I like muffins, I do. I can truthfully say that I’ve turned down invitations to go for a beer with friends in favor of cooking up a dozen. Actually heard over the phone in the background: “What, is she 80 years old?!” It was worth it.
I always gravitate towards the crumble topped, glazed or chocolate flecked varieties out of habit though… because it’s like eating a piece of cake. A piece of cake that you can sometimes have with a hot drink and call it breakfast. Oh, and healthy muffins are generally terrible. Like, more terrible than mornings pre-coffee. I wanted this to be different in a real way.
Here’s the thing. It’s hard to make a homemade, legitimately healthy muffin that tastes AMAZING + looks completely beautiful. I have high expectations in a general way. Brown, dome-y cake things are not always tasty and are definitely not inherently glamorous. I wanted it to be real good on all fronts for your health. Sometimes I irrationally worry about offering up recipes for more humble fare here. A muffin is not the most totally unique snowflake-kind of thing to post on a food blog, but it is decidedly everyday and approachable. I am slowly learning that this is enough.
When I lived in the city, I used to pop into the nearby Whole Foods from time to time for a matcha tea and one of their lovely vegan muffins. But it wasn’t entirely muffin-like! They baked them in petite bundt pans and put a sweet little glaze on top. The ingredients were all health-supporting for sure and the small hit of glaze brought it back into light indulgence territory. The idea was to emulate the overall feel of their muffin and fill the recipe out with things I really love.
I went to work, consulted with a new and wonderful book, and here we are. It’s a beauty, I assure you. It’s key to go wild with flavour-y things when undertaking more health-centric, vegan baking. The spices, the vanilla, the add-ins; they all work together to make a non buttered + egged treat so delicious. If I’m vegan-izing/health-ing something up, I generally double the vanilla specified, use spices and citrus zest with abandon, and reach for flavourful fats like nut butters or coconut oil as an overall strategy. Also, stirring the batter gently until just incorporated is key for a nice texture. You could apply that principle to any muffin recipe, but especially here with the inclusion of 100% whole grain flour.
In this particular breakfast marvel, I’ve used hearty spelt flour, almond meal, chia and flax seeds, warming spices, tropical coconut oil + vanilla (still savoring the bottle miss Ashlae sent me), walnuts, tart dried cranberries, coconut palm sugar, a smidge of banana to amp up the natural sweetness and some frozen Ontario blueberries stirred in to remind us of summer’s gifts. I topped them off with a zesty clementine glaze for an inviting hit of freshness. These would be perfect for a weekend brunch at home. Your grandma would be so proud of you for baking these on a Saturday night, just a thought :)
antioxidant power muffins + clementine glaze
adapted from Dr. Weil’s True Food
serves: makes 7-8 little bundts or 12 normal muffins
notes: If you eat them, feel free to replace the mashed banana with 2 beaten eggs to avoid any trace of banana-ness. Also! I know if you’re high on health, you might want to turn your nose up at the glaze portion. I found it pretty crucial to the whole experience. This batter isn’t terribly sweet, so the glaze has a rather serious function in the grand scheme (way serious).
1 cup whole spelt flour
1/4 cup almond meal (or use more spelt if you like)
1 1/3 cups ground flax + chia seeds (or go with pure flax or pure chia)
2/3 cup coconut palm sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
pinch of ground ginger
pinch of fine sea salt
1 ripe banana, mashed
2 tbsp melted coconut oil + extra for greasing
1 3/4 cups milk of your choice (I used almond)
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 cup frozen blueberries, thawed (or fresh if they’re in season)
3/4 cup unsweetened dried cranberries
1 cup roughly chopped walnuts
2 tbsp cacao nibs
juice and zest of 1 clementine
1/2 cup powdered sugar
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Grease your mini bundt or muffin tins and set aside.
In a large bowl, combine the spelt flour, almond meal, flax + chia seeds, coconut sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, ground ginger and salt.
