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coconut oat banana muffins

April 21st, 2012 | 4 Comments »

If you hang around me and the blog long enough, you’ll realize that I really love quick breads. Scan my Recipe Index and you’ll see the spoils of a bowl of dry, a bowl of wet, a loaf pan or paper lined muffin tins and a hot oven. Some gals get their bake on through cookies, or lofty cakes slathered with buttercream; they perfect treats of sugar and spice, with fondant or piping, bars and brownies worth gloating over. I do love cake, and grew up with a Mom who never bought cookies from a store, rising in the summer before daybreak to bake prior to the sun releasing it’s intense heat on the day.  But there’s something magical about a muffin, or tempting tea breads with a perfect moist crumb. I can’t get enough of them.

I’m always paying attention to quick bread recipes, but am often driven to dismay over ones that are choked with sugar and oil. I’ve managed to make a few of these into something a bit more healthy, but these days, I want recipes that offer abundant flavor without the tooth-aching sweetness.

I came across this muffin recipe on The Kitchn and immediately wanted to make it as I’ve sufficiently restocked on Coconut Oil for a while now, and in glancing over the ingredients I was impressed with the amount of flavor these muffins would have, without dumping a ton of sugar in them. They’ve got coconut oil! And flaked coconut!! A vanilla bean! Whole oats! Fruit! What’s not to love?? The original recipe called for mango, so I selected one from the store and a few days later when it was ripe, I began tossing flour and oats together, melting coconut oil and tenuously scraping down the ONE vanilla bean that I had remaining in my kitchen. Then I cut open the mango, and nearly started crying. It was stringy and bone dry inside. I angrily tossed in in the trash, envisioning a few dollars being dumped there, then glanced around my kitchen, studded with lined muffin pans, full bowls and an oven blinking its readiness. What now??

Thank goodness there lay several bananas in the utmost condition for baking in to a tropical themed muffin.

A few deft turns of a sharp knife, and swipes of a rubber spatula to pull it all together and soon I was being treated to the most amazing scent coming from my oven. I know that I should never think that I’ve ever found the most perfect muffin recipe because there is always something out there to top it. Guaranteed.

These moist and perfect muffins are one of the finest I’ve eaten. And I’ve consumed a great deal of muffins. The tender banana chunks in them get sweeter and more intense after a day or two, and the coconut, subtle taste of vanilla and the crunchy oats add oh so much goodness. Although I’m certain that a perfectly ripe and juicy mango would be utterly divine in them, having only a banana to work with was not a step down, by any means. I’d do these again, without one change. They’re that good.

Coconut Oat Banana Muffins

1/2 c. virgin coconut oil
3/4 c. wheat flour
3/4 c. oat flour (you can make this by grinding whole oats in a food processor or coffee grinder)
1/2 c. old fashioned whole oats
2 T. ground flaxseed
1-1/2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. kosher salt
1/2 c. unsweetened flake coconut (if you have the wide flakes, the original recipe called for those; I only had fine)
1 c. full fat sour cream, room temperature (I used Noosa Honey flavored yogurt and would do that again, hands down)
1/3 c. granulated sugar
1 large egg, room temperature
1 t. lemon zest
1 T. fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/4 c. milk of choice (I used vanilla almond milk)
1 split vanilla bean
1 c. diced banana (I used two bananas, which came out to be more than 1 cup)
1/4 c. shredded coconut to sprinkle on top of muffins, if desired

NOTE: You DO want the sour cream (or yogurt) and egg at room temp because if you mix those cold with the melted coconut oil, the oil will just seize back up again. Measure the sour cream and egg in a large 4-cup measuring cup, or small bowl and let it sit on the counter for a few hours.

Preheat the oven to 375°. Line two six-cup muffin tins with paper liners.

Split the vanilla bean and scrape the insides, adding it to the sour cream/egg mixture. Heat the coconut oil gently in a microwave safe container (I did about 40-50 seconds on 60% power) and add the vanilla bean shell to it. Allow the oil to cool, but not to the point of being solid again.

In a medium bowl, whisk both flours, the oats, flaxseed, baking powder and salt together. Stir in the half cup of unsweetened flake coconut.

To the sour cream/egg and vanilla bean mixture, add the sugar, milk, lemon zest and juice. Strain the coconut oil through a wire strainer right into the bowl and whisk to combine everything. Mix this with the dry ingredients until about halfway incorporated, then add the banana and fold gently until everything is uniform. Be sure to scrape across the bottom of the bowl with the spatula to get all the dried ingredients.

Scoop into the muffin tins. You can fill them pretty full, but if you don’t care to, you may need another tin. I filled 12 cups completely full and still had a bit of batter left in the bowl. Next time, I will make them smaller and use another six-cup tin.

