You always miss your first job, amirite? Mine was lifeguarding, and it was pretty sweet. Working on my tan, absentmindedly skimming the pool for leaves…it was glorious.
Come to think of it, I had a lot of what you would categorize as “first jobs”: teaching swim lessons, selling vegetables, working at a fabric store, washing sheets and scrambling eggs for tourists. But at the top of the list is always Starbucks.
Living in Seattle, it’s almost impossible to escape your teens and twenties without donning a green apron. In the Emerald City, there is roughly one Starbucks location for every 4,000 people, and who doesn’t like the prospect of free drinks? I worked the morning or closing shifts (and sometimes the dreaded ‘clopen’) during college, and could write a book about all the shenanigans that unfolded in our lobby. Being sandwiched between a major hospital and a methadone clinic will do that.
Early on in my career of pulling shots and drizzling caramel on Frappuccino Blended Beverages™, I accidentally went vegan for half a year. It started innocently enough, chatting with a co-worker about his vegan diet, and somehow along the way I was awkward and bumbling enough to infer that I was also vegan.
“Really?” he asked, pleasantly surprised, “How long have you been on The Journey?”
“Ummm…a while…” I mumbled, wondering what on earth was happening as the words came out of my mouth.
Crap. Well, I guess I’m a vegan.
And so began a six-month crash course in learning to like soymilk, eat tofu, and most importantly, figure out what items in the pastry case were free of animal products.
At that point I hadn’t yet figured out that my headaches and unceasing stomach ailments were symptoms of gluten intolerance. Morning breaks consisted of cappuccinos and often a broken cookie or a roll that bounced onto the floor while I was setting up. While I was inexplicably willing to alter my entire eating regime over a miscommunication, I wasn’t willing to give up my 7:30 a.m. carb fix.
As it turned out, there were animal-free eight-grain rolls and molasses cookies to fill the void, both very nice after a spin in the convection oven. But a few months in, January diet season came around and Starbucks unveiled a low-fat, vegan cranberry flax muffin that changed my world.
As it turned out, only people raised on “muffins” made from egg replacer, Splenda, and a box of raisin bran would eat these cranberry flax muffins, so I made off like a bandit at the end of the night. I had a stash of frozen cranberry flax muffins in the freezer for weekends when the store was closed, and there was always one in my purse in anticipation of the mid-afternoon slump in Macroeconomics. They were hearty, sturdy things that kept you full, and the cranberries made them seem like a treat.
Eventually, it seemed as though my penance was up and I started sneaking in milk chocolate and rice krispy treats, and eventually went right back to attacking Chonga bagels with abandon. When I left, it seems that the cranberry flax muffins disappeared with me. I haven’t much thought of them since, until a recent discovery of two opened bags of flax meal in the freezer. It seemed like a good time to revisit my weird and tortured vegan past, and boy, was it a delicious trip.
These muffins are tender, orange-scented, and wholly devoid of the mushy, flavorless, or medicinal overtones a vegan muffin can often succumb to. And they’re gluten-free! The recipe works with fresh or dried cranberries, and they freeze beautifully for quick breakfasts. Whether you’re pretending to be vegan or not, this cranberry flax muffin recipe is a keeper.
- Zest and juice of 1 orange (1/2 cup juice)
- 75g (3/4 cup) flaxseed meal
- 1 cup almond milk
- 75g (1/3 cup) oil
- 100-150g (1/2 - 3/4 cup) brown sugar (more for fresh cranberries, less for dried)
- 70g (1/2 cup) tapioca starch
- 120g (2/3 cup) brown rice flour
- 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 80g (1/2 cup) dried cranberries or 125g (1 1/2 cups) fresh cranberries, chopped
- Preheat oven to 350F and line a muffin with 12 (preferably nonstick) paper liners. Set aside.
- Stir together orange zest and juice, flaxseed meal, almond milk, oil, and brown sugar. Pour in brown rice flour, xanthan gum, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, and mix with a wooden spoon until no tapioca starch lumps remain. Stir in cranberries.
- Portion batter between prepared muffin cups and garnish with whole flaxseeds, if desired. Bake 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.
- Remove to a wire rack to cool. While good hot or cold, I found that these stuck inside the muffin wrappers if you try to eat them warm.