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

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.

A tasty treat that’s good for you too

I am so amazed how time flies sometimes. Time zips by so quickly that I forget to be responsible. This week I almost became a double murderer due to being neglectful. I didn’t mean to be a killer, but I am. I stopped feeding my vinegar some time during the summer. The vinegar was starting to form a pretty good mother and I figured it was time to let it ferment the rest of the way and then I could harvest some pretty great vinegar and pop the mommy into more wine to start over. Well… out of sight out of mind. This week I thought about the fact that I hadn’t looked at it in a really long time. I took a look and there was this thick disk of vinegar mother floating on the surface (good news) but, to my horror, she was covered in blue mold (bad news). I tried to lift this mess off of the vinegar (which looked fine), but I dropped it back in and the blue mold dispersed into the vinegar. Now I know that John (DrFugawe) will probably chide me for being a wimp… but… I got grossed out, so I tossed the vinegar and the mother. Thus, I am a murderer!

I also forgot about mostly whole wheat Herbert. He was in the fridge, so I thought things were fine. It turns out that I forgot to feed him since mid December. This happened last year, but white flour Herbert seemed…well…more… resilient. Whole wheat Herbert made a layer of black (ew!) hooch. I poured off the offending black liquid and then I thawed him out and fed him, but there was almost no life affirming activity. I have been tending to him round the clock but things don’t look that good. He is definitely on life support. Because I need to keep feeding him, I also needed to find a use for the extra starter. Herbert still looked okay enough for something like waffles, but just not nearly strong enough for bread. I remembered a recipe I bookmarked. Time flies and I realized that I meant to make Kathie’s Chocolate Cherry Sourdough Muffins way back in July when I came across the recipe on YeastSpotting. Now was the time.

I thought I had all of the ingredients but I was out of milk and must have used up my dried cherries during my Christmas cookie bake-a-thon. I stared at the bags in my cupboard and what caught my eye was pure genius. I had a huge bag of unsweetened shredded coconut that I got on the cheap from a local health food store and a bag of raw pecans. I would make a nutty coconut filled muffin instead. I wanted the coconut to be moist and sweet so since I already decided to steal my boyfriend’s rice milk to sub in for the missing milk (I’m a thief as well as a murderer). I thought soaking the coconut shreds in some honey sweetened rice milk would be just the ticket. It worked out well. The coconut softened, sweetened a bit and then flavored the leftover rice milk in the bowl.

The muffins were wonderful. They had great oven spring and a cake like texture. They were both chewy and crunchy from the nuts and coconut, but being low-fat with no refined sugars (I also substituted maple syrup for sugar) they had a mild, clean cocoa flavor. I felt really good after eating one. My boyfriend had to stop himself from eating many, many more muffins than he did.

Thank you Kathie for your recipe. I am submitting my version of it to YeastSpotting.

Coco-nutty-cocoa sourdough muffins

2 tbsp honey

1 cup unsweetened, plain rice milk

1 ½ cups unsweetened shredded dried coconut

½ cup cocoa powder, measured and then sifted

1 ½ cups whole wheat pastry flour

¾ tsp baking powder

½ tsp salt

¾ cup well fed 100% hydration sourdough starter (mostly whole wheat this time)

½ cup grade B maple syrup

1 egg, beaten

½ cup unsweetened applesauce

1 tsp vanilla

1 cup pecan pieces plus 12 pecan halves for garnish

Olive oil cooking spray

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, F. Spray two six cup muffin tins with olive oil spray and set aside.

Pour coconut into a medium sized bowl. Whisk together honey and rice milk until the honey is dissolved. Pour rice milk mixture over the coconut. Mix until combined and let stand for at least fifteen minutes.

In a large bowl, combine cocoa powder, whole wheat pastry flour, baking powder and salt.

In another large bowl, combine starter, maple syrup, egg, applesauce and vanilla. Add wet ingredients and coconut mixture to flour mixture and mix until just combined. Gently fold in pecans.

Divide batter between muffin tins. It will fill up the tins, so make sure the batter is pretty evenly divided. Top each muffin with a pecan half. Bake in the oven for 20 – 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the muffins comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack before serving.