My brother has developed a decidedly unique strategy to prepare for Thanksgiving. He calls it “training.” His method? He gradually eats more each day, expanding his stomach as turkey day approaches so that when the day comes, he is fully prepared to consume as much food as possible.
I said it was a strategy; I didn’t say it was pretty.
So when it comes to Thanksgiving, it should come as no surprise that my strategy, my “training,” is nothing like my brother’s. I tend to put on the brakes, slow down and cut back on some of my over-the-top favorites, so that come Thanksgiving, I feel entitled to pig out with abandon. My approach doesn’t make any more sense than his; it’s just how I roll.
But the run-up to Thanksgiving is also a time when I have food on the brain, constantly. How could I not? Everywhere I turn there are pictures of turkeys and pies and pumpkins. It’s gotten so bad that I’ve started seeing these images in everything, even when they’re not there. The other week, I saw the cover of The American magazine from a distance and thought a Chinese communist monument was a pumpkin pie. Seriously.
So in order to scratch that itch but still stick to my game plan, I try to cook or bake healthier options, like these Apple Raisin Bran Muffins. Bran? Oats? Whole wheat flour? How could I feel guilty about that? Couldn’t, didn’t, don’t. And they’re so tasty that I just might need to have another…. I probably should. After all, I’m in training.
Apple Raisin Bran Muffins
Note: Unlike many other muffin recipes, these muffins actually taste much better when they’ve had time to cool. The texture is better, and the flavors have time to develop. And the good news is, they also keep pretty well. The recipe is great for a busy morning because the batter is prepared and refrigerated overnight, meaning all you need to do in the morning is scoop the batter into muffin tins and toss them in the oven.
1/4 cup dark raisins
1/4 cup golden raisins
2 tablespoons apple cider
1 3/4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 1/4 cups wheat bran
1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup apple cider
1 1/4 cups buttermilk (or 1 generous tablespoon apple cider vinegar + enough milk to make 1 1/4 cups)
1 1/2 cups shredded apples (shredded in the food processor, or alternatively on a box grater), about 1 1/2 apples (I recommend Rome or Cortland)
3 tablespoons oil
Heat 2 tablespoons apple cider in a small bowl in the microwave until very hot, about 30 seconds. Add the dark and golden raisins and allow them to soak while you prepare the rest of the batter.
Combine the oats, bran, flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a very large bowl. Stir well to blend.
In a medium bowl, beat the eggs lightly with a whisk. Add the apple cider, buttermilk, grated apples and oil, whisking to combine. Drain the raisins, discarding any liquid that hasn’t been soaked up, and add them to the egg mixture, stirring well.
Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients. Pour in the wet ingredients and stir until the mixture is uniform and there are no more streaks of flour. Refrigerate for at least 2-3 hours, or preferably overnight.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a muffin tin with paper muffin cups (these muffins have a tendency to stick, so I always use muffin liners). Fill each cup to the top with batter. Bake for about 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Be careful not to over bake them. Remove the pan from the oven and transfer the muffins from the pan to a rack to cool. Repeat with remaining batter.
Yield: 18-20 muffins