Don’t forget to leave treats for Santa Claus

Oat bran muffins for Santa (and, of course, some warm cocoa), plus a few healthy bone-shaped treats for Rudolph and Co. BY JACK CLEMONS
December 24, 2012

Season’s greetings! Have you finished your holiday decorating, baking and wrapping? We’re almost there, with just a few last-minute errands on our list. It’s been a challenge to juggle shopping trips and treks to the post office, but we’ve also managed to fit in a few of the festivities scheduled this time of year.

One of the strategies we’ve used to keep from gaining party pounds is to make sure we don’t arrive at an event starving and thirsty. Last weekend, we were guests at a pretheater get-together before a performance of "A Christmas Carol." Our friend Marie served seafood martinis (no alcohol, only tons of fresh seafood with avocado and tomato garnish) and sliced beef tenderloin on slivers of baguette (perfectly roasted and garnished with horseradish sauce).

At the end of the play, we were still sated from our snack and had no difficulty selecting smaller bites from the savory choices on the buffet table. Another rule of thumb has to do with liquid refreshments. If the gathering will last for hours, it’s not a great idea to constantly drink cocktail after cocktail. Our friend Pat shared his technique for not unwittingly becoming the joke of the party: every other drink should be an eight-ounce glass of water.

And how does Santa avoid gaining weight in December? Between the stress of preparing for his Christmas Eve deliveries and the demands on his time as he checks and rechecks those lists, he wouldn’t seem to have much time for regular meals. Not to mention he has to take a polite bite from plate after plate of cookies waiting at the bottom of all those chimneys.

This year, we thought we’d give Santa something healthy instead of cookies: banana oat bran muffins. These do not include any added butter or oil, so they’re extremely low in fat. They are full of banana to give him an energy boost and oat bran to give him an excellent combination of nutrients and fiber.

When oats are processed, the outer husk of the grain is removed, revealing the bran-covered groat. Formerly, this shell of bran was discarded during the milling process; this practice stopped once its high nutritional value and rich, nutty flavor were recognized. Oat bran can be mixed with water and cooked into a creamy hot cereal, or the dry bran can be added to bread and muffin dough. Often, multigrain breads are coated with a topping of oat bran to add texture and taste.

Along with muffins for Santa, we’ll replace the spindly carrot typically left for his reindeer. As seen in the photo, they can look forward to a tasty peanut butter and bacon treat. The recipe combines dry ingredients (the reindeer also get some healthy oat bran to balance the crumbled bacon) with peanut butter, grated carrot, maple syrup and beef broth.

Since the batter was so generous, we cut these into dog-bone shapes so we could share the leftovers with some four-legged friends in the neighborhood. When Jack found out the ingredients were all “people grade,” he wanted to try one. He told me they weren’t very sweet (by design, of course) with a nice crunch and an interesting flavor combination. I realized he must have liked them when he reached for another one and asked me to save him a few. Personally, I preferred the muffins.

Banana Oat Bran Muffins

2 ripe bananas
1 egg white
1/2 C maple syrup
1/2 C buttermilk
1/2 t vanilla
1 C white flour
1/2 C whole wheat flour
1/2 C oat bran
1 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1 t cinnamon
1/4 t nutmeg
1/2 C chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 F. Coat the inside of a muffin pan with nonstick cooking spray; set aside. Mash bananas in a large mixing bowl. Stir in egg white, maple syrup, buttermilk and vanilla; whisk to combine. Combine the dry ingredients in a separate bowl and add to the banana mixture all at once. Blend just until combined; do not overmix. Spoon batter into prepared muffin pan and bake for 20 minutes. Allow a few minutes before removing them from the pan to a rack to cool. Yield: 1 dozen muffins.

Peanut Butter & Bacon Reindeer Treats

1 large carrot
1/2 C peanut butter
1 T honey
1 egg
1/2 C beef broth
1 C rolled oats
1 C whole wheat flour
3 pieces crisp bacon, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper; set aside. Grate the carrot into a large mixing bowl. Stir in peanut butter, honey, egg and broth; mix until smooth. Add the rolled oats, flour and bacon pieces; stir until thoroughly combined. Pull dough into a ball and place on a sheet of waxed paper. Cover with another piece of waxed paper and roll to 1/4-inch thick. Cut out biscuits with a bone-shaped cookie cutter and place on prepared cookie sheet. Bake 25 to 30 minutes; transfer to a rack to cool. Store in an airtight container or zip-top bag. Yield: 2 dozen treats.

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