Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Low-Fat, Low-Sugar Carrot Muffins

When you don't have time to make breakfast or just need an afternoon pick-me-up, muffins are a tempting grab-'n'-go. The problem with muffins, as most people know, is that they can pack upwards of 500 calories, 30 grams of fat, and unconceivable amounts of refined sugars.

If you love muffins or need an occasional healthier sweet option, these muffins might just solve your problems. They are made with minimal sugar and fat and grated carrots add wonderful texture and moisture. As with most muffin recipes, you can substitute your favorite sweetener for the brown sugar. You can also substitute up to 1/2 cup of whole wheat flour for the white flour and still maintin a light consistency.

Carrot Muffins
2 cups all-purpose flour (you can substitute up to 1/2 cup whole wheat flour)
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 egg
1 1/4 cup almond milk soured with a 1 tbsp. of white vinegar.
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup canola oil
1 1/2 cup grated carrot
1/2 cup raisins, optional
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, optional
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly oil 2 six-cup muffin tins or line with muffin papers.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon. Set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, beat the egg. Mix in the sour almond milk, brown sugar, and oil.
  4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, stirring until the mixture is uniform. Fold in the carrots and the raisins and nuts (if using).
  5. Divide batter among the twelve muffin cups and bake for approximately 20 minutes, or until a wooden toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Muffins will be golden brown. Cool on wire racks. Enjoy!

Monday, February 28, 2011

Homemade granola bars

I've been trying for months to come up with a successful homemade granola bar recipe. Granola bars seem to make great snacks, because they're packed with energy, tote along easily in a purse or bag, and are oh-so-tasty.

I seem to run into one of two issues when making homemade granola bars:
  1. Granola bars are too mushy and don't hold their shape after being cut, turning into pseudo-cookie crumbs
  2. Granola bars are too crispy and crumble when cut, turning into plain old granola (not the worst problem to have)
Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your health and taste preferences, the solution to my problem was to add more peanut butter and honey to the recipe. The end result was a granola bar that held its shape when cut, but had an overall higher fat and sugar content. Although this makes them a little less nutritious, using all natural peanut butter, raw honey, and agave nectar might justify making these for yourself. The recipe is below. You can substitute different sweeteners, such as maple syrup or brown sugar, and different granola-type ingredients, such as other seeds, nuts, and dried fruit.

Oats and Honey Granola Bars
2 1/2 cups rolled oats (not quick cooking or instant)
2 1/2 cups puffed brown rice cereal
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup peanuts (honey roasted peanuts are great for this recipe)
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup natural peanut butter
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup agave nectar
2 Tbsp. water (or more, if needed)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly oil a 9"x13" baking pan and set aside. 
  2. In a large bowl, combine oats, cereal, sunflower seeds, peanuts, and raisins.
  3. In a small saucepan, heat the peanut butter, honey, agave nectar, and water over medium-low heat, stirring frequently until the ingredients melt together. Add more water if the mixture looks too thick.
  4. Pour liquid mixture into the oat mixture and stir well. Spread into the baking pan and bake for about 20 minutes. 
  5. Allow granola bars to cool completely before cutting. Store in an airtight container. Enjoy!