strawberry banana muffins

In reflecting on the last year, I think one of the greatest lessons I’ve learned is that time is precious. A few weeks ago, after a long conversation about ‘the future,’ my mentor at Brown gave me a set of exercises from a course at Harvard Business School that’s supposed to help you pinpoint your strengths/weaknesses, interests, and beliefs in order to find your ideal career path. There was one question that asked about what I considered most valuable in my life, and I knew the answer instantly: the people. And a few months ago, if I were being completely honest with myself, my relationships definitely weren’t at the center of my life; I let myself get consumed with all my work and projects far too often. Time is simultaneously in abundance and in scarcity – how was I going to spend it to make sure that I was living life to the fullest? I became determined to turn myself around.

These last couple of weeks and months have been a blur of late nights talking with my roommate, taking a day off from my job to visit friends in Boston, going out to lunch and hanging out with more people in my department, using the hour before class to go to the farmer’s market with a friend I knew was hurting, hosting multiple dinner parties at our apartment, and finding out for myself what it means to be vulnerable (my wise friend Jade once told me, “only people who are strong can be vulnerable,” and it’s stuck with me – but that’s another entry for another time). I can’t tell you how much more centered, happy, and at peace with life I am. Obviously I have a ton of growing left to do (right now my project is learning to be more straightforward with people), but this was definitely a step in the right direction.

The hardest thing is reconciling all of this with the fact that my grades might not be the straight A’s I’ve been conditioned to earn my entire life. And yet, I would never, ever trade any of these experiences for perfect grades; I’ll take an intense, meaningful 3-hour conversation over finishing my homework to perfection any day – a year ago I doubt I could have said this. It’s truly a paradigm shift for me, but I’m working at embracing it.

Oh, so these muffins. I wish I had a good segue into talking about them, but I threw these together because I’d been in a rush in the mornings and didn’t have time to wake up early to make peanut butter sandwiches (sad, right?). I made a batch of these and they were both delicious and easy to grab on the way out in the morning to class; plus, making the batter and putting it into the muffin tin took me under 20 minutes. I hope you enjoy these too!

Strawberry Banana Muffins

2 eggs
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 bananas, mashed
1.5 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 cup sliced strawberries
turbinado sugar to sprinkle on top (I didn’t do this. I wish I had.)

1. Preheat your oven to 375F, and line a muffin tin with ~12 muffin liners (or just grease ’em). In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, applesauce, oil, brown sugar, vanilla and bananas.

all mashed together

2. Dump in the flour, baking soda and cinnamon.

3. Stir until moistened – don’t overdo it! Slice your strawberries and stir them in until evenly distributed.

4. Spoon batter into muffin cups until completely filled.

5. Bake for ~20 minutes, til the tops are lightly browned.

fresh outta the oven (‘scuse my muffin tin. it’s been a couple years.)

Let these cool for a bit, and then carefully take them out with a fork (or you can flip the tin upside down if you’re really in a rush).

I think I added way more strawberries than the recipe called for because these were packed... Not that I was complaining.  Enjoy!

honey and vanilla-glazed lemon bread

It’s funny how you can have so many plans, expectations, ideals about something only to realize that they’re pointless. Like how people expect buses to arrive on time, or for all fluffy animals to be friendly. Months ago – when I was a wee youngin’ of 20 – I thought that my 21st birthday would be some huge celebration in my apartment (decked out in strands and strands of Christmas lights) with lots of good friends and champagne and fruit tarts (my favorite food and namesake of my blog). But as last week approached, after pulling an all-nighter and successive four and five hour nights, I quickly defenestrated that idea.

I was fighting a headache in class Friday when I got caught up in a text exchange with one of my roommates, Tabitha.

“When do you get out of class?”
“NEVER”
“What? When do you usually get out?”
“6. Why? What are we doing?”
“Connie and I are taking you somewhere but we’re not telling you where!”

Needless to say, all symptoms of sleep deprivation quickly disappeared. I was blindfolded with Tabitha’s pink scarf and taken to a beautiful restaurant overlooking the river and skyline (Jacky’s, if you’re ever in the downtown Providence area) for a lovely evening in the company of two of the most delightful people I have ever known. Interestingly enough, Tabitha and Connie commented that I seemed like I was in distress when I opened my birthday present, but really it was just me struggling to express the depths of my gratitude. And it wasn’t even my birthday yet! I won’t bother you with the details of the rest of my weekend, other than that I don’t have any regrets about not having that party I previously envisioned. I certainly couldn’t have anticipated how restful and necessary my weekend actually was.

So anyway, this small loaf of lemon bread is just a minuscule manifestation of my affection, both for my roommates and for everyone else in my life. I’ve been meaning to make this for a long time for Connie since she loves everything lemon, but while I was baking/eating it I thought of everyone else who would enjoy it because it is ridiculously delicious – if I could, I would bake a loaf for everyone I know. I adapted it from an allrecipes recipe by lowering the sugar and upping the lemon like crazy, and then making up a glaze to drizzle on top just because this is a food blog and I feel self conscious about putting unphotogenic foods on here. My loaf happens to have flecks of crushed flax seed because we ran out of eggs, but I’m sure yours will be a perfectly pale yellow.

Honey and Vanilla-Glazed Lemon Bread
makes 1 loaf (8 x 4 x 2″) or 2 mini loaves

1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
3/4 cup sugar (or up to 1 cup if you like it sweet)
2 eggs
juice of two lemons
zest of one lemon
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup or so of milk
splash of lemon extract

glaze
~2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 cup or so of confectioners’ sugar
honey
splash of vanilla extract

1. Cream butter and sugar. Beat in eggs, lemon juice, and zest.

lots and lots of zest!


 2. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt; stir into creamed mixture alternately with milk until batter-consistency.

3. Pour into a greased 8-in. x 4-in. x 2-in. loaf pan, or two small loaf pans, or a cupcake pan, or whatever else tickles your fancy.

4. Bake at 350 degrees 30-45 minutes (depending on your pan of choice) or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

5. Combine glaze ingredients, messing around until you love it.

a drizzle of honey

6. Pour the glaze over your bread, and serve to people you love (who will probably then proceed to hug you).