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Easy Whole Grain Banana Muffins

5 Mar

Baking seems like the natural thing to do on a Sunday morning when you’re up by 7:00 am (thank you, Cora) with little to no plans for the day. There was also some pressure from the black banana sitting on my counter, staring at me longingly for the past week. I was determined to use it before it needed to be thrown in the freezer, where it would sit with the rest of the sad overripe bananas that have been there for over a year.

I thought about making my go-to banana bread recipe, but muffins take much less time to bake and I’m always looking for new recipes to try. A quick search using my very advanced approach of adding the term “healthy” to the food item led me to a recipe from the blog Cookie and Kate, where I’ve found delicious recipes in the past. It had a 5 star rating from 175 reviewers so I knew it was a safe bet.

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It’s a one bowl recipe that requires little to no effort, other than mashing the bananas. The resulting muffin was moist, with nice texture from the added oats. I find that bananas add so much natural sweetness to baked goods that you can easily reduce the sugar, even in recipes that already call for very little.

My goal is to blog a little bit more often in the coming weeks since March is Nutrition Month (but hey, no promises). I’m always looking for inspiration so please let me know if you have any favourite recipes that you are willing to share!

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Whole Grain Banana Muffins
(adapted very slightly from CookieandKate.com)

1/3 cup melted coconut oil or extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup maple syrup (or honey)
2 eggs, preferably at room temperature
1 cup packed mashed ripe bananas (about 3 bananas)
¼ cup milk
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1-3/4 cups whole wheat flour
1/3 cup large flake oats, plus more (~1 tbsp) for sprinkling on top
1 teaspoon brown sugar, for sprinkling on top

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. If necessary, grease 11 cups of your muffin tin with butter or non-stick cooking spray, or use paper liners.
  2. In a large bowl, beat the coconut oil and maple syrup together with a whisk. Add eggs and beat well. Mix in the mashed bananas and milk, followed by the baking soda, vanilla extract, salt and cinnamon.
  3. Add the flour and oats to the bowl and mix with a large spoon, just until combined. If you’d like to add any additional mix-ins (like nuts, chocolate or dried fruit) fold them in now.
  4. Divide the batter evenly between the 11 muffin cups, filling each cup about two-thirds full. Sprinkle the tops of the muffins with a small amount of oats (about 1 tablespoon in total), followed by a light sprinkling of sugar (about 1 teaspoon in total). Bake muffins for 23 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into a muffin comes out clean.
  5. Place the muffin tin on a cooling rack to cool. You might need to run a butter knife along the outer edge of the muffins to loosen them from the pan. Enjoy muffins as is or with a spread of nut butter or regular butter.

Makes 11 muffins. Per muffin: 218 kcal, 8.2 g fat (6 g saturated – if using coconut oil), 32 g carbohydrate, 4 g fibre, 5 g protein, 230 mg sodium

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What’s the story morning glory (muffins)?

15 Mar

“Well… need a little time to wake-up, wake-up” – Oasis

Morning glory muffins used to be a constant in my diet growing up. After curling practice, my usual snack was a glass of milk and a muffin.  While the curling club always had a few different muffin varieties at any given time, morning glory was my favourite.

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After stumbling across a morning glory muffin recipe in my Looneyspoons cookbook recently, I began to wonder: what’s in a name?

The original morning glory muffin recipe was created by chef Pam McKinstry in 1978. Some say the muffin was named after her restaurant on Nantucket Island, the Morning Glory Cafe, while others say her restaurant at the time was named the Sconset Cafe. Either way, her beloved recipe became famous when it was published in Gourmet magazine in 1981. Ten years later, it was named one of the magazine’s 25 favourite recipes.

Chef McKinstry’s original morning glory muffin recipe uses white flour, one cup of oil (for a mere 12 muffins!), and a whopping 1-1/4 cups of sugar. Sounds more like a cupcake than a muffin to me! The Looneyspoons version is a definite improvement, with some whole wheat flour, 1/4 cup of oil, and 1/2 cup of sugar, but still not my idea of a healthy muffin. Since the recipe seemed like it would be sweet enough from the pineapple, applesauce, and raisins, I decided to cut back on the sugar even further to 1/4 cup and used 100% whole wheat flour. I also opted for unsweetened coconut instead of the sweetened stuff used in both the original and Looneyspoons recipe.

