One project of mine is to develop my knowledge and skills for baking with less sugar and develop recipes using no refined sugar. The challenging part of baking without refined sugars is, often sugar has more than one function in a recipe, especially in baked goods. Sugar not only adds flavor, it helps develop the structure and texture in desserts. Whipping sugar and butter together makes cakes and cookies that are tender, light and airy as well as tasting sweet. So, when baked goods do not contain refined sugar it is easy to create a dense and dry muffin, cake or cookie. I believe I averted that challenge and created my first low sugar / no refined sugar muffin with my Good Morning Glory Muffins. These muffins are loaded with healthy and fresh ingredients, and naturally sweetened and moist. They are tender without being weighted down from all the fresh ingredients. A great breakfast to start your day.
Traditional Morning Glory Muffins are easily adapted to a no refined sugar recipe because the grated carrots add a subtle sweet flavor. It also combines all-purpose and whole wheat flours in the recipe. For my recipe, in addition to using grated carrots, I added grated zucchini, grated apples, apple sauce and Medjool dates. The grated carrots, zucchini, and apples I used for texture and flavor, while the applesauce and dates help sweeten the muffins. Apples and dates have a lot of natural sugar and melt when baked into muffins and cakes. They also have a lot of fiber. This helps slow down the digestion which is important to anyone who is counting carbs or watching their blood sugar.
The grated zucchini, grated apples and applesauce provide a lot of moisture. To prevent the muffins from getting soggy, I recommend squeezing out some of the water in the zucchini and apple. You do not have to squeeze them dry but getting rid of most of the water is helpful in creating a tender muffin.
Good Morning Glory Muffins
What I like about these Morning Glory Muffins is they are moist without being heavy and have subtle flavors including the sweetness. You definitely will taste the wheat, but it is not dry tasting. How sweet the muffins tastes depend on how well the chopped dates are incorporated throughout the muffin batter. I do not believe they need more dates in the muffins, otherwise they would be too sweet. Also, Good Morning Glory Muffins are hearty muffins without being heavy, so they won’t weigh you down.
Normally I love bold flavors, but with this recipe the spices create a deliberate subtle flavor profile. Even though I believe there is no such thing as too much fresh ginger, I wanted that flavor to come intermittently between bites like a surprise citrusy-ginger wake up call. The cinnamon is subtle as well, so it won’t over take the muffin flavor. However, each spice is easily adjusted to suit your taste. Often, cinnamon and fresh ginger contribute a sweet flavor in baked goods even though by themselves they are not sweet at all.
Switch it Up
When I first taste tested my Morning Glory Muffins, I thought they needed extra sweetener, so I added a small amount of honey. However, if the dates are evenly mixed in the batter, each muffin should taste sweet without the extra honey. I do not recommend adding more honey as the flavor will overpower the muffins. You can substitute the honey with maple syrup or agave syrup. If you want less sugar, please feel free to omit the honey or, keep the honey and reduce the amount of dates to 3.
Also, to keep these Morning Glory Muffins in the low sugar category, I did not add raisins. Like dates, raisins contain a lot of natural sugar and I was concerned adding them it would make the muffins too sweet. If you are not concerned about the amount of sugar in your muffin add no more than a 1/2 cup (125 ml) of raisins and you will enjoy a sweeter muffin more characteristic to a traditional Morning Glory Muffin.
Grated unsweetened coconut is also a nice addition adding another element in texture and flavor. Add up to a 1/2 cup (125 ml) unsweetened flaky coconut.
Determining when the Good Morning Glory Muffins are done
The hardest part about making these muffins is determining when they are done. Because of the amount of vegetables in the recipe and all the moisture from the zucchini, apples and eggs the traditional toothpick test is not reliable here because the batter does not cling to the toothpick. However, I still recommend using a toothpick to check for doneness. Instead of looking at the toothpick to see if there is any wet batter clinging to it, touch the end with your finger tips to feel if it is sticky and moist. If it is, the muffins need to continue baking. When the tooth pick feels on the dry side of moist and is not sticky, the Morning Glory Muffins are done.
Additional clues the muffins are done baking are the color and if the muffins spring back when you lightly touch the muffin tops. They should have a nice golden brown color and spring back into shape after you touch the muffin tops.
Nutritional Information for Good Morning Glory Muffins
According to My Fitness Pal calorie and nutrition calculator, when made according to my recipe each muffin has 203 calories. Has 7 grams of fat (11% DRV), of which 1 gram is saturated fat, 4 grams are monounsaturated fat and 2 grams of polyunsaturated fat, plus 0 trans-fat. Each muffin has 31 grams of cholesterol (10% DRV) which comes from the eggs. All other ingredients do not contain any cholesterol. Other nutritional points of interest are: Sodium 143 mg (6% DRV), potassium 217 mg (6% DRV), total carbohydrates at 34 g (11% DRV), with dietary fiber at 7 g (30% DRV), and sugar at 10 g. Also, each muffin contains 4 g (8% DRV) of protein, 41% Vitamin A, 16% Vitamin C, 15% Calcium and 10% Iron.
