Apricot-Cherry Muffins (Vegan)

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Last week, one day in particular dragged on more than others. The kids and I were at a medical appointment on the other side of town and faced a three-hour wait. The office has a beautiful apricot tree, brimming with sweet, lush tangerine-colored fruit. The clinic allows patients to pick the apricots; my kids loved this activity to pass the time. I had plans for these apricots: involving muffins, of course! It’s a rare day when there isn’t a muffin to be found at Casa Curls and Carrots.

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Later on in the week, the apricots made their way into chicken salads, a quinoa pilaf… and vegan apricot-cherry muffins. These muffins are slightly sweet, moist and packed with ripe, refreshing fruit. The crunchy pecans in the batter and crisp quinoa crumble on top provide nice textural juxtaposition to the soft crumb.

On Sunday, the healthy yet tasty treat accompanied a savory brunch of fritatta (no, not vegan… A life without eggs, aged gouda and turkey bacon sounds too sad) and gigantic, colorful salad. This morning, the kiddies and I enjoyed the muffins toasted, with goat butter and honey – along with bowls of thick, strained yogurt topped fresh fruit. The scrumptious baked good is nothing if not versatile.

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This is my foray in vegan baking, and the results are surprising and impressive. This recipe tastes as satisfying and texturally pleasing as any of my standby muffins using animal products. I am glad that I opened my mind to trying something different. Lesson of the day: Shanna, do not be intimidated by vegan recipes! This kitchen “first” encourages me to continue incorporating plant-based foods into our family’s diet, such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes and their oils. Not that fruit consumption is an issue around here!

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My kids love fruit. They ask for it constantly and enjoy its natural hydrative quality and unassuming, pleasing sweetness. The myriad colors also attract them: “Yes, this large and spherical, deep red and glacé apples is all mine.” When we have a sitter over, I fully expect to come home to a refrigerator emptied of fruit. The kids take full advantage “free kitchen reign” to eat big pints of blueberries and strawberries, loads of apples and literally pounds of grapes. It is possible my children would live on fruit if allowed!

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The munchkins enjoying toast with My Lilikoi Kitchen’s homemade jam and, of course, fruit.

I grew up like many Americans, without access to healthy and nutritious food. When I was first able to work for a “real” paycheck at the age of fourteen (sacking groceries at the local market), I often spent the hard-earned money on clothes or “real” food for my brother and me. Usually, I bought simple fruits and vegetables, like carrots, grapes and apples… food that grew somewhere and still radiated life. Sometimes, I indulged in nice meats and cheeses from the deli – like the ones my friends had on their sandwiches at lunch, layered between two slices of whole-grain bread and neatly cut in half on the diagonal, crust removed. At the time, grapes, carrots and a turkey sandwich were a fancy and seemingly unattainable meal. An indulgence. Of course, I never cut off the crusts – it felt wrong somehow. I still can’t bring myself to waste food – or cut off crusts.

These days, my life is one without worry when it comes to stocking the fridge with nutritious fare. When my kids “luxuriously” grab an apple or pear from the fruit drawer without second thought, it gives me great pleasure. My childhood was one of deprivation, food-wise and beyond, while theirs is one of safety, security and having “enough.” Enough nutritious food and good clothes, enough love and enough kindness around them. It is an amazing feeling when my two and four-year-olds hug me and tell me they love me. As their mother and caretaker, I want to give them everything I can, including a great introduction into life-long health – through simple things like healthy meals, family walks and snacks of fresh fruit.

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My first year in college at the University of Texas at Austin in 2001, when I met my husband, Greg.

My fruit-less but not fruitless (here I am, a happy and productive citizen, mother and wife!) childhood was officially left behind on Friday, figuratively speaking. When I was eighteen, I left home, put myself through school and never looked back. I obtained my education – and also a mountain of debt. Even though I worked in school, it is just not possible to fund higher-education via most types of employment. These massive student loans hang over my head like a dark cloud. I am unsure why, but they serve as a constant, sad reminder of the painful, difficult early years was and complete lack of parental care and compassion.

Well, no longer! Those student loans have bit the dust. Years of hard work and sacrifice (on the part of not only me, but my husband, as well), along with an unexpected financial gain, set the student debt afire. Good riddance and good bye.

I feel free! My spirit is light and unburdened, and this 31-years-young gal is ready to take on the world: one written word and fruit-filled muffin at a time.

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I’ll celebrate this new chapter in my life with an apricot-cherry muffin, brimming with seasonal fruit, rich pecans and long, generous drizzles of delicate honey. I will remind myself of the opulence and sheer rarity of abundant, fresh and healthy food to many deserving people around the world – and in the United States.

I will prompt my heart and mind to always feel grateful.

