Tag Archives: oats

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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The Ultimate Healthy Apple Crumble

17 Jan

What do you do with a bag of banged up apples? Make apple crumble!

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I returned home after a quick post-work grocery shop last week to realize that I picked up THE most bruised bag of apples. Only two of more than a dozen beautiful Ontario empire apples were unblemished. The remainder were seriously bruised and I’m not just talking about surface bumps. The skin was broken and they were slowly starting to ferment from being exposed to the open air. YUM.

Apple crumble is the perfect dessert for this time of year because it’s warm, comforting, and doesn’t have to be calorie dense for those looking to shed a few post-holiday pounds. Most recipes call for sugar in both the apple mixture and the crumble, which can sometimes mask the natural sweetness and flavour of the apple itself. Since I was making apple crumble for a snack and not a special occasion, I scoured the web for a healthy version that I could enjoy any day, guilt-free.

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The recipe I settled on, from the blog Amy’s Healthy Baking, doesn’t use any added sugar in the apple mixture and only a scant amount in the crumble. The crumble combines oats and whole wheat flour with a tiny bit of butter (1.5 tablespoons, to be precise) and 2 tablespoons of maple syrup. The result was a crumble that was not overly sweet, and an apple mixture that tasted liked… apples! It was naturally sweet and flavourful. If I were to make this again, I might experiment with the crumble as it was a bit moist in consistency without the usual crunch that I’ve come to expect. Regardless, it tasted delicious and really satisfied my sweet tooth. Plus the house smelled AMAZING afterward.

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The Ultimate Healthy Apple Crumble
(from AmysHealthyBaking.com)

Did You Know? The difference between a crisp and a crumble is that a crisp always uses oats while a crumble may or may not. I grew up using the term “crisp” when referring to this type of dessert, but opted to use “crumble” throughout this post as the crust wasn’t very crispy.

For the Crumble
¾ cup large flake oats
¼ cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsp pure maple syrup
1 ½ tbsp butter, melted

For the Filling
6 cups diced apple (dice into pieces about the size of blueberries) – a tarter variety like Granny Smith may not work as well since they are
2 tbsp cornstarch
1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon
⅛ tsp ground nutmeg

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F, and coat an 8” square pan with butter, oil, or non-stick cooking spray.
  2. To prepare the crumble topping, combine the oats, flour, and cinnamon in a small bowl. Make a well in the centre. Pour in the maple syrup and melted butter. Stir until fully incorporated.
  3. To prepare the filling, toss the apples with the cornstarch, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a large bowl until completely coated.
  4. Transfer the filling to the prepared pan, and gently press down with a spatula. Sprinkle evenly with the topping (the topping tends to clump, so try to break it up into fairly small pieces).
  5. Bake at 350°F for 50-60 minutes or until the apples are fork tender. Cool completely to room temperature; then refrigerate for at least 3 hours before serving to allow the juices to fully thicken. If you prefer to enjoy your crumble warm, then reheat individual portions (or the entire pan) once it has chilled in the refrigerator.

Makes 6 servings. Per serving: 175 kcal, 4 g fat (2 g saturated), 35 g carbohydrate, 5 g fibre, 2 g protein, 22 mg sodium

Super-Charge Me! Cookies

24 Dec

If your past few weeks have been anything like mine, your pants may be feeling a bit too tight due to copious amounts of treats and sweets at work and various holiday gatherings with family and friends. It’s hard to say no to gingerbread, chocolates, and shortbread everywhere you turn, but sometimes it’s possible to find healthier alternatives.

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While still a treat, these Super-Charge Me! oatmeal chocolate chip cookies use 100% whole grains, they’re free of butter and eggs for the vegans in your life, and rich in omega-3 fatty acids thanks to the inclusion of ground flax seed. Despite the absence of white flour, white sugar, and butter (the trifecta of most delicious cookie recipes), they still taste like cookies. Really good cookies. Believe me.

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Not only will your family and friends be surprised to learn that they’re a healthier cookie, Santa will thank you for helping him stay trim so he can continue to deliver presents year after year.

