plan your meal based on an ingredient you already have. That process narrows down your meal options, and eliminates much of the frustration that comes from trying to decide what to cook.

Katie and I have taken that same philosophy, only instead of a single ingredient, we start with the sauce.

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Meet Switchel, the Original Sports Drink — and Our Favorite Homemade, Natural Running Fuel

switchel

Note from Matt: It’s official! Our new book, The No Meat Athlete Cookbook: 150 Whole Food, Plant-Based Recipes to Fuel Your Workouts and the Rest of Your Life, is now available for pre-order, at just about every major bookstore.

Over the next few months I’ll be sharing a lot more details about the book, and today I’m excited to introduce you to my friend Stepfanie Romine, the plant-based chef, health coach, runner, and yoga instructor who co-authored this book with me. Stepfanie shares my affinity for streamlining healthy recipes and concepts to their simplest, most practical core (while taking care not to oversimplify), which made her a perfect fit for this book.

Stepfanie has loads of experience making workout-friendly food for herself and her husband, a competitive cyclist, and I absolutely LOVE the homemade, natural sports drink recipe (which tastes shockingly like grape Gatorade!) that she’s sharing with you in today’s post.

So without further ado … meet Stepf!

If you’re a regular No Meat Athlete blog reader, you’ll know that Matt is not prone to hyperbole. When he says something is “mind-blowing,” you take notice.

Just after we announced our new cookbook, Matt asked if I could share a few of the recipes with the NMA community. Excited, I flipped through my notes, went back and forth between a few workout fuel recipes, and emailed Matt for input.

He responded quickly, insisting I share this recipe for switchel.

“Seriously, the grape one was mind-blowing,” he said (again).

And I agree.

This sports drink recipe is a game changer. Having used switchel for going on two years now, I can say I’ll never go back to store-bought drinks again. Judging from his reaction, Matt likely won’t either.

My Search for the Perfect Homemade Sports Drink

I know what you’re thinking. Why make my own sports drink when it’s so easy to buy?

For me, it was the same reason I started eating dates on runs instead of gels and gummies. I’m a clean eater in real life, and my body was begging me to clean up my running fuel, too. Most common sports drinks, like Gatorade, contain processed sugars and artificial flavors, ingredients I want to avoid when putting my body through intense exercise.

As a distance runner, I knew I needed carbs to give me the energy to log all those miles, but my digestive system never liked what I put in. I had to reach a detente with my GI tract if I wanted to PR.

So I started experimenting. I made a few different homemade sports drinks that didn’t upset my stomach … but also weren’t too appealing.

Then I stumbled upon switchel. I can’t remember when exactly I first heard about it, but here in the organic farming and outdoor enthusiast epicenter that is Asheville, such things have a way of being common conversation. It sounded retro and cool, and the ingredient list was clean — with staples I already had in my pantry, like fruit juice, maple syrup, and apple cider vinegar.

I couldn’t find an exact recipe, so I used the ratio of carbs to electrolytes in a typical sports drink as my guide. After a few attempts, I had fine-tuned the recipe. It was perfect.

I spilled the beans about switchel to Matt who gave it a try during his next long run, and it was love at first sip.

The Original Sports Drink

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18 Recipes for the Ultimate Vegan-Friendly 4th of July Cookout

BBQ Grill and glowing coals. You can see more BBQ, grilled food, fire

The 4th of July weekend is upon us, and you know what that means …

Cookouts, cheap beer, fireworks, and American flag undies.

Let’s ignore the underwear for now and focus on my favorite part of the independence holiday, the cookout.

It’s no secret that options at a non-vegan cookout are often limited. The host may throw a freezer-burned Boca burger leftover from the last cookout you attended on the grill — and that’s if you’re lucky.

But I don’t let that stop me. Cookouts are one of my absolute favorite summertime activities, so if I’m not hosting my own, I’ll offer to bring a few dishes to share when invited out.

In preparation for this year’s holiday weekend, I reached out to my fellow No Meat Athlete team members, Matt, Susan, and Esther, for menu suggestions.

Cookout food is all about keeping things simple, fresh, and easy to share, and together we’ve developed an absurdly delicious menu with options you can prep ahead or throw on the grill at the last minute.

Here’s what we’re grilling up this holiday:

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The Chipotle Method: A Simple Formula for Making Healthy, 5-Minute Vegan Meals

salad bar with vegetables in the restaurant

This post is written by Matt Jager from Don’t Lose the Cow.

Ever feel totally overwhelmed by the busyness of modern life?

If you’re anything like me, you know what it’s like to go for weeks at a time with hardly a break, from the time you slap the alarm in the morning until your head hits the pillow at night.

Between the responsibilities of work, kids, running errands, shopping, chopping, cleaning, cooking, and commuting, there just isn’t any time left over.

I’d need at least a 72-hour day to get it all done, have time to cook a healthy meal from scratch, and settle in for the recommended eight hours of sleep each night.

A little dramatic for effect yes, but the truth is that modern life can be downright exhausting. And when life is exhausting, what tends to go out the window first?

That’s right. You. Taking care of yourself. And along with that, taking the time to prepare those healthy foods that you know you should be eating.

But how are we supposed to eat healthy when we are so insanely busy?

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Meals on the Run: Pasta with Avocado Sauce and High-Protein Chocolate Pudding

Today I’m excited to share two delicious vegan recipes from a new Runner’s World cookbook, both for dishes I had the pleasure of eating when I visited RW headquarters last month for their half marathon and race festival.

But first, an announcement …

That’s right: the Kindle version of my book, No Meat Athlete, was selected as a Kindle Holiday Deal for November, which means all month long, instead of the usual 10 bucks, it’s just $2.99!

This also means — aside from Oprah surely blowing up my slide-out keyboard LG phone soon — that you or someone you love can read it now and go into the holidays with a full head of healthy-eating-and-habit-change steam. And even if you don’t own a Kindle, you can still read via the Kindle app on any smartphone or tablet. You can’t read it on a slide-out keyboard LG phone, sadly.

To get the deal, check it out in the Kindle store, where you can get more details, see ratings, and read reviews. (Right now it’s #1 in both the Running & Jogging and Vegetarian categories!)

Most people who read my blog already own the book, I know, but if there’s a friend you can recommend it to while it’s so cheap, I’d really appreciate it. Thanks!

Meals on the Run

rw-pasta (1)

Want another idea for a gift you can feel good about giving? Runner’s World Meals on the Run, edited by Joanna Sayago Golub, is the “30 minutes or less” followup to The Runner’s World Cookbook (which coincidentally was released on the same day as my book, back in 2013), and I’ve got two recipes to share from it today.

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