Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Raisin Date Bran Muffins

Today's cereals are sprayed with everything from probiotics to antioxidants. Some are even gluten-free. A cereal isn't a cereal unless it makes health claims that flirt with the FDA's legal requirements of how much a food can promise to heal all of your ills. Cereals are the modern equivalent of patent medicine, only some of them are actually tasty. Unfortunately, I can't really eat cereal any more--even a small bowl makes me feel very bloated, but for most of my early years, I ate cereal fairly, er, regularly.

In the late 80s, oatmeal had its cultural moment, but from what I can remember there were relatively few packaged cereals with a healthy reputation.  There was Post Raisin Bran, which my father ate every day. And there was mom's Kellogg's "If you can pinch more than an inch" Special K. When I moved past the marshmallows-in-milk phase of cereals, I favored Kellogg's Raisin Bran, Cracklin' Oat Bran, and Product 19. For some reason, we never ate Grape Nuts.  Of course, all of these healthy cereals are incredibly high in carbohydrates and sugar but my family didn't know that. They were brown and didn't come with prizes, so they were virtuous. However, even I figured out pretty quickly that Cracklin' Oat Bran was so delicious because it had twice as many calories, and more sugar and fat than a bowl of Lucky Charms.

I'm not proud of this, but long before Kellogg patented the 'cereal diet' in which you eat an oh-so-nutritious bowl of Special K cereal for breakfast and lunch, I went on my own cereal diet.  I was a pudgy eleven-year-old who still  wore her hair in braids, in imitation of my favorite storybook characters, not because they were fashionably hipster and ironic as they are today.

I don't know why, but I decided that because two servings of Product 19 had all of those 'vitamins and minerals' and roughly equaled 300 calories, I would eat two bowls of Product 19 for breakfast, lunch and dinner, clocking in at 900 calories. Sometimes I'd allow myself an extra 100 for a banana or raisins.  What I really liked to do was take a tablespoon of peanut butter, take a few large flakes of Product 19 and make a 'cereal mini-sandwich,' but wisely, I did not allow myself peanut butter when on a diet.

Weirdly enough (perhaps because it was mostly sugar), I didn't lose ANY weight on this diet, and of course I cheated on it pretty quickly. A loaf of cinnamon raisin bread and butter in the refrigerator, butter, marmalade, peanut butter, pepperoni, and it was all over...

I do remember getting into a bizarre argument with my mother who insisted that 'the only cereal that makes you lose weight is Special K.'  I also had to keep a food journal for 6th grade health class and despite having to list my daily intake, my teacher didn't say anything about my cereal diet.

These date bran muffins are just as tasty as a bowl of sugary, faux healthy cereal but they don't contain cereal. They use regular unprocessed wheat bran, and all of their ingredients can be pronounced. They would make a great, low-fat, low-calorie breakfast to grab 'on the go' with some yogurt to school. But I wouldn't suggest eating them for breakfast, lunch, AND dinner.

Raisin Date Bran Muffins

--yields 8-12 muffins--


1 1/2 cups wheat bran
1 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup dark brown sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 cup full fat or lowfat yogurt
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 large, beaten egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped dates


1. Preheat oven to 375F. Line a muffin tin with the desired number of liners (12 for small muffins, 8 for medium-sized).

2. Sift together the bran, flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon.

3. Combine the yogurt, oil, egg and vanilla, spoon dry into wet.

4. Fold in raisins and dates.

5. Pour batter into muffin liners.  Bake for 15-20 minutes until the top is 'springy' and/or a toothpick can be extracted clean.


  1. These look like the bran muffins they served in my college cafeteria: dense, slightly sticky, and delicious. Most bran muffins are so dry and anemic. I'm going to try this recipe and if these turn out to the be same, I might cry with nostalgia and ... regularity.

  2. @flurrious--I totally agree with you about the 'dryness' factor. I think the dates add a great deal of extra moisture and sweetness. I hope the recipe can recapture 'your ideal raisin bran muffin.'

    That's so funny about your college cafeteria--my college had wonderful muffins (raisin bran, corn, oatmeal) and they were often the only reason I got up in the morning. I would eat them with butter, of course, canceling out any possible positive health effects they might have possessed...