Eat healthy with carrot rhubarb muffins with strawberry chia jam

We all know we need to eat more vegetables and fruits, which improve our health inside and out. That’s why it’s exciting to discover a new collection of plant-based, whole-food dishes that are visually appealing, fragrant and delicious. I’l be enjoying this cookbook for years to come.

The book: “My New Roots: Inspired Plant-Based Recipes for Every Season” by Sarah Britton; 256 pages, $29.99. Published by Clarkson Potter, 2015.

What you get: This collection includes whole-food recipes for every season. In summer, we want to try Thai-Style Coconut Soup with Zucchini Noodles (P. 101); in autumn, 10-Spice Chocolate Chili (P. 186); in winter, Butternut Stacks with Kale, Pesto, Kasha and Butter Beans (P. 222).

In her own words: “A great deal of my cooking inspiration comes from following the seasons. Food is the most intimate connection we have with our Earth, as we literally become the food that we eat.” — Sarah Britton

What we made:

CARROT RHUBARB MUFFINS (P. 35)

(vegan and gluten-free)

2½ cups rolled oats, plus extra for sprinkling if desired

½ cup coconut sugar

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground cardamom

½ teaspoon fine sea salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

4 to 6 spring carrots, unpeeled, roughly chopped

¾ cup raw walnuts (optional)

2 thin stalks rhubarb

Knob of coconut oil, for greasing the tin (or use muffin liners)

¼ cup pure maple syrup

1 cup unsweetened applesauce

1. Measure out 1½ cups of the rolled oats and put them in a food processor. Pulse until you have a coarse flour. Put the flour in a large bowl, and add the remaining 1 cup rolled oats and the coconut sugar, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, sea salt, baking powder and baking soda. Stir to combine.

2. Pulse the carrots in the food processor until they are roughly minced. Put the carrots in a medium bowl. Pulse the walnuts a couple of times in the food processor until roughly chopped, and then add them to the carrots. Slice the rhubarb into thin disks and add to the carrots.

3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly grease a muffin tin with coconut oil (or line it with muffin liners).

4. Add the maple syrup and applesauce to the flour mixture, and mix just to combine. Then fold in the carrots, rhubarb and walnuts.

5. Fill the muffin cups with dollops of the batter; sprinkle with a few rolled oats if desired. Bake in the oven for 25 to 35 minutes, until the muffins are golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let cool for 5 to 10 minutes before removing from the tin. Enjoy warm.

Our assessment: Our taste-testers all liked the muffins, which contain vegetables. We served a spoonful of the Strawberry Chia Jam (recipe below) on the side, and it also got raves. One reviewer about the jam: “It tastes like a smoothie.”

STRAWBERRY CHIA JAM (P. 38)

1 pound ripe strawberries

1 tablespoon pure maple syrup or raw honey

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, seeds scraped out and reserved

Pinch of fine sea salt

3 tablespoons chia seeds

1. Wash and cut the tops off the strawberries. Put the berries in a food processor, add the maple syrup, lemon juice, vanilla bean seeds, and salt, and blend on the highest setting until smooth.

2. With the food processor running, slowly pour in the chia seeds and process until fully incorporated, 5 to 10 seconds.

3. Scrape the jam into a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid, and store it in the refrigerator until gelled, 15 to 20 minutes. You can keep the leftovers in the fridge for up to 1 week.

Our assessment: This oh-so-easy-to-make jam is fragrant and tasty. Chia seeds are a superfood and rich in antioxidants, fiber, protein and omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. While refrigerated, they transform the strawberries into a mixture with a consistency similar to tapioca pudding. I’ve decided I’ll quit purchasing regular jam or preserves, and instead make myself a fresh batch every week. I plan to experiment with the types of berries I use.

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