Fire Truck Cake

Well, hello there internet! Its been a long long time… extremely long time… like dear diary sorry I went for a trip around the world and left you at home kind of long time… Would you all believe me if I tell you that I stayed busy and didn’t stop baking. Well I didn’t stop anything, just there was so much snow this winter I couldn’t find my computer under all of it…

OK I present exhibit #1- Fire Truck Cake:
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This cake was a birthday gift for a very special little 3 year old. Henry had a Fire House themed birthday and needed a fire house cake to go along with it. Well, when my favorite 3 year old asks for a Fire House cake he gets one!

First, for the firetruck topper. After some soul searching on how to approach this I decided to use trusted rice crispy threats. I shaped the rich crispy threats over cardboard to help keep the shape and provide me some guidelines for size.
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I then cut cut the rick crispy to give it the firetruck shape, cutting in to allow for the wheels.
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And covered the whole thing with red modeling chocolate.
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I was then able to begin the detail work, and everything is in the details. Small details make a large impact.
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The decoration is a combination of gum paste, fondant and modeling chocolate. But my favorite by far was the ladder on top of the fire truck!
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Fire hydrant was modeling chocolate as well, and the flames were gum paste, so that they could be firm and be able to hold themselves up with no support.
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The fireman was my biggest challenge by far! This was my first time modeling a person. I made several attempts with modeling chocolate and to be honest I couldn’t figure out how to make it work for me. I know all the decorators use modeling chocolate for figures, but I just find that gum paste mixed with fondant is much more responsive and forgiving.
I had to watch several u-tube videos but figured it out.
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The key is that you really have to work from the bottom up. Start with the legs first, made sure you have a foam block to hold up your figure and let it dry. Once your legs are dry you can work on the torso. When that is dry you can add the head and hair. Give yourself plenty of time to complete your figure.
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I am in love with my handsome fireman!
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This cake was challenging but so much fun to make!
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And the most important thing is of course to have a happy customer! Henry was a little freaked out by the idea of eating his cake, but with some encouragement from dad he eventually dug in.
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Gum Paste Roses

Making sugar flowers is like meditation for me. I truly enjoy cutting all the leafs, rolling the edges, assembling the roses and watching them turn into something truly beautiful.
When in doubt (about your cake decorations) some simple gum paste roses can transform your cake into a masterpiece!
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So here is what you will need:
Gum paste- I buy mine at the store, Wilton of course. But you can make your own.
Fondant roller
Pre wrapped floral wire
Rose petal cutter
Ball tool
Foam gum paste mat
Storage board
Forming cup
Floral drying rack
Food coloring and/or shimmer dust
Brush
Glue (this is just water with some gum paste melted into it, make this ahead of time, it can keep for a few days)
Crisco (for your hands!)
Shaker with a powered sugar/corn starch, mix

The day before you plan on making roses make as many rose buds as you think you will needs. The buds need to sit overnight to harden. You can make them with white gum paste, and can cover them the next day with a colored leaf (if your rose is colored). You want to size these to match the size of your petal (as tall as the petal cutter(s) you will be using). Hang them on your drying rack to set overnight.
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Begin by conditioning your gum past. Rub some Crisco (white Crisco, not flavored) on your hands. This will prevent the gum paste from sticking and will allow you to knead it. You want the gum paste to be elastic, but you should be able to tear a piece off and have it tear clean.
Once conditioned you can color the gum paste, or leave white.
Roll the gum past out using the fondant roller so your gum paste is 1/8 inch thick (which will seem like its very thin! it is. But it needs to be). You can use a silicon mat, or another clean surface which you can sprinkle with the powdered sugar/corn starch mix.
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Petal cutters come in many different sizes, and you can buy them as a five petal cutter or a single petal cutter, which is what I used for these roses. I prefer the individual petal cutters, I find I have more control on where I can place the petals.
Cut all your petals, or as many as you have patience for, and place them in your storage board.
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Take your first petal, place on the purple shaping pad and use your ball tool to roll out the edges of the petal. Once the edges are rolled out move your petal to the pink shaping pad and run the ball tool lightly down the center of the petal which will bowl it slightly.
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With a brush use a small amount (really, like a drop!) of your glue at the bottom of the petal, roll the shaped petal over the bud tightly, you can do this in an angle to cover the bud almost completely. Continue to shape petals and glue them to the rose bud, overlaying them so the next petal you place slightly touches the petal before it.
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Continue to shape and overlay petals, moving the petals slightly up the rose if needed, until you reach the desired rose size and fullness.
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Hang your rose upside down on the flower rack while you prepare the bottom of the rose. Prepare green gum paste, roll out, and use the Calyx shaped cutter. Place your cut calyx (flower base) in a forming cup. brush lightly with glue. Make sure the base is centered over the hole in the cup.
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use the wire to go through the base and the hole of the cup, and attach the calyx to the rose. Hang roses upside down on drying rack to dry.
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Once all your roses are done you can use a clean brush to brush them with shimmer dust, making sure the center of the rose is darker than its edges.
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With your left over green gum paste you can cut some leafs for your roses, either lay them on wire, or leave them lose.

