Eat Happy, Be Healthy!
I love blackberries. Maybe it is because they bring me back to my childhood memories, picking buckets upon buckets along the Skagit River, to make a years supply of blackberry jam. My father always recruited my brother, my mom, and I to help him pick. The more, the better. The following days would be spent making jam, wafting the aroma of blackberries and lemon throughout the house. We always made so much that the surplus became holiday gifts for friends. It was a time when all four of us were together, happy and healthy.
Now in my mid thirties I am reliving this memory. Earlier this week Toren and I went to pick our own bucket full at the abundant neighborhood blackberry bushes down the street. Within a quarter hour, I had picked plenty for a little batch of jam, and extra for snacking. The hot rays of the sun had transformed the little firm green berries into plump, sweet, and juicy bits of dark purple goodness. They were delicious.
Inspired by a glass of good red wine, I got into production mode. How could I make a delicious, unique and healthy jam with these perfectly ripened blackberries? Well, instead of sugar I decided to use dates. They not only sweeten, but also carry along fiber which helps thicken the jam, vitamins and minerals. A generous swig of red wine, and a squeeze of lemon juice also brighten the flavor.
Making homemade jam is great way to preserve these delicious berries and have access to them year round. Blackberries are EVERYWHERE FOR FREE right now, so don't spend your money on bland store bought alternatives. Just make sure to pick berries aways from high traffic zones, and to rinse them thoroughly prior to use. You can even freeze them for later. Plus, you have full control of what you use to sweeten the jam. Besides using it on buttered toast, you can stir some into plain yogurt, into oatmeal, or even add a dollop to vanilla ice cream. I hope you like this lightly sweet jam that tastes of high summer.
Blackberry and Red Wine Jam
Makes Four 8oz mason jars
6 cups rinsed blackberries
12 medjool dates, pitted and soaked with hot water for 10 minutes
1/2 cup red wine (I used cabernet sauvignon)
juice of 1/2 lemon
Put blackberries and red wine into a large saucepan and heat until boiling. Reduce heat to a steady simmer. With a large spoon or fork crush the blackberries against the side of the pot. Stir often and allow the berries to break down completely and the liquid to reduce. This takes about 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, place dates into a food processor, and discard the soaking water. Process until a smooth paste is formed. Add the date paste and lemon juice to the blackberry and wine mixture and stir well. Allow to simmer for about 5 minutes while stirring often. Do not let it burn on the bottom!
Meanwhile bring a large pot with mason jars and a little water to a boil. Place a lid on top to keep steam in. This will sterilize your jars. Pour the hot jam liquid into sterilized jars and top with clean lids. Place on counter top until the lids "pop" inward. They can now be stored safely for later use.
Alternatively, you can transfer the jam into jars random clean jars, allow to cool, top with lid, and then freeze. Either way is fine.
When the weather turns gray and the rain drums lightly on the roof, I want to bake. It just brings a sense of cozy into the home by wafting smells of cinnamon spice throughout the house. Perhaps I am constantly nostalgic for the Fall, but even with the rainy days of late Spring, these muffins do not disappoint. Since I am a mother of a toddler, whatever I bake needs to be quick and cannot dirty too many dishes. If Toren gives me a 30 minute window of self-play, then I am lucky.
So here is what I whipped up this time. APPLE BANANA BREAKFAST MUFFINS!! If you are a fan of apple, banana, and cinnamon, then this recipe is for you! Sweetened only with whole fruit, these muffins are naturally free of refined sugar. They are fluffy yet fiber rich, and an excellent alternative to otherwise sugar laden muffin recipes. I am not a fan of sugar replacements, and encourage the use of fruit, as nature intended, to sweeten recipes. Not only does this practice encourage the consumption of whole foods, it also increases the fiber and polyphenol content. Flaxseeds further boost the fiber content and provide a lot of health benefits including supporting healthy bowel movements, balancing hormones, and reducing inflammation. This little seed may be small, but it is mighty! Plus, the polyphenols in the oats, apple peel, and cinnamon support the growth of bifidobacterium and lactobacillus two groups of good gut bacteria known to support human health in a wide variety of ways.
Although these muffins are gluten free, they are not dairy or egg free. If you want to play around with these additions let me know how it turns out! Also, of importance, when grating the apple make sure to leave the skin on because most of the polyphenols are found directly beneath the skin. Don't let the skin go to waste. I also opted not to use muffin liners, because I feel the muffins rise better when placed directly into an oiled muffin tin. You can easily make a double batch and freeze the leftovers. These muffins taste just as good fresh out of the oven as they do reheated in the microwave or toasted in the toaster. With a pat of butter or nut butter they taste extra yummy too. And yes, my little toddler loves them as much as I do!
Apple Banana Breakfast Muffins
Makes 6 Muffins
1 cup rolled oats
1 medium banana
1 medium apple, grated with skin on
1/4 cup ground flaxseed (also known as flaxseed meal)
1/4 cup whole milk yogurt (I used plain Grace Harbor Farms yogurt)
1 large egg
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Meanwhile add all of the ingredients except the baking powder and baking soda to a high speed blender (I have a BlendTec). Blend until smooth, about 60 seconds or so. I am sure a good quality food processor would work well too. Then sprinkle in the baking powder and baking soda and blend for another 10 seconds, just until incorporated.
