It is so hard when you go into a Starbuck’s or the coffee bar in the bookstore, and you just want a little something, to find anything that’s reasonably healthy. All those gigantic portions of cake, cookies as big as your head, oozing cinnamon buns, danishes and croissants look good, but they’re usually so huge that they put me off. I often settle for a measly biscotti just to have something sweet that won’t put me into a sugar coma or require me to walk 50 miles to get it off my hips.
Muffins are among the worst offenders at these places. Why? Because muffins often are disguised as something healthy. They contain fruit or nuts or oat bran or carrots. They pass themselves off as a reasonable choice. But usually they are larger than your fist and taste like dense cake, loaded with butter, eggs, milk and sugar. They’re worse than cake, actually, because you probably wouldn’t eat such a large portion of cake, and at least with cake you’re getting frosting or chocolate or something good like that. A blueberry muffin at Starbuck’s has 470 calories!
When I want muffins, I make them myself. I actually prefer a muffin that is less sweet, less dense and much smaller than those you can buy at the coffee shops. I know my muffins have a lot fewer calories because I have reduced the sugar, butter and dairy content. And I can add whatever I want. The basic muffin recipe below takes well to all sorts of add-ins (suggestions follow the recipe). Finally, these muffins freeze very well. Take one out of the freezer, defrost in the microwave, and breakfast is ready.
I made the muffins pictured above to get rid of some overripe bananas. I also had sunflower seeds lying around, so I threw them in, and it was a wonderful (and healthy) combination. I had enough in the freezer to contribute to our Mother’s Day brunch yesterday, along with my husband’s bacon and my brother’s asparagus-Gruyere fritatta (delish!), so having a batch already made in the freezer turned out to be a great time saver.
Before I go, happy belated Mother’s Day to all you moms out there. As a new mom myself who has been caring for my 2-month-old through his first cold this past weekend (he’s been a trooper!), I have to say that I have new respect for all mothers everywhere. I hope you enjoyed your day. I asked for a little time for myself, and it was the best gift I could have gotten (thanks, honey!).
Here is the recipe I’ve developed as the basis for pretty much any kind of muffin.
Yields: 12 muffins
- 2 cups all-purpose flour (or use half whole wheat flour or cornmeal)
- ¼ cup sugar
- ½ tsp. salt
- 1 tbsp. baking powder
- 1 egg
- 1¼ cups plain yogurt (or substitute sour cream, but try it with yogurt — it’s really good!)
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- 3 tbsp. butter, melted
- 12-cup muffin tin greased with nonstick cooking spray
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Mix the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder in one bowl. Beat together the egg, yogurt or sour cream, vanilla and butter in another bowl. Combine the wet ingredients with the dry until just moistened. Fill each cup in the muffin tin 2/3 full with batter. (Tip: Use a greased ice cream scoop to scoop out the batter.) Bake for 20-30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Let muffins cool, then freeze in a plastic bag. This recipe is intended as a blank canvas to make any kind of muffin you like. Here are some suggestions to add in any combination after mixing the basic batter:
- 1 mashed banana, the riper the better; reduce the yogurt by ¾ cup to compensate
- 1 cup any berries, fresh or frozen
- ½ cup dried fruit
- ½ cup chopped nuts
- ½ cup chocolate chips
- 1 tsp. or more sweet spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, baking spices) or lemon or orange zest added to the dry ingredients