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Here is the transcript of the episode:

Welcome to the Sensitive Kitchen, where home cooks are inspired to Cook to Enable Those You Love to Flourish. I’m Cindy Sullivan, registered dietitian, passionate nutrition educator, and accomplished home cook. Whether you’re changing how you cook for food sensitivities, allergies, intolerances, or just trying to eat healthier on a budget, you’re in the right place.

Most episodes, I will share favorite recipes as well as modifications, tips, and nutrition benefits. Occasionally I’ll have a guest or special episode like modifying holiday favorites. My favorite foods, they’re raspberries and homemade chocolate chip cookies. My latest cooking project was long fermented sourdough bread.

Cindy: Hello. Welcome to the Sensitive Kitchen. Today we are going to talk about gluten free, dairy free, egg free, as well as regular veggie muffins, savory and sweet. In other words, we’re going to talk about all the veggie muffins and to help me today is my wonderful student, Rebekah Klewicki. She is going to be a senior, this coming year at Virginia tech and this is a recipe she chose to develop. Thankfully, I helped her bake because I can’t tell you how many batches of muffins we have made testing this recipe for you all. So welcome Rebekah and glad you’re here with me today.

Rebekah: Yes. Thanks for having me on the podcast.

Cindy: Tell us a little bit about this vegetable muffin recipe. How did it come to be? What were our goals? What, what were you trying to do with it?

Rebekah: Well, I think we were making these veggie muffins because we wanted to have a good option for people who maybe don’t like to eat vegetables, just normally like dinner or vegetables aren’t their favorite thing and muffins are a really great tool to use to include more muffins [veggies] in your diet. So we were trying to get a, a healthy muffin that had a good amount of vegetable servings in it. And this is what we came up with.

Cindy: That’s awesome. And there’s a big market for this. I know so many people tell me my kids won’t eat vegetables. My husband doesn’t like vegetables, or I don’t like vegetables, whoever they happen to be. Right. But the problem I know with a lot of muffins is they’re really cake in little muffin shapes, right? They’ve got gobs of added sugar, lots of other things that aren’t very healthy for us. Tell us a little bit about these muffins.

Rebekah: Yeah. These muffins are healthy and have vegetables. They are, have a lot of fiber. They have no added sugar. We have a lot of vitamins from the vegetables – Vitamin A – and yeah, we tried to keep with just whole grains. So they are pretty healthy.

Cindy: And there’s even no added fat. It’s kind of amazing in a muffin. So I baked my first batch and I was like, Ooh, how are these going to taste? And I was surprised they actually, now we’re talking about the savory ones cause that’s where we started right was with the savory ones. I was pleasantly surprised. I’m like, Hey, these are pretty good. Now Rebekah told me when she made her first batch, she immediately did something. What did you do to your first batch when you first made them Rebekah, for your second batch?

Rebekah: I thought that they were a bit bland, the first batch that I made. So I ended up adding a lot of spices to mine and a lot of herbs to increase the flavor of them.

Cindy: And this is a really important point, right? My family thought they were okay and Rebekah’s thought, oh, she’s like, we need more, more spice. They need more flavor. And your family might fall into either of those categories. Right? You might be, oh yeah, these are fine. Or we need more spice in them. And so we’re going to put both of those recipes as the regular recipe, as well as the modifications on the blog.

You can find it at, episode 031. And you can find those there, all the modifications. And so it’s really your family. Like I said, might fall into, we like more spice. We like less spice, whatever works. But I started baking in the kitchen. I started the day before Rebekah did and I had a problem.

I baked this muffin. I tried to get out of the pan and it wouldn’t come out of the pan. And I forced it out of the pan. And half of it came out of the pan and it wasn’t that I didn’t grease my muffin tins. I greased it like crazy like, oh dear, what’s going on here? Well, they weren’t done. These muffins have cheese on the top.

Especially the savory ones at least. I stuck a toothpick in, it came out clean because the cheese made the crumbs not stick to it, but they weren’t done. They were really moist, wet, not even moist, wet inside. So I quick texted Rebekah and said increase the baking time. I throw them back in the oven.

