Saturday, July 11, 2009

Super Muffins (and a bit of a high chair rant)

The twins are napping and they're going to be ravenous when they wake up. So I thought I'd whip up a batch of super muffins while they're down! These muffins are super! And super good for you. As you'll see, they look good for you and even kind of taste good for you too. But we're finding we don't mind that so much anymore. In fact, we're starting to prefer it. Right before I got pregnant with the twins, I was craving McDonald's and Taco Bell at least once a week. Then I got pregnant with the twins and only wanted cereal and fruit smoothies every 2 hours. But my fast food cravings came back once the twins were born, though something strange and mid-lifey happened. I started to feel my mortal-ness in a big way. I love my kids insanely and I fear leaving them too soon. I started musing far too often about devastating illnesses that could strike. Saturated fat started to sound less and less tasty. Partial hydrogenation started to seem more and more evil. Choosing organic when I can, choosing fresh more often than not--those things seem so much more appealing now. Oh sure. I can hork a chocolate sheet cake with the best of them. And no one can take away my coffee creamer. Holidays? Forget it! I want butter by the pound and sugar baked into every chocolatey confection there are recipes for. But even cakes can be made with fresh, unadulterated ingredients, instead of modified food starch and yellow #5. I'm just talking about doing better most of the time. Not being a fanatic. But not continually making poor choices. Not taking the fun or occasional treats out of life. But stocking the pantry with dried fruit, oatmeal and whole wheat pasta to make game-time meal decisions a no-brainer. Not making my kids crazy. But always having fresh fruit on hand (better yet, growing our own) and offering a veggie platter when it seems the snack monster has possessed my daughter (daily, and with a vengeance at 4 pm). You must know, with such a long and preachy lead in, I'm going to try to persuade you to really love these, and it's going to be a hard sell. Especially near the end, I think I'll lose most of you. Okay, enough stalling. Here's the ingredients. I left out the one that's going to freak you out. Baby steps. Everything looks okay so far, right? (Yes, organic eggs are freakishly expensive!! We're looking into keeping a couple of backyard hens. A suburban home doesn't always lend itself easily to an organic or sustainable lifestyle, but keeping backyard chickens is remarkably easy and cost effective. Plus their poop would do wonders for our compost!). (Thanks to my friend Erin for always inspiring me to know better, to be better and to do better). Here I'm cracking 4 eggs into 1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil.
Then I need 1/2 cup of applesauce. This is a jar of applesauce I put up last summer from the apple tree in our backyard. Have I told you about our cool apple tree? It has 5 branches from 5 different apple varieties grafted onto the trunk, so in a given season, we enjoy granny smiths, fujis, red delicious, yellow delicious or gala apples. Home Depot! Who knew?
Then 1/2 cup of sugar. It seems like a lot. But this recipe makes 36 muffins, so it's tolerable.
This is agave nectar:
I like agave nectar. It's low on the glycemic index because it has a low glucose content. On the downside, it does have a ton of fructose in it, not unlike the dreaded high fructose corn syrup. In fact, I think I read that it's levels of fructose may exceed that of hfcs. You could possibly romanticize this product and think it is directly dripped into this bottle from a freshly-cracked organic agave core held by a Bohemian woman dressed in burlap in the middle of the Mexican desert and sent straight to market by way of a Prius. But it's not. It's processed and hydrolyzed, like other sugars. But I like it. (It's possible that I just like anything from Trader Joe's. I'd find something good to say about a bag of clipped toenails if it was sold at Trader Joe's). It's a nice substitute for granulated and brown sugar because it is so stinkin' sweet that a tablespoon or two will do for a lot of recipes. Here I'm adding 2 tablespoons (1/8 cup) of agave nectar.
A teaspoon of vanilla.
Now I'm whisking it all together.
Wanna see how fast I can whisk?
Even faster!!
Okay. 3 cups of flour. I'm using 100% whole wheat because you really can't tell the difference in this recipe.
2 teaspoons of baking soda.
Somehow, as I was uploading pictures, a happy little girl snuck her way in. Would you look at that hair??? 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon.
Mix it all together. It's lumpy.
Look at these pretty zucchinis!
I cut the ends off and throw them into the compost container to dump later!
Then I shred the zucchinis using a box grater.
Look at how fresh! That's a lot of zucchini. I only need 2 cups, but I'll use all of this anyway.
Then a cup of raisins or any other favorite dried fruit. This is an antioxidant blend sold at Costco that has blueberries, cherries, cranberries and plums.
Okay. Here's the part where most of you are probably angling your mouse pointers up to the little red x. This is a puree of blueberries and collard greens (can also be made with spinach).
