On a late-fall afternoon, as the little light of the day leaks out through the darkening clouds, one of my favorite things to do is to warm things up inside by baking. When my kids were little it was one of those activities that made me feel like a good mom (especially when I reminded myself not to freak out about flour showers and random bits of eggshell). When I have apples (or pumpkin, squash, zucchini, bananas…) lingering on the counter, I am inspired to bake.
But how often have you been in the mood to bake a loaf of quick bread or batch of muffins, only to be stopped in your tracks by the multiple sticks of butter called for in many recipes? What's the point of taking one of the healthiest foods of the season so suited for muffinhood and turning it into a saturated-fat delivery vehicle? I've found some EatingWell recipes to avert that kind of fate for your fall fruits and veggies, so you can really enjoy baking up healthier quick breads and muffins-the perfect thing for a bake sale or fall gathering or to spend a cozy afternoon baking with your family.
A Is for Apple
This recipe for Spiced Apple Butter Bran Muffins is made entirely without butter and with just ¼ cup canola oil, thanks to the apple butter (such a great ingredient to have on hand at this time of year). The flour is one-third whole-wheat, one-third all-purpose and one-third wheat or oat bran, so there's 4 grams of fiber in every muffin.
B Is for Banana
Sometimes I can be a little indecisive (do I feel like muffins or bread or what?) so I love a recipe like this one for Banana-Nut-Chocolate Chip Quick Bread that gives me options. It comes with instructions for baking one 9-by-5-inch loaf or 3 mini loaves or 6 mini Bundt cakes or a dozen muffins. And it uses up my overripe bananas with just a little butter and canola oil-and did you notice it has chocolate chips?
P Is for Pumpkin
Pumpkin Bread (pictured above) used to be my specialty for Thanksgiving-I'd rather have it than pumpkin pie (well, to be totally honest, I'm likely to eat the pie and the pumpkin bread). But my old recipe used two sticks of butter-I just can't bake that way anymore. This recipe is really packed with pumpkin puree and uses just ½ cup canola oil; the result is a moist loaf that holds together well. (Toasted, with a schmear of cream cheese? Yes, please!) See the recipe below.
S Is for Squash
Another name for quick bread is "tea bread"-what you might be served the next time you have afternoon tea at, say, Downton Abbey. Pumpkin being a bit revolutionary for the British, may I suggest Squash Tea Bread instead?
Z Is for Zucchini
If you're still dealing with an overflow of zucchini (either yours or another garden enthusiast's), the EatingWell Zucchini Bread recipe is here to help. It uses 2 whole cups of shredded zucchini and just 1/3 cup canola oil (no sticks of butter here!) for a loaf you can love. The recipe is flexible, too, and open to suggestion: add nuts, raisins, chocolate chips-whatever you like.
Ready to start baking? Try this recipe.
Makes: 2 loaves, 12 slices each
Active time: 15 minutes | Total: 3 hours (including cooling time)
Canned pumpkin puree and whole-wheat flour come together in this healthy homemade pumpkin bread. The canned pumpkin helps keep the bread moist and tender. If you like the flavor of pumpkin pie spice, feel free to add a pinch or two to season the bread.
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups whole-wheat flour, preferably white whole-wheat (see Tip)
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons salt
2 large eggs
2 large egg whites
2 cups packed light brown sugar
3 cups canned unseasoned pumpkin puree
1/2 cup canola oil
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat two 9-by-5-inch loaf pans with cooking spray.
2. Stir all-purpose flour, whole-wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Whisk eggs, egg whites, brown sugar, pumpkin and oil in another large bowl. Add the pumpkin mixture to the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Scrape the batter into the prepared pans and smooth the tops.
3. Bake the loaves until the tops are golden brown and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 50 to 60 minutes. Cool in the pans for 10 minutes. Turn the loaves out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Per slice: 210 calories; 5 g fat (1 g sat, 3 g mono); 16 mg cholesterol; 38 g carbohydrate; 18 g added sugars; 4 g protein; 2 g fiber; 377 mg sodium; 125 mg potassium. Nutrition bonus: Vitamin A (96% daily value), Iron (15% dv).
Tip: Whole-wheat pastry flour is milled from soft wheat. It contains less gluten than regular whole-wheat flour and helps ensure a tender result in delicate baked goods while providing the nutritional benefits of whole grains. Find it at large supermarkets and natural-foods stores. Store in an airtight container in the freezer.
What's your favorite fall muffin flavor?
By Wendy Ruopp
Wendy Ruopp has been the managing editor of EatingWell for most of her adult life. Although she writes about food for the Weeknights column of EatingWell Magazine, her husband does the cooking at home.
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