It's a month known for cold – ranging from way below zero for those of us up North, to the "chilly" 60s for those in more temperate climes. And hey, as much as I love New England – with the temperature hovering at 2°F right now, I'd take up temporary residence in Key West in a heartbeat!
January is also known for its New Year's resolutions: quickly made, and often just as hastily broken.
The problem is, so often we set ourselves up to fail. Lose 20 pounds, when you struggle to see the scale inch down by even a pound or two? C'mon, get real!
Not eat your favorite doughnuts and muffins, cookies and cake and brownies – ever? Unless you're empowered with superhuman will (or are facing serious health issues), you know that's probably not going to happen.
So why not lower your expectations a bit, and set yourself a goal you can actually reach?
Like adding fiber and nutrition to your favorite sweet indulgences.
And I don't mean just sprinkling a little bit of whole wheat flour into the bottom of your measuring cup, then filling it with all-purpose.
I mean going cold turkey with the AP flour, at least occasionally. And making 100% whole-grain treats that feel like a New Year's celebration, rather than Lenten penance.
So here's my suggestion for a January resolution that won't be hard to stick to year-round: Since you know you're going to indulge occasionally no matter what, vow to choose whole-grain treats.
And, to get you started down the right path, here are my top 10 100% whole-grain treats. By the way, be sure to read any accompanying blog posts; they're a great supplemental show-and-tell.
Here's a homemade muffin that was 100% whole wheat way before whole grains became nutritionally trendy. This iconic muffin was a darling of the ’60s and ’70s back-to-the-land movement, when seeds, nuts, dried fruit, and whole grains were suddenly on everyone’s lips – literally.
Dark and moist, packed with fruit and shredded carrots and nuts and seeds, this is a bran muffin on steroids. As I note in the recipe's blog post, "Moist and just sweet enough, it’s a great 'eat in the car' treat – it needs the enhancement of neither butter nor jam (though either – or cream cheese – wouldn’t be out of place)."
Light, tender waffles. Crisp on the outside, soft within. Eggy and buttery and... wheaty? Not so much. If these waffles tasted strongly of whole wheat, trust me, they wouldn't be so popular. Do our readers love these? Of the 228 whole grain recipes on our site, these waffles rank #1.
Yes, these are a bit darker than your typical blueberry muffin. But don't judge this book by its cover: they're tender, moist, and packed with flavor. Here's what one happy recipe reviewer wrote:
"Excellent, excellent, excellent! This muffin recipe is now my favorite. It has much more flavor than the typical white muffins. This is my new muffin recipe. I plan on trying additions like apples and blackberries, instead of blueberries. The whole wheat flour and brown sugar make all the difference. And there are no eggs! Thank you KAF. This is a fantastic muffin recipe."
Who doesn't love old-fashioned cake doughnuts? You can get 'em at the doughnut shop. Or the supermarket, if you're into pre-packaged Little Debbie or Hostess. Or you can make them yourself – and trust me, once you experience a homemade cake doughnut (baked, not fried), you'll never go back to store-bought.
Key ingredient: a doughnut pan. Once you have that, your doughnut options are limited only by your imagination. Baked Pumpkin Cake Doughnuts are the most popular of our 3 dozen+ doughnut and fried bread recipes; but when you're talking whole grains, turn to these whole wheat cider doughnuts. The creamy maple glaze takes them beyond good to GREAT.
OK, I cheated a bit on this one; it's only 87% whole grain. But honestly, I'm betting you could swap out the all-purpose flour for white whole wheat, and no one would be the wiser.
This is my go-to pancake recipe; nubbly/nutty from oats, it makes a soft, mildly "egg-y" pancake, one that's substantial and moist rather than light and dry.
Keep the dry mix in your freezer; when you want pancakes, simply combine 1 cup mix with 1 egg and 1 cup buttermilk (or yogurt). Wait 20 minutes for the batter to thicken, and cook up a really enticing plateful of pancakes.
Banana bread: it's the most-searched bread recipe online, globally. And thankfully, it's one of the easiest ways to up the fiber in your family's diet.
This bread is craggy and moist, sweet from bananas and honey, studded with nuts and moist little pockets of banana – AND it's 100% whole wheat.
Oh, boy... That's my reaction whenever I think of this cake. It's so unprepossessing: brown, flattish cake, tan frosting. No, this isn't your multi-layer, hand-decorated celebratory extravaganza. But celebration-worthy? You bet.
Kim from Las Vegas is one of the many readers who've reviewed and rated this cake; let's read what she has to say:
"Love this cake! I made it for a pot luck at work and everyone loved it especially the frosting! I followed the recipe exactly and it turned out beautifully. I love how moist and dense the cake is. Great with a cup of coffee and it was even better the next day. Very easy recipe to follow. The frosting was to die for and perfect for this cake. There is nothing that I didn't love about this cake... Thanks, King Arthur."
Recipe: Basic Whole Grain Cookies
Blog post: Whole Grains in Hiding: More Fiber in Every Sweet Bite
Looking for a simple 100% whole-grain cookie, one that can be dressed up, fiddled with, added to, and made your own? Here 'tis. Wheat and oats combine to make a cookie that's indistinguishable from one made with white flour, except in color.
Dried cranberries or raisins or candied ginger chips? Absolutely. Toasted walnuts, almonds, or pecans? For sure. Chocolate chips? Of course! 'Fess up, you're making cookies anyway; why not make 'em higher-fiber?
Notice this recipe's name: tasting IS believing.
If you mention to friends how much you're enjoying your new whole-grain brownie recipe, they'll scoff, right? "Yeah, because it's January, and you're on this health kick, and you're adding `whole wheat to everything..." The unsaid conclusion being, "But that doesn't mean it tastes good."
Trust me: these brownies TASTE GOOD. Says Bev from Riverton, WY, "OOhhh mamma! Easy to make and heaven in your mouth. Who would have thought whole wheat and cocoa made this."
Recipe: Soft Chocolate Chip Cookies
Look at this cookie. Does this look like a 100% whole wheat cookie? Is the first thought in your mind, "Man, that looks great – for whole grain." I think not.
Let me put the words in your mouth: "This is one warm and melting, tender and tantalizing chocolate chip cookie." But never mind the words: take a bite of this cookie. You'll see, once and for all, why it makes total sense to put away the all-purpose flour every now and then, and break out the whole wheat (and white whole wheat, and oats).
Tasting IS believing. Or maybe not; because when your family and friends taste any of these treats – and you reveal they're whole grain – their first words will be, "I don't believe it!"
Which, in this case, is a very good thing indeed.
So, what have we missed? Is there a favorite 100% whole grain recipe you don't see mentioned here? Please let us know in "comments," below. The more great whole grain recipes we can all share, the better!