Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Fraudulent Food, Or, What I've Been Eating

If you could see me today, and, more importantly, what I've eaten, you might think I've gone bonkers.

For breakfast I had scrambled eggs with some leftover coconut-creamed spinach thrown in. I ate the eggs with toast topped with a hefty smear of avocado and a wee sprinkle of salt. Not so weird. But I used olive oil in the pan instead of butter (shock!).

At snack, things got a little more intense. Cedar and I both had one of my friend Alissa's muffins. I have made a batch (at least) each week since she sent me the recipe over a month ago. They are egg-free, dairy-free, sugar-free and gluten free (awkward silence).

Lunch was just some of this salad with leftover chicken chopped up and thrown on top. But now, now, my friends, not only am I eating a "cookie" made without the usual (and beloved) flour-butter-sugar combination, not only am I enjoying a "cookie" that uses banana to both sweeten and bind, but I am also, Lord have mercy, drinking decaffeinated coffee with cashew "cream," and I swear, apart from the bits of cashew I should have strained out, I can hardly tell the difference. (Say it isn't so!)

I have gone bonkers. I've gone positively nuts. I have not, please note, not recently found I am celiac or anything. I have, however, been experimenting. I found out a year ago that dairy and me weren't the best of friends anymore, and that I'd been relying on it a titch too much for the past fifteen years.

I have also been attempting to eat a lot more reactive hypoglycemic friendly, and that means little or no caffeine, little or no sugar, and a fat, fiber, or protein accompaniment to all my (small) carbohydrate encounters.

Yawn. The point is, I'm a hungry gal and even if I do eat a little homemade pizza from time to time, I still have to fill the cheese/carb void on a daily basis. Usually it has been with things like nuts, seeds, greens, and fat. But I need to not feel utterly deprived. So, after a month of living coffee free, I decided to try the decaf coffee today, both with the cashew cream and with one of Heidi's Carnival Cookies (a fun popcorn-and-peanut take on these) from Super Natural Every Day. And much to my utter shock and approval, I liked both.

Folks, this is how prophets are born. Revelation. Revelation indeed.

So before you run away screaming from all this seeming fraudulent food, I implore you to pause. It is not actually fraudulent after all. I was sadly under this assumption until a month ago, when I took home a little tub of orange-hued spread suspiciously labeled "Smoked Cheddar Cashew Cheese". I had made some in weeks prior, and it was terrible. But I was willing to try it from the professionals. Delicious. It was delicious. Really. It wasn't weird at all. It was not cheese. No. But I get the marketing ploy, and I appreciated their suggestion. (I wouldn't have bought it if it were marketed as an alternative to hummus.) I did use it like cheese. Like, everyday.

And today, my friends, I have a recipe for you. I know, I know, more surprises. It is definitely different, but good-different. Its worth, like most things, a try.

I got the recipe from my friend Alissa, who has been gluten, dairy, and egg free for two years. I emailed her a month or so back to ask how she did it. What did she eat instead? As a former vegetarian, she lived on those foods before her diagnosis. Like I lived on dairy. So, did she have any insight, any advice, any recipes?

That's how I got the muffins. When I first made them I thought I was missing something. Where's the sugar? But I tasted them and they weren't lacking anything. They were just different. It is a new genre of food I call Tasty Nourishment. Not sweet really, but definitely not savory. They're like a piece of toast, like oatmeal, an in between muffin. Tantalizing huh? Ok, so marketing is not my calling.

With no further adieu, I give you Alissa's Muffins. I would barely be able to call these muffins, but since these have been salvific in shape (Cedar thinks they are fantastic, partially because of this book) and nutritive value, I will keep the label. They have the potential to be sorely misunderstood and uniformly overlooked. But they fill that hunger-flavor void without any effort at all.

Aside from nutrition what do they have going for them? They might have a bit of heft, but in a really moist and comforting way. They have a tendency towards sweetness like plain oats do, and with the added spices and dried fruit they tip over to sweetish ever so slightly. And since I've been making them with buckwheat, they have this gorgeous port-like depth I find intoxicating. They also pack well. They last. They bake up quickly. And they are for some reason not intimidating at all to make or tweak or even get out of that unlined muffin tin.

Maybe only one out of a twenty people really need this muffin recipe. But I was one of those. These muffins skip over the wee hurdles I have for daily baked goods. Hallelujah. What's more, they taste good. They are not carnival ride good--where you may be inclined to get back in line and do it four times until it makes you sick. They are slow sun rise good. One time is enough, but no less pleasant.

So if you're into a sunrise, give these a try. I have to say, Alissa, I am so very glad I did.

Alissa's Muffins

As I said, I've tried quite a few flour, nut, and fruit combinations for these muffins. Alissa's original recipe used only gluten free flour mix and blueberries. I used oat flour for a while, but I found the coconut flour kept them more moist and the buckwheat added interest. Play around.

The only forewarning I have for these forgiving muffins is to not be tempted to use those barely ripe bananas you just bought from the store. Maybe everyone else in the world knows this, but they really do need to be fully ripe, hopefully with a strong banana aroma and little brown spots. Or frozen. It makes a difference.

2 very ripe bananas
1/4 cup flax seeds
1/2 cup coconut oil
2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
1 2/3 cups boiling water
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cups buckwheat flour
1/3 cup coconut flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Mash the bananas in a medium-sized bowl. Grind the flax seeds in an electric grain/coffee grinder and pour onto the bananas. Add coconut oil and oats and pour over the hot water. Stir to combine and melt. Let sit ten minutes to soften. Meanwhile, combine dry ingredients in a small bowl.

Add the dry ingredients. Stir until combined. Add raisins. Stir until evenly distributed.

Other additions to try next time:

1/2 to 1 cup dates, frozen berries, or chocolate chips
1 teaspoon vanilla, nutmeg, or cardamom
1 cup roughly chopped walnuts, pecans, or pistachios
zest of 1 lemon or orange

Grease a twelve cup muffin tin with coconut oil. The batter (thick, dough-like batter) should fill the cups. The muffins will not rise much, so don't worry about that. Bake in the preheated oven for about 30 minutes (sometimes more). You want them to be baked enough to ensure an easy removal. I've found they tend to break and stick if I pull them out too soon.

Remove from cups and let sit at least 15 minutes on a cooling rack before diving in. Alissa likes them right out of the oven. I like them best after a day's rest in a sealed container. Either way, enjoy!

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