July 31, 2011 § 5 Comments
I’m not even going to get into where I’ve been. Oh how I have so much to tell you. About pizza. And fresh summer salads with feta and balsamic. And slaw. Oh the slaw. But that’s for another post and another time. Because the news I have for you today is so incredible, so mind blowing that you will be running to your kitchens as soon as you finish reading. I made the best muffins in existence. The most tender, the most flavorful, the perfect crumb, crunchy lidded, ideal banana whole grain muffins. And they are gluten-free. Yes, I have gone over to the dark side and become a buckwheat-eating freak. I’ll explain the situation at length later, but just know this: I have not felt this good in months. Maybe a year. Maybe since before my RA diagnosis. And thank you G-d, there will be muffins.
You might recognize this recipe from my Vegan Banana Bread. Instead of messing around with other gluten-free muffin recipes with ingredients I didn’t have, I decided to experiment with a recipe that works- with wheat flour at least. With the guidance of Gluten-free Goddess and her baking tips and substitutions, I made a gluten-free flour mix, and subbed out the wheat flour in my regular recipe. I also added an egg and some baking powder for extra leavening and binding. And a little ground flax seed for good measure. Mine did not rise as high as traditional muffins, but you can experiment with how much you fill your baking cups. I can’t express how delicious these are. And not just by gluten-free standards. You can easily make this into banana bread, just grease or line a standard size loaf pan with parchment and voila. You could even add chocolate chips. My Husband would approve.
Gluten-free Whole Grain Banana Muffins
Makes 12 muffins or 1 large loaf
Gluten, Soy, and Dairy-free
*Note: the GF flour mix makes more than needed for this recipe. Store the rest in an airtight container in your fridge or freezer and use for another delectable gluten free recipe. It works well for just about any baked good.
1/2 cup margarine or canola oil
1/2-3/4 cup Demerara or white sugar (depending on how sweet you like your muffins)
1 1/2 cups gluten-free flour mix*
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
3 ripe, mashed bananas
Gluten-free flour mix:
1 cup brown or whole rice flour
1/2 cup buckwheat flour
1 cup tapioca starch
1 tsp xanthan gum
1 tsp ground flax seeds
Whisk together and store in the refrigerator or freezer in a tightly lidded container.
Preheat oven to 350 F (176 C). Line a muffin tin with liners, or grease wells with oil. In a large bowl, combine margarine or canola oil and sugar, stirring well to combine. Add the egg and beat well. Add salt and pumpkin pie spice. Sift in 1 1/2 cups of the gluten-free flour mix, baking soda, and baking powder. Add mashed bananas. Mix well, beating for a minute or two. With normal muffins, over beating would make for a tough muffin. With gluten-free flours, beating adds aeration and makes for a lighter crumb. Using a 1/4 cup measure, fill the muffin cups with batter almost to the top. Bake in the preheated oven for 20-30 minutes. The muffins are done when they are brown on the top, the tops spring back when you touch them, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the pan cool on a wire rack for a minute or two. Remove the muffins to the wire rack to cool, or else the bottoms will steam. Eat them all.
January 23, 2011 § 3 Comments
When the Jews were in Egypt, they decided to send 12 spies into the land of Israel to see if it was hospitable. Upon returning, the spies told tales of a giant’s world- filled with massive people and huge grapes. While they were disconcerted, I’m delighted with what I’ve found. If you wander through the market in Israel this week you should stumble upon some fairly large produce. In our local grocery store I found lemons the size of miniature footballs and avocados bigger than my baby’s head. I couldn’t go home without them.
I often suffer from watching avocados languish on my counter top- turning soft to brown and then eventually seeing the bottom of my garbage can. I was determined not to let these beauties from Eretz Yisrael go to waste. Did you know that an avocado is actually of the fruit variety? Their smooth flesh works in sweet as well as savory dishes, although sometimes it’s difficult to overlook the, well, greenness.
I adapted my favorite vegan Banana Bread recipe to make a sweet green quick bread to do my huge avocados right. The addition of lemon zest and fresh lemon juice adds a perfect freshness, and a little spice makes this a warm breakfast treat.
*Note: After starting my Baby on food, I discovered the great combination of avocado and banana. You can replace some of the avocado with ripe mashed banana for a sweeter and lighter bread.
Vegan Avocado Bread
1/2 cup margarine or vegetable oil
1 cup sugar (half brown, half white)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 large, ripe avocado or 2-3 small (Alternatively, substitute some of the avocado for ripe, mashed banana)
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest
1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (176 C). Lightly grease an 8×4 in loaf pan. Mash avocado well, or puree in a food processor. In a mixing bowl, combine margarine or oil, and sugar. Add lemon juice and lemon zest, stirring lightly to combine. Sift in the flour, baking soda, salt and pumpkin pie spice, stir just to combine. Add mashed avocado and stir to combine. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake in the preheated oven for 50-60 minutes, checking half-way. The bread is done when a skewer or toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Store at room temperature wrapped well, or freeze double wrapped.
