Over the past five days, I officially drank my weight in Lipton Cup of Soup broth. No noodles. No tiny pseudo-chicken pieces. Just broth. It was one of the few things that appealed to me, especially at night, during my super-inconveniently-timed-spring-to-summer-transition-chest-cold. It was a heckuva way to spend my Memorial Day Weekend and to welcome in the summer. Achoo!
I'm still not quite over it, and I have the randomly placed piles of wadded up Kleenex to prove it. I'm just sick of being sick. Sick of coughing. Sick of plugging my nose while I down yet another dosage of bitter green Nyquil (which I really wish they would make in a yummy Bailey's Irish Cream flavor.) Sick of not being able to jump onto my treadmill. I don't sit still very well. And I don't do "sick" very well. I'm aware of my weaknesses.
Eric's likely sick of this whole Poor Miserable Julie soap opera too. I don't blame him. He's been sleeping next to a watery-eyed, red-faced sniffler who sounds like she has a five-pack-a-day habit. Sexy, no? His dinner options have been severely reduced to leftover whatever you can find in the fridge or, you guessed it, Lipton Cup of Soup. On the other hand, he had an excuse to go to In 'N Out Burger last night, so he might actually be enjoying this whole situation.
Now, I've never really been one to skip meals. When Eric comes home and announces that he "forgot to eat" that day, I'll regard him as if he is speaking another language. Forget to eat? No comprende. Even if it's not a proper sit-down affair, I'll at least throw some Sweet Citrus Granola (shameless self-promotion) into a Ziploc and eat it in the car as my breakfast. In fact, I've been doing that sort of routine more and more lately, as I've become busier and busier preparing for the Fancy Food Show (which is a petrifying three weeks away! Yikes!) This annoying cold slowed me down significantly during a time when I couldn't seem to move fast enough as it was. So now there's even more of a need to eat something both filling and portable first thing in the morning, otherwise I'll find myself up a creek without breakfast.....and that makes me cranky.
This is where my all-time favorite Healthy Morning Bread and muffins comes into play. I've been making this bread, or some variation of it, for something like ten years. I think that the idea came from a page that I tore out of a Martha Stewart Living issue, but I've modified this recipe many, many times since then, so I don't know which of the original ingredients remain (I do believe, however, that "flour" was in there somewhere.)
This is one of those recipes in which you need to have a little bit of faith, especially if you are not a health nut. First, there are quite a few ingredients, some of which (ahem, 2 ½ cups of wheat bran) might not be your favorites. That said, other than grating the apples, the workload is pretty light. You basically toss the ingredients into a bowl and mix.
Second, the batter itself isn't pretty. This is not an opinion. It's a fact. Healthy Morning Bread batter resembles the glop that I picture some poor Charles Dickens character like Oliver Twist eating for breakfast. Try to ignore the fact that the batter isn't winning any beauty contests.
On the plus side, the resulting bread, is moist, dense, sweet, filling, and healthy. In some ways it's like a breakfast fruitcake, without the ten tons of sugar, butter, liqueur, etc. (I know, all the good stuff.) I usually make a double batch, which yields at least one large loaf and twelve muffins. I can sometimes squeeze a few mini loaves out of the batch too. This lasts me quite a long time, and when I'm in a hurry, I just grab a slice in a napkin and I'm good to go. Here are my extra tips for making this good-for-you-on-the-go-breakfast-or-snack treat:
- Once the baked bread or muffins have cooled, they must be wrapped tightly and stored in the refrigerator or freezer. Kept at room temperature, this dense bread will eventually develop an unpleasant taste.
- The bread/muffins can be frozen, wrapped tightly with plastic wrap, for up to two weeks. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight.
- This dense and moist bread can take a long time to bake. The top can start to brown even before the loaf is baked through, so tent it loosely with foil if this happens. Carefully test the loaves with a paring knife or a cake tester to ensure that they are fully baked before removing from the oven.
- One reason why I love this recipe so much is that it is so versatile. Instead of using dried cranberries and golden raisins, like I used, you can use dried figs, apricots, cherries, or chopped dates. Pecans can be omitted or replaced with walnuts or slivered almonds. You can also play around with the flours. Try a combination of whole wheat, buckwheat, and regular flours.
- For this recipe, I used a combination of shredded sweetened and large-flake unsweetened coconut, but feel free to use a different blend.
Healthy Morning Muffins and Bread
Makes one 10-inch loaf and 12 muffins
1 ½ cups whole wheat flour
1 cup flour
1 tablespoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
2 large Granny Smith apples, coarsely grated
2 ½ cups plain Greek yogurt
⅔ cup honey
⅔ cup unsweetened applesauce
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 tablespoons flax seeds
1 ½ cups shredded coconut (I use a mix of sweetened and unsweetened)
1 cup dried fruit (cranberries, raisins, chopped dates, diced figs, etc.)
1 cup lightly toasted chopped pecans
Preheat the oven to 375F degrees. Spray a large loaf pan and one 12-cup muffin tin with nonstick baking spray. Alternatively, you may opt to line the muffin cups with paper liners, but spritz the insides of the liners with baking spray to ensure that the muffins do not stick.
In a large bowl, whisk together the whole wheat flour, flour, wheat bran, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and salt.
Squeeze the excess liquid from the grated apples and place the apples in a separate large bowl. Add the yogurt, honey, applesauce, eggs, and vanilla and stir to blend.
Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, mixing until just blended. Stir in the flax seeds, coconut, dried fruit, and pecans.
Transfer the batter to the prepared loaf pan and muffin tins. Bake at 375F until a cake tester or toothpick inserted into the center emerges clean, 20-25 minutes for the muffins and 55-65 minutes for the bread. Let the pans cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes and then carefully un-mold. Cool completely.
Store the bread/muffins in the refrigerator, wrapped in plastic wrap or sealed in zip-top bags.