gluten-free

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

Sweet Millet Congee

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It’s a quick update today, but after four days on the Wild Rose Cleanse, I still haven’t had those terrible first few days everyone talks about. No cramping, no GI issues, no headaches and normal energy levels. I also realized that the Wild Rose diet is basically what I always eat, with the exception of dairy, sugar and flour. Not too difficult to find delicious ways to cook with all that’s left!

The best part of avoiding sugar has been learning a bunch of new ways to flavour things. I put tons of cinnamon in my oatmeal, along with frozen cranberries for a delicious, cozy breakfast. I also tried cooking millet since it’s one of the recommended grains, and discovered an amazing recipe on the back of the package! I’ve made some modifications and I’d like to share it. (more…)

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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.

baking pan

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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Cranberry Orange Seed Bars

Nuts and seeds are an often-overlooked category of food that contain many essential nutrients and minerals; chia seeds have recently become incredibly popular for their many health benefits, but they’re not the only seed you should be adding to your diet. Not only are all of these seeds incredibly healthy, they also have a few specific benefits for athletes!

Chia Seeds

  • Water-soluble fibre, which slows digestion and regulates blood sugar.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids support the nervous system and healthy brain function.
  • Phosphorous, which is used to synthesize proteins, carbs and fats for tissue growth and repair.
  • Manganese to regulate metabolism and assist with the formation of connective tissue and healthy bones.
  • Tryptophan improves both sleep and mood and regulates appetite.
  • A source of protein.

Specific benefits for athletes:

  • Minerals help repair tissues damaged through exercise and improve sleep, both of which speed recovery.
  • Chia seeds absorb large amounts of water, making them a great option for boosting hydration. One study compared carbo-loading using a drink with 100% of calories from Gatorade to one with 50% of the calories provided by Gatorade and 50% by chia seeds; the chia mixture provided the same results but with a better nutritional profile (more Omega-3s) and less sugar.
  • Chia seeds have traditionally been used by endurance athletes such as the Tarahumara, and were mentioned in Chris McDougall’s book Born to Run.

Pumpkin Seeds (also called Pepitas)

  • Alkaline-forming, which counteracts bone loss as a result of low body pH and can improve energy levels and immunity.
  • Complete protein, containing all the essential amino acids.
  • Magnesium helps with body temperature regulation, transmission of nerve impulses and the absorption of calcium, and improves muscle function.
  • Zinc strengthens the immune system and is needed for growth and cell division.

Specific benefits for athletes:

  • Intense workouts temporarily suppress the immune system, so getting enough zinc can help protect you from that nasty flu everyone else is getting.
  • Studies show that insufficient magnesium can result in muscle weakness, particularly during hard training weeks.

Sunflower Seeds

  • Selenium is an antioxidant and plays a key role in metabolism.
  • Vitamin E lowers cholesterol, improves immunity and protects cells from damage by eliminating free radicals in the body.

Specific benefits for athletes:

  • Selenium helps protect muscles from damage, allowing your body to recover faster from a hard workout.
  • Vitamin E supplements have been shown to counteract the increase in lipid oxidation associated with extreme exercise, reducing muscle damage and speeding recovery.

Sesame Seeds

  • Calcium supports healthy bones and teeth.
  • Iron and copper are used in the production of red blood cells, and copper helps with thyroid function and the formation of connective tissue.
  • Good source of magnesium (see above).
  • Variety of minerals such as phosphorous, zinc and vitamin B1.

Specific benefits for athletes:

  • Sesame seeds are particularly beneficial for runners because the mechanical forces associated with running destroy hemoglobin at a faster rate and therefore increase production of red blood cells. Women are especially prone to developing runners’ anemia, and often require iron supplementation.
  • Magnesium is important during hard training weeks (see above).

Cranberry Orange Seed Bars (inspired by Endurance Crackers from Oh She Glows) are a tasty, vegan, nut-free and gluten-free way to enjoy a variety of seeds.

Cranberry orange seed bars

Cranberry Orange Seed Bars
Makes: 36 mini bars

1/2 c. chia seeds
1/2 c. pumpkin seeds
1/2 c. sunflower seeds
1/2 c. sesame seeds
1/4 c. dried cranberries
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 c. warm water
2 Tbsp honey or brown sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
Zest from 1 orange
3 Tbsp white rice flour

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325F. In a medium bowl, mix seeds, dried cranberries and cinnamon.
  2. Combine warm water and honey/sugar and stir until dissolved. Add vanilla and orange zest and stir to combine.
  3. Add water mixture to seeds and stir until chia seeds begin to gel and the mixture thickens. Let sit 2-3 minutes, then add flour and stir well to combine.
  4. Pour onto parchment paper and spread with the back of a spoon until the layer is 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick.
  5. Bake at 325F for 30 minutes, then cut into bars. I like to cut bite-sized diamond shapes, but feel free to adjust the size and shape of your bars. Flip and bake another 30 minutes until edges are golden brown and crispy.

Options and Substitutions:

  • I used white rice flour, but feel free to try different wheat, oat or gluten free flours. Some may work better than others and the only one I’ve tested is white rice flour so do so at your own risk!
  • I prefer to sweeten with honey, however I am aware that many people do not consider honey to be a vegan product; you may wish to substitute an equal amount of packed brown sugar to make the recipe unequivocally vegan.
  • For an extra sweet treat, drizzle melted dark chocolate over the bars after they come out of the oven; they won’t be quite as healthy, but come on, it’s dark chocolate! I don’t need to explain this to you.
  • I like small diamond shaped bars, but really you can cut them into any shape or size you like – even animals if you have cookie cutters!

I like diamond shaped bars, but you can cut any shape you like.

These bars are a nutritional powerhouse with 56 calories per serving, 5.7g carbohydrates, 2.2g fibre and 2.9g protein. Now go take on the world!