Friday, January 21, 2011

Chocolate Oat Muffins

Cheap Eat Challenge: Watch or join us as our family of 6 eats, or tries to, on $6/day.

After looking at my list of dinners on our menu, one of my friends commented that we have our days backwards--we start them with dessert (hello, breakfast cookies) and we often end them with eggs or pancakes and some type of friend potato. Um, I couldn't really argue with that. Eggs and I don't go well in the mornings. In fact, one of these days my kids are going to grow up and meet someone who eats eggs and perhaps bacon for breakfast and wonder what planet they came from. You know, the planet of normal people with normal eating patterns. That's definitely not the planet our family lives on.

So, when I found this recipe for chocolate muffins (a dessert-seeming breakfast if ever there was one) a few years ago in Shape magazine, I was willing to give it a go. Even if it did have a little more sugar than I like in my breakfast foods. And even if it did call for 1 C of applesauce and only 1 teaspoon of oil. Which did give me pause. Because I usually don't go for applesauce replacing the oil thing. In my opinion it usually makes food taste so, well, healthy. Or more precisely--it makes them taste like something that has been altered to be made healthy. Or what magazines like Shape consider healthy. "Oh well," I thought, "I can fix that."

After all, it had plenty of good things going for it. It was whole grain, using all oat flour. (And I do love whole grains--they are not made to taste healthy--they just are healthy and they taste good on their own--at least unless you were raised constantly being told to eat them because they're healthy. I was not, and can therefore enjoy them for the nutty complex flavored carbohydrates that they are). It also had no eggs, which meant I and my children could lick as much batter as we wished from the bowl without worrying. I mean, which meant I could give the muffins to people with egg allergies. And it was chocolate.

So I figured I'd just have to fix it. The thing is I didn't even try the original recipe. Instead I started altering it immediately. I used 1/2 C oil and 1/2 C applesauce. That was okay, but not great. At the time, I had a baby, and thus several purees hanging about in our freezer. So I tried it with sweet potato puree, pumpkin puree, banana, blueberry, carrot, and perhaps a couple others. They were not great, except for the banana, which was good, but made it most definitely into a variety of banana muffin. And then, as I was about to throw up my hands in health-rebel despair, I figured that as the scientist that I was (um, not really, but go with me, I do love to experiment with food), I ought to at least try the original recipe. So I did. And it was awesome. I liked it. The kids liked it. Kip loved it. And we all lived happily ever after.

So for health food cynics and non-cynics alike. For those with allergies and for those without. Here you go.

Chocolate Oat Muffins
Makes 9 muffins or about 18 mini muffins
Adapted from Shape magazine
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 10-12 minutes for mini muffins, 15-20 minutes for full muffins
Cost: $.80
(applesauce: .40, sugar: .08, extracts: .05, oat flour: .10, cocoa: .16, other stuff: .01)

Note: There is one problem with these. They tend to sink in the middle. I suppose if I knew more about leavening I could fix this. But I don't. So, after several years of making them large and enjoying them just fine even if they were a bit sunken, I took a tip from my littlest sister and I make them into mini-muffins, which took care of the sinking problem by giving them less sinking area. So there you go--food science at its finest.

1 C applesauce
1 tsp oil
1/2 C sugar (I like brown best, but used white today because of cost)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
3/4 C oat flour*
1/3 C cocoa
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4-1/2 C chocolate chips (opt)

Mix wet ingredients together. In separate bowl (or not if you're lazy like me), mix dry ingredients. Add dry to wet. Add chocolate chips if using.

Bake 10-12 minutes at 350 for mini muffins. Bake 15-20 minutes for regular sized muffins.

Variation for banana chocolate muffins:
As I said above, these were good with banana if you like banana bread and that sort of thing.

In place of 1 C applesauce, use 1/2 C applesauce and 1/2 C mashed banana (about 1 banana).

*To make your own oat flour: Dump a bunch of rolled oats in the blender and blend till flour-y.

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