As I try to stay current on the foods newly considered good for my health, and had been recently looking at functional foods, when, on the way out to the cottage, I stopped at a Tim Hortons for a coffee and a snack. Usually, I would opt for something wholesome-looking, but experience – and research – had taught me that appearances can be deceiving – especially when it comes to fast food chains. The Cranberry Blueberry Bran Muffins – promoted, unofficially, as the healthiest of the bunch – is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
Cranberries, blueberries and bran are all recognized functional food ingredients, but cannot make up for the negatives associated with the excess sugar and fat in the Tim Hortons muffin recipe. I was inspired: my mission was to make the most healthy “super” muffin possible, to go where no muffin had gone before. Unfortunately, as baking is a matter of chemical reactions as well as flavour combinations, I needed a base recipe with active ingredient quantities and dry / wet proportions that I could then change to accommodate the ingredients I deemed worthy of inclusion.
Though I have shelves full of recipe books, in the last few years I have turned to the internet as my primary source for recipe ideas. When I used to pull down books, one-by-one, and search indexes for mention of certain ingredients or types of cuisine, I now google my recipe requirement and browse the results online. I have favourite recipe-sharing websites that I gravitate to – websites I find more comprehensive than others, with more healthy dishes and more filtering options to narrow my search results.
The base recipe for my Berry Bran Muffins came from Recipezaar, a user-friendly recipe database that allows people to browse or search by course, ingredient, cuisine, diet, occasion and preparation. I used Recipezaar’s nutrition filters to set additional recipe parameters – in this case low-fat, low sugar and high fibre – and after scanning the recipes for potential, starting at the highest rated and working my way down, I decided on the Healthy Wheat Bran and Flax Meal Muffin recipe, posted by chef #508256, on June 11, 2007. It used natural wheat bran – as opposed to All Bran cereal – incorporated flax seed and some Splenda already, and used ingredients that I had substituted for healthier options in muffin recipes before.