Go Banana! Warm Banana-Almond Muffins with Brown Sugar Topping & The Story of a Broken-Hearted Muffin Lady

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banana almond muffins with brown sugar topping

Oh, muffin.  So many people adore you, my brother and father included.  They eat you for breakfast with their coffee.  They grab you on the go when they’re hungry or in a rush.  My dear coworker, Pat, treats everyone at work to a batch of you almost every Friday.  And let’s face it, you’re very versatile and easy to bake.  But I have to say it: I’m Deb and I have a love-hate relationship with you, THE MUFFIN.  *GASP*  Dun-dun-dun!

I know, you’d never know it from following Ate by Ate.  While I certainly don’t yak about muffins the way I do cupcakes or macarons, I do squeal over the cutie-patootieness of mini muffins (I even love saying mini muffin!) and I’ve posted a handful of tea muffin recipes over the years in a variety of flavours.  So what’s the deal?  I love homemade muffins but turn my nose up at store-bought ones.  There.  I said it.  I’m a muffin snob.

banana almond muffins with brown sugar topping

Which I know sounds confusing because every muffin was technically baked by somebody even if the batter was mixed by machinery.  But let’s be real.  I know we’ve all come across those horrendous muffins that look as though they’ve been pumped with steroids, that ooze grease when you give them a poke, that taste like cardboard (um, not that I know what cardboard really tastes like, but humour me and imagine it), and have no love, no character to them.  Those are the muffins that have turned me away all these years and to this day they still make me wary.

So much so that I even unintentionally declared it in public.  Oh yes.  I will never forget the day I broke a woman’s heart over a pack of muffins.  Long story short, I was grocery shopping with mumsie.  As we were browsing the bakery and baked goods, mumsie asked, “do you want some muffins?” to which I replied very forcefully and loudly, “EW, NO!  MUFFINS ARE FATTENING!”  Mumsie’s eyes and mouth widened in mortification as she smacked my arm and cried, “DEBRA!”  I scoffed, “what?”  “That woman was so happy looking at those muffins and you ruined it for her!”

Apparently I had destroyed a nearby shopper’s outlook on muffins with my unintentional outburst as said shopper immediately dropped the pack of muffins she was holding like a hot potato and scadaddled out of there.

Oops.

banana almond muffins with brown sugar topping

banana almond muffins with brown sugar topping

To that nice, innocent woman who was looking at muffins that day: I am sorry.  To make it up to you, here is a fab recipe I adapted from allrecipes.com.  They are banana-almond muffins with brown sugar-cinnamon-almond topping and they are moist and delicious and I hope they make you happy.  With homemade muffin love, Deb.

Recipe for Banana-Almond Muffins with Brown Sugar-Cinnamon-Almond Topping (adapted from the Banana Crumb Muffins recipe from allrecipes.com)

Makes 12 muffins

Ingredients: Muffins

  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup ground almonds (*Deb’s Note: this was my special addition!  The original recipe does not call for ground almonds)
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • 4 bananas, mashed (*Deb’s Note: the original recipe called for 3 bananas; I had 4 in my kitchen so I just used up all 4)
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil (*Deb’s Note: the original recipe called for butter but I didn’t feel it was necessary to use butter so I substituted vegetable oil and it worked out perfectly)

Ingredients: Topping

  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds
  • 2 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon

banana almond muffins with brown sugar topping

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 375°F.  Lightly grease 12 muffin cups or line with paper liners.
  • In a large bowl, mix together flour, ground almonds, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.  In another bowl, beat together bananas, sugar, egg and vegetable oil.  Stir the banana mixture into the flour mixture just until moistened.  Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups.
  • In a small bowl, mix together sliced almonds, brown sugar and cinnamon for the topping.  Sprinkle topping over muffins.
  • Bake for 18 to 20 min. (*Deb’s Note: the original recipe called for 18 to 20 min.; I baked mine for 17 min. and they turned out fine), or until toothpick inserted into centre of muffin comes out clean.

