Monday, November 28, 2016

Christmas Morning Muffins with Carrot, Cranberry, and Pistachio #Muffin Monday

Christmas Morning Muffins with Carrot, Cranberry, and Pistachio #Muffin Monday

This festive-yet-healthy muffin, with carrots, dried cranberries and pistachios, has a sweet surprise on the inside--cream cheese filling!

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I'm always looking to add vegetables into baked goods. I think they add moisture, flavor, and nutrition to my family's table. Muffins are an easy delivery method because they assemble and bake so quickly. My kids are happy to eat muffins for breakfast and for an after school snack. For this month's Muffin Monday, I bring you a recipe that is both festive--with the bits of red dried cranberries and green pistachios. This recipe is elevated above my usual muffin because of the sweet cream cheese filling tucked inside, but it's still on the healthier side because I don't really want to send my kids off to school with a bunch of chocolate frosted sugar bombs in their bellies.

a carrot, craisin and pistachio muffin with a sweet cream cheese filling

I got the idea for this muffin thanks to my daughter. We were walking the dog herd down to the local grocery store to buy a gallon of milk. [This is a bonus fitness and economic tip--over a year ago I started walking a mile to the store if the only item on the list was milk. It saves on impulse purchases and the dogs and I get a bit of exercise.] I left her with the dogs and went inside to shop, calling over my shoulder 'do we need anything else?' as an afterthought.  She requested a Killer Brownie. It got me thinking that I could use a treat, too. Since I was in the bakery buying the brownie anyway, I turned to the muffin case. This was the site of the Good Morning Muffin that inspired my Healthy {No Sugar} Carrot Cake Muffins. I was delighted to see a new version of the Good Morning Muffin with sweetened cream cheese in the center and decided that would be my splurge. After we got back home we enjoyed a snack of milk & baked goods and I put my thinking toque on. [That's a Bob & Doug McKenzie and Great White North reference, not some kind of chef thing.]

close up of a Christmas Morning muffin sliced in half to see the sweet cream cheese filling

I made two batches of these muffins, trying different ways to include the sweetened cream cheese filling. The first way, shown below, was to scoop the usual amount of muffin batter into the prepared cup, then use a small spoon to create some space and spoon in the sweetened cream cheese. This technique did not turn out well. The cream cheese oozed out onto my pan and the muffins were hard to serve in a mounded heap because the cream cheese on the top of them was sticking to anything that landed atop it. The second effort worked better--I used a smaller scoop to put in about half the amount of batter, then spooned in the cream cheese and topped with the other half of the batter.

making Christmas Morning muffins. Do not use this method.
Do not use this method. Also, yes, that's my feet.

For more recipes using carrots, please see my Carrot Recipes Collection. It's part of the Visual Recipe Index by Ingredient, a resource for folks like me eating from the farm share, the farmer's market, the garden, the neighbor's garden, and great deals on ugly produce at the grocery store.

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Christmas Morning muffins ready to bake

This recipe is inspired by the Carrot Pineapple Muffin recipe of my beloved tattered muffin bible, Muffins, a cookbook by Joan and Marilyn.  These ladies were classmates of my mom back in Canada in the 1950s, and their little spiral bound tome is a terrific resource for me.

ingredients for Christmas Morning muffins

Christmas Morning Muffins with Carrot, Cranberry, and Pistachio

(makes 1 dozen)


  • 1 cup grated carrots
  • 1 extra large egg
  • ⅓ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ⅓ cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup plain yogurt
  • ½ cup dried cranberries (mine were cherry flavored)
  • 1 cup (4¼ ounces by weight) unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1 cup (4 ounces by weight) white whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon salt (I use kosher)
  • 8 ounces cream cheese (set it out on the counter to take the chill off)
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup chopped pistachios


  1. In a medium bowl, mix together the wet ingredients (the carrots, egg, vegetable oil, vanilla extract, brown sugar and yogurt). Stir in the dried cranberries. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients (the flours, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt). Set aside.
  3. Using a food processor or a mixer, beat the cream cheese and the granulated sugar until well blended. Set aside. (You will have plenty of excess filling--add it to toast, or while whipping cream for a pie).
  4. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a muffin pan with paper liners. 
  5. Pour the carrot mixture into the flour mixture and stir briefly. Add the pistachios, and stir until just blended.
  6. Scoop about 2 Tablespoons of batter into each muffin well. Top with a spoonful of cream cheese filling. Scoop another 2 Tablespoons of batter on top of the filling.
  7. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes until edges are lightly browned. Cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes.
  8. These were delicious both while still warm and as well as at room temperature the day after I made them.

#MuffinMonday is a group of muffin loving bakers who get together once a month to bake muffins. You can see all our of lovely muffins by following our Pinterest board.

Updated links for all of our past events and more information about Muffin Monday, can be found on our home page.

behind the scenes while making Christmas Morning Muffins
If my notes are a mess, it's because I was assembling the ingredients while simultaneously canning late season salsa.


  1. Love, love, love that filling! And that you have a store you can walk to. What great, special muffins, perfect for a holiday morning!

  2. I like a good surprise filling in a muffin. These are all the better since it's cream cheese. :)

  3. How much fun to put in that cream cheese surprise.

  4. You do canning and make muffins at the same time? You are amazing. These look great, and good for you for taking two stabs and them. Love the muffin liners too.

  5. I am definitely saving this recipe! I'll have to save them for after Christmas though as my dad can't have nuts. But I think any time of year will be just fine for these beautiful muffins.