Fruity, Wholemeal, Rather Healthy Muffins

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Do you ever just crave something a bit “sweet” to go with your morning coffee or afternoon tea?

Because I do, quite often actually. Especially when I’m at work and the coffee van (yes we have a special van that delivers coffee straight to our door, be jealous) comes around. When I’m waiting out there for my usual skinny latte, I can help but ogle the delicious croissants and slices of banana bread on display. Seriously, banana bread and coffee = the best combination.

Or when I’m at my computer working on projects at home, and it’s that time of the afternoon when I want my coffee hit… and whilst waiting for the water to boil, that tin of biscuits in the cupboard or that packet of blueberry scones that someone decided to pick up whilst at the shops looks ever so tempting.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with a treat once in a while. I do like my coffee and cake on a special occasion. But if you make it a frequent thing, the calories (and the sugar!) adds up. Plus, a sweet treat with my morning or afternoon cuppa generally leaves my energy levels all over the place. Not good, when I need to focus on my work.

The other day, I happened upon some healthy recipe magazines from a few years back, that were gathering dust on my bookshelf. It had been forever since I’d read them, so I thought I’d pick one up and have a flip through, with the hope that I might possibly stumble across a magical recipe that will make me be skinny for ever and ever no matter how much of it I eat, or perhaps just something that’s healthy and simple to make.

I did end up finding the latter. I found a recipe for healthy muffins, and when I saw that it didn’t contain cane sugar it was instantly added to my to-bake list and then successfully crossed off later that afternoon. These muffins are sweetened only by fruit. Though the recipe called for two apples, I decided to substitute one of them for some frozen raspberries; I also threw in some pistachios and chopped dates. I used olive oil, as well, because that’s all I had but you can probably use whatever oil tickles your fancy.

These make an excellent accompaniment to morning or afternoon tea. They’re filling, sweet-but-not-too-sweet, and contain a good dose of delicious fruit. I think the fact that the apples are cooked beforehand makes them nice and soft and brings out their flavor. The muffins are quite moist (don’t you just love the word “moist”?) and should last for a good few days, particularly if refrigerated. Enjoy!

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Fruity Wholemeal Muffins
(adapted from Healthy Food Guide magazine)

2/3 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 apple, peeled and diced
1/3 cup frozen raspberries (or any fruit of your choosing)
1 medium banana, mashed
¼ cup chopped dates
1 egg, lightly beaten
¼ cup olive oil
1 ½ cups wholemeal flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
a pinch of salt
¼ cup pistachios (or other nut of your choosing)

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Line a 12-hole muffin tin with paper cases.

Combine orange juice, apple, raspberries and banana in a saucepan and heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until apples are softened. Set aside to cool.

Sift the flour (return the husks to the bowl), cinnamon, salt and baking powder into a large bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the egg and oil. Add the egg mixture and the fruit mixture, along with the nuts, to the flour mixture and mix until just combined.

Spoon the batter into the prepared paper cases and bake for about 20 minutes, until a skewer inserted through the centre of one of the muffins comes out clean. Remove from tin and cool on a wire rack.

Depending on how large you make each muffin, you make have enough batter left over to make another half a batch. I managed to make about 17 small-ish muffins, but you can make larger ones and less of them if you wish.

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Almost-Vegan, Almost-Healthy Peanut Butter Banana Brownie Cups

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I believe I have most definitely jumped on the “healthy baking” bandwagon.

When I baked these, it had actually been a while since I’d baked a batch of rich, gooey chocolate brownies or a big loaf of sweet, buttery banana bread. (Just FYI, I’ve been very lazy in terms of blogging and I baked these many, many weeks ago)

Not that I’ve totally gone off those things – not at all! I just really enjoy the challenge of taking a bunch of fairly “healthy” ingredients and whipping them up into something that tastes like, well, an “actual dessert”.

So where did this healthy-baking kick begin?

