Hot Cross Buns {gluten + dairy-free, sourdough option}

As I opened my daily planner this morning, I was reminded that I had originally been slated to be teaching a lesson today about healthy breakfasts and how to tell when one is hungry and full to several kindergarten classes I work(ed) with.

Of all the nutrition and cooking lessons I teach in public schools, that particular one is my favorite. And because the funding source leaves me tied to teaching particular curricula that I often find wanting in terms of what we should actually be teaching our children about nutrition (i.e. developing a healthy relationship to food more than focusing so much on all the food groups), this particular lesson is one I really look forward to. Hunger presents itself in numerous ways beyond just a painful, rumbly tummy, and food and nutrition is far more than just calories in/calories out, macro and micronutrients, and following the ‘right’ plan until whatever prefabricated goal is reached. If I could fill out my entire kindergarten series with this topic of developing a healthy relationship to food alone, I think my students would be far closer to having the basis of a firm foundation in healthy lifelong eating than most of us have ever gotten.


One thing I’m noticing a lot in the last couple weeks as we all go into isolation and quarantine is a few different but similar conversations about food. Panic-buying and hoarding as lack of clear leadership, lack of control over life situations, and messages about what to do change nearly daily. Bingeing or overeating on a kitchen full of food, or stress not-eating as we stay home and navigate a completely different routine. Stress-baking to put at least our hands in motion, and choosing comfort foods when nothing else is comfortable. And then stacking guilt on top of our already stressed and anxious systems as we berate ourselves for not having some willpower or not taking care of ourselves adequately, etc.

One of the questions I like to ask, not to my kindergarteners, but in clinical practice, is ‘what’s that about?’ When our minds go into worry and circular thinking about whether there’s any flour, yeast, eggs (or TP) to be found at the store. When we find ourselves needing a comfort food or snack while working from home when we’re not actually hungry. When we skip a meal or two and are ‘not hungry’ when we’ve clearly not eaten much in the last day or days. When our hands at the grocery reach for ice cream, cookies, chips and crackers, or the ingredients to make something sweet / salty. When we panic at the thought of missing a workout or being sidelined from normal training due to this situation. When we’re anxious. When we wake every night at 3am.

In any or all of these instances, ask yourself, ‘What is that about?’ What’s the underlying feeling, belief, or reason I’m doing this thing? Ask yourself without judgement, and just be okay with whatever answer comes. And if there’s no immediate clear answer, that’s okay too.

As an adult, having an awareness and lack of judgement at the reason for our actions is incredibly helpful in navigating uncertainty and beginning to form trust in yourself that you are strong and able to deal. For even when we judge our actions and ourselves incessantly, there are always fairly wise reasons for them that we are somehow protecting ourselves against.

Today as I’m writing this, it is also the beginning of Holy Week, a special solemn few days in the Christian calendar before Easter, and given the state of the world right now, the solemn state of things appears to run parallel to it. Hot Cross Buns are also a traditional specialty this time of year, at least in parts of the US, and for sure in the UK and Ireland. It you’ve never enjoyed them, they are a spiced and fruit-filled yeast bread roll, often made quite a bit richer due to extra butter/oil, added sweetener and perhaps an egg. They were traditionally eaten on Good Friday, which is also a traditional day of religious fasting. If you like to delve into the history of food traditions like me, you can learn more about hot cross buns on Good Friday in this short article and its fascinating discussion/comments.

Otherwise, may you work on asking yourself this week, ‘What’s that about?’, and if you’ve the inclination, try baking hot cross buns.


Hot Cross Buns {gluten-free and vegan, sourdough method}, makes 5
This recipe appropriately fits the needs for those avoiding all (or some) of the most common food sensitivities and allergies, and because my nutrition-brain is always on when developing recipes for this space, these are a delicious, slightly enriched and sweetened whole-grain bread option that doesn’t get too far into the super decadent category.
As you’ll note, I’ve created two options to make these, with a sourdough starter, and without. I’ve made and enjoy them both ways, and because I don’t do away with the yeast in the sourdough option or dramatically change the method, they both turn out fairly similar. Instead, I tend to use my sourdough discard for the recipe and reduce the other flours and liquid.
If you’re finding gluten-free flours difficult to source right now, substitutes work well. Sorghum flour subs in well for either brown rice or millet, oat flour made from ground up oatmeal will likely work well in part, and any of the starches (arrowroot, tapioca, potato, or corn) can be used in place of the arrowroot and tapioca combination. As always when baking and especially when using substitutions, it’s always best to measure by weight.
There are a few ways to make the cross on top, either with a bit of icing after baking, by cutting a cross in the dough before baking, or by making a flour and water paste and drizzling it on top before baking. I meant to cut my dough before baking but then forgot, and decided to use a quick couple spoonfuls of cashew, vanilla and honey ‘frosting.’ I haven’t added that in here because I think it’s too fussy and these don’t need a sweet finish. They taste great on their own!

Wet Ingredients:
6 Tbs. non-dairy milk
2 1/2 Tbs. water
1 1/8 tsp. dry active yeast
¼ cup mixed dried fruit (raisins, golden raisins / sultanas, orange peel)
2 Tbs. orange juice or tart cherry juice or water
1 Tbsp. ground flax seeds 
1 Tbsp. psyllium husk (or use ground chia seeds OR flaxseed meal)
2 Tbsp. coconut oil, melted
½ Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp. honey or maple syrup

Dry ingredients:
130 grams / ~1 cup gluten-free all purpose flour
(or 13 g buckwheat flour, 19 g tapioca flour, 20 g arrowroot flour, 26 g each sorghum, brown rice, and millet flours)
100 grams / ~ 1 cup gluten-free sourdough starter (equal parts flour and water)
1.5 tsp mixed spice  (1/2 tsp. cinnamon, ¼ tsp. allspice, ¼ tsp. nutmeg, 1/8 tsp. cloves, 1/8 ginger, 1/8 tsp. coriander, 1/8 tsp. cardamom)
¾ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. sea salt

  1. Warm up the non-dairy milk and water together until lukewarm or at about 100 degrees F / 38 degrees C. Whisk in the yeast and allow to froth up for about 10 minutes.
  2. While waiting combine the dried fruit and juice or water. Warm for a few seconds in the microwave and set aside to let the liquid soak in and soften up the fruit. I use about 1 Tbs. finely diced orange peel in this mix to make these extra festive and more traditional.
  3. Add the ground flax, psyllium, oil, vinegar, and honey to the frothy yeast liquid. Whisk together and set aside so it can thicken a little.
  4. In a large bowl, stir together the dry ingredients. Dump the wet ingredients and fruit into the middle of the flour mix and stir. Your dough will begin to look scrappy. Keep stirring with your spoon or hands until the ball of dough becomes somewhat smooth.
  5. Put a cloth over your bowl and let rest / rise for one hour.
  6. Next stir the dough well again, and then divide into 5 equal balls. Lay parchment in a small baking pan and then roll or shape each of the dough balls into rolls. Place them on the dish, cover with cloth again, and rise again for 1 hour in a warm, non-drafty space in your kitchen. These should rise enough to be touching each other in the pan, but will not double in size.
  7. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F / 190 C. Bake for 2025 minutes or until the edges have firmed up. Place the pan on a wire rack to briefly cool down.

EXTRA NOTES

1. Tastes best when eaten warm and straight out of the oven.
2. Store in an airtight container and keep for about 3 days.
3. The dough can be made ahead of time. Simply place in the fridge during the second rise time and allow to sit overnight. Baking time might need to be longer.

Hot Cross Buns {gluten-free and vegan, regular non-sourdough method}, makes 5

Wet Ingredients:
6 Tbs. non-dairy milk
6 Tbs. water
1 1/8 tsp. dry active yeast
¼ cup mixed dried fruit (raisins, golden raisins/sultanas, orange peel, etc.)
2 Tbs. orange juice or tart cherry juice or water
1 Tbs. ground flax seeds 
1 Tbs. psyllium husk (or use ground chia seeds OR flaxseed meal)
28 grams / 2 Tbs. coconut oil, melted
½ Tbs. apple cider vinegar
1 Tbs. honey or maple syrup

Dry ingredients:
180 grams / 1 ½ cups gluten-free all-purpose flour
(or 18 g buckwheat flour, 27 g tapioca flour, 27 g arrowroot flour, 36 g each sorghum, brown rice, and millet flours)
1 1/2 tsp. mixed spice
(1/2 tsp. cinnamon, ¼ tsp. allspice, ¼ tsp. nutmeg, 1/8 tsp. cloves, 1/8 ginger, 1/8 tsp. coriander, 1/8 tsp. cardamom)
¾ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. sea salt

