Healthy Habits: Orange Cranberry Muffins and Pancakes

“Of course you’re sick….”

It never fails. A day or two into our holiday break, one of the children or my husband starts sniffling and coughing. Then one by one, they all fall victim and within three to five days all four are sick. The same thing happens during the February winter break. The adrenaline which keeps their immune system pumping through the semesters seems to slow down, and their bodies’ immune systems drop their defenses. Fortunately, over the years, my body appears to have become immune to their sicknesses so 98% of the time now, I’m healthy as I nurse them as opposed to the earlier years where I was sick as a dog, too, but had to be the mom who took care of everyone else!

While everyone is sick, I’m always trying to find ways to get more good nutrients like vitamin C into them. One of the ways they prefer is when I make foods which have ingredients high in vitamins and minerals. Oranges and cranberries are both good for the immune system so I’ve created muffin and pancake recipes which the family likes to eat.

To help boost the “good” in the muffins and pancakes I use high fiber, high protein flours and add both orange juice and cranberries. I freeze fresh whole cranberries in the freezer in two cup bags which I can just pull out when I need them, and I keep unsweetened frozen orange juice concentrate in the freezer as well. For both recipes, I use the frozen cranberries and orange juice concentrate as is without any thawing.

Enjoy!

Orange Cranberry Pankcakes

(These make a lot: enough for a family of five with leftovers for the school week

so if you don’t want that many make half the recipe instead.)

Ingredients:

4 cups milk of choice (cow, soy, flax, etc…)

1/4 cup lemon juice

1/3 cup vegan soy free butter

1 tbsp safflower oil (or canola or grapeseed or sunflower or other type you prefer)

2 cups cranberries (fresh or frozen, not dried)

1/2 cup unsweetened orange juice concentrate (frozen is fine)

1/2 cup Agave

2 eggs (or 2 tbsp ground flaxseed mixed with 6 tbsp water or 1/2 cup aquafaba*)

4 cups of your favorite high fiber, high protein gluten free flour blend **

1 tsp salt

5 tsp baking powder

Cooking Instructions:

  1. Preheat a pancake griddle to 350 and grease with preferred method. If using a pan, don’t warm the pan until you’re ready to cook the pancakes and cook the pancakes on medium heat.
  2. Mix the milk with the lemon juice and set aside.
  3. Melt the butter in a microwave for a few seconds and mix it with the oil. Set aside.
  4. In a food processor, chop up the cranberries with the orange juice concentrate and agave. Stir in the milk and the butter with the two eggs. Set aside.
  5. Mix the flour with the salt and baking powder.
  6. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix just until everything is moistened and the batter begins to bubble a bit.
  7. Use a 1/4 cup to pour batter onto the prepared griddle. When the pancake edges are dry and the pancake batter begins to pop little bubbles, turn them over and cook a minute on the other side to complete the pancake.
  8. If making a lot of pancakes to store for the week, put them in single layers on a cooling rack to cool completely before putting them into the fridge. To keep warm for eating, put the pancakes on an oven proof plate in the oven on the lowest temperature setting.

Notes: *Aquafaba is the liquid from a can of chickpeas. To substitute for eggs, use 1/4 cup per egg and whisk until frothy (foamy but still clear and not white like a meringue.)

** See Food FAQs under Ingredients to see some recipes for GF blends https://pajamaliving.com/flour/

Orange Cranberry Muffins

Ingredients:

2 cups cranberries (fresh or frozen, not dried)

1/2 cup unsweetened orange juice concentrate (frozen is fine)

1/2 cup Agave

1 cup milk of choice (cow, soy, flax, etc….)

1/2 cup sorghum flour

1/2 cup quinoa flour

1 cup tapioca starch

1 cup potato starch

1 tbsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp cloves

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp xanthan gum

1/2 cup vegan soy free butter

1/2 cup Agave

2 eggs

Baking Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 24 cupcake liners in muffin tins or grease the muffin tins with your preferred method.
  2. In a food processor, chop up the cranberries with the orange juice concentrate and agave. Stir in the milk and set aside.
  3. Mix together the sorghum flour, quinoa flour, tapioca starch, potato starch, baking powder, salt, cloves, cinnamon and xanthan gum. Set aside.
  4. Cream the vegan butter with mixer. Scrape down the sides. Slowly add the agave, mixing on low until the butter is creamy.
  5. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing the first in well before adding the second.
  6. Scrape down the sides and add the dry ingredients alternately with the cranberry milk mixture, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients, scraping down the side as needed.
  7. Fill the cupcake liners evenly with the batter (will be about 3/4 full).
  8. Bake for 15 minutes until cupcakes are puffed, golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  9. Cool muffins on a wire cooling rack.

