High-Rise Banana Muffins

It’s that time of year that I like to clean out my cupboards, pantry and freezer. I pride myself on keeping my baking and cooking equipment organized, but by the end of 2018 everything seemed to be in a tangle.

Inspired by 3 over-ripe bananas discovered in the depths of my freezer it was time to use them up along with a bunch of random paper cupcake liners and near empty containers of spices and extracts. Baking some warm healthy muffins would help me clean things out. And bonus…we get delicious muffins for breakfast.

Today, I bring you a banana muffin that actually tastes like bananas. Tip: bake with over-ripe bananas for the very best flavor. Most muffins I have had in the past are loaded with spices, so they taste more like ginger or cinnamon or chai rather than fresh bananas. While this recipe has a touch of spice the banana flavor and aroma really comes through due to the addition of some banana extract. I love this McCormick brand because it truly does enhance the banana flavor without any weird artificial taste.

You will notice that this recipe starts at a high oven temperature of 425F. before dropping down to 350F. The initial high heat is what gives these muffins the high-rise. As for mixing…you know the drill. Mix the dry ingredients with the wet just until moistened, so they bake up tender. Please feel free to toss in any other healthy ingredients you like. I’m a freak for chia seeds, but some toasted nuts could be good for a bit of crunch

1 cup King Arthur all-purpose flour

½ cup King Arthur white whole wheat flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

3 over-ripe bananas (frozen and thawed)

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar (or 3/4 cup if you like them sweeter)

6 tablespoons coconut or avocado oil

1 egg

2 teaspoons McCormick banana extract

1 tablespoon chia seeds

Heat oven 425F. Line muffin tin with paper liners. In medium bowl, whisk both flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg; set aside. Peel thawed bananas over a large bowl, catching any excess liquid. With electric mixer on low mash up the bananas. Add brown sugar, coconut or avocado oil, egg, extract and chia seeds; blend well. Add dry ingredients and blend at low speed just until moistened and batter is smooth. Divide batter evenly among muffin cups. Bake for 5 minutes and then turn down oven to 350F. Bake 15 to 17 minutes or until wooden pick comes out clean. Serve warm or at room temperature.

The Best Cranberries For All Seasons

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Cape Cod Select Premium Frozen Cranberries is hosting a blogger challenge. I am thrilled to participate and bring this kind of quality product to my blog.  For more than 70 years the Rhodes family has been harvesting cranberries. Just open a bag of their cranberries and you will see nothing but bright red and fresh beautiful fruit. Available all year long, I have never seen cranberries like these before. They are like jewels and I just could not wait to create some recipes with them.

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Just last week I was eating the best cranberry lemon muffin I had ever tasted. It came at a premium price from a high-end coffee shop. It was so good I went back the next day and purchased another. I knew I needed to try and make these muffins at home and I did. Light and buttery these muffins are filled with cranberries and tart lemon curd. Husband approved these muffins are perfect for all those overnight holiday guests.

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Fresh Cranberry Lemon Muffins

1 and 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

¾ cup granulated sugar

2 eggs

½ cup plain Greek yogurt

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

½ teaspoon lemon extract

Zest of 1 large lemon

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons milk

1 and 1/2 cups Cape Cod Select Premium Frozen Cranberries (do not thaw)

1 jar lemon curd

Preheat oven to 425F degrees. Spray a 12 count muffin cups with nonstick spray or line with cupcake liners that rise above the rim of the pan (like the tulip shaped liners in the photo). In large mixing bowl, whisk flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt; set aside. In medium mixing bowl, with an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar for 2 minutes or until light and fluffy scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Add eggs; beat until well blended. Add yogurt, vanilla, lemon extract, zest, lemon juice and milk; blend well. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix with a rubber spatula just until dry ingredients are moistened. Fold in cranberries. Scoop batter into prepared muffin cups filling to the top. Bake for 5 minutes at 425F degrees, then lower the oven temperature to 350F degrees and bake for 20 to 24 more minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely. With a melon baller tool scoop out the top center of the muffin. Fill with a small spoonful of lemon curd. Replace muffin tops.

Please note that if you use standard liners that just fit the size of your muffin tin that your yield will be up to 15 muffins and your bake time will be a few minutes less. [/recipe]

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While most of us use cranberries in baking have you thought about adding them to a main dish or entree? Tapping into my Sicilian roots I thought Cape Cod Select cranberries would be perfect in an agrodolce sauce recipe. Agrodolce translates to sweet & sour and these cranberries shine in a savory mix of onions, vinegar, apple cider, rosemary, ginger and brown sugar. Can you say dinner on the table this busy holiday season in 30 minutes? Yes, you can!

