Whole Grain Banana Muffins

Whole Grain Banana MuffinsI planned to post this recipe a year ago. I can’t tell you why it didn’t happen—I had written the recipe and a whole post. All I had to do was take some photos and hit “publish,” but instead I just let the file get buried in the digital depths of my iPad, never to be seen again…

Whole Grain Banana Muffins…until two weeks ago. I was searching for these Whole Grain Banana-Chocolate Chip Bars, but this recipe caught my eye instead. Long story short, I’ve made these Whole Grain Banana Muffins twice since rediscovering them, and let me tell you: they are freaking delicious. I mean, most banana baked goods are–mashed banana just has a way of making things wonderful–but these muffins have a little something extra.

Whole Grain Banana MuffinsIt’s not some new product or anything. No, that’s not my style. There are no unusual ingredients in this recipe. Instead, its one little almost-no-effort step that makes these muffins truly spectacular:

Before you do anything else, spread the oats and walnuts out on a rimmed baking sheet and toast them in a 350F oven for 5-7 minutes.

Whole Grain Banana MuffinsYep, that’s it. That one little step is the difference between good muffins and great ones.

Whole Grain Banana MuffinsOther than that, this recipe is exactly what you’d expect. Mix together some dry ingredients (whole wheat flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, and leaveners) and some wet ingredients (oil, eggs, mashed bananas, buttermilk, and just 2/3 cup light brown sugar). Whisk it all together with exactly ten strokes of the bowl. Add the toasty oats and walnuts and use a silicone spatula (or wooden spoon) to fold everything together for another 10 strokes. Throw in some chocolate chips if you like, and fold for another five strokes.Whole Grain Banana Muffins

Why do we need to count strokes of the batter? This keeps the gluten from over-developing and making the muffins tough. When the gluten in the flour meets the liquid ingredients, it’s activated, meaning it starts forming the bonds that give baked goods structure and texture. If we stir/fold too much, we’ll end up with tough, chewy muffins, and nobody wants that. For tender muffins, keep your mixing to a maximum of 25 strokes.

Divide the batter amongst about 16 prepared muffin cups and bake for 16-18 minutes. Then let them cool in the pans for about ten minutes before turning them out and digging in.

These Whole Grain Banana Muffins are much more than the sum of their parts, y’all. They’re soft, tender, not too sweet, and full of nutty whole grain goodness from the whole wheat flour and toasted oats. Oh, and of course there’s all sorts of good flavor from the mashed ripe bananas, toasted walnuts, and chocolate chips! That’s my kind of breakfast treat 💗Whole Grain Banana Muffins

Whole Grain Banana Muffins
makes about 16 standard muffins

1 1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup walnuts, chopped (optional)
1 1/4 cup whole wheat flour (or white whole wheat flour)
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
2 large eggs, room temperature
2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup neutral-flavored oil (I like canola)
3 large very ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 cup buttermilk*
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a standard muffin tin or line with cupcake liners. Set aside.

Toast the oats and walnuts. Place oats and walnuts (if using) on a rimmed baking sheet and spread to cover the surface. Toast in the oven for 5-7 minutes, or until fragrant. Do not burn. Place pan on a rack to cool a bit.

Make the muffin batter. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together whole wheat flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk eggs until frothy (about 30-60 seconds). Whisk in light brown sugar, followed by oil, mashed bananas, and buttermilk. Add flour mixture and whisk 10 strokes. Add oats and nuts (which may still be warm) and use a silicone spatula or wooden spoon to stir an additional 10 strokes. Add optional chocolate chips and fold an additional 5 strokes. Batter may have a few small lumps.

Place about 1/4 cup of batter in each muffin cup; they should be about 2/3 full. Place full pan in the oven and bake 16-18 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let muffins cool in the pan for ten minutes until removing to a rack to cool completely.

Bake any remaining batter, filling any unused muffin cups halfway with water to keep the pan from warping.

Muffins will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to five days.

Note:

If you do not have buttermilk, you may make your own. Place 1 teaspoon white or apple cider vinegar (or fresh lemon juice) in a liquid measuring cup. Pour milk up to the 1/2 cup mark. Let mixture sit for five minutes, until curdled. Proceed with recipe as written.

Oatmeal Creme Pies

Oatmeal Creme PiesIs there a better school day dessert than an Oatmeal Creme Pie? I mean, who can resist two super-soft cookies sandwiched together with marshmallow filling? Not me, that’s for sure. I haven’t been in school in eight years, and I still get hankerings for the Little Debbie treat.

While packaged Oatmeal Creme Pies are delicious, they are full of preservatives and ingredients I don’t recognize and cannot pronounce. I don’t have kids, but if I did, I can’t imagine putting one in their lunch boxes. But my feeling is that life is simply too short to live without such a delicious cookie, so instead of buying Little Debbie Oatmeal Creme Pies, I’ll just stick to making my own.

