Friday, January 6, 2012

Oat and Whole Wheat Muffins with Pecans and Dried Plums

We've had some really sunny and fairly warm days here in Colorado this week, and I just checked the weather with hopes of having some nice weather this weekend, too.  I really want to get outside to do something fun, but it's supposed to be snowy this weekend with temps in the 30s.  Which will actually make it a good day to bake the bread I was planning to make tomorrow.

I saw online that there's a romantic sleigh ride for two at the Winding River Resort in Grand Lake.  A couple of winters ago, we tried ice skating, and while it was a fun day together, the ice skating was not very successful.  But sitting in a sleigh while the horses do the work - how could that not be fun?  Although with the snow coming, I'm not sure we'll even be able to get there, as the mountain roads get pretty icy.

Today I want to talk about healthful baking, which is something I'm trying to be more conscious of as I work to get in better shape.  I'm not one who's willing to sacrifice all the good things about baking to make it healthy, because if it doesn't taste good, then what's the point of eating it?

And along with the recipe today, I also took a few pics of my ever growing collection of dishes and linens for this blog...  I rarely buy more than one of anything - I like the mismatched look, and it makes each piece unique.  I don't often go to antique stores anymore, although I used to buy a lot of my dishes there.  I've discovered that Home Goods is a great place to find pieces that look a little different and don't cost a whole lot, with small plates and bowls costing only $2-$4.

Paper bags, either with pretty patterns, or the ones from Starbucks, come in useful for meals like fish and chips, or anything fried, really, where it looks kind of cute and casual on a crumpled piece of brown paper.

A canvas tote holds all the place mats, napkins and other linens.  And a few glass bottles and jars of various sizes just look pretty.  I'll share a secret about those little bottles that look like the mini milk bottles that are so popular right now, but that are so hard to find.  You know the bottled frappuccinos you can buy?  That's all these are.  I saw them one day at the grocery store after trying to find small milk bottles for sale without any luck, and realized just how cute these would be.  The generic brand has a label that peels off so easily, and then you have a cute little bottle that looks adorable with a straw.

But back to today's recipe...  So many foods labeled as low fat are not that good for you at all, since the fat is replaced with a lot of added sugar to make it taste good.  And since sugar melts when it's heated, it also provides moisture to baked goods, so reducing the sugar too drastically can result in something very dry.  A reduction in sugar means that moisture needs to be added in other ways.  I want something that's low in fat and sugar, but still moist and full of flavor.

For this muffin recipe I created, I used only 1/2 cup of sugar, which is about 2 teaspoons per muffin, as much as you might add to your coffee every morning.  I used brown sugar, since it contains molasses, and is more moist than white sugar.  I also added skim milk and non-fat Greek yogurt, which always makes everything better, and is so good for you.  Unsweetened or no-sugar added applesauce is a good substitute for oil or melted butter in muffins.

For the carbs, these muffins are as healthy as it gets - whole wheat flour and oats - which are full of fiber and protein.

Toasted pecans and dried plums add a nice textural bite, as well as wonderful flavor.  And of course, sweet spices like vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and orange sweeten the muffin up so that you don't even know they're made with so little sugar.

All of which adds up to a healthy, hearty and flavor-packed muffin that's satisfying and guilt free.  Out of curiosity, I calculated the nutritional value, which is something I don't usually do, and something you won't see that often on my blog.  I'm not a dietician, and nutritional value is something I'm still trying to learn, as well as it being very tedious to try to figure out from all the ingredients in a recipe.  But I wanted to know if what I came up with really was as healthy as I thought it was?

After all the calculations, I had my answer.  This muffin really is good for you, which is amazing since it tastes so delicious.  In each muffin, you get approximately 190 calories, 28 grams of carbs, 4 grams of fiber, 5 grams of protein, and 7 grams of fat.

Not bad, right?

And surprisingly, the main source of fat in these is actually from the pecans.  Without pecans, these muffins would have less than 1 gram of fat each.  But fat from nuts is in the healthy fats category, and perfectly fine in moderation.

If you don't like pecans and dried plums, then some other yummy combinations would be almonds and dried apricots, walnuts and dried cherries, cranberries and a little bittersweet chocolate...  Or leave out the nuts completely and make an oatmeal raisin muffin.  And I bet you'll feel so much better after eating these than a half dozen oatmeal raisin cookies! :)

Oat and Whole Wheat Muffins with Pecans and Dried Plums
printable recipe

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried orange zest
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 cup no-sugar added applesauce
  • 1/2 cup non-fat Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup skim milk
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 cup chopped, toasted pecans
  • 1/2 cup chopped, dried plums

Preheat the oven to 350.  Spray a standard 12-cup muffin pan with non-stick spray (inside the cups and on top of the pan).

In a large bowl, combine the flour, oats, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, orange zest, and cloves.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, applesauce, yogurt, milk, egg and vanilla.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir just until moistened.  Stir in the pecans and plums.

Divide batter between 12 muffin cups.  Bake for 18-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Place pan on a wire rack and cool muffins in the pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack.  Cover with a towel to cool slightly and serve warm.  They are wonderful plain, or with a little honey, agave nectar or jam.

Yields 12 muffins.

Nutritional Info (for 1 muffin):
Calories: 190
Carbs: 28 grams
Fiber: 4 grams
Protein: 5 grams
Fat: 7.4 grams