Wouldn’t it be nice to spend the holidays on a tropical vacation? I can just feel the white sand under my toes, smell the sea breeze and feel the sun’s sweet kiss on my skin as the song “Mele Kalikimaka” massages my ears, and my friends and I exchange beach treasure and conch shells as presents… but the reality is, not everyone can be in a tropical paradise in mid-winter. For one thing, those plane tickets aren’t cheap. And for another, a tropical island wouldn’t be paradise anymore if every square inch of sand was taken up by rowdy tourists pushing for dear life to win the race to the last hotel with a vacancy.
So some of us must resign ourselves to several months of gray gloom to preserve the peace for the few each year who may escape.
I live in California, so winter isn’t that big of a deal for me – no snow to shovel, and temperatures rarely drop below 58 or 60. But it is depressing when the fresh fruit section in the grocery store narrows down to the few varieties that can stand the winter: great homogenous mountains of pears, every make and model of apple in existence, big bins of oranges – and that’s about it, at least as far as local stuff goes. Even the exotic fruits imported from distant lands of year-long sunshine look a little sadder and droopier than they do in the summer – or is that just me?
These delicious, fruity muffins are bursting with the flavors of summertime, a tropical escape in particular. But they contain no fresh fruit. The whole wheat muffin base and luscious melty chocolate is complemented by pineapple chunks from the frozen aisle and dried strawberries, blueberries, and cherries.
But don’t you lose so much nutritional value, subbing out fresh fruit for frozen or dried? you ask. I used to think the same thing, and tried to use fresh fruit in my baking as much as possible. But many nutritional experts agree that you get the same or comparable nutrition when you have your fruit dried or frozen.
With dried fruit, there are some trade-offs: since a basic piece of dried fruit is just a piece of fresh fruit with the water drained out of it, what you’ve got is a more densely concentrated nutrient powerhouse. You can get the same fiber, antioxidants, and calories from a smaller volume of dried fruit versus fresh fruit.
But we don’t always want every bite to be laden with several times as many calories, and furthermore there is some speculation that certain nutrients are reduced from the process of drying the fruit. So it’s best to maintain a varied diet with some dried fruit and some fresh. (By the way: when choosing dried fruit, look for a brand that doesn’t add any sugar.)
As for frozen fruits and vegetables, there’s really no significant difference from the fresh – in fact, if anything the frozen stuff can be healthier for you. Ripe produce is richest in nutrients. But a lot of times, the fresh produce at the grocery store isn’t fully ripe because it was picked before it fully matured to prevent it going bad before reaching the merchandise shelves. This is especially likely when the fruit must travel long distances, for instance out-of-season products from exotic shores.
Frozen fruit companies don’t have this issue, since the fruit is frozen, iced and slapped in a truck or plane to make its journey to the grocery store. Therefore, farmers can allow the fruit to become fully ripe and delicious before picking and packaging it without losing a profit.
Needless to say, sometimes there’s just nothing better than to sink your teeth into a plump, juicy, uncompromised fresh peach, or plum, or get the satisfaction of carving a real pineapple and watching the sweet juice run down your fingers as you take that first, wild and wonderful bite. But don’t count on it for the next few months!
Chocolate Pineapple Cherry Berry Muffins
based on recipe from Allrecipes
makes 12 standard size muffins
- 1-1/2 cups whole wheat flour
- 3 tbs Truvia Baking Blend
- 2-1/4 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 egg
- 1 cup plain almond milk (or other milk of choice)
- 1 container Yoplait Greek 100 Calories Tropical Fruit flavor yogurt
- 1 cup frozen pineapple chunks
- 2/3 cup dried berries/cherries mixture (I used Safeway Kitchens brand Dried Berries and Cherries)
- 1/2 cup chocolate chips (I used Nestle’s Toll House original Semi-Sweet Morsels)
- 2 tbs sweetened flaked coconut
- 2 tbs chocolate hazelnut butter
Preheat oven to 375 Fahrenheit. Line a standard-sized muffin tin with 12 muffin liners.
In a large bowl, combine the flour, Truvia Baking Blend, baking powder, and salt. Mix.
Beat in the egg. Add the almond milk and yogurt. Mix just until combined.
Stir in pineapple chunks, dried fruit, and chocolate chips.
Spoon batter into 12 muffin liners, distributing evenly. Bake at 375 Fahrenheit for about 10 minutes. Remove from oven. Sprinkle flaked coconut on each muffin, and drizzle with chocolate hazelnut butter. Bake for another 13 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean (mine baked for a total of 23 minutes.)
Nutritional Information Sources: (very informative articles on dried vs. frozen vs. fresh fruit):
Image credits (for non-muffin images; all muffin images are my own) (in order of appearance):