Summer Delights: Lemon Raspberry Cake

“I want it to taste like summer….”

I’m sure folks will understand when I say that certain items trigger memories for me. For example, whenever I see marbles at a store, visions of lying on my stomach in the dirt, shooting marbles with friends in the summertime immediately come to mind.  The smell of ginger always makes me think of my mother and all the wonderful gingery Korean foods she cooks. Hearing bells reminds me of the first time I went to a Christmas service at a church.

When it comes to food, I tend to have associations, too. For example, anything with lemons and berries conjures images of summer for me, and recently I wanted to make a cake for dessert which tasted like summer. By that, I meant a dessert which was light in both taste and texture, a cake which wouldn’t weigh heavily in the stomach after eating it on a hot day. A lemony cake with berries was the perfect choice.

I found a cake recipe online but, of course, it needed to be revamped to fit my allergy needs as well as needing to be altered to reduce all the sugar and fat.

The original recipe called for 3 cups of all-purpose flour, 1 tbsp of baking powder, 1 tsp salt, 1 1/4 cup of butter, 2 cups of sugar, 4 eggs, 2 tsp vanilla, 1 cup buttermilk, and 1/3 cup lemon juice. I swapped in a whole grain gluten free flour blend for the flour; reduced the salt by 1/2, adding 1 tsp of lemon peel instead; cut the butter in half and used a vegan butter in its place; reduced the sweetener by 1/2 and substituted 1/2 cup honey and 1/2 cup truvia; used 1/4 egg whites plus 2 eggs instead of the original 4; and made my own “buttermilk” with 1 tbsp of lemon juice mixed with 1 cup of flax milk.

The result was a tasty, lemony cake which I just needed to “dress up”.

Raspberries are a wonderful complement to lemon, so I decided I would use Polaner’s Raspberry All-Fruit in the middle of the cake layers and put fresh raspberries on top. I just needed a frosting. Since I was feeling a bit lazy, as well as not wanting to wait, I didn’t want to take the time to make an ermine frosting which is the lightest frosting I know to make.  So, I opted to create an ermine-like frosting with store-bought items. I used Simple Mills vanilla frosting and mixed it with some tofu cream cheese and lemon juice, and I was delighted to discover that the texture was exactly like ermine frosting.

To complete the cake, I sprinkled chopped, fresh mint from my husband’s garden.  The cake was a hit.

Lemon Raspberry Cake

Cake Batter Ingredients:

3 cups favorite gluten free wholegrain flour blend

1 tbsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp grated lemon peel

1/2 cup vegan butter

1/2 cup truvia

1/2 cup honey

1/4 cup liquid egg white

2 eggs

1 cup flax milk mixed with 1 tbsp lemon juice (to make “buttermilk”)

1/3 cup lemon juice

Frosting Ingredients:

10 oz tub of Simple Mills Frosting

4 oz Toffuti cream cheese

1 tbsp lemon juice

Additions Ingredients:

Polaner Raspberry All Fruit

Fresh raspberries

Fresh mint leaves

Baking Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and line two 9 inch round pans with parchment paper.
  2. Combine together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and lemon peel. Set aside.
  3. In a mixer, beat the vegan butter until smooth, scraping down from the sides as needed.
  4. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the truvia and honey until well blended.
  5. Add the egg whites and eggs, one at a time, until well blended.
  6. Alternate adding and mixing the flour mixture and buttermilk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture.
  7. Blend in the lemon juice.
  8. Divide the batter evenly between the two prepared pans, and bake for 20 to 25 minutes until the cakes are puffed and golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  9. Let the cake layers cool in the pan on wire cooling racks.
  10. Make the frosting by mixing together the tub of frosting with the cream cheese and lemon juice until the frosting is light and airy.
  11. When the cake layers are cool enough, place one layer on your cake plate and frost it with a layer of the frosting.
  12. Using a spoon, drop small spoonfuls of the raspberry all fruit and carefully spread it over the frosting.
  13. Place the second cake layer on top of the all fruit layer, and use the remaining frosting to completely cover the sides and top of the cake.
  14. Arrange fresh raspberries on top of the cake, and chop and sprinkle the fresh mint leaves around the raspberries.
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Healthy Habits: Make Your Own Pizzas

Crusts from cauliflower?