People will absolutely love these beautiful, elegant, roses.
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Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

With fall over, and winter well on its way, cookies become the main focus in our house.
I love making cookies of all kinds, and one of my favorite gifts to give people during the holiday is a basket full of a verity of really good cookies.
Pumpkin Chocolate Chip is one of my favorites, easy to make, and easy to eat!
Some bakers take lots of time to figure our recipes that will make them less cake-like and crunchier, or dryer, more like a cookie. But the cake like texture of these cookies is one of my favorite things about them. I like their soft and fluffy texture, like little pumpkin cakes.
So if you love all things pumpkin and chocolate, like me, give these a try!
Click the post title for the full recipe.

Start by creaming you butter and add the white sugar.
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Add your brown sugar
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Add the egg and vanilla
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Add a can of pumpkin puree
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At this point, if your mixture is too cold your batter may break (just like mine did). This is a true life lesson and a test of a true baker- don’t give up on your batter!
Take a little bit of the mixture and heat it up in the microwave, than slowly add the heated batter back into the the mixer, while running the mixer. Repeat this if needed making sure to not cook your mixture, until it comes back together.
If you happen to have a torch you can also apply some heat to the bottom of your bowl while mixing and it will have the same effect.
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Sift the flour and add the salt, baking powder and spices to your mix
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Than add your chocolate chips
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Chill the mixture for about 20 minutes before scooping the cookies onto your baking sheet. This will help the cookies maintain their height while baking. In general, if you like a thick cookie, its better to bake your cookies chilled or cold.
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Bake for 12-15 minutes or until the edges become golden. Than get ready to protect your cookies from people in your house- they will mysteriously disappear…
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Enjoy!
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Making Fondant

When I first started decorating cakes I used to buy Wilton fondant at the craft stores. Not only was it expensive, it was also hard to use, and people really disliked the flavor. I know that you could make homemade fondant, but frankly I was intimidated by the idea.
Well, that was really silly! Making fondant is super easy! Your homemade fondant will handle better and taste better then anything you can buy. Also, it will save you lots of money.

Always make fondant at least a day in advance from when you want to use it, it really needs to rest overnight. This is really not terrible because despite being super easy, making fondant is also SUPER MESSY!
A batch of fondant will cover a half a sheet cake, or two rounds, with fondant to spare for decorations.

To make fondant you will need:
2 bags of mini marshmallows (don’t skimp on this- get the good kind!)
(about) 8 cups of powdered sugar
1/4 cup of water
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Place you marshmallow and water in a large bowl and melt in the microwave. Time will depend on your microwave but this will typically take a couple of minutes. Stir marshmallows occasionally to make sure they are fully melted.
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While your marshmallows are melting start sifting your powdered sugar. You may not use all 8 cups, but sift them all. Trust me, you will not want to stop what you are doing to sift more sugar.
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When your marshmallows are melted start adding powdered sugar into them, you will need a very large bowl for this, and it will get messy. Accept it.
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Mix with a spoon as much as you can. When you cant turn your spoon anymore transfer your mix to your surface for kneading. If you have a plastic bench scarper you can do some kneading in your bowl, it will save you a ton of kneading.
Coat your hands with Crisco and begin kneading your fondant, you will still be adding sugar as you are kneading. Keep adding sugar until your fondant has a dough consistency.
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When you think you cant add any more sugar, add some more sugar! You want the fondant to feel smooth and not sticky. Try tearing a piece and rolling into a ball. If you can do this without having the fondant stick to your hands or the surface then your fondant is ready to package.
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Roll out some saran wrap (plastic warp). Coat your fondant with a generous coating of Crisco and wrap. Then wrap it about 3 more times.
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Air is fondant’s worse enemy, you will want to keep your fondant in a big container or Ziploc bag.
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You can store your fondant for about two weeks. When you are ready to use the fondant unwrap and knead a little to get it ready to roll out. If its a little hard you can always warm it in the microwave for a few seconds (just don’t melt it).
Don’t be intimidated by this process, you will be surprised by how simple this is. Once you start making homemade fondant you will never go back to the store bought kind.

