Loaded Morning Glory Muffins

IMG_3396Another good name for these muffins would be Everything-but-the-Kitchen-Sink Muffins. I’m not quite sure who came up with that phrase to describe recipes that are full of add-ins, but I just like the sound of it. I suppose the phrase could have been everything-but-the-oven-door or everything-but-the-moldy-cheese, but someone chose “kitchen sink.” I can’t say it makes much sense, but people get what you’re talking about and it’s a lot more fun to say than “muffins filled with a whole bunch of stuff.” However, just in case someone out there read the title and got confused and pictured a batch of muffins made with dirty sink-water or something, I stuck with Loaded Morning Glory Muffins, which also has a nice ring to it. Very glorious-sounding, I’d say. And so concludes the end of my unnecessary thought process.

These muffins are based off of the infamous Morning Glory muffin…you know, those bakery muffins that are the size of your head and lumpy and brownish and full of peculiar objects? The the kind of muffin that your mom always chose and offered you a bite of, leading you to politely shriek “no, thank you!” while stuffing your face with your favorite blueberry-cream cheese muffin? You know those ones?

IMG_3393Needless to say, Morning Glory Muffins never much appealed to me throughout my childhood but now I can’t get enough! They’re packed full of carrots, zucchini, shredded coconut, dried cranberries, chopped apple, applesauce, flaxseed, and nuts (although I left those out in my version for no good reason other than not having any). I’ve seen some recipes that include diced pineapple as well, but I figured I had to stop stirring things in at some point. Not to mention that I didn’t have any pineapple, either.

Basically, my Morning Glory Muffins are a meal in themselves. The carrot, zucchini, apple, oil, and buttermilk come together to keep the muffins super soft and moist, and every bite is loaded with texture. They aren’t exactly health food, but compared to many muffins (ahem, blueberry-cream cheese muffins of my past) they’re not too shabby. I mean, as long as whole wheat flour, heart-healthy fats, fruit, and even vegetables are in there you can claim to be eating a healthy snack. I’ll totally back you up. 🙂IMG_3403

Loaded Morning Glory Muffins

Makes 18-20 standard-sized muffins

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup brown sugar

2 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

3 large eggs (I used 2 eggs + 1 “flax egg” made w/ 1 Tbs ground flaxseed mixed with 3 Tbs water and left to sit for 5 minutes)

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce

1/3 cup buttermilk

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 medium apple, finely diced

2 cups shredded carrots (I used a mix of carrots and zucchini)

1/2 cup shredded coconut

1/2 cup dried cranberries or raisins

1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease or line muffin tins and set aside.

In a large bowl whisk together the flours, sugars, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. In a smaller bowl whisk together the eggs (and flaxseed mixture, if using), oil, applesauce, buttermilk, and vanilla until smooth. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir just until combined.

Fold in the chopped apple, shredded carrots/zucchini, coconut, cranberries, and nuts. Scoop the batter into the prepared muffin tins, filling 3/4 way. Bake for 18-22 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Let the muffins cool in the tins for 10 minutes, then carefully move to a cooling rack. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

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Harvest Apple Oat Bran Muffins

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Christmas shopping is a dangerous activity for people like me. Normally I consider myself a fairly frugal shopper, buying only what I can afford, maybe allowing room for a little splurge now and then, but generally sticking to a list of necessities. When Christmas season rolls around, all that rationality is kicked to the curb and I become a googley-eyed little kid, falling into every spending trap and magnetizing toward anything cute and Christmasy. Or anything cute. Or anything Christmasy. It’s a problem.

Last weekend my mom and I went Christmas shopping all by ourselves, which is a danger for several reasons. One, we are not endowed with the spacial awareness gene and wind up getting lost nearly every time we travel together. We’ve ended up on dirt roads with nothing but farms and cows, determined that “this road will definitely lead to the highway at some point;” we’ve taken one-way streets down narrow old neighborhoods that dead-end after twenty minutes of driving; we recently missed our exit (the one we take every single time) and drove for twenty miles before noticing that we were on our way to Seattle, which is about 100 miles out of our way. Whoops.

Reason number two is that we always manage to spend an inordinate amount of money, though I can never quite peg down where we went wrong. We only put the things we need on our list (with a few minor exceptions), stick religiously to said list (for the most part), and don’t let ourselves get carried away with the eye-catching displays of fuzzy socks, cute little knick-knacks, and seasonal candy strategically placed every 5 feet in the mall (in an alternate universe, that is). I can’t understand for the life of me how that money piles up…

My original claim of frugality is seeming a little questionable. I promise, as soon as January rolls around I become sane again! It’s just something about those Christmas carols, cozy clothes on display, and bright decorations that make me want to buy everything in the universe. I’m not an easy marketing target or anything. Anyway, I didn’t do too badly this year. Part of the reason was that we ran out of time and had to rush to catch the ferry home, but I’ll pretend that it’s because my holiday season self-control is steadily improving.    I really really wanted to grab a Vanilla Bean Noel lotion for myself at Bath and Body Works while I was shopping for my friends…but I didn’t. And I really really wanted to get a new CD of Christmas music even though we already have approximately 20 million…but I didn’t. And I really really wanted to buy white-chocolate peppermint M&Ms, a pair of fuzzy socks, a third roll of wrapping paper because I just couldn’t pick two, and a bag of limited edition candy cane Hershey’s kisses….so I did. It’s a work in progress.

