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!

perfect birthday cake

I’m always skeptical of recipes deemed ‘perfect,’ be it the New York Times’ perfect chocolate chip cookie (though I’m sure, as many food bloggers will attest, they may in fact be the best chocolate chip cookie in existence) or, in this instance, Dorie Greenspan’s perfect party cake. Upon first glance, the recipe (from the truly lovely blog A Tender Crumb) does sound delicious: moist lemon cake, raspberry jam, a light buttercream, and a shredded coconut exterior. However, I was inspired to try a cheesecake-influenced take on this cake. I replaced the buttercream with a light cheesecake filling and chose to use strawberry jam instead of raspberry (though I’m sure raspberry’d be just as delicious) and a light cream cheese frosting.

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