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Cora, my quality control technician, sleeping on the job

The final product ended up more than adequately sweet (I actually suggested to E that I use even less sugar next time, but he thought they were perfect as is), super moist, and very hearty! Half a muffin is very satisfying, so I ended up cutting each muffin in half for a quick, portable snack.

If you like carrot cake, you will love these muffins!

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Morning Glory Muffins
(adapted from The Looneyspoons Collection)

2 cups whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp each nutmeg and salt
1 cup well-drained crushed pineapple
1 cup finely grated carrots
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup unsweetened medium coconut
1/2 cup raisins
1/3 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a 12-cup muffin tin with cooking spray or oil. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Mix well and set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together pineapple, carrots, applesauce, brown sugar, oil, egg and vanilla. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir just until dry ingredients are moistened. Fold in coconut, raisins, and nuts.
  4. Divide batter among 12 muffin cups. Bake for 20 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted in centre of muffin comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.

Makes 12 large muffins. Per muffin: 196 kcal, 11 g fat (3.7 g saturated), 23 g carbohydrate, 4.1 g fibre, 5.1 g protein, 310 mg sodium

Heart Healthy Apple Muffins with Oat Bran and Dates

4 Nov

As many of you know, apples are one of my favourite foods.  Crunchy, sweet-yet-tart, and very satisfying.  I won’t ramble on about the health benefits, but you know what they say: an apple a day…

When my friend Steph asked if I wanted to go apple picking with her earlier this fall, I enthusiastically gave her a big YES!!!! I’d never been apple picking before but it has been on my autumn “to-do” list for several years now.  So, a couple of weekends ago we braved the GTA traffic and drove up to an orchard in Brampton to spend the afternoon picking (and eating) apples with our other friend Steph and my sister J.

Random lady who wanted her photo taken + the girls with Mutsu apples

I was surprised by the size of the trees– I fully expected that ladders would be involved!  Instead, the trees were relatively short and most of the apples were within reach.  First we picked some large, crisp, sweet Mutsu apples that were practically the size of our heads.  Then we moved on to the Ida Red trees, which yield a tart apple that is great for baking.  Although I wasn’t planning on doing a ton of baking in the near future, these apples keep for 6 months in the fridge so I picked quite a few.  Finally, we moved onto one of my favourite eating apples: the Empire.  They taste just like a nice crispy version of the MacIntosh apple… none of that mealy nonsense that you sometimes get with Macs!  For useful info on various apples and their uses, click here.

Mutsu trees

Ida Red apples

I now have 2+ drawers full of apples in my fridge.  Maybe I was a little overzealous with my picking, but at least this means I won’t have to lug home apples from the grocery store for another month or two.

Recently, a recipe for reeeeeeally healthy-looking muffins caught my eye and tonight I was eager to give them a try.  I must admit, the recipe looked almost TOO wholesome to be true.  No oil, lots of oat bran, and no brown or granulated sugar.  I was also a bit skeptical as the batter came together– it did not look like anything I’d ever seen before!  It was loose rather than cohesive… but I packed the “batter” into the muffin tins and popped them into the oven, hoping for the best.  In the end, everything seemed to meld together in the oven and the muffins turned out wonderfully.  There was just the perfect amount of sweetness from the molasses, dates, and apples, and lots of that hearty whole-grain texture from the oats and oat bran.  Something tells me these muffins won’t last long… I’ve already eaten 3 tonight!

Apple Muffins with Oat Bran and Dates

 

Apple Muffins with Oat Bran and Dates  (from Moosewood Restaurant: Cooking for Health)

1/2 cup plain non-fat yogurt
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp molasses
3/4 cup finely chopped dates  (or chopped raisins/dried cranberries)
1 cup oat bran
2 cups finely chopped apples
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1-1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt   (I would reduce this to 1/4 tsp next time…)
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup rolled oats
2 tbsp ground flaxseed

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  Spray a 12-cup muffin tin with cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, stir together yogurt, eggs, vanilla, and molasses.  Stir in the dates, oat bran, and apples.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, rolled oats, and ground flaxseed.  Fold the dry mixture into the wet mixture until just combined.
  4. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tin.  Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the centre of a muffin comes out clean.  Cool in tin on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then remove muffins from tin and allow to cool fully on rack.  Muffins will keep in an airtight container for several days.

