Sunday, September 2, 2012

Grandma Swanson’s (healthier) Lemon and Ginger Muffins

Thank you for inviting me to the Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen. Today I'm going to share one of my grandmother's recipes, but I’ve given it a makeover in order to make it a little healthier.

Although my grandmother was originally a pastry chef, she ended up spending most of her life as a farm wife. Unlike my husband and I who work hard, but do it sitting in front of a computer, Grandma, Grandpa, and their five children did strenuous chores involving a lot of physical labor. Crops and livestock do not raise themselves.

This meant that her great recipes were loaded with ingredients that wouldn’t be a problem if you spent twelve hours a day toting that barge and lifting that bale. But for those of us who only write about hard work, they really pack on the pounds. Adjusting savory dishes is pretty easy, but breads and sweets are a bit more of a challenge. Of course, those are my favorite foods, so I had to give it a try.

When I was forced to change my diet due to food sensitivities, the item that I really missed was Grandma’s fabulous Lemon Ginger Muffins. So I did a little tinkering, and the makeover version is what I’m sharing with you today. When these are in the oven, the smell is literally mouthwatering.

Grandma Swanson’s (healthier) Lemon and Ginger Muffins
Yield: 12
1/3 cup softened Smart Balance® Omega-3 Buttery Sticks
½-cup sugar
½-cup Truvia sugar substitute
4 egg whites
2 Tablespoons Gourmet Garden minced ginger
2 Tablespoons grated lemon peel
2 cups flour
1-teaspoon baking soda
1-cup plain Greek yogurt

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Mix softened butter, sugar, and sugar substitute until well blended. Beat in egg whites. Add ginger and lemon peel and stir. Combine flour and baking soda. Alternate adding the flour mixture and the yogurt. Mix until smooth. Pour into muffin cups coated with nonstick cooking spray. The cups should be 3/4 full.

Bake at 375 degrees for 15-18 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes before removing the cups from the pan.

In my upcoming book, Murder of the Cat’s Meow, Skye doesn’t have time to cook since she’s busy solving the mystery of who killed the cat show judge. But the Jade-ite cookie crock that’s broken in the first chapter was inspired by my grandmother’s jar. Hers was always filled with homemade treats, but Skye’s usually contains Oreos. 

New York Times bestselling author Denise Swanson started writing in Kindergarten where she got into trouble for using up her entire Big Chief tablet to create her own alphabet book. Today she writes two series—the Scumble River mysteries and the Devereaux’s Dime Store mysteries. Visit Denise at her website and at Killer Characters.


  1. Ginger is good stuff--isn't it supposed to be help with digestion?--but I'm not sure I've seen it paired with lemon. I'll have to try it (can I sneak a little butter back in?).

  2. Denise, thanks for visiting and bringing those delicious muffins:). I'm fascinated by your grandmother starting out as a pastry chef and ending up as a farm wife. Tell us more! Did she imagine she'd be working in a restaurant or a baker?

  3. Great post and welcome, Denise. Like Sheila, this flavor combo has me intrigued, and (like Lucy) so does your grandmother's story! I'll just add that I can't wait to read Skye's new story. Your cover caught my eye (and went into my buy basket) close to the day it went up. (If you have a moment, can you tell us a little more about this entry in your series? I know everyone would enjoy hearing more about it.) If not, and you're pressed for time today, have a great (rest of your) Labor Day weekend and congrats on what's sure to be another NYT bestseller! ~ Cleo

  4. Sheila--feel free to sneak some butter back in. And for those who want an even healthier option of this recipe, I usually put half white and half whole wheat flour when I make these.

    Lucy--Grandma was a bit mysterious about her past. I know she was in a terrible accident and had headaches from the injuries she sustained until the day she died. Before she married she worked in the kitchen of an Opera House, but I'm pretty sure back then (she was born in 1902) she fully expected to quit working as soon as she married.

    Cleo--Thank you so much for your kind words and ordering my book. This one was a fun story to write. Weaving together a cat show, speed-dating event and murder makes for a purrplexing mystery. Added to that, Skye is trying to cleanse her house of a ghost and handle a deadly game at the high school where she works as a school psychologist, so she a busy sleuth.

  5. Oh wow - ginger and citrus is one of my favorite pairings, and I love that you've made this so much healthier. Isn't there something about necessity being the mother of invention? Well, I sure have the need ... and with tasty treats like this, maybe I can stand to actually lose a few. :)

  6. Denise, I love your comparison to the kind of work your grandparents did and what we do. It is harder to keep off those pounds if we aren't pounding the pavement! LOL. Love the scent of ginger and lemon together. Yum. And a healthy-conscious way to make such a pretty muffin is great! Good luck with Skye catching the culprit.


    ~Avery aka Daryl

  7. Lucky you to use Smart Balance baking sticks! They are no longer sold in my area - I even emailed the company to ask where I could buy them. Still looking for something similar, any suggestions?

  8. Thanks, Wendy and Avery!

    Cindy--I also use I can't believe it's not butter, but the Smart Balance is the healthier option.

  9. Denise, you had me at lemon! And ginger is so good for you. Your grandmother was a wise woman! Love, love, love the new cover. I can't believe MURDER OF A CAT'S MEOW comes out in two days!

  10. Love the thought of lightening up an old favorite--that's something my characters in my Gourmet De-Lite series does all the time! I've never tried those buttery sticks--hope I can find them. Do you think Splenda would work in the recipe? We're trying to cut back on sugar since hubby is on the verge of type 2 diabetes (although having lost 30 lbs., it looks like he might have beat it.) I wonder if you could add a little bran to these and make them even healthier--then I could eat two without feeling guilty. LOL.

  11. Thanks for being our guest today, Denise! Ginger and lemon sound like such a natural combination that I'm surprised I don't have lots of recipes with those two ingredients.

    I'm curious about the yogurt. Was that to substitute for sour cream? I've tried using Greek yogurt in a couple of recipes, but haven't tried replacing sour cream with it yet.

    ~ Krista

  12. Thanks, Ellery!
    Peg--any sugar substitute that measures the same as real sugar works fine. Let me know if you try it with the bran.
    Krista--thanks so much for inviting me. The yogurt was a sub for sour cream. I sub Greek yogurt for sour cream in everything.