I have railed against the gluten-free food fad for years, both loudly and in print. So when I developed a doctor-diagnosed, non-celiac gluten sensitivity, I blamed karma, who obviously wanted to keep all the Asiago bagels for herself.
I also grabbed a copy of “Easy Flourless Muffins, Bars & Cookies” by Amanda Drozdz (Page Street Publishing, $21.99), because I was not about to eschew baked goods. Side note: If you’re peachy keen with gluten, but limit other ingredients like oils, dairy or refined sugar, this book is for you, too.
I had been spending my weight on fancy artisanal flours (ahem, teff flour, I’m looking at you). Thanks to Drozdz, I learned how to channel my inner Laura Ingalls Wilder, and grind my own gluten-free flour from scratch using oats and a blender. You can use instant oats, but I prefer the less expensive, more fiber-happy gluten-free rolled oats from the bulk bin at the grocery store. Just pour a scoop of oats into the blender, and secure the lid. I mean, REALLY secure it, with your hand pressing the top so a cloud of oat dust doesn’t cover your kitchen counter and new dark jeans. Blend on high speed (aka puree) for three minutes.
Just like that, you’ve made fluffy, soft oat flour. It will keep in a sealed container for up to three months. Consider grinding a big batch so you’re prepared when the cookie-making mood strikes.
Armed with my new favorite flour, I decided to make a gluten-free banana muffin so I could sit and eat a healthy breakfast, even if I was sitting in the car. Why banana? My children won’t eat a banana that has a single brown spot on it, so we always have an abundance begging for good use. If you’re not a banana person, experiment with zucchini, pumpkin or even silken tofu.
It seemed counterintuitive to fill my healthy muffin with oil or butter, so I looked for a good fat substitute. Applesauce is a common heart-healthy replacement, and works if you need a vegan ingredient. I am always interested in boosting my protein intake, so I used nonfat Greek yogurt instead. The yogurt made the muffins plenty spongy, and not dry at all. I did add eggs, but if you’re vegan — or simply forgot to buy eggs — some of Drozdz’s recipes use ground flax seed as an egg substitute.
Sugar posed a conundrum for me. I used coconut palm sugar in my initial batch, because palm sugar is unrefined. (Plant-based folks, take note: It’s also vegan.) Palm sugar is very sweet, which means you can use less of it than granulated white sugar. It also has a strong molasses-like flavor, which works particularly well in things like pumpkin pie. But here, it overwhelmed the delicate banana flavor, so I relented and used refined brown sugar instead. If you are a fan of molasses, go ahead and try the palm sugar. Use a little less than the recipe calls for, and feel superior knowing that your muffins are slightly healthier than mine.
All of the oats and bananas made my muffins a little dense. To break up the texture, I added naturally sweet, fiber-rich raisins. Now, if you are categorically opposed to raisins, or if you just need more chocolate in your life (you know, for the antioxidants), you can substitute 1/4 cup mini chocolate chips instead. Unlike the heavier, regular-sized chocolate chips, the mini chips stay suspended in the batter.
Each of these muffins gives you an appetite-satisfying 3 grams of protein and 2 grams of fiber for just more than 100 calories. And, unlike some packaged gluten-free baked goods from the grocery, they’re made from simple ingredients that you can pronounce, which, I think, is something even the gluten-eating gang can appreciate.