She’s Going Overboard.

I tend to go a little overboard-–a little over the top—with most things in life.  This can be very, very good or very, very bad, depending on the situation.

Depending on what we’re talking about.

The perk of this characteristic is that when I focus on doing something—for work, school, play, etc—I do it really, really well.  There’s no wishy-washing around or getting side tracked with something else.

I stay focused.  Mentally.  Physically.  Focused.  .

The other side of this characteristic, however, is that I’m constantly overbooking myself.  Going overboard with things that “need to get done.”  Never giving myself enough time or energy to fit it all in.  In fact, to be quite honest, my calendar just isn’t quite big enough to hold all of my scribble, to-do’s, and reminders.

By the way—since we’re on this topic—have you ever noticed that “me time” is the last thing to be penciled into the calendar, if ever at all?  It makes you wonder…why??? We all need some well-deserved “me time.”  Saying that there’s just not enough time in the day is like saying there’s just not enough time to ever be with a best friend.  If that’s the case, something needs adjusting.  You deserve (and need!) the time to catch up, rewind, unfold, and breathe.

Anyways.

This week I went overboard on the bananas.

Don’t laugh.  This is totally serious stuff.  I’ve decided that the only thing worse than the thought of eating three bananas every single day—every day—is the idea of having to throw them out.  So I squeezed some “me time” into the calendar, snatched that overabundance of bananas, and baked myself a batch of muffins for tomorrow’s breakfast.

Because sometimes going overboard is a very, very good thing.

Banana-Blueberry Muffins

This is a standard old favorite muffin recipe with a few changes, here and there.  I’ve been experimenting with using honey as my sweetener of choice lately, and these muffins were practically made for such an ingredient.  So this was the first thing that I changed from the original version.  I also added in some cinnamon, doubled the vanilla, and reduced the sodium content by nixing the salt altogether.  The baking powder has plenty of sodium and I found the extra addition of salt completely unnecessary, which is oftentimes true for many muffin recipes.

I recommend making these whenever you have a big ol’ batch of overripe bananas.  They are best served warm, straight from the oven.  But, of course, they freeze well too.  Enjoy! 😀

  • 2 c. whole wheat flour
  • 1 T. baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 c. milk
  • 1/4 c. honey (or sugar)
  • 1/4 c. olive oil
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 c. mashed, very ripe banana (about 1-1/2 to 2 bananas)
  • 1-1/2 c. frozen blueberries
  1. Whisk together first 4 ingredients up to nutmeg.
  2. Whisk together next 7 ingredients up to banana in a separate bowl.
  3. Add blueberries to dry mix; stir until blueberries are coated with the flour.
  4. Add wet mix to dry mix.  Stir just until moistened (do not overmix…this toughens the final product!)
  5. Pour batter into 12-muffin pan coated with cooking spray.  Bake for 17-20 minutes at 400 degrees F.

QUESTION: Do you tend to overbook your calendar with to-do’s and appointments?  How do you make sure that you still get some “me time”?

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?

in the early morning

While I’ve always been a morning person, I don’t always bounce out of bed with limitless energy.  And yet, that’s exactly what I did this morning.  At 4:30 am.  On a Saturday.

What is wrong with me?

Anyways, I put the extra morning time to good use.

First, I got to work on fixing yesterday’s conundrum.  The misspelled word on my poster.  There was absolutely no way—no way!—that I was going to pay another $30 to have the poster printed.  So I took some photo quality printer paper and printed out part of the poster on an 8×11 sheet.  I really just wanted the word “The” so that I could paste it on top of the word “To.”

(It practically killed me to replace “to” with “the” on my saved version, without being able to so easily change it on the hard copy!)

While I wouldn’t say this was the most perfect, flawless solution, it did solve the problem…

My hope is that most people will stand far back and not even take notice. 😉

The sun was still barely waking up, as I rolled the poster back into its case.  It was just shy of 6 o’clock.  I didn’t have a long run planned.  I didn’t need to be out of the house until 9:30.  I literally still had an entirely full morning left.

Obviously, it only made sense that I bake a batch of blueberry muffins for breakfast.

I have always said that if I were to ever make it famous in life, I would want to be most famous for one of these two scenarios: (1) Owner and operator of a gourmet oatmeal buffet (don’t laugh, I can totally picture this!)  Or (2) a baker.  Of breads and pies and pastries.  And, mostly, of muffins.

Whole Wheat Banana Berry Muffins

Whole Wheat Banana Berry Muffins

Warm from the oven, these muffins make for an absolutely fabulous weekend breakfast.  They’re delicious as is, or crumbled into yogurt with almond butter too.  They also make the perfect breakfast-to-go, but honestly, I prefer eating them in the comfort of my home on some Saturday morning, in my pj’s, with a hot cup of coffee.

