Thursday, August 15, 2013

Super Duper Awesome Strawberry Banana Muffins

I have been getting so many awesome, top-quality, non-squashy strawberries this summer that I decided I needed to bake with some of them. I made Andrea Dekker's strawberry pie several times and it was a BIG hit, but I wanted something baked and breakfasty. So I scrutinized my favorite banana chocolate chip recipe to see how I could switch it up for a strawberry-friendly version. Here's what I came up with:

Strawberry Banana Muffins

Yield: 12 muffins


  • 1 & 2/3  c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 c. sugar
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • ½ tsp. baking powder
  • ½  tsp. ground cardamom
  • 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. allspice
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • ½ cup smashed bananas
  • ½ c. crushed pureed strawberries
  • ½ c. butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350°.

Spray a standard muffin pan with cooking spray or line with paper baking liners. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and spices. Set aside.

In a small bowl, whip the egg whites to a fluffy consistency. Set aside. In another medium bowl, combine the egg yolks, fruit, and melted butter. Add the fruit mixture all at once to the flour mixture. 

Stir by hand until just moistened (batter may be a bit lumpy and dry-ish). Mix in the fluffy egg whites by hand. 

Spoon the batter into the 12 prepared muffin cups. Bake for about 20-24 minutes, or just until a wooden toothpick inserted into centers of the muffins comes out dry. Do not overbake. Remove from muffin cups to cool.

I love these for August-September, because the fruit makes them feel like a summer treat while the spices give them a slightly autumn-y flavor.

This recipe is for twelve muffins. Unlike cupcakes, I fill my liners up to the top for muffins. I like a big, fluffy muffin.


But if you prefer a smaller muffin (again, *snort*), you could probably get 18 muffins out of this. Just adjust your bake time accordingly. Maybe check them at 18 minutes. Just do the good old toothpick test. Goop on your toothpick means give it a few more minutes (I like two minute increments); solid, clinging crumbs or a clean toothpick means you're good.

Fill 'em up...

...for a full-size muffin.


There's a lot you can do with this recipe, too. Just off the top of my head, you can:

  • top it off with a simple streusel;
  • use any combination of berries or most fruits. Finely diced apples, mango, whatever. Just use about a cup of fruit;
  • give it a healthier spin by swapping out the white ingredients. My friend Caroline from Ingredi(r)ants suggests increasing the amount of banana, cutting the sugar by half, and substituting whole wheat or spelt flour for the white flour;
  • or play with the spices. I have made these without cardamom. I have made these with mace. Use whatever you like to change the "seasonal"-ness.

So yum. My favorite muffin recipe here for your taking. And now I want to go make more.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Reducing the Cacophony

My brain is a loud, chaotic place. It's like a computer screen with twelve tabs open at once and a different, discordant song playing in each one at full volume sometimes. And if I've overdone the caffeine, it's even worse.

One of the reasons we want to escape the suburbs for something a bit more rural is to reduce some of the noise (literal and figurative) around us. We're decluttering in every way we can, from the number of possessions we have to the number of people who live within walking distance of us. We want to slow it all down.

We've been working on this in a number of ways. Here are some of the conscious steps we've taken to tone life's soundtrack down a little bit.

1.) Getting rid of crap we neither need nor want. Remember our yardsales and mass Goodwill dumpings last year? That hasn't ended. Sure, the bulk is gone, but I keep a box in my bedroom closet for "donate" stuff and once it's full, it goes.

2.) Fighting paper clutter. Paper is a nightmare wrapped in a horror movie. We go through mail when it comes in the door, and we recycle and shred, but we've been guilty of letting the shred pile get WAY out of control before we get to it. And then it not only takes a good half hour to eliminate, but we have two huge bags of paper shreddings to cram into the recycle bin. I've now made shredding one of my "Sunday chores". Sunday is the only day of the week that I do particular chores (change pillowcases, wash out the coffee maker, etc.) and now shredding paper is one of those. The rest of the week is reserved for ignoring chores and sweeping only when my crumb-covered feet insist.

Every day of my life.
3.) Being less connected. This is a hard one for me and some days I do better than others, but a few months ago I started gradually paring down my Facebook friends list, leaving groups I was in, and being more assertive in choosing the posts and people I hide. It's nothing personal; I just needed (and still need) to eliminate some of the cacophony and every group I was in or page I was a fan of was another reason to engage online. I need fewer reasons/excuses. I also felt like I knew way too much about way too many people. Not even necessarily personal or private type stuff. Just stuff. It was all contributing to the constant clatter in my brain, but that's certainly no one's fault but my own. 

I still spend too much time online, but I feel like that time is at least a little less cluttered and more streamlined. And of course, it was never the people who were "cluttery" to me. Just the sheer volume of information and interaction. And I'm not exactly quiet, myself. I am not the least bit offended at the thought of someone hiding me because, while they may like me fine, they may want to see fewer pictures and videos and sarcasm-laden posts from me. I get it.

4.) Reducing expectations. We've done this in many areas of our lives. I've forced myself to let go of some control and be okay with the somewhat sloppy towel folding job that Bear does, because regardless of how sloppy it is, it's a load of towels I didn't have to gather, wash, dry, fold, and put away. So if the linen closet doesn't look like it should be featured in Better Homes & Gardens...well, it wasn't go to look that way, anyway, so who am I fooling?

We've also downsized our plans for our land. We wanted ten acres for our family, but we've realized that between five and ten is really plenty for us, will be simpler to maintain, and will be more easily attainable. And we're good with that.

My anxiety makes it necessary for me to shut the door on some things sometimes, just to keep myself from falling apart. I've found that by using the words "yes" and "no" with more care and thought that I can reduce some of the chaos pretty significantly.

Is "pretty significantly" an oxymoron? Great. Now that's going to bother me all day.