Vegan Chocolate Banana Muffins


Our friend Lisa visited us from Florida last weekend. She’s my formerly omnivore friend who became vegan and broke my heart (though, of course, I still love her to death). We have been friends since our college days and we hung out over the weekend with yet another college friend, Brad, who lives in NY with his partner Denny. Even though we’ve known each other for 23 years, we still never run out of things to talk about. On Saturday, we took the train to the New York Botanic Gardens to see the cherry trees but we were a little too early. The majority of them were still bare, though a few were in full bloom, resplendent in pink and white flowers. We walked around, took pictures and then hopped in a cab to go back to our apartment for Mai Tais and dinner.DSC05041

With everyone’s help in the kitchen, I prepared a full vegan meal that ended up being very satisfying, even for the non-vegans among us. I started us off with crispy broccoli in black vinegar and then served a sweet potato, kohlrabi, and peanut stew, topped with some Korean gochujang paste and crushed peanuts. We finished with freshly baked vegan chocolate chip cookies. I tried the recipe from Ovenly for the first time and though we ended up eating two cookies each, I will just say that I will stick with my favorite non-vegan chocolate chip cookie recipe in the future.

But the real hit was breakfast. I saw this recipe for vegan chocolate banana muffins many months ago on Chocolate & Zucchini and saved it for Lisa’s next visit. I finally made them last Friday and we ate them throughout the weekend. I can’t believe I’m going to say this about a vegan baked good, but these muffins are amazing! They are just dense enough that they feel substantial and not cake-y, but they are delightfully moist and tender. The flavor is pure banana and chocolate, along with some deeper notes from the coconut sugar that I added to the recipe. And the turbinado sugar on top adds a playful crunch to each bite. Altogether, they are really irresistible.

Vegan Chocolate Banana Muffins – Adapted from Chocolate & Zucchini


130 grams (1 cup) all-purpose flour
130 grams (1 cup) rice flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
50 grams (1/4 cup) white sugar
100 grams (1/2 cup) coconut sugar
150 grams (5 1/3 ounces) good-quality bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped
3 very ripe bananas, (about 350 grams or 3/4 pound without the skin)
60 ml (1/4 cup) vegetable oil
60 ml (1/4 cup) virgin and unrefined coconut oil
2 tablespoons brandy or cognac (substitute with apple juice if you do not want to use alcohol)
1/4 teaspoon cider vinegar
1 tablespoon turbinado sugar for topping


Preheat the oven to 350°F and line a 12-muffin muffin pan with muffin liners (or lightly grease and flour the muffin pan).

In a medium bowl, combine the flours, baking soda, salt, sugars, and chopped chocolate. Stir well to combine. Set aside. In a second medium bowl, use a fork to mash the bananas with the oils, brandy/cognac, and vinegar until thoroughly combined.

Add the wet ingredients into the dry ones and use a spatula to mix together until no trace of flour remains, without overmixing.

Scoop into the muffin molds, and sprinkle the tops with the turbinado sugar. Bake for 30 minutes, until the tops are nicely browned. Let cool on a rack before serving.

Peanut Butter, Chocolate, and Banana Granola

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It’s customary to reflect on the past twelve months this time of year. Best-of-the-year lists are compiled, retrospectives are assembled, Barbara Walters unveils the people that fascinated her, and Oprah tempts us with her favorite things. We look back with sadness at the bad things that happened and with joy at the milestones we accomplished. And as the midnight hour of December 31st approaches, we hope that this arbitrary moment in time, chosen by men centuries ago, will somehow be unique, a marker of change. People make resolutions, to do less of some things and more of others, to be someone other than who they’ve always been, to want less and give more. Some drink and kiss, penned like abused animals in Times Square, others watch fireworks on their TV sets, and some are asleep long before the ball drops. In the end, the new year is always the same, like a bowl of granola: mostly familiar days, one after the other, studded with the occasional sweet surprise or bitter moment.

Happy New Year.

Peanut Butter, Chocolate, and Banana Granola – Adapted from David Lebovitz


3 cups (300g) rolled oats (not the quick cooking kind)
1 cup (150g) roasted pecans, very coarsely chopped
1/2 cup (70g) sunflower seeds
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup (130g) smooth peanut butter (regular or natural)
1/4 cup (80g) maple syrup
1/4 cup (85g) honey
1/4 cup (60g) packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons water
4oz (115g) dark chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup (45g) sweetened banana chips, chopped


Preheat the oven to 325ºF (165ºC.)

In a large bowl, mix together the oats, chopped pecans, sunflower seeds, cinnamon, and salt.

In a small saucepan, warm the peanut butter, maple syrup, honey, brown sugar, and water over low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture is smooth.

Scrape the peanut butter mixture into the dry ingredients and mix it in well.

