Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Comfort Food: Plain, Gluten-Free Muffins

When I found out I needed to give up gluten, at first it didn't seem so bad.  I don't care for sandwiches anyway.


Never to eat pizza with hot, crusty, chewy crust again . . . Seriously.  I never even liked pizza crust until I couldn't have it.

Burgers.  The last time I had a "burger" I was at Culver's, and I ordered it without a bun.  It wasn't much good.

And then I started to miss simple things, like homemade jelly and jam.  Jelly and jam are not much good on rice cakes.  Nothing is much good on rice cakes.

I don't like gluten-free bread.  It tastes funny.  Also, my system responds badly to the rice flour they put in gluten-free baked goods.  Ugh.

Mild depression set in as I realized that I was not quite as "up" for a lifetime of sweet potatoes, quinoa, brown rice and salad as I had originally thought I was.

Then I discovered coconut flour and a whole new world opened up to me.  I started developing rice-free, gluten-free recipes that I could enjoy.

Yes, enjoy!

The muffin recipe below uses oats.  Since I have neither an allergy nor Celiac's Disease, I use plain old oats from the grocery store.  If you have a severe gluten intolerance, you should (1) make sure you can actually have oats, and (2) buy gluten-free oats prepared in a gluten-free facility.

This is what my muffins look like right before I remove them from the oven.

A perfect, golden brown muffin top.

Cooling on the rack.

Like a sheep to the slaughter.

Ahhhhhh.  Yes!  I can put butter and jelly on this wonder!

A close-up of this beauty.

I can't eat just one.  I always have to have two.

A warm muffin with melty almond butter.  
Because I can't have peanut butter, I am thankful for almond butter.

The recipe:

Plain Muffins, Gluten-Free

1 cup quick cooking oats
1/4 cup oil (I use grapeseed)
3/4 cup milk
4 eggs
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla

1/3 cup coconut flour
2 tsp. baking powder

Place 12 cupcake liners into a 12 count muffin tin.  Preheat your oven to 400F.  Put oats into your blender and blend until fine.  Add to blender: oil, milk, eggs, sugar, salt and vanilla.  Put coconut flour and baking powder into your sifter, and sift directly into the blender.  Blend thoroughly, scraping sides of blender (turn it off when you are scraping).  Pour batter directly from blender into lined muffin tins.  Bake at 400F for 20 minutes.  Remove from oven, cool on rack.  Best served warm.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Flying time and frozen bananas

"Things are unraveling fast now . . ."

The wedding is coming on us like a night train.

True to form, I am somewhat paralyzed, so I threw a load of towels into the washing machine.  Nothing like clean linens to calm a person down.

I also went to Aldi, where they had some too-ripe bananas on clearance for half price.  I remembered how good frozen bananas are in a smoothie, so I bought a bunch and came home and froze them.  What else would you do, when you ought to be planning a wedding, besides freeze a bunch of over-ripe bananas?

Once, long ago, I read that frozen bananas were good in a smoothie, so I put some bananas into my freezer, in a plastic bag.

Over time, they turned brown.

After many months had passed, I mistook them for Italian sausages.  They became a source of security.  When I started getting low on food, I would tell myself, "If we run out of fresh things to eat, I can always whip up some spaghetti with those Italian sausages in the freezer."

Imagine my dismay on the day I tried to do this.

So.  Yes.  No.  Those slimy brown frozen bananas forced a vegetarian supper on us that night.  We had varied personal reasons, which I will leave to your imagination, for not being pleased with the outcome.

After that, I did not freeze bananas for a long time.  But now I do, and I will explain how, because you might be like me, back in the day, and you may not know exactly how one ought best to freeze bananas so that they are usable in smoothies.

How To Freeze Bananas For Smoothies
  1. Peel banana.
  2. Cut banana into approximately 1" - 1.5" slices.
  3. Place sliced banana into a ziplock snack bag.
  4. Repeat for as many bananas as you are going to freeze, using one ziplock bag for each banana.
  5. Seal bags and place in freezer.
  6. **Use before you forget what they are.**
  7. Slicing the bananas into this size of a slice will help them blend nicely in your blender.
  8. Use one frozen banana per smoothie, and never try to double a smoothie recipe in one blender batch (I can tell you this from direct experience).
  9. Enjoy!

Frozen bananas give your smoothies the consistency of soft-serve ice cream.  Even if you are not big on bananas, you may well enjoy them frozen.

