Valentine’s Day Banana-Beet Muffins

I have a delicious recipe from my grandmother for banana bars that I have adapted many times into cakes, cupcakes, and muffins with varying flavors and toppings.  So when I was deciding what to make for Valentine’s Day for my son’s pre-school class, I saw a couple aging bananas and decided to experiment.  This is what I came up with:

Banana-Beet Muffins

1/2 c. butter, room temperature
1 c. sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1 c. (8 oz.) plain or vanilla-flavored yogurt (The original recipe calls for sour cream, but yogurt works just as well.)
1 tsp. vanilla
2 c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 c. mashed ripe bananas
1/4 c. pureed beets

Note:
Beets are what I like to call all-natural food coloring. Red beet juice or puree adds a lot of color, but little flavor to baked goods and other sweets. For instructions on how to make this, see below, or read our previous post about pureeing vegetables. Alternatively, you can use one full cup of mashed bananas, which is how this recipe is made with my grandmother’s original recipe.

Directions:

In a mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar. Add the eggs, sour cream, and vanilla. Combine the flour, baking soda and salt; gradually add to the creamed mixture. Stir in the bananas and beets. Spoon the batter into lined muffin tins, filling about 2/3 full. To make the muffins heart-shaped, add a glass marble between the liner and the tin to make an indentation in the liner and how the muffins bake. (The marbles won’t make the muffins look like “perfect” hearts, but the frosting and sliced strawberries can help further define the shape.)

Bake at 350° for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool. Yields about 2 dozen.

Decorating the muffins:

My grandmother’s recipe recommends a basic cream cheese frosting on the banana bars, which is decadent (recipe below). But for this batch, I decided to make a pink-tinted yogurt glaze that is just as delicious, but a tad bit healthier for the small bodies that would be consuming the muffins.

Pink Yogurt Glaze

4 Tbsp. butter, room temperature
1/4 to 1/3 c. powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
4 oz. plain or flavored yogurt (vanilla and strawberry flavors work nicely)
1-2 tsp. pureed beets (optional, for color)

8-10 strawberries

Cream together the butter and sugar, then add the vanilla, yogurt, and beet puree. Stir until blended. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Cut the stem off the strawberries with two inward cuts to make them look like a heart, then slice lengthwise, making sure to preserve the heart shape. You should get 3-4 slices per strawberry. Frost the muffins and top with a strawberry slice. Store in the refrigerator. Use any extra yogurt glaze as a fruit dip.

Cream Cheese Frosting

4 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
4 Tbsp. butter, room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 to 2 c. powdered sugar

In a mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla. Gradually add enough powdered sugar to reach your desired consistency.

Pureed Beets — There are several ways to cook the beets, but I like to wrap them in foil (like a baked potato) and set them in the oven for about 1-1.5 hours while something else is cooking. Anywhere from 350-400° works well. After they cool, unwrap them carefully (beet juice stains!) and peel them. Avoid touching them directly too much so that your hands don’t get stained red. Mash them with a potato masher or ricer or puree them in a food processor.  Add a little water (one tablespoon at a time), if needed.  Use right away or store in an air-tight container in pre-measured amounts (ice cube trays are great for this).

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