Merry Christmas to all!

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Super-Charge Me! Cookies
(from Eat, Drink & Be Vegan)

1 cup rolled oats or quick oats
2/3 cup spelt flour (I used whole wheat flour)
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 to 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/4 to 1/3 cup raisins or chopped dried fruit
3 to 4 tbsp carob or chocolate chips (optional; or use more dried fruit, nuts, or seeds)
1 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup flax meal (aka ground flax seed, not whole flax seed)
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
3 tbsp almond butter (may use cashew, peanut, or hemp seed butter)
1-1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 tbsp organic neutral-flavored oil

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a bowl, combine oats, flour, salt, cinnamon, coconut, raisins (or other dried fruit), and carob or chocolate chips. Sift in baking powder, and stir until well combined.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine flax meal, syrup, almond butter, and vanilla and stir until well combined. Stir in oil.
  4. Add wet mixture to dry, and stir until just well combined (do not overmix).  Spoon batter onto prepared baking sheet evenly spaced apart, and lightly flatten. Bake for 13 minutes (no longer, or they will dry out). Remove from oven and let cool on baking sheet for 1 minute (no longer), then transfer to a cooling rack.

Makes 12 cookies. Per cookie: 185 kcal, 7.9 g fat (2.1 g saturated), 27 g carbohydrate, 3.5 g fibre, 3.6 g protein, 55 mg sodium

Baked Cinnamon Raisin Oatmeal Cups

28 Jun

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.

We’ve all heard that line time and time again. From our parents, doctors, the media, and even nagging spouses (myself included). But is there any truth to it?

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During the overnight period, our body uses energy stores to support essential processes like breathing and to repair itself from damage. Eating breakfast helps replenish the energy stores that have been used up while we sleep and gives us much needed calories to help us function at our best in our morning activities.

If you feel like you’re already operating at full tilt without breakfast, perhaps its impact on weight will change your mind. Observational studies have found that adults who skip breakfast are more likely to be overweight or obese. In men in particular, there is evidence to suggest that eating breakfast may protect against weight gain.

If you’re still not convinced, regular breakfast consumption leads to diets of higher nutritional quality and those who eat breakfast tend to rate their health status better than those who do not.

So is breakfast, in fact, the most important meal of the day? Clearly it’s important, but whether breakfast is more important than lunch or dinner is debatable. Skipping any meal can affect glycemic control, lead to hunger pangs and subsequent overeating, and overall lower nutritional adequacy.

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Which brings us to today’s dish: individual baked oatmeal cups. I’ve had this recipe flagged for almost 4 years now (!!!) and finally got around to making it this weekend. While these little guys look just like muffins, they taste just like a bowl of oatmeal— in a convenient grab-and-go format. The ingredients are basic and the prep is equally simple. In a single bowl, mashed banana, applesauce, vanilla extract and egg gets mixed with oats, ground flaxseed, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt. A generous portion of milk is then added which the oats will absorb during baking. Finally, your favourite oatmeal topping (raisins for me) gets mixed in. Bake in a muffin tin for 30 mins, let cool, then store individually wrapped in the fridge (or freezer) for an easy, portable breakfast. And if you’re not on the go, you can eat it warm with a bit of milk (or even yogurt), just like a bowl of oatmeal.

It’s the perfect breakfast for non-breakfast eaters everywhere (like E).

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Baked Cinnamon Raisin Oatmeal Cups
(from www.sugarfreemom.com)

The original recipe uses stevia, a natural sugar-free sweetener with a bitter undertone, so I used a bit of maple syrup instead. 

2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups unsweetened applesauce
1 ripe banana, mashed (approximately ½ cup)
¼ cup maple syrup
5 cups large flake rolled oats
2 tablespoons ground flaxseed
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 ¼ cups milk
2/3 cup raisins (can substitute for fresh or frozen berries, nuts, chocolate chips, etc!)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease two 12 capacity muffin tins.
  2. In a large bowl, combine eggs, vanilla, applesauce, banana and maple syrup.
  3. Add in oats, flax, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt. Mix well to combine.
  4. Stir in the milk, then add the raisins. Mix well.
  5. Using 1/3 cup measure, pour mixture evenly into muffin cups. The mixture won’t rise much, so you can fill each muffin cup to the brim. You should end up with 20 muffin cups.
  6. Bake 30 minutes or until a toothpick in centre comes out clean. Let cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes, then carefully remove the oatmeal cups from the muffin tins and allow to fully cool.

