Healthy(er) Banana Muffins

My maternal grandmother is a dynamite cook. I never knew this until I was an adult, because honestly, squeeze cheese on celery sticks and a black olive on each of my chubby little-kid fingers was all I really needed to keep myself going when I visited her house on the holidays. Add that to that the fact that she was just really good at giving us total “kid foods” whenever we visited, and you have the recipe for my food recall from her house.

If I had to name the foods that rip my taste-bud memories back into my childhood hours at Grandma’s, this would be the top 10 list:

1. As stated earlier, squeeze cheese on celery sticks –  I never actually ate this, but visually, it will always send me back to the Christmas Eve relish tray on her kitchen table.
2. Mexican Wedding Cakes
3. Little tiny pepper cookies
4. Snack mix that included Cheetos
5. Goldfish
6. RC Cola
7. Jelly beans out of an embroidered duck’s butt
8. Thanksgiving Turkey – served at the kids table – that I over-chewed so long that it turned into a dry pasty mass in my mouth and all I really wanted to do was spit it in my napkin. But I didn’t. I powered through and swallowed it in ball-form with a swig of aforementioned RC cola.
9. Totino’s pizza (post doughnut-making-marathon)
10.  Homemade doughnuts

Notice on this list, banana bread is nowhere to be found.

“Why Not?” screams the tantrum-y six-year-old in me. Grandma’s banana bread recipe is the best banana bread on. . . the. . . planet.

It’s sweet, rich, velvety, sweet, moist, rich, sweet, sweet, and sweet! It has this to-die-for crust on the top that part crunches when you take a bite and part melts in your mouth when you take a bite. The bread peaks when you bake it, and a crackly crater forms down the center of the Sweet Banana Bread Mountain Range.

So you get that it’s delicious, right? The thing is, Grandma never made this for us – but she made it for her kids, and my mom made it for us.  Mom made it a lot growing up – and I’m so glad she did, because otherwise, us kids would have totally missed out on this secret family recipe passed down from my Grandma’s mother-in-law.

Over time, and after years of wedded bliss to my non-sweet-loving husband (who actually really loves the sweet-y, sweet-sweet version of Gram’s banana bread), I felt it necessary to take the dessert factor down a notch. The kids love it too, so I needed a version that was healthier and could go in the “somewhat healthy snack” category with foods like granola bars, graham crackers, and pretzels – things we could grab on the way out the door, or have with a glass of milk to sustain hungry kid-bellies until meal time, but not send them into a sugar rush-and-crash cycle.

So this is my health-i-fied version. It’s got less sugar, less saturated fat, whole wheat flour, and super healthy flaxseed (that little seed is packed with both kinds of fiber, omega-3 essential fatty acids, and lignans – you can read about its wonders here.) It doesn’t knock you in the mouth with sweetness when you take your first bite, but it does make your tongue do a happy dance. It’s sweet enough, and the turbinado sugar dusting on the top creates a light crunch that gives way to a smooth and moist middle.

These are the absolute best when they are warm from the oven the first day they are baked. You can go ahead and keep them around a couple of days though, sealed in an airtight container or wrapped individually in plastic wrap. Sometimes I wrap them each separately and freeze them so I can grab them out one at a time for lunches or trips to the park.

Oh – and on a different note – this weekend was momentous for me. I now have a real live Kitchenaid stand mixer.

*Sniff*. I’m all growed up.

And, really, there was no better recipe to start with, because this mixer was passed on to me by Grandma. . . .


Healthy(er) Banana Muffins (makes about 15)


1 tablespoon flaxseed + 3 tablespoons water
1/4 Cup Shortening
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup sugar
1 beaten egg
1 cup white flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup buttermilk (light buttermilk should work too)
1 1/2 cups banana pulp (anywhere between 1 to 1 1/2 cups works well – that’s 3 or 4 bananas)
turbinado sugar for sprinkling (about 1/4 tsp each)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F

Line a muffin tin with paper liners, or spray with cooking spray. In a small bowl, mix flaxseed and water and set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, cream together shortening, vanilla, sugar, beaten egg. Add flaxseed mixture.
In a medium bowl, mix whole wheat flour, white flour, salt, and baking soda.
In a small bowl, mix together banana pulp and buttermilk.
Alternately add dry mixture and banana mixture to creamed mixture in four parts, starting with the dry mixture.
Divide batter evenly between 15 muffin cups.
Sprinkle each muffin with about 1/4 teaspoon of turbinado sugar.
Bake for 10 minutes at 425 degrees F, then turn oven temp down to 350 degrees F and bake for 3-7 minutes more.
Muffins are done when they are very lightly browned and a toothpick comes out mostly clean.

Source: Sara

12 thoughts on “Healthy(er) Banana Muffins

  1. Congrats on the mixer! I can’t believe you didn’t already own one. If I had known that I would have bought you one myself. I don’t have one, but I am not a crazy baking kind like you…..Norey would be so proud! You deserve it xoxo 🙂

    • I am so happy to finally have one. It’s been on the wish list for looooooong time! up until now it was me and my little hand mixer. Good times, good times!

  2. Love the healthy recipe…I am really gonna try this. I love your 52-week project. I am a believer of starting with small things like ourselves, our homes, before the community and then the world. Little steps, little steps, we will get there. Thanks for the recipe!

    • Oh, thank you. I hope you like them. Thank you for the encouragement on the 52 week project too! Yes, I believe in starting small too, with ourselves, our families, and our homes first. Fill our cups so we can share the overflow! 😉

  3. I just want to say how much I am loving your blog. Have you really only been doing this since October?? You are pretty good. 🙂

    Oh an P.S. These banana muffins look great. I live for the healthier grab and go snacks for the girls and myself.

    • Thank you Amy!! Yes, I have only been doing this since October. I have really enjoyed the ride so far – I’m glad you’re enjoying it too!

    • This is almost it – I don’t think she would notice a difference – this is just lightened up a little bit. . . . Give it a try and see what happens! 🙂

  4. Hi! I just recently came across your website. I Loooooove baking!! I made your banana muffins and they were super delicious! I did replace the flax seeds with chia seeds because that is what I had in the cupboard, and used 1/2 white sugar + 2 tbls local organic honey.
    Sooo moist and yummy! I have yet to get a stand mixer but did finally get an immersion blender :).
    Just got in a bunch of strawberries so I’m making homemade jam too!
    Thanks for the lovely recipes. You rock! :))

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