It didn’t work so well, but I tried. And those did not go over so well. So we’ve added more spice and we increased the cooking time. What else? Rebekah, can you think of what else we did to those very first ones to sort help them out a little bit and try to get rid of the moisture because all those vegetables, when they cooked in the muffin released moisture.

Rebekah: Yes. They’re very wet muffins. Even when they’re fully cooked, they’re like more wet than a normal muffin, a little bit denser, but it’s really just that there’s a lot of moisture in them from the vegetables. So definitely I would squeeze out my vegetables as much as I could to get as much water out as possible. And then another thing that I did both to get rid of moisture and then also to increase the flavor was I roasted my shredded vegetables.

So I just put a little bit of very small amount of oil in the pan – so those ones do have a little bit of added oil – and I sautéed them on the stove for a few minutes to get them a little bit brown to give them flavor. And then that also released a lot of the water. So the muffins turned out a little bit less wet [when] I did that.

Cindy: Yeah, those are great suggestions. But then I started thinking, okay, wait a minute. I’ve already shredded the vegetables and I’ve made the rest of the muffins. Do I really want to sauté them? I’m sometimes a really lazy cook you all. So I’m like, oh, do I want to shred them? And then sauté them?

So I was a little hesitant to do that. So what I did was I just saw sautéed the shallots and the garlic and that improved them immensely in terms of flavor. Now, if you really like strong garlic shallot, or you could use onion, flavor right. Then you’re going to love them how they are. But I actually liked it better with those sautéed and I didn’t sauté all my vegetables.

I just put those in a little pan, a little eight inch round non-stick pan. I don’t even think I added any oil. Maybe I did. I don’t remember now. And, and that really helped the flavor in my opinion. So we’re working on this and trying to not get too much moisture in these muffins, because like I said, when you cook these vegetables, the moisture releases. Now if you’ve sautéed them ahead of time, that’s okay. But any other things you can think of Rebekah? Tell us about you were using liners and I wasn’t using liners. Tell us are what we discovered about that.

Rebekah: Yes, I was using liners because I thought, well, that’s the easiest way to get them out of the pan. It turns out based on your experience, it probably was, however, mine were much wetter because of the liners, like the liner trapped the moisture and didn’t let it escape into the air. So it turned out that when I didn’t use the liners, they ended up being a lot fluffier and lighter because the moisture could escape. So I would definitely recommend not using liners for this recipe and just making sure the muffins cook all the way through so that they’ll come out of the pain.

Cindy: Do you have any tips on making sure they’re cooked all the way through? Cause it’s a hard one.

Rebekah: Yeah, because they’re still wet even when they’re cooked using a thermometer is helpful. So I think we both made sure that they got the middle got past 200 degrees Fahrenheit and that seemed to work well.

Cindy: Yeah, that was my, that was my main one too. The other thing that I would recommend people do the very first time, because every oven is different and is that you just bake one or two muffins the very first time. Now this is going to take you a little bit of extra time and I apologize about that, but it will save all the rest of your muffins from being under done.

So if you just make one or two muffins for the amount of time and then let it cool, and this is why it’s going to take you a little while, cause these bake, these muffins bake for 30 minutes, which is longer than your average muffin. Let them cool and then taste it and then see, okay. And like I said, if you let them cool at room temperature and you don’t have a liner, the moisture is still going to continue to evaporate as they cool.

And so they will actually actually dry out a little bit that way too. So it is a little bit longer, but you might want to do that for the first couple times you make them, or at least the first time you make them just let the rest of the muffin batter sit at room temperature. And when you’ve got that one going, you can do that.

One of the things that make these savory muffins yummy is there’s cheese and there’s cheese in them and cheese on them. So Rebekah talk to us a little bit about what happened with that cheese and why we’re recommending what we’re recommending.

Rebekah: Yes. The cheese on top, originally we started putting it on top of the very beginning and it did stick to the muffins better that way.

But then, because it’s such a long cook time that they started to burn. And so what we recommend is putting the cheese on halfway through at the 15 minute mark so that it won’t – it’ll melt nicely, but then it won’t burn on top of the muffins.

