Golden High-Protein Crab-Corn Muffins

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*Spicy, moist, soft, low-fat cornbread stuffed with crab meat, onion and peppers.*

Low-calorie, high-protein and deliciously sweet — these crab cakes might become one of your favorite foods in a hurry.

These are a hybrid between corn muffins and crab cakes. They have the flavor and much of the crumbly moist texture of cornbread, with the meat of a crab cake.

The best part? They have more protein, fewer calories, less fat and more flavor than either cornbread or most crab cakes.

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The outside has the tough texture of a crab cake, yet the inside is a moist, soft, delicious blend of vegetables and crab that falls apart in your mouth. The flavor is so intense that they almost taste like Thanksgiving stuffing, except with crab meat.

Twenty-five percent of the calories come from protein and over half of the carbs are from vegetables. They’re almost entirely crab, egg white and vegetables, with enough cornmeal to hold them together.

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These cakes are insanely simple, delicious and filling. They also travel and keep well.

Everyone who’s tried these has been impressed, even more so when they learn how light they are.

I adapted these muffins from a recipe for “Indian Corn Muffins” on page 108 of the the fourth edition of The Williamsburg Cookbook. My mom bought the book when she went to The College of William and Mary, so she spent a lot of time in Williamsburg, Virginia. In case you aren’t familiar with the area, Williamsburg was one of the largest successful early settlements in North America.

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The Williamsburg Cookbook is filled with simple, easy, delicious and relatively healthy recipes. Most of the dishes can be made with ingredients that would have been available in ye-old settler times.

Unfortunately, the original recipe looked bland — it was mostly butter, cornmeal, flour and eggs. Meh.

I decided to revamp the recipe. By the time I was done testing, it looked nothing like the original.

It took me two tries, but these muffins were a complete success. Here are the changes I made to the original recipe to make them lower in calories, higher in protein and more flavorful.

Why These Muffins Taste so Good While Being so Low in Calories

1. Omitted the butter to reduce the calorie content. I also figured these would be moist enough with the added meat and vegetables, which they were.

2. Omitted all of the flour. The first version had 1/4 cup of flour, but in the second test I got rid of it all together. It was just adding extra calories without improving the taste or texture. Cutting out the flour also makes these more like crab cakes and less like cornbread.

3. Reduced the baking powder, since there was less flour to leaven.

4. Omitted the whole eggs and used whites instead to reduce the calories and increase the protein content.

5. Added extra egg whites and crab meat. The egg whites provide stability in place of the flour, keep the muffins moist and boost the protein content. The crab meat acts in a similar way, and makes these like crab cakes. I used imitation crab since that’s what I had available and it’s cheaper than real crab meat, but it’s also lower in protein. You can use either one.

6. Added freshly chopped sweet onions and red and green bell peppers. The vegetables increase the bulk, boost the flavor and add moisture.

7. Added lemon juice, old bay, cayenne pepper and garlic. I also doubled the salt content and added more pepper, all to improve the flavor.

8. Replaced some of the milk with yogurt. The yogurt helps replace some of the bulk from the flour and helps keep these moist without the butter.

9. Reduced the baking temperature to 375 degrees instead of 400. Without the flour and butter, and because of the extra water content, these muffins take a little longer to cook than the originals (though they’re still very fast).

10. Replaced the sugar with Splenda to cut calories. There were only a few tablespoons in the original recipe, which means it’s main purpose was to sweeten the muffins rather than to provide structure. I added some extra Splenda to make these sweeter. If you don’t like Splenda, you can use stevia, erythritol, or regular sugar.

11. Used skim milk instead of whole milk to reduce the calories. I also didn’t have any whole milk.

12. Sprinkled rosemary on top. At the last minute, I threw some dried rosemary springs on top. Even though the rosemary isn’t inside the batter, it gives these cakes an even sweeter flavor.

13. Beat the egg whites until they formed a merengue. This helps create a more stable foam for the other ingredients, and works as a better replacement for flour. It also provides more bubbles for the baking powder to expand, creating a lighter cake. You don’t *need* to whip the egg whites, but if you don’t these won’t be quite as light and “poofy.”

14. Added almond extract. This helps enhance the flavor. I wasn’t sure how this was going to work since it’s normally used in desserts like angel food cake and fruit cobbler, but it worked extremely well with the other ingredients.

As you can guess, these were completely different from the original corn muffins, and unlike any crab cake you’ve ever tried before.

Here’s how to make them.

Ingredients

1 cup (120 grams) whole grain yellow cornmeal.

1/2 cup (14 grams) Splenda.*

2 teaspoons (12 grams) salt.

1/2 teaspoon (1 gram) ground black pepper.

1/2 teaspoon (2 grams) old bay seasoning.

Two-finger pinch cayenne pepper.

1 teaspoon (5 grams) baking powder.

7 large (210 grams) egg whites.

2 teaspoons (10 grams) lemon juice.

1/2 cup (120 grams) nonfat milk.

1/4 cup (60 grams) nonfat plain yogurt.

1/2 teaspoon (3 grams) almond extract.

1 tablespoon (10 grams) minced garlic.

1 cup (140 grams) frozen sweet yellow or white corn, steamed.

1/2 large (100 grams) sweet onion, finely chopped.

1 package (200 grams) imitation crab meat (Surimi).**

1/2 half (100 grams) green bell pepper.

1/2 half (100 grams) red bell pepper.

1 teaspoon (2 grams, or a large pinch) dried rosemary sprigs.

Instructions

1. Preheat oven to 375℉. Spray a 6-cup jumbo muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray.

2. Stir together the cornmeal, Splenda, salt, pepper, old bay, cayenne and baking powder with a hand mixer on medium speed for 30 seconds. Rinse the beaters before the next step.

3. In a medium size bowl, beat the egg whites until frothy. Add the lemon juice and continue to beat until soft peaks form when the beaters are lifted. All of the egg white should be foamed except for a few tablespoons at the bottom of the bowl. The beaten whites should slide as you tilt the bowl.

4. In another bowl, mix the milk, yogurt, almond extract and garlic. Blend until smooth.

5. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients with the mixer on the lowest setting just until all of the dry ingredients are moistened.

6. Fold in the egg whites with a spoon, then the corn, onion and green and red peppers. Crush the crab meat between your fingers to break it apart over the mixture and fold it in.

7. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups, filling each about 90% full. Sprinkle rosemary sprigs on top.

8. Bake for 25-30 minutes until the cakes are slightly golden on top and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Mine took 30 minutes.

9. Remove the cakes from the oven and place on a cooling rack for 30 minutes. After the cakes are mostly cooled, run a sharp knife around the edges to loosen. Twist each cake lightly side-to-side and/or pry it out of the pan with a knife. These are meaty (i.e. muscular) little cakes, so you can man-handle them a bit.

10. Serve immediately while warm, at room temperature, or cold.

11. Garnish with lemon juice, salsa, or sour cream.

Cakes stay fresh in an airtight container at room temperature for 3 days, in the fridge for 7 days, and in the freezer for 3 months.

* You can use stevia, erythritol, or sugar in place of the Splenda.

** You can use real crab meat instead of imitation crab. This will also boost the protein content.

Nutrition Facts

Serving Size: 1 Muffin (~175 grams)

Calories: 171

Carbohydrate: 30.8

Protein: 10.3

Fat: 1.2

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