Recipe: Strawberry-Banana Quinoa Muffins

It’s been fun getting more comfortable with baking over the past year and a half.  While I’m still nowhere near the level of some my more baking-capable friends, I no longer fear things like precisely measured baking powder or overworking my dough.  Like the old adage says, practice makes perfect, and while perfection still has a long way to be attained, I’m far less reluctant to tackle a from-scratch baking project now.

I think it helps that I’ve sort of found my own personal baking niche, one that helps me feel at ease in a world of such exactitude (I’m far more comfortable in the carefree environment of regular cooking, where I can throw pinches of this and dashes of that together and minutes later, it’s awesome).  Somehow, my love for quinoa has opened up a whole new world of baking possibilities for me, and the more I experiment, the less likely it is that I’ll stop.  Just today I wrote down eleven ideas for quinoa baked goods, and I may just throw caution to the wind someday and whip out a quinoa-only cookbook.

But I digress.

Part of why I like throwing quinoa into things like muffins & cakes is that it gives everything an extremely moist texture that’s downright irresistible.  Sure, the knowledge that I’m enjoying a sweet treat with a complete protein inside is nice, but I just really like the way it makes baked goods turn out: rich and impossibly moist.

This latest venture into baking with the mother grain proved even more exciting than the first two, since I pretty much winged it.  I had originally hoped to use my other quinoa muffin recipe as a guide, but my server was having issues and I couldn’t access the recipe (reason #23409147 Poor Girl needs to write a book: so I can refer to my own recipes when I need them!).  Feeling confident that I couldn’t do too much damage with old standbys like strawberries, bananas, and cooked quinoa, I got to work.

I found these to be remarkably quick & easy to make.  The longest you’ll spend on any part of the process is cooking the quinoa, and if you’re the type that cooks it up in big batches like I do, you’re already halfway home.  I still had some quinoa flour left over from a previous recipe experiment for the book, so I used that in the first batch of muffins, marking my very first gluten-free baking project.  *cue appreciative smattering of applause*  However, I realize that not everyone has access to the bulk section of my co-op, so if you don’t have any gluten sensitivities, feel free to use whole wheat flour instead.

The rest is simple: just some extremely ripe bananas and plenty of fresh, sweet strawberries, along with the other usual muffin-making suspects.  I kept the flour to a bare minimum, since the cooked quinoa would also help to hold everything together, and despite the fact that I have some frozen berries in ye olde freezer, I made sure to use the remaining fresh berries I had from my strawberry & blood orange popsicle making last week.  Frozen strawberries are fine in a pinch, but personally, I prefer biting into bits of fresh berries when I enjoy my muffin.  The texture is great and the unexpected juicy sweetness is always a pleasant surprise.

A couple final notes: these are very filling, so keep them small.  You don’t have to make them mini muffin small (though they’d be pretty awesome), but standard cupcake/muffin size is just perfect for these.  Why?  Because they’re very rich & dense, thanks to the fresh ingredients and all that quinoa.  They’re very deceiving little muffins, so it’s best to keep them small rather than whipping out the big muffin tin.  Because they’re so filling and packed with protein, these would be great for a quick breakfast on the go, so making these on a Sunday to enjoy throughout the workweek is a great plan.  And at just $0.30 per muffin, this beats anything you’ll be able to grab at Starbucks or at some fast food joint!  And now, the recipe…

Strawberry-Banana Quinoa Muffins (makes 12 muffins; total cost per muffin: $0.30)

Ingredients
1 1/3 c quinoa flour (whole wheat or all purpose is fine if you don’t have access to quinoa flour)
1 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1/2 c firmly packed brown sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 T melted butter
1 t vanilla extract
2 medium overripe bananas, mashed
1 c cooked quinoa
1 c finely chopped fresh strawberries
1-2 strawberries, thinly sliced (optional for garnish)

Directions
1.  Preheat the oven to 375°.  Prepare a muffin or cupcake tin with cooking spray or muffin liners.  In a small bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder and salt, and set aside.  In a separate, larger bowl, combine the brown sugar, butter, eggs & vanilla and whisk until smooth.  Mix in the dry flour mixture a couple tablespoons at a time, stirring together until completely incorporated.

2.  When all the flour has been mixed in, add the mashed bananas and the quinoa, and mix well.  Add the chopped strawberries (juice & all!) and fold into the muffin batter.  Divide the batter among the prepared muffin cups.  Place one strawberry slice on top of each muffin, and bake for about 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of one of the muffins comes out clean.

3.  Remove from oven and cool for a couple of minutes before removing muffins from pan.  Cool on a rack for about 10 minutes, or until ready to serve.  Serve for brunch or take some with you to for a quick weekday breakfast, and enjoy!

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