strawberry and banana smoothie muffin recipe vegan baking

Super-Simple Strawberry and Banana Smoothie Muffins (Vegan!)

This recipe is adapted from one of my favourite cookbooks ‘The Naughtiest Vegan Cupcakes in Town’ by Melissa Morgan, A.K.A. Ms. Cupcake, no less. She has an impressive vegan bakery in London and an even more impressive hat with cakes on. No joke. It’s great. (Not that I’ve ever met her or the hat in person… but I’d really like to). Credit also goes to Ms. Cupcake for the photo as my last batch was eaten before I got chance to artfully arrange and capture them, but I’d already promised to share the recipe after making some for the last Ashtanga Primary Series workshop.

Please don’t be put off by the vegan factor – these delicious muffins will delight plant-fans and omnivores alike. Nobody will ever know there’s no milk, eggs or butter inside. Unless you’re showing off how healthy you’re being by telling them. And even though they’re quickly made from common cupboard ingredients, they’re definitely towards the good-for-you end of the cake continuum (yes, that is a thing).

I often skip the glaze – I’m lazy and often to be found without icing sugar. But it is delicious and pretty if you’re organised and the muffins hang around in your kitchen long enough to pour some on…

And don’t forget the ‘firm tap on the kitchen surface’! If you’re feeling a bit angsty you can even give the mixing bowl a whack before you spoon the batter out. This isn’t authoritative science, but my understanding of the tapping situation is that raising agents work fast in vegan baking (when the baking powder hits the liquid) and the tapping releases particularly big bubbles before they go into the oven and create uneven texture. It’s also when the magic happens, so don’t skip it.

Also, put some good music on before you start. Secret kitchen dancing makes cake better.

 

Ingredients:

560g of self-raising flour

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1 tsp baking powder

225g golden caster sugar     (ordinary white works great, too, it’s just a little more processed)

1 large or 2 small mashed, over-ripe banana

350ml soya or almond milk     (cow milk works, unless you’re wanting healthier treats/feeding vegans)

300ml rapeseed or otherwise flavourless oil          (often supermarket ‘vegetable oil’ is rapeseed)

2tsp vanilla extract

12 medium (2/3rds of a punnet) strawberries, green bits off and diced

Optional glaze:

100g icing sugar

2 tbsp soya or almond milk (or water)

1/2 tsp vanilla

Dehydrated banana or strawberry to decorate  (very fancy)

How to:

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees and get your muffin cases ready in your tray.

Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Then add the banana, not-milk, oil, vanilla and strawberries and mix together with a big spoon. Go quickly! About 10 seconds will do – we want the ingredients to be only-just combined. A few little lumps are perfectly acceptable – over-mixing will make your muffins tough and chEWy. Spoon into muffin cases, until about 2/3 – 3/4 full.

That’s it! Give the muffin tray a firm tap on your kitchen counter, then pop them into the pre-heated oven and bake for 20-25 minutes. Then tip onto a wire rack to cool. Ideally for at least 10 minutes, but at least until the strawberry pieces aren’t so lava-hot they’re going to burn your mouth.

If you’re going for glaze, use the cooking and cooling time to mix the icing sugar, vanilla and not-milk/water together. Add more liquid or icing sugar to make it runnier or less runny, to personal preference – going for more of a crunchy-chic wash than a full-on white ice. Spoon onto the warm muffins, cool and enjoy!

And feel free to comment below if you have any good vegan-baking tips or cake-based excitement you’d like to share!

 

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spring equinox vernal equinox balance yoga

On Balance and the Equinox…

 

March 20th was the spring vernal equinox. For a tiny slice of time the earth span completely upright on its axis, day and night were equal in length across the planet, light and dark are matched and yoga teachers across the globe heed the call to talk about finding balance in our lives as well as our Uttitha hasta padanghustasana.

Balance is something of a buzzword in yoga. Studios are named after it, teachers use nifty balance sound-bites and in every yoga class we go to, if we don’t find ourselves standing on one leg and doing strange things with the other one then we’re holding a pose and trying to find the perfect equilibrium between stretching ourselves (both literally and figuratively) without pushing to a point of lasting discomfort.

But what if constant pursuit of the conventional ideal of ‘balance’ in our lives – particularly the one upheld by the yoga community – is a bit like chasing a unicorn?

Maybe balance as we typically imagine it is a little over-rated.

A few years ago, I was really driving my veterinary career. I did a surgical and medical internship in one of the best horse hospitals in the country and suddenly found myself working more hours than I was aware existed in a week, earning way less than when I was 17 and at ‘Pizza Hut’ and coming nowhere near the daily recommended allowances for sleep, vegetables and exercise. Unless you counted cat-napping in pathology meetings, ketchup and chasing errant patients and/or vet students. One particularly memorable bank holiday I scored a 64- hour shift without a shower, sleep or proper meal. My life was not balanced. But, in the moment, I was pretty happy. I had purpose and was working towards something that was important to me.

We all go through phases like this. Take the first flashes of a new relationship. We choose our beloved over (healthy) food, sleep, self-care and phoning our friends and grandmas. Life is messy and spontaneous – it doesn’t drop neatly into equally proportioned boxes.

Even when I decided to devote more energy to yoga because 100+ hour weeks knee-deep in poo weren’t doing it for me anymore (and I love it), I still didn’t move in the ‘balanced’ way people expected. I quit my job, moved to a damp and crumbling farmhouse in a new area, simultaneously started two completely different businesses and acquired a puppy, a parrot and a proverbial bun in the oven. A hair-brained plan. Well, it wasn’t a plan. It was some more intense, free-wheeling shooting from the hip. But I’m happier than I ever thought I had a right to be.

I’m just not convinced we make the biggest impact in our lives when we prioritise equally dividing our attention between our career, family, significant other, friends, self-care, diet, dogs and gym routine.

Just like in asana, our ‘ideal balance’ in life is immensely personal. What looks great on one person would result in bone breakage for others. What might look slow and easy from the outside can be a ridiculously rich and fierce experience inside.

yoga balance snow snowga snoga Ullswater yoga Lake District

If our physical balance in class is a reflection of our inner balance… and I immediately pulled myself up the one time those oft-quoted words left my mouth in class, then it’s not the cookie cutter balance we’re often led to believe we’re searching for. It’s unearthing peace and equanimity with exactly where we are and immersing ourselves in the present moment. If we’re wobbling (and wobbling is cool) it’s likely because we’re momentarily stuck in the past or racing ahead to what comes next, rather than being fundamentally out of whack.

When we’re genuinely consumed by what’s happening right now, when our reality makes us feel electric and alive, our posture blossoms and steadies. Off the mat, our life feels productive and worthwhile.

Instead of defining balance as equal division of attention between our various earthly commitments, that division should feel appropriate to ourselves and the moment. Who cares if our pose or our ‘work-life’ choices look wonky as sh*t from the outside?? If it genuinely feels delicious and lights you up then go for it. And more power to you.

With (happily unhinged) love, Sal xx

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