for me, baking most definitely acts as the “gwen anti-stress-o-meter”. with some solid music going, the warmth of the preheating oven, and the methodic process of measuring, whisking, folding, blending, tasting, tweaking, experimenting grants me space from my clogged, often overwhelmed brain. i mean, what could possibly be better than dancing around the kitchen and ending up with some tasty, wholesome treats!?

i think my love for baking really started when i was a shrieking child, and did i ever shriek. my mom, amazing pie baker and chef extraordinaire, she let me help out in the kitchen… well i don’t know how much i really helped, but she let me believe i was helping. in order to get the “right look” as a chef, i required an apron– but not just any apron– it needed the right poof of flour, as did my face and hair, to demonstrate my dedication, seriousness, and skill in the craft. my idea of the perfect chef is not ubber clean, efficient, and high brow. no, quite the opposite. i wanted to be a happy slave to my kitchen. i needed the flour all over the place to be legit. oh the joy of the mess….

there is no question that i am…eh…perfectionistic. and by that i mean somewhat obsessive compulsive and easy to stress/spaz out. i don’t think i ever really admitted this to myself until recently, though i now realize the signs have always been there. i think the icing on the cake (no pun intended) was when one of my favorite professors in college told me to get a tattoo of what he labeled the “tension cake”. he scribbled this wobbly, squiggly looking circle with some candles coming out the top, instructing me to strategically place the tattoo for easy access and referencing. “put your tension in the cake, gwen,” he said. or, “how’s the cake coming? is it in the oven yet?”

clearly, baking was then prescribed as my anti-stressor. how lucky is my tummy for that!

i really like to improvise with baking, which i know is usually a no-no. especially with quick breads, i throw things in and experiment most of the time. these latest gems were the lovechild of the current freezer mix: bananas and blueberries… and who doesn’t like just a touch of chocolate chip in a muffin? these were a birthday treat to my friends janelle and heather whose birthdays i missed by a long shot… and for my lovely roomies at our casa, la grande.

banana blueberry chocolate chip muffins
makes 12

2 c whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
2 eggs
3/4 c brown sugar
1/3 c yogurt (lowfat)
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 ripe bananas (mine came from the freezer)
1/3 c bluberries (you could definitely use more)
1/3 c chocolate chips (you could also use more!)

1. preheat oven to 350°. butter or cooking spray a 12 muffin pan, slide inserts in to catch the goods!
2. combine dry ingredients, spooning the flour into the cup, and whisk together.
3. in a separate bowl, beat eggs till pale yellow. beat in brown sugar, then yogurt and vanilla, till smooth. add bananas and mix until well incorporated. then add blueberries and stir in.
4. add chocolate chips to flour mix, it will keep them from sinking to bottom of muffins.
5. slowly add dry ingredients to wet, stir as little as you can, i try in twenty strokes or so. make sure everything is incorporated, though.
6. use a 1/3 measuring cup and scoop batter into the little cups.
7. bake for 15 minutes, then rotate the pan to ensure even cooking. then bake another 10-15 until a toothpick, knife, skewer, poker of your choice comes out clean. using the whole wheat makes these muffins pretty dark.
8. let them rest for 5ish minutes in the pan, then transfer to a cooling rack or plate to
complete their cooling, or eat warm… MMM!!