Vegan Apple Flax Muffins

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This week, I discovered the deliciousness of honeycrisp apples.  I had heard how wonderful honeycrisp apples were, but I never believed they could be better than another apple variety.  But I have to say, these apples are really, really good.  I actually had to restrain myself from just eating all of the apples plain instead of putting them in these muffins.  Seriously, I was chopping them up and eating the slices instead of adding them to the batter.  It was bad.  I have no self-control.

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Still, it was worth it to sacrifice one to this recipe.  Adam’s grandmother recommended that I try making these healthy (ish) muffins when we were in Michigan.  They were already filled with nutritious goodness like whole wheat flour and flaxseed meal, but to make them even healthier I also used coconut oil and almond milk.  On top of that, I replaced the egg in the recipe with apple sauce to make these babies vegan.  The result is a hearty, dense muffin with pops of apple and nut flavors that pair great with a morning cup of coffee.  If you’re feeling adventurous, you may even want to try making these with cinnamon applesauce.  In fact, maybe I’ll go make more right now.  Not like I’m looking for an excuse to buy more honeycrisp apples or anything.  Yeah, I know, I’m a bad liar.

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Ingredients:

Makes 12 muffins

  • 1/4 cup flaxseed meal
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 cup white flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 egg, beaten OR 1/3 cup apple sauce (or cinnamon apple sauce!!)
  • 1 – 1 1/2 cups finely chopped apples (skins on or off)
  • 3 tbsp. coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup almond milk
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts (I used pecans)

Directions:

  • Blend dry ingredients together in a bowl
  • In separate bowl, combine applesauce (or egg), oil + milk
  • Add dry ingredients to applesauce mixture + stir until just blended
  • Fold in apples + nuts (batter will be thick!)
  • Fill well-greased muffin cups 2/3 full
  • Bake at 400 degrees for 18-20 minutes or until top springs back when touched
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Chocolate Cherry Green Smoothie

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Cherries, chocolate + dates – what more could you want in a smoothie? This recipe comes from my friend, Rebecca, who is a smoothie master.  Seriously, her smoothies always taste 100 times better than mine, I don’t know what her secret is, but I am still working toward smoothie perfection.  This recipe is one of her chocolate smoothie staples.  When you’re craving sweets – and especially ice cream – this smoothie hits the spot.  The dates and cherries – both dried and frozen – give this recipe a dessert-like sweetness.  Then the ground up cacao nibs have the consistency of chocolate chips, like Ben + Jerry’s Cherry Garcia ice cream.  Yummmmmm.

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If you want to the cherry flavor to stand out, go for vanilla protein powder.  If you’re a chocolate lover, grab some chocolate powder and throw it in!  Experiment with the amounts of powder to see how much is needed – I found that only half a scoop of mine did the trick.  For these pictures, I used vanilla powder – you’ll notice that the chocolate powder will make your smoothie a brown color.  I know, that’s kind of obvious, but I don’t want anyone freaking out when their smoothie isn’t the same color as mine.

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Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup dried cherries
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup frozen cherries (depending on size of cherries)
  • 1/3rd frozen banana
  • 1 tbsp cacao nibs
  • 2-3 dates, pitted + split in half
  • 1-2 cups spinach and/or kale (Depending on the size of your smoothie, it’s easiest just to fill the blender to the top with greens!)
  • ~1 cup nut milk or coconut water (or 3/4ths the amount of greens)
  • 1/2 scoop vanilla or chocolate protein powder (we love Juice Plus Chocolate Complete Powder!)
  • 1/2 tbsp chia seeds (optional)

Directions:

  • Fill blender with spinach and fill blender 3/4 full with nut milk + blend
  • Add frozen cherries and frozen banana + blend
  • Add remaining ingredients + blend
  • Top with some cacao nibs if you want more chocolate (I mean, who doesn’t?)

Whole Wheat English Muffins

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Is there anything better than a warm english muffin, smothered with butter and jam, and paired with a hot cup of coffee for breakfast?  Well how about whole wheat, homemade and fresh from the oven English muffins topped with raw Michigan honey and local peach preserves?  Yeah, that’s what I had for breakfast in Michigan and it was amazingly delicious.  Aren’t grandparents the best?

