These muffins are a great snack. They freeze well, and I eat them as I would a granola/Clif/Lara bar, but they have a lot less sugar, are fresher, and have more whole food ingredients. They’re more work to make than a smoothie, but you get at least 12 servings out of a batch, and they’re more portable.
The recipe is inspired by a recipe I got from a friend who is participating in a human study on the effects of caloric restriction on aging/lifespan. There are some serious nutrition geeks in the study cohort, and one of them named Sherm came up with this recipe years ago. I presume he named them “mega” because of all the nutritious ingredients they contain. The original recipe is no longer online, but through the wonders of archive.org, I found it here. I’m an active guy who could stand to gain a few pounds, so I added in a bunch more calories from grains. The original uses psyllium husk (no calories, lots of fiber), and a few different kinds of bran; I replaced these with whole grains. If you’re looking to limit calories, you could easily sub the psyllium husk and bran back in.
The recipe is pretty flexible. It has a lot of ingredients, but you can leave some out or make a substitution. When I make it I don’t worry too much about the consistency; I usually end up with something that is dense and moist. (The goal is to make a satisfying and nutritious snack, not an artful dessert.) If you want to make it vegan, you could substitute 4 Tbsp chia seeds and ¾ cup water for the eggs, and if you’re concerned about the egg yolks, you could make it with egg whites. I personally think whole eggs are fine (I choose pastured ones though).
Using a Vitamix lets you to grind the grains fresh in whatever mixture you want. It also makes easy work of the wet ingredients. My basic workflow is: grind the grains, mix in other dry ingredients, dump dry ingredients into large mixing bowl, blend wet ingredients in the normal container, combine wet and dry ingredients in mixing bowl with spoon, pour into baking pan or muffin molds and bake.
I use whey protein to boost the protein content. This time I used Trader Joe’s Vanilla, although I generally prefer straight whey.
Preheat oven to 325 °F. The slightly low temperature is to minimize browning and heat degradation of nutrients.
1 cup wheat berries (from freezer)
1 cup brown rice (from freezer)
½ cup oats
¼ cup nutritional yeast
¾ cup whey protein
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 Tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cloves
tiny pinch of salt
1 cup dried cranberries
1) Start by grinding grains on high for ~1 minute in dry container if you have one, otherwise the regular one is OK. (I like to store grains in the freezer because they keep better, and because grinding heats them up, and starting with them cold allows you to grind them a bit longer without overheating.)
2) Then add the remaining dry ingredients and blend them in (~10 seconds). Dump the blended dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl.
5) Grease your baking pan with olive oil–in the past I used a 9×13 glass baking dish, but this time I tried some new silicone muffin cups (these and these). The muffin form factor makes them cook more evenly.
6) Mix the wet and dry ingredients until they are well combined, and mix in the dried cranberries.
7) Pour into pan and bake at 325 °F. The 9×13 pan usually took about 50 minutes, but the muffin molds make it go faster. I cooked them for 30 minutes, although I had a few problems with my oven temperature, so I’m not sure what it actually was. I wasn’t sure when they were done, so I used a probe-type thermometer to check the temperature in the center. After a little searching online, 200 °F seems like a good target. If you don’t have a thermometer, you can poke one with a toothpick to make sure that it’s not too raw on the inside. I generally like to err on the side of less cooked though, because they will continue to cook a bit after you take them out of the oven.
8) Let them cool. I wrap each one individually in cling wrap and then put them into freezer bags in the freezer. When you want to eat one you can either pull it out a few hours in advance or defrost it in the microwave.
I was curious about how the nutrition facts stack up, so I used the relatively handy tool over at NutritionData.self.com. If you input ingredients it will calculate nutrition facts for your recipe. Here it is for a large serving mega muffin (1/12th of this batch): 288 Calories, 9g fat, 44g total carbohydrate, 7g fiber, 11g sugars, 12g protein. For the calculation I added 10 grams of sugar to the total recipe because that’s the amount of extra sugar in the Trader Joe’s whey compared to the pure whey that is listed at Nutrition Data.
For a similar serving size, these muffins have about half the sugar and more fiber and protein than a Clif Bar or Lara Bar. If you’re concerned about the fat (which I don’t think most people should be), you could remove or pare down the egg yolks and almonds. The great thing is that you can put in whatever you want.