Inspiration and Baking

Remember my food-photo-dump post about my time in Marin? I promised recipes, and here they are! With a bit of a back story to go with.

I love my dear friend Erin, and I blame (thank) her for jump-starting my passion for health and well-being. We were roommates our freshman year, and I secretly considered myself the luckiest freshman ever to have been randomly assigned to live with this girl. We shared a passion for good food, dedication to academics, and of course lots of silly quirks – but we were different enough that we got along perfectly.

When I started college, I considered myself relatively healthy – which was not untrue. But, like many people out there, I was using a mainstream definition of healthy. I exercised a few times a week and ate my vegetables. However, I knew little about processed products and clean living.

Erin is eco-friendly in every way – a ‘green girl’, promoting clean living. To our room she brought her whole collection of all natural cleaning products, kitchen supplies, and room decor. Her accomplishments in this field would put many adults (forget college students!) to shame. She inspired me to start using chemical free cosmetics. She inspired me to stop using disposable bags. She inspired me to completely cut out foods with chemical preservatives and processed ingredients.

Over a year later, I’ve made incredible progress. I’m now completely turned off by certain foods and products that were once a big part of my lifestyle – and I feel better for it. I’m helping my body, and my environment. Granted, I haven’t made it to Erin’s level, but I’m doing my part for now and feeling good about it. That being said, when I visited her this month, I jumped at the chance to pass on some eco-foodie knowledge I’ve learned from the blog world. Erin has a gluten intolerance, and has gone vegan this past year. In my short time blogging, I’ve learned a few things about the little nuances of vegan and gluten-free baking – or so I’d like to believe.

Inspired by the two rotting bananas on the counter, Erin and I set out to make banana-related baked goods.

We were looking through recipes from everywhere – her cookbooks, my favorite bloggers, our collections. [[disclaimer – many chocolate chips lost their lives to our stomachs during this whole process]] First I had to make sure we had all the essentials, including a good gluten-free flour mix, unprocessed sugar, baking powder and baking soda, non-dairy milk and some sort of egg-replacer – wait, what’s that? Erin had never used a vegan egg-replacer – never even knew that chia or flax seeds had the magical power of holding baked goods together! “So that’s why all of my creations fall apart!” In general, she rarely follows recipes. While in general I’m not super strict about recipes, quality baking is a science. Amounts matter – for consistency more than anything, and in a recipe with no oil, we needed something more than bananas to hold the batter together.

We settled on modifying a recipe Erin had archived, making it g-free and vegan.

The batter held together well, but the consistency was a little thin, and not as dough-y as I would have liked. Then again, we didn’t add any thicker flours or starches, which would have been good.

That's Erin's hand there!

We devoured them anyway – the flavor was light and fluffy, but layered and delicious. Here is the non gluten free version, as the g-free substitutions we made were not fantastic.

Chocolate Banana Nut Loaded Muffins

[[makes about 16 mini-muffins]]

  • 2 small mashed bananas
  • 2 flax or chia eggs (2 Tbsp. ground seeds plus 5-6 Tbsp water)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar (we used a brown sugar / cane sugar mix, any will do)
  • 1 T vanilla
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon (or to taste, your choice of spices, feel free to omit)
  • mix-ins – 1/2 cup chopped & toasted walnuts, 1/2 cup vegan chocolate chips
  • topping – 1/4 cup oats, 1 t brown sugar (optional)

Directions: Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare the flax or chia egg (add water and ground seed meal, let sit for at least 10 minutes until it forms a gel). Mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl. Combine the banana, sugar, vanilla, and flax/chia egg, mix well.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry, mix until just combined, do not over mix. Add in your mix ins of choice. (Don’t forget to taste your batter – you know… quality control) Grease a muffin pan (we used coconut oil). Spoon the batter into the pan, bake for about 15 minutes, or until done (golden brown on top, clean toothpick comes out). As soon as possible, transfer the muffins to a cooling rack, and eat your heart out.

Overall it was a success – even just being able to share a bit of foodie knowledge. To make them gluten-free, I’d experiment with a mix of oat, brown rice, coconut, and arrowroot flours.

But wait, there’s more! Baking part II turned out  much better than part I. Remember this?

We had fresh fruit on hand, and wanted a warm but summery sweet treat.

‘Berry-Peachy’ Crisp for Two

  • 1/2 ripe nectarine
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh berries
  • 1+2 Tbsp. dark brown sugar (packed)
  • spices to taste – we used cinnamon and allspice, because we lost our fresh nutmeg!
  • 3-4 Tbsp earth balance (or other vegan butter) softened, in small pieces
  • 1/4 cup rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup brown rice flour (or any flour, I liked the rice is this dessert)

Directions: mix the washed and chopped fruit with 1 T brown sugar and spices. Stir until the sugar is well-distributed, and let sit for at least 10 minutes. In a separate bowl, combine the earth balance, flour, remaining sugar, oats, and more spices. Knead this mixture until the butter is well-distributed and the topping has a dough-like consistency.

Pour the fruit mixture into a small, shallow glass baking dish. Crumble on the topping, distributing evenly. Bake at 350 for about 45 minutes, or until the topping turns golden brown and the fruit bubbles up the sides. Let cool at least 5 minutes. Serve with your favorite vanilla bean ice cream substitute.

We sat and enjoyed our rather generous (read: perfect) helpings, watched a cutesy movie, tired and sunburnt, and tried not to think about the fact that I had to leave the next day. I felt so lucky to met this girl, to have learned all that she has to give, and to have taught her something of my own. Next time, I’m dragging her home to Chicago with me 🙂

Side note: don’t forget I’m switching domains on August 1st to !


7 thoughts on “Inspiration and Baking

  1. Hi! Thank you so much for stopping by my blog as well as the sweet birthday wishes!

    It’s so funny – one of the first people to introduce me to healthy living in college was also named Erin! She’s still one of my closest friends and was my yoga instructor before I moved to Orlando – I credit her with my interest in veganism, clean eating and healthy cooking; she even brought vegan cupcakes to our graduation party!

  2. I’ve always been a fairly healthy eater but I feel like the blog world has open my eyes up to more “clean” kinds of recipes and things! I no longer fear the fat and calories in nut butter, and I think twice about drinking so much diet soda!

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