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protein for breakfast: teff muffins

One of my beloved readers inquired about  good way to weave protein into the most important meal of the day: breakfast.  She was explaining to me that she finds it difficult to eat something healthy, wholesome and “powerhouse” enough with so little time to prepare it. I totally agree. It is a challenge. It doesn’t really matter if you’re on your way out the door to work, to bring the kids to school or en route to catch the bus or subway. Heck, I am blessed to be able to stay at home with my children and I still struggle to eat a meal that is going to sustain me and give me the energy to push through the morning.

I’ve discovered a way the helps me along – I only hope it gives you some guidance. Most Sundays, I spend a few hours cooking. As hard as it is to set aside this time, the payoff is well worth it. I prepare a few things for the week and I literally have to grab and go. Or just reheat. And I have a nutritious protein filled meal waiting for me. This winter I have made and refrigerated large batches of both chicken and butternut squash soups. Vats of oatmeal. And loads of muffins.

Here are some suggestions for things you can eat in a pinch:

leftovers: Perhaps you may find it a bit odd, but often times I will have something savory for breakfast. Just yesterday, I had a leftover bowl of spaghetti and turkey meatballs. Another time, I had leftover home-made chicken fried rice. Both are hearty protein-filled meals  – and I was good to go. Some people can’t even conceive of eating dinner-like foods in the morning. But, my husband is South African and he’s a big fan of the savory breakfast. And I’ve been happily converted. Don’t get me wrong, most mornings I do awake with (American) breakfast foods on my mind. But, let’s just say I have adopted an open-minded approach…

oatmeal: make a pot of teff, quinoa, amaranth, millet, sorghum (grain), rice or buckwheat oatmeal. Or, like me, make a porridge containing some or all of these together. Add some honey or maple syrup and some cinnamon. In winter, slice in some banana. In summer, fold in some berries. I always double the recipe so I have leftovers for later in the week.  Don’t have time to babysit the pot? Make it in a rice cooker. All that is required is reheating (you may need to add a little liquid) and you’re good to go.

waffles: Make a double batch of waffles adding a scoop of protein powder and up to 2 tablespoons extra liquid to the batter. Just drop the leftover waffles in the toaster or if you have time, reheat them in the waffle iron for 2 minutes. I think they taste better this way but both ways are fine. If you don’t have time for syrup – spread with nut butter and go. Don’t have nut butter? I recently saw this recipe for 2T whipped coconut oil + 2T butter (ghee) + 1T honey = coconut spread. Yum!

soup:  soup travels well in an insulated coffee mug. You don’t even need a spoon: you can sip it as you go.

eggs: I adore eggs but I cannot eat them right now because I am nursing my daughter and she does not tolerate them. Back when I could still eat them, I used to take leftover roasted potatoes and veggies and toss them in a brown rice wrap with some scrambled eggs. (Practically) instant power breakfast. I am a proponent of eating the whole egg (for the biggest nutritional bang for the buck). They are truly a fantastic food source (5 1/2 grams of protein per egg, rich in vitamin B, iodine and selenium).

granola:You can make your own variation depending on what tickles your fancy. But, I have a recipe here for granola that we really like. Instead of dried fruit you can really jazz it up with seasonal fruits. In summer, we love to slice fresh peaches on top. And berries, berries and more berries. One great way to add more nutrients to this? Add some walnuts.

fruits with nut butter: apple slices with (any) nut butter. Banana  spread with nut butter. Fat, protein, vitamins. Need I say more?

pancakes: Since we’re not doing eggs right now – pancakes and french toast are a bit tough. Until we found an egg-free pancake recipe here. I often change it up   (always using whole grain flour) just so it gives us some freedom with our rotation diet. I’ve made buckwheat, sorghum and teff pancakes all with great success. Leftovers are perfect for on the go snacks.

smoothies: so good. so good for you. There are about 1 million possible smoothie combinations.  So, there is something for everyone. And it doesn’t get boring. In winter, I like mango and banana pureed with some coconut milk. Summertime is all about the berries. In autumn, you could do carrot/apple or apple/pear. In springtime, we are fortunate enough to have plentiful greens to choose from. Protein powder is the perfect companion for these shakes. My favorite as of late is adding 1 tablespoon of ground hemp seeds (ground in my spice grinder) – for an added 11 grams of protein. Another suggestion would be to add in some raw cacao powder for an additional 5 grams of protein.

