I imagine almost everyone in the world has some acquaintance with coffee. It’s so prevalent, sold in every restaurant, grocery store, and of course blaringly advertised from the storefronts of such global giants as Starbucks. And if that two-tailed mermaid isn’t burned into the mind’s eye of some rural inhabitant of a faraway land not yet conquered by the large corporations, surely that innocent soul has been exposed to a small, local mom-and-pop store hand-brewing the bitter brown substance for the grateful townspeople. In certain places, coffee means beans and hard labor; in others it means surviving endless piles of work. In one or two very authentic locations in Italy, perhaps it means culture and enjoyment. Most everyone I know is addicted to it. However, everyone has a unique relationship with it, ranging from loathing its necessity to savoring every sip.
My cat likes to taste beverages people leave on the kitchen table (whether or not we give her permission,) and once she licked a drop of coffee that had spilled out of my dad’s unattended mug. Ever since then, we’ve had to keep an eye on her to make sure she doesn’t overdose on the concoction she craves like catnip. One of my teachers in school will only take coffee diluted with cream and sugar and crowned with so many sweet toppings that barely any trace of the bitter bean survives to penetrate his taste buds. My mom doesn’t go that far in smothering her energy-sustaining substance in sweetness, but she does enjoy a good nonfat decaf soy mocha once every couple days or so. My dad, on the other hand, couldn’t go a day (or even an hour) without coffee. That’s why he jumps on every opportunity to go to a given coffee-carrying outlet to grab a cup, and why we always have a substantial stash of instant coffee in our house: caffeinated Starbucks Via for my dad, to satisfy his round-the-clock needs, and occasionally some decaf Starbucks Via for my mom’s intermittent desires.
I have no desire to put caffeine in my body, as substantial research has implicated it for having negative health effects, and it is known to be addictive. In my view, any dependence on a substance is limiting and unhealthy, so I avoid coffee if I can… but I conceded to use some decaf in this recipe. I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to create some amazing muffins, encapsulated in one of my mom’s boxes of decaf Starbucks Via. The hearty banana muffin base is enhanced with a chocolatey swirl laced with coffee flavor for a deep, intriguing taste. My mom described these muffins as being complex and interesting – she didn’t guess the coffee taste until I told her, but said it tasted interesting and with each bite she felt like she was discovering something new.
This phenomenon keeps anyone tasting these muffins hanging onto every bite, wanting to explore more deeply into the center of the dense, chunky muffin oozing melty chocolate chips on top – perhaps they do retain some slight level of addictiveness from the coffee! But they make up for it with health benefits galore – made with two whole fresh bananas, whole wheat flour, oatmeal, and Greek yogurt, they abound with fiber and potassium while cutting most of the fat found in traditional muffins. The sole sweeteners here are the lower sugar oatmeal, natural sugars in the bananas, and in the chocolate swirl, a bit of Truvia baking blend, a blend of sugar and the natural sweetness of Erythritol and stevia leaf extract. Chocolate chips on top can be any brand – use vegan, sustainable, or replace with cacao nibs or chocolate covered espresso beans if desired.
A note on the recipe: if I would change anything, it might be to add a bit more lightness to the texture, which my mom liked but I found even a bit too hearty and dense. Maybe using whole wheat pastry flour would help lighten things up – but with whole wheat it’s good too, just in a different way!
Banana Coffee-Cocoa Swirl Muffins
makes 12 regular-size muffins
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 1 packet Quaker brand Lower Sugar Instant Oatmeal, Maple & Brown Sugar flavor
- generous splash of cinnamon (I mean very generous, if you want to be accurate to my inaugural attempt to control the new cinnamon shaker I got)
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 eggs
- 1 container Dannon brand Light & Fit Greek yogurt, Banana Cream flavor
- 2 large bananas, separated
- 1/4 cup hot water
- 2 tbs Starbucks Via Ready Brew Decaf Italian Roast Dark Instant Coffee
- 2 tbs Hershey’s natural unsweetened cocoa
- 1/4 cup Truvia baking blend
- 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 325 Fahrenheit. Line a standard-sized muffin tin with 12 muffin liners.
For Coffee-Cocoa Swirl: In a small bowl, combine instant coffee, cocoa, and Truvia baking blend. Mix thoroughly. Set aside.
For Muffin Batter: In a medium bowl, combine the flour, oatmeal, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt. Stir.
In a large bowl, combine the eggs and yogurt. Using a hand mixer, beat on medium speed. Add 1.5 of the bananas in little pieces, and beat until mushed together.
Alternate pouring hot water and dry batter mixture into wet batter mixture, mixing well after each addition.
Slice the reserved 1/2 a banana, and cut the round slices into semicircles. Add these to the batter and gently stir.
Put it all together: Spoon about 1/2 the muffin batter into prepared muffin liners, distributing evenly. Add 1/2 the coffee-cocoa mixture. Top with the remaining muffin batter, then add the remaining coffee-cocoa mixture. Use a spoon or butter knife to gently swirl some of the coffee mixture down into the banana batter.
Bake at 325 Fahrenheit for a total of 17-20 minutes, removing muffins from oven after 10 minutes to top with chocolate chips before returning to oven to finish baking.
Serve warm… with coffee if you must. 🙂