Amazing Nutritient-Packed Apricot Muffins

With the weather calling us all outside, our need for "grab-n-go" food amps up and that is sometimes a bad thing for good nutrition.  But it is so possible to make nutrition-dense and absolutely delicious mini-meals for life on the run. Check out these Apricot Clusters.  Try a couple for breakfast paired with a light smoothie or pop a couple in a baggie for a nutrition rich snack for later in the day.  Yum without any guilt!

For the Apricot Paste

1 cup of unsweetened dried apricots (I use Turkish, it’s what I had)
Water for soaking
For the apricot paste

Cover apricots with cold water and soak for 4-6 hours. Remove apricots and reserve water.
Place apricots in blender or Cuisinart and process until smooth (I like to use my Cuisinart Mini Prep for this). If needed, adjust consistency with some of the reserved water.
Store the apricot paste in an airtight container in your refrigerator for up to two weeks. Use as needed.

For the muffin clusters

3/4 cup cooked quinoa (make sure you cook the water out of the quinoa here and slightly undercooked - also try using sprouted quinoa to increase the nutrition content.)
1 ½ cups old-fashioned rolled oats
½ cup ground mixed nuts of choice (I used almonds, walnuts and sunflower)
½ cup raisins or unsweetened dried fruit of your choice (I only had raisins, but would mix different kinds here next time)
¼ cup almond butter
½ cup apricot paste
2 tbsp flaxseed meal mixed with 6 tbsp warm water
½ cup unsweetened almond milk
¼ tsp cinnamon (pumpkin pie spice is also great)
2 tsp pure vanilla extract

PREPARATION

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly spray a non-stick muffin pan with cooking spray.
Cook quinoa according to package directions, but cook on slightly higher heat to absorb most of the water and to achieve a crunchier quinoa. Mix together flaxseed meal with warm water and set aside (stir every so often while following the next steps). Flaxseed meal as an egg-replacement should be gooey, not watery, like the consistency of an egg. In a medium mixing bowl, stir together quinoa, oats, mixed nuts, raisins. In separate mixing bowl, add almond butter, apricot paste, flaxseed meal, almond milk, cinnamon and vanilla. Stir until combined. Fold in dry ingredients and stir well. Spoon the granola mixture into each muffin cup filling almost to the top. Press mixture down firmly into each cup with the back of a spoon and/or your fingers. Bake in oven for 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Let cool slightly before removing.

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