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Banana and butternut squash loaf

One of the last things I did before running out the door before our holidays (amazingly the first time I wasn’t running like a lunatic due to being so late) was to throw the remaining (very ripe) bananas in the freezer. It gave me a (silly) sense of pride to know we weren’t wasting them. It’s the little things after all!

While we were away I came across an unusual recipe for banana bread from Simon Rimmer with the added ingredient of butternut squash. I’m always looking for different ways to use up bananas and this recipe definitely piqued my interest.

I made some changes to the original recipe. I reduced the sugar and used chopped walnuts instead of pecans. I also reduced the amount of nuts as hubby isn’t a huge fan and it seemed an excessive amount also for me too. The original recipe is topped with a cream cheese icing which would work wonderfully, but I wanted to keep my loaf dairy-free and simple so just drizzled the cooked loaf with honey. It also means I feel no guilt eating it for breakfast 😉

The end result is a lovely dense and very moist cake with a subtle taste of banana. If anyone guessed this cake has a vegetable ingredient, I’m certain they’d never guess butternut squash. Another way to sneak some veg into your children’s diets perhaps? And if you have any pureed butternut squash in the freezer leftover from your munchkin’s earlier weaning days, I can’t think of a better way to use it.

BANANA AND BUTTERNUT SQUASH LOAF

Prep time: 20 mins
Cook time: 50-60 mins
Makes 1 loaf
Freezable

120g sugar
1 egg
150ml vegetable oil
2 bananas, mashed
225g butternut squash, cooked and mashed
275g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
50g walnut pieces
drizzle of honey to serve

Preheat the oven to 180C and line a loaf tin with baking paper.

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the sugar, egg and vegetable oil. Fold in the mashed banana and butternut squash.

In a separate bowl, sift the flour, baking powder and cinnamon. Fold this dry flour mixture into the wet banana mixture. Stir through the walnuts.

Pour into the prepared loaf tin and bake for 50-60 minutes until golden brown on top and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Leave to cool.

Drizzle honey over the top of the loaf before serving.

Variations:

  • add sultanas or raisins for added sweetness
  • omit the walnuts if putting into a child’s lunchbox

Tip: If you have the time, it’s much better to peel your bananas before freezing them, as peeling a frozen or defrosted banana takes some skill. Just peel, throw in a ziploc bag and freeze.

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French toast soldiers (sugar-free)

Breakfast. I’m never that creative with my own so I guess it’s logical that I struggle to be creative with Nicholas’. Mashed banana and yogurt has been our staple since his early days of weaning. He still eats it about three times a week, it never fails (he starts chanting ‘nana!, nana!’ as soon as I pick up a banana), and I can prepare it while still half asleep. But regardless of whether or not he gets bored of it, I get bored preparing it and also feel guilty that I should be giving him more of a variety of food to start the day.

In the early months of weaning I did grated apple, grated pear, grated apple and pear (!), and baby porridge. I don’t know why I never thought of French toast then. Slightly crispy on the outside, and lovely and soft inside, it’s certainly something a baby can tackle with their super strong gums, and a great baby-led weaning food. It’s also a nice way to introduce baby to other flavours like cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla.

Thanks to Once a Month Mom, I discovered you can freeze French toast after you make it (saves you throwing away the unused egg mixture), make it into kabobs, and, more surprisingly, you can hide vegetables in it (she adds butternut squash puree!). I haven’t tried adding vegetables, but I have tried adding some mashed banana and also applesauce to the mixture before dunking the bread and these additions both work well.

You can dunk your soldiers in applesauce or a warm berry compote, drizzle with golden syrup or maple syrup, or serve them with fruit on the side (raw or stewed). Nicholas seems to like them as I do – plain with a drizzle of honey.

FRENCH TOAST SOLDIERS (SUGAR-FREE)

Prep time: 5 mins
Cook time: 5 mins
Makes 1 toddler serving
Freezable

1 slice of bread, cut into 4 or 5 ‘soldiers’
1 egg
1 tbsp milk
a pinch of cinnamon or nutmeg
1 tsp honey (optional)
a couple of drops of vanilla essence (optional)
1 tsp butter

In a bowl large enough for your ‘soldiers’ to lie down in, lightly beat the egg, milk, and cinnamon or nutmeg (and honey and vanilla, if using).

Lay your ‘soldiers’ in the eggy mixture and let them soak on both sides while you heat the butter in a small frying pan over a med-low heat.

Fry the bread for a couple of minutes on each side until golden brown.

Variations:

  • add mashed banana or applesauce (or even pureed butternut squash or sweet potato!) to the mixture before dunking
  • use cute cookie cutters to make different shapes of ‘soldiers’ to surprise your little one