Tag Archives: special diet

Vegan Lemon Chia Seed Muffins

It’s raining in San Francisco today. We’ve been mourning the lack of moisture all over the West this winter, which is nothing like past winters I’ve spent in the bay area. I remember walking the length of campus in the pouring rain to get to a midterm. The class was held in a frigid basement room of the old women’s gymnasium, next door to the anthropology collection, and I thought I was going to freeze to death before finishing that midterm. My pants and feet were soaking wet and I’m sure my toes turned blue. I remember not really caring about the test any more. I just wanted to finish it and get out of there! Ah, those were the days.

The fool in me thinks You should go back to school! You’re certainly not getting a job so you don’t have anything better to do! Ha. No way. The smarter part of me remembers that I promised to never repeat the thesis-writing experience.

What can I do instead, now that I’m without employment, internships, or medical crises to keep me occupied? I’m thinking about learning to sing or dance (I’ve been watching way too much Glee on Netflix). Or maybe I’ll through myself headlong into organizing and decorating the house, something that might never get done otherwise.

Before I get to whiny, let me get to the point: These muffins are bright sunny spots on this grey day and on my recent dark mood. The solutions to my boredom and idleness are of cooking and blogging, of course. A job would help too. I have at least one really, really incredible prospect in my sights.

Meanwhile, I’ll be making these muffins over and over again until I get tired of them. They are undoubtedly the best thing I’ve made in a long time. I knew they would be as soon as the idea hit me. What about lemon poppy seed muffins but with chia seeds instead! They could be vegan!

Lemon poppy seed muffins have always struck me as the most dainty, sophisticated muffin. They don’t have much substance and often toe the line between cupcake and muffin. With chia seeds, though, and whole wheat pastry flour, these muffins are like undercover spies in the world of frivolous pastries. A modest amount of honey adds the perfect sweetness and the lemon flavor is surprisingly strong, in a good way.

If you have not tried chia seeds I encourage you to get some. As gross as this may sound, their coagulating abilities are just so…cool. I mostly use them in hot cereal and overnight oats but now that I’ve baked with them once I think they will join flax seed meal as an essential part of my vegan baking.

Lemon Chia Seed Muffins

Ingredients

  • 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds + 3/4 cup water
  • 3/4 cup sour non-dairy milk + juice from half a lemon
  • zest from 1 lemon
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Line a muffin tin with silicone or paper cups.
  3. Combine chia seeds with water, whisking them together. Allow them to sit for 5-10 minutes.
  4. In a large bowl, blend flour, baking powder, and salt.
  5. In a separate bowl, combine lemon zest, soy milk, and lemon juice.
  6. Add honey and chia gel to soy milk mixture, stirring until honey dissolves and is thoroughly blended.
  7. Stir in vanilla extract.
  8. Add wet ingredients to dry and stir gently till barely combined.
  9. Spoon batter into prepared muffin tin and bake for approximately 20 minutes.
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Coconut Molasses Swirl Cornbread

Dear food blogging world,

I love you and I wish I could live in your warm, sweet-smelling world of cookies and spices, talented cooks and writers, brilliant photographers and intriguing recipes.

Sincerely,
Rachel

I’m feeling really, really connected all of a sudden. Maybe it’s the Burwell Recipe Swap. Maybe I’m still riding the Foodbuzz Festival high. In any case, I love life in this food blog world. Life in the real world is pretty good too. Lee and I will be the proud owners of our first house-home (as opposed to boat-home) in a few days and should be moving in by this time next week. Both of my museum internships are going swimmingly. They keep me intellectually fired-up and assure that my fingernails are always blue with clay. I have a whole slough of new friends and I’m starting to really, really appreciate this fabulous city.

This haze of happy feelings propelled me away from the computer to bake yesterday. I dug out Helen’s Texas cornbread recipe along with some special ingredients. I wanted to infuse this delicious but plain cornbread with a couple of flavors I’ve been loving lately: coconut and molasses.

