Gluten-Free Pumpkin Chocolate Buckwheat Muffins

by Maja Lukic


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It was only a matter of time before I got swept into the pumpkin spice madness of the season. Today, I am sharing a pumpkin muffin that would be a respectable addition to any holiday brunch or breakfast table. 

I have to confess that it took me a very long time to fully appreciate pumpkin puree and pumpkin-flavored treats. To be fair, up until a few years ago, my only associations with pumpkin were: a) the completely unnecessary Starbucks infusion of dairy, sugar, and artificial flavors known as the Pumpkin Spice Latte; and b) the trays of sugary, cracked pumpkin pies that regularly appeared at my local grocery stores around November 1 every year.

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But with age comes, I don't know, wisdom or at least something approximating wisdom. Having been exposed to some delicious pumpkin treats recently, I am now devoted to the sweet gourd. I do think that pumpkin benefits from a little chocolate (as do all things) so I often pair the two together. 

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And, so, this muffin -- the happy marriage of pumpkin, spices, walnuts, dark chocolate, and citrus makes for a perfect fall pastry. The walnuts lend a crunch, the chocolate chunks melt into rich, bittersweet ribbons throughout the batter, the spices are warm but not overwhelming, and it's all perfectly balanced with bright citrus notes. (The orange comes through nicely -- please don't leave it out). 

Do not let the long ingredient list put you off --  you probably have most of the ingredients at home and once you gather the various components, it moves fairly quickly. Also, you can substitute the individual spices with a few teaspoons of your favorite pumpkin pie spice mix. 

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As for texture, this will not yield a very crunchy muffin top, unfortunately. The crumb is soft and incredibly moist. I have a strong aversion to dry or overdone baked goods so I err on the side of underbaking everything. If you prefer a drier or more "done" pastry, simply extend the baking time by a few minutes.  

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Gluten-Free Pumpkin Chocolate Buckwheat Muffins

Adapted from Gluten-Free Apple Banana Nut Muffins

Makes 12 

1 1/4 cup almond flour

1/4 cup buckwheat flour (not buckwheat groats) 

1 tsp baking soda

3 eggs

1 cup canned pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie mix/filling) 

1/2 cup organic maple syrup

1/8 cup unrefined coconut oil

1 orange (juice and zest)

1 tbsp raw apple cider vinegar

2 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

1/8 tsp ground ginger

1/8 tsp ground allspice

pinch of ground clove

pinch of ground white pepper

1 cup raw walnuts, chopped

1/2 cup dark chocolate chunks  

1 tbsp chia seeds

a pinch of sea salt

Preheat the oven to 350 F and line a standard-sized muffin pan with paper liners.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the almond flour, buckwheat flour, baking soda, and a pinch of salt. (Whisking means you don't have to sift the flours!).

In a separate bowl, combine the liquid ingredients: canned pumpkin, coconut oil, maple syrup, three beaten eggs, the juice and zest of an orange, vanilla, and apple cider vinegar. Add cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, a pinch of ground clove, and a pinch of ground white pepper. (If you're using whole peppercorns, two to three grinds of the pepper mill should do it.). 

Slowly incorporate the dry ingredients into the liquid batter, taking care not to overmix. 

Stir in the walnuts, chocolate chunks, and 1 tablespoon of chia seeds. Allow the batter to rest at room temperature for about 10 minutes or so.  

Spoon the mixture evenly into the lined muffin pan, filling each liner to the top (they will not rise much).

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until golden brown.

The muffins will stay fresh wrapped in plastic on the counter for a few days. For long-term storage, wrap the muffins individually and store in the freezer for up to 1 month.

Notes: Both the almond flour and the buckwheat flour should be stored in the fridge or freezer. Instead of the individual spices, you can substitute 1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons of your favorite pumpkin pie spice mix. For a less sweet muffin, decrease the chocolate chunks to 1/3 cup. It's a fairly soft, wet batter but if it seems too wet, add in some more almond flour. Conversely, if the batter seems too dry, add in a little bit of almond milk. Extend the baking time for a drier, crunchier muffin.


Beet Carrot & Apple Juice

by Maja Lukic


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This gorgeously hued crimson juice is delightfully sweet and totally refreshing. Upfront disclosure: the recipe was adapted from Gwyneth Paltrow's new cookbook It's All Good. In my defense, all of her recipes (at least the ones I've tried) are excellent. The book is good and the recipes work.

