The Lenten season is well underway, and that means different things for me today than it did when I was a kid. Growing up, my family and I always observed Lent and the traditional rules of not eating meat on Fridays and giving something up for the 40-day period. Some people gave up candy or ice cream or whatever, but in my family, we always gave up eating between meals. 40 days of no snacks also pretty much meant 40 days of no candy since it wasn’t easy to pass off a pile of jolly ranchers as dessert. These days, things have changed. I don’t eat much meat in the first place, so telling myself I’m not going to eat meat but will eat fish on a Friday doesn’t mean much. Also, since the real idea is to simplify and be a little less decadent, sitting down to a meal of lobster just because it’s Friday is missing the point. As for not eating between meals, I let that go years ago when I couldn’t determine what might be a meal and what might be a snack depending on what I was doing each day. So, I just give up popcorn which kills me every year because I have a serious popcorn problem. And, rather than focusing solely on giving something up, I like to take on something good as well. This year, I’m cooking even more vegetables than usual and spending even more time with my healthy eating types of cookbooks. I recently picked up a copy of Power Foods which showcases 38 of the big players among nutrition-packed fruits, vegetables, proteins, and grains with recipes for every meal of the day as well as snacks. So far, I’ve only cooked from the breakfast chapter, but I see many healthy dishes for Lent and the rest of the year coming from these pages.
The little, oat bran-applesauce muffins looked like a perfect way to have a healthy, grab-and-go breakfast on hand. They’re mini muffins, so you can have one for a tiny breakfast if you’re not that hungry or grab a few on a morning when you need more energy. With no refined sugar, they’re sweetened only with applesauce, dates, and some honey. They were made by reducing applesauce with chopped, pitted dates to cook off some liquid while plumping the dates. Once cool, that mixture was combined with wheat bran, buttermilk, one egg, two tablespoons of honey, some grated fresh ginger, and vanilla. The dry ingredients were whisked together, and those were flour, ground flaxseed, baking soda, salt, ground allspice, and rolled oats. The dry ingredients were stirred into the applesauce mixture, the mini muffin cups were filled, and the muffins baked for about 20 minutes.
The ginger and allspice smelled lovely as the muffins baked, and I thought those flavors were even better after the muffins had sat for a day. Yes, they do contain wheat bran and flaxseed and no actual sugar, but the dates and applesauce give them sweetness and keep the texture very tender. I have several other pages in the book marked, and I predict it will still be getting a lot of use beyond these 40 days.