Just in case you read nothing else on this page, let me blurt out the secret of these muffins: There’s no butter, no oil, and no added sugar. We’re talking zero granulated sugar, zero maple syrup, zero honey and zero sweeteners.
If I had to pick one food-related thing that makes me unbelievably frustrated, it would be the following: Foods that seem like they’re healthy, but aren’t. Things such as granola, salad dressing and muffins all look and sound innocent enough, but more often then not, people find ways to load them up with (bad) fats and sugar. So one of my aspirations for this blog is to re-claim these unhealthy foods as healthy!
Well, with the exception of salad dressing – I may stretch the definition of breakfast to unusual lengths, but the thought of having salad dressing at breakfast-time is a step to far (even for me).
Muffins always look so adorable and innocuous. Lacking the swirls of frosting of their fancier cousin, the cupcake, muffins seem like a good choice for breakfast – or for when you get the mid-morning munchies. But, for reasons that I don’t understand, most muffin recipes (and almost all commercially sold ones) are absolutely loaded with vegetable oil (or worse, butter) and added sugar. It’s not fair – what happened to my adorable muffins!?
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with having these standard muffins as an “occasional” food, just like there’s nothing wrong with having the occasional piece of cake or pile of peanut butter cups (my weakness). However, if you’re like me, you don’t want to have muffins occasionally – you want them now! In all seriousness, I bake muffins nearly every single week.
Since there’s no way in hell that I’m going to reduce the amount of muffins that I consume, I’ve been experimenting with making them not only “healthier”, but downright healthy. My other muffin recipes have come close, using no butter or oil and only a relatively small amount of maple syrup. But I’ve finally made a muffin recipe that uses no maple syrup at all! Plus, there’s more oats than flour in these un-bad boys (the way it should be).
So there – I’m re-claiming my precious muffins from the dark side!
I’ve also been experimenting with some other baked goods. Last week I made healthy oatmeal cookies, which I brought to a high school debating coaching session that I do on Friday afternoons (that was my mystery, non-muffin food that I alluded to on my last muffin post). Those went down really well, so I would’ve posted the cookie recipe except my photos of them were terrible! Ugh. Oh well, that just means I’ll have to bake more cookies (and take better pictures next time). Poor me ;)
I try not to complain or rant too much on this blog, but sometimes I can’t help myself.
While I’m on the topic of healthy food, I just wanted to say that I really feel for Michelle Obama. She seems to be trying so hard to do something about the state of America’s health, but is facing so much resistance! If you’ve been following the arguments about the school lunch programs, you’ll know that the First Lady’s attempt to make public schools serve healthier food has been a long, arduous road. New nutrition standards for schools were passed in 2010, but House Republicans are currently trying to have these scaled back.
Looking at the new standards (which were already made more lenient in 2011), they’re hardly forcing students to eat bucket-loads of kale. The tomato sauce on pizza counts as a serving of vegetables. What the what!? Tomatoes aren’t even vegetables, people!
The changes seem pretty logical to me – it’s mostly replacing candy and soda with fruit and low-fat milk. Also, white bread’s replaced with whole-wheat. and deep-fried fries are replaced with baked fries. Nothing too radical there.
I’m someone who watches quite a bit of Fox News – not because I agree with them (I don’t), but because it’s really entertaining. Either last week or the week before I saw this segment about how Michelle Obama was creating a “nanny state” and was “telling kids what to eat”.
And I just have to point something out here: Regardless of whether you serve kids a bowl of tofu and kale, or a bucket of deep-fried chicken, you are telling them what to eat. It’s a program where public schools serve food. That’s the very definition of the government telling you what to eat – why is it ok for the public schools to serve unhealthy food, but suddenly it’s a terrible thing if the same public schools serve healthy food?
Also, if the government can’t give people any indication on what to eat, why are there national nutrition guidelines and agencies such as the FDA and USDA (and there non-American equivalents)?
I’m confused, people.
*End of rant*
Ok, sorry about that. I really do try to keep the ranting on this blog to a minimum.
I suppose I should tell you how I managed to make muffins without oil or sugar! Three secrets: one grated apple, a cup of yogurt and some chopped dates. All of these things add moisture and sweetness, plus some vitamins, fibre, calcium etc.
The dates are soaked in hot water for 10 – 15 minutes, and then blended. This gives the muffins a subtle, caramel-like flavor – without making them just taste like dates. I used 10 dried dates (I think the technical term is “deglet-noor”). If you use medjool dates, you’ll probably need less to make the ½ cup called for in the recipe. Then again, it’s hardly going to be a big deal if you have a few more dates then needed – they are absolutely delicious, after all!
And I’ve warned you all before about my aversion to Greek yogurt. As always, I used a thick, sugarless yogurt which does not taste sour at all (it’s a pretty awesome yogurt). If you know that the yogurt you’re using is sour, then I’d recommend using more dates than the recipe calls for - use at least 10 medjool dates, or more of the deglet-noor variety. Also make sure that the apples you use are large (especially the one that’s grated). And, of course, please taste the muffin batter before baking!
But you know what? Chillax. Muffins are one of the more forgiving baked goods, and even if you use a sour yogurt and find they’re not quite sweet enough, you can always serve them with some applesauce or jelly/jam or even Apple Pie Ice Cream.
Ok, that’s all from me (*sigh of relief*). Sorry about how long this post was, and it seemed all too doom-and-gloom. I promise that my next post will be nothing but sunshine, lollipops and rainbows!
Apple Pie Oatmeal Muffins
- ½ cup chopped dates (approx. 10)
- ¼ cup hot water
- 2 red apples (medium or large)
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup yogurt (regular or low-fat)
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 cup rolled oats
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
- ¼ cup chopped walnuts
- ¾ cup spelt flour
- In a dish, combine the chopped dates and hot water. Let sit for 10 – 15 minutes, or until soft. Use a blender to blitz the mixture until smooth.
(Note: This can be made the day before and stored in the fridge).
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Grease a 12-hole muffin pan with cooking oil spray.
- Use a box grater to shred one of the apples into a large bowl. Whisk in the eggs, followed by the date mixture, yogurt and vanilla extract.
- Add the rolled oats, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger and cloves. Mix until completely combined.
- Peel and dice the other apple. Fold the apple pieces and chopped walnuts into the muffin batter. Add the spelt flour, and mix until just combined.
- Transfer the mixture to the prepared muffin pan, filling each hole approximately ¾ of the way up.
- Bake for 20 – 24 minutes, or until the tops spring back when touched and a skewer comes out clean (or with a few dry crumbs). Cool in the tin for 5 minutes before transferring to a cooking rack. Enjoy!