October 21, 2010 § 8 Comments
Results of Pregnancy:
2. Moderate to High lack of sleep
3. Difficulty concentrating
4. Belly pouch, similar to that of a mother Kangaroo
5. New found respect for convenience foods, especially those in the breakfast category
This week it became clear to me that I need a lifestyle overhaul. In the spirit of true transparency, I’d like to take you through a typical day in the Harris household- one that I’ve repeated several times in the past 6 weeks.
It’s 5 am, the baby is hungry and would like a snack and something to drink. I oblige because I’m his Mama and I am technically the only one who can provide him with those things. Around 5:30 my husband begins to stir and slowly gets up to prepare for his day at The Store. As the manager of a brand new restaurant in a town with almost no restaurants, you can imagine he has been a little busy. The baby and I go back to sleep, waking only to Feed (I feel like a zookeeper…) every 2 hours, until at least 11 am. Yesterday we got up at 1. I get up and make myself some tea with almond milk because the baby can’t tolerate the cow’s stuff. I won’t have breakfast because we have no breakfast food in the house that isn’t cereal. I tried to boil some eggs the other night for the morning, but left them out for 12 hours. Apparently there is some health concern with room temperature eggs? Who knew?
We both stay in our p.j.s until I get my act together and decide to walk to The Store. I like to take the baby and sit at a table, creepily watching the workers and checking their every move. They all know I’m secretly in charge, right? It’s only about a 5 minute walk there and back, and that will pretty much be the only exercise I’ll get for the day. I bought a jogging stroller in hopes that I might take up running again when the baby was born. What a joke.
We’re back home in the late afternoon, early evening, and all I’ve had to eat was some tea and possibly a bagel with tuna if I can scrounge one up at The Store. Maybe I’ll eat some pretzels for dinner, or a wrap with turkey in it if I’m lucky. AJ is asleep most nights by 9 pm, and I’m back in my p.j.s watching movies and reading blogs on my computer. What an existence. I might have spoken to 1 or 2 people, but mostly the baby and he can’t really hold a great conversation. And due to breastfeeding, I need at least 2200 calories a day to maintain a healthy weight. With what I’m eating, I’d average maybe 1000. I’m bone tired and my rheumatoid arthritis is ravaging all the joints in my body. Time for a makeover!
Recently my family, initiated by my Dad, undertook a serious and regimented vegan diet. They eat no animal products, and very little soy. They consume an endless amount of vegetables, with very little sugar or oil, an almost no fat outcome. The diet is meant to reverse the harmful effects of obesity, making you shed some serious lbs. We all know how my Elimination Diet turned out, but I’d like to borrow some of their initiative. I’m not going Vegan, or even Low Fat. I do have that delightful kangaroo pouch and “Muffin top” leftover from the past 9 months of gestation, but at this point I’m more concerned with getting enough healthy food and vitamins into my system so I can have energy to do something,anything. I’m starting with Breakfast. Most important meal of the day. While some people might say cake for breakfast is bad, I say nay!
In order to boost my vitamin intake, I’ve decided that every meal needs to have at least one good vegetable serving, and even more would be better. Sweet potatoes are an absolute super food when it comes to health, and there is no better time than Fall to savor them. I would also try pumpkin, but it is non-existent here except in a can, which costs $15. No thanks. Sweet potato bread is considered Quick Bread- which has really no resemblance to bread other than it’s baked in a loaf pan and can be cut into slices. A dense, muffin like cake, it can easily be filled with dried fruits and nuts, and it is easy to keep the fat content down if you replace the oil with applesauce. This is an easy way to sneak a vegetable into your kids diet too- they will never know the difference! Paired with a cup of antioxidant tea and some fruit, it’s not a bad way to start the day. Next up, healthy lunches, dinner, exercise and *gasp* social interaction!
Sweet Potato Bread
I altered the original recipe by cutting out 1 cup of sugar, swapping the white flour for whole wheat, and using half applesauce and half oil. It tasted very healthy. Next time I will only cut out 1/2 cup of the sugar and I’ve updated the recipe as such. If you want a sweeter and less of a health-food kinda loaf, up the sugar and try the white flour version.