Holiday Happenings: Cranberry Sauce

bags-of-cranberries

“Apparently cranberry sauce is underappreciated….”

My husband came home the other day and told me about a news story on the radio. The topic was cranberry sauce and how it was not as appreciated as other foods eaten during the Thanksgiving meal. This, of course, spurred discussion among our family about our own cranberry preferences. My son will only eat jellied cranberry sauce with no chunks. My oldest, my husband and I love cranberry sauce in any form. My other daughter won’t eat it, no matter the texture.

Cranberries, however, are very good for your health, containing antioxidants, fiber, and many nutrients needed by the body. What I find, though, is that because they have such a tart flavor, folks use way too much sugar when cooking with them. So, I like to make my own cranberry sauce instead of purchasing it from the store.

When I tell folks that I make cranberry sauce, they always seemed to be surprised, which I find surprising since cranberry sauce is the easiest food to make. You simply put cranberries into a pot with water and sweetener and let it cook down. The entire process takes about 10-15 minutes, at the most.

Where the creativity comes in is deciding what type of cranberry sauce you’d like for Thanksgiving. You can add other fruits to the cranberries like pears or apples or tangerines or oranges or apricots or cherries to add a contrasting fruity flavor to the cranberries. You can add red wine or port or bourban if you’d like a more complex flavor. You can add ginger or maple or anise or jalapeno if you’re looking to try something a little different this year. You can use water, orange juice, apple cider or any other liquid you can imagine to change the flavor. You can add nuts or dried fruits to add crunch and texture. You can even change up the texture of the sauce, making it chunky, relish-style or jellied.

And after Thanksgiving the cranberry sauce can be “recycled” in many ways. Swirl it into your favorite cheesecake recipe. Add the sauce as a fixing for your favorite sandwich. Mix it into a muffin recipe. Top pancakes or waffles with it. Combine it with another fruit to make the filling for a pie. Stir it into your breakfast oatmeal. Use it as a spread for a slice of quick bread like banana or zucchini. Combine it with cream cheese for a dip. Top vanilla ice cream with it. The ideas are endless.

A food as versatile as cranberry sauce is truly just begging for you to experiment this year. And what’s great is that unless you’re allergic to cranberries, people with food allergies can eat it!

Some tips:

  1. The cranberries: It doesn’t matter whether you use fresh or frozen cranberries. The general rule of thumb is that about 12 ounces of cranberries requires about 1 cup of liquid.
  2. The sweetener: For most recipes, for 12 ounces of cranberries, they’ll call for 1 cup of sugar. I’d suggest you cut that in half and save your health or use 1/4 cup Agave or 1/2 cup of coconut sugar or 1/3 cup truvia.
  3. The add-ins: Decide what type of cranberry sauce you’d like to make and add the ingredients in with the cranberries so that they all cook together and the flavors meld.
  4. Traditional Style: To make traditional cranberry sauce, simply put all your ingredients into a pot, bring the liquid to a boil, let it simmer for about 5-10 minutes until the cranberries pop and are the texture you’d like, remove from the heat, let it cool, and then refrigerate until you’re ready to use it.
  5. Relish Style: Simply use your food processor to chop up the cranberries, sweetener and additions and refrigerate. You should decrease the liquid, though, and only add just enough to moisten the relish.
  6. Jellied Style: Prepare the sauce as you would for the traditional but then push everything through a strainer, mashing the ingredients as much as you can to get as much as you can into the sauce and then refrigerate what you’ve pushed through the strainer.

 

With Gratitude: Thanksgiving Muffins

“Only two weeks to Thanksgiving and then it’s Advent!”

My son ran into the kitchen today to announce that my time to pretend the holidays were not approaching was at an end. I could ignore his heralding at six months, three months, and even one month… but two weeks! Whether I was ready or not, it was time to begin thinking.

The fact is that when you have multiple food allergies, thinking about holiday meals can be something you’d like to put off if you can, because thinking about them means figuring out exactly which and how many dishes you’ll be making simply to ensure that you have food to eat.