Cindy: And I think if you’re able to have cheese, whether it’s dairy or non-dairy to the savory batch, those really add, I think, to the muffins, what do you think?

Rebekah: Yeah, I think they add salt and flavor and yeah, because the savory ones are a little bit more on the bland side. So I think the cheese definitely helps.

Cindy: And plus who doesn’t love cheese melted on top of something, you might get some non veggie lovers to eat it because there’s a little bit of cheese melted on top.

Okay. So we are baking muffins. But what we discovered in looking at this recipe is there’s dairy in this recipe. There’s wheat in this recipe and there’s eggs in this recipe. They are great muffins. It’s amazing how good they taste given that there’s no sugar, no added fat, all whole grains, but some of you are avoiding one or more of those.

So we thought we better start trying some of the variations. How did they taste gluten-free? How did they taste dairy-free? What about egg substitutes? So let’s look at these gluten-free and dairy-free ones because Rebekah worked on those. I worked on them a little bit, but not as much as she did. So tell us what happened either with the gluten and or dairy free ones here, Rebekah.

Rebekah: I think these muffins lend themselves surprisingly well to both of these. Dairy free is a little bit harder with the savory ones, because dairy free cheese, just isn’t as good as some other dairy free substitutes. It’s getting better, but I wasn’t super happy with the dairy free cheese. So when I did the dairy free muffins, I didn’t put the cheese on top.

I left it inside for some of the flavor, but I didn’t think the texture was great on top. For gluten-free though, I think those muffins turned out basically the same as the non gluten-free – so I guess the gluten muffins. So I think they definitely lend themselves well to gluten-free muffins and pretty easily can be dairy free as well.

Cindy: And in my kitchen, some of the gluten-free ones actually rose higher than the non gluten-free ones. Cause the non gluten-free ones had all whole wheat flour in them. And the, I was using king Arthur’s measure for measure flour. And it has things like xanthan gum in it, some whole grain and some not whole grain. And that those actually rose higher and in my kitchen, which is always an interesting thing.

One other thing I wanted to mention is I was testing savory. I was trying to get rid of the liquid still and trying to do those kinds of things. So one batch, I added some oatmeal because I figured the oatmeal would absorb some of the moisture. And unfortunately I got hockey pucks. They didn’t rise very well. They didn’t. But, so I tried, those are the first two.

I tried to bake two of them before I baked the rest and they just, those weren’t going to be good muffins, but I thought about it and I looked at it, I’m like, these are kind of like scones. So I took the rest of that savory muffin recipe, but it had oatmeal added to it quick oats, in fact, so, because that would absorb moisture quicker, and I padded it into a little round square, scored it and they turned out to be veggie scones. So if you want veggie scones, we’ll put that as a, as a variation. One of my testers said that was her favorite one of all, she loves scones and she thought those were great.

They were a little tough for scones. They, don’t think real flaky, but it just might be another variation that you want. Okay. The savory ones were okay. I took them to test it Bible study and I got people’s opinions. And my testers actually turned out to be split about half way, half of them like more spice, half of them like less spice, but nobody took any extras home. So we’re like, oh, okay.

So I had been toying with the fact of maybe we should try a sweet version, not necessarily adding sugar, but taking out the garlic and the shallots and adding some applesauce for some sweetness. So it does have some natural sugars from the apple sauce in it, but substituting some of those warm spices, cinnamon, ginger cloves, nutmeg to see if we might get a different flavor combination, just as many vegetables in it, but a different flavor combination. And Rebekah and I have both been testing those.

Oh, but before I go there, sorry, wait a minute. I didn’t talk about egg free ones. Let’s go back. I was testing mostly the egg free ones using flax eggs and a normal flax egg people recommend one tablespoon of ground flax seed mixed with three tablespoons of water. You let it kind of sit and form a gel and use that in place of one egg in a recipe.

The problem was was that still left a fair amount of liquid on the top normal baked goods. That’s fine. But remember here, we’re trying to get rid of extra liquid. So if you use a flax egg substitute, you will note that that recipe for egg free with the flax eggs uses one tablespoon of flax to only two tablespoons of water. And if you, as you let that sit and stir it a couple of times, while you prepare the other ingredients, it forms a thicker gel with less extra liquid in it. And so that worked fairly well.

