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Getting Those Five to Ten a Day: Green Monster Muffins

[Totally unrelated note: ever wonder how people find your blog? Well, ever since I wrote my post about our holiday in Florida, the number one search term that leads people to my blog is. . . “Alligators.”  Yes, indeedy: folks looking for reptilian, steel trap-jawed people-eaters are sent to. . . my blog. In droves. Well, hi there, Everglade adventurers! Howdy, outback croc-hunters!  Welcome, designer shoe and handbag aficionados!]

By now, it’s probably evident that I’m a fan of spinach.  Certainly, devoting an entire SOS Kitchen Challenge to the popular leafy green is one indication (and if you hurry, you can still participate:  the deadline is May 20th!). 

It was through my friend Sterlin that I first learned to love spinach.  Even before I moved to Toronto myself, I was a frequent visitor to Sterlin’s place (her parents had pulled up stakes and made the trek from Montreal to Toronto long before I did).  I loved visiting this “exotic” metropolis, where, with Sterlin as both tour guide and chauffeur, we’d scour the city for interesting restaurants, university-based events, or dance clubs (in those days, single undergraduates in search of a boyfriend, we still frequented dance clubs).

After a long evening of inane chatter, bopping in our blister-inducing heels and drinking too many beer (I never did acquire a taste for the brew), we’d drive back to Sterlin’s parents’ house, and, with the intense precision and focus of a neurosurgeon, unlock the door without making a sound, the way only truly inebriated twenty-somethings can.  Once inside, we removed our shoes and tiptoed into the kitchen to raid the fridge, where, inevitably, we found. . . nothing.  (Okay, not literally “nothing.”  There was a half-eaten carton of cottage cheese and a few cans of Diet Coke).  At this point, Sterlin would move to the freezer, where she’d withdraw one of 5 or 6 boxes of frozen spinach (the only item in there).

“Want a snack?” she’d whisper, brandishing the box in the air.  “Mmm!  Let’s have some spinach!”

“Spinach?” I’d counter, equally susurrating, “ As a snack??”  I was accustomed to the cornucopia of home-baked chocolate chip cookies, chips, licorice, and other assorted junk foods in my own parents’ kitchen.  

But snack on spinach we did.  Sterlin loved the stuff so much that is was contagious, and I learned to love it, too.  I can’t say I ever think of frozen spinach as a snack these days, but I wouldn’t turn it down if someone offered it. (Beer, on the other hand, still doesn’t tempt me).

The second spinach epiphany I experienced courtesy of Sterlin was the classic 1980’s spinach salad.  You know the one:  baby spinach leaves coated in creamy, nondescript dressing, topped with a generous toss of chopped hardcooked eggs and a sprinkling of crispy bacon bits.  Back then, one of Toronto’s destination restaurants was a brand-new, ultra hip joint called Mr. Greenjeans (a current relative of the original place still exists, in a new location and without the flair or cachet of the original). 

Their specialty was–get this–salad (rather ahead of their time, don’t you think?).  And what made Mr. Greenjeans’ salads worth driving all the way downtown for? Why, their presentation: each portion of fresh greens was packed into a huge mason jar, perched atop a white plate the size of an hors d’oeuvre tray at a wedding.  Once served, you had the choice of picking at the salad right from the jar (the cool way) or emptying it onto the plate (the loser way).

Like an early iteration of Sassafras (where the gliterati hang out during the Toronto Film Festival), Mr. Greenjeans attracted diners not really because of the food, but more because of the reputation for cool.  After waiting in line for a table, we’d hope for a window seat, where we could see and be seen, scanning the sidewalk outside for celebrity sightings or people we might know. In those days, everyone who was anyone hung out at Mr. Greenjeans.

No wonder, then, that I thought of spinach as the first vegetable to include in a muffin when I first opened my organic bakery back in 2003.  In my zeal to include healthy veggies–especially leafy greens–in my recipes (and to provide an incentive to kids to eat their veggies), I created the Sweet Harvest Muffin, boasting not one, not two, but three different vegetables, including spinach.  Providing one full serving of vegetables in each muffin, the Sweet Harvest quickly became my best-selling product, and it was the first recipe I knew I’d include in Sweet Freedom. 