*****

Recipe adapted from allrecipes.com.  The original recipe, Banana Crumb Muffins, can be accessed HERE.

Tutti Fruitti Breakfast Muffins – Flourless, Gluten-Free, Banana Almond With Dried Cranberries and Pineapple!

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Happy new year, everyone!  I hope everyone is well-rested from the outings, parties, and holiday madness in general.  I had myself a relaxing new year’s eve going out for frozen yogurt with my family, picking up some snazzy scrapbooking materials on mega sale, and stuffing myself with pesto pizza before settling in for some good old-fashioned new year’s eve tv watching.  Low key, but delicious, just the way I like it!  And here we are almost two days into 2012 with a whole year of fun things and opportunities ahead of us. 

Even though I’m looking forward to so many things in the next little while (I have a scrapbooking supply shopping trip in the works and some upcoming winter markets I’m excited about!), I’m really sad that Christmas and the holidays are over.  I know it’s because my holiday hoopla festivities got off to a late start this year and I feel like it passed by way too fast.  My Christmas and holiday clock is still ticking and I have an abundance of energy that I need to channel to the point where I still want to fill Christmas cookie boxes and buy Christmas scrapbook paper!  I was the one having fun Christmas shopping after Christmas!  If anything, I can tuck away all the Christmas ideas and things I didn’t get around to enjoying in 2011 and save them for 2012.

A new year means a fresh and clean slate and that means noshing on leftovers and using up some ingredients that need to be eaten pronto.  We had some super ripe bananas in the kitchen and because I accidentally bought one too many bags of ground almonds (which I told you all about here), it was the most opportune time to do some baking!  Enter a fresh batch of baked goods for the first day of 2012: flourless, gluten-free banana almond nutmeg breakfast muffins with dried cranberries and pineapple!  It’s the first time I’ve ever baked anything flourless and I was super excited to bake something entirely out of ground almonds.  Not to mention I was giddy over mashing bananas – it’s very therapeutic and fun! 

I had to convert almost all the measurements from the original recipe though because they were in grams as opposed to cups and spoon measurements and I improvised and changed things up a little when it came to the ingredients, but lucky for me, the muffins turned out AMAZING!  The original recipe doesn’t have much sugar in it and for good reason: the dried fruit is deliciously juicy and sweet in these muffins and the texture of the ground almond cake is wonderfully soft and moist.  It’s incredibly moist banana cake and they smell divine!  These muffins are definitely the kind you want to enjoy every morning with some almond milk or yogurt.  This was one yummy way to celebrate the first day of the new year!

Recipe for Flourless, Banana Almond Muffins With Dried Fruit and Nutmeg (yields 12 muffins)

Ingredients

  • 6 tablespoons butter, softened at room temperature (3/4 of a stick)
  • 2 cups ground almonds
  • 3 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries or other dried fruit (I only had 1/4 cup, so I used chopped dried pineapple to fill in the rest)
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • juice from 1 whole lemon
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup (pure maple syrup does not have gluten in it, but check the label of your syrup just to be sure if you are making these for those who have celiac disease or who are gluten-intolerant)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (pure is best, but again, check the label to make sure there is no gluten)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • cinnamon sugar (optional; 1/8 cup granulated sugar with 1/2 tsp of ground cinnamon)

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350°F.  Line a 12-cup muffin/cupcake pan (or two 6-cup ones, whatever combination you have) with paper liners and set aside.
  •  Place the softened butter, maple syrup, and beaten eggs in a large mixing bowl.  Using an electric mixer, mix the ingredients together until butter is creamy and eggs and maple syrup are thoroughly incorporated.
  • Mix in the baking powder, then slowly add the ground almonds, occasionally scraping down the sides until everything is combined.
  • Add the lemon juice, nutmeg, and mashed bananas, mixing after each addition.
  • Using a large spoon, fold the cranberries, dried pineapple, or whatever dried fruit you are using, into the batter.  Spoon the batter into the paper-lined muffin tin, filling each cup to the top.  If you are using cinnamon sugar (like me!), sprinkle the cinnamon sugar on the tops.
  • Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the muffin comes out clean.  When the muffins are cool enough to handle, transfer to a wire rack to continue cooling.  Keep in a dry, airtight container.