I don’t know how many folks have eaten artichokes, but growing up in Korea and Japan, artichokes were not a food I had known even existed until my in-laws served it to me when I was dating my husband. The idea of using one’s teeth to scrape off tiny bits from the leaves and working your way down to the small “heart” in the center was strange to me. But then, to my husband, being served sauteed octopus for dinner by his future in-laws was a bit disturbing, to say the least.

Because we grow up in different parts of the world where certain foods are prevalent or because our family ethnicity favors specific types of food, often the variety of foods we choose to eat are limited. In this day and age, though, where food is shipped from everywhere and where companies are creating almost anything they can imagine, we can expand our food options in ways we could not before.

For folks with food allergies, this is a great thing, and an item I have come to appreciate recently is the cauliflower crust for pizzas. In the beginning, most contained cheese which was sad for someone with dairy allergies, but now companies are making them without the cheese, so folks who have gluten, dairy, and nut allergies are able to partake.

This has opened up wonderful possibilities for homemade pizza making. While companies are making gluten free pizza crusts, most of them are made with rice flour which has no nutritional value. The cauliflower crusts offer some value, and they are tasty if you prefer a thinner, crispier crust for your pizzas. By making pizza homemade, you control how healthy the pizza is. You can eliminate items like sugar (which is often in the sauces), reduce sodium and fat (which are often in the toppings), and increase the nutrients by adding vegetables other than just peppers and broccoli (which are the usual offerings from delivery places).

Here are some ideas if you want to make homemade pizzas:

The Crust:

  1. You can buy both regular and gluten free pizza crust in box versions where you add the necessary ingredients and make the crust yourself.
  2. You can go to the cold section of your grocery store and by pre-made regular and gluten free pizza dough which you just spread onto your pan.
  3. You can purchase already made, formed, partially cooked regular and gluten free pizza crusts. These usually are in the pasta-sauce-pizza sections of the grocery store and come wrapped in plastic. You just open the package and put the crust on your pan.
  4. You can find frozen regular and gluten free crusts in the freezer section of your grocery store. This is where I get the cauliflower crusts which I prefer to use.

Sauces:

  1. Traditionally folks use a pizza sauce made from tomatoes. You can find many on the market. Choose ones which have no sugar and are made with olive oil. You don’t necessarily need to use “pizza” sauce, though. You can use a marinara or spaghetti sauce which you like as well. I like Victoria’s brand which is made just with tomatoes, garlic, onions, olive oil, and herbs. You just spread the amount you prefer on the crust. You can also make your own by cooking down tomatoes with herbs until the sauce is nice and thick.
  2. If you prefer a white sauce, you can make your own in a couple of different ways: One is to heat over medium/low heat a tbsp of olive oil in a pan with garlic, onion and your favorite dried herbs. Then add two tbsp of a gluten free flour like oat or sorghum flour to the oil and stir until completely mixed. Add one cup of a favorite dairy free milk like oat or flax milk and cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture has thickened.  Add fresh, chopped herbs of your choosing and spread it over the pizza crust. A second way is to cook over medium/low heat a cup of coconut cream in a pan with garlic, onions and dried herbs of your choosing, simmering until the cream thickens, and then adding a couple of tsp of nutritional yeast and fresh, chopped herbs before spreading it over your crust.
  3. If you prefer a non-saucy alternative for your pizza, you can simply slice ripe tomatoes, drain the juice in a colander, and then layer the tomato slices over the pizza crust. As well, if you have no nut allergies, you can consider putting a cashew nut cheese spread over the crust.