I’m sure you’ve figured out what this is all leading up to…bran muffins! Hah. I try to make my posts at least semi-relate to the recipe at the end, but you can’t win them all, right? Seriously though, these muffins are an awesome healthy treat to make during the holiday season, perhaps as an anecdote to the massive amounts of sugary treats that appear throughout December. These guys are still delicious, but will make you feel like you’re actually putting something good into your body. Then you can be justified to turn around and eat those candy cane kisses! I made Harvest Apple Oat Bran Muffins with chopped apple, cinnamon and allspice, cranberries, golden raisins, and pecans, but feel free to adapt. With these muffins, you can’t go wrong!

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Harvest Apple Oat Bran Muffins

Yield: 12 muffins

1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour

1 cup oat bran

1/3 cup packed brown sugar

2 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground allspice

1 cup milk

2 egg whites

2 Tbs vegetable oil

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup peeled, diced apple (I used one medium-sized Granny Smith)

1/2 cup dried cranberries

1/2 cup golden raisins

3 Tbs chopped pecans

Directions:

In a medium bowl whisk together flour, oat bran, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and allspice. Set aside.

In a small bowl whisk together milk, egg whites, oil, and vanilla. Pour wet ingredients into the flour mixture and stir just until incorporated. Fold in chopped apple, dried cranberries, and raisins. Batter can be stored, tightly covered, in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners or spray with baking spray. Scoop batter into muffin tins and sprinkle with chopped pecans. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Transfer muffins to a wire rack to cool, then store in an airtight container.

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(Recipe adapted from Recipes.com)

Pumpkin Granola Bars

November 1st.  That dreaded day after Halloween when everyone is either groggy and grumpy from lack of sleep the night before or completely wired from eating an obscene amount of candy.  Having two parents as teachers, November 1st is a somewhat dirty word in our house.  Or, uh, two words that is.  I blame my overtired, post-Halloween brain…hey, case in point!

These granola bars are a perfect pick-me-up for days like today.  Full of oats, pumpkin, fall spices, maple syrup, cinnamon chips and dried cranberries, there’s nothing not to like. Not to mention that they are waaay cheaper than buying a box of granola bars that are probably full of preservatives and ingredients that I can’t pronounce, unless you want to the buy the even more expensive healthy type.  Sorry, store-bought granola bars.  I’ve got nothing against you, I promise, but you’ve got nothing on these homemade guys!  Sorry. 

Halloween may be over, but autumn is still here, so savor these last few weeks of fall flavors in the form of these granola bars!  Adapt them as you wish, but I have to admit that this pumpkin/cinnamon chip/cranberry combo is prettttty darn good.  Enjoy, friends! 🙂

Pumpkin Granola Bars

3 1/4 cups old-fashioned oats

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice

1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

1/2 tsp salt

3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed

1/2 cup pumpkin puree (not pie filling!)

1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce

1/4 cup pure maple syrup (or honey)

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 cup cinnamon chips (or chocolate chips)

1/2 cup dried cranberries (or nuts, raisins, etc.)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Spray an 8″x8″ baking pan with cooking spray and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the oats, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, nutmeg, and salt.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, pumpkin, applesauce, maple syrup and vanilla until smooth.  Using a rubber spatula, fold the wet ingredients into the oats until well-combined.  Stir in the cinnamon chips and cranberries.

Evenly press the mixture into the prepared pan.  Bake for 35-40 minutes or until golden-brown and firm.  Allow to cool completely before cutting into bars.  Bars can be stored for several days in an airtight container at room temperature.

(Recipe adapted from Brown Eyed Baker)

Healthy Oatmeal Cookies

I know that everyone has a different definition of “healthy,” but these delicious cookies are about as close to healthy as they come.  Whole wheat flour, oats, no sugar, no butter, very little oil.  But the best part is, you’d never know it!  They’re super soft, moist, and sweet even though they have NO sugar.  Not to mention that this is another super adaptable recipe.  My version calls for a mixture of agave nectar and pure maple syrup as the sweeteners, but you could totally swap those out for honey, molasses, whatever floats your boat!  And the mixture of applesauce and oil could be changed into all applesauce, all oil, pumpkin puree, etc.  Not into dried cranberries?  Use nuts, raisins, chocolate chips…the list is endless!  You don’t have to be an artist to get those creative juices flowing when it comes to cooking!  Take it from someone who has never ever not once won a game of Pictionary and can’t even slice an apple let alone draw a picture.  I’ve always preferred to let my artistic side shine in the kitchen rather than the art room, where I may have possibly been asked questions such as, “Is that a dog or a cat?”  It was a cow.

