I love muffins but I don’t love the calories that accompany them. When I first went on Weight Watchers, I all but said farewell to muffins. Most muffin recipes you will find (and indeed most store-bought muffins) are little more than cupcakes with some bran or dried fruit thrown in for good measure. I remember looking up Tim Horton’s low fat berry explosion muffin on Weight Watchers and finding out it was 8 points – that was a third of my daily quota when I was losing weight, and definitely not worth the cost! So, I am constantly on the lookout for moist muffin recipes that are low in calories and fat. I have not been able to find many, so instead, I have resorted to experimentation.
I was thrilled with these oat bran muffins that I made. It started with four organic bananas in my freezer that I needed to use up, and a big box of oat bran calling out to me from the pantry shelf. I have made oat bran recipes before and found them filling but dry. I thought that maybe the addition of banana and yogurt would lend a moistness to the recipe, and I was right. Most oat bran recipes do not use flour at all; I decided to add a small portion of whole spelt flour in order to give the muffins some “fluff.” (You could just as easily use whole wheat flour if you don’t have spelt on hand). When using whole spelt flour for “fluff” (and the same goes for whole wheat) you have to treat it well – you must coax it to be fluffy by running it through a sieve at least three times before adding it to your recipe. If you have a good quality whole flour, you should have remaining in your sieve a fair amount of bran and maybe even some random husks from the kernal (when baked, these are fine to eat, although they appear to be rather rough to start). You absolutely should add the wheat bran in on top; to discard it would be to throw out the best part of the flour!
Here’s the nice part – these muffins are virtually sugar free. I thought about adding no sugar at all, and taking the sweetness only from the bananas, but I changed my mind at the last minute and added a mere 2 tablespoons of maple syrup. I love maple syrup because it is a source of sugar that supports Canadian enterprise, is usually pesticide free (most sucreries in Quebec let their trees grow au naturel), is lower in calories than cane sugar, and does not buy in to the global sugar industry that has fueled poverty and exploitation in the developing world since the age of exploration. In short, maple syrup is healthy (in moderation), Canadian and naturally fair-trade! Be warned that the end result of this recipe is a moist and fibre-rich muffin, but with only a hint of sweetness. I love it because I can taste the goodness of banana and oats on their own. But if you need sugar in your muffin, I would recommend spreading honey or maple syrup on the end product. Now…if you’ve got pumpkin fever this fall, you’ll be please to know that I successfully created a pumpkin variation that smacks of pumpkin pie, and they are just as healthy! The variations are both given below – and both work out to just one Weight Watcher’s point! In your face, Tim Horton’s (and while I’m at it, your unethically harvested coffee sucks)!
2 ¼ cup oat bran
¼ cup whole spelt flour, sifted a few times
1 tbsp baking powder
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp cardamom (optional)
½ cup low fat milk or heat-stable soy milk
2 tbsp low fat yogurt
2 tbsp maple syrup
(optional) – 4 medjool dates or 8 walnut halves
It’s as simple as mixing the wet and dry ingredients separately, then combining the two, stirring for a minute or so, and adding to muffin cups. If your batter is dry, just add a bit more milk or yoghurt. If you are using dates or walnuts, press one or the other gently into the top of the muffin batter. Bake at 425 degrees for 18-20 minutes, until the muffins are golden and you hear a hollow sound on tapping the bottom of the muffin pan.
Same as above, only replace the cinnamon and cardamom with the following spices: 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp ginger, 1/2 tsp ground cloves, 1/4 tsp allspice, and the bananas with 1 cup of unsweetened, unflavoured pure pumpkin puree. Pumpkin is also less sweet than banana, so you will have to compensate by using 4 tbsp of maple syrup, instead of 2 in the banana version. You can also add the walnuts or dates to this one, but I like to mix in a small handful of golden raisins, or a few tablespoons of pumpkin seeds (pepitas).
Both recipes make 8 large muffins. Because there is no oil in this recipe, the muffins do not have a long shelf life. After a day, they should be refrigerated, and if you are not going to eat them within 48 hours, you should freeze them.