Oh, December … I can’t help feeling festive even if it brings final exams. This is thanks to my mother, who was the ultimate creator of magic at Christmas. Her Swedish and Norwegian heritage fit right in with the snowy woods of Maine, where we needed light, warmth and merriment to fortify us for the long, cold winter ahead. Thankfully, the Christmas season was never about buying piles of stuff. There wasn’t any money for that! My brother and I spent hours poring over the Sears “Wishbook”, but the real fun was in dreaming. I don’t think we ever got a single thing we looked at! What we did get was tons of baking; creating handmade gifts; art projects; favorite stories, music, and traditions; and the fun of delivering little remembrances to friends and neighbors.
When this time of year rolls around, I still feel a sense of delight and anticipation. I wish I had the whole month in the kitchen! Tomorrow (December 5th) is Saint Nicholas Day, celebrated most notably in Holland. Mom adopted the tradition of having us put a shoe outside our bedroom doors the night before, which held a small piece of chocolate in the morning. More recently, I learned from Dutch friends about the custom of writing special, funny pun-filled poems for friends on this day. I love it! What a nice thing to do with your kids to kick off the holiday season …
In my enthusiasm for the season I impulsively bought a box of beautiful cranberries the other day, then got them home and thought, “What am I actually going to do with these??” I needed something to get me through a slog of final papers and tests. I recalled the slightly sweet cranberry bread Mom always made at this time of year — I always liked the taste but found it a bit dry. This year I made a pumpkin bread for Thanksgiving with a gluten-free flour mix that I also found too dry and starchy. I thought I could do much better with almond and coconut flours, which lend themselves to extra moist quick breads. It took two tries and a little frustration, but here it is — a super-nutritious, super-delicious muffin recipe that would be lovely on a brunch table — or enjoyed around the tree, reading Christmas stories by candlelight.
YUMMY CRANBERRY NUT MUFFINS:
- 1 1/2 cups unsweetened applesauce
- 2 cups fresh (or frozen) cranberries
- 1 cup walnuts
- 1 tablespoon grated orange zest (optional)
- 1 1/2 cups almond flour
- 1/2 cup coconut flour
- 6 eggs
- 8 drops liquid vanilla stevia (I like Whole Foods brand or find online — one bottle lasts forever!)
- 2/3 cup coconut oil, melted
- 1 tablespoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line two muffin tins with paper liners. Pulse cranberries and walnuts in a food processor until coarsely chopped. (Don’t pulverize them! See photo.) You can also chop by hand, but it’s a bit of a task. Mix applesauce, eggs, stevia, and oil in a large mixing bowl. Add the dry ingredients, and mix til smooth. Fold in the nuts & cranberries. Scoop by spoonfuls into muffin tins. Fill them quite full (See photo.) This recipe makes 20 muffins. Bake for about 15 minutes or until tops are firm, when pressed with your finger. Enjoy! (*Note: these muffins benefit from a rest before removing them from the papers and slicing. They are more delicate than muffins made with grain flours, when they first come out of the oven, but they get themselves together as they cool over an hour or so. I take grain-free muffins to school all the time, and the upside in addition to health is that they hold up great over time — staying much moister and fresher than conventional ones.