Banana Oatmeal Bran Muffins

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I’m not a huge fan of bran muffins, to tell the truth. I mean, the older I get the more I appreciate their functionality in my diet, but they’re still not a favourite. The Pie absolutely LOVES them, though. I swear he’s actually seventy. So I thought I’d play around with the mixture a bit and see if I could come up with something that still had all the benefits of bran with a bit more of a flavour, and these not-too-sweet muffins did the trick.

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These can also be frozen in their unbaked form for cooking up later, which is handy for me as I am yet again filling up friends’ freezers in anticipation of future little ones. All you do is scoop the mixed batter into cupcake liners, freeze them, and then add five minutes to the baking time when you bake them from frozen. Easy peasy.

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But of course you want to try some of these puppies right away. So preheat your oven to 350°F and line some muffin tins with liners (or give them a good spraying or buttering, whatever suits). I doubled this recipe (so I could freeze some) so don’t be alarmed at the massive amounts in the pictures. Deep breaths.

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In a bowl, whisk together 2 cups all-purpose or whole wheat flour, 1 cup oats (rolled, not steel cut), 1 cup bran, 2 tablespoons sugar, and 1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda. That’s your dry bowl.

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For your liquids you’ll likely need a bit more preparation. First, I had some bananas in the freezer that needed thawing out, but when they were good and squishy I went ahead and mushed up 3 ripe bananas.

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You’ll also need some buttermilk. If you don’t have buttermilk you can simply sour regular milk by adding 1 tablespoon lemon/lime juice or vinegar to every cup of milk you use and letting that sit for about 5 minutes. For this recipe you’ll need 2 cups buttermilk/soured milk. I also opted to switch out the traditional molasses used in bran muffins for 1/2 cup honey. In addition to that in your liquid bowl you’ll need 1 large egg and 4 tablespoons melted butter.

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Mix both the liquids and the dry stuff well, but SEPARATELY. The whole trick with muffins is not mixing them too much. I think in this case with me trying to incorporate the bananas I ended up overmixing but you should try not to do that.

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Your batter should still be pretty lumpy when you tip in 1 cup raisins or nuts (optional).

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Scoop your batter into your prepared tins and either freeze them or bake them for about 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the centre muffin comes out clean.

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Let those cool in the pan about 5 minutes before scooping out to a wire rack to cool completely.

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I like eating them still-hot with a wee bit of butter. So good!

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Sunday Scones

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Yes, yes, I know it’s WEDNESDAY. But I made these on a Sunday and I like my alliteration, okay? These are a great addition to a Sunday brunch (I know this because that’s what I made them for). I used turkey bacon in this recipe but feel free to use any bacon-like product you can think of.

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Start with 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour and mix it in a bowl with 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, 1 tablespoon baking powder, and 1 teaspoon salt.

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Grab 1/2 cup COLD butter and use a pastry cutter or two knives to cut the butter into the flour mixture. You can use a food processor for this if you really want, but we are going for a non-uniform texture here, so irregular chunks of butter are a plus in this situation.

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Normally I use buttermilk when I make scones because it makes them nice and fluffy. But I never have buttermilk on hand because in Canada you can only buy it in 1L cartons and seeing as I don’t drink it for its own sake that’s a lot of buttermilk to have to use up. So generally I just sour my own milk. 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or white vinegar to 1 cup of milk, give it a stir, and leave it for five minutes. Good enough. Here I only needed 2/3 cup soured milk so I adjusted accordingly. You can do the math. Anyway, mix the milk with 2 slightly beaten eggs.

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What you also need here is about 5 slices of cooked bacon, any kind.

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Slice and dice that into wee pieces. You need about 1/2 cup chopped bacon at this point. You should probably do this first before all the other stuff with the flour and butter so that the bacon has time to cool down before you cut it up. Otherwise, there might be bad things that happen.

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Harvest some green onions as well. Dice them up until you have about 1/4 cup chopped green onion.

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Then grate some cheese. Any kind you like, but you need about 2/3 cup grated cheese and then add to that about 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese as well.

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Okay so now you’ve got all your bits and pieces. Add the buttermilk/eggs mixture to the flour mixture and stir until just combined.

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Add the cheese, onions, and bacon to the bowl as well and continue to stir until it’s all incorporated.

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Turn the mix out onto a lightly floured surface and knead gently just until all the bits and pieces are together and it’s a cohesive mass. You just want things all barely sticking together. When in doubt, under-mix.

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Shape it into a disk about 1″ thick. Wrap the dough up tightly and put it in the freezer for at least 30 minutes or in the fridge overnight.

