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.

The Winter Cookie Party, Part II – Lemon Coconut Almond Cookies and Why Cookie Baking Means So Much

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It’s a cookie party in the Ate by Ate kitchen!  You all know how much I love baking cookies (and how much I love eating them!), but these days, I love baking them even more than usual because it gives me a renewed sense of joy and purpose: I bake cookies to make my grandma and grandpa happy.  I’m lucky to still have my grandpa.  A number of years ago my grandpa had kidney failure and because of the nurses and doctors who saved him that day, he was given many more years of life.  And cookies!

Here’s the story: when I started baking a few years ago, I would bake extras for my grandparents when I knew I was seeing them that day.  I’d bake little tea muffins or cupcakes without frosting, put them in a tupperware container, and carry them with me in the car like a prized possession.  I eventually began baking cookies with a venegeance and little by little, muffins and cupcakes were squeezed out in favour of cookies.  And my grandparents loved them.

My grandpa loved them so much he ended up bringing one or two with him every time he went to the hospital for his dialysis appointments.  For anyone who has a family member, loved one, or friend who visits the hospital on a regular basis, you know just how draining it can be.  My cookies not only gave him the little sugar boost he needed after his appointments (which would make him feel a bit weak and tired afterward), but they also gave him a little part of me and my joy.  So now, I bake more cookies so my grandpa has something happy and yummy to enjoy during those dreary hospital visits.

This past weekend, I saw my grandma and grandpa for Chinese New Year and I gave them a fresh batch of new cookies to enjoy because I knew it would make them happy.  My grandpa pulled me aside and said to me, in Chinese, “when Debra is here, grandpa feels rich”.  On top of the happiness I feel when I bake, this is all the validation I need to keep doing what I’m doing.

Recipe for Lemon Coconut Almond Cookies (yields 4 dozen cookies)

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup quick-cooking or old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2½ sticks unsalted butter (10 ounces), at room temperature
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon lemon extract
  • zest from 1 lemon
  • juice from 1/2 a lemon 
  • 2 cups unsweetened shredded or desiccated coconut
  • 2 cups sliced almonds

Directions

  • Preheat the oven to 325°F.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper (*Deb’s Note: Depending on how big you make your cookie dough balls, you’ll need to reuse your cookie sheets a few times.  My oven runs hot, so I actually don’t bother putting anything on the bottom rack and only use the top rack, placing 2 baking sheets vertically side by side).
  • In a medium bowl, mix the flour with the oats, baking powder, baking soda, and salt (*Deb’s Note: I didn’t use the mixer for this step, I just used a large spoon to mix everything together).
  • Beat the butter and both sugars at medium speed until creamy.  Add the egg followed by the egg yolk, vanilla extract, lemon extract, and lemon juice, beating well between additions and scraping down the side of the bowl as necessary.
  • Beat in the dry ingredients, then add the lemon zest, shredded coconut, and sliced almonds, folding them into the cookie dough mixture (*Deb’s Note: alternatively, you can roll your cookie dough balls in the coconut if you want after the next step).
  • Using your hands, grab handfuls of cookie dough and shape into balls, about 1 inch in diameter.
  • Place cookie dough balls onto the baking sheets, 2 inches apart.  Bake 12-15 minutes, until the cookies begin to brown at the edges.  Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets, then transfer them to a rack to cool completely (*Deb’s Note: I placed 15 on each baking sheet, but it all depends on how big your want you cookies.  If you roll them into bigger balls, only place 12 on each sheet.  Mine took about 14 minutes in the oven).

*****

Recipe inspired by Food & Wine magazine.  Sampson, Sally.  “How Baking Can Change the World.” Food & Wine November 2011: 130.

When You’re Under the Weather – Eating and Drinking Comfort in a Mug

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I couldn’t escape it this winter.  Although I have certain ailments that I’ve dealt with throughout my life (migraines, for example), I pride myself on being one of the lucky ones who skirt the mega colds, flus, and bugs.  Aside from a bad bout of bronchitis almost two years, I’ve been sick-free since.  My luck has run out though.  I mentally cursed when that feeling of achiness started creeping in last night and by morning, it was official: I was under the weather.  Arming myself with a hot mug of tea with honey and a throat lozenge, I shuffled my way around the house in fuzzy socks and a sweater willing my body to stop aching.  It didn’t listen.  Oh, the tea helped.  And so did the throat candy.  But alas, I sit here with aches in my shoulder blades, lower back, and legs, only temporarily distracted for an hour while I watched Iron Chef America: Battle Deep Freeze (how appropriate for the winter!) on Food Network.  At least my flaming cheeks don’t feel like hot plates anymore.

I had plans to show you all another wintry scrapbook layout today, but because of my aches I could not sit still and had to give up a quarter way through.  I shuffled around long enough to gather my scrapbook supplies and I sat down long enough to crop my photos and cut out my cardstock.  Then I gave up and retreated to my living room couch and proceeded to fidget and sulk in my blanket as I watched television for the rest of the day.  Sigh.  How pathetic.

So instead of the pretty scrapbook layout, I’m posting about what makes me feel better when I’m not feeling well: ginger ale, tea, toast and jam (when I had bronchitis, I ate 4 slices of toast with jam in one sitting!), and food and drink in a mug.  I have taken quite a liking to eating and drinking my breakfasts and snacks out of my giant orange mug and the best part is having something warm and cozy in my hands straight out of the microwave. 

My current obsession: vanilla almond cereal with sliced almonds in almond milk.  I swear to you I’m not an actual almond in human disguise!  If someone told me several years ago I’d be in love with almonds, I would scoff and then laugh.  Even though almonds are technically seeds or drupes as opposed to true nuts, I’ll refer to them as nuts for argument sake.  In all my life, I have never really liked cow’s milk or eating nuts of any kind.   Over the past year though, I’ve fallen in love with almond milk (which I prefer much more than cow’s milk) and I’ve found myself truly enjoying almond baked goods and actual almonds. 

After hearing about almond milk from vegetarian and vegan friends, I gave it a shot and loved it.  I’ve been taking advantage and integrating more vegan options into my diet (I have an allergy to soy milk so it’s almond milk all the way!) and my mum took advantage of a few sales at the grocery store, so I’ve been able to slurp it up more often now.  I feel really lucky not having nut allergies like so many of my friends do, so nuts are something I don’t take for granted anymore.  

My feel-good remedy besides tea and toast with jam?  Pouring some almond milk into a mug, nuking it for 30 seconds, and making a mountain of vanilla almond cereal (Oatmeal Crisp or Special K will do the trick!) in it with crunchy sliced almonds on top.  Even if it doesn’t banish the germies, it’ll make you feel warm and cozy all over.      

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.