Turkey Chili (yes, I know its not cake).

Winter is coming to Maine.
I know, I know, this happens every year, but every year I am a little resentful of it. Today its snowing. It’s my 2nd least favorite kind of precipitation, 2nd only to ice storms (hey it’s Maine, we have time to think of these things).
I sit and watch the snow falls, and collects on the ground, and feel the chill in my bones.
Days like these I always want comfort food, something filling and warm. So, I realize this is clearly not a cake/cookies/cupcake post but I did add some great Sweet Potato Biscuits to our chili, and who doesn’t like a good chili recipe?

I developed this recipe specifically for those members of our family that hate vegetables and refuse to eat them. In my case its my sweet man. I tried reasoning with him, after all he is an adult, that veggies are good for him and he needs them in his diet. I realized pretty quickly I was losing those arguments. Ultimately I gave up and just decided to “hide” the veggies in the chili.

I chop all my veggies very small, and make them as consistent as I can, and when he asks I just tell him they are tomatoes (“what are those yellow things?” “those are just yellow tomatoes!”). Eventually he figured it out, but it took a really long time, and by the time he did he already loved my chili too much to stop eating it.

Everything you need is in the recipe (just click on the post title):
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Brown the turkey in a separate pan, make sure its cooked but not dry. It will continue to cook in the pot.
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Warm your olive oil in the pot. Mince the garlic and add to pot making sure not to overcook it.
Take the seeds out of the jalapenos (always use your knife and not your fingers for this, trust me, the seeds burn!) and add to pot.
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Jalapeno, without seeds! (or as we call it; green tomato)
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Finely cube your red bell peppers and summer squash, try to make sure your cuts are consistent. This will make sure everything cooks evenly, and will fool your veggie haters! Add to the pot and let them cook for a little bit so they soften.

Red bell pepper:
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Summer squash (or as we call it; yellow tomato)
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Add your turkey and spice. Then add your beans and canned tomato:
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Cook you chilli on medium heat for about 10 minutes, then let simmer for about an hour. If everyone is hungry and you can wait that long that’s OK! It will be fine to eat in about 30 minutes, just know it will be better the next day.
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Serve with cheese (and lots of cheese) and sour cream. This goes great with corn break, rolls, or in our case our biscuits.
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This will feed about 6 people, or two people for about 3 days (probably longer but by day three you will start getting complaints.. “chilli again?!?”)

Enjoy!

Truvia Baking Star- Part #2: The Video

Who knew its so hard to look and feel natural on camera? I guess all those people I watch every year on the Food Network Challenge tried to tell me, but until you try it for yourself you cant help but think- “hey, I can do that!”. Baking my recipe, remembering what I wanted to say, and trying not to look like a dork all at the same time really did turn out to be a challenge! But we had a plan, and a clear division of labor; I was the creative director and “on screen talent”. My sweet man was the technical director and editor. This really meant that once I was done looking cute for the camera he was left with the work of making my video look awesome.

I have to say I think we (he) did a fantastic job! I am super proud of the results.
Here is my submission for the Truvia Baking Star contest. I hope you enjoy it!

Truvia Baking Star- Part #1: The Recipe

I have been looking for new baking adventures for some time now. As summer rushed by us (Maine summers are always too short, but this one was particularly so) it was hard to find time to slow down enough to bake.

