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Susan and Ted Axelrod

Susan and Ted are a writer and photographer team who met while working for a magazine — Susan reviewing restaurants and writing food features, Ted photographing them. When Ted left the magazine for a freelance career, they launched their blog, Spoon & Shutter in 2010 as a way to keep doing what they love, together. After many years in Northern New Jersey, they are thrilled to be living in Maine, where Ted's clients occasionally include restaurants and food businesses. When they're not working, cooking, rehabbing their old farmhouse or hanging out with their two cool dogs – Ella and Dixie – they're having a blast exploring this spectacular state. To reach Susan, email saxelrod [at] or follow her on Twitter: @susansaxelrod To reach Ted, email ted [at] or follow him on Twitter @TedAxelRodPhoto .

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Spoon & Shutter with Susan and Ted Axelrod
Posted: November 12, 2014

Lightened up Chocolate-Banana Muffins: decadent and surprisingly healthy

Chocolate muffins for breakfast? Yes, please. Photos by Susan Axelrod

Chocolate muffins for breakfast? Yes, please. Photos by Susan Axelrod

It’s a well-known fact that couples who have lived together for awhile tend to argue over the dumbest things: who left the cap off the toothpaste tube, or whose turn it is to take out the garbage.

In our house, we squabble over bananas. As in, the ones that have turned too brown to eat on their own or even in a smoothie. I detest wasting food so insist on keeping them, promising to bake something. Ted counters with some version of: “You always say that but you never have time, so why not just pitch them now, before they turn to fruit fly-attracting, watery mush?”

Sometimes he’s right and eventually, the sad, wasted bananas go into the compost pile. I haven’t kept track, but I like to think more often than not, I manage to find a use for them. (And as for the freeze-them-to-use-later solution, it doesn’t work — a frozen banana is a forgotten banana in this house.

But I can only bake so many loaves of banana bread, which I’ve been making since I was tall enough to reach the counter (my first recipe was from “The Pooh Cookbook”). Thus my recent quest to find more creative uses for aging bananas — yet another excuse to peruse the black hole of lost time that is Pinterest.

About two weeks ago, I pinned a recipe for Chocolate Banana Crinkle Muffins from the blog to my “Mornings” Pinterest board. It seemed a perfect candidate for using up three, very brown bananas, and for adding my own tweaks to make the muffins healthier.

Adapting recipes with a few simple changes has become somewhat of a mission ever since I developed 35 “lightened up” recipes for classic baked goods and other dishes for “Lighten Up America,” by Allison Fishman Task, published by Cooking Light in October, 2o13 (the birthday cake — yellow cake/chocolate frosting — is one I’m especially proud of). Reducing sugar and butter, using egg whites instead of yolks, swapping out oil for applesauce and nonfat Greek yogurt for sour cream are just a few of the ways that you can easily lower the fat, sugar and calories in a recipe.

The original recipe for these muffins calls for 1 cup sugar — plus extra for sprinkling on top — 1/3 cup canola oil, 1/4 cup sour cream and 1 cup mini chocolate chips. I cut the sugar in half and the muffins were still plenty sweet, used applesauce instead of oil, and my favorite Greek yogurt, Fage Total 0%, instead of the sour cream. I never have mini chocolate chips on hand, so used the remainder of a 12-ounce bag (about 1/2 cup) Ghirardelli dark chocolate chips instead. I ran both recipes through MacGourmet, the recipe database/nutrition software I use, with the following results. recipe: 217 calories; 8.7 grams fat; 2.6 grams protein; 2 grams fiber; 21.2 grams sugar.  My recipe: 126 calories; 2.1 grams fat; 2.7 grams protein; 2 grams fiber; 12.9 grams sugar. And, since none of that matters unless they taste good, I assure you, these muffins do.

The “crinkle” in the original recipe comes from the sugared top, but since mine came out slightly sticky and dampish (in a good way) from the applesauce, the sugar eventually melted in. Feel free to leave it off. If these stick around for more than a day, store them in the fridge.

Chocolate-Banana Muffins

NOTE: This recipe was updated on Nov. 18 to include a key ingredient – the BANANAS.

Makes: 16 muffins

Adapted from

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg
3 medium bananas, mashed (1 1/4 – 1 1/2 cups)
1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/4 cup nonfat Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup chocolate chips
Granulated sugar for sprinkling (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350.

Use paper liners to line 16 muffin cups, or coat with non-stick cooking spray.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt.

In a medium bowl, beat the egg until slightly foamy. Add the mashed bananas, applesauce, yogurt and vanilla; combine well.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, mixing until just combined. Mix in the chocolate chips.

Fill the muffin cups 3/4 full. Sprinkle the tops with sugar, if using, and bake for 20-25 minutes, until muffins are puffed up and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with only a few crumbs attached.

Cool slightly on a wire rack before eating.

I was too lazy to dig out my ice cream scoop, which would have made filling the muffin cups easier - and less messy.

I was too lazy to dig out my ice cream scoop, which would have made filling the muffin cups easier – and less messy.


Sugar-topped muffins ready to go in the oven.

Sugar-topped muffins ready to go in the oven.

More Spoon & Shutter recipes for using over-the-hill bananas:

Baked Wild Maine Blueberry-Banana Oatmeal

Homemade and Healthy Breakfast Bars for Busy Mornings

Dr. Weil’s Banana Bread

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