Oatmeal Creme PiesY’all, these homemade Oatmeal Creme Pies are so damn good. They have everything that makes the original version great (hello, insanely soft cookies and marshmallow filling!), without any of the sketchy ingredients. I’m not saying my Oatmeal Creme Pies are healthy (because they aren’t), but I know and can pronounce everything that’s in them. Oh, and they’re just as delicious as the original, if not more so. Homemade is always better.

Oatmeal Creme PiesLet’s talk about the cookies. They’re everything you want in an Oatmeal Creme Pie: insanely soft and almost cake-like, with a tender crumb and just enough oats to qualify them as an oatmeal cookie. The cookies are made with all dark brown sugar which, in addition to giving them a rich molasses flavor, keeps them soft for days.Oatmeal Creme Pies

Oatmeal Creme PiesAlso keeping these cookies soft? Quick oats. They’re used here instead of the usual old-fashioned oats. Their finer texture allows these cookies to retain that tender texture that I love about the original version. If you, like me, don’t keep quick oats on hand, I’ve included a conversion for regular old-fashioned oats in the recipe notes.

A word of warning: unlike most of my cookie recipes, this one is formulated to spread. Make sure to leave plenty of room around each ball of dough. Despite the spreading though, these cookies will not get crispy in any way.Oatmeal Creme Pies

Oatmeal Creme PiesEnough about the cookies—the marshmallow filling is where it’s at! It’s made with marshmallow fluff, confectioners sugar, vanilla, and shortening. If shortening is not for you, feel free to use softened butter instead. Either way, you’ll end up with a soft, luxurious filling that, in addition to being crazy delicious, will keep your Oatmeal Creme Pies soft for days on end!

Oatmeal Creme PiesOnce you sandwich the cookies together with the filling, you’ll have a hard time keeping yourself and your family away from these Oatmeal Creme Pies. They’re a classic for a reason.

Oatmeal Creme PiesWant more Oatmeal Creme Pies? Check out this pumpkin version!

Oatmeal Creme Pies
makes about 3.5 dozen sandwich cookies

Cookies:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 1/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons real vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups quick oats*

Filling:
1 7 1/2-ounce jar marshmallow fluff (about 1 1/2 cups)
1/2 cup shortening, room temperature*
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1 teaspoon real vanilla extract
2 teaspoons hot water (from the tap is fine)

In a small mixing bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, cream butter with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about one minute. Beat in dark brown sugar. Add eggs one at a time, followed by vanilla. With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture in two installments, until completely combined. Mix in quick oats. Cover dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour, or up to three days.

Preheat oven to 350F. Line two sheet pans with parchment paper.

Scoop cookie dough in 1/2 tablespoon (1 1/2 teaspoon) increments. Roll into balls and set them at least 2 1/2 inches apart on prepared pans (I can fit 12 dough balls on a half sheet pan). Bake for 4 minutes. Rotate pans top to bottom in the oven. Bake for another 3-4 minutes, until no longer wet-looking. Let cool on the pans for five minutes before removing to a rack to cool completely. Repeat rolling and baking until you have used all the dough.

To make the filling, cream the marshmallow fluff and shortening with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in confectioner’s sugar and salt. Add in vanilla and hot water and mix on high until the filling is very fluffy. There are two options from here:

  1. To assemble a sandwich cookie by piping, apply filling by pipe about a teaspoon onto the middle of the underside of one cookie. Top with a second plain cookie, with the underside filling-side-in. Repeat until all cookies have been used.
  2. Repeat until all cookies have been used. To assemble a sandwich cookie by spreading, use an offset frosting knife to spread 1/2-1 teaspoon on the underside of one cookie. Top with a second plain cookie, with the underside filling-side-in. Repeat until all cookies have been used.

Cookies will keep very well in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week.

Notes:

  1. If you don’t have quick oats, you may blitz 1 2/3 cups of old fashioned oats in the food processor until there are no whole oats visible. Steel cut oats will not work in this recipe.
  2. If you don’t want to use shortening, you may use 1/2 cup of room temperature butter.

Salted Chocolate Hazelnut Granola

Salted Chocolate Hazelnut GranolaThe countdown to vacation is officially on! I am T-4 days away from driving up to Maine with my friends, VJ and Adam, and I. can’t. wait.

A lot of the appeal of this trip is that we can all be together while also doing our own things. VJ will be perfectly happy putting together puzzles all day long. I have big plans to spend at least a couple of days foraging and baking. This will be Adam’s first time to Swans Island, but I know he’ll settle in quickly. The great thing about this trip is that everyone can do exactly what they want to do—there are no definite plans or must-do activities. It’s positively blissful.

Salted Chocolate Hazelnut GranolaThe only thing that’s difficult about being on Swans Island is figuring out the menu. There are no large grocery stores on-island, so all groceries have to be carted over from a market on the mainland. This means that we spent last Saturday night gathered around Adam’s kitchen table planning out every single meal and snack so that we can shop efficiently and thoroughly. Easy enough, right?

