Bake for Better Health

Photo by Lorelle Del Matto

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins 

 If there is one thing October brings to mind its pumpkin, and there’s nothing better to warm up a chilly fall day than baking this sweet winter squash into a special treat. And why not make it something that you can call breakfast?  Here’s how I came up with the following recipe for pumpkin chocolate chip muffins: 

 I took a standard recipe and replaced some of the refined white flour with whole wheat pastry flour for more whole grain and fiber.  I substituted 1/3 cup of vegetable oil for one-half cup of butter, as oil is a healthier source of fat.   I could get by with less of it because the pumpkin provides moistness and oil has more net fat than butter.  I didn’t miss the taste of butter because chocolate morsels, pumpkin and pumpkin pie spice provide lots of entertaining flavor.  I also reduced the leavening slightly, to just what I thought would properly leaven the muffins without leaving a nasty aftertaste which may be detectable in an over-leavened product.  I used half brown sugar and half granulated sugar instead of all granulated sugar for more caramel flavor notes.  I reduced the amount of chocolate morsels to control calories and saturated fat while still providing a nice hit of chocolate.  I added some walnuts, a healthful but calorific ingredient, sprinkled them on top for maximum effect. They make an attractive topping and are but toasted in the oven which provides a nutty crunch. 

 Adapting recipes for baked goods sounds easy, but I’ve had occasions where I’ve tested an item ten or more times to get an acceptable result.  If you choose to “improve”  your recipes, always change one ingredient at a time so you can evaluate the effect.

 Pumpkin and other winter squashes are a source of vitamin A, one of the nutrients that’s under-consumed in the American diet.  One of these muffins provides 60% of the Daily Value for vitamin A along with 4 grams of protein, 3 grams of fiber and 272 calories. 

 Pumpkin pie spice is a convenient blend of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, mace and cloves.  Not only do these spices provide flavor, the health benefits of spices are an active area of research, although you may need to consume them in significant quantities. Ginger is being studied for its role in digestion, muscle and joint pain.  Cinnamon, ginger and cloves “may help to prevent cell damage from aging and environmental pollutants” says the American Institute of Cancer Research in their Guide to Herbs and Spices which also cites research showing that one-half  teaspoon of ground cinnamon daily may help diabetics control blood sugar.  More can be learned at this site: The McCormick Science Institute .

Photo by Lorelle Del Matto

 If you’d like a little company in the kitchen, remember that an added benefit of making your own baked goods is the spicy, alluring aroma that fills your home.  It will surely draw a crowd.




Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour

2/3 cup all purpose flour

1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 large eggs

1/2 cup packed golden brown sugar

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 cup plain pumpkin (canned is fine)

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup semisweet or bittersweet chocolate morsels

1/3 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In medium bowl, stir together whole wheat pastry flour, all purpose flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda, baking powder and salt.  In large bowl, lightly beat eggs.  Whisk in brown and granulated sugars, oil and pumpkin, whisking until smooth.  Stir in chocolate chips.  Gradually add flour mixture, stirring just until smooth.  Spoon batter evenly into 12 oiled or paper-lined muffin pan cups.  Sprinkle with nuts.  Bake 18 minutes or until pick inserted in center comes out clean.  Remove muffins from pan and cool on rack.  Makes 12 muffins. 

 Copyright © Lorelle S Del Matto 2011

lorelle About lorelle

Crazy about cooking, eating and sharing good food – my work and leisure revolve around the kitchen. As a culinary dietitian my professional life encompasses nutrition counseling and education, recipe development, product development, food and nutrition writing, marketing communications, corporate test kitchen and consumer affairs management, food styling and work as a product spokesperson.

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