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Now I’m not gonna lie to you, this recipe (also from Grandma!) is a bit (ok a lot) more complicated than most of the other recipes I’ve posted – with the exception of the French macaron recipe, that also involved a lot of steps.  This recipe doesn’t necessarily require a lot of finesse, it’s tricky mostly because of the time it takes to make and wait for your dough to be ready.  You probably know that the dough takes some time because the recipe involves yeast.  Now I don’t know about you, but yeast always intimidates me because it involves that whole my-food-is-growing-on-its-own issue.  Maybe it’s just me, but putting your food in a bowl under a towel and then later revealing that your food has doubled in size just freaks me out.  Raw food should not grow.  It’s not natural.

But still, I endure the weirdness of yeast for the sake of these delicious English muffins because they are warm and fluffy and so much better than the store-bought version.  I recommend making them on a Sunday when you have a few free hours and can spend some time meandering in and out of the kitchen, maybe while enjoying a cup of coffee and reading a book while you wait for your dough to grow.  I mean, you’ve got to at least try to make them.  How many types of food do you get to “punch” halfway through the recipe?

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Ingredients:

Makes 12 muffins

  • 2 packages active dry yeast
  • ~3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup cracked wheat
  • 1/4 cup wheat germ
  • 2 cups skim milk
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • Optional: add some chia seeds! (Grandma is on a chia seed kick + she says they go great in these muffins.  I trust her.)

Directions:

[Now I found the instructions a bit lengthy, so I broke them down into three parts to try to make it more manageable.  As my dad always says, when a project seems overwhelming, break it up into parts, like a sandwich.  So now you have a recipe sandwich.  My dad is full of great lectures like that – a few too many, if I say so myself (hi Dad!) – but I digress.]

Part 1: Making the dough

  • In mixer bowl, combine yeast, only 3/4 cup of the all-purpose flour, cracked wheat and wheat germ
  • In saucepan, heat milk, butter, sugar and salt until just barely warm – stir constantly until butter almost melts
  • Add saucepan ingredients to mixer bowl
  • Beat at low speed of electric mixer for about 30 seconds, scraping sides of bowl
  • Beat for 3 minutes at high speed
  • Hand stir in enough all-purpose flour to make moderately stiff dough
  • Place dough on a surface covered in flour and knead until smooth + elastic
  • Cover + let rise roughly 1 hour + 15 minutes until the dough has risen to double its size
  • Punch dough down, cover and let it rest for 10 minutes

Part 2: Cutting dough

  • Place dough on lightly floured surface
  • Cut into roughly 4-inch round circles, re-rolling scraps to make leftover
  • Dip both sides of the muffins in corneal
  • Cover + let rise again for 30 minutes

Part 3: Baking muffins

  • Set pancake griddle at 325 degrees
  • Place muffins on griddle
  • Cook muffins 25-30 minutes, flipping every 5 minutes
  • Allow to cool on wire rack before serving

Pumpkin Pie Green Smoothie

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I admit it, I’m a stereotypical white girl.  I love fall.  I love pumpkins and apple cider and brown boots and sweaters and all the leaves on the trees changing colors.  And I really, really love pumpkin spice lattes.  Judge me all you want, but those things are delicious. It has been so hot here, though, that I have been trying to hold off on drinking one until it is October.  I know I can get an iced one, but they’re not the same.  I want to have one when there’s  a slight chill in the air and I can enjoy holding a warm cup between my hands.  So while it’s been difficult to stop myself from just ordering one from the Starbucks I walk by every day, I’ve been using other fall recipes to try to keep my cravings at bay.

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This pumpkin pie green smoothie is one of the ways I’ve been holding off my PSL cravings.  You would think that pumpkin puree wouldn’t be that good for you – I mean pumpkin pie isn’t the healthiest thing – but pureed pumpkin in and of itself actually has a number of health benefits, including nutrients like fiber and iron.  Now I’m not recommending you drink a pumpkin smoothie every morning, but when you’re hankering for a pumpkin spice latte or a slice of pumpkin pie, you can use this healthy recipe as an alternative!  When you combine the pumpkin puree, maple syrup and vanilla protein powder (especially Juice Plus Vanilla Complete, my fave!) it smells like fall and tastes like pumpkin pie.  Yummmmmm.

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Ingredients:

  • 1/3 – 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 teaspoon chia seeds
  • Handful of spinach
  • Almond milk
  • 1/3 – 1/2 frozen banana
  • 1 – 2 tablespoons almond butter
  • 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
  • 1 scoop of vanilla protein powder
  • 1-2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • Dash of cinnamon

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Directions:

  • Blend spinach and almond milk
  • Add the remaining ingredients and blend
  • Add ice if needed to thicken!

