Make Me Some Muffins!

Try these recipes for an easy, versatile treat that Mom (and everyone else) will love.

By Elaine Magee, MPH, RD
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Expert Column

What can you make in one bowl, with using any electrical device or sharp cutlery? Muffins! What can be whipped up in less than 10 minutes and ready to serve 20 minutes after that? Muffins! What never gets boring because there are so many possible flavors and combinations to behold? Muffins!

Muffins are one of the most versatile breads in America, and the simple fact is, people love them. What's not to like? If you don't like banana, choose another type of muffin. If you want fiber, use whole wheat, oats, or bran in your muffins. If you don't have blueberries, stir in raspberries or any other chopped fruit. If you don't want nuts, leave them out.

Muffins are members of the "quick bread" family because they use baking powder or baking soda to add air bubbles (instead of yeast) and, well, because they're quick to make. Anyone can make muffins; they don't require candy thermometers, double boilers, or sifters.

All that means they're perfect for little ones wanting to make mom breakfast in bed (say, on Mother's Day) with a dad or a grandparent supervising. To personalize the muffins, add her favorite fruit and nuts. If mom likes coffee, try the Mocha Chip Muffins below. If she goes bananas for bananas, make the Banana Coconut Macadamia Muffins. If her favorite cookie is oatmeal-raisin, try the Oatmeal Raisin Cookie Muffins.

Muffins fit perfectly into an on-the-go lifestyle, too. Make a batch of muffins over the weekend; pop them into the freezer in a zip-lock bag, and you're a microwave minute away from breakfast or a snack.

Of course, I can't talk about any food without mentioning ways to make it healthy. Here again, muffins score big with potential. Because you're creating air bubbles with baking powder, instead of by whipping the fatty ingredient with sugar (as you do with a cookie or pound cake), you can add the fatty ingredient in liquid form. That means you can use canola oil instead of margarine or butter. Right away, this makes your muffin lower in saturated fat and higher in two "smart" fats: monounsaturated fat and plant omega-3s.

Here are some other tips for making healthful muffins:

  • Use a "smart" fat when possible (like canola oil or Take Control margarine)
  • Use a minimum of fat - say, 2 to 3 tablespoons of oil or 4 tablespoons of less-fat margarine -- per 12-muffin recipe.
  • Reduce the sugar, or substitute Splenda sweetener for a third or a half of the sugar.
  • Substitute whole-wheat flour for half the white flour
  • Use higher omega-3 eggs. If the recipe calls for two eggs, you may use one egg and 2 egg whites, or one egg and 1/4 cup egg substitute.
  • Add nutrient-rich ingredients, like bananas, shredded carrots, nuts, fruit, ground flaxseed, etc.
And now for those recipes ...

Lemon-Blueberry Corn Muffins

Journal as: 1 small muffin

Bake the batter in a nonstick mini angel food pan (or similar) for a pretty presentation. This is a great way to work some fruit, whole grains, and plant omega-3 fatty acids (from canola oil) into your morning.

1/2 cup unbleached white flour
1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal (finely ground works best)
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup Splenda (or other sugar alternative for baking)
1 tablespoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Zest from 1 lemon, finely chopped (about 1 1/2 teaspoon)
1/4 cup canola oil
4 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup fat-free sour cream
3/4 cup fat-free half-and-half or low-fat milk
1 large egg
1/4 cup egg substitute
2 cups frozen or fresh blueberries

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line 15 muffin cups with paper or foil liners.
  • Whisk together the flours, cornmeal, sugar, Splenda, baking powder, salt and lemon zest in a large bowl.
  • Add canola oil, fat-free half-and-half, egg and egg substitute to a large mixing bowl and beat on medium until well blended. Gradually add flour mixture to the batter in the mixing bowl, while beating on low speed, until just combined.
  • Gently stir in blueberries and spoon batter into prepared muffin cups using a 1/4-cup-measuring cup. Bake until a tester inserted in center of largest muffin comes out clean (about 18 minutes).

Yield: around 15 muffins

Per muffin: 145 calories, 4 g protein, 23 g carbohydrates, 4.4 g fat, .4 g saturated fat, 15 mg cholesterol, 2 g fiber, 198 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 27%.