Trying to shrink

I hope you aren’t getting tired of muffins. Obviously, I’m not. Today’s post is masquerading as yet another muffin post, but it’s really about something else entirely. Something very personal. If you have been a very long time reader of mine, you will remember the year that I was serious about Weight Watchers and I lost forty two pounds. Several months ago, I just let it all go. It happened the way this sort of thing happens to people. I had a routine and it centered around work. I ate certain things at certain times of the day and walked during my breaks and then sometimes, made it to the gym on top of that. I had a really good routine that I hardly had to think about. The weight loss came easy. When I lost my job, I lost my routine, I got really depressed, things started to slip and a whole host of bad habits came back. Then I stopped trying altogether. I have gained back seventeen pounds.

Now, I know your first instinct is to be supportive and tell me that seventeen pounds isn’t even half of what I lost and I’m still okay. The problem is that I was going through all of this effort for my health. I don’t want to get diabetes, go blind, trip and break my hip, trip again and break my other hip and suffer the way my mother has. I don’t want to clog my arteries, suffer for years with angina and then have a quadruple bypass like my dad. I know I don’t want any of that, but I suffer from human nature and I am my parents daughter and I have ingrained poor habits that I have to concentrate very hard on changing every day. My dad said something last week that sums up what I need to strive for. He basically said that everyone gets old and everyone will die, but you want to do whatever you can to have the best quality of life until the end. Well said. Something I need to concentrate on very hard. Something that seeing my mom laying in her hospital bed so fragile and unhappy drives home for me.

One problem I have that I think everyone struggles with is portion control. I have a bad habit of having more than one of something I like and taking too much of it to begin with. In order to shrink me, I’ll need to shrink my portions so that’s what I did this week. I did a knock-off of the delicious strawberry muffins from last time but I made sure I made them in mini muffin tins. Here is the Mimi math for you. Each mini muffin is one half the size of a regular muffin. If I ate a regular muffin and then lost control and had to have a second muffin, it would equal four mini muffins. So, if I have a mini muffin and have a second, it equals one regular muffin. If I go really crazy and have three, it is equal to one and a half regular muffins, I am still ahead half a muffin. Terrible logic, I’m sure, but these are the little tricks that helped me lose the weight last time.

Sourdough apple walnut mini muffins

3 tbsp flax seeds

½ cup water

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour

1 tbsp baking powder

¼ tsp baking soda

¼ tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

½ tsp ground ginger

¼ tsp allspice

3/4 cup coarsely chopped, toasted walnuts

½ cup apple sauce

½ cup honey

½ cup buttermilk

½ cup sourdough starter

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 large apple diced

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 24 cup mini muffin tin with olive oil spray and set aside.

In a blender, grind flax seeds to a powder. Add water and blend for forty-five seconds until thickened. Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, allspice and walnuts.

In another large bowl, mix together all of the flax seed mixture with the apple sauce, honey, buttermilk, sourdough starter, vanilla extract and diced apples. Add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until well combined. Let stand for a few minutes to rise a little bit.

Spoon the batter evenly into the muffin cups. Put the muffin tin into the oven and bake for 20 minutes until the muffin tops are browned and a toothpick inserted into the center of the muffins comes out clean. Cool for a few minutes and then serve.

P.S. Any muffin batter can be baked as mini muffins instead. Just experiment with decreasing the amount of time they bake. Here is a list of muffins that have appeared on Delectable Tidbits before:

Blood orange sweet cherry corn muffins

Carrot-currant muffins

Coco-nutty-cocoa sourdough muffins

Orange poppy seed mini muffins

Peach and strawberry muffins

Sourdough strawberry walnut muffins

Beauty

So much beauty in the world: scene from the film American Beauty

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I feel really beautiful today. My friend Tanna from My Kitchen in Half Cups told me I am beautiful and gave me an award to prove it. When Tanna received this award, she was modest and said she was not beautiful. She lied. She is gorgeous! If you don’t believe me, just go take a look at her blog and you can tell. She is smart, she is caring, she bakes a mean loaf of bread and she is beautiful to the core!

