Apple Cinnamon Swirl Muffins

Alex accuses me of turning this into a stew and muffin blog, and I'd like to publicly offer some defensive arguments:

1) He loves stew.
2) Fall demands stew for warmth.
3) Stews are cheap, healthy and perfect for college students because they freeze beautifully.
4) I have no defense for muffins. I just love them.
5) I nearly forgot, muffins are photogenic.

Moving on, or not ... muffins muffins muffins! Baking muffins is decidedly among my favorite stress-relieving activities, second maybe only to listening to Harry Potter on the iPod. The process is simple and instinctual. Liquids and solids combine, mix and bake. And because the steps are basic, there are oodles of opportunities to invent.

Tonight, we wanted to use up extra apples, so we simply chopped them up and added them to a basic cinnamon swirl muffin. It resulted in a great tartness that complimented the sweetness of the batter, and gave it a healthy, fresh taste.

Ingredients (makes 12 muffins):
1 1/2 cups self-rising flour
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1/2 cup superfine sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup skim milk
7 tbsp smart balance
1/4 tsp vanilla
3 apples, chopped
2 tsp ground cinnamon (for the cinnamon sugar)
6 tbsp granulated sugar (for the cinnamon sugar)

Preheat the oven to 375, and fill a muffin pan with muffin cups. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, salt and superfine sugar. In a separate bowl, mix together the egg, milk, smart balance and vanilla. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, and mix in the apples. Spoon batter into each muffin cup until it is about 1/4 filled, then add a layer of cinnamon sugar and repeat twice. Using a toothpick or tip of a sharp knife, swirl the mixture in each up to achieve the swirl effect. Bake for 18-20 minutes, let cool and serve.