Let them NOT eat cake

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Going Lo-Co Conundrum: controlling cholesterol via healthy eating and exercise while nursing an ankle injury and an unusual, prolonged aversion to meal planning and cooking.

The ankle is getting better, so exercising is on the upswing.  But having a senior in high school applying to college (insert any other challenge here) has not been exactly conducive to my finding and preparing low cholesterol meals.

I was glad to find the Fresh 20 meal planning service, which at least got me cooking a bit again. And somehow I found the strength while planning Thanksgiving for 16 to actually try a few new low fat recipes.

My first goal was a coffee cake alternative. When I gave my mother-in-law several choices for Friday-after-Thanksgiving brunch, she asked me to make her Sour Cream Coffee Cake. I won’t post the recipe here because, though delicious, it’s from the 1950s and not remotely lo-co.

However, the cake had its benefits. My son – with newly minted baking skills complements of his HS Culinary class – and I made this together, and we had a blast with it.  We’ve never baked together, as I’m more of a cook than baker and he’s never had any interest. But he now has actual skills, so he got to poke fun at how I measure (‘exact’ is not exactly in my vocab).  He also taught me about the paddle attachment for my stand mixer. Apparently, I’ve used it incorrectly for years – who knew the whisk was just for whipping?  Cake turned out to be healthy for our relationship, if not my cholesterol.

So we had fun making cake together. But I knew I should not partake in much more than a nibble (thank goodness it wasn’t chocolate or that plan would have been in vain), so I needed an alternative.  My own fresh-baked cake for breakfast.

Enter Melissa Clark’s recipe: Butternut Squash Oat Muffins with Candied Ginger. Though there is butter in this recipe, I decided the whole wheat flour, oatmeal, and butternut squash were a good enough counterbalance.  And hey, it had to be better than actual coffee cake.

These were quite tasty and though time-consuming, not very hard to make,  Fair warning: I’d not attempt unless you have a Cuisinart to grate the butternut squash.  Here are a few things I learned/modified if you give this recipe a go:

  • I am not a ginger fan, so I tweeted to Melissa Clark (and she answered in mere moments – amazing) and she suggested to substitute raisins or dried cranberries.  As it was Thanksgiving I chose dried cranberries and they were great in this!
  • If you do like ginger, good luck dicing it.  My effort was a debacle. Google it – there are tricks that involve adding a lot of sugar while in Cuisinart and that did seem to work, but it’s not a simple process.
  • Plan ahead – there are 2 items that need to be at room temp:  eggs and greek yogurt.  I ended up making this at 11pm because I didn’t notice the yogurt! Oh, and the butter needs to be melted and cooled.  So mine ended up in the freezer for a bit – better to do that ahead too.
  • I’d never before grated butternut squash, but with pre-cut cubes courtesy of Trader Joe’s and the grating disc on my Cuisinart, it was simple.

My in-laws did not try the muffins (being 86, they’re a bit set in their ways) but my husband, son and I all loved these muffins.  Not maybe as much as the cake, but…

Give these a whirl – these are a great snack or breakfast. And a big THANKS to Melissa Clark – if she hadn’t immediately tweeted back the dried cranberry for ginger alternative, I’d never have finished baking these delicious muffins!


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