  1. Warm up the non-dairy milk and water together until lukewarm or at about 100 degrees F / 38 degrees C. Whisk in the yeast and allow to froth up for about 10 minutes.
  2. While waiting combine the dried fruit and juice or water. Warm for a few seconds in the microwave and set aside to let the liquid soak in and soften up the fruit. I use about 1 Tbs. finely diced orange peel in this mix to make these extra festive and more traditional.
  3. Add the ground flax, psyllium, oil, vinegar, and honey to the frothy yeast liquid. Whisk together and set aside so it can thicken a little.
  4. In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. Dump the wet ingredients into the middle of the flour mix and stir. Your dough will begin to look scrappy. Keep stirring with your spoon or hands until the ball of dough becomes somewhat smooth.
  5. Put a cloth over your bowl and let rest / rise for one hour.
  6. Next stir the dough well again, and then divide into 5 equal balls. Lay parchment in a small baking pan and then roll or shape each of the dough balls into rolls. Place them on the dish equally apart, cover with cloth again, and rise again for 1 hour in a warm, non-drafty space in your kitchen. These should rise enough to be touching each other in the pan, but will not double in size.
  7. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F / 190 C. Bake for 2025 minutes or until the edges have firmed up. Place the pan on a wire rack to briefly cool down.

EXTRA NOTES

1. Tastes best when eaten warm and straight out of the oven.
2. Store in an airtight container and keep for about 3 days.
3. The dough can be made ahead of time. Simply place in the fridge during the second rise time and allow to sit overnight. Baking time might need to be longer.

If you enjoyed this, I’ve been sharing a few practical resources and video posts over on my E+O Facebook page about how to navigate these times with resiliency and less anxiety / fear. For new nutrition clients, I’m currently offering a package of three consults for half off. Be well.

beans + rice for busy days, with turmeric special sauce

beans + rice for busy days, with turmeric special sauce

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Buckwheat, quinoa + millet mix, lentils, steamed beets, shaved rainbow carrots, sliced radishes, spring greens + turmeric special sauce.

 

Once a week, my coworkers and I eat lunch together during our staff meeting. We are all healthy-food loving ladies with different diets and food preferences, and we often begin the meeting looking around at each others lunches, thinking and sharing about how good they all look and how we’d like to trade. It is a great environment to work in, one of non-judgement and non-competitive respect and inspiration for eating well.

 

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Brown rice, lentils, sautéed cabbage, kale + matchstick carrots, sauerkraut + hemp seeds.

 

Prior to working with this group, I ate lunch with my fellow science teachers at the high school I taught at. It was the first time I had worked at a place where everyone took 30 minutes every day to sit down, eat together, and catch up. Those 30 minutes kept me sane, but I wasn’t at first keen about sitting around having others see what I ate every day. I didn’t want my coworkers to judge my weird food habits. I have a pet peeve with people telling me, You eat sooo healthy, in that envious/judgmental wayBut that never happened. Instead, I learned that everyone has weird food preferences, and no one cared what I was eating. It was pretty darn liberating.

A month or so ago, I spent a couple full days teaching at the high school. I brought my lunch with me and left it in the car. During the break, one of the students caught me on the way out and asked, You’re not eating? Is that why you’re so skinny? This was coming from a slightly overweight teenage male who was standing in the hallway, noticeably not eating also. I felt absolutely crushed at his response. After assuring him I was on my way to lunch, I asked about his own lack of food. He told me he was waiting for a friend. I don’t know whether he actually ate during that break, but I remember my own eating habits during that age, along with my former and current students’ tendency to skip breakfast and lunch. As I walked away, the interaction got to me. It was a really nice day, and I ended up eating my giant lunch bowl outside in the garden, in lieu of having more inquiring eyes looking on at my food choices.

 

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Brown rice, garbanzos, chopped collards and cabbage, diced beets, and carrot-miso spread

 

When I was teaching full time, many of my students asked about and observed what I ate. I could tell they were searching for a role model and they knew and loved talking about my tendency to eat the entire apple, drink lots of tea, and avoid all dairy and fast food. They thought it was all just plain weird but also cool. When some individuals approached me to talk about food and health, I tried to offer guidance that was actually helpful for where they were at. At the same time, I was conscious of not being too out there, both for their sake and mine. Out of self-preservation, I’ll do just about anything to avoid having a conversation that involves someone vocally comparing their body size to mine.

Inevitably, every time I work with a new group of high school students, I’m asked whether I’m vegetarian. This question always brings up a lot of personal anxiety and I tell them, no, I eat meat, and leave it at that. They don’t need to know it makes its way on my plate a couple times a year lately. My own personal viewpoint is that the adolescent and emerging adulthood years should be ones of exploration, and they don’t need me telling them they should follow a particular diet, cut out entire food groups, or ascribe to my food-belief system. I have entirely too much experience with disordered eating and body shaming to possibly lead someone toward that camp.

 

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Millet, goji berries, oranges, kale, roasted romanesco and delicata squash with a citrus vinaigrette, hazelnuts + baked tofu.

 

Instead, I try to simply emphasize more whole foods and less processed, in baby steps. I avoid making recommendations about foods I don’t personally choose to eat, but I also recognize that what works for me in terms of food choices does not work for everyone. I particularly enjoy the teachings of traditional medical paradigms like Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda, which emphasize eating to one’s personal constitution and the seasons. It is especially difficult to teach this concept to my high school students, as they are often trying to fit in and do what their friends are doing. As an adult, I’m only just beginning to feel especially comfortable eating and sharing what works for me.

 

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Quinoa, black beans, roasted Brussel sprouts and onions, kale + cumin-lime dressing.

 

I read recently in the book, Nourishing Wisdom, that women tend to engage in a silent competition during meals of who can eat the least, while men tend to openly compete for who can eat the most. I resonate strongly with the female side of that scenario and I am especially thankful that these last few years, my meals with co-workers have been free of that extremely harmful silent competition. Especially since what works for me tends to be beans + rice bowls, and the combinations are usually generously sized.

I’m curious, too, about the best way to approach these conversations about food with teenagers and individuals trying to find their way to healthy eating. How do we positively guide them? So far, I’ve focused on strengthening my self-confidence and relationship to food so I don’t feel the need to compare, and let the result of that show up by role-modeling positive behavior and conversation about eating, when it comes up. If you have another approach or successful experiences, I’d love to hear!

 

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Quinoa, garbanzos, roasted winter squash and bell peppers, mixed greens, cumin-lime dressing, + pumpkin seeds

 

The reason I’ve included so many random meals is that The Recipe Redux theme this month is breaking up the lunch rut. My lunches nearly always tend to be leftovers from the night before and often that means I’m eating what I call bean and rice bowls, even if they have no rice and are rarely eaten in a bowl. Sometimes, however, I pull random ingredients from the fridge and come up with something slightly new. Unlike a lot of people, I rarely enjoy eating out, especially for lunch. It is one thing I wish I were more comfortable with, but knowing exactly what I’m having for lunch is a little comforting ritual that I like to keep amidst busy days.

The only advice for creating a quick lunch combination is to have a few key ingredients prepped ahead of time, be creative, and add color. Eating food that is beautiful is half the experience. I often have leftover cooked grains, some beans, and leftover dressings hanging out, and to that I add whatever vegetables and herbs are on hand and sound good. If, on the off chance I do not have ingredients prepped, I reach for quick grains like millet, quinoa, and buckwheat and cook them, along with a pot of lentils, while getting ready for my day. They all can be ready within 20 minutes.

The photos I’m sharing here are random compilations of beans and rice that I’ve made over the last few months for busy day lunch or dinners. They are only just a start, so go ahead and be adventurous!

 

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Quinoa, white beans, roasted beets and onions, matchstick carrots, greens mix + turmeric special sauce

 

Turmeric Special Sauce, makes 2 cups

This is my current dressing of choice. Adapted from David and Luise by way of Laura, it is packed with a lot of nutritional goodies. In my current quest to eat a few more fats from whole foods rather than oils, I’ve eliminated the oil from the original recipe, added lentils for a little more protein, which I tend to eat on the lower end for my needs, spiced it up with additional chili powder. The turmeric and nutritional yeast add color, umami flavor, and B-vitamins, plus much of the latest research has turmeric as a real powerhouse in terms of health benefits. All in all, this sauce is a good one, has a tiny kick that is completely balanced amongst all the other bowl ingredients, and comes together quickly, if you remember to soak the seeds. I especially like it with beets because in my opinion, vibrant salads taste just a touch better.

1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds, soaked for 2-4 hours

1 – 1 1/4 cup water

1 1/2 Tbs. nutritional yeast (flakes)

1/4 cup cooked lentils, white or mung beans

2 cloves garlic, peeled

1/2 tsp. turmeric powder

1 tsp. apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

1/2 tsp. maple syrup

1/2 tsp. cumin

3/4 tsp. chili powder

1/4 tsp. each salt and pepper, or to taste

  • Drain and rinse the soaked seeds, and then add them, along with all the other ingredients to a food processor. Purée until smooth, adding a little more water as needed to thin it out. Adjust seasonings to taste.