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.

Spiced Wholemeal Zucchini Loaf

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We have a zucchini overpopulation issue in our household at the moment.

Things like this tend to happen when you grow your own vegetables. It’s summer and zucchinis are in season. We have an plentitude of huge (and I mean HUGE) zucchinis just waiting to be cooked. Not that I’m complaining about it – we’re lucky to have such an abundance of fresh vegetables growing in our own backyard. The challenge is finding ways to use them up and not letting them go to waste!

It’s easy to get sick of something when you eat it nearly every day, but luckily zucchini is very versatile. Drizzled with olive oil and roasted in the oven, chopped up and mixed through pasta, and yes, even baked into cakes!

This was my first time using zucchini for baking. I decided to use wholemeal flour to give the loaf a bit more of a wholesome texture and make it a tad healthier, and added some ginger to give it a sweet, spicy kick. The loaf was deliciously moist thanks to the zucchini and the vegetable oil. Next time I might try it with half plain and half wholemeal flour for a slightly lighter, fluffier texture.

In conclusion, I’m glad I tried this recipe – I found a new way to make use of our excess zucchini! Also, the more I type or read the word zucchini, the weirder it looks. I mean, how many foods begin with the letter Z?

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Spiced Wholemeal Zucchini Loaf
(adapted slightly from Good Taste magazine, Feb 2012 issue)

2 cups wholemeal self-raising flour, sifted (discard the husks)
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup zucchini, grated
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
3 eggs, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Grease and line a loaf pan.

Combine the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon and ginger in a large mixing bowl. Add the grated zucchini, oil, vanilla essence and eggs, and mix until just combined. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan, and bake for 50 minutes or until well-risen and a skewer inserted into the loaf comes out clean. Leave to cool in the pan for a few minutes before slicing.

Serve while still warm from the oven! Of course, it’s also great when cooled down, or even toasted and spread with a little butter, or ricotta and honey.