Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Economical Kitchen--Strawberries and Muffins to Make You Swoon

The strawberries are so pretty at the store right now; I cannot resist them. (One thing I try to always buy organic is strawberries. They are one of the most heavily chemical-laden fruit available. See this link to an NPR story about California strawberries.) However, I wound up with a surplus of fruit last week, and my girl-child was in a rabid banana phase, so I wanted to preserve my strawberries. I love, love, love dehydrated strawberries. The dehydration process makes their tart/sweet flavor even more pronounced. So I cut them into even pieces and dehydrated them. Depending on how thick you cut your slices, they can dehydrate quickly, so keep an eye on them. Chunkier slices will make a more gummy-bear sort of consistency, and very thin slices will become almost like paper. I like a happy medium. When they were done, I bagged them and put them in the freezer. They can last for up to a year this way.
But they didn't even last a week in the freezer. I got hungry for Chunky Monkey Muffins. I started making these a long time ago, but haven't made them in a while. When I came up with this recipe, I started with the Oat Bran Muffin recipe from my pink gingham Betty Crocker cookbook. For the record, let's go ahead and clear the air about muffins. They're cake. Period. Just because we put oatmeal and fruit in them and call them breakfast does not make them any less cake-y. Check out the sugar content on that Starbuck's blueberry crumble muffin. I dare you. 

I, however, like cake for breakfast. But I don't want to feel crappy about it. So I worked out a recipe for really toothsome, chunky muffins with low sugar that can easily be made vegan.  
For the Chunky Monkey, I mix 3/4 cup instant oats (if you want to use steel cut or old-fashioned, just soak them in hot water until they're softened up a bit before you proceed) and 1/4 cup hemp hearts with 3/4 cup whole wheat flour and 1/4 cup all-purpose flour. Throw in 1/4 t. of salt. To the dry mix, I add 2 t. baking powder, 1/2 t. baking soda, and two packets of Stevia. You can sub in any sweetener you like or you can add extra honey below. Mix well.  
Here's the chunky part. I added about 1/4 cup blueberries because they needed to be eaten, 3/4 cup dried strawberries, 1/4 cup shredded coconut, and about 1/3 cup walnuts.At this point, my muffins are really just fruit and nuts held together by a little muffin.
In a small bowl, I combined 1/2 cup buttermilk, 2T. oil, 1/4 cup honey (you can also use maple syrup or agave nectar or whatever you're into), 1 single serving container of no sugar added applesauce (about 4 oz.), an egg, and 1 t. vanilla. Combine gently until all the flour is moistened. Don't overmix, but get it all wet. This will be a pretty thick batter.
Grease your muffin tin. This recipe makes enough for 9 medium-sized muffins. I fill the cups all the way up. I always fill the remaining cups with water to add moisture to the baking environment. Bake at 350 for about 14-15 minutes. You don't want to overdo these, as the oatmeal and whole-wheat flour will dry out quickly. However, if you catch them just at the right moment (when the knife tip comes out with just a smidge of batter on it), they're warm and soft and full of texture. They're not pretty, but they taste great and aren't too shabby for you. I have also made these with rice milk instead of buttermilk and Ener-G egg replacement for a lower calorie, vegan version. If you go this route, add a bit more applesauce and oil for moisture. I love to use organic coconut or grapeseed oil in these.
These muffins are rad because they're so versatile. Add dried bananas, slivered almonds, pumpkin or chia seeds, or my favorite, dried cherries. The recipe is after the break!


Chunky Monkey Breakfast Muffins
  • 3/4 instant oats
  • 1/4 cup hemp hearts
  • 1 cup four (3/4 cup whole wheat and 1/4 cup all purpose)
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 2 t. baking powder
  • 1/2 t. baking soda
  • 2 packets Stevia
  • 1 cup dried/fresh fruit of your choice
  • 1/4 cup shredded coconut
  • 1/3 cup nuts
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 2 T. oil
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 single-serving cup of applesauce
  • 1 egg
  • 1 t. vanilla
In a large bowl, mix 3/4 cup instant oats (if you want to use steel cut or old-fashioned, just soak them in hot water until they're softened up a bit before you proceed) and 1/4 cup hemp hearts with 3/4 cup whole wheat flour and 1/4 cup all-purpose flour. Add 1/4 t. of salt. To the dry mix, add 2 t. baking powder, 1/2 t. baking soda, and two packets of Stevia. Mix well. 
 
Add in fruit and nuts. 
 
In a small bowl, combine 1/2 cup buttermilk, 2T. oil, 1/4 cup honey, 1 single serving container of no sugar added applesauce (about 4 oz.), an egg, and 1 t. vanilla.  Combine gently until all the flour is moistened. Don't overmix, but get it all wet. This will be a pretty thick batter. 
 
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Put water in the oven to add moisture, either in the empty cups of your muffin tin if you have any, or in another baking dish. Bake for 14-15 minutes, keeping an eye on the doneness of your muffins so they don't dry out.