Food & Wine

Camouflaging nutritious as delicious

Photo Sarah Manning/Special To Thetown Crier These muffins pack a punch with seeds, nuts and dates, but no sugar.


I have never been one to turn down dessert. Pies, cookies, cakes and creams, I love them all. That’s why, since I began experimenting in the kitchen, it has been my passion to reinvent my favorite sweets using more wholesome ingredients. Grind almonds into flour? Sure! Dates and bananas instead of sugar? Why not?

I’m the friend who brings health food disguised as delectable treats to social gatherings. Take a recent blood-orange cake made with whole-grain barley flour, for example. I caught glimpses of the host slyly wrapping up slice after slice to keep in the refrigerator before it vanished.

Then, there were the spinach and carrot brownies I used to bring on long drives down the California coast to visit friends. Met first with skepticism and fear, one taste of those fudgelike squares inspired awe and amazement in anyone who dared to try them. Did I mention the sugar-free carrot cake made without any flour at all? Divine.

These muffins are no exception. I first made them to bring along to a friend’s ranch in Sonoma County. Exceptional dinnertime feasts rewarded long days in the hot sun building a tree house and frolicking in the vineyards. In typical fashion, I wanted to ensure that there were plenty of healthful breakfast options available to fortify me for the activities ahead. High in protein and fiber, the muffins kept my belly full and my energy up, and were just as satisfying as a sugary calorie bomb.

Packed with seeds, nuts, dates and healthful fats, the muffins contain absolutely no sugar. Almond flour is my favorite ingredient of the moment – you can make it yourself easily by grinding blanched almonds in a food processor, but it is also available in most gourmet markets and health-food stores. As versatile as it is healthful, I use it in nearly every baking recipe.

Dates make wonderful replacements for sugar. Soaking them in warm water and then grinding them into a paste creates a molasseslike sweetener, only much less processed. The dates are left in bigger pieces and provide great chewy texture.

This month’s Date and Orange Power Muffins travel extremely well and provide hearty energy and wholesome nutrition. Pack them in lunches, bring them on trips and enjoy them for a guilt-free breakfast, snack or dessert. Don’t be afraid to share them with friends, either – I promise, no one will scold you for leaving out the flour and sugar.

Date and Orange Power Muffins


• 1 cup almond flour

• 1/2 cup flaxseed meal

• 1 teaspoon baking soda

• 1/2 teaspoon sea salt

• 6 dates, pitted and chopped

• 3 eggs

• 2 tablespoons melted butter or coconut oil

• 1/4 cup orange juice

• 1/4 cup sunflower seeds

• 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds (pepitas)

• 1 tablespoon chia seeds


Preheat oven to 350 F and line 10-12 muffin cups with paper liners.

In large bowl, mix almond flour, flaxseed meal, baking soda and sea salt.

In blender, mix dates, eggs, oil and orange juice on medium speed until smooth.

Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir until thoroughly combined. Fold in sunflower, pumpkin and chia seeds.

Divide batter among muffin cups and bake for approximately 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.

Allow to cool for 10 minutes before transferring to wire rack.

Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Sarah Manning is a Los Altos High School graduate who blogs weekly about her culinary adventures. To read her food blog, visit

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