Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Blueberry Oat Bran Muffins

After a few months without much variance in my breakfast routine, I'm happily into scones and muffins again. If my last effort wasn't exactly your cup of tea, maybe you'll like these blueberry muffins.

They are everything you can hope for in a healthy muffin. The texture is tender and moist, the lightly sweet oat bran flavor is mellow and nutty and the tops have a crackly coating of coarse sugar. I shouldn't be surprised at how good they are considering the original source.

I also have to mention that I tried a new brand of frozen blueberries--Stahlbush Island Farms, found at Whole Foods Market. They're so noticeably sweet and flavorful compared to others I've tried. I made pancakes using some of these berries mixed with my grocery store's brand of organic wild blueberries, and the difference in taste was huge--by that I mean, the Stahlbush fruit actually tasted like blueberries. They sell a whole array of frozen fruit, and I think these muffins would be awesome with the berry blend.

If you don't come across this brand where you live, don't dismay. Just try as many different ones as you can since quality seems to vary. These are also one of the more expensive options in the freezer case, and I think you tend to get what you pay for with frozen berries.

Blueberry Oat Bran Muffins

Adapted from Chocolate and Zucchini

This is simply a good muffin that also happens to be low-calorie and lowfat. I'd like to try it with other frozen berries, or a mixture. I didn't toss my berries with flour, but think doing so will prevent them from clumping together and sinking so much, as they did in the muffin above--this change is reflected below. If you use fresh berries, you may skip this step. Whole wheat pastry flour keeps the crumb light and tender while adding nutrients, but you can substitute all-purpose flour if you like.

Makes 12

120 grams oat bran (1 cup plus 3 Tbs)
120 grams whole wheat pastry flour (1 cup), plus extra for dusting berries
100 grams sugar (scant 1/2 cup)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp coarse salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup plus 2 Tbs buttermilk
2 Tbs vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 heaping cup frozen blueberries (do not thaw)
Coarse sugar (such as turbinado or demerara) for sprinkling (substitute granulated if necessary)

Preheat oven to 350 F and line a standard muffin pan with 12 paper liners.

In a large bowl, whisk together the oat bran, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a separate medium bowl, beat the eggs. Add the buttermilk, oil and vanilla; whisk to combine. Pour egg mixture into flour mixture and stir just until dry ingredients are moistened.

Spread frozen blueberries on a large cutting board or other work surface and lightly sprinkle with flour. Toss gently to coat berries with flour. Pick up the berries, shaking off as much excess flour as possible and add to the batter; fold gently to combine.

Pour batter evenly into prepared muffin cups. Sprinkle with coarse sugar. Bake for 20 to 22 minutes, or until a cake tester or toothpick comes out clean. Cool in pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to a rack to finish cooling. Serve warm or at room temperature. Muffins may be frozen and thawed at room temperature, or in the microwave on low power.

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Sunday, November 30, 2008

Oat Bran-Banana Muffins with Raisins

Another Thanksgiving weekend is behind us. I hope yours was as much fun as mine! I got to spend it in Connecticut with a big bunch of family and tons of great food. The cranberry sauce with pears and ginger I posted last week turned out great. The pumpkin-cranberry bundt cake I made for the 2nd year running was also fantastic...it would be a good one throughout the holiday season.

Fortunately my holiday travel was a breeze, and I’m back in Fort Lauderdale. Besides going to the gym and doing laundry today, I haven’t done much. But I did make these muffins.

I planned it all out last week. You see, I spotted this recipe on Cheaty Kitchen when I was just clicking around some food blogs, and immediately realized it was the perfect answer to a problem. I had exactly 3 too-ripe-to-eat bananas, and as time passed I feared they would go to waste. When I realized I not only had the 3 bananas the muffins called for, but also every other ingredient, I got baking!

I liked them so much, I bought more bananas before I took off for the holiday so they would get nice and black while I was away. If you’re in the same boat after your Thanksgiving travels (or just bought too many bananas), give these a try. They’re really quick, so it’s no problem to do them in the morning. They are also very healthy, full of whole grains and no processed sugars. But don’t even worry about that—they’re just really tasty. The bananas and canola oil make them moist and the just-right level of sweetness comes from raisins and maple syrup. The whole grains make them hearty and dense. If you use non-dairy milk, they are vegan. If you’re feeling like me, a healthy homemade goodie should be just perfect right now.

Oat Bran-Banana Muffins with Raisins
Adapted from Cheaty Kitchen. Original recipe from Nutrilicious by Edith Rothschild

These are vegan if you use soy, rice or almond milk. Once these muffins are completely cool, they freeze very well. Defrost at room temperature for an hour and a half or so.