Bake for 20-25 minutes until tops spring back when you touch them, or a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Dare to wait until cool enough to eat; they will smell so enticing that you’ll find that to be a challenge.

Original recipe from The Kitchn, here with heavy modifications.

blueberry/coconut/macadamia muffins

December 10th, 2011 | 4 Comments »

For starters, there are WAY too many vowels in this muffin description!!

But they are worth every twisted tongue and exhaustible explanation because they are fragrant, tropical and fabulous.

About a month ago I was contacted by a company called Oh! Nuts! and asked if I wanted some products to use for my holiday baking. I’d done some business with Oh! Nuts! before and was really pleased with the quality and freshness of their bulk nuts and dried fruits. Oh! Nuts! has a lot of attractive gift options for holiday giving, as well as fresh nuts, dried fruits, candy and other items for year-round baking. I highly recommend their products and can personally vouch for the quality. I was more than happy to have another chance to use some of their items.

For my personal use this time around, I requested Macadamia Nuts and Calymyrna Figs, and within a week, they landed on my doorstep. The figs are gigantic and sweet with a soft bite, and the macadamia nuts are perfectly tender and moist. I’ve been just tickled with both products and decided that before I gobble them all up in my adoration, I would at least make an attempt to bake something with them. It isn’t often you get a world class nut like macadamia gracing your pantry.

This muffin recipe has been hanging around my kitchen for some time now; originally it’s from the Fall 2006 issue of Eating Well magazine. And in a current frenzy through the recipe stack threatening to take over it’s designated drawer, I serendipitously came across it, magically having everything on hand to whisk up a batch of these to make a sunny, yet chilly December day feel a bit more cozy.

The recipe itself is without a great deal of fat or sugar, thankfully. But the muffin doesn’t suffer in the loss of theses tasty ingredients. They burst with blueberry taste, crunchy bits of chopped macadamia nuts and a hearty, nutty crumb that is moist but not at all cake like. If it’s supposed to be a muffin, I want a muffin, not a cupcake disguised as something else. With it’s crunchy streusel-like topping and tender fruit, this will be a repeat in my kitchen, a perfect means to use the frozen berries in my freezer, and to draw more warmth to our frozen landscape.

Blueberry Coconut Macadamia Nut Muffins

1/4 c. unsweetened flake coconut
3/4 c. + 2 T. AP flour (divided)
1/2 c. + 2 T. packed brown sugar (divided)
1/2 c. chopped macadamia nuts
3 T. good quality olive oil
1 c. whole wheat flour
2 T. ground flaxseed
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1/8 t. sea salt
1 T. ground cinnamon
1 large egg
1 large egg white
3/4 c. skim milk
2 T. plain or vanilla lowfat yogurt
1 t. lemon extract (can sub vanilla, or coconut as well)
1-1/2 c. fresh or frozen (not thawed) blueberries

Heat your oven to 400°. Line two six-cup muffin tins with papers. Alternately, spray the muffin pans with non-stick cooking spray.

In a small bowl, combine the coconut with 2 Tablespoons each of AP flour and brown sugar with 2 Tablespoons of the chopped macadamia nuts. Drizzle this with one Tablespoon of the olive oil and stir to combine. Set aside for muffin topping.

Whisk together the remaining 3/4 cup of AP flour, the whole wheat flour, flaxseed, baking powder and soda, salt and cinnamon until well combined. In a large measuring cup, whisk the 1/2 cup of brown sugar, the egg and egg white, skim milk, yogurt and extract until smooth. Make a well in the dry ingredients and whisk in the wet until only just mixed. Add the blueberries, and the remaining macadamia nuts and carefully fold in until blended.

Spoon batter equally in to the muffin tins, then sprinkle a bit of the reserved coconut topping on each muffin. Press gently in to the batter, and bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool in muffin pans for 15 minutes, then turn on to a wire rack to cool completely.


Original recipe from Eating Well magazine; posted here with heavy modifications.

Oh! Nuts! provided me with both the macadamia nuts and the calymyrna figs free of charge
and without expectation of any reciprocal endorsement. Everything stated in this post are
my own thoughts and are freely expressed. 

lemongrass bars

March 20th, 2011 | 7 Comments »

More sugar. Must be winter’s end…..

I’ve been lamenting a lack of fresh foods lately. The transition season is approaching rapidly; that between the depths of winter when root vegetables and long slow aromatic braises seem to be the elixir we all need to the first snap of green vegetables that promise warmer days and less outerwear. March comes along and it’s like we all draw a long slow breath, eagerly awaiting the day where the very air shifts and the warmth blows in and we forget about 85″ of snow, the endless drifts, the nerve-wracking commutes. Our winter has been memorable, and it’s a noticeable grimace when flakes continue to fall and the slack jaws at the produce counter scan the same old, same old and try to drum up a different beat for those carrots, the sweet potatoes and rutabagas.

