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Gluten-Free, Vegan, Nut-Free Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

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People ask me all the time about switching from veganism back to plain ol’ vegetarianism and just what it entailed. The simple answer is that, in all aspects of life, I don’t believe in doing anything you don’t wholeheartedly believe in or feel strongly about, and although vegetarianism is a choice I won’t go back on (due to those strong feelings), the veganism was more of an…experiment, you could say. The switch back, surprisingly, had nothing to do with cravings. It just had become something I no longer felt overly passionate about; not passionate enough to maintain those dietary restrictions for a lifetime.

Although I’ve most definitely allowed dairy back into my diet when at restaurants or other people’s dinner parties (cheese platters and cream sauces are right back on the menu), I still cook mostly as a vegan at home. Why? Because that was never the hard part. Being a restaurant patron and a guest at someone else’s house – two of the most wonderful parts of dining – were undoubtedly the most frustrating times as a vegan, because you wanted to enjoy what you were kindly being served. At home, with your own culinary control, abundant pantry and cookbook full of recipes, I had it figured out.

So, whether baking, cooking or snacking at home, I’m still enthused by the thought of using organic, whole foods that are gluten-free and vegan in my kitchen. And I swear (as can others), the concoctions are still just as delicious. For instance, this ridiculously easy banana bread is one of the best I’ve ever had – always coming out of the oven piping hot and ready to be cut into fluffy slices of gooey chocolate and chunky banana-filled bread. Whenever I’m away traveling for work, I’ll make a loaf of this to bring with me and slice it up each morning for either breakfast or a snack later – because although it tastes like a dessert, the ingredients will show it’s much healthier than whatever else I’d be able to grab on the run.

*A word to the cooking/baking wise: The original recipes I found for this kind of banana bread (well, and almost all recipes in general) insisted on plenty of oil and near whole cups of sugar. As a cook/baker, you’ll find you can use your own discretion and substituting common sense with these kinds of measurements – I cut the sugar and oil down almost entirely with this bread and used a more natural sweetener (agave nectar or maple syrup would have worked also), because the excessive amounts are almost never as necessary as the recipe says.

World’s Easiest Gluten-Free, Vegan, Nut-Free, Nearly Sugarless Banana Bread

Ingredients
2 cups of Bob’s all-purpose gluten-free flour*
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/3 cup of vegetable, grapeseed or EV olive oil
2 or 3 tablespoons of Stevia, natural herbal sweetener (other recipes would demand 1/2 cups of sugar – yikes!)
2/3 cup of rice milk (or almond milk if you have no nut allergy)
1 tsp of vanilla extract
3 very ripe bananas
2 handfuls of semi-sweet dark chocolate chips (optional)

Instructions:

1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a loaf pan.

2. In a medium-sized bowl, mix  together all the dry ingredients.

4. In another medium-sized bowl mix together all of the wet ingredients. Chop off the end of the bananas and squeeze them out of their skins into the bowl. Mash the bananas into the wet ingredients, then add to the dry ingredients until well combined.

5. Pour the batter into your loaf pan. Bake for 45 minutes. You’ll know your loaf or cake is finished when you remove it from the oven, insert a fork or knife and see that it has come out clean.

*Curious where to get some of these items? In downtown Ottawa, the Herb and Spice and most Loblaws should have health food sections. In downtown Toronto, all Whole Foods Markets, Loblaws and Noah’s will have what you’re looking for.

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Try it with some smooth natural peanut butter!

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