Carrots are frequently the topic of conversation that travels on the telephone wire from my apartment in Ontario to Keira’s nanny in Nova Scotia. She often expresses surprise that I buy carrots at the market most weekends – be it January or June. “Are they local?” Yes, always local. At our grocery store in Nova Scotia, local carrots disappear by mid-winter, even though I assure Keira’s nanny that farmers in the province are storing them in root cellars.
Big business doesn’t want to deal with hard-working, local farmers. It’s easier for the Loblaws corporation to deal with large distributors, so they import carrots from the southern US. (Their advertisements about “grown to close to home” are rubbish.) I understand that the only way to obtain avocadoes and citrus fruits any time of the year in Canada is to ship them thousands of miles. Our climate is too harsh to sustain those fruits. But carrots?! One of the few vegetables that is actually improved by a cold snap, and we’re importing them from places that rarely ever see snow? Never mind the difference in taste between a carrot freshly pulled from the soil and one that has spent weeks in a plastic bag, making the long trek on an exhaust-spewing truck. Never mind the importance of the supporting local farmers.
So, after some gentle nudging, Keira’s nanny started visiting Halifax’s new Seaport farmers’ market. There, she discovered the rainbow bags of local carrots from Noggins farm. It’s not difficult to store last season’s carrots to sell until the spring crop is ready. The lack of those carrots in the grocery store is attributable only to the fact that large corporations are unwilling to partner with smaller producers. No wonder I get cranky any time I’m forced to buy from a grocery store instead of a farmers’ market.
The upside is that Keira’s nanny and grampy became so addicted to those sweet carrots that they make the effort to visit the market every week or two to stock up. As for those American impostors? I didn’t see a single one upon my last visit home.
Now that I have that rant out of my system, I’ll tell you about the genesis of these muffins. Kim said she wanted a healthy snack she could freeze and then have at the ready when she goes out with Keira. Baked goods don’t have much redeeming value, but I packed these full of carrots, and replaced all of the sugar with a healthier puree of prunes. These are dense muffins, and much healthier than anything you can buy.
On-the-go muffins (adapted from Gluten-Free Girl)
Makes about 8 muffins.
1/4tsp baking soda
1/8tsp baking powder
1 large egg
50g vegetable oil (I use sunflower)
Make the prune puree. It’s best to do this at least an hour before you’re ready to make the muffins. You could even do it a day or so ahead of time.
Put the prunes and about 100mL of water in a small saucepan over medium heat. Don’t use a large saucepan because the prunes might scorch if not covered by enough water.
Let simmer gently for about 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the prunes cool completely. Once cool, you can puree them with the remaining liquid in a food processor. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350F/177C. Grease a muffin tin.
Scrub your carrots, and top and tail them. Grate them either with a box grater or in a food processor.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon.
In another bowl, whisk together the prune puree, egg, yogurt, and vegetable oil. Add this to the dry ingredients and combine thoroughly. Fold in the grated carrots.
Fill the muffin cups to nearly full. Bake them until a tester comes out mostly clean. This took only 18 minutes in my oven, but may take longer in yours.
Let the pan rest on a cooling rack for about a minute and then gently dislodge the muffins. Allow them to cool completely on the rack before storing them.