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Scones cook really well from frozen, did you know that? So if you wanted to do that, cut the scones before chilling, wrap them up really well, and then chuck them in the freezer for scone-y goodness any time you want. Frozen scones make great gifts, you know.

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If you’re not freezing them, unwrap your chilled dough and slice it into wedges. I aimed for 10 wedges here. You can also flatten your dough into a rectangle and cut out squares or triangles or whatever you want. Wedges are easiest for me. Preheat your oven to 375°F.

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Plop the wedges on some baking sheets lined with parchment and brush them with about 2 tablespoons half and half or light cream.

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Sprinkle them with a little sea salt and shove them in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until they’re puffy and golden.

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Let cool only very slightly before serving warm with a dollop of butter!

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Apple Streusel Muffins

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A couple weeks ago, in the beginning stages of November, I had a strong hankering for apple muffins. I was reading a book where one of the main characters kept making them and I just couldn’t resist the temptation anymore. I found this recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction and the rest is really history.

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Let’s start with the streusel crumb topping, shall we? It’s what elevates these simple muffins into items of historic greatness. Melt 1/4 cup butter in a bowl, then dump in 1/3 cup brown sugar, 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, and 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon. Give that a good stirring.

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Then add in 2/3 cup all-purpose flour and mix it up with a fork or your hands.

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You’re going to get a lovely crumbly mix. Set that aside for a minute.

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Now, preheat your oven to 425°F. I know that seems high, but don’t worry, we’ve got a plan. You might want to grease or butter a muffin tin while you’re at it. I also set 2 large eggs in a bowl of warm water to bring them to room temperature. Because I didn’t plan ahead.

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In the bowl of your mixer, cream 1/2 cup room temperature butter until all fluffy and amazing. Then add in 1/2 cup brown sugar and 1/4 cup granulated sugar and beat that up again.

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Why yes – that granulated sugar IS pink. It’s a long story.

Then add in your 2 large eggs and beat until fully combined. Don’t forget to scrape down the sides of the bowl.

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Now add in 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, and 1/2 cup yogurt (any flavour). You can use sour cream if you have no yogurt. I had neither sour cream nor yogurt, so I used buttermilk. Well, I had no buttermilk either, so I used milk that I had soured with lemon juice.

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Now, peel and chop up 2 medium apples – you want about 1 1/2 cups diced apples for this. Can you peel your apple all in one piece? It’s one of my special skills.

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In another large bowl, whisk together 1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour with 1 teaspoon baking powder, and 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon. The original recipe also calls for a teaspoon of baking soda but I found I could really taste it in the muffin so I would leave it out.

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Add your wet ingredients to your dry ingredients and mix until just combined.

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Plop in your apples and 1/4 cup milk (any kind) and mix that up again.

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Scoop that glorious stuff into your prepared muffin tin, filling the whole cup.

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Sprinkle generously with the streusel topping and shove that in the oven. Bake for 5 minutes at 425°F, then reduce the heat to 350°F and bake for a further 15 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the centre of the centre muffin comes out clean.

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While the muffins were baking, I glanced out the window and the bright sunny day had suddenly become a blizzard.

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And then the sun came out again. Though the snow kept falling.

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Set the hot muffins on a wire rack to cool down and start on your glaze.

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Whisk together 1 cup icing sugar with 3 tablespoons heavy cream and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract.

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Drizzle that insanity over your still warm muffins.

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Eat these glorious gems within a couple days, as they will tend to get soggy over time.

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Sizzling Summer Skewers

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Skewers are fun to eat and simple to construct; however, if you make a large number of them, then you will probably get annoyed with both the assembly and cooking, because it will take forever.  If you’re making skewers in large numbers I suggest making it a team activity.

Start with a marinade.  I had chicken and pork, so I decided on two different marinades.

For the pork: I peeled the membrane off this pork tenderloin and cut it into bite-sized cubes.

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Then I assembled the marinade: buttermilk as a base (and tenderizer), sriracha, teriyaki, pineapple juice, fish sauce, and garlic.

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Mix that sucker up and shove it in the fridge overnight.

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For the chicken: I trimmed the fat off several boneless, skinless chicken thighs (cheaper than breasts) and cut them into chunks.

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This one I cheated and used a store-bought teriyaki marinade that I got from Farm Boy.  It was worth it.

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Pour that over the chicken, cover, and refrigerate overnight.

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I also set a package of bamboo skewers in water and left those to soak overnight as well. This is so they don’t catch fire on the grill.

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Assembly time!  For the pork I used onion chunks, fresh pineapple and some red pepper.

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I always use two skewers to prevent the food from rolling around when I’m trying to rotate the suckers. It’s a bit trickier to put together (I did stab myself with one of the skewers) but worth it in the long run.