I used whole wheat graham flour for the fun, nutty texture.  But really, you can use any whole wheat flour that you happen to have on hand.  Enjoy! 😀

  • 2 c. whole wheat graham flour
  • 1 T. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 c. milk
  • 1/4 c. sugar
  • 1/4 c. olive oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 c. mashed, very ripe banana (about 1-1/2 bananas)
  • 1-1/2 c. frozen blueberries
  1. Preheat oven to 400.
  2. Whisk together first 5 ingredients up to nutmeg.  Whisk together next 7 ingredients up to banana in a separate bowl.
  3. Add blueberries to dry mix; stir until blueberries are coated with the flour.
  4. Add wet mix to dry mix.  Stir just until moistened.
  5. Pour batter into 12-muffin pan coated with cooking spray.  Bake for 17-20 minutes in preheated oven.  Once done, run knife around edges and pop out onto cooking rack to cool.  Serve warm for the ultimate muffin experience.

Sigh.

I love muffins.

I love early mornings.

Question: What was the highlight of your Saturday?

Hello, winter.

Hello, Winter.

Apparently, winter isn’t through with we New Englanders.

Ice.  Snow.  Wind.  Frigid, frozen temperatures.

This morning, I ran under a canopy of white.  I heard and felft the crunch of snow beneath my feet.  One step after the other.

Crunch.  Crinkle.  Swoosh.

I watched the icicles dance with excitement after they met the sun, sending their sparkles of light here, there, in every which direction.

There’s a fresh snowfall, here in New England.  And today I was the first—the very first!—to spread footsteps across a snowy path.

Sigh.

I don’t think I’ve ever experienced anything quite as peaceful.  I don’t think I ever will.

And you want to know a secret?

I kind of, sort of, maybe, almost enjoyed my morning run.  Despite (because of?) the frigid cold temperatures.

I don’t always know why or how to explain it, but sometimes I find myself falling absolutely in love with winter.

For such a snowy morning, I figured breakfast may as well include a bit of snow as well.

In the form of coconut, of course.

There was exactly one jam filled muffin left in the freezer.  And it was practically begging me to crumble it into a morning bowl of yogurt.

I just couldn’t say no.

Muffin Crumbled Yogurt Bowl

Crunchy walnuts.  A snowing of coconut.  Warm, jam-filled muffin crumbles.  And a dish of thick, creamy yogurt.

This is one of my most current favorite breakfasts.  I think you’ll love it too. 😀

  • 6-oz plain yogurt
  • 2 Tbsp. wheat germ
  • 1/2 cup chopped grapes, banana, apricots, or other favorite fruit
  • 1 jam-filled muffin (or other favorite muffin of your choice)
  • 2 Tbsp. granola
  • 2 Tbsp. walnuts
  • dusting of coconut
  • drizzle of honey (optional)
  1. Combine yogurt with wheat germ and fruit, and place on bottom of bowl.
  2. Top with muffin, granola, walnuts, coconut and honey if using.  ENJOY! 😀

Question: Is it still officially feeling like winter where you live?  What is your favorite season?

Jam Filled Muffins

 

I am constantly searching for healthy breakfasts-to-go options.  Options that will carry me through those insanely busy mornings.  You know.  Those barely have time to shower, I think I’m still sleeping, my brain isn’t really functioning, kind of mornings.

Hey.  Life happens.

 

 

And so—more times than not—you’ll find me driving along in my car at 6:30am, eating an almond butter and banana sandwich (maybe toasted, maybe not) and sipping on a hot cup of green tea.  In fact, you could almost bet on it.

But then, once in a great while, I’ll find myself home alone during a lazy Sunday afternoon.  That’s when I break out the whisk and spend some quality time in my kitchen, preparing breakfasts for the week to come.

 

 

Everyone has a favorite muffin.  A favorite recipe.  (Mine happens to be the whole wheat pumpkin muffins on my recipe page, but please don’t tell all of the other muffins!)

 

 

However, jam filled muffins are a delightfully close contender.  With their sweet personality and rustic good looks, they really are impossible not to love.  I almost always have a couple sitting in my freezer, just in case.

Because you never know when those crazy mornings might come along.  I like to think that I’m completely prepared.

 

 

It should be mentioned, however, that jam filled muffins are only ever as good as the jam that fills them.

You could technically use any old jam and probably still enjoy each and every delicious bite.  However, I’ve found the best results with either (a) homemade jams and jellies, (b) Trader Joe’s raspberry jam, or (c) some other “gourmet” jam/jelly.  You want these to taste fresh.  Homemade.  Rustic and pleasant.  This is one of the few times that I become totally stuck up, refusing to buy any store-brand products. 😉

 

 

~17 minutes in the oven~

 

 

Crazy busy mornings.

A healthy breakfast to go.

And let the day begin.

