Monday, February 25, 2013

Sweet Potato Blueberry Muffins...

     ...with a nutty struesel topping.

The monkey muffin tins aren't going anywhere.  Get used to them...

What?  More muffins?

Yeah, that's right.  Today, we're going to be making plant-based sweet potato blueberry muffins with a nutty maple streusel topping.

Again, these treats are completely vegan, but more importantly, they're made without oils and fatty vegan spreads or shortening.  Instead, they use plant-based ingredients, such as apple sauce, soy milk, and sweet potato puree to provide moisture and binding.

I know...  I know...  The chocolate chip oatmeal muffins from earlier in the month were pretty good.  But it is really possible to make consistently good muffins without using oils or shortening?

Well, I gave my sister this recipe just last week, and she's already made two batches.  I also brought a dozen into work earlier in the month, and they lasted all of ten minutes.  Three of my co-workers immediately asked for the recipe.

So yes, it's possible to prepare delicious baked goodies without using heavy, fatty ingredients.  What's more, once you start eating goodies made with minimally-processed plant-based ingredients on a regular basis, any baked goods made with oils and fatty spreads or shortenings will taste heavy, greasy...  and in some cases downright nasty.

Mookie likes to air out his pits by the fire...

The other day in our break room, there was a box of assorted muffins, donuts, and cake-things that somebody had brought in from the local coffee joint.  After leerily eyeing the collection in search of a morsel that would do minimal damage, I cut off about an eighth of what looked to be a 'healthy, whole grain corn muffin' and wolfed it down.  Almost immediately, I felt a dense ball of sludge crash into the pit of my stomach, where it peskily resided for the next few hours.

On the other hand, you can eat two or three of these muffins we're about to make in one sitting, and you won't get the asteroid effect.  It's amazing what a difference it makes when you bake with whole grains, fiber, plants, and just a bit of maple syrup and brown sugar.

But enough of my babbling.  On to the muffins...

Your ingredients are as follows:

Don't Sneeze...  Or You'll Blow The Following All Over The Counter

1.50 cups whole-wheat pastry flour - I like Bob's Red Mill
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt (I use kosher salt)
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Gooey, Wet, Mushy, Etc...

1 cup canned sweet potato puree (or pumpkin puree - I prefer sweet potato)
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup soy milk (or another plant based milk)
3/4 cup fresh or frozen wild blueberries

And Don't Forget...

2 Tbs maple syrup
2 Tbs brown sugar
1/3 cup chopped walnuts

Let's get started.  Go ahead and preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, dump 1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar.  Use a fork to mash out and break up any sugar lumps.

Add 1.50 cups whole-wheat pastry flour 2 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp baking soda, 1/4 tsp salt, 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice, and 1/2 tsp cinnamon.  Whisk together and set aside.

In another bowl, add 1 cup canned sweet potato puree, 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce, 1/4 cup maple syrup, and 1/2 cup soy milk (or another plant based milk).  Whisk together all wet ingredients until well combined.

In a third bowl, add 2 Tbs of brown sugar and 2 Tbs maple syrup.   Whisk together until you've got a nice gooey uniform mixture.   Chop up 1/3 cup walnuts, dump them into the gooey mixture, and mix around.

Putting It All Together...

The struesel will creep all over the tops of the
muffins as they bake in the oven...
Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, and dump in the wet ingredients.  Using a big, rubber spatula, gently fold the dry and wet ingredients together until the mixture is just combined.

Dump 3/4 cup of fresh or frozen blueberries into the batter and gently fold in. Line a 12-muffin pan with paper liners (use the liners with the inner flashy coating and they won't stick) and divide the better between all 12 wells.   It may seem like the muffin wells are over-full.  Don't worry about it.  JUST DO IT!!!

Drop a small mound of nutty streusel mix on top of each well of muffin batter.  Don't worry.  The mound will gently spread out and coat the top of the muffins as they bake.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 20-25 minutes.  I've always found that 25 minutes is just about the perfect time.  The muffins are done when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Remove them from the pan immediately and cool on a rack.

As with the chocolate chip muffins from earlier in the month, these muffins are best after at least 24 hours out of the oven.  In fact, I think 48 hours is the ideal time to wait before chowing down.  So if you're making them for a crowd, make them two days ahead of time.  Hopefully, you'll still have a few left when it's time to serve them.

Who is this...  'Great Leader'...  anyways?

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Walnut Oatmeal Muffins...

Preferably enjoyed with coffee...

I’ve been on quite a muffin kick recently.  Muffins are appealing to me because they’re such a versatile treat.  They can serve as a wholesome, healthy snack on the go.  Or, they can be enjoyed on a leisurely weekend morning with a cup of coffee, some jazz, and a good magazine.

Of course, traditional muffins aren’t healthy at all…  made with ingredients such as eggs, butter, milk, and even oil, which contain liberal amounts of cholesterol and artery-clogging fats.  Even the alleged 'Heart-Healthy' oatmeal muffins available at your local bakery are usually a coronary disaster in the making.

