Happy New Year AND my guest blog post at Yummly.com featuring my delicious Zucchini Oat Muffins Recipe

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!  I hope you all had wonderful holidays and are getting back into the groove, ready to take on 2014!  It sure got here quickly, didn’t it?  For those of you who have made a resolution to eat better (and, let’s be honest, who hasn’t), I’m hoping you will utilize my website more often.  I have big plans to revamp and improve it, making it easier for recipe searches, etc.  As well, I begin my plant-based cooking school this month and hope to come up with lots of new dishes.  Let’s get things started off right with a low-fat, gluten-free, vegan, tasty zucchini muffin recipe (see below).

I came up with these on a Sunday morning when I was feeling that creative cooking bug that pokes at me so often.  Seemed like a good time to create a muffin of some kind.  I opened the fridge to seek inspiration only to have the zucchinis practically throwing themselves at me.  Hence this Zucchini Oat Muffin recipe was born.  Many recipes I come up with require tweaking and a second or third go around before I can share, but not this one! I got lucky first time around.  And now you’re getting lucky!

For this recipe, I used a combination of gluten-free flour (I really like Trader Joe’s brand)  and oat flour made with certified gluten-free oats.  You can make your own oat flour by using your blender to grind the oats.  Super easy! These muffins are only slightly sweet and are especially delicious warmed, with a TINY bit of vegan butter if you’re feeling dangerous, (and I was).   🙂 I find these keep best refrigerated after the first day, wrapped in a cloth napkin.  Also, if you are feeling adventurous, sub some of the zucchini with carrot!

Feel free to leave out the walnuts if you don’t like them or are eating an extra low-fat diet.  I love their flavor and texture in this dish, and the nice dose of Omega 3’s they (and the chia seeds) provide.  Enjoy!!

I’ve posted this recipe to Yummly.com as a guest blogger.  Please visit my post at http://blog.yummly.com/blog/2014/01/healthy-vegan-gluten-free-zucchini-oat-muffins/  Enjoy!!

Approximate nutritional info: with walnuts – 153 cals, 3.75 fat grams; without walnuts -125 calories, 1 fat gram.

UPDATE: I made these muffins with ALL oat flour when I was out of gluten-free all purpose and they were great!! 

Summer Fruit Cobbler

Summer Fruit Cobbler. Vegan. Oil-free. Gluten-free*

A fruit cobbler is one of my favorite desserts.  I take it or apple pie over something chocolatey any day! We were having company and I wanted a dessert that would be nice for a chilly evening, and that incorporated seasonal fruit.  Most fruit crisps are loaded with fat and lots of sugar, but not this one! The only fat is naturally occurring in the oat flour.  No added oils or butter.  I used peaches, mango and blueberries and they tasted wonderful together, all warm and saucy.  For an extra special treat, serve warm with non-dairy ice cream.  🙂

*gluten-free if using certified gluten-free oat flour.

Zesty Potato-Corn Chowder

Fresh corn would have made this thick, chunky chowder even better but I was unable to find organic.  Corn is one of those items I always buy organic due to the possibility of GMO’s.  A very small portion of domestic sweet corn in the produce section is actually GMO, but since it’s not the law for it to be labeled (lame), it’s better to err on the side of caution.  Most of the GMO corn is used in processed foods (aka JUNK) and animal feed – just another reason to stay away from that crap and eat WHOLE plant foods!

Anyway, I digress.  This soup is delicious….and even better the next day.  For more intense and “zesty” flavor, add more cumin and chili powder, and use medium or hot green chiles – I used mild.  Jalapeños would be good here too, but as I’ve said before, I’m a spice wimp.  I used 2 teaspoons of chili powder and found it to be a bit too spicy, though the fam disagreed (told ya…wimp).  One of the two teaspoons was chipotle chili powder since I love that smoky flavor.  In one of the pictures below you will see something green in the chowder.  I stirred in some steamed kale and it was super yummy.

Update 9/26/13: I made this without the cashews (accidentally) and it was every bit as creamy and delicious.  So, I’ve changed the ingredient above to OPTIONAL.  

Orange Chocolate Chip Scones (vegan, whole wheat)

I have faith in scones again.

