pumpkin ginger bran muffins

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I’ve just made it past the halfway point of my last fall term in nutrition grad school. I’ve been working with clients in clinic these past few weeks, experiencing all that I’ve learned in the last couple years come together in practice, and enjoying it so incredibly much. Getting to the clinical work has reinforced why I’ve spent so much of my energy on this career shift endeavor when I get to sit with someone and offer even a little bit of individualized support.

In addition to nutritional recommendations, I also give interventions that address balance from a whole systems perspective which is in line with the integrative and holistic approach to my program. This often means I try to emphasize stress reduction and relaxation practices. On the closer to home front, I’ve been trying to take some of my own advice and incorporate downtime each day for relaxing my system, an intention I constantly struggle with. Inevitably I often forego the rest I need and end up in the kitchen instead. My only excuse is it’s pumpkin season– and I find baking quite restorative!

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Since it is pumpkin and winter squash season, The Recipe Redux theme this month is Fresh from the Pumpkin Patch. We’ve had a string of mostly gorgeous days so far but once this fall season finally and truly sunk in, I began cooking lots of very autumn appropriate Ayurvedic recipes from Kate O’Donnell’s Everyday Ayurveda Cooking for a Calm, Clear Mind. Nutritionally, the recipes are helping rebalance my system after a rough end-of-summer transition. The first portion of the book is all about the Sattvic lifestyle in Ayurveda–a way of life I’ve been gleaning more from as time goes on and I notice how I fare better with less stimulating foods, practices, and experiences.

These muffins are a deviation from a recipe in the cookbook. If you’re a runner and a fan of the Run Fast Eat Slow superhero muffins, they’re also quite similar, but I’ve upped the emphasis on using walnuts and chia since they both are rich in omega 3’s which are an essential fatty acid that most of us need more of.

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Pumpkin Ginger Bran Muffins, makes 4 large muffins or 6 regular size
Even though I adapted these fairly dramatically, they do stay true to their ayurvedic roots. They are delicious as is but there are also many variations depending on what you’ve got on hand:
1) instead of ground walnuts, use almond flour 2) instead of bran, use 3/4 cup oatmeal 3) instead of pumpkin, use 1/2 cup applesauce and 1 medium chopped apple or other fruit and flavor combos. 4) instead of coconut sugar use pure maple syrup or honey

1 Tbs. ground chia seeds
3 Tbs. water
3/4 cup / 60 g raw walnuts, ground
1/2 cup / 50 g oat bran
1/4 cup / 20 g oatmeal
1/4 cup / 30 g coconut sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground turmeric
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
pinch of ground black pepper
2 Tbs. / 25 g coconut oil, melted
1 cup / 220 g pumpkin, pureed or mashed
1 Tbs. / 3 g minced fresh ginger
1/4 cup raisins
1/4-1/2 cup water or nut milk, as needed.

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line muffin tins with baking cups or oil and flour them.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the ground chia seeds and water. Let this stand for 5 minutes. In a separate bowl, mix the ground walnuts, oat bran and oats, salt, turmeric, baking soda, and baking powder.
  • Add the coconut sugar, pumpkin puree, and coconut oil to the chia seed mixture and stir until well combined. Stir in the ginger and the raisins.
  • Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix until it just comes together. If the batter seems a touch dry, add water or nut milk just until it becomes a touch looser, but only add up to 1/2 cup, as they won’t need much. This step largely depends on how much moisture content your pumpkin puree has in it.
  • Divide into the muffin cups and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until they are golden brown and a toothpick in the middle comes out clean.

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Sweet Potato Spanish Tortilla

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Almost 10 years ago to the day, I spent a whirlwind weekend in Madrid, having said yes along with my roommate when our neighbor down the hall asked if we wanted to go. I was on study abroad that term so Spain literally was a hop, skip, and two-ish hour plane ride away. So of course I said yes.

Even though the weekend was short, it took me a long time to get over it, and having also started my first foray into blogging that term, I wrote about the experience for all the friends and family back home. At the very beginning of that three days I ended up getting my purse stolen, along with virtually everything important to an international tourist save my phone–which ended up being a real saving grace.

What was supposed to be a joyful jaunt to explore the history of another culture became spending much of that time in a tourist police station getting my passport back (thank God!), and trying to be optimistic about how to manage the next few days devoid of spending money. Hostel white bread toast with jam, cheap tea, and relying on my kind but also college-student-budget traveling partners for real meals meant my Spanish food memories are dampened for the hunger pangs. Truthfully, I barely remember the food in Spain save a late night bite of churro (too much sugar), shops with large hams and sausages hanging and full of the neighborhood men, and a solo street cart on a cold, gray October afternoon selling freshly roasted sweet potatoes, warm and sweet, and made even better for the pieces were shared amongst us three as we walked, our bellies and hands growing warmer as we went.

 

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Despite the more stereotypical and/or well known Spanish foods, warm roasted sweet potatoes from a street cart eaten plain will always be my memory of the place.