However, by removing all of the animal products and added oils and replacing them with plant-based ingredients, you can make muffins that are healthy, as well as delicious.

As proof, I offer up my plant-based Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Walnut Oatmeal Muffins.  Are they breakfast?  Are they dessert?  Or are they just a side dish?  I don't know, but they’re absolutely delicious!

I developed the basic structure of these muffins after perusing and preparing several of Lindsay Nixon’s muffin recipes over at her Happy Herbivore blog, so I need to give her some credit as well.  Lindsay’s recipes are so functional that you can basically mix, match, and create your own muffin variations with very little effort.  As for my own version, it did take some trial and error on my part until I finally got the right proportions, especially after I added the peanut butter into the mix.

Of course, these muffins are vegan, so they're already healthier than traditional muffins.  What's more, they don’t contain any added vegetable oils or white flour.  Instead, they use apple sauce and peanut butter as binding agents.  For the flour, you actually use a food processor or blender along with old fashioned rolled oats to grind your own oat flour.  If you’re avoiding gluten for allergy or Celiac issues, you can easily make them gluten-free by using Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Rolled Oats.

The basic ingredients are as follows:

Dry Things:

     1 1/2 cups oat flour
     2 tsp baking powder
     1 tsp baking soda
     1/2 tsp cinnamon
     1/4 cup brown sugar
     1/4 tsp salt (I use kosher salt)

Sloppy Stuff:

     1 cup unsweetened applesauce
     1/2 cup soy milk or other plant-based milk (I use WestSoy's sugar-free vanilla)
     1/4 cup maple syrup
     1/4 cup peanut butter

Delicious ‘n Dangerous Additions:

     1/2 cup vegan chocolate chips
     1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Let’s get started.  First, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, dump 1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar.  Use a fork to mash out and break up any sugar lumps.

In a Queezinart (or a blender), dump 1 1/2 cups of old fashioned oats...  (NOT the instant kind).  Grind, punish, and beat the hell out of them until they can't take it anymore.  What you'll end up with is a course, gritty flour.  That's OK.  This will add wondrous density and sustenance to the texture of the finished muffin.  If you have a mini Queezinart like I do, I'd suggest grinding the oats in 2 batches.  (see below)

The texture won't be as fine as regular flour...  and that's exactly what you want.

Dump the ground up oats into the large mixing bowl with the brown sugar, along with the 2 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp baking soda, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, and 1/4 tsp salt.  Whisk it all together and set aside.

It's Double-Boiler Time!!!

Mmmmmm...  creamy!
Add an inch or so of water to a medium sauce pan, and turn it on medium/high.  Add 1/4 cup creamy peanut butter to a medium-sized, heat-resistant Pyrex bowl.  Once the water is hot and steaming, stack the bowl on top of the saucepan and stir the peanut butter around as it melts.  (see right)

Once the peanut butter has fully melted and vomited all over, take the Pyrex off the pot and set it on a hot pad on the counter.  Don't forget to turn off the stove.  You don't wanna burn your house down,  fool.

Into the bowl of peanut butter, add the 1 cup unsweetened applesauce, 1/2 cup soy milk, and 1/4 cup maple syrup.  Whisk together until a mixture of a diarrhea-type consistency has formed.


Looks like a lactose-intolerant turtle
took a poo...
Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, and dump in the wet ingredients.  Using a big, rubber spatula, gently fold the dry and wet ingredients together until the mixture is just combined.

Add 1/2 cup of chocolate chips and 1/2 cup chopped walnuts to the batter.  Again, fold them in until just combined.  DO NOT OVER-MIX!!!

At this point, you'll notice that the batter is pretty soupy.  No worries...  your precious muffins will cook up beautifully.

Line a 12-muffin pan with paper liners  (use the liners with the inner flashy coating and they won't stick) and divide the better between all 12 wells.  It may seem like the muffin wells are over-full.  Again, no worries…  your precious muffins will be just fine.

Bake at 350 degrees for at least 20 minutes.  Whenever I make them, it usually takes around 22 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  After letting them rest for a minute or two, remove the muffins from the pan and arrange them on a wire rack to cool off.

While it's tempting to enjoy warm muffins right out of the oven, I'd wait at least a few hours before eating one.  In fact, they're most flavorful after 12-18 hours.  When you first take them out of the oven, they might feel as if they're too soft and ready to crumble or fall apart.  No worries...  they'll firm up quite a bit after they cool off.

Just a word of warning...  Don't expect a dozen of these to last more than two, maybe three days, at most.  They're that good.  And the best part is that they're actually healthy.  Next time a friend, relative, or some other house guest asks you for a chocolate chip cookie, give them one of these beauties instead.  They'll scarf it down and never look back.

Believe it or not, these are actually very good for you...