If you’re new to the blog, you can search by category for “holidays” and find posts I’ve previously submitted about allergy friendly holiday cooking — everything from how to minimize stress to how to revamp pies, cakes, entrees and side dishes.

This week, however, a young mom wrote asking me about ideas for a Thanksgiving muffin. Her father-in-law cannot have eggs, dairy and wheat, so she thought muffins might be easier to make than rolls. She wanted the muffins to be “Thanksgiving-ish”, though, and I had just the recipe for her.

Thanksgiving Muffins. When I think about Thanksgiving, pumpkins, squash, apples, and cranberries always come to mind. So I have a recipe that you can make just about any way you want, varying the type of cranberries you choose, your choice of pumpkin, winter squash or even a homemade applesauce in place of pumpkin, and even the spices you decide to include. And the bonus is that they’re gluten, dairy, egg, soy, and nut free, too.

Thanksgiving Muffins

Ingredients:

4 tbsp ground golden flaxseed

12 tbsp water

2 cups pureed cooked pumpkin or winter squash (butternut, acorn, etc…) or apples

2/3 cup safflower oil

3/4 cup Agave

1 1/2 cup fresh cranberries, dried cranberries, or cooked cranberries (My kids like the cooked cranberries best because they’re softer and I usually cook them with a bit of agave to make them sweeter, but you can also use fresh cranberries if you want a tart/sweet flavor contrast to the muffins or dried cranberries if you want the muffins to have some chewiness and little more sweetness)

3 1/2 cup gluten free flour blend (I usually use a homemade mixture of sorghum, garbanzo bean, and oat flour with arrowroot starch but I’ve used Bob’s Red Mill and King Arthur and Authentic Foods)

2 1/2 tsp spices (any combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cardamom, allspice and/or cloves are good)

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup boiling water

2 tbsp vinegar (I like to use apple cider vinegar but a white vinegar is fine, too)

Baking Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and fill 24 muffin cups with cupcake liners. (The orange, red-flecked muffins look pretty in a white liner if you put the muffins in a bowl to put on the table for the Thanksgiving meal.)
  2. Combine the flaxseed with the water and let sit for five minutes.
  3. In a large bowl mix together the cooked pureed pumpkin or squash or apples with the oil, agave and flaxseed mixture. Set aside.
  4. In a food processor chop the cranberries, no matter what type you’re using, because this will distribute them more evenly throughout the muffin. Add to the wet mixtures.
  5. In another bowl mix the flour, spices, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.
  6. Add the dry ingredients to the wet, along with the water and vinegar. Mix until all the dry ingredients are moistened.
  7. Evenly distribute the batter among the 24 muffin cups. They will be filled almost to the top.
  8. Bake in preheated oven for 15 to 20 minutes. Muffins will be puffed and golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center will come out clean.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Simple Pleasures: Cranberry Scones

website scones

“May your troubles last as long as your New Year’s resolutions.”

When my husband and I married, one of my two newly minted degrees was in Psychology, and having gotten married in late December, our first New Year’s celebration came upon us pretty quickly. Being a wise 22, I decided we could do resolutions “better”. So, I made up a three page chart which would assess how our year had been physically, emotionally, mentally, psychologically, and spiritually, stating that we’d then make goals under these categories for our new year, both individually and for us as a newly married couple.

It’s a testament to my husband’s sainthood that he humored my insanity, not only that evening, but over the course of the year as I continued to drag out the bedraggled sheets to assess how we were doing.

When our second New Year’s came around, my husband very gently asked me whether we should assess the successfulness of my better resolution experiment before we embarked on another year of it; and of course, what we discovered is that we hadn’t done any better with our resolutions than we had any other time in our lives.

What it had done, though, was to make us more conscious of the fact that a better life is all about those daily decisions, not the one time a year ones; and for those of us trying to be healthy and take care of our allergies and be in better shape and wanting to love better, it’s what we do each day that makes the difference, not what we simply say we want to do on January 1.

So, for today’s post, I’m sharing another simple pleasure recipe for scones. In the past, I wouldn’t make scones because normal versions use a lot of butter and cream, and they took too much time and required more effort than I liked to expend. Over time, though, I realized that there were ways to make them healthier and that I could make drop scones instead which took much less time and effort. These cranberry ones don’t take much time to make, and you get lots of good health benefits from the cranberries, protein and fiber, which is one way you can improve your health today on your first day of 2015.