I stopped eating them years ago, after I changed my eating ways to low-fat, plant-based.  A sad time in a way.  I loved my new healthy path, but I also really loved scones.  And cookies.  And donuts.  And cakes.  And pastries.  I always say “if I could give that stuff up, anybody can!”  It’s not like I ate them all the time but I treated myself more than I should have.   Vegan treats and baked goods are becoming more mainstream, but they are by no means healthy.  The animal products have been removed (win!) but they still have a ton of fat and heavily refined ingredients.  Which is why I love creating healthier versions of fattening vegan baked goods.  These scones fit right in with that mission.  Are they health food that should be eaten all the time?  No.  But they sure are better for you than most, and satisfy a craving without putting your health at risk and creating a ton of guilt!  Enjoy!

Whole Grain Strawberry Scones (vegan, low-fat)

A friend recently posted a link to a scone recipe.  The recipe called for whole wheat flour, and the addition of fruit, making it seem like a healthier version. I opened the link only to find the recipe was anything but healthy.  It called for 1 cup whole cream, 1 stick of butter, an egg and and egg white.  Yes, whole wheat is better than white, but with all the other unhealthy ingredients still there, it hardly makes a difference changing the flour and adding some fruit.  Herein lies the problem with the way so many people eat.  Adding a single food or nutrient, or taking it out, won’t really make much difference in health outcomes.  We must pay attention to the overall pattern and big picture.  As my friend and mentor Dr. Pam Popper says, “the totality of the diet and lifestyle”.

I was determined to “healthify” (not really a word, but I’m going with it) the recipe.  I thought I would just be able to sub out good stuff for bad, but ended up basically creating a whole new recipe. I don’t use oil or vegan butter in my baked goods, but I did use a small amount here.  Scones are all about fat, and I felt I needed some for them to turn out like anything resembling a scone.  Keep in mind these are lighter than traditional scones because they aren’t loaded with fat.  The average scone has 20-30 grams of fat (a day’s worth), so you’d have to expect this healthy version, which has about 3, to be a little different.  They are still delicious, especially when you know arteries aren’t being clogged, and thighs or bellies aren’t growing during consumption!

NOTE: Use organic strawberries, as conventionally grown strawberries are very heavily sprayed with harmful pesticides.  Or, feel free to use a different type of berry.

Sunshine Muffins (vegan, oil-free, low-fat)

I’ve been craving lemon lately, which isn’t normal for me.  I’m guessing it’s because I associate lemon with spring and the outdoors, which are two things I also crave.  Living in SoCal the winters are really no big deal, but it’s still winter, and we have our days of no sun, with plenty of rain and even some cold temps (all relative, I understand).  Whatever. I’m over it.  However, since I have a ways to go until fairly consistent warmth and sunshine ensue, I will satisfy my cravings with muffins like these.  To me, they taste like sunshine.  The cardamom flavor paired with the fresh lemon is quite delicious.  And the best part is they are healthy, using whole grain flours, no animal products and no added fat.   The sun is shining in my kitchen!

Extras: 1) Top muffins with candied lemon zest just prior to cooking for extra lemony goodness.  2) Add 1-2 TBS poppy seeds to batter for Sunshine Poppy Seed Muffins.  🙂

UPDATE 2/12/13: Apparently the cardamom I used the first few times I made these had been around awhile.  I purchased fresh (as fresh as you can get in the store) and used it in the recipe yesterday and the cardamom flavor was way too strong for my tastes.  If you like it strong, stick with the 2 tsp, but I’m adjusting the amount to call for 1/2-1 tsp.  Also, I felt the need to improve texture a bit.  I wanted to lighten them a little; do something to help them rise a bit more (always tricky with fat/free, vegan baking).  I added ground chia seeds/water and was very happy with the end result.  You can grind them in a clean coffee grinder or blender.  

Cherry Chocolate Ice Cream! Non-dairy, low in fat, no sugar added.

I bought organic frozen pitted cherries from Costco recently and decided last night to actually do something with them besides eat them one by one out of the bag like I had been (they are like candy!).  This is one instance (of many) when a Vitamix is the most amazing kitchen appliance you could hope to have.  Love that thing. This creamy, delicious dessert is ready in about 2 minutes, and that includes gathering ingredients!  It’s so sweet, you can’t believe there isn’t added sugar.  Of course, when you sprinkle a few vegan mini chocolate chips on top as I did, that changes the no-sugar-added thing, but it doesn’t add much.  You only need a few.  I always have peeled, frozen bananas in the freezer for just this occasion.  Enjoy!!