The grey days of January have settled in, and I’m just about ready to wrap myself up in flannel, hunker down and coast my way through the rest of the month. I’m in no mood for fancy; I want goose down, cuddly sweaters and angora socks.

On that same note, there are foods that fit this mood. Without fanfare, they routinely deliver. Simple and to the point, these wallflowers of the recipe file are perennial favourites, but not always the life of the party.

Such is the case with these muffins. Reasonably healthy and utterly flavourful, they offer up a great sense of accomplishment after only a modest amount of effort. Truly, if you can produce warm baked goods in less than 10 minutes of prep time, do you not feel rather smart? I say, all the more time to spend cozied up with that goose down.

While some plans may prevent me from participating, I encourage everyone to check out Sugar Low Friday, hosted by the ever-fab Sam of Becks & Posh. The one-time event will be held on January 27, 2006, details to be found through the link.

Banana-Cranberry Bran Muffins

1 1/4 cups (300 ml) unbleached all-purpose flour (you can also use whole wheat)
1 tablespoon (15 ml) baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt (2.5 ml)
1/4 cup canola or vegetable oil
1/3 cup honey or granulated sugar (or up to 1/2 cup if you prefer sweeter and depending on the bananas)
1 egg
1 cup (250 ml) milk
2 ripe bananas, mashed
1 1/2 cups (375 ml) flaked bran cereal
1/2 cup (125 ml) dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 375ºF (190ºC). Lightly grease a 12 cup muffin tin, or line with cupcake liners.

In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt.

In another bowl, whisk together egg, honey or sugar, egg, milk and bananas. Stir in cereal. Add wet ingredients to dry and stir until just blended. Stir in cranberries. Divide evenly among prepared muffin cups.

Bake for 20 minutes, until a tester inserted in the centre of a muffin comes out clean. Leave muffins in tin to cool for 2-3 minutes, then remove to a rack to cool completely (or serve hot).

Makes 12.

• These muffins do not rise a lot while baking, and so are more like little flat-topped cakes. If you prefer a larger, domed muffin, I would recommend dividing the batter between 6-8 muffins instead. Be sure to space them evenly in the tin and adjust the cooking time accordingly.
• A raisin bran cereal could also be substituted, as could fresh or frozen berries. Frozen berries will colour the batter a bit, due to their juice.
• Depending on your bananas, you may find you need to hold back a bit of the milk. I usually use between 3/4 cup and 1 cup.