But now fall is here- my favorite season! I love fall in Maine, and not only because I love the crisp cool days, the changing leaves, and warm snugly sweaters (I do love all those things!) but also because I LOVE baking in the fall.

A few days ago my sweet man and I were watching TV and an ad came on for Truvia’s new baking blend. Truvia makes an all natural, low calorie, sweetener, which is made from the the leaves of the Stevia plant. They also make two types of baking blends, to be used in place of white sugar or brown sugar. These baking blends are great for baking sweet treats, and are 75% less calories per cup than sugar! Can you say guilt free holiday season!?!

Why am I telling you all of this? Well, Truvia is holding a baking Star contest and has put out a challenge to create a short, 2 minute video, showing a recipe using Truvia baking blend. What is a better way to start the fall baking season off than with a baking challenge?!?

First step in tackling this challenge was to pick out a recipe and try it out. Fall has such great flavors of sweetness, molasses, and spices. I also really like baking anything with fruits or veggies. Since we just had the Jewish New Years, and Maine is such a great state to go apple picking, I had decided to create my own recipe for an Apple Honey Bundt cake using Truvia baking blend.

I had to develop a recipe and test it before shooting my baking video, so decided to bake a test cake and take it into work for some feedback. While I am working on developing my recipe, my sweet man was working on getting the equipment needed to shoot my very first baking video. Being the biggest fan of my baking, he is taking his role as technical director very seriously!


 

Apple Honey Bunt Cake:

You will need:

A mixer

A food processor for  shredding apples

Bundt pan (you can also bake this recipe in two loaf pans or as muffins).

Ingredients:

3 Eggs

1 Cup oil

3/4 Cup honey (I always try to use locally produced honey if I can find it- GO BEES!)

3/4 Truvia baking blend

1 Tsp vanilla

3 Cups all purpose flour

1 Tsp baking powder

1 Tsp baking soda

1 Tsp salt

1 Tsp cinnamon

1/4 Tsp nutmeg

3 Medium apples, cored and shredded. (I like to use Granny Smith apples, they add tartness and acidity to the recipe as well as lots of moisture. You are welcome to use any apple you like, but know that this will affect the flavor of the cake).

Powdered sugar to sprinkle on top of cake.

 
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Start by mixing the eggs so they are blended well. Add the oil, honey, Truvia and vanilla. Mix everything together. Once mixed, add the flour, leaveners and spices. Take your bowl off the mixer and fold in the shredded apples. Spread into bundt pan, which has been sprayed with non stick spray, and smooth the top of the cake. Make sure to tap the cake on the counter lightly to make sure there are no air pockets. Bake at 325 for about an hour or until the cake had golden brown color, and starts pulling away from sides of pan.

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Another way to test the cake is to insert a toothpick (or skewer) into the thickest part of the cake and make sure it comes out clean.

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Let the cake cool for about 10-20 minutes before trying to flip it over- you don’t want it to break on you!

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And there you have it! Sprinkle with some powered sugar, or if you feel extra festive you can make a sugar glaze to decorate your cake.

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The feedback I got in the office (and at home) was that the cake tasted great, and was very moist. Plus nothing beats the richness and depth that honey can add to a cake.
Next step is shooting the video! I am excited and nervous. All I can hope for is that I have watched enough hours of Food Network to be able to channel my inner Food Network host!

Oh, and I almost forgot;
Shana Tova v’Metoka to everyone!!!

Wilton Class- Gum Paste Flowers

A few weeks ago I finished the the Wilton Gum Paste flower class. This is the 4th class is their series and is considered to be the most advanced. The class is four, two hour sessions, and met once a week at my local Jo-Ann Fabric store.

I had heard and read very mixed things about the Wilton classes so wasn’t sure what to expect; I heard that the classes were using very “old fashioned” methods. That they were really just a way for Wilton to get people to buy all their cake decorating supplies. That they were very limited in their scope and, that teachers cannot deviate from materials provided by Wilton.

I wish I could tell you all the above are wrong. I can’t. They are all true. However, I was surprised when I found myself truly enjoying the class. I do believe that the right teacher can make any class a success, and the teacher leading this class did just that!

I don’t follow directions very well, doing as I am instructed is a challenge for me at time, however, any resistance I had to changing my wild, do as I please, ways quickly melted away as I got carried away into the world of sugar flowers.

