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.

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

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The Gingerbread Series – Warm Gingerbread Cake With Whipped Cream, Ice Cream & Caramel Sauce from Moxie’s!

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Finally, the long-awaited gingerbread series is here!  Okay, so maybe it hasn’t been long-awaited by everyone else, but it’s definitely long-awaited by me!  I meant to start The Gingerbread Series much sooner, but here we are smack dab in the middle-to-latter part of December.  Part of me whimpers at all the precious time I wasted while another part is just thankful the series has started and that I’m able to put something of substance in it. 

If you’ve been following my foodie and scrapbooking adventures on the blog since the beginning, you’ve probably noticed something “missing”, so to speak.  I’ve showcased breakfast diners, coffee shops, cupcakeries, vegetarian eateries, bakeries, and many others, but never anything pertaining to large chain restaurants.  You know which ones I’m referring to.  And this omission was – and is – completely intentional.  Let’s be honest with one another.  Whether we frequented large chain restaurants with our friends as teens because they were conveniently located in our suburban neighbourhoods, or because they’re so prevalent (they wouldn’t be monster chains if they weren’t!), or because we genuinely enjoy eating at these establishments, we’ve all eaten at the large chains.

When I first started writing the blog, I knew right from the get-go that I wasn’t going to write about meals and experiences from these restaurants unless there was something I just had to share with you all.  It’s hard to explain why I felt, and still feel, so adamant about this stance because so long as food brings about enjoyment, it’s ripe for the sharing, no?  I guess it’s because I wanted to steer the blog in a particular direction, focusing on independent businesses, hole-in-the-wall gems, and great food from places others may not be familiar with or know about. 

Toronto (and its surrounding suburbs) is a BIG city and I wanted to show off all the amazing, droolworthy food I love and could find, not be pinned down by places and spaces that everyone and their mother already knew about.  Not to mention, I wanted to post about different ethnic cuisines, different foods catering to dietary restrictions and intolerances, and vegetarian and vegan food, and I knew I would never be able to accomplish had I chose to post about chain establishments on such a frequent basis. 

However, I respect that others might want to know about certain foods served at these types of places and that others may not always care for the unique or the independents and prefer to find foodie enjoyment in a large chain.  We know they wouldn’t be in business if people didn’t!  As well, I’m well aware that a number of you aren’t even Torontoians or Canadians, so another way of looking at it is that everything I post is new and unknown!  In this case, I obviously have something a little more out of the ordinary to show you all and since it’s part of a holiday menu and gingerbread related, it’s worth putting up on the blog.  Just for the holiday season, Moxie’s has a warm gingerbread cake on their winter menu!

After perusing through menus online, I was ecstatic when I found out that Moxie’s was serving a gingerbread cake ($5.99) especially for the holidays.  I was really looking forward to trying it because not only was it something I could consider posting on the blog, but also because it was something I had never eaten before.  I’ve never had gingerbread cake before and I was so curious to see how Moxie’s made and served theirs. 

It blew me away.  I always try to mentally envision what my dish or meal looks like before I get it if it’s not something that I can already see from a display case, and I’m almost always wrong in my mental imagery.  This was another one of those times.  I was expecting a simple slice with the accompanying vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce, but what I got was a large dish with two giant gingerbread cake wedge slices sitting on top of a caramel sauce pond with vanilla ice cream and a huge helping of whipped cream.

I was so giddy.  Dessert will do that to me.  Oh, what the heck, scratch that.  Yummy food in general will do that to me.  This is one fabulous holiday dessert and cake.  Just like the name said, the cake and sauce were nice and warm and the cake was incredibly soft and moist and not crumbly or dry in the slightest.  The caramel was smooth and fluid without being runny, watery, or stodgy, and the whole dessert was just mouthful after mouthful of warm spiced, nutmegy cake with soft whipped cream, rich sauce, and sweet vanilla ice cream.  The dish was very well-balanced.  With every bite of gingerbread cake, I had some whipped cream, sauce, and ice cream and there wasn’t a ridiculous amount of one that left the other out in the dust.  There was enough sauce and sweet accompaniments to eat with the cake and there was enough cake to swirl around the sauce.  For those who have nut allergies, beware though as I asked about nut content and there is indeed traces of nuts in the dessert, so steer clear.  

Other than it being delicious and just REALLY GOOD, the best thing about this gingerbread cake was that I could have eaten the cake without its sweet partners.  Yes, the sauce, whipped cream, and ice cream made it that much more decadent, but the cake itself was great enough to stand on its own if need be.  I found myself swirling my cake in the sauce and others because I wanted to, not because I felt compelled to.  Sometimes you glop the sauce and accompaniments on because whatever it is you’re glopping it onto is too dry or just not good enough but it certainly wasn’t the case for this cake.  It was fabulous and if you want to get your sweet teeth into it, you better do so before the 29th because the holiday menu is only in effect until December 28th!