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So what about you? Do you have any healthy fall recipes that you suggest I try?

Mango Banana Green Smoothie

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If you had told me a few years ago that I would like smoothies filled with spinach and kale, I would’ve laughed at you.  First, I would’ve probably asked you what the heck kale was.  Then I would’ve said that there was no way I was going to drink my greens.  Sure, I enjoyed a spinach salad every once in awhile, but no way it would taste good in a smoothie?

What I learned is that you can’t even taste the vegetables you put in a green smoothie.  In fact, the beauty of the green smoothie is it tastes like the fruit you put in it.  So why not add some greens to your typical smoothie and boost your veggie count for the day?  That’s why this recipe is called a “mango banana green smoothie.”  Sure, it has spinach and kale in it, but it really just tastes like a tropical mango and banana smoothie!

I almost titled this post “Perfecting the Green Smoothie” because I am constantly changing the recipe to create the most delicious smoothie ever.  I used to put greek yogurt in my smoothies to make it creamy, but I’ve been trying to cut down on my dairy intake.  A friend recently suggested adding half an avocado to the smoothie.  Wouldn’t you know, the avocado acts almost as a total replacement for creaminess?  Plus I’m basically obsessed with avocados anyway, so I was excited about this new addition.  I’ve also evolved to adding chia seeds and flaxseed meal to the blender.  As my parents would say, flaxseed meal helps the smoothie “stick to your ribs” and keeps you feeling fuller longer.  It also has a lot of nutritional benefits.  Pretty much everything in this smoothie contributes to your health in some way, though.  So I encourage you to not be afraid of a green smoothie and try this recipe out!

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Ingredients:

  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/2 cup spinach
  • 1/2 cup kale
  • ~1/2 cup frozen mango pieces
  • 1/2 frozen banana  (Make sure to cut the banana in half before you freeze it! Made that mistake before.)
  • 1/2 avocado
  • 1-2 tablespoons almond butter
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds
  • 1 tablespoon flaxseed meal
  • Ice cubes (if needed)

This recipe makes roughly an 8 oz smoothie – if you want more, double the recipe or add more of whichever ingredients you’d like!  I made this one with my Magic Bullet because our bigger blender was dirty.  Surprisingly it did pretty well in blending up the greens!  If you want the ultimate vegetable blender, though, invest in a VitaMix – it somehow makes green smoothies without a fleck of unblended vegetables.

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Directions:

  • Add spinach, kale and almond milk to blender.  Blend those first to get the greens as well blended as possible.
  • Throw in banana, avocado, mango and almond butter.  Top with chia seeds and flaxseed meal.  Blend until combined.
  • If it isn’t the consistency you want, add ice or almond milk accordingly.
  • Try not to drink too fast!

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Homemade Açai Bowl

IMG_3201If you haven’t had an açai bowl before, you may not understand how excited I am about this recipe.  You also may not know how to pronounce the word açai.  A-kay?  A-sigh?  Nope, it’s pronounced ah-sigh-ee.  Don’t worry, it’s a weird word and I didn’t know how to say it a few months ago.  But then I discovered a shop near us called Paradise Bowls that sells açai and pitaya bowls and now I’m totally addicted to these things.  Making an açai bowl only requires a few steps.  First, blend açai or pitaya (aka dragonfruit) with other fruit and a non-dairy milk – usually coconut or almond milk – creating a thick, icy smoothie as a base.  On top of that blend, you add granola and more fruit, and finally sprinkle some coconut and drizzle honey on top.  It’s heaven in a bowl, really.  If you live in South Bay and haven’t gone to Paradise Bowls, go as soon as you can.  Just look at this bowl.

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Is your mouth watering yet?  The best thing is you can eat it as breakfast, lunch, a snack or dessert!  All of the fruit does make it high in sugar, but on the upside you’re likely getting your daily requirement of fruit in one bowl.

So when I was at Whole Foods the other day I found some açai smoothie packs and thought I would make my own açai bowl.  The packs come in sets of 4 for $6.50, so it’s not the cheapest, but I personally think it’s worth it to make these little bowls of happiness.

