A Reprieve + Gluten-Free Banana Muffins

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.

Ingredients
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 egg
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.

Directions

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.

Chocolate Chip Muffins + a few goals

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
makes 12

Ingredients:

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

Directions:
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.

How I deal with Failure a.k.a Raisin Bran Muffins

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

Ingredients

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!

Directions

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!

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