Saturday, September 24, 2011

Bitten Off More Than I Can Chew??

Close to a year ago now I guess, a fellow foodie friend and I were talking about breakfast breads and muffins and how absolutely nutritionally misleading some of them can be.  A blueberry muffin (they look so innocent) must be a better breakfast choice than a bacon, egg and cheese sandwich right?   Common sense can really lead you astray here folks.  That cute little muffin can pack a punch, and sadly, it isn't even likely to leave you feeling full and satisfied when you are done with it.  To make matters even worse, I've seen some ingredients lists that include "blueberry flavored fruit pieces" instead of blueberries!  Anybody got a clue what that means?  I sure don't!  So to recap, if you are not careful, a blueberry muffin may not contain antioxidant rich blueberries, and may have more fat and calories than a greasy breakfast sandwich.  Need proof?  The Dunkin' Donuts website has a really easy to navigate nutrition table of all of their products.  According to their table, a bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich on an English muffin will set you back 370 calories and 18 grams of fat while a blueberry muffin's gonna cost you 500 calories, and 16 grams!  The muffin redeems itself only in that less of its fat is saturated, and it has about half the sodium of the sandwich (but still clocks in at 500 grams!)

But I digress, our conversation was not about what to order at Dunkin' Donuts (that's a topic for another day) it was about how whether or not it is possible to make a healthy muffin.  My friend recommended that I check out a recipe she'd found that was guaranteed to be both healthy and satisfying.  The original recipe came from a blog I love called Peanut Butter and Julie, which I highly suggest you check out. 

I'd been waiting to take a crack at this recipe because, A: you already know how I feel about baking, and B: it requires a lot of ingredients that I don't normally keep on hand (apple sauce, shredded coconut, and wheat bran for example.) and I kept forgetting to pick them up while shopping.  This week I finally found myself in possession of everything I needed to make the bread, and I have to say I was a teensy bit overwhelmed when I saw all of the ingredients lined up on the counter!  I think there were 18 in total!

I'll warn you, the recipe in its entirety makes BOTH a loaf of bread AND 12 muffins...something I didn't exactly pick up on when I read it the first time.  I cut the recipe in half, (mostly because I realized I didn't have enough eggs to make the full amount!) and made only the muffins.  There is also quite a bit of pre-production work to be done when making these.  Chopping the nuts and fruit and grating the apples takes a bit of planning.  One of the reasons that I really am not the worlds best baker is that I have an absolute lack to patience, it almost always leads me to mistakes!   When I got going, I forgot that I was halving the recipe and I still used 2 apples.  No harm done though as far as I can tell, they were still great!  I do wish I'd used my food processor rather than a box grater to grate the apples, that proved to be a bit of a pain in the you know what!  A bit of advice, follow the recipe's advice and keep these in the fridge.  I wasn't keen on the idea at first, cold muffins seemed weird to me, but it made all the difference in the world.  They really are so moist and dense that I think they would spoil quickly if left out.

Even though the recipe was a bit intimidating, the finished product was seriously worth all the work.  They were tasty and filling, and I might add, quite satisfying over all as they really are dense and took quiet a bit of chewing!  If you're up for dirtying every bowl and measuring cup you own you should really give this recipe a try and you too can have a healthy morning!

"Healthy Morning Bread:"
Adapted from an Original Recipe from the website: Peanut Butter and Julie
Visit the Peanut Butter and Julie site for more great info about this recipe.

When I tried this, I cut the recipe in half and only made muffins, not bread (12 muffins total.)
I used chopped dates, but cranberries, raisins or apricots would probably be yummy as well. Pecans or almonds could easily be substituted for the walnuts if you prefer.

Healthy Morning Muffins and Bread

Makes one 10-inch loaf and 12 muffins

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup flour
2 1/2 cups wheat bran
1 tablespoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
2 large Granny Smith apples, coarsely grated
2 1/2 cups plain Greek yogurt
2/3 cup honey
2/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 tablespoons flax seeds
1 1/2 cups shredded coconut
1 cup dried fruit
1 cup lightly toasted chopped walnuts

-Preheat the oven to 375F degrees. Spray a large loaf pan and one 12-cup muffin tin with nonstick baking spray.
-In a large bowl, whisk together the whole wheat flour, flour, wheat bran, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and salt.
-Squeeze the excess liquid from the grated apples and place the apples in a separate large bowl.  Add the yogurt, honey, applesauce, eggs, and vanilla and stir to blend.
-Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, mixing until just blended.  Stir in the flax seeds, coconut, dried fruit, and pecans.
-Transfer the batter to the prepared loaf pan and muffin tins.  Bake at 375F until a cake tester or toothpick inserted into the center emerges clean, 20-25 minutes for the muffins and 55-65 minutes for the bread.  Let the pans cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes and then carefully un-mold.  Cool completely.
-Store the bread/muffins in the refrigerator, wrapped in plastic wrap or sealed in zip-top bags.