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arts, sciences, & banana muffins

15 Jun

I’ve never considered myself to be all that creative. Sure, hand me some kind of problem and I’ll probably come up with some “out-of-the-box” solution (remember my “oven mitt”?). But set a canvas and some paints in front of me and I’ll agonize for years and possibly come up with some deep philosophical justification about the blankness of my soul as portrayed on the blank canvas rather than paint anything. Or I’ll put smiley faces and hearts.

Even photography, which I do enjoy, can be a struggle when I have to fabricate some sort of scene or idea. Candids? Sure. Staged artistic pieces? Not so much. I tend to like working with something that already exists rather than “creating from nothing.”

Enter baking. Combining some semi-scientifically-precise amount of fat, flour, & leavening to yield hopefully-delicious results. Certainly not all of my flavor combinations are unconventional or unique, but there’s still something decidedly gratifying about making up a recipe on a whim and having it work perfectly. Obviously the actual writing of recipes is not exactly creative in and of itself; there are only so many ways to write “bake at 350 until lightly golden”.

So when I was feeling an itch to get a little creative, I found my way into the kitchen and started grabbing things. Banana. Almond extract. Sliced almonds. Whatever I could find in my pantry. The result? Not a particularly outstandingly unique concoction, but decidedly delicious nonetheless, and the perfect marriage of art, science, & sugar. Just my kind of mixture.

Banana-Almond Muffins
Created by moi :)
Makes 6 muffins 

1 over-ripe banana
1/3 cup almond milk
1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons canola oil
1/4 teaspoon almond extract (more if desired)
3/4 cup flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3-4 tablespoons sliced almond (divided)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease a muffin tin (if using a 12-cup tin, put a little bit of water in the empty tins to prevent warping)

In a medium bowl, mash banana and combine with almond milk, oil, almond extract, and sugar. In a separate bowl sift together dry ingredients (except almonds). Make a well in the center and pour in wet ingredients; stir until just mixed. Gently stir in 2-3 tablespoons of sliced almonds. Divide batter between 6 muffin tins and top with remaining almonds.

Bake for 15-18 minutes or until lightly golden on the edges and a toothpick inserted in the center of the muffin comes out clean.

Enjoy!

What’s your favorite form of creativity? 

mother’s-day muffins [cappuccino muffins]

8 May

It seems that most mother’s day gifts I’ve given are things that only a mother could love.

Only a mother could love the paint-spattered excuses for “artwork” I proudly handed to her in the first grade.

Only a mother could love being ordered to return to bed for “breakfast in bed” consisting of lightly-burned toast, yogurt, & cereal.

Only a mother could love mug after painted mug of uncreative, polka-dotted ceramics.

Only a mother could love the “gift” of my high school’s dangerously delicious Cappuccino muffins, conveniently charged to her credit card account.

But anyone could love my at-home replication of those muffins. I searched far and wide, and it took a variety of different recipes, but when I finally stumbled upon this gem in Vegan Brunch by Isa Moskovitz, I knew I’d found my winner.

Perhaps not the greatest sacrifice on my part, but it did take some work… And a few less-than-perfect muffins. ;)

Vegan Cappuccino-Chip Muffins
adapted slightly from Vegan Brunch; also found here

1c almond milk (or your fave non-dairy milk)
1 heaping tablespoon instant coffee crystals
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce (or more canola oil for a better “crust”)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 375 degrees and lightly grease a muffin tin.
In a small cup, mix coffee granules with half of nondairy milk; add in the rest of the milk and the vinegar, and set aside to thicken.
In a small bowl, stir together dry ingredients. Make a well in the center and add in oil, applesauce, vanilla, and thickened milk. Stir together until just combined, taking care not to overmix, then gently fold in chocolate chips.
Fill muffin tins about 3/4 full and bake for 22-26 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool in tins for a few minutes before removing and letting cool on a plate.

While I’m not actually at home to make my mom a special breakfast, I’m hoping that sharing her favorite recipe and sending some cyber-carbs will help fill the void until I’m home in a month (!).  I wish I could do more, as this seems like even more of a cop-out than usual.

Only my mother could put up with my incessant chatter, constant whining, the perpetually dirty kitchen & ever-dwindling supply of flour and sugar. Only my mother would make me breakfast in bed almost every day, & make my bed when I “forget” to. Only my mother thinks I’m the coolest thing since sliced bread so I should write a book/open a cookie shop (ah, delusions). Only my mother magically receives telepathic messages when I’m not feeling okay, and knows how to put a smile back on my face.

And most of all, only my mother loves me, hugs me, & listens to me when I need it most.

Love you, mom!

What are you doing for mother’s day? What about you could only your mother love/understand? 

oops, i did it again…

23 Mar

I ate all the carrots & berries… again.
I slept in wayyy too late… again.
I neglected my blog… again.
I watched a Disney movie with my friends… again. (Monday was Tangled, Tuesday was Sleeping Beauty)
I messed with the recipe… again.
Most importantly, I added twice the amount of butter the recipe called for… again.

