Sunflower Muffins to Beat the Winter Doldrums

I'm a summer girl at heart. I love the sun and warmth, abundant vegetables and fruits, and myriad opportunities for healthy plant-based meals. Come winter, I've been known to fall into a food rut. Let's face it: life doesn't look the same without plump New Jersey blueberries to sprinkle in muffins, or oodles of garden-fresh basil to put in, well, everything.
 
To break out of the doldrums, I've been experimenting with zippy ingredients that have a long shelf-life, and are just as delicious whether you use them in January or July. At the top of my list are nut and seed butters.
 
Good old peanut butter is, well, great, but when was the last time you enjoyed sunflower seed butter, almond butter, or cashew butter? It's worth trying out the whole lot of them. Nut butters are calorie-dense for their volume, so portion control is a consideration. However, nut butters are about more than calories; even a small amount of nuts, seeds or their butters offer essential fats, protein, fiber and many micronutrients. Two tablespoons of almond butter contain about 6 grams of fiber, 7 grams of protein, as well as iron. The same amount of sunflower seed butter provides vitamin E, zinc, copper and beneficial monounsaturated fat.
 
Most nut butters should be refrigerated after opening, but last in the fridge for months—if you can keep them around that long. In my home, they usually get eaten much more quickly.
 
The following sunflower muffins are a delicious breakfast. The healthy fat, fiber and protein from sunflower seeds make for a satiating little meal that will keep you feeling full all morning. Coconut oil imparts lush moistness and a hint of tropical taste. And whole wheat pastry flour bumps up both the flavor and fiber, without being gritty or dense.  I love these topped with a dollop of honey or strawberry jam.
 
Sometimes it only takes one fun new recipe to brighten a winter day. Let me know if you agree!


Sunflower Muffins

Recipe by Cara Anselmo, MS, RD, CDN

These muffins are delicious straight from the oven, but even better if you let them stand for a few hours after baking. They keep well for 2 days in a tightly sealed container, or wrap extras in foil and keep in the freezer for up to 2 months.

Makes 12 medium-sized muffins

Ingredients
¾ cup whole wheat pastry flour
¾ cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
½ cup sunflower seed butter
1 cup brown sugar
¼ cup canola oil
¼ cup unrefined coconut oil
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
½ cup almond milk or soy milk
1 cup finely chopped mixed nuts (I use pecans, cashews, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, or whatever I have on hand)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375° and place paper liners in muffin tin.
  2. Combine flours, baking powder and salt, and set aside.
  3. In a standard mixer, combine sunflower butter, sugar, oils, egg and vanilla. Add in soymilk and mix until batter is evenly textured.
  4. Add dry ingredients to above, mix just until combined. Stir in half of the chopped nuts.
  5. Fill muffin cups about 3/4-full with batter. Top each muffin with a sprinkle of the remaining 1/2 cup of chopped nuts.
  6. Bake 25 minutes, or until tops are browned and a knife inserted to the center comes out clean.
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Cara Anselmo
Cara Anselmo, MS, RDN, is a nutritionist and certified yoga instructor in New York City. Follow Cara on Twitter.