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Try sweet potatoes in muffins -- but no marshmallows

Recipe: Nutrient-rich little muffins are full of flavor

Muffins in pan
Flaxseed meal is the final touch.
(Photos: Kathy Morrison)

So maybe you have extra sweet potatoes around this weekend. They might even be roasted already. If so, you're halfway to making some great little muffins that will start the week off with a big dose of nutrients, especially vitamin A.

If the only sweet potatoes in the house are resting under a bed of marshmallows in a half-consumed casserole, well, go get some more fresh sweet potatoes. (They're in season, after all, and a good price.) These muffins are sweet enough -- as in not too much -- to enjoy without gooey topping.

Roasting the sweet potatoes is the ideal way to prepare them for this recipe, but I didn't want my oven tied up for so long, so I peeled and microwaved them, let them cool and then mashed them.

This produces a somewhat chunky mixture; if you want a perfectly smooth texture to your muffins, I advise pureeing the cooked potatoes in a blender or food processor.

The recipe here, adapted freely from one I found at goodinthesimple.com ,  makes 24 small, moist muffins. Cut the recipe in half (but use 2 eggs) to make just 1 dozen. Mix-ins such as dried fruit or toasted chopped nuts work well in this -- I used dried cranberries in half of my muffins. I'd avoid fresh mix-ins such as fresh blueberries, which would overwhelm the muffin with too much moisture.

Sweet potatoes
I cooked these five, and used all but 1/2 cup mashed.


Sweet potato muffins

Makes 24

Ingredients:

2 to 2-1/2 pounds orange- or red-flesh sweet potatoes, scrubbed

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup coconut oil or vegetable oil

1/4 cup unsalted butter

3 eggs

1/2 cup brown sugar, packed

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup mix-ins, such as dried cranberries, chopped nuts or unsweetened flaked coconut, optional

1/2 cup ground flaxseed meal, for topping, optional

3 bowls
All the mixtures are ready to combine.

Instructions:

Cook the sweet potatoes ahead of time, by baking them unpeeled at 400 degrees for about 45 minutes (depending on size) until soft. Alternatively, microwave them. To easily microwave: Peel the potatoes, cut into 1/3-inch slices, and place in a large bowl with 1/4 cup water.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, leaving a small part open to vent, and cook on high 8 or 9 minutes total. Stop the microwave at least twice to check for doneness and stir the sweet potato slices.

Let cooked sweet potatoes cool until ready to bake. Peel if roasted. Mash or puree as desired, per note above. Measure out 3 cups sweet potatoes and set aside while preparing the rest of the recipe.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder and salt.

Melt the coconut oil (which likely will be solid this time of year) with the butter. If using vegetable oil, melt the butter first and stir it into the vegetable oil.

In a medium bowl, stir together the eggs, then add the butter-oil mixture, both sugars and the vanilla.

Stir the wet ingredients into the dry mixture, then add the 3 cups sweet potatoes and stir until combined. Don't overmix; ingredients should be just moistened. Fold in any mix-ins if using them.

Two muffins
Neither of these variations turned out too sweet.

Grease two 12-cup muffin pans with oil spray. Divide the batter between the cups, topping with a sprinkle of flaxseed if desired.

Bake for 20-22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. These muffins do not brown much, so don't use color as an indicator of doneness.

Remove pans from oven, let cool a few minutes and serve muffins warm.

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Garden Checklist for week of May 19

Temperatures will be a bit higher than normal in the afternoons this week. Take care of chores early in the day – then enjoy the afternoon. It’s time to smell the roses.

* Plant, plant, plant! It’s prime planting season in the Sacramento area. If you haven’t already, it’s time to set out those tomato transplants along with peppers and eggplants. Pinch off any flowers on new transplants to make them concentrate on establishing roots instead of setting premature fruit.

* Direct-seed melons, cucumbers, summer squash, corn, radishes, pumpkins and annual herbs such as basil.

* Harvest cabbage, lettuce, peas and green onions.

* In the flower garden, direct-seed sunflowers, cosmos, salvia, zinnias, marigolds, celosia and asters.

* Plant dahlia tubers. Other perennials to set out include verbena, coreopsis, coneflower and astilbe.

* Transplant petunias, marigolds and perennial flowers such as astilbe, columbine, coneflowers, coreopsis, dahlias, rudbeckia and verbena.

* Keep an eye out for slugs, snails, earwigs and aphids that want to dine on tender new growth.

* Feed summer bloomers with a balanced fertilizer.

* For continued bloom, cut off spent flowers on roses as well as other flowering plants.

* Don’t forget to water. Seedlings need moisture. Deep watering will help build strong roots and healthy plants.

* Add mulch to the garden to help keep that precious water from evaporating. Mulch also cuts down on weeds. But don’t let it mound around the stems or trunks of trees or shrubs. Leave about a 6-inch to 1-foot circle to avoid crown rot or other problems.

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