now w/ bananas:
I'm not entirely sure how to say this, but it has to be said and whether I say it quickly, or ramble aimlessly, doesn't really make much difference. We bought an artificial tree; yes, the kind that has static, plastic needles and a spidery wire base. The sort that still catches fire, although not as often, and comes pre-lit with strands of white lights that are bound to die out in sections year after year. We didn't want to do it, but it was out of our hands: there were only six blue spruce trees in our city of 200,000+, and they were squat little brutes at that. I, personally, have been moping since 3:00pm Sunday and bringing down the whole event.
Of course, SPUDS has nothing against artificial trees. In fact, SPUDS admits that they are just as beautiful as their live counterparts... so long as they are in other peoples houses. There are many amazing trees out there, and not all of them are the sticky, fragrant pines that I can't help but smash my nose against the car window to oogle at as we drive by. I don't mean to make myself out to be the victim of a holiday marketing travesty; although, that would be a pretty good description. Still, it would be selfish and cruel of me to do so. I say this only so that when I tell you we spent two days looking for our beloved blue spruce, you know that I mean it.
Luckily, I had a whim to make some bran muffins Saturday morning before work, which meant that Sunday started off on a very optimistic note. In addition, we had our first dusting of snow, I had a day off from work and one toasty pair of flannel pajamas. In college, as soon as I got my hands on my own kitchen in college, albeit one filled with appliances from the late 80s, I made raisin bran bread on an almost weekly basis to enjoy in said pajamas. I especially liked to smear cream cheese or peanut butter on slices of it when I was trying my hardest to postpone finishing a paper. (Whether it was 3pm or 3am I was usually in my pajamas). But, if I didn't have bread ready I was forced to wander around in a foul temper, looking for a replacement.
Then, I found this recipe on the back of a box of bran we had at home last year. Now, I only have to mix up the batter once every three weeks to enjoy my favorite muffins any time. I mean you can leave the stuff (unbaked) in the fridge for up to three weeks! For someone who likes to spend their entire Sunday and Monday evening wandering around frigid Christmas tree lots this "make and bake" feature is very important. Disappointment tastes even more bitter on an empty stomach. And, since it is December, I took it upon myself to use some dried fruit: apricots, apples, papaya, raisins, pineapple etc.
Which reminds me: it is December. We've got a few changes here this month, maybe you've already noticed one. Thanks to a friend, also known as the Burrito Bandito, SPUDS will have twice as many delicious photos per post! Apparently, it has something to do with this thing called HTML. I know. The other changes? I haven't quite decided yet... For the sake of bellies grumbling before finals, SPUDS will be returning to our usual broadcast schedule: easy every day meals. But, great inexpensive gift ideas like Puppy Chow, Toffee Bars, Chocolate Dipped Peppermint Sticks and the like will manage to squeeze into the lime light every once in a while, too. So, keep your eyes peeled for more tasty dishes later this week.
Got a great gift idea? Want to share a recipe? Be sure to join our fanpage on Facebook: cool kids and post/message recipes to the Wall. We've got 31 followers and if we make it to 50 by December 24th SPUDS will personally consider it a Christmas miracle. Not on Facebook? Email your thoughts, concerns and ideas straight to SPUDS @ email@example.com or leave a comment here on the blog spot.
Adapted from Hodgson Mill
1 1/2 cups wheat bran
1/2 cup boiling water
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 small banana, mashed
1/4 cup butter
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup raisins (or other dried fruit)
1. Mix half the wheat bran (3/4 cup) with the 1/2 cup of boiling water in a small boil. Let sit to absorb the water.
2. In another bowl blend the sugar and butter.
3. Sift the flour, baking soda, salt and spices. Combine the moist bran with the egg, banana, remaining bran, buttermilk, butter mixture and flour and spices.
4. Stir until blended. Fold in the dried fruit and either refrigerate for up to 3 weeks or bake at once.
5. To bake: preheat the oven to 350 and either line a muffin tin with liners or butter them. Stir the batter (if it has been sitting) and spoon 3/4 of the way full with batter. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the muffin comes out clean. Cool slightly before serving.
*Batter will keep up to three weeks in the fridge. Baked muffins are good up to two weeks in an airtight container.