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I swear, you guys, I was going to take better pictures of this recipe.  I was going to sprinkle coconut flakes and cacao nibs to frame the bowl and maybe even put some banana slices in the background.  But I went paddleboarding for an hour and a half before making this recipe and I was so hungry, and it looked so delicious, I just couldn’t wait.  Maybe another time I’ll take some prettier photos.  As for right now, I’ll just share the recipe with you.  You can mess with this recipe as much as you want, but I roughly modeled mine after my favorite bowl at Paradise Bowls.  If you’re looking for inspiration, check out their menu page.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 açai smoothie packet
  • ~1/4 cup of almond milk (or any other milk of your choice)
  • 1 banana
  • 2 spoonfuls of peanut butter
  • ~1/4 cup frozen blueberries and/or other frozen fruit of your choice
  • Coconut flakes (sweetened or unsweetened)
  • 1 tbsp. cacao nibs
  • Granola (optional)
  • Honey (optional)

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Instructions:

  • Put açai packet, almond milk, 1/2 of the banana, peanut butter and frozen blueberries in blender and blend until combined.  Add more ice or milk if needed to get the right, icy consistency.  I’d recommend starting off with less milk and working your way up!
  • Pour smoothie mixture into a bowl & then put other half of banana (and optional granola) on top of the liquid.
  • Sprinkle coconut and other toppings of your choice on top, drizzle some honey if you want, and then chow down!

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Vanilla Chia Seed Pudding

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If you haven’t heard, chia seeds are all the rage right now.  Packed with all kinds of nutrients, chia seeds are primarily known for being high in fiber and healthy omega-3 fats.   The fun trick about chia seeds – besides them growing green “hair” on random animals and characters – is that they take on a gelatinous quality when mixed with water.  So for awhile now, I’ve been throwing these little seeds into my smoothies for an easy nutrient boost.  Thanks to their newfound popularity, you can find them at pretty much any grocery store and even Costco!

This week, I decided to try making chia seed pudding.  I’ve had it before at a local juice place and there’s even some pre-packaged containers available at Vons called “Chia Pods.”   The recipe I followed, found on Domesticate Me, suggests using greek yogurt to make the pudding thicker.  I already enjoy eating greek yogurt, so adding chia seeds to make the pudding was an easy decision.  You can, however, make it without yogurt if you are lactose-intolerant or don’t like yogurt at all.  Be warned, though, that if you only use almond milk your pudding will be thinner than what’s shown here.  Still, my sister made chia seed pudding with almond milk and enjoyed it, so I don’t think it’s a total deal-breaker.  When these seeds sit in the liquid mixture overnight, they expand into tiny balls and create a thick pudding-like mixture.

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Ingredients:

  • Roughly 1/2 cup raw chia seeds
  • 1 cup almond milk (or other milk of your choice)
  • 1 cup greek yogurt (or other yogurt of your choice) (**Substitute in 1 cup milk if you don’t want yogurt**)
  • 1 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • Optional: Toppings!

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(Pretty Easy) Directions:

  • Place chia seeds in a bowl
  • Pour in milk, yogurt, syrup and salt
  • Whisk together ingredients
  • Cover bowl in plastic wrap and put in fridge
  • Let the pudding chill for at least 4 hours, stirring every so often.  The general consensus on chia seed pudding is that you should let it sit overnight for the best result.
  • Add whatever garnish your heart desires and eat away!  I topped mine with bananas and cinnamon one day and strawberries with mini chocolate chips the next.  So good!

Make sure to store remaining pudding in the fridge.  Mine lasted for about 4 breakfast meals.

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Avocado Toast

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If you like avocado as much as I do, you’re always looking for new ways to work it into your diet.  I’ve recently been on an avocado toast kick for breakfast.  I’ve tried a lot of different recipes and my favorite involves putting a little bit of olive oil on the toast before adding the avocado.  The olive oil adds a depth of flavor to the toast that seems to step it up a notch. I love this recipe because it’s fast, easy and delicious.

Ingredients:

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Directions:

  • Cut avocado
  • Toast bread
  • Drizzle a little bit of olive oil on toast
  • Put avocado on toast
  • Sprinkle salt and pepper to taste

Really, not sure it gets much easier than that.

Some people like to smash the avocado into a spread instead of leaving it in slices, giving it a more even taste.  I’ve found that one whole avocado gives you enough slices for two pieces of toast.  Or you can do what I did and eat the second half of the avocado straight from the shell!  Either way, you’re sure to satisfy your avocado cravings with this recipe.

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Berry Almond Muffins

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Today’s recipe is brought to you by my sister, Alison.  When she made these delicious berry muffins back in October, I knew I had to get the recipe.  I’m visiting her this weekend, so I asked her to share the recipe.  These muffins are full of tasty ingredients and they’re pretty good for you too.  My niece loves to eat these before her gymnastics meets to give her a healthy dose of carbs.