And after watching Sleeping Beauty I felt kind of like the fairy who is incapable of following the cake recipe and folds in the eggs, shells and all…

It started when I decided to make some muffins as an easy breakfast for my houseguest. I kind of ate all of our strawberries (4 pounds were gone within 2 days, as well as 5 pounds of baby carrots) so I had to use a frozen berry mix (which I’ve also polished off as of this morning…).

At first I thought I’d just make the whole batch, but midway through I decided a half-batch would suffice. Of course, I’d already separated the butter so I unwittingly added twice the usual amount of butter. They were definitely too oily and so moist they kind of fell apart, but other than that they were good (and my mom loved them).

I also took a few liberties with the original recipe and added some sliced almonds and some almond extract. Because almond extract makes everything better.

Berry Almond Muffins
adapted from here

1 cup almond milk + 1 teaspoon vinegar (or just buttermilk)
2 cups flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup sugar
6 tablespoons cold butter, cubed
1 large egg
1/2-1 teaspoon almond extract (optional)
1 cup frozen berries
1/4 cup sliced almonds

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and lightly grease a 12-cup muffin tin.

Measure out almond milk and vinegar and mix well; set aside to curdle (or use buttermilk!).

In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients (flour thru sugar). Cut in butter using knives or a pastry cutter. In another bowl (or in a large measuring cup) mix curdled milk, almond extract, and egg until well-mixed. Add to dry ingredients and stir gently until just combined. Stir in berries and almonds, and spoon into muffin tin. Sprinkle the tops with almonds if so desired.

Bake for 17-23 minutes or until they pass the toothpick test.

Yay crunchy almonds on top!

Are you capable of following a recipe or do you always end up changing like five different things?

going bananas [sugar-free banana bread]

22 Feb

Firstly: If you were not explicitly tagged in my last post please consider yourself formally tagged, because I’m kind of creepy and want to hear about everyone, so… Yes. Please share?

And now the main event…

I love bananas. Currently I’m hoarding two ever-blackening bananas in the corner of my dorm room. So pretty much half the room smells strongly of bananas… My roommate probably loves me right now.

This was over a week ago… They’re kind of black now. Oops?

There are just so many things you can do with them! Banana bread, banana muffins, banana pancakes, banana cookies, sugar-free peanut butter cookies… I could go on, I’m sure.

So when I was at aforementioned family friend’s house this past weekend and saw two spotted bananas on their counter looking rather sad, I decided to give them a home. Luckily this coincided with them having friends for a celebratory lunch (today is their daughter’s 16th birthday! Happy birthday Gaby!)

I decided on banana bread. The challenge, however, was to make it diabetic-friendly. Luckily, I had a little help in the form of Stevia in the Raw Cup-for-Cup sugar substitute. I also was mostly finding recipes that called for 3-4 bananas… which I did not have. After probably an hour of searching I finally decided on this recipe.

Here’s where things get “bananas”. Aka my reading comprehension skills fail me (and I’m paying how much for my college education?!). It clearly states to use 1/2 stick of butter. I read 1/2 cup. It’s okay though, I’m pretty sure it just made the bread more delicious… But you could use half the butter listed and it’d probably work, if you’re worrying about fat or anything.

Sugar-Free Banana Bread
Makes 12 slices… Adapted from here

1/2 cup butter (see note above!)
2 eggs
2 large, overripe bananas, mashed
1/2-2/3 cup Stevia in the Raw Cup-for-Cup
2 tbsp sugar (optional)
1 1/3 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease a standard loaf pan.

In a small bowl, mash banana well. There can be some very small chunks, but you pretty much want it entirely mashed. In a large bowl, beat together butter and sugar substitute until fluffy. Beat in banana and eggs until well mixed. In a separate bowl, mix together dry ingredients. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix until just combined. Gently stir in walnuts (don’t over mix! it’ll get tough!)

Bake for 40-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Share and enjoy!

Getting cozy with more cookies… That had the proper amount of butter. Recipe forthcoming…

Please tell me I’m not the only one whose life is one big “blonde moment”… Share your baking/life mishaps!

Pumpkin Bran Oat Muffins

5 Jan

I started this blog with the intention of telling you all about healthy recipes I was making.

And then the holidays happened.

To be sure, I haven’t gained any significant amount of weight from all the cookies… Nor have I been working out. Nor do I think there’s any cause for concern about all of this; I just wouldn’t want you to get the impression that all I eat are cookies!

I mean, sometimes I eat muffins too!

These muffins were an answer to my cravings for something healthier, but still carby and delicious. They’re definitely ‘healthy’ tasting, though my family rather enjoyed them. I mean, they’re fat-free and have bran in them, so of course they taste healthy. Straight out of the oven they’re kind of mushy, so much so that I’d consider lowering the amount of pumpkin next time. But if you let them cool properly, you’ll be left with a guilt-free treat filled with the spicy goodness of pumpkin pie and the health benefits of bran and oats.

