Life gifts us with the acknowledgment of like-minded people in the most unexpected moments, no matter if it is for a day or an hour. I grew to learn that I should treasure these encounters, nourish them, don’t waste the chance that has been given to me so generously. For life acquires meaning because of these people, of what happens when we cross paths.
I wrote before of how the closest people in physical terms aren’t necessarily the closest to my heart. It isn’t always the case, of course, but often times there is a spatial distance between me and the people I care the most. I still don’t know if that is a good thing or not, if cultivating friendship does require some space and some time. I don’t even know if it is me, who always run away from my natural affections. Whatever the answer, I feel lucky for this realization, these encounters, this near or far friendships.
I met Emiko at a food photography workshop that inspired me in a way I didn’t believe possible. During these past few months, we shared ideas, discussed topics and worked on common projects. I got the chance to know her better and to experience a sense of like-mindedness that is both reassuring and comforting. Whenever we were writing to each other, I have always felt like I was talking to an old friend with whom I am on the same wave-length.
This is why, when I received the news that Emiko was expecting a baby girl I felt so happy and excited as if it were a member of my family. And I joined the choir of friends cherishing and sending their most heartfelt congratulations for the great news. This is also why today, together with some of these friends, I am so very happy to take part to a small, joyful, virtual baby shower in Emiko’s honor, to let her know that not matter how far, I am close and so very happy for her for her next, exciting adventure. All far from each other, we are virtually filling a room where a table would display our small treats and presents for the mum-to-be, to brighten her day and let her feel our closeness. A surprise baby shower party with sweetness, chats and yes, even a bit of cheesiness.
For my first ever baby shower, I thought to take something classic, an apple cake which was also a sweet memory from childhood. Today, I brought tribute to my love for everything banana (attested here) with these wintery, cozy gingerbread banana muffins. Few things are more comforting than a slice of banana bread or a banana muffin in a chilly afternoon spent on the sofa with a cup of joe or some tea, or even some warm milk –and because it is almost summer in Australia, these work well also with iced tea! My thought is that they also make a lovely present: they look extremely pretty all dressed up with some cute paper and some ribbons, and they pack well in a metal box. I made a slightly Christmas-y packaging as we are close to the holidays and because I don’t own anything pink: however, I hope they’ll be enjoyed by mum and little baby girl. As I am a strong believer that no one, adult or kid, would ever be able to hate a little banana muffin.
Gingerbread Banana Muffins
These muffins are extremely versatile. You can play with spices and flour combinations, and use normal oatmeal instead of the steel-cut one. This version is relatively low GI, making it suitable for who suffers from blood high-sugar levels or gestational diabetes, or simply wants to keep their sugar peeks low. And despite all this, they are still super good!
1 cup (140 grams) whole wheat pastry flour (or whole spelt flour)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp fine grain sea salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
3 T extra virgin olive oil
3 T full fat plain yogurt
1/4 cup (50 grams) dark brown sugar
3 very ripe bananas, mashed
2 T blackstrap molasses
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 medium organic egg, lightly beaten
Bring 1 cup water to a boil. Add the oats and salt, stir, lower the heat to medium and cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the oats are soft and all the water is absorbed. Cool; then set aside 1/2 cup of the cooked oats (you’ll have very little leftover).
Preheat the oven to 350°F (180C). Grease two 6-cup or one 12-cup muffin tin with some olive oil, using a napkin to absorb the excess. In a medium bowl, whisk together the rye flour, whole wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices.
In another bowl, combine the oil, yogurt and the brown sugar. Beat with a whisk until smooth. Add the bananas, molasses, egg, vanilla, and the 1/2 cup cooled oats; stir to combine. Add the dry ingredients, and stir until just combined, avoiding over-mixing. Scoop the batter into the prepared muffin cups. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the top of the muffins are set and dark brown. Remove from the oven, transfer the hot muffins to a wire rack, and cool slightly. Serve warm, either just made or warmed up quickly in the oven.
Also on our amazing potluck table for Emiko we have: