date & super-seed olive oil muffins

A lot of life happens in six years - the good, the bad, and the ugly as the saying goes. Some things change and others stay the same. Kids grow up, hair gets greyer, fat gets a new reputation, sugar is the Real Villain, kale has waxed in popularity to be replaced not once or twice but several times by the new 'It' food. One of the things that has remained constant for me is the love I have for these date muffins (the very first recipe I posted back in 2010). The recipe though is one of the things that has changed and so to be fair, I am revisiting it to make the updates. I also must confess that I am afraid that the dear little things didn't get a fair shake way back in the beginning and they are really so so good + so full of really healthful bits that I wanted to give them another shot at some limelight. There is rarely a time that you could check my freezer and not find a bag of these little gems in there. I like them hot and fresh to be sure, but frozen? maybe even better. 

I always make these as mini-muffins now - which means they are exactly 1/4 the size of their bigger counterparts. It also means that they are the perfect size to tuck in for a snack on the go, perfect for little hands, perfect for when I need a little 'something' and the next meal is further away than I want it to be. In my book they are also so delicious that they make a great dessert option on a night I find I just really want something a bit sweet to finish a meal.

The way I organize the details of my history (in my mind) is in relation to the significant, momentous milestones. I place events on the timeline of my life and experience by whether they happened before or after marriage, the births of each one of my five children, and the even larger watershed of before or after Merin's death. Muffins are not terribly critical to place in the scheme of one's life but these were one of the before-Merin things. I made them for her as a healthy, protein-rich snack for after ballet class. At the time she was looking for healthy alternatives to the chocolate bar that she was so often tempted by when she hadn't had time to eat between her school work and dance class (so they pre-date the original post by several years, in case that matters - lol). I think of her laughing as she grabbed a couple on her way out the door to the studio and calling her thanks along with the never forgotten "love you mom!". So I always think (in happy colours) of Merin when I make or eat these. They are part of the texture of my life in a small but happy way.

date & super-seed olive oil muffins

1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup milk (or alternative - I use almond or coconut milk)
3/4 cup sprouted whole grain spelt flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp sea salt
3/4 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup flaxseed meal
1/4 cup hemp seed
3 Tbsp chia seed
14 medjool dates, pitted and chopped (about 3/4 cup)
2 eggs
1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 cup prune puree (exactly one small container of baby food prunes)
1/4 cup palm sugar
1/3 cup unflavoured full fat Greek yogurt
optional: 1 scoop of vanilla protein powder*

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Combine oats and milk and let soak. In a large bowl combine spelt four, baking powder, soda, sea salt, cinnamon, pecans, flaxseed, hemp seeds, chia and dates. To the soaked oats add the eggs, oil, prune puree, palm sugar and yogurt. Stir to combine and add to the dry ingredients. Mix gently to incorporate everything but don't over-mix. Spoon into lined (or buttered) muffin tins. Makes 12 regular muffins or 48 mini-muffins. Bake until firm and golden - about 20 minutes (regular size) or 15 minutes (minis).

* If you opt to add protein powder please choose one that does not include artificial sweetener. I prefer to use stevia sweetened protein powder. Also if you choose a whey based powder I think  it is important to use one from pasture fed cows. 


lazy rosy rhubarb

the original + a gluten-free, refined sugar-free variation

Of all the fruits of my garden I truly believe the one I most eagerly anticipate every year is beautiful, bountiful, tart and juicy, red rhubarb. Perhaps that is because it is the first brave perennial to push its shoots through the still cold soil towards the light, mostly though I just really like rhubarb. I like the plant with those ridiculously large and luxurious leaves and gorgeous ruby stems, and I love the pucker-up tartness tempered with some sweet. I prefer rhubarb desserts unsullied by other anything. No strawberries, raspberries, or apples in my rhubarb pies, cobblers, scones, or tarts. And to tell the truth I can't think of any 'fruit' dessert that appeals to me more than rhubarb. (A strange thing that because I wouldn't be me without an apple a day, some blueberries somehow for breakfast, or a large chunk of juicy watermelon in the summer.) Of all the rhubarb sweet endings to a meal my favourite is lazy rosy rhubarb. From our littlest little to the ones with the most years to their credit, we all love lazy rosy rhubarb.

I was certain I had posted a recipe for lazy rosy rhubarb because it is just the best way to end a meal when rhubarb is in season. It is the reason to squirrel away as much of the rhubarb harvest as possible in the freezer (without ruining the seasonal enjoyment) for winter treats when spring seems an eternity  away. In fact I was so certain that when a friend asked for the recipe I suggested they search here for it and was dumbfounded to be told it wasn't here. I was still so certain that I searched through all the old posts right back to the start and it is not here. There are recipes for other rhubarb wonderfulness and it was good to be reminded of some that I had totally forgotten about  (baked vanilla yogurt with rhubarb and blueberries - how does one forget about that?! and individual rhubarb maple custard pies) but no lazy rosy rhubarb.

