Banana Pecan Chai Muffins with Pumpkin Cream Cheese

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Even though Thanksgiving this year falls just about as late as it possibly can, I still find myself saying “Thanksgiving can’t possibly be this week!” Then a little panic sets in. While we’re not hosting any big Thanksgiving gatherings, my parents will be staying with us and I’d like to make special the meals we’ll share at our house.

Under normal circumstances, I would have used this weekend to menu plan, shop for the non-perishables, and make and freeze a few things ahead of time, etc. But most of this weekend was happily lost to a road trip Pete and I decided to take sort of on the spur of the moment. I found out via Facebook last week that two members of one of our favorite bands, Trampled by Turtles, would be doing a gig with another musician at the Gunflint Tavern in Grand Marais, MN. We’ve seen some great live music at the Gunflint Tavern over the years, but it’s usually not bands that have recently toured internationally or performed on David Letterman and Jimmy Fallon.

The band is originally from Duluth, Minnesota, and with Duluth basically being the front door to the North Shore, we’ve often joked that maybe they would just show up at the Gunflint Tavern and do a show sometime when we’re there. With this sort of actually happening, we had to go! So we booked the kennel, ahem, I mean pet resort, for Otis and a hotel room in Grand Marais for us (we’re fortunate, Otis really seems to like going to the kennel). With the cabin’s only heat being from the wood stove, this quick trip in winter temps wouldn’t work to stay there, so for the first time ever, we made a trip to Grand Marais and not the cabin. It definitely felt strange, but we had a great time and the music and musicians made losing some Thanksgiving prep time well worth it! Thanks Marc, Dave & Timmy—we had a blast!

Marc Dave Timmy

Quickly I went into planning mode once we got home today and now have some menus in my head and even managed to bake muffins to freeze for our special Thanksgiving morning breakfast. I’ve made many variations on this banana muffin recipe over the years, depending on what I have on hand, but this one made with toasted pecans and chai tea is one of the best. Warm from the oven and spread with pumpkin cream cheese, they are the perfect partner to a hearty breakfast entrée. Enjoy!
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Banana Pecan Chai Muffins with Pumpkin Cream Cheese

Muffins:
2 large, very ripe bananas, mashed
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
2/3 cup chai tea
1/3 cup grape seed oil
1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
2 cups flour, whole wheat pastry or white whole wheat work well
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
1 cup coarsely chopped toasted pecans

Pumpkin Cream Cheese:
Trader Joe’s vegan cream cheese or any regular whipped cream cheese
Trader Joe’s pumpkin butter (I bet apple butter would also be delicious!)

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Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly oil a 12-cup or two 6-cup muffin pans.

In a medium bowl, combine the banana, maple syrup, chai tea, oil and lemon zest.

Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl until combined. Add the banana mixture and combine just until mixed. Stir in the toasted pecans.

Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin pan(s), distributing the batter evenly among the 12 cups. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean, about 20 minutes.

Let muffins cool for 5 minutes in pan before transferring to a cooling rack. Makes 12 muffins.

While muffins are cooling, mix desired amounts of cream cheese and pumpkin butter together. This can be made a day ahead of time and refrigerated until ready to use.

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