For me, some respite came with one definitive twist of a channel knife, cutting through the thick zest of a fat lemon and releasing the minuscule spray, that spritz of aromatic citrus that at once says to my weary winter white brain ‘Sunshine!’ ‘Warmth!’ Because we all know that those golden orbs carry the very essence of the sun within their tart flesh; with a firm grip they release their juice, carrying an altogether different sensation to our nose. The white of winter, the stinging scent of a fresh snowfall and a glacial chill in the air is quite distinctive, and it settles into us with a thud as those flakes fall, fall and fall, but among that endless snow, the never-ending white, I twisted up a bowl of lemons, ground the zest off their hides and, in addition to all that sunshine filling my kitchen (if I closed my eyes I could see white sand, a hammock and the blue of the Caribbean) I crushed up three stalks of lemongrass, with it’s sharp citrus-y aroma and racy bite and turned it all into the most amazing and tantalizing Lemon Bar I’ve ever had the pleasure of biting in to. Spring is a tease in March; we have days of sunshine, fickle sun, torrents of rain and then a bone-chilling wind descends to remind us that we’re not quite out of the woods yet, so finding this Lemongrass Bar recipe in the current Bon Appetit, with it’s crumbly tender Coconut Shortbread crust was a perfect tonic for the weary landscape of white that turns gray and gritty as we slip through the doorway to another season.

And yes, sugar. Sweet sugar and the tang of lemon, but cut with the flavor of lemongrass, a perennial grass native to the Philippines. Widely used in Asian cuisine is soups, teas and curries, it’s suitable for all meats, and can be made into lemongrass oil which is used as a pesticide and preservative, and is known to have anti-fungal properties. I’ve used lemongrass in savory recipes and love the simple flavor it adds, but the addition of it to these Lemon Bars was genius; the tender white bulb is ground fine with your sugar, then blended with eggs and a little flour to create a luscious filling. The bonus to these bars? Coconut in the crust.

Recently I was given several bags of sweetened shredded coconut that I tossed in the freezer to await inspiration. I do love coconut, but find the sweetened version too overwhelming to add to my oatmeal or muffins as I prefer, but in this recipe, cooked into a tender buttery shortbread crust, it was perfect. With the addition of the lemongrass in the filling, adding an extra level of flavor but without the cloying teeth-clenching sweetness of your standard Lemon Bar, these offered up a nice dose of Springtime to push all thoughts of late Winter faster to it’s timely demise.


Lemongrass Bars with
Coconut Shortbread Crust

1-1/2 c. AP flour
1 c. sweetened shredded coconut
1/2 c. powdered sugar
1/2 c. (1 stick) unsalted butter, slightly chilled and cut into chunks

1-1/4 c. sugar
3 lemongrass stalks, bottom 4 inches only, tough outer layer removed & finely chopped
6 T. fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 t. fresh grated lemon zest
3 large eggs
1/4 c. AP flour

Heat oven to 350° and spray a 13×9 cake pan with cooking spray.

For the crust, whisk flour, coconut and powdered sugar together, add butter and cut butter into mixture until it resembles fine crumbs. Use a pastry cutter, two forks or knives or your bare hands. Press dough onto bottom, and 1/2″ up sides of prepared pan. Bake crust until golden (edges will darken more) about 20-25 minutes.

For filling: Place sugar and lemongrass in food processor and blend until finely ground, about a minute. Add lemon juice and zest, pulse 3-5 times. Add eggs and pulse to blend. Add in flour, and a pinch of salt. Blend until smooth.

Pour filling over hot crust. Reduce oven to 325° and bake until filling is firm, 20-25 minutes. Cool bars completely in pan then cut to desired shape. Dust with powdered sugar, if desired, before serving.

Recipe: Bon Appetit magazine (with small modifications)


Yes, it's those Sugar Plums

December 20th, 2009 | 14 Comments »

Those Sugar Plums, the ones that dance in the head during the long winter slumber in the most familiar Christmas story that’s likely ever been written. How did I get to be this age, with a teenager and a husband, long gone away from treasured annual reads of that classic story each year, the retelling of Santa’s magical visit, and not have any clue what a real sugar plum entailed? I want to kick myself.

