Sunday, March 25, 2012

Muffins Against Muffin Tops

Last year, I was informed of a wonderful grain called quinoa. Quinoa is special because it's a grain, but also is a complete protein. How cool is that?  It's also high in fiber, calcium and potassium and is gluten free. It cooks like rice, and has a nifty chewy texture.  How did I go so long without knowing about it?

Anyway, I was looking for a healthy-ish snack that I could eat during my ridiculously long commute so I could get home and exercise without falling into the trap of being hungry and just making dinner. I needed something I could eat with a minimum of fuss and that would satisfy me without making me feel too full to run. I finally settled on quinoa muffins. I figured that muffins – Costco-style aside – are small, so the caloric content couldn't get too high, and if I made them with quinoa, they would have more in the way of nutrition.

I no longer have the long commute, but I am pregnant and find it increasingly hard to make it to lunch wihtout eating something. These muffins fill the bill – one is just enough to satisfy me without tempting me to eat a double lunch or large amounts of snack foods.

I started with this basic recipe fromMartha Stewart. I was trying to make it a little healthier, though, so I reduced the sugar and replaced it with more dried fruit. I could probably reduce the sugar more – next time I'm going to. If I remember. I know dried fruit isn't completely low-cal or healthy, but at least there are some nutrients in it other than, well, sugar.

I also replaced some of the flour with whole wheat flour and ground flax, which had surprisingly little impact on the taste (I've since made them both ways, so I can compare). These are not super-sweet muffins, but the dried fruit gives them enough sweetness that they satisfy the desire for something sweet while not being cake in disguise. They also have a nice variety of texture – muffiny with little dots of chewiness from the quinoa and fruit – that make them feel a bit more substantial.

Butter doesn't make them healthier.  Weird.
My final recipe:
  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil, such as safflower, plus more for pan
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour*
  • ½ cup ground flax*
  • ½ cup whole wheat flour*
  • ½ cup packed dark-brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1+ cups assorted dried fruit**
  • 3/4 cup whole milk***
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
*original recipe calls for 2 cups of all-purpose flour
**original recipe calls for ½ cup raisins
***non-fat would work just fine, but we always have whole milk for Zoey
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium saucepan, bring quinoa and 1 cup water to a boil. Reduce to a simmer; cover, and cook until water has been absorbed and quinoa is tender, 11 to 13 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, brush a standard 12-cup muffin pan with oil; dust with flour, tapping out excess. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, raisins, and 2 cups cooked quinoa; reserve any leftover quinoa for another use.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together oil, milk, egg, and vanilla. Add milk mixture to flour mixture, and stir just until combined; divide batter among prepared muffin cups.
  4. Bake until toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool muffins in pan, 5 minutes; transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
This recipe makes 12 muffins, if you fill the tins all the way to the top. You could probably get 15 muffins out of each batch, but since that means either dirtying another pan or doubling the overall cooking time, I always just fill 'em up.

I make a double batch and then freeze them; each day I pull one out and by the time I'm on my prep period, it's thawed out and ready to go. These aren't going to win any awards for Healthiest Snack Of All Time, but they have some good nutritional benefits, are filling, and are enough of a treat that I don't have to convince myself that they're the smart option and I should enjoy them more - I really do enjoy them.
My niece, Gen, approves of these muffins!

Nutrition info (courtesy of
Calories per muffin: 219
Total Fat 7.45g (11%)
Saturated Fat 1.1g (5%)
Cholesterol 20.1mg (6%)
Sodium 267.6mg (11%)
Total Carbohydrate 34.46g (11%)
Dietary Fiber 2.98g (11%)
Sugars 15.69g
Protein 4.86g (9%)
Percentages are all % of Daily Value.

Linked to This Week's Cravings via the Daily Dish

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  1. This is awesome. I'm definitely going to make these. I have just recently delved into the quinoa scene as well. I love it!

    1. Yay! They're really tasty - let me know what combo of dried fruit you use. This time I used cranberries, raisins, and apricots. Pineapple is really good, too.

  2. Costco has ruined the concept of "muffin." A muffin is a barely sweet quick bread, not a giant fistful of cake.

    1. True...but those Costco muffins (especially the chocolate) really are tasty! The 8000000000000000 calorie price tag is a bit much though..