 

 

Jam Filled Muffins—recipe adapted from the Eating Well Magazine

These muffins are absolutely heavenly when served warm, straight from the oven.  To reheat the next morning, simply pop them in the microwave for a good 15-20 seconds.  Any extras can be frozen for the upcoming week.

Serve with a glass of milk and a fruit for a complete, healthy breakfast-t0-go.  Enjoy! 😀

  • 2-1/4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 cup buttermilk (or 1 cup milk + 1 Tbsp. lemon juice)
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup blackberry, blueberry, raspberry or cherry jam (highly recommend Trader Joe’s raspberry!)
  • walnuts
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F.  Coat 12 muffin cups with cooking spray.
  2. Whisk flour, baking powder, and baking soda in a large bowl.
  3. Whisk eggs and brown sugar in a medium bowl until smooth.  Add buttermilk, orange juice, oil and vanilla; whisk to blend.  Add to the dry ingredients and mix with a rubber spatula just until moistened.
  4. Scoop half the batter into the prepared pan.  Drop a generous teaspoonful of jam into the center of each muffin.  Spoon on the remaining batter, filling each muffin cup completely.  Sprinkle with walnuts.
  5. Bake the muffins until the tops are golden brown and spring back when touched lightly, 15-20 minutes.  Loosen edges and turn muffins out onto a wire rack to cool slightly before serving.  ENJOY! 😀

 

Question: Do you ever eat breakfast on the go?  What are some of your favorites?

I still love muffins.

 

Some people love Valentines Day.

Some people hate Valentines Day.

Everybody loves muffins.

 

 

During my undergrad in Nutrition, I was taking a class called “Food Service.”  It sounded simple enough. 

“Serve food,” I thought to myself.  “I can do that.”

 

 

And then I found myself smack dab in a cooking lab, grilling Australian lamb chops, making peanut brittle, and homemade mayonnaise.

It’s a little ironic that the toughest thing I had to overcome was the muffin.

 

 

Yes.  The simple muffin.

Simple to look at.  Simple to eat.  And supposedly, even more simple to make.

 

 

And yet, batch after batch, my muffins always turned out gummy.  Tough.  Bread like.  My professor took it upon herself to look over my shoulder.  Studying my every movement.  Making sure that I was following all the steps exactly right.

And then—suddenly—she found what she was looking for.  “The muffin mixing method!” She exclaimed loudly.  Triumphantlly.  “Don’t forget the muffin mixing method!”

 

 

I think to say that she was a proud of herself when she realized what was wrong is an understatement.  She looked as if she had just witnessed her baby taking his first steps. 

The problem was that I was mixing the dry ingredients directly in with the wet ingredients, rather than separating them first (oops!)  I blamed it on the fact that I didn’t have a recipe in front of my face, telling me to do this.  My professor just smiled, dumped out my previous batch and told me to try again. 

 

 

I still experiment in the kitchen.

I still make mistakes.

I still love muffins.

 

 

Blueberry Muffins—recipe taken from Cooks Illustrated Light, with changes.

This recipe calls for cake flour, which naturally has a lower gluten content than regular, all-purpose flour.  This produces a finer crumb in your final batch of muffins.  But, of course, if you don’t happen to have cake flour in your pantry, you can just substitute with all-purpose or whole wheat flour for equally tasty results.  Enjoy! 😀

  • 1-1/2 c. plus 1 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
  • 1 c. cake flour
  • 1 Tbsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 c. plus 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • 4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tsp juice from one lemon
  • 1 tsp grated zest from 1 lemon
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1-1/2 c. plain low-fat yogurt
  • 2 c. fresh or frozen blueberries
  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375.  Line a 12 cup muffin tin with paper liners or spray with cooking spray.  Whisk 1-1/2 cups all purpose flour, 1/2 cup wheat flour, cake flour , baking powder, baking soda, salt and 1/4 c. of the sugar together in a medium bowl.  Set aside.
  2. Beat an aditional 1/2 c. sugar and butter together with a mixer, until light and fluffy, 3-5 minutes.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Beat in lemon juice, lemon zest and vanilla until incorporated.
  3. Reduce mixer speed to low.  Beat in one-third of the flour mixture until just incorporated, followed by one-third of the yogurt, scraping down the bowl as needed.  Repeat this process twice more, alternating between the remaining flour mixture and the yogurt until the ingredients are just incorporated.  Do not overmix.
  4. Toss blueberries with the remaining all-purpose flour, then gently fold them into the batter with a rubber spatula.  Using a large ice-cream scoop or measuring cup, divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups, and sprinkle the tops with the remaining Tbsp. sugar.  Bake until golden and a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out with just a few crumbs attached, 25-30 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking.  Cool the muffins in the pan for 5 minutes, then flip them out onto a wire rack and cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Question: What do you find “tough” to make?  What do you find “easy” to make?

snow to be expected

Here in New England, we’re experiencing a bit of calm before a storm.  The news stations are claiming that 12-24 inches are expected by tomorrow.  Time to take out the snowshoes!

