baking

Spiced Lentil Muffins

This post originally appeared on Our Fresh Kitchen, a healthy food project I started with my partner Hector. I really wanted to share it here because it’s such a crazy cool way to get your legumes!

Most wonderful things start out with a crazy idea.  Some people say it’s because you have to see the world a little differently to create something wonderful, but I think wonderful ideas are all around us and the trick is following where they lead.

I’ve had a few good ones…

  • Running outside during a polar vortex deep-freeze, on multiple occasions.
  • Trying to qualify for the Boston Marathon with 10 weeks of training (not recommended).
  • Moving to Singapore for four months on an academic exchange.
  • Signing up for an Ironman (we’ll see how this one goes).

The cool thing about crazy ideas is that even if they don’t turn out the way you expected, you usually learn something or at least have a good story to tell.  In this case, it resulted in possibly the most versatile (in a dietary sense) healthy lentil muffin recipe you’ll ever make.  These moist and lightly sweetened muffins have some pretty awesome fiber and protein, and can be made vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free, and either nut-free or soy-free depending on what type of milk you use.

If you don’t have some of these ingredients, don’t worry.  Not everyone has a kitchen equipped with the ingredients for vegan and gluten-free baking, and that’s totally cool because just about everything even remotely specialized about this recipe can be substituted with the most basic ingredients you have. Don’t have chia seeds? Use flax meal or egg.  Almond milk? Soy or dairy milk will work too.  The only extra step – compared to regular muffins – is cooking the lentils, and that hardly takes any time at all.

Making the muffins

There are four basic steps:

  1. Cook the lentils
  2. Mix chia seeds with water to form a gel
  3. Combine cooked, wet and dry ingredients
  4. Spoon into muffin pans and bake

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Bring water and salt to a boil, then add dried lentils and simmer for 20-30 minutes; you’ll know they’re done when all the water is absorbed and you have a creamy brown sauce.  The lentils can cook while you preheat the oven and get everything else ready.

By the way, brightly coloured silicon baking cups are fantastic. You don’t even need to grease them, and they look so pretty when they’re all ready for muffin batter.

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While the lentils are cooking, mix the chia seeds and water together in a small bowl…

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…and after about 10 minutes you get a nice thick gel that replaces the eggs in traditional baking.  If you don’t have chia seeds, you can substitute 1:1 with flax meal to keep it vegan or use two eggs (in this case leave out the water too) and skip the 10 minute wait.

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While the chia seeds are working their magic, mix together the dry ingredients in a separate bowl.  I prefer quinoa flour for baking because I find it has a good texture in most recipes, is sold in my local grocery store and means I don’t need to keep five different types of flour in my pantry (not that I don’t have five types of flour in my pantry – I just don’t need to).  If you’re gluten-sensitive, you can try using other gluten-free flours like rice, almond or coconut, but I haven’t tested anything other than brown rice flour.  On the other hand, if you can eat wheat, then regular whole wheat flour (possibly with some wheat bran) is also an option – just leave out the xanthan gum.

Once the lentils have finished cooking, add them to the chia gel along with the remainder of the wet ingredients – just be careful not to stir too enthusiastically at first or the oil might go everywhere (like mine did).  I generally use unsweetened almond milk in my baking, but any milk will work here; soy, coconut and flax milk are all good options to keep the recipe dairy-free, and regular cow’s milk works too. So go nuts – or should I say nut-free?

Finally, add everything together and mix until you get a nice fluffy batter and all the lumps are gone.

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Spoon the batter into your brightly coloured baking cups (you have those right?) or greased muffin pans, dividing it evenly between 12 cups.  The muffins don’t really rise, so the batter should be mounded over the tops of the pan.

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Bake at 350F until a toothpick stuck in the center of the muffin comes out clean, which takes about 20 minutes.  Let the muffins set in the pans for about 5 minutes, then cool them completely on a wire rack.

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If you’re not eating them right away (I can never resist eating one straight out of the oven), they will last several days at room temperature, up to a week in the fridge or about a month frozen.  Before serving, thaw and reheat them in the oven at 250F for 10-15 minutes.

