And So Fall Baking Begins! Caramel Apple Carrot Cake

Don’t you agree that October is the centerpiece of the fall season?  No longer hot and not yet cold, the days are beautifully colored, fragrant and delicious in every way. Now that I can bear to keep the oven on without cranking down the air-conditioner, I’ve been whipping up heaps of healthy baked recipe and have had no shortage of “quality control testers” hanging around the kitchen.

jennifer fisher litehouse cake slice milk

One recipe that turned out fantastic was the Caramel Apple Carrot Cake I created for Litehouse Food’s Living Litehouse Blog.  When I was a kid, I remember my grandmother making a magnificently moist carrot cake – come to find out it was loaded with vegetable oil. My take on traditional carrot cake adds grated apples along with carrots to add moistness and reduce the amount of overall fat needed to make the recipe work. Also, baking with olive oil reduces the amount of cholesterol and saturated fat and helps nurture the flavor of the other ingredients to come forward.  Some say that the vitamin E found in olive oil helps to maintain the freshness of baked goods; however healthy cakes, cookies and quick breads never last long in my house.

baked pumpkin protein donuts

A go-to choice for crazy-morning breakfasts at my house are Baked Pumpkin Protein Donuts. Aromatically enticing with the seasonal scents of cinnamon and nutmeg, my boys gobble up these little bites of baked goodness without even realizing their eating some vegetable – a gourd – for breakfast. Pumpkin puree, even used straight from the can, has so many health benefits including lots of fiber, vitamins (especially K) and iron.


Next up on my baking agenda list is the Beet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting from Cooking Light! I hope he’s not reading this, because I’m planning on surprising my husband with this strange-sounding, but utterly intriguing treat for his birthday. Really, you can’t beat beets. This red veggie is a nutritional powerhouse that packs in the potassium, magnesium, fiber, phosphorus, iron; vitamins A, B & C; beta-carotene, beta-cyanine; and folic acid. Plus, recent research claims that beet juice can help you exercise longer, improve blood flood, and reduce blood pressure. Sign me up, especially if it involves a slice of cake!

cooking light quick breads

My baking wish list is long, and I’ll also be checking out the 30 Best Quick Bread Recipes from Cooking Light. I really like to make muffins and quick breads, especially healthy versions, ahead of time and keep them in the freezer for busier times. When I can actually see and pronounce the ingredients that go into my food, even if I end up tweaking or making substitutions, I feel much more confident serving it to my family. I’ve found that packaged bakery items from the store are usually total fat, sugar and preservative bombs.


Muffin Mania | Multi-Grain Peanut Butter Banana Muffin Recipe

jennifer fisher - multigrain pb banana muffins

It’s midnight muffin-making mania! Once again, I have stayed up way to late, but this time it is for the sake of having a healthy breakfast in the morning – after all, it’s still Better Breakfast Month! Two of my kids take a brown-bag breakfast to school to eat after sports practice. I often feel bad that they’re missing a hot meal at home (yes, I often scramble eggs, but that’s all I’m capable of at 5:45 in the morning). I feel even worse when I send them off with a meal where everything comes out of a wrapper – the protein bar, the fruit bar, the juice pouch and so on. New rule, only ONE wrapper per meal!

For this super yummy Multi-Grain Peanut Butter Banana Muffins, I tweaked a few recipes to make a new and improved muffin experience. In terms of baking concepts, I cut some of the oil and replaced it with a natural peanut butter – you could use any nut butter you like. I reduced a great deal of the white processed flour by substituting in whole wheat flour, bran cereal and flax seed.  There’s a whole lot of whole-grainy goodness going on in these morning, afternoon and night muffins. Another muffin recipe of mine you should try is the Berry Cheesecake Power Muffins, it has a totally different consistency (yet amazing taste) while these muffins today have a traditional texture.

jennifer fisher - - multigrain pb banana muffin 2

If you haven’t put flax seed into baked goods before, you really should. There are three healthy benefits from sneaking a little flax seed into this muffin recipe. First, it adds extra fiber to the muffins, each tablespoon of flax seed has 8 grams of fiber. Second, flax seed is a plant-based source for omega-3, an essential fatty acid that provides and anti-inflammatory role in the body. Third, flax seed contains lignans, a compound that helps our body metabolize estrogen in a safer way. Studies have shown that consuming lignin may reduce the risk of breast and prostate cancer. Remember to use your flax seed in a ground state, that’s how you reap all the nutritional benefits.

I also have two cooking tips to share for this recipe. First, I used a little in-a-pinch baking solution my grandmother taught me. A great substitution for buttermilk  (which is so good in most muffin recipe but always ends up going bad in the fridge because who really uses it for anything else), is to sour your regular milk (even low-fat milk) by adding 1 teaspoon of white vinegar to 1 cup of milk. Let it sit for a few minutes to get to the right consistency.   The other tip is new to me tonight – and that is to spray muffin papers with cooking spray before pouring in the batter. This seemed like a weird thing to do, but I gave it a try – wow, the muffins didn’t stick at all inside the baking liners.

Next up in my Better Breakfast Month rotation, one of the quick and easy recipes from the gallery of Cooking Light’s Grab and Go Quick Breakfast ideas.  Fig, Applesauce and Almond Loaf (below) immediately caught my eye , but there are tons of other speedy and satisfying recipes on the site that will help make mornings easier.


jennifer fisher - multigrain pb banana muffins IG


Multi-Grain Peanut Butter Banana Muffins Recipe

  • Non-stick cooking spray
  • ¼ cup canola oil
  • ¼ cup natural style peanut butter
  • ½ cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup bran cereal
  • 2 medium ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1/3 cup Greek yogurt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 cup low-fat milk
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ½  cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 tablespoons ground flaxseed
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon salt

For Streusel Topping:

  • ¼  cup whole wheat flour
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup rolled oats
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil


Preheat oven to 375 F degrees. Line muffin cups with paper baking cups and lightly spray with cooking spray.

In large bowl, combine oil and peanut butter together with a whisk or electric mixer. Add brown sugar, stirring until combined. Next add egg, cereal, mashed banana, Greek yogurt, and vanilla, stir until just combined (will be a bit lumpy).

In non-reactive small bowl, add milk and vinegar. Let sit for 5 minutes to sour, will look slightly curdled. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, mix together flours, baking powder, flaxseed meal, and nutmeg.   Stir this dry mixture into wet mixture alternating with soured milk. Repeat until ingredients are combined, but not over-mixed.  Pour batter into prepared muffin cups approximately two-thirds full.

In medium bowl, add streusel ingredients. Mix together until combined but crumbly. Sprinkle streusel on top of muffin batter.

Bake in 375 F degree oven for approximately 20 – 22 minutes or until top lightly browned and toothpick pulls clean when inserted into the middle.

Cool on wire rack.

Makes 20 muffins.