Clean Eating. But First, Banana Bread.

If you remember, dear readers, one thing on my 24 Before 25 list was to go a whole month without eating high fructose corn syrup. In the past month or so I’ve tried – and failed – about three times to do this.  Actually, I wasn’t really failing at not eating high fructose corn syrup – that turned out to be pretty easy.  What I was failing at was not eating something overly processed that technically didn’t contain HFCS (maybe just corn syrup) that then led me to feel like I was eating gross processed crap anyway and turn to more junky foods with the resolution that I would eat clean again starting tomorrow.  I’d get about a week again and then cave again.

The problem was, even though I was technically following my rule, I knew the real goal of the rule was to eat less processed food in general.  So even though my list item is still to go a month without eating HFCS, what I’m really going to do is a month – hopefully more – of clean eating.

There are a lot of ideas of good or clean eating out there.  No dairy!  No gluten!  Everything raw!  So what are my rules for clean eating?

What I will be cutting out:

  • HFCS
  • Chemicals I can’t pronounce or identify on a store shelf (i.e. those crazy stabilizers, flavorings and preservatives in packaged food)
  • Most refined sugar, with the occasional exception for things I bake myself
  • As much white flour and refined carbs as possible

What I won’t be cutting out:

  • Dairy (I rarely eat it anyway, but I like yogurt for breakfast sometimes)
  • Alcohol (but I’ll only drink my usual quality craft beer and whiskey)
  • Caffeine (green tea is totally good for you!)
  • Gluten
  • Fruit (yes, some extreme diets think fruit has to much sugar)

Basically I’m not going crazy orthorexic (orthorexic – obsession with right eating) fad diet here and cutting out whole food groups, I’m just sticking to a faith that anything whole and natural is good for you and anything packaged and processed is not.  Tomorrow will be the day I start, and I’ll go through the end of February – that’ll make a whole month.  Are you in?

But that’s tomorrow, and today, today there’s banana bread.  Not that banana bread necessarily breaks any clean eating rules – especially not my banana bread! My banana bread, which was sort of inspired by this recipe from Joy the Baker and this recipe from Allrecipes, is full of good things like millet and yogurt and fruit and had minimal bad things like sugar and oil.  Okay, so there is flour.  But it’s bread.  Duh.

Millet Banana Bread

  • 2 cups flour (try half whole wheat!)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3 large overripe bananas
  • 1/4 cup vegetable or canola oil
  • 1/3 cup plain yogurt
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 cup millet

Preheat your oven to 350 and butter a 9×5 loaf pan.  In a medium bowl, blend your flour, soda, salt and cinnamon.  Set aside.

In a larger bowl, mash your three bananas until mostly smooth – it’s okay if there are a few chunks.  Or, if you’re like me and you froze a super-ripe banana just for this purpose, simply mush up the slimy mess you will find inside.  Seriously, it’s disgusting.  I actually had to call my mom to ask her if it was normal for the frozen banana to turn into a brown, smushy tube – I remember her doing this when I was a kid, and she assured me it was.  This is what the banana looked like out of the freezer:

And this is what it looked like when I opened it.  It stayed in one gelatinous piece, and I just shook it out of its skin into the bowl.

The rest of the bananas I just chopped and rough mashed with a fork.  When that’s done, stir in your oil and yogurt.

Add the brown sugar, eggs and vanilla, and beat with a hand mixer on low for a few seconds, just until everything is blended.  Again, it’s okay if it’s a little lumpy.  No big.  More banana goodness.

Next, stir in your dry ingredients until they are just incorporated.  Add the millet and stir in until it’s evenly distributed, then put it in your prepared pan and make sure the batter is spread to the corners.

Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until the top starts to look toasty and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  I know this doesn’t sound like long enough for banana bread, and I was just as surprised when I checked the oven after 40 minutes and the top was beginning to brown.  But hey, it works.  That’s what happens when you make up recipes: you have to adjust when things come up.  And it will come up, into a dome of crunchy banana goodness.  The millet is a great textural component, but walnuts would also be good here.  You know I’m going to tell you to play around with it yourself.  Whoever said baking is an exact science was lying!

So, banana bread for dinner tonight, clean healthy eating starting tomorrow.  The hardest part will be going to work on Monday and not snacking on all the chips and treats we have in the classroom.  But I have faith.  It is on the list, after all, I have to do it!

Speaking of the list, I’ve been making a little progress.  I already told you I watched a football game, and I’ve also started (really) volunteering at a therapeutic horseback riding center.  I’m looking into swing lessons, researching the stock market, and I’ve signed up for a program that matches international pen pals.  I also started taking capoeira lessons, which is an awesome Brazilian dance-martial arts thing that I LOVE.  I know it wasn’t a list item, but I’d been wanting to go to an intro class in Denver for a long time now, and in the spirit of the list and trying new things I finally went.  Now I can’t stop.  Of course I’ll have to wait till my body stops being so sore after every class before I can start swing dancing and rock climbing.  But I’m so glad I faced my fear of the unknown, and my fear of failure, and went for it.

You know what they say: you should do at least one thing every day that scares you!

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