I first stumbled across the recipe when my kids were very small. It was in one of those collections of favourite recipes that come stapled together in booklets; gathered from family and friends and shared with love. I have no idea where this particular collection came from and the stapled together booklet has not survived a couple of moves to and from Japan, plus another to Vancouver and back to Calgary so I can't credit the original author if they were even recognized to begin with. All I can say is that we have been blessing their name for years with every bite. It is one of those super simple, quick and easy, good to have in your back pocket recipes. Plus it is a little bit magic. It ends up nothing like you expect it will when you start out and is so much better than the simple sum of its parts. If all of this doesn't inspire you to try it I give up. There is no hope. Clearly.

lazy rosy rhubarb

Rhubarb sauce:
4 cups diced rhubarb
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp vanilla

Combine and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until tender - about 10 minutes. Stir in nutmeg and vanilla.

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Melt 1/2 cup butter in a  deep 9" baking dish (I always use ceramic but after thinking about it that is probably because it just looks prettier) in the oven while it heats. 

While the butter is melting combine:

1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1 Tbsp baking powder
2/3 cup milk

About now the butter should be melted and starting to foam. Take the baking dish with the butter out of the oven. Pour the batter evenly over the butter. DO NOT STIR.  Top with 3 cups of rhubarb sauce. Again DO NOT STIR. Bake at 350 F for 1 hour or until nicely browned. Serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or a generous pour of fresh cream.

the gluten-free refined sugar-free lazy rosy

(for those who prefer to avoid refined sugars and gluten - not dairy free*)

Rhubarb sauce:
4 cups diced rhubarb
1/2 cup honey
2 Tbsp water
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp vanilla

Combine and bring to a simmer over a low flame. Watch it carefully so as not to scorch your rhubarb. Simmer until tender, Stir in nutmeg and vanilla.

Melt the butter as per the original recipe. For the batter combine:

1 cup gluten-free flour mix**
2/3 cup honey
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/3 cup coconut or other nut milk

Pour the batter evenly over the butter. DO NOT STIR.  Top with 3 cups of rhubarb sauce. Again DO NOT STIR. Bake at 350 F for 1 hour or until nicely browned. Serve with a scoop of dairy-free ice cream.

*This doesn't work well with butter substitutes. If you can't have butter... (I am so sorry, truly).

**Use any good  cup for cup gf flour mix  - perhaps Bob's Red Mill or my gf mix (at the bottom of the post).


triple chocolate banana bread

Yesterday  a friend gifted me two large bunches of ripe bananas - perfect for baking. She had bought a full box of bananas, what she thought was 9 bunches but discovered was in fact twice that many when she got home and realized that there were two layers in the box. Her plan was to dehydrate the bananas and it was a good plan. The flaw in the plan was the amount of time it takes to dehydrate bananas and the volume of fruit that she had to process. I was happy to take some of the bananas off her hands. And in my turn I was surprised at how much baking I could get out of two large bunches - two batches of banana bread (coconut banana bread and triple chocolate), one banana cake, and a full 48 mini banana chocolate chip supermuffins. The house smells heavenly, the kitchen was a glorious mess for the better part of the day, and I have banana goodness to share with one and all.

The other banana recipes are in the archives here and I think they are still hard to beat but this triple chocolate banana bread is definitely a contender. Next time you have some nicely freckled bananas wondering when and what you are planning for them, give this recipe a thought. It may not be quite as healthy as a smoothie but oh my, ever so much tastier.*

I used a mix of light and whole grain spelt flours for two reasons - I love the taste of spelt and I am trying to use heritage or ancient grain varieties when I bake as opposed to the more readily available modern strains of wheat. You could of course use regular white flour or a mix of white and whole grain wheat flours. If gluten is a problem for you, a gluten-free flour mix works very well. There are several good options easily available, I prefer to mix my own (referenced in the super muffin recipe).

You will likely figure this next bit out on your own but in case you have amazing self-control and can wait until this bread is absolutely cool, you need to know that it is really very, very good when warm. 

triple chocolate banana bread

3/4 cup light spelt flour 
1/2 cup whole grain spelt flour
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/4 cup cacao nibs
1/4 cup sprouted ground chia seed
3/4 cup dark chocolate chips
2 medium ripe bananas
3/4 cup coconut palm sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled

Prepare two small (6.75x3") loaf pans or one larger (9x5") pan by oiling the ends of the pans and lining the pans with parchment paper strips, allowing the paper to overhang the sides.

Whisk the dry ingredients (flours, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cocoa powder, cacao nibs, and chocolate chips) together in a large bowl. In a separate bowl mash the bananas. Whisk in the eggs and add the vanilla, sugar, and cooled melted butter. Pour the wet ingredients into the bowl with the dry and stir just until all the dry ingredients are incorporated. 

Push the batter into prepared pan (or pans) and bake at 350 for 45- 50 minutes for two small loaves or 60 minutes for one larger loaf - or until a skewer comes out clean. Cool in pans for 20 minutes, then turn out onto a cooling rack. 

*no disrespect intended to smoothies - we drink them daily but seriously, no matter how good they may be they are not this good ;)