It was a sunny Sunday afternoon, in the final days of Autumn, and there was a slight chill in the air – a precursor to the delightfully freezing winter days to come. I was at my computer, doing something really important like looking for cute dresses on Modcloth, when suddenly, a realization hit me. “I need to bake.”

Only, there was one little dilemma – no eggs! Sure I could have gone shopping and bought some, but who could honestly be bothered? The lazy-girl way seemed much more appealing – bake something with no eggs. In fact, I thought; while I was at it, why not bake something with no butter as well? And use Spelt flour instead of regular flour? Why not make something a bit healthy, something I wouldn’t have to feel guilty about eating ten of… not that I did… heh heh heh… *shifty eyes*

I scoured the Internet for a recipe, and eventually came across this one. I pretty much had all the ingredients for it, and actually had some dark chocolate and some bananas that I needed to use up. Perfect!

I adapted the recipe a little, though. For example, instead of white flour, I used Spelt flour; and I used almond milk instead of soy milk because that’s all I had… and I also added a bit more. Finally, instead of cooking them in a brownie pan, I made them in cupcake cases so I wouldn’t have to grease the pan and slice them after. Told you I was lazy. Though actually, cupcake cases are a bit more convenient as well… it’s like each brownie comes with its own personal crumb-catcher!

These little guys taste sensational. Seriously, you wouldn’t think they were meant to be healthy. That combination of peanut butter, dark chocolate and banana… heck yes! I seriously could not get enough. They were still good a few days after they’ve been baked as well. So moist. The only thing I would change would be perhaps finding something else to replace the cup of sugar in the recipe… like something that’s not sugar, for instance (Hence why they are “Almost Healthy”). And maybe throwing in some mix-ins like choc-chips or dates, ‘cause that’s always an absolute blast.

Also, I call them “Almost Vegan” because of the chocolate I used… if you have some sort of vegan cooking chocolate though, you can use that.

Here’s the recipe. Now get your hot little self into the kitchen, bake up a batch of these bad boys, and enjoy!

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Banana Peanut Butter Brownie Cups

1 cup Spelt flour
½ cup baking soda
½ cup baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 cup granulated white sugar
1 mashed, ripe banana
½ cup peanut butter
30g dark cooking chocolate, melted
1/3 cup almond milk

 Preheat oven to 190 degrees Celsius, and fill a 12-hole muffin tin with paper cases.

Sift flour, baking soda and powder, and salt in a large mixing bowl. In another bowl, combine banana, sugar, peanut butter and melted chocolate. Gradually add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, adding the almond milk as you do so.

Bake for 20 minutes, until golden brown.

Date, Cocoa & Chia Balls

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Since I’m going to be talking about one of my “healthy” recipes in this post, I was going to begin this post with a statement like, “I’m a bit of a health-freak” or something along those lines.

But that would be a lie, at least most of the time.

I ain’t no gym junkie. I do go to the gym, but I mostly spend the time huffing and puffing away on whatever machines I feel like that day whilst daydreaming about all the nice clothes I can wear if I keep up my exercise routine ‘til bikini season rolls around, and at the end I’m like, “Yes! I burned 400 calories! That’s like, a whole slice of cake! Go me!” Then I go home and eat a whole slice of cake. No, I’m joking, that’s just gross.

I do like to eat healthily though – I may not live solely on kale smoothies and quinoa, but I like making healthy choices when it comes to what I shove in my cake-hole (or quinoa-hole… that sounds kinda weird, though, I don’t think I’ll use that saying anymore)

But cooking and baking is my weakness. I like to make sweets to share with my friends and family – cake, cookies, that kind of thing – but often what I bake ends up on my own plate too, negating the whole “being a health-freak” thing. Yet I love to bake, and I love to bake often. Dilemma.

Well, it’s not necessarily the biggest dilemma ever… because lately I’ve developed a fondness for cooking/baking/assembling guilt-free indulgences.

I decided to experiment a little in the kitchen the other day, and came up with a recipe for these delicious little balls of fun! Date, Cocoa and Chia Balls. No butter, no sugar, but lots of deliciousness!

