Two years ago, I moved to Washington, DC to be closer to James. I got a new job at a company that had a few similarities to my old, beloved position at the Walnut Street Theatre: a casual office with almost all young people my age. And yet the Walnut had become my home – I knew everyone and felt comfortable being 100% myself, letting my freak flag fly, unleashing my passion for my work and my love of theatre. The Walnut staff was truly my family. So when I moved to this new job, I was completely terrified to be in a new place and didn’t find making friends easy. There was a lot of talk about getting drunk at parties, which is not my thing, and… there was no theatre. Theatre folk are a special breed of loud and gregarious people and I felt lost without the flamboyant, boisterous personalities. I was feeling pretty lonely.
One morning, in the office kitchen making instant oatmeal, a very nice co-worker tried to chat up the shy new girl. “Makin’ oatmeal, Bonnie?”, he asked. “Wow. So many people in this office eat oatmeal. I can’t remember the last time I ate oatmeal.”
Bolstered by his kindness to reach out to me, I replied with honesty. “Oh yeah, man. I’m crazy about fiber.”
Which lead this very nice chap, who I have had many good interactions with since, to laugh awkwardly… and leave the room. Great way to make friends, Bon.
Despite this, I’ve never been one to shy away from the subject of fiber and its immense health benefits. Yes, yes, fine, fiber affects your bowel movements. In a good way! Like Taro Gomi famously told us “Everybody poops” and fiber can fix lots of unpleasant digestive problems like diarrhea and constipation.
But beyond that, fiber is like magic. It can help to prevent lots of diseases like cancer and heart disease and keeps you fuller than white grains, so you eat less and maintain a healthy weight. But my favorite thing about a lot of fiber-rich foods? It tastes great. I’ve been subbing out pasta and white rice for whole grains like farro & barley and I’m so much happier for it. They’re full of fiber and lend an interesting flavor and texture to my dishes. Not that I don’t love some white food now and again, but if fiber-rich food actually tastes better – why go without?
The biggest problem I’ve found is with baking. Baking is an exact science and experimenting with baked goods can be hazardous for the amateur cook – you can end up making something inedible and waste a lot of hours and ingredients in the process. Replacing white flour in a recipe pretty much changes everything about the chemistry and I’m still learning about how exactly baked goods work in the first place.
However, I knew the internet would have my back. I scoured the internet for a banana bread (because I had several frozen bananas in my freezer) with a whole grain flour to try. The best recipe I found, with absolutely no white flour at all, was on Honest Fare and utilized lots of ingredients I had on hand: rolled oats, yogurt, low-fat milk. I adore banana bread and I adore oatmeal – put together, they must be heavenly!
I tried the recipe exactly as Gabi describes (well, without the addition of walnuts or raisins) and it turned out pretty great – but the muffins weren’t as moist as I would have liked. I still spread a little butter on them to reach the mouthfeel I wanted, which defeated the purpose of a baked good that I could enjoy AND feel good about eating.
So I thought a lot about the ingredients and considered increasing the yogurt or the milk but, in the end, decided to up the bananas in the recipe from 2 to 5. Why 5? Because I had a container of 5 smashed up bananas in the freezer.
The result was a little disconcerting because I needed to bake my muffins longer but was never able to insert a knife in the center of a muffin that came out clean. Fortunately, this resulted in cooked-through but insanely moist muffins. They did not seem to rise very much at all but the taste was delicious. A baked good full of fiber that you can dig into for breakfast or a snack knowing you’re doing your body good: life is full of surprises.
Banana Oatmeal Muffins
Adapted from the recipe “Yogurt Banana Oat Muffins” on Honest Fare
- 1 and 1/4 cups rolled oats
- 1/2 cup plain, low fat yogurt (I used 2% Fage)
- 1/2 cup low fat milk (I used 1%)
- 1/2 cup brown sugar (I used Turbinado sugar)
- 1/3 cup grapeseed oil
- 5 bananas, mashed
- 1 beaten egg
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 cups oat flour (made from 1 and 1/2 cups ground rolled oats)
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 cup walnuts
- 1/2 tsp salt
- Preheat oven to 400ºF
- Combine all of your wet ingredients, including rolled oats and sugar. Let the rolled oats soak in the wet ingredients as you prepare the dry ingredients.
- Pour 2 cups of rolled oats into your food processor and pulse until they’ve reached a flour-like consistency, about 25 pulses – takes 60 seconds!
- In a separate bowl, combine the oat flour and the rest of the dry ingredients.
- Pour the wet ingredients on top of the dry ingredients and gently fold the mixture together to combine.
- Spray your muffin tins with nonstick spray (or similarly grease) and fill each muffin bowl 2/3 full with batter.
- Bake the muffins for 22 minutes. At 11 minutes, rotate the trays 180° and switch the racks of the trays. A toothpick will probably not come out dry when inserted into muffins – these puppies are moist!
UPDATE: On January 23, 2016, I made these muffins again with 1/4 cup sugar and thought they tasted just as good. The extra bananas add quite a bit of sugar to the original recipe I adapted. Also, once I had processed the oat flour, I threw in the walnuts for a few pulses so that the pieces would be smaller for these small muffins. Worked like a charm!
Pictures and random annotations:
Frozen Bananas: Let’s talk about these bananas, shall we?
When I first made this recipe, I used two frozen bananas, as described in the original, still in their skins. What an experience! Although the bananas were perfectly safe and delicious, this process was super gross.
I cut the tip of banana off and squeezed the fruit into the bowl to combine with the other wet ingredients, along with all of the gross brown liquid that came out of them.
When I tried this the second time, I used a container of five mashed up bananas that I had frozen. I similarly defrosted them in the refrigerator overnight, but they were much easier to work with and incorporate into the batter. I recommend mashing the bananas before you freeze them, but probably best to freeze them in 1-2 banana portions.
Some illustration to show you just how you’ll want those oats to look. Also see video for how long you should pulse.