Sunday, February 24, 2013

Healty(-ier) Muffins

Last week I went to LA to visit my brother, sister-in-law, and baby (technically now toddler) nephew, James. One of the reasons I love heading out there is my SIL, Amanda, is a fantastic cook. She loves scouring cook books and food website for new recipes and focuses on things that are low in calories and chock full of good stuff like fiber, protein, and fruits and veggies. This is especially true when it comes to cooking and baking for 14 month old James, after all, little kids have a lot of nutritional needs than your average adult.

During our visit, Amanda made a recipe from her Cooking Light Baby Food cookbook, Mini Whole-Wheat Apricot Muffins. Turns out muffins are great for toddlers (especially mini ones) since they are easily freezeable, portable, and a perfect size and texture for little chubby kid fingers. And just because the recipe came from a kid's cookbook doesn't mean it isn't good for adults as well. These were yummy muffins and you got three per serving at only 133 calories. This means even I was able to indulge in a few as a snack (since I have started getting serious about counting calories).

Now that I'm home from sunny California, I am inspired by Amanda's baking and cooking, and I've decided to try to find my own healthier but delicious recipes. I tried my first go-round last night, working with another Cooking Light muffin recipe but making my own changes to make it even more healthy. So I proudly present to you--Maggie's Whole Wheat Raisin Banana Muffins!

I'm going to call this recipe makeover a success--the original recipe was for a white flour based cranberry and orange muffin. It clocked in at 174 calories, which is certainly nothing to scoff at, but I thought I could do a little better. Even if I couldn't cut back a lot of the calories, at least I could pack the muffins with some more hearty ingredients.

I started by replacing all the white flour with whole wheat flour. However, wheat flour is a lot dryer than regular flour, so that means we needed some more liquid in the batter. I decided to throw in two and a half bananas (that had been sitting in the freezer for a few months). When you defrost the bananas, they end up a lot juicier so this added some more wetness. I also subbed in raisins for the cranberries--I figured they have less sugar and would pair better with the bananas. Following that logic, the orange rind had to go, so I used allspice instead. The final substitution was 1% milk for 2%--mostly because that's what I had on hand.

I was a little worried after I finished mixing up the batter, it was a good deal thicker than most muffin mix and had a consistency more like a cookie. But the muffins ended up baking beautifully, fluffing up a bit but staying within the confines of the muffin cup. It makes a dense muffin which I like; what's the point of eating those calories if it doesn't help fill you up? They have a great wheaty, nutty flavor (even though there's no nuts). The banana and spice is very subtle (I'll probably throw in an extra banana next time), and the raisins added a little touch of sweetness. If you aren't a big fan of wheat these probably aren't the muffins for you, but if you like quick and easy recipes with a hearty flavor than give them a try. You don't even need a mixer, I easily combined all the ingredients by hand with a spatula.

Maggie's Whole Wheat Raisin Banana Muffins

2 cups whole wheat flour
2/3 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup raisins
2/3 cup 1% milk
1/4 cup butter or margarine, melted
2 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg, beaten
3 bananas

Preheat over to 400 degrees. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Stir in raisins; make a well in the center of the mixture. Combine milk, butter, allspice, vanilla, and egg; add to flour mixture, stirring until just moist. Spoon batter into 12 (my recipe made 16) muffin cups. Bake at 400 degrees for 18-20 minutes until muffins are brown on top. Remove from the muffin pan immediately and cool.

Note: these muffins freeze well stored in freezer bags. I also like them warmed up a bit, either in the microwave (20-30 seconds per muffin) or heated in the oven on foil for 10-15 minutes at 300 degrees.

If you are keeping track of calories, I would estimate that these end up between 130-150 calories depending on the size of your muffins. Not too shabby!

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