Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Apple Cinnamon Power Muffins

Vermonters, have you heard that our First Lady, Michelle Obama, will be visiting the state on June 30th?  Politics aside, I agree that the U.S. has a growing problem with our waistlines (no pun intended) coinciding with shrinking nutritional value in many readily available foods.  With the White House focused more than ever on the availability of fresh, nutrient-rich foods, hopefully we can make a significant impact on this issue.

The USDA's new MyPlate guidelines.  Image: The U.S. Department of Agriculture
I've also been following the discussions around the USDA's new My Plate guideline, which recently replaced the MyPyramid tool.  The chatter:  Some Americans are up in arms that dairy is, in their words, "continuing to get special treatment" since it's been proven that dairy in a traditional sense (cow, goat, sheep milk, etc.) are not required in order to survive - as vegans can rightly show.  Others have brought attention to the fact that many vegetables are a great source of protein and therefore the protein slice is redundant. Or that the pie-chart style proportions are likely to be interpreted at a glance as equal, etc., etc., etc.

Here's my verdict:  Without getting nit-picky and breaking food down to its essential components like protein, fat, carbohydrates, and vitamins and minerals - which many of us would disregard for being too complex - I like this.  I think it's clearer than the most recent incarnation of the food pyramid, and hopefully a step in the right direction.  After all, we don't eat off of pyramids, we eat off of plates.

I'll end my non-recipe ramblings there, but all of this chatter about nutrition got me thinking about muffins.  This dense little gem is a cross between a fitness bar and the crumbly muffins I love to make.  Absolutely brimming with apples and sweetened with maple and brown sugar, I almost forgot that they were a healthier choice.

Apple Cinnamon Power Muffins
Makes 12 regular-sized muffins
Click here for printable recipe

3/4 c. packed dark brown sugar
1/4 c. butter
3/4 c. milk

1/4 c. all natural/unsweetened applesauce 
2 T. maple syrup
3/4 t. vanilla extract

1 large egg
1 egg white
1 c. whole wheat flour
1 1/2 c. oat bran
1 1/2 t. baking powder
3/4 t. salt
1 t. ground cinnamon
1 c. peeled and diced tart apples (I used Granny Smith)
1 1/2 t. sugar and 1/4 t. cinnamon, mixed together (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Line a 12-muffin pan with liners and set aside.

In a medium sized pot over medium-low heat, melt the butter.  Once melted, stir in the brown sugar and remove from the heat.  Whisk in the milk, the applesauce, the maple syrup, and the vanilla; followed by the egg and egg white.  Switch to a spoon or spatula and stir in flour, oat bran, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon until just combined (it will be lumpy).  Gently fold in apples and spoon equally into muffin cups.  (Tip: An ice cream scoop works will for getting evenly sized muffins.)

Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar mixture if desired, and transfer the muffin tray to the oven.  Bake for 16-18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out just with a few crumbs.

Note:  I stored these in a gallon-sized zip-top bag in my refrigerator, and warmed them up for 10 seconds in my microwave in the morning.

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