1 cup white sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/3 cup water
1 cup cooked and mashed sweet potatoes (Bake at 350 F (176 C) for 30 minutes)
1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional. I left them out and didn’t miss them)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (176 C) and grease a large 9 x 5 in loaf pan, or two small loaf pans. In a large bowl, combine sugar, applesauce and oil and mix well. Add eggs one at a time and beat together. In a medium bowl, combine whole wheat flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon, whisk well to incorporate the baking soda throughout. Stir the flour mixture into the wet ingredients, alternating with the water. Do not over mix! With any quick bread or muffin recipe, and especially ones with whole wheat, just mix until combined or else your outcome will be tough. Stir in mashed sweet potatoes, and nuts if you so desire. Pour batter into your greased loaf pan and bake for 50-60 minutes. The bread is done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the bread cool in the pan on a wire rack for about 5 minutes before removing it to cool completely. Store wrapped at room temperature for up to one week. This freezes well if doubled wrapped in plastic.
If you are interested, here are the nutritional facts for my healthy version:
Serving Size: 1 slice
Serving Size per loaf: 12
Amount per Serving
Calories from Fat 54.0
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 6g 9%
Saturated Fat 0.92g 4%
Cholesterol 35.83mg 11%
Sodium 88.5mg 3%
Total Carbohydrate 25.36g 8%
Dietary Fiber 3.08g 12%
Protein 3.67g 7%
Est. Percent of Calories from: Fat 30%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calories needs.
For more information on daily calorie intake, visit www.livestrong.com
August 17, 2010 § Leave a Comment
I realize that it hasn’t been that long since I shared the recipe for The Perfect Chocolate Chip cookies. Why all the chocolate chips, Katie? This last installment of choco-ness occurred last night at 10:30 pm when I realized my Father in law was supposed to drop by today for a short visit and to see our new place. My Father in law hates cinnamon. Who hates cinnamon, you ask? I don’t know. Him. And maybe one of those children raised with wolves who has no language. So pretty much 99.9% of my recipes were out. I’ve also been on a muffin kick lately, baking up a batch and freezing half for after D-day. Believe me you- you’ll be seeing more muffins out of me yet. So remember when I told you Gil is obsessed with chocolate chips? He’ll put roughly a cup of them in one single pancake. It’s grossly delicious. So hence the Chocolate Chip Muffin.
Who is that strange-looking old man in the picture, you ask? Why, how observant of you my friend! That is none other than the Chofetz Chaim. Rabbi Israel Meir HaCohen Kagan, born in 1838 in Poland, is known widely as the Chofetz Chaim after his highly acclaimed book with the same name that discusses the importance of guarding ones tongue against gossip. I cannot express the greatness of the Chofetz Chaim in only one short paragraph on this blog. He was a giant in this world and will surely be in the next. We have his portrait hanging prominently on our living room wall to remind us that we are always being watched…. Just kidding. To remind us that being respectful towards others, in our thoughts and words, is of the utmost importance in life.
This month in the Jewish Calender ushers in the most intense time of the year. It is meant to be a period of serious personal reflection, as the high holidays including Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) are nearing closer. The Chofetz Chaim speaks about a respect for all people, not just those you agree with, or your close personal friends. To hold your tongue before saying that one bit of juicy gossip, or speaking kindly to that person on the street you would absolutely LOVE to avoid, or loving those who hate cinnamon, without judgment- these are all goals I strive to work on and hope that it elevates my world even the slightest bit. And plus, it’s not that hard to keep your lips sealed when your mouth is full of Chocolate chip muffin.
(To read more about Judaism or the high holidays, visit www.chabad.org
Disclaimer: I don’t necessarily agree with all of Chabad, but it is an incredible resource that has helped me on my path to discover Judaism. Check it out.)
Chocolate Chip Muffins adapted from Foodbeam
1 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda (forgot this! woops…)
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup chocolate chips
125g margarine (or about 1 stick of butter), softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1/2 cup milk or rice/soy milk
Preheat the oven to 375° F (190°C). Grease and flour 12 muffin cups, or line with liners and spray with non-stick cooking spray. In a large bowl or mixer, cream the margarine and sugars until smooth. Mix in the vanilla extract and beat in the eggs, one at a time. Sift in the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt into the bowl. In another bowl, toss the chocolate chips with 1 tablespoon of flour, this helps keep them from sinking to the bottom of your muffin. Slowly add the milk to the margarine and flour mixture, and stir until just combined. Stir in the chocolate chips and divide the batter between 12 muffin cups. Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Place the muffin pan onto a wire rack and allow to cool for 5-10 minutes. Remove the muffins from the pan and let cool for a few minutes on the wire rack. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days. You can also double wrap them (plastic wrap them individually, then put into a larger bag if you are freezing a bunch) and freeze forever, just take them out of the freezer the night before and place in the refrigerator to defrost.
July 21, 2010 § 1 Comment
I think it is commendable to be able to admit when you are wrong. To say, “I don’t know best- most of the time.” You learn a lot when you are expecting your first child, and I’m sure even more after that first child is actually born onto this earth. I’d like to share with you what has come to light, for me, in the last few weeks.
