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...

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