Savory Muffins with Herbs, Oven-Dried Tomatoes and Green Onions

 

As someone who follows an anti-candida, sugar-free, gluten-free, vegan diet, I’ve encountered my share of skepticism.  Every time I tell someone about my dietary restrictions, I’m hit with either incredulity (“But what’s left to eat?“), pity (“Oh, you poor thing! You must miss real food!”) or derision (“hmm, yeah, bet you just love eating that cardboard, eh?”).  But skepticism is probably the worst of the lot (“Well, there is actually no such thing as candida syndrome, so it’s probably just in your head. What you need is to go out and eat a big piece of real chocolate cake with eggs and gluten and sugar, and drink a big glass of wine.”).

Luckily, the HH never responded like so many others and has always been very tolerant of my erratic swings in diet (and mood, but that’s a totally different reason why I love him). In fact, whenever he encounters someone who voices skepticism about the value of a whole-foods, refined sugar-free diet, he tells the story of his brush with high blood pressure, back during my year at nutrition school.

You see, the HH is the kind of person who has never had a weight problem; he could eat whatever he wanted without any apparent consequences.  (Once, in his twenties, he consumed three full dinners in the space of one evening:  first, he ate a regular dinner at home with his parents; then he visited his best friend, whose mother offered him dinner.  Being the well-raised boy he was, of course he couldn’t refuse. After enjoying roast beef, green beans, and potatoes with gravy, the guys met up with a third pal, a chef who invited them back to his apartment for a late dinner.  Well, you don’t very well say “no” to dinner from a chef, do you? So yet another repast of pasta with smoked salmon and vodka, peas and crème brulée was had as well.). The HH is  also fearless about trying any food of animal origin, no matter how weird (seriously–body parts, internal organs, what-have-you); but ask him to sample sea veggies, or daikon, or fiddleheads, and he cowers in the corner.

Anyway, about halfway through my stint at nutrition school, I arranged for us to undergo full physical exams with our family doctor. (I was curious to see whether my über-healthy NAG diet had affected my myriad physical problems). In typically male fashion, the HH hadn’t been to the doctor since before he’d met me.

Well, wouldn’t you know it, after weighing and prodding for a few minutes, with typical beside manner, the doctor pronounced, “HH,* you are definitely overweight, and you also  have high blood pressure.” At 6’1″ or 185.4 cm, he weighed just over 200 lbs/90.72 kg, with a BP of 151/90. (My blood tests, on the other hand, all came back great, with blood pressure an ideal 110/70.  And my irritable bowel (IBS) symptoms had entirely disappeared; in fact, that appointment marked the first step in weaning off my medication, which I’d taken for 16 years by then. Wa-hoo!).

Needless to say, Ms. Doctor wanted to prescribe high blood pressure medication–stat.  She told the HH that he was lucky to catch it so quickly, and since he was at the lower end of the “high blood pressure” spectrum, he wouldn’t need a really strong dosage.  She pulled out her little prescription pad and began to scribble when the HH interjected.

“Well, you know,” he offered, “Ric is doing this holistic nutrition program right now. . . how would it be if I get her to design a special diet for me that could lower my blood pressure?”

At this, the doctor chortled and let out a little snort. Let me just say: I really like our family doctor.  She’s young, she’s empathic, she listens to all my hypochondriacal tales of woe, and she knows her stuff.  But her response at that moment was nothing short of cliché:

“Well, your diet won’t really have any effect on it, though I guess you could cut out red meat and alcohol.  But if you are determined to go ahead, we can give it a month or so, since your levels aren’t all that serious yet. Why don’t you come back in six weeks, and we can start you on the meds then.”

I’m sure you can guess what happened.  For the first (and only) time, I had full control over what the HH ate!  FULL CONTROL!! Muahahahaha!  I immediately vetoed all animal products, alcohol, and coffee.  (This was back in the early days of our relationship, when the HH was still starry-eyed and infatuated enough with me to actually listen to what I suggested).  No more wine with dinner. No more cheeseburgers with heaps of mayonnaise.  No more triple lattes with full cream.  No more shortening-heavy Tim Horton’s Carrot-Walnut muffins first thing in the morning at the office every day.

Ah, yes, it was an idyllic time for me: we nibbled on tofu scramblevegan quiche, or sweet potato pancakes with homefries for brunch on the weekends, gazing lovingly at each other as we sipped our green tea.  For lunch, the HH took packaged beet and quinoa salad, leftover Bangkok noodles, or sandwiches made with whole grain flour and tempeh bacon.  We discussed our workdays over our favorite almond-curry stir-fry for dinner.  The HH brought home-baked  muffins to the office each morning, and the rest of the day, he consumed more green than Dorothy ever saw in Emerald City. He drank herbal tea with me in the evenings, scooped up berry sorbet for dessert, and even quaffed the occasional green smoothie.  (Okay, I made up that last one.  He’s always hated green smoothies).

