Sunday, May 2, 2010

Fresh Ingredient Monday

     Just to keep things interesting, as if my life were not already so...(hey I gotta get it where I can) I have decided to present a new ingredient for cooking each Monday, whether I use it that day in cooking, or used it during the week. (Most often I am sure on the weekend!) Yup, that will keep 'em coming back for more (and me striving to have an actual goal to progress toward each week!) Let's get a fresh start then!
     Today's Ingredient; AGAVE NECTAR (from

While agave (pronounced ah-GAH-vay) is best recognized as the plant from which tequila is made, it has also been used for thousands of years as an ingredient in food. The nectar made from the plant is known in Mexico as aguamiel, or "honey water."

The Aztecs prized the agave as a gift from the gods and used the liquid from its core to flavor foods and drinks. Now, due to increasing awareness of agave nectar's many beneficial properties, it is becoming the preferred sweetener of health conscious consumers, doctors, and natural foods cooks alike.

Where Does Agave Nectar Come From?

Agave nectar (sometimes called agave syrup) is most often produced from the Blue Agaves that thrive in the volcanic soils of Southern Mexico. Agaves are large, spikey plants that resemble cactus or yuccas in both form and habitat, but they are actually succulents similar to the familiar Aloe Vera.
In many regards agave nectar bridges the gap between real and artificial sweeteners. While it has all the useful properties of real sugars, its lower glycemic index helps protect against health risks associated with higher glycemic sweeteners.
Agave nectar can be used in many more applications than artificial sweeteners, while also producing more palatable results. Since it is composed of real sugars (fructose and glucose), agave nectar performs admirably in the kitchen and bakery. It matches refined sugars in all the qualities mentioned above, serving as a browning agent, a humectant, a softener, and a preservative. 

SO, what glorious recipe did I create with this hot little commodity? Try these good morning muffins on for size!

P.S,: A word about Mueslix; for any of you who don't know, Mueslix is a cereal containing (usually) various grain flakes, chopped raisins and dates, oats, sliced almonds and maybe a light sweetner. I grew up on the stuff, we were introduced to it in Germany and used to make it ourselves for years afterwards. I chose this cereal because all the ingredients are great in carrot cake and they would be perfectly  proportioned for these muffins, especially since I personally only like a little texture while I am enjoying a great carrot cake. If you can't find it, sub in the above ingredients in your own preferred amounts.

     Glorious Carrot Cake Deliciousness Morning Muffin Madness (or Morning Carrot Cake for short!)

3/4 - 1 c Mueslix breakfast cereal
1/2 c quick cooking oats
1/2 - 1 c fat reduced buttermilk (or half buttermilk half unsweetened applesauce)
2 c unbleached all purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 c brown sugar (not packed)
1/2 c agave nectar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
3/4 c canola/vegetable oil
1 c finely shredded carrots
1/2 tsp cinnamon
dash ginger, salt,  and ground cloves
1/2 c white chocolate chips

Crush cereal more fine, mix with oats and buttermilk (I used half buttermilk half applesauce because that was all I had, but I really liked the flavor too!) Let set while mixing other ingredients (for a total of 5+ minutes at least) Mix eggs, vanilla, and oil. Add sugar and agave. Sift flour, baking soda, and spices/salt together, then add to wet ingredients. Preheat oven to 350^ and spray muffin tins while waiting for wet ingredients to set longer. Add carrots and cereal mixture to wet ingredients. Mix in white chocolate chips. Spoon into muffing cups till 3/4 full. Bake for about 20 min or till toothpick comes out clean. Should make 18, enjoy!

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