These muffins miiiight not be sweet enough for you. Unless you’ve been weaned off refined sugar for a while or very actively try to avoid it (i.e. you don’t even reach for the Heinz ketchup anymore, knowing how much corn syrup is packed into each squirt), you may consider these muffins to be a bit too rugged; rugged because of the uneven texture provided by graham flour, but also rugged in taste. Does that word put you off? I apologize, but I mean ‘rugged’ in the most positive, endearing way; these muffins transport me to a cozy log cabin in lush, deep green woods I’ve never been to (yet). Refined sugar can’t be found in these woods, but fruit can, and fruit these muffins do contain.
These muffins are not standard sweet muffins; they contain one ripe banana and a handful of gooey medjool dates, both of which lend in creating a subtle, gradual sweetness unlike the tooth-shocking, eye-popping kind found in packaged pastries and, much to my dismay, trendy coffee shop pound cake. I enjoy surprises (so long as they don’t involve people popping out behind curtains and corners), so I dumped chunks of walnut and diced red apple into these muffins. Considering how simple and versatile this batter is, any sort of stir-in should work; next time around I’ll definitely step up my muffin game and add dark chocolate covered berries.
Replacing white sugar and even so called ‘healthier’ sugars, such as honey and rice malt syrup, with fruit, will take your baked goods to miraculous heights. I still rely on liquid sweeteners sometimes, but upon recently discovering the world of fruit-sweetened ‘treats’, I’ve become Cinderella at the ball and I’m not quite ready to lose my slipper and return to normal sugar laden life. Also, the more online research I do, the less convinced I am that occasional unhealthy indulgences are worth it (also, the word ‘occasional’ allows for a dangerously vast pool of interpretation! My ‘occasional’ may = three times a week, but yours may very well be once or twice a day. And honestly, how often do we stick to plans that are so ridiculously vague?) When I look back on the past few years, it becomes increasingly obvious how often I would use the ‘once in a lifetime’ excuse when presented with sweets and junk food. In reality, choosing not to taste a donut or cinnamon roll from one particular cafe somewhere in the world will not affect my potential for happiness in the future (or even in that moment!) Coming to terms with the former fact has been tough; I’d like to believe one single cinnamon roll could alter the course of my future and be tasty enough to cause a lifetime of regret if not eaten, but the truth is, the only affect it may have on my future is by increasing my risk of heart disease, cancer, and I’d rather not think about what else.
I used to reserve muffins and cookies for my shameful snack times after school; the drudgery of the weekday always got to be too much, too boring, too demanding, and highly processed, sugary and fatty foods offered themselves up as the perfect escape; indulging in a box of Oreos melted away the stress of a failed Math test and a big bag of sweet chili chips covered up the chatter of social anxiety and insecurity. Weekend nights presented the most different avenues for escape; everyone feels more apt to lose themselves, whether to sweets or alcohol or insert vice here, on the weekends. Indulgence is easily justifiable when you’re feeling down in the dumps and lethargic, so it’s no surprise that the more sugar you eat, the more unhappy and tired you feel, and thus, the more you want, no, the more you NEED, sugar; it’s a vicious cycle that kills and ruins lives and exponentially lowers one’s potential for happiness.
So, can you really be happier with a date and banana filled muffin as opposed to a sugary, frosted one? Yes. Giving up the devilish sweet stuff can sometimes feel like giving up a big chunk of happiness; but if you think about it, try reasoning with a smoker or drug addict and they will tell you the same thing, how can I ever be happy again without my daily pack of cigarettes? Replace cigarettes with conventional pastries and sweets and I can say that the same words have rolled off my tongue many more times than I can remember. Am I a sugar addict? Apparently so. Apparently, lots of people are. In fact, most people are (in the USA at least). It’s a little chilling. And frightening and startling and spooky to think of all the children growing up with sweet tooth’s the size of canines and appetites for sugar that may very well land them in hospitals one day. It’s sad, but it’s the reality at the moment. I find that reality deeply unsettling and am quite simply unwilling to accept it into my little sphere of life; sugar sugar, go away, come again another day in the form of caramely medjool dates and ripe bananas and dried figs and juicy, juicy mangos. Thank goodness for fruit.
Makes 5 muffins
1/2 cup whole wheat graham flour
1 small VERY spotty banana
3 medjool dates, mashed
5 tsps unflavored/unsweetened soy or nut milk
2 tsps chia seeds
1/4 cup finely chopped red apple (pear would probably be nice)
1/4 cup chopped walnuts or nut of your choice
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Scant 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp baking soda
Dash of salt
Pinch of nutmeg and/or ground ginger (optional)
1. Preheat the oven to 180 C/365 F. In a large bowl, mash the banana with a fork before stirring it together with the mashed dates, milk, and vanilla extract. Once combined, add the flour, chia seeds, cinnamon, baking powder and soda, dash of salt, and nutmeg/ginger if using. Lightly stir together the mountain of dry ingredients before thoroughly stirring them together with the wet mixture. Add the chopped apple and walnuts. The resulting batter will be quite thick and rocky in texture, thanks to the bran in the graham flour and the seeds, nuts, and apple. If using silicone muffin tins, don’t bother oiling them down, but if using metal ones, it would be safe to do so. The batter equally divided among 5 of my tins, but it may be closer to 4 or 6 depending on the size of your tins. Bake for 14-18 minutes until fully set and an inserted chopstick/toothpick doesn’t come out gooey and wet. Allow to cool on a rack before enjoying with peanut butter or 100% fruit jam!!