March 11, 2010 at 9:00 a.m.

Let's go bananas this week!

Let's go bananas this week!
Let's go bananas this week!

It's about bananas today. I thought I knew a lot about bananas until I started reading several articles about this aromatic fruit, wearing a yellow jacket. I won't be able to share much of what I've read or I wouldn't get to recipes for two weeks. This is a bit of what I learned.

Banana trees aren't really trees but are huge plants that reach a height of 15-30 feet. The stem is underground and had buds or eyes like a potato. Their underground stems are transplanted to make new growth. Under good conditions, the lead-bearing stalks appear above ground three to four weeks after planting, and the fruit is mature five to six months later. That's some of what I learned. Now, I just discovered how to make evenly sliced bananas. If you have an egg slicer, cut about 2-inch piece off banana and place it where the hard-boiled egg goes. Press the tines down, the banana goes through and yes, you have the same size sliced! Oh sure, some of you already do this, so I'm not as smart as I thought I was!

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Banana recipes straight ahead

APRICOT BANANA BREAD

1/3 c. butter or margarine, softened

2/3 c. sugar

2 eggs

1 c. mashed ripe bananas (3-4 medium)

1/4 c. buttermilk

1-1/4 c. flour

1 t. baking powder

1/2 t. each, baking soda, and salt

1 c. 100% bran ceral (not flakes)

3/4 c. chopped, diced apricots (about 6 oz.)

1/2 c. chopped walnuts

In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add eggs; mixing well. In a bowl, combine bananas and buttermilk. Combine next 4 ingredients; add to creamed mixture alternately with banana mixture. Stir in bran, apricots and nuts. Turn into a greased and lightly floured 9x5-inch baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 55-60 minutes or until bread tests done. Cool 10 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack.

Note: I made my favorite plain banana bread, left out the bran and added the apricots. If you don't have buttermilk, put a tsp. of vinegar in a measuring cup and add enough milk to make 1/4 c. Let it sit for 5 minutes before combining with bananas.

Makes 1 loaf.

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FROSTED BANANA BARS

1/2 c. butter or margarine, softened

2 c. sugar

3 eggs

1-1/2 c. mashed bananas (about 4-5 medium)

1 t. vanilla

2 c. flour

1 t. baking soda

pinch of salt

Frosting: 1/2 c. butter or margarine, softened

1-8 oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened

4 c. powdered sugar

2 t. vanilla

In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar; beat in eggs, bananas and vanilla. Combine flour, baking soda and salt; add to creamed mixture and mix well. Pour into a greased 15x10x1-inch baking pan (jelly roll pan). Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until bars test done. Cool. For frosting, cream butter and cream cheese in a mixing bowl. Gradually add powdered sugar and vanilla; beat well. Carefully spread over bars.

Makes 3 dozen bars.

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FROZEN CRANBERRY BANANA SALAD

1-20 oz. can pineapple tidbits

5 medium firm bananas, halved lengthwise and sliced (use your egg slicer)

1-16 oz. can whole-berry cranberry sauce (or 2 c. homemade sauce)

1/2 c. sugar

1-12 oz. container frozen whipped topping, thawed

1/2 c. chopped pecans or walnuts

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BANANA SPLIT SALAD

1-1/2 c. cottage cheese

1/2 c. coconut, toasted*

1 c. each, crushed pineapple, drained and fresh, sliced strawberries

4 bananas

Lettuce leaves, using Romaine lettuce or leaf lettuce

Combine cottage cheese and coconut; mix lightly. Chill. Combine pineapple with strawberries. Mix lightly. Slice bananas in half lengthwise.

For each salad arrange banana slices in individual lettuce lined-dish. Scoop cottage cheese mixture between banana sliced. Spoon pineapple mixture on top.

Makes 4 servings.

* To toast coconut place coconut on baking pan, spread out.  Bake at 350 degrees until coconut is lightly browned. Remove quickly to paper towel or waxed paper to cool completely.

TFD: "Banana" is an easy word to spell if you know when to stop!

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