But in case you haven't noticed by now, I cannot claim to be a total devotee of the 100 mile rule. Cardamom, black pepper, star anise, all spice, cinnamon and bay leaves can be found in my spice cabinet along with turmeric, ginger and nutmeg...those wonderful spices that sent the Europeans sailing off in all different directions, desperate to get ahold of their own little piece of tropical paradise where they could establish colonial monopolies and complain about the heat.
I also make exceptions for some tropical fruit. What can I say, I get homesick sometimes and although the very best pineapples must be picked straight from the field*, I'll accept the occasional imported substitute. I do partially salve my conscience by trying to buy fair trade and organic bananas, oranges and the occasional clementine. And coconut. Which brings us back to the Sailor Muffins. A while ago I was planning to make a carrot cake, and to that end purchased some pre-grated unsweetened coconut to put in it. The cake never happened, so the coconut sat patiently in my fridge waiting for its chance to shine.
I am leaving for Belize (repeat after me: "yay!") this Friday at the crack of dawn. Well, actually, since it is the shortest day of the year I will be leaving my apartment long before the crack of dawn, more like 4 in the morning in the freezing dark. Lets not even mention that last night a memo was slid under my door informing me that "urgent electrical repairs" have been scheduled for Thursday night, starting at 10 PM and lasting until 7 AM on Friday, which will require turning off the electricity in my building for the entire time. So I'll be dragging bags out the door with a flashlight in my teeth. Its ok though, because I'm escaping to the land of the coconut and fresh squeezed orange juice. I'll be gone for two weeks, and to that end I have been trying to use up perishable items in my fridge that are likely to go bad in my absence.
Dried coconut is not one of them. Nor are dates, which would have happily sat in my cupboard until my return. The fresh cranberries I could easily have frozen. So really I guess I didn't achieve my goal after all. I still have half a cooked sweet potato, a blender full of pureed pumpkin and an almost empty container of soup to deal with before I leave. But at least I have some kick-ass muffins to fuel my efforts!
*The reason for this is that the root of the pineapple plant, which is actually a bromiliad, contains starch which is turned into sugar and then pumped into the fruit to ripen it. Therefore, once the pineapple has been plucked from the plant, it will not get any sweeter no matter what you do, and to ship them without bruising, they must be picked before they are fully and fragrantly ripe.
Sailor Muffins with Dates, Cranberries and Coconut
Makes 12 muffins, 214 calories each with 2/3 cup of coconut, one provides 16% of your DV of saturated fat, if your daily caloric intake is 2000 calories.
1 and 3/4 cup white whole wheat flour (or whole wheat pastry flour)
2 tablespoons flax meal
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
2 egg whites (about 1/2 cup)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup of 1% or skim milk
1/2 to 2/3 cup unsweetened shredded coconut (I used Bob's Red Mill, medium shred)
1/2 cup finely chopped dates
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and pull out a muffin tin. Measure the egg whites, vegetable oil and milk into a bowl or measuring cup.
2. Mix the flour, salt, baking powder, sugar and flax meal together in a bowl. Stir in the coconut and the finely chopped dates until they are coated in flour.
3. Wash your fresh cranberries and add them to the flour mixture, then pour in your wet ingredients and mix together with a few strokes.
4. Fill your muffin tin and bake for 25 minutes. Turn the pan halfway through. If your oven is like mine, you may have to move it to a higher rack to keep the bottoms from browning too much.
These muffins will make your kitchen smell like toasted coconut. They are tender and delicious and don't need any butter. There is a reason for that. THESE MUFFINS ARE NOT HEALTHY! Yes, I know, not my style right? All the other muffins on my blog are low in calories, fat and sugar (though jam packed full of flavour). These muffins are also loaded with flavour and, thanks to the coconut, saturated fat. So don't make them the same day that you are planning to hit up a steak house or eat that triple chocolate layer cake left over from your birthday.
Why call them sailor muffins? Well, the three main ingredients were all quite easy to ship even back in the days of ships with sails instead of container barges. In the 1800s cranberries were packed in barrels with water, where they kept fresh for months and prevented scurvy on long voyages. Dried dates and coconut (especially in the form of copra) have been traded east, west, north and south for centuries. So, Sailor Muffins. Bringing together tropical privateers, Mediterranean traders and New England merchant marines in one delicious package.