Friday, May 15, 2009

Mmmmm Muffins

Dish Gal was looking for some healthy muffins, so I decided that I would post these two recipes that I developed when I wanted to make some healthy baked goods for my son. The term "healthy" can mean different things to different people, so first I offer up my philosophy:

1. I mostly try to make nutritious food. That means I'm willing to keep the fat in a recipe if there are other nutritious elements (i.e. protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals).

2. I prefer to develop recipes around the items that I use frequently, such as whole-milk yogurt. It saves me money when I don't have to throw away a container of fat-free sour cream that I didn't finish, and mental anguish when I don't have to figure out how to use up a container of fat-free sour cream. (I don't buy sour cream, fat-free or otherwise, much at all anymore. In most cases, whole-milk yogurt works just fine - try it on a baked potato sometime). To use up leftover buttermilk from these recipes, you can always make waffles or soda bread.

3. I try to include whole grains in my baking, but again, I don't want to have a lot of extra stuff lying around that I won't use up. So, these recipes as well as my waffles include a little whole-wheat flour along with unbleached white flour and some other grains. If you want to go all-whole-grain, try out the "white whole wheat" flour from King Arthur; it has a lighter texture than regular whole wheat flour.

4. With respect to muffins, you may have to adjust your expectations. Starbucks does not make muffins in Life-Sustaining Portions. Have you looked at a muffin tin lately? A 12-muffin muffin tin? It holds about 1/3 cup of batter in each muffin. So don't get carried away with portions; respect the muffin for what it is. I like to think of them as nutritious snacks for me and my toddler (and sometimes they double as entertainment).

Most muffins taste best on the day that they are baked. I freeze the leftovers: pop them in a zip-top bag and eat them all week (20 seconds in the microwave, or a couple of hours in your purse while you commute to work is sufficient to thaw them). If you want to store them longer, wrap them individually in foil or plastic wrap before you store them in the zip-top bag and freeze.

Pumpkin Bread or muffins
Recipe adapted from

1 cup pumpkin or squash puree (canned, homemade, whatever)
½ cup light brown sugar, packed
2-3 tablespoons walnut oil (or olive oil)
½ cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 ¼ teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ cup buttermilk
1 egg

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Grease a 9x5” loaf pan or muffin tins (6 large, 12 regular or 24 mini-muffins).

3. Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl.

4. In a medium bowl, whisk the pumpkin, brown sugar, buttermilk, egg and oil until well blended.

5. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry and stir well to combine. Use a rubber spatula to scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl. Pour the batter in to the loaf pan or spoon it into the muffin tins.

6. Bake the loaf for 1 hour, muffins 20-35 minutes depending on size until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Blueberry corn muffins
Recipe adapted from

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1/3 cup sugar
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons butter
1 large egg
1 cup buttermilk
1 ½ cups fresh blueberries, dredged in flour

1. Heat oven to 375 F. Grease a 12-cup muffin or 24-cup mini-muffin tin.

2. In a large bowl combine flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder and salt. Cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal.

3. Add the egg and buttermilk, mix only until absorbed. Fold in the berries.

4. Pour the batter into cups, making each cup 2/3 full.

5. Bake 15-20 minutes or until browned and the center springs back when gently pressed. Cool on a wire rack.

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