Mash the banana in a separate medium bowl. Make sure it is fairly smooth. To the banana, add the coconut oil, milk and vanilla extract. Whisk to combine.
Scrape the banana and milk mixture into the dry indredients (flour, ground flax etc). Gently fold the batter until it is just combined/there are no more dry bits of flour. Add the blueberries, dried cranberries, walnuts, and cacao nibs and gently fold them into the batter until evenly distributed. The batter should be quite thick at this point.
Fill the muffin cups/bundts with the batter to 3/4 full. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean and muffins bounce back when you press your finger onto the tops. Cool the pans on a wire rack completely before turning out onto a plate.
While muffins are baking/cooling, make the glaze: whisk the clementine zest, juice and powdered sugar together until smooth. Apply glaze to the tops of completely cooled muffins.
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I say this about so many things, but winter citrus is certain proof that we are loved in this world. January brings us to more hours spent in darkness. The sun is elusive on most days, giving way to shades of mud and blinding white. On winter drives through all of the sleepy orchards, there’s an illusion of hollow space, that the rows of black and empty branches cross each other forever and for no reason, that your breath could escape and go on. A cloudy and warm gasp would lift from your mouth, drifting over the fields searching listlessly for another of its kind. Stepping outside invites the bizarrely comforting act of bundling yourself up to face the world. Promises of impending greatness well up and wait. By the end of March, I’m on my knees for a release from the extremity of it, the spatial restlessness and cold grey, the bleak landscape that seems to dwell within.
Then there are splendid and simple moments, ones of clarity. Cutting into any one of the satsumas, lemons, blood oranges, grapefruits, or tangerines, taking a second to revel in the brightness, is one of those moments. Vivid colour, the intensely perfumed oil in the skin, all succulent with tart sweetness, the symmetry within the shapes–all reminders of the warmth in the design of this world. The core of life still glows and we are assured at the very sight of those neon orbs that vibrate with the sun and earth’s strength.
Something unusual to wake up my winter-dulled sensibilities was bubbling away in my mind and it had to be a chop, a shred, a seasoning from up high, toss toss toss and a fast sear away. Quick. Jude Blereau’s orange pan-glazed tempeh (first seen on 101 Cookbooks for me) is one of my favourite ways to utilize citrus in an upfront and savoury sort of way. I swap out the coriander for some ground ancho chilies in pursuit of heat, but otherwise keep it to the letter and simple. Have you tried tempeh before? That fermented, probiotic and protein-heavy vegan wonder food? The texture is toothsome. The flavour is nutty, hinting at mushrooms and damp, forest floor kind of qualities. It has roots in Indonesian cuisine and stands in beautifully for tofu and animal proteins.
Right here, it goes for a bit of a sear and a sloshy glaze of maple, ancho and soy infused orange juice. I thought of it as the foundation of a taco with a slaw saturated in grapefruit juice and flecked with fresh mint. Grapefruit gets on beautifully with creamy and mild avocado, so that became the crucial third component. A little frivolous tangle of sprouts on top felt fine in the moment. Finishing squeezes of lime are available for even more freshness. The combination is nicely jarring and it brings the world a bit closer, what with the participatory nature of taco get-togethers. The gathering, assembly and communal eating seems to put us all into the light a little more.
orange + ancho braised tempeh tacos with ruby grapefruit slaw
notes: I used an all-soy variety of tempeh for this, but there are many varieties with brown rice and other grains thrown into the mix that are great. Also, as previously mentioned, I subbed in ancho powder + cayenne for the coriander in Jude’s recipe. You could go so many ways with it though.
1 batch orange pan glazed tempeh (recipe link), subbing ancho powder for the coriander
ruby grapefruit slaw:
1/2 small red cabbage, cored and shredded
1 small carrot, grated or peeled into ribbons (I used a funky white, heirloom one)
juice of 1 grapefruit + I cut up a few sections of it for visual/textural interest in the slaw
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 green onions, sliced finely
4 sprigs of mint, leaves sliced finely
salt and pepper
corn tortillas, warmed
1 ripe avocado, peeled, pitted + sliced
handfuls of sprouts (I had pea shoots around)
sriracha or other hot sauce
Prepare the slaw: combine all slaw ingredients in a large bowl and toss to combine. Taste for seasoning, adjust, and set aside.
Dice and warm all of the assembly components and set aside.
Prepare tempeh according to directions. Serve hot with other taco accoutrements.
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Happy new year to you! Sending all of my big hugs. The time for personal betterment is upon us (as always). But first, some soup.
A snow storm drove us indoors right in the midst of holiday time, so I’ve been going hard with the nesting/self care thing. I love to make a vegetable-heavy soup with miso, shoyu/tamari and ginger when I feel a bit off, whether I’m hungover or just generally space-y. The steamy ritual of it brings me back to earth and offers a bit of reconnection. It doesn’t have to be anything complicated; just whatever vegetables you have around, a nice broth and some quiet time to enjoy. A version of it was my breakfast of choice for a while, a blast of perfect silence to get the day rolling.
This particular version follows the theme of intense nourishment. I took every immune-boosting, deep-warming, feel good vibe-inducing ingredient I had and put it into this healthy and delicious bowl of love. You get to hold your head over the pot of fragrant broth while it simmers and deepens in flavour. I’m pretty fond of these pour-over style soups. Get the broth crazy hot, splash it around some finely cut vegetables/precooked noodles etc, and instant comfort is yours for the moment. If you batch-cook some broth, tasty and fortifying lunches are a cinch throughout the week.
There’s a lot going on in the pot and I’m confident that some ingredients can be substituted/left out altogether and you’ll still wind up with something tasty and soothing–very much a freestyle kind of effort. I used shiitake mushrooms (stems + caps), ginger, lemongrass, chilies, miso, tamari, cilantro (stems + leaves), thyme and some other aromatics. Pour that potent and mega hot broth over a tangle of vegetable shreds, garnish with sprouts and herbs, a squeeze of lime, some drops of sesame oil, maybe a dab of sriracha swirled into the mix. The process of it leads to a surprisingly heady food-life experience. Simmer, chop, pour, garnish, breathe it in, spoon lifted, instant calm.
Once you get into it, slurping everything up gives you a lightly sweaty flash of food-induced warmth that feels so good. It’s that deeply restorative, whole body satiation that snaps everything into focus and makes you feel ready. Nourishment and power in the palm of your hands. 2013, bring it.
a magic healing soup
notes: Whatever vegetables you decide to use, make sure they’re sliced up rather finely. You’re depending on the heat of the broth to soften them up, so rustic chunkiness is less desirable in this recipe. A vegetable peeler, which is what I used to make the strands of broccoli stems, is very helpful with achieving fine-ness.
1 five inch piece of lemongrass, bashed up with the back of your knife
1 celery stalk, sliced
1 onion, quartered
4-5 shiitake mushroom stems (slice the caps for the soup)
1 three inch piece of ginger, sliced
1 clove of garlic, smashed
1 chili, sliced in half
4-5 sprigs thyme
handful of cilantro stems (save the leaves)
1/4 cup tamari soy sauce
2 tsp miso (add at the end of simmering time to preserve nutrients)
1-1.5 cups finely sliced vegetables per person (I used carrots, snow peas, broccoli stems and the shiitake caps)
sliced green onions
sprouts (I had pea shoots)
toasted sesame oil
Make the broth: combine all of the broth ingredients except for the miso in a medium-large sauce pan over medium heat. Pour 5 cups of water over top. Bring to a boil and simmer for half an hour or so (or longer if you want a more concentrated stock). Strain the broth and return it to the pot. Keep the broth hot. Add miso to the pot and stir right before serving
While broth is simmering, you can slice up the vegetables and garnishes.
Arrange vegetables in serving bowls. Pour/ladle hot broth over top. Stir it up a bit. Garnish as you like with herbs, sprouts, sriracha etc.
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