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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
Apricot-Cherry Muffins (Vegan)
Loosely adapted from the recipe by the Ellie Krieger
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
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)
Optional: 1/2 cup of quinoa crumble
- 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.