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Old Habits Die Hard: Mocha Cinnamon Cereal Muffins

[Thanks to everyone who purchased a copy of my new cookbook!  And if you’ve been waiting for the book to be listed on amazon.com, it’s now there!  Just click on the book image at left to see the three ways to buy.}


Anyone who’s ever successfully trained dogs knows that the key to success–more than anything else–is consistency.  Dogs like things to be the same each time they occur.  They like predictability.  So when you say, “sit,” you must always ensure that they sit.  When you say, “come!” you must ensure that they run toward you each and every time.  When you set 5:00 PM as their feeding time, you’d damn well better feed them at 5:00 PM.  And so on.

Why is this so?  Because dogs are creatures of habit.  Left to their own devices, they will repeat the same actions over and over (I mean, really, shouldn’t they already know what that hydrant smells like after the first 438 sniffs?). I recognize this canine quality every day at precisely 4:43 PM, when Elsie pads soundlessly across the office to barely graze my knee with her wet, leathery nose and remind me that dinner should be on its way in, oh, about 17 minutes. Or in the way Chaser tucks her head under the overhang of our bed’s comforter every evening before turning in for the night. Or in the way both Girls park themselves by the front door, pining, each weekday evening as they wait for the HH to arrive home from work.

Even though he’s fond of telling me I have “dog-like qualities,” it’s really the HH who is more the creature of habit in our relationship.  I liken myself more to Jerry’s character in Seinfeld, the one who had a library of cold breakfast cereals lining his kitchen shelf  because he peferred a varied selection. The HH, on the other hand, eats exactly the same thing for breakfast each day, following a very precise, very consistent morning ritual: 

7:00 AM:  Slam clock radio alarm with palm.  Lower palm to side of bed and pat Chaser’s head. Heave self out of bed.  Don “dog-walking pants” and sneakers.  Take The Girls for their AM romp and morning ablutions.

7:40 AM:  Shower and shave.  Forget to wipe the counter, leaving soapy pools of water clinging to all of Ricki’s cosmetic bottles. Reach into closet and grab the next clean shirt and next clean pair of pants (no matter if they don’t happen to match) and dress for work.  Slip into shoes, left one first, then right one and tie up laces.

8:15 AM:  grab a paper bag from under the sink and a banana from the bowl on the counter. Head to the fridge to fill the sack with other foods to enjoy later with that first deskbound coffee.  Pull out one green apple from the crisper drawer; then move to the door to select a home baked muffin from the unending stash on the shelf–


Suddenly, these days, there is no more stash of home-made, freshly baked breakfast goods.  Crisis!

You see, for the past 12 years or so, the HH has cohabited with a baker.  This means that he never had to think about his breakfast baked good; he was greeted each morning with a seemingly endless array of homemade, healthy treats from which to choose, courtesy of yours truly.  In the past year alone, as I was testing and re-testing recipes for the cookbook, those baked goods seemed to multiply of their own accord like happy little Tribbles, and the HH was often faced with an embarrassment of riches. It could be a tough choice for the guy, between a Sweet Harvest Muffin, Lemon Blueberry Scone, Maple-Millet Muffin,  PB & G Muffin, or even some Cinnamon Walnut Coffee Cake

But recently, I haven’t been baking much.  No, scratch that; I haven’t been baking at all. Adhering to the draconian restrictions  desperate measures stringent dictates of the ACD has made me shun anything sugary.  Forfeit anything floury. Eschew chocolate.  And–for a while, anyway–ban baking. 

Pity the poor HH. 

Not only has he lost his endless stock of breakfast muffins, he’s also been forced to eat the red apples from our weekly organic box (since I’m off fruit) instead of his usual green ones. I mean, really, how much can the poor guy take?

Feeling sorry for the guy, I decided to bake up some new muffins for his morning meal. Well, turns out I’m more a creature of habit than I realized–where baking is concerned, at least. Bake I must! I decided to accept the fact: Baking is my calling. Baking is in my blood!  Baking is my destiny!  I. Love. Baking.  Oh, and I also had a bunch of old ingredients in the cupboard I had to use up.


