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?