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Second disclosure: I am not the biggest fan of red beets. This is why I generally prefer to work with golden beets as they're much prettier and will not leave pink stains everywhere. But I have to admit that red beets work perfectly in juices - they give the juice a delicious sweet flavor and lend a gorgeous fuchsia color to it. And I tend to like pretty pink things so here we are.

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Another point about beets - the juice may seem wasteful at first but you can save your beet greens and the vegetable pulp. The greens can be served alone or added to a soup and they'll be completely delicious. The pulp can be used in baked goods or veggie burgers (I'm working on a recipe, in fact).

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Beet Carrot & Apple Juice (v/gf)

Serves 1-2

Adapted from It's All Good 

2 large carrots (the largest you can find), scrubbed and chopped

1 large or 2 medium beets, peeled and cut into wedges

1 organic apple

1 small pear or 1 cup chopped honeydew melon (optional)

1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled

1 lemon, zest and pith removed

Juice the carrots and beets first. At this point, you can remove the vegetable pulp if you need to repurpose it for another recipe (I had to).

If not, proceed with the fruit, ginger and citrus.

Because the carrots and beets are pretty dense, I find it helps to add a pear or some melon or other juicy fruit to lighten the whole thing. But you can leave it out, if you want the original Paltrow treatment.

Serve immediately. 

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Yes - that is the Eiffel Tower. I manically collect postcards and this is my dish towel equivalent of a Parisian postcard.

Drink your beets & leave me a comment (or send me a postcard).



Peach Turmeric & Ginger Smoothie

by Maja Lukic


It's July and we're playing with fresh ripe peaches. Today, in smoothie form. Smoothies are a little obsession of mine. Even in the height of this insane juice craze, I think there is a solid place for blended drinks. There actually seems to be quite a lot of unnecessary smoothie vs. juice debate. Personally, I consume both and do not believe you should ever have to choose between the two as long as you incorporate them in ways that best serve you.

A smoothie can be a standalone meal. A juice, on the other hand, because it's not as filling, is better used as a component of a meal or a healthy snack. In a smoothie, you're consuming the whole fruit or vegetable, with its fiber intact. The juice is processed and stripped of fiber so it may not keep you full for very long. (That is actually a considerable advantage to drinking smoothies - whole foods are generally preferable to processed foods. And fiber is great -- why throw it away?).

As a breakfast item, smoothies have another, and to some people, more important, advantage: time and convenience. Unlike juices, smoothies can be prepared ahead of time and stored for later. They do not oxidize as quickly as juices. I typically make a smoothie the night before and store it in the fridge overnight. (Juices should not be stored. Unless you're lucky enough to own a cold press juicer, drink your juice within 15-25 minutes of making it to preserve its enzymes.).

On to the recipe. I only have two rules when it comes to smoothies:

1. No dairy. Don't worry - I'll take care of you. We will use a frozen banana instead, which gives you that smooth, creamy mouthfeel that you would otherwise get from dairy (but I bet you already knew this about frozen bananas).

2. No ice cubes. Ice will just dilute the flavor, especially as it starts to melt. Bon Appetit concurs: How to Totally Screw Up a Smoothie. For a chilled smoothie (and you will want it chilled), some frozen fruit is a much better option. You will need the fruit anyway. I usually add a frozen banana (see no. 1) but frozen cherries, mangoes, and pineapple are all great choices.

As for the ingredients, it's all pretty straightforward. Try not to leave out the turmeric. It's good for your skin and, curcumin, an antioxidant flavonoid found in turmeric, has been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects. You probably have some lurking around in your cupboard - put it to work.

Peach Turmeric & Ginger Smoothie (v/gf)

Serves 1

2 large organic celery stalks, roughly chopped

1-2 fresh organic peaches, quartered (no need to peel)

1 organic pear or apple, chopped inner core removed (no need to peel)

1 frozen banana, chopped

1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated

1/4 tsp ground turmeric

juice of 1/2 lemon

water/coconut water/fresh fruit juice, as needed

Blend all of the ingredients together, start with veggies and lemon juice (with minimal water or coconut water or even fruit juice) to get everything moving, followed by fruit and grated ginger. Add the frozen banana last and blend everything until smooth.

Parsley Variation: Because I find pure fruit smoothies to be a little too sweet for my tastes sometimes (especially in the morning), I like to add greens. Same as above but add 1/2 cup chopped organic parsley (or other herbs).