Friday, April 15, 2011

Spiced Up Carrot Muffins

What bunny wouldn't love these? Made with a pound of sweet carrots, these Southwestern-style muffins are a good source of beta carotene and provide a half serving of vegetables in every muffin! They are partially sweetened with agave nectar, which is similar to a light cactus honey. (It's not as thick as regular honey, but almost as sweet.) You can find agave nectar in health food stores and many regular grocery stores due to its increasing popularity. Another benefit of these muffins is obtained by the tiny amount of cayenne, which is known to increase metabolism. By using almond flour for half of the wheat flour in a traditional muffin recipe, the carbs are cut by over 30%! They're not too sweet and they have a little spicy kick from the cayenne, which makes them an excellent side with grilled meat, chicken or fish. I also enjoy them as a snack in the afternoon. Recently, I served these at a pot luck dinner and they were well received by my guests, each wondering about the unusual combination of flavors. No one could believe they were a "diet" muffin, and neither will you!

Spiced Up Carrot Muffins
Makes 12 muffins

1/3 cup canola oil
1/3 cup light agave nectar
¼ cup Splenda granular
2 large eggs
Zest of 1 lime
Juice of 1 lime (about 2-3 tablespoons)
1 pound grated carrots (about 3 cups)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup almond flour (or finely ground almonds)
2 teaspoons baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne (or less, if you don’t like too much heat)
6 tablespoons chopped pecans or pine nuts, divided

1. Preheat oven to 350-degrees F. Spray a 12-cup muffin tin with non-stick vegetable spray or line with paper muffin cups; set aside.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour, almond flour, baking soda, salt and spices; set aside.

3. Using an electric handheld or standing mixer on medium-high speed, mix together the canola oil, agave nectar, Splenda, and eggs until well blended. Add the zest and juice of one lime and mix well. Add the grated carrots and mix thoroughly.

4. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the wet ingredients all at once. With a wooden spoon, stir until just moistened. Add ¼ cup of the nuts and stir. Divide the batter equally among the prepared muffin cups. Sprinkle about ½ teaspoon of the remaining nuts on the top of each muffin.

5. Bake in preheated oven for 22-25 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool in pan for 5 minutes, and then transfer muffins to a wire rack to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Nutritional Information per muffin: 220.7 calories, 20.9 g carbohydrate, 14 g total fat, 1.2 g saturated fat, 293.5 mg sodium, 2.5 g fiber, 4.7 g protein.

Recipe by Kathy Sheehan, copyright 2011

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