I’m sure these would be delightful with chocolate chips. If that’s still healthy enough for you ;)

Pumpkin Bran-Oat Muffins
Adapted from here

¼ c. egg white substitute
2/3 c. sugar, Splenda, or sweetener of choice
1 ½ – 1 ¾ c. canned pumpkin (originally calls for one entire can, or 1 ¾ cup, but I used 1 ½ cups, and thought they were still a little too moist)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2/3 cup nonfat milk
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
½ cup oats, ground to a flour
¼ cup wheat bran
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spray a 12-serving muffin pan with nonstick cooking spray or line with paper baking cups and spray insides with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.

In a large bowl combine pumpkin, eggs, splenda, vanilla, milk and stir well.

Sift in flours, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and pumpkin pie spice. Fill prepared muffin cups equally, sprinkle tops with extra cinnamon.

Bake 15-20 minutes, or until a wooden toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

If you use Splenda, each of these has a measly 68 calories, 3.1 grams of fiber, and 3.4 grams of protein!
With sugar, they have 111 calories.

Ginger-Raisin Bran Muffins

13 Jul

There is something delightfully comforting about the gentle heat of ginger. I could wax poetic about my adoration of this simple root for hours, but rather than bore you with the details, I will simply present you with a somewhat sub-par photographic display of my love. It may be hard to tell, but these muffins were made in my heart-shaped smaller-than-normal-but-bigger-than-mini muffin tin. Spreading the ginger love, man!

Filled with gingery-sweet goodness

This recipe came from Vegan with a Vengeance with minimal modifications by yours truly. While I am no longer vegan (and my former veganism is a story for another time) I still enjoy baking vegan when possible. I’ve already mentioned Isa and her other cookbook, Veganomicon; VWAV is her original, and I have been a follower ever since I discovered it. These muffins are relatively healthy (particularly since I cut some of the oil out) and the pockets of sweet heat from the crystallized ginger and the raisin are positively delightful. They’d make a fabulous on-the-go breakfast. My mom mentioned that chocolate-chips would be good instead of raisins, but I like them as-is (back to the raisins vs. chocolate chips debate… alas!). Make them. Enjoy them. And feel good about it.

Ginger Raisin Bran Muffins
adapted slightly from Vegan with a Vengeance

1/2 c raisins
1 1/2 c all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 c sugar
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 c wheat bran
1 1/4 c nondairy milk (I use Unsweetened Almond Breeze)
2 tbsp canola oil
1/4 c applesauce
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 c chopped ginger

Preheat oven to 400. Lightly grease 12-muffin tin (in my case, a 12 mini-muffin tin; I halved this recipe). Soak raisins in hot water to cover, set aside.
Sift together flour through salt (dry ingredients). Mix in bran. Create a well in the center and add ingredients through vanilla. Mix with spoon until just combined. Drain raisins and fold in along with crystallized ginger.
FIll muffin cups most ofhte way full and bake for 20 to 22 minutes (~15 for the mini ones) until toothpick comes out clean. Enjoy!
With my muffin tin, a half-batch made 10 with about 86.8 calories, 1.8 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of fiber, and 1.5 grams of protein.
With a full-sized muffin tin the muffins have about 144.6 calories, 3.0 grams fat, 2.5 grams fiber, and 2.5 grams protein.

Friendship & Mixed-Berry Muffins

10 Jul

Hate to start a post with an apology, but please excuse the crap photos; these were made late at night and I forgot to re-photograph in the morning, and I really wanted to share the recipe despite the photographic failure!

When my friends come over, I like to spoil them. Fatten them up. Perhaps it’s the Brazilian-mother instinct in me (though really, I think mothers of all varieties are prone to overfeeding their guests!). I have been known to wake up over an hour early just to make fresh pancakes. One of my best friends is a camp counselor this summer and had this week off while her parents are still in Australia, so she opted to come and stay with me. I know that she tends to be more meat-and-potatoes in her eating habits than I am so I decided to make her a special breakfast: muffins. They were well-received with a perfect crumb and delicate sweetness that satisfied everyone; Devon had to reserve and hide herself a muffin for her last morning with us so my parents wouldn’t eat it!

These were a Martha Stewart recipe (originally for just blueberries, but I used a frozen berry mix to diversify a little, or something) so obviously they were perfect in taste. My only qualm with the recipe was that it was damn near impossible to get the muffins out of the tin without having them crumble. Of course, when I looked up the recipe on her website (I got them off of another blog originally) I read that we were to be generous when buttering the muffin tin and that flour was to be used. So clearly the Pam spray was insufficient. Minus points for presentation, but how can you resist those delectable berries?

Martha Stewart’s Blueberry Muffins: Diversified
adapted ever-so-slightly from here; original recipe here

2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter (room temp)
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk

Preheat oven to 375. Grease a muffin tin very well with butter or spray (consider tossing some flour around as well).
In a medium bowl, mix together flour, baking powder and salt.
In a separate bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy (about 3 minutes). Mix in eggs one at a time, then add in the vanilla. Add flour mixture and mix until just combined. Add milk and stir until just combined. Fold in frozen berries (keep them in the freezer until this point so they don’t melt and make the entire batter purple!)
Divide mixture between 12 muffin cups (batter will be thick).  Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Enjoy!

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