I’ve known my best friend since I was seven years old. We went to all of the same schools together up until high school. When I left college and she was in the middle of college we hung around together during school breaks. What the heck does this have to do with really great muffins? If it wasn’t for my best friend, I probably wouldn’t have gone into my vegetarian phase and I probably never would have become acquainted with the Moosewood Cookbooks and Mollie Katzen. In our early twenties, Renee’ discovered the first Mollie Katzen books: “The Moosewood Cookbook” and “The Enchanted Broccoli Forest”. Renee’ made several of the recipes for me and then I wanted to cook too. As I have gotten older and more books have been published, I have managed to acquire most of Mollie Katzen’s books and most of the books published by the Moosewood Collective. After my Boyfriend’s family moved to upstate New York, I even got a chance to eat at the Moosewood Restaurant and thought it was heaven! The style of vegetarian cooking is ovo-lacto vegetarian, which means that the recipes can contain eggs and dairy. Eating this way falls in line with the USDA’s dietary guidelines. I feel healthy eating these sort of meals because they are rich in plant nutrients but you still get just a touch of animal protein.
I work full time so I normally cook on the weekends. My habits include big breakfasts, heavy on the carbs and dinners that purposely make leftovers so that we don’t starve to death during the week (I don’t want to rely on restaurant food anymore but I am often too tired to cook). As it turns out, breakfast is a big deal for us. When we were restaurant addicted, we used to go out for breakfast once or twice on the weekends. This is definitely a recipe for nutritional disaster. It is too easy to order bacon or sausage with a meal. Grits and toast come to your table swimming in butter. Biscuits and muffins are loaded with trans fats and high fructose corn syrup. With coffee and juice you are usually looking at a bill of at least twenty dollars for two people. I eventually came to my senses and realized that breakfast is cheaper, healthier and far better in quality when made at home. A typical breakfast for us now consists of pancakes with real maple syrup, fresh fruit, yogurt, and wheat germ. Alternatively, we’ll enjoy an egg dish including loads of veggies with homemade English muffins, or sourdough toast or homemade muffins. We always have fresh squeezed orange juice and/or really good coffee and/or tea. Sometimes we’ll have nitrate free bacon or fresh sausages but with a spread like I just described, you are really just gilding the lily. A feast like this cannot be compared to normal coffee shop grub; it is usually the kind of quality you get in a good restaurant so I’d say our weekend breakfasts are worth $30 to $40 (especially since my boyfriend often gets leftovers to eat before work during the week). It turns out to be cheap in reality. The only thing I lose is the time it takes to clean up (which sometimes makes the restaurant meal seem attractive).
But I digress… When Mollie Katzen put out her book “Sunlight Café” I was very excited. It is a book devoted to healthy breakfast food. The problem I had with rushing out to buy it is that I am a cookbook addict. I know I have a problem, but like any addict, it is hard for me to deal with. I promised myself I would not buy the book right away and I stored the idea on my Amazon wish list. Renee’ knows how much I love the Moosewood books and she bought this book for me for my Birthday one year. I have made most of the muffins in the book and they are all wonderful. This week I made the Carrot-Currant Muffins again. These are very healthy muffins to begin with but I made some tweaks to the recipe to suit my taste. I use whole-wheat pastry flour instead of white flour. I substituted honey for the optional granulated sugar and I use olive oil instead of butter. I did use all of the salt this time, I have cut the salt in half or omitted the salt in muffins before and it hasn’t made a huge difference. One thing to keep in mind about this recipe, the batter is very stiff. Do not over mix the batter or the muffins may come out gummy. The recipe only makes around eight muffins and most muffin tins have 6 muffin cups so you will need two muffin tins.
Adapted from Mollie Katzen’s Sunlight Café
Nonstick spray (or oil or melted butter to grease your muffin tins)
2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
½ tsp salt
1 ½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground allspice
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 tbs honey
1 cup (packed) grated carrot (this is probably one large carrot)
1 tbs grated lemon zest
3 tbs fresh lemon juice
½ cup currants
½ cup 2% milk (just a suggestion any milk will do)
1 large egg, lightly scrambled
2 tsp vanilla extract
4 tbs olive oil
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly spray (or oil) 8 standard (2 ½ “ diameter) muffin cups. Combine the flour, salt, baking powder, and spices in a largish bowl. Crumble in the brown sugar and then rub the sugar into the mixture with your fingertips so that you don’t have big blobs of sugar in the batter. Place grated carrots in a second bowl. Add lemon zest, lemon juice, and currants. Mix with a fork. Use the fork to blend in milk, egg, honey, and vanilla. Pour this mixture along with the olive oil into the dry ingredients. Using a wooden spoon or a rubber spatula, mix from the bottom of the bowl until all of the dry ingredients are moistened. Make sure things are mixed, but do not over mix or you risk gummy muffins! Fill your muffin cups 4/5 of the way full. If for some reason, you have enough batter for more than eight muffin cups, oil another one or two muffin cups and fill them with batter. Bake in the middle of your oven 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick or butter knife inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Remove the pans from the oven and allow the muffins to cool (preferably on a rack) for at least 30 minutes.