Saturday, March 9, 2013

delicious super healthy oatmeal muffin-ish snacks

As you can see, I had a difficult time coming up with a name for these nutrient packed snacks.

Justin and I are attempting to buy less and less pre-packaged foods, and make more stuff at home.  Not only does it save us money, but we know exactly what is on our food, and it reduces the carbon footprint created by manufacturing.

We found we were buying a lot of granola bars for us to take to work and school.  I always have snacks in my purse, you know, in case of snack emergency.  We were buying Kashi granola bars, which are delicious and costly, at about $5 for a box of 6.  We switched to the Fresh & Easy brand, which are a bargin for $1.99 for a box of 6.  They're good, not Kashi good, but two buck chuck good, but not nearly as packed with nutritious goodness.  We decided to try to make our own.

I researched (read: went on Pinterest) and combined a whole bunch of different recipes to come up with a base, and Justin chose what mix-ins to put into our first batch.

 Here's the finished product...

oaty, nutty, fruity, chewy delicious-ness

 And here's how to make it...

As always, begin by gathering your materials... 

apparently, this could also be used as a Fresh & Easy ad

 You will need:
muffin pans and cupcake liners.  You'll see later that I used more of the pack I bought for the peanut butter cups.  They were about 75 cents on clearance, and they're still serving me well.  This recipe made exactly 18 muffin cup sized snacks.
  • 5 cups of Rolled Oats (not quick cooking or the instant kind in the package, old fashioned rolled oats - more on oats later)
  • 1 ripe, mashable, banana
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon of real vanilla, not imitation or "vanilla flavoring"
  • 2 cups of applesauce (I used unsweetened, because apples are already sweet)
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup flax seed meal
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons (or there about) grated nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 2 1/2 cups milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
 and the add-ins... use 1/4 cup each of whatever you'd like.  You can use dried fruit, nuts, baking chips of various flavors, seeds, anything small, really.  We choose:
  • sunflower seeds
  • pepitas (dried and hulled pumpkin seeds)
  • dried and sweetened cranberries (basically the F&E version of Crasiens)
  • a "medley" of raisins
  • dark chocolate chips
After the directions I'll explain the health benefits of all of these ingredients, just so you know why we chose them.  Well, besides the fact that they're delicious.

* Sidebar - my camera chose the day I made these to decide to break.  It's circa 2004, and we've been through a lot together.   I'm hoping it can be fixed, but, I had to take the pics for this with my phone, and they're ok, but not great.

Be sure to use a LARGE bowl for this... remember, you're going to add a full 5 cups of oats at the end.  I used a fairly giant pyrex bowl

Preheat your oven to 350.  

Step One - chopping and grinding...
You may be able to skip all or part of this step.  I didn't have flax seed meal, but I did have a bag of flax seeds that I use for smoothies.  I also have an extra coffee grinder that I use for spices and what not (but NOT for coffee, it has it's own grinder). 
Add caption
 Apparently I opened the flax seeds upside down at some point.  But you can see they're from the wonderful Bob's Red Mill.  Just pour some seeds into the grinder and... grind.  Voila, you have flax seed meal!
Measure out your 1/4 cup and store the rest.  I put my extra in a smaller bad inside the bag that holds my whole seeds (in their upside down opened bag) It's actually much easier for your body to utilize the benefits of flax seed when it's pre-ground.  Our bodies have a hard time breaking through the whole seed - learn more about flax below.

Chop up your add ins - the chocolate chips I got were giant, way too big to fit properly into the cupcake liners.  Also, the raisins in the medley were ginormous.  I know it's not a great picture, but if you look at that huge green grape raisin I pulled aside you'll see it's huge, like the size of an un-dried grape.  It even still had a little bit of a stem on it.  I really appreciate how it's recognizable as a grape, but it's too big for my muffin liners.  So, they all got chopped up into a small-ish dice.

Step Two - mix together your wet ingredients...
  • mash up the banana and add
  • milk
  • applesauce
  • eggs
  • vanilla (which I never really measure, I just guess and pour from the bottle)
  • salt, cinnamon and nutmeg (which I grate fresh from the nut, which makes it difficult to measure exactly)
  • honey... if something calls for a tablespoon or so of honey I don't bother measuring it, because it's a hassle.  However, this is baking, so measurements matter.  I employed one of my favorite kitchen tools, the plunger measuring cup.  It's so easy to measure, and you can scrape any leftover ingredients into the bowl.  Here it is full of a 1/2 cup of honey.

 Step Three - adding the dry ingredients
 You can mix these in a separate bowl if you'd like, but I just dumped them on top of the wet stuff.  Stir in your
  • oats
  • baking powder
  • flax meal
Step Four - dump in the add-ins, and stir.  The mixture will look weird, because the oats won't really soak up the liquid until everything is hot and bubbly in the oven.  It's ok.  Here's what mine looked like.
 It seems all separate, but it will all come together.  I used that 1/4 cup measuring cup to dispense the mixture into the liners, and it came out pretty evenly.

