Cooking on the Cheap: Pantry Muffins

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January 31, 2011 by Stef

There is flotsam in my pantry. Flotsam and dross. Leftover handfuls of ingredients from holiday recipes, loitering about like party guests who can’t take the hint when their host starts cleaning up the empty plastic cups and paying off the band. In an effort to clear out the urchins and whip up something yummy for me to nosh upon, I made muffins.

This is becoming a standard response for me. Most folks have Fight or Flight. I have Fight, Flight, or Make Muffins.

Pantry Muffins (cost: minimal, yield: couple-dozen-ish)
4 cups all-purpose flour
2.5 tsps baking soda
2 tsps cinnamon
1 tsp salt

1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup applesauce
6 whole eggs
2 tsps vanilla
2 cups sweet potato, grated
1 cup zucchini, grated
1 cup walnuts, chopped
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

I know, right. Look at those quantities! This is a big damn recipe, but go with me on this. I had all kinds of crap to clear out of my pantry. For instance …

Amusingly-shaped veggies that nobody in my house will eat but me, and refugees from holiday cookie recipes.

We start with the manual labor. Those veggies need prepping. And let me just tell you – peeling a sweet potato is no mean feat. Particularly when the closest thing you have to a vegetable peeler is a paring knife, and your fine motor skills are questonable at best. I didn’t exactly cut myself, but my fingertips held their breath throughout the process. Which is possible.

Anyway, lop the end off the zucchini and peel the taters till they’re nice and naked.

"Naked Potato" will someday be the name of my culinary punk band.

Then whip out your grater and grate them. And grate them. Grate grate grate. I’ve typed that word so many times now, it doesn’t even look like it’s spelled right. It’s lost all meaning. Just like my right tricep lost all feeling by the time I was done grating this mess up.

Seriously, if you have a strapping young houseboy hanging about who needs a task, give him this one. Those sweet potatoes are tough!

Naked Potato's first hit single: "Daffy Broad Forgot To Mention Walnuts"

Roughage prepped, set it all aside. Now, see that ingredient list up there? Take the first four, and sift them all together into a bowl.

This is Naked Potato’s version of the Tony Montana cocaine mountain. Rock n’ roll!

 Set the sifty goodness aside, and consider the other two vagrant loitering ingredients from the pantry.  

Applesauce plays bass. Brown sugar is on the tambourine.

Yes, I could have used oil instead of applesauce in this recipe. Or even butter. But applesauce is healthier and I had just enough left in this monster-sized jar to fit into this recipe. Ditto for the brown sugar. Fate smiled on these muffins.

Have you tried substituting applesauce for oil in your baking recipes? You should. It makes everything so much more healthy, that you can eat twice as many of whatever you’ve baked and not gain a single pound! (untrue)

Throw the applesauce and the two cups of various sugars into a bowl and mix ’em. It looks a little discouraging at first, but go with it.

Title of our first album: "Ugly Sugar Mix"

Once that’s all combined, start adding the eggs one at a time. Don’t take a picture of this, though. You’ll be too distracted by the fact that one of your eggs had two yolks in it. TWO! YOLKS! 

I was flabbergasted. Truly, I was. There was a mix of awe and curiosity and surprise that was just right to qualify as flabbergastation.

Here, take a look:

The first Naked Potato tabloid scandal - cooking with unborn conjoined twins!

By the way, if you’re a clumsy egg-cracker like me, do yourself a favor and crack your eggs into a handy (somewhat sugar-coated) measuring cup first, and then dump the egg into your mix. Fishing eggshells out of muffin batter is no fun. And if you skip this step, you don’t get to take freaky dual-yolk pictures.

Once all the eggs are mixed in, dump in your prepped veggies. Beg your stand mixer’s forgiveness, for you are about to test its limits sorely. See, once the veggies are in …


… then you’ll be turning that mixer (or your poor tired arm) on low and adding the flour mixture a little bit at a time.

This is a lengthy process that requires both hands, unless you’re way more coordinated than I am (which is likely, considering my natural rhino-like grace), so there’s not a lot of pictures. Suffice it to say, you don’t want to over-mix it. Just enough to get the flour stuff mostly combined.

It’ll be ugly, and lumpy, and have worrisome dry spots. Learn to love them, for this is how you get fluffy muffines.

(insert Naked Potato joke here)

Pre-heat das oven to 350 and grab a coupla muffin tins. I’d like to say that I was prepared and had muffin paper thingies with which to line the tins, but that would be a lie. A lie easily disproven by my own photos, in which you can clearly see that I hosed the tins down with non-stick cooking spray instead.

I like my muffin tins like I like my men - greasy and hard to scrub clean.

Also, filled the cups right up to the top. Why? Because I like fluffy muffintops.

On my muffins, that is. Not on my hips.

So a good 20-25 minutes at 350 degrees, and your muffins will be golden and ready for devouring. Stick a toothpick in to see if they’re done, but recall that there are chocolate chips in there, so your done-ness test may be fouled by chocolatey wonderfulness. Not that chocolatey wonderfulness can ever really foul anything.

The finished product ain’t pretty. But is sure is tasty, and bursting with veggies and chocolate and nuts and yum.

And my pantry has more space in it now. Mission accomplished!


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