It's February, the month of Valentine's Day, Heart Health, and warm muffins. Living on the South Shore this year feels odd without the workout of shoveling piles of snow. But that doesn't mean it isn't still time for romance, staying physical for the heart's sake, and savoring healthy, homemade muffins chockfull of nature's heart healthy foods.
Several years ago, one afternoon I was working as a ghostwriter in my study. My client was high maintenance with a capital "M" and we got into a heated argument. I was creatively unsatisfied. After the agonizing phone conversation, I noticed a strange pain in my lower right chest. While I'm sensitive and a hypochondriac I ended up running not walking to our local hospital. I got myself so worked up that the staff did work on me STAT. Within an hour, I was hooked up to machines like the alien in the film "E.T." No, I wasn't dying of loneliness or a heart attack. But upon doctor's orders, I did follow up with a Stress Test. I learned that I (the health author) was uh, um - out-of-shape. And that was the day that I got back into an exercising regime year round -snow or no snow.
So, while there isn't the white stuff on the ground to move, I'm still bringing in firewood, tending to the Brittany duo, and swimming. Instead of buying supersize ready-made muffins stuffed with stuff I can't pronounce, I baked up a batch of sweet muffins that are perfect for Valentine's Day (red berries in pink muffin papers) and they're super heart healthy, especially if eaten in moderation and teamed with a cup of hot herbal tea, Joe, hot chocolate or glass of milk.
Low Fat Cranberry Walnut Muffins
1 1/3 cups whole wheat flour
1/3 cup 2 percent organic reduced fat milk
1/3 cup organic low-fat all natural plain yogurt
1 brown egg
3 tablespoons European style butter
1/2 - 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 cup cranberries, dried
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Sugar in the Raw (natural cane sugar)
In a bowl, cream sugar and beaten egg. Set aside. In another bowl combine dry ingredients. Add sugar-egg mixture, dairy products, and flavorings. Fold in berries and nuts. Use a 1/3 cup ice cream scoop to fill batter evenly into a lined cupcake tin pan. Bake at 400 degrees for about 25 minutes. Sprinkle with sugar. Makes 12-14 medium-small muffins. (These freeze nicely.)
These muffins are simple to make. The first bite of a muffin straight out of the oven is comforting. A muffin heated up in the microwave is nice too. The berries give these muffins a natural sweetness and nuts provide texture. The sugar on top is a nice touch. No sugary frosting needed.
Sure, I admit that I miss an oncoming snowstorm like other regions are getting, but we can't whip up the weather. On Wednesday I did swim (third day in a row), made a picture-perfect fire, and am enjoying a two dog and one dog-like cat night (good for blood pressure like exercise). In between watching "Food Network" and movies I tune into dozens of psychic network callers who grill me (the solo advisor) about unrequited love. The best part, I'm writing my own books, and like a happy alien am keeping out of the human hospital. Muffin?
Motto: You can't control Mother Nature. You can control heart health by eating heart healthy foods and keeping a move on.
- Cal Orey is an accomplished author and journalist. Her books include The "Healing Powers" series (Vinegar, Olive Oil, Chocolate and Honey) published by Kensington. Her website is www.calorey.com.