In order to accept this award, I have to tell you seven things about myself. Pull up a chair, get a snack, because I think this might get a little long:

I love red wine, I like the movie Sideways, I hate what the movie did to Santa Barbara’s wine country. Let me explain: I have been drinking local wine and following the local wine scene since the 80’s. In the old days, wine tasting was free. You tasted a good sample of what was available and they poured enough so you could really experience each wine (you needed a designated driver for this sort of experience). Later on as people began to discover wine tasting, the wineries began to charge a small fee for a souvenir glass. The small fee got up to about $5 or so. An outrage at the time, that was justified because the small handful of wineries were probably struggling to make a profit. In the beginning, they tried growing Pinot Noir. Except for a few pockets of acreage, it didn’t generally do well here. I remember at some point being told that it was being abandoned in favor of Syrah and Merlot. Fine with me, I love Syrah and Merlot.

Fast forward to 2004. The movie Sideways comes out. It’s like a bomb went off. Suddenly everyone wants to come here and recreate what they saw in the movie for themselves. My favorite winemaker who since the 80’s has made some of the most amazing red and white wines and an absolute stunning Port is featured heavily in the movie. We belong to the wine club and feel like we need an appointment to get in to our winery. The quality of the wines goes down, we cancel our membership. Nobody wants to sell Merlot, everyone wants to sell Pinot Noir (due to the main character in the movie commenting that Merlot was bad and Pinot Noir is good). Wineries seem to pop up like weeds. Everyone charges a minimum of $10 to wine taste, some ask up to $25.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am happy for the wine industry here. They are finally turning a profit and some amazing wine is being made here, but when I go wine tasting now… I can’t help but abuse the staff at the winery. I love to mention something controversial about the movie and watch the person pouring wine squirm. Why do they squirm? I suspect the real opinion about “the movie” is that they hate what has happened to the area too, but the politically correct answer is that the Sideways effect was wonderful. So, I am a sadist and I enjoy it… a lot. Especially when I have to pay $15 to try precisely 1 oz. tastes of a flight of insipid Pinot Noirs at a new winery who is growing nothing but Pinot Noir and they are growing it in the wrong place.

Side note: I thought I remembered the Pinot Noir thing wrong but was vindicated by the January issue of Sunset magazine: “There’s the rub: A wine is “discovered” by fans, gets planted in spades to chase demand, and loses credibility because it really shouldn’t have been planted in all those places”. They also interviewed Jeff Smith from Hourglass Blueline Vineyard in Napa Valley who had this to say: “Of course the true irony is that Miles’s Holy Grail wine (the bottle he chugs with a burger at the movie’s end) is Cheval Blanc, a Merlot-inspired Bordeaux! The fact that most people missed the irony highlights that we have a lot of educating to do.”

I have crazy hair and it’s not from drinking wine, it’s due to heredity. My hair has a life of it’s own. I have to buy gallons of conditioner just to make it look almost normal. It is five times as thick as a normal head of hair. It is curly. It used to be brunette, but it is starting to go gray which makes it look crazy because now that I don’t work, I’ve neglected to get it dyed back to it’s former color. It is long. The last time I saw my hairdresser, she shook her head and said, “I don’t know what I would do if I had hair like yours… I.. really…don’t.” Uh. Thanks. Just wait till she sees me now, lol! I’ll get her!

I have perfect teeth. I hadn’t been to a dentist in a long time. My new dentist was amazed by my teeth. He thinks they are the most beautiful teeth he has seen. I had a hereditary problem that caused issues with my gums. He sent me to an oral surgeon, the oral surgeon, loves my teeth and says they are perfect. Both dentists were amazed that there was not an orthodontist involved in their perfection.

If I were diagnosed with Celiac disease tomorrow, I would commit suicide by the next day. I think you already know this due to what I like to write about on this blog. To me, every meal is better with wheat. If I could live on pancakes, muffins, bread, pizza and pasta, I would. And then, I would have cake or pie for dessert.