muffins: try these – they are so hearty. Not only do they have 3 grams of protein per muffin, they are high in calcium, iron and manganese. Who couldn’t use more of that? You can keep them at room temperature for a day or two. After that, refrigerated is best. They are great for snack-time too. Inspired by the lovely Ali over at Whole Life Nutrition. side note: in place of the sorghum flour, I  have also used chestnut flour with great success.

dry ingredients:
1 1/2 cups teff flour
1/2 cup sorghum flour
1/2 cup tapioca or arrowroot starch
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp xanthan gum
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves

wet ingredients:
1/2 cup grated (peeled) pear, firm but ripe
1 cup grated organic carrot
1/4 cup (mild-tasting) grapeseed oil
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup Grade B maple syrup
1 cup warm water

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Whisk dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl. Set aside.
  3. Combine all wet ingredients (I used a box grater for the carrot and pear).
  4. Stir dry ingredients into wet. Mix just until combined so that no flour is visible. Using an ice cream scoop, transfer batter into a muffin tin.
  5. Bake for 25 minutes.  Let cool. Enjoy!

Makes 12 delicious muffins.

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12 responses to “protein for breakfast: teff muffins”

  1. chaya said:

    I have never used teff flour and looking at this recipe, I think I had better get some. I love recipes that use applesauce – so much more healthy than other choices/

  2. Erin Elberson said:

    Great ideas! I like to make a big batch of whatever I’m planning for breakfast on Sunday, so I have enough to grab and go for the workweek.
    Must try teff!

  3. Stephanie said:

    Thanks Erin,

    I think you’d really like teff. There are 2 kinds: ivory and dark. Imho, there is no taste difference. This morning, I added some sorghum grain into the pot and it was fabulous. Added a slight nutty crunch. They sell teff grains at any natural food store. But, I got my sorghum at Barryfarm.com We are on a pretty strict rotation diet so it helps to have rice alternatives in the pantry. Plus, they are such great sources of protein, vitamins and minerals.

  4. Stephanie said:

    Hi Chaya,

    Seriously, we have fallen in love with teff. Especially teff pancakes. I had to fiddle with this muffin recipe quite a bit to achieve the texture I wanted. In the end, I was amazed at how moist they were. And I think applesauce is the secret ingredient! Especially on day 2 or 3 – they weren’t crumbling apart like most GF baked goods. Let me know if you give ‘em a try – I’d love to know what you think (baking w/ teff, etc).

    Have a great weekend :)

  5. Cecelias Marketplace said:

    Great idea of adding protein to the waffles, I often struggle with finding the right blend of carbs and protein for breakfast too.

  6. Stephanie said:

    Cecelia,
    Getting enough protein at breakfast is such a mission. You are right – it’s also very important to strike a balance between carb and protein as well. I find that I notice right away when I don’t eat the right combination. I have such a hard time making it through to lunchtime….and I get a bit grumpy :(

  7. gluten free by nature » articles and recipes » creamy millet oatmeal with maple & strawberry compote said:

    [...] to get you through until lunchtime. For more protein-filled breakfast ideas, you can see my post here. Side note: If you don’t want to grind the millet (or don’t have a blender) you can [...]

  8. Rebecca Weiss said:

    Enjoyed this for myself and my family. Accidentally added 1 1/2 c. sorghum flour….and so added another 1/4 c. applesauce and they still taste great! This was our first time baking them (my oldest son and I)…..so will have to try again w/the exact recipe. Thanks for sharing. We also bake ahead…and freeze some for easy snacks and breakfasts.

  9. Stephanie said:

    Rebecca,
    Thanks so much for stopping by and letting me know. Glad it worked out even with the extra flour :) Freezing them is a great idea. Hadn’t done that but I will from now on. I need all the time-saving help I can get.

  10. Alice said:

    I thought teff was a type of wheat and not gluten free…. am I wrong?

  11. Stephanie said:

    Hello Alice

    Teff is a grain native to Ethiopia. It definitely is gluten free but only if you buy it from a reputable source (otherwise there is most def cross-contamination). There are 2 kinds of teff: dark and ivory. You can purchase it in grain form or flour form. And it’s absolutely wonderful. I use it in all sorts of baking – and I feel good about it because it has a pretty good nutritional profile. It’s great in pancakes, muffins, tea breads, etc. There’s an entry on Wikipedia here.

    you can also go to http://www.teffco.com to read more about how teff grows in Idaho. It’s very interesting.

    All the best
    Stephanie

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