The all-cornmeal bread became cornmeal+millet flour, which has a similar texture to cornmeal (and hey, that means it’s gluten free). Buttermilk became coconut milk+vinegar. Shredded coconut went perfectly with the gritty cornmeal texture and it only took a tablespoon of molasses to turn half the batter into a deep, dark molasses swirl. I am firmly in the “cornbread shouldn’t necessarily be sweet” camp but that doesn’t rule out ingredients more commonly found in sweets.

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My only mistake was to follow Helen’s recipe in terms of salt. I know she loved her salt and tended to be a bit too liberal with it for mine and my mom’s taste. I thought I’d give her some credit when it came to cornbread, though, and added a full teaspoon of salt. Hah! The bread it still good but it would be a completely different kind of good with less than half that amount of salt. I think I’d like it better that way.

I think this cornbread would be beautiful on a holiday table or for breakfast with a smear of jam, like the homemade apricot I’m currently enjoying. I might even let some of it dry out in a paper bag and make something resembling Helen’s cornbread dressing, a holiday food institution in my family.

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Coconut Molasses Swirl Cornbread (gluten and sugar free)

1/2 cup stoneground cornmeal
1/2 cup millet flour
1/2 cup light coconut milk
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt (revised down from 1 teaspoon)
1/2 cup low-fat milk (or more coconut milk)
2 teaspoons vinegar
1 tablespoon blackstrap molasses
2 tablespoons unsweetened, shredded coconut

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Oil a small baking dish/pie plate/cake pan, or, ideally, a cast iron skillet.
Combine the dry ingredients in a medium bowl.
In a separate bowl, beat together egg, milk and vinegar.
Add wet ingredients to dry, stirring until most lumps are gone.
Pour half of this batter into the baking dish or pan.
Add molasses to the rest of the batter, stirring until it is fully incorporated.
Pour this batter into the pan as well and stir gently to swirl both together.
Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the center of the cornbread is firm.

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Naturally sweetened carrot rice pudding bites

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Those look good, don’t they? Or maybe I’m the only one who thinks prickly little hunks of healthy stuff look appetizing. Humor me.

Grab a carrot, pull that bucket of dates off the top shelf in your pantry (What? You don’t have a huge container of dates in your pantry? Well go get some!) Put those cashews you’ve been munching on for days to good use. I know you have leftover rice or some other grain in your fridge.

This isn’t so much a recipe post as it is a post about creativity. I’ve been thinking a lot about creativity over the past couple days. Training for my new museum internship started this week and learning through creative design is the institutions main focus.

Creativity…design…those are two crucial aspects of blogging as well as more aspects of our life than we probably realize. They have always been intimidating words for me. I’ve never considered myself to be an “artsy” person and in certain circumstances I’ve felt uncomfortable pressure to be “creative”. Design? How could I ever design anything?

So far, what I’ve learned about creativity in my internship is more relevant to this blog than I thought it would be. I have fresh motivation and renewed ambition. I cannot wait to see what I can really do with this blog if I let loose and break free of how I think things should be. Let’s just find out where this goes.

What does this have to do with carrot rice pudding bites? Carrot rice pudding bites are what happens when I let myself get creative with food. I have some kind of craving for a particular taste, flavor, shape, or texture. I have certain ingredients at my disposal. I really, really want to use something because it’s been in the fridge for bordering-on too long. I look at some recipes – thumbing through cookbooks and clicking through bookmarks online. In the end, I get pull out some ingredients, mash them together in a bowl, smoosh them into a mini-muffin tin, and bake them.

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How do they taste? Pretty good for being a total experiment in culinary creativity. Did Lee and I eat all of these tasty bites? You betcha – every last sticky-sweet little bite.

Unfortunately, I have not quite mastered the practice of writing down what I’m doing when I’m experimenting in the kitchen. Thus, I don’t have a recipe. That said, I think wads/bites/hunks/balls like this are best made as free-form, creative, recipe-free items. Here are the basic components and a method that seemed to work for me at least once.