*****

Recipe adapted from Banana, Cranberry, and Nutmeg Ground Almond Muffins on Calorie Count.

The Vegan Chili Series – Gluten-Free Bread, Sandwiches, Desserts, and Tomato Vegan Chili at Organic Oven

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It feels SO good to scrapbook again.  After being scrapbook layout-less on the blog for a month (god, it makes me cringe), I finally got a batch of photos developed yesterday and I got right down to business cranking out a new bright and fun foodie layout for today!  I’ve been meaning to blog about Organic Oven for a long time now but the perfectionist in me didn’t like the photos I initially took back in March (yes, in MARCH!) and to make matters worse, I took said photos and tried to create a decent scrapbook layout out of them which I also did not like.  That scrapbook layout sat in my “these pages are not good enough” pile for months and recreating a new one sat on the backburner for awhile.  Enter the Vegan Chili series I started back at the end of September.  I knew Organic Oven had a vegan chili on their menu and it was perfect opportunity to go back and try some more yummy eats and to give myself the creative kick in the butt I needed!  So here we are with the 2nd instalment of the Vegan Chili series, my blog post on Organic Oven, and a brand spankin’ new scrapbook layout! 

Organic Oven, located on Yonge Street just north of Lawrence Ave., is a jack-of-all-trades when it comes to the food that they serve.  First off, they’re not just a bakery with desserts.  They’re a lunch cafe, a coffee spot, and a retail shop with grocery items, all in one.  They sell a number of sweets that can either be purchased as single desserts, prepackaged take-away packs, or custom designed and ordered.  They’re sweets menu includes brownies, biscotti, muffins, cookies, cupcakes, cakes, and pies.  For lunch, you can sit down to a hot bowl of soup or chili, a freshly made sandwich or bagel, salads, quiches, and a host off coffee drinks, smoothies, juices, and milks, and while you’re there, you can pick up a few gluten-free grocery items to add to your bread basket.

Furthermore – and this is the kicker – you could literally have a group of people comprised of a vegetarian, a vegan, a meat-eater, and a gluten-intolerant come here to eat, and all four people would be satisfied with the food because their menu caters to all four diets!  For the vegetarian: goat cheese quiche, pizza bagels, egg salad, grilled cheese, and veggie sandwiches.  For the vegan (and vegetarian): multigrain, cinnamon, raisin, and poppy seeds bagels with vegan butter, vegan chili and soups, veggie sandwiches, and vegan brownies and cupcakes.  For the meat-lover: chicken and turkey sandwiches with veggies and cheese, as well as tuna salad.  Finally, for the gluten-intolerant: everything! 

Their focus is on serving healthier alternatives with dairy-free, gluten-free, soy-free, and nut-free options.  They’re best known for their gluten-free breads, bagels, and pizza crusts and all three items can be purchased from their grocery shelves.  Their gluten-free breads are crunchy rice buns that are dairy-free, egg-free, and certified organic and they use these same buns for all of the sandwiches on their menu.  The rice buns are made from certfiied organic flax meal and quinoa flakes and they come in packs of six.  Pop them in the toaster and you have yourself a healthy breakfast and lunch!  In addition to their rice buns, they also carry gluten-free cheese, cinnamon raisin, multigrain, and poppyseed bagels which come in packs of five, as well as gluten-free pizza crusts.  Aside from the breads, their grocery shelves also carry cereals, ice cones, rice snacks, milks (a variety of soy, almond, and rice), and other goodies.