Transfer the granola mixture to a baking sheet and spread it in an even layer. Toast the granola in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, stirring a few times during baking, until the granola is a golden brown. (It will crisp up as it cools.) Remove from oven and let cool completely. Once cool, mix in chocolate and banana chips.

Storage: Store the granola in an airtight container at room temperature. It will keep for one to two months.

Banana Peanut Butter Malt Shake


Ok, so my last post was a bit of a downer. Which wasn’t really my intention but I guess that’s just how it ended up coming out as I wrote it down. In any case, I didn’t want to leave y’all with such a sad taste for the week. So, consider this mid-week post an emotional palate cleanser. Sort of like a trou normande, the traditional french palate cleanser of a shot of calvados between courses (sometimes with a ball of apple sorbet in the shot glass).


Except that in this case, instead of apple brandy and apple sorbet, you have bananas, peanut butter, and malted milk powder (a more than fair exchange, if you ask me). I don’t remember exactly when, but a couple of months ago I woke up one morning feeling an intense craving for a shake that combined these three flavors. I had never had anything like that before, but as I got out of bed, I could just taste the sweet and creamy shake with the unmistakable burn of the malted milk.

So, I made it that morning. And then again a few mornings later. And then again. And again. “Should we feel guilty for having dessert for breakfast?” Steve asked me. “Absolutely not!” I replied.


Banana Peanut Butter Malt Shake

Makes 2 8oz servings

1 ripe banana
1/3 cup malted milk powder
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter (a brand that has sugar in it, like Jif or Skippy)
1 cup of milk
2 ice cubes

Add all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.

Serve and try not to drink it all at once.

Julia’s Best Banana Bread

I like my bananas firm and just turned yellow, with a hint of green still visible. Once they fully ripen, get brown spots, and turn super sweet, I don’t want to eat them anymore. What I usually do is blend them with other fruit and some orange juice for a breakfast smoothie.
I know that most people like to make banana bread with overripe bananas, but I’ve never cared for the banana breads I’ve tasted. They are often cake baritones: heavy, overly sweet, and dense. I always feel like they need some tenor, or even soprano, flavor notes in there. But I never attempted to make one of my own because all the recipes I saw seemed to pretty much be variations on a pound cake with added mashed bananas.


This changed when Bon Appetit ran an article called “A Slice of Paradise: Andrew McCarthy’s Banana Bread Quest.”In it, the actor Andrew McCarthy (yeah, that Andrew McCarthy, from Pretty in Pink) talks about his search for the best banana bread on the island of Maui in Hawaii. He finds it at a remote, little roadside stand called Julia’s. Fortunately, he leaves with the recipe.


As soon as I saw the recipe I knew I had to try it. It’s easy, two-bowls-and-a-whisk kind of easy. And it uses no butter, just eggs and oil. Even more important, it calls for just two bananas, not three like most other recipes I have seen. But I decided to make one small but important change. I had bought a bag of coconut palm sugar, a kind of sugar extracted from the nectar of the coconut tree. It’s very trendy right now because it’s supposed to be better for you than regular cane sugar.


I don’t care much about that claim. What intrigued me about it was its taste. It’s earthy and complex. There is butterscotch and coffee and coconut in there. I thought it would go well in this Hawaiian recipe for banana bread, so I substituted half of the white sugar with it.


The end result is the best banana bread I have ever tasted, by far. Granted, the benchmark was already low, but this was heavenly. The cake is moist but not dense. The banana flavor is distinct but not overpowering. The coconut palm sugar gives it both darker notes and a little acidity.

No baritones or sopranos here. Just a good old folk singer singing on the beaches of Maui.


Julia’s Best Banana Bread – Slightly adapted from Bon Appetit

Note: If you don’t have coconut palm sugar, you can use light brown sugar instead. Or you can just use all white sugar, as the original recipe does.

1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3 large eggs
3/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup coconut palm sugar (break up any lumps with your fingers)
1 cup mashed ripe bananas (about 2 large)
3/4 cup vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 350°. Coat a 9x5x3-inch loaf pan with vegetable oil. Dust with flour and tap out excess.

Whisk flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. In a large bowl, whisk eggs, sugars, and bananas until smooth. Add dry ingredients to banana mixture and stir gently, just until there no more traces of flour. Pour the batter into prepared pan.

Bake until a tester inserted into the center of bread comes out clean, 60-70 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let bread cool in pan for 15 minutes. Run a knife around inside of pan to release the bread. Turn out onto rack and let cool completely.

You can make this 3-days ahead and store it in an airtight container at room temperature. Or you can slice it and wrap individual slices (or pairs) in plastic wrap and freeze them. Take out of the freezer at least two hours before eating and leave on countertop, unwrapped, to defrost.