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Serve with love :)

 Spiced Lentil Muffins
Makes 12 muffins

Cooked Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup split red lentils, dried

Wet Ingredients

1/4 cup chia seeds
2/3 cup water
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 c. chopped dried dates and/or walnuts (optional)

Dry Ingredients

1 1/4 cups flour (+ 1 tsp xanthan gum if using gluten-free flour)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

Instructions
  1. In a medium saucepan, bring water and salt to a boil, then add lentils and simmer on low for 20-30 minutes until water is absorbed.
  2. While lentils are cooking, preheat oven to 350F and grease muffin pans.
  3. In a large bowl, combine chia seeds and water, letting them sit for 10 minutes until the mixture forms a thick gel. In a smaller bowl, combine dry ingredients.
  4. Add cooked lentils and remaining wet ingredients to chia gel and mix well, then add dry ingredients and dates or walnuts. Stir until combined.
  5. Spoon batter into muffin pans and bake at 350F for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted at the center comes out clean. Cool in pans for 5 minutes then remove to cooling rack. Store in a sealed container for several days, or freeze to enjoy whenever you wish.
Nutritional Information

205 calories | 7.2g fat | 31g carbs | 6.2g fiber | 12.9g sugar | 5.5g protein

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Bites

I’m sitting at my desk with a delicious peanut buttery oatmeal cookie sitting all alone looking at me, just daring me to eat it, and I’m trying really hard to resist eating it until after my spin class tonight…but I’ve got the last-Friday-before-a-recovery-week munchies and pretty much want to eat everything in sight!  I already ate its sibling, as well as a Ferrero Rocher chocolate which somehow slipped into my lunch bag this morning.  Oops.

Eaaat meeeee!!!

In the meantime, I’m distracting myself by coming up with all sorts of nasty drills for tonight’s spin class at Energia Athletics.  I’ve settled on a Flat-Build-Climb choreography, repeated three times and ending in a 7+ minute climb.  Any takers?  That’s what I thought, I’ll see you at 6! (more…)

Ginger Lentil Muffins

This recipe has been updated!  Version 2 can be made vegan and gluten-free, and you can find it here: Spiced Lentil Muffins.

Now I get that you might be feeling a little skeptical about lentils in muffins but just hear me out. You trusted me on the zucchini chocolate cake, right? And look how well that turned out! Just try them, and you’ll never look at a lentil the same way again.

By now, you might have realized that I have a teensy bit of a muffin fetish. They’re so easy to bake, incredibly versatile and very portable – what’s not to love? So when I ended up bored around the house on a Saturday afternoon, what else was I to do but create the recipe I’ve had floating around in my head for a month?

Bonus: if you’re an endurance athlete like me, these have the perfect carb to protein ratio (4:1) for recovery. Just sayin’. :)

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Zucchini Chocolate Cake

A fun game to play with this cake? Give it to your friends, and wait until after they’ve eaten a couple slices before telling them it’s gluten-free and made with zucchini. Anyone avoiding gluten will love you forever, and fights may break out over the remaining slices.

It’s really THAT good.

I’ve tried this recipe with both quinoa flour and white rice flour and it’s much better with quinoa flour (I had lots of volunteer taste testers for both recipes). Rice flour makes the texture a little gritty and although it’s still really good, it does taste gluten-free.

Also very important: if there’s one ingredient that takes this cake from good to incredible, it’s the espresso powder. I realize not everyone has espresso powder (not grounds, the instant stuff) lying around in their cupboards, but please, if you don’t have any, go get some; add it to any baking involving chocolate and the results will be magical. And whatever you do, don’t just leave it out of this recipe!

Ingredients in bowls

The thing I love about quickbreads and cakes is that they are so versatile. I have made this recipe using bread pans, a 9×9 brownie pan, and a muffin pan (on separate occasions) and it’s easy to modify the baking time for the different sizes. Rough guidelines are about 40-50 minutes for bread pans, 30-40 minutes for brownie pans and 20 minutes for muffins; just stick a toothpick in the centre to check, and when it comes out clean the cake is ready to come out of the oven.

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Gluten-free Zucchini Chocolate Cake

Dry Ingredients:
1-1/2 cups Quinoa or rice flour
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1-1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup cocoa
1 tsp espresso powder

Wet Ingredients:
3 eggs
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cups zucchini, grated
1 tbsp vanilla

Combine dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Mix wet ingredients and add to dry.
Pour mixture into greased pans.
For two loaf pans, bake at 350 for 45-55 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
For a 9×13 cake pan, bake at 350 for 25-35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

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Banana Spice Muffins

Morning workouts are my favourite! Knocking out an 8k tempo run before most people are awake (and in some cases, before the sun is even up) just feels amazing and sets me up for a fantastic day. However, morning workouts usually mean I’m grabbing breakfast on my way out the door and chowing down on my muffin and coffee on the way to work, or taking something with me to swim practice so I can go straight to the office afterwards. That’s where these whole grain breakfast muffins come in so handy – they’re full of healthy carbs and fibre, very little fat or refined sugar and taste delicious. I usually eat them warm and buttered, along with fresh berries, yogurt and coffee.