Festive Cranberry Agrodolce Chicken

4 to 6 boneless skinless chicken thighs*

1-teaspoon kosher salt

½-teaspoon ground black pepper

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon finely chopped peeled fresh ginger

1/8 teaspoon crushed pepper flakes

1 small to medium onion, chopped

1 cup Cape Cod Select Premium Frozen Cranberries

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 ½ cups apple cider or juice

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves plus additional for garnish

1 ½ tablespoons dark brown sugar

cooked spaghetti squash; optional

Season chicken with salt and pepper on both sides. Heat olive oil over medium heat in large skillet. Add chicken; cook until golden brown on both sides, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer chicken to a plate. To same skillet, stir in ginger, pepper flakes, onion and cranberries; cook for 5 minutes or until onion is tender. Add butter, apple cider or juice, red wine vinegar and rosemary; stir well and bring to a boil. Gently boil for 15 to 20 minutes or until sauce is reduced by half. Stir in brown sugar. Return chicken and any accumulated juice to pan. Cook for 10 minutes or until chicken is fully cooked and tender. To serve: spoon cooked spaghetti squash over center of plate. Top with chicken and sauce. Garnish with fresh rosemary. Serves 4.

*We love chicken thighs in our house, but feel free to substitute boneless chicken breast if that is what you prefer. Just leave the chicken skin intact to avoid overcooked chicken.

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How about that gorgeous drink featured in my first photo? Greet your guests at the door with my Holiday Cranberry Pear Rosemary Spritzer and they may never leave. It’s your fault that you are treating your friends and family to the best of the best.

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Cranberry Pear Rosemary Spritzer

¼ cup sugar

¼ cup pear brandy

¼ cup Cape Cod Select Premium Frozen Cranberries

1 sprig fresh rosemary plus additional for garnish

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

½ cup (4 ounces) good quality vodka

1 cup (8 ounces) cold prosecco or cranberry flavored seltzer

In small saucepan, over medium heat, swirl sugar, pear brandy, cranberries and rosemary until sugar is dissolved and mixture comes just to a boil. Let mixture steep and cool for at least 30 minutes. Remove and reserve cranberries. Remove and discard rosemary sprig. In a shaker filled with ice, combine cranberry pear syrup, lime juice and vodka; shake well. Pour over 4 ice filled glasses. Top each with ¼ cup (2 ounces) prosecco or cranberry flavored seltzer. For glass garnish: skewer reserved cranberries onto fresh rosemary sprigs and drape on top of glass.

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Thanks Cape Cod Select for sponsoring this recipe contest and sharing your delicious cranberries with me and my readers. For more fresh recipes, fabulous photos and how to purchase check out the following links:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/capecodselect/#

Twitter: https://twitter.com/CapeCodSelect

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/capecodselect/

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/capecodselec

For the store locater link: http://www.capecodselect.com/store-locator/

 

Tough Question & Easter Muffins

muffinsIt’s a common question and one that bereaved parents fear. How many children do you have? Pretty normal conversation in most social situations, but no easy answer if you are the one who has lost a child. How does one respond when someone asks, “how many children do you have?” How does one communicate about the loss of a child? How much information does one share and with who? Do I tell my story or strip it down?

"I have a daughter and a son"

“I have a daughter and a son”

When we moved to our new neighborhood I wasn’t prepared for this distressing question. Totally caught off guard, it hit me like a ton of bricks triggering tears and then apologies. It forced me to confront William’s death. It brought an upsurge in my grief. I felt embarrassed in front of new acquaintances and I felt sorry for the people who asked. As much as I wanted my privacy it felt wrong not to tell them about William. I needed to validate him no matter how painful the conversation.100_1937

With time the tough questions get easier to handle. I am prepared and comfortable with the answer, “I have a daughter and a son”. If I don’t want to share anything more I quickly change the topic. It works for me. How do you answer the tough question?

I highly recommend these no-fade baking cups

I highly recommend these no-fade baking cups

When it comes to baking I always have a lot of questions. Baking is a science after all. For instance, what the heck is white whole wheat flour? I have been baking with it for years, but never gave it much thought until creating this muffin recipe. Is it really whole grain flour or a refined mix of some kind? Turns out it is a whole grain flour made from white wheat as opposed to red wheat. It is simply lighter in color, milder in flavor and softer in texture. All of the good nutrition that one comes to expect from whole grains is in there. None of it has been stripped away.

white whole wheat flour

white whole wheat flour

Your Easter bunnies will love these muffins filled with dried fruits, carrots, coconut and whole grains. They are best served warm. If you don’t eat them all on day 1 then just refresh them with a 15 second nuke in the microwave.muffins

Be Fruitful Whole Grain Muffins

1-cup all-purpose flour

½ cup white whole wheat flour

1-cup coconut sugar (or brown sugar)

¾ cup flax seed meal

½ cup unsweetened shredded coconut

2 teaspoons cinnamon

2 teaspoons baking soda

1-teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup shredded carrots

1 cup chopped dried apples

½ cup golden raisins or chopped apricots

¾ cup milk

2 eggs

1-teaspoon coconut extract

Heat oven 350F. Line 18 muffin cups with paper liners. In large bowl, whisk flours, coconut sugar, flax seed meal, coconut, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder and salt, until blended. Toss in carrots, apples and raisins or apricots. In another bowl, whisk milk, eggs and coconut extract; add to dry ingredients and mix just until dry ingredients are moistened. Don’t over mix. Divide batter evenly among prepared muffin cups (about 2/3 full). Bake 15 to 18 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.