I generally avoid hauling out my mixer on a weekday morning. We have toast and fruit or oatmeal, pancakes a couple times a month if I don't have a morning meeting. But what's a girl supposed to do with some softening bananas sitting on the counter? Just throw them away, you say?! Never. The Leftoverist is not sensible like that.
I was up late last night folding laundry and watching mindless television. Yancey's been gone for 2 days now, and I just needed some kid-free time, even at the expense of sleep. I prepped what I could for these muffins before I went to bed (mixed dry ingredients, chopped dates, etc.) so it wasn't a crazy-making morning. At least , it was less of one than it might have been.
Good thing I didn't get into this parenting gig in order to feel valued and appreciated. Wyatt wrinkled up his nose at the muffins and said he wasn't hungry. I forced him to eat (Somewhere I've read this encourages children to have an unhealthy, adversarial relationship with food. Great.), and he plugged his nose and washed each bite down with orange juice. Then, to really torture him, I wrapped some up for his teacher.
Wyatt: [Whining, shoulders slumped] Mom, why do I always have to take things to my teacher?
Me: What are you talking about? I send something to school with you maybe once a month. It's not going to kill you.
Wyatt: [Almost crying now] Mom!
Me: Think of it this way--the more muffins your teachers get, the less you have to eat.
Wyatt: [Brightening considerably] Oh yeah! Good point.
Don't let Wyatt's display influence you, though. He has a vendetta against whole grains. I thought they were just about the perfect muffins--molasses, orange zest, walnuts, gooey bits of dates. I had a cold one with coffee this afternoon, and it tasted even better. I made sure to save one for Wyatt's after-school snack.
Banana-Date Bran Muffins
Makes 12 muffins. Adapted from Ina Garten. I used that weird, pellet-looking all-bran cereal because that's what I had around. You can use wheat or oat bran flakes, too. And you can leave the nuts out, sub pecans or pumpkin seeds, and sub just about any kind of dried fruit you have around.
1 cup wheat or oat bran flakes or all-bran cereal
1 cup buttermilk (shaken)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
6 tablespoons unsulphured molasses
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 very ripe bananas, mashed
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup dates, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1 Tb. oats
1 Tb. wheat bran flakes
1 Tb. sparkling or regular sugar
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place paper liners into 1 (10 or 12-cup) muffin tin (or lightly butter your muffin cups, which is what I do. I'm not a big fan of paper liners.)
Combine the bran and buttermilk and set aside. Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment for about 5 minutes, until light and fluffy. With the mixer on low, add the eggs, 1 at a time. Scrape the bowl and then add the molasses, orange zest, vanilla, and mashed banana. (The mixture will look curdled.) Add the bran/buttermilk mixture and combine.
In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the flour mixture to the batter just until combined. Don't overmix it! Fold in the dates and walnuts with a rubber spatula.
Fill the muffin cups to the top. Mix oats, 1 Tb. bran flakes, and sparking sugar together in a small bowl and sprinkle over muffins. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean.