It occurs to me that the place I lived longest, with the exception of my childhood, was my San Francisco apartment, on my mind this morning because it’s coming up to four years now since we moved out. (Surely I’ve lived several different lives since then; feels like it anyway.) I spent about seven and a half years in it, longer than my years in Washington, DC (four and a half spent in a little studio in Adams Morgan) and, of course, university. The four years since we departed the city by the bay have been a blur of constant moving; the Foreign Service is by nature transitory, but even so our experience has been a bit unique: three moves spread out over four years plus two maternity medevacs (journeys back to the States to deliver) encompassing months away from “home”. It’s so hard to feel grounded when you are packing up on average every 18 months or so (typical postings last two to four years). You get homesick at strange moments for the very specific place — the Wadi Trail, especially the little park with the red slide about a five minute walk from our house; my San Francisco living room with the rattling windows; my big kitchen in Casablanca (and actually the entire house in general, with its view of the Atlantic and palm trees, despite it being literally over run with ants. Time has a funny way of softening memory.). It seems like every time a place feels truly like ours we leave, and for me (and maybe Sierra too) it takes awhile for a house to feel like a home.
It will come as no surprise, then, that cooking helps me feel settled. I think I used to glorify my efforts a bit — all that baking, all those meal experiments (vegan month about five years back just for “fun”), all those photos taken for work and pleasure in the pretty light filtering through the fog and the white curtains bordering the windows of my little dining room in the Western Addition (add to the “places I miss” list). Nowadays I’m lucky to get dinner out before the terrifying hangrys set in. I stay at home/work at home with the girls so I have no real excuse for not producing a healthy, nourishing meal (or several of them throughout the course of the day) and snacks, but I find little glory in it aside from the obvious reality that it satiates our hunger and hopefully carries us forward with good, mostly plant-based energy.
I do sort of miss my old enthusiasm for coming with new recipes but I also have to work with my current situation: I’ve got two very active little ones and while pre children I had grand plans of feeding them loads of varied and very interesting dishes — errr, let’s say I do my best. My goal right now is to stay away from processed stuff as much as possible. Organic is nice but my main focus is on whole foods, minimally processed (minus the different kinds of crackers we seem to love and can’t quite get away from), which equates to snacks of sliced cheese, bananas, grapes (+ other fruit for the baby who is more adventurous), carrot and/or cucumber sticks, bread, either homemade or from the natural foods market so it’s not full of weird ingredients, the occasional homemade granola bar (it’s been awhile — note to self), sometimes a leftover pancake, granola, homemade muffins, etc. Unfortunately Sierra’s on to me with the healthy cookies/sweets and usually wants the real stuff (smart girl) but I have an arsenal of yummy yet fairly good-for-us cookies on this site I should revisit (these in particular are great).
Last week we made these almost-vegan banana-blueberry muffins together and Sierra ate about four mini muffins — cause for celebration because the girl claims she doesn’t like blueberries and won’t eat them, except for that one time at my friend Randy and Logan’s fourth of July party in 2015 when she ate them out of a carton without stopping (yes I remember the exact date because I was thrilled and naively hopeful a life-long love of blueberries had been born. Maybe some day …). Elspeth on the other hand gets a bit grumpy if she’s not given blueberries with her breakfast so I suppose she’s making up for it. I do often wonder if Sierra’s aversion to berries came about because I had trouble finding blueberries/raspberries/strawberries in the Moroccan supermarkets I visited and thus she wasn’t introduced to them early enough … Long story short, Sierra ate these muffins, she loved them, I made them again and she wouldn’t touch them, the end.
Still, this a fantastic recipe. Simple ingredients easily found — another one of my current cooking tenets — and you could adapt it to include different fruit or berries if you like. You could also leave out the additional fruit and keep them as banana muffins if you have a discriminating eater in your house. I was surprised at how fluffy and sweet the muffins turned out considering they are vegan (or nearly so; I used dairy milk) and are low on sugar. I used maple syrup here and reduced the amount of sugar called for in the original recipe to 1/4 cup of syrup. I imagine you could use honey instead (though the recipe wouldn’t be vegan) or regular sugar if that’s easier. I might experiment with swapping in a little almond meal but so far have made the recipe exclusively with spelt flour.
I topped a muffin with leftover, totally not-vegan lemon curd and it was delicious. But nibbled on plain with morning coffee or as an afternoon snack — these muffins still feel like a treat, if a wholesome one.
Home is where you make it. The rain today definitely helps with that cozy, homey feeling even if the trees I can see outside my windows are madrones rather than the palm we were so accustomed to (and there are palm trees here too, just not within eye sight!). This funny life we live.
I also make these without the blueberries (or spoon out half of the batter into the muffin tin before stirring in the blueberries). Use non-dairy milk to make completely vegan.
Makes one dozen regular sized muffins or 24 mini muffins.
2 mashed medium bananas
1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup whole milk or non-dairy milk
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups spelt flour or a mix of spelt and all-purpose or whole wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup fresh blueberries
Heat the oven to 350°F (180°C) and grease or line a muffin tray with liners (I used my mini muffin pan here).
In a large bowl, stir together the bananas, olive oil, milk, maple syrup, and vanilla.
Sift in the flour/s, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and pinch of salt. Gently fold together until combined. Gently fold in the blueberries.
Pour the batter into muffin cups until almost full, about 2/3 the way up the cup.
Place in the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown and a tester inserted in the middle of a muffin comes out mostly clean. Remove and let cool on a wire rack.