Saturday, March 6, 2010

Heart-Healthy Treat

I am not really fond of baking. I don't like the rigid measurements. Even the way you mix things has to be precise. I don't like the added stress. And besides, I am not really into pastries and desserts (well, maybe except for cheesecakes). However, since I started healthy eating, all of a sudden, I felt like my food selection has suddenly become very limited. So, as a treat to myself, I decided to bake me some "good" pastries. I searched for banana-walnut recipes and researched on how to best use whole wheat flour in baking. This morning, I put my knowledge to the test.

I woke up early to prepare my ingredients. I am a bit scared as most of my research show that whole wheat flour can be tricky to use. If not done properly, I might end up with brick muffins. In fact, many recipes call for half whole wheat flour and half white flour. I read the same recommendations in the forums I stalked in the past couple of days. However, I am determined to make this as "good" as possible.

Dry Ingredients:
3 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups baking Splenda (or use 1 cup Splenda and .5 cup Agave Nectar, a low-glycemic index natural sweetener - I found one in Healthy Options)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup oats and flaxseed mix (I used whole wheat rolled oats - not the quick cooking one!) My mix is 75% oats and 25% flaxseed - up to you to use whatever ratio, or use Granola instead

Wet Ingredients:
1 Cup Canola Oil - I used 3/4 cup canola oil and 1/4 cup melted canola butter (for added flavor)
3 Eggs
3/4 cup Skim Milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups mashed super ripe bananas (my bananas are not super ripe so I added about a tablespoon of skim milk and popped it in the microwave for 30 seconds to soften it more) - Cavendish bananas are the best!

Here are some of them. The canola butter is Meadowlea which is available in local supermarkets. I wanted to get Olive Grove butter which contains Olive Oil instead of canola but the fat content is much higher so I opted for Meadowlea.

The whole wheat flour and whole wheat rolled oats are from Healthy Options.
Cast of characters

I love these! Next time I'll add a bit of chopped dark chocolate!
Nutty goodness

So I just whisked all the dry ingredients together so everything will be well mixed. Oh, and did you know that Flaxseed and flaxseed oil are rich in alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an essential fatty acid that appears to be beneficial for heart disease? And of course, the whole wheat flour and rolled oats are rich in fiber that are also known to help prevent heart diseases. Trivia lang po.

Dry ingredients

Then, in a mixing bowl, I put together all wet ingredients and mixed on low until they are well blended.

The next step is very important. I was too anxious to get this part done right that my heart was beating so fast at this stage. I made a well in the center of the dry ingredients and poured the wet ingredients. Then, I slowly and carefully folded the dry ingredients into the wet mix. At this stage, the vanilla has done its magic making the aroma of the mix irresistible. And the only thing keeping me from licking my mixing spoon is the thought of live organisms from the raw egg - I've watched too many episodes of Monsters Inside Me on the Animal Planet.

Repeat after me. DON'T OVERMIX! Resist the urge to mix thoroughly even if you can still see a bit of white flour in there.

I forgot to say that you should be preheating your oven to 180 degrees celsius (350F) while you are preparing the batter.

Anyway, once the batter is ready, spoon them into muffin pans. You may line them with paper liner. I bought paper liners for my big muffin pan but not for the small ones so I just spritz it with non-stick spray before spooning the batter into the pan.
Mini Muffin

For the big muffins, it takes about 25-30 minutes to bake. I used up a lot of toothpick to test the doneness (toothpick should come out clean when inserted in the center). For the mini muffins, it only takes 15-20 minutes. And believe me, when I opened the oven, the entire kitchen was filled with the sweet vanilla scent that I had to stop myself from grabbing a piece of muffin right there and then.

Here are the big muffins. I was so nervous to take the first bite. I'm happy that they turned out moist and sweet.
Mama Muffin

Here are two that I baked in glass cups (I only have one big 6-muffin pan and three 12-mini muffin pans - I don't know why!). I bought these Pyrex cups years ago when I first did Southbeach Diet. I made yummy sugarfree custards then. I should do that next!
Mama Muffin 2

While my family was quite happy with how this turned out, I feel I have to make some more adjustments next time. I find it to be too sweet for my liking (specially after eating 2 mini muffins!) so I will prepare a batch with even less sweetener.

Also, I want to add more bananas since (and make sure they are super ripe, bordering rotten) the oats and flaxseed, plus the whole wheat flour tend to drown the banana flavor.

Maybe a dash of cinnamon and nutmeg will make it even yummier!

I was a bit stressed out preparing this and I debated on whether I'll bother to take photos. I'm glad I did! I was also taking down notes on the measurements. It's a bit crazy in the kitchen with a sheet of paper and a pen for note taking, and a camera for documenting this milestone (LOL!).

There you have it!

UPDATE: Been making muffins weekly in the past 3 weeks. I've experimented with some variations and got great results.

Variation 1: Add chopped dark choco. Ariel loves this! So for two weeks, I would make half without the choco and half with choco.

Variation 2: Add half cup of natural unsweetened peanut butter. I made this just last weekend (March 28) and I love it!