Gluten and Dairy Free Cranberry Scones

Ingredients:

12 oz bag fresh cranberries (I actually keep them frozen in my fridge so I can just pull one out when I need it)

1/4 cup unsweetened orange juice

2 tbsp Agave

1/3 cup vegan butter

2/3 cup flax milk mixed with 2 tsp lemon juice (You can use another type of milk if you prefer)

1 cup vegan ricotta

1 tbsp coconut sugar

1/4 cup safflower oil

2 tbsp Agave

3/4 cup sorghum flour

3/4 cup garbanzo bean flour

2 cup Gluten free brown rice blend (I use Authentic Foods)

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp ginger

2 tbsp coconut sugar

Baking Instructions:

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and line cookie sheets with parchment paper.

2. In your food processor, chop up your fresh or frozen cranberries with the orange juice and agave. Set aside.

3. Measure out the vegan butter and put it into the freezer while you are assembling the rest of the ingredients.

4. Mix the flax milk with the lemon juice and let is sit for a minute while you mix the ricotta with the coconut sugar.

5. Add the milk mixture to the ricotta mixture, along with the safflower oil and agave. Set aside.

6. Mix together the sorghum, garbanzo bean, and gluten free flour blend with the salt, cinnamon, ginger, and coconut sugar.

7. Take your butter out of the freezer and cut in the butter into the flour mixture with a pastry blender or two knives until the flour mixture is a bit crumbly.

8. Gently stir in the cranberries so they are coated with the dry ingredients.

9. Make a well in the center of the dry mixture and pour in the wet ingredients. Quickly mix the batter up just until the dry ingredients are moist.

10. Drop the batter by 1/4 cup onto the lined cookie sheets, and bake for about 20 minutes. The scones will be puffed and golden. You may eat them immediately while warm or cool the scones on a wire cooling rack for later eating.

NOTE: Your cooking time may vary, depending on your measuring cup. I usually use a deep cup so it takes 20 minutes, but once I used a shallower cup and the scones took less time, so be sure to gauge accordingly. Basically you want your scones to be puffed and airy and cooked through.

 

Cooking Techniques: Allergy Friendly Pie Crusts

website crusts

“Yay! Thanksgiving in October!”

My ninth grade daughter is taking French this year for the first time, and the high school she is at hosts an exchange program with another high school in France. We were asked to host a French student for two weeks, and one of the suggestions for entertainment was to have a Thanksgiving meal with them, since that would be a different experience for them.

We were happy to oblige, as you can tell by my son’s response above.

As we prepared, we explained to our French student that no matter what people say about the Turkey and the side dishes and the rolls, that Thanksgiving really is all about the pies: apple pie, pumpkin pie, mincemeat pie, cranberry pie, pecan pie, sweet potato pie, pear pie, buttermilk pie, and every possible variation of these pies which exist.

For folks with food allergies, though, pies can be tricky. May people struggle with pie-making in general, even when you’re able to use white flour, butter, and salt. The thought of trying to make a pie crust with substitutions is something a lot of folks simply just don’t want to consider.

The good news, though, is that making a gluten, dairy, soy, salt free pie crust is actually easier than making a traditional pie crust. You just need to know a few things, and you’ll be on your way to a great Thanksgiving dessert buffet!

Tips for Allergy Friendly Pie Crusts:

1. It’s just a simple swap: Because pie crusts don’t need to rise the way breads and cakes do, you can simply substitute your favorite gluten free flour for the all purpose flour. No need to make up any special flour blends at all. If you want a flakier, crispier, closer to traditional pie crust, opt for flours like brown rice or sorghum. If you want a more substantive crust with flavor, protein and fiber, try garbanzo bean or gluten free oat flour. If you have a gluten free flour blend sitting around in your closet, you can by all means use, too.

2. Cold is best all the way around: All pie crust recipes call for cold butter or shortening, cold ice water, and to put the made crust in the fridge for a little while. Why? Because warm pie crust dough sticks and won’t roll very well. Warm pie crust dough makes for a denser, less flaky crust.

What I find works wonderfully is to stick your measured butter and/or shortening into the freezer for five 10 minutes or so before using, to put ice cubes into your water, and to put your prepared pie crust dough into the fridge for a minimum of thirty minutes, an hour at the most.

