Sunday, January 20, 2013

No Holds Barred

There's room in my life for sugars of all kinds. I have a very real sweet tooth, and a low amount of self discipline. Just the mention of a dessert tray puts a twinkle in my eye. I have planned entire days off around the almond croissants at Patisserie 46. And if there are treats at work, I generally go a-runnin'. Life is short; don't get in my way.

I have just one exception to my no-holds-barred rule about sweets - muffins. I generally will not waste my time. I have met few muffins that aren't too greasy, too sweet, or too many calories - and just not tasty enough - to justify the indulgence. Just give me a cupcake, please.

I do, however, love having quick, homemade things I can grab for breakfast, so I like the idea of a healthy muffin. I do what I can to avoid processed foods in general - and at breakfast time, this can really be a challenge, unless I stick to fruit (which is not enough) or have my act together enough to cook some eggs (never happens). When I found this recipe for what appeared to be very healthy butternut squash muffins, with no added fats and just a tad of honey as a sweetener, I was intrigued.

I could really use a food photography lesson.

The first time I made the muffins, I thought they were great - they are moist but not greasy, and the sweetness of the squash shines through. I also love that they are made with almond flour, which adds a bit of protein. I used the base of this recipe to also create a banana chocolate chip version (I know, chocolate! now we're talking), assuming smashed banana could work in place of the squash puree. I was right - it worked like a charm. I included the recipe for the banana version here as well.

I brought these to work with a little trepidation - not sure if my coworkers would be open to a less traditional texture for a muffin. Somehow, they were a hit! Or, my coworkers are very nice. You can be the judge.

Butternut Squash Muffins
Adapted from Roost

Note: You'll want to puree your butternut squash until it's very smooth for this recipe; I used my food processor. I was working with squash that I had previously roasted and frozen (when making this recipe), and thawed it to make these muffins. The squash seemed a tad dry, so I added a splash of water to help it along in the food processor.

Also, I would like to say that this recipe makes an even dozen muffins, but after making these three different times, I have consistently come out with 11 muffins - so I'm going to go ahead and say this yields 11.

2 cups almond flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 eggs
1/4 cup honey
1 cup roasted butternut squash, pureed
Handful of walnuts, toasted (instructions below)

To toast the walnuts: 
Put your walnuts into a dry skillet (no oil needed) over medium heat. Heat, pushing them around occasionally, until they become fragrant - this only takes a few minutes. Keep a close eye on them. Remove from heat and pour into a bowl until ready to use. Don't leave them in the hot skillet or they might burn.

For the muffins:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin pan with paper liners.

In a medium bowl, stir together all ingredients (except walnuts). Be sure to stir and scrape well - the honey has way of hanging on to clumps of flour at the bottom of the bowl.

Divide the batter evenly among the 11 muffin liners - the batter will fill the liner about 3/4 of the way up. Top each muffin with a few toasted walnuts.

Bake for 18-20 minutes, until the a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins
Replace the 1 cup of butternut squash puree with 1 cup mashed very ripe banana (approx 3 large or 4 smaller bananas). Stir in 1/3 cup of dark chocolate chips to the batter. I also added 1/2 tsp of allspice, which was nice, but optional.

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