I will say the egg free ones did not end up rising as well because the eggs helped help these to rise as well as giving more structure, but they still tasted yummy. And you had the extra omega threes from the flax seeds. So there’s some good things there too.

Okay. Onto the sweet ones. So we’re trying sweet ones. If you had to pick Rebekah between the sweet and the savory, what was your, what was your take on sweet or savory?

Rebekah: I think when I did the savory muffins and I roasted the vegetables and I put in a lot of extra spices and herbs, I think those turned out well, but they were a decent amount of work. And I think I really, I liked the sweet ones better. I think that dried cranberries or the dried fruit that we used helped a lot with the flavor and it helped a lot with the texture. So I did like the sweet ones better.

Cindy: Yeah. I, we like the sweet ones better as well. I happened to have dried cherries in my house and I snipped them in half so they wouldn’t be quite so huge plus, so you’d get more cherries per bite. And I agree with you. I think they added a lot. Could you add the dried fruit to the savory ones? If you wanted, but it probably wouldn’t be my first choice. Now, I’m not saying the savory ones are bad.

I had several – we pulled some lentil soup out of my freezer. I had a couple of savory vegetable muffins and I think we put some cheese with them because we’re not dairy free in my household for dinner one night. And it was great. It was also really convenient. I just took a road trip with my husband to visit family in Chicago. And we took him with us and ate and both on the way there.

Thankfully our, our hotel had a freezer. I threw a couple in the freezer and we ate them on the way back. So it was a great portable way to take some vegetables easily with us as well as some grains and put some things together. So I highly recommend both, but if I had to pick one, I’d pick the sweet ones.

Oh, before we go further, Rebekah, tell us what you discovered about storing these muffins.

Rebekah: So it was one batch. Most of them stored in the fridge and then some, I froze too, but there was one batch that I left on the counter and those that did not keep well, they kept for maybe two days. And then they started getting like sticky kind of residue on them that definitely meant they were going bad. So I’d definitely recommend putting them in the fridge. And they did thaw well if you put them in the freezer, that worked well too.

Cindy: Yeah. And that was how I stored mine as well as I throw them in the freezer. Okay. Onto the sweet ones that we think are better. We started with the sweet ones. It was fairly complicated because I was thinking we have to get rid of as much moisture as possible.

I happened to be testing these up north at my mom’s cottage. And I had little applesauce cups and I threw them in a coffee filter because she didn’t have anything else, but it worked really well. I throw them in a coffee filter and let the moisture drain out of them.

And then it hit me after I’d made a couple of batches of these, wait a minute, I’m draining the moisture out, but then I’m putting milk in either regular dairy milk or a milk substitute. What if I just got rid of the milk, substitute, just use the yogurt and the applesauce as it was because it’s a lot less work. I don’t have to drain the applesauce and sure enough, that turned out to work really well.

So that is sort of what we recommend for that. And they are a little bit less work because you certainly don’t have to sauté your vegetables for the savory ones, but it adds a lot of flavor. This way, the applesauce and the sweet spices or the warm spices, the cinnamon, the ginger, the nutmeg or cloves add a lot of flavor. So you don’t need your vegetables to be pronounced and some of the people in your family who don’t like the vegetables, they may like these even better. Anything else Rebekah, you can think of on the sweet ones before we talk about what kinds of vegetables to use?

Rebekah: I think that they turned out really well and I would definitely recommend using the dried fruit. I think that’s part of what makes them a lot better than the savory ones. So you can definitely experiment with different kinds of dried fruit and see what you like.

Cindy: Yup. Me too. Me too. And if they’re big, like my cherries or if I were going to use like dried apricots, I would suggest snipping them up a little bit, just so that you get dried fruit and more bites rather than whole apricot, you know, and then nothing on the rest of the muffin. So, okay. What, tell me about what vegetables you used in these Rebekah, what do we start with and what’d you try?

Rebekah: It started with carrots and zucchini. I found that for me, the carrots didn’t cook at the same rate as the zucchini. And so they were still not quite as soft. So I changed when I was doing savory muffins to zucchini and eggplant because they seem to cook at about the same rate.