With this month’s SOS Challenge devoted to spinach, I decided to create an ACD-friendly variation of that best-selling muffin as my “sweet” entry to the challenge.  Based on the Green Monster smoothies that are ubiquitous on the internet, these contain both spinach and apple combined with carob and cinnamon, ingredients I often include in my own morning beverage

While these Green Monsters aren’t quite as sweet as the original muffins (which contain both raisins and chocolate chips), they do still make a tasty breakfast on the go; in fact, they tasted good enough that the HH noted he’d be happy to take one along to the office for his morning coffee. 

With the sepia carob masking its green, the spinach remains hidden in this muffin. You may not be getting quite the same quantity of spinach as you’d consume in an entire box of the frozen stuff, but you can feel good eating one of these babies for breakfast, knowing it provides a good sized hit toward your daily five to ten servings of fruits and vegetables.

This ACD-friendly adaptation also makes these muffins a perfect submission to Amy’s Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays, over at Simply Sugar and Gluten Free.

And speaking of breakfast baking. . . I’ll be talking about breakfast (and other) baked goods from Sweet Freedom this Thursday morning on the Canadian version of Good Morning AmericaCanada AM! I am incredibly excited to share information about healthy eating with hosts Bev Thomson and Seamus O’Regan.  So set your PVRs, video recorders, etc for Thursday, May 20, between 8:00 and 9:00 AM!

Green Monster Muffins (ACD Phase II and beyond)

These muffins are a great way to start the day with both some fruit and some vegetables.  They’re sweet, but not overly so; and you won’t taste the spinach at all.  (Promise).

2 small apples, about 6-6 1/2 ounces (170-185 g) each, washed and cored (I used Granny Smith)

3  ounces (85 g) fresh or frozen spinach (include the stems)

1/4 cup (60 ml) natural smooth almond butter

2 Tbsp (30 ml) sunflower or other light tasting oil, preferably organic

2 tsp (10 ml) chia seeds, finely ground after measuring

2 tsp (10 ml) pure vanilla extract

1 tsp (5 ml) pure almond extract

1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) apple cider vinegar

1-1/3 cups (320 ml) unsweetened soy or almond milk, plus up to 2 Tbsp (30 ml) more, if necessary

1/2 cup (60 g) carob powder*

1/2 cup (75 g) brown rice flour

1/2 cup (60 g) millet flour

1/4 cup (30 g) arrowroot powder

2 tsp (10 ml) cinnamon

1 Tbsp (15 ml) baking powder

1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) baking soda

1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) xanthan gum, optional (muffins will be slightly crumbly without it)

1/4 tsp (1 ml) fine sea salt

Preheat oven to 350F (180C).  Line 12 muffin tins with paper liners, or spray with nonstick spray.

Coarsely chop one of the apples and place it in the bowl of a food processor.  Dice the other apple into very small pieces (about the size of blueberries) and place in a small bowl; set the second apple aside until later.

Add the spinach to the food processor, and process the mixture until almost smooth. Add the almond butter, oil, chia, vanilla, almond extract, vinegar and milk and process again until well blended.  Add the reserved diced apple to the processor and mix it in by hand until all the pieces are coated, but don’t process again. Set aside while you measure the dry ingredients, or at least 3 minutes.

In a large bowl, sift together the carob powder, brown rice flour, millet flour, arrowroot powder, cinnamon, baking powder, soda, xanthan gum and salt.  Add the wet mixture to the dry and stir until just blended.

Using a large ice cream scoop or 1/3 cup (80 ml) measuring cup, scoop the batter into the muffin cups and bake in preheated oven for 35-45 minutes, rotating the pan about halfway through, until a tester inserted into a center muffin comes out clean.  Cool five minutes in the pan before removing to a cooling rack.  Cool completely before sampling; the spinach will be discernible in the warm muffins, but the taste disappears once they’re cool.  Store, wrapped in plastic, in the refrigerator up to 4 days.  May be frozen.

* you may use cocoa instead of carob, but cut back the quantity a bit (perhaps 2 Tbsp/30 ml) and add a bit more sweetener.

