Every blog needs a good muffin recipe. In my case, it will likely be hundreds! Today the recipe is for Blueberry Oatmeal Muffins.
I grew up baking muffins, and most importantly, sharing them with friends and colleagues. I didn't even realise I'd developed a reputation. Friends, there must be some major rumour out there which has people thinking they're hard to do. Either that, or muffins are the secret to someone's heart. But that's how I've always won people over - if I needed to think of a way to thank someone, REALLY thank them, I would bake muffins. If they were lucky, I'd bake two kinds, put them in a nice box, and voila!
So, I'll be sharing my muffin obsession with you. Even my secret family recipes! But, I'm not talking about "white flour, white sugar" muffins, which give you a sugar rush and then you're left desiring more. These will be warm, melt-in your mouth muffins packed with all that good stuff to keep you going. What can I say, they are my go to breakfast or snack.
So, you might ask, how do you take a regular muffin recipe and make it healthy? There are lots of substitutions out there. So let me share a few. Healthy muffin recipes are simple - think fibre, sweetness, and extras.
Part I - Fibre - The Truth About Grains
We should all know by now why white flour is bad for you. And no, it's not because it's a carbohydrate. It's the type of carbohydrate that's the problem. Carbohydrates are essential for our body in providing the fuel we need to function, as they are broken down into glucose (think energy people!) There are two kinds - complex and simple. And of course, there are refined as well. Complex carbohydrates are found in vegetables, lentils, beans and whole grains (oats, whole wheat flour, brown rice flour, buckwheat, rye, etc) These carbohydrates take more work for the body to break down, and also contain fibre (bran and germ), which help clear out your system and push along waste. They are like the perfect houseguest - providing energy and cleaning up the mess! If you are trying to remember which is complex - think starches and fibre!
Simple carbohydrates also provide energy, often more quickly, as they are easier to break down. Healthy examples are fruits, natural sugars and syrups (brown rice syrup, malt syrup, agave, etc). These are good in moderation and provide an instant sweetness we often crave.
Then there are refined carbohydrates - which have has been altered by machinery to lengthen shelf-life. Often, complex carbohydrates are treated in this way, and while they last longer, this is because all the fiber, healthy oils, vitamins, and minerals have been stripped. Think of these as a nutrient mirage, you keep searching, but never find it!
When we eat refined carbohydrates and sugars, our body looks for the minerals in order to release the right enzymes to digest them. If these are not eaten with the sugar (such as in fruit), the body's response is pull stored nutrients from its own bones and tissues. It also releases a lot of insulin to balance your blood sugar levels. This is harmful as the pancreas will work overtime to regulate your body, which can lead to Type II diabetes. It also gives you a sugar high, only to come crashing down later on. Not good fuel for a work day.
So here's the dilly with white flour - it is, literally, nutritionally dead food. In fact, if you just drank water and ate white flour for 60 days, you will likely die of malnutrition. The refining process strips it of all nutrients, including fibre, and it's often then bleached to make it more white. Think of it as sludge in your system - the tar sands of baking (oooh, as a Canadian, did I just go there? Yes, I sure did!)
So, back to baking - we know we want to pump our food with good carbohydrates and whole wheat blah-dee-blahs. The thing is, any good baker knows that whole wheat flour causes muffins to be really DRY. This makes sense, as you're adding in more fibre, which loves to absorb moisture in order to be able to clean out your system. So, you have to counteract with some great sweeteners/fasts/moisture. The other thing you can do is blend your flours, using one that is really high in fibre, and one that is slightly less so.
Often, if I see a recipe for "3 cups flour", I'll use 50% whole wheat (or rye), and 50% brown rice, buckwheat, coconut or almond flour.
Want to be gluten free?
Grains with gluten: Wheat, including varieties like spelt, kamut, farro and durum; and products like bulgur, semolina; barley, rye, and some oats (check the label carefully or know your company!)
Grains without gluten: amaranth (teff), buckwheat, corn, millet, quinoa, quinoa flakes, rice, sorghum, wild rice, and some oats (again, check the label).
Also, did you know you can make your own flour? Sounds ridiculous, this notion of driving to the shop and buying flour. A good blender and 30 seconds is all you need, and you're guaranteed to know what's going into the foods you eat. Just buy brown rice, throw it in a blender, and voila! For whole wheat, use wheat berries, for almond? You guessed it, almonds! You really can make your own flour with anything.
Ok, so getting back to the task at hand, hopefully for Part I, I've convinced you that eating muffins can be nutritious, provided you have the right ingredients.
So, onto Part II - Sweetness
As mentioned above, simple carbohydrates contain some fibre, and will add that fat or sweet taste to your muffins. This is also the time to take advantage and add that much needed moisture.
You can look at any old recipe, and depending on your preference do away with ingredients such as: dairy (butter, margarine, buttermilk, milk), eggs, cheese and even yogurt.
Baking substitutes (Vegan, Vegetarian or Healthy) are:
- Buttermilk - 1 tablespoon lemon juice or apple cider vinegar, with 1 cup unsweetened nut milk
- Cow's Milk - any nut milk will do in the same quantity (soy, almond, hemp, rice, macadamia, go nuts! haha)
- Butter, Cream or Yogurt - apple sauce (or other fruit), pumpkin puree, bananas, nut butters, or coconut milk
- White Sugar - brown rice syrup, agave, maple syrup, honey, barley malt syrup, apple sauce. I tend to use 50% as much in my muffins.
- Eggs - you can buy egg replacer such as Ener-G, arrowroot, flaxseed meal, or, my favourite, one tablespoon chia seeds mixed with one tablespoon water (per egg). Stir until thickened and add to recipe.
Lastly, Part III - Extras
This is the place where you can really add value to muffins. Think of new ways to spruce them up with flavour and texture. Some ideas are:
- Lemon or Orange Zest
- Carob (try it - adds a deep nuttiness), raw cocoa powder or cocoa nibs
- Shaved or pureed vegetables - beetroot, courgette (zucchini), carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkins/squash
- Superfoods - maca, spirulina, flaxseeds
- Seeds and Nuts
Oh wow, I'm getting hungry just thinking about them. So stay tuned for many delicious combinations. Starting today, a healthy taste on a classic!
Blueberry Oatmeal Muffins
- 1 2/3 cups rolled oats
- 2/3 cup rye flour (buckwheat works too)
- 1/2 cup ounces whole-wheat flour
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup brown rice syrup (or agave, or alike)
- 3/4 cup yogurt
- 1/4 cup canola oil
- Rind of one grated lemon
- 2 tablespoons chia seeds (mixed with 2 tablespoons water to form a paste)
- 2 cups frozen blueberries
- Preheat oven to 200°C (400°F).
- Line muffin tins, or grease them so the batter won't stick.
- Put the oats in a blender or food processor and pulse into a rough flour. Don't blend it too fine.
- Put them in a large bowl, and sift in the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt).
- In a separate bowl, mix together the wet ingredients, including the lemon zest and chia seeds.
- Make a well in the dry bowl, and add in the wet ingredients. Mix in the berries.
- Spoon into the muffin tins, 2/3 full.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes, until slightly browned.