And for whatever reason 10 years on, I started to get a craving for a simple Spanish meal on a cold and gray October day. So a tortilla with roasted sweet potato it is.

 

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Tortilla, which is really a Spanish omelette, is quite a common dish and one I vaguely recall having for tapas one night of my stay. Generally it’s made with white potatoes and cooked in lots of olive oil in the pan before the eggs are added, but I deviated and like to roast the sweet potato ahead, and then dice and gently crisp the edges in only a little oil. This method also makes this come together in a flash–perfect for a busy night and equally good as a to-go meal for days that call for a rush.

 

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Sweet Potato Spanish Tortilla, serves 2
1 large sweet potato
olive oil
1/2-3/4 tsp. sea salt
4 eggs
1 handful dark greens such as amaranth, arugula, spinach or kale, chopped

  • Preheat the oven to 400°F / 200°C. Scrub the sweet potato and stab a few times with a fork or knife to allow steam to escape. Roast in the oven until just soft, about 40 minutes.
  • When potato is cooked, dice into 1/2 inch / 1-2 cm cubes. Then heat a little olive oil in a 7 to 8-inch saute pan over medium heat. Sauté the diced sweet potato for 3-5 minutes, just until the edges begin to turn golden. Season with the salt and remove from heat.
  • Meanwhile, whisk the eggs in a bowl and stir in the chopped greens. Then stir the sautéed sweet potatoes into this egg mixture and stir well.
  • Return the pan to medium heat, add a little additional oil if necessary, and then pour the egg mixture into the pan. Let it cook for about two minutes and then place a clean plate over the pan, flip the tortilla onto the plate, and then slide the uncooked side back into the pan. Heat for 3-4 more minutes until cooked through. It should be firm and golden once ready.
  • Remove from heat and let it cool for a few minutes. Cut into wedges and serve with a side salad, roasted vegetables, or as is for a light meal.
  • The tortilla can also be stored in the fridge for a couple of days and taken as a to-go meal.

Gluten-Free + Vegan Animal Crackers for Kids of All Ages

 

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I have vague but delicious memories of animal crackers as a child, a rare and special treat to be given a box of Barnum’s Animals all to myself, to open the package and to pick out each animal one by one, savoring it before reaching in for another.

Later in my teen years, I discovered the pink and white frosting and sprinkle version of animal crackers and they too became their own ritual, a big bag to share on a school road trip, or otherwise special occasion.

 

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Until last spring I’d forgotten about animal crackers and then one quick weekend getaway, walking the aisles of the local co-op, I saw the “natural” brand versions of these childhood treats and unexpectedly found that a little handful of those delicious crackers would be just the sweet I needed. Unfortunately, even within the allergen-free and natural brands, animal crackers that I can actually enjoy safely are pretty difficult to track down, so I set out to make my own.

What began as a whim and a craving became a tiny lovely treat that both William and I love to snack on after dinner, and taking this childhood favorite into our adult years, we found they pair particularly well with a Sicilian Rosé we tend to favor.  ;)

 

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This recipe is part of my monthly contribution to The Recipe Redux, a recipe challenge founded by registered dietitians and focused on taking delicious dishes, keeping them delicious, but making them better for you. The theme this month is Kids That Cook and we’re recreating some of our childhood favorites or what we’re cooking with kids now. While I never made animal crackers as a child, I did bake a lot of cookies, make playdough, and loved to watch my mom make a special occasion gooey cinnamon swirl bread which somehow was even better because it was our neighbor’s recipe.

What were your favorite childhood foods, homemade or otherwise?

 

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Animal Crackers {GF + Vegan}, makes about 100
Roll these to your desired thickness. I prefer them extra thin, William enjoys a little more cookie width. Also make sure to give a good pinch of nutmeg (make sure it’s fresh), as it really makes the difference. 

1 1/3 cups Gluten-Free Flour Blend
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
generous pinch of nutmeg and a little pinch of cinnamon
1/4 cup cashew butter
3 Tbs. unsweetened applesauce
1/3 cup organic cane sugar
1 Tbs. ground flax + 2 Tbs. warm water – thickened for 5 minutes
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

  • In a small bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients and set aside.
  • In a larger bowl, whip the cashew butter with a fork until creamy and then add the applesauce and sugar and mix until thoroughly combined. Then add the flax and water mixture and vanilla  and blend it all together.
  • Add the dry ingredients slowly into the wet mixture and stir until the mixture comes together into a cookie dough ball.
  • Cover the bowl of dough well and chill in the fridge for at least an hour.
  • When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Coat a flat surface with a little flour and roll about 1/3 of the dough to 1/4″ thickness. Using mini animal cookie cutters, cut out the cookies. If you’d like to make them a little more realistic, simply use a toothpick to create an eye for each animal.
  • Place on a baking sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes, just until the edges begin to lightly brown.
  • Continue to roll out and bake the remaining cookies.

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