I spied a box of Cinnamon Puffins languishing at the back of the shelf , like the lone wallflower hoping against hope for a dance at the prom. I’d bought them before starting the ACD, mostly because I’d read about them so many times on VeggieGirl’s blog and was dying to try them.  And while I would have been happy to finish the box myself, I’m not allowed cereal on this diet; and the HH wasn’t fussy about them.  What to do?

Bake ’em into muffins, that’s what! I thought I’d replace some of the usual flour with ground-up cereal for an extra hit of both grains and flavor.  Playing with proportions and one of my favorite flavor combinations, I came up with this version of Mocha Cinnamon Cereal Muffins.  And this way, you don’t have to choose between cereal and a muffin–you get both in one!

The result was an incredibly moist, fragrant muffin.  The cereal added textural interest and a density that suits these miniature quick breads perfectly. Unlike most of my breakfast baking, these gems contain neither fruit nor vegetable, attaining their moistness from the mixture of cereal and ground chia.  With just a hint of coffee and whisper of cinnamon, they would be perfect topped with some almond butter or even buttery spread.

It felt great to get back to baking, even if I can’t enjoy the fruits of my labor (well, in this case, the cinnamon-coffee of my labor) just yet.  As for the HH, he seems much more comfortable now that his morning ritual has returned to normal. 

Mum, it’s great that you’ve got back to your old baking habit!  But how about that letting-us-lick-the-spoon habit?  Can you please get back to that one, too–??”

Mocha Cinnamon Cereal Muffins


I bet these would work well with any cinnamon-flavored breakfast cereal, or any cereal of your choice (just be aware that the cereal will confer some of its own flavor to the final product). 

2 cups (480 ml) cinnamon flavored cold cereal, dry (I used Cinnamon Puffins)

1 tsp (5 ml) finely ground chia seeds or 1 Tbsp (15 ml) finely ground flax seeds

2 Tbsp (30 ml) instant coffee substitute, or 1 Tbsp (15 ml) instant coffee

1/4 cup (60 ml) light agave nectar

1-1/4 cups (300 ml) plain or vanilla soy or almond milk

1 tsp (5 ml) pure vanilla extract

1/3 cup (80 ml) sunflower or other light-tasting oil, preferably organic

1/2 tsp (2. 5 ml) apple cider vinegar

3/4 cup (105 g) light spelt flour

1/2 cup (60 g) barley flour (may substitute more spelt)

1 Tbsp (30 ml) baking powder

1/2 tsp (2. 5 ml) baking soda

1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) cinnamon

1/4 tsp (1 ml) fine sea salt

2/3 cup (65 g) coarsely chopped pecans or walnuts

Preheat oven to 350F (180 C).  Line 10 muffin cups with paper liners for small muffins, or 8 cups for larger muffins; or spray with nonstick spray.

In the bowl of a food processor,whir the cereal until it has crumbled to a fine meal.  There should be no large pieces of cereal visible.  You should have about 1 cup (240 ml) of cereal-meal.

To the processor bowl, add the chia seeds, coffee substitute, agave, milk, vanilla, oil and apple cider vinegar.  Whir to combine.  (Note: if you use flax instead of chia, the muffins may be a teeny bit dryer–but still delicious!).

Add the spelt flour, barley flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and sea salt, and process again until blended, stopping to scrape the sides of the bowl if necessary.  You should have a fairly thick batter.   Sprinkle with the pecans and stir them in by hand, but do not process again.

Using a large ice cream scoop or 1/3 cup (80 ml) measuring cup, fill the muffin cups, dividing the batter evenly. 

Bake for 35-40 minutes, rotating the pan once about halfway through, until a tester inserted in a center muffin comes out clean.  Allow to cool about 5 minutes before removing to a rack to cool completely.  Makes 8-10 muffins.  May be frozen.