I figured it would be a good idea to get as much fresh air as possible today before the storm came, and went out for a nice, long walk.

And then I came home to bake a batch of breakfast muffins. 

Excuse?  The upcoming storm.  It’s not such a bad idea, you know, to prepare for any potential electric outages. 😉

Breakfast Muffins—as seen in Moosewood Restaurant’s “Cooking for Health” cookbook, with some tweaking.

I love muffins.  So when I find a muffin recipe that sounds both delicious and healthy, I throw on my apron and I bake a batch. 

These are perfect for breakfast, as they’re not overly sweet and give you plenty of fiber and nutrients to keep you going throughout the morning.  Simply pair with a glass of milk, a dish of yogurt, some fresh fruit and/or a handful of walnuts.

  • 1/2 cup plain nonfat yogurt
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 T. molasses
  • 3/4 c. dried cranberries
  • 1 c. oat bran
  • 2 c. finely chopped apples
  • 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
  • 1-1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 c. rolled oats
  • 2 T. ground flax
  • 1/2 c. chopped walnuts
  1. Preheat oven 5o 375 degrees.  Spray 12-cup muffin tins with cooking spray.
  2. In a mixing bowl, stir together the yogurt, eggs, vanilla, and molasses.  Stir in craberries, oat bran, and apples. 
  3. In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon, stirring in the oats, walnuts (if desered) and flaxseeds.  Fold the dry mixture into the wet mixture, just until combined.
  4. Spoon batter into the prepared muffin tin; fill to the brims. 
  5. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until toothpick inserted comes out clean.  Cool on a wire rack.  ENJOY! 😀

Question: Are you expecting snow where you live?

an ode to muffins

I love muffins.

I love that they’re so easy to pack.  Easy to eat. 

I love that they can verge on the side of sweet.  A not-so-subtle dessert.

I love that they can be your go-to healthy morning meal. 

Versatile.  Muffins are completely versatile. 

I love that a big batch of muffins can be whipped together in under 30 minutes.

I love that muffins are so forgiving.  They work with what you’ve got on hand.

I love that you can add just about anything you want to a basic recipe (carrots?  raisins?  flax?  pumpkin?) and watch it come out perfect.

Muffins.  I love everything about them. 

 

When I’m looking for more than just a “special treat”—when I need a muffin to be strong and carry me through an early morning—I usually look to bran.  Veggies.  Fruits.  Whole grains.  A bit of healthy fat. 

A muffin can offer all of these things.

Since I was looking for a hearty breakfast muffin, I decided to experiment with a basic bran muffin recipe.  Cutting out some of the oil and replacing this with carrots did nothing to the moisture content.  Not even the second day left a hint of difference.

The apples added a natural boost of sweetness (and fiber, thanks to leaving the peel intact!) 

And the spices and molasses offer that extra somethin’, somethin’, just to make you dream of autumn.

Quick.  Convenient.  Healthy.  Delicious.

Just what I need to carry me through a busy week of early mornings and late nights. 

(I paired my morning muffin with more veggies and fruits in the form of a smoothie.  A cup of milk, a cup of frozen blueberries, half a cup of canned pumpkin, a tablespoon of flax and a few handfuls of baby spinach leaves.  Sprinkled off with granola.)

I ate my smoothie upon waking up and took the muffin to go.  

Because—you know—muffins are totally transportable. 

Autumn Spiced Bran Muffins

Muffins always taste best on the same day that they’re made.  Even so, these do hold over really well.  If you don’t plan on eating them all within a few days, however, simply double bag them and store in the freezer.  Take them out the night before and you’re golden.  They make a very convenient and healthy breakfast or snack to have throughout the week. 😀

  • 1 1/2 cups wheat bran
  • 1 cup milk + 1 T. lemon juice (or 1 c. buttermilk)
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 small to medium apples, diced (peeling not necessary!)
  • 1 carrot, grated
  • cinnamon
  • nutmeg
  • cloves
  • ginger
  • 1/2 c. chopped walnuts (optional)
  • Directions

    1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Spray muffin pan with cooking spray or line with muffin tins.
    2. Mix together wheat bran, buttermilk, apple and carrot; let stand for 10 minutes.
    3. Beat together oil, egg, molasses and vanilla and add to buttermilk/bran mixture. Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, spices and salt. Stir flour mixture into buttermilk mixture, until just blended. Fold in walnuts if desired and spoon batter into prepared muffin tins.
    4. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes in pan and then transfer to a cooling rack.  ENJOY!

    Question: What is your favorite busy morning breakfast?