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For the chicken I had onion chunks, button mushrooms, and cocktail tomatoes.

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The button mushrooms turned out to be too small and kept breaking off, so I would use a bigger mushroom next time.

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Grill!  I made so many skewers I had to do about four batches.  It took FOREVER.  Make sure to check that the meat is fully cooked before serving.

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Tada!  All lovely and crispy!

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Spider-Man Spice Cake

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A couple of weeks ago my sister-in-law Ryder winged a banana coffee cake that had me drooling — alas, Rusty refused to share.  So when the Pie requested a spice cake for his birthday I figured I’d wing something similar of my own devising (it’s actually his birthday today, but we celebrated on Saturday).  For the basic cake, I used this one from Dinner with Julie, and it’s excellent.  As for the rest … well, you’ll see.

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Start by preheating your oven to 350°F and butter two 8″ round cake pans.

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In a bowl (or a measuring cup, as I prefer), stir together 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 3 teaspoons cinnamon, 2 teaspoons ground ginger, and 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg.

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In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together 1/2 cup softened butter with 1 1/4 cup brown sugar until light and fluffy.

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Add in 3 large eggs, one at a time, and keep beating.

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Stir together 1 cup buttermilk and 1 tablespoon vanilla.

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Add about 1/3 of the flour mixture to the eggs and sugar, beating on low speed. If you don’t beat on low speed you will get flour in your face. Consider yourself warned.

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Add in half the buttermilk, followed by another third of the flour, then the rest of the buttermilk, and then the rest of the flour.

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In a separate bowl, mash 2 large ripe bananas.  In another, mix 2 tablespoons instant coffee in with 1/2 cup water (or cold coffee as I used here) and 1/3 cup Nutella (or hazelnut spread).

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Divide your batter in half and mix one with the bananas and the other half with the coffee.

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Pour into your prepared pans in bits, and give it a bit of a swirl with a fork to combine but not fully mix.

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Bake for 30-35 minutes until solid on top and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.  Set those aside to cool completely.

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While that’s on the go you can make this truly amazing icing.  It might be my new favourite. I doubled it from the original to enable me to do what I had to do and only had a little bit left, but I’ll give you the real proportions here.

In a small saucepan melt 1/4 cup butter over medium heat.

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Keep cooking, stirring occasionally, until it gets all nice and foamy, and when you look beneath the foam the butter has turned the colour of caramel (this is, of course where the colour in caramel comes from).

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Pour that into the bowl of an electric mixer together with another 1/4 cup butter and set that aside for now.

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In the same saucepan, still over medium, combine 1/4 cup half and half cream with 1/2 cup brown sugar.

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Dissolve the sugar in the cream and keep stirring.

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Remove the mixture from the heat when it gets smooth and foamy, like this:

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Pour that in the mixer bowl too, and let the whole thing cool a bit.

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Slowly mix in 2 cups icing sugar, give or take, until you achieve a consistency that you like.  Now, if you’re a normal person, you can go ahead and just ice your cake to your specifications and enjoy it for what it is.  Me? Nope.  I had to go and make a Spider-Man themed cake for my husband, because I like him a bunch.

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So I divided up the icing into four batches.  One was my control, and would go in the centre between the two halves of cake.  The others were getting dyed with gel paste food colouring.

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I like to do this in glass containers because then I can look through the bottom to see what I’ve missed.  Glass is also way less likely to stain on you.

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The finished concoctions.  Euch.

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Here’s a trick I learned on the internet somewhere for when you need to pipe different colours of icing and don’t want a huge mess.  Not that I’m capable of doing anything neatly.  But anyway.  Plop your icing onto a sheet of plastic wrap.

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Roll the ends of the plastic wrap together, making a tight seal.

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Keep rolling until you run out of wrap to roll.

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Grab the ends of the wrap and swing them around so the icing twists further into a tight little sausage.  Because it was hot as Hades’ hoo-ha in my kitchen I chucked these little sausages in the fridge while I put the cake together.

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Icing in the middle …

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Now you take your sausage of icing and tie a knot in one end of your wrap.

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Then you shove the other one into your icing bag and cut off the end.  Screw on your tip and ice as usual.

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At the end you just pull out this wizened piece of plastic and you are good to switch!  No fuss no muss!

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I think I put too much icing sugar into my icing, so I ended up pressing the top part on with my fingers.

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Then I piped on the best approximation of the Spider-Man logo that I could do with my unsteady hand.  Not bad!

