If you love baking with your family, then holiday season is prime time. These are golden opportunities to gather in the kitchen and have some fun. Plus, what better way to teach family members about high quality food choices.
Ever since reading a book about the healthy fats and oils around 20 years ago, I started my clean cooking journey by swapping out regular margarine in recipes for non-hydrogenated oils. What was surprising at the time was how simple it was to do and it didn’t ruin the end result. It merely made it healthier.
Over the years, I’ve learned how to modify recipes to make them gluten-free (if desired), nutritionally dense, and, most importantly, my kids would still want to eat them. It turns out that while it’s not hard, it may take a few tries to get the texture right depending on the tweaks you make.
I chose the banana chocolate chip muffin recipe in this post because it’s super easy to make and comes out great with a variety of different nutrient dense add ons to make them a hidden treasure of protein, minerals, good fat, and fiber. The best part: my kids have no clue how much I pack them in with stuff they wouldn’t normally eat!
Different types of flour
The original muffin recipe calls for two cups of regular flour. There are many problems with regular wheat today. The overuse of pesticides is likely responsible for altering the way our bodies process wheat, so that it is no longer digestible and causes a slew of medical issues and allergies.
Even if you want to use regular wheat flour in the recipe, at least buy organic and certified non-GMO wheat. According to The Food Babe, Vani Hari, “Flour can be treated with any of the 60 different chemicals approved by the FDA before it ends up on store shelves – including chemical bleach!” Let’s use our spending money to support those businesses that care about our welfare.
There are gluten free flours that can replace regular flour cup for cup. Usually they contain a blend of potato starch, brown rice flour, tapioca starch, and/or xantham gum. If you wanted to use a gluten-free bag of flour, that is totally an option and will work well in this recipe too.
However, just to mix things up, I chose to replace the two cups of flour with a combination of gluten-free coconut flour, almond flour, and sprouted spelt, which isn’t gluten free but I find spelt, especially when it’s sprouted, to be easier on the digestion. What’s great about this combination is that it adds whole protein and fiber to the muffin. On top of that, sprouting boosts key vitamins and minerals.
A note about coconut flour: you can not use it cup for cup in recipes because it will absorb too much water. You can substitute 1/4 cup to 1/3 cup coconut flour for 1 cup grain-based flour. You may need to increase the number of eggs, but I didn’t need to in this recipe.
Almond flour on its own is high in protein and good fats, but when replacing it in a recipe, I find that you may need to combine it with other flour or add more rising agent than the recipe suggests to allow for the heavier weight of the almond flour. Otherwise these muffins will collapse in the center instead of rising.
For beginners, I recommend getting acquainted with it first. For my favorite almond flour cookbook, check out Elana Amsterdam’s The Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook. It’s the best!
Refined white sugar is a definite no for so many reasons, not least of which is that it has absolutely no enduring nutritional value in the body. No matter how you cut it, anything sweet converts to glucose and our bodies burn through it fast. High amounts can lead to obesity, diabetes, and a slew of other issues. It’s beyond the scope of this post to get into a tirade about sugar, but this article explains it really well if you’re interested.
For the muffins, I prefer using a low fructose sweetener like organic coconut sugar. It is highly nutritious and provides sustained energy, while offering a similar taste to soft brown sugar. The white granulated, nutritionally-deficient stuff will not be missed. Promise.
You can play around with lowering the sugar in this recipe for sure. One and a half cups is a lot and can be reduced by adding more banana and increasing the add-on quantities, though I didn’t.
About those add-ons
I don’t know about your kids, but mine do not have a refined healthy palette. Chuck it up to caving in to sugar cereals once or twice when they were younger, and it was all downhill from there. Note to moms with young children: don’t do it! I know they scream for those enticingly colorful boxes in the cereal aisle, but I assure you, it will be your healthy kitchen downfall. From what I’ve seen, it ruins their palettes. The sugar cereals warp their taste buds so that nothing natural tastes as sweet and vibrant anymore. It’s probably my #1 or #2 mom regret.
I’ve had to learn how to be crafty in getting solid nutrition into my kids. Hiding ingredients like flax seeds, chia seeds, and hemp seeds in baked goods is an easy way to mask their presence. They never know they’re in the muffin, while getting high doses of fiber, protein, and superfood goodness.
Oh yes. I dropped the eff bomb, and I’ll say it again: FAT. By now you must have come across enough articles letting you know that healthy fat is not the equivalent of the hydrogenated, “cholesterol-free” (possibly rancid) saturated fats in the supermarkets.
Even so, many people don’t realize how bad margarine really is. I always use this example: put regular margarine on a spoon and then try washing it off. It doesn’t wash off easily at all and tends to adhere to it like glue. Well, that’s what it’s doing on the inside of the body too, clogging the pipes of your precious organs and intestinal tract. EW!
While I have found that most recipes can swap margarine with a liquid like avocado oil, in a cake or muffins, they may not hold together as well without a fat that turns solid at room temperature. For this recipe, I swapped margarine with raw, cold-pressed, organic coconut oil, though you can just as easily use Earth Balance Margarine, which I like too. Coconut oil does have its own flavor which tastes great in a chocolate cake recipe or in these muffins where it’s largely undetected. But if you don’t like the taste of coconut oil, Earth Balance is my go-to.
Banana chocolate chip muffins recipe
1/2 C. Coconut oil
1 1/2 C organic coconut palm sugar/brown sugar
2 ripe bananas
2 C. Flour:
1 C. Almond FL
3/4 sprouted spelt flour
1/4 C. coconut flour
1 tsp. Organic vanilla
1 tsp. Baking soda
1/2 tsp. Himalayan pink salt
1/2 Cup sour mylk:
Combine 1/2 C. nut or rice mylk +
1 T. raw organic apple cider vinegar
2 T. Hemp hearts
1/4 C flax chia blend (I use Carrington Farms or Garden of Life)
1/4 golden flax seed meal (I use Bob’s Red Mill or Garden of Life)
1/2 – 1 C. favorite nut (I like pecans)
1/2 bag chocolate chips (I use these or Enjoy Life)
Pre-heat oven to 350° F. Spray mini cupcake trays or regular sized cupcake trays.
Mix the first four ingredients until it’s creamy with no lumps.
Add the flour mixture, salt, baking soda, and vanilla.
Combine the nut or rice mylk with the apple cider vinegar and add to mixture. The batter will get very watery.
Mix in the add-ons.
Bake for 20-25 minutes but check periodically after 15 minutes, as everyone’s oven is different. This recipe should make about two trays of 24 mini muffins or 18 regular sized muffins.
(I’m sorry that I don’t have calories or nutritional info. I don’t know how to compute that. Plus years ago I was taught to drop the calorie counting for choosing quality food. When there’s enough good fat and health-imparting benefits to a food, I find that I stay satisfied for longer and don’t need to nosh during the day.)