a little extra time

When I was small, my mom seemed to always have a loaf of zucchini or banana bread tucked away somewhere in the freezer.  And if she just so happened to take out a loaf or two—if us kids saw them sitting patiently on the counter—we instantaneously understood.  It was like some unspoken “code,” which everyone naturally understood.

“Who’s coming over to visit, mom?”

The bread would be warmed and sliced into soft, thick hunks of sweetness.  Placed just so, on a tea style plate for when company would arrive.  Coffee for the adults.  Milk and juice for the kids.  And if we were really, really lucky, there would be slices of both zucchini and banana bread sitting on the table.  Which, of course, means that you can have a slice of each.  Of course.

Last night, I came home from work a little earlier than normal.  Early enough to actually do something before preparing dinner or going for a run or diving head first into homework.

First thought: I want to take a nap.  Second thought: I want a banana bran muffin.  Always place your bets on the muffin; they always win.  I never take naps, but they sure sound nice.

At first, I set out to make a standard, favorite, and very well-loved version of the banana bread, but I’ve been wanting to use some of my pantry’s wheat bran for a while now.  Banana and bran go so well together, that it seemed impossible not to take the muffins in such a direction.  Impossible! Besides, I wanted my muffins to be sturdy and satisfying.  I also wanted them sweet and delicate enough to pass for dessert.  Hearty and healthy enough to be eaten for breakfast.

Banana bran muffins.  Yes.  That is exactly what I wanted.

Muffins have the glorious concept of being able to freeze individually.  They travel well, when breakfast needs to be taken on the road.  They’re versatile enough to be crumbled over oats or yogurt, slathered with peanut butter,or broiled in the oven with a pat of butter.  And while they are, of course, most delicious served hot from the oven, they can be easily rewarmed with results that are just as yummy.

You could bake them for when company comes over.  Say, you know, for brunch or an afternoon cup of coffee.  Or you could bake a batch, just because.  Just because you have a little extra time.  Just because you feel like eating a banana bran muffin.

Banana Bran Muffinstweaked from an original Eating Well recipe

If you ever want to change things up, add a sprinkle of walnuts to the batter.  Or chocolate chips.  Or raisins, pumpkin seeds, apricots, blueberries, etc.  You can make these muffins as personalized as you like.

If you’re not used to cooking with all whole-wheat flour or unprocessed bran, don’t be intimidated!  The bananas and small amount of oil help to keep these babies soft, moist and perfectly tender.  There’s absolutely nothing that’s overly grainy or dry about them.

Enjoy! 😀

  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 3 medium, very ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1 c. milk with 1 T. lemon juice (or 1 cup buttermilk)
  • 1 cup unprocessed wheat bran
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1-3/4 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon + 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • walnuts for top (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Coat 12 muffin cups with cooking spray.
2. Whisk eggs and brown sugar in a medium bowl until smooth. Whisk in bananas, buttermilk, wheat bran, oil and vanilla.
3. Whisk whole-wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the dry ingredients; add the wet ingredients and stir with a rubber spatula until just combined.  Scoop the batter into the prepared muffin cups (they’ll be quite full). Sprinkle with walnuts, if using.
4. Bake the muffins until the tops are golden brown and spring back when touched lightly, 15 to 25 minutes. Let cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Loosen edges and turn muffins out onto a wire rack to cool slightly before serving.

QUESTION: What seems to always be in your freezer?

Over A Bowl of Oats

It was over a bowl of crunchy cashew banana oats, that I officially began my New Years Resolution.

 

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Each new year, I like to plan out what my important goals will be.  Sometimes I fall flat on my face and realize that I did nothing to achieve my resolutions.  Other years I’m overwhelmed by all that was accomplished. 

This year, I decided that I wanted to make my goals entirely achievable.  Which explains why “travel to Paris” isn’t on the list.  Maybe next year.  😉

What was on the list, was the goal of reading one book a month for the entire year of 2011.  Today, I finished January’s book: Brooklyn.

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At first I didn’t much like the book.  It was—what’s the word?—simple.  Almost too simple.  But then I realized that it was simple because Elise was simple.  She was a young girl who knew nothing outside of her hometown in Ireland.  She thought nothing would ever change.  That her sister Rose and her mother would always be right there.  That life would continue on, just as is. 

And then things change.  The book becomes more complex.  Elise travels to America to find work, and the book has an undertone of fear.  Fear of the unknown.  And then, when she meets a young Italian man in America, the book become becomes light.  Frivolous, even.  Exciting. 

The book keeps changing, as each part of the book holds a new tone.  It’s rare to find a book that can change a character—change the entire tone—while still holding true to the personality of the original character.  The book is raw.  Simple.  Complex.  Sad but real.  Honest. 

I loved it!