Makes 12 muffins

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup oat bran
2 Tbs. ground flax
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup raisins
3 very ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 cup milk (regular or soy)
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup maple syrup
sunflower seed, for garnish

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Fill a standard muffin pan with 12 paper liners, or coat with butter or cooking spray.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, oat bran, flax, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Stir in the raisins.

In another bowl, whisk together the bananas milk, canola oil and syrup. Add to the dry ingredients and stir until no more dry bits remain. Scoop batter into the muffin pan, and sprinkle sunflower seeds over muffins. Bake 20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean and sides of muffins are golden. Cool in pan for a few minutes, then transfer muffins to a rack and cool completely.

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Monday, November 12, 2007

Black-Eyed Pea Stew and Creamy Corn Muffins

In my last post, I wrote, if a meal consists of a comforting stew and some homemade biscuits or corn bread, life is good. Well, I wasn't just trying to convince you to make my Seafood-Corn Chowder and Whole Grain Herb Biscuits (which you should!)--I really meant it. This is another meal that proves my theory.

As I was looking at my list of TBB recipes ("to be blogged"), I saw this stew and these easy corn muffins. Both recipes are from October's Cooking Light, and I tried them out a few weeks ago, but am just getting around to posting now. I've been doing a lot of cooking lately, so sometimes things get stuck in the blogging pipeline!

If you've always wanted to cook dried beans instead of popping open a can, here's your chance. It's hardly more work than straining and rinsing canned beans, as long as you allow enough time for your beans to transform from hard and dry to toothsome and creamy. If you haven't cooked dried beans before, you'll have to trust me when I tell you it's totally worth it. I don't hesitate to use canned beans in a lot of situations, but I think they taste better when I cook them myself. Actually, it's probably more of a texture than a flavor thing. Just think of canned corn versus corn freshly trimmed off the cob--both have sweet flavor, but the texture of fresh corn retains that smooth snap even when cooked in a soup or casserole.

I can't believe I just used canned corn as an example above because these tangy corn muffins actually depend on a can of creamed corn for their excellent, moist texture. It goes to show that certain foods are more suitable for some recipes than for others. I wouldn't heat up a can of creamed corn as a side dish, but it's a perfect shortcut to a healthy corn muffin. As much as I love the classic Skillet Corn Bread I usually make to go with a stew like this, the scallions, sour cream, sharp cheddar (and even the creamed corn) in this recipe appealed to me--it's important to try variations on your favorite recipes to keep things fresh, don't you think?

Below is my adaptation of the Black-Eyed Pea Stew recipe. As for the corn muffins, I didn't change a thing (except using whole wheat pastry flour instead of AP), so here is the link to the recipe on Cooking Light's website. I like to make regular size muffins, but the recipe also gives directions for making them in mini muffin tins.

By the way, this Thursday is the release of the Beaujolais Nouveau wines for 2007. I love, these light, fruity, slightly fizzy young red wines from Beaujolais region of France. Though not everyone agrees, I think the best of these wines, made from the Gamay grape, are tasty, fun and easy to drink. Check back here on Thursday for the perfect meal to go with your stash of Nouveau!!

Black-Eyed Pea Stew with Kale

Adapted from Cooking Light
Don't bother slicing the turkey sausage; just squeeze it out of the casing directly into the pot.

Serves 4 to 6

2 cups dried black-eyed peas
1/2 tbs. olive oil
1 large white or yellow onion, chopped
3 spicy turkey sausages (like Jennie-O Turkey Store brand), casings removed and meat crumbled
4 cups vegetable broth (I like Swanson's)
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 to 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
2 dried bay leaves
1 tbs. cider vinegar
28 oz. can diced tomatoes
10-12 oz. bag chopped kale, mustard or collard greens

Rinse beans and pick over. Add to a large pot and fill with water to cover by several inches. Bring to a rapid boil and cook for 3 minutes. Remove from heat and soak for 1 hour. Drain and rinse beans.

Heat oil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion and cook until soft, about 3 minutes. Add sausage; cook until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add vegetable broth, raise heat to high and bring to a boil. Add peas, salt and pepper and bay leaves. Cover and reduce heat; simmer for 45 minutes. Uncover and cook for 15 minutes. Stir in vinegar, tomatoes and greens. Simmer 10 minutes or until beans are tender. Taste for seasoning and serve.

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Friday, March 16, 2007

Cranberry-Orange-Coconut Muffins

I have heard people say that enjoying a lovely homemade muffin for breakfast is the equivalent of downing a piece of cake. I beg to differ. Cake has frosting.

Now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s talk about muffins. A bad muffin (you will know them by their rubbery appearance and dry, crumbly texture) is a sad waste of calories, but a great muffin is a jubilant start to your day. I adore and often physically crave breakfast pastries. Scones are my supreme favorite, but when I say I need a doughnut, I really mean it. I overlook the simple muffin sometimes, and it took a request from Mike for me to come up with this recipe.

