Salted Banana Pecan Muffins!

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I like salt.

I’ve been progressively using more and more salt when I cook. It hasn’t been on purpose.  It’s something that has crept up on me. Perhaps my tastebuds have built up a tolerance.  It’s gotten to the point that Payam has suggested, kindly, that I cut back.

I blame Blue Apron. Those magical boxes of pre-measured food and delicious recipes have basically taken me from being a mediocre cook to a pleasantly surprising good cook. The secret? Salt! They have me salt two and three times while cooking. That’s three more times than I’m used to. My mom always taught me to let people salt their own food at the table so salting the pot of boiling water, the sautéing onions, the bubbling sauces, before and after something comes out of the oven is way way way a lot more than I am used to. But you know what? Everything tastes delicious! Just like a restaurant. Salt must be their evil weapon.

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Now it’s my evil weapon. Last week I decided to punch up my usual banana muffins with some pecans (unsalted by the way) and some flecks of Maldon Salt crystals on top. It was DYNOMITE! I’m never going to make banana muffins without salt again! Maybe it’s just me though. I always ignore recipes that say unsalted butter and use the salted stuff anyway. Maybe my salt tastebuds are dead.

Anyway, I wanted to share my new “evil” recipe with you. Do you keep old bananas in your freezer? I always have leftover bananas that pass their perfect ripeness and get banned to the freezer to be made into banana bread at a late date because we are picky. We don’t like mushy sweet bananas with bad spots. So there’s a whole shelf full of dark brown bananas in my freezer. They are gross too. Have you ever defrosted a frozen banana and then squeezed out it’s slippery slug of a fruit from it’s black skin into a bowl? I’ve gotten over the grossness though because they make excellent banana bread and I love that I’m not wasting.

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First go in three bananas. I mush them up in the mixer. Then I add sugar and oil, two thirds of a cup for each.  I originally got this recipe from a free Alpha Bakery kiddie cookbook that you can get from Gold Medal flour. I love that cookbook. I still use it as an adult.  I’ve reduced the amount sugar and oil from the original recipe because it calls for three-fourths of a cup which seems like a ton to me. Two thirds seems like a lot too but I’m afraid of cutting it back too much without the muffins getting too dry. Of course apple sauce or canned pumpkin or maybe even a fourth banana could come to the rescue but that’s for another day.

Then I add my eggs (2) and two cups of flour. I let that mix for a while and then add the baking soda (1 tsp), baking powder (1/2 tsp) and salt (1/2 tsp). Then I add some cardamon because I love cardamon. I’ve only added about a teaspoon but I’m thinking I should have added more because I think the flavor could be stronger.  I want it to taste nutty and exotic.

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Then I add a cup of chopped pecans (saving at least twelve whole ones to put on top for decoration) and swirl that all together until it’s mixed.

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Pour the batter into a muffin tin, with cute papers of course. (I collect cute papers.) Here’s a secret: if you use the same cup you used to measure the oil as a scoop to pour the batter into the muffin tins, the batter will slide out smoothly from the oily measuring cup and into your muffin tin paper like magic.  If you are a messy cook like me, this will greatly improve your drip factor and therefore the pain-in-the-neck-to-clean-up-later factor as well. Pretty cool, right? I mean if you aren’t grossed out by the fact that this recipe calls for 2/3 cup of DISGUSTING OIL. But we’ll just gloss over that because they are very tasty muffins and the moist factor has to come from somewhere.

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Now the best part: Top your muffins with the leftover whole pecans and sprinkle a tiny bit of flakey salt on each one.  Then pop them into a preheated oven at 325ºF for 30 minutes. Mmmmmm…. now your house will start smelling good and the little ones will come out of their rooms to see what deliciousness is perking away.

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Some of the little ones might not like nuts but that’s okay, that means more for you! I justify it by saying that these muffins are probably better for your than a corn-syrup-filled granola bar.  Don’t quote me on that. Just make them. They are delicious!

Click here for a printable version.