Because, I’ll tell you something, and this is no small truth. Had I known about these delightful, sweet and simple little treats prior to this past week, how easy they are to put together and how eager and surprised everyone looks when you pull out a container and say “These are Sugar Plums. Yes! THOSE Sugar Plums!” I’m telling you, it would be all I need and I’d have been cranking out these nutty fruit-filled, orange-scented orbs the moment the calendar page flipped over to the month of Christmas.

My hope now is that I don’t go so far into overkill that I never want to see a dried apricot again. The delight and flavor and simplicity of these might possibly have that effect on me. Good thing Christmas is just a few days away. It’s a bit embarrassing, really, to be so interested in food of all kinds, the history of it, the stories it can tell and not be aware of this confection. But that’s what we have friends for, isn’t it? To enlighten us? To share the wealth?

And little could be simpler than combining rough-chopped nuts and dried fruit in a food processor along with honey and orange juice and whirring it all into an utterly fragrant crush of flavor. Even the rolling of the mixture was contemplative, as the sun warmed my backside and Miles Davis kept me company with his sultry trumpet. A late afternoon of putting together a Christmas fiction and ballet classic that I know I will love for years to come left me feeling a lot more festive than I have been lately. With the addition of a fragrant tree, dragged through a snowy wood, and boxes filled with a lifetime of memories and nostalgia also added some much-needed holiday spirit to my life. If all I need to do that is a few packages of dried fruit and some bags of nuts, then holidays from now on could become much more simpler. One can only hope, anyway.

Sugar Plums

Recipe from Field Guide to Candy by Anita Chu; Quirk Books, 2009    (and Susan)

2 cups almonds, toasted and roughly chopped
1 cup dried apricots
1 cup pitted dates
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons grated orange zest
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 tablespoon honey
Unsweetened flaked coconut for rolling

1. Line a baking sheet with parchment or wax paper.

2. Combine almonds, apricots, dates, cinnamon, and zest in a food processor and process into a finely ground mixture.

3. Add orange juice and honey, and combine until the mixture becomes a sticky ball.

4. Pinch off pieces of the mixture and form into 1-inch balls. Roll in coconut. Place on the baking sheet and chill for about 1 hour until firm.

I used two cups equivalent of nuts, utilizing pistachios and pecans as well as almonds. It’s my holy trifecta of nutty favorites.  I might have used figs in place of dates, and on another go-round of this recipe, I probably will do just that along with dried cherries. The possibilities are endless for substitutions. Use raisins both black or gold, dried cranberries, currants, pineapple, mango. Other nuts like peanuts, walnuts, brazil nuts. Try it with lemon juice and zest for a different background of flavor.

I also added a teaspoon of ground nutmeg to the mix. Cinnamon and nutmeg are culinary best buds. They really get along so well together that it’s a shame to leave one out when the other is present.

I added a bit more honey and orange juice, as the amount in the recipe didn’t seem to be enough to make the mixture as sticky as it needed to hold together. Adjust it according to your taste preferences.

Curried Vegetables with Yellow Daal & Coconut Rice

May 11th, 2007 | 2 Comments »


Curried Vegetables with Yellow Daal and Coconut Rice

For the Daal:
1 ½ c. either red lentils or yellow split peas
4-5 c. water

Use 4 c. water for lentils; 5 for split peas. Rinse legumes well. Place legumes and water in heavy pot, cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 30 minutes, until legumes are tender. Puree in batches in food processor with cooking water, adding more if necessary for smoothness. Daal will thicken upon standing.

Curried Vegetables:
Vegetable oil or ghee
1 chopped onion
2 red peppers, cored and diced
½ head cauliflower, broken into florets
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
5-6 oz. fresh spinach
2 T. fresh grated ginger root
1 T. mild curry powder
1 t. ground cumin
1 ½ c. water or vegetable broth
Juice of half a fresh lemon
Salt to taste

In a deep skillet, heat oil or ghee and add onions, cook until soft and translucent. Add peppers, cook until soft. Stir in cauliflower, curry powder and cumin. Stir to combine and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add in sweet potatoes and grated ginger. Stir to combine. Pour in water, stir to incorporate and bring to a boil. Cover and cook until cauliflower and potato are fork tender but still firm. De-stem and coarse chop spinach. When vegetables are tender, stir in spinach and lemon juice. Simmer to wilt spinach then serve immediately with the Daal and Coconut Rice.

Coconut Rice
1 ½ c. water
1 c. basmati rice
½ c. coconut milk
½ t. turmeric
¼ t. kosher salt
1 cinnamon stick
¼ c. currants or golden raisins

In a saucepan with a tight fitting lid, bring water to a boil. Rinse rice well, and add to boiling water along with all the remaining ingredients. Stir to combine, reduce heat to simmer, cover and cook for 15 minutes. Fluff with a fork and remove cinnamon stick before serving