Iâ€™m in high gear preparation-mode these days. Lee and I are finally in our (probable) last U.S. port before we head east to the Bahamas! I say probable because we may decide to push south to Miami before crossing the gulf stream. For now, weâ€™re anchored off of Riviera Beach, FL. I canâ€™t get enough of the warm weather and sunshine but there is so much work to do!
There are provisions to buy. I hear vegetables are scarce in the Bahamas so I have some serious stocking up to do. Various wedding related errands need running and our list of necessary boat supplies is long.
I knew the next few days would be busy to say the least, so I made time for baking this afternoon. Not only did I get to check that activity off my list (for now), I also ended up with super snacks to fuel the craziness.
I wanted to make granola bars that were on the crunchy side, naturally sweetened, and contained my favorite spice: cardamom. I think it was a crunchy granola bar recipe and my beloved Spicy Oatmeal Cookies from How It All Vegan that got me hooked on cardamom. Itâ€™s the perfect spice for not-so-sweet sweets. It catches you off guard on your first bite and keeps you coming back to figure out whatâ€™s going on in your mouth!
These granola bars came together in my head this morning. I didnâ€™t get a chance to make them until we got back from lugging 3 jugs each of anti-freeze and oil down the street. Ingredients flew into a pot, onto a baking sheet, and into the oven. The smell of coconut and cardamom made it difficult to resist pulling these out early and digging in.
I think I succeeded with a certain amount of crunchiness and the perfect spice but my granola bars are probably not sweet enough for most people. Dried figs provide the only sweetness and I was happy with that. However, I would suggest adding some honey if you want more satisfaction in the sweet department. More dried fruit or a different kind (like dates) would also help. I think thatâ€™s what Iâ€™ll try next time.
Granola Bars #1 (I anticipate making many more)
A handful of dried figs, chopped (about 3/4 cup when chopped)
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 tablespoon flax seed meal
2 cups oats
2 scoops (1/4 cup) vanilla soy protein powder (or your protein powder of choice; dried milk would work too)
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
Dash of cinnamon
1 egg, beaten
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Combine chopped figs and water in a medium saucepan over med-high heat.
Bring the mixture to a boil and cook, partially covered, until the water had reduced to a syrup and the fruit hunks are soft and breaking down. Remove from heat.
Add coconut oil to the saucepan and stir until it melts.
In a separate bowl, mix oats, spices, protein powder, and flax.
Add the oat mixture to the saucepan along with the beaten egg.
Mix ingredients with a fork until they are completely blended.
Pour the mixture into a square baking pan or a cookie sheet lined with parchment or foil. Press until flat and even. I made an irregular square-like shape on a baking sheet. Cut outlines of bars and bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes (longer for more crunch).
After baking, remove bars from pan and cool on a wire rack.
Finally, redemption. I knew I wouldnâ€™t be happy until Iâ€™d replaced my unsatisfactory muffins with something to be proud of. This morningâ€™s baking produced definite winners: moist carrot muffins speckled with quinoa!
Iâ€™m always trying to make extra grains for dinner so Iâ€™ll have leftovers for various uses. Last nightâ€™s dinner included quinoa, one of my favorite quick-cooking foods with Mesoamerican roots. It happened to be red quinoa, which looks all the more exotic and gives these muffins great visual texture.
As for the carrots, something about hanging out with my mom makes me crave carrot cake. Both of us consider it our favorite cake. I couldnâ€™t let the carrots in the fridge go un-shredded knowing they could make us both very happy as a dessert!
And so, Carrot Quinoa Muffins were born! Actually, I found a recipe on the Whole Foods website and added quinoa. It was a great recipe to start with so the only other thing I changed was to cut down the flour a little because I was adding so much . That 1/4 cup of flour probably could have stayed but these muffins came out so well the way I made them that I donâ€™t think Iâ€™ll be making any more changes!
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Carrot Quinoa Muffins
Adapted from Carrot Apple Muffins from Whole Foods Market
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup cooked quinoa
1 cup grated carrot
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.
In a separate, larger bowl, beat together eggs, milk, applesauce, sugar, carrot, oil, and vanilla until fully combined.
Gently stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients.
Spoon batter into 12 lined or lightly oiled muffin cups.
I experimented with sprinkling a little of vanilla sugar I got the other day on top of the muffins before baking them. It turned out to be powdered vanilla sugar and probably should have gone on after baking but it made these smell fabulous in the oven!
Bake at 350 for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.
Cool in the tin for a few minutes, then remove and cool on a wire rack. I plan to store these in the fridge since theyâ€™re so moist.
Oh muffins, itâ€™s been so long! It feels like forever since Iâ€™ve baked my favorite goodies. I suppose Iâ€™m getting pickier about recipes and inspiration has taken a back seat to things like holiday travel and wedding plans.
Without further adieu, I bring you a muffin with definite promise but some unfortunate shortcomings. Iâ€™m not writing these off as a failure but theyâ€™re not my favorites…yet.
I was inspired by the huge basket of Clementines brightening the table. Their juicy little sections had to be good in a muffin! Starting with a recipe from Bob’s Red Mill, the only thing I changed was the fruit, from raisins to Clementines. I suppose I added some nutmeg too. Who can resist nutmeg and orange?
The corn-bran combination is a winner but I donâ€™t think oranges are the right fruit with these grains. The Clementines were very juicy but the cornmeal seemed to suck them dry. The orange flavor was fantastic and I loved the crunchy corn. When I make these again, Iâ€™ll amp-up the wet ingredients, stick to the raisins from the original recipe, and throw in some marmalade for fun!
Iâ€™m sharing the original recipe and my somewhat sub-par variation because I think these muffins are definitely worth experimenting with. Maybe some of you can come up with a better orange twist!
Adapted from Corn-Bran-Raisin Muffins from Bob’s Red Mill
1-1/2 cups cornmeal
1/2 cup wheat bran
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup plain yogurt
1/4 cup agave nectar or honey
2 large eggs
Zest from one Clementine Mandarin orange
3 Clementine oranges, peeled and chopped into small pieces
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Combine cornmeal, bran, flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and nutmeg in a large bowl.
In a separate bowl, lightly beat eggs, then add oil, yogurt, agave, and orange zest.
Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients, mixing gently till barely combined.
Fold in chopped oranges.
Spoon batter into 12 muffin cups with liners or lightly oiled. I made 12 mini and 10 regular muffins.
Bake at 400 F. for 12 minutes (8 minutes for mini-muffins).
Eat them while theyâ€™re hot with butter or try something different and let me know what you come up with!