The Crunchy Cookie

Equal parts deliciousness and hippiness

When I read this article on NPR.org by my friend Eve, I immediately started salivating.  She discovered five delicious cupcake recipes that incorporate such non-traditional baking ingredients as black beans and whole oranges… three are even gluten-free!  These recipes are really what the Crunchy Cookie is all about: balancing indulgence (a tasty treat) with caring for yourself (swapping high fat and low nutrition ingredients for nutritious, whole foods).  I’m reposting Eve’s recipes for orange cardamom cupcakes with orange yogurt icing and red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting below but I encourage you to check out the original article for her insights and more recipes.  Enjoy!

Orange Cardamom Cupcakes With Orange Yogurt Icing
Eve Turow for NPR

Orange Cardamom Cupcakes With Orange Yogurt Icing

Makes 2 dozen cupcakes

For Cake

2 medium-size, thin-skinned oranges, preferably seedless*

6 large eggs

1 cup sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 1/2 cup finely ground almonds or almond meal

1 teaspoon ground cardamom (approximately 8 green cardamom pods)

For Frosting

1 cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt

1 tablespoon honey

2 teaspoons orange zest, plus more for garnish

1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar

Candied orange peel, optional

* This recipe would also work with 4 to 5 clementines, or 15 to 20 kumquats; or, if you skip the cardamom, 3 lemons

  1. Scrub the oranges and place them in a pot with enough water to cover them. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer. Cover and simmer for 2 hours, adding more water if necessary. Drain and, when cool enough to handle, cut the fruit in half and remove all of the seeds (otherwise the cake will be bitter).
  2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  3. Put the oranges, peel and all, in a food processor fitted with the steel blade or blender and puree. Measure out 1 1/4 cups.
  4. Then, with a food processor, beat the eggs with the sugar and baking powder at medium-high speed until thick and lemon-colored. Add the ground almonds and cardamom and mix well. Slowly mix in the pulped orange. Spray or add liners to your cupcake pan and pour the batter in, about 3/4 full.
  5. Bake for 30 minutes or until a knife inserted into the cake comes out clean. If the top begins to get too brown, cover loosely with foil. Place cakes on a rack to cool.
  6. Combine all frosting ingredients in a bowl, mixing with a spoon until smooth and thoroughly mixed.  Spread frosting on top of cooled cupcakes with knife or spatula. Top with extra orange zest or candied orange peel. For children, orange jelly beans or sprinkles can be fun garnishes.
Close-up of a red-velvet cupcake before frosting

Eve Turow for NPR

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Makes 1 dozen cupcakes

For Cake

15 1/2-ounce can garbanzo beans (chickpeas)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

4 large eggs

1/4 cup nonfat Greek yogurt

2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

2 tablespoons (1 ounce) red food coloring

3/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar

Red sprinkles, optional

For Frosting

4 ounces low-fat cream cheese

1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar

1 tablespoon honey

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Add beans to a strainer and rinse well. Puree beans, vanilla extract and eggs in a blender or food processor. Add yogurt and continue to blend until all lumps are removed. Pour into a bowl and add cocoa powder, food coloring and sugar. In another bowl, mix together baking powder, baking soda and vinegar. The mixture should begin to fizz. Add to batter and mix in.
  3. Grease cupcake pan or add cupcake holders and pour the batter in, about 4/5 full. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick or knife inserted into the cake comes out clean. Place cakes onto a rack and cool.
  4. For frosting, mix cream cheese, sugar and honey until smooth in a food processor, mixer or blender. Spread on top of cupcakes with a knife or spatula, adding red sprinkles if desired.

A Note About My Family’s Experience with Going Gluten-free: After consulting with our doctor, DG and I decided to maintain a gluten-free household about a year and a half ago and now, it seems that gluten-free menus and options are everywhere I turn.  Which is good for us, but maybe bad for people in general.  It seems to be the next big thing in diets, which makes me cringe because reaching for something just because it’s labeled “gluten-free” isn’t best if you don’t do your homework.  Gluten-free living can and has helped thousands of people who suffer from things like celiac disease and IBD but it’s not necessarily a healthier lifestyle for everyone: in fact, many gluten-free foods are higher in fat, calories, and carbohydrates  and lower in fiber than their glutinous counterparts.  (Now if you want to discuss removing processed foods from your diet, that’s a horse of a different color.)  If you’re considering going gluten-free, please consult your medical provider and not something like Elizabeth Hasselbeck’s book that promises that it’s “the secret to a healthy life”.  And now back to the post…

The American Dietitic Association recently published a study that analyzed the amounts of gluten found in supposedly naturally gluten-free foods.  The results are reason for the gluten-intolerant and gluten-adverse to be concerned: 7 out of the 22 samples showed gluten levels above the proposed FDA rule for gluten-free labeling.  The study states that “gluten contamination of inherently gluten-free grains, seeds, and flours not labeled gluten-free is a legitimate concern.”

If you’re gluten-free, you probably already know that gluten can pop up in unexpected places, including oatmeal (which is naturally gluten-free but grown and processed in such a way that it’s usually contaminated by gluten), sauces, milk and meat products.  You probably also know that the FDA currently has no definition for “gluten-free” and that gluten-free labeling is voluntary and not regulated or enforced.  What this new study shows is that we also now have to be extra careful when buying things like rice flour because they may be contaminated by gluten.  In my mind, it’s probably safer to buy flours and products labeled “certified gluten-free” because even though they are generally more expensive, they have been tested  to ensure that they don’t contain gluten above 10 ppm.  If a product is simply labeled “gluten-free”, there’s no guarantee that it has been tested and it may just be a marketing ploy because of the gluten-free diet’s new-found popularity.  Sigh.  We’ll just have to wait until the FDA actually decides on a definition for “gluten-free”, a process that’s been in the works since 2006.

Do you have any tips for or questions on healthy gluten-free living?  Please post in the comments section below or write me at sarah@thecrunchycookie.com!