Monkey Bars: A Recipe of Love and Bananas

Happy Day After the Super Bowl, everyone! Congratulations to the team in yellow pants hailing from that cold, mid-northern U.S. city! You know – the one with no cheerleaders and the beloved player with long hair. Those guys are great.

With football stuff over, we can now concentrate on the important stuff – namely, stuffing our beloveds with rich foodstuffs until they puke affection. (Also: stuff.) Yep, Valentine's Day is once again zeroing in on the fortresses of our fondness, like a pink-tinted love bomb filled with Hallmark cards, Red Envelope lockets, and smooching. Oh, the smooching.

This year, instead of magnums of Veuve Clicquot and coconut-filled truffles with little nibbles in the bottom (otherwise, how do you find out if they're coconut?), I'd like to suggest some Monkey Bars. They don’t sound as romantic, no. But get this: They're 18 cents each and taste like banana bread. Plus, if you cut them in little heart shapes, your ingenuity will totally obscure that you just spent less than a quarter on a Valentine's Day gift.

A hugely popular recipe from Cooking Light, the Monkey Bar's greatest asset is that it can be adapted way easily. I added some cinnamon and nutmeg, substituted pecans for walnuts, swapped out half of the butter for 2% yogurt, and left off the powdered sugar. I still liked it. Following the initial recipe will undoubtedly net you similarly tasty results.

Happy V-Day, my sweets. May your day be filled with happiness, your nights packed with joy, and your desserts … sexy? Yeah. Sexy.


If this looks rather tasty, you’ll probably enjoy consuming the following:

Monkey Bars
Serves 16
Adapted from Cooking Light.

1/2 cup raisins
1 1/2 tablespoons bourbon, dark rum, or apple juice
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened (OR 2 tablespoons butter + 2 tablespoons 2% plain Greek Yogurt)
1/2 cup mashed ripe banana
3 tablespoons 1% milk or low-fat buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large egg whites
1/3 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
Cooking spray
1 tablespoon powdered sugar (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350°F degrees. Spray an 8x8 baking pan or 9-inch pie plate with cooking spray.

2. In a small microwaveable bowl, combine raisins and bourbon (or rum or apple juice – whatever you’re using). Stir. Nuke 60 seconds. Set aside.

3. In a mixing bowl, combine flours, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, and salt. Stir to combine.

4. To a separate bowl or stand mixer, mix brown sugar and butter on medium speed until well combined. Add banana, milk, vanilla, and eggs. Mix until combined. Slowly add dry ingredients until all are just incorporated into a wet batter. Stir in raisins and nuts. Pour into baking pan.

5. Bake 30 minutes. Remove and cool fully on a wire rack. Dust with powdered sugar, if desired.

Approximate Calories, Fat, Fiber, Protein, and Price Per Serving
135 calories, 4.7 g fat, 0.9 g fiber, 2 g protein, $0.18

NOTE: All nutritional calculations are from Cooking Light. Price numbers are listed below.

1/2 cup raisins: $0.44
1 1/2 tablespoons bourbon, dark rum, or apple juice: $0.24
1/2 cup all-purpose flour: $0.05
1/2 cup whole wheat flour: $0.11
1 teaspoon cinnamon: $0.02
1/2 teaspoon baking powder: $0.01
1/2 teaspoon baking soda: $0.01
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg: $0.01
1/4 teaspoon salt: $0.01
3/4 cup packed brown sugar: $0.45
1/4 cup butter, softened (OR 2 tablespoons butter + 2 tablespoons 2% plain Greek Yogurt): $0.12
1/2 cup mashed ripe banana: $0.33
3 tablespoons 1% milk or low-fat buttermilk: $0.06
1 teaspoon vanilla extract: $0.10
2 large egg whites: $0.25
1/3 cup chopped pecans or walnuts: $0.66
Cooking spray: $0.03
1 tablespoon powdered sugar (optional): $0.03
TOTAL: $2.93