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Muffins, Scones, Bars, Loaf-breads, etc.

My family of athletes eats an insane amount of these kind of snacks - often from Trader Joes. A 2009 goal was to make these myself, but I'm already finding myself in a rut! I'd welcome recipes/ideas that take the following into account:

More good stuff (nuts, fruits, applesauce, oats, etc.) and less bad (refined sugar, flour, butter).
Easy and flexible is good because this isn't my favorite kind of cooking and I tend to substitute a lot even when I try to follow recipes.
Best to find that fine balance that is sweet enough, but won't be mistaken for a dessert.

My family thanks you!

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  1. I did a recent biscotti that was made with whole wheat flour and walnuts and golden raisins, It was great. Let me see if I can find it - yes, this might be it:

    1. Would you like to try this? I adapted it from a recipe in Fitness magazine. I don't measure; I just put in what looks like a good amount:

      rolled oats, dried cranberries and/or dried apricots, honey and/or brown rice syrup, orange or pineapple juice, 1-2 eggs, about 1/4 cup olive oil or other oil, vanilla extract, cinnamon, flaxseed (ground), walnuts/pecans, unbleached wheat flour or a mixture of soy flour, rice flour (not too much), and wheat flour.

      Mix the liquids and eggs together on low heat until combined, pour over the dry ingredients, and mix thoroughly. If it looks a little dry, don't be afraid to add a little more juice. Pour into a lightly greased pan and bake for 20-30 min at 350 F. The mixture may burn at the edges, so watch carefully. You can also line the pan with aluminum foil to make it easier to remove the baked bar.

      The olive oil doesn't add any flavor to the mixture, or maybe that's my taste.

      2 Replies
      1. re: katw

        Thanks, this looks like a good mix of ingredients. When i have experimented with bars i tend to end up with a crumbly mess. I usually put it in a bowl and call it granola, but any advice on measurements might help avoid that problem! How thick do you usually make these? Are they thin like granola bars? Or thick like rice crispy treats?

        1. re: runandeat

          Sorry: the original recipe called for 3 cups old-fashioned oats, 1 cup each of nuts, dried fruits. I add about 1/2 to 1 cup of flaxseed, 1/4 cup flour, 1/2 cup fruit juice, 1/2 to 3/4 cup rice syrup and/or honey, the olive oil, and eggs as above.
          I forgot to add that you can add shredded unsweetened coconut and raw sunflower seeds to the mix (about 1/2 to 1 cup each). Depending on the size of pan (I use a 9x13 pan), the bars can be as thick as rice crispy treats.

      2. With a similar goal (to replace hearty bran muffins my grocery no longer made) I started playing with a pumpkin bread recipe from Joy of Cooking. I cut the sugar in half. Used a mix of flours instead of white - white whole wheat, bran, oat bran (TJs), ground almonds (TJs), oats, etc. Oil/melted butter levels are also flexible. Raisins, walnuts can be added to taste. Spices can be varied.

        5 Replies
        1. re: paulj

          I too play around with a pumpkin bread recipe from epicurious. It seems like the pumpkin makes it a very forgiving: eggs can be added, some oil can be traded off for applesauce, any kind of flour like the ones above. I also usually add flax seeds and wheat germ. Brown sugar instead of white (I never know if its healthier, but it is tastier).

          1. re: waver

            I agree brown sugar's tastier, but nutritionally it's the same as white. In quick breads, muffins, etc., you can usually cut sugar up to halving without wreaking havoc with texture. Things might stale faster, but you can always freeze portions.

            1. re: Caitlin McGrath

              Molasses is a good flavor addition to quick breads like pumpkin. Instead of using brown sugar, I use about half the recipe's white, and molasses to taste.

              1. re: paulj

                Brown sugar is just white sugar and molasses so what you're doing, essentially, is making your own brown sugar. I never buy brown sugar anymore.

                1. re: chowser

                  I don't buy the generic brown sugar either. But I do have a container of specialty dark brown sugar for sprinkling on puddings and the like at the table. I also have several forms of raw sugar, especially the solid Mexican cones, which I use to make a syrup. I make choices like this based on flavor, not on a belief that they are healthier.

                  Last night I made some oatmeal scones (from the Joy recipe I mentioned earlier). I tweaked the recipe in various ways, like using fine cut oats in place of rolled ones, and oliver oil for some of the butter. I also added some malt flour, but in the process forgot to add the sugar the recipe called for. So I ended up a slight anomaly, unsweetened scones/biscuits with sweet raisins.

        2. I make this Banana Bread all the time: http://caloriecount.about.com/es-hear... It's from Bonnie Stern's Complete Heartsmart. I like that it's not overly sweet and it's nice and moist. I usually add a teaspoon or two of ground cinnamon. :)

          1. I'm gluten-free so we use buckwheat, millet, quinoa, amaranth, garbanzo, etc. flour that we grind ourselves from bulk. I substitute some xylitol for sugar, almond mylk for milk, Earth Balance for butter or use recipes which already call for these ingredients.

