Valerie Kramer Davis
There are many people in and around Birmingham who know Valerie Kramer Davis as an athlete, a boot camp fitness instructor, and a freelance writer who specializes in health. I know Valerie as a former staff member at Health magazine (where I am currently an editor). And I also know that Valerie, the health nut who uses her cheerleader-like smile to motivate people to torch more calories, loves to bake.
“I’ve always had a sweet tooth,” Valerie told me in her kitchen in Pelham. “My mom always had homemade cookies and banana bread around. I wanted the same thing in my home, but healthier.”
But, Valerie’s not into the kind of healthier recipe changes that happened in the 90s. You remember: Fat-free franken foods that were just vaguely like the foods they resembled. We ate those Snackwells, Olestra chips, and the fat-free-cheese-that-wouldn’t-melt, and talked ourselves into believing those things were just as good as the real thing.
Nope, that’s not Valerie’s style. “I like to find healthier substitutes for things, and foods that are healthy. But I love to make them so people say, ‘Oh, it’s so good!”
(Valerie’s curly-haired husband, Ty, came into the kitchen at this point, and nodded. “Yeah. She’s good.”)
So, for example, Valerie brushes on olive oil where recipes call for cooking spray or butter. She serves up sweet potato fries instead of French fries for the extra dose of beta-carotene. She uses a Vitamix to make fruit smoothies or vegetable soups (butternut squash is a fave). She loves flavor. “I love good vanilla. I always double it. And I love cinnamon.”
To satisfy her sweet tooth and fill her home with the baked goodness she grew up with, Valerie took the recipe her mother uses for banana bread and made healthier switches. The result is sweet, moist, and flavorful, and it’s the kind of good where you don’t have to talk yourself into believing it’s good. It just is.
Valerie’s note: The more mashed banana you use, the better!
1 cup granulated organic cane sugar or turbinado sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) minus 1 tablespoon butter, at room temperature
2 to 3 medium bananas, mashed
1/2 cup natural no-sugar-added cinnamon applesauce
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves (optional)
Cinnamon-sugar mixture (optional): Stir together 1 teaspoon granulated organic can sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon; set aside.
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Coat a 9″ by 4″ loaf pan with a little olive oil.
3. In a large bowl, use a hand mixer to blend together sugar and softened butter.
4. Add the eggs, mashed bananas, applesauce, and vanilla to the butter-sugar mixture, and mix until incorporated.
3. In a separate bowl, stir the flour, salt, baking soda, nutmeg, cinnamon, and cloves together.
4. Add the flour mixture to the egg-sugar-banana mixture at once, and use a hand mixer to blend all ingredients just until incorporated. Transfer batter to the prepared loaf pan.
5. Optional: Sprinkle cinnamon-sugar mixture on top of loaf before baking.
6. Bake 1 hour in a loaf pan.