17 January 2010

Moist and Fluffy Spiced Banana Muffins (for my horse)

I think when bad stuff happens in my family, the women bake.  I know for certain that this is true for me.  I am fairly certain it is true for my mom and sister.  I am sure my mom's inability to bake right now is making our current bad stuff extra bad for her.  My parents are having their kitchen remodeled.  It is something my mom has fantasized about for years, and she is finally getting exactly what she wanted.  However, she is also suffering the side effects of no kitchen.  How does one properly prepare for the reality of having your kitchen completely gutted for over 6 weeks?  And then how do you cope with the bad stuff when you can't bake?

When I learned that our family horse of over 28 years had to be euthanized this past Wednesday, I was devastated.  I spent the morning visiting Peanut Butter, feeding him apples, rubbing his neck and trying to make him comfortable.  While I was with him, we didn't have the final word from the veterinarian yet, but it was apparent to me that he was too sick to live comfortably.  Peanut Butter had a disease which made his feet sore at the best of times and abscesses grow at the worst of times.  This was the worst of times, and the infection spread to his leg bone.  He lost the use of one of his front legs, and when you hear that a horse cannot survive with 3 legs, it is true.  I have never seen something as upsetting as Peanut Butter trying to move without the use of his front leg.

Peanut Butter wants you to know that he usually takes better pictures than this,
but this is the picture I took of him on Wednesday morning.  Old, bedraggled, covered
in straw and dirt from laying too much but still so sweet and lovable.

I was very close to Peanut Butter.  When I was very young, my siblings and I played for hours in his field.  He never cared which kids were out with him as long as no intimidating men were around (he strongly preferred females).  He was very gentle with children.  As I grew into an angsty teenager, Peanut Butter was my best friend.  I spent countless hours with him, hugging him when I was sad and having my hug returned in a particularly wonderfully horse-y way.  He would wrap his head and neck around my shoulders and lean on me in the most comforting way.  He would nuzzle and nibble along my back, and basically just offered me the silent understanding I really needed during those tumultuous teenage days.  We remained close friends, and I would be sure to visit him like he was a part of the family when I came home from college.  In the spring, I looked forward to grooming him, as there is something intensely satisfying about pulling clumps of hair off of a horse.  Maybe it was because I knew Peanut Butter was just so grateful for the assistance.  You could almost hear him groan in pleasure like a dog being rubbed.  Honestly, Peanut Butter's place in our family was more like a dog than a horse.  He would beg for food with a plaintive whinny or, on occasion, escape his field and come onto the back porch to beg.  I don't know how you could ever say no to his sweet, liquid horse eyes.  What is it about horse eyes anyway?  He loved cookies, bread, apples, beer and sugar cubes.  He was gentle and beautiful, and I will miss him.

I am grateful that I could bake to help me deal with this particular bad stuff.  I don't like to talk when I am upset, and I need to do something to help me deal- these muffins helped me deal (as well as several other meals I have since prepared for my parents - cooking provides a serious distraction when I am upset).  The spice mixture in these muffins makes them really unique.  I never would have thought to add coriander to a spice muffin or quick bread.  It is a lovely, floral addition. I don't really notice it individually, but it blends nicely with the other spices so these aren't your average banana muffins. I think I like this muffin best at breakfast with a schmear of cream cheese.  My parents have enjoyed them as well for more of a light dessert. Peanut Butter would have loved them any which way he could get them as long as they came with an affectionate rub.

Going Bananas Morning Muffins
According to Eugenia Hall, "With these around, there's no such thing as no time for breakfast."  This recipe was featured in Penzeys One, Volume 2, Issue 6.

1 2/3 cups mashed fully ripe bananas (4 or so medium)
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar (I used light brown)
1/2 cup white sugar
3 T butter, melted and cooled
1/4 cup milk (I used half and half)
6 T vanilla yogurt (I used 0% vanilla Greek yogurt)
1 T pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups unbleached flour
1 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t ground coriander
1/4 t ground allspice
1/4 t ground mace
1/4 t ground nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease 12 regular sized muffin tins.  In a medium bowl, blend the brown and white sugar together with a spoon.  Add the cooled melted butter and stir into the sugar mix until fully absorbed.  Add the milk, yogurt, eggs and vanilla to the bowl and stir until combined.  Add the mashed bananas and stir well.  In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, salt and spices and stir to combine.  Add half of the flour mixture to the wet mixture and fold it in until it is just barely combined. Repeat with the remaining flour mixture, again  stirring it in by hand until it is just barely combined; do not over-beat.  Pour the batter into the prepared muffin pan; the tins will be almost completely full- do not panic.  Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until done.  Allow muffins to cool for a few minutes, run a knife or spatula around the edges gently and remove from pan. Let cool fully on a wire rack.


nightsmusic said...

I've followed your blog for awhile and have enjoyed your recipes very much, though I've never posted.

I wanted to say how very sorry I am at the loss of your horse. I understand that empty spot in your heart. I've been there too.

Hugs to you.

Josie said...

Thank you so much for your kind words... I really appreciate them.

Cate O'Malley said...

I'm so sorry for your family's loss. It sounds like Peanut Butter was a pretty special member of your family. At least he is now romping around, gleefully painfree, although I know that's little comfort.

grace said...

and now i'm sad. i can totally empathize with you, josie, as our 30-year-old arabian just got put down last month. it's rough stuff.
on a brighter note, your muffins look like a light yet hearty breakfast nosh--thanks for the recipe!

Josie said...

Cate- Thank you, it does make me feel better to know he is no longer in pain.
Grace- Sorry for making you sad! :) And I am very sorry for the loss of your horse. My parents' neighbors had Arabians. I only rode Western as a little girl, but I started trying English on one of their Arabs and it was very startling the first time I was up on that thing - so much higher off the ground than a quarter horse :)