 

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I think the key for pulling through with New Years Resolutions and goals for me, is to break them down month by month.  It holds me accountable, and I absolutely love the fresh start that each new month (each new DAY, for that matter) brings. 😀

Crunchy Cashew Banana Oats

I’ve been eating this standard breakfast for the past week or so.  I love the sweetness of cashew butter and bananas, and I love the crunch that granola brings to the table.  It’s a wonderful, winning combination.

You could make this stovetop, of course, but preparing the mix the night before and microwaving it the following morning produces very similar results.  Letting the oats sit in the liquid for a nights course softens them right up; you will have a deliciously creamy bowl of oatmeal in 3-5 minutes flat.  Enjoy this warm treat on even the busiest of mornings. :D 

  • 1/2 c. oatmeal
  • 1 c. milk + 1/4 c. water
  • 1 banana, sliced
  • 1 Tbsp. crushed flax seed
  • cinnamon and nutmeg
  • 2 Tbsp. Natures Path Pumpkin Flax Granola
  • 2 Tbsp. cashew butter
  1. In a large, microwaveable bowl, place oatmeal, milk, water, banana, flax seed and spices in a bowl.  Stir, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
  2. The next morning, uncover the bowl and microwave for 3-5 minutes, stirring halfway through.  Top with granola and cashew butter and enjoy with your favorite book.

Question: Do you make daily/monthly/yearly goals for yourself?  How do you make them achievable? 

not without a fight

I kind of just blew my entire budget…

I’ve never been much of an Ocean State Job Lot fan.  In fact, I usually avoid the store like its the plague.  Most of what they sell is stuff you don’t need (or want.)  Hence the reason why I never go there. 

Until today.

Don’t ask me what it was that first drew me in.  Not the aesthetics of the building, thats for sure.  But once inside, there was absolutely no turning back.  An entire isle was dedicated to nut butters.  Jams and jellies that you can only find at Whole Foods.  Flaxseed for half of the normal price.  I was a bit awestruck, really. 😉 

Current Favorite Snack: 1% cottage cheese with Bear Naked Banana Nut Granola and a dollop of Cinnamon Raisin Peanut Butter.

After recovering from my excitement, I felt like baking. 

It truly is a rare moment to have a bunch of spare bananas lounging around my house.  The occasional soggy apple or pear may find its way into the trash, due to neglect and oversight.  But never—never!—does this happen to a banana.  Green bananas.  Yellow bananas.  Brown bananas.  It really doesn’t matter.  They’re gone in a matter of days, as they find their way into each and every family member’s morning meal.

In order to celebrate the rare and momentous occasion of having ripe bananas at my disposal, I decided to bake a banana bread.
 

Just as a side note, I’ll usually take the time to read through the ingredient list before pouring everything in. 
 

I guess the excitement of banana bread overcame me, because I didn’t even give the list a second look. 

And—apparently—I don’t have cream of tartar sitting in the back (or front, for that matter) of my pantry.

I remember someone once telling me that you can substitute baking powder for a cream of tartar/baking soda combination.  I wasn’t sure if this was actually going to work, but there was no turning back.  My bananas were mashed, and there was no way I was going to give up.  Not, at least, without a pretty darn good fight.

(With the dry and wet ingredients, remember to only stir until *just* moistened.  This is especially important if you’re using whole wheat flour.  Nobody wants a tough, gummy banana bread!  Those lumps are completely okay–and normal.)

Substituting baking powder for the cream of tartar/baking soda seemed to work out alright.  The result was a little more dense than I would have liked, but all in all, at least my banana bread was saved from the doom of a trash can. 😉 

There was nothing fancy about this bread.  No cinnamon.  No nutmeg.  No vanilla.  No walnuts or chocolate chips.  Completely unadorned. 

Because sometimes you want those deep, dark chocolate chips.  Sometimes the crunch of a walnut, surrounded by the flavor of a sweet, sweet banana is nothing short of perfection.

But sometimes you just want the basics.  Bananas.  Bread.  Banana Bread.

Your Basic Whole Wheat Banana Bread

This is a spin off on my whole wheat chocolate chip banana bread.  If chocolate is what you’re after, just add 1/2-3/4 c. of dark chocolate chips after mixing the flour together with the banana mixture.  OR, try melting a bit of chocolate and drizzling it over the banana bread before serving.  Both ways are equally scrumptious. 😀

  • 1 c. mashed ripe banana (about 2-1/2 medium)
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large egg white
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 3/4 c. whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • cooking spray
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Combine first 5 ingredients in a large bowl with a whisk until smooth.
  3. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups and level with a knife.  Combine the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt in a bowl, stirring with a whisk.  Add flour mixture to banana mixture and stir just until moist (do not overmix).  Spoon batter into an 8×4 inch loaf pan coated with cooking spray.
  4. Bake at 350 for 40 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted comes out clean.  Cool 10 minutes in pan on a wire rack, remove from pan.  Cool completely on rack.

Question: Have you ever substituted another ingredient after realizing that you didn’t have the one that was originally called for?  How did this turn out?