I forgot to take pictures of the baking process, but it's pretty straightforward. 

bake for 35 minutes.  Make sure they cool completely before you store them.  I put half of ours in the freezer, and put the rest in a gallon bag in the fridge.

These oaty muffins are really moist because of the applesauce and banana, and the lack of flour.  But they are delicious, dense, and satisfying.

Now a note about nutrition.

Oats - I'll have to repost by really old blog about oatmeal at some point, but just know that the more processed your oats are, the less they help your body.  Oatmeal has been shown to help reduce the "bad" cholesterol level in your body and it's an excellent source of fiber.

Honey - Honey is the only food that never spoils or rots.  Even if it crystallizes, you can heat it up a bit and it will re-liquid-ize (clearly that's not a real word).  Honey has antiseptic and anti-bacterial properties, and can even be put on wounds and cuts to help in healing, and helps build immunity.  If you have seasonal allergies, eating honey made from local bees (who use local plants and flowers) can help reduce your allergy suffering.  According to this website, honey is even anti-carcinogenic.  Honey can help heal a sore throat, and is even thought to help cure hangovers after the occasional over-indulgence.  Here's a link to some more of the benefits of the wonder-food that is honey.

Flax - Full of Omega 3 fatty acids, flax can help reduce bad cholesterol levels.  Like soy, it is a complete protein, containing key amino acids that our bodies can't produce on their own.  It is high in fiber, and has anti-carcinogen properties to help prevent cancer.  Flax is sensitive to heat and light, so it's best kept in the fridge or freezer.  Once ground it loses its mojo quickly, so it's best to grind your own just before use.  Here's some additional information about how great flax is for you. 

Pepitas - these hulled and roasted pumpkin seeds are one of my favorite nut/seed type snacks.  When I was a kid (ok, I still do it) we would always roast the seeds from our jack-o-lanterns, not knowing how healthy they were.  Pepitas are high in protein and "good" fats.  They also contain calcium, potassium, niacin, phosphorous, zinc, B vitamins, beta carotene, lutein (which helps keep the eyes healthy), and vitamins C, D and E.  They have high levels of Omega 3's, have anti-inflammatory properties, and have even been shown to help repair liver damage.  Learn more about pepitas here.  

Sunflower seeds - there is a lot of energy and nutrition packed into these tiny seeds.  Sunflower seeds are a great source of folic acid, key for any woman even thinking about getting pregnant.  They are great for bone and skin health, and are full of B vitamins.  Sunflower seeds are high in vitamin E, and another key source of cancer-fighting, cholesterol lowering Omega 3's.  They are full of anti-oxidants and can help stabilize blood sugar levels.  They're also high in selenium, magnesium, calcium, iron, and zinc.  This site has more of the benefits of sunflower seeds. 

Cranberries - These tart berries are great for keeping the urinary tract healthy, and can help prevent cavities.  They are anti-aging, anti-inflammatory, and anti-bacterial.  They are high in vitamin C, and can help stabilize blood sugar.  Cranberries are another source for keeping cholesterol levels healthy.  Learn more about the amazing cranberry here

Raisins - for those among us who don't drink wine, it's good to know that eating raisins (and their un-dried counterparts) provide the same health benefits as drinking red wine.  Raisins can even help prevent strokes!  They are high in calcium, iron, manganese, magnesium, potassium, copper and zinc.  Raisins are a good source of the B vitamins and are a super source of fiber.  They can also ease constipation.  Check here for more info on the benefits of raisins.

Dark Chocolate - everyone's favorite health food! While it's not an excuse to eat a whole bag of Hershey's Special Dark bars, eating small amounts of dark chocolate a few times a week has been shown to help prevent blood clots and arteriosclerosis.  It can help lower blood pressure, and can help keep blood sugar levels in check and help prevent type 2 diabetes.  Dark chocolate can help prevent stroke, and has even been shown to increase cognitive function.  The high anti-oxidant levels in dark chocolate are what first made it popular as "healthy" chocolate.  Dark chocolate contains Theobromine, which can help harden tooth enamel.  It contains high levels of iron, potassium, magnesium and copper.  Recent studies have even shown that dark chocolate can help combat the symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome, and can help ease depression.  Here is some additional information about the benefits of dark chocolate.  

Well, that's a whole lot of information.  Enjoy!


  1. I love how you list the health benefits of many of the ingredients. These muffins look tasty too. I just might have to try this recipe out.

  2. Thanks Becky, the healthy benefits are probably my favorite thing about these muffins, besides the delicious taste that is.

    These guys also store well in the freezer. in fact, Justin prefers the texture of them after they've defrosted. I pull a couple out to pack in his "lunchbox" in the morning and they're perfect by his lunchbreak.