I tend to go through these phases where I will eat the same thing for breakfast (or lunch) every day for 2 or 3 weeks at a time. For example, if I make a big batch of my butternut squash soup, which is probably one of the five things that I would take with me if stranded on an island, I'll slurp a cup of it every day until it is gone. I don't like to waste food due to spoilage, and if I really like something, I have absolutely no problem eating it day-in and day-out anyhow.
So lately, I've been on this breakfast smoothie kick. In a blender, I'll combine a banana, some frozen strawberries, Spirutein protein shake mix (love it!), soy milk, lots of ice, and my secret ingredient: a little bit of instant sugar-free vanilla pudding. The pudding helps to make the smoothie, well, smooth, and it also thickens it nicely. All of this makes a huge amount, so much that I can only finish half. I'm still working on figuring out those ingredient ratios.
As much as I love my smoothies because they are really filling and ultra-nutritious, they are pretty darn labor-intensive and a pain in the you-know-what to clean up. I also need to wait at least an hour after downing one before I can do my morning workout. Sometimes, my morning schedule is too busy, and it just doesn't allow room for me to spend quality time with my Vitamix blender. I need something that I can grab and go; something that is satisfying without being overly filling, like perhaps a really delicious muffin.
I absolutely adore sweet potatoes. I'll eat them baked and topped with a little maple syrup and cinnamon, pureed in a hearty soup, or chopped and roasted until they caramelize. I had never made a sweet potato muffin before, so I decided to give it a shot. These turned out to be really moist, with a flavor that incorporates the spices of a sweet potato pie. The dried fruit and nuts add nice texture. Best of all, these healthy muffins are much lower maintenance than a smoothie, but just as yummy! Here are a few extra tips for making marvelous muffins:
- As an alternative to mashing the baked sweet potatoes with a fork or with a potato masher, I like to puree them in a food processor. This guarantees that they will be smooth and evenly distributed throughout the muffin batter.
- If you can find the red garnet yams in your grocery store (they are usually not available year-round), use these for the recipe. These tend to taste a bit sweeter, and they lend a deeper color to the muffins.
- Instead of using dates, feel free to mix golden raisins, dried cranberries, diced dried figs, or diced dried apricots into the batter. Walnuts or chopped hazelnuts would be good substitutions for the pecans.
Healthy Sweet Potato Pecan Muffins
Makes 12 muffins
3/4 pound red-skinned sweet potatoes
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup chopped lightly toasted pecans (optional)
3/4 cup chopped pitted dates
Preheat the oven to 400F degrees. Prick the sweet potatoes with a fork and place on a foil-lined baking sheet. Roast for 1 hour or until they are tender when pierced with a fork. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Peel the sweet potatoes and then lightly mash with a fork or potato masher; set aside.
Lower the oven temperature to 350F degrees. Line a muffin tin with 12 paper liners and lightly spritz them with nonstick spray.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and both sugars until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. In a medium bowl, whisk together both flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and allspice. In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, egg, and vanilla.
Add the dry and wet ingredients, alternating one and then the other, to the butter mixture, mixing until just combined. Mix in the sweet potatoes and then fold in the pecans and dates.
Divide the batter among the muffin tins. Bake the muffins until a toothpick inserted into the center emerges clean, 30-35 minutes.