In this time of holiday gatherings, office potlucks, and a desire to share home-baked gifts, finding recipes that are fast, relatively inexpensive, and even just a little healthy (or at least less unhealthy) can be a challenge.
These bite-sized morsels are especially good for times when we want to try all the foods on offer at the buffet and can easily over-indulge as a result. Using unsweetened applesauce and reducing the amount of fat in the original recipe ups the nutrition, as does the inclusion of lots of cranberries and walnuts. The added step of dipping each one in melted butter and sugar and cinnamon does add some calories but lifts these little bites into the dessert category.
They also stretch the budget at a time when spending on gifts and trappings of the season take priority. I found cranberries marked down the week after Thanksgiving--a common occurrence most years--so that helped reduce the overall cost of the recipe. The original recipe was for a single loaf of a basic cranberry bread that would have yielded no more than 16 or so slices. Making mini-muffins results in almost 5 dozen of these little nuggets, yet another way to stretch the budget.
Best of all, these are easy to make yet make a lovely addition to any tray of mixed cookies and candies. The blend of tart fruit and sugary topping is a good counter point to the many super sweet choices that can become overwhelming.
A processor is the best tool for chopping the cranberries, though a blender could also work. After they are chopped, the batter comes together very quickly. Even the final step of dipping each little muffin in the butter and sugar and cinnamon is a pretty easy task. Best of all: you should have some of both the butter and sugar and cinnamon left after dipping--just right for making some cinnamon toast for breakfast tomorrow morning!
Applesauce Cranberry Muffins
3/4 c sugar
1/3 c canola oil
1 t vanilla
1 1/2 c unsweetened applesauce
2 c flour
1 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t nutmeg
2 c fresh or frozen cranberries, chopped
1 cup walnuts, chopped
1/2 c butter, melted
1 c sugar
2 to 3 t cinnamon, to taste
2. Combine the sugar, oil, egg, vanilla, and applesauce and beat well.
3. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and nutmeg and stir into the applesauce mixture. Stir just until completely blended.
5. Prepare mini-muffin pans by oiling well or spraying with a product like Pam. (Even non-stick pans will benefit from this step.)
6. Spoon the batter into the pans and bake at 350 degrees for about 13 to 15 minutes. Allow the cakes to cool in the pans about 5 minutes before turning on to a cooling rack.
7. While the muffins are baking, prepare the topping. Place the melted butter in one bowl and combine the sugar and cinnamon in another.
8. Place each mini-cake top down into the butter and then into the sugar cinnamon mix.