The recipe is still kind of in the beta stage. Basically, I chopped up a bunch of dates and chucked them in the blender with the other ingredients, but I found that nothing was happening to the dates except for being shaken madly about in the blender… so I added more water to help them blend. It worked, but it made the mixture quite soft. They were fine once I rolled them into balls, coated them in Chia Seeds and put them in the fridge overnight, though I would have liked them a bit more chewy. I honestly didn’t regulate the amount of extra water I poured in there, but I guesstimated 1/3 cup when I wrote down the recipe… maybe a bit less would be better?

Why not try the recipe out yourself and have a bit of a play with the proportions? It’s a no-bake recipe, so you needn’t worry about the whole “Baking is a science and you need the exact measurements of everything” deal. You could also roll them in something else like desiccated coconut or cocoa powder if you’re not fond of using Chia Seeds.

Also, a word of warning: These taste a bit like brownies. Brownies are addictive. Therefore, you might possibly find these addictive. But they’re healthy, so it’s okay, right? Right?

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Date, Cocoa and Chia Seeds Balls

1 ½ cups dried dates, pitted, chopped
6 tablespoons quick-cooking oats
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 teaspoon instant coffee (I used Moccona Hazelnut infusions, but you can use whatever tickles your fancy) dissolved in about 1/3 cup of hot water (if you’re not a coffee fan, just use the water on its own)
A pinch of salt
Approx. half a cup Chia Seeds

Place all the ingredients except the Chia Seeds in a blender or food processor. Blend to a fairly smooth paste, adding extra water if necessary.

Roll heaped teaspoons of the mixture into balls (it might be a bit sticky… I recommend rinsing your hands before doing this, it makes it easier to handle) and roll in the Chia Seeds to coat. Place the completed balls onto a lined baking tray, and refrigerate for 3 hours or overnight.

Choc Chip Nutella Cookies

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Nutella. Who doesn’t love Nutella? It’s chocolatey, smooth and sweet. Use it for dipping strawberries, spreading on toast… or baking cookies!

I made these a while back, when I had a massive jar of Nutella sitting in my cupboard that wanted to be used up. I generally use Nutella only for baking (and occasionally to take on picnics to dip fruit in… try it! Great picnic dessert) as it’s not really an “everyday” food for me. It’s a little too sweet to spread on toast for breakfast, in my opinion. But it does make some absolutely delectable brownies, cakes and cookies.

When I made these Nutella cookies, it was a fairly cold Sunday afternoon and I was at home working on assignments, but I had a little spare time and I decided I wanted to bake – I didn’t want to spend the entire afternoon doing so, though! Just a quick baking-break to fill the house with the delicious smell of fresh cookies was all I needed. So I decided to whip up some super easy Nutella cookies that use only a few ingredients.

The cookies are absolutely amazing, sweet but not too sweet since no extra sugar is added, only that which is already in the Nutella. Obviously they taste best when enjoyed fresh from the oven, while still warm and soft, but I found that even after being kept in the fridge for a couple of days they were just as good. If you’re a fan of Nutella (of course you are! I shouldn’t have to say “if”)  then get yourself to the kitchen, pull out that giant jar of Nutella you’ve been hiding (don’t lie, I know you have one, stashed away in a secret spot just for you, so you can indulge in a spoonful or two whenever you feel lonely) and get baking!

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Nutella Choc-Chip Cookies

1 cup Nutella
½ cup plain flour
1 egg
1/3 cup milk choc chips
1 tsp vanilla essence
a pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 176 degrees Celsius. Lightly grease a large baking tray.
Place Nutella, egg, and vanilla in a large mixing bowl. Sift in flour and salt, and stir until combined. Stir in the choc chips.
Roll tablespoonfuls of the dough into balls and place on the prepared tray, flattening slightly. Bake for about 10-12 minutes.
When taken out of the oven they should look fairly cooked / slightly cracked; they will still be soft, so let them cool on the tray until set, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely (if you don’t eat them all while still warm, that is!)