3. “Fat” substitutions work: I use soy free vegan butter and shortening in my pie crusts all the time without any difference. So you can simply use what works for you without worry. It’s a straight one to one substitution ratio. What you should know, though, is that the allergy friendly versions tend to be softer than regular butter and shortening so sometimes I freeze them a little longer more like 10 to 15 minutes.

4. Work around and with the rolling: When it comes to pie crusts, the rolling out of the dough is what usually causes issues for people. I’ve learned a couple of things:

One, you don’t have to roll the bottom crust. I shape my dough into a slightly flattened disk (about an inch high) which I cool in the fridge for my 30-60 minutes, and then I simply use my fingers to push the dough outward from the center to the edges. It takes less than five minutes and actually makes for a more even crust.

Two, when I do have to roll the crust for the top part of a pie, I’ve found that putting the dough between two pieces of wax paper which I’ve also lightly greased is the best approach. The dough rolls easily, doesn’t stick, and comes off when I go to put it on top of the pie.

5. Be creative with the flavoring: Salt is the go-to for pie crusts, but it doesn’t have to be. If you’re making an apple pie, add some cardamom to complement the cinnamon in the pie. If you’re making a pumpkin pie, add grated orange peel as a contrast to the pumpkin. If you’re making a sweet potato pie, add grated nutmeg to intensify the sweet potato taste. You simply add the spices to the dry ingredients of the pie dough before cutting in the fat.

6. Know the effects of the process: Another issue people often have problems with is making their dough too dry or too wet. It’s important to understand the dynamics of the different ways you process the dough:

If you use a food processor which is what many recipes say to do nowadays, the dynamics of the food processing blade means the water is incorporated quickly and efficiently. If you have cut the fat in yourself with a hand pastry blender of two knives and are adding the water by stirring the dough with a fork, the water will drain into different parts of your dough more quickly than you can stir it. As a result you will often need more water for hand processing than when using a food processor.

Also, a food processor will draw the dough naturally into a ball which makes it easy for you to see that you have enough water. When you stir the dough by hand, the dough will usually not form a ball unless you’ve added too much water.

So, a tip: If a recipe calls for a certain tbsp amount of ice water for use in a food processor, it will normally mean you’ll need about two tablespoons more for hand stirring, so if my dough looks dry after the amount specified, I will go ahead and add two more tablespoons, and then even if it looks dry still, I will push the dough together with my hands to form two disks. If the dough will stick together, it’s fine, if there are dry pieces falling off, I simply wet my hands with the ice water and incorporate those dry pieces into the disks.

Struesel Pear Cranberry Pie

(This recipe makes two pies)

Ingredients:

Pie crust, prepare enough for two bottoms only

1 cup agave

1/4 cup water

one 12 oz package of fresh cranberries (be sure to check for stems)

8 pears, washed, cored and sliced into 12-16 slices each

3 tbsp cornstarch

3 tbsp water

2 cups gluten free whole oats

1/2 cup sorghum flour

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/4 tsp ground cloves

1/2 cup vegan soy free butter*

Baking Instructions:

1. Prepare your favorite pie crust recipe. If you don’t have one, Bob’s Red Mill pie crust mix works very well. Would recommend adding some spices to jazz it up a bit, though.  Line the bottoms of two 9.5 inch pie pans with the crusts.

2. Mix agave with water and put into a stove top pan large enough to hold all the pears.

3. Add the cranberries and bring to a boil. Cook for a minute or two until the cranberries begin to pop.

4. When the majority of cranberries have popped, add the pears, stirring to coat with the cranberries. Cook for 3-5 minutes until pears have softened.

5. Mix the cornstarch with the water, and making a well in the center of the pear mixtures, slowly add the cornstarch, stirring continually. Mix the cornstarch syrup thoroughly with the pear-cranberry mixture, cooking for a minute or two to make sure the syrup has thickened.

6. Evenly divide the pear-cranberry mixture between the two pie crusts.

7. In a food processor, add the oats, sorghum flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and butter.  Process until the mixture is a nice crumbly topping.

8. Evenly distribute the topping over both pies to completely cover them.

9. Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for about 40-45 minutes until the pie is bubbling and the streusel is golden brown.

10.  Cool completely before serving.

* This makes for a savory topping which contrasts with the sweetness of the pear-cranberry mixture. If you happen to like your toppings sweet, you should add a tbsp or two of Agave with the butter.