Bananas…they are a convenient fruit for on the go, great in smoothies, and as a quick snack before an early morning WOD.  I don’t have to expound about how easy they are.  We are all aware of this Universal Truth.  There are a lot of uses for banana beyond chucking them in the blender with whatever blend you use, and I will likely write about a few of them at some point. But…

The fruit flies start buzzing a bit, there’s a sweet smell and yes, over there in the corner of the kitchen counter are your bananas…turning brown and spotty and perhaps a bit too mushy for the average person to enjoy.  Despair not!!  These brown beauties are a wonder for many, many things.

As it is summer, I thought that it is the right time to discuss turning the overripe bananas into a nice icy cold delight which should give you absolutely no guilt (if you are the kind of person who suffers from that emotion).  I don’t have guilt issues, but I also don’t make it a habit of eating ice commercial ice cream because a lot of it is frankly junk, (check the ingredient list) and it’s just waaayyy too sweet for someone who has foregone added sugar for years.

I get the love of ice cream, particularly in the summer.  I even make it a habit to stop at a wonderful place called Kawartha Dairy whenever I am home in Canada and driving up to my cottage.  The ice cream there is far and beyond some of the best I have EVER had…the flavors are freaking awesome, there is always something new- AND I have a high level of nostalgia with the place since my folks used to take me there as a kid.  I have roughly a 35+ year love affair with KD ice cream.  Sorry Tony, you can’t win this.

I digress…as I eschew most other ice creams as I am obviously a snob in this regard and would much rather just make my own so I know what’s in it, AND it’s a pain in the ass to make, I just don’t bother.  However, thanks to my thriftily saving overripe bananas and freezing them for people to use in smoothies, and a quick perusal of the Nom Nom Paleo cookbook, I discovered Michelle Tam’s recipe for Banana Ice Cream.  It has 4 ingredients, 1 basic step, and the result is much like a soft-serve ice cream without the sugar, and no dairy for those who cannot tolerate it well, and it sounded good.

I have taken that basic recipe and am embarking this summer on a mission to come up with quite a few different flavor combos.  First thing to do is to save the bananas.  When they get brown spots, peel them, cut them into slices and put them on a parchment-lined tray in your freezer overnight until they are frozen.  Then just put them in a ziplock baggie to store.  Save them up! These are the pieces I have been putting into smoothies for people as they are dual-purpose: they add banana, and act like an ice cube without watering down the mix.

The basic recipe with credit to Nom Nom Paleo:
3 frozen very ripe bananas
½ cup coconut milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup frozen strawberries

1. Put all ingredients into your food processor and turn it on until it becomes the consistency of soft-serve ice cream.
2. Eat.

It is really that simple.
I think I stopped liking strawberry milk (remember that shit??) and ice cream at about age 8; hence my now embarking on other flavor discoveries.  I figure that the summer is long and since the crew seem to be keen on hoovering anything like this in an instant, I can go for it.
First off, I want to say that even just omitting the strawberries and putting the first 3 ingredients in is pretty wonderful:

It is an ultra silky vanilla banana wonder.  I think a shot of some dark rum from the freezer would work wonders here for an adult flavor.  Or rye. Hmmm…

Ok, so while the above sounds like something I am going to have to try, what I did do was put about 6 TBSP of crunchy no-additive almond butter in and blend it up, with a pinch of Himalayan salt.  That was really good.  Had a spoon to try, didn’t bother sharing.  As I was on a roll, and I love the almond-chocolate combo, I got some raw cacao powder out and blended 3 TBSP of that into the almond banana ice cream.  It turned out well:

A bit runny because I was distracted doing other things at the same time, but if you were quick at this, then there would be no need to freeze further.  That is one of the beauties of this: instant gratification.  THIS time, I shared with the captain and stewardess…

Other flavors that come to mind:

1. Cacao with some orange zest grated in for chocolate orange.
2. Cinnamon.  This is actually similar to something I remember eating on Koh Samui, Thailand, back in 2001.  They made a banana-only ice cream and would drizzle it with honey mixed with cinnamon.  Yes, I do remember foods from that long ago, it’s rather bizarre, but my recall is very good when related to tastes and smells.
3. Tumeric, black pepper, cinnamon, cardamom, allspice, ginger, star anise for a TUMERIC CHAI recovery ice cream…holy crap, I may be onto something here!! On those really hot summer days when you have just left puddles of sweat on the floor in your endeavors at the box…this could be the summer version of Golden Milk!
4. Any frozen berry or fruit: raspberry, blueberry, mango, pineapple.
5. Maybe even just mix in some chopped up pecans for a banana-pecan combo…
6. How about putting in a couple scoops of protein powder if you need that post-wod to up the protein content and then flavoring it up on top of that?
7. Add ¼ cup fresh mint leaves, chopped. Blend it up and stir in some good quality chocolate chips.  If you really must have this green, then some baby spinach leaves in there will add color without flavor.  Could be a good way to get some spinach into your kids if they are picky eaters. A parenting win!
8. Toasted coconut would be nice mixed through this.
9. Omit the coconut milk from the original recipe and put in a ¼ cup of very strong room temperature espresso for coffee flavor, add a couple spoons of cacao for mocha.
10. Add some cold apple sauce (maybe cut the coconut milk in half) and add some cinnamon for an apple pie flavor.
11. Boozy: as above, omit the coconut milk and sub in whiskey, rye, dark rum…Sprinkle some toasted pecans or raisins on the top.  I am into this train of thought.  Maybe not ideal as a recovery option (?) but sure sounds like something good for a hot weekend afternoon with friends!

I say recovery, since a lot of people like to have some sort of food containing fruit or carbohydrates post workout.  Maybe some banana ice cream would be better than sucking baby food out of a tube…you know, that sweet potato stuff? I can’t think of anything worse.  However, I could get behind the cool chill of a soft serve ice cream!

To date I have only tried the strawberry, plain, almond butter and almond-cacao.  All were very good.  It is really helpful to cut your banana pieces up smallish rather than freezing the bananas whole, otherwise they take a really long time in the food processor.  I intend to keep doing this throughout the summer and trying new flavors. It is so, so easy and tasty.  I’d love to hear if anyone gives it a try and what you come up with!

Fair winds and following seas!