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Apricot-Cherry Muffins (Vegan)

Loosely adapted from the recipe by the Ellie Krieger

Ingredients:

1/2 teaspoon each: ground nutmeg, cardamom and cinnamon

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour or white wheat flour

3/4 teaspoon each: baking powder and baking soda

1/2 teaspoon fine salt

1/4 cup coconut oil, melted

flax “eggs”

1 cup puréed banana

1/2 cup coconut sugar

1 teaspoon each: almond and vanilla extract

11 Tablespoons unsweetened almond milk

1 Tablespoon white vinegar

1 organic Fuji or other crisp apple, cored and cut into 1/4-inch pieces

4 small apricots, seed removed, cut into 1/4-inch pieces

1/3  cup chopped, roasted pecans (or more, to taste)

1/3 cup dried, unsweetened cherries (or more, to taste)

Cooking spray

Optional: 1/2 cup of quinoa crumble

Preparation:

  • Preheat the oven to 375•F. Line two twelve-cup muffin pans with sixteen muffin liners and spray the liners with cooking spray.
  • Mix the vinegar and almond milk together and allow to sit.
  • In a medium bowl, sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom and salt. Stir in the pecans, apricots, apples and cherries.
  • In a large bowl, whisk the sugar, oil, flax “eggs,” banana purée, almond and vanilla extracts and almond milk/vinegar mixture.
  • Use a rubber spatula to mix flour mixture into the wet mixture in two batches, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Stir just until combined. Gently stir in the apple chunks.
  • Use an ice-cream scoop to place the batter into the prepared muffin pans and sprinkle evenly with the quinoa crumble. Each muffin will have about 1/2 Tablespoon of crumble.
  • Tap the pan on the counter at least twice to remove any air bubbles.
  • Bake until a wooden pick inserted in center of one of the muffins comes out completely clean, about 30 minutes. If your fruit is very moist, the muffins may take longer to fully cook.
  • Let the muffins cool on a wire rack for fifteen minutes. Remove the muffins from the pan and allow to cool completely on the rack, about 30-45 minutes. The cooling process allows the fruit to fully set.

©Shanna Koenigsdorf Ward, shannaward.com (2013-2014), unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without expressed and written permission from this blog’s author, Shanna Koenigsdorf Ward, and/or owner is strictly and completely prohibited.

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39 thoughts on “Apricot-Cherry Muffins (Vegan)

  1. What wonderful looking muffins! I wish I had a doctor’s office like that, not the long wait part though. How lucky your children are to have you as their mother. Your are doing a great job, providing a loving home and lifelong learning moments. Good riddance to that debt!! I was lucky enough to come out of undergrad and graduate school debt free and I truly know how lucky I am for that. As we put away money every month now in the boys’ college funds I hope we can provide that for them as well….although with all they eat we may never be able to save enough! My boys too would eat fruit every waking moment if we let them, I sometimes hoard my mangoes just because if they see them I may never get any!

    1. Thank you for your words, Gretchen. Your comments are always kind, intuitive and thoughtful. I appreciate your readership! From one harried mom of little munchkins to another, I send you best wishes for an easy and fun-filled week! As for the mangoes, I am occasionally known to put an organic gala apple on top of the fridge: this is mama’s snack! 😉

  2. These look so moist and delicious! Never thought of combining apricots with cherries. Delicious for sure! Thanks for the inspiration

  3. I love this essay on fruit and life! I love fruit, too, and my girls always have as well. I know some families where people do not eat fruit–not because they don’t have access, but because they don’t want it! So sad.
    I love that you can pick apricots at your doctor’s office! But a three-hour wait. Yikes!

    I am so happy for you that you’ve been able to pay of your college loans. I know my girls worry about theirs–although they were fortunate enough to receive scholarships and grants, so they really do not have a large sum compared to many students –except my older daughter has grad school now, too.

    The muffins look scrumptious–not apricot season here yet. The photos of your children and of you and your husband are adorable. (Did you do the artwork in the background?)

    1. Merril, your thoughtful, concise and intelligent comments make my day. Thank you for reading and leaving some of your own words on the page! Your daughters all sound amazing, and I know they will be very successful in their chosen careers. Enjoy your afternoon over on the East coast!

  4. This is a lovely post. I think it’s really hard to try to forge a way through parenthood when we don’t have good role models ourselves, but it sounds like you have made a wonderful job of it.

    Food is very important in the nurturing process. Not just indulgence, but educating ourselves too so that we can give our children the best we can.

    That is a lovely college photo! What you did, all by yourself, was amazing. If you had had had good parenting, everything would have been easier. There are many parents who are willing and able to help their children out through Uni. So it is no wonder that the student debt felt bitter to you. But then, so are the most complex tasting vegetables.

    1. Thank you for leaving a wonderful note, Denise. I can tell what a thoughtful person you are; your words are always spot-on. I agree that we should not only indulge, but teach health and wellness. Moderation really is the key in all things. Yes, I am fascinated by the nurturing power of food. From the day we come out of the womb, we receive food from the body of our mother, if we are lucky. We grow to eat food, and most importantly, share food with our friends, family and loved ones (and often our culture, heritage and ourselves in the process). It is truly amazing! Have a great evening – the sun is setting in the UK!

