I have a knack for finding ways to use up the little bits and bobs around the kitchen, whether it’s turning vegetable scraps into a frittata or turning the last scrapings from the bottom of a can of spaghetti sauce into some BBQ-esque slow cooker concoction. (Answer to the last question: add beer, molasses, vinegar, and some magic, and it comes together nicely. Recipe to come!) I think it comes from all of my many years of reading the Little House on the Prairie books — Ma’s “waste not, want not” is imprinted into my brain. Not only do I hate to waste good food that I paid for with my hard-earned cash, but I also see leftovers as a creative challenge. How can I stretch this into a meal? How can I dress it up into something entirely new and exciting? How can I combine multiple tins of scraps into one marvelous, chance-occurrance meal?
This weekend I was cleaning out the fridge and found three overripe bananas, turned black from the cold. Those, smashed into a paste, plus the very last half cup of sugar in my pantry, went into an old recipe of my mother’s. She has used this muffin recipe since I can remember, usually with blueberries and a dusting of crunchy raw sugar for a Sunday morning treat, and says she has held onto it since her 7th grade home economics class. The proportions are easy and the ingredients list is simple, making for a reliable recipe that is easy to customize based on whatever is in the pantry or fridge.
1/4 c. melted butter
1/2 c. sugar (I used Rapadura)
1/2 c. milk
1.5 c. flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
a dash of nutmeg and ginger
3 bananas, mashed
1 tsp. vanilla
Beat eggs and melted butter together, then add sugar and milk until mixed. Sift in dry ingredients and stir to moisten. Fold in mashed bananas. Grease muffin tins and fill with 2.5 Tbsp. batter. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.
These emerge barely golden and still moist inside, with plenty of vertical rise — no spill-overs with these muffins! Perfect with a dab of butter.
Some interesting combinations:
blueberries + flaked unsweetened coconut + cardamom
pureed pumpkin + sweet curry powder
oatmeal + chunky homemade applesauce
shredded zucchini + pecans + cinnamon
chocolate chips + espresso
browned butter + lemon zest
shredded carrots + currants + nutmeg
plenty of chopped fresh basil + pinch of extra sweetener
shredded apples + dash of angostura bitters
oatmeal + dollop of preserves tucked inside
ground flax seeds + chia seeds + oatmeal