Topping Ideas:

  1. One type of pizza we like is to saute mushrooms, spinach, and butternut squash, diced into small pieces, with garlic, onions and herbs spread them onto the pizza.
  2. Another option is to saute diced zucchini with garlic, onions, and herbs, and mix it with diced pieces of a favorite turkey or vegan sausage and sprinkling them onto the pizza.
  3. A third way we like to eat our pizza is to saute broccoli, cut into small pieces, with garlic, onions and herbs, and mix it with small, leftover pieces of cooked chicken and spreading that onto the pizza.
  4. A fourth suggestion is simply using whatever vegetables and meats you have in the fridge and coming up with your own combinations.

For the “Cheese”:

  1. If you don’t have a dairy allergy, then using any combinations of mozzarella, ricotta, parmesan, or romano cheeses works.
  2. For folks with dairy allergies, one option is to use dairy free cheeses like Daiya mozzarella. I find that flavoring the vegan cheeses with garlic, herbs and onions goes a long way to intensifying the taste, and I will add a tsp of olive oil and a couple of tsp of nutritional yeast to help the cheese melt better.
  3. Another option is to just dust the toppings with a vegan parmesan like Follow Your Heart parmesan.
  4. If you don’t want “cheese” altogether, you can drizzle the toppings with a glaze like a balsamic vinegar reduction where you simmer 1/4 to 1/2 cup of balsamic vinegar until its reduced and thickened.
  5. You can also simply cover the toppings with freshly chopped herbs like basil or mint.

Cooking:

  1. For the best results you should always cook pizzas at a high heat. I use 500 degrees, but if you’re not comfortable with that, don’t go lower than 425.
  2. If you are using any type of pizza dough, you should oil the pan and sprinkle it with cornmeal or flour so it won’t stick. You should also cook the dough just as it is first until it’s almost done.  At 500 degrees, that’s just five to ten minutes. Then you add the sauce, toppings, and cheese and finish cooking the dough for another five minutes until the cheese is melted or the toppings are heated through.
  3. If you are using a pre-made crust, whether from the aisle or frozen section, you add the sauce, toppings, and “cheese” options and then cook the pizza for about ten minutes (if cooking at 500 degrees). Pre-made crusts usually don’t need you to do anything to the pan like oiling because they’re already mostly cooked and won’t stick.

Recipe Revamping: Coffee Cake Muffins

“Be prepared….”

Being of a certain age and generation, I always had a bag in the car which contained a blanket, a flashlight with extra batteries, water, and extra socks, and I had been taught by my dad how to change a flat tire. Now, with the prevalence of cell phones, folks believe they are just a phone call away from help. That is, until we read the news story like the one about the couple who broke down in the middle of a snowstorm with stalled cell coverage and died from exposure.

So, being a bit OCD, I tend to err on the side of preparation rather than not, when I am travelling, and I acted no differently when I recently attended a college reunion. My husband chuckled at one of my bags. It was a large bag of allergy friendly snack items, filled completely to the top. “You do know they’re feeding you, right?” he said.

“Yes,” but I don’t know if I will be able to eat any of it,” I replied.

As it turned out, I was able to eat, but as expected, my choices were limited. One buffet of a dozen items had three side dishes which I could eat but no main entree, and at another meal, even the salad had cheese, nuts and croutons already on it, though this time I had a nicely grilled piece of chicken to make up for the missing entree the night before.

Though I didn’t need all that I had packed to eat, my daughter and I did gratefully dig into the dairy, nut, and wheat free package of double chocolate cookies I had thought to throw into the bag and which called to us after we spent two meals watching others eat decadent desserts which would kill us.

So, when I had to attend a brunch this past week, I thought it best to go ahead and bring something to contribute to the food options. I wanted to make muffins because they’d go with anything else that was offered but I wanted something “breakfasty”. In my search I discovered coffee cake muffins, but of course, the recipes were not allergy friendly and had more butter and sugar than I cared to use.