On the first class we made some simple daises (such as the one in the picture below), and the centers for our sweet peas. Our second class we practiced making leafs and petals for our Lilly and some brier roses. On the third class we made Stephanotis, Stephanotis buds, and sweet peas.Daisy

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For the fourth and final class we were instructed to bring in a cake (any size, and design) so that we can practice using our flowers on cake. I was questioning this at first, however, once in class it became clear that lots of practice is needed when using floral wire and tape with the sugar flowers to make sure they look perfect on the cake. Once you poke giant wholes in a cake with wires its really hard to go back and correct mistakes.

The class does, pretty rigidly, follow the Wilton book. You must follow the lesson plan and use the tools required by Wilton. Some of the tool like the impression mat which allows you to add texture to the flowers are crucial. Others, like the dusting pouch, were easily replaced by a simple 10 cent mesh bag.

This class was a true “chose your battles” moment for me. The class in itself was very cheap (I got the class on sale for $20) the tools, gum paste, fondant, and other required equipment were, all said and done, probably close to $100. In the end I figured this was about the same cost as the cake class I took in Boston which included all the materials. Difference is I got to keep everything I bought for this class so I can continue to practice and use what I bought.

With all the great responses I got on my flowers something tells me it wont be long before I will be pulling out my flower supplies for a special occasion cake.

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Minion Attack!!!

My big sister LOVES everything Minion. I mean, who can blame her really? those little things are adorable. So for her last birthday, by the suggestion of our younger sister, I decided to make her Minion cup cake toppers.

I wasn’t sure where to start but some Pintrist browsing got me going in the right direction. Thankfully I had some leftover fondant from a pervious cake so all I had to do is color it yellow, roll it out, and  cut 12 pill shaped ovals. I used the remaining fondant to cut the black straps, goggles and blue pants.  The eyes are little rolled out balls of fondant. I tried using the markers, but they looked better slightly raised.

I used a toothpick to make the marks on the pants, and a black cake marker for the logo on the pants.2014-06-01 15.13.44
I then used little balls of black fondant for the eyes, and black marker to draw on mouths and hair. Finally I used a little bit of silver shimmer dust with some sugar glue to paint it on the goggles and make them look more like metal.

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The only change I would make for next time is to use a half fondant half gum paste mixture so that the figures dry harder and don’t curl as these got a little bit of a curve to them. But once they were on the cupcakes they were too adorable to notice.

Here are some pictures of the steps, as well as the finished products.

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Baking FODMAP- Blueberry Muffins

I have recently started a diet recommended to me for my IBS symptoms called low-FODMAP. This is the new rage for all those suffering from IBS (C or D). The diet is an elimination diet designed to eliminate Lactose, Fructose, Sugar alcohols and Oligasccharides, which are all carbohydrates that may be poorly absorbed in the small intestine.

My nutritionist, Patsy Catsos, specializes in disorders of the stomach and has written several books on the topic including a lovely cookbook “Flavor without FODMAPS”.

Of course I had to try baking from this book and had decided to make myself some Blueberry Millet Muffins! After a trip to my local Whole Foods I was fully equipped to handle this task!

Ingredients for Millet Muffins

1 cup plain lactose-free yogurt

2 eggs

1/3 cup oil

2/3 cup light brown sugar

1 1/2 cups millet flour

1/2 cup millet seeds, raw

1/4 cup ground chia seeds

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup fresh or frozen (thawed) blueberries

In the mixer

Combine yogurt, eggs, oil, and brown sugar in a bowl. Add the remaining ingredients (except blueberries) to the bowl. Mix until combine and stir in blueberries.

This recipe makes 12 muffins (or if you follow my lead 6 jumbo muffins!).

Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes.

All baked!

If  you are following the FODMAP diet your really don’t want to do what I did and add coconut yogurt instead of Lactose free yogurt because as it happened coconut yogurt contains Chicory Root which is high in FODMAP (oh ye, and coconut…).

Luckily these muffins freeze extremely well and I was able to freeze them and share them with my family. They all loved them!!! The millet seeds give these a nice added texture and these muffins are so moist.

Beautiful Muffin!