  5. Another great post, Shanna. I like the idea of using fresh apricots in muffins. I’m not really big on the vegan thing though — it is perfectly natural for humans to eat animal products. Thanks for sharing the story about your past. I’ve been wondering for a while now how you’ve become such a wonderful person, and this gives me a little insight. The story about using your hard-earned money to buy good food for yourself and your siblings touched me. Your kids are so lucky to have you for a mom! Great to hear you’ve gotten rid of the student loan. Have a great evening 🙂

    1. Stefan, I appreciate your most warm and generous words! Thank you. Also, I agree with you about animal products. We evolved to eat them; they are without question an important part of the diet, in moderation. You know, I currently have both chocolate brownies and yeasted bread in the oven (with eggs and butter in them, of course), along with a whole chicken! ;-)This vegan recipe came along my happenstance. I was out of eggs and read that flax eggs often work out well in baking, and we had some coconut oil on hand: so, the muffins came to fruition (no pun intended!). Enjoy your evening as well (if you are not already asleep in The Netherlands!). Also, happy anniversary!

  6. Shanna,
    Your kids are adorable and there is nothing better in the world to be a good mommy providing love and nurture unconditionally. On the other note, I was in Dallas for sometime. I didn’t go to the school here but in India. My husband went through the school here and I know the nuisances that come along with good education. A big yay to leaving the student debt history behind. Phew :). And a bigger yay to the world, “I am coming, be ready for a hug” ;)..feeling. Great isn’t it? For the recipe, you have created a delicious and a healthy muffin there. I agree on teaching kids about making right choices when young.
    Hugs and Cheers
    Sonal

    1. Thank you, Sonal. I just popped over to check out the latest and greatest at SImply Vegetarian, and it looked amazing. I love the meatless Monday recipes with great flavors, textures and substance! What did your husband study in the US and in Dallas? What did you study at Indian universities? I appreciate your readership, your visit and your soulful presence on the blog! Cheers!

      1. I am a marketing major. My husband didn’t go to school in Dallas. He was working there. He went to Pennstate for MBA. And before that he went East West Center, Hawaii for MS in environmental and civil engineering.

  7. Oh, Shanna–congratulations times a million! Am so glad you’re able to officially put more of the yucky stuff behind you. You’ve written a lovely post touching on all sorts of life issues. And how wonderful that it can always be connected to food and nourishment. I envy you your children who think a pear is an indulgence. Mine always want chocolate! We often have to compromise and drizzle chocolate sauce on the pears 😉 I owe you a longer note later. 😀

    1. Liz, Oh, the dark chocolate and even cocoa nibs…. My kids love the “C’s”. I suppose that the cocoa bean is technically a fruit, no? Earthy chocolate sauce on sweet, succulent fruit… I will not argue with that! Thanks for your most kind words and thoughts. Your kids are certainly happy, healthy and have an amazing mom. You take great care of them, amiga. Enjoy your night!

  8. Darling Shanna, You have grown into a fine, educated, beautiful person, wife and mother. You have a flourishing family and making smart decisions for your adorable children.
    I’m sure the apricot-cherry-muffins are superb! 😛

  9. These muffins look wonderful! I will have to look out for coconut sugar. Maybe I can find this at Mana Foods in Paia. Goodbye to those student loans! Best ~ Kiyo

  10. Wonderful picture of your children and the picture of the first year of college so SWEET! We love this recipe Apricot-Cherry Muffins. Looks gooood! 😀

  11. You’re right, Shanna, we’re such privileged people nowadays! My mom has always shown a remarkable tendency to buy her groceries really carefully; if she didn’t find the right tomatoes at the farmers’ market she didn’t buy any at all and tried the next day. So I kind of inherited that habit (I can spend a couple of hours to buy dinner ingredients for a normal day!)
    These muffins look just awesome! I love apricots; I wish I could pick a few while waiting at the medical centre 😉
    Un beso

    1. Thank you, Rosa, for your visit and lovely words. I used to be much more particular at the market and really take my time, much like you and your mother – looking for the very best. These days, I try to get in and out as quickly as possible, before one toddler or another has a melt down! Sadly, the days of the perfect tomato have passed. Sigh. Have a lovely Sunday, amiga. Un beso muy fuerte.

  12. A touching and inspiring story. Unfortunately the U.K universities are now following the American model and charging higher and higher fees. I am from a very working class family and I’m not sure I would have been able to go to university if the fees then were what they are now. Congratulations to you. Your children are beautiful and very lucky to have a mother like you. Through food we nurture those we love. Emma xx

    1. Hi, Emma,
      I am sorry to hear about the changing higher educational fee model in the UK. It is truly a shame if intelligent, hard-working kids do not have access to university education. I hope that the UK provides funding for deserving students, and does not leave them crippled with a life-time of loans, as the US. Before legislation for income-based repayments, my loans were over half of my salary! I encourage everyone who desires a college degree to pursue it, even if it is class by the class. Having an education opens doors that would otherwise be firmly closed! Thanks for your comment, Emma! Access to education is a subject that I am passionate about. 🙂 – Shanna

  13. Such a beautiful photograph with joy of your new love showing! Congratulations on reaching 13 years since this photo was taken! Love your recipes and the children are so beautiful inside and out! Smiles, Robin

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