Oatmeal Applesauce Breakfast Muffins

Prep Time: About 45 minutes | Ingredient Cost: $ or $$

I am all for versatile baking recipes. I like adding ingredients according to seasonal availability (and pantry availability…) without having to switch too many things around. There is a time and a place for a delicate, complicated bake (looking at you, GBBO), but there are far more times and places for quick and easy recipes that still manage to be healthy and tasty.

These vegan and gluten-free muffins are super quick to make and are a pretty healthy option for breakfast or snack when you’re short on time. They are probably more sugary than I should have made them because I added about a quarter cup of dried cherries and apples are pretty high in fructose to begin with. However, compared to other options they are still on the healthy end of things. And like I said, you can easily add and subtract things in this recipe to suit your needs. For example, I added pecans, pumpkin seeds, my favorite spices, chocolate chips, and the aforementioned dried cherries, but the recipe is just as good without all of these things.

Oh! Also! I finally found a no-sugar chocolate chip! Since I’ve stopped eating refined (and most unrefined) sugar, I’ve been looking for chocolate that I could add to my baking that would make even non-restricted eaters happy. While I like 100% dark chocolate, it’s not everyone’s cup of cocoa. I was so thrilled to find Lily’s Stevia Sweetened Dark Chocolate Chips: no sugar, no weird aftertaste, and a fairly decent ingredient list. The only bummer is the soy lecithin so this brand is not suitable for everyone. I won’t be using this all of the time, but it’s a good option for those instances when multiple palates have to be pleased.

muffins

Wet Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 eggs (or flax eggs to make them vegan)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract (optional)
  • 1/3 cup of oil (I used grapeseed)

Dry Ingredients:

  • 1 cup All-Purpose Gluten-Free Flour (I swear by America’s Test Kitchen’s mix)
  • 1 cup Gluten-Free Oats (I use Bob’s Red Mill)
  • 1 tsp. xanthan gum (omit if your mix already includes this)
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 and 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. ginger (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp. clove (optional)
  • 1/4 cup raw pumpkin seeds (optional)
  • 1/4 cup pecans (optional)
  • 1/4 cup dried cherries, currants, or cranberries (optional)
  • 1/4 cup chocolate chips (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Mix all of the wet ingredients in a bowl.
  3. Mix all of the dry ingredients in a separate bowl.
  4. Gently fold the dry ingredients into the wet. Be careful not to overmix. The batter should feel light and kind of fluffy.
  5. Spoon into greased muffin tin.
  6. Bake for 30-35 minutes.

Variations:

If oatmeal isn’t your thing, you can use 2 cups of APF, but if your mix doesn’t include xanthan gum, add two teaspoons of it instead of just one. The muffin will be a little bit more cake-like but just as delicious.

Summer Cookies!

This one’s a quick one, guys. For me, summer is a time to be outside, and I eat as much raw food as possible during the hot months because a) it’s quick, light, and cool, and b) it somehow just feels right to spend as little time as possible at the stove/oven. But since I still want to bake on a weekly basis, I look for fast, easy, and delicious recipes in the summer months.

Enter the super fast Lemon Ginger cookie! These cookies are light, melty, and delicious! They are also vegan, gluten-free, soy-free, and have no refined sugar. They’re perfect ice-cream companions, too!

lemon_cookie

  • 1/4 cup melted coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup honey (I used even less)
  • 1 T lemon zest
  • Juice of one lemon
  • Grated fresh ginger to taste
  • 1 and 1/3 cup almond meal
  • 2 T coconut flour
  • 1/2 t baking soda
  • 1/8 t salt
  1. Mix the coconut oil, honey, lemon zest, ginger, and lemon juice.
  2. Slowly add the almond meal, coconut flour, baking soda, and salt. The batter will be soft.
  3. Let the batter sit for five minutes and then refrigerate it for another 30 minutes.
  4. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  5. On a lined baking sheet, form 6-9 cookies and bake for 12-15 minutes. Let cool for at least 5 to 10 minutes before transferring to another rack. They are pretty soft but firm up as they cool.

(recipe adapted from http://www.texanerin.com/paleo-lemon-cookie/#recipe)

My Pantry Staples

Marissa, Nina, and I all share certain food intolerances, but we each have our own special combination of yes and no foods. We thought it might be great to take a look inside of our cabinets to see what we each rely on to get us through busy weeks. If you have a food-sensitive grocery list that you love, let us know!

Here are my five favorites:

Little Lad’s Almond Butter: I’m fairly certain this is a Maine-specific thing, but if you get the chance to pick this up, you won’t regret it. I’ve tried almost all almond butters on the market and this is by far the best one. They say they don’t roast their almonds the same way that other companies do (they claim that most companies deep fry their almonds), and the taste is noticeable. The only ingredients are almonds and a bit of sea salt, which is also nice. It’s more expensive than I would like, but the flavor more than makes up for the extra few dollars.

Lundberg’s Wild Rice Rice Cakes: Again, this brand is more expensive than others, but these rice cakes are so good. They don’t have that awful dry, styrofoam taste (or…what I imagine styrofoam tastes like) and come in a variety of savory and sweet varieties. I like the wild rice ones because they have a good balance of salty and sweet flavor without actually adding much salt and no sugar at all. The only thing that gets me about these is that they can be very crumbly, but I like to think that is because they use a better formula for flavor than other, cheaper brands.

Lentils: I think we have lentil burgers for dinner at least once a week. I’m working on getting my partner to give up his recipe, but he’s feeling a little protective of his burgers. I like the French lentil variety the best, but they are all great. Not only are lentils super delicious just by themselves (hot or cold!), but they are also incredibly versatile. They are a great base for curries or soups, and are packed with important nutrients and protein. They a non-meat eating diet staple.

Chickpeas: Another great staple. Another super versatile ingredient. I love making chickpea, cucumber, carrot, and avocado salads for lunch, but they are also great in curries, or roasted until they are light and crunchy.

Almond Breeze Unsweetened Almond Cashew Milk Blend: Again, I’ve tried almost every variety of plant/nut-based milk that the grocers in my area carry, but this is my favorite. It’s a little thicker than normal almond milk, so it’s great in chais and also makes a wonderful substitute for milks in ice-cream bases because of its richness. I personally prefer the unsweetened varieties anyway because most of them taste too sweet to me. This particular milk is an awesome base for Golden Milk (turmeric, milk, and maple syrup), which is one of my favorite pick-me-up drinks.

Pizza Dough We Can All Eat!

I’ve been thinking a lot about how a restricted diet sometimes comes along with some strong feelings of guilt or anxiety, especially if you’ve had a not-so-healthy relationship with food in the past.

I’ve been listening to Christy Harrison’s Food Psych podcast, and I really like her approach to food and what it means to be eat healthily. Harrison is a “registered dietitian nutritionist and certified intuitive eating counselor who specializes in helping people make peace with food.” Her podcasts usually are casual interviews with people in the nutrition field and I get the sense that it all about making people feel positive about themselves and their diets. Food should not be a source of anxiety.

This idea of making peace with food is an important one for me. Throughout high school and college, I had a very unhealthy relationship with food. Eating was a pretty big source of anxiety for me and it took me a very long time to stop obsessing about calories or the odd pound added on the scale. I now don’t do any tracking of food or calories and purposefully don’t weigh myself anymore.

Part of this peace-making process is also not beating myself up for giving into cravings or for eating (or not eating) certain foods. That was a little bit more difficult than kicking the tracking and weighing habits because guilt is a tricky little voice inside your head. Where does that even come from?

Eating a meal is a privilege and a blessing. It should nourish not only your body but also your mind. It should involve gratitude, not anxiety. And yet, I spent years feeling nervous about food groups, or portion sizes, or caloric content. I didn’t listen to what my body needed and am now trying to repair damage that I insisted on causing.

So I’ve been practicing grateful and intuitive eating. I’m trying to keep the feelings of guilt and anxiety at bay by replacing them with gratitude that I am able to buy groceries — especially the more expensive specialty items that I “need” because I made the choice to follow a vegan lifestyle — and to eat whenever I am hungry. If you’re interested in this gentle approach to healthy eating, here is a good introductory outline to intuitive eating.