Candytopia and the Great Instagrammable Adventure

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I wrote this whole post about my conflicted reasoning for letting my kids use instagram before they are thirteen and it was pathetic. It was definitely a trying-too-hard-to-justify-my actions sort of post. So I’m deleting it and I’m just going to talk about the fun of hanging out with your kids in this crazy whacky place called Candytopia. Thankfully this blog is not really on anybody’s radar anymore so I’ll probably squeak by without anyone noticing! Phew!SAJ-and-kids-go-to-Candytopia-2

Candytopia is a fun little pop-up museum dedicated to all things candy. They had some trouble getting it off the ground in the beginning. Some compliance issues with the city etc.. so they moved locations and things are a little worn around the edges because of that but it’s still well worth a trip if you are in the neighborhood.  It’s located in the Santa Monica mall, sort of like one of those seasonal Halloween costume shops but a whole lot more interesting and pretty big. I’d say there are just enough rooms and things to look at to justify the twenty-six dollar ticket price. Just barely.SAJ-and-kids-go-to-Candytopia-3

We mugged and we posed. We acted like instagram fools. Payam rolled his eyes and held our stuff so we could “have a moment” and then another moment and then fifty more moments just like that one to make sure we smiled just right.

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I’m probably the first one to roll my eyes when I see another picture of someone rolling around in a pool full of sprinkles on Instagram but you know what? It IS fun! You should go and you will have fun too! Candytopia is a blast. It’s a super fun museum of rooms to take whacky pictures in. Nobody shames you because the rooms were built for that sole purpose. The staff even encourages you to take photos and will even help you get a better shot.

Photography is such a wonderful medium to express yourself. Like any medium, it will be different from person to person. You can all take pictures in the same exact rooms of the same exact weird candy sculpture but nobody’s picture will be exactly the same.

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I say embrace it. Stop worrying about being a lemming. Sometimes things become weirdly popular because they really are fun.SAJ-and-kids-go-to-Candytopia-6

If your kids are into it, then maybe this is something you can do together. You could hike to Zion and stand in line to see the Narrows behind three troops of boy scouts. That’s the sad thing about social media these days, you find something cool, you share it and then everyone mobs it until it’s not fun anymore.SAJ-and-kids-go-to-Candytopia-7

The nice thing about Candytopia is that it wasn’t too mobbed. I think the millennials have already been there, done that and discarded it. Which makes it perfect for me. Still cool. Still super fun and hey, something fun to do with your kids.

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Don’t we all need new interesting avatar shots? Yes, yes we do.

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We had a blast.  I just spent several hours with my kids laughing and nobody was whining or complaining or checking out. They were very much checked in. We all were! I mean, Free candy! Whacky things to walk around and interact with! What’s not to love?

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We grabbed the ribbon wands and stood in front of the wind machine like real models surfing on rainbow covered surfboards. It was all those photo shoots I’ve wondered about within easy access.SAJ-goes-to-Candytopia-11

The piece de resistance was the marshmallow pit!!! I would pay thirty bucks just to do that again easily. It was hilarious!! I don’t think I remember the last time I fell into a ball pit and worked my core muscles so much. It was so hard! Then add not wanting to lose your phone or jewelry to the bottom of the pit and that made it even more challenging. We laughed, we jumped, we swam, we filmed instagram stories…. It was amazing.

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You might be wondering if they are real marshmallows. They are not. Thankfully, because that would be a bit of a sticky situation. The marshmallows were actually a stiff but squishy foam and I totally wanted to steal some. I didn’t. But I have been thinking on it and wondering if I could come up with some kind of similar material because how fun would that be for a craft? I’ll be perking on that idea for a while.

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After Candytopia we hit Third Street Promenade. We had lunch at the best taco place ever (BP Tacos which totally stands for Brenda Ponnay, wink wink) and then walked down the pier.

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It was a cold, windy day but still beautiful. The skies were so blue. I’ve been to Santa Monica many times but never taken my kids there. We didn’t ride any rides but we walked and walked and thoroughly enjoyed our day out. It definitely made the hour-and-a-half drive more worth it.

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What else can I say? I’ll leave the kids and instagram debate for another time. I think we had a great time and that’s enough reason to post these pictures.

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Fun activities together are never a bad idea. Fun activities with phones…I’ll just plead guilty.