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Banana Spice Muffins
Yields: 12 muffins

1 c. bran
1 c. whole wheat flour
1/2 c. quick oats
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
3 Tbsp flax meal
2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
2 eggs, beaten
4-5 bananas, mashed
1/2 c. milk
1/4 c. honey
3 Tbsp molasses
2 Tbsp olive oil

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400F. Grease muffin tins with butter (don’t use paper muffin cups as the muffins will stick).
  2. In a medium bowl, combine dry ingredients.
  3. In a small bowl, combine wet ingredients then add all at once to dry mixture. Mix only until combined (it’s okay if there are small lumps in the batter).
  4. Spoon batter into prepared muffin pan, dividing evenly. Bake at 400F for 16-18 minutes or until the tops are lightly browned. Remove from oven and let cool in pans for 5 minutes; remove to cool completely on cooling racks.

These muffins are best enjoyed warm and buttered, straight out of the oven. If you prefer to keep some for breakfast rather than demolishing an entire dozen muffins in one go, reheat in a toaster oven for 10 minutes at 250F.

Nutritional information, per muffin: 184 cal, 34g carbs, 4.6g fibre, 12g sugar, 5g protein, 3.8g fat (I know, right? AMAZING!)

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Raspberry Lemon Layer Cake

June has been a wonderful month for cakes. It started with an angel food cake with strawberries for my Nana’s birthday at the beginning of the month, followed by carrot cupcakes with maple-cream cheese frosting (from Smitten Kitchen) for my Mom’s birthday in mid-June.

Cakes aren’t something I get to bake very often, so having a lot of birthdays in a month has been a real treat – for everyone I assume, since my Mom asked me if I would like to bake the cake for my Grandpa’s birthday party this weekend.

In my family it’s tradition to have the birthday boy or girl choose their cake, so last night I asked my Grandpa what kind of cake he would like. He picked a white cake and specified no chocolate frosting, but a simple white cake just seems so boring! The result was that I got a little creative and decided to use some local in-season fruit to spice it up a little: a light lemon layer cake with raspberry filling. Hold the chocolate frosting!

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This recipe uses beaten egg whites to make a nice fluffy and moist cake, not too sweet and quite lemony. Feel free to adjust the amount of lemon zest if you want a stronger or weaker taste of lemon – I really like how the rich lemon flavours in the cake interact with the raspberry filling and tart, creamy frosting.

Lemon Cake
Adapted from Fine Cooking
2 1/3 c. cake flour; more for the pans
2 3/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. table salt
1 3/4 c. granulated sugar
2 Tbsp. lightly packed finely grated lemon zest
3/4 c. unsalted butter, completely softened at room temperature; more for the pans
1 c. whole milk, at room temperature
5 large egg whites, at room temperature
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F and make sure the baking rack is in the middle position. Grease and flour two round cake pans.
  2. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine 1/4 cup of the sugar with the lemon zest. Add butter and beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until the mixture is light and fluffy (about a minute and a half). Add the remaining 1-1/2 cups sugar and beat until smooth.
  4. Add 1/4 of the milk and beat on low speed just until blended. Add the flour mixture and remaining milk alternately in three batches, beating on low speed just until blended.
  5. In a large bowl, beat the egg whites on medium speed until foamy, then add the cream of tartar and beat on high until stiff peaks form. Gradually fold whites into the batter, one quarter at a time, being careful not to deflate the mixture.
  6. Pour batter into prepared pans and smooth the tops with a spatula. Bake until a toothpick inserted at the centre comes out clean, about 35 to 40 minutes (adjust accordingly if you are using 8″ or 9″ pans). Let cool in pans for 10 minutes, then gently remove from pans and let cool completely.

Raspberry Filling
1 1/2 c. fresh raspberries
1 Tbsp cornstarch
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup sugar

Instructions:

  1. Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and slowly bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring continuously until slightly thickened.
  2. Let cool completely.

Lemon Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting
1 1/2 c. whipping cream
1 (8oz) package cream cheese, at room temperature
1 c. confectioners sugar, to taste (use less for a tart frosting, more for a sweet frosting)
2 Tbsp. finely grated lemon zest
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp cornstarch

Instructions:

  1. In a medium bowl, beat whipping cream with an electric mixer on high until stiff peaks form.
  2. In a large bowl cream together cream cheese, lemon zest and lemon juice. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until fluffy, then sift confectioners sugar and cornstarch over mixture and beat by hand until combined, scraping sides of the bowl to make sure all sugar is combined.
  3. Fold in whipped cream.

Assembling the cake

  1. Use a string or knife to cut round layers in half horizontally so you have four round cakes.
  2. Starting with the bottom layer, spread 1/3 of the raspberry filling over the top of the layer just to the edges. Place the next cake on top and repeat until all four layers are stacked with filling in between.
  3. Frost the sides and top of the cake, and garnish with lemon peel and fresh raspberries.