Produce aisles turn me into a health nut. The sight of all those vitamin-bursting fruits and veggies, piled high in glowing harlequin pyramids, sends me straight into irrationality. “Lessee…Monday we’ll steam the broccoli rabe and fix a fresh strawberry mousse with raspberry puree for dessert, Tuesday a giant spinach salad with some of those heirloom tomatoes, mildly picked cucumbers, and a little blanched asparagus, stuffed bell peppers on Wednesday with hand-minced cauliflower rice, Thursday…”
By Friday, all that lovely produce is so much untouched, moldery goo, and I’m munching the cheese sandwich I made for dinner, as I guiltily toss it out.
BTW, it’s not like I’m a great chef or even an inventive one. I started this blog about 21 years ago as a way to preserve details about my projects, and found it’s an excellent way to keep my experimental recipes that turn out especially well. I’m always losing recipe cards and books otherwise…and the ability to share is a bonus.
Nothing like being hunkered down in the house–when a trip to the unusually bare grocery store is a luxury–to start thinking about waste, and laziness, and the potential of turning the lawn into a garden. All that is coming, but for now, I’m just making sure I don’t waste the bananas.
The Resident Carpenter-Blacksmith and I have the same taste in bananas: They’re history at the first brown speck, which means we regulary wind up with overripe bananas neither of us will eat.
Fortunately, I make a lot of summertime smoothies with frozen banana pulp ; if you toss your overripe bananas into the freezer, peel and all, they’re just about a perfect way to thicken and sweeten a fresh berry smoothie without adding sugar. Trouble is, I’m not great at predicting our weekly banana consumption, so by the time summer rolls around again, the freezer will contain enough bananas to make smoothies for everyone in town.
So I also use them in pantry muffins, so-called because they’re pretty much made with whatever’s in the pantry (or the freezer). Any old banana that isn’t actually solid black and/or moldy will work here. You’ll need three or four overripe bananas for this recipe; if you don’t have enough, do the freezer trick to preserve them until you accumulate enough. The peels will go dark brown in the freezer, but that’s OK; the banana inside is still good.
Banana nut pantry muffins
- 3-4 soft, overripe bananas, peeled, chopped and placed in the mixing bowl.
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 3/4 cup finely chopped nuts (I use pecans if I have them, walnuts if The RC-B hasn’t fed them to his rehabbed squirrels, hazelnuts (the squirrels, Oregonians though they be, don’t like them). You could also use roasted peanuts or black walnuts; the taste of either will be strong and some people will think it competes with the bananas, but it’s an interesting flavor combination.)
- 1/4 teaspoon cardamom
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg (if you only have canned ground nutmeg, just leave it out–not worth it)
- 1/4 teaspoon really good ground cinnamon (freshly ground bark is best)
- 3/4 cup melted really really good butter (be sure to let it cool before using)
- 2 eggs
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1.5 teaspoons baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- (optional–depends on what’s in your pantry) 1/2 cup grated, toasted coconut, chunks of cut-up dried fruit such as cranberries, cherries, or apricots, or chocolate chips, or granola, or…use your imagination
- Preheat oven to 375F.
- Melt the butter in a dish (cover so it doesn’t spatter in the microwave) and let it cool to room temp before using.
- Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt, and set aside.
- If one of the bananas is firmer than the others, peel it and coarsely chop it into chunks, then set aside.
- Peel and chop the rest of the bananas and place them into your mixer bowl.
- Line 14 muffin tins with cupcake papers (as long as you’re only making normal-sized muffins. If you want those ginormous, big-as-a-birthday-cake muffins they sell at coffee places, this recipe makes about 6-8, and you’ll want to grease the pan’s surface AROUND the muffin cups to ensure the overflow doesn’t stick.
Assembly and baking
- Add the vanilla, brown sugar, cardamom, nutmeg, and cinnamon to the bananas, and beat the daylights out of them for about 5 minutes, to make a spiced banana puree.
- Now add the eggs and melted butter, and beat for another 2-3 minutes on high.
- Add the nuts to the banana mixture, and mix again for a minute or so.
- Turn off the mixer and dump in the dry ingredients mixing them by hand (or with a very slow speed if you use the mixer) until the flour just barely disappears.
- Fold in whatever optional stuff–banana chunks, or your pantry gleanings–you want to add.
- Fill the muffin cups about 3/4 of the way with batter. When you’ve finished, tap the pan on the counter a few times to even out the batter level and potentially pop air bubbles.
- Set the timer for 15 minutes. When it goes off, start watching the muffins carefully and bake for another 5 minutes or so, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the biggest muffin comes out clean. If your oven heats unevenly you may need to rotate the pan at 10 minutes or so.
That’s it. It looks long, but it’s actually quite quick–I typically go from nasty-ripe banana to chewing on a muffin in about 30-40 minutes. They’re really moist muffins, so I suspect they’ll get sticky and moldy if you let them sit out in a plastic bag for very long. I’ve never had a problem, though; Nathan consumed four–warm, with butter–in a couple of hours, so they don’t really last.