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The best part is you can pick which berries you use or replace the berries with banana.  Be warned, though, blackberries tends to make the muffins pretty seedy.  In this batch, Alison used raspberries.  We ate them so fast, though, that she’s already had to make a new batch with blueberries, which are also wonderful.

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Here is Alison’s recipe for making 12 berry muffins, altered from a recipe found on Paleo Plan.

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1 cup almond butter
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil melted (microwave about 15 seconds)
  • 1 cup almond meal or almond flour
  • 1 cup of berries – this amount will vary based on which berries you choose
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda

Baking Instructions:

  • Preheat oven to 375 degree Fahrenheit.  Spray muffin tin with coconut oil – you don’t need muffin holders that way.
  • Mix dry ingredients (baking powder, baking soda, salt & almond meal) in a medium bowl.  Set aside.
  • Using a separate bowl, whisk 3 eggs.  Add almond butter, honey and coconut oil.  Mix together until combined – Alison recommends against using a whisk at this point because it will get messy.
  • Fold dry mix into egg mixture.  Stir until it thickens.  Then choose your berry.  Mix it all up – don’t worry about mashing the fruit.  If you leave the fruit whole and you’re not careful, one muffin that has no berries in it and one that has a lot berries.  This way you have flavor throughout the whole muffin.
  • Pour muffin batter into muffin tins using a 1/4 cup measuring cup.  Using this measurement, you’ll have enough batter for  12 muffins.  Bake in oven for 13-16 minutes or until a toothpick or knife comes out clean.
  • Let muffins cool, then enjoy for breakfast, lunch, or a snack!

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Whole Wheat Blueberry Avocado Muffins

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Welcome to my new food blog!  I have been cooking more in an effort to try to eat healthier, so I figured I would start posting pictures and recipes on a blog to share.  I apologize if the pictures are not up to food blog standards yet, I’m relearning how to use my Canon Rebel XS in non-landscape mode and how to make food look drool-worthy.

Adam and I had some very ripe avocados in our kitchen, so I decided to make blueberry avocado muffins I found on Gimme Some Oven.  These muffins are great because they use avocados and greek yogurt in place of oil for baking.  Honestly, you don’t even taste the avocado.  If you want to make these muffins healthier, though, you probably want to skip the sugary streusel topping.

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Here are the ingredients you need – I made some adjustments from Gimme Some Oven based on what we had in our kitchen, including substituting regular flour for whole wheat flour.

Muffin Ingredients:

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 ripe avocado, seeded and peeled
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup nonfat plain greek yogurt

Streusel Topping Ingredients:

  • 2 tsp. melted butter
  • 2 tbsp. all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar

(Gimme Some Oven used 2 tbsp. granulated sugar and 1/4 cup raw sugar, but we didn’t have any raw sugar so I used all granulated sugar.)

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and line a muffin tin with paper liners.  I made 12 muffins, but they were pretty big, so you could make 15 if you wanted.

Grab two bowls.  In the first bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  In the second bowl (an electric mixer mixing bowl if you have one – I used my KitchenAid Mixer), put in an avocado that has been peeled and cut up and beat it.   Add the sugar and egg to the second bowl and mix.  Then, pour in the vanilla and yogurt and beat until just barely mixed together.

Next, you need to add in the flour mixture from the other bowl.  This point is where the lack of oil starts to show.  Gimme Some Oven advises to add the flour mixture in two separate parts and beat until just combined.  I followed these instructions and the mixture took on more of a doughy texture than a typical muffin mix batter.  Don’t worry if this happens because thankfully the muffins still turn out great!

To keep the blueberries from falling apart in the batter, you have to put them in by hand.  That’s when it starts to get messy.  After folding in the blueberries, I ended up hand scooping the mixture into the muffin tins because it was too thick to even use an ice cream scoop.

After the muffin mixture is put in the tins, grab another small bowl and put in the ingredients for the streusel.  Mix together until the ingredients create a crumbly topping, then spread it on top of the muffin mix.  While raw sugar would probably make the crumbs a bit more defined, the use of only granulated seemed to work fine.

Now the muffins are ready to go!  Bake them in the oven for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick or knife comes out clean.  For my first time making muffins from scratch, they turned out pretty tasty!  Even better, they are more filling than your typical muffins.  I will definitely be making these again!

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