I will say the eggplants a little bit hard to shred because the skin is thicker, but I got it to work okay. For the sweet muffins. I ended up using an apple – so mine weren’t entirely vegetable – but I used an apple and a yellow squash. And I think those took the flavor of the sweet muffins very well. So that’s what I did.

Cindy: Awesome. I also used – and actually in all of mine, I used half a zucchini – actually yellow squash is really almost the same thing, just a different color on the outside – I also started with half zucchini, half carrots, and then I also did beets. For all of the ones I tried. I still saved the zucchini ones and did zucchini for half.

And then after the zucchini half I did carrots, I did one that was carrots and part beets cause I had some beets and the beets went really well. Give it kind of a nice pink flavor [color]. If you’ve got somebody in your house who pink is their favorite color, do definitely do some beets in there. And then I also did sweet potato in mine and sweet potato worked really well.

I did not have the same problem with the carrots not being done. So I think maybe it depends how finely your carrots are shredded. So let’s talk a little bit about shredding vegetables. Where did you start Rebekah and where did you end up?

Rebekah: Well, I started using the grater on our food processor because I figured it make it go faster, but it turned out that it really didn’t because you have to clean it at the end and I hate cleaning food processors. So I just ended up with a normal box grater and that worked out just fine. I think it took less time overall.

Cindy: That’s exactly, exactly what I did. And it came to the very same conclusion. And perhaps if your vegetables are not quite getting done, use a smaller site in your grater. Maybe if that, you know, happens to be an issue for you, that’s one way that you possibly can solve it.

Trying to get all the moisture out was challenging. And I will tell you that when we publish this recipe on the blog, it’s only going to make nine muffins. Well, the original recipe made 18 muffins, but we figured to start out with, you might want to just make nine and make sure your family likes them.

So you can adjust them for spice or you can try the savory ones or the sweet ones. The vegetable part is the same. So every time I made these, I used eight ounces of zucchini and eight ounces of some other kind of vegetable and got about four cups of shredded vegetables. Rebekah often got three cups. I usually got four. So I was using about two cups of vegetables per recipe.

But once you find what your family likes in these, I highly recommend do more vegetables, do a double batch, just hit two times on the recipe – there’s a, a box you can hit – and you’ll have lots for your freezer. So you won’t have to do this very often. And that’s helpful for time management and, and because shredding vegetables, it’s not awful, but it’s not my very favorite thing to do either.

Let me give you the tip I found for getting most of the moisture out and that is you can prepare your vegetables even a day or two in advance and then make these muffins later. So if you just have a little bit of time and that’s actually better because you’re going to soak up the paper towels you stored in are going to soak up a lot of the moisture.

So my trick was, was to shred about eight ounces of zucchini, put it in a double layer of paper towels folded up. So fold up the corners so that it sort of makes a little box. Shred the other eight ounces of the other vegetable, put it in another double layer of paper towels. And I shredded it right on the paper towels.

In fact, I then put them, I stacked them. If I was going to make the muffins right away, I just left them at room temperature. If not, I put them in a plastic bag and threw them in my fridge. By the time I was ready to use them later in the day or the next day, those paper towels were soaked with moisture and I, it absorbed a lot of the moisture. So it was sort of a time saving step.

You didn’t have to do everything at once, but when you did it ahead of time, you also didn’t have to worry quite so much about squeezing everything so dry because just time had already done that for you and paper towels. Now, if you’re going to do this, don’t use cheap paper. You have to use a really good paper towel like a bounty. You probably could use an old kitchen towel, but remember if you do that, that things like sweet potatoes and carrots and beets are going to give off color. And so you’re going to end up staining that kitchen towel, if you use an old kitchen towel.

So we’re got to sweet ones. We’ve done savory ones. And then again with the sweet ones, we tested the dairy-free, the gluten-free, the egg-free and Rebekah even did gluten-free dairy-free we did that for the savory ones as well. What did you think about? Cause I know a lot of my listeners are both gluten-free and dairy-free what did you think about the sweet ones, Rebekah that were gluten-free and dairy-free tell us what you used. How did it work?

Rebekah: For the gluten and dairy free sweet muffins I used Bob’s red mill, one-to-one baking flour, and I didn’t have any milk because the apple sauce replaced the milk. And I believe I used an oat milk yogurt, but I used several different types of yogurts in my different recipes and they didn’t seem to make much of a difference. So really anything works.

I didn’t use any cheese substitute. Cause like I said, I don’t think dairy free cheese is really all that great. But I think they turned out very well, especially for gluten-free they held together well, they weren’t crumbly or anything, which I think the moisture actually helps with the gluten-free versions because they’re just less crumbly than I would expect. And they rose really well. So I would definitely recommend these muffins for gluten-free and dairy-free.

Cindy: And so our gluten-free dairy-free friends, you have a no added sugar – now there might be a little bit, watch your dried fruit, there might be a little of, a bit of added sugar if you use dried cranberries; that’s probably okay because they are so sour without it that you can barely eat them.

So, but you’ve got, you know, a muffin that doesn’t have a lot of added sugar to it and still has good texture and good flavor. So we highly recommend them for our gluten-free dairy-free friends. Obviously follow that recipe. There’s going to be links to like six or seven recipes on the blog. So you have to follow that recipe to see how’s it going, what’s up with that.

Remember the recipes at You can also find the transcript and show notes there and a link to the food framework, cooking framework quiz, and all kinds of other good stuff. So there are two, but there are two posts there with lots and lots of recipes. I was very pleased overall.

I was a little skeptical at first, especially with the savory ones. How are these going to taste now? Don’t think muffin when you eat them. Right? Think savory muffin. Think cornbread with vegetables and spices. Not exactly corn bread, cause that can have a sweet cast to it depending what part of the country you’re from. But these definitely might be a way to entice some of your non vegetable lovers into eating some vegetables.

I’m not going to tell you they’re going to absolutely adore them, but they might rather have one of these sweet muffins than a pile of carrots that are sitting on their plate or some other vegetable. Any other closing thoughts Rebekah you had about these muffins?

Rebekah: One final thing I guess I’d say is I found that both the savory and the sweet muffins were really good with cream cheese. So if you can eat dairy, I would recommend that.

Cindy: My husband liked them with butter. So he thinks everything is better with butter, but these did – he’s like these are good with butter. So again, if you know, if butter is something you can put into your diet or cream cheese, they maybe, it may be worth exploring. If you want to put a little bit of added sugar, you might try a little bit of jelly or jam or preserves on them depending, you know?

So I hope these are helpful to you. They are, I will be honest with you. They are not the easiest recipe because you have to shred some vegetables. Be sure your box grater is sharp. Don’t try to do this. I, I cleaned one out of my mom’s old cottage cupboard that was probably 50 years old. Don’t use that one, get a, get a new one if you need to. But I hope that these encourage your family to eat healthy, encourage you to eat healthy, pull a couple out when you need something quick and you need some veggies or you’re going somewhere and you want to take something with you. It’ll thaw quickly over time.

So thank you so much, Rebekah. She was the driving force behind this recipe. I was just the help test these millions of recipes here and add a few ideas, but it was really good to have both of us testing it because we had not only different tastes for our family, but also different ovens that cooked a little differently.

One thing that I didn’t mention was I found the sweet ones – you’ll notice if you make both the sweet and the savory, the sweet ones cook a little bit faster in my opinion. And so I don’t know if it was not having the cheese in them or what it was, but they cooked a little bit faster in my oven. So the second cooking, I think it was down to about 25 minutes instead of 30.

So that’s again, you’ll have to look at your own muffin there, but we’re so glad you joined us today. Thank you so much, Rebekah, for this amazing recipe that a lot of you I think will enjoy get over the fact, grate a few vegetables, and go try some of these. Encourage people to eat some fruits and veggies and you never know, they may grow on people and it may be one of their favorite ways to eat their veggies for the non-veggie lovers.

Thanks so much for joining me today. Keep Cooking to Enable Those You Love to Flourish. Have a great day. Bye-bye.


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