Makes 20 oatmeal cups. Per oatmeal cup: 155 kcal, 2.7 g fat, 27 g carbohydrate, 3 g fibre, 5 g protein, 140 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

The Greatest Thing Since Sliced Bread

2 Sep

I had never heard of soda bread until we made it in my food science lab a couple of years ago.  Up until that day, I was only familiar with your classic sandwich breads (made with yeast) and the dense, sweet breads that my mom used to bake (banana bread with chocolate chips was my favourite!).  Little did I know that you could loosely combine these two types of breads and produce a sandwich-worthy loaf with little to no effort.

Soda bread is similar to many sweet breads (banana bread, loaves, muffins) in that the primary leavening agent used is baking soda.  There is no yeast involved, so you don’t have to put in the extra work of kneading and you don’t need to allow any extra time for rising.  In fact, the baking soda becomes active the minute it is in contact with something wet (in this case, buttermilk), so minimal handling is ideal as you want to get the loaf into the oven ASAP.

Before

After

 

Call me a nerd, but the joy of seeing a nondescript blob of dough transformed into a beautifully risen loaf of bread is what I consider to be one of life’s many greatest pleasures.  Yeast breads are a bit more rewarding given how much work goes into them, but this one gives you that same sense of accomplishment with very little effort.  The final product is more dense than your typical yeast bread but it still works well if you’re using it for sandwiches.  I like to eat soda bread as a side– it is the perfect accompaniment to a hearty soup or stew.

 

Freshly Baked Whole Grain Irish Soda Bread

 

Whole Grain Irish Soda Bread
(from the Foods and Nutrition 2232 Recipe Manual)

I’ve been tweaking this recipe to lower the amount of all-purpose flour used.  Most recently, I used only 1 cup of all-purpose flour and increased the whole wheat flour to 2 and 2/3 cups.  The bread tasted identical to the original recipe, the only change was that I needed to add a touch more buttermilk so that the dough was moist enough to work with.  Feel free to play with the recipe as you go– it’s virtually fool-proof!

1-2/3 cup all-purpose flour (I used 1 cup)
1 tablespoon sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoons salt
2 cups whole wheat flour (I used 2-2/3 cup)
2/3 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1/4 cup wheat bran
2 cups buttermilk

Topping:
1 tablespoon buttermilk
1 tablespoon old-fashioned rolled oats

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, sift together all-purpose flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt; stir in whole wheat flour, 2/3 cup of oats, and bran.  Make a well in the centre; add buttermilk, stir until a soft dough forms.
  3. Turn out dough onto lightly floured surface (or onto a large square or wax paper).  Knead 5 or 6 times until smooth.  Shape dough into a ball; bat into a 8″ (20 cm) round.  Place on prepared baking sheet.  With a sharp knife dipped in flour (a serrated knife works best), cut a large 1/2″ (1 cm) deep cross on top of the loaf.
  4. Brush loaf with remaining 1 tbsp buttermilk; sprinkle with 1 tbsp oats.  Bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until well risen and golden.  Loaf will sound hollow when tapped on base.  Immediately wrap in a clean, dry tea towel.  Set aside to cool (this prevents the crust from becoming too hard).

The only downside to this bread is that it does not last very long on the counter and tastes best if eaten within a day or two.  After a few days, it becomes crumbly and dry.  Since this makes a large loaf (~28 small slices or 14 large slices), I like to slice the loaf and freeze it the day of or the day after I make it.  To serve, microwave each slice for 10 to 20 seconds in the microwave and top with a dab of butter or margarine.

Makes 14 large slices.  Per slice: 145 kcal, 1 g fat, 3.7 g fibre, 255 mg sodium