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Nanaimo Bar Cupcakes

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Yup.  ANOTHER cupcake recipe.  If you think that’s ridiculous, you’re gonna laugh at what I have planned for Friday.  This recipe has been stored in my Evernote for forever, but I keep seeing the photos pop up on Facebook. I think it’s a not-so-subtle hint that I should probably make them.

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Start with 1 1/2 cups blanched slivered almonds (I used flaked) and mix them with 2 cups dessicated unsweetened coconut in a bowl.  Set that aside for now.

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Toast a wee pinch of the coconut and almonds (I popped mine in the toaster oven) and set that aside as well.

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Preheat your oven to 350°F and line a standard muffin tin with cups.  I like how cheery these are.

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In another bowl, whisk together 2 cups cake flour, 1 cup cocoa, and 1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda.

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In yet ANOTHER bowl, ideally the one in your electric mixer, cream together 3/4 room temperature butter, 1 1/2 cups brown sugar, and 1/2 cup granulated (white) sugar for about 3 minutes until pale and cohesive.

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Beat in 3 eggs, one at a time.  Ideally they are also room temperature.  Pour in 3 teaspoons vanilla while you’re at it.

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Now you can start adding your flour mixture in, alternating with 1 1/2 cup buttermilk until it’s all smooth and combined.

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Then you can fold in all your almonds and coconut.

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Scoop the batter into your cupcake cups until they’re’ about 3/4 full.  Now, the recipe didn’t tell me how many this made and so I assumed that it was only 12.

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I WAS WRONG.  AND I WAS OUT OF CUPCAKE LINERS.  So I used the last four I had, then put the rest of the batter in a disposable loaf pan.  I figured it’d make a nice cake to freeze.

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Anyway, bake your enormous number of cupcakes for 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the centre cupcake comes out clean, then you can let them cool completely on a wire rack.

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The Nanaimo-bar-y-ness of the icing comes from using custard powder.  The custard is what makes a Nanaimo bar a Nanaimo bar. Nah-NYE-mo bar.  I love the word Nanaimo.  I may have a problem.

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Right.  Icing.  That’s what we were doing.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, whip together 1 cup room temperature butter, 2 teaspoons vanilla, 4 cups icing sugar, and 4 tablespoons custard powder.

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When that’s all combined, pour in as well about 3/4 cup whipping cream for smoothness.

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There, that’s lovely.

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Pipe it onto your cupcakes, and then sprinkle with the toasted almonds and coconut.  That’s it.

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Then you eat it and then it’s gone.  So satisfying.

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Banana Buttermilk Cupcakes

Happy birthday Doodle!

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In this country, buttermilk is only available at the larger grocery stores in 1-litre cartons.  So after we made buttermilk pancakes the other day, we had 3 1/2 cups of buttermilk left to deal with.  I know that some people drink it as a beverage, but I can’t quite bring myself to do that.

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I found this recipe from Canadian Living, and, as I happened to have some bananas handy, I figured I’d give it a try.

So.  Grab two nice soft bananas (not overripe, but sweet enough) and mash them up with a fork.  This will give you about 3/4 cup mashed banana.  And if it gives you more, then just roll with it.

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Preheat your oven to 350°F and line a standard muffin tray with cups.

With an electric mixer, cream together 1/2 cup butter and 3/4 cup packed brown sugar until they’re pale and fluffy.  If you think you’ve beaten them enough, just hold off for another minute or two.  Trust me, it’s worth it.

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Add in an egg.  I didn’t want to put this one in because the speckles were so pretty.

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Alas. So long, fella. You were a good egg.

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Now work in your banana, as well as 1 teaspoon vanilla.

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In another bowl, whisk together 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour1/2 teaspoon baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon baking soda.  Pour yourself 1/2 cup buttermilk.

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Add the flour slowly, alternating with the buttermilk.  You’ll want three additions of flour to two of the buttermilk.

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Spoon that glorious banana-y-ness evenly into your 12 liners and bake for 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the centre cupcake comes out clean.

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The recipe didn’t give me any options for icing (though the Pie and I think either a mild lemon icing or a mocha cream cheese, or even straight Nutella would work really well), so I decided to do a dusting of cinnamon sugar.

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In a small bowl, mix together 1/4 cup granulated sugar with 1 tablespoon cinnamon.

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In another bowl, melt 1/4 cup butter.

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While the cupcakes are still pretty hot, paint the tops with butter. Despite what the picture shows, it’s easier and tidier to do this while holding the cupcake upside down over the butter bowl. But I only have so many hands.

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Then dip each cupcake into the sugar so the tops are entirely coated.

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I actually coated each one once, then, after the butter had permeated the sugar a bit, dipped them again. Then I let them cool completely on a wire rack.  So tasty, with a nice crunchy top!

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