After 6 weeks, he dutifully returned to the doctor’s office.  The verdict? He had (effortlessly) lost 25 pounds (11.4 kg) and his blood pressure had returned to normal! (The doctor’s response: “Well, it’s great that things are better, but I’m sure it had nothing to do with your diet.”)**

These days, the HH isn’t quite so devoted to a vegan diet any more (it took a couple of years, but he slowly re-introduced meat, cream, coffee, wine–well, basically, everything I’d cut out). Still, he has managed to maintain a healthy weight and blood pressure.  The one food he didn’t reject, however, was a homemade muffin each morning.  In fact, when I first began the ACD a couple of years ago, I didn’t bake at all for the first few months, and the HH sorely missed his morning muffin.

When I read that Johanna was hosting this month’s Breakfast Club event with Savory Breakfasts as the theme, I decided to bake up something a little different for the HH’s morning coffee break.  These muffins are moist and dense, with pockets of oven-dried tomato, dotted with green onion slices and flecks of fresh herbs scattered throughout. The flavor is robust without being too grain-heavy in flavor. They’re perfect warmed up with a bit of coconut butter or even a dollop of tahini.  In fact, you don’t have to save these for breakfast–they’d be great alongside a savory stew or chili as well.

The HH reported that he really enjoyed the muffins for breakfast.  In fact, when he first sampled them straight out of the oven, I turned my back for just a moment to find that two had already been eaten before I could snap a couple of photos for the blog.  “Ah, just bake more,” was his reply. “These are good.”  Of course I was happy to oblige, knowing that my homemade muffins are far superior to anything he might purchase on the way to work.  Maybe one day, I’ll get him to start taking lunches of tofu scramble and quinoa salad back to the office again, too.

Mum, those muffins look great!  You know that we need to eat healthy whole grains too, right?  But why did you have to add those darned onions, when we’re not allowed to eat them?”

 

*She didn’t actually call him, “HH,” of course.  But you probably guessed as much.

**There is a coda to the story as well: a few months after the HH’s second appointment, I was wrapping up paperwork for a cooking class in my home and noticed a familiar name on the list.  It was my doctor’s!  She ended up taking two classes from me, and these days, is happy to suggest dietary changes for her patients, alongside classic medications.

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I’m also posting this recipe in Sugar-Free Sundays from Flip Cookbook, in Amy’s Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays and Cybele’s Allergy-Friendly Fridays.

Last Year at this Time: SOS Kitchen Challenge: Spinach Roundup!

Two Years Ago: Old Habits Die Hard: Mocha Cereal Cinnamon Muffins (not ACD friendly; not GF)

Three Years Ago: When Cheesecake is Love (not ACD friendly; not GF)

© Ricki Heller

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Comments

  1. Lovely story about the power of dietary modifications, Ricki! In fact, it has been shown that the DASH diet (low salt, high potassium, with a focus on whole grains and legumes, fruits and veggies) reduces blood pressure more than any medication on the market.

    • Yes, I’ve read about the DASH diet and was very excited to learn about it! I think mine was a little more vegan-oriented, but basically the same foods as they recommend. 🙂

  2. I would eat those muffins every morning – they sounds fantastic – thanks for sending them in – and I love your story of HH’s high blood pressure treatment – if only all medical problems could be treated in such a delicious way – though I confess I am not as committed to you re making muffins – though I love it when we have them in the house – not only great with a scramble but great to eat as I pack my bag and run out the door

    • Glad you like the sound of them, Johanna! And true, this might not work for certain medical problems (ie, broken leg?). I’m a huge muffin fan for breakfasts-on-the-go, so it’s worth baking them up regularly and freezing leftovers. 🙂

  3. What a brilliant, brilliant story! That is incredibly inspiring 🙂

    • It must have made an impression on my doctor, anyway! I love that she came round and was willing to learn about whole-foods eating and nutrition. Most doctors don’t get any nutritional education.

  4. It is doubtful that Don would ever not eat meat but he did accept my help getting his cholesterol down to reasonable levels early in our relationship. It is so satisfying to know something that is real-world helpful to others. Thanks for the reminder that I haven’t baked savory muffins in a while. Ah, inspiration!

    • Well, I think any positive changes that people can make to their diets are important. . . and it sounds as if yours helped. 🙂 Savory muffins are a lovely change from all the fruit-based ones, I find. 🙂

  5. Your muffins look fantastic! We’ve actually just gotten rid of all refined sugar in our home, so I too have been playing around with savory baking (and other less-sweet options). Thanks for the inspiration! 🙂

  6. Fantastic story, Ricki! I’m glad your doctor has come on board more with the power of food in regard to health. These muffins do look delicious! But no surprise there coming from you. 😉

    Hugs,
    Shirley

    • Aw, thanks, Shirley! It was really strange to be teaching HER stuff in the first class, but it’s so great to know that she’s opened up to holistic approaches (a little). 😉

  7. sounds like i need to make these muffins! and that scene with the doctor “i’m sure it had nothing to do with your diet” reminded me of one from Forks Over Knives…