Last Year at this Time: Old Habits Die Hard: Mocha Cereal Cinnamon Muffins (non-ACD recipe)

Two Years Ago: Dolmades, Deconstructed (Mediterranean Rice Casserole)

© 2010 Diet, Dessert and Dogs



27 comments to Getting Those Five to Ten a Day: Green Monster Muffins

  • that’s too funny on people finding your blog by google’n “alligators”. search terms crack me up & are so intriguing – i love it! i too never quite aquired a taste for beer. having tried several different types over the years i’ve just kinda given up. wine is what i love, and it works well with being gluten-free now. i know there are some gluten-free brews out there, but i think i’ll stick to my vegan wines.

    i looooove a green monster smoothie and i’m really digg’n your green monster muffins. i like my muffins less sweet so your sound perfect! i see you’ve got almond butter and chia seeds in there, too – hooray!

    oh yeah, i almost forgot to tell ya….my friend emily made your molten lava chocolate cakes as a birthday treat for me last week. she used g-f oat flour and brown rice flour – they were OUTSTANDING, Ricki! my friends and i gobbled them up and dan got to enjoy 2 as well. we served them with a scoop of almond milk ice cream and i kid you not, people (including dan & i) were licking their bowls. mmmmm!


  • If I remember correctly, the point of that original blog post was that you weren’t able to see alligators! 😉

    Thanks for the date and time for your appearance! Good luck on preparing. You’ll be awesome.


  • This sounds like a great way to get veggies into the kiddo. These are definitely on my must-try list.


  • Congratz on Canada AM! Can we watch it online anywhere?

    These muffins look oh-so-tasty! I love love love green smoothies so I can’t imagine that this wouldn’t be delicious!

    ~Aubree Cherie


  • Those Sweet Harvest Muffins from Sweet Freedom were the first recipe from your book that I baked and shared with family – and as advertised, no one knew there was spinach! You have a really healthy way of putting good-for-you food together so that it is tasty and appealing.


  • Love this, Ricki. I put spinach in everything – I can’t imagine a day without it. 🙂


  • Funny about the alligators. I get the same thing when folks go to Here and There for the breast biopsy info (not nearly as funny).


  • Kate

    Yay, so happy for a sugar free version, now I can finally try these! Do you think these would work if I subbed whole wheat pastry for the flours? I’m sugar sensitive but love my gluten. 🙂


  • I still haven’t had the time to cook from your book. What a shame!


  • Wow, these look very interesting! I love to see all these healthy veggies eaten in creative ways.


  • Congratulations on your morning show appearance – and these muffins looks scrummy 🙂 I love spinach in anything, so will definitely try these muffins.

    Thank you also for stopping by my blog – so glad to hear the pumpkin seed pesto recipe is ACD-friendly – I had a feeling it was, but was not sure, especially with regards to which phase it would be considered ACD-friendly.


  • How creative! Looks great! I love spinach too and this is definitely a unique way to make use of it!


  • Those muffins remind me that I really need to buy your cookbook! They look really good! I love to bake, and I wouldn’t feel quite so bad about it if I was baking healthy things! 🙂 I actually have a whole bag of spinach in the fridge that needs to be used soon, and I’m thinking this is a good way to use some of it!


  • These look great and like a perfect solution to breakfast on busy mornings. Couple of questions:
    1. Do you think they’ll freeze okay?
    2. Have you ever used kudzu in place of arrowroot or xanthan gum?
    3. Are there any other gluten free flour alternatives we could use (e.g. would a general GF flour mix work)?



  • Jes

    Those muffs look like the bomb! And I’m going to have to serve salad in a mason jar super soon–what a cute idea!


  • Love the spinach story! It actually sounds like the kind of conversation my boyfriend and I would have while sneaking in drunk at his parents house when we visit them … and I’m talking like a few months ago (and we’re 29 and 30 …. we refuse to grow up!). The muffins are way healthy. I should make ’em for breakfast soon!


  • Courtney

    You know what? I grew up loving spinach like your friend (although I denied it in front of my friends to seem “cool”…) and would totally snack on those same blocks of frozen spinach too! Too funny. But I would add Parmesan cheese to mine…that gross shaker stuff that I am not even sure qualifies as “cheese”, lol (I was vegetarian growing up, not vegan).

    OMG–congrats on the TV appearance! I wish I were in Canada so I could see you…it sounds like a really big deal! Good luck–you will do GREAT 🙂



  • I can’t imagine frozen spinach for a snack – in fact I am becoming a frozen spinach snob but a box of it in the freezer is useful – but spinach in muffins sounds great – the sweet harvest muffins has always been on my to list since buying sweet freedom


  • Jessy,
    If you like your muffins just-sweet-enough, then these are for you! And I’m thrilled that you got to try the lava cakes and liked them! Yay! And happy belated birthday. 🙂

    Still Life,
    Yes, that was the point! And thanks for the good wishes! 😀

    I think they’d be great for kids. In that case, you might want to replace the diced apple with chocolate chips–always a winner. 😉

    Aubree Cherie,
    They’re a little different from green smoothies in that they don’t taste overly fruity, but still yum!