WRONG. While Adam and I basically eat everything, VJ is a gluten-free vegan. Granted, she is the least difficult gluten-free vegan ever (ever ever ever), but it’s still a challenge to plan meals that we can all enjoy together. Honestly, it’s simpler to just make two grocery lists and hope for some ingredient overlap. Regardless, I’ve taken it upon myself to make one thing we can all share and enjoy equally. This Salted Chocolate Hazelnut Granola is the result, and it’s freaking fabulous.

Salted Chocolate Hazelnut GranolaLike most granola, Salted Chocolate Hazelnut Granola is super easy to make and infinitely more delicious than anything you’ll find in stores. It’s basically like crispy, crunchy Nutella-flavored magic…but gluten-free, vegan, and perfect for sharing with all my favorite people.

Salted Chocolate Hazelnut GranolaSalted Chocolate Hazelnut GranolaSalted Chocolate Hazelnut GranolaSalted Chocolate Hazelnut GranolaOats and chopped raw hazelnuts are coated in a mixture of oil, maple syrup, dark brown sugar, cocoa powder, salt, and vanilla, before being baked until crisp. Once the granola isn’t searing hot anymore, four ounces of dark chocolate are mixed in. This creates some seriously amazing clusters 😍 You could certainly enjoy your granola like that, but I like to wait until it reaches room temperature and stir in a bit more chocolate—textural diversity for the win. Also, all that chocolate 😊😳🍫🍫🍫

Salted Chocolate Hazelnut GranolaI’ve already made two quarts of this granola for our trip. That may seem like a lot for three people, but between breakfasts and snacks, I know it’ll disappear quickly. And how couldn’t it? With crispy oats, toasty hazelnuts, a double dose of chocolate, and a big hit of salt to balance it all out, it’s guaranteed to keep all of us coming back for more.Salted Chocolate Hazelnut Granola

Salted Chocolate Hazelnut Granola
makes about 5-6 cups

2 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats (I used certified gluten-free oats)
1 1/2 cups (about 8 ounces) raw hazelnuts, roughly chopped
1/3 cup neutral-flavored oil (I like canola)
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoons dark brown sugar, packed
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/4 teaspoons Kosher or sea salt
6 ounces chopped dark chocolate, divided

Preheat oven to 300F. Line a rimmed quarter sheet pan with parchment or a silicone baking mat. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine oats and chopped hazelnuts. Set aside.

In a liquid measuring cup or small bowl, combine oil, maple syrup, vanilla, and brown sugar. Use a fork to whisk in cocoa powder and salt until mixture is smooth. Pour liquid ingredients over oats and hazelnuts. Fold everything together with a silicone spatula or wooden spoon.

Transfer mixture to prepared pan and spread into one even layer. Bake 40 minutes, stirring at the 15 and 30 minute marks. Let cool in the pan on a rack for at least 20 minutes, until it’s warm but can be handled. Scatter 4 ounces of chopped chocolate over the top and stir in. Let cool completely. Stir in remaining 2 ounces of chopped chocolate.

Granola may be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 weeks.

My Favorite Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies

My Favorite Pumpkin Oatmeal CookiesNaming these cookies was difficult. I know how dumb that sounds, but it seriously took me two days to come up with a name for this recipe. Job hazard, I suppose.

My Favorite Pumpkin Oatmeal CookiesMy Favorite Pumpkin Oatmeal CookiesI mean, these pumpkin oatmeal cookies are soft-centered and chewy-edged, perfectly spiced and full of pumpkin flavor. And then there are the add-ins: chocolate chips, dried cranberries, and chopped walnuts. As someone who’s not much for fruit with their chocolate, I have to say that I love this creamy, tangy, nutty combination. Looooove it.

My Favorite Pumpkin Oatmeal CookiesBut what on earth was I going to call them? Chocolate-Cranberry-Walnut Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies isn’t exactly a great name. No cookie really needs a six word name after all. That’s ridiculous. But Autumnal Oatmeal Cookies didn’t sound much better–so bland! And so, after spending entirely too long thinking about naming a recipe, I realized it was right in front of me the whole time. These are My Favorite Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies. Maybe they’ll be your favorite, too.My Favorite Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies

My Favorite Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies
makes 4 dozen cookies

3/4 cup dried cranberries
1 1/2 cups boiling water
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar, packed
1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
1/2 cup pumpkin purée
1 1/2 teaspoons real vanilla extract
3 cups old fashioned oats
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone baking mats. Set aside.

Place dried cranberries and boiling water in a small bowl. Set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat butter until light and fluffy. Beat in light brown sugar, followed by egg yolk, pumpkin purée, and vanilla. Mix in dry ingredients followed by oats.

Strain cranberries and press out any excess water. Add them to the dough, followed by chocolate chips and chopped walnuts.

Scoop dough in 2 tablespoon increments* and drop 2 1/2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Bake 10-11 minutes, until the edges are set and the centers look just a tad underbaked. Let cool on the pans for ten minutes before removing to a rack to cool completely.

Cookies will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week.

Note:

I use this medium cookie scoop.