Sunday, October 18, 2009

Recipe - Pumpkin Chocolate-Chip (Yes They're Healthy!) Bran Muffins

Does the term "bran muffin" conjure up a cardboard-like breakfast your Great-Aunt Ida used to serve - the kind of thing you'd slip to the dog when no one was looking? If it does, you've been the victim of a very common health food blunder: thinking that "healthy" and "high-fiber" are synonymous with "tasteless" and "impossible to digest."

It's true: bran muffins can be challenging to make exciting. I've been baking a lot lately, though, and so with some help from my friend Andrea, I've taken on the challenge of making a bran muffin that you want to eat but which has few artificial ingredients.

Why all the baking? Well, in trying to be a more conscious eater, I've found that the foods with the most strange and unpronounceable ingredients are my beloved carbs. It's hard to find bread products without a paragraph of chemicals after the word "Ingredients." Hence, the baking.

These bran muffins are an adaptation of an adaptation of the muffin recipe found on the Bob's Red Mill Wheat Bran package. Andrea added pumpkin and used Splenda to sweeten the mix, as well as adding some dark chocolate pieces as garnish. I took her recipe and altered it to be a bit spicier as well as including only natural sweeteners.

What are some of the health benefits of these muffins?

This is wheat bran -- it's the outer shell of the wheat. It's usually removed in milling, which strips the wheat of some of its nutrition.

Well, first of all wheat bran and pumpkin both contain fiber - which besides -- ahem -- keeping one "regular", is believed to help prevent certain diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. Using organic agave nectar avoids the harmful chemicals in artificial sweeteners, and it has a lower glycemic index than many other sweeteners (but it is high in fructose). Pumpkin is high in antioxidents. And chocolate of course, particularly darker chocolates, is thought to benefit heart health. These muffins, then are packed with goodness (Click on the links in this paragraph to read more about the foods described).

So, here's how you make your own batch:

Pumpkin Chocolate-Chip Bran Muffins
Some of the ingredients. Did you know molasses is a sweetener that also contains minerals? Also, a spoonful of molasses tastes great mixed in a glass of milk!
Dry Ingredients:
1 c. wheat bran
1-1/2 c. whole wheat flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. clove
Wet Ingredients:
3/4 c. fat-free milk
1/4 c. agave nectar
1-2 tbsp. molasses
1 egg
1 c. pumpkin (you can freeze what's left in the can, then thaw it in the microwave the next time you make these)
1/2 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a muffin tin (or use paper baking cups, which - granted - is not as green, but also avoids fake foods like cooking spray or margarine).
Mix all of the dry ingredients in one bowl. The bran tends to sink to the bottom, so you probably want to use a fork to make sure it's integrated throughout the mixture.

Mix the wet ingredients in a second bowl.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry. Mix until the dry ingredients are thoroughly dampened, but don't overmix.

Pour in the chocolate chips and mix until they are evenly distributed throughout the batter, which will be extremely thick.

Spoon the batter into the muffin tin. It will make twelve muffins.

Bake for 17-18 minutes. DO NOT overbake. Burned bran muffins are yucky. Not that I would know, or anything.

If you happen to care, these are about 3
Weight Watchers points. They are quite filling, so one of them makes a good snack or a breakfast on its own. They can be frozen, and then thawed. They are also delicious when heated in the microwave for about 15 seconds.

Enjoy! Your colon will thank you!

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