Last Year at this Time: Sweet Potato and Kasha Burgers

© 2009 Diet, Dessert and Dogs


36 comments to Old Habits Die Hard: Mocha Cinnamon Cereal Muffins

  • Haha, as I read this post I have 2 kitty’s sitting behind me (one on the table, one underneath it) meowing loudly at me to remind me that dinner is in 5 minutes and why aren’t I up and making it already? (I tricked them with an early shower, as soon as they hear that shower going they think dinner is on the way

    Mmmmm these muffins look awesome! I haven’t done any baking lately either 🙁 I’m trying to think if we have any cinnamon flavoured cereals over here that even remotely resemble puffins (which I am off to google :P)


  • feel free to send me your baked goods anyday 🙂


  • I love how you made it with cinnamon Puffins! Genius!!!


  • Mmmm muffins! I’ve been meaning to make some!


  • No way, I adore Cinnamon Puffins and coffee! These sound like they were tailor-made for me… I must try them, asap!


  • You’re too nice. In my family, if I’M not eating sweets, nobody is!


  • hehe, hope the HH appreciates what you’ve done for him 😉 Making things that you can’t eat… torture i tell you! But i do agree, even when i don’t want to (you know, since i’ll eat it all), baking just can’t be ignored!!

    ps- i bought a copy of your book, so excited to check it out!!


  • With all due respect, I have to offer a thought in the dogs’ defense. From my dog-walking experience, I’d have to say those hydrants DO smell differently each time they’re sniffed. I mean, think about it. 😀

    And the muffins look great.


  • I haven’t been baking either…but that may be because I don’t have an oven right now 🙂 Your muffins look awesome!!


  • Vegetation,
    I guess cats and dogs are more similar than we realize! And sorry–I forgot to link to the Puffins–just little crunchy pillows of cereal with a cinnamon coating. 🙂

    I’m not sure they’d survive the mail–but come and visit, and I’ll lay some on ya!

    Had to get rid of those Puffins somehow. . . 😉

    Can’t wait to see what type you whip up!

    Cinnamon and coffee seems like such a natural. . . let me know what you think if you do try them!

    Well, it’s been that way for about 10 weeks now. . . couldn’t torture the guy any longer!

    I know what you mean! And THANKS so much for getting the book–can’t wait to hear what you think! 🙂

    Hmmmmnnnn. . . . you’ve definitely got a point, there. Though I don’t have any plans to actually check it out myself.

    No oven? I’d be lost! 😉


  • Hahaha! I love the way you write, always so entertaining! This recipe and the photos look so fluffy and delicious, I would definitely want to have one of these for breakfast.


  • Ooo what an awesome muffin idea! So creative. Lucky HH with all of your baked goods and your dogs sound so adorable. Well I know they are adorable but, adorable in their behaviour!


  • Heather

    Hello! Do you think flax seeds could replace chia seeds in this recipe? It looks so good! I have some All Bran Guardian cereal (maple sugar flavour) just sitting in my cupboard that would work nicely.


  • Voracious Vegan,
    Aw, thanks so much! I do have some pretty entertaining subjects, though. 😉

    Thanks! One of these days I’ll figure out video clips, and you can see The Girls in action!

    Yes, flax could definitely replace the chia–thanks for reminding me! (I’ve added it to the recipe). Just be aware that the muffin may be a teeny bit dryer that way. And I bet that cereal would be perfect! 🙂


  • Mmm…these are my kind of muffin. They look delicious! I think I may try them with the flax seeds. I have to get around to trying almond milk! I haven’t seen it in Brazil so I’ve got to test it while I’m visiting the States.


  • Your poor HH! But what a lovely baker you are to make him something you can’t eat. I love it that the recipe has an ingredient called puffins in it too 🙂


  • oh, I’ll bet these smell heavenly!


  • What a cute story! Those muffins look heavenly too.


  • Courtney

    OMG…I am a dog! Lol–I am *such* a creature of habit, and change is sooooo hard for me…I can actually (gasp!) sympathize with the HH in this scenario!



