Often in the early morning before anyone else in the house is awake and everything is quiet, I make a cup of tea and browse the Internet.
I have a folder in the word processor on my computer where I copy and paste recipes that look interesting. Some I have taken the time to try out and others are waiting until I am in the mood. Sometimes I go through the list of recipes and ask myself why on earth I saved that and other times I wonder why I haven't made this sooner. But most of the time, I forget they are there.
While I was looking for a recipe for my Tribune Cooks assignment, I thought, why not look through some of those long-forgotten recipes? After all, I saved them for a reason, even if I don't remember what that reason might be. When I search for a recipe, I try to weigh the percentage of main courses, side dishes and desserts that my fellow food writers have already done, although if I had to guess, I would say desserts probably outnumber anything else.
Triple chocolate chunk muffin knock-offs are surprisingly tasty for being low in calories. At only 58 calories per small muffin, they are rich in chocolate and low in sugar, making them perfect for satisfying cravings without adding a lot of extra calories.
As I browsed through the list, I thought about crab cakes, particularly the crab cakes from a restaurant we visited in Ellacott City, Md. But real lump crab meat is expensive, and I was hoping to find something that used ingredients I already had in my kitchen. I thought about chicken; I have quite a lot of chicken recipes. Or perhaps I would write about my killer bruschetta with homemade pesto and balsamic vinaigrette dressing. (The secret is the touch of brown sugar whisked into in the dressing, but I'm saving that one for another time).
As I dragged my feet making a decision, I realized I was pressed for time, and truthfully, I just wasn't in the mood to do any extensive cooking. And then I came across this recipe for Triple Chocolate Chunk Muffins, which are labeled as knock-offs from Whole Foods Chocolate Chunk VitaTop Muffins.
If, like me, you browse the Internet for recipes, you probably came across these and, like me, saved them in your ''someday I'm going to make these,'' folder. Since I opted to make them for this article, now you can read my review and decide if you really want to take that leap.
When I did a search for the recipe, I found it in several different places, including personal blogs and low-calorie cooking websites. The recipe claims that one small, cupcake size muffin contains only 58 calories, while the larger muffins have 116 calories.
I admit that I took liberties with the recipe, and mine likely contained a few more calories than advertised. There are also a few things I would do differently.
Most of the ingredients were indeed in my pantry. I made a quick trip to the store for the sugar substitute and opted for a blend of Splenda and granulated sugar, so I guess you could say my muffins were half artificial sweetener and half sugar.
I also took liberties with the chocolate chips. One-half cup isn't much and when divided, 1/4 cup doesn't ''sprinkle'' well on top of 24 muffins. (I chose to ignore the misnomer of calling them ''chocolate chunk'' muffins, since chocolate chips and chocolate chunks are different things and these muffins only contained chocolate chips).
After measuring out a half-cup of chocolate chips and deciding it wasn't enough, I sprinkled freely from the package until it looked like enough. I probably added another half cup to the entire mixture, not counting what I then added to the top of each individual muffin after the first 10 minutes of baking. Because the batter was thin, the chips tended to fall to the bottom both while scooping into the liners and after baking. Perhaps this was the reason only 1/2 cup of chips was used in the original recipe.
I used the foil cupcake liners, but if I made them again, I would consider using the cooking spray directly into the tins or perhaps spraying inside the liners before I filled them. The cupcakes were sticky and didn't come cleanly out of the wrappers. I found they came out better if the muffins were completely cooled, but cakey residue still stuck to the bottom.
My batter was thinner than regular cake or muffin batter. I may have contributed to that by grinding the oats in my food processor before I added the rest of the ingredients. I worried about that at first, but the muffins firmed up nicely, other than sticking to the liners.
I also had to bake my muffins longer than the 15 minutes stated in the recipe. In fact, I baked mine for a full 10 minutes longer to get that "clean" toothpick effect. The recipe doesn't specify baking any longer for the bigger size muffins, but I assume a longer baking time would be required.
Even with these minor inconveniences, the muffins tasted fantastic. There was a lot of chocolate flavor, and they weren't overly sweet. The smaller muffins were perfect to satisfy a craving without going overboard.
I would not only make them again, but also would consider making them as a take-along treat for a picnic or get-together. I think this recipe is a keeper.