The original recipe for just a dozen muffins called for 1 1/2 cup all purpose flour, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/4 cup white sugar, 2 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp baking soda, 1/2 tsp salt, 3/4 cup milk, 1/3 cup melted butter, and 2 eggs for the batter. Then it called for 1/3 cup white sugar, 1/3 cup brown sugar, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 cup butter, and 1 1/2 cup all purpose flour for the streusel, as well as 1/4 cup powdered sugar with 1/2 tsp vanilla and 1 tsp of milk for a drizzle.

The first thing I decided was that all that sugar and butter had to be dealt with. I switched the melted butter in the batter to extra light olive oil, and I decided to omit sugar altogether from the batter. For the milk, I used a gluten free oat milk, and for the flour, I chose a whole grain gluten free blend. I omitted the salt and added nutmeg to complement the cinnamon. For the streusel, I reduced the sweetener to 1/2 cup and used coconut sugar instead, and I cut the butter to 1/4 cup, using a vegan soy free butter in its place. I omitted the salt from the streusel, too, adding in nutmeg to the streusel as well, and I used a gluten free oat flour for the flour to add protein and fiber, reducing the amount to 1 cup. The drizzle, I omitted altogether.

Since I have no issues with eggs, I didn’t make any substitutions but folks can always use all egg whites or flaxseed mixed with water or aquafaba or egg replacer, if need be. Also, because I switched to gluten free flour, I increased the baking soda by 1/4 tsp to help the batter rise.

Because I knew the batter wouldn’t be sweet, I poured half the batter into the muffin tins and layered a streusel topping in the middle of the muffin as well as on top. The result was a tasty, healthier version, which the folks at the brunch enjoyed as much as my family.

Coffee Cake Muffins

Ingredients:

Batter:

1 1/2 cups whole grain gluten free flour blend of choice

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp nutmeg

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

3/4 cup favorite plant based milk (I used a gluten free oat milk)

1/3 cup extra light olive oil

2 eggs

Streusel:

1/2 cup coconut sugar

1 cup gluten free oat flour

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp nutmeg

1/4 cup vegan soy free butter

Baking Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and line a muffin tin with 12 cupcake liners.
  2. Mix together the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking powder and baking soda for the batter. Set aside.
  3. Whisk together the “milk”, oil, and eggs. Add to the dry ingredients and blend well until smooth. Let it sit while you make the streusel.
  4. Mix together the coconut sugar, oat flour, cinnamon and nutmeg. Using clean hands, mix in the vegan butter until you have large crumbs and no leftover dry ingredients.
  5. Divide half the batter among the 12 muffin cups. Sprinkle the batter with half of the streusel topping.
  6. Top off the muffin cups with the rest of the batter, and sprinkle the remaining streusel topping on all the muffins.
  7. Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes. The muffins will have puffed, be golden and a toothpick inserted in the center will come out clean.
  8. Let the muffins cool for at least a few moments before digging in.

 

Recipe Revamping: Lemon Berry Tart

“It’s for Mothers’ Day….”

I confess: I’m not fond of Mothers’ Day. Not because I don’t believe mothers should be appreciated, but because the way it’s celebrated in the U.S., Mothers’ Day seems to be about getting my children to take me out to a restaurant where I can’t eat the food, buy me flowers and chocolate which I’m allergic to, and/or make one more thing for me in school for me to find someplace to put and then dust for years to come.

It’s true that it’s nice to receive a card in which each of my children have written in their own hand how much they appreciate me, but even that, I also confess, is a bit tainted because I’ve caught them too many times hastily writing the script the morning of Mothers’ Day on a card which one of them quickly made because they forgot to do anything ahead of time.

To be completely honest, the best gift I could receive on Mothers’ Day is that the family would resolve to clean up after themselves the other 364 days of the year.