Due to some health issues we had money issues and my Dad sold our car when I was around eight years old. He didn’t buy another car for years. As a consequence, I did not drive or acquire my first car until I was twenty three years old. We walked or took public transportation everywhere until then. I am not comfortable driving cars although I have loved every car I’ve owned. I just love them from the passenger seat. This poses a problem to everyone I know since I will usually be the last person to volunteer to drive and the first person to ask someone to drive me somewhere.

If I had a time machine, I would go back to a time somewhere between 1973 and 1990. I liked it there a lot.

Although I love pickles and I get extremely excited when I see them especially if they are homemade. I don’t really like sour foods so I can only eat a bite or two of them before I am completely overwhelmed. My sister loves pickles and can eat a whole jar. When she left home my Dad forgot who liked pickles and kept buying them and then wondering why I stopped eating them.

If you got this far, you now know that I am beautiful like a succulent or a sea creature. Thank you for being my beautiful reader (you are beautiful too!)

Now I get to single out 7 beautiful bloggers. The first rule of the beautiful blogger award was to talk about me. The second rule is to pass the award on. As usual, If I’ve tagged you, I want to let you know that you are under no obligation to treat this like a chain letter. If you don’t want to do this, I won’t care, I just want to let you know I think you are wonderful.

To my readers: I encourage you to click on these links. These seven blogs are where I have been spending a lot of time lately. These people are witty, smart, artistic, compassionate and altogether beautiful:

Stacy at Little Blue Hen: Vegetables are so beautiful when Stacey sees them through the eye of her camera. Go here to see what she is cooking and baking. Stay to discuss food related topics.

Peter at Cookblog: An artist, an omnivore and a wonderful writer. What a great combination. You’ll be drooling over pictures of the restaurant quality food, he served his family for dinner last night.

Tia at Buttercream Barbie: I don’t bake as often as I want to, so this is where I go to dream. Tia bakes constantly and I’m always amazed at how tiny she looks in her pictures. I gain five pounds just by looking at all of the wonderful treats.

A girl whose name I don’t know at Fatty Dumpling: Go to her about page before you start reading. This girl is the funniest writer I have ever encountered on a blog. I hope she ends up with a long and happy career in television and movies.

Jacqui at So Good, So Tasty: This blog is just beautiful. Jacqui is a graphic designer as well as a talented cook. Her blog has feng shui. Something about the colors and the design just make me feel so happy when I go there.

Beth at One Hundred Eggs:  Does anyone remember the blog called a bread a day? Beth is the remarkable woman who baked 365 loaves of bread last year. Now she has this new blog and it’s just so pretty. Great writing, healthy food and she somehow makes it more than ok that she is practicing her photography skills on her lunch every couple of days because the results are stunning.

Amy at Ohiofarmgirl’s Adventures in the Goodland:   A woman gets laid off from her job and rejoices because now she can pursue her dream of running a farm! Pure chaos from another talented writer.

I’ll be gone for a few days visiting my parents while my Mom has surgery. Please forgive me if I don’t respond to comments until I get back. My parents have the last home in the U.S. that does not have internet!

What do you do when you run out of eggs?

Years ago, I was a fiend for pressure cooking. Once I acquired my pressure cooker, I cooked everything I could find in it, got bored and then put it in a cabinet never to be heard from again. The author of my favorite pressure cooker cookbook, Lorna Sass, put out a vegan cookbook around that time. It was called Recipes from an ecological kitchen. Poor Lorna. I stopped using the pressure cooker book and the vegan book got relegated to the bookshelf as a reference manual for grain cookery. One thing in the vegan book that has always fascinated me was her use of flax seed as a substitute for eggs. She would grind raw whole flax seed in a blender, add water and blend for up to a minute to form a thick paste. She states in the cookbook that it works just like eggs in her recipes and makes for light and fluffy baked goods. It sounded like magic. It sounded too good to be true!

Even when I was a vegetarian, I still ate eggs and dairy. I love my eggs and dairy! I still do. I’ve never used her flax seed method because I always had eggs in the house and never had flax seed in my pantry. Now I bake bread. I have more flax seeds than I know what to do with. Today, I had no eggs. I was completely out and I wanted a muffin with my morning tea. Today seemed like a great day to try an experiment.

