Mary Marmalade Muffins (heart healthy orange walnut)

mary-muffins.jpg

This month, my friend Mary made me a cake for my birthday that she found on this terrific blog called Orangette. Using olive oil and ground almonds for fats, it's like the dessert equivalent of a delicious oxymoron, both rich and rustic, conveying elegance and wholesomeness at once. Lit with candles, there was a certain natural and cheerful modesty about it, and when Mary said that the recipe reminded her of me,  I gratefully accepted the compliment. More touching was the fact that Mary burned herself rather significantly when pulling the cake out of the oven. The springform pan was set on a cookie sheet, which apparently was on the wide and wobbly side. Naturally, I wanted to reinvent my birthday cake in another form before  even taking a first delectable bite of it. Not because some misguided guilt at being inadvertently connected to an ice breaker of a kitchen battle scar inspired me to bake something in return, though admittedly that was a thought. I just couldn't resist the method it employs of using entire citrus fruits (all the edible parts, at least). My weekend experiment was focused on creating some kind of mini-muffin cousin, one which could be enjoyed more frequently than special occasions, and I was really satisfied with the results. Not only was our house freshly enveloped with the clean scent of citrus for days after baking, such wholehearted use of zest was uniquely comforting. It's quite a fanciful stretch, but in a childlike way it seemed like a happy bonus effort at sustainability...you know, as in they were respectfully in tune with the environment; they used the whole buffalo...

You can find the original birthday cake recipe here:

http://orangette.blogspot.com/2010/02/we-ate-this-cake.html

Here's my creative take, dedicated to Mary and more-or less guaranteed not to cause burning of flesh provided basic precautions are followed.

Heart Healthy Orange Walnut Muffins

I hope it doesn't seem presumptuous to slap the description of "heart healthy" on this recipe, when the simpler name "orange walnut" would suffice.  However, lately I've been reading about the particularly heart healthy benefits walnuts provide, with their concentration of heart-protective monounsaturated fats, as well as their omega-3 fatty acids, which benefit the cardiovascular system by reducing risk of interior artery blood clotting, improve the ratio of good (HDL) to bad (LDL) cholesterol, reduce inflammation and more. Olive oil is also well known for being rich in monounsaturated fat, and contains phytochemicals that studies indicate may help lower blood cholesterol levels.  Another heart-healthy inclusion  in this recipe is oats, which also contain omega-3s and are rich in soluble fiber.  I did include whole eggs, which are back in style nutritionally but perhaps not so high on the list for cardiac patients! There are only two, however (reduced by half from the cake), and I'm pretty sure egg whites, or an egg/egg white combination would do, too. Finally, there's that beckoning aroma of the two whole oranges!

  • 2 medium oranges
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup oats
  • 2/3 cup toasted walnuts
  • 1 T baking powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup skim milk
  • 1/4 cup low fat plain or vanilla yogurt
  • 1/2 (to 3/4) cup honey

*For a dairy free version, substitute OJ for the milk, and applesauce for the yogurt. I'm pretty certain a gluten free version is easily accessible, too, so will update in future!

1. In a saucepan, cover the 2 oranges with water. Bring to boil over medium-high heat; reduce heat to medium-low and simmer half an hour. Drain and cool.

2. Pulse walnuts, flours and oats in a food processor until nuts are finely ground. Pour into a mixing bowl. Whisk in baking powder.

3.When citrus is cool, cut in half and discard the seeds. Put the halves in the food processor and chop finely.

4. In a small bowl, whisk eggs and milk. Add olive oil, milk, yogurt and honey and stir to combine. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture, and add egg mixture  and citrus to it. Stir to just combine.

5. Pour batter into prepared muffin (or mini loaf) tin. Bake at 350°F, 15-18 minutes for mini muffins, 25-30 for mini loaves or regular muffin tins.