Muffins are quick breads, so you’ll have these in the oven in 15 to 20 minutes. These particular muffins require an electric mixer to cream the butter and sugar, which gives them a fine, tender crumb (sort of like a c-a-k-e). Muffin recipes that call for the ingredients to be simply stirred together result in a coarser texture, which is especially good for whole grain muffins.

The base for this recipe comes from the King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion and is intended as an all-purpose muffin batter to be dressed up any way you fancy. It makes muffins that are not nearly as sweet as a cake and are very moist thanks to the sour cream. I love the high, craggy tops that turn crisp during baking. In the end, there is only one thing that makes these muffins similar to your favorite cake—they are best enjoyed with a really good cup of coffee.

Cranberry-Orange-Coconut Muffins
Adapted from the King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion
I used a combination of whole wheat pastry flour, white flour and regular whole wheat flour. I would have gone with whole wheat pastry entirely, except I ran out. I cannot tell the difference anymore between my WW pastry flour and all-purpose in most baked goods. Use whatever you prefer, but I would not recommend using all regular whole wheat, as the result will likely be a bit heavy. King Arthur notes that the batter can be made and kept in the refrigerator for up to a week and baked at will.

Makes 16 muffins

1 ½ c. dried cranberries
1 c. orange juice
Butter, for greasing pan
3 ½ c. all-purpose or whole wheat pastry flour
2 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 stick unsalted butter (8 tbs. or 4 oz.), softened
1 c. sugar
3 large eggs
1 c. sour cream
2 1/2 tsp. grated orange zest
¾ c. sweetened, shredded coconut

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine the cranberries and orange juice in a small bowl and set aside to soften cranberries. Grease 16 muffin cups of two regular size muffin pans (preferably nonstick) with butter.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, cream the butter and sugar with an electric mixer at medium high speed until light and fluffy, 2-4 minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Beat in the sour cream and orange zest. Add the dry ingredients in two additions, beating on the lowest speed or stirring with a large spoon until just combined.

Drain the cranberries, discarding the orange juice. Fold the cranberries and coconut into the batter. Divide the batter among the sixteen muffin cups. The cups should be nearly full in order to make sixteen big muffins. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

If you like these, check out some more tasty cranberry-orange recipes from other food bloggers:

Cranberry Orange Bran Muffins from Farmgirl Fare
Very healthy, very vegan Cranberry Orange Muffins from Fat Free Vegan Kitchen
Orange Cranberry Bread from Baking Sheet
Orange Cranberry Pecan Cinnamon Buns from Confessions of a Cardamom Addict

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Monday, December 18, 2006

Pear Muffins

Bloggers to the Rescue!

I nearly had a food emergency yesterday afternoon. When I returned home from spending the weekend in Toronto, I was greeted by eight perfect pears on my kitchen counter, and every single one was perfectly ripe. My mom had thoughtfully sent Mike and I these pears in a Harry & David gift box last week. When I left for Toronto on Friday, they were all hard as rocks.

If you like pears and try to eat them often, you know that there is a very short window of opportunity for optimum ripeness. Once the bright green color matures to a warm, freckly harvest yellow and the fruit yields to gently pressure all around, you must eat right away. I guessed that my pears were one day away from this stage--perfect for eating, but still suitable for certain recipes. Since I knew I could not eat eight pears in the next day and a half, I set out to find a recipe that would put these beauties to good use.

First I tried recent issues of some of the many food magazines I have scattered around the house. I didn't find anything great there or on the recipe websites that I like. Not only did I want something simple (I had gotten up at 4:45am that morning to catch my flight!), but I wanted to make something I could freeze for Mike to taste when he got back from his business trip in a couple days. I was determined not to let these pears go to waste. The Oregon-grown Harry & David pears are the best I have ever had, so failure was not an option.

Then I remembered the very cool google search tool that Elise recently added to her Simply Recipes blog. It looks for matches exclusively within the food blogs that Elise has on her own comprehensive list. Within seconds, it pointed me to a recipe for pear bundt cake that I remembered seeing on Baking Bites. Just when I was getting excited to use the brand new bundt pan I bought, I noticed a comment referring to this great recipe for pear muffins.

I happened to have every single ingredient for these easy, low-fat muffins, so my search ended there. I liked that Nic used whole wheat flour and plain yogurt in this recipe. Despite their healthy profile, the muffins came out very moist and sweet thanks to the delicious pears. I just polished one off as I wrote the previous paragraph, and they make a very satisfying snack.

I must thank Nic and Elise (not to mention mom, for sending the pears). If I ever have another impending emergency, I will look no further than my fellow food bloggers for help! I absolutely recommend Nic's great recipe whether you are desperate to save some pears or you actually want to plan ahead and avoid any possible produce drama.

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