1. Your body knows better than you do. After waxing poetic about the Elimination Diet, I diligently made every effort to change my habits of eating in hopes of finding a food sensitivity that is causing my Rheumatoid Arthritis to flare up. I omitted several foods that used to occupy a huge space in my life and went about finding alternatives. I baked a gluten-free cobbler. It was disgusting. I baked a gluten-free loaf of bread. It crumbled and now lies in wait to be made into “breadcrumbs” in my freezer. I stopped eating all of the foods that I love- cheese, bread, pretzels, milk, corn and various other things to see if it made me feel better. It didn’t. It made me feel like I was depriving my body, and more importantly, my baby, of vital ingredients. I am now doing a modified version of a healthy pregnancy diet. I eat dairy, gluten, eggs and protein, and am avoiding corn, soy, and overly processed food. I hope to revisit the diet again after (B’H) my baby is born and done nursing, when most people would recommend.
2. Your partnership with your spouse or significant other allows you to reach far beyond your normal capabilities alone. My husband Gil listens to me talk about blogs. He listens about recipes, awkward pregnancy symptoms, and endlessly tunes in when I discuss my dreams of working with children, making a difference in the world, and possibly sharing my love of food with others. And he samples my cooking. And he pretends that he likes it, no matter how gross or unappetizing a new recipe might appear/taste. He is encouraging when it seems like my belly couldn’t get any bigger and I couldn’t possibly be more inactive. We are a team and it makes me feel better about going forward with starting our family.
3. Do what you love, and don’t box yourself in. For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to be a Mom. As a baby, I prayed for a baby. I desperately wanted to take care of things- animals, people, plants (although I kill plants, and I can’t seem to stop. Remember that beautiful Mint? Ya, it committed suicide and threw itself off our balcony in the old apartment. Just like the Rosemary. Good thing I live in Rosemary-ville and I can go pick a bunch right outside whenever I want to!). I am coming to terms with the fact that although I have a college degree, and am a young, capable, and intelligent woman, it’s O.K. to take time off from pursuing career goals to be a Mom. My Mom did it and I am endlessly grateful for the time we spent together when my brothers and I were growing up. For now, I am doing what I love: cooking, writing, sharing, and getting ready to be the best Mama I can be.
So how am I dealing with the failure of my grand scheme to find out what causes my RA? I’m making muffins. Lotsa muffins. But these are healthy muffins. I swear. Filled with bran and goodness. They may be healthy, but they are still super yummy too. They can easily be made vegan, which is the course I took and I don’t regret it for a second.
Raisin Bran Muffins adapted from Joy the Baker
makes about 12 muffins
1 cup Bran Cereal (needn’t be Post Raisin Bran, which I think has a lot of added sugar)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups flour, sifted
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten or 1 smashed banana **Update: I chose to make this recipe using banana to substitute the egg. It had a fairly strong banana taste, much like a Banana Bran muffin. Delicious. Hate bananas but still want a vegan alternative? To replace one egg: combine 1 tablespoon ground flax seeds and 3 tablespoons water (or other liquid), stir until thick. You can buy ground flax-seed at almost any grocery store nowadays, and for sure a health food store. If they only have whole flax seeds, you can easily grind them in a clean coffee grinder.
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup rice or soy milk, mixed with a teaspoon of vinegar. (The original recipe calls for buttermilk, which I’m sure would be delicious, but I never have it on hand, and I’ve been avoiding milk products. I find that rice milk is a perfect, albeit more-watery substitute. If you are into buttermilk, by all means use it.)
1/2 cup raisins, or other healthy, yummy add-ins like nuts!
In a large bowl mix together bran cereal, flour, salt, cinnamon, sugars and baking soda.
In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together oil, egg (or smashed banana, or flax seed mixture), vanilla extract, rice milk and vinegar.
Gently stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Mix in your add-ins- I used golden raisins slightly chopped. Allow the batter to sit for about 20 minutes on the counter in order to soften the bran cereal.
Scoop into lined or greased muffins pans when ready to bake. (Hate greasing muffins tins? Pam or another spray works well, but I drizzle a small amount of canola oil onto a basting brush and go over the insides. Saves me time and sticky fingers). Sprinkle with a spoonful of granulated sugar to make it purty, with a bit of a crisp crust to bite into.
Bake at 375 degrees F (190 C) for 15 to 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
The original recipe states that you can also put this batter in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week- spooning out your desired amount when you have the craving for a fresh muffin. I chose to bake up a whole batch and freeze the muffins I couldn’t eat in a few days in order to stock up baked goods for after D-day. Just let the frozen muffin defrost in your fridge overnight, or pop into the microwave for a warmed up breakfast treat!