Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Basic Oat Bran Muffins

The following is one of my longtime stand-by recipes, one I’ve been making since 1987 when oat bran was starting to get all kinds of press for its ability to lower your cholesterol.

And as I discovered, these fiber-rich, filling, and easy-to-make muffins can help you lose weight, because when you have a couple of them for breakfast, with fruit or with yogurt, you’ll be able to make wise choices for lunch and dinner. Kind of like Slim-Fast, only without the insipid milky, fake-out flavor.

I don’t often think of recipes involving a hot oven as “summer” recipes, but this one is an exception. The whole process takes only about a half an hour: Ten minutes of prep and preheating the oven, about fifteen minutes of baking, and the rest for cooling.

And the result is enough muffins for days. Days that you won’t have to run the oven.

Additionally, you can create single-batch premixes of the dry ingredients, which cuts the prep time even more. Who wants to spend time first thing in the morning fooling around with measuring cups?

After the first few days, keep the muffins fresh by tucking them into the fridge; a quick zap in the microwave returns them to toasty newness.

These muffins are dense, they are somewhat crumbly, you can flavor them in all sorts of ways, and they are incredibly satisfying. Yet unlike other breakfast foods, these little babies never make me feel bloated or stuffed.

Here is my basic recipe, which is adapted from Robert E. Kowalski, The 8-Week Cholesterol Cure: How to Lower Your Blood Cholesterol by up to 40 Percent without Drugs or Deprivation (New York: Harper and Row, 1987), p. 156. The book recommends eating about three of these each day to get the health benefits touted in its title—for instance, two for breakfast, one as an afternoon snack.

Variations in the book include recipes for oil-free, apple cinnamon, banana nut, canned fruit, strawberry, pineapple, pumpkin, and dinner muffins. And yeah, if you remember to take moisture into consideration, you can add all kinds of fruits (fresh, dried, or canned) and nuts, cocoa powder, and so forth.

This morning I used brown sugar, cinnamon, a little cloves and nutmeg, and a little handful of semisweet chocolate morsels. A small container of Dannon vanilla instead of milk. It was all rather decadent, but still better for us than most other breakfasts.

So here’s my version, built upon the basic recipe in The 8-Week Cholesterol Cure.

Basic Oat Bran Muffins

  • 2 1/4 c. oat bran cereal
  • 1/4 c. chopped nuts (walnuts, pecans, peanuts, sunflower seeds, etc.; optional)
  • 1/4 c. raisins, chopped dates, currants, or chopped dried fruit (again, optional)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/3 c. brown sugar, honey, or molasses
  • 3/4 c. skim milk or evaporated skim milk (or even vanilla yogurt)
  • 3 egg whites or equivalent amount of egg substitute
  • 2 tbsp. vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl; combine liquid ingredients separately in a smaller bowl. Add liquid ingredients to dry ingredients, mix quickly. Add additional moisture if necesssary (as in milk, water, juice, yogurt); the consistency should be similar to corn muffin batter. Line muffin pans with paper muffin cups (or use nonstick cooking spray); fill. Bake 15–17 minutes.

Do keep an eye on them; they’re done when a wooden toothpick comes out moist but not wet. A little “toasted” on top is fine, but if you overcook them, they’ll be too dry. (And then you’d have to serve them with some butter, jelly, yogurt or something—oh, no, not the briar patch!)

Makes a dozen muffins. Once they’re cool, store them in a plastic bag and refrigerate if necessary. Rejuvenate with a quick zap in the microwave.

(Note: Click on the "muffins" link below to see more posts with oat bran muffin recipes!)

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