Now, onto the vegan chili!  Their vegan chili is served either on its own with a side of rice bread ($5.70) or in a combo alongside a salad, quiche, bagel, or sandwich.  Prices vary depending on which combo you choose, but generally speaking lunch at Organic Oven will come out to around $5-$10, with most items averaging $6-$7.  Their vegan chili isn’t super spicy so for those who shy away from chili because of the level of heat, have no fear because the vegan chili here isn’t an alarm setter.  I’d say that the vegan chili here is a good cross between a thick soup and a chili in texture, consistency, and flavour. 

It’s a tomato based vegan chili made with crushed tomatoes, green bell pepper, sweet onions, red and white kidney beans, and chunks of sweet potato.  It’s such a hearty, warm, comforting dish.  It’s exactly the type of meal you’d want to eat on a chilly day, with a cheese sandwich (I know that would defeat the purpose of a entirely vegan meal if that wasn’t vegan cheese, but I’m not vegan so work with me here!), relaxing with the paper or a book.  It’s that type of meal.  The robust tomato flavour was savoury and the whole bowl was overflowing with veggies.  Oh!  And I added a side of avocado to my chili.  I love avocado like nobody’s business and since there was an option to add avocado for $0.50, I took it, which is why you see slices of creamy avocado on my chili.

And the bread!  It wasn’t my first time having Organic Oven’s rice bread, but for whatever reason, it tasted extra delicious this time!  Wedges of toasted rice bread were included on the side and I had the choice of having the bread spread or brushed with vegan butter or olive oil and I chose olive oil this time around.  I could not get over how amazing the bread with olive oil tasted!  Even though it was toasted, it was so incredibly soft on the inside with crispiness on the outside.  The olive oil soaked into the bread really nicely so the bread ended up having these yummy herb flavour to it.  I could have eaten an entire loaf because it was so yummy and scrumptious and all sorts of heaven in my mouth.  I am definitely planning on picking up a pack of rice buns to take home sometime.  Between myself, my brother, and my mum (my dad isn’t really into bread), I envision the pack being devoured in two days.  Or maybe even in one.

Organic Oven is a great lunch spot because the menu caters to so many different diets and the food is wholesome, healthy, and delicious.  You can bet I’ll be back for their cupcakes (I know, shocking how I didn’t blog about them already!  I’ll get to them, I promise) and I’ll profile their sandwiches next time around too.  For the time being, bookmark this post and Organic Oven as your uptown vegan chili station.

       

*****

Organic Oven is located at 3189 Yonge Street, just north of Lawrence Ave. on the east side of Yonge Street just steps away from Lawrence subway station.  They have several other locations around the city, which I will update once I get the addresses.

Scrapbooking materials used: to be added!

The Fall Harvest Series – Today’s Thanksgiving! Enjoying Baked Goodies From Evergreen Brick Works, Part III

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Happy Thansgiving to all my fellow Canadian lovelies!  I hope everyone’s had a fun and relaxing long weekend and I hope you all got the chance to eat some amazing food, with or without the turkey!  I’ve had a fabulous weekend, going to Evergreen Brick Works with my family for the first time, having a delicious Sunday brunch at Cardinal Rule (blog post forthcoming!), visiting two more markets on Sunday, and catching up on some much needed sleep today!  There’s so much that I want to do and see still (I still want to get in an apple orchard visit for starters!), and I feel like the days and weeks go by so quickly I can never get everything I want done actually done.  I will say though that this weekend was fantastic and I’m glad I got to fit in so much of what I wanted to do. 

I am bummed though that I wasn’t able to get out and capture a Thanksgiving meal to the nines for you all though.  There were some amazing Thanksgiving feasts being put on by some really places in the city, but the timing just didn’t work out for me.  No extravagent Thanksgiving meal photos – not for this year anyway!  Even though my family and I fancy the idea of traditional Thanksgiving food (you know, the roast turkey, potatoes, cranberry sauce, that kind of thing), there have been very few times in my life that I’ve actually had that type of meal with all the trimmings.  Just think, the first time I ever had pumpkin pie was last October and the last time our family did the big Thanksgiving dinner with the turkey was five years ago!