    Thanks so much for the kind words! These are similar in that the spinach is “hidden,” but the main flavor is a combination of carob and apple, unlike the Sweet Harvest (which, to my palate, tastes like chocolate). 🙂

    Glad I can offer you a new way to enjoy your favorite green 🙂

    I know–strange way to find the blog, but hey.

    I’m sure whole wheat would be fine, but you might need to use a bit less. But I should caution that these aren’t the same as the Sweet Harvest; that one has three different veggies and no apple (but raisins and chocolate chips). The concept is the same, though 😉

    I’m the same way with so many cookbooks–if only we had 24 hours a day of free time! 😉

    My Year Without,
    Thanks! And with these, you won’t even know you’re consuming a veggie!

    Thanks so much! I’m looking forward to it. Re: the pesto, I’ll have to go back and check the recipe, but I don’t remember there being any vinegar, just miso (I think?). Miso is generally okay for Phase II (with caution)–depending on which version of the diet you follow.

    Healthy Apron,
    Thanks! I love the smoothies, but this does offer some variety. 🙂

    Thanks so much (and it happens to be on sale until the end of August) 😉 Re: these muffins, they’re similar in that they contain “hidden” spinach, but otherwise quite different from the Sweet Harvest ones (which are made with spelt, other sweeteners, raisins and chocolate chips).

    To answer your questions: 1) Yes, they freeze beautifully (I’ve already frozen and defrosted a few); 2) I’ve never used kudzu, but if it’s okay in other recipes as a sub, I’d say give it a try; and 3) I would GUESS that an all-purpose mix should work, since my combination of flours here contains similar types of flours in similar proportions; but I can’t guarantee it. Worth a try (I’d make a half batch for the testers).

    I know–I was kind of sad when they stopped serving the salad that way!

    The only reason I don’t have to do that kind of sneaking any more is a) I live with the HH, so we’d both be drunk and there would be no reason to whisper (unless to keep from waking the Girls!) and b) I’m not allowed to drink on the ACD–sniff boo hoo! 😉

    That’s so great that you loved spinach! I wish my mom had fed us healthier veggies when we were young so I could have loved it, too. And thanks so much for the good wishes re: the TV show–I’ll report back after! 😀

    It’s not my first choice these days, either, but I could certainly eat a couple of the muffins with no problem! 😉


  • HAHAH! I love looking at the search terms people use to find my blog. They can get VERY interesting!

    These muffins look absolutely delicious! I love healthy takes on sweet treats, I’ll be trying these for sure.


  • Mr Greenjeans! YES! I love the mason jar idea, actually, and I would definitely eat it the “cool” way. ; ) I love the idea of you being a total scenester, going out scouring the city for hot young single men. These muffins look delish. WAY better than my barftacular spinach cupcakes that will never be posted on my blog as part of our challenge. 🙂 xoxo Kim http://www.affairsofliving.com


  • Love the sound of these!! I still need to try those harvest muffins. Maybe as a snack while I’m studying this weekend? And I love that you put to include the stems for the spinach – why are people always throwing away stems?? Like broccoli stems. They’re so delicious. Ooo how about broccoli muffins? I wonder if you could mask the flavour of that though.


  • Alligators! That’s too funny. Lots of people come to my blog searching for “Oprah Rugbrød” or “Oprah rye bread”. Oprah has a huge effect on freakin’ everything! 😀

    I was able to watch your video on the Canada AM website! You look fabulous and so do all your delicious treats! Wow, the host was really going to town on everything, wasn’t he? I can’t blame him! 😛

    You are very articulate and comfortable in front of the cameras! 🙂


  • Yum, yum, yum! I also have always been a huge fan of spinach, though I’m not sure I snacked on any coming in after a late night (or maybe I just don’t remember?). I’m sure the TV spot went great!


  • Sarah

    Fabulous!! Just made these and they are perfect 🙂 Thank you!


    Ricki Reply:

    Yay! I’m so glad you liked them, Sarah! Enjoy. 🙂


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