I’ve been hearing from many athletes lately about the (hopeful) return of summer and fall races. Mileage ramping up. Adventures to look forward to. Giving special attention to day to day workout recovery.
After going virtually no where for the last 14 months, save a weeklong trip over the cascades last summer to spend a few days running and adventuring and seeing no one else, I signed up for a race (out of state!) earlier this week. And then promptly realized I should have double-checked that William and I were in firm agreement about the trip before committing for the both of us.
Oops. Apologies accepted and forgivenesses offered – the excitement is real!
Over on the Run Journal at Territory Run Co., I’ve shared another seasonal recipe series for a day of eating. As per usual, my idea was to keep ingredients seasonal and simple, with balanced flavors, and of course nutritionally sound for a solid day of fueling busy (and likely active) bodies.
Usually when I test recipes multiple times when working on new ideas, I get burnt out on them and quickly move on after sharing. This hasn’t been the case with this trio. They’ve been on repeat in various renditions for the last couple months. My favorite is definitely the soup. It’s super delicious.
Get the full article and recipes here, and check out some of the other great trail running articles submitted by other content ambassadors while you’re at it — there are so many good ones.
During my senior year of high school, my agricultural science class focused on business and economics principles, and in one unit on our future in the workforce, I did some business planning on starting a cake bakery. I don’t know if we were focusing on entrepreneurship specifically, or if I’ve always had a streak of planning to run my own business, but to my way of thinking, I was owning, managing, baking, selling, etc. The whole dang thing. Never mind that I was in agricultural class, not growing or milling wheat or other grains, or just using an example from the then business I had at the time of raising and selling club lambs. Nope. Instead I did an abrupt turn and planned for baking artistic cakes in my future.
To this day, I often joke that if the pay were better and other things didn’t work out, I’d be baking and handing over the goods to other happy people instead. Oh and starting a porridge and brunch restaurant. Which is where my love for baking muffins comes in. If you go ahead and browse the recipe section, you’ll see I’ve published more than a handful of muffin recipes over the years. Along with cake, muffins are one of my favorite baked foods to experiment with.
When it’s up to me, I often tend to go for the heavily spiced, oat-rich, morning glory-type muffins that are stuffed with ingredients like raisins, shredded zucchini or carrots, mashed pumpkin, or other fruit. But not everyone favors that kind of porridge reincarnation. William, for instance, is a plain vanilla cake / vanilla frosting person, and likewise prefers simple berry muffins without the frills and extra ingredients. Since he’s been stopping by a local bakery before work many mornings for exactly that type of muffin, we settled on me making him some that are a little more wholesome and he can grab and take instead.
That’s where these come in. These are blackberry muffins made from milling oats, buckwheat, and almonds in my spice / coffee grinder. But they can easily become blueberry or raspberry-flavored instead, and if you have more of the flours than I do, start with oat, buckwheat, and almond flours for one less step. Either way, they’re an early morning treat that stands up to the bakery muffins with more whole foods, and especially whole-grains and reduced sugar. A big win and less of the side effects of refined sugars and flours, etc.
Blackberry Muffins, makes 6
65 grams / ¾ cup gf-certified oatmeal 65 grams / a little less than 1/2 cup raw buckwheat groats 60 grams / ½ cup raw almonds 8 grams / 1 Tbs. arrowroot flour 1 ½ tsp. baking powder ¼ tsp. baking soda ¼ tsp. sea salt 70 grams / 6 Tbs. organic cane sugar 25 grams / 2 Tbs. coconut oil 1 large egg or a vegan alternative (1 Tbs. ground flax mixed with 3 Tbs. water) ½ tsp. grated lemon zest, optional 1 tsp. lemon juice or apple cider vinegar ½ tsp. vanilla extract 170 grams / ¾ cup plain non-dairy yogurt (unsweetened coconut yogurt is best) 150 grams / 1 cup fresh or frozen blackberries
Begin by weighing or measuring out the oats, buckwheat and almonds, and then finely grind them to a flour mixture in a spice / coffee grinder. Alternatively, if you already have light buckwheat flour, oat flour and almond meal, you can skip this step.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and prepare a muffin pan by adding the paper liners, or lightly wipe the insides with oil and dust with flour. Set aside.
In a small bowl, mix the flours, baking powder and soda, and salt. Then set it aside.
In a medium bowl, mix the coconut oil and sugar with a spoon until light and fluffy. Then beat in the egg, lemon zest and juice, and vanilla.
Add in about 1/3 of the flour mixture to the sugar and oil and stir. Then add in ¼ cup of yogurt. Stir in another third of flour and another ¼ cup of yogurt, and then add the rest of the flour and the final ¼ cup of yogurt. The batter should be slightly fluffy. Don’t overmix.
Gently stir in the blackberries, and then evenly divide the batter into the six muffins cups.
Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool them slightly in the pan, before tipping out and eating
A somewhat humorous discussion amongst some of the current and past students of my nutrition program last week was “What is Eleonora cooking right now?” Eleonora is my former cooking lab instructor, since we were required to take a few cooking courses during the program to really cement our ‘food as medicine’ approach to clinical nutrition practice.
