Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Mo’ Better Blueberry Muffins: A Recipe

(Hey folks – before we get into today’s post, be sure to check out this week’s Festival of Frugality, hosted by On Financial Success. There’s a ton of apropos personal finance and savings information, along with some nifty food posts like How Shopping for Groceries Online Can Save You Money as Well as Time by the Personal Financier, Living Almost Large’s meditation on Hillbilly Housewife’s $70/week Menu, and CHG's own 20 Cheap, Healthy Dishes Made From 10 Pantry Staples. Now, on to today's recipe.)

Between months of ovenless meals and this weekend’s no-cook/wallpaper debacle, I desperately needed to get my gourmet on last night. So, I hit the supermarkets, whipped out my power mixer, and started my own mini-cookoff. (Oh, I also jacked the stove to 425°F in our breezeless, already-90°F kitchen. My roommates loved that.)

For dinner, it was Better Homes and Gardens’ South-of-the-Border Pie. Quick cooking and relatively inexpensive, the dish ultimately didn’t prove to be anything special. Edible, yes. Special, nuh-unh. Kids might like it more than we (me and The Boyfriend) did, especially if they’re big fans of the musical fruit.
Verdict: Three stars out of five, unless you’ve not yet hit puberty.

For dessert/breakfast-the-next-day, I tried Cooking Light’s Spiced Blueberry Muffins, and was pleasantly surprised. Though they didn’t quite measure up to regular ol’ cake-type dealies, they were moister (Hate. That. Word.) than most light muffins and had a good blueberry-to-batter ratio. Delicious when warmed, I popped one in my bag for this morning’s meal, and it substituted nicely for my regular Honey Nut Cheerios. (Which I love like a lover.)
Verdict: Four out of five stars, with a possibility of the full five after some alterations.

I was all set to attempt Noodle Salad with Shrimp and Mint or Couscous and Feta Stuffed Peppers, but risked driving my badly-perspiring roommates to the brink of insanity (and/or homicide). So … yeah, that’ll happen later in the week. In the meantime, should you try the muffins yourself, here’s what you might wanna know:

1) If I made these again, I’d sprinkle larger sugar crystals on top and double the spices. My cinnamon’s shamefully old, and the muffins weren’t as pungent as they should have been.

2) The muffins are the size of a really big cupcake, and you don’t need CL’s “muffin cups” to make ‘em – a standard muffin pan will do. Also, they’ll look curiously pale when they’re finished, but will be cooked through just the same. Don’t panic.

3) These babies are pretty cheap, but you could probably cut the price a full 33% by buying the cream cheese on sale. It’s by far the most expensive ingredient.

4) Blueberries are peaking right now in the Northeast. I nabbed three pints for $1.50 each at Key Food, and that’s unheard of any other part of the year. And? They’re big, beautiful, juicy, and blue - not those crappy, still-unripe little green ones that look like Smurf poop. So – run! Getcher blues!

5) My picture is terrible. It appears to warn other bloggers of the dangers/idiocy of taking food photos with a camera phone. Ansel Adams has nothing to fear.

Coming tomorrow: The Booze of Summer! Stay tuned!

Spiced Blueberry Muffins
Makes 14 muffins
Adapted from Cooking Light.
About that picture: see?

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen wild blueberries
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/3 cup butter, softened
1 (8-ounce) block fat-free cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup 2% reduced-fat milk
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Cooking spray
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar

1) Preheat oven to 425°F. Coat a muffin pan with cooking spray.

2) In a small bowl, combine blueberries and 1 tablespoon flour, tossing gently.

3) In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. In the middle of the mixture, make a deep indentation/well.

4) In a medium bowl, blend butter and cream cheese with a mixer on high speed. This should take about 1 minute. Pour in milk, eggs, and vanilla. "Beat to combine." Pour mixture into the flour bowl indentation. Stir together until dry ingredients are barely moistened. Add blueberries. Stir them in gently.

5) Divide batter amongst 14 muffin cups. "Sprinkle 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar evenly over batter." Bake 15 minutes. Muffins should "spring back when touched lightly in center. " Remove from oven. After 5 minutes, scoop muffins out of pans and let them cool on a wire rack. 

Approximate Calories, Fat, and Price Per Serving
192 calories, 5.5 g fat, $0.41
(Nutrition info provided by Cooking Light.)

2 cups all-purpose flour: $0.19
3/4 cup sugar: $0.24
1 tablespoon baking powder: $0.10
1/2 teaspoon salt: $0.01
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon: $0.01
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg: $0.01
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves: $0.01
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen wild blueberries: $1.13
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour: $0.01
1/3 cup butter, softened: $0.31
1 (8-ounce) block fat-free cream cheese, softened: $2.99
1/2 cup 2% reduced-fat milk: $0.15
2 large eggs: $0.38
1 teaspoon vanilla extract: $0.12
Cooking spray: $0.05
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar: $0.03
TOTAL: $5.74


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