Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Grain-Free Muffins Two Ways: Sweet and Savory

We are not a grain-free household by any means, but I maintain a soft spot for the possibility of baked goods sans the glycemic load.

Coconut flour has become all the rage, and though I usually go the opposite direction of fads, this one has something going for it. Coconut meat is excellent for many reasons, not only is it a traditional food packed with fiber, healthy fat and lauric acid; ground into a flour, coconut is a great alternative to grains for those with gluten issues, diabetes, or for those without any restrictions whatsoever.

Baking with coconut flour  takes a bit of getting used to since the proportions cannot be swapped equally with standard flour. But it's worth a go, since like these muffins, you end up with a nutrient packed, grab-and-go, high protein, low-carb snack.

The first recipe for chocolate cinnamon muffins baked nicely, but left me wondering about a savory version as a good breakfast choice on busy mornings.

Since both recipes call for 5 eggs, each muffin has a good dose of protein and healthy fat which serves to adequately satiate without the standard baked-good crash. They are springy and toothsome, giving you the same satisfaction of a standard muffin.

These may be a new stand-by. So far, I really like having them around.

Grain-Free Chocolate Cinnamon Muffins: Makes 8-9 Muffins
*5 fresh eggs
*4 Tablespoons butter, or coconut oil melted and cooled
*1 cup unsweetened applesauce or mashed overripe bananas
*3 Tablespoons raw honey
*1/2 cup coconut flour
*2-3 Tablespoons high quality unsweetened cocoa powder
*1 teaspoon baking soda
*1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon

Whisk eggs, butter applesauce and honey together in a small mixing bowl. Sift together dry ingredients. Blend flour mixture into egg mixture until well incorporated. Allow to sit for 10 minutes for the coconut oil to absorb moisture.  Meanwhile preheat oven to 400 degrees and grease a muffin tin with butter or coconut oil.
Equally divide mixture into muffin tins. Sprinkle with maple sugar if desired. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven. Cool for 5 minutes before gently loosening each muffin with a knife and transferring to a cooling rack.

Grain-Free Cheddar Scallion Muffins: Makes about 8-9 muffins
*5 fresh eggs
*1 cup whole milk plain yogurt
*4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
*1/2 cup coconut flour
*1/2 teaspoon sea salt
*1 teaspoon baking soda
*2 Tablespoons chopped scallions
*2/3 cup shredded cheddar

Whisk eggs, yogurt and butter together in a small mixing bowl. In another bowl, sift together the coconut flour, sea salt and baking soda. Add to wet mixture until thoroughly incorporated. Mix in the scallions and most of the cheddar, reserving a small portion to sprinkle over muffin batter. Allow to sit for 10 minutes. Meanwhile preheat oven to 400 degrees and grease a muffin tin with butter. Divide mixture evenly into muffin tins. Top with reserved cheddar. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes before gently loosening each muffin with a knife and transferring to a cooling rack.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Midwifing The Paw Paw Tree

It will be months of anticipation until the honeydew-hued paw paw skins tarnish yielding a scoopable, juicy flesh, this all hinging on the pollinators having a frisky spring.

Enjoying the fruit in September begins as early as March or April here in WNC. Unlike other early bloomers such as wild cherry and black locust, the sent of the paw paw flower is relatively foul. For the paw paw blossom, its funk attracts a specific type of lover, one with specific tastes, like the carrion fly. Yes, the same individuals who cannot help themselves from the intoxicating smell of road kill are the same to have the hots for the humble paw paw flower, with little competition.
The two paw paw trees at my place are finally mature and bearing fruit within the last couple of years, but not substantially.
To secure adequate pollination, growers can pollinate themselves, with a horsehair paintbrush and plenty of patience. But the timing has to be right, since the early green, tight blossoms start out female then become male as they mature and turn dark red.

This brings me to this guy:

This raccoon didn't have a good winter, and somehow ended up near the garden early this spring. I got excited about keeping the skull so I buried it and marked the spot. Impatience got the best of me, as usual, and I dug it up a little prematurely. And it was gross. Really gross. So I put it in the open air to "dry out." Then the flies came, and came in droves. I was bummed because I was looking forward to bleaching the skull and maybe painting its teeth gold and placing it with my other natural treasures to look upon, but this was a ways off.
Then in the middle of the night it hit me, why wasn't I putting those flies to good use? The raccoon skull yet again escaped a moment to rest in peace, and was gingerly hung in the budding branches of the paw paw tree.

I wrote my dear friend Dana (fellow lover of the paw paw)  about how long it took me to put two and two together on this one, wanting a good year for the paw paws while simultaneously unable to let go of this special but totally disgusting raccoon head. Her reply was: "Beautiful portrait. The raccoon skull midwifing the new life of the paw paws".  And there you have it.  The delicacy of pollination, of death and life and life and death, and how they all are part of the same thread. Somewhere in this cycle, I will eat a paw paw, be nourished and remember the raccoon and its fetish-freak flying friends who made it a good year.