Tuesday, 18 November 2008

The magic of muffins.

Posted by Julie
Towards Sustainability

In my last post I was asked about the types of healthy snacks I like to make (and freeze) for my kids. Well, I have to say that muffins win hands down as one of our favourite, and most versatile, snacks.

They take next to no time to mix up - and are very kid-friendly - the recipes are infinitely variable, they cook quickly (especially if you cook mini-muffins), and they freeze exceptionally well for up to two months. Muffins will thaw at room temperature in a a few hours or if you pop them in a lunchbox they will have thawed by lunch time. If you are really in a hurry, you can pop them in the microwave for about 30 seconds each.

To save even more time, a basic muffin mix of the dry ingredients only can be made up in bulk and stored in an air-tight container for up to six months. This way you just need to scoop out a couple of cups of the basic mix and add it to the basic wet ingredients and whatever flavourings you desire - have a look at the ABC Muffin Master mix recipe and variations, for examples of this.

Of course however, any food is only as healthy as it's ingredients, so if your aim is to provide wholesome snacks for your family, unfortunately, choc-chip fudge muffins have to be relegated to treat-time! For what it's worth, I don't bother to ice our muffins either - I find they freeze better without the icing and my kids don't need the extra sugar.

Carrot muffins.

There are literally thousands of muffin recipes on the internet. For each dozen regular-sized muffins the recipe will make, you can substitute two dozen mini-muffins or six jumbo (Texas) muffins, but remember you will need to adjust the cooking time accordingly (less for mini-muffins and more for jumbo muffins). I tend to cook sweet recipes as kid-sized mini-muffins, and often cook savoury recipes as jumbo muffins to have as quick, light meals. Heated up with some salad on the side they make for a great brunch or kid-sized meal.

Some tips when looking for recipes:

* Try to look for recipes that contain a good percentage of whole wheat/ wholemeal flour, as opposed to all white flour. Often you can substitute 1/2 cup of whole wheat flour for 1/2 cup white flour without making too much of a difference to the texture of the muffin, and in many cases you can use half and half;

* Look for those that have a low fat content, and try to cook with natural fats where you can such as pure butter or olive oil, as opposed to margarine or shortening;

* Applesauce makes a fabulous alternative ingredient to fats - it also produces the most deliciously moist muffins, as does plain yoghurt.

* Try to limit the amount of sugar in the recipe. Look for natural sweeteners such as applesauce and dried fruits, which have the added advantage of providing more fibre as well. Brown sugar is not healthier than white sugar.

* Muffins can be a fabulous - but sneaky - way to incorporate vegetables into your kids' diet, and of course, use up many vegetables that you may have a glut of such as carrots, zucchini, squash and pumpkins.

* Don't forget that muffins can be savoury and not just sweet. Cheese and bacon muffins are a big hit around here, and I often cook crustless quiche recipes in muffin tins.

* Incorporating nuts and seeds is a great way to make the muffins more nutritious.

Wholemeal chocolate zucchini muffins.

Some recipes to start with might be:

Applesauce oatmeal muffins

Almost a meal in a muffin

Banana yoghurt muffins

Strawberry and banana wholemeal muffins

Zucchini muffins

Carrot, zucchini and date muffins

Fresh pumpkin muffins

Healthy muffins (metric measurements, PDF file)

Date and walnut muffins (metric measurements)

What about you? What's your favourite healthy muffin recipe?


Chile said...

The white whole wheat flour sold at Trader Joe's (King Arthur brand) and natural food stores works great for baking. I use it exclusively - no white flour at all.

My favorite muffin will be baking in my oven tomorrow: pumpkin with mini chocolate or carob chips!

Amber@MMM said...

I hadn't thought about freezing muffins--I don't know why, I freeze quick breads all the time . . . I think I'll have to keep my eyes open for a mini muffin tin. I'm sure my girl would love to have her zucchini bread in an easier to eat muffin!

Bovey Belle said...

I love the adaptability of muffins - you can put almost anything in them, sweet or savoury, and when my teenage son is having some friends over for a movie night and crash out, muffins are always gratefully accepted! I think my personal favourites and blackberry and apple or white choc chip!

Joanne said...

Banana muffins are a favourite at our house and great for using up over-ripe fruit.

jacqui jones said...

we love muffins
esp a basic muffin with apple in the middle of it...great as desert with thick homemade custard on top

Slice of life said...

Yum. I think I may have to try some of those

KPiep said...

An extra tip - in almost all of my baking I now use whole wheat pastry flour as a sub for plain white flour. The kids can't tell a difference, and my husband and I love the subtle difference in flavor.

Annette said...

A perfect post for winter - a muffin and some hot tea. =)

Mrs. Anna T said...

We love muffins around here. Thanks for the freezing tip.

Lisa-Michigan said...

These are my family's favorite muffins http://frugalabundance.com/oatflourmuffins.htm

They freeze very well and I've changed them up by adding applesauce, dried cherries, dried cranberries and for a touch of sweet I put 3-4 chocolate chips just on the top before baking. They make the hubby think he's eating junk food.

Michelle said...

Could you give some tips on freezing them? Do you wrap them all individually? Freeze them in a container?

Great blog by the way, I'm enjoying reading along :)

Julie said...

I've never come across white whole wheat flour, I wonder if we have it in Australia - I must check!

great tip, thanks :-)

You could wrap them individually (and they will last longer in the freezer that way), but I just freeze them in a large container. If you have more than one layer you could place baking paper or freezer paper between the layers so that they can be removed individually.

Cheers, Julie

shelle said...

I love the basic recipe in the Tassajara bread book. Super simple, all whole wheat and a great starting point for creating different muffins.
And I highly recommend using the silicone muffin pans as they are so much easier to wash.

Sarah in Indiana said...

We're a big fan of muffins at our house. They make such a great grab and go breakfast or tasty snack.

For meal "muffins" that are a great way to use up leftovers, I mix a cup of cooked rice, 1/2 cup cheese, 1 egg and up to a cup of add-ins (veggies and such, plus appropriate seasonings) Then bake in muffin tins at 400 for 15-20 minutes.

These are really yummy.