There was a time I would have never considered adding cardamom to a banana muffin. Then again, there was a time I would have never considered dating a man (this was years ago, mind you) who still lived with his mama. But I did.
I know it sounds really bad…yes?
I was 24 and completely smitten with this ‘older’ 35-year old man – let’s call him ‘G’ – I met at my local gym. In addition to having abs you could bounce munchkins off of, he was quite bright and handsome. He was also very spiritual (imagine a sitar playing in the background now). I was going through my Robert Bach Jonathan Livingston Seagull phase and he seemed sooooo wise…introducing me to macrobiotic eating and taking me to meditation retreats in a beautiful upstate New York ashram. He was all into sunflower seed butter, miso paste, brown rice, tempeh and…yes, cardamon, and let’s just say I ate more ruffage while dating him than in any other period of my life.
I had never dated anyone like him and I, well…liked him. Even after I found out he lived with his mama.
He had gone back to school to study acupuncture a few months before, you see, and had moved in with his mom to save some money as he scaled back on work and paid for school. All true and temporary. Which is why I didn’t have a problem with it.
Which then brings us to the third thing I had never considered…
I ended up liking his mom more.
Ha! The irony!
Yes. The longer I hung out with ‘G,’ the more time I got to spend with this mama too. And the longer this went on, the more I realized I was enjoying chatting it up and hanging with her more than her son. She was warm and sweet and fun and charmingly opinionated and I just loved speaking with her and learned so many cool things. He was ok too, mind you. But ergo the problem, since OK is not a particularly awesome endorsement.
As you might imagine, this realization was fraught with landmines when it came to our relationship and I consciously uncoupled (thanks Gwyneth and Chris for that little bit of lunacy) not too long after that. Sadly, I stopped hanging out with his mom too because, well, com’ on….that would have just been weird.
But I still have ‘G’ to thank when it comes to these cardamom-containing banana muffins. Yes, the ‘Serena dates a mama’s boy’ personal story segment of this blog post is now over.
This IS a food blog after all…
These puppies come from the only Ayurvedic cookbook I own, which ‘G’ gave me, clearly. (Ayurveda, by the way, is a 5,000-year-old+ traditional Hindu system of medicine that is based on the idea of balancing bodily systems through diet, herbal treatments and yogic breathing. I found it quite fascinating and for a while I followed it. I started cooking with mustard seeds and engaging in rather curious activities like eating tablespoons of colloidal silver paste and drinking aloe vera juice by the glassful. Then, one day, I remembered I was Italian and that I had a real hankering for penne with Bolognese sauce and that was the end of that.)
I’ve been making these muffins for 20 years now, as you can see from the poor book’s wear and tear.
The first time I made them for my girls I was afraid they wouldn’t take to cardamom’s middle eastern zing, flavor-wise. I don’t use this spice in anything else I make, so it wasn’t a familiar flavor for them. They ended up devouring them as zealously as Erik and I do, though, so go figure.
Cardomon, if you’re not familiar with the spice, comes from the evergreen forests of India and is very strong-tasting and beautifully aromatic. It has a peppery, citrus-y character and couples nicely with cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and clove.
Because I only use it to make these muffins, I use ground cardamom, which probably makes cardamom purists cringe. Sorry, guys. The real connoisseurs buy theirs -usually the green variety – with the cardamom seeds still in their pods. It is the best way to preserve their flavor and amazing fragrance. They also use it not just in muffins but to spice up fruits, rice, lamb and anything sweet.
As for me, it just ends up in these muffins. For now, anyway.
making cardamom banana muffins
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Prep a muffin pan by placing 12 muffin liners into each hole.
Mash 4 large and extremely ripe bananas in a medium bowl with a fork.
Add ½ cup of sunflower or organic canola oil, ½ cup of sugar and 1 teaspoon each of ground cardamom and ground cinnamon.
In a separate medium bowl, measure out 2 ½ cups of unbleached white flour and add 3 teaspoons of baking powder and 1 teaspoon of salt. Mix the flour mixture with a whisk to aerate it and to make sure the salt and baking powder are thoroughly integrated into the flour.
The cookbook from which I got this recipe actually directed you to throw the flour, baking powder and salt directly on the mashed banana mixture. For a while I was doing that, giggling all the way and congratulating myself for being so clever as to not have to wash an additional bowl…until the day I bit into a muffin and all I tasted was the baking powder. YUCK! So now I happily wash the extra bowl and enjoy every bite of the muffins instead.
Add the flour mixture to the banana mixture (here you can also add an optional 1/2 cup of walnut pieces if you’d like) and mix.
Stop mixing when fully incorporated. You don’t want to risk over-mixing.
Spoon mixture 2/3 of the way into muffin liners. Sprinkle a little loose sugar on each muffin.
Place muffin tray into the oven and lower the temperature to 350°F. Bake for 25 minutes or so, or until a knife inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean and the top of each muffin is nice and golden colored. Makes 12 muffins.