  • I love puffins!! Making them into a muffin with a little coffee… you’re my hero 🙂


  • your spouse totally sounds like me – i’m such a creature of habit – dan’s always poking fun at me (especially when things aren’t going according to my ocd schedule and i get all flustered!)! ahahhahahaa! that’s too sweet that you made HH some tasty mocha cinnamon cereal muffins – you’re just too awesome, Ricki! i never would have thought to use cereal in a muffin – i love the idea, and i can’t wait to try these out! hooray!


  • those look yummy. and i do adore your stories.


  • I love the dog walking pants! I have those pants but they are my working out/feeling bloated/lazy Saturday pants.

    Will you ever be able to return to baked goods, fruits, or any sugars, including natural ones? It makes me sad to read of your draconian restrictions.


  • You’re so sweet to make muffins for HH. Growing up we nick named my father “The Muffin Man” because he was so often making muffins for us in the moring.
    And I think Celine is in for the Sweet Freedom Saturdays! I may not make something every Saturday, but it would be cool to get at least 2 (or more) in a month!


  • love cereal in muffins – but never tasted cinnamon flavoured cereal – actually sometimes I now think E and I are like our cat who has a favourite for a while til she finds a new one – that is what we do with breakfasts! The muffins look delish but I admire you for baking and not tasting – it is beyond my self control


  • Now how long does this ACD thing go on for? Well at least you found good use for those Puffins. They’re good huh?! Though I’m all icked out by boxed cereal these days. Know anything about extrusion? I’m still learning.


  • Extrusion and food should not be in the same paragraph, MP 🙂
    Ricki, I love your summation of our creatures of habit. Must add cats – my (8 yr. old) cat has decided that spring has sprung and she YELLS IN MY EAR at 3:00AM. When she gets vocal, dog Ellie goes off and even cinnamon Puffins can’t fix what happens next. Maybe I’ll try granola.


  • Lori,

    You could always use soy or other milk instead of the almond. 🙂

    Yes, the name is fun! But I think I like them better in the muffin than on their own. 😉

    You and I both! I am DEFINITELY “a dog”! But hey, nothing wrong with that!!

    Still Life,
    I think we all have a pair of those pants! Actually, I have three pairs. . . in assorted sizes. And yes, I’ll go back to fruit fairly soon–it’s just the first phase that doesn’t allow it. There is no fixed timeline for the diet; you stay on it until you feel better, then slowly re-introduce the foods you cut out. This time (as opposed to when I did it 10 years ago), the recovery seems a little slower. . . maybe my advanced age?? In any case, I’d rather wait a little longer and be sure I can eat those foods than re-introduce them too soon. And I’m pretty much accustomed to it now. 🙂


    You are too awesome! Can’t wait to see what you whip up. 🙂

    Eww, extrusion! That is precisely why I generally do not eat boxed cereals (and why we had this left over. . .). The ACD will continue for a bit, but with fewer and fewer restrictions. . .see comment above. 🙂

    Too funny! And maybe granola would be a better choice–more unprocessed ingredients! 😉


  • COffee & Cinnamon sounds like a very unique & interesting combination. I feel like trying out one to experience the flavor!


  • Wow! Congrats about your National Post mention for your book (http://twurl.nl/x3jbyv)! I can’t wait to get it, I can PayPal through your publisher I think you said!


  • Now that I have a dog as well I can fully relate to this post, especially on the sniffing. My dog could sniff the same things every morning. He is also my litle alarm clock reminding me it is time to get up and go outside for a potty break.


  • Hopelessly tasty looking, Ricki!


  • I looove Puffins! Thank you for the recipe. These look so tasty.


  • I love how the cereal n’ milk concept is eloquently incorporated in this breakfast muffin! I look forward to making these! Your cookbook is fabulous!


  • Julia

    Made these today and they’re delicious — but i forgot the agave! It doesn’t say when to add it in the recipe, so it slipped my mind. Still tasty, though!


    Ricki Reply:

    Thanks so much! And sorry about the omission 🙁 . I’ve corrected it now. In general (or if I slip up in the future), recipes usually add ingredients in the order in which they’re written. So the agave would be added between the coffee substitute and soymilk–ie, with the wet ingredients. 🙂 Glad you liked them anyway!


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