Center for Rural Culture
New Producer: 7 Muffins a Day
By Katie Hoffman
In addition to supporting local farmers, our online local food market helps small food businesses in the area. Here's a spotlight of our newest producer, 7 Muffins a Day.
MEET THE BAKER, JOANNA CHAVES
By her own admission, Joanna Chaves has “always been a big foodie.” That’s why, as founder of 7 Muffins a Day — the newest producer on Fall Line Farms and Local Roots and maker of delicious foods that use gluten-free and dairy-free ingredients — she works hard to make sure that each of her products has the best possible taste and texture. It’s a point of pride for her that her foods are deemed delicious by anyone’s standards, whether they are gluten and dairy free or not.
“I’ve always loved good-tasting food,” she says. “Italian, Mexican, Thai—anything with great flavor. I want to share that with my customers.”
As for her culinary influences, she collects them on her travels. And she’s been traveling all her life. “My father’s work took him all over the world,” she explains. “We went with him to some of those places. I’ve lived in England, Africa, and here in America. Also, my son is half-Brazilian, so we like a lot of Brazilian food.”
One Brazilian food that her family likes is the pastel, a small hand pie similar to an empanada, but fried rather than baked. Pastels are filled with delicious savory meats and cheeses. Another of their favorites is the coxhina: a Brazilian chicken croquette shaped like a drumstick. Her doughnuts have an African taste in terms of the spices she uses. “They are baked, not fried,” Joanna says. “They come with packets of sugar so that (this is mostly for the ladies) you can control how much sugar you want on them.”
Years ago, Joanna realized that she needed to change her diet. Dedicated to making a major lifestyle change, she wanted to be able to keep enjoying the flavors she loved even as she guarded her health. “I’m borderline celiac,” she says, “and I have a sensitivity to dairy. Because of these factors, I began to try to live more naturally and organically. I lost weight. I noticed how much better I felt. So I started trying to develop recipes for the things that I liked.”
Joanna learned as she went, trying different flours until she figured out which combination would work for the particular item she was making. “You can’t use just one of these flours,” she says, “Most of the time, you have to combine them in order to get the texture you’re looking for. For instance, my tea cookies are made predominantly with arrowroot flour. But there are others in the recipe.”
Having been at this for a couple of decades now, Joanna lets her intuition and her knowledge of the characteristics of each flour guide her as she develops a new recipe. Through 7 Muffins a Day, customers are now reaping the delectable benefits of her experience and experimentation in the kitchen.
“Of course,” she says, “gluten-free flours are pretty expensive. A one-pound bag of quinoa flour is $11 to $14, depending on where you shop. Arrowroot is $7 for a one-pound bag. I try to reach a happy medium so that I don’t have to charge so much for my products.”
Judging from her first week of orders on Fall Line Farms and Local Roots, our members are enthusiastic about the gluten-and-dairy-free options. Sales were pretty brisk, so she seems to have hit the mark on her pricing—and we seem to have hit the mark in adding her to our producer lineup.
Because of her own issues with gluten and dairy, Joanna carefully maintains a dedicated pantry with its own set of pans and other baking equipment. “Flour can be suspended in the air for a time after a baker has finished,” she notes, “That’s why I don’t bake with wheat flour anymore. It can cross-contaminate a surface if you aren’t careful in how you maintain your equipment.” Joanna works with care, ensuring that her products not only taste wonderful, but are also are safe for everyone who needs to avoid gluten and dairy. Each of her products has a detailed ingredient list so that customers know what they’re buying.
“I use soy milk in place of regular milk,” says Joanna, “and vegan butter. I do use eggs. Even my chocolate chips are soy-based. When you are entertaining someone who has gluten and lactose issues, you can serve products from 7 Muffins a Day with confidence. If you make things with regular flour, a person who’s intolerant can’t enjoy them. But because my products taste so similar to mainstream baked goods, everyone can enjoy them--even people who don’t have special dietary needs.”
If you have a friend who can’t eat gluten or dairy, 7 Muffins a Day is the perfect place to find treats that they can eat. Joanna’s cakes are beautiful as well as tasty, but they are plain enough that you could take one home and decorate it for a birthday celebration. Instead of trying to bake a gluten-free, dairy-free cake yourself, you can let this accomplished baker do the work for you. Or you can serve gluten-and-dairy-free cookies at a bridal or baby shower. All your guests will enjoy them.
“When you think about history,” says Joanna, “all I’m really doing is going back to basics. A long time ago, we didn’t use just wheat. We used all of these things. Corn, oats, it wasn’t just all wheat. And it was all organic, too.” It’s also worth noting that the nutritional value of these alternate flours is almost always higher than that of regular flour. “Quinoa flour,” notes Joanna, “is a good example, It’s higher in protein and in fiber. And by the way, most of my flours are organic and non-GMO.”
SWEET, SAVORY, AND DELICIOUS!
The range of flavors offered by this accomplished baker is impressive. There’s sweet, there’s savory, and there’s everything in between.
Each package of tea cookies offers an assortment of jam-filled “thumbprint” cookies with the classic texture and taste. They are just the right level of sweet, and look beautiful spread out on a plate with the different-colored jam centers shining like stained glass.
The brownies are large, sweet, and fudgy with exactly the texture you’d expect. They’re also generously sized, so perfect for sharing with someone who deserves a chocolately treat as much as you do!
The coffee mocha cupcake is simply wonderful—the cake and the frosting are beautifully balanced—the tender, cakey bottom complements the creamy frosting. Each is just perfect in terms of sweetness, and the frosting achieves perfect harmony between the chocolate and coffee flavors.
The savory items are just as wonderful, which brings me to making an admission. I was driving home from picking up my market haul, and I opened the bag of 7 Muffins a Day croutons just to try one. Wow! They were a revelation! I really did mean to take them home and put them on a salad so that I could take pictures of them for social media, but they disappeared before I could make it home. True story.
Joanna uses her challah bread as the base for these addictive little bits of scrumptiousness, then flavors the croutons with rosemary, spices, and balsamic vinegar. The crunch is unbelievable! Had they made it home, the croutons would have been the perfect companion to a fresh green salad or to a bowl of tomato soup. But alas, I will have to order again. And this time I will put them in the trunk of the car on the drive home so that I can at least snap a picture before I devour them.
Joanna offers some other wonderful savory foods. “I’ve been told that the tomato basil cornbread tastes like stuffing or like Thanksgiving,” she says. About the rosemary olive flatbread, Joanna explains, “it looks like focaccia but it has no cheese in it—just the specks of rosemary and the Spanish green olives with pimentos. It’s soft and very versatile and can be sandwiched with tuna or chicken salad and mayo, melted ham and cheese, made into a personalized pizza, or eaten on its own. It pairs well with white wine. You can also roll it up with a nice traditional Italian sausage then cut it into rounds secured with toothpicks and serve it for hors d’oeuvres, maybe with cheese or extra olives. You can also cut them into triangular strips and bake them dry to make chips for your favorite dips.”
WHAT’S IN A NAME?
When asked about the story behind her business’s unusual name, Joanna laughs and says, “That’s a good question! People ask me whether I mean that they should eat seven muffins a day.”
She pauses, then chuckles as she says, “Possibly! But actually, when I started this business in 2016, I had been laid off and it was with the goal of making money and also saving up money for my son’s college education. I wasn’t sure if anyone would buy my products at all, but I thought that if I sold at least seven muffins that first day, I would continue on.” Fortunately for Joanna (and for the customers who love her products), she sold her quota of muffins and now seems to be finding more demand for her impressive array of products.
Formerly in finance, Joanna now enjoys the creativity of developing and baking her recipes and the satisfaction of pleasing customers. She chose to join Fall Line Farms and Local Roots on the advice of another vendor who explained to her our mission as a non-profit online farmers market.
“It sounded like a good idea,” she said. “I could do Grubhub or some other for-profit company, or I could join [Fall Line Farms and Local Roots] and be part of something that’s helping the community. It just seemed like a great idea.”
Joanna thinks we’re a great idea, and the feeling is definitely mutual. She brings a new dimension and some great new products to our producer lineup. Now all we have to do is sit back and see what she bakes up next!
You can order from 7 Muffins a Day via our online market, Fall Line Farms & Local Roots.