Since that’s not likely to happen any time soon, though, instead, I’ve made Mothers’ Day a time when the family has to what I’d like, whether they like it or not. So, one year I dragged them to an art museum. Another time, we saw a “mama” movie. This year, I decided it would about food I enjoy, so I spent the day making a number of items the family doesn’t consider a “favorite” – foods like grilled eggplant and roasted asparagus and baked tofu in white wine sauce.

Since I spend the other 364 days of the year catering to the family’s food tastes, I figure the Mothers’ Day meal can be about me for a change. So, for dessert, I made a lemon berry tart instead of what the children wanted, which was cake, which frankly I’m quite tired of eating. I wanted something that tasted like Spring.

Most of the recipes I found, though, seemed to use a lot of sugar and heavy cream, and of course, the tart crust was all white flour with lots of butter. So, I did a little bit of revamping. Instead of white flour, I mixed gluten free oat flour with whole rolled oats, added orange peel and nutmeg, and used just a bit of honey and vegan butter for a nice whole grain, protein filled crust. Then for the filling, I combined some tofu cream cheese with freshly squeezed lemon juice and again, a bit of honey. I arranged fresh berries in a pretty arrangement and topped it with sliced mint leaves.

It is everything I could wish for Mothers’ Day this year.

Lemon Berry Tart

Ingredients:

1 cup gluten free whole rolled oats

1 cup gluten free oat flour

1 tsp dried orange peel

1 tsp nutmeg

4 tbsp vegan butter

1/4 cup honey

one 8 oz tofu cream cheese

2 tbsp honey

2 tbsp freshly squeezed Meyer lemon juice

blueberries

raspberries

blackberries

mint leaves, thinly sliced

1 tbsp Polaner Raspberry All-Fruit

Cooking Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 or 9.5 inch pie pan with your preferred method.
  2. In a food processor, combine the oats, oat flour, orange peel and nutmeg and zoop until crumbly.
  3. Add the vegan butter and zoop until well combined.
  4. Add the honey and zoop until a small dough ball forms.
  5. Using your clean hands, shape the dough to match the shape of the pie pan.
  6. Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes. Then remove the crust and let it cool completely.
  7. In a mixer, whip the tofu cream cheese until it is smooth.
  8. Add the honey and lemon juice and mix until everything is well combined.
  9. Spread the filling into the prepared crust and top with the berries.
  10. Sprinkle the top with the sliced mint leaves.
  11. Melt the Polaner All Fruit and drizzle over the leaves and berries.
  12. Refrigerate the tart until you are ready to eat it.

 

Healthy Habits: Easy Allergy Friendly Company Meal

Help….

This past weekend, my family traveled to New Jersey to celebrate my niece’s First Communion. The reception afterwards was at a beautiful, well-reputed restaurant where my brother had rented a room, complete with a buffet of assorted options from seafood, beef, and chicken to pasta and rice to salads and roasted vegetables. Of the ten items to choose from, I could eat three. The rest were all cooked in butter.

Fortunately, my brother had arranged for a special plate to be made for me, but it can be sad to be the odd person out, watching folks enjoy food you can’t have. This experience was fresh in my mind when a friend called to ask if there was something quick and easy she could make that would also be a “nice, company meal” because she was hosting a dinner where one person had severe food allergies. No wheat, eggs, dairy, nut, soy, or citrus foods could be served.

I applauded her desire to make something which everyone could eat and immediately thought of one of my go-to meals, chicken and vegetables. This may seem like a ho-hum meal to serve company, but if you roast whole carrots with sliced zucchini and bake tender, seasoned chicken breasts and serve both with a beet sauce, the experience becomes more than ho-hum, and if you look at the pictures, the food looks pretty, too, which enhances the appetite.

What’s even better, is that the entire meal takes only about 45 minutes from beginning to end to make, which gives you plenty of time to hang with your guests. While the veggies roast, you work on the chicken, and while the chicken cooks, you work on the sauce.