Because of the power of the sugar lobby, nutritional labels do not show the Daily Recommended Value (DRV) for sugar. If must be a concerning percentage if the sugar industry does not want us to know. I was hoping to get these muffins in the single digits, but with 7 grams of dietary fiber I believe they are relatively low in sugar.
More recipes using no refined sugar or less sugar.
Low Fat Granola you can adjust the amount of sugar in the recipe by reducing the amount of dried fruit. Using fresh ginger instead of crystallized ginger is also a great way to cut back on the sugar.
Good Morning Glory Muffins
This muffin recipe is my adaptation for a low sugar Morning Glory Muffin. There is no refined sugar and are loaded with lots of fresh ingredients like apples, zucchini, sweet carrots and Medjool dates. These muffins are not sweet but will contain some sweet bites depending on how many dates are scattered about in each muffin. They are a delicious and healthy choice for breakfast.
For extra protein, serve with ½ cup (66 ml) low-fat cottage cheese or yogurt. Or Laban a Lebanese cheese made with yogurt.
Best served warm and the day it is made. Serving size =1 muffin.
- ½ cup 43 g shelled walnuts
- 1 ¼ cup 179 g all-purposed flour
- ¾ cup 120 g whole wheat flour
- ½ tsp 2 g Kosher salt
- 2 tsp 10 g baking powder
- ½ tsp 1 g ground cinnamon
- ½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg less than a gram
- 1 ½ tsp minced fresh ginger 7 g
- 4 Medjool dates 62 g minced
- 1 zucchini 8 oz / 239 g about 1 2/3 cups grated
- 2 carrots 6 ½ oz / 185 g 1 packed cup grated
- 1 apple 6 ½ oz / 185 g ¾ cup grated
- ½ cup 125 ml apple sauce
- 2 large eggs lightly beaten
- 1/3 cup canola oil or 1/3 cup melted coconut oil
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 TB honey
Preheat the oven to 375°F/ 190°C / Gas Mark 5 and place the rack in the middle position. Spray each muffin cup with cooking spray. Soak up any excess oil with a paper towel. Or fill each muffin cup with a paper liner.
Toast the walnuts
Heat a small skillet over high heat for 4-5 minutes. Add the shelled walnuts to the skillet and shake the skillet to move the walnuts around the pan. Keep the walnuts in motion by moving the skillet back and forth, shake the skillet or toss with a spoon. The walnuts are toasted when you begin to smell a nutty scent, about 30 seconds. Do not let the walnuts brown or burn.
Immediately turn off the heat and pour the walnuts onto a cutting board to cool. Chop the walnuts to small bite size pieces. Set aside.
Prepare the Zucchini and Apple
Place the grated zucchini in a fine mesh strainer and squeeze out most of the excess water. Squeeze several times to get as much water out. Place on a plate and reserve.
Add the grated apples to the fine mesh strainer and squeeze out some of the water from the apples. Place on the plate with the zucchini. Add the grated carrots to the plate. Set aside.
Make the batter
Add the all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, baking soda, Kosher salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, minced ginger to a large mixing bowl. With a wire whisk, stir until all the ingredients are evenly incorporated.
Add the minced dates into the flour and toss the dates around to coat with flour. Use your hands to separate the clumps of chopped dates to get them evenly distributed in the flour.
Slide the grated zucchini, grated carrots, grated apples, and chopped walnuts into the flour mix and stir to mix.
Add the applesauce, canola oil, eggs, vanilla, and honey then stir to mix. Carefully stir until all the ingredients are evenly incorporated. You want to be careful to not over mix the batter, but it does need to get all mixed together. It is a thick batter.
Scoop up a heaping ¼ cup of batter with a dry measuring cup and pour the batter into a muffin tin. Repeat to fill all 12 muffin cups. Divide any remaining batter around to even out the muffins.
Bake in the oven for 35– 40 minutes, or until the muffins are golden brown and the top of the muffins spring back when touched. Also, when a toothpick is no longer sticky to touch after it was inserted into the center of a muffin.
Remove from the oven and cool the muffins in its' pan placed on a cooling rack for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, cool in the muffin tin, or remove each muffin and cool on the rack.
Best eaten the day they are made, but will last for 2-3 days stored in an air tight container. Reheat in a microwave or oven.
Can be frozen individually wrapped in plastic wrap and stored in a Ziploc bag in the freezer for up to one month.
