A few weeks ago, I posted my first experience and a recipe for a quinoa salad that I had made in anticipation of cooking and baking for a friend of mine who is preparing to undergo radiation therapy to fight thyroid cancer. As part of the preparation for the “therapy” (possibly the silliest thing to call it, since therapy is supposed to be therapeutic which instills a sense of calm or relaxation, which is the least that can be said for radiation therapy…), she must go on a low-iodine diet. The low-iodine diet may be a simple feat for a vegan, but this takes eating vegan food to a whole new level. While those restricted to a low-iodine or no-iodine diet may eat meat, the amount of meat allowed per day is restricted to no more than six ounces total. The other major restrictions, besides the iodine – which is found in more things than we are willing to admit to, that are prohibitive to baking are all dairy products. While milk itself has no iodine in it, and butter can be made unsalted with no iodine as well, many farmers – let’s just say most farmers, clean the pumping equipment and cow’s udders with iodine laced chemicals which means that trace amounts of iodine can actually be found in dairy products therefore restricting low-iodine dieters of all dairy. Now I suppose if we were living in the United States, we could find a few more products, in the dairy family, that have been made especially for people restricted in this way – but since we have not, we are limited to finding substitutes or doing without these items. My friend came to me, knowing of my love of baking and asked me if I would be interested in tackling a baking project for two weeks while she is
restricted to this diet that would include making baked goods since it was one of the things she could not eat or find the last time she was on this diet. Of course I was interested! So the next two weeks will feature a myriad of baked goods recipes for thyroid cancer combatants! I am also interested in finding savory recipes that are meat-less and satiating to make while on this low-iodine diet. My friend really has a handle on the savory side as most meals can be made with no-iodized salt and with a small amount of meat but I want to challenge myself to eating a few meals that fit the dietary restrictions and are meat-less as well – why not? It’s a great way to support those restricted to this diet while exploring vegan friendly recipes as well … or vegetarian as the case may be.
An organization called ThyCa: Thyroid Cancer Survivor’s Association, Inc has published a cookbook that is designed to fit the restrictions of the low-iodine diet and has a rather inclusive dessert section that features baked goods; a great starting place to figure out some recipes that fit the fruit and other flavors tailored for my friend’s tastes and cravings! I took a look at most of the muffin recipes and figured out some ratios that would work and got to work!
The local grocery store sells a carton of egg whites, which eliminated the need to purchase (so many) eggs that would need separating. This diet restricts all dairy but egg whites can be consumed as long as there is absolutely no egg yolks in it – which houses the iodine. The store also happened to be selling these large, ripe blueberries that were perfect for the blueberry muffins considering it is my friend’s favorite fruit! We mixed up the dry and wet ingredients separately, carefully folded in the blueberries and mixed everything together and it was ready for baking! One of the major differences in the batter was the lack of fluidity, so when we went to fill the muffin cups, we filled it past the rim and had to use a spoon to push the batter into the bottom of the cups to fill it as much as possible. But this is rather easy to do as the batter is quite thick and sticky.
Just for fun, we chopped up pecans to put on the bottoms of some, to help hold the muffins together, and sprinkled some on top and on others we sprinkled cinnamon sugar and some we left plain. Once they were baked and had cooled a bit, I tasted one of the cinnamon sugar ones which had a warm, rich taste filled with oozing bits of fresh blueberries. These were amazing! We had read a lot about others that had baked for this diet that found that the muffins and cakes and such were missing that creamy texture or flavor from the lack of dairy and butter but also tasted flat – but these were little cups exploding with flavor and warmth! It took everything I had in me not to gobble up another muffin (or maybe two) before I delivered them to my friend! While they were baking, I whipped up a batch of icing to drizzle on the tops and decided to add cinnamon to it after my first taste of a finished muffin, since the addition of the cinnamon sugar was just so amazing to begin with! Sadly, this recipe makes 6-8 cupcake sized muffins, so feel free to double or triple the recipe or keep it the same and use larger muffin tins. These bake up rather soft and harden a bit as they cool, which makes it easier to lift out of the muffin tins. Also, the tops turn golden much faster than the center cooks through, so halfway through the baking time you may want to tent the cupcake tin with foil to protect the tops from burning. Inverting these delicate muffins is also not a good idea, so use a spoon or other utensil to carefully lift the muffins out of the tin and place on a wire rack. These were fantastic muffins and in the next few days when we make them again, I might be adding caramelized nuts to the top for a little twist!
- 1-1/2 C fresh blueberries
- 2/3 C packed light brown sugar
- 1/3 C canola oil
- 2 egg whites
- 1-1/2 C unbleached, all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp baking powder
Ingredients for the topping:
- 1/2 C chopped nuts, unsalted
- 1/4 C confectioners sugar
- 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
- 3-6 TBS water
Combine the brown sugar, oil and egg in a medium bowl and whisk until completely combined. Gently fold in the blueberries.
In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients. Once combined, mix into the blueberry mixture, folding carefully with a large spoon until all the flour has been incorporated. (Mix in the nuts directly into the flour mixture if you would not like to sprinkle them on top of the muffins, although I found that putting a layer of chopped nuts at the bottom of the muffin tins helped give the muffin strength and ease when lifted out of the muffin tin later.)
Spoon the batter into muffin tins with liners, until it is full or just past full. Bake at 350F/180C for 25-35 minutes until the center comes out clean and the tops are golden. Your test toothpick will come out a bit wet because the blueberries will ooze their juices, giving the appearance that the batter has not cooked through. If you are unsure, pull out one of the muffins and peel back the liner to check the doneness. Also halfway through the baking time, if the tops are becoming golden too quickly, tent the tin with aluminum foil for the remainder of the baking time.
While the muffins are baking, combine the confectioners sugar, water and cinnamon in a small Tupperware container or bowl and mix until there are no lumps of sugar. If you would like it thicker, add more sugar, and it can be thinned out with water. If you drizzle it on top of the muffins and let it stand at room temperature or in the fridge for an hour, the icing will solidify a bit more. The cinnamon can be increased to taste as well.
Once the muffins have finished baking, allow them to cool in the tins for 10-15 minutes then transfer them to a wire rack to cool further. Once they have cooled and the tops are no longer hot, drizzle the prepared icing on top and serve while warm or wrap in plastic wrap and save for later!