Company Baked Chicken Breasts and Roasted Vegetables

Ingredients:

2 lb bag of whole carrots, peeled (normal size, not crazy, huge ones)

Zucchini, sliced lengthwise into quarters, about size to eight medium-sized ones

6 chicken breasts, 4 ounces each (palm size portion, not crazy, hormone-induced size)

olive oil

onion powder

garlic powder

oregano

thyme

tarragon

red pepper flakes

black pepper

1 1/2 cups cooked beets (I buy precooked, ready to go ones in the vegetable section)

1 cup unsalted, no sugar chicken bone broth (I find this at my local grocery store)

1 tsp minced garlic

2 tbsp chopped onion

1/4 tsp ground cumin

1/4 tsp ground ginger

Cooking Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.
  2. Lightly coat the carrots with olive oil and place into a large oven proof pan which will hold the carrots in a single layer with space left for the zucchini to be added.
  3. Roast for 10-15 minutes, depending on the thickness of the carrots.
  4. Remove the pan, stir the carrots, lightly coat the zucchini quarters in olive oil, and add them to the pan.
  5. Roast for 5 minutes, remove the pan and stir, adding onion powder, garlic powder, oregano, thyme, tarragon, red pepper flakes and black pepper – all to your liking.
  6. Roast for another 5 minutes and arrange the vegetables on an oven safe, serving platter, and set aside. Turn the heat down to 450 degrees.
  7. While the vegetables are roasting in the oven, line a 9 x 13 pan with parchment paper and lightly brush olive oil on both sides of the chicken breasts. Sprinkle both sides of the chicken breasts with the onion powder, garlic powder, oregano, thyme, tarragon, red pepper flakes and black pepper – to your taste and liking.
  8. Cover the chicken breasts with another piece of parchment paper, tucking the ends in around the chicken into the pan.
  9. Bake the chicken for 15 minutes.
  10. Remove the chicken from the oven and let it sit, exactly as it is with the parchment covering it, and turn down the heat to 300 degrees. Let the chicken sit for 10 minutes to reabsorb its juices.
  11. Put the veggies which have been transferred to an oven safe serving platter into the oven to finish cooking while the chicken sits for the 10 minutes.
  12. While the chicken breasts are resting and the veggies are finishing, put the cooked beets into a blender with the bone broth, garlic, onions, cumin and ginger, and puree until completely smooth.
  13. Pour the sauce into a microwave safe, serving pitcher, and microwave for a minute at a time until the sauce is warm.
  14. After the 10 minute resting time, remove the parchment paper from the chicken, remove the veggie platter from the oven, and serve both with the warmed beet sauce.

 

 

 

Healthy Habits: Broccoli Muffins

“He won’t eat vegetables….”

A friend with a young son who is a picky eater reached out to me a few weeks ago. I was in the midst of the busiest time of my drama season but I wanted to help her anyway. Her son’s pediatrician had said she needed to get more green vegetables into his diet, but he refused to eat vegetables. Since he has had food allergies for most of his young life, he has adapted to being picky about what he eats.

As I mentioned, I was in a rather busy time of life so trying to figure out a recipe he would eat was not high on my ideal list of using my time, so I decided that I’d consider a muffin recipe to make. One, muffins are quick and easy. Two, we could eat them with most anything as I was experimenting. Three, children like muffins, and adults can hide most anything in a muffin.

In the end I worked out a savory broccoli muffin which my family really liked and which my friend’s son ended up liking, too. He apparently never even realized it had broccoli in it! So, I share it here for you to try for yourself.

