Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Coconut Carrot Pecan Muffins

     Being pregnant has had some strange effects on me.

     As I've mentioned before, prior to my Paleo escapades, I was a hardcore sugar fiend--I pretty much lived off candy for most of my young adulthood (and I have the dental records to prove it).

     See this guy here?

     Yep. That was me.

     Root canals and tooth extractions aside, when I found out I was pregnant, one of my (many) fears was that I was going to be overcome with cravings for sweets and candy again--undoing more than a year's worth of good, clean eating habits. This would not only be bad for my baby, but also threatened to leave me toting a lot more extra pregnancy weight than anticipated--with the added task of building back up my sense of self-discipline in the midst of taking on the stresses of my new role as parent.

     Oddly enough though, nearly 6 months in, the only real cravings I'm having are for carbohydrates. It's not the carb cravings that are odd (those are quite typical during pregnancy)--it's the type of carbs I'm craving. I don't want ice cream, french fries, chocolate, or pizza--Instead, I want starchy sweet potatoes, carrots, beets, acorn squash, butternut squash--and pretty much any other orange, fibrous vegetable I can get my hands on.

     That being said, occasionally I do want something a little sweet, and lately I've realized that my Paleo recipe book is severely lacking in the treats department. While this is sort of a good thing (since the treats realm is sortof a slippery slope for me), it's still nice to have a bit of fresh-baked Paleo comfort food from time to time. So, between my love for orange vegetables and budding desire to create some oven-fresh treats, Coconut Carrot Muffins were born.

     What makes these a little bit different that most other Paleo baked goods is that these muffins are not sweetened with honey, maple syrup, stevia, or agave nectar. Instead, I only used fruit (applesauce and dates) to offer just a subtle hint of barely-there sweetness. I went with dates because, aside from the fact that they taste really good, they also contain a bunch of different nutrients like potassium, b-complex vitamins, iron, magnesium, and fiber--making them one of the healthiest natural sweeteners around.

It's Not My Milkshake that Brings all the Boys to the Yard.
..It's my Coconut Carrot Pecan Muffins
Makes 12
1 1/4 cup Unsweetened Coconut Flakes
3/4 cup Almond Meal
1 teas. Aluminum-Free Baking Soda
1/2 teas. Sea Salt
1 heaping T Cinnamon
1 cup Baby Carrots, shredded extra fine (I used a food processor for this)
1 single-serving Unsweetened Organic Applesauce Cup
1 teas. Vanilla Extract
2 T Coconut Oil
5 Medjool Dates, pitted
2 Omega-3 Eggs, whisked
Raw Pecans, coarsely chopped (about 1/4 cup)

*Preheat oven to 350*

  • First, combine coconut flakes, almond meal, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon in a medium-sized bowl.
  • In a separate, large bowl, mix together carrot and applesauce. Set aside.
  • Next, make a paste out of the dates: In a small glass bowl, put dates + 3 Tablespoons of warm water. Microwave for 30 seconds on high. Mash dates with a fork until they become paste-like, add one more tablespoon of water, and microwave for another 30 seconds. Add coconut oil and vanilla. Mash some more. It should look greasy, sweet, and delicious:

  • Mix the date paste mixture into the carrot/apple bowl, and then mix the dry ingredients in a little bit at a time, followed by the eggs.
  • Grease a muffin tin with coconut oil, then spoon mixture into pan. Top with coarsely crushed pecans.
  • Bake for 19-21 minutes. Remove from oven, and let cool in pan for about 15 minutes before trying to get them out. It helps to loosen them around the edges with a butter knife.

Warning: Putting a sock on your hand is not a suitable replacement for an oven mitt. You WILL burn yourself.

A few things about this recipe:

     There's a lot of things you could do to shake this recipe up a bit: You could add extra spices like ginger, nutmeg, or cardamom. Or, you could use walnuts instead of pecans on top--or mix them into the batter (I prefer the slightly toasted taste they get from using them as a topping). You could add some raisins or diced up apple as well, but know that this will affect the sugar content.

    These are really fast and easy to throw together, and aren't crazy bad for you, either. According to my calculations (thank you, Calorie Counter Android app), they only have about 1/3 of the amount of sugar of a Larabar, with less calories. They're actually somewhat dense, too, making them a filling, satisfying snack.

Per Muffin:                       Larabar (Carrot Cake):
171 Calories                       200 Calories
12.7g Fat                            8g Fat
13 Carbs                             32 Carbs
8.6g Sugar                          24g Sugar
3.7g Protein                       3g Protein

       Just add a little bit of protein on the side, and you'll have a well-balanced morsel of goodness to start your day. 

Nummy num!
     I messed with this recipe for three nights trying to get it right. I tried in earnest to go with sweetening them only with applesauce, but when I tasted the prototype, they were pretty bland and didn't really 'hit the spot.' I also experimented with using coconut flour for one batch--even after adding 2 extra eggs, (coconut flour sucks up any liquid you have), they turned out dry and incredibly dense--almost dense to eat (like little muffin paperweights--they probably had way more fiber than anyone should have in one sitting, too). I like coconut flour, and will probably toy around with it in the future, just not with these.

     Anyway, I'm pretty sure I got the final recipe right.

     Members of CrossFit South Hills enjoyed them, at least. :)

     Also, please keep in mind: The fact that it's Paleo means you can eat it and feel good about it--but it doesn't mean you should curl up in front of the TV with a whole tray of them and take the Treats Train to Muffin Town. A Paleo muffin is still a muffin, just like a Paleo cookie is still a cookie. Moderation is key!

     So don't expect a lot of treats from me here--however, I will be presenting a pumpkin muffin recipe in the fall. ;)

    Mmm, orange vegetables. Mmm.