Over the past couple of months, I have baked muffins using Herbert a couple of times. Once was the delicious cocoa, coconut and pecan muffins and recently, I baked a recipe from my blog friend over at the Lost World of Drfugawe. John made these amazing cornmeal muffins. When I saw them, I had to make them. They turned out delicious, tall and fluffy. Drizzled with raw honey, they were superb. One thing that surprised me about his recipe was that he used a full tablespoon of baking powder. I followed the recipe, making just a tweak here or there, to be rewarded with such light fluffy corn muffins. When I thought about it, it made sense. There are acids that build up with the starter. The neutralizing powers of baking powder and acids are what makes baked goods rise. Since I planned to use starter, buttermilk, lemon juice and strawberries, all tart ingredients, I borrowed this little bit of baking wisdom from John.

My muffins were tall and fluffy. The flax seed paste mimicked the eggs as advertised but they also lent a nutty grainy flavor that complimented my toasted walnuts. I used a spare amount of honey for sweetener, so the muffins ended up on the less sweet side and the springtime strawberries are a bit tart but altogether, I have to call these muffins a huge success. Just the perfect morning breakfast food to go with tea or coffee. I was told by an appreciative boyfriend that these muffins are pure strawberry goodness.

These springtime muffins are going to YeastSpotting, the place to go for all your bread baking porn.

This recipe contains buttermilk because I like what buttermilk does to baked goods, but if you want to make them vegan, just substitute soymilk or rice milk for the buttermilk and agave syrup for the honey.

Egg free sourdough strawberry and walnut muffins

3 tbsp flax seeds

½ cup water

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour

1 tbsp baking powder

¼ tsp baking soda

¼ tsp salt

1 ½ tsp lemon zest

¼ cup canola oil

½ cup honey

½ cup buttermilk

½ cup sourdough starter

1 tbsp lemon juice

1 cup coarsely chopped, toasted walnuts

1 ¾ cups diced fresh strawberries

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, Place the raw walnuts in a small iron skillet. As the oven gets up to temperature, toast the walnuts for 5 – 8 minutes, watching them to make sure they don’t burn. Remove from oven and cool.

Spray two six cup muffin tins with olive oil spray and set aside.

In a blender, grind flax seeds to a powder. Add water and blend for thirty seconds until thickened. Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and lemon zest.

In another large bowl, mix together all of the flax seed mixture with the canola oil, honey, buttermilk, sourdough starter, and lemon juice. Add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until well combined. Let stand for a few minutes to rise a little bit. Gently stir in the walnuts and the strawberries.

Spoon the batter evenly into the muffin cups. Put the muffin tins into the oven and bake for 20 – 25 minutes until the tops are browned and a toothpick inserted into the center of the muffins comes out clean.

If candy bars grew on trees

I wish candy bars grew on trees. Whenever that urge for a treat would hit me. I would go to my candy bar tree, reach up and harvest a mouth watering treat. If candy bars grew on trees, surely they would be full of vitamins and minerals to make us healthy. I have a feeling candy bars would be hard to grow organically. I think they would be very attractive to ants.

If candy bars grew on trees, there would be less garbage littering the streets. If candy bars grew on trees, I bet we would buy them from small farmers or grow them in our backyards instead of purchasing them from large corporations because they would be farm fresh and delicious instead of coming from places and people we don’t know or trust.

You know and I know the candy bar tree is a fantasy, but what if a candy bar could come from trees instead of grow on trees? Would they be just as virtuous? I think so. I can’t lie to you and tell you that a candy bar that comes from trees would have less calories than a regular candy bar, but I don’t think I would be lying if I told you that it would be healthier for you. It might take some getting used to, because it would not be the same as biting into a chunk of fat, sugars and salt, but I think you could easily get used to a candy bar that was made of luscious whole food ingredients.

Wanna make a candy bar?

The first tree we’ll have to look for is Prunis dulcis: The almond tree.

