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Building a Better Muffin

IMG_1775I’m always trying to make recipes better. I find that there are lots and lots of wonderful recipes out there, but when it comes to baked goods, most people give up and succumb to the white flour, white sugar, butter/margarine/oil onslaught that fills shelves and stomachs with so much processed crap. This is not to say that I am perfect; far from it. But I do strive to do better, and for this recipe that I first created about a month ago, I set out to build a banana muffin that was not a processed food bomb and was healthier than 99% of the recipes out there but also tasted great.

I started with what I thought was an okay recipe from a cooking website called The Spruce, basic vegan banana muffin recipe, that Suzanna ran across when searching recipes online. But then I saw that it uses white flour, sugar, and oil or margarine. Wow, I thought, I am sure I can do better because I had been making smoothies for years with dried dates and had recently had some successes with using avocado in some baked goods. So began my better muffin journey and it’s been a great ride.

The recipe I have come up with is also a very simple recipe to make. And it works well with variations (see below). It takes about 15 minutes to prepare and another 25 minutes to bake. So you can go from start to eating in about 45 minutes.

Each muffin is only 121 calories, is made exclusively from plant-based foods (i.e., is vegan), is made with 100% whole wheat, and packs 5 grabs of natural oat bran fiber! Furthermore, the recipe uses no phony overly processed foods with all the micronutrients stripped out, and no phony artificial sweeteners. And with only 5 grams of natural whole-food-based sugar in each muffin, this muffin won’t spike your blood sugar. Plus it tastes great.

Ingredients

  • 5 pitted medjool dates
  • 0.25 cup medium avocado
  • 3 medium (ripe) bananas
  • 1.5 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 0.5 cup oat bran
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 0.25 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp chia seeds
  • 0.25 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 0.75 cup water

Steps

  1. Preheat oven to 360 Fahrenheit. This I got from the spruce recipe and have stuck with. It seems to work well.
  2. Grab a muffin tin, put liners into all 12 holes and spray with some non-stick cooking spray or rub with a small amount of coconut oil, or, if you don’t mind the muffin sticking to the liners, don’t use any oil/spray. I’ve done it with and without the oil spray and have to admit I enjoy the muffin just popping out of the liner. I think the oil absorbed by the muffin is negligible.
  3. Place the pitted dates and a 1/4 cup of water into a high speed blender (e.g., Vitamix) or food processor and run it until it chops up the dates into tiny pieces. scrape the sides.
  4. Add the avocado and bananas and another 1/4 water and run the blender until it makes a nice goopy slurry. About a minute. You may need to interrupt and scrape the sides occasionally. Oh, and you know all those banana muffin/bread recipes that insist that you must use over-ripe bananas: they’re all wrong. I have used everyday bananas at no great loss. So use the over-ripened bananas if you have them but don’t sweat it if your nanas are a little under-ripe.
  5. In a separate bowl, add the dry ingredients and stir with a fork until well combined.
  6. Now add the wet contents of the blender into the dry ingredients and combine well. At this point, I strive for a goopy batter that is easy enough to scoop into the muffin tins. For me, I usually add another 1/4 cup of water so that it has the right consistency.
  7. Add the batter to each muffin tin with a spoon. I find a 1/4 cup measure works pretty well. Try to even them out but don’t worry too much about them all being the same level.
  8. Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes. You want to strive for a nicely browned muffin that, when a toothpick is inserted comes out mostly clean. Cook less, if you prefer a moister muffin or more, if you prefer a drier muffin.
  9. Place on a cooling rack. Try to wait for just a few minutes before grabbing one and devouring it. But don’t fret, it’s only 121 calories!

Nutritional Profile

This version of the muffin is only 121 calories per muffin, give and take a few calories based on your exact ingredients. I say this because we buy a lot of stuff bulk and the nutritional profile does vary from vendor to vendor.

Thanks to MyFitnessPal’s recipe calculator, here is the complete nutritional profile and a nice photo of one of the muffins in my hand. Yum!

Variations

Today is actually the first day I made the specific recipe detailed here but I have made the recipe maybe six different times, always varying things up. My various versions have had from 90 to 140 calories and most have tasted great. I’d like to mention here some of the variations that you might consider:

  • Increase/decrease the amount of oat bran while decreasing/increasing the amount of whole wheat flour.
  • Substitute prunes for dates. Also, if you like your muffins sweeter, you may want to increase the number of dates/prunes but I find 5 works well for us.
  • Add a nut such as pecans or almonds.
  • Add different seeds such as pumpkin.
  • Add cocoa powder.
  • Add fruit.
  • Remove the coconut and/or chia seeds.

You might need to adjust the amount of added water depending on the ingredients you use. Feel free to experiment, and please keep it whole food as much as possible (the concept, not the grocer; support your local grocer or food coop). And please, try to keep processed sugar and oil out of the recipe, if at all possible.

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The cult of protein

Sunshine and Slaughter

In the early 19th century in America, women couldn’t vote, slavery was legal, and blood-letting was a legitimate medical procedure. Around that time, scientists decided protein was the most important nutrient. We changed our thinking about the first three issues, but protein myths are still being perpetuated–and the meat, egg, and dairy industries want to keep the myths alive.holy protein batman

If you read nothing else:

  • Protein is essential.
  • We get all we need from plants.
  • In developed nations, it’s hard to get too little protein.
  • Too much protein is bad for our health.

History

Protein comes from a Greek term meaning of prime importance–talk about high regard! It was first described by Dutch scientist Gerardus Johannes Mulder in the early 19th century. His German contemporary, Justus von Liebig, called it “the stuff of life itself.”

Carl Voit, a 19th century German physicist, was enthusiastic about protein too. Even after discovering that 52g per day is…

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Why Paleo diets belong in the Stone Age

Great post about silliness of the diet of the year club and bad side of meat-heavy diets. Nutrition research tells us to eat whole, primarily (or, for vegans, only) plant-based foods. And workout/exercise regularly. It’s that simple.

Sunshine and Slaughter

The Paleolithic, or Caveman, diet has gotten a lot of press lately. It sounds similar to the Atkins diet of a few years ago (remember that?) with a few more fruits and veggies added in. Many proponents claim eating like early man is how we’re designed: Lots of lean meats (especially wild game) and no grains is what the doctor ordered. Or is it?

First the positives: The Paleo diet encourages people to avoid dairy and processed foods. Sounds healthy enough. But with about half its calories coming from animal protein, it’s not a wise option.

Making assumptions

Paleo assumes early humans were mostly hunter, partly gatherer. Women (the gatherers) get little credit and macho hunting men become responsible for catapulting cavemen into civilization. Hunting without modern weapons is difficult and gathering was likely a big part of their diet.cavemen

If early humans were opportunistic hunter-gatherers, doing what they could to survive, they’d surely eat all parts…

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New Clinical Trial: Eat Like a Mediterranean!

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A new clinical trial gives strong scientific proof that that the so-called Mediterranean Diet is the real thing. Tasty AND cuts your risk of cardiovascular incidents by 30%!

NY Times Article

New England Journal of Medicine article

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My New Goal: Eugene Marathon in April!

New goal: training for Eugene Marathon on April 28th and using it to qualify for Boston next April.

bostonqualifyingtimes

 

Post Script

I did it! I qualified for Boston with a time of 3:39:22.

Categories: Fitness, Running, Uncategorized | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

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