Naturally Sweetened Carrot Rice Pudding Bites

dates: 10 small pitted
cashews: 1/2 cup, raw

Chop these up in a food processor. Pour this mix into a bowl and add the rest of the ingredients.

carrot: 1 medium, grated
cooked brown rice: maybe 1 1/2 – 2 cups
spices: allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger…you know, those yummy ones…as much or as little of them as you like
flour, whatever kind you want (I used millet flour): 2 tablespoons
egg, beaten: 1 (or make it vegan with 2 tbsp flaxseed meal + 1/4 cup water)

scoop “dough” into a lightly oiled mini muffin pan or onto a cookie sheet (also lightly oiled or lined with parchment/Silpat)
Bake at 375 F. for 10-12 minutes, or until muffins/balls are firm and starting to brown.

Munch away! These are surprisingly sweet for containing no processed sugar.

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Corn Stew with Bagel Croutons

I did two things that I’m very proud of last week. Really, I’m sure I did more but these two graced my kitchen in one night and were particularly memorable. First, I found an inventive way to use the last of the leftover bagels from my brief stint as a bagel-baker. They had been in the freezer for weeks and Lee had declared them inedible.

Second, I made something in a pot that didn’t turn into chili, as do so many of my would-be soups and stews. This stew spawned from necessity and boredom. I was bored with making the same old things night after night and my dad was coming over for dinner so I wanted to serve him something somewhat special. Still, that special dish needed to be easy and use ingredients I had on hand, since I was getting ready to go out of town. It’s a good thing there were 4 ears of fresh corn in the fridge! I wasn’t about to let those go to waste.

The stew came out thick (thanks to the pumpkin) and chunky (thanks to the corn and squash). I loved the bright red tomatoes against the yellow corn. My dad, Lee, and I really enjoyed it as an early fall dinner that captured some of the sweetness of end-of-summer corn. The bagel croutons were perfect and unique. Unlike regular croutons, they have quite a crust on them, which returns to it’s chewy bagel state when soaked in hot stew for a few minutes. The result was an almost meaty texture that stopped my spoon from gobbling the stew too quickly.

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Corn Stew

4 ears fresh, sweet corn, husked
1 medium-sized brown onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon each fresh chives, marjoram, and thyme, finely chopped (adjust to taste)
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
5-6 medium-sized pattypan squash, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 cup frozen, shelled edamame
4 Roma tomatoes, roasted (see below)
4 cups vegetable broth
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon chili powder
Freshly ground black pepper and salt, to taste
1 small avocado, sliced

To roast the tomatoes:
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Cut tomatoes in half and place them, skin side down, on a lightly-oiled baking sheet. I suggest lining the pan with aluminum foil, as the tomatoes tend to be rather messy.
Bake in the oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until the tomatoes are shriveled and juicy.
Remove from oven and set aside to cool.
When cool, cut each half into two or 3 pieces and set aside. You will add them near the end of cooking the stew.

For the stew:
Cut corn off cobs, gathering it on a cutting board or in a bowl.
Meanwhile, preheat a large saucepan or pot. Add olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan.
Add onions and garlic, cooking until the onion is soft and translucent.
Add corn and continue to cook, partially covered for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add herbs, allspice, chili powder, salt, and pepper. Cook about two minutes.
Add broth and pumpkin puree and pattypan squash, stirring well to blend everything together.
Reduce heat to simmer and cook for 10-15 minutes.
Add edamame and roasted tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes, or until edamame are heated through.
Spoon stew into bowls, top with sliced avocado, and serve with bagel croutons or crusty bread.

Bagel Croutons

Day-old (or older) bagels, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
olive oil
Your preferred spices, or none at all: garlic powder, black pepper, salt, etc.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Place bagel pieces on a lightly oiled baking sheet.
Use an oil mister to spray pieces with olive oil.
Sprinkle spices, if using over bagel pieces.
(Alternatively, place bagel pieces in a plastic bag. Sprinkle a little olive oil on top, close the bag, and shake it to distribute the oil. Then re-open the bag, add spices, close and shake again.)

Place baking sheet in oven and bake for 10-15 minutes, or until bagel pieces are crisp but not burned. They will continue to crisp-up as they cool.
Allow them to cool on the baking sheet. Store in a sealed container or use immediately on stew.

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