When cooking professionally for a large family, developing a standard grocery shopping regimen is something that just never happens. Tastes vary, diets change and it never fails that just when I think I have them figured out, they throw me another curve ball. One of my biggest challenges with the family that I cook for comes in trying to gauge their banana consumption. Sometimes they'll eat six in a day and at other times the bananas just sit there, transforming day by day from creamy yellow, to speckled, to just plain brown. By this point, I am usually frantically searching for new and interesting ways to use bananas, but I do have a couple of tried and true recipes that I often return to.

For bananas that are nicely ripe, but not total mush, I love David Lebovitz's incredible Banana and Chocolate Chip Upside Down Cake. This is truly one of the most delicious desserts I've ever tried and get this, it's actually pretty healthy. Lebovitz designed this recipe for a magazine that specializes in low fat cooking. The rich, creaminess of mashed bananas adds moisture to the cake, while the caramelized banana topping provides an addicting, decadent flavor. The recipe also calls for an egg white instead of a whole egg, low fat sour cream and there is only 1/2 cup of chocolate chips in the entire cake (although you'll swear there is more once you taste it). Even if you're not looking for a recipe that's lower in fat, I highly recommend that you try this one anyway, because it is just that good.

Another of my favorites is the Healthy Oat and Banana Bar recipe from the Modern Gal blog. These bars are great because the riper the bananas the better they taste. They are also packed with healthy ingredients like oats, applesauce and walnuts and are ridiculously easy to throw together. I like to play around with the recipe sometimes by using different types of nuts, adding dried fruit like cranberries or raisins and sometimes, I even fold in some wheat germ for an extra healthy kick. The best part, though, is that kids love them (as long as you don't tell them that they're healthy).

So the next time your bananas are on their way out, instead of making yet another smoothie, I suggest you give one of these recipes a try instead.