Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Evil Junk Food Industry vs. A Simple Date Muffin

Is anybody else out there tired of all the junk food being pushed on our kids? My son will see a commercial for some junk food or another and beg me to buy it. Of course I say no and try to explain why, but no amount of explaining in the world will convince my 7-year old that a fresh apple is better than processed fruit that has been dyed every color of the rainbow and rolled into foot-long strips. When did it become okay to feed our kids dyes, artificial flavors, ass loads of high-fructose corn syrup, and who knows what else? The disturbing thing is these junk foods are available everywhere and they're relatively cheap. Foods that don't contain all these adjuncts are harder to find and they cost more. It's all ass-backwards if you ask me.

When I was a kid Ding Dongs, Twinkies and Fruit Rollups were our junk foods. Mom never bought these, but we begged for them nonetheless. She wasn’t a baker either. If we wanted something sweet, it was fruit, toast with jelly or nothing. Now that I’m a parent, I get it and I’ve been working toward eliminating store-bought sweets in our home. If we want a treat, we have to do it the old-fashioned way and make it. Is it hard? You bet. Cutting out things like cookies or ice cream has been easy enough because we can make these. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I bought either of these. Granola bars and newtons are a little trickier to replicate, but even these are on the list to go. The hardest part has been getting the kid on board. Kids learn fast though, and Sonny pretty much knows I won’t buy certain things. That doesn’t keep him from asking and hoping, but when I say no, he will ask if we can try to make it at home. (Hooray! I think my plan is working!)

So what do you think, dear readers? Are you ready to take the plunge and join me in bucking the system? (Sounds radical, doesn’t it? I assure you, it’s not. It’s just common sense.)

Just three years ago, I would have told you I sucked at baking. As I’ve said, mom wasn’t a baker so there was no tradition for it at home but eliminating store-bought sweets has forced me to learn. It has been disappointing, humorous and lately, more often than not, wonderful. Now if you ask, I’d say I’m a decent baker. I feel comfortable enough experimenting a little. One of my goals has been to come up with baked goods that don’t require inordinate amounts of sugar or fat. I know what you’re thinking, “healthier” baked goods are usually disappointing, and I tend to agree, except these weren’t. The yogurt and a small amount of oil keep the muffins moist while the molasses adds an extra layer of flavor. Even hubby, who always approaches my baking adventures with skepticism, liked these.

It should be noted that these muffins are not make-your-teeth-fall-out sweet. I don’t really have a sweet tooth and always cut down on sugar in baked recipes. If you like a sweeter muffin, add an additional tablespoon or two of sugar or some butterscotch chips. With or without these embellishments, I think you’ll find this is a moist, delicious muffin.

Molasses Date Muffins
  • 1.5 cups all purpose flour (spoon in and level)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup plain lowfat yogurt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tbs mild molasses
  • 2 tbs honey (or 2 tbs sugar + 2 tbs water)
  • 2 tbs oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup chopped dates (or raisins)
  • 1/2 cup butterscotch chips (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350F. For these muffins I used a pan that made 5 large (1/2 cup batter) muffins. Use any sized pan you want; you’ll just have to adjust the baking time.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients, including the sugar if you are using that instead of the honey.

In another medium bowl, combine the wet ingredients and beat well to mix.

Combine the wet ingredients with the dry and mix thoroughly but quickly. Add the dates and butterscotch chips, if using. Mix just to combine. Spoon immediately into a greased muffin pan and bake until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean or the center springs back (about 20 to 23 mins for larger muffins; 15 to 18 mins for standard sized muffins). Let the muffins cool in the pan for about 5 minutes before turning them out to cool on a rack.

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