*****

Photos taken at the Scarborough Town Centre location at 300 Borough Drive.  Moxie’s Classic Grill has locations all across Canada, click here to find different locations, to view their menus, and more.

Bunnies and Easter Sunday Baking! Terry’s Carrot Cake Cookies

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It’s Easter Sunday!  I don’t celebrate in any type of religious way, but I’m all sorts of giddy over the pastels, bunnies, chocolate, and all-around cuteness!  Like I promised last night, I have a baked cookie treat for you guys today: CARROT CAKE COOKIES!!  😀  As soon as I saw the recipe in my foodie murder mystery, Cream Puff Murder, I knew I had to bake these and I knew I wanted to bake them for Easter weekend.  I adore carrot cake and thought it had to be awesome in cookie form.  I had a lot of the ingredients on hand already (cinnamon, nutmeg, coconut, etc.) so there wasn’t too much I had to go out and specifically buy for the cookies. 

When I think of Easter and spring I think of marshmallows, chocolates, pastel jelly beans, and carrots (you know, with the bunnies and all), so I figured anything related to those yummies would work.  And I’m really excited to share the recipe and photos for this time because the last time I baked cookies (before these ones but after the mocha butterballs) I had to chuck half the batch and couldn’t get photos to show you all; until I can tinker with the recipe again and make it work, it ain’t getting published!

The cookie dough for these smelled SO amazingly good.  With the combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, golden raisins, apple sauce, and crushed pineapple, our big mixing bowl of cookie dough smelled like a fruity cinnamon bun *closes eyes and mentally floats on a heavenly cloud*  The dough needs time to chill (I chilled mine overnight), but it’s so worth it because they turned out great and YES, they taste like delicious carrot cake!  I gotta say, the golden raisins, crushed pineapple, and cinnamon and nutmeg MAKE this recipe and I’m really happy with how they turned out.  YAY!

Recipe for Terry’s Carrot Cake Cookies (yields 10 dozen small cookies)

Ingredients

  • 2 sticks of butter (1 cup, 1/2 pound) at room temperature
  • 2 cups white granulated sugar
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup unsweetened applesauce (**Deb’s note: I used the little cups of Mott’s Fruitsations)
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 4 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg (**Deb’s note: I used ground nutmeg from the bulk, it worked just fine)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 20-ounce can crushed pineapple (very well drained)
  • 1 cup golden raisins
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts (measure after chopping) (**Deb’s note: I’m not a fan of walnuts so I didn’t use them)
  • 3⅟₂cups flour (pack it down in the cup when you measure it)
  • 1 cup coconut (shredded)
  • 3 cups finely grated carrots

**Deb’s note: there was no way I was going to bake 10 dozen, so I actually halved this recipe and it worked out just fine.  I know you can’t halve 3 eggs, so I used my judgment and whipped up two and all I had was 14-ounce can of crushed pineapple so I used about 3/4 of the can.  The cookies turned out great, so it’s safe to halve this recipe if you can’t manage baking 10 dozen!

Directions

  • Beat the butter, sugar, and eggs together until all 3 ingredients are thoroughly incorporated and the mixture is smooth, fluffy, and light yellow in colour.
  • Pat off any excess liquid from the applesauce with a paper towel.  Add the applesauce to your bowl and mix thoroughly.
  • Mix in the vanilla extract.
  • Blend in the baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.  Mix it well until the dough is smooth and is a uniform colour.
  • Drain the excess liquid from the crushed pineapple.  Using a wire mesh sieve, press the pineapple against the sieve to remove as much liquid as possible.  Mix in the pineapple, golden raisins, and chopped walnuts (if using).
  • Blend in the flour, a little bit at a time.  If you try to dump it all in at once, the mixer will beat and puff up a cloud of flour dust and make a mess out of the bowl and your kitchen counter!
  • Stir in the shredded coconut by hand.
  • Stir in the grated carrots by hand.  Mix well to make sure everything is distributed evenly and thorough incorporated.
  • Cover the cookie dough with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours, or overnight.

  • When you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350°F, rack in middle position.
  • Line your cookie sheets with parchment paper and put 12 dough balls on each sheet.  You can use 2 spoons to scoop and drop the dough, a small icecream scoop, or your hands if you don’t mind getting your hands a bit messy.  Shape the dough into rounds.
  • Bake at 350°F for 12 minutes.  Leave the cookies on the cookie sheets for a minute before transferring them to a cooling rack to cool.

When they are cool enough, proceed to stuff your face.  I ate 3 cookies as soon as they were cool enough.  So soft, yet crunchy from the coconut, carrots, and raisins.  I love these cookies and I’m so happy they turned out well!  There’s actually a cream cheese frosting recipe that goes along with it, but all I had in the fridge was salmon and garden vegetable cream cheese (d’oh!), hardly what I would consider appropriate for cookies, ha!  Leave me a comment if you want the frosting recipe and enjoy the photos and the rest of your Easter weekend! 😀

*****

Recipe taken from Joanne Fluke’s Cream Puff Murder.  New York: Kensington Publishing Corporation, 2009.  Photograps taken by me.  The recipe can be found on page 139.  Terry refers to a character whom Hannah (the main character of the series) knows in the book.

Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice…Or Naughty! Spice Cupcakes and Baked Apple Tea from David’s Tea

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Sugar and spice and all things…naughty?!  Oh no no, eating cupcakes is not naughty at all 😉  Indulgent and delicious, yes, but not naughty.  It just so happens that my cupcake from The Cupcake Shoppe was named Naughty n’ Spice (how cheeky!) and it was all sorts of creaminess and yummy.  If carrot cake had a spunky sister, this would be her.  To brighten up a dreary fall day late last year, I enjoyed The Cupcake Shoppe’s seasonal special, Naughty n’ Spice, with creamy cinnamon vanilla buttercream frosting adorned with little red sprinkles, and moist spiced cake with lots of cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg.  It was light and fluffy and the spices really came through in the cake.  The combination of creamy buttercream and moist carrot cake-like cake just made me devour it and that’s saying a lot because I eat really slow!

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I’ve posted about The Cupcake Shoppe and their cupcakes twice in my blog since I started writing and I’ve been visiting this lovely cupcakery for over half a year now.  I’ve tried a number of their sweet little cakes and do I ever have my favourites!  So far I’ve tried After Ate (mint chocolate), Coco Loco (coconut buttercream with shredded coconut on vanilla or chocolate cake), Cookie Dough (cookie dough buttercream with vanilla chocolate chip cake), Lov’n Lemon (lemon buttercream on vanilla or chocolate cake), Mango Madness (mango buttercream on vanilla or chocolate cake), Opposites Attract (chocolate frosting on vanilla cake), and finally, Red Velvet (cream cheese frosting on red cake).

Out of all the ones I’ve tried, my top 3 are 1)  Red Velvet, 2) Cookie Dough, and 3) Naughty n’ Spice.  I loved this cupcake and you can bet I’m excited to eat some more of them come next fall!  Not to mention the seasonal aspect of the cupcake and tea made this scrapbook layout so much fun to craft and it totally gave me an excuse to play with my cute cookie alphabet Martha Stewart stickers, and fall apple stickers! 😀

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Because David’s Tea is only several shops away from The Cupcake Shoppe, I have become quite accustomed to toting a cupcake to the tea shop and ordering a tea to go with it, and I have an old friend of mine who I used to nosh with to thank for this as she eagerly sparked this idea over half a year ago.  I then sit there and eat it and guzzle down my tea.  And then waddle out the door with my tummy full and my bladder the size of a watermelon.  Tea and cupcake times are absolutely lovely 😀

Funny thing is, I often don’t scrap my cupcake photos.  Most of them time I slip them into a photo album and admire them from there, but getting cupcakes from The Cupcake Shoppe and having them with a tea from David’s Tea is incredibly enjoyable and makes for some really inspiring scrapbook layout ideas!  I’m a total nerd when it comes to this because the same way I match my accessories to my outfit, I match my cupcake to my tea.  It’s true!  I’ll walk into the tea shop and either find something I like that complements the cupcake, or I’ll choose something that matches the cupcake flavour.  And what goes amazing with spice cake?  Apples!  Apple cinnamon is a tried and true combination that just works in so many desserts dishes whether it’s pie, crumble, or granola and cereal.

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It was a chilly fall day and I wanted to take advantage of David’s Tea‘s new seasonal winter tea list and as luck would have it, they had an apple tea!  So I ordered the Baked Apple tea to go with my Naughty n’ Spice cupcake and had myself a jolly good time!  And as the cupcake shot into the top 3 of my Cupcake Shoppe list of favourites, so did the Baked Apple Tea.  I mentioned here in my first David’s Tea post that my favourite tea thus far was the Crème Brulée and the Baked Apple quickly claimed the top 2 spot.  I had mine iced and it was like sipping sweet apple pie.  At times, some of the teas can come across as a bit diluted in flavour when iced, but this one is fantastic iced.  It was a yummy way to spend a fall afternoon; apple tea + spice cupcake certainly equals everything nice 😉

*****

The Cupcake Shoppe is located in the Yonge and Eglinton neighbourhood at 2417 Yonge St., north of Eglinton on the east side of Yonge St.  The Eglinton David’s Tea location is only a hop, skip, and step away from the cupcakery at 2389 Yonge St.  David’s Tea is located at 4 other locations in and around Toronto, Scarborough, and Thornhill.  Click here for a list of the other locations.

Scrapbooking materials used: mint green cardstock (Recollections); poppy red construction paper; apple and apple tree stickers (Sticko); cookie alphabet stickers (Martha Stewart Crafts); crystal adhesive gems (Studio 18); metallic gel pen; black Sharpie marker.