To begin, I figure I ought identify my greatest culinary influence to date – this being a common request in job interviews, interactions with parents, and the like. It’s an easy one. As the only human I know more enamored with food than I, my mother is a shoe-in for the position.
There is an infamous Rice Family story which recounts the time my food-obsessed mother dragged me, an ornery and very hungry fifteen-year-old, through the streets of Paris for two hours determined to find the perfect restaurant for our first dinner in the city.
Mom, resolute and hardly starving, walked into cafe after cafe, speaking with waiters in faltering French, sitting down at tables, then, determining the place lacking in authenticity, getting up to leave and continue the quest. I, self-conscious, ravenous and miserable, found each of these false-hope episodes unbearable.
Eventually after a seemingly endless search, and a few small tantrums on my part, Mom finally found it – a tiny restaurant on the Ile Saint Louis superior in its simplicity. Frenchmen sitting on wooden benches drinking house wine and eating family-style off of long slatted tables filled the narrow room, their exuberant French amplifying the warmth of the hazy golden lamplight.
Perhaps due to my debilitated state I do not remember what the people we sat next to were like, or if we even looked at a menu. What I do remember is the food – a large cutting board laid with dry aged sausage having just enough chew to force even a starving teenager to savor the experience of rich, salty pork fat dissolving on the tongue, a crusty baguette, and a heaping bowl of crisp country apples. After my blood sugar returned to normal level I was forced to admit, Mom had really delivered.
Mom’s Diagnosis (and Journey) with Gluten Intolerance
Having since been diagnosed with gluten intolerance, Mom wouldn’t be caught dead eating a baguette these days. Rather, she has thrown herself with all of the fervent spirit driving our Parisian quest – amplified by newfound gluten-free energy – into a personal campaign to spread the word about celiac disease and gluten intolerance.
Ministering to anyone who will listen, she literally caries copies of her favorite book on gluten sensitivity with her when traveling, handing them out like Bibles to the fortunate souls sharing her airplane row, standing next to her in line, or hosting her for dinner. Excessive though her actions may seem, they are driven by an unflinching integrity I greatly admire. In gluten sensitivity, Mom sees the opportunity to change the world and, by golly, change the world she must.
Gluten-Free Blueberry Cornbread Muffins: Enjoy!
So to my mother, the self-anointed Gideon of Gluten, I dedicate my first recipe for Blueberry Cornbread Muffins. These flaxen treats recall the skillet cornbread Mom made for me as a child.
My version replaces the all-purpose flour we used back then with blanched almond flour and golden flaxseed meal, which, in addition to their gluten-free qualities, contribute fiber, healthy fats, and a buttery flavor that is further enriched by creamy unrefined coconut oil, also a good source of satiating healthy fats as well as anti-oxidizing polyphenols.
In the South we prefer our cornbread on the less sweet side so as not to overwhelm the ubiquitous golden honey crowning each piece come mealtime. In keeping with this savory Southern tradition, I sweetened the muffins with anti-oxidant packed wild blueberries (Mom’s favorite) and a scant three tablespoons of honey, the flowery qualities of which highlight the subtle sweetness of corn and almonds in such a way as to satisfy even the most Yankee of sweet-tooths.
Et voilà! Little mounds of on-the-go breakfast joy that are as indulgently satisfying as they are wholesome and nourishing. Thanks for the inspiration, Mom. I hope you are pleased.
Ingredients (makes 9 muffins)
- 1/2 cup of gluten-free corn flour or masa harina
- 1/2 cup of golden flax seed meal
- 1 cup of blanched almond flour
- 1 teaspoon of baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon of salt
- 1 large free range egg, beaten
- 2 tablespoons of unrefined coconut oil, melted (or other liquid fat of choice)
- 3 tablespoons of local honey
- 3/4 cup of almond milk (or other milk substitute of choice)
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 3/4 cup of frozen wild blueberries
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line cupcake tin with 9 paper liners.
- In a large bowl whisk together dry ingredients.
- Add wet ingredients and mix until fully incorporated.
- Fold in blueberries.
- Divide batter evenly among paper liners.
- Bake for 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.
Read more about expert gluten-free, casein-free chef Maggie Rice here.