Oil six spots of a regular muffin tin with butter or olive oil and transfer the mixture evenly into all spots. Place into oven and bake for 30-35 minutes. Remove from oven and allow the muffins to cool in the muffin tin for 10-15 minutes undisturbed. Then gently remove the muffins and enjoy!
For a balanced breakfast consider pairing these muffins with a protein rich meal such as veggie scrambled eggs.
I would love to know what you think of these little gems! Share your adaptations below, so others can learn from you as well :)
Unfortunately many kiddos struggle with food allergies. This recipe is dedicated to a sweet patient of mine who has multiple food allergies (nuts, soy, egg, wheat, strawberries, and fish) and seems to also have a latex food syndrome. A latex allergy can cause cross reactivity to certain plant proteins, most commonly banana, avocado, and kiwi. However, there are many more plant foods that can trigger a reaction. In my patient’s case it also includes common fruits and vegetables often used in muffin recipes. Typical symptoms include swelling of the lips/face, itchy throat, rashes and hives. So in order to create a little muffin that this kiddo can enjoy on the road or at home, I decided to get busy in the kitchen. I wanted it to keep it as simple as possible with minimal kitchen tools required. I used Neat Egg for this recipe, which I found at my local Fred Meyers for $5, but you can also use a pasture-raised egg if egg allergies are not an issue. I like the Neat Egg because it contains only two ingredients; chia seeds and chickpeas. Other egg replacers often use refined starches and gums. The optional add in’s allow you to modify the recipe to accommodate your child’s preference and/or tolerance. If you add more dried/freeze dried fruit, it adds a little bit more sweetness. If you add chopped nuts, it makes it more nutrient dense and filling. You can also sneak in some greens using a greens powder. It’s up to you and your little one! I often make multiple variations in a single batch by splitting the mixture into two or three and adding the extra fixin's to each separate bowl. Sometimes I just keep it simple and leave the batch plain. Whatever makes your little kiddo happy :)
Servings: about 14 little muffins (or 12 little muffins and 1 regular muffin for mama)
OR about 6 regular muffins
Time: 30-45 minutes (depending on the total baking time)
1 ¼ cup gluten free rolled oats
¼ cup non-dairy milk
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar/lemon juice
1/3 cup maple syrup (see note)
1 Neat Egg (1 tablespoon Neat Egg mixed with 2 tablespoons water)
2 tablespoons olive oil (or any oil/melted butter)
1 tablespoon ground flaxseed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8th teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
Optional Add Ins:
Crushed freeze dried fruit (Trader Joes carries blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries)
Dried fruit (craisins, raisins, dried currants, dried blueberries, dried cherries, etc)
Cinnamon, cocoa powder, etc
Dried coconut flakes
Supergreens powder (no more than 1 tsp)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl mix together the oats, non-dairy milk, and 1 tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice. Stir well and let sit 5 minutes, and then stir vigorously until oats break up and soften. Add the maple syrup, olive oil, ground flaxseed, vanilla extract, and sea salt. Stir vigorously until well combined and resembles more of a "batter". The oats shouldn't resemble whole oats that much anymore. You may need to add 1 tablespoon extra non-dairy milk to make sure the batter is “wet” enough if you are using the Neat Egg or using less maple syrup (see note below). Mix together the baking powder and baking soda in a small bowl and sprinkle small amounts into the batter, while stirring. Continue to gradually incorporate the leaveners evenly. DO NOT ADD THEM IN ALL AT ONCE. Make sure your baking soda is fresh, because old baking soda will not give the rise you are looking for.
Finally, stir in any optional add ins. Place muffin liners into your muffin tin and transfer your mixture. I like to keep half the batch plain. So I transfer half of the mixture into the lined muffin tins. Then I add a handful of crushed freeze dried blueberries from TJ's or whatever else I think would be good and transfer the remaining mixture into the the leftover muffin tins. I only have a 12 muffin tin for small muffins, so I always have enough leftover to fill 1 regular muffin (mom's treat). Bake the small muffins for about 18-20 minutes. For regular muffins bake for 25-30 minutes, or when an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
Remove the muffin from the oven, and allow them to cool in muffin tin for at least 15 minutes if not an hour. Patience is a virtue :)
Toren likes the muffin broken up into small bite sized pieces. For older toddlers, you can give it to them whole. Also, you can easily freeze the muffins, and thaw in the microwave when needed. They taste great on their own, or warmed up and topped with butter, nut/seed butter, cream cheese, or for a fancy birthday, top with a dollop of homemade whipped cream.
Note: I like to use less maple syrup (1/4 cup) when I want to add extra dried/freeze dried fruit because they will add extra sweetness. I use more maple syrup (1/3 cup) when I am not adding in more fruit and instead adding in extra nuts/veggies or when I am keeping it plain. When you are using less maple syrup, then you may need an extra tablespoon of the non-dairy milk to make up the liquid factor.
Nutrition (small muffin): 70kcal, 2.7g fat, 10.5g carbs, 1g fiber, 1.2g protein
Nutrition (regular muffin): 160kcal, 6.4g fat, 24g carbs, 2.4g fiber 2.7g protein
1) You may replace the Neat Egg with 1 regular pasture-raised egg.
2) You can replace the olive oil with any kind of oil, melted butter, etc
3) You can replace the maple syrup with honey, but I suggest using only 1/4 cup as honey is much sweeter than maple syrup.
I hope you enjoy my creative, flavorful, and nutrient dense approach to whole foods cooking. All recipes are gluten free.