Because there is a lot of fruit and vegetables what have a lot of water it creates a very moist muffin. The traditionally reliable toothpick method of checking to see when a baked good is done, does not work here. No crumbs and batter cling to the toothpick even when they need more baking.
I still recommend using a toothpick, but in a different way. After 30 minutes, insert a toothpick into the middle of a muffin and take it out. Pinch the end of the toothpick that was inside the muffin, if it feels very moist and sticky, the muffins need more time. The muffins are done when the toothpick feels on the dry side of moist, plus is not sticky. These muffins take longer to bake because of the amount of moisture in the batter, anywhere from 35 to 45 minutes.
© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
Is there such a thing as a healthy snack”? I am not talking about fruit and vegetables, more like a granola bar type of snack. They are so convenient to have for traveling, or just when you are on the go. Recently, I set out on a mission to discover recipes for homemade snack bars that taste great, are nutritious, and low in refined sugar. Not a snack bar that is as heavy as a door stop and tastes like cardboard, (the vegetarian baked goods of the early 70’s still haunt me), but something lighter for a quick pick-me-up in the afternoon.
This all started because I made a pledge several years ago. I promised to myself that if there was a dessert or treat I really wanted to eat, like cookies, I would make it and not buy it. Store bought cookies are not allowed in the house. I do this to control my snacking binges and it really works. Phase two, of my pledge is to add more items on my list, like snack bars. Honestly, I haven’t bought them since I made the pledge, so I am not eating them. However, we need a better stock of snacks in our pantry, so I don’t binge on crackers or chips.
Over the past two weeks I have scoured the internet looking for solid recipes in the granola bar category. Each one had large amounts of sugar and they were all in “soft” snack bar variety. Don’t people want crunchy snack bars? Don’t people crave that crunchy texture and is one of the reasons why chips are so damn good? I like crunchy granola bars so I will table this quest for another day.
One recipe caught my attention from the cookbook “Life In Balance”, by Donna Hay. The cookbook features several snack recipes all made with whole foods and good health in mind. It is not a crunchy granola bar, but all the ingredients are nutritious and foods I enjoy. I choose the Cacao, Banana, Date, and Cashew Bars recipe to test today, because it meets all my requirements, except being crunchy. Another bonus, I had all the ingredients except the cashews. However, I did have a bag of walnuts for an easy substitution. Also, this recipe allowed me to use up some bananas that were getting too ripe.
What I like about this snack bar is there is no refined sugar, no flour, and no dairy. It is filled with natural cocoa powder, bananas, fresh dates, walnuts, and a little vegetable oil. The 4 wholesome ingredients get puréed in a food processor then baked until firm. They taste like a bittersweet fudgy chocolate brownie. The cocoa flavor stands out, but it is not as bitter because of the dates, bananas, and walnuts. I would like them to be a little denser with more variation in texture, but the taste is very pleasing. If you crave a sweet fix for your snacks and love dark chocolate, this is the snack for you.
More snack foods for a light meal or picnic
All the ingredients are nutritious in their own right, but mixed together they make a nutritious snack bar that won’t weight you down with extra fat and sugar. According to My Calorie Counter from Fitness Pal, each snack bar has 228 calories, 21 g carbs, 17 g fat, 0 cholesterol, 3 g protein, 4 mg sodium, 14 g sugar, and 4 g fiber.
Cocoa Banana Nut Snack Bar
- 1/3 cup 35 g natural unsweetened cocoa
- 3/4 cup 180 g firmly packed chopped pitted fresh dates (9-10 dates)
- 1/4 cup 60 ml vegetable oil
- 1 1/4 cup 200 g chopped walnuts
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 3/4 cup 200 g mashed bananas (2-3 bananas)
- coconut flakes for sprinkling
Pre-heat the oven for 325°F (160°C). Line an 8 x 8 inch pan (20 cm x 20 cm) pan with parchment paper. Use two strips wide enough to cover the bottom of the pan and long enough to extend up and over the sides of the pan. One strip will crisscross the other, so all the sides of the pan are covered. This is so you can easily lift out the snack bars and cut them.
Place all the ingredients, expect the coconut flakes, in a food processor and blend until smooth.
Plop the cocoa, fruit and nut mixture into the parchment lined pan, then spread evenly across the bottom.
Sprinkle with the coconut flakes.
Bake for 40 minutes, or until firm to touch. Set the timer for 35 minutes to check and gauge the progress. Continue baking as needed.
Cool completely in the pan. Remove the cocoa banana nut snack bar out of the pan by lifting the sides of the parchment paper and placing it on a cutting board. Make one slice across the middle, then six even slices across each half making 12 snack bars. Store the snack bars in an air tight container in the refrigerator. Will last for to one week.
© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.