Broccoli Muffins

Ingredients:

2 cups whole grain gluten free flour blend

2 1/2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp dried oregano

1/2 tsp dried basil

1/4 tsp black pepper

1/4 tsp ground onion powder

1/4 tsp ground thyme powder

1 cup chopped broccoli florets

2 slices vegan cheese (I used Chao cheddar)

1 cup liquid egg whites

1 cup unsweetened oat milk

1/2 cup extra light olive oil

Baking Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin tin with 12 cupcake liners.
  2. Combine the flour, baking powder, oregano, basil, pepper, ground onion, and ground thyme, and set aside.
  3. In a food processor, pulse the broccoli florets with the vegan cheese slices into you have well blended small pieces.
  4. Mix the broccoli and cheese mixture into the dry ingredients.
  5. Add to the dry ingredients the egg whites, oat milk, and olive oil, and mix quickly, just until the dry ingredients are incorporated into the wet and well blended.
  6. Divide the batter among the muffin tins and bake for 15 to 20 minutes until puffed, golden, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

 

Cake Mix Revamping: Citrus Ginger Chip Cupcakes

“I knew you had food allergies….”

A very kind woman whom I had only recently met brought me a hostess gift which was a basket of Bob’s Red Mill gluten free cake mixes. It was lovely of her to be considerate of my allergies, and I appreciated her thoughtfulness.

Now for true confessions: I hold a prejudice against a majority of cake mixes. They have too much sugar, use the the worst type of flour with no protein or fiber, and usually are not very tasty, in my opinion. I will admit that some of that is changing. I have seen whole grain cake mixes on the market, as well as mixes claiming to have less sugar. I will also concede that using a cake mix when you are rushed for time will shave off five to ten minutes of prep time, and the convenience of that can be worthwhile to folks.

I decided to make the best of the situation, because as strong as my prejudice is, stronger still are my feelings about wasting anything. My family will tell you that I will turn leftovers into new meal after meal until every morsel is gone, rather than throw food out.

So, I assessed the Bob’s Red Mill Vanilla Yellow Cake mix to see what I could do. I could not change the sugar content or the lack of fiber and protein, but I could make sure not to add any more sugars than needed. I decided, therefore, to make cupcakes with no frosting, but I would need to jazz up the flavor if there was not going to be frosting. To do so, I zooped uncrystallized candied ginger with Enjoy Life chocolate chunks and mixed that in with the cake mix, along with some orange zest. While the candied ginger and chocolate chunks still had sugar, it would be much less than using frosting.

Once I figured out the flavors, I needed to think about the ingredients I needed to add to the mix. The recipe called for 3 eggs. I opted to use 1/2 cup of egg whites with one whole egg. It also called for melted butter or vegetable oil. I chose to substitute extra light olive oil.

When the cupcakes were done and cooled, I have to say I was not unduly upset with the result. It was still a cake mix batter with too much sugar and no protein or fiber, but it was tastier, and I had added a good fat and reduced some of the bad fat and calories. Also, as my husband is quick to point out, indulging in something not as good for you every once in a while usually will not hurt you.

Citrus Ginger Chip Cupcakes

Ingredients:

1/2 cup uncrystallized candied ginger

1 cup Enjoy Life chocolate chunks

Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Vanilla Yellow Cake mix

2 tsp dried grated orange peel

1/2 cup egg whites

1 egg

1/2 cup extra light olive oil

1/2 cup water

Baking Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and line 18 muffin cups with cupcake liners.
  2. In a food processor, zoop the candied ginger and the chocolate chunks several minutes into very small pieces.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, mix together the cake mix and the ginger/chocolate pieces, adding the dried orange peel.
  4. Add the egg whites, egg, oil, and water, and using a mixer, blend slowly at first until all the ingredients are incorporated. Then on a higher speed, mix the batter for a minute or so until it’s thick and well mixed.
  5. Divide the batter evenly among the 18 muffin cups.
  6. Bake in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes until the cupcakes are puffed, firm to the touch, and/or a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. (When I baked them, it took 22 minutes.)
  7. Cool in the tins for about five minutes. Then remove them to a wire cooling rack to completely cool.
  8. Enjoy!