Most of the recipes featured on Valentine’s day involve ribbons of chocolate, swirls of frosting, or heart-shaped cookie cutters. I love these recipes. I look forward to them every year. But if I’m being honest, they’re not the types of treats I make often in my home. When it comes to everyday sweet cravings, I’d almost always rather have something simple and versatile on hand, like a loaf of my classic vegan banana bread, or my snack-worthy oatcakes. I like to bake things that can serve as a light breakfast, a packable snack, or a sweet-but-not-too-sweet dessert.
So, as I was thinking about something to bake this year for Valentine’s Day, I decided to go with my gut, and whip up a batch of fragrant, chai spiced carrot almond muffins. In terms of wow factor, they’re no match for a dense chocolate torte, a towering layer cake, or a decadent batch of homemade truffles. But they’re just what I’ve been craving in the wintery weather, and that makes them the Valentine’s Day treat for me.
I’m a little biased here, since muffins are my favorite type of baked good. I like muffins so much that a friend and I have an ongoing joke that we’re going to collaborate on an all-muffin cookbook. Back when I had an office job, I used to bake muffins every single week, freeze them, and take them to work as snacks.
I’ve fallen out of this excellent habit, but I do still relish baking a batch of muffins and enjoying them as the week goes by. These particular muffins are especially cozy and fragrant, thanks to the chai-inspired spices. I also added a touch of almond extract, which I keep around for baking projects, to the recipe. I love how its nutty sweetness compliments the spice mixture. If you don’t have almond extract, that’s totally OK, because the vanilla goes a long way. But it’s a nice touch if you do.
You can definitely play around with the muffin mix-ins here: I used slivered almonds because that’s what I had, but walnuts, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds will all work well. I think chopped dates would be a great addition, personally, but so would currants or raisins. Even the amount of sweetener is variable–3/4 cup worked for me, but if you’d like to reduce it or you’re modifying the recipe for kids, 2/3 cup or even 1/2 is fine. So long as grated carrot meets ginger, cinnamon, and cardamom, the muffins will be right on track.
As far as sweets-for-my-sweet goes, these are actually a perfect choice. Steven loves muffins almost as much as I do, and he’s always happy when he can pack them up for a snack. (He’s also allergic to chocolate, which eliminates a lot of more traditional Valentine’s Day treats, anyway.) I’m excited to share this batch with him for breakfast with him this morning–and I wish you all very sweet day.