A Frozen Banana Smoothie Recipe
(this is a good one for breaking in the reluctant smoothie drinker)

1   6-8 oz. container flavored yogurt (strawberry or raspberry, preferably)
1/3 cup orange juice
4 large-ish frozen strawberries
1 frozen banana

Blend together until smooth and thick. 

A while back, Laura asked me what advice I had for her in terms of her bridal registry.  I told her to get a blender.  I use my blender multiple times every day.  A blender is a wonderful thing.

A frozen banana may make you think that you can also freeze time.

You can't.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

One month

Today is June 5.

In one month, on July 5, Shawn will walk Laura down the aisle of a church to an altar where she will marry Matthew and change her name and thereafter move into an apartment that is a seven hour drive from our home.

Seven hours.

I am thankful that she has worked hard, successfully graduated from college, and started a relationship with a fine, upstanding young man who comes with aspirations to have a solid career in healthcare and (especially) a deep love for God.  There is a lot to be thankful for.

But I think you can be thankful and feel your heart being ripped apart at the same time.

I had a premonition the first time she came home on a college break.  It was so good to have her home, in her little bedroom with the yellow striped walls that she painted herself.  It was good to have her in her place at the kitchen table, to hear her bantering with her siblings, to smell her perfume in the upstairs hall.  But I knew, in a moment, that she would never really live at home again, the way she had before she moved out.  Moving out to go to college is much more permanent than anybody realizes at the time.  Or maybe I am the only one who didn't realize.

One spring we had robins in our hanging basket by the front door of our Sugar Pine house.  I don't remember what year it was, but David was taking clarinet lessons from Jerry Zampino, and for some reason, I was on the phone with Jerry and mentioned to him that a robin had laid three eggs amongst my impatiens.  I remember his voice, thoughtful, cloudy with age, confident as only a successful musician is confident, "Oh," he said, "lucky you.  You are in for a treat!"

The eggs hatched, and they revealed the ugliest little creatures I'd ever seen in my life.  The parents worked frantically to keep them clean and fed.  There was much squawking and ado, and we had to watch our heads when going in and out the front door.

Weeks later, a day came when the rain was tinting the grass that deep, deep green that only northeastern grass under northeastern rain ever achieves, a green that glows upwards, illuminating the darkness of the black rain clouds.  Stepping out on the front step, I was surprised to see baby robins hopping about in the landscaping mulch while their mother (or father?) squawked with agitation from the nest above.

My instinct was to pick them up and replace them in the nest.  As I realized that I could not do this, I also realized that they were never going to go back into that nest.  They were out of the nest, never to return.  I'd always had the childish notion that a nest was like a house, and the little birds came and went, and at the end of the day they would always return to snuggle up together to sleep.  That dark, green, grassy day, I realized that a nest is not like a house.  It is like a womb, and once the baby birds leave it, they never return.

Foreboding.  Foreshadowing.  I couldn't even articulate this in my mind, but I knew it in my heart, and I knew it was a warning to me that my kids were getting big, and that one day, too soon, they also would leave and not come back.

They would meet someone and move seven hours away to Ohio and

I cannot even think about this.

Points of minutia:

1.  Piper, too old and skittish to navigate our oak stair steps, never seems to be on the level of the house where I am, and thus he is never happy.  When he is upstairs he barks for me.  When he is downstairs, he scratches the front door, as though he wants to go outdoors, but really, he wants to be carried upstairs.

2.  Our air-conditioner broke two days ago.  I've spent two days in the house waiting for The Powers That Be to return my phone calls pleading for service on this issue.  Today was a perfect, gorgeous day when I would have liked to be out gardening and walking the dogs.  I feel like I wasted the most beautiful day of the year waiting for a phone call.  I was so worried about what I would do when the heat comes back, I failed to enjoy the most beautiful day of the year while I had it.

3.  Moving back into our kitchen, I finally got all the boxes out of the sun porch except one.  The sun porch is now a cute and inviting space with nice seating for reading or relaxing, and a charming conglomeration of wedding decorations stacked to the side.   In front of our futon (in sofa position), a WWI army trunk serves as a sort of coffee table, and I spread some Better Homes and Gardens magazines on it.  Today I was perusing the headlines of the magazines as I gloated over the improvement of the room.  One headline caught my eye:

82 items to simplify your life

That, my good people, is why it all escapes me.  If it requires 82 items to simplify my life, I am releasing my guilt and giving up right now.