It's a puree from The Sneaky Chef cookbook. The Sneaky Chef and Deceptively Delicious cookbooks aim to help one add veggies into regular recipes without changing appearance, texture or taste with the use of veggie purees. I love these books. I rarely use any of the recipes, but mostly ideas and inspirations from them. Like adding this puree to these muffins. Or, for instance, I also add spinach purees to spaghetti sauce and broccoli purees to refried beans for burritos. It's an amazingly easy way to boost the nutrient/antioxidant levels of regular meals. I have no intentions of being "sneaky" or "deceptive" or hiding these purees. Bug cooks most meals with me, so there's no pullin' any fast ones. She still eats fresh whole vegetables at mealtimes. But this is a nice and easy extra boost that helps us fit in that challenging 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day.
A few months ago, I spent a day steaming and pureeing vegetables. I spooned the purees into zip-top freezer storage bags and tossed them into the freezer. I pull one out and thaw it in the fridge whenever I need one.
So if you're still with me, in goes the blueberry/collard green puree (about a cup to a cup and a half). Don't be grossed out.
If you're still grossed out, have a helper mix it up for you. You can stand back and breathe deeply into a paper bag.
Bug's favorite job is lining the cupcake tin. (Yes, good gracious, she is obsessed with winter clothes. I don't know why! I can't break her of it! And I figure in the grand scheme of choose-your-battles toddlerhood, it's an easy battle to surrender.) Usually we use silicone cupcake liners that my mother in law gave me. They are wonderful! In fact, I wish we had used them today so she can see them in action, and if I had thought about it, we would have. But instead, we decided to use paper liners for a change today.
Here I am filling the cups 1/2 to 3/4 full. I like to use my Pampered Chef scoop for stuff like this. It makes me feel important.
Here's a finished tray, waiting to bake.
Bake at 350 degrees for 18-20 minutes.
Okay, look. I know they look gross. They're kind of ugly if you stare too long. But try to think wholesome. Think organic bakery. Think San Francisco co-op. Think homegrown hippie who doesn't shave or shower. EW! No, don't think that! Dah! I just lost you again. Think tons of vitamin-rich vegetables wrapped up in a sweet batter and a cute muffin paper. Think life-extender!
See, they're not that bad. They're cute like how a pug is cute. They're so ugly, they're cute.
Well. The twins are up, and they seem to like 'em. The evidence is crumbled all over the place. (Muffin Drawback: swiffer vacs don't do sticky-crumb pick-up. And while we're on the subject-what in heaven's name would I do without my swiffer vac? Probably curl up into a trembling lump on the floor and whimper myself to sleep, while day by day, heaps of after-meal crumbs bury me.) (Rebuttal to the Muffin Drawback: I have a dog! Or, I could always ask Caleb to come over.)
How much do you love their new high chairs. Thank you Ikea! I think anyone who designed any other high chair that is sold in America should have to stand trial for crimes against homemakers. The blatant, flagrant, overt and incredibly confounding creation of nooks and crannies in high chairs is enough to make me scream, yell and question humanity. Just thinking about it, my head is starting to spin, exorcist-style. Why, oh why, would anyone put so many creases and crevices in a device that will be used to feed a child?! Do they think we'll like the aroma of 3 month old banana rotting in between the tray pieces? Do they think we'll enjoy the sound of crunchy pasta rattling around somewhere inside the seat? Do they think we relish the days we get to take the high chair outside and pressure wash it on the patio and then violently take a toothbrush to it? Someone tell me please!
Then dfK got this high chair from Ikea for her son. My head stopped spinning. My life, in an uncontrolled highchair-hating tailspin, became peaceful and recognizable once again. These high chairs have nary a nook, nor a cranny. God bless you Ikea. Here's that charming little girl again!
And this one. *sigh* What to do with this bald little boy?
So I have this feeling you're still gagging. Or at the very least, eyeing me skeptically and wondering if we should continue being friends. Here's some more evidence that people (kids) will actually eat these. (Excuse the horrible videography. It's hard to feed and film simultaneously.)


InWeighOverMyHead said...

Looks yummy??? lol

Meghan said...

I always have a hundred things to say after reading your posts. I had a huge smile the whole time reading... especially when you mentioned Caleb. LOL!

And fresh muffins? I don't know how on earth you have the time to do such things. During nap time, all I do it sit... or clean. :p

By the way, I 100% agree with you about high chairs. :)

Dandy said...

First, its hard for me not to take up a page in comments.

I usually don't see EVOO in baking but I like it since its much healthier. I do use apple sauce to cut the oil content.

I've had the Agave in my cupboard b/c I love TJs and it seemed like a great idea until I ddidn't know what to do with it.

You label all your containers? Can you come over?

The color of those muffins are kinda freakin' me out. But I'll try them anyway.

Dandy said...

OH and I won't ever use the veggies unless I prep them ahead of time... what do you blend and prep normally?

Mr. M said...

I'll have to check out that sneaky chef cookbook. I sneak veggies into a lot of recipes, but didn't know there was a how to book about it.

teamkyte said...

You are a better woman than I!!!! My duo has a booster seat, the tray pops in the dishwasher. I could not fit 2 highchairs in my dining room. The muffins look fab - YUM!