    • Oooh, haven’t seen Forks Over Knives yet, but I must, must, must! Thanks for letting me know–I’ll look out for that scene. 🙂

  8. I’ve never really been into muffins but savoury ones sound good – and these look amazing!
    I feel for you with the comments people give you; I always get that when I tell them about my coeliac disease but it’s the doubt that’s the worst… I remember one know-it-all bloke telling me I could eat gluten and was just overreacting. I nobly refrained from poking him in the eye 🙂

    • I’m not sure I would have been so noble! 😉 There was a chef here recently who admitted giving gluten-full pasta to celiacs–I think he may be facing a lawsuit now. Savory muffins are great for a change–and still somehow work with almond butter. 🙂

  9. Such a sweet story and an incredible recipe to boot! Must try these 🙂

  10. Ricki the timing on this couldn’t be better! My Dad was recently diagnosed with high blood pressure and I am trying to dig up some information about how to control it via diet instead of DRUGS. Ricki Heller to the RESCUE! I passed the link on to my Mom and Dad so they’ll be reading this soon (hi guys, just doing it out of love! heehee). I might have to make these muffins for him! xo

    • Thanks so much, Maggie! Of course the anti-high-BP diet is much more detailed than what I mention here, but I’d say that for anyone following the SAD (Standard American Diet), pretty much any recipe on this blog will be better for them and their heart health. 😉 I once read that 4 stalks of celery a day lowered BP more than some drugs. . . food is really powerful and can do so much for health! Good luck to your dad. 🙂

  11. I love savoury muffins but cant eat tomatoes, any suggestions for a substitute.

    • Sharon, you could sub any chopped veggie that has some moisture, or (as I’ve done in the past) sliced olives if you like them–delish! I bet zucchini would work, or even grated carrot or sweet potato (but use a bit less of those, as they are denser than tomato–maybe 1/4 cup). Let me know how it works out if you give it a try! 🙂

  12. Courtney says:

    OMG, how cool is it that your doctor signed up for your classes and changed her tune as a result!?? You rock, Ricki!!

    Courtney

    • I was pretty shocked myself, I have to tell you! But I think it’s mostly because she’s young and hip, and therefore still pretty open to new things. An older, more “set in her ways” physician might not have been so willing (and boy was I nervous the first time she attended!) 😉

  13. Glad to hear your doctor swallowed her pride a bit … I’ll just swallow a few of these muffins. Yum!

  14. Oooh, I’ve been thinking “cupcakes” lately, which translates seamlessly into “muffins.” I might try making a grain-free version of these!

  15. Wow, I’m amazed by how much weight HH lost! I’m a lucky girl on that matter ’cause my boyfriend is vegetarian too.

    Those muffins look so so so delicious! I bet my mom is gonna be glad with those, ’cause she isn’t much of a sweet tooth.

  16. I love hearing stories about the huge impact that dietary choices have on health! It helps keep me inspired and motivated to not pig out all the time and focus on eating whole foods. I can see why the HH snuck 2 of these muffins right away. I can never resist a savoury muffin! Yum.

  17. Would these work with amaranth, chick pea or buckwheat flour Riki? I have these types in my cupboard and am on a budget. The cost of all the ingredients is an issue for me even though the benefits of sticking to an anti-candida diet are so worth it.

    • Hi Johanna, I’d say to replace the grains with your amaranth and buckwheat, then use the chickpea instead of the garfava. I can’t guarantee they’ll come out identical, but adjust the liquid if necessary to achieve the same texture. And let me know if/how they work out!

  18. These look delish! 😀 I’m still navigating the scary world of gluten-free flours (so far I’ve tried chickpea & buckwheat, but that’s about it) – they’re pretty pricey in my part of the world – but oohh yum these are tempting! It’s always amazing what one can accomplish with omni SO’s at the beginning of a relationship – mine went vegetarian for about two months before we started dating to try and “impress” me and it was more hilarious than anything else. Unfortunately I couldn’t bake or cook then so I couldn’t tempt him with delightful vegan treats to keep him contented, so it’s no wonder he reneged after surviving on frozen veggies and soy sausages. Your HH seems very spoilt and lucky to have you in the kitchen, however!

    • Thanks so much, Marfigs! That is hilarious about your SO, too. And yes, aren’t they so accommodating at the beginning?? LOL! I find with GF flours that it’s best to start with established recipes, or, even better, an all-purpose mix at the beginning until you get accustomed to all the different textures and flavors. There are some great ones on the market, or you can try my mix, which is a one-for-one replacement for regular flour, too. 🙂

      • Awesome! Will try and track these flours down – I want to try and make gluten-free brownies for my MIL, because the last batch of store-bought self-raising GF flour was *so* dense and sucked all the moisture dry, even after adding almost double the liquid. I figure once I have a good flour mix down I can experiment with consistency/density. Chickpea flour is amazing beyond measure – how exciting to have a protein-packed flour for quiche! /dork

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