Weeknight dinners can start to feel oppressively repetitive. The constant need to think of something, anything to cook, and preferably something healthy, it can start to wear a girl down. When we had tacos YET AGAIN for dinner last Thursday, I knew a dinner rut was hitting our house big time. Inspiration was not striking, not even sneaking its way in with our bounty of coveted summer tomatoes and eggplants and melons. I wasn’t even getting a whisper about dinner. But these muffins on the other hand? I couldn’t stop thinking about them.
I’m not usually a muffin-for-breakfast person. The muffins you find in coffeeshops are too huge, too oily, too sugary to serve as an acceptable breakfast. I don’t love sweets in the morning, but I do love having something that’s very, very easy to deal with. I like having baked goods on hand for quick weekday breakfasts, and I’m always looking for ways to make them better, meaning not so full of sugar and butter. Don’t get me wrong, sugar and butter are great, but they don’t exactly make me feel like I’m getting off to a good start.
Sometime last week, the notion of a carrot and cherry muffin got in my head, and I spent days thinking about how to tweak it and twist it into a suitable breakfasting form. I’m pretty pleased with what I came up with, and with some fresh fruit on the side, they provide an excellent start to the day.
These muffins are almost like a cross between a scone and a muffin: They’re dense, skirting oat cake territory. But they aren’t dry in the least. The carrots and cherries provide a good balance of sweet and tart, and I love the orange juice in here. You can’t quite tell what it is, but it gives them an extra zing. And I love love love that they are full of whole grains, oats, yogurt, fruits, and vegetables. Score!
A couple helpful hints: You can easily mix these by hand, and I’d actually recommend it. Overmixing muffin batter makes the muffins tougher, and these are dense enough as it is. If you do want a lighter muffin, substitute some all-purpose flour for the whole wheat. If your dough seems especially dry, add a bit more orange juice to loosen things up. And feel free to use low-fat or fat-free yogurt if that’s your thing. I used whole milk Greek yogurt, because that is pretty much the only kind of yogurt we ever have in this house.
Baking something like this is just the thing to get you out of a weeknight dinner rut, and a weekday breakfast rut, and a kitchen rut in general. Make a batch and you’ll have breakfasts you can feel good about all week.
- 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
- ¼ cup rolled oats
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ cup agave nectar
- ¾ cup yogurt
- ½ cup orange juice
- 1½ to 2 cups grated carrots (from about 2 medium carrots)
- 1 cup dried cherries
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Sift the flour into a large bowl. Add the oats, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, and whisk gently to combine.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the agave nectar, yogurt, and orange juice until the mixture is smooth. Stir in the carrots.
- Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, and add the cherries. Stir until the mixture is just combined. Don’t over mix; it’s ok if some bits of flour remain unincorporated.
- Line a 12 cup standard muffin tin with muffin papers. Fill each until it’s nearly full of batter. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes, or until a toothpick entered into the center of a muffin comes out clean.