While I consider myself an experienced cook, I never expected to learn a ton from these courses, but a day before that conversation emerged about Eleonora, a conversation with my childhood best friend brought realization that those simple courses cemented several cooking foundations that were otherwise learned haphazardly over time, or not at all.
In that conversation with my friend, which not surprisingly went on as she was cooking dinner and subsequently asking for advice on the right temperature and amount of oil for roasting vegetables, she asked if I’d heard of a popular cookbook, Salt Fat Acid Heat. I explained that I was indeed familiar, but haven’t actually picked up the book. We learned those concepts in cooking lab, I explained.
What I got most from that conversation, however, wasn’t that I’ve picked up some culinary school concepts over time, or that I should give myself a pat on the shoulder, but that the conversation was so normal. Having not had a real conversation in months and going long stretches with much less since my friend’s life work is in ministry and she’s been abroad for most of the last decade, the ebbs and flows and even pauses to wait for another discussion on the other end of the line to begin and end were exactly as they would be between us—at any point in the last twenty and more years we’ve been close friends.
That maybe is a benefit to slowing down a little. We both all of a sudden were available for a conversation that as the years go, grows greater distance between each one.
The other thing, one of the students actually knew the answer to What is Eleonora Cooking?, since they were doing raw food lab last week. Eleonora is making and eating lots of sprouts.You know, just about the healthiest, most nutritious food on the planet.
When I was in her classes, I both loved and feared Eleonora. She has a brusque way about her, a heavy accent, and though you wouldn’t guess it, she was also a former Olympian. I suspect in some sort of track and field or gymnastics discipline, though I never did get that answer.
So in the midst of a global pandemic, my former Olympian-now nutritionist and cooking instructor is teaching the newest round of students about the benefits and how-tos of growing and eating sprouts. And my long-time friend and minister is not doing her work in visiting and being with people, but sewing masks and cooking roasted vegetables. And though many of us are attempting to keep some semblance of normalcy, we’re definitely not in normal times.
Instead of following in Eleonora’s food-steps and providing a guide on sprouts, or the best pot of beans, or the finer details on making gluten-free sourdough, today I offer you Berry Bran Muffins (but yes, I’m otherwise making and eating all three of those nutritious, gut-health and therefore immune boosting foods.)
Muffins are basically my go-to semi-nutritious baked good to make and experiment with, and though I know it’s common practice to eat them at breakfast, I much prefer them as dessert.
Because we all need as much cheer as possible right now, whether it’s in making something warm and delicious in the kitchen, finding funny videos, books, or movies to be entertained by, or in another creative project. I am lucky and grateful enough to still have a semi-normal routine –as much as one can in self-imposed isolation or quarantine or whatever you may call it when the wisest thing to do is to avoid everywhere except the open road or trail or neighborhood walkabout.
And I understand if where you’re located doesn’t quite have all the ingredients for these stocked on the shelf—or you’re not going back to the store for a while. That’s the thing about cooking, baking, and muffins in particular. The adventurous, creative part is in improvising when the way forward is not exactly as the recipe goes.
And yes, that’s a metaphor for life. I encourage you to have faith in yourself and the process.
Berry Bran Muffins, makes 6 standard size muffins If using a store bought gluten-free flour mix, the one I’ve found most similar to mine is the Krusteaz Gluten-Free Flour. If using that or others, it is best to measure by weight, and omit xanthan gum from the recipe if your flour mix contains it. As much as possible, I avoid adding xanthan gum unless I believe a recipe really needs it–and after much testing, this one does because the batter is heavy on flavorful, but juicy berries.
1/2 cup / 50 g oat bran 1/2 cup / 120 mL non-dairy milk 2 Tbs. molasses 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract 1 cup / 120 g gluten-free flour mix 1 tsp. baking powder 1/2 tsp. baking soda 3/4 tsp. xanthan gum 1/8 tsp. salt 1/2 tsp. cinnamon 1/4 tsp. ground cardamom 1/8 tsp. ground ginger 2 Tbs. / 28 g coconut oil 1/4 cup / 50 g sugar 3 Tbs. aquafaba (liquid from cooked or canned garbanzo beans) or 1 egg 1 1/2 tsp. apple cider vinegar 1 cup fresh or frozen berries (choose your berry of choice or use a mix)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F / 180 degrees C., and prepare a standard six-cup muffin pan by wiping with oil and dusting with flour or using paper muffin liners.
Stir the oat bran, milk, molasses, and vanilla together in a small bowl until combined. Then allow to sit for at least 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a smaller bowl, combine the dry ingredients including the flour, soda and baking powder, and spices. Set this bowl aside also.
In a medium mixing bowl, stir and mix together the coconut oil and sugar until it is light and fluffy. This may take 3 to 5 minutes. Then add in the aquafaba or as an alternative, the egg. Mix well.
Now add the flours, bran and milk mixture, and vinegar to the creamed sugar. Mix this just until all the ingredients are incorporated.
Gently fold in the berries. If using frozen, you don’t need to pre-thaw them. Using a large scoop or spoon, divide the batter between the muffin cups. Bake until they become golden and a toothpick in the center comes out with just a few crumbs attached, about 25-30 minutes.
Cool the muffins in the pan for about 5 minutes, then flip onto a wire rack and cool for at least 10 minutes before eating.