Seriously though, these cookies are really, really good.  Not good considering they’re healthy, they’re just good.  And I would know, since I’ve eaten about three throughout the duration of writing this post.  Enjoy, friends!

Healthy Oatmeal Cookies

1 cup whole-wheat flour

1 1/2 cups quick-cooking oats

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 Tbs cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg (optional)

1/4 cup agave nectar (or honey)

1/4 cup pure maple syrup

1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce (or pumpkin puree)

1/4 cup oil (vegetable, canola, grape-seed, or olive)

1 Tbs molasses

1 large egg

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 cup dried cranberries

Directions:

In a large bowl, whisk together the whole-wheat flour, oats, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  Set aside.

In a smaller bowl, whisk together the agave nectar (or honey), maple syrup, applesauce or pumpkin, oil, molasses, egg, and vanilla extract until smooth.  Stir the wet ingredients into the flour mixture.  Fold in the dried cranberries, and chill the dough for 15-20 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  Form the refrigerated dough into balls and place on a lightly greased or lined cookie sheet.  If desired, lightly press down the balls with a fork.  Bake for 15-20 minutes or until edges are golden-brown.

Let cool for 5 minutes on cookie sheets before removing to a wire cooling rack.  Store cookies in an airtight container at room temperature.

(Recipe adapted from Whole Grain Gourmet)

Good-for-you Oatmeal-Coconut-Cranberry Muffins

I love muffins.  They’re one of my favorite things to bake and one of my favorite things to eat.  I can remember one day in particular when I ate a muffin for breakfast, a muffin for lunch, and a muffin for an afternoon snack.  Don’t worry though, I’m pretty sure I ate a real dinner…but only because I was forced to!  Muffins from a mix were one of the first things I learned how to bake, and I especially loved opening that little can of blueberries or cranberries and orange zest that was tucked into the bottom of the box.  Now I try to stick to homemade as much as possible, but occasionally when I’m in a pinch I’ll let myself get a little help from my good friend Betty Crocker…..shhh don’t tell 🙂

Now I enjoy a fresh, moist muffin just as much as the next guy, but the problem is that muffins, which are generally labeled as a breakfast food, are often the equivalent of an unfrosted cupcake.  And when you throw in all the artificial coloring, flavoring, and preservatives found in muffin mix, all hopes of a nutritional breakfast fly out the window.  There’s nothing wrong with having a treat, but I while I used to love having a muffin for breakfast they now seem more like a dessert.

Enter these muffins, made with oatmeal, whole wheat flour, and no sugar!  A far cry from the butter-and-sugar-laden muffins found in most bakeries, stores, restaurants, and cookbooks, these Oatmeal-Coconut-Cranberry Muffins manage to simultaneously be good for you and still taste delicious!  Even though they contain no sugar, they still get a good dose of sweetness from pure maple syrup, applesauce, coconut, and dried cranberries.  Using applesauce instead of oil/butter results in a muffin that is still perfectly moist, and the whole wheat flour and oats give these muffins a great, hearty texture.  I’ve done a lot of experimenting with healthier muffins, and to be honest I’ve had some pretty cardboardy muffins along the way, but these are a perfect balance of tasting great while still measuring very low in the sugar, fat, and white flour departments.  You can eat these muffins for breakfast, a snack, or any time of day and still feel like you’re getting some real nutrition!  And they’re very adaptable…you can leave out the coconut or cranberries if you like, and can add in nuts, other dried fruit, or even chocolate chips…after all, since the rest of the muffin is so healthy it’s perfectly justifiable to load them up with chocolate!  Right? Right.

Oatmeal-Coconut-Cranberry Muffins

1 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup old-fashioned oats

1 Tbs baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 cup low-fat milk

1/3 cup pure maple syrup

1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce

1 large egg

1/2 tsp vanilla

1 cup shredded coconut

1/2 cup dried cranberries

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Lightly grease a 12-cup muffin tin.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together both flours, oats, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.

In a smaller bowl, whisk together the milk, maple syrup, applesauce, egg, and vanilla.  Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and stir in the wet ingredients just until moistened.  Fold in the coconut and dried cranberries.

Scoop the batter into muffin tins and bake for 18-20 minutes or until tops bounce back when lightly pressed and a toothpick comes out clean.  Let cool in the pans for 5 minutes, then move to a wire rack to finish cooling.

Yield: 12 muffins

(Recipe adapted from Twin Tables)