I’m sitting down to write this blog post with a cup of chai at one elbow and a muffin at the other. I’ve been on a muffin kick as of late, spurred by the discovery that we had not one, not two, but three bags of dried apricots in our pantry. This situation arose from one of those classic household misunderstandings; the person finding bags of apricots on the counter and putting them away wasn’t the same person as the person thinking we kept running out of apricots and buying them at the store. When the situation came to light, I tried putting the apricots back on the counter, but that didn’t help them get eaten; they just got moved around anytime someone wiped down the counter. The third or fourth time I moved them, it occurred to me that chopping them up and mixing them into muffins might make them more appealing.
I started with a basic muffin recipe that has yielded good results for me:
1 cup whole wheat flour
½ cup white flour
1 cup oats (rolled or steel-cut both work; just use whatever you have in your pantry)
¾ cup packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
ca. 3 tablespoons ground flaxseed (optional)
While I stick to the basic dry ingredients each time, I play it by ear on my wet ingredients based on what’s in the house.
In a recent batch, I used one egg, one cup of low-fat Greek yogurt, and enough almond milk to get the mixture to the right consistency. Overripe bananas also find their way into the mix when I have those around.
Here’s where things get creative. One of the basic principles of zero-waste cooking and baking is to use what you already have to ensure it doesn’t get discarded. The trick is to add things that go together in sufficient amounts to make sure each bite of muffin includes something yummy. In the first batch I made, I used the apricots and bulked things up with walnut pieces and coconut that was left over from a pie I made some weeks back for Shabbos. I made another batch a week later that used up the rest of the dried apricots and coconut, filling them out with some raisins that were Not the Usual Brand and were thus unacceptable to my main raisin eater. One of my latest batches included cottage cheese that no one was eating and almond butter that was not a sandwich hit. I spooned each muffin cup halfway full, added a teaspoon of almond butter, then topped with more batter. Using this recipe, I made about 20 muffins Sunday morning. The last one got eaten this morning for breakfast. Not bad for using up ingredients that would have otherwise been thrown out! If you, like me, struggle to make sure your kids get enough protein in their diet, cottage cheese is a great way to deliver it.
Whatever you mix up, just bake them at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes.
I’m now experimenting with savory muffins, as well. My latest batch contained diced tomatoes and chili and a block of farmer’s cheese that was definitely going to go in the garbage if I didn’t find a creative use for it. I used the same basic recipe, just dropping the oats and using less liquid as a result. Because of the moisture from the tomatoes, baking time was a little longer—about 30 minutes.
When I was little and didn’t want to eat whatever was being served to me (it’s pretty clear where my kids got their picky-eater genes), my mom, like lots of moms, used to tell me about the starving kids in China who didn’t have food. I never worked out how eating my fish sticks was going to help a kid in China, but I do know that the amount of land used to farm food that goes uneaten is bigger than Canada and India put together. Of course, farmers, food manufacturers, and grocery stores can have the biggest impact on curbing food waste, but people at home throwing groceries in the garbage can definitely reduce overall food waste. And that’s important. If food waste were a country, it would be the third-largest emitter of greenhouse gasses on the planet, surpassed by only China and the United States.
As I plan my next batch of muffins, I’m looking at the mango and apricots that have gone untouched on our Tu b’Shvat platter. They are sure to be delicious!
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