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Saturday, March 8, 2008

Apple Cinnamon Muffins

Need a quick breakfast or snack? Instead of reaching for a granola bar, keep these on hand. Refer to the Epiphany article to see why you don't want to eat granola bars. I feel like I'm always the bearer of bad news, but I have to tell you that muffin mixes in the boxes or pouches have trans fats in them and/or they call for unhealthy vegetable oils. Making muffins from scratch is just as easy; it may only take 5 extra minutes. On a side note, please know that I don't tell everyone to make things from scratch to be like a Martha Stewart. I wasn't raised to eat packaged, processed food, but I easily slipped into eating them all the time once I was on my own because I was not educated about why we ate whole foods at home. Now that I have educated myself I am on a mission to educate others and show how making things from scratch is easy, but also much better for you.

I make one batch of these each weekend for my husband to take for breakfast in the car on the way to work. He thinks they taste like Twinkies, I suppose that's a compliment?! I can handle them with less sugar. If you want, you can try 3 tablespoons of each sugar. Muffin recipes (quick-breads) are really easy to tweak.Preheat oven to 400°F. Butter a muffin pan. You can make 12 small muffins, 8 med-large muffins, or 6 extra large muffins that really hang over the top (I make 8). Note: I use a stoneware muffin pan, so cook time may vary slightly.

Mix together in a large bowl:
2 Cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup white sugar
¼ cup dark brown sugar
1 Tablespoon baking powder (I prefer Rumford, it's aluminum-free)
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon

Melt 4 tablespoons butter, let cool and set aside.

In a smaller bowl beat 1 egg and add:
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
¼ cup milk (preferable whole)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or almond is good, too)

Then slowly drizzle in the melted butter as you are whisking the liquid ingredients.

Then pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir just until combined. Spoon into the muffin pan and bake for 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

If you want to make these healthier you can replace half the flour with whole-wheat pastry flour (soft wheat), anything more and they will be dense, but feel free to experiment. If you want a more natural sweetener, I suggest Sucanat or Rapadura (one and the same). Sucanat/Rapadura is REAL sugar; click the link to see how this sugar differs from the refined product we're used to. It is unrefined, truly a whole food product. I like to use it in muffins and especially oatmeal, mmm! It is a stronger flavor, since the molasses isn't separated out, but it also retains its vitamins and minerals, unlike refined sugar. Take your babysteps, make these muffins, then try them with less sugar, then try them with a little whole-wheat flour and then try a natural sweetener. Don't try to jump too far ahead, too quickly.

Part of the advantage these muffins have over granola bars is their fat content. (I even eat these with more butter spread on them.) If you haven't read my article on fat, you simply must, it is a foundational point. Fat will give you energy for longer and will help slow the absorption of sugar and carbs into your bloodstream, thus keeping your insulin at a steady level. When your insulin spikes up, it comes back down rapidly, causing a crash and making you feel hungry, irritable, tired, lightheaded, headachy, and sometimes nauseous. (We especially don't want our children to experience this, can you say cranky? Yet, children eat these foods all the time, perhaps they would behave better on healthier foods?) So you typically reach for another carb item to snack on and go through the whole roller coaster again. This blood sugar roller coaster is one I knew all too well and now take precaution to avoid (now that I know how). My secret weapon is fat. Fat does not make you fat and if you are eating healthy fat, like butter, it will not harm your heart or arteries, either. A few years ago I heard a nutritionist, at a meeting, say that we should NEVER eat sugar without fat. I took that message to heart and it has cured me of the blood sugar roller coaster. (Keep in mind, too, that by sugar I mean ALL carbs, because they are made up of different sugars or are broken down into sugars during digestion.) If I have a carb, even fruit, I HAVE to eat fat with it. If I eat an apple, I eat it with peanut butter or cheese, or else I will be starving in an hour (often with lightheadedness and nausea). If I eat a dessert, I choose richer desserts, like cheesecake, etc. I have found, too often, that if I eat a dessert with little or no fat it will make me feel terrible. I have also discovered that I can eat really small meals if I want (usually lunch) as long as I include a healthy portion of fat. This way I can keep on top of my weight and that's always an added plus!


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