            1. An Australian friend gave me these directions for the simplest and most delicious scones (ummm - the only scones) I've ever made.

              John’s Scones

              4½ cups self-rising flour
              1 can Sprite (diet is okay, but why bother?)
              ½ pint + ¼ cup heavy cream

              Mix all ingredients in bowl with spoon. Turn out onto floured surface and knead about 5 minutes. Roll to ¾” thickness and cut out rounds.

              Bake at 350°F about 20 min.

              I wouldn't call them healthy. We ate them slathered in ultra-softened butter and/or unsweetened whipped cream. Fruit jam was an afterthought.

              1. This is a great recipe for athletes, a peanut butter banana oatmeal muffin. Not too sweet, perfect any time of day, before or after a workout. The fat comes from peanut butter.


                I've used white whole wheat in it and it turns out fine. I've also soaked steel cut oats in the milk for half an hour and then put it in the food processor. You can taste the grains of oats then.

                3 Replies
                1. re: chowser

                  This is perfect. I look forward to giving it a try this evening.

                  And thanks to the others for the various ideas as well. Recipes are especially appreciated since this kind of experimenting isn't really my thing --much happier to play around with curries or spices!

                  Deenso, did you ever add anything else to those scones? nuts or berries? is there whole wheat self-rising flour? It reminds me of the beer bread I used to make many years ago with a mix of self rising flour and a bottle of beer! I wonder if my kids would like that one!

                  Thanks again and keep em coming

                  1. re: runandeat

                    runandeat - I'm not real big into baking, so no, I've never added anything to this recipe. But I did think about tossing in some black currants or sultanas. In fact, I just might give this a shot over the weekend, especially if we get a chance to make a stop at the local gourmet shop for some fresh clotted cream. As to the question about whole wheat self-rising? I'm clueless, sorry.

                    1. re: runandeat

                      Self rising flour is just flour with baking powder and salt added. Add some fat to the mix and you get bisquick or a generic baking mix.. If you want the whole grain equivalent, look at Trade Joe's mulit-grain baking mix. Scones are essentially richer versions of baking powder biscuits - richer by using more butter, cream, and/or sugar.

                      The 1997 Joy of Cooking has a pretty good oat scones recipe. It also has various low-fat versions of scones, biscuits and muffins.

                  2. Oat-Date Bars

                    1 cup rolled oats
                    1 cup fiber cereal or granola
                    1/4 cup raw sesame seeds
                    11/2 cups dates, pitted and chopped (about 12 large dates)
                    1/4 cup chopped almonds
                    1/4 cup wheat germ
                    1/2 tbsp flax oil
                    1/2 tbsp safflower oil
                    1/2 cup agave nectar or honey
                    1/2 cup almond butter
                    1 teaspoon cinnamon

                    Preheat oven to 350°. Mix together oats, cereal, and sesame seeds; spread on a baking sheet and toast in oven, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a large mixing bowl. Add chopped dates, almonds, and wheat germ. Toss with hands until well-mixed, breaking up clumps.

                    In a small saucepan set over medium heat, heat oil. Add agave nectar or honey, stirring until bubbly. Stir in almond butter and cinnamon until smooth. Pour into dry ingredients and mix together quickly.

                    Press mixture into a 9x13-inch pan. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours. Cut into bars and wrap separately in waxed paper. Store in refrigerator.


                    * 1/ 2 cups all-purpose flour, or soy or whole wheat
                    * All Bran Extra Fiber cereal ground in a food processor to make a powder that amounts to 1 1/2 cups
                    * 2 teaspoons baking powder
                    * 1/4 cup white sugar
                    * 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
                    * 1/2 teaspoon salt
                    * 1 cup skim milk
                    * 1 egg, beaten, or 2 whites
                    * 1/3 cup applesauce
                    * 1 cup apple - peeled, cored and chopped

                    1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Lightly grease 12 muffin cups.
                    2. Stir together flour, bran powder, baking powder, sugar, cinnamon and salt. In a separate bowl, stir together milk, egg and applesauce. Stir egg mixture into flour mixture just until combined. Fold in chopped apples. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups.
                    3. Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into center of a muffin comes out clean.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Emme

                      These look great. The Peanut Butter Oatmeal muffins were a hit -- but they are already gone so I think I'll give the Oat Date bars a go in the next day or so.

                      Does anyone know of a cookbook with muffin-type recipes similar to these. I'd buy one, but my looking into it seems like the compilations are either low-fat (read high sugar!), or some particular niche like gluten free. Let me know if anyone knows of a book for healthy snack foods.

                      Thanks again.