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.
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.
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.
Why? This is an important question to ask of everything you do. In my own life, if it doesn’t make my eyes go wide or bring me some kind of release, it has to go. I try to stay in the light, always inching towards brightness as a way of being. This very basic mantra applies itself easily to work endeavors, relationships, literature and music of choice, what I eat, awareness of my tone of voice at a given time, whether or not to risk driving way over the speed limit in a situation.. You get the idea. I try to move and speak with kindness whenever possible. It makes any confrontation with the big WHY a touch simpler.
The aspect of intention is something I think about often, especially with running this small space. Why a post on one particular recipe or ingredient? What does that say about my space in time? Can people relate? Is that important? Is it accessible? Should I say this? Is it better to say nothing at all? Is an expression of some deeply inner and unusual thing necessary? Is the specification of Mexican oregano douche-y? What is driving the visual component? Maybe that needs to be fleshed out or more inspired? What are we even doing here? …The second that I feel like I’m preaching to the converted or that everything is the same, I want to change it all, move away from the paradigm towards something that feels new and more productive.
So with the guiding idea of kindness and a general desire to dwell in the light, I want to make this space better. I know that I’m unworthy of being in a position of concern over the improvement of a personal and completely unnecessary thing that exists on the internet. It feels ridiculous, now as ever, but it does exist. And if it does exist, it should be as incredible as my own human achievement will allow. So I’ll be letting that thought marinate over the next couple weeks. It’s a mindful powering down in order to power-up sort of effort, if you will (I hope you will).
Be safe and warm over the holidays, friends. I’ll see you in the new year with a smile and something delicious to eat, I promise.
Chocolate has a serious hold on my heart all year, but lately it feels like a love for the ages. This is mostly to say that I can’t seem to stop it from being around me at all times. Snow flies, we’re in the thick of December, treats abound. Love has proven to be a dangerous and rather heady thing across the entirety of existence and yet, oh weird, there’s my fingers getting to work on another sparkly wrapper. Love and excess is perhaps a more relevant, still timeless, pairing that I’ll accept for the moment. It’s too real and never enough.
So to keep that whole gravely serious thing going I made a very seriously delicious thing. Chocolate cups with tasty fillings are nothing new, I realize. My little version here is pretty wholesome and crazy rich though. It’s vegan appropriate and a very simple gluten-free-friendly adjustment can be made. This combination was a bit of an experiment for me and it worked out so pleasantly. The vanilla, walnut + bourbon butter is a touch intense on its own, but in a sweet little chocolate case it’s perfect. Happy sparkles of vanilla bean-flecked fleur de sel grace the tops and the world feels right.
This recipe is easy and highly adjustable. You can swap the walnuts with any nut or seed you like. I use some graham cracker crumbs for body in the filling, but they aren’t necessary at all. If you don’t have a food processor or blender, you could stir the maple syrup, coconut oil, bourbon etc into some store-bought nut butter for total ease. I’ll be toting these to any holiday gathering I find myself at for sure. Hope you’re all still enjoying this lovely season of warmth and togetherness. If anyone needs me, I’ll be listening to my favourite sort-of-Christmas-y-but-not-actually-a-Christmas-album and passing out on the couch from way too much chocolate/love :)
Oh, and another lovely thing: the holiday/winter issue of FoodieCrush Magazine is out! I have a recipe for a sticky and wonderful demerara sugar and vanilla breakfast bundt inside along with a little story on our holiday traditions. This beautiful publication is full to the brim with great recipes and content by some seriously talented bloggers (and it’s free!). Check it out here.
salted maple walnut + vanilla bean chocolate cups
serves: makes around 20 small/mini cups
notes: It’s good to grind up the walnuts and make a walnut butter base before you add the maple syrup and everything else. Nuts/seeds tend to zap the moisture out of everything around them when they’re getting ground into things. Also, I would make up the walnut butter right before you intend to assemble the cups to avoid any oil separating issues.
1.5 cups walnut halves, toasted
seeds of 1/2 vanilla bean, divided
2 tbsp melted coconut oil
1/4 cup maple syrup
pinch of ground cinnamon
1/3 cup graham cracker crumbs (use a GF brand or leave them out if need be)
1 tbsp bourbon or other brown liquor of choice (very optional)
1 1/4 cups semi sweet chocolate chips/pieces
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp milk of your choice (I went with almond)
pinches of fleur de sel or other nice salt
Make the walnut filling: Place the toasted walnut halves and half of the vanilla bean seeds in the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times to chop the nuts up small. Turn the food processor on to high and process nuts and vanilla until a smooth paste begins to form, about one to two full minutes. Scrape the sides of the bowl down and process again. Add the graham cracker crumbs and pulse a couple times. Then, add the coconut oil, maple syrup, cinnamon, bourbon and a pinch of salt. Process on high until fully combined. Scrape walnut butter into a small bowl and set aside.
Mix 1-2 tablespoons of fleur de sel with the remaining vanilla bean seeds in a small bowl/vessel. Pinch the salt and seeds together until the little black flecks are evenly mixed up with the salt. Set aside.
Combine the semisweet chocolate chips and milk in a non-reactive bowl. Set the bowl over a small saucepan of simmering water (make sure the bottom of the bowl isn’t touching the water in the saucepan). Stir with a spatula until the chocolate is totally melted and you have a smooth, homogenous mixture.
Assemble: Set out 20 or so small paper cup liners (or 10 big ones). Divide half of the melted chocolate amongst the liners. Drop heaped teaspoons of the walnut butter into the center of the first layer of chocolate. If you have the cups in an actual muffin tin for assembling, bang and twist the pan on the table to settle the initial layers. Pour the remaining melted chocolate on top of the walnut butter layer. Sprinkle cups with vanilla bean fleur de sel. Place cups in the fridge to set.