Mini pumpkins from Kensington Market. Awww ❤

Amazing mini buns from Evergreen Brick Works!

Do I wish that I had more of those meals to enjoy?  Sure I do, but at the same time, I’ve been really happy just having fun with the season in other ways.  I love fall comfort food and baking, and every year I get excited about the festiveness that surrounds Thanksgiving.  My brother and I love watching the Thanksgiving episodes of F.R.I.E.N.D.S, I adore reading holiday-centric books (the Baby-Sitters Club fan in me is still alive and kicking!), I get inspired by scrapbooking fall themed pages, home decor and kitchen accessories, and flipping through fall food magazines and cookbooks.  I may not have the tradtional meals under my belt, but what I have are sweet memories from Thanksgivings past (I don’t think I’ll ever forget the amazing spread my aunt put out when I was 9!), wonderful, homecooked food, and a family, boyfriend, and friends to go through life with.

    

Pumpkin cranberry scones!

I’m bookending the Evergreen Brick Works fall series today with a look at some of the mouth-watering baked goods at the market!  Bread and baked yummies and sweets are definitely a weakness for both my mum and I.  She’s a breadhead and I have a sweet tooth, so together we basically carry a whole bakery home with us when we decide to purchase things.  The market is amazing for things like this because there’s so much variety.  Different kinds of baguettes, loaves, and buns, muffins, cakes, pies, squares, pastries, and all sorts of other goodies.  We picked up a beautiful and delicious mini vegetable and cheese pizza  for my lunch, a blueberry maple syrup scone (OH.MY.GOD), a raisin muffin, and a grab bag of 8 mini bread buns in all these different flavours!  The grab bag had plain ones, wheat ones, corn bread, pumpkin, and BEET BREAD!!!

As my family and I were waiting for the Evergreen Brick Works shuttle bus, there was this nice woman who we chatted with who told us about the famous beet bread at the market and we totally lucked out finding the vendor and bakers who made it.  I’m a weenie though because in my giddy haste over cute buns I didn’t take a photo of the booth itself or get the name of the lovely people behind it.  All I can tell you is that it’s one of the first tables you see on the left when you come into the farmers’ market barn.  I promise I’ll get the name for you guys next time!  The bread was absolutely delicious and I loved it because we were able to try so many different kinds in the grab bag.  We popped them in the oven for our Thanksgiving brunch this morning and they were crispy on the outside and mega soft on the inside.  Every farmers’ market has its own draw and for me, this would have me coming back for more all on its own.

I’ve enjoyed doing the Fall Harvest series so much over the past week and there’s so much more that I want to show you guys that I’m going to continue the series intermittenly for the rest of the month!  I would keep it going every day for the next two weeks or so, but if I’m going to be honest, I am so behind on my scrapbooking that there are certain posts I don’t want to post because I want to do my scrapbook pages for them first.  I’m having a lot fun with the series though, so I’m not going to stop it until winter hits.  There’s still too much pumpkin fall fun and delicious food I have yet to unleash 😀

*****

Evergreen Brick Works is located at 550 Bayview Ave.  The farmers’ market takes place year-round every Saturday from 8am-1pm.  If taking public transit, there is a free shuttle bus that operates 7 days a week beside Broadview subway station, as well as the 28A Davisville TTC bus that runs on Saturdays from 8am-3pm between Evergreen Brick Works and Davisville subway station.  Click here to learn more the site, their events and programs, and how to get here by bus, bike, car, or foot.

The Fall Harvest Series: Like Apple Pie in a Muffin – Apple Almond Muffins With Cinnamon Sugar Topping!

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It’s Friday, it’s Thanksgiving weekend for us Canadian folk, and the weather is absolutely gorgeous.  It’s true that I prefer the cooler weather (remember how many times I whined about the gross humidity and heat this past summer?), but for this weekend, I’ll make an exception because it truly is beautiful out and I can’t even begin to express how excited I am about the next few days.  I’m visiting some amazing farmers’ markets, enjoying some sunshine, taking photos, and enjoying everything I’m thankful for.  And one of those things is food.  Baked goods, more specifically.  And baked goods with apples in them. 

For all of you who have the same fruit allergies as I do, there is hope!  I am going to town with the apples this fall and considering how allergic I am to the raw variety, even I’m surprised by how many different ways I’ve used and eaten them this season.  I know I’ve been going honky tonky with the apples for the Fall Harvest Series, but I promise that I have some awesome pumpkin goodies in the mix coming soon!  In the meantime though, I have another fabulous fall recipe to share with you all: apple almond muffins!  I thought the apple lemon poppyseed muffins I posted earlier in the series was a great fall recipe, but this…oh, this.  Do you like apple pie?  Fresh, hot, apple pie?  You do?  Then these are perfect for you because these apple almond muffins with cinnamon sugar topping are like apple pie in a sweet, sugary, moist tea muffin.  And yes, they do deserve the bold and italics because they are that delicious.

This is actually the first time I used a recipe I found online.  Call me traditional, but I hug my cookbooks and love my paperbacks and hardcovers to pieces.  Even though I know there’s a wealth of amazing recipes online and in blogs (hello, some of my most awesome friends have cooking blogs with recipes!), I’ve been somewhat resistent to using the internet as a crutch when it comes to this because of this. 

This changed though when I made a boo-boo buying ingredients.  Long story short, I bought one too many bags of ground almonds, thinking I had used up my supply from before only to have my mum unearth 3 bags of the stuff from my baking ingredient bags.  Oops.  Needless to say, I need to use up some of those ground almonds, and fast.  Enter the interwebs.  Thanks to a recipe I found for apple almond muffins on Eleanor Snare’s blog, The Magic Square Foundation, I was able to use up some of stash and I came away with some of the most delicious muffins I’ve ever had in my life.  I made adjustments to the recipe though (converting some of the measurements, for example), so this recipe is the one I ended up with after the adjustments.  If you want to see the original, the link is at the bottom of the post.  Looking for a knock-out fall or Thanksgiving dessert or snack?  Here it is:

Recipe for Apple Almond Muffins With Cinnamon Sugar Topping (yields 24 tea muffins if apples are cut into small chunks, 18 if apples are grated)

Ingredients for muffins

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 sticks of butter (1 cup), at room temperature
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 4 small apples (*Deb’s note: I used Gala apples)
  • 3/4 cup of all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 ground almonds
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 cup milk (*Deb’s note: honestly, I just eyeballed it when I poured milk into the batter.  I’d say anywhere from 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup should be good)

Ingredients for cinnamon sugar topping

  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds (*Deb’s note: it’s completely up to you how much sliced almonds you want on the muffins, so if you love them, add more and if not, add less or omit them entirely).
  • 3 tablespoons of brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350°F.  Line 2 12-cup cupcake or muffin pans with paper liners (or any amount of pans that will equal to 24 spaces for 24 muffins).
  • Cut the butter into small pieces and beat together with both the brown sugar and the white sugar in a large mixing bowl until creamy.  Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition.
  • Cut the apples into small chunks (or grate them if you wish) and add the chopped apples to the wet mixture.  Don’t beat the apples in, just mix them in with a mixing spoon.
  • In a separate mixing bowl, add the flour, ground almonds, cinnamon, and baking powder.  Mix gently with a spoon until everything is evenly distributed.  Fold this into the wet apple mixture by hand.  Slowly mix in the milk.
  • Spoon batter into muffin cups, filling each cup until it is full.  Sprinkle sliced almonds on top.
  • To make the cinnamon sugar topping, mix the brown sugar with the cinnamon until combined and sprinkle over top the almonds and muffin mixture.  Bake for 15-20 minutes or until tops are golden and a toothpick inserted into the center of the muffin comes out clean.

*****

This recipe was adapted from The Magic Square Foundation and the original can be viewed here.