Hi. You see those muffins up top there? The ones that actually look more like cupcakes with their gloriously creamy frosting? Yeah, those. They are healthy. Like whole wheat, low sugar, full of nutrition, clean eats, totally acceptable for breakfast healthy. They don’t look healthy. But they are. Which is the best kind of healthy.
Of course, my definition of healthy might vary drastically from yours and both of ours are probably different from the person down the street. Healthy is a totally relative term (and part of the reason why it is so full of contention all the time). For something to be considered “healthy” in my book, it has to focus more on being nutrient-dense than anything else—and that’s what these muffins are. Delicious, healthy, nutrient-dense little balls of awesome.
Your typical store-bought muffin is really just birthday cake in disguise as a breakfast food—they are packed with so much sugar, you might as well just really enjoy yourself and have a big ole slice of that triple chocolate cake that you’ve been eyeing instead of choking down a dry muffin from the bakery. These are not those muffins—in health or in dryness.
The majority of the sweetness in these muffins comes in the form of creamy, spicy, apple-tastic Musselman’s Apple Butter. They are low on the added sugar and high on the moisture thanks to the ole A.B. They are dense. Sweet. Moist. And packed full of good-for-you-ingredients like whole wheat flour, walnuts, carrots (duh), and raisins.
I love baking with apple butter because you can use it in place of most of the fat and sugar in your regular baking recipes—it’s a great time save. And I love, in particular, baking with Musselman’s Apple Butter because the only ingredients are apples, sugar and spices. No weird additives! Just like I would make it at home if I managed to actually make it to the apple orchard and pick my own apples last Fall. Which I did not. Life, man.
I am thrilled to be partnering up with Musselman’s again in 2016 (we had so much fun last year with pulled pork and donuts and pizza) to bring you a few fun ways to use apple butter in your cooking. We all know apple butter is totally dreamy slathered on a hot buttermilk biscuit (swoon!), but I love it as an ingredient in cooking and baking, too. It just adds a little somethin’ somethin’ that sends food over the top.
These muffins are wonderful on their own. They are very dense and hearty, but they are tender and moist without any need to add butter on top or dip them in your coffee. You could totally make these and skip the frosting and still be thrilled with your results.
BUT. What’s carrot cake without cream cheese frosting? Nothing. That’s what.
So that’s why I made a healthy version of cream cheese frosting. Normal cream cheese frosting in 99.9% sugar to 00.1% cream cheese. This healthier version flips the script—just a touch of honey is added to softened cream cheese to make a perfectly tangy and smooth topping for the muffins. It’s a lot more cream cheese than frosting, and it’s the perfect complement to these beauties.
I get asked all the time why I don’t post the nutrition facts with my recipes, and recipes like this are one of the main reasons (well, that and the fact that I’m not a dietician and have very limited formal nutrition training, so I have no expertise in calculating nutrition facts). I truly believe that nutrition facts—and especially calorie counts—don’t tell the full picture of food. I understand that nutrition information is important and even vital for some folks, but for me, food is about so much more to me than some numbers in black and white.
So, if you’re counting calories, I’d urge you to (a) make these in a mini muffin tin to keep portions in check and (b) really keep in mind that calories don’t always tell the full picture of nutrition. These are not light, skinny, or low calorie muffins. They are filling, nutritious, and packed with all kinds of goodies to keep that beautiful body of yours happy as can be. Proceed accordingly.
One more bit of rambling before I finally give you the recipe, these muffins are an awesome choice for the freezer! Once they are cool, before frosting them, just plop them in a freezer zip-top bag and freeze away. When you’re ready to eat one, wrap it up in a paper towel and nuke it for 30-40 seconds until warm. Yum! Enjoy.