Tuesday, August 21, 2012
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.
Monday, May 21, 2012
I had a very slender, weight-conscious friend in high school who loved those large-as-a-baby, sticky rolls
sold by Cinnabon in malls across America. "They are like, five hundred calories, but totally WORTH IT. Even if you eat nothing else for the rest of the day."
I've never had a Cinnabon and the few times I've had cinnamon rolls I wasn't blown away--the flavor profile of the pastry just isn't complex enough for me. There is too much whiteness, not enough spice. Too much nothingness to counteract the sweetness.
|Flickr: revrev (I do believe there is a bun somewhere beneath the icing)|
I used to love cinnamon raisin bagels slathered in strawberry cream cheese, but even they are too sweet for me now.
As a kid, when I came home from school I could barely restrain myself from plowing through more than my fair share of a Pepperidge Farm cinnamon raisin loaf, toasted, with slabs of butter, peanut butter, jam, cream cheese, or honey...alternating different combinations on different slices. A cinnamon sandwich artist for myself...
|Flickr: B Tal|
Besides the sweetness, I think one reason I don't long for cinnamon raisin bagels with strawberry cream cheese is the same reason I don't long for sugary cereals. The context in which I ate them has long gone away, as has the desire for the food. Without Saturday morning cartoons on the television to watch, Lucky Charms are now incomplete. Without Nickelodeon playing You Can't Do that On Television on the TV, I no longer need to slather butter and orange marmalade on cinnamon raisin toast. Without early morning high school activities to attend, I no longer need to steel myself with bagels...
These muffins are a very modest treat compared with Cinnabons. They are quick and easy and great for a cinnamon 'fix' when you can't afford a several-hours carbohydrate and fat coma afterward.
I think you should make them this weekend, particularly if you have a long and leisurely holiday weekend.
Do kids still watch Saturday morning cartoons? I think they would pair well with them, too...just as much as Captain Crunch paired nicely with Dungeons and Dragons, Frankenberry with Tom & Jerry, and Lucky Charms with the Smurfs. The evil cat Azreal was always my favorite character and I deeply resented the fact that the 'bad' Smurfette had short brown hair, while the 'good' one had long, blonde hair. I felt sorry for Azreal and the bad Smurfette, just like I felt sorry for Tom the Cat and the Wild E. Coyote of Warner Brothers fame. I felt they couldn't help being bad and had been arbitrarily assigned that status by unkind fate. They had their own stories, we just never knew them.
Dark Brown Sugar Swirl Cinnamon Muffins
--yields 12 muffins--
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 beaten, large egg
6 ounces of plain lowfat yogurt
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon of cinnamon
1/4 cup chocolate chips (any kind of chip would work well)
1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line 12 muffin tins with paper.
2. Mix the oil, sugar, egg, and yogurt together. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together, and incorporate the wet into the dry.
3. Sift together sugar and cinnamon for the swirl.
3. Spoon half of the muffin batter into muffin liners. Top with half of sugar-cinnamon mixture. Add the rest of the batter, then top each muffin with the remaining swirl mixture. Garnish with chips, if desired.
4. Bake for approximately 17-20 minutes until a toothpick can be extracted clean.