In the spirit of feeling good about eating, I’ve been experimenting with a pizza dough that tastes like a pizza dough but also fits into my restrictions. Pizza feels like a treat sometimes, and home-made pizza is really fun to make (even if you, like me, don’t consider yourself a cook). The best part is that everyone involved can customize their meal to fit their needs or wants. At my house, there are usually two pizzas: one small gluten, yeast, sugar, and dairy-free one that I can eat, and one large glutenous, cheesy, and meat-topped one that my partner wants eat.

This recipe is super simple and customizable. I’ve tried it with a few different flours, but here’s my favorite.

Pizza Dough We Can All Eat! No gluten, no yeast, no sugar, no dairy, no soy! And vegan! And still crispy and delicious! 

prep time: about 1 hour all together

ingredient cost: $

  • 1 cup of Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour (I used Pamela’s Artisan Blend and highly recommend it. It’s a little more expensive than other brands but worth the money.I’ve also made this recipe with Quinoa flour which is also very good)
  • 1/2 c (plus some more depending on your flour) water
  • 1/2 t baking powder
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 2 T olive, sunflower, or other cooking oil plus a little more to brush into a pan
  • some basil or oregano if you want to mix it into the crust
  1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Mix all the ingredients together gently until the dough resembles a lumpy pancake batter. I’ve played with varying amounts of water and haven’t been disappointed with the end results of both thick and thin doughs. It all depends on how you like your pizza dough. I usually add 1/2 a cup of water to start and then add additional 1/4 cups until I reach a good consistency.
  3. Brush some oil into an oven-safe pan (I use a 10″ cast iron) or flat cake-pan.
  4. Pour in your pizza dough and bake for 12-15 minutes.
  5. Once the bottom is crisping up, flip the pizza dough and bake for another 12-15 minutes. I’ve noticed that, depending on your consistency, this timing can be very different. Sometimes 10 minutes works better, sometimes you need the full 15.
  6. Take the pan out of the oven and top your pizza with whatever you liked. This time around I used some tomato sauce, baby arugula, some vegan mozzarella (I really like Follow Your Heart’s Vegan Mozzarrella but sometimes they are hard to find in my area. Chao Vegan Cheese Slices are also good) and, yes, 3 slices of the local and organic salami my partner picked up for his pizza. I know, I know. I’m vegan and therefore don’t eat meat, but I’ve been craving it a lot lately. Again, this is all an exercise of being kind to yourself and listening to what your body wants. On very rare occasions my mind is vegan but my body wants to eat some meat. And that’s OK.
  7. Bake topped pizza for an additional 10-15 minutes. Again, this all depends on your mixture.
  8. Enjoy!

 

Cinnamon and Chocolate Coconut Macaroons

Cost: $-$$ depending on how much you already have in your pantry

Prep time: about 40 minutes all together

I’m currently in the last month of graduate school, and I am definitely feeling some pressure. For me, baking is a great stress reliever. I always know when I’m avoiding the studio if there is a sudden increase of baked goods in my fridge.

I feel very lucky to live in an area where alternative ingredients are fairly readily available, so a restricted diet hasn’t really impacted my baking habit. I just had to learn a few different tricks and accept that it’s best  not to aim for 100% imitations of “normal” food.

The no sugar thing is tricky, though.

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Flax Buckwheat Sandwich Bread

Prep time: about 1 hour all together

Ingredient cost: $

One meal that I definitely miss is a great sandwich, but I’m generally not that into fitting gluten-free/vegan things into molds for which they’re not meant: gluten and yeast-free bread isn’t going to behave like a beautiful sourdough or brioche, and non-dairy cheese doesn’t behave the way a solid slide of cheddar would. And that’s fine. For me, part of not being able to eat a lot of foods is being OK with the fact that the foods I do eat will not taste like the ones I used to eat. They might get close, but comparing them isn’t going to be productive. Different is not the same as bad or lacking, after all.

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