“There is something about this apple-oat muffin that reminds me of vacation.”
Is it the texture – dense and packed with whole grains including bits of apple and dried cranberries? Or is it the flavor – fully developed whole wheat and oats, spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg, and a pinch of clove? Perhaps it is the appearance – brown, lumpy, and looks like, “it’s what’s for breakfast”.
I sat there eating and thinking, and then it dawned on me what it was about these muffins that reminded me of vacation.
Much as smelling a newly opened pack of crayons can bring me back to Miss Desarmeax’s 3rd grade class, or the scent of patchouli oil taking me back to a head shop in the French Quarter, the muffin I was eating returned me to the road trip of 1996. At the time, I was 4 months pregnant with my 4th child and my obstetrician had recommended that I cut out sugar. This is where the muffin story begins.
On the day that I received the phone call from the nurse at the doctor’s office telling me that my latest urine sample had shown that my sugar was a little high, I was drinking a banana smoothie. I had prepared the smoothie with milk, banana, and a teaspoon or two of sugar. Her words mortified me. I hung up the phone and poured the rest of my drink down the kitchen sink. As we all do, I wanted a healthy baby. For the remainder of my pregnancy, I avoided sugar.
Although it was determined that I did not have gestational diabetes, I was given a sample diabetic menu to ensure that I was getting 3 square meals a day that didn’t include refined sugar. I was a good little girl, and followed the meal plans on the menu. I carried the menu with me in my purse, and took it along with me on the trip.
Believe it or not, one of the foods listed on the menu as “allowed” was a McDonald’s Apple Bran Muffin. I don’t think McDonald’s includes these in their menu anymore, but over the course of my 3-week-road-trip with my husband, the muffins became one of my mainstays for a quick eat-on-the-road breakfast. I had no guilt, they were on the menu!
Besides the fact that I ate McDonald’s muffins on that trip for which these homemade muffins are a source of reminder, their appearance is what likely reminds me of vacation…any vacation. I’ve seen them wrapped in plastic sitting at checkout counters in convenience stores and next to the coffee pot and oranges at Continental Breakfasts.
And although these muffins remind me of McDonald’s, I am by no means pretending that this recipe is a copycat of theirs. In fact, I think they are more wholesome and nutritious than anything you would get from a fast food restaurant.
They aren’t necessarily quick and easy to prepare, so save the recipe and bake them for a weekend breakfast. Add some protein, like a hard-boiled egg, and you’ll be fueled and energized for a full morning of adventure.
Apple-Oat Muffins with Cranberries
- 1 large apple, quartered
- 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
- 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats, uncooked
- 1/2 cup light brown sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- Pinch of ground cloves
- 2/3 cup dried cranberries
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup milk
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a 12-cup muffin pan. Peel and dice 3 apple quarters and cut remaining quarter into 12 thin slices for garnish. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, combine dry ingredients, (flour through cloves). Then add diced apples and cranberries.
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, oil, applesauce, and vanilla extract. Pour into the dry ingredients and stir just until combined.
Spoon butter into muffin pan and top each muffin with a thin slice of apple.
Bake until muffins begin to brown and edges are firm to the touch, approximately 25 to 30 minutes. Store any leftovers in an airtight container.