Photo by Alfonso, creative commons 2.0 license
 
 We’ll go pick some almonds. We’ll roast them and use them whole and chopped.

Our second tree will be Phoenix dactilylifera: The date palm.

Photo courtesy Wikipedia.org, creative commons 2.5 license

 

We’ll pick close to a couple of dozen dates and pit them

Those first two trees can be found within driving distance of me, but the third one grows in the tropics. We’ll have to get on a plane to find Theobroma cacao: The cocoa tree.

Photo by Claus Bunks courtesy of wikipedia, public domain license

 

We’ll need to pick the fruits, ferment them, clean the beans, roast the beans, liquefy them and then make dark chocolate.

Ha! You knew I was lying about harvesting the ingredients, didn’t you? If not, I got you! Valrhona makes a good 71% bittersweet chocolate, let’s use that.

That’s it. Our chocolate bars are three ingredients. These three ingredients are rich in manganese, vitamin E, magnesium, iron, potassium, B vitamins, fiber, polyphenals and minerals. The bars are super healthy and luxurious. Can your snicker’s bar claim that?

Dark chocolate covered almond stuffed dates

3 ½ oz bar bittersweet chocolate (I used a 71% dark chocolate bar)

About 20 pitted fresh dates. Use Deglet noor or any other large date

1 cup roasted whole almonds. (I used unsalted almonds. Using salted almonds is your call but I don’t think it’s necessary).

Line a cookie sheet with parchment.

Stuff each date with one or two almonds depending on the size of the date. Chop the remaining almonds coarsely and set aside. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler stirring until smooth. Dip a stuffed date into the chocolate, turning to coat. Set it on the parchment lined tray and sprinkle with chopped almonds. Repeat with each stuffed date. Put cookie sheet into the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to help the chocolate set. Serve immediately or store in a airtight container in the refrigerator

 

The beer bread wars

Beer bread is now my enemy and needs to be conquered!

Sadly, I have no recipe for you today. I just need to vent about a bread idea that won’t seem to turn from a good idea into a great loaf. I had bookmarked this recipe for beer bread awhile ago. Last week I decided to bake the bread, but I wanted it to be multigrain so I swapped out some of the white flour for whole wheat, semolina, spelt and rye. I used a dark San Miguel beer for the beer component. Sounds wonderful doesn’t it?

Last week’s failure was the first hint that this bread might be my Achilles heel. I failed to allow the bread to rise long enough and I insisted on baking it as one big loaf instead of two smaller ones. I ended up with a compact loaf that had a really good flavor, delicious really…on either end. From about three inches into the loaf on either side, I had a raw spot in the middle of the loaf. I was so sad because the part that was cooked was sweet and had a delicious malted flavor.

The recipe seemed worth saving so I mixed up the dough yesterday and let it rise three and a half hours. It didn’t seem long enough, but I flattened it and then formed it into a loaf and let it rise a second time… all day. Around 8:30PM the dough still didn’t look proofed enough, so I put it in the fridge and gave up for the night. I brought the dough out this morning and let it warm and rise for… another 5 hours! I finally got it into the oven. I didn’t think the temperature was correct the previous week, so I raised it by 25 degrees. Big mistake. Forty minutes into baking it, I had an over browned crust and according to my thermometer a long way to go before the middle was cooked. I covered the crust with foil and gave the bread another 40 minutes in the oven. Impaling the bread with a thermometer every ten minutes or so (war is not pretty, I tell ya!), I was able to get the interior baked all the way, but now I have an ugly bread that has a tough crust and tastes…like…beer. The long proofing time just succeeded in making the yeast eat up all of the honey I used as sweetener. Ugh. I guess I’ll be making beery flavored sandwiches this week. Or maybe beer flavored croutons?

So much for my bread baking adventures. Tune in next week for something tastier than beer bread.

Here is a brief tour of the carnage:


The crust is dark and tough!

The bread had good lift off as you can tell since it is peaking over the pan…

….But that’s because it had a big ugly crack in it!!! Grrrr!!!!