Makes 12 muffins.  Per muffin: 110 kcal, 3 g fibre, 2 g fat, 276 mg sodium

Really Healthy Blueberry Bran Muffins

15 Aug

My time as a “Londoner” is coming to a close so this summer I’ve been trying to take advantage of the fertile Southwestern Ontario land that surrounds me.  In June, I went strawberry picking at one of London’s several berry farms (all are within a 15 km radius from my downtown apartment).  Wild black raspberries and garlic scapes were foraged in July while hiking around a large lake at the city’s edge.  And to round off a summer of Ontario berries, E and I went blueberry picking just outside of the city last week.

Strawberry Pie (made in June with freshly picked Ontario strawberries)

I’d never picked blueberries before but my coworkers had raved about how quick and easy it is.  Sure enough, with berry buckets strapped to our waists (to leave our hands free to pick), we quickly gathered 4 pounds of berries in less than 20 minutes.  We barely put a dent in our assigned row!  I was amazed at how easily the ripe purpley-blue berries came off of the stem while the underripe green and red ones stayed put.  Meanwhile, E had fun testing the differences in taste between the underripe and ripe berries… I think more ripe berries ended up in his mouth than in his bucket!

Berry bucket + fanny pack = really stylish

A mix of ripe and not-quite-ripe blueberries

Now, what to do with all of these blueberries?  I didn’t want to make a blueberry dessert so instead I decided on one of my favourite snacks: blueberry bran muffins.  Up until now, my go-to recipe contained far too much sugar to be considered a healthy muffin.  Sifting through my cookbooks, I found a recipe that was virtually identical to my go-to, but used apple juice concentrate (1/2 cup) instead of brown sugar (2/3 cup).  Perfect!

First out of the oven, these muffins were a shock to the palate.  Despite the natural sugars in the apple juice concentrate, they were not AT ALL sweet.  I was mildly disappointed but thought “at least I have a really healthy muffin”.  But, after letting them sitting overnight I found that they were subtly– almost perfectly– sweet.  In hindsight, I think the warm blueberries just needed a bit of time to release their juices into the muffin.  If the muffins aren’t sweet enough for you, spread a bit of blueberry jam on top (I made a batch with the rest of our blueberries)… delicious!

Blueberry Bran Muffins

Really Healthy Blueberry Bran Muffins
(adapted from the cookbook Power Eating)

1 cup sour milk* or buttermilk
to make sour milk, add 1 tablespoon vinegar to a 1 cup measure; top with milk and let stand for 5 minutes
1.5 cups natural wheat bran
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 egg
1/2 cup frozen apple juice concentrate, thawed
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  Spray a 12-cup muffin tin with non-stick spray and set aside.
  2. Combine sour milk and wheat bran in a bowl.  Stir to combine and let sit for 10 minutes.
  3. Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon in a small bowl.  Mix well.
  4. Whisk together egg, apple juice concentrate, oil, and vanilla.  Add to wheat bran mixture and stir to combine.
  5. Add flour mixture to wheat bran mixture, stirring until just combined.  Fold in blueberries.
  6. Distribute batter evenly between 12 muffin cups and bake for 18 to 20 minutes, or until tops are lightly browned and toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Let muffins cool in tin for 15 minutes on a wire rack, then remove from pan and allow muffins to fully cool on the wire rack.
  7. Store muffins in an airtight container in the fridge.  Allow to sit overnight (at least) before eating.  Enjoy!

Makes 12 muffins.  Per muffin: 105 kcal, 2 g fat, 4 g fibre, 160 mg sodium

Whole Wheat Cornmeal Muffins

25 Jun

I love to bake.  I’m not sure if it’s the act of baking itself that I enjoy so much or if it’s the pleasure I get from eating the final product.  Either way, I was thrilled when I came across this recipe for whole wheat cornmeal muffins.  Crumbly and slightly sweet, they are the perfect accompaniment to both summery main-dish salads and wintery stews.  I often whip up a batch and freeze them once cooled– this way, they won’t dry out after a few days like corn muffins so often do.

Whole Wheat Cornmeal Muffins

Whole Wheat Cornmeal Muffins

Whole Wheat Cornmeal Muffins (from Food.com)

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup cornmeal
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg
2 tbsp canola oil
1/4 cup honey
1 cup milk (or soy milk)

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  Spray a 12-cup muffin tin with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. Combine flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together egg, oil, honey, and milk.
  4. Add wet ingredients to dry and stir just enough to moisten the batter.
  5. Divide batter evenly between prepared muffin cups.  